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.

Other handset makers will take the same lesson the carriers are a few quarters further along in learning – footdragging on Android upgrades is one of those sleazy customer-control tactics that only works as long as the Argus-eyes of the Internet haven’t spotted it, at which point it becomes marketing suicide. Samsung just barely dodged the bullet this time by reversing itself and announcing an upgrade schedule quickly, but exactly nobody will believe the spin that the delay was due to technical problems. Samsung’s planners can bet Android fans will be watching the company’s upgrade timeliness like hawks in the future and they will not be kind about undue delays. In an intensely competitive handset market, Samsung cannot afford to take that hit to its brand image.

What we’ve just seen is another ratchet-step in the commoditization of the smartphone market.

110 thoughts on “The smartphone wars: Samsung folds under pressure

  1. Meanwhile, Verizon Galaxy S (Fascinate) users suffer from an broken 2.1+ update this week that breaks the ability to send files to the memory card over the USB.

  2. 2.2? What happened to 2.3? This is all good news, but what needs to happen is that google needs to confront the carriers and manufacturers to put upgrade control 100% in the user hands, without need for rooting the phone. Is the Nexus S this way or is it still carrier/manufacturer controlled?

  3. >breaks the ability to send files to the memory card over the USB.

    Huh? That doesn’t make much sense. Are you saying the phone can’t be mounted over USB?

  4. >2.2? What happened to 2.3?

    I don’t think we’re going to see 2.3 upgrades for a while, nor is that necessarily a problem. I think they were concentrating on improved tablet support in 2.3.

  5. I don’t think we’re going to see 2.3 upgrades for a while, nor is that necessarily a problem. I think they were concentrating on improved tablet support in 2.3.

    No, Honeycomb (3.0) was primarily about table support, as can be seen on the upcoming Motorola Xoom.

    Gingerbread (2.3) was much about performance improvements and tightening up things quite a bit. Gingerbread uses ext4 by default rather than YAFFS, as well as a new garbage collector for the Dalvik VM, and lower-latency event handling. It also adds a built-in SIP stack, NFC, gyroscope, and video calling using the front-facing camera. It tightens up the UI a bit — most notably the new keyboard (which many reviewers say is on par with the iPhone keyboard for the first time), improved text selection (which is frankly embarrassing pre-Gingerbread), and tweaks system-wide.

  6. i hope that’s not that case, the native support for the SIP stack in 2.3 looks really nice.

  7. >>Huh? That doesn’t make much sense. Are you saying the phone can’t be mounted over USB?

    Yea, apparently there is a sporadic bug that causes the flash partition to not be visible, and it only shows up as a CD device. At first I thought it was just a bug in one of the Fascinate early release Roms (DL09 was released on XDA a week or two before the OTA), but it looks like it also is showing up in the OTA DL09. Current workaround appears to be booting the phone while connected to USB.

  8. Eric,

    You really got your facts wrong this time.

    IMHO, Google needs to fix this problem via contractual terms, and a means to drive updates from Google, not the carriers or handset OEMs. Maybe for 2.4/3.0 and later.

    In short, wrt Android, Google needs to be a bit more like Apple.
    Updates need to come out for all< 2 year-old platforms, in a timely manner, at zero cost.

  9. @J. Jay Says:
    “IMHO, Google needs to fix this problem via contractual terms, and a means to drive updates from Google, not the carriers or handset OEMs. Maybe for 2.4/3.0 and later. ”

    How exactly do you do this for an OSS O/S? Can Linus dictate when Red Hat releases updates?

    But I agree such would be desirable. Software from Google, hardware from manu, pipe from the carrier. I think the economists refer to it as “division of labor” or somesuch … a splendid idea.

  10. @J. Jay:

    IMHO, Google needs to fix this problem via contractual terms, and a means to drive updates from Google, not the carriers or handset OEMs. Maybe for 2.4/3.0 and later.

    The whole jujitsu of google using open source for Android was to show up front that it is unarmed — that it doesn’t have the ability to dictate those sorts of terms to the carriers, while letting the free market coerce the carriers into eventually doing the right thing anyway. Or maybe it’s a Disney movie, where the protagonist gives his arch-enemy multiple chances, but at the end of the day the arch-enemy dies trying to kill the protagonist, without the protagonist being directly responsible.

    In any case, at the end of the day, phones from different vendors will be mostly fungible, like PCs in the DOS/Windows era. One of the checkbox items for buying a phone will be how quickly the vendor rolls out software updates. Eventually, one of the vendors might get tired of the treadmill, and simply release a few binary drivers for the part of the phone they really want to keep secret, and a code repository for the part they don’t care about. Then the rest will fall in short order.

  11. >But I agree such would be desirable. Software from Google, hardware from manu, pipe from the carrier. I think the economists refer to it as “division of labor” or somesuch … a splendid idea.

    Of course it would be desirable. But if Google had retained enough control of Android to force the carriers and handset makers to do this, it would have been too much control to make Android attractive – Android would have been just another stillborn hope.

    No, the customers are going to have to ram this change in practice down the throats where it needs to be rammed, with Google wearing a look of innocence as though it hadn’t planned on that all along.

  12. esr:
    “No, the customers are going to have to ram this change in practice down the throats where it needs to be rammed, with Google wearing a look of innocence as though it hadn’t planned on that all along.”

    Wholeheartedly agree. But I’ve been waiting 15 years for some semblance of a competitive (quasi buyer’s) market to appear in the cell space, only to continually observe the 2-3 dominant carriers continue to offer exactly the same hardware at exactly the same confiscatory rates and the same draconian all-advantage-me terms for the most minimal product. All while the consumers and regulatory bodies alike chant “thank you sir may I have another”. Cynic, me.

    If Google can even put a dent in that I will believe they walk on water.

  13. >If Google can even put a dent in that I will believe they walk on water.

    The already have. You couldn’t hear the screaming from the carriers as they were forced into allowing tethering and hotspot capability, or as the ringtones market effectively collapsed?

  14. > No, the customers are going to have to ram this change in practice down the throats where it needs to be rammed

    There is exactly ZERO chance of this being successful.

    Perhaps 10-20% of the Android base are people like you and I. The others are the mindless hoards who will take what they can get. They run Windows at home, because that’s all they know. They won’t update their OS unless it’s completely auto-matic. They don’t know to ask for 2.2/Froyo or 2.3/Gingerbread.

    They way Android is currently constructed and updated is just *too difficult* for them to conceptualize.

    Remember that:

    - we’re talking about people who hired the Geek Squad to connect their HDTV to their cable box via HDMI.
    - we’re talking about people who are happy to be sold “gold plated” HDMI cables, thinking that it improves signal quality OF A DIGITAL SIGNAL!
    - we’re talking about people who click on web spam and respond to email spam.

    You, and others correctly complain about Apple having ‘dumbed down’ the experience compared to Android, then increased the glitz factor of iOS compared to android (stuttering scrolling? you appear to not care, because you understand that the Dalvik VM might be in the middle of a GC cycle. Explain that to Aunt Tillie and get her to not care that when she flicks the screen on her phone, it scrolls the screen like a four-gaited horse (start, fart, stumble, die).

    Open Source is important, but it is NOT the most important thing in the minds of the consumer hoards who are needed in order to acquire market share and capture market power.

    Until you learn that, all your posturing is futile and worse than useless, because it distracts from any chance that Android will eventually conquer.

  15. > How exactly do you do this for an OSS O/S? Can Linus dictate when Red Hat releases updates?

    Let’s see.. who controls the Android branding? Google. Sign the contract, and you get to tell your customers it’s a Google phone.

    Seriously, right now there are 5 options in the smartphone space.

    Android — growing
    Apple iPhone/iOS — growing
    Nokia/Symbian — stalled
    RIM — dying
    Microsoft/Windows Mobile 7 — DOA, unless Microsoft spends serious coin in an attempt to grab marketshare (e.g. buys Nokia or buys their way into replacing Symbian)

    Carriers and handset vendors are now in the position of needing to be able to offer Android, *especially* if they can’t offer iPhone.

    Google has them over a barrel. Time to make some changes.

  16. Wet Behind the Ears Says:
    “There is exactly ZERO chance of this being successful.”

    It appears Samsung gave in due to bad press among the bloggers and tech journals. AFAICT Google had nothing to do with it. So that alone indicates the chance of success is ABOVE zero. And Eric’s thesis that the others will be forced to follow suit is very plausible.

    “…stuttering scrolling? you appear to not care, because you understand that the Dalvik VM might be in the middle of a GC cycle. Explain that to Aunt Tillie …”
    But likewise Aunt Tillie is also incapable of noticing this alleged stuttering. She will mostly make the purchase decision based on which one has the lowest 24 mo contract price.

    BTW. I don’t own a smartphone of any stripe, but I believe this “stuttered scrolling” meme is mostly urban legend. Playing with them in the store or ones owned by friends do not show this symptom. Time to find a new myth of iPhone superiority?

  17. # Wet Behind the Ears Says:
    “Let’s see.. who controls the Android branding? Google. Sign the contract, and you get to tell your customers it’s a Google phone.”

    “Google has them over a barrel. Time to make some changes.”

    Your estimate of the power Google can project here is waaay optimistic at this time. The carriers are accustomed to running their own show from end-end. Like an outgoing west african dictator, they aren’t about to give up the power as long as any chance remains of holding onto it.

    If Google is as smart as Eric gives them credit for, then they will continue their game of making nice while pushing out frequent software releases each one more enticing to the consumer.

    You forgot about HP/WebOS, not that it changes the picture in the slightest; another DOA like WP7 IMHO.

  18. Is there some statistics backing up, or refuting, Wet Behind the Ears’ view of the market, with 80-90 % “mindless hoards” who don’t understand and don’t care? My view is different, but it is of course based on a not very representative sample.

  19. Last 2 conversations of “regular (decidedly ungeeky) folk” I’ve eavesdropped on both praised the advantages of Android over the iPhone. As small a sample set this is, I have a feeling the Android message has gotten out to the masses and Eric’s predictions are accurate.

  20. There is exactly ZERO chance of this being successful.

    Really? You need to unpack this further since you’re effectively saying “capitalism has exactly ZERO chance of having any validity”. If you have a blog of your own (or a post that already unpacks it) i’ll follow and read links you provide.

    Let’s see.. who controls the Android branding?

    Who cares about the Android branding? Certainly not the consumers. The closest thing to meaningfulness that the branding has IMO is Android Market and i’d be happier if everyone just went to the app store they were happiest with. (And yes i’d still say that if Apple released their own walled garden Android app store… if someone prefers to use that well more power to them)

    And therein lies the death of your suggestion, and the strength of android. That 10-20% you’re talking about? Yeah they care about branding. Everyone else has no idea what android is or means. To them it’s about a better form factor, better features or better price point (or some utility function of the three). If 25+ years of open source should teach us anything it is that no-one in the general public cares what your kernel is.

    They do however remember that the last time they got a Motorola phone it was shit.
    And they read tech reviews that talk about Sprint dragging its feet over updating.
    Not an android phone was shit… a Motorola or Sprint phone.

    I don’t think google will be standing back looking innocent. They’ll be the one saying “Hey don’t point fingers at me, I gave you everything I could. You’ve gotten yourself into this mess”.

  21. > As small a sample set this is,

    I think you already understand the statistical insignificance of a sample size of two. Now perhaps when you account for the selection bias you’ll begin to see the error.

  22. > And therein lies the death of your suggestion, and the strength of android. That 10-20% you’re talking about? Yeah they care about branding. Everyone else has no idea what android is or means.

    Next you’ll need to explain why the various carriers are all running nation-wide television ads extolling the virtues of Android.

    Last year it was “with Google”. http://vimeo.com/14775826

    Now Sprint is pushing “4G with Android”, and T-Mobile is pushing Android on everything.
    AT&T is pushing 3 different Android phones, and a USB modem for its “4G” (cough) network.
    http://www.att.com/network/?wtSlotClick=1-004RL9!CIHPM01VOFM-0-1

    And Verizon offers 17 different Android phones (and will allow you to select/sort on Android .vs other OS)

    Google needs to solve this problem, because the disparate carriers and OEMs will not, by themselves.

  23. esr: missing a “)” in the post. I’m guessing it should be by the tenth word. Have a nice time.

  24. > Like an outgoing west african dictator, they aren’t about to give up the power as long as any chance remains of holding onto it.

    But when you have multiple dictators each wooing the populace into giving them power, it’s called a democracy.

    @Wet Behind the Ears

    I know those “mindless hordes” you talk about, they come and ask me for smartphone buying advice.

  25. Next you’ll need to explain why the various carriers are all running nation-wide television ads extolling the virtues of Android.

    What’s you’re point? Dell has been “extolling the virtues” of Linux for at an easy minimum 3 years (i’m sure it’s longer but can find explicit references to mid 2007) and the general public has little idea what a linux is or why they would want one unless educated by a techie friend.

    Last year it was “with Google”. http://vimeo.com/14775826

    Google is not Android. Thats not even a particularly solid example since it doesn’t even SAY android.
    I’d bet money that the standard muggle assumption regarding that advert was that “with google” means it’s got google search on it. (translation: a browser with the homepage set to google).

    Now Sprint is pushing “4G with Android”, and T-Mobile is pushing Android on everything.
    AT&T is pushing 3 different Android phones, and a USB modem for its “4G” (cough) network.
    http://www.att.com/network/?wtSlotClick=1-004RL9!CIHPM01VOFM-0-1

    And Verizon offers 17 different Android phones (and will allow you to select/sort on Android .vs other OS)

    The AT&T link is fantastic. It shows my point. AT&T showcase the coming soon MOTOROLA ATRIX!!111ONEONE (android phone). A quick check over sprints site (note that a search for “4G on Android” only nets tech blog hits. hello 10-20%) gives the same basic pattern. Model of phone in big headings with shining lights with a reference to android somewhere in a smaller font.

    The verizon page has probably the best counter-example with the LG Vortex moniker being only a couple of points larger than the reference to android. However that was one of the busiest(i.e. worst) adverts i’ve ever seen in my life. I’d be mildly surprised if the punter response to it was anything other than fairly random to predominantly negative.

    I won’t deny that marketing is saying “android” all over the place but I stand by two points :-

    1) If they stopped tomorrow there’d be little to no difference. The “android” ads you’re seeing are all “get an XXX android phone[ from YYY]” where XXX is a manufacturer and the optional YYY is a telco. The ads would continue and have the same basic effect “Oooh shiny”.

    2) With the exception of Android Market, Android would be just as viable if you used the android system (Open Source remember) and called it “bobphone”.

    Google needs to solve this problem, because the disparate carriers and OEMs will not, by themselves.

    And again I ask, what arguments do you have to set against Game Theory and Capitalism. Market competition should mean that the price and restrictions will get competed down as far as is financially feasible. The whole point of this thread of posts has been explaining this theory in detail.

  26. > Dell has been “extolling the virtues” of Linux for at an easy minimum 3 years

    You missed the “on national tv” bit.

    To demonstrate the point, go to dell.com, not a mention of linux, nor a link to anything about linux. Now go to tmobile.com, it’s android everywhere.

    Now that’s “extolling the virtues”.

  27. Even if someone doesn’t know or care about the significance of, say, Samsung’s foot-dragging, word has a good chance of reaching them that Samsung “did something bad.”

  28. Data point:

    Regularly I see Virgin Mobile bus advertisements that say “You. On Android. For $25 a month.” This indicates to me that Android is both a well-known brand and reflects something desirable, so offering people a cheap way to upgrade to Android is a viable marketing strategy.

    It could be that they are capitalizing on the confusion between Android (operating system) and the Motorola Droid (particular make of Android phone). Maybe that’s another ploy in Google’s strategy? How much input had they in branding the Droid, so that all of Android will get the positive reputation associated with the flagship phones bearing that name?

    BTW. I don’t own a smartphone of any stripe, but I believe this “stuttered scrolling” meme is mostly urban legend. Playing with them in the store or ones owned by friends do not show this symptom. Time to find a new myth of iPhone superiority?

    No.

    The iPhone’s UI animations are, objectively, better. The iPhone uses OpenGL compositing for speed and its runtime lacks a GC, ensuring soft-real-time performance.

    Aunt Tillie may not notice these things. She won’t say “The scrolling animation jitter is annoying.” But the tactile/kinaesthetic feel of the iPhone will be much better. The iPhone UI is designed with the intent of looking and behaving like physical objects in the real world, leveraging millions of years of evolution of our visual cortex and spatial cognition. The Android UI tries to copy it, mostly successfully, but is not well-designed to preserve the illusion so when the illusion breaks down, it’s jarring.

  29. >The Android UI tries to copy it, mostly successfully, but is not well-designed to preserve the illusion so when
    >the illusion breaks down, it’s jarring.

    This. As I mentioned in the other thread after finally having a chance to play with both side by side for a while, both the iPhone and Android have forms of jitter. The difference, and what is so jarring is that the iPhone’s jitter comes in the form of sacrificed smoothness for a preserved “tactile” connection between your finger and the UI. Android on the other hand seems to sacrifice that connection for smoothness of animation.

  30. Jeff Read Says:
    “Aunt Tillie may not notice these things.”

    Thanks. I believe you made my point for me. If the Android UI has tried to copy iPhone and done it sufficiently well to fool both me and Aunt Tillie then that sounds like success. So I’ll still file it under urban myth or perhaps solved problem.

    But that won’t keep anyone from trotting it out, or failing that, they can always threaten us with that ultimate boogeyman “fragmentation!”.

  31. “I think you already understand the statistical insignificance of a sample size of two. Now perhaps when you account for the selection bias you’ll begin to see the error.”

    No selection bias. These were complete strangers, two at a Best Buy two at a couple at the gym. Different races, age groups, etc. Please don’t insult my intelligence by suggesting I’m some kind of Android version of Pauline Kael.

  32. Meanwhile Nexus One owners have been updated.

    To 2.2.2. Still waiting for 2.3.

    #FAIL

    Google can’t even update its own phone, nevermind everyone else’s.

  33. No selection bias. These were complete strangers, two at a Best Buy two at a couple at the gym. Different races, age groups, etc. Please don’t insult my intelligence by suggesting I’m some kind of Android version of Pauline Kael.

    You can’t say there’s no selection bias. You can only say there’s not the obvious selection bias (i.e., the Android users in question are not stained-Tux-T-shirt-wearing beardos from your local LUG).

  34. Peter Davies: To demonstrate the point, go to dell.com, not a mention of linux, nor a link to anything about linux. Now go to tmobile.com, it’s android everywhere.

    Didn’t think of TMobile. They do indeed reference android heavier than any of the other telcos. it mostly comes down to one advert which is the only advert i’ve ever seen where the concept of android has taken pride of place over the make of phone. Isn’t T-Mobile’s the perpetual underdog in terms of telco share? If so maybe that explains at least in part the discrepancy.

    Jeff Read: Regularly I see Virgin Mobile bus advertisements that say “You. On Android. For $25 a month.” This indicates to me that Android is both a well-known brand and reflects something desirable, so offering people a cheap way to upgrade to Android is a viable marketing strategy.

    Since first posting i’ve made a point of going to the US telcos and looking at their adverts. TMobile and Vigin have android placed most prominently. For all that you could possibly search by OS for “Android”, the first time I hit their site I could have bought an android phone (LG Vortex, Motorola CITRUS or Samsung continuum) without even seeing the word android.

    But all this is kind of off track on where I was trying to go with this. Whether or not you agree with the lack of stickyness of the Android brand, if Google tries to throw its weight around based on it, then manufacturers will be incentivised to accept the hit and re-brand. There’s nothing outside of Android Market really stopping them from doing so. Google’s influence here is one of opportunity cost. “I’m trying to save you money here, if you do the right thing it will be cheaper and better for you”. Or to put it another way, Apple gets to use the stick, Google has to use the carrot.

  35. “For all that you could possibly search by OS for “Android” on verizon”

  36. >Or to put it another way, Apple gets to use the stick, Google has to use the carrot.

    That’s exactly right.

  37. Google appears to be failing to update even its own phone(s).

  38. t.money said: This is all good news, but what needs to happen is that google needs to confront the carriers and manufacturers to put upgrade control 100% in the user hands, without need for rooting the phone.

    How?

    And why do you think Google cares about that?

    Google wants search revenue. Google doesn’t give a flying god-damn about users having 100% control or root access.

  39. > Didn’t think of TMobile. They do indeed reference android heavier than any of the other telcos. it mostly comes down to one advert which is the only advert i’ve ever seen where the concept of android has taken pride of place over the make of phone. Isn’t T-Mobile’s the perpetual underdog in terms of telco share? If so maybe that explains at least in part the discrepancy.

    The comparison I made was specifically to Dell’s pushing of Linux (nonexistent). Most websites will tell if the phone has Android 2.2 (but they won’t tell you if it doesn’t), seems like customers actually care.

  40. >Google doesn’t give a flying god-damn about users having 100% control or root access.

    This claim is wrong in a subtle but important way.

    It is true that Google’s business plan doesn’t state “users having 100% control or root access” as a goal. But it is also true that Google prefers the users having 100% control to anyone else in the content-delivery chain having even 1% control, because every 1% of control by a cell carrier or handset maker translates to a toll on Google’s potential revenues.

    Furthermore, Google’s internal corporate culture is saturated with open-source idealism and an extremely strong desire that users have 100% control – and root access, even if they never use it. The way Google executes its business plan is always modulated by that culture, which extends from top to bottom of the organization.

  41. > Google wants search revenue. Google doesn’t give a flying god-damn about users having 100% control or root access.

    And the beautiful thing is: they don’t have to care. Consumer electronics can be open or closed. It’s a bistable system. Typically, televisions have been closed, while computers have been open. There are huge, ongoing, tensions involved — the GPL makes some televisions a bit less closed than they used to be, and of course, Apple is busy trying to close up the computer.

    Until Android, phones were closed. Sure, you could get an SDK from Qualcomm, Nokia, Apple, whoever, but try distributing an application to an un-rooted phone without the vendor’s permission.

    Android helps move the equilibrium towards open in at least five different ways:

    First, google allows multiple app stores. A carrier or handset maker could try to block some of these, but the market will declare that the phone/network that keeps you from getting your apps from Amazon if you want to is a loser.

    Second, even if a handset maker tries to customize things and lock things up, their Android system is going to be similar enough to other Android systems for people to hack if they need/want to. Cyanogenmod will happen.

    Third, if somebody has to run cyanogenmod to get what they need, there is no copyright violation to worry about, because Android is open, so there is no threat, implicit or explicit, about running that software.

    Fourth, as has been pointed out, google is on an OS update schedule that may be a tad too aggressive for some of the vendors, and the market is poised to punish the vendors that don’t keep up. This pressures the vendors into reducing the modifications they make, simply in order to keep up with the release schedule. This, in turn eases phone hacking by the likes of cyanogenmod, so eventually, some of the manufacturers may simply give up and not try too hard to keep control of the handset. If this wins in the market, others will follow.

    Fifth, Android counteracts the closedness of iOS, by allowing a *lot* of other cellphone makers to match whatever new capabilities Apple adds a lot more quickly. (Maybe not perfectly, as the scrolling issue shows, but maybe good enough for most cases.) For example, as I pointed out in a post on a previous article, it might make sense for Apple to try to make the iPhone completely unlocked and carrier-agnostic. If Apple wrests this vestige of control from the carriers, then the Android handset makers will follow suit almost immediately in putting out carrier-agnostic phones, although if Apple pulls off some multiband/multiprotocol magic, it might be hard for awhile to find a non-Apple handset that can match the iPhone in terms of interoperability — e.g. Verizon CDMA and AT&T 3G.

    So, my point is, while google may not care about openness from a profit point of view, their actions change the open/closed equation on cellphones tremendously.

  42. > Fifth, Android counteracts the closedness of iOS, by allowing a *lot* of other cellphone makers to match whatever new capabilities

    but does nothing to help developers be profitable. #FAIL

  43. The Samsung Galaxy S is a great phone. Samsungs interface for firmware management allows anyone with a minimal level of technical skill to put any available kernel on the phone using ready cooked roms from many sources in a safe and reversible fasion. If you are geek enough to know you need the upgrade it is available. I suspect that consumers with the technical knowledge to know their kernel is out of date will also have the technical knowledge to deal with that.

    To me, I consider having the access to screw with phone at almost any level I could desire enough (almost). Samsung would be far more out of line if they took Sony’s perspective and removed open access to their hardware.

    Yes they dragged their feet on the upgrade but as long as they produce hardware this good and this open they can take a little more time on their software upgrades.

  44. itte

    Until Android, phones were closed. Sure, you could get an SDK from Qualcomm, Nokia, Apple, whoever, but try distributing an application to an un-rooted phone without the vendor’s permission.

    That’s not totally true. With J2ME phones (read: most feature phones) it’s possible to write and distribute applications without the vendor’s permission (for example MidpSSH), however often certain features aren’t available, such as GPS — I was never able to get TrekBuddy, for example, working on any J2ME phone on Sprint’s network because the phone’s MIDP stack is setup to not not allow permissions to the GPS or pseudo-GPS for any app not signed by Sprint’s certificate. All you need is a Web server that can serve WAP pages (pretty much any of them can do that, including Apache) and a properly written/generated JAD descriptor. Point the phone’s Web browser at the correct URL and download the app right to the phone. (Yes, I’ve successfully done this). I might be convinced to write a HOWTO on my blog if someone gives me a sufficiently round tuit.

  45. @Morgan:

    That’s interesting. I did a bit of research phone development a long time ago (early versions of BREW), and more recently (smartphones) and somehow missed all the feature phone stuff in between.

    Not that I carry a cellphone or anything, but Java phone apps weren’t really on my radar. I’m not really sure why.

  46. @Wet Behind The Ears:

    > but does nothing to help developers be profitable. #FAIL

    To me, it’s still an open question how many phone apps (vs. HTML cloud apps) are really required. If there is a killer phone app, it will appear on Android shortly after it appears on the iPhone, or vice-versa.

    In any case, it’s not google’s mandate to insure your profitability. It may not even be in their interest to encourage phone apps — they make their money from the web. Their app support just needs to be good enough that prospective phone customers don’t see a huge win for Apple; phone developers are a completely different story.

  47. >but does nothing to help developers be profitable.

    What do you think Apple is doing to “help developers be profitable” that Google is not?

  48. @esr:

    Well, for one thing, Apple lets developers in other countries actually sell apps for money. For another, they have the customers with the mind-set of paying for applications. You could argue that they haven’t really “done” anything for that last one, but that would be as disingenuous as claiming that google hasn’t really done anything to encourage handset openness, because Android isn’t GPL.

  49. > What do you think Apple is doing to “help developers be profitable” that Google is not?

    There are a suite of things, which I don’t need to enumerate. You can discover them for yourself if you’re really that curious. I suspect, however, that you’re just being argumentative.

    You claim it’s about open source. I claim it’s about, “Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers!!!” :-)

  50. >Well, for one thing, Apple lets developers in other countries actually sell apps for money. For another, they have the customers with the mind-set of paying for applications.

    That seems an awfully weak rejoinder, especially since I don’t think we can take it as a given that Android customers *don’t* have a “mind-set of paying for applications”. Only a vanishingly small percentage of same are open-source geeks; the rest will have the same population-at-large distribution of willingness to pay as iPhone users.

    I see two app stores with free and pay sections. I see Google making no effort to market for-pay apps differentially from free apps, and I see Apple doing exactly the same nothing. So how is Apple helping developers, exactly? Oh, right – must be all those arbitrary refusals and infuriating delays that Android devs don’t have to deal with. Real helpful.

  51. Maybe you’re right that there is no real difference, and at the end of the day, both app stores will be equal. But Apple is still selling the lion’s share of hardware to price-insensitive consumers, and the app store sales seem to follow that.

    In any case, whatever they are or aren’t doing, google themselves think they need to do more.

    But personally, I see enough apps there (130K??!?) that it’s hard to imagine that they are too far away of doing what they need to do.

  52. Android app economics explained:

    I place $20 in a box.

    So do you.

    Now the box contains $40, and we both know it.

    I sell the box to you for $30.

    And we both walk away with a $10 profit.

  53. @Wet Behind the Ears:

    It’s clear from the latest distimo report that that sort of paleolithic zero-or-negative sum thinking won’t get you very far in the future:

    The high download volumes of free applications appear to attract developers to switch to monetization methods other than paid.

    The trend isn’t limited to Android:

    It is important to note that while the proportion of free applications grew, the average price of the applications also declined. A decline in price can be observed in the 100 most popular applications in the Apple App Store for iPhone, BlackBerry App World, Google Android Market and Nokia Ovi Store.

    In fact, if you look at the graph in the report, the average price decline for the top 100 iPhone apps was 19%,
    and 12% for all iPhone apps. Conversely, the average price decline for the top 100 Android apps was only 9%, but the average price of all Android apps increased by 1%. So the trend is an equalization of prices across the various app stores.

  54. Wettie: You’re right! Wow, what a great way to make money! Don’t quit your day job programming for Android to become an economist.

  55. @esr:

    Only a vanishingly small percentage of same are open-source geeks; the rest will have the same population-at-large distribution of willingness to pay as iPhone users.

    I guess I am assuming (rightly or wrongly) that a self-selection process will put a majority of the least price-sensitive customers on iPhone and a majority of the most price-sensitive customers on Android. However, as I pointed out in my last post, the price points in the markets are currently converging. This may or may not stabilize or reverse itself as Android’s market share continues to rise.

  56. @WBTE:

    You claim it’s about open source. I claim it’s about, “Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers!!!” :-)

    Only for the developers. HTML 5, cheap 4G, and sufficient CPU power and memory for fast javascript and great web display will conspire to make the incremental value-add of a native application nil for a lot of application categories.

  57. @Wet Behind the Ears:

    “Android app economics explained:”

    You should warn all these developers. They do not seem to understand the economics:

    IDC: Developer interest in Android nearly equals iOS
    http://www.betanews.com/joewilcox/article/IDC-Developer-interest-in-Android-nearly-equals-iOS/1295993954

    Among mobile phone platforms, iPhone leads with 92 percent of developers “very interested.” However Android interest rose 5 points to 87 percent. IDC observed “a common refrain: after iPhone, do I go Android or iPad?” It’s an interesting question considering that upscaling apps for iPad should conceptually be easier than porting to Android. “Our common recommendation for pure market share and design reuse, think Android. For enhancing the experience, go iPad,” according to IDC.

  58. >I guess I am assuming (rightly or wrongly) that a self-selection process will put a majority of the least price-sensitive customers on iPhone and a majority of the most price-sensitive customers on Android.

    Probably still the case now and in the near future, at least until the ratio of Android’s market share to Apple’s rises enough cancel the effect. But still, this isn’t Apple “helping” in any but the most indirect and accidental sense.

  59. >Among mobile phone platforms, iPhone leads with 92 percent of developers “very interested.” However Android interest rose 5 points to 87 percent.

    Doesn’t take much nerve to predict that these figures will reach crossover within 120 days. Not only would that match foregoing trends, but it would fit a generative model in which developer interest is predicted by the range of Android platform support. There are a lot of Android tablets about to hit the street, and we’re going to see a lot of new app possibilities unlocked by 7-to-10-inch screens.

  60. @esr:
    “Doesn’t take much nerve to predict that these figures will reach crossover within 120 days.”

    In ICT, volume beats quality, always. The network effects are simply too strong. Apple is one of the biggest computer makers in the world, but they still only serve less than 10% of the market (30% in smartphones). They make loads of money, but they still leave 90% of the market “in the cold”. If you want to grow, you need to open up a new market or reach new first-time users.

    FLOSS projects have shown that the relevant factor in the evolution of software is the number of developers that can be recruited. And in most cases, the number of developers increases with the number of users. Improvements will increase the market and the number of users. A perfect example of a virtuous (or vicious) circle.

  61. But personally, I see enough apps there (130K??!?) that it’s hard to imagine that they are too far away of doing what they need to do.

    If i could only ask for one feature on Android Market, i think it’d be a kill file feature that allowed me to say “don’t show this developer”.
    That way i could squelch for myself app companies that I think make dross. It’s about the closest I want to come to the walled garden but i do think it’s a valuable feature.

    I also think their tagging metadata needs to be beefier. It’d be nice to search for “RPG” and get all the games that have been tagged as RPGs. This will of course lead to over tagging but a flag inappropriate/app deletion reason of “invalid tag” will make the problem somewhat self healing. Especially if there’s an acknowledged death penalty for gratuitous over tagging. “You tagged this kitty cat sound board with the tag ‘RPG’. In response to complaints it has been deleted. HAND”.

  62. That’s interesting. I did a bit of research phone development a long time ago (early versions of BREW), and more recently (smartphones) and somehow missed all the feature phone stuff in between.

    These were the proto-smart phones (as in they were called smart phones but they were dumb by todays standards).

    Things like
    - Anything with Windows Mobile after about 4 or 5 (which you could push dotnet apps relatively painlessly)
    - Some nokia phones like the 6000 range

    My most recent degree spent a semester letting people run wild building prototype applications using things like GPS packs and wireless. If you didn’t see the spit and wires holding it together some of them were really quite impressive.

  63. There are a suite of things, which I don’t need to enumerate. You can discover them for yourself if you’re really that curious. I suspect, however, that you’re just being argumentative.

    My understanding is the list is basically limited to
    - Provide a set of dev tools designed to work together

    List of things that Android provides that Apple doesn’t
    - Ability to simulate multiple versions out of the box without multiple installs
    - Large code repository of example code thats in use in the wild. (toy programs need not apply)

    It’s not an impressive list but my google-fu isn’t coming up with anything valuable. The best link i found (android vs iphone development: A comparison”) was two digital pages of ragging on Objective-C.

  64. Android app economics explained:

    Is there some anecdote you can give that puts that into context or is it just a random collection of alphabetic noises?

  65. M. Hipp> BTW. I don’t own a smartphone of any stripe,

    I own both a Nexus One and an iPhone 4.

    > but I believe this “stuttered scrolling” meme is mostly urban legend.

    You’re beliefs are founded on faith (and are wrong). Go practice your religion elsewhere.

  66. You’re beliefs are founded on faith (and are wrong). Go practice your religion elsewhere.

    I own a Motorola Milestone and have used my housemate’s iPhone 3gs. The difference between the two in terms of Jitter is nothing.
    Your beliefs are founded on outdated data.

  67. JonB:

    As I understand it, there’s nothing preventing anybody from putting up a new android-compatible app store with the policies you propose. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s actually some differentiation and churn in that space.

  68. As I understand it, there’s nothing preventing anybody from putting up a new android-compatible app store with the policies you propose.

    But that would only add to the fragmentation problem. The iPhone has considerable advantage in that it comes with the one-stop shop for all your apps.

  69. @Jeff Read:
    “But that would only add to the fragmentation problem. The iPhone has considerable advantage in that it comes with the one-stop shop for all your apps.”

    WAR IS PEACE / FREEDOM IS SLAVERY / IGNORANCE IS STRENGHT

    I do have to reread 1984.

  70. > My most recent degree spent a semester letting people run wild building prototype applications using things like GPS packs and wireless. If you didn’t see the spit and wires holding it together some of them were really quite impressive.

    You’re an ideal candidate for an Android developer. Congratulations!

  71. But personally, I see enough apps there (130K??!?) that it’s hard to imagine that they are too far away of doing what they need to do.

    Let’s look at the elephant in the room, app-wise: gaming. The iPhone has Nintendo running scared. Android has, er…… Replica Island? iPhone exclusivity for several AAA titles was recently broken by — wait for it — Windows Phone 7. Of course, that could be because EA loves their hats made out of money.

  72. >Of course, that could be because EA loves their hats made out of money.

    Yes, which is why they’ll go where the market share is. Six months from now, when Android is pulling more than ten points over iPhone and Windows Phone 7 is yesterday’s bad joke, you’ll see EA on Android – along with every other gaming company that wants to establish brand on portable devices before they crush most of the the life out of the console market.

  73. > Let’s look at the elephant in the room, app-wise: gaming.

    Yeah, most apps that need to be phone based are certainly going to be games. And people pay for and play games, so games are definitely important to developers. The $64 question is: what is the trend of people choosing phones because of the selection of games available, and which of the games that influence phone selection aren’t (or won’t be) on Android as well as on iPhone?

    Angry Birds is on both, and if I understand correctly, may even be free on Android and not on iPhone. Not being a gamer, that’s the extent of my knowledge in that domain, and even then I’m not certain about it :-)

  74. >Angry Birds is on both, and if I understand correctly, may even be free on Android and not on iPhone.

    That’s correct. I’ve been playing the free (ad-supported) version for about a week and a half; made it up to level 7 of theme 6 (that’s 131 levels). Good game, and I’m not seeing any of the the (probably mostly mythical) Android animation problems.

  75. The kool kids all want the iPhone. Android phones are what you get when mom & dad buy your clothes at K-Mart. Perfectly functional, made in China, kinda ugly.

    And therein, the problem. The iPhone may be expensive, but Android is ugly, and Apple can drop the price on last year’s model as needed.

    It’s a lot harder to get an impulse $1.99 for a game out of someone who paid $59 for their phone. Especially if they don’t know, or can’t easily manage to move all their apps and settings to the new phone in 3-4 years.

    If you’re a nerd/geek, and know how, it doesn’t matter. You can’t help the pretty girl. She still wants the iPhone that all of her friends want or have.

    So you settle (for Android and the girl who is cute, but not beautiful.) And you justify your choices with a vehemence that borders on mouth-frothing and cruel.

    You’ll show them. You’ll show them all.

    But you’re still a loser inside.

    The truth hurts. Deal with it.

  76. The kool kids all want the iPhone. Android phones are what you get when mom & dad buy your clothes at K-Mart. Perfectly functional, made in China, kinda ugly.

    Sure, but remind me — where are the iPhones made?

    And therein, the problem. The iPhone may be expensive, but Android is ugly, and Apple can drop the price on last year’s model as needed.

    That’s sort of a non-sequiter. If Apple really drops the price, nobody else will be selling phones. Witness MP3 players. That doesn’t seem to be happening in this market.

    It’s a lot harder to get an impulse $1.99 for a game out of someone who paid $59 for their phone. Especially if they don’t know, or can’t easily manage to move all their apps and settings to the new phone in 3-4 years.

    This I believe. But it’s a developer problem, and not an end-user problem, until the lack of developers on Android causes a significant reduction in available games.

    If you’re a nerd/geek, and know how, it doesn’t matter. You can’t help the pretty girl. She still wants the iPhone that all of her friends want or have.

    I call bullshit on this. I help my daughters with their Mac and Windows laptops, and yes, occasionally with research about how to do something on their iPhones. WTF kind of geek can’t google enough to figure this shit out?

    So you settle (for Android and the girl who is cute, but not beautiful.) And you justify your choices with a vehemence that borders on mouth-frothing and cruel.

    Projection much?

    You’ll show them. You’ll show them all.

    But I don’t have a phone to show them :-)

  77. Wet Behind the Ears, you’re oscillating wildly between someone at least trying to put up a credible defense of your position and a teenaged boy “hurr hurring” at f-droid and taking cheap potshots because you’re getting trapped in an adversarial position. Could you please pick one and either stick to making sensible points or stick to hurr hurring and hopefully get banned?

  78. Look, now Android will be even more “fragmented”!

    http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2011/01/26/google-releases-preview-version-of-honeycomb-sdk-gives-overview-of-tablet-features/

    On the up-side, 3.0 is getting a ‘Pluggable DRM framework”

    Android 3.0 includes an extensible DRM framework that lets applications manage protected content according to a variety of DRM mechanisms that may be available on the device. For application developers, the framework API offers an consistent, unified API that simplifies the management of protected content, regardless of the underlying DRM engines.

    Oh boy!

  79. You’re an ideal candidate for an Android developer. Congratulations!

    Thank you… Thats one hell of a compliment you just paid Android.

    See my degree was a DESIGN degree, focusing primarily on User Experience and Multimedia (i was more focused on UXD than MMDS). In other words, if ANY degree should be pumping out prototypes for iphones, it would have been the program I was in.

    I accept your premise that a degree of people built from the ground up to be future apple employees should be developing for Android instead.

  80. The kool kids all want the iPhone. Android phones are what you get when mom & dad buy your clothes at K-Mart. Perfectly functional, made in China, kinda ugly.

    2008 called. They want they’re opinions back.

    Would you be interested in attempting to enumerate why iphones are pretty and android phones are ugly without resorting to arguments that are functionally equivalent to “because iphones are iphones and androids are not iphones”?

  81. Droid sales dropping as Verizon customers wait for iPhone 4.

    I’d be interested to know if by “Droid” he means “Droid” or “Droid X”.
    I’d assume the latter(since the former would make little sense) but it’s not like they’re exactly the same thing.

    Also from here

    “”We have seen a little slowdown in our sellthrough of our devices,” Jha said. “We have seen that effect even prior to the iPhone.”

    So basically it’s entirely plausible that the slowdown of Motorola sales has nothing(or little) to do with iPhone and is instead because they have ratshit support structures. Kinda like what the article says.

  82. > On the up-side, 3.0 is getting a ‘Pluggable DRM framework”

    This is most excellent news. Let’s just hope that all the salivating security experts who know that making bits not copyable is like making water not wet will hold off on the cracks until enough content producers have actually started making money shipping content on the thing and it’s too late to go back.

    Netflix on an Android tablet would be nice.

  83. (BTW, I’m also interested in Netflix on my desktop Linux boxen, but I’m assuming that will happen about 5 seconds after the security crack for Netflix on Android.)

  84. (BTW, I’m also interested in Netflix on my desktop Linux boxen, but I’m assuming that will happen about 5 seconds after the security crack for Netflix on Android.)

    The make might take a whole minute.

  85. Back on topic (The smartphone wars: Samsung folds under pressure): WHY did Samsung fold? I would argue that some fraction no longer considers their smartphone a telephone with additional tricks, but instead considers it to be a computer that also makes calls. Once their perspective changes, watch out. Anybody in Corp IT support who tries to keep Skype / IM Clients, etc. off corporate laptops knows what I am taking about. No matter what the IT policy says, even if they sign it, many people consider their corporate-issued laptop to be theirs (‘What do you mean, I can’t install X on MY computer’). Imagine once they think of their smart phone as just another computer that they paid for themselves, and the carrier / manufacturer tells them they cannot have their upgrade, when they know it is free (in both senses, if you exclude Patent pay-offs).

  86. This is most excellent news. Let’s just hope that all the salivating security experts who know that making bits not copyable is like making water not wet will hold off on the cracks until enough content producers have actually started making money shipping content on the thing and it’s too late to go back.

    And another one falls. :) Soon, the idea that closed or restricted computer systems and non-intrusive DRM will and should be a fact of life because these things bring value to the customer will be self-evident.

  87. @Jeff Read:

    And another one falls. :) Soon, the idea that closed or restricted computer systems and non-intrusive DRM will and should be a fact of life because these things bring value to the customer will be self-evident.

    Soon, the understanding that “non-intrusive DRM” is a pernicious oxymoron will be self-evident. If it keeps people from doing what they want, it’s not non-intrusive; if it doesn’t, it’s not DRM.

  88. Soon, the understanding that “non-intrusive DRM” is a pernicious oxymoron will be self-evident.

    Counterexample: Steam DRM. Practically transparent to the end user, and lets them do most of what they want to do (unless what they want to do is pirate Steam games).

    The technology has gotten much better, and the user acceptance is getting to the point where people actually prefer the closed system. When the PS3 was hacked, the gaming community savagely turned on the hackers once it got out that cheats to Modern Warfare suddenly became trivial.

    Closed is the future of computing. Openness is becoming a bug because its most salient characteristic is that it invites malware and piracy.

  89. >Closed is the future of computing

    You sound exactly like a Communist repeating the articles of faith as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

  90. Jeff,

    I don’t think so. You have two examples of good DRM – and no one around pointing out why you are wrong about them. All the other examples of DRM going back decades to the software copy protection we all used to hate are negative. Can you really give me good reasons to abandon a decades old rule of thumb that goes back to the beginning of consumer computing devices? I know you believe this to be true, but you have never put together a convincing argument.

    The widespread desire of various consumers (not all of them technogeeks) who want to root their various phones for any number of purposes tells me you are still wrong. I understand the advantages you keep touting for the superior user experience a good design team can do by controlling all aspects of the design. Yet I see hot rodders and low riders and amateur gunsmiths and hardware modders and PC builders and software hackers of all types working really hard using really expensive tools sometimes to break down those garden walls you love so much. Do you know how many young people there are ripping graphics and music out of the games they love to make their own fan games and do their own fan art, and their own web comics and so on and so on.

    If you think closed is the future of computing all I can say is that you must not have kids. Fan made games are amazing. My kids have been modifying breeds in Catz and Dogz since before their ages had two digits – and I assure you that the software publisher didn’t hand out tools – if was all from that gaming community.

    Yours,
    Tom

  91. I mean really, Jeff! What do you think video mash ups and music sampling mean for DRM? Creative people hate it! And I don’t anyone who isn’t creative in some way!

    Yours,
    Tom

  92. Counterexample: Steam DRM. Practically transparent to the end user, and lets them do most of what they want to do (unless what they want to do is pirate Steam games).

    Multiplayer games are an interesting case. I’m not a gamer, so absent any other evidence, I’ll take your word for the particulars. To wit, for computer tasks where people care very deeply about other people cheating, they are willing to put up with DRM to level the playing field.

    The question is, does this actually work in other fields? The logical extension, where I care about other people cheating, is with my bank account. But who do I trust to close the system between me and my bank? Not Microsoft, not the government, and probably not even my bank.

    If you look at movies and music, sure, the creators care about people cheating, and are willing to “put up with” DRM. And sure, most of the people who want to do things that the creators reallydon’t want them to are not really doing anything covered by fair use. But fair use is still the elephant in the room, and the big content creators are still treating every technological advance as unmitigated badness. It has now been proven that the VCR is not, in fact, to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone, but you sure wouldn’t know that from the way the content industries act. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them, and Sony’s arrogant attempt at “self-help” should have landed several execs in jail or worse in a sane world.

    The worst overreach was the attempt to plug the “analog hole” by passing congressional legislation that would burden the manufacturer of every analog-to-digital converter with the necessity to shut it off if a signature indicating the possible presence of copyrighted material was detected. I think society would almost certainly be better off if everybody who thought that could possibly work or be a good idea would be euthanized. Down with uncritical thinkers.

  93. It isn’t just information that wants to be free. Practically everyone I know has some piece of physical reality they want to be free too. Think about the popularity of knitting and sewing machines. You wouldn’t call the people who use them technogeeks. They wouldn’t call themselves technogeeks. But as far as the technology of knitting and sewing go, they are geeks. Go to any cooking, craft, hobby or hardware store. The physical reality technogeeks are mashing up molecules, not just bits. The urge to create is magnificent!

    Yours,
    Tom

  94. You sound exactly like a Communist repeating the articles of faith as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

    As opposed to a libertarian repeating the articles of faith while Obama wins the 2008 election in an upset? :)

    I don’t like what’s going on. But the PC era is coming to a close, and displacing the PC are devices that don’t have quite the same openness and flexibility advantages as a PC, but don’t have many of the disadvantages (malware, piracy, and just being frustrating to use) either. They’re winning hearts and minds because their closed n

    Android is nice but it has a significant malware problem. Once that reaches critical mass, expect the smug Apple toffs to chime in with “My iPhone never gets viruses!” And those toffs would have a very good point.

    Multiplayer games are an interesting case. I’m not a gamer, so absent any other evidence, I’ll take your word for the particulars.

    Single-player, multiplayer, whatever: if you’re a PC game developer your options are to voluntarily get published on Steam (or a similar service), or involuntarily get published on BitTorrent. Or go FOSS.

    I mean really, Jeff! What do you think video mash ups and music sampling mean for DRM? Creative people hate it! And I don’t anyone who isn’t creative in some way!

    No no no, quite the opposite. In fact, my opinion on this issue changed when I started talking to actual creative people. Many of them — especially the small time guys — would love to have a non-annoying form of DRM in place to prevent their work from hitting the illegal download sites. In the case of music, if people are downloading instead of buying, record companies won’t put up the marketing money to promote you and chances are you’ll remain small time.

    For many musicians, preventing piracy could literally mean the difference between being able to put food on the table with their music, and having to work a day job and play local gigs to make ends meet.

    As for music sampling, ever since the lawsuits surrounding that exploded in the late 80s and early 90s there have been license frameworks in place to enable it in a fashion that benefits everybody.

  95. er, They’re winning hearts and minds because of their closed nature, not despite it.

  96. > But the PC era is coming to a close, and displacing the PC are devices that don’t have quite the same openness and flexibility advantages as a PC, but don’t have many of the disadvantages (malware, piracy, and just being frustrating to use) either.

    Early in the PC era most devices weren’t open and flexible. The longer we went the more open they got. Smart phones are following the same path, for the same reasons.

    Yours,
    Tom

  97. Multiplayer games are an interesting case. I’m not a gamer, so absent any other evidence, I’ll take your word for the particulars.

    Single-player, multiplayer, whatever: if you’re a PC game developer your options are to voluntarily get published on Steam (or a similar service), or involuntarily get published on BitTorrent. Or go FOSS.

    But I was responding to a post in which you said:

    The technology has gotten much better, and the user acceptance is getting to the point where people actually prefer the closed system. When the PS3 was hacked, the gaming community savagely turned on the hackers once it got out that cheats to Modern Warfare suddenly became trivial.

    Now I’m not a gamer, and as I said, I’m willing to take your word for a lot of that, but if you tell me that single player game players care about the high scores that others rack up, I can’t believe that we’re actually talking about too many players. Game creators, on the other hand, have always cared — now is no different.

    So, with the possible exception of multi-player games, the fundamentals of who wants to do what with games hasn’t changed in 30 years, and to Tom DeGisi’s point, on cellphones we’re at a point in the curve that matches the time when game producers stymied people copying their creations by recording things off a half-track on the Apple ][.

    When customers figured out how to get around that, game companies didn’t disappear. Cellphone game companies won’t either, and your arguments really are just a pale echo of Valenti’s plea that peoples’ creations are getting raped and killed.

    Thermodynamics says openness will happen. The content industry can expend a lot of time and energy reducing the entropy of information flows, and the courts can enforce draconian laws to the same end, but it really is like sandcastles on the beach.

  98. > For many musicians, preventing piracy could literally mean the difference between being able to put food on the table with their music, and having to work a day job and play local gigs to make ends meet.

    True. Most creative people don’t make money from their creativity. Nearly everyone is creative and nearly no one (by comparison) makes money at it. I’m not being paid by the word here. Are you? If so, pray tell! And nearly everyone has thought about shooting a video – maybe of them singing a song. I’ve written parodies for fun and sang songs with different words for fun. If I wanted to sample some DRM protected music and use it for fun I’m out of luck. Here’s the thing. My girls happily buy all sorts of Sonic the Hedgehog related stuff. But they also want to make their own fan comics with artwork ripped from Sonic games. DRM stifles that. Creativity is best when it’s a conversation. DRM is no good for that.

    > As for music sampling, ever since the lawsuits surrounding that exploded in the late 80s and early 90s there have been license frameworks in place to enable it in a fashion that benefits everybody.

    Are you telling me that we now have a DRM framework which promotes sampling and captures fractional profits for the producers every time something is sampled? Sweet! Otherwise, this comment is besides the point. I can assure you my kids haven’t approached Sega for licensing rights.

    Yours,
    Tom

  99. Single-player, multiplayer, whatever: if you’re a PC game developer your options are to voluntarily get published on Steam (or a similar service), or involuntarily get published on BitTorrent. Or go FOSS.

    If we take your theory at face value then I should be able to download and play WoW from bittorrent. Since that is not the case (at best I can play a crappy facsimile of WoW that bears only a superficial resemblence and thats a whole heap of effort to get working) your theory fails to hold water. To extend your theory to cover the WoW case (or indeed the generic “MMO game” case) you have to add “Or have the important pieces of your content hidden behind an authentication system”.

  100. ^ I can’t speak to the availability of WoW on bittorrent, but there are private WoW servers out there, so even having “important pieces of your content hidden behind an authentication system” doesn’t appear to stop the determined.

  101. I can’t speak to the availability of WoW on bittorrent, but there are private WoW servers out there, so even having “important pieces of your content hidden behind an authentication system” doesn’t appear to stop the determined.

    The operators of those private servers are guilty of federal crimes under the DMCA. Blizzard has sued many times over this very issue and won each and every time. Their game protocols are proprietary and because they are used to thwart piracy, they constitute effective anticircumvention measures. If you reimplement them without authorization, you are breaking U.S. copyright law.

    Anyway, Blizzard’s server-authentication system (which is also used to enable the purchase of game clients as paid downloads) counts for me as a “Steam-like” publishing service.

  102. Anyway, Blizzard’s server-authentication system (which is also used to enable the purchase of game clients as paid downloads) counts for me as a “Steam-like” publishing service.

    Saying the blizzard store is “steam-like” makes as much sense to me as saying Amazon.com is “steam-like”.
    The closest parallel that I can see is “you can buy games and download them”. The point of steam to me is that it is a “closed” download system. That is the game is DRMed to your user from start to finish. You don’t control where to install it. You don’t directly run it (shortcuts are effectively links to run steam) but hey… YMMV.

    Of course the sad part of this is that for all of that, there’s still plenty of “Half Life 2″, “Left 4 Dead”, “Dawn of War 2″ and “Empire: Total War” downloads (All of these are steam required releases the first two being made by the people who made Steam). Granted they’re also available as a boxed copy but doing a quick search for a game that is only available on steam (Shatter.. as far as i can tell is available for pc only on steam) and you can even find downloads for that. Steam is far from a cure-all. And so far MMOs effectively HAVE been.

    ^ I can’t speak to the availability of WoW on bittorrent, but there are private WoW servers out there, so even having “important pieces of your content hidden behind an authentication system” doesn’t appear to stop the determined.

    Ok but look beyond presence. While you can get servers that respond to the client much like the original does, they never quite the same.
    Sure it’s little things like there’s slight differences in the combat formulas (including ability ratings) and differences in AI Scripting (although most MMO AI scripting is pretty insipid to begin with). But there’s also some big ticket items like Quests not working or not implemented.

    It can’t really look at private servers as “piracy” so much as modding. Sure they’re using the WoW client but then thats released for free.
    Yes they’ve reverse engineered the various communication protocols and DMCA says no but i’m ambivalent to that. Some servers are attempting to clone WoW exactly and thats the closest it gets to piracy but they’ve got to make so much up from statistical analysis that the closest I can come to feeling like supporting Blizzard is that they’re regurgitating the blizzard lore. And it’s not like you can fall that far from the tree anyway.

    There’s another side to this as well. servers are doing REALLY well if they’re hitting 4000 total people playing at peak. I saw one who had 5 servers peaking at 3k. Impressive. Until you compare it to the official game with it’s 12 million subscribers, a little over 230 servers each of which will probably peak at about 3-5k on average (guesses since Blizzard isn’t giving hard numbers anymore). Whereas COD: Black Ops has an estimated 90-95% piracy rate, i’d be surprised if there’s 1 million people actively playing WoW on “pirate” servers which would put it’s piracy rate at roughly 8%. So even if it doesn’t stop the determined (and lets be honest… nothing will, not even DRM) At least it’s in the area of “who gives a rats ass about it”.

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