Posts Tagged ‘Google’

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.

The merging of the PDA and the phone is a done deal. We have moved on to the smartphone that can run apps beyond those of the classic PDA. Still, for many, this is their view of convergence. The Palm Treo showed the way but success led to myopia and Palm is no more. OK, it’s still there and WebOS is being pushed by HP. We’ll see. Call it a dark horse in a tough race. For too long Palm thought that merging the classic PDA with the phone was where convergence would end. They were wrong and by the time they realized it they were way behind. Myopia resulted in opportunity and market position being lost.

Microsoft saw the need for the smartphone. They should be the big winner today. They aren’t. Like so many in the high tech area they thought it was about feature count. They took the merging of the computer and the phone too literally and thought the smartphone should be a smaller laptop. They were wrong. In reality the computer and the phone are moving to a merged but very different use model.  Understanding convergence without understanding transparency can lead to failure. It has for Microsoft. By any rational, technical feature count analysis they should be a big winner. For many years they have had a small version of Office on Windows Mobile phones. They have a real directory structure. Of all of the smartphones they are the closest in feel to a traditional computer. Yet, the iPhone blew them away.  Interestingly, in the end, Microsoft will turn out to have been more right than wrong. Smartphones will gain a directory structure. Trust me on this one. Even Apple will eventually succumb to this. Already the iPhone has Office type apps that sort of work with MS Office files. Microsoft is the loser who gets to say “But I was really right!” With Windows Mobile 7 they stand a chance but they are number three in a tough race.  We’ll have to wait and see if they can get away from “featuritis” and understand both convergence and transparency.

Next up in the success leads to myopia crowd is RIM and the Blackberry line. What a great success story. The push mail capability brought by RIM has revolutionized the phone. Back when email was an afterthought on phones, RIM made it primary and did it with innovation, insight and excellent execution. Just as importantly, RIM courted the IT community and insinuated themselves into the fabric of business life. Today we take mail on our smartphone for granted. RIM is the gold standard for mail connectivity and Blackerry phones are known for their keyboards that make texting and email easier than on other phones. Surely RIM will be a winner as convergence proceeds. Well, in the words of Leslie Nielson in Airplane, “Don’t call me Shirley.” As smartphones have moved from email device to small, app running, computers, RIM has been left behind. Do you see a pattern? RIM left the door open for Apple and Google. Not only did these companies take the developing space RIM ignored but they are now attacking RIM at its core. Just read this article to see how the corporate world, including financial companies, is opening up to Apple. Yes, Apple! The company that was ostracized from the corporate environment and ridiculed by IT departments everywhere is being warmly accepted into the corporate world. Times are changing. The corporate walls that protected RIM have been breached with the iPad leading the way. RIM’s PlayBook is too little too late. If it had hit the market place two years ago it might have secured the corporate world from attack and had IT departments still recommending RIM. Yet again success and lack of vision have led to stagnation.

All of this is what I call classic convergence. The phone merged with the PDA and then became the premier email access device. It would be easy to think that we are nearly done. In reality it has just started.  That’s because convergence is much, much bigger than calendars, address books and email. Stay tuned as I explore the many areas making up convergence and how this ties in with transparency.