May 26, 2012
I believe Nokia when it says that the company has no Plan B, or that Plan B is to make Plan A a success – at least for now. Perhaps it would prefer not to consider such an alternative until it saw that Windows Phone was failing to make inroads after an extended period of time. Of course, the big question is, how long would that period be?
The line from Nokia is that the ecosystem of Windows Phone must succeed for Nokia to succeed. But I’m not sure it’s so black and white. Apple, and for years before it, RIM, succeeded with no other licensees of its operating system. There was that brief window where PalmOne was the only successful licensee of Palm OS, owned by PalmSource. And, really, which major handset provider besides Nokia was wildly successful with Symbian?
Indeed, while few doubt that Nokia will be the most successful Windows Phone licensee, a successful ecosystem does not necessarily make for a successful licensee. Some would argue that, if Windows Phone proves a failure beyond Nokia, than Microsoft should just purchase Nokia. But Stephen Elop, in recounting the story of how Nokia came to license Windows Phone, says that that was never on the table. Indeed, Nokia would be about as comfortable inside Microsoft as Motorola Mobility still looks inside Google. Not needing the IP, or being able to leverage it without purchase, Microsoft would be loath to buy Nokia no matter how high its share of Windows Phone became.
Tags: ecosystems, Google, Googorola, licensing, Microkia, Mokia, motorola, Plan B, Tizen, webOS, Windows Phone
May 7, 2012
I was excited when Apple announced support for folders in iOS 4. Folders were the solution to the iPhone’s home screen limit and Apple implemented folder creation in a pretty slick way – dragging one app icon atop another, even suggesting a name in the process .But while I appreciate that Apple has tried to simplified the organization system in iOS when compared to the hierarchies in Mac OS and Windows, folders have become more frustrating than helpful to me.
First, the limit on the number of items (which varies depending on whether you are using an iPhone/iPod or iPad, forces arbitrary organization schemes. I’ve found this to be particularly true for games, the abundance of which on iOS has left me scratching my head as to how to group them. Is Traffic Rush a skill game? A strategy game? A driving game? I’ve mostly given up and just created sequentially named Games folders that lead me to forget what is where.
But this creates another problem because you can’t search for folder names. If you’ve forgotten which folder you’ve used for an app, about your only alternative aside from opening every potential folder to spot check is to search for the app every time you want to launch it.
Finally, even after you’ve gone through the painstaking process of creating folders – a task not particularly enhanced by the iTunes desktop interface – restoring your folder organization can be a dicey proposition.
Old Mac hands will remember that the Mac’s first filing system, the Macintosh Filing System (MFS), also had folders that were merely cosmetic and not hierarchical. Apple could better balance the needs of those wanting a more robust organization scheme and novices by creating a one level-deep hierarchy as it sort of has in iPhoto. It would also be great to see Apple create a more powerful desktop tool to organize apps, screens and folders, But I’d happily pass on either of those options if Apple would simply offer the option to keep apps and folders alphabetized as they do on the Mac and as they are in the Windows Phone app list and Android’s stock launcher. This creates a default way to find things as the number of apps grows.
Tags: Apple, flatland, folders, iOS, iTunes, MFS, navigation, personalization, Search
October 20, 2011
The past few weeks have been an incredible time for smartphones. Apple launched its iPhone 4S, sticking with its successful iPhone 4 design and repeating a play that the company used before when it launched the 3GS as a follow-up to the 3G. The move bespoke a confidence in its approach, focusing efforts on where the company thinks it matters while resisting temptations such as a larger display or LTE.
And if the introduction of the iPhone 4S was classically Apple, what happened the following week was classically Android. Within 24 hours, two Android licensees announced bleeding-edged phones. The Motorola Droid RAZR packed LTE into a .71 mm splashproof, Kevlar-coated, stainless steel-supported profile. And the other side of the globe, Google and Samsung teamed up to reveal the first Ice Cream Sandwich phone, boating a 4.65” AMOLED display, NFC to enable Android Beam, and face recognition-based unlocking. Both handsets are headed toward Verizon, the high-end Android cup of which seems like it will overflow this holiday season.
Tags: 800, Android, Apple, Nokia, nokia world, sea ray, Windows Phone 7
June 27, 2011
Last week’s announcement that Seesmic would not discontinue support for its social network client for BlackBerry demonstrated the challenges that RIM has faced competing for developer attention. With iOS and Android far in the lead, Microsoft pushing hard for Windows Phone, and HP seeking to attract developers to as it evolves the webOS multi-device platform strategy, few developers have the resources to create quality omnipresent work, and something has to give.
The news was not as bleak as it seems on face value, though. First, Seesmic was competing against RIM’s own well-designed (as BlackBerry apps go these days) Twitter client. Second, third-party Twitter clients are in a precarious position on several mobile platforms. Apple, Microsoft and others are integrating Twitter into their mobile operating systems. And Twitter the corporate entity has scooped up TweetDeck, the most prominent competitor to the Seesmic software, following its previous acquisition of Tweetie, now the official Twitter client for Apple devices.
Nevertheless, while RIM has done what it can to smooth the road to the promising Playbook by supporting AIR and Android apps, it’s going to be a harder sell until a native BlackBerry tablet OS SDK is available and – more critically — until it can bring that QNX-based platform to its smartphones.
Tags: applications, apps, Blackberry, developers, QNX, RIM, Seesmic, TweetDeck, Twitter
March 19, 2011
My Switched On column discussing the potential benefits of Microsoft using Windows for tablets garnered over a whopping 1.100 comments. many of which were positive. As I noted in the column, though, Microsoft still has a lot to prove in basing its tablet strategy on Windows as opposed to the currently more touch-friendly if feature-strapped Windows Phone OS.
Following a tweet in which I groused about the still unsatisfying state of driver update management on Windows, that challenge became a topic of conversation on Twitter a few days ago when the question was posed as to whether Microsoft needed to have an app store – like Apple, Google, or itself on Windows Phone – in order to compete in the tablet market. If so, the app store would presumably also be available to the next version of Windows. This leads to a number of hypotheticals. Would Microsoft include an app store in desktop Windows even if it were using Windows Phone for tablets? And is an app store even necessarily for tablets?
My answer to the latter is that it is, at least to be competitive with Apple and Google, and it’s a good idea regardless. for desktop Windows, which is under seige not be any particular operating system (OS/2, Linux) as in the past, but the idea of OS insignificance, a battle that Apple is also trying to fight via its app stores both on the Mac and iOS.
Tags: iOS, Microsoft, tablets, Window sPhone
December 22, 2010
I recently had an interesting discussion with a company hat is planning un releasing a useful iPhoneiPad accessory at CES that works with, of course, an app. The company was wondering whether it should charge for the app. Certainly, while most apps — particularly first-party ones – that work with iPhone-related devices have been free, e.g.,, the Sonos Controller, the Monsoon Multimedia Vukano app, and the Peel application – some have charged separately. A good example of the latter approach is the outlandishly priced Sling Remote app. Logitech also mysteriously has left Squeezebox control to two strong third-party apps.
This company, though, wasn’t looking to gouge. Rather, it was concerned that if it made the app free, that those who didn’t purchase the hardware would be scratching their heads and give it a low rating. This raises some interesting questions. For example, should Apple enforce those who rate an app that requires hardware to have purchased that hardware? I’d argue yes. Alternatively, manufacturers should have the option to make iPhone apps available only with a code that is obtained with the purchase of the product and is then linked to their Apple ID.
Tags: apps, comments, dock connector, peripherals, ratings
December 7, 2010
As it did with Eclair (Android 2.1), Google has taken the occasion of a new version of Android dubbed Gingerbread (Android 2.3) to bring out a new handset offering a “pure Android experience.” This time around, that purity is brought to you by Samsung rather than HTC, which produced the original Nexus One, a handset that stole some thunder (but few sales) from the Motorola Droid juggernaut.
Google has used the Nexus handsets for experimenting with distribution outside the carrier channel, even if it made the original Nexus somewhat of a sacrificial lamb. The superior distribution of Best Buy should certainly help with the push of the device.
However, the improvements in Android 2.3 may not do much to drive consumers to the Google-branded handset, at least for a while. Unlike recent Android enhancements that brought improvements such as more home screens, dramatically faster operation, and mobile hotspot capability, .most of Gingerbread’s improvements are under the hood. The marquee feature, NFC, could yield some compelling new applications, but the one most popularly considered – enabling payments – is hardly a magnet.
The “S” serving as the device’s surname refers to the Samsung Galaxy S family that is the foundation for not only the Nexus S design, but defines many of the key hardware characteristics for the Samsung Focus, which many consider “the Windows Phone to get.” With the Galaxy S, Samsung has pursued a strategy of ubiquity versus exclusivity, and so the Nexus S will compete with similarly priced and specced siblings at all four major carriers, including the Vibrant (as well as the faster G2 and MyTouch 4G) on T-Mobile’s own portfolio. Even though the Nexus S is an unlocked device, its (partial) optimization for T-Mobile’s network all but assures that it will be most appealing to customers using the smallest of the national facilities-based carriers.
The Nexus S may be less “a Nexus to perplex us,” but Google’s vanity handsets still seem like a bug in its diversification strategy, one that must be generating considerable head-scratching among Android licensees, particularly those that are not anointed to build a Nexus in a given cycle.. Google is still staying clear of going head to head with OEMs at major carriers, but while it is providing more serious competition this time around, the carriers are better armed as well.
Tags: Android, Google, HTC, licensing, motorola, Nexus One, Nexus S, NFC, OEMs, Samsung
October 22, 2010
Having had some time to try Windows Phone 7, I can say that Microsoft’s overhaul of its mobile operating system – while far behind in the features and apps race versus iOS or Android – certainly has some points in its favor.
- It’s hard to find an opportunity that Microsoft passed up to add some engaging animation or transitions.
- The camera experience is par excellence, an especially welcome makeover from the confusing camera experience of Windows Mobile.
- The software keyboard and typing experience are really strong, and software-typing on the Samsung’s Focus 4” screen was one the best software keyboard experiences I’ve had on a mobile device. I also like the novel approach Microsoft has taken to adding extra symbols, by providing a slide-in.alternative symbols. It may not be particularly intuitive or time-saving, but it eliminates the need to switch into yet another keyboard mode. In any case, it’s good news that Microsoft has a solid software keyboard since, like Apple and unlike Android, it won’t allow alternative typing systems such as Swype..
- I also like the way Microsoft has implemented cursor insertion; this is key for devices that lack a separate control for fine cursor movements as present in Android and BlackBerry devices. Apple gets the edge for style, but the Microsoft approach is more effective than those of rivals.
- While Live Tiles may not provide much more – and in some cases may provide less – at a glance information than widgets, Microsoft makes a statement – and removes some user customization work — by having them as the default display, although Android also allows you to mix and match widgets and launch icons on any home screen, and even iOS and BlackBerry show badges or numeric indicators on information such as how many e-mail messages you have.
On the other hand, Windows Live Tiles also highlight the simplicity of having a simple list for applications arranged in alphabetical order. Apple has let us scroll through thousands of songs in the past, why not 100 or so apps?
- Offering Find My Phone for free is a nice value-add that can bring some peace of mind. This is a sleeper feature.
- This is an OS for avid Facebook users – no apps really needed for the core experience and no cumbersome “social networking” layers . In fact, Windows Phone 7 depends so heavily on Facebook for much of its social plumbing that it’s hard to imagine what the experience would be without it.
My main complaint at this point is the gargantuan font that Microsoft uses to label hubs and other cards. It’s stylish, and may be intended to span the panoramas of Windows Phone’s interface, but it consumes a lot of real estate. Also, while I have not played around a lot with Office, the file fidelity that Microsoft promises in round-tripping documents is offset a bit by the completely foreign user interface for Office apps.
Yes, the UI for Office-like apps is very different on other smartphone OSes as well, but it still seems like more of a departure here. Some of that may be because it’s Microsoft doing the diverging, because there is such a strong association with the interface that makes Office Office (as opposed to something like Documents to Go), or simply the novelty of the Windows Phone UI overall at this point.
And then there are the unknowns. One of the main ones for me is the hubs. On one hand, it is a more visual way to organize related apps and functionality than folders. However, I wonder how well it will scale. That, along with a lack of multitasking, is one of the issues that will be easier to assess as Windows Phone 7 attracts more applications.
Tags: hubs, Live Tiles, Microsoft, Office, Windows Phone 7
October 20, 2010
In previewing some of the features of the next Mac OS, code-named Lion, today, Steve Jobs decried the idea of using a touch screen on a notebook. Apple’s CEO cited the ergonomic burden of having to constantly reach forward to touch a vertically oriented screen and said that the proper orientation for a touch surface is a horizontal surface. Hence, Apple is expanding the multitouch gestures invoked from input peripherals such ad the MacBooks’ trackpad, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad.
However, the iPad is not generally used in a horizontal orientation — just check any of the Apple Pad billboards. There is a bit more to the story than just orientation. First, despite the iPadian nods to touch manipulation Apple is planning in Lion, desktop operating systems simply are not designed around the same kind of large on-screen UI elements and design that characterize the iPad experience.
This becomes obvious on a touchscreen Windows system long before arm fatigue sets in. (If you don’t have a touchscreen Windows system but do have a Winsows PC and an iPad, you can test this by using the Splashtop Remote Desktop app or any number of screen sharing alternatives.) Apple could, as many PC makers have, tweak the controls, but then the apps would still be a UI generation behind stuck in the traditional paradigm a on Windows
Second, the iPad is far more of a passive consumption device than a Mac.I’m not sure how many touch gestures the average iPad user makes versus mouse movements for a Mac user, but I would guess that the latter number is generally much higher. So even if. Apple were to create a Mac slate and tweak the UI elements, using such a computer would not be the smooth, gentle experience of an iPad.
Tags: Apple, iPad, Lion, Mac OS X, touch, user interface
September 11, 2010
Following a trend of relaxing restrictions in its app acceptance policy, Apple on Thursday announced that it would no longer ban iPhone applications written in other languages from its app store subject to certain provisions (which would exclude Adobe AIR). While Apple made a strong case as to the risks that third-party development tools made to the platform, I argued that, for many Flash developers, the choice was probably between using Flash or no app, as opposed to Flash versus Cocoa. And, of course, there’s nothing about Apple’s tools that prevent developers from making a bad app. The now more-transparent review process can be the point of quality control in either case.
In any case, it’s a win for Flash, and that means a win for Adobe, right? In its response to the announcement, Adobe reminds that Apple still does not allow Flash to run natively on iOS devices. No, the allowing of apps with the Flash cross-compiler is ultimately not the native Flash home run Adobe really wants. But, had Adobe kept in there, swinging away and pledging to continue to work with Apple to address the issues Apple has with Flash and the cross-compiler (regardless of the realism of that prospect), it would have a better story to tell now. It could have shared some level of responsibility in helping to convince Apple of the cross-compiler’s value (Adobe is, after all, an iOS developer), which opens up the the three (installed) bases of iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad to Flash developers.
But that’s not what Adobe did. In April, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch blogged that Adobe was moving forward from iOS. And in August, frustrated by the impasse, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen noted in reference to Apple, “They’ve made their choice. We’ve made ours and we’ve moved on.” Adobe was too eager to close the door when, clearly in hindsight, it had a chance to be reopened. Apple has cracked the door open to Flash developers a few months after Adobe decided it wouldn’t even drive them to the party.
Now, of course, Adobe is resuming work on the Flash cross-compiler for iOS. But can you imagine if Microsoft was so quick to shrug its shoulders when trying to advance its platform? “Sorry, guys. Mobile’s been a tough nut for us to crack. Android seems to be getting pretty popular now, though, so maybe you should consider casting your lot with that.”
Tags: Adobe, cross-compiler, Flash, iPhone