After Facebook made its Android announcement called Facebook Home last week, my first reaction was “this is nuts,” but I decided to let it sit. After almost a week, I still think the idea is a non-starter.
There are so many reasons this is a bad idea, but let’s just explore a few of them.
* Who in their right mind wants to have Facebook as the center of their phoning lives? Zuckerberg made it sound like a feature that my friends’ information comes up on my phone, even when it’s locked. As my colleague Wayne Rash pointed out, unless your socially obsessed, this approach isn’t for you. Is the latest George Takei ditty so fascinating that it can’t wait for me to open the Facebook app and see it? I don’t think so. Facebook just isn’t as important as it wants us to believe.
* Aside from the fact that Facebook thinks I want it at the center of my life, when I don’t, there are other reasons to leave Facebook safely locked in the browser or an app. I don’t want Facebook having access to my entire mobile life. It’s bad enough, the amount of information Facebook has on our lives, do we really want to give it control of our mobile phones? Om Malik thinks not. I’m inclined to agree.
As Malik wrote, “In fact, Facebook Home should put privacy advocates on alert, for this application erodes any idea of privacy. If you install this, then it is very likely that Facebook is going to be able to track your every move, and every little action.” It’s a scary scenario and no thanks, Facebook.
It’s precisely the reason if I were a Bing user, I wouldn’t add Facebook search to my results. I don’t want Facebook and Microsoft sharing all this information about me and how I search and what I do on Facebook. It’s bad enough that Facebook knows what it does, I’m not giving it any more ammunition from my mobile phone. No thanks.
* It’s a blatant power grab of the Android platform. Why would users who choose the Android platform for its openess, give that up to Facebook? The fact is most people wouldn’t. As Alexandra Chang put it on Wired, ” It isn’t a phone made by Facebook. It’s something better than that, and in some ways, more important: a deeply integrated application with its hooks set tightly into the Android platform. Think of it as an apperating system.”
With this move, if people actually did it, Facebook would get the best of all worlds. It would attack Google at the heart of its OS by taking it over before you even get past the lock screen. Great for Facebook, but for users, not so much.
Facebook Home is Zuckerberg’s wet dream of what he wants the mobile experience to be — centered around his service while weakening a key competitor in Google in the process, but this isn’t some teen dream about mobile. It’s reality and nobody in their right mind other than the completely Facebook-obsessed (and even my teen has backed off from it a great deal) are going to go for this.
This makes great theater for tech journalists like me and we love the drama of the announcement and watching Zuckerberg grow as a pitch man, but this approach is a non-starter and I’m predicting right now it’s not going anywhere.
Photo Credit: Kris Krug on flickr. Used under CC 2.0 Share Alike/Attribution license.]]>
Mirror on the wall, which mobile platform is the most lucrative of them all? If you believe IBM it is iOS. As for Android? It’s not even close.
IBM published an infographic via Kara Swisher from All Things Digital on Sunday with all kinds of interesting Black Friday data. Overall online sales were up 20.7 percent over last year. Mobile shopping data accounted for 16.3 percent of all online shopping with 58.6 percent of that coming from the mobile phone and 41.4 percent coming from tablets.
When it comes to shopping online, iOS shoppers are much more likely to use their devices to shop than their Android counterparts. iOS accounted for 18.7 percent of mobile device traffic, while the entire Android platform accounted for just 5.5 percent. iOS was particularly dominant on the tablet where it accounted for 88.3 percent of overall traffic.
Surprisingly, the Kindle platform which has been designed specifically to be a front end for shopping on Amazon accounted for just 2.4 percent of overall mobile retail traffic coming in behind the Nook which had 3.3 percent.
While Amazon’s tablet strategy might not have been working as drawn up, it had to be happy with the overall traffic reports as Experian reported it was the number one online shopping destination on Black Friday with over 25 million visitors and comScore reported that Black Friday shopping online hit a billion dollars for the first time.
What makes this data even more surprising is how much Android dominates in the mobile phone market. According to comScore’s September mobile marketshare numbers, Android was in control with 52.5 percent of the overall mobile phone market. Apple was in second place with 34.3 percent.
And while the iPad continues to dominate the tablet market, IDC reports its overall numbers have dropped dramatically this year falling to 50.4 percent in the third quarter, down from 59.7 percent last year.
In spite of these numbers, however, iOS users seem to be more likely for whatever reason to use their devices to shop. The big shock in all of this is not that Apple is dominating in this area, but that Android and particularly Amazon (which is running a form of Android) is so far behind.
Interestingly, the New York Times reports that brick and mortar retailers are trying to lure shoppers back to the store using smartphone apps to help shoppers plan their shopping experience before they arrive at the store, and even help find an open parking space — but if you want to avoid the madness that is Black Friday altogether, nothing beats the comfort of your living room.
Conventional thinking would suggest that once Amazon produced a low priced tablet, it would fly off the shelves and would give Amazon an additional advantage in online shopping, and when you combine this with Android’s overall marketshare numbers, it would suggest that Android would at least hold its own. Yet IBM’s numbers how a paltry 5.5 percent across the entire platform.
I’m not sure what this says about operating system choices, but perhaps it speaks to overall usability and how likely people are to use a device on iOS versus Android.]]>
It’s time for the latest entry in the tablet sweepstakes. This week, Google announced the new Nexus 7 inch Google-branded tablet at its I/O conference this week. Why bother?
Much like Microsoft’s Surface, this will be tons of attention over the next week. Many of my tech-journalist colleagues will gush about how this is the device that’s going to put Apple in its place for sure this time.
We heard the same thing before HP and RIM came out with their failed tablets last year. Then we heard Amazon with its delivery channel, its very own app store (wisely stocked ahead of the device) and a cheap $199 tablet running Android was really, really going to take it to Apple — only it didn’t really make a dent in Apple’s dominance.
This one appears to be taking aim at Amazon. It’s the size of the Kindle Fire and it has a similar content delivery ability along with a cheap $199 price tag. Up to now, the Kindle Fire (even though it hasn’t been able to move Apple’s numbers), has been the most successful Android tablet produced. So why go after it?
Here, you have another software company trying to create hardware. Google might not have Apple envy as Microsoft clearly does, but apparently it doesn’t trust its OEMs to deliver a high-quality Android tablet experience, so gosh darn it, if you want something done right, you just better do it yourself.
Unfortunately, for Google they face a similar struggle to Microsoft. Much like Microsoft, even though they make some hardware devices, at their heart of hearts, they are a software and services company. And no I don’t need to be reminded that Google bought Motorola Mobility. I understand that, but I think it was a big and expensive mistake.
Let me explain.
As I’ve written before Microsoft and Google are software companies. They succeed when they spread their software around many devices. Apple succeeds by building devices and then building software that works on that device — and only that device.
By building its own tablet, Google is making the same mistake as Microsoft. They are undercutting the manufacturing channel they have worked for years to build. Why would you do that?
If I’m Amazon, I’m thinking that I put all this effort into developing tablets running Android, and now I’ve got to compete with the Google brand in the marketplace? I doubt they’re very happy about that and why would they be?
Microsoft, Google and Amazon all have brand power and that’s what they’re banking on here, but by building their own tablets, they are also putting their brands on the line here. If they fail, and so far, there have been lots of failed iPad challengers, they are risking that brand equity to some extent.
Amazon with its combination of cheap hardware, a ready app store and lots of content (books, videos, etc.) would seemed to be a worthy contender, but so far it hasn’t been much of a threat.
Can Microsoft or Google break through?I have serious doubts and until someone comes along and takes some serious market share, I remain skeptical. Somebody is going to have to prove they can contend and so far, nobody has been able to do that. I don’t think Google or Microsoft have the chops. Time will tell if I’m right.
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.]]>
And the Android tablet market just got a lot more interesting today, because as you might have heard by now, Microsoft invested a hefty $300 million in Nook today. This is delicious on so many levels it’s so hard to know where to begin.
First of all, in case you didn’t realize, Nook is an Android tablet. That’s right underneath that e-Ink screen beats the heart of a Google Android operating system (even though most users won’t ever know or care). In fact, you can even hack it if you were so inclined. But the fact that it’s running *Google’s* OS and Microsoft just invested $300 million of its money, well it’s hard not to love that.
If that’s not enough to whet your appetite consider that Microsoft had filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Barnes and Noble last year. With the influx of cash, of course, they have kissed and made up and all is forgiven and forgotten. The lawsuit is moot. How convenient — a bushel of cash and you make your legal troubles disappear. B&N executives must be doing a happy dance all over the C-Suite this morning.
Of course with large cash infusions comes the inevitable quid-pro-quo and for B&N they have to develop tools for the upcoming Windows tablets. There is also speculation already that a future version of the Nook Color could be running Windows 8? Who knows?
Last I checked it didn’t cost B&N anything to use Android. It probably would require a complete overhaul of the hardware to make it compatible with Windows 8, but Microsoft probably didn’t invest that kind of money for nothing, and it might want a slice of the market that right now is dominated by Apple, while the minuscule share of Android tablet marketshare is dominated by Amazon’s Kindle Fire.
So Microsoft gets to take on all kinds of enemies for a few hundred million dollars. It take on the hated Apple, the dreaded Google and the latest of enemies, the frightening Amazon content juggernaut and its disgustingly cheap little content-serving device, the Kindle Fire.
For now though, in the tablet market, its Apple’s world and everyone else is just on the outside looking in. In the Android market, however, in just a few months, the Kindle Fire has grabbed an astonishing 54.4 percent of market share for the February 11th figures, up from 29.4 percent on December 11th. The next closest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Tabs had 23.8 percent on December 11th and slipped to 15.4 percent in the latest numbers from February 11th.
Perhaps that’s why Microsoft felt compelled to use its substantial cash holdings to put its own stake in the game. Windows tablets are going to face a tough market dominated by Apple on one side and increasingly by Kindle Fire in the Android marketplace, Perhaps, by investing in the Nook, Microsoft hopes to rock the boat a bit and gets its own share of the consumer tablet market.
It’s low-risk strategy that at least provides a starting point for an OS that’s going to be 3 years late to market — and it is going to need to do something dramatic to get consumer’s attention.
Note: I sent an email to comScore press relations asking for clarification on the Nook market share numbers — if they were excluded because they didn’t fall within comScore’s definition of the tablet market or because they didn’t register enough market share. I did not receive a response by the time I published this, but I will update the story if I hear back.
Image courtesy of Microsoft Press.]]>
Just so you don’t think that I’m looking at Google’s retail foray through the clear vision of the rear-view mirror, consider the blog post I wrote on Daniweb called Google Launches Boneheaded Retail Strategy at the time they announced the online store. And I didn’t stop with juicy adjectives like boneheaded, I called it misguided, a mistake and a bad idea. You get the idea.
That’s because Google is not a retailer, it’s a search engine. Surely it dabbles in other cloud services as well, but its core product is Google Search. It knows how to sell ads. When it comes to retail selling of consumer electronics? Not so much.
And it only took for 5 months before they shut it down. Computerworld attributed the closure to sagging sales and poor customer service. That happens when a company knows nothing about retail.
So let’s zoom ahead to 2012. Last month the WSJ reported Google was taking the plunge back into retail (which I would link to if WSJ didn’t insist on putting the news behind their paywall). Obviously, the abject failure of the first attempt at retail didn’t deter Google from trying again.
But Ryan Whitwam writing on ExtremeTech thinks it has a shot. He argues that while the Android phones were selling quite well when Google tried to get involved, the Android tablets have failed to gain any traction (Kindle Fire notwithstanding, I guess). What’s more, it doesn’t require a phone contract because most buyers are thinking WiFi. Fair enough, he’s with me so far.
Whitwam thinks Google Play fits into this strategy, and it could be that Google will try to go the Kindle Fire route — not making very much money on the device and selling content instead. Great strategy, except that Google hasn’t proven itself to be a content selling company to any extent — it’s certainly no Amazon in this regard, that’s for certain.
Frankly, I’m not feeling it because once again Google is treading into unfamiliar territory. Companies tend to fail when they go outside their comfort zone (Apple’s foray into retail stores being a notable exception). My feeling is Google doesn’t know much more than it did the first time about retail. It’s just a desperate attempt to jump-start the anemic Android tablet market.
Perhaps I’m wrong (it’s happened more than once), but if Google isn’t absolutely prepared this time, it should learn from its earlier retailing misadventure and stick to search and Android and software –stuff they understand, and for goodness sakes, stay away from trying to sell consumer electronics online.
Photo by Salim Virji on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike license.]]>
Let’s start with NPD, which had good news for both companies, depending on how you looked at the numbers. NPD looked at US market figures only.
For starters, iOS and Android accounted for an astonishing 90 percent of the market, according to NPD, but how that breaks down depends whether you look at handsets versus operating system.
If it was purely phones sold, Apple held the top 3 spots for last quarter driven for the most part by the iPhone 4S, which was also offered by Sprint for the first time last quarter. If it was by OS, it’s much tighter than it once was, but Android held a 5 point lead 48 percent to 43 percent. When it came to first-time buyers, however, Android lead by a much wider margin, 57 percent to 34 percent.
Ross Rubin, executive director for Connected Intelligence at The NPD Group attributed this to users who wanted access to the faster LTE network on Verizon and only Android phones were LTE compatible.
IDC measured strictly by phones shipped by manufacturer, but they measured worldwide numbers, not just the US. In this case, Apple bested Samsung by a slim margin with 37 million shipped for a 23.5 percent market share. Samsung was hot on Apple’s heals though with 36 million units shipped for a 22.8 percent market share. In case you’re wondering Nokia came in third with 12.4 percent, followed by RIM with 8.2 percent.
And if you’re wondering how this compares to the fourth quarter in 2010, the big winner was Nokia with 27.6 percent. Last year Apple had 15.9 percent and Samsung had just 9.4 percent, so it shows you how quickly and dramatically the market has shifted
So what does it all mean?
It’s clear iPhone and the Android handset makers, particularly Samsung, are slugging it out for the worldwide lead as RIM and Nokia fade, but Nokia in particular has a make or break year ahead of it as it releases a new line of phones running Windows Phone 7.
Apple is going to continually ebb and flow with each new release. The iPhone 5, which could be out later this year, will likely give Apple another huge boost, but as fancy new Android smart phones (combined with cheaper alternatives) come out from every manufacturer you are probably going to see the numbers shift accordingly.
The cheaper Android phones in particular could have a big impact on the market. Even though all smart phones might not be equal, the cheaper ones could tip the market share numbers in favor of Android and could account for the growing gap between Android and iPhone for the first-time buyer (Verizon’s LTE offerings not withstanding).
In fact, Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker program saw this as a big factor in Android’s growth. “But a growing number of sub-$250 device offerings, based on the Android operating system, have allowed Google’s hardware partners to grow smartphone volumes and expand the market concurrently.”
However you choose to measure the market, it’s clearly all Android and iPhone, but what surprises me is that in spite of the number and variety of Android smart phone offerings, Apple continues to lead or stay very close.
According to a CNet article, Google announced at its Google Music launch last week that there were 200 million activated Android devices in the world today. What’s more, Google claims another 550,000 are activated every single day.
If these numbers are accurate — and don’t forget, the late Steve Jobs accused Google of inflating its activation numbers, a charge Google later denied — it’s truly astonishing. That means more than a million new Android devices are being activated every two days, 22,916 are being activated every hour, 381 every minute.
Anyway, it’s a big number.
Apple isn’t exactly an also-ran here though. At its October press event, it announced that 250 million iOS devices had been sold since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007. That’s an impressive number until you look at the fact that Neowin.net reported that in May Google claimed 100 million active devices, and in just 6 months it activated 100 million more.
What’s more, Amazon wants to boost that figure a bit more this holiday season, announcing that every non-iPhone on Amazon is available for just a penny with a two-year activation contract.
So with all these Android devices flying out the door, that has to mean big profits for developers creating apps, right? Not so fast. Fortune blogger Phillip Elmer-Dewitt reported on a study by Piper Jaffrey analyst Gene Munster which found that Google had generated just 7 percent of the income of the Apple App Store.
While some people such as Todd Ogasawara at Inside Mobile Apps have questioned the basis for these numbers, it’s hard to argue with one data point in the Fortune post:
“Apple developers have made more than $3.4 billion since 2011, compared with less than $240 million for Google developers.”
And Ogasawara even acknowledges that the spirit of the report is true, even if he quibbles with some of the details. No matter how you count the income, the bottom line is Apple developers are making way more.
And Munster say that he expects Apple to maintain this kind of dominance for at least another 3-4 years.
If you’re a developer, you have to be looking at these numbers and shaking your head. You have this incredibly large market with an open environment and that has to be a lot more attractive to many in the technical community than Apple and its controlling, closed environment — but it’s hard to ignore the bottom line.
Let’s face it, the number of Android devices in the world is only going to continue to increase in leaps in bounds. That’s because there are multiple vendors selling Android devices of varying quality and price points around the world from high-end to very cheap low-end phones and tablets. There’s only one Apple selling iOS devices.
All things being equal, it seems most developers would go Android, but they aren’t equal as Munster’s report clearly indicates, and it creates a conundrum for developers on which platforms they should place their bets. For now, it’s clearly Apple, but Android’s shear size is hard to ignore.
Photo by Jemimus on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License. ]]>
Instead of 1.0 and 2.0 or even 95 or 98, we have Mango and Ice Cream Sandwich. Notice that Mango’s real name is 7.5, which at least makes sense. But for some reason, these companies have chosen to use a torturous secret naming system instead of a meaningful system that gives you some clue to as, you know, which is the latest upgrade and how it relates to other versions that came before it.
Everyone does it. At least Microsoft went back to the numbering system with Windows 7, but if you’re not a geek like me would you know where Windows 7 sits in relation to say Windows Me or Windows Vista?
And Apple’s certainly guilty of it too. How about Lion or Leopard and Snow Leopard — two kinds of leopards?Really, Apple?!
I honestly have to look up which is the latest version and how it relates to the other wild cats that came before it. This makes absolutely no sense to me and I’m sure it doesn’t to the public either.
I’m sure it’s useful and wonderful upgrade. I’m not suggesting that it’s not. I’m just saying that the name is stupid because it is. When I think of Ice Cream Sandwich, Google, I don’t think of your next Android operating system, sorry. And if I do, I just get a big question mark in my brain thinking WTF? Why are they calling it that?
I know Mango was the latest upgrade to Win Phone 7, but I have no idea why they called it that. If you want to know the players, you literally have to go to a web page to get the program. Did you know, for instance, that Microsoft had a previous upgrade called NoDo? Really, that’s what they called it.
If you walked up to an average person and told them they could have a million dollars if they could name the OSX upgrade names in order, I’m guessing most couldn’t do it (unless you’re the biggest Apple fanboi on the planet, that is). I use Apple products and I couldn’t begin to tell you.
I’m asking to return to a simpler time when upgrade names had some meaning and gave you some context as to where they fit in the scheme of the upgrade path. Let’s take the naming out of the marketing department and put it back in the hands of people with common sense.
As it stands, this modern naming system is completely chaotic and frankly makes no sense.
It’s a case, I believe, of Mr. Schmidt protesting too much.
If he didn’t believe that was going to happen, why would he say it at all. In fact, it was the first thing I thought of when I heard about the sale back in August. I’m sure that Samsung, LG and HTC, and the other successful Android handset manufacturers had the same thought.
The latest numbers from comScore showed Motorola with 13.8 percent of marketshare in terms of mobile subscribers. Well ahead of them is Samsung with 25.3 percent and LG with 20.6 percent. The two latter companies sell a lot of Android phones.
Reuters reports that he’s in Asia this week on an Android good-will tour. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that he started his trip in South Korea where two of the most successful Android handset manufacturers, Samsung and LG, are based. Schmidt tried to distance himself from the idea of competing, however by insisting that Motorola Mobility would run as a completely separate operation, ensuring that the openness of Android would continue along as though Google didn’t own Motorola.
If you believe that one, I have some swamp land in Florida and bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in. The fact is as I’ve written in this space before, Google is trying to play both ends against the middle with this deal. It can’t be both a handset manufacturer and develop an open source operating system that competes with other handset manufacturers. It’s not a tenable situation.
So he can make all the nice friendly statements he wants and even make promises to use the power of Google to promote South Korean culture, which he actually did. According to an article in PCMag Online, he actually promised the president of South Korea a YouTube channel to promote Korean pop music.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees this as being remarkably similar to a politician trying to assure the allies that everything is OK when it’s clear something is very wrong. Schmidt is the equivalent of the American president touring Asia to reassure them and even bringing (meaningless) goodies as a peace offering.
That’s probably because it really is hard for Schmidt and the companies he’s visiting to imagine that Google can really build a firewall between the Android development team and Motorola. After all, why would it want to?
But if you’re developing a so-called open operating system, you can’t lead the way by trying to sell your own phones. That’s why if you want a truly open source mobile operating system, the mobile version of Ubuntu Linux sounds so interesting.
The openness would be undeniable and it might give handset makers looking for alternative to Android an open source choice from a company that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out on ZDNet has the chops to develop a mobile OS that could reach a wide market.
Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt can go on all the good will trips he wants, and make all the promises about his company’s continued neutrality around Android, but the fact is Google is in the handset business now and nothing is going to change that or the perception that it will always have the upper hand in Android development moving forward. ]]>
As this infographic shows, anybody who is anybody is suing or being sued for patent violations. The highest profile cases involve the biggest names like Oracle versus Google (which is in negotiations stage right now with the two CEOs supposedly hashing it out) and Apple versus Samsung (and vice versa).
The latter has reached absurd levels as the courts in Germany ruled earlier this month that Samsung Galaxy Tabs had to actually be removed from store shelves.
It’s completely out of hand and it’s stifling real, meaningful innovation. What’s more, this idea that you can simply remove the competitors from the store shelves is down-right anti-capitalist. Let them both sit on the shelves and see which one consumers want. So far, consumers have voted overwhelmingly for iPad. What exactly is Apple afraid of here and what point does it serve by paying all these lawyers to hash this out day after day for years? Not much that I can see.
And that’s just one case. Then you have companies spending billions of dollars, not because they are actually interested in what the company does, but the patents it holds. Google bought Motorola Mobility last month, probably for a lot of reasons, but clearly one of the big reasons was they got a boat load of patents in the deal.
Then they can take the new patents and sue somebody like Oracle for a patent violation, at which point we have an old-fashioned stalemate and maybe everybody backs down (until the next time).
It’s enough to make developers and IT pros tear their hair out because they don’t know where any of this going. Suppose Apple were to win similar injunctions against the Samsung tablet and other competitors (like the upcoming Amazon one for instance) in other markets. In this consumerized IT world where more often than not it seems, users are choosing their devices, you might find yourself wasting your company’s time and resources learning to support devices that are no longer available because of a court decision.
And this isn’t just phones, it’s whole platforms. Don’t forget that Oracle is suing Google over Java patent violations regarding its implementation of Android. While this will likely only result in billions changing hands, and probably won’t have a huge impact on the platform itself, it’s disconcerting nonetheless to see two giants fighting like this over a popular mobile OS.
Regardless of any direct impact these lawsuits might have on you and your organization, eventually they have to hurt the market as a whole as more dollars are directed to buying patents, suing others and defending suits. It’s completely out of control right now, and in spite of some noise from politicians to the contrary, it doesn’t look like the situation is going to improve any time soon.
Unfortunately, there’s not much any of us can do, but to watch this blood bath play out ad nauseum until somebody does something to stop it.
And with nobody likely to step up soon, all we can do is hold on and hope none of us ends up as collateral damage.]]>