Feb 25

The Smartphone Wars: Nod and WinCE

I learned this morning that Windows Phone 7 – the smartphone OS that bricks your phone! – is a skin over a bunch of core components from Windows CE. Which if you came in late, is widely regarded as the second most wretched hive of bugs and villainy Microsoft ever shipped.

(Yes, I said “second most”. Even WinCE could not come near matching the epic failitude of Microsoft Bob, which can only be explained by the justified supposition that its product manager was doing the mattress mambo with Bill Gates. She later married him, and Microsoft Bob disappeared down the event horizon of a black hole created by its own suckiness.)

My initial reaction to this news was “Doomed! What on Earth were they thinking?“. On reflection, however, there is an angle from which this way of slapping WP7 together makes a horrifying kind of sense. Not that I now think it’s any less doomed, mind you…but there are perhaps some useful lessons to be learned if we examine this fiasco from the Microsoft point of view.

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Feb 23

The Smartphone Wars: Bricks and Battiness

After the high drama of the last couple of weeks in the smartphone arena, it’s refreshing to encounter some good old-fashioned low comedy. We’ll get to more serious fare, but let’s take a look first at how astonishingly Microsoft just screwed the pooch.

Microsoft’s very first update to WP7, adding no features but intended “to improve the update process”, fails on some phones (requiring a manual reboot) and irrecoverably bricks others. Oh, yeah. Let’s just take as read the cheap jokes about very few users being affected because who bought a WP7 phone in the first place? I’m thinking those 50%-to-80% return rates we heard rumors of are about to go up, big-time. I’m also thinking that if I were a Microsoft stockholder I’d be eyeing the exits, and that if I were a Nokia shareholder I’d be running for them at full panic speed. This is what’s supposed to save Nokia’s bacon sometime in the future indefinite?

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Feb 18

The Smartphone Wars: Tightening the OODA Loop

An excellent article on the future of smartphones puts hard numbers to a trend I’ve been watching for two years. In so doing, it points out one of the fundamental competitive drivers in the smartphone market. More than that, it displays a powerful if sometimes less than obvious advantage of open-source software, and implicitly relates that to a seminal concept in military theory called the OODA (observe/orient/decide/act) loop.

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Feb 16


Yes, that’s a new word in the blog title: collabortage. It’s a tech-industry phenomenon that needed a name and never had one before. Collabortage is what happens when a promising product or technology is compromised, slowed down, and ultimately ruined by a strategic alliance between corporations that was formed (at least ostensibly) to develop it and bring it to market.

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Feb 14

The Smartphone Wars: Nokia shareholders revolt!

Well, that didn’t take long. Just a few hours ago I was speculating in a comment thread that Stephen Elop’s cozy deal with Microsoft Microsoft might lead to a fairly near-term shareholder revolt, and lo, it has occurred. Welcome to Plan B.

This is pretty dynamite stuff. A group of Nokia shareholders is planning an attempted coup at the May 3rd general meeting. They want to start by firing Elop and his henchmen, then reframe the Microsoft tie-up as a tactical play for the U.S. market, then put the company fully behind MeeGo as their bid for the smartphone future.

The question is, can it possibly work?

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Feb 11

The Smartphone Wars: Nokia’s Suicide Note

Stephen Elop has jumped his company off the burning platform, all right. And, I judge, straight into the fire.

No, the choice that seals Nokia’s doom isn’t the tie-up with Microsoft (though that’s problematic enough, and I’ll get back to it). It’s the way Elop has failed to resolve Nokia’s drift and lack of a strategic focus. Instead of addressing this problem, Elop plans to institutionalize it by splitting the company into two business units that will pursue different – and, in fact, mutually opposing – strategies.

After the brutal clarity of the “burning platform” memorandum, this is deeply disappointing. And not viable. One of my commenters voiced my very thought: the death spiral begins now.

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Feb 10

The Smartphone Wars: iPhone 4V Falls To Earth

So the Verizon iPhone arrives, iOS is finally multicarrier, and consumer first-day reaction is “meh…not interested”. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this.

Yes, I predicted, based on looking at AT&T’s 4Q2010 numbers, that Verizon iPhone sales would be “anemic”. There are statistical clues that AT&T has already largely saturated the market of people who really want an iPhone. But the way I was expecting things to play out was for a strong initial burst of sales to true believers to be followed with an unusually rapid fall-off. This is not the result we got.

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Feb 09

The Smartphone Wars: Elop’s Burning Platform

Wall Street Journal’s TechEurope is running the full text of an astonishingly candid memo by the CEO of Nokia. Read the whole thing, in which Elop says Nokia’s performance and strategy over the last few years has been a disaster and it’s time to jump off the burning platform before the company is consumed by flames.

I think we can deduce three things from this memo. First, Elop’s appreciation of how bad a fix Nokia is in is complete. Second, he’s going to jump Nokia to WP7 or Android when the promised strategy announcement happens in two days from now. And third, there are some subtle pro-Android clues in there.

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Feb 05

A major secret of effective writing

I’m in the process of editing a document for a technical project that is intended to be an introduction for newbies to certain fairly complex issues. While requesting feedback on the project mailing list, I realized that I had accidentally revealed a major secret of really top-grade writing, exactly the sort of thing that put The Cathedral and the Bazaar on the New York Times best-seller list.

I see no reason not to share it with my readers. So here is the relevant part of my request for feedback:

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Feb 03

Heavy weather and bad juju

Many primitive societies believe that maleficient spirits cause all sorts of human misfortune that in the modern West we have learned to attribute to natural causes – cattle dying, crops failing, disease, drought, that sort of thing. A few societies have developed a more peculiar form of supernaturalism, in which evil spirits recede into the background and all misfortune is caused by the action of maleficient human sorcerers who must be found and rooted out to end the harm.

A society like that may be a grim, paranoid place with everyone constantly on the hunt for sorcerers – but a sorcerer can be punished or killed more easily than a spirit or a blind force of nature. Therein lies the perverse appeal of this sort of belief system, what I’ll call “sorcerism” – you may not be able to stop your cattle from dying, but at least you can find the bastard who did it and hurt him until you feel better. Maybe you can even prevent the next cattle-death. You are not powerless.

English needs, I think, a word for “beliefs which are motivated by the terror of being powerless against large threats”. I think I tripped over this in an odd place today, and it makes me wonder if our society may be talking itself into a belief system not essentially different from sorcerism.

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