Jan 31

The Smartphone Wars: Android hits #1

The technology press is abuzz with news of a report from Canalys that Android is now the #1 smartphone platform in the world, with its 33% share of sales edging out Symbian’s 31% and far surpassing Apple’s 16%. In the U.S, Android smartphones are now 53% of all sold.

Once again, I was expecting this, but not so soon. As volume production of cheap Android handsets in Asia drove down prices the doom of the aging and stagnant Symbian platform was sealed, but I wasn’t expecting actual market share crossover until the end of 2Q2011. Once again, Android has exceeded expectations with eye-popping growth.

The pressure on Symbian just ratcheted up another notch. It’s reported that Nokia has scheduled a “strategy announcement” for Feb 11. Investors will be demanding a bold move to counter the catastrophic erosion in Nokia’s market share – this time last year they were #1 at 44%.

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Jan 26

The Smartphone Wars: The Fall and Fall of Windows Phone 7

And now, for a bit of comic relief, let us examine the state of Windows Phone 7. It launched just over three months ago in a cloud of hubris – Microsoft’s first-ship party featured pallbearers lugging a huge mockup of an iPhone (and the rest of what you need to know about that moment was that the video was caught by an Android phone). Just how is Redmond’s bid to escape irrelevance doing?

Not well enough for Microsoft to want to disclose sales figures, apparently. While Google reports 200K Android phones a day are shipping, Microsoft is reduced to gamely insisting that it is confident Windows 7 will eventually succeed. At least one of its channel partners is, shall we say, less sanguine.

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Jan 24

The smartphone wars: Samsung folds under pressure

Some months ago I wrote (in Flattening the Smartphone Market) about the real significance of the Android 2.2 announcement. That was the moment that Google made clear that it intended to take control of the smartphone feature list from the cell carriers. Subsequently, carrier-loaded crapware and suppression of features like hotspot and tethering have been in decline under market pressure. The release of the T-Mobile G-2 and the Samsung Galaxy S (marketed as “the pure Google experience”) have been indicators of this trend.

I should have added that 2.2 takes control of the smartphone feature list away from handset vendors as well. A leak by someone claiming to be a T-mobile employee in the know alleged that Samsung has been dragging its feet on 2.2 upgrades for the Samsung Vibrant, hoping customers will upgrade to the Vibrant 4G in order to get the 2.2 that ships with it. Now comes word that Samsung has folded under pressure from the maneuver and announced an OTA update schedule for 2.2 on the Vibrant.

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Jan 22

Embracing the suck

This is a followup to The Rollover of Doom: a Trap for Good Programmers. That post ended “This problem is a Chinese finger-trap for careful and conscientious programmers. The better you are, the worse this problem is likely to hurt your brain. Embrace the suck.”

That last phrase is a take on a military objurgation which translates as “The situation is bad. Deal with it.” Well, my friends, I am about to tell you how bad the GPS rollover situation really is.

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Jan 16

True Grit times two

I just got back from seeing the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. I had prepared by watching the classic 1969 John Wayne film. The similarities and contrasts have some interesting messages about how audience tastes and filmmaking styles have changed in the last 40 years.

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Jan 15

The Rollover of Doom: a Trap for Good Programmers

GPS, the Global positioning System, was designed in the 1970s under hardware-cost constraints that would seem ridiculous today. This makes interpreting the data it sends into a black art, and produces some really painful edge cases.

There’s one edge case in particular that I’ve come to think of as the Rollover of Doom. This morning I came up with an evil, clever hack for getting around it. I call it clever because you have to think your way out of a conceptual box to see it. As to why it’s evil…well, you’ll see. If you can figure it out.

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Jan 09

Geeks, hackers, nerds, and crackers: on language boundaries

Geeks, hackers, nerds, and crackers. It’s an interesting indication of how popular culture has evolved in the last quarter-century that the scope and boundaries of these terms are now of increasing interest to people who don’t think they belong in any of those categories — from language columnists for major newspapers to ordinary folks who have relatives they suspect might fall somewhere in the Venn diagram those terms define.

I’ve been watching these terms shift and move in and out of prominence since the early 1970s. Over time, distinctions among them that were once blurred have tended to sharpen. This is not happening at random; it accompanies the changes in “mainstream” culture that I noted in The Revenge of the Nerds is Living Well. As groups who were one marginalized erupt into mainstream visibility, everybody’s functional need for language that puts a handle on their social identities becomes more pressing.

Here’s a report on the state of play in early 2011, with some history intended to illuminate it.

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Jan 07

Plug and Pray in GPS-land

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another darkly humorous tale of the seamy side of GPS interfacing. GPSD working with USB GPS mice has, when properly installed, lovely plug-and-play self-configuring behavior. That is, you plug a USB GPS into a USB port, the hotplug system notifies the gpsd daemon that the GPS is available, the daemon records this fact…and subsequently when you start up any GPSD client application It Just Works. Well, usually. There’s a dangerous weakness in the machinery, and yesterday it came around and bit us in the ass.

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