Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

This is certainly a belated post. I have been meaning to write it for many months but kept getting distracted. CES came and went with little that was earth shattering but a lot that was incremental. TV’s are more connected than ever while also getting bigger and thinner. Computers are slimmer and faster. The Macbook Air line is finally getting some serious competition but the pricing appears to be less than stellar. Here is a case where the Apple tax may be less than people suspect. SSD’s are slowly replacing hard drives and SSD speeds continue to increase. If you haven’t replaced your main hard drive with an SSD then you are in for a treat along with the concomitant blow to your wallet. Tablets are rushing forward. Vastly lower pricing should open tablets up to many more people and cause Android market share to surge. NFC is moving forward and uses are expanding. By 2013 I expect most top end smartphones will support NFC and that includes Apple.

There was, however, one area that brought a small amount of excitement – automotive. I have blogged before about Ford and their moves forward. There is a summary of the automotive announcements at Engadget so I won’t repeat a lot of it here. In general, phones, especially the iPhone, are being better integrated into automobiles and the move towards running apps on the automobile’s systems gets closer to reality. Right now most apps are proprietary but their numbers are increasing. Automobiles are getting more tightly connected to the web with the ability to send data between car and home. Back in 2009 GM and Ford announced that they intended to build Android cars. Here it is 2012 and we are still waiting but things are moving forward. The Chinese are there with the Roewe 350. Ford, GM, Mercedes et. al. are moving closer. In the end transparency of use and data will prevail and the automobile will merge seamlessly with the phone, TV and tablet.

Advertisements

RIM Keeps Falling

Posted: December 3, 2011 in Android, Apple, Google, RIM, Tablet
Tags:

I was never impressed with the RIM Playbook. I guess others weren’t either. RIM has written off a lot of the inventory as the Playbook continues to have dismal sales figures and has to be heavily discounted to move. HP and RIM are losers in the tablet wars but the implications for RIM are bigger. The smartphone and the tablet are becoming tightly linked. With a failing ecosystem surrounding it, the Blackberry is in danger. Never mind the good Blackberry sales mentioned in the link above; the future looks gloomy. Just look at the latest market share data:

Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) are gaining market share at RIM’s expense. RIM is now a distant third and I don’t see the trend reversing.

 

While there was some buzz, I wonder if most people fully understand the meaning of Google’s announcement that they will no longer support the GMAIL app for Blackberry. HP has already exited the mobile battle (phones and tablets). The Google announcement shows how far RIM has fallen. RIM’s tablet is a non-starter. iOS5 adds a lot of the functionality of BBM. You have to ask yourself what makes Blackberry special. If Blackberry is just another smartphone then Android and iOS are more compelling. Apple has broken RIM’s hold on the corporate world. That wall has been breached. I wish I had good advice for RIM but it may be too late.

First and foremost Apple sells a polished user experience. Apple sweats the details. From the moment you walk into the store the experience is polished and first rate. Unboxing your purchase continues the experience. Even Apple’s service group, AppleCare, is different. You get lots of attention from people who know what they are doing. Apple hardware has a lot of refinement. The OS feel is consistent and people consistently talk about Apple products as intuitive and easy to use.

I have written about convergence and transparency. These two trends play right into Apple’s strengths. Apple is selling more and more laptops because people have purchased iPhones. People who have purchased iPads are now buying iPhones. The release of OSX Lion moves the laptop closer to iOS. The iPhone and the iPad use the same OS. This means transparency of use. But, for the first time, I see Apple moving backwards. Their new policy requires that Apple receive 30% of any in-app purchase. I can see how Apple reached this point. Games would be offered for free in the Apple App Store. Once you started playing the game, you found out you had to do an in-app purchase to go beyond level 3. Apple saw this as a direct end run around their app store policies in order to avoid paying Apple their cut. Admittedly, at 30% that cut is big and hence companies, especially small ones, are highly motivated to avoid this form of app store “tax.” None of this is a big problem as long as we are talking about games. Things are different when it comes to magazines and books.

So far the best example of the move towards transparency has been the Kindle ecosystem. There are Kindle apps for just about every device. There are apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows. If you buy a book through any one app it is available on all of the others. Bookmarks are shared. You can read on your tablet, pick up on your phone and finish up on your laptop. In every case, when you move to a new device, the app knows where you left off on the old one. This is transparency of use in action. Now Apple is working to hinder that transparency.

Reading books is still a transparent experience. However, buying them now involves exiting the Kindle program and using a web browser to go to Amazon.com. You can’t even click a button in the Kindle app and have it open Safari using the appropriate URL. You can in the Mac Kindle app. What should really happen is that the Kindle store should be built into the Kindle app. I suspect it eventually will be on Android. It will never be on iOS devices. Apple’s 30% cut would change a money maker into a loss leader product. Not only is 30% too high, I see no reason Apple should get anything. The books aren’t being bought through Apple’s online store. Besides, it is anticompetitive. It gives Apple’s own iBooks a competitive pricing advantage. The problem is, iBooks isn’t as universal as Kindle. This small chink in Apple’s image is becoming a growing crack. Online forums have end users griping about it. This is a chance for Google to press Apple and change the image of Android vs. iOS.

Until now, Android has been an interesting phone OS beloved by techies for its openness and many features. Most consumers have viewed, and in fact still are viewing, Apple’s iOS as the more polished and bug free operating system for phones and tablets. Apple’s greed could change that. Android gets more and more polished day by day. If in app purchases become the norm for Android and the exception for iOS then consumers will see Android as the easier and more transparent operating system. Imagine the difference is Amazon makes Kindle apps have smooth integration with the Kindle store except for Kindle on Apple devices. As more people buy and read ebooks, this will push them towards Android instead of iOS. All you have to do is read this to see how Apple may be inadvertently causing apps to be less friendly. Android versions of the apps won’t be so limited.

Right now Apple’s new policy has done little other than make Apple richer and tick off some app writers. However, as Android keeps getting stronger, this policy might come to threaten Apple when consumers begin to find buying and reading ebooks and ezines easier and more transparent on Android than iOS.

Moogle Update

Posted: August 24, 2011 in Google, Motorola
Tags: , ,

Despite all of the niceties said by Samsung and others we now see the truth. Samsung doesn’t like Google becoming a competitor. The result is that Samsung is now supporting a Korean effort to develop their own phone OS. Check it out here. My advice to Google still stands. The should sell off Motorola Mobile’s cell phone business.

By now most readers will be aware that Google is buying Motorola Mobility. I started to write about this when I first heard the news but I wanted to think about it and explore the implications and potential reasons. Time is up. Here are my thoughts.

The most straight forward reason is patent defense. When Google lost out to Microsoft and Apple in the bidding for the Nortel patent portfolio it left Google in a very bad position. Android violates several of the Nortel patents. Google launched an offensive claiming Apple and Microsoft were using patents, as opposed to compelling solutions, as a way to attack Google. We must remember that Google also bid for these patents and, had they won, would have probably used them against Microsoft and Apple. Furthermore, an offer to join with Microsoft and Apple in acquiring the patents was rebuked by Google. If the purchase of Motorola Mobility is indeed a defensive play then this is nothing more than another round of that old patent game “I’ll cross license mine if you will cross license yours.” Considering the large amounts of cash Google is sitting on, this might be a very sensible move.

Could there be more to the acquisition than patents? Google has made cell phones in the past when it was jump-starting Android. But, should they be a cell phone producer? In the PC space Apple has been a small closed ecosystem compared to the loose and very diversified Microsoft ecosystem. The result was a larger, cheaper and more diversified hardware and software ecosystem for Windows (Microsoft) compared to OSX (Apple). Recall that, at one time (Apple II), Apple dominated the desktop space. The diversity of the Microsoft based environment resulted in Apple becoming a niche player. Today, despite Apple’s early lead, there is a strong possibility that Android will be the Windows of the smartphone and tablet space. I see no reason for Google to try to “out Apple” Apple. Think of the strange relationship that is going to exist with companies like HTC and Samsung. In the recent past, market pressure pushed those companies towards Google. Apple was closed to them. Microsoft Windows Phone 7 was open but Nokia was clearly customer number one and in a special, preferred customer, position. Now Google is not just a supplier but a competitor. I think Microsoft is secretly happy about all of this. It makes their relationship with Nokia look tame by comparison.

Could this be herd instinct? Apple makes the iPhone. HP bought Palm. Microsoft is in bed with Nokia. RIM makes Blackberry. Perhaps Google fell victim to the “everyone else is doing it” syndrome. Somehow I doubt it. The people at Google are nothing if not sharp. Still, it has happened at this level before.

One possible reason for the acquisition might be to push NFC. NFC requires that very specific hardware be placed inside smartphones. The Motorola Mobility arm of Google could push this. However, I think NFC can be effectively pushed without making the phones themselves. I don’t buy this as a reason for the acquisition.

That brings me to one final reason for the purchase – set top boxes. I have discussed how the real goal is a very broad and unified ecosystem. The TV is a big part of that. Google could merge GoogleTV into the Motorola Mobility set top box units. As a competitor in the set top box space they might be in a good position to drive their ecosystem. I have argued before that consumers don’t like extra boxes and hence AppleTV and even external game boxes (PS3, Wii, Xbox) are interim solutions. The one external box that has some life left is the cable box.  Google could merge the cable box, GoogleTV and Android games into one piece of hardware. Moving between cable product, internet streams and applications could be made very unified and essentially transparent to the consumer.

Summary: This acquisition is all about the patent portfolio and using it as a counter to Apple and Microsoft. However, Google is left with a hardware business that competes with key customers.

My recommendation: If I was willing to tell Apple what to do then why not another multibillion dollar company that is highly profitable? So Google, here is what you should do. Sell off the mobile device arm of Motorola Mobility but keep set top boxes. Keep all of the patents and just license them to the entity acquiring the cell phone business. Finally, merge GoogleTV into the cable box and make GoogleTV fully compatible with Android games. Use your new found cable box presence to drive a broader ecosystem that is more unified than what consumers have now.

I didn’t publish anything Monday or Tuesday. I was busy digesting what was coming out of WWDC and E3. I won’t regurgitate the standard stuff covered better by sites such as Engadget. Rather I want to comment on what people missed or only put down as a footnote. However, I do need to go through a few big items. First, WWDC is notable for no new hardware and few surprises. Little made me go WOW! The cloud is taking on more importance. However, a lot of this has already been done by Microsoft and Google. What Apple brings, get ready for it, is better transparency of use. If you are willing to buy into the Apple ecosystem then you get data transparency in return. The same goes for Microsoft and Google but the Apple approach is more automatic and, here is that word I overuse, transparent. This is an ecosystem war. Who gets left out? Well, I’n not buying any stock in RIM.

Everyone is talking about what the cloud will do. Here is what it won’t do. Right now no one has it syncing apps or present device status. That means when you move from one device to another you don’t just pick up where you left off. Your data will be there but you will have to open an appropriate application and load the data. If you don’t have an appropriate application installed, for example Excel, then well… it won’t be installed. So, all of the new stuff  coming out is a step in the right direction but just a step.

I liked Apple’s Match announcement but it just highlights the bandwidth limitations that make a pure cloud existence less than thrilling. The bandwidth issue is one of many reasons I am less than thrilled with Google’s Chromebook concept. Also, you will have to be careful with iCloud to make sure you really have your photos backed up since they only remain in the cloud for 30 days. In the end the cloud is great for syncing and sharing but i don’t want it to be my only data storage location.

As far as E3 is concerned there was the usual plethora of game announcements. On the hardware front Nintendo showed an early version of the Wii U complete with graphics generated on Xbox 360 and PS3. Yes, you read that correctly. Some of the example graphics were actually generated on competitor’s platforms. What’s notable about the Wii U isn’t the fact that it has a faster processor or 1080p graphics. The big deal is the new touch screen controller. It lets you play without using the TV set or if you do use the TV, have a second display. Wait, isn’t this just like what I was suggesting for Apple? Oh yeah, the Nintendo controller includes accelerometers and gyros just like an iPhone. Nintendo is on the right tract. However, Apple, Google and Microsoft are all coming from stronger positions if they will just see it and actually attack this space.