Market research firm NPD Group recently announced that Google’s Android OS outsold the Apple iPhone in the U.S. last quarter. However, after this announcement Apple was quick to point out that when results for all countries are factored in, its smartphone still outsold all Android models combined in Q1.
Sales of Android OS models and iPhone OS models are growing strongly, and only time will tell which one comes out on top. But the battle is sure to be a hard-fought one, as billions of dollars are at stake.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that neither of these companies currently have the lead in smartphone sales. Worldwide, that honor goes to Nokia, and in the U.S. BlackBerry-maker RIM is on top.
Nokia announced this week that it’s going through a major reorganization this summer.
It is currently organized into Devices, Services & Software, and Markets. After July 1 this will change to Mobile Solutions, Mobile Phones, and Markets. In its simplest form, Nokia is creating a unit that makes high-end phones, another unit that makes featurephones, and a third that handles marketing.
Is this setup better than the last one? Who knows? But a reorg is usually a sign that something is wrong, while frequent reorgs are a sign that something is really wrong. And Nokia has a habit of reorganizing every couple of years. The latest will replace a corporate structure that has been in place only since 2008.
Nokia isn’t in trouble — it’s the worlds biggest phone maker after all — but its rivals are gaining on it. It needs to do something if it wants to stay on top.
I don’t know that yet another reorganization is the answer. The thumb rule that I was taught is that a major reorg distracts the management and employees of a company for 6 months. That’s not the best way to get Nokia back on track.
Progress Despite the Reorg
That’s why I’m taking this upcoming organizational shift as a bad idea, especially as the company had made some really positive moves under the current system.
Nokia has needed to use better operating systems on its smart phones for years — it depended on Symbian S60 for much too long. The company seemed afraid of change, and kept tinkering with S60 hoping to finally get it right. Meanwhile, Americans consumers stayed away in droves.
Much-needed change is now happening, with MeeGo and Symbian^3 powering the next generation of Nokia’s smartphones. I’m not promising that these are finally going to get Nokia’s U.S. marketshare out of single digits, but at least they are a move in the right direction.
Now that progress is finally happening, it’s not good that all Nokia’s employees are going to be distracted by yet another reorganization.
Many people are asking for something they mistaken think is easy: a tablet computer running the full version of Microsoft Windows that’s comparable to the iPad.
This isn’t very realistic. The reason the iPad runs the iPhone OS and not Mac OS X is because Apple couldn’t make a device the size and price of the iPad with a 10-hour battery life running a desktop operating system. The same holds true of Windows.
Here’s the thumb-rule I use:
- Power, size, battery life, price — Pick any three.
With the iPad, Apple picked size, battery life, and price, but to get these it had to sacrifice power. That’s why this affordable computer runs a stripped-down OS designed for a smartphone, not a desktop.
Think about another Apple product that took a different tack. With the MacBook Air, Apple choose power, and size, and tried to compromise on battery life and price. So it’s a small, powerful computer that costs three times what the iPad does and has less than half the battery life.
What Do You Want in Your Windows Tablet?
Many people are hoping HP is still working on a slate-shaped computer with Windows 7, but there are reports that this may have been canceled because the company is running into problems with the thumb-rule I gave earlier.
If HP makes an affordable device the size of the iPad running the full version of Windows on a good processor, it’s going to have to sacrifice battery life. With this operating system’s need for a fast processor and no room for a large battery, I estimate such a model would run less than two hours on a single charge.
Based on the early reports I’ve read about this tablet, HP is trying to balance power and battery life. It is going to put in a relatively slow processor in hopes of increasing the time the device can run on a single charge. problem is, this is going to decrease the performance.
I could perhaps see a company making an iPad-like model with Windows, decent performance, and a reasonable battery life, but this device would have the same drawback as the MacBook Air: my guess is such a computer would also cost close to $2000 because it would require some cutting-edge technology.
Other iPad Competitors
Even if HP doesn’t release its Windows-based tablet, there are plenty of iPad-like models in the offing. The ones that have the best odds make the same set of trade-offs that Apple did: sacrificing power to get a low price, good portability, and long battery life.
I’m referring to the collection of tablets running Google’s Android OS that are scheduled for release later this year. Dell is making the best known of these, but HP, MSI, and Google itself are also supposedly hard at work on their own models.
- Full Specifications List for Dell’s 7-Inch Android OS-Based Tablet Leaks Out (TabletPCReview)
- HP, Dell, and Google Prepping Android OS-Based Tablets (TabletPCReview)
In the biggest acquisition in the smartphone market in years, HP is going to buy Palm in a deal worth about $1.2 billion.
HP summed up its basic reason for acquiring Palm in a single sentence: “Advances in mobility are offering significant opportunities, and HP intends to be a leader in this market.” However, HP has given up on trying to do this with its own resources — this isn’t really surprising, the few HP iPAQ smartphone models that were released disappeared without making a peep.
A conference call HP held yesterday made it very clear that HP bought Palm for the webOS, and is going to use this operating system to become a player in the mobile market. HP believes that the OS has value but Palm didn’t have the cash to compete in a tough market against the likes of Apple, RIM and Google. HP has billions in cash ($16.6 billion at last count), and has promised to boost Palm’s R&D and marketing budget.
HP has also made it clear that it intends to use the webOS on more than just phones. Todd Bradley, the head of HP’s Personal Systems Group, said during yesterday’s call, “Between smartphones, slates and potentially netbooks, there are a lot of opportunities here.”
Good News for Palm Fans
In an ideal world, the webOS would have been enough to make Palm a profitable company again, but it didn’t happen. Sales of the Palm Pre and Pixi have been anemic, and analysts have predicted that the company was going to go bankrupt in a couple of years when it ran through its cash supplies.
A purchase by a company that intends to keep making webOS-based smartphones was the next best option. HP fits the bill, and Palm is going to continue on as a separate business unit inside of the larger company.
The worst scenario didn’t come to pass. Palm could have been bought by a rival that just wanted its extensive patent library and/or collection of highly skilled developers. If this had happened, the webOS would probably have been tossed on the rubbish heap.
That would have been a shame. There is a great deal to like in the webOS. It handles multitasking better than any other mobile operating system, and its ability to bring information from a wide range of sources is very useful.
Palm’s hardware isn’t as good, mostly due to its fixation on keyboards almost to small to be usable. If HP can convince Palm’s designers to make smartphones with decent keyboards they’ll be more competitive against models running Google’s Android OS.
The iPhone 3GS is a fine smartphone, but anyone who is thinking about ordering one now should seriously consider waiting for the fourth-generation model.
In the last few days, a great deal of information about Apple’s next smartphone has come to light. None of this is official yet, but it’s as reliable as leaked news ever gets. If you’ve missed what I’m talking about, you can get caught up by reading this article:
So the upcoming iPhone looks to be a significant upgrade — better screen, faster processor, video conferencing — and it’s probably hitting the market in two months. To me, it’s worth waiting.
Get Your Money’s Worth
My advice would be different if Apple had dropped the price for the iPhone 3GS now that it’s been on the market for nearly a year, but it hasn’t — it still costs $200 with contract.
Apple hasn’t changed the price for its high-end model in years, so the iPhone 4G is also likely to cost $200 with contract. So you can get the 2009 model or the enhanced 2010 model for the same amount.
It seems like a no-brainer to me, but it requires some patience.
Earlier this month was the tenth anniversary of my very first news article about mobile technology being published on the Web. That article, written on April 4, 2000, was about Flash technology being just around the corner for mobile devices. If that sounds familiar, its because ten years later, I’m still writing articles about Flash being just around the corner for us mobile users.
Flash was created as a way to bring advanced multimedia features to the Web. Many popular websites use it for navigation, and most streaming video services do too. Without it, these sites and services are inaccessible to smartphone users.
Last year, Adobe promised that Flash would be available for phones running Google’s Android and Palm’s webOS in the first half of this year. This week, the head of Adobe said that this will now happen in the second half of the year.
Hoping for Flash on my smartphone has started to feel like chasing a rainbow. It can seem tantalizingly close but it moves away every time I think I’m getting close to it.
To be honest, I truly expect Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen to tell us this fall that a mobile version of Flash will be out in early 2011. And then late 2011. And then 2012…
Just to be clear, I don’t think Adobe’s engineers on this project are dumb as rocks — they just have a nearly impossible challenge. Flash is a very complicated technology, and getting it to run well on the limited resources of a smartphone is very hard. It requires a fast processor and large amounts of RAM.
I suspect that what’s going to happen is that Adobe is going to have to wait for hardware to catch up to its software. Smartphones with 1 GHz processors are becoming increasingly common, and the amount of RAM has been creeping up. At some point, engineers are going to be able to end their fruitless efforts to get Flash to run well on a 400 MHz processor with 128 MB of RAM, and release a version for phones running 1.6 GHz processors with 1 GB of RAM.
Of course, it’s possible that by the time that happens, HTML5 will make the entire process moot. This emerging standard will do most of what Flash can do, hopefully with less resources.
Two news stories from this week come together perfectly — at least in my mind.
Palm, Inc., maker of the webOS, is allegedly looking to be acquired, and HTC is considering developing or buying an operating system. A merger would bring together a company that makes an excellent operating system with one that makes truly outstanding hardware.
The webOS manages to be both simple and powerful at the same time, not an easy task. Its “card” system of displaying concurrently-running applications is the best way of handling multitasking on a small screen that I know of.
On the other hand, Palm’s hardware is just so-so. The designs are generally OK, but the company has an unfortunate fascination with almost unusably small keyboards.
HTC has been at the forefront of smartphone development for just about as long as there has been such a thing as a smartphone. It made the very first phone with a Microsoft OS back in 2002, and the first model running Google’s Android OS in 2008. It is expert at combining touchscreens and keyboards into usable models.
But it has always licensed its operating systems from other companies, and therefore has no expertise in this area. Nevertheless, it is thinking about emulating its rivals Apple, RIM, Google, Samsung, and even Microsoft by releasing smartphones with its own OS.
Palm calls the webOS system for bringing together information from a variety of sources “Synergy”. I think that term would also describe the combination of Palm’s software with HTC’s hardware: the total would be greater than the sum of the two parts.
During the announcement of iPhone OS 4.0 this week, Steve Jobs also unveiled iAd, its new advertising service, which will allow developers to embed advertising into their software.
When users currently click a mobile ad, they are usually redirected to a company website or directly to the App Store. Using iAd, the advertisements will act like miniature apps that run on the mobile device.
At this point you’re probably wondering why anyone besides developers of third-party software would care about iAd. You should care because it’s going to lead to more free apps.
Obviously, developers want to make money off their work, but users want free software. In-app adversing gives both these groups what they want. All users have to do is put up with a little advertising to get free apps.
Apple is going try to make iAd easy enough that developers will embrace it. Apple is going to oversee ad sales, and developers that use the service will split profits with Apple 60/40.
Once Apple gets iAd off the ground, I expect many apps that are for-pay now will become free because of in-app ads.
I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and headed off to my local Apple Store to pick up a new iPad. So did hundreds of other people, resulting in a long line of people waiting to get this tablet computer. I wasn’t surprised, as there’s no doubt this is the hottest mobile device hitting the market this season.
I’m describing the process I went through because I think it should be a model for how to launch a highly-anticipated computer.
At 9 am when I arrived, there were 100 or so people waiting to pick up the iPad they had reserved. There were also about half that many waiting in a different line hoping that they would be able to get a unit today. Obviously, the people who had made reservations got theirs first.
My local store had plenty of employees on duty, so the wait in line wasn’t long… perhaps 45 minutes. Most people were cheerful about the wait, and Apple provided free coffee and let people get an early look at the iPad if they wanted.
When it was my turn, I was brought into the store and given a briefing on the iPad from an employee. Ross had been well trained, and was able to answer my questions, most of which centered around using this tablet computer for professional reasons, not games or video.
There were loads of iPads already set up to let people familiarize themselves with the device, with employees standing by to answer questions.
Today is the launch of the versions of the iPad that depend on Wi-Fi for Internet access. The version that will be able to access AT&T’s 3G network are scheduled for release in late April — exactly when is not yet known.
Right now, you have you choice of one with 16 GB of storage capacity for $500, a 32 GB one for $600, or a 64 GB version for $700. The versions with 3G will be an additional $130.
There are some iPad accessories available today, but there are also some notable absences. Naturally the Dock is in stores, and several companies have a range of cases available already. However, the Keyboard Dock won’t be available until late this month. The adapters to let you plug in memory cards to transfer pictures also won’t be released for a few more weeks.
The Apple Bluetooth keyboard is compatible, and has been on the market for some time, so I picked one up for testing. I also got the adapter to let you connect the iPad (or iPhone) to an external monitor to watch video.
Even though the iPad has just launched today, there is already a tremendous array of third-party software for it because this tablet computer can run apps designed for the iPhone. In addition, a growing number of titles have been tuned for the iPad’s 9.7-inch, high-resolution display.
You can read about some of the new apps in this article:
Apple iPad Software Pouring into the App Store
I’m going to spend the rest of the day testing out this new tablet computer, and writing a “First Look” review. This will be published on Brighthand‘s sister site TabletPCReview.com.
I have completed my preliminary review of the iPad. To read it, go to:
John Herlihy, the head of Google’s operations in Europe, told a conference recently, “In three years time, desktops will be irrelevant.” I think his timing may be a bit aggressive, but I agree with his statement in general.
In a few years, our phones are going to be the way most people do their personal computing. From email to Facebook to casual web surfing, the phone is going to be the more popular option.
Learning By Example
Just a few decades ago, if I told you that paper would be irrelevant before too much longer, you’d have laughed in my face. It’s now 2010, and PCs really have made paper more irrelevant than most people realize. I’d say at least 90% of the reading I do is on a screen, with the rest on paper. And that mostly in book form.
Most people access the Web all the time, but they certainly don’t print out every webpage they go to. (Can you imagine a teenager printing out Facebook every time they check their friends’ status?) Nor do we all print out every email message we get. Or every text message.
People keep printing out tons of paper — mostly at work — but I think the vast majority of it is wasted. A typical example is a guy who prints out a copy of his 30 page report for everyone in the department, but few people do more than glance at it.
Many companies have stopped offering user manuals on paper because the vast majority of them end up in landfills.
Newspapers subscriptions fall every year.
I think the same thing is true of PCs and phones. Years from now, just about everyone is still going to have a desktop/notebook, but they won’t be nearly as important as they are now.
We will turn to the PC for tasks it performs better than a phone, in the same way that we use paper for things that it handles better than PCs do. But a majority of the time we’ll be using our phones.
This about it this way. Until a decade or so, everything was on paper. Now, everything is on the PC. If they had a choice between totally giving up paper or totally giving up their PC, I’m sure the vast majority of people would give up paper.
In a few years, given a choice between giving up their PC and giving up their phone, the PC is going to be the one being put out to pasture.
Phone for Pleasure, PC for Work
Just so we’re all on the same page, I’m talking about personal computing, not work. We’re still going to need PCs for our jobs. When you sit down to crunch the department’s finances for Q1, you’re still going to be sitting at that old trusty PC. And then printing out copies on paper.
For the generation that is being born now, this process will probably feel like they are writing it out longhand on foolscap with a quill pen.