Posts Tagged ‘Android’

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.

Did Intel read my blog? Interesting posts about Intel here and here and here.

Of the Android tablets, the Xoom was the first to look reasonable but the iPad 2 made it look dated. The first real iPad 2 challenger appears to be the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Don’t confuse this with the thicker 10.1v. Engadget has a good review here. They also have a review of the HTC Flyer posted here. While not as positive as the Galaxy Tab review, I think the integration of audio and notes on the Flyer has a lot of promise.

Does anyone else think Microsoft buying Nokia’s smartphone business is a bad idea? That would make Microsoft like Apple but still trying to be like Google. Pick an approach! If Microsoft tries to straddle the fence then they will fail. Why should HTC or anyone else make a Windows Mobile phone if their direct competition on the Windows Mobile space will be Microsoft. Microsoft could wind up being the sole manufacturer of Windows Mobile phones. At that point I give a big advantage to Apple.

I haven’t talked much about Chrome and the Chromebook. A good article on them is here.

If you are following what I am saying about transparency and convergence I suggest you read  Sarah Rotman Epps’ Blog.

If you have been following along with my comments on transparency you might think the only big prize is owning the phone market or the tablet market or both. There’s another prize that’s very big. To understand it you need to take a look at PayPal. When I am online I like it when PayPal is a payment option. I don’t have to pull out my credit card. I just have to remember my PayPal login and I can complete my desired purchase. What if every transaction in the US went through two or three companies? This would be like a super PayPal. It wouldn’t just be online transactions but local purchases such as groceries, gas, clothes and dining.

It’s time for some simple math fun. April 2011 retail sales in the US were approximately $390B. One percent of that is $3.9B. If a company could get a third of this it would be $1.3B. That’s per month or $3.9B per quarter. This is only for the US. How do you get 1% of every transaction? You make them flow through your device. With NFC, the phone is the gateway to your credit card. When watching TV,  think GoogleTV or Apple TV. What if all you needed was one account with Google or Apple and you could cover all of your bills using your phone or your TV? This makes iTunes look puny. Don’t kid yourself, both Google and Apple are eyeing this. I suspect Microsoft is too but they are a bit late.

Amazon, a company I haven’t mentioned till now, sees this  too. Their solution has been to be the central online shopping site. However, remember how the Germans went around the Maginot Line? Remember how I said Apple and Google were doing a similar end around on the Wintel alliance? We could have another end around play here. Imagine your phone being your main device for purchases i.e. replacing your credit card. Apple and Google could move in on Visa and Mastercard. Now that they have you funneling your purchases through them it’s a small step to begin guiding those purchases. Think Apple App Store on a huge scale. Think of the Google Market Place but selling more than apps. Both of these companies are sitting on large amounts of cash and looking for ways to turn that into even larger revenue and profits. What can Amazon do? They can take a clue from their Kindle line. I don’t own a Kindle. However, there are Kindle apps on my laptop, my desktop, my phone and my tablet. When I buy ebooks my first choice is through Amazon. I don’t buy through iBooks because iBooks isn’t as broadly cross platform as Kindle. It’s that old transparency of data thing again. By buying through Kindle (Amazon) I can read the book on all of my devices. I read them where I want, when I want, and on the device I want to use.  Amazon needs to be the one company that will allow both your Apple device and your Android device to use the same account. At all cost they need to make sure the various platforms are open enough to allow them to be the central clearinghouse for your purchases. The same can be said for Mastercard and Visa. Those two companies dominate the landscape right now. However, fundamental changes are afoot and that always spells opportunity for others. For the first time Visa and Mastercard are vulnerable.

When will this take place? No time in the near future as far as the general public will see. However, the initial steps are being taken now. At first you will just place your credit card information in your phone and use it instead of the physical card. This is only slightly different from having Amazon store your credit card information with your account. From there it’s a small step to add extras to the Apple and Google app stores. Finally, Apple or Google issue you the credit line and push Visa and Mastercard out. They will be able to do this by offering incentives from the savings generated by not shipping Mastercard or Visa 2%.

Fragmentation in Your Face

Posted: May 12, 2011 in Apple, Google
Tags: , , ,

I thought I was done posting for today. Then I saw something in the Android Marketplace. I don’t own an Android phone so I don’t go roaming around market.android.com very often. I do however, think Netflix is a very influential company and that media streaming is where TV is headed. So, rummaging around I found this:

Get Netflix on your Android phone. Just download this free app and you can instantly watch TV shows & movies streaming from Netflix.

• It’s part of your Netflix unlimited membership. Not a Netflix member? Start your FREE trial today.
• Watch as often as you want.
• Resume watching where you left off on your TV or computer.
• Browse movies and manage your instant Queue right from your phone.

Currently Netflix playback is supported on the following phones:

• HTC Incredible with Android 2.2
• HTC Nexus One with Android 2.2, 2.3
• HTC Evo 4G with Android 2.2
• HTC G2 with Android 2.2 
• Samsung Nexus S with Android 2.3

You can click the link if you must but the key info is above. What struck me was the limited number of devices. Now I use an iPhone. There are certainly apps that won’t work with older iPhones but most do. Besides Apple users are expected to upgrade every two to four years anyway <BG>. What strikes me about the above listing is how many recently introduced Android phones aren’t listed. Shouldn’t any Android phone introduced in the last two years automatically be on this list? This is a big issue for Android. The Android brand needs to mean something. It’s OK to say any phone with Android 2.2 or later. The key should be the ANY PHONE part. If you can run a certain version of the OS then you should be able to run the app if your phone is a relatively new one. Now I suspect that may really be the case but the fact that it isn’t stated that way on the app store is a problem. Maybe it could say Android 2.2. and 1.0GHZ processor or faster and 512MB RAM. That’s a bit of a pain but it is generic. That’s what happens in PC land. What if every PC program had to have a model list that you checked to see if it would run on your machine? Crazy right? Fragmentation is a real issue for Google and the Android brand.


Near field communications, NFC, is about to be a big deal. NFC is a very short range radio link which can read passive tags such as RFID tags on items. Two active devices can share data similar to syncing devices. An example might be transferring contact information or sharing a document. Rather than repeat a lot I’ll let you read the Wikipedia entry here. Other interesting applications include letting your phone be the key for your car or allowing your phone to use stored credit card information to check out at the supermarket. NFC is key to the phone becoming the central convergence device. As I keep saying, convergence is big; very, very big. It will take longer (think many years) but the phone will become your house keys too. The idea is to eliminate all of those separate items you load into your pocket and wallet. I am not claiming that everything will be eliminated but it will be thinned down. This is powerful stuff and I expect to see the phone s credit card becoming mainstream soon. There has been speculation that iPhone 5 will support NFC. If it doesn’t then iPhone 6 definitely will. Ice Cream Sandwich, the upcoming unification version of Android, hs NFC support including something Google calls 0-click. This shows that Google is actively working on transparent usage models. The potential, and the danger are large. Security will be an issue with the usage model having to make sure that things that you don’t want to happen don’t happen inadvertently. For instance, you might not want someone to have your phone number. Still, the attraction will be overwhelming. Take a look at this “How to NFC” presentation from Google I/O 2011. It’s a long video so, if you aren’t a developer,  jump to the 6 minute mark but be sure to watch through the 17 minute mark.

This is transparency coming to your life and it’s just a start. What Google is showing is the basic enabling interface technology along with a few demo applications. Developers will take this and run with it.

The financial impetus for this is huge. Think PayPal. What if every credit card transaction went through the iTunes store or through Google with Apple or Google taking a very minor piece of the financial action? The numbers are staggering. With huge dollars at play expect a long term battle to be your NFC transaction supplier.

One reason Windows won over the Mac was broad hardware support. Anyone looking at the variety of Android phones and tablets will see the same thing being done by Google. There is another area that Microsoft attacked as well and that is peripheral support. At Google I/O 2011, Google announced support for Arduino based peripherals. If you aren’t familiar with Arduino, it is a flexible, if simple, platform that is easy to work with and very popular in the hobbyist community. This should allow for quick and easy development of a lot of Android peripherals. Check out the Android Open Accessory Development Kit by clicking here.

The main trends I keep coming back to are convergence and transparency. Google is holding Google I/O 2011 and these trends are front and center. There is a lot to cover. To start, let’s talk about Ice Cream Sandwich. No, not the dessert but the update to Android. As I mentioned after looking at the Xoom, a problem with Android tablets is that they are more than a little divorced from the Android phone experience. Ice Cream Sandwich solves that by bringing a lot of the tablet features to the phone. This gets Google back on track and makes them a serious threat to Apple. Goole seems to finally recognize that, while variety may be the spice of life, variety, in the form of platform fragmentation, is also the enemy of convergence and transparency. Fragmentation of the Android platform is a big problem but Ice Cream Sandwich is a big step toward reducing fragmentation. That means a common user experience between an Android phone and an Android tablet. This is a hallmark of Apple’s iOS. Absent from all of this is Microsoft.