The Smartphone Wars: Mystery of the Android tablets

Some new market research says Android tablets have now taken 39% of global market share. There are reasons to suspect that Nook and Fire tablets account for a bit more than half of that, but we’re still left with something of a mystery to explain.

We know why people are buying the Nook and Fire; they’re media-consumption devices tied to strong brands – book and movie viewers with web access as an additional draw. The mystery is this: Who has been buying the general-purpose Android tablets, and for what uses?

Somebody is buying them. We know this because retailers and distributors keep restocking newer models; if the sell-through percentage on the older ones was bad, that wouldn’t happen. There’s a lot of talk of “channel-stuffing” which ignores a salient fact: electronics retailers aren’t in business for their health. Carrying inventory costs money, and non-performing product categories aren’t cut a lot of slack these days. When you see vendor shipment reports rising as fast as they have been in this category, a hell of a lot of product has to be being bought off of retailers’ shelves somewhere.

More generally: a sufficiently determined vendor can maintain an illusion of steady or only slightly declining sales by channel stuffing if they’re willing to pay enough marketing support that they are, in effect, covering the cost of goods and shelf space for the retailer. (Hello, Windows Phone 7!) What they can’t do in the absence of actual sell-through is induce the retailer to dramatically increase his exposure. Android retailers have been doing that.

The mystery deepens because until quite recently Android tablets could be divided neatly into two groups: a handful like the Galaxy Tab that were acceptable designs at ridiculously high price points, and a bunch of shoddy crap with no obvious use cases at all. It wasn’t like early Android smartphones; even the G-1, the very first, was a respectable design that was useful the day it shipped and is still useful today. In the tablet category, “low-end” meant 4-to-7-inch Taiwanese devices with weak processors, streaky displays and only intermittently functional single-touch sensing.

Yet, the behavior of vendors and retailers tells us this shoddy crap actually sold, and sold in ton lots. The handful of high-end Galaxy-Tab-like devices that were not crap were simply too pricey to be driving the market volume.

Only at the end of 2011 did this begin to change in a significant way. I had predicted on this blog that it would, but was about two months too optimistic about the timing. Now we have a bunch of midrange designs that are no longer crap but I don’t think are quite good enough yet, and I’m still wondering – who is buying these things, and for what?

The afterlife of the HP TouchPad may provide a clue, if of a negative kind. When HP released the discontinued hardware to retailers in order to cut its losses. there was a popular run on the product that was frenzied enough to attract media attention. I observed at the time that this suggested a large pent-up demand for tablets below the iPad price point.

Now it’s time to go back for another look at the TouchPad. Because likely, it’s an index of the same demand that was grabbing crappy tablets off the shelf before the TouchPad, and is buying this month’s so-so tablets. Thus, what those were being bought for is partly defined by the things that the discontinued TouchPad couldn’t do.

Internet over the cellular network? No. The TouchPad, and low-end tablets in general, are only useful as WiFi devices.

Privileged access to a trove of tied content? No. That’s what’s selling the Nook and the Fire, but the TouchPad sold without that kind of hook and low-end Android devices don’t seem to need it either.

The usage profile we’re left with is, basically, (1) web browsing, (2) YouTube, and (3) gaming. Or, to be even more concrete: Facebook, LOLcat videos, and Angry Birds. Do not underestimate Angry Birds – every time I’ve seen a tablet being used in public by kids, they’ve been playing Angry Birds on it.

If this is what’s been going on, what does it imply about the future?

I think the most obvious implication is cautionary for Apple, B&N, and Amazon and even Google: the behavior of early adopters may be leading them to overestimate the mass-market value of their walled gardens. The mobs of people who bought out the TouchPad stock within a day of release were signaling a lack of interest in iTunes; likewise, whoever have been buying crappy Android tablets in mass quantities clearly don’t care much about Amazon or B&N e-books or even the Google Android market (many of the low-end devices don’t license it).

It’s only going to get more interesting out there as the generic Android tablets improve. The trends are clear; we’re probably no more than 5 or 6 weeks from general availability of Android 4.0 tablets with 10-inch capacitative multitouch displays at $250.

When that happens, I think life is going to get more than a bit precarious for the Nooks and Kindles of the world. Those are being sold near or below cost because the vendors expect to make back the margin on tied media, but I suspect they’re fooling themselves – misreading demand for the generic abilities of the devices as demand for their particular gold-plating. Until now the distinction hasn’t mattered much, but they’re going to be increasingly vulnerable to disruption from below.

Yes, that goes for the iPad, too. We’re already seeing erosion of its share, 10% over the last year according to Strategy Analytics. That’s more ominous than it might seem precisely because in most objective ways the iPad’s competition has been pretty weak sauce. That’s changing now; in the near future, better hardware capacity than the iPad will be available at a lower price point.

At that point, we’re going to find out exactly how much tablet consumers are actually willing to pay Apple for its software and its brand. Interesting times…

170 thoughts on “The Smartphone Wars: Mystery of the Android tablets

  1. It’s only going to get more interesting out there as the generic Android tablets improve. The trends are clear; we’re probably no more than 5 or 6 weeks from general availability of Android 4.0 tablets with 10-inch capacitative multitouch displays at $250.

    The Le Pan tablet is available now at about $200 street; the only criterion it doesn’t quite meet yet is shipping with ICS. for the Use case trifecta of FB, lolcats, and Angry Birds it should amply suffice.

    It’s a wonderful device for the money, too: a 10″ screen with a 178-degree viewing angle. I bought an Archos a year back that cost $400 and could only be looked at head on; I feel ripped off.

    I expect the iPad to dominate the tablet mindshare for quite a few years to come, but there is competition, which there wasn’t a year ago. To quote Ghost Nappa, “Shit just got real up in this bitch.”

  2. There are indications that we’re also no more than 8 weeks from general availability of iOS 5 tablets with 10-inch capacitative multitouch displays at $300. The current crop of rumors is that the iPad 3 will ship soon (i.e., by end of March) with a double-density display, and that the iPad 2 will see a significant price drop to the neighborhood of $300.

  3. Who’s buying them? Me, to read, e.g., PDFs on a nice display. The e-reader market is a very real thing, but fuck me if I’m buying into anyone’s walled garden.

  4. Bryant,

    By that time the original Le Pan Tablet will have fallen to $150 or even lower.

    The relevant question I think is, can you pay half the price of an iPad and get more than half an iPad? If the answer is “yes”, then Android vendors can get a foot in the door. It’s still Apple’s ball and Apple’s field, but at least Android can field a competitive team. That’s true of smartphones too btw; the iPhone is the prototype for the radial category of smartphones, and it is the exemplar of the Apple-patented technology that makes a “smartphone” in the modern sense possible.

  5. Who’s buying the crap tablets? Woot.com, apparently, who seems to have one or another for sale, every day. See (http://www.woot.com/Forums/) for a list of recent sale items. So far in January they’ve had 12 tablets of various makes, models, and configurations, not including the two times they were selling iPads of one type or another.

  6. For that matter, I bought a Nook Color (and then promptly rooted it and installed CyanogenMod). I use it to read books, and browse the Internet around the house.

  7. @Bryant my money is on 16 GB WiFi iPad 2 at $349 or $399. iPad 3 Retina display at current prices ($499 up)

    I will be very surprised if the predicted 10″ capacitive Android tablet that doesn’t completely suck actually comes out for $250. I can believe $350+

    Kindle Fire is so cheap because Amazon is selling at cost. They want people using their services.

  8. Who’s buying them? I don’t know about generally, but one unrecognized market is young parents. A touch-screen tablet that can play even crappy kid games is absolute *gold* for any parent who needs their child distracted for a couple of hours. I used to hate seeing a kid when boarding an airplane. Now, I look for the touchpad. If the parents have one, I relax because I know the next couple of hours aren’t going to be too bad. The touchpad can vary with the mood of the child and do so simply enough that most children can determine their own mood and adjust it accordingly. Favorite movie? Check. Favorite reading game? Check. Favorite Sesame Street tie-in? Check. I imagine the effect is similar on car trips. Frankly, I wish airlines would stock up on extras for those parents too clueless or destitute to have their own…

  9. I’m awaiting the final spec of the Vizio 10″ tablet.

    It looks sleek….but I’ve gotta have gps/accel/magneto

    Cellular I can do without; wifi-only is acceptable.

    fore & aft cameras are a must

  10. @Jeff — yeah, but the low end Le Pen is single core, etc. It is not “better hardware capacity than the iPad.”

    I mean, I think you’re right about competition. I’m just disagreeing with Eric about hardware; he has this tendency to want to believe that Apple couldn’t possibly be producing high quality hardware at reasonable prices. Note the use of “gold plated” in his post.

  11. “Who’s buying them? Me, to read, e.g., PDFs on a nice display. The e-reader market is a very real thing, but fuck me if I’m buying into anyone’s walled garden.”

    You’re not the only one. We’ve got two Acer Iconia 10″ tablets for PDF reading, web browsing and use with our media center. All of my dev workstations are Apple, but neither my wife nor I can stand their tablets and phones.

  12. I wonder if VARs are buying these for vertical applications; rootable, cheaper than iPads, and programmable with an open source stack, it seems like they’d be a good platform for some dedicated clipboard-style app that doesn’t require 3G or iPad-level specs.

  13. “I wonder if VARs are buying these for vertical applications; rootable, cheaper than iPads, and programmable with an open source stack, it seems like they’d be a good platform for some dedicated clipboard-style app that doesn’t require 3G or iPad-level specs.”

    It’s not quite the same, but I know of one heavy equipment manufacturer that is doing a pilot program on the shop floor using COTS tablets for weld quality assessment.

  14. When that happens, I think life is going to get more than a bit precarious for the Nooks and Kindles of the world.

    This seems like a false dichotomy. E-reader != tablet, the difference being the e-ink screen. I hope to buy an e-ink reader soon and a tablet as well. My eyes just don’t like extended reading on an “active” screen.

  15. I’m quite happy to buy Apple hardware if it is both spec’d and priced right…but you can take a running anal jump onto a greased spike if you think I’ll buy it if it can’t be Androided.

  16. FWIW, I use my Xoom most when I’m GMing my Pathfinder campaign. It’s great for Evernote, Google Docs and looking up rules and reference material. It’s much less intrusive at the table than a laptop or netbook of any size. It’s also great for wardriving. :)

  17. “For that matter, I bought a Nook Color (and then promptly rooted it and installed CyanogenMod). I use it to read books, and browse the Internet around the house.”

    Same here, although I often throw it in my purse. One real advantage of a 7″ is that it fits in a normal sized purse, while a 10″ would not.

  18. FWIW, I use my Xoom most when I’m GMing my Pathfinder campaign.
    This. I’m currently not gaming due to a lack of free time; but when I was, I was using an HP touchscreen laptop to carry my “books” in and run my character sheet (this well predated the rise of the phone OS tablet). I can see using my TF101 in the same role.

  19. I think a lot of people bought them without understanding their limitations. They thought that they would have a lot of uses, but then probably put them in a drawer.

    In my own case, I pretty much knew what I was getting, but the price was low. Pandigital (out of business now?) dumped a bunch of Novel models (7” screen, 2GB memory) at Big Lots. They sold for $79 (US). They were originally supposed to be refurbs, but mine had no ‘refurbished’ label. (I saw the same thing on Amazon at $80.) Screen is bright and sharp; I can easily read an entire full-size page that has been shrunk down to 7”, even with generous margins. It acts as a reader for .epubs and .pdfs, but also comes with an app that displays Word, Excel and other files. Action can be a bit sluggish at times, but all in all, has turned out to be quite useful for web browsing and reading.

    Another market for them may be electronics hobbyists. I saw a magazine article where the author rigged up the audio output of his tablet to provide pulses that controlled a hobby servo. He used it to physically trigger a camera at set times.

  20. As a Touchpad owner, I’d like to say you’re pretty much right on. That and Skype. Bit of a tangent, but I’ve finally noticed a compelling real-world case for video calling – grandchildren. Seeing them, and showing them. Well that and deployed military and their families.

  21. ESR wrote:

    It’s only going to get more interesting out there as the generic Android tablets improve. The trends are clear; we’re probably no more than 5 or 6 weeks from general availability of Android 4.0 tablets with 10-inch capacitative multitouch displays at $250.

    http://goo.gl/w721Y

    150 clams, everything you say save it’s only 7 inches.

    I already own the first gen Galaxy Tab, and an EEE Transformer Prime with the add on keyboard is on the way. The ‘Tab won’t be upgradeable to ICS, the EEE TP comes with Honeycomb but ICS will probably be available as an update when I turn it on.

    Why did I buy those things? They’re both ‘Droids, and they’re both not AAPL. Pure and simple.

  22. How hard can it be to obtain sell-through numbers? Vendor ships X, stores return Y to vendor, subtract one for the other. Why must we play this hand-waving guessing game?

    “I think the most obvious implication is cautionary for Apple, B&N, and Amazon and even Google: the behavior of early adopters may be leading them to overestimate the mass-market value of their walled gardens.”

    There may be people around here who will strongly object to saying that Google runs a walled garden.

    “The mobs of people who bought out the TouchPad stock within a day of release were signaling a lack of interest in iTunes”

    Or, more likely, a huge interest in a lower-priced device.

    “The trends are clear; we’re probably no more than 5 or 6 weeks from general availability of Android 4.0 tablets with 10-inch capacitative multitouch displays at $250.”

    Someone please write that one down.

    “That’s changing now; in the near future, better hardware capacity than the iPad will be available at a lower price point.
    At that point, we’re going to find out exactly how much tablet consumers are actually willing to pay Apple for its software and its brand. Interesting times…”

    Yes, let’s not forget that Apple will not improve their offerings. The current iPad is it! As long as they remain perfectly still we will catch them!

  23. @ Louis4

    “”How many iPads were sold last quarter, about a million or so?”

    More like 15 million. But we can’t be sure they were actually SOLD, because Apple could have just stuffed them into all of the retail stores that do no business whatsoever. I do recall reading somewhere that Apple Stores generate more revenue per square foot than any other retailer, but I’m sure that’s just hyperbole from fanbois.

    @wlad

    ““The trends are clear; we’re probably no more than 5 or 6 weeks from general availability of Android 4.0 tablets with 10-inch capacitative multitouch displays at $250.”

    Someone please write that one down.”

    Oh, I’m sure that definition of “general availability” will be altered, or that he really meant 5-6 months. I wonder what will happen if the opposite happens, that the iPad2 is marked down to $249, and the iPad3 takes over as the high end Apple tablet. According to Eric, it’s possible since Apple is gouging consumers, selling them “gold-plated” merchandise.

    And when the iPad3 comes out and yet again sets the standard for tablets, we’ll be told that it was “disappointing,” or “underwhelming.”

  24. @LS:

    Another market for them may be electronics hobbyists.

    s/hobbyists/professionals/

    When baseline specs have settled down a bit and the things are dirt cheap, I’ll probably start sprinkling them around the lab at work. Lab PCs take up a lot of space and are relatively hard to move around, and in many cases aren’t doing all that much serious work.

    When you build 14 copies of $15K hardware emulators, nobody would bat an eye if you add 1% to the cost for a nice display and control interface.

  25. @IGnatius T Foobar:

    > Speaking of walled gardens, when are people finally going to bail out of Facebook?

    Although it’s hard to interoperate with or get data out of facebook, most people probably don’t even notice that until they get pissed at some other aspect of facebook such as its privacy policies. In that sense, facebook’s walls probably make some business sense — most people will give up on getting their data out and eventually Stockholm syndrome will set in.

    This is one reason google’s data liberation front is a great thing — it’s a nice check on the conscience of the rest of the company.

  26. @Michael Hipp:

    > This seems like a false dichotomy. E-reader != tablet, the difference being the e-ink screen.

    Except the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color and Nook Tablet don’t have e-ink…

  27. Shipment =/= Sales

    In reality, iPhone is winning back market share because of iPhone is no longer exclusive to AT&T. During the last quarter, 56% Verizon smartphone sold are iPhones and 80% AT&T smartphone sold are iPhones. Android tablet won’t come even close.

  28. “When baseline specs have settled down a bit and the things are dirt cheap, I’ll probably start sprinkling them around the lab at work. Lab PCs take up a lot of space and are relatively hard to move around…”

    @Patrick Maupin:
    You probably won’t have to do a lot of sprinkling. Lots of embedded control boards have web interfaces built in. You could walk around the lab with just one tablet, using the web browser to monitor each one of them with wi-fi.

  29. I prefer to do my work and fun stuff on the desktop, and that’s mainly because of the keyboard. That works for me because I can be at my desktop most of the time.

    The other use case for me is reading books – for that some kind of tablet becomes convenient. I’ve concluded that the best form factor for this is a 6-7″ which can be held comfortably in one hand. In terms of technology, I’ve settled on e-ink (the Kindle Touch). I’m not sure whether an LCD screen (Kindle Fire) will be better because of the added surfing/email functionality though it comes at the cost of a far shorter battery life. I have a feeling the book-likeness of the e-ink tech wins – let’s see.

    As for the iPad form factor (8-10″ screens) – I think that’s a neck breaker. Cervical spondylosis is almost assured over the long haul, IMHO, because of the position one tends to use it in.

    In terms of pricing, I figure the current specs for the Transformer Prime at $499 is already compelling. Drop it to $250 to $300, and the iPad has serious problem on its hands.

    Definitely hate iTunes. It’s not just that it’s a walled garden, it’s also an extra step you have to take compared to just connect the device and dumping a file in (as we are used to in Android).

  30. @LS:

    You probably won’t have to do a lot of sprinkling. Lots of embedded control boards have web interfaces built in. You could walk around the lab with just one tablet, using the web browser to monitor each one of them with wi-fi.

    We already do a lot of remote stuff, usually based on other PCs talking to lab PCs. But we deliberately do some fairly dumb hardware in a lot of cases because it’s easier to debug and repurpose sometimes. We typically have a USB interface; sometimes wired ethernet. I’ve been thinking about this:

    http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/usb/adk.html

  31. “it’s also an extra step you have to take compared to just connect the device and dumping a file in”

    To most people (note that I’m not talking about people who are likely to be reading this site) “dumping the file in” is the extra step; it’s incredibly depressing how many people don’t understand folders even when presented in a GUI.

    You buy the book/movie/app in iTunes and it *automatically* appears on your device when you plug it in — and now with iCloud, you don’t even have to plug it in. You click buy, and it shows up on all your devices. Automatically.

    Kindle also gets this right, mostly, but few of the other Android products do.

  32. @Tony: “dumping the file in” is the extra step; it’s incredibly depressing how many people don’t understand folders even when presented in a GUI.”

    Yes, I agree that is a depressing statistic. What I should have added is that Apple gives no choice to users who do know how to handle folders and file systems to take that option. It’s iTunes only, and that’s my gripe. :)

  33. >How hard can it be to obtain sell-through numbers?

    *Hollow laughter*

    I can tell you’ve never actually tried to do it. All parties involved protect this sort of information zealously; exposing it would reveal way more about weaknesses in their competitive positions than they want generally known.

  34. >he has this tendency to want to believe that Apple couldn’t possibly be producing high quality hardware at reasonable prices. Note the use of “gold plated” in his post.

    A mistaken interpretation, but my fault. I should have made clearer that the “gold plating” I was referring to is tied content – iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, and even the Android Market.

  35. I’m hoping that Kindles don’t have problems, anyway (of the E-ink type; the Fire I am indifferent to). I have one, quite like it, can read random stuff on it including Baen’s free ebooks and stuff I’ve scraped off the Web, and can also just buy random books whenever I please. The device is more than worth it on its own, but access to easy, cheap and legal e-books is quite nice as well.

  36. >There may be people around here who will strongly object to saying that Google runs a walled garden.

    The wall is low enough to jump over pretty easily – not much gets rejected. Yes, it’s a definitional question whether this is “walled garden” at all, but I didn’t want to have to write “walled gardens and things sort of like them”.

  37. >A touch-screen tablet that can play even crappy kid games is absolute *gold* for any parent who needs their child distracted for a couple of hours.

    That, sir, is an excellent point and an astute observation. Especially since its explanatory power increases as we slide downmarket to smaller devices (less weight for the kid to wrestle) and crappy displays (something a kid might not even notice).

  38. >I will be very surprised if the predicted 10? capacitive Android tablet that doesn’t completely suck actually comes out for $250. I can believe $350+

    A reason I made this prediction is that, as other commenters have pointed out, there are already tablets that meet it except for running FroYo rather than ICS. While I don’t know what the per-unit cost to license ICS from Google is, the way to bet given Google’s strategy is that it’s pretty low (as in, less than $10 and possibly less than $1). Most of what I’m leaving time for in that 5 to 6 weeks is for vendors to finish their ICS port testing.

  39. “Bit of a tangent, but I’ve finally noticed a compelling real-world case for video calling – grandchildren. Seeing them, and showing them.”

    Yep. My mother got broadband specifically to Skype with her children and grandchildren (my sister 600km away, me on the other side of the world).

  40. My son wanted an iPad for his 14th birthday, but reasonably said that he would accept a Le Pan. So we got him one. He’s loving it – uses it mostly for music and lyrical composition.

    In fact, we’ve decided to buy another one to permanently stick on the Refrigerator door, for recipes, Skype, and off the cuff email checking, as well as yet another one to keep in the living room for general purpose use.

    My older son got a Kindle for his Birthday (the lowest end one). He went from a kid that had to be wrestled into reading–anything–to a guy who carried his Kindle everywhere with him, and he’s read about a half-a-dozen books in the past 2 months.

    I use computers in my job: my own laptop, and one supplied by my employer, and a tablet doesn’t fill the bill. But using tablets as household “utilities” works a treat. I don’t use a tablet myself, yet. I’m waiting for the Fire to come to Canada, but until then, will continue using my iPhone for reading.

  41. Per-unit cost is zero. Google never tried to incur per-unit royalties and this is true for ICS, too.

    It does not mean ICS does not cost anything. You can grab AOSP version – and then you’ll need to spend money or time making it usable without Google apps. Or you can sign an agreement with Google and get all these goodies – but then you’ll need to guarantee that you’ll comply with certain requirements, some of which can require investment.

    Thus it’s hard to estimate the cost of ICS for the manufacturer: it’s not on per-unit basis and it’s not just some fixed price written on cheque. For some manufacturers it may be almost zero (if they just ship what the Google gives them and use mostly standard components) for some this may be hefty sum (if they use heavily modified ICS or some non-standard hardware).

  42. >Google never tried to incur per-unit royalties and this is true for ICS, too.

    Right, I wasn’t assuming there is necessarily a conventional royalty schedule – that would be possible given the existence of AOSP but unlikely. Given its strategic goals, though, Google has to have gamed out a bunch of scenarios in which it evaluates expected cost of various possible sets compliance requirements, and then chosen them to trade off the goal of low cost against the goal of making the resulting software maximally sticky.

  43. “A reason I made this prediction is that, as other commenters have pointed out, there are already tablets that meet it except for running FroYo rather than ICS.”

    Well, the tablet Jeff cites is single core. You said better hardware capacity.

    Thanks for the correction on gold plated.

  44. I wonder if we would see tablets with mixed e-ink + LCD display like OLPC was / is using…

  45. @esr “A reason I made this prediction is that, as other commenters have pointed out, there are already tablets that meet it ”

    It does look like the 10″ capacitive screen criteria has been met. but do they meet the “not sucking” criteria? Are they super thick? How long does the battery last? How much storage? Are they slow? I’d have to try them out…..

  46. I just went for a deal at my local AT&T store that bundled a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 with a Galaxy S II Skyrocket for $480 with a two-year contract. The roughly comparable deal for an iPad/iPhone would have been at least $200 more. I don’t need a lot of real estate on a tablet and the performance on the Galaxy Tab has been just fine.

  47. >Well, the tablet Jeff cites is single core. You said better hardware capacity.

    Yes, and you know what? I’m not at all sure dual-core matters much except as a checklist feature for marketing purposes.

    I don’t want to get sidetracked into an argument about this, but when I said “better hardware capacity” that sort of increase in processing capacity was fairly far down my mental list. Granted one characteristic of crap tablets is that they’re slow, experience and Amdahl’s Law both seem to tell us that a faster single core captures most of the gains you’d get from going dual-core at the same clock speed.

    (Yes, I’m dubious about the practical benefits of multicore in desktop systems as well.)

  48. Hm. I am not completely sure either, so I’ll pass on the argument as well.

  49. >Are they super thick? How long does the battery last? How much storage? Are they slow? I’d have to try them out….

    Well, one of these – battery life – is certainly an interesting question. One of them isn’t, at least to me; I doubt I’d care about “super thick”, given the fairly narrow range of thicknesses tablets span. I’m also not much worried about “enough storage” since even the cheapo tablets have an SD slot. “Slow” would have to be evaluated in practice.

  50. @Franklin “I just went for a deal at my local AT&T store that bundled a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 with a Galaxy S II Skyrocket for $480 with a two-year contract. The roughly comparable deal for an iPad/iPhone would have been at least $200 more.”

    Not a good comparison. You don’t have to do a contract for an iPad. You don’t even have the OPTION to do a contract – 3G is month to month.

    Here is the price from AT&T on GTab:
    No Commitment Pricing $629.99
    2-yr Contract Price $479.99

    So same price as 3G iPad 2 16GB w/ no contract.

    BTW, I personally think that getting 3G on your tablet is a non-starter. Just pay the $20/mo for hotspot on your phone.

  51. @Tony:

    To most people (note that I’m not talking about people who are likely to be reading this site) “dumping the file in” is the extra step; it’s incredibly depressing how many people don’t understand folders even when presented in a GUI.

    A very few years ago, I would have completely agreed with you. But look at how many people are using Android phones as music players (and look at the drop in Apples iPod sales). I think this knowledge is permeating the public consciousness fairly fast. “Dumping the file in” is today’s version of setting the time on your digital watch or programming your VCR to record your program — if you don’t know how to do it, just ask a nearby 9 year old.

    @phil:

    BTW, I personally think that getting 3G on your tablet is a non-starter. Just pay the $20/mo for hotspot on your phone.

    I don’t disagree, but In your experience, what does that do to your phone’s battery life?

    Also, in the future, I think this might be less true. AT&T and Verizon are both working on offering shared data plans. Also, if the MNVOs like TruConnect start managing to support BYOD, things could get really interesting.

  52. > I’m also not much worried about “enough storage” since even the cheapo tablets have an SD slot. “Slow” would have to be evaluated in practice.

    Except this isn’t quite the non issue you present it as (with the caveat that I am still running 2.2 and don’t know if this has changed since). My LG Optimus also has an SD card slot, and indeed, I have a 2GB SD card in there now with nearly 2/3 of the space free, yet I am constantly battling my phone over storage space. Every few weeks I will get a “low storage” warning, and every time there are more than 2 apps to update at a time I can be assured of one of them failing because there isn’t enough space. The reason for this is because my LG only has ~200 MB internal storage, most of which is used by the OS, and the remainder of which is used by apps which won’t allow moving to the SD card (such as all the google apps), and even when you do move an app to the SD card, some space is still consumed internally for that app, leaving me with just 10-20MB of space to work with. Hell, if I couldn’t get k9 to store my mail on the SD card, I wouldn’t be able to install or update any apps whatsoever.

    Admittedly this problem is solvable by manufacturers including more than the bare minimum of internal storage, but not all of them are doing that, certainly not the price cutters, and this is only a 1 year old phone, so it’s not like this is an old phenomenon either.

  53. >Except this isn’t quite the non issue you present it as (with the caveat that I am still running 2.2 and don’t know if this has changed since).

    That’s a useful heads-up about a problem I was unaware of – I’ve never seen a “low space” warning myself. Does anyone else know if this was fixed in Honeycomb or ICS?

  54. The problems with SD are quite fundamental: SD can be removed at any time. This obviously puts a limit of what you can do with it. Caches and data files – yes. Installed programs – not all that good. Background daemons – absolutely not. Sure, this all may work if user is careful enough, but this automatically excludes most users.

    Honeycomb (and consequently) ICS offers a solution for the related (yet different) problem: quite often manufacturers used “virtual SD” on the devices – this meant that even if you had plenty of flash you still often his these limits. With Honeycomb (or ICS) they have an option to organize “virtual SD” (using FUSE) which means that this is no longer the problem for flagship devices. See here: http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/11/18/impromptu-qa-session-with-android-engineer-dan-morrill-brings-to-light-reasons-behind-galaxy-nexus-lack-of-usb-mass-storage/

    Since they went to such lengths and inconveniences (UMS is really much better then MTP from usability viewpoint) and since last two Nexuses had no SD slot it looks like good SD support is not a priority for Android. It’s hard problem with little benefit for most users, so I don’t blame them.

  55. Re: low space warning — I don’t have a fix for the phones, but on my Nook Color I am booting and running the operating system right off the SD card. So the SD card is treated as system memory, which makes everything run a little slower but make all the memory available.

    (That’s not why I’m doing it this way; it’s because I can always pull out the SD card and suddenly have a fully-stock unrooted Nook again for warranty or maintenance purposes. It also reduces my risk of bricking the device.)

    I think the underlying cause of the “low space” problem is a design deficiency in Android that says applications are supposed to be running at all times in the background. Even killing apps with a task killer will often just let them respawn. This makes it very difficult to manage memory by reducing the number of tasks running unless you are willing to completely remove some apps, or run specialized apps that block these tasks.

  56. >Except this isn’t quite the non issue you present it as (with the caveat that I am still running 2.2 and don’t know if this has changed since).

    That’s a useful heads-up about a problem I was unaware of – I’ve never seen a “low space” warning myself. Does anyone else know if this was fixed in Honeycomb or ICS?

    This has been a persistent problem with my HTC Evo 4G (now on 2.3.3 but it was 2.2 for a while). Although the 4G has twice as much memory as the LG of the OP I still find myself running out of space on it when doing upgrades and the like. I’ve moved most of the really big apps to the SD card though and that has reduced the problem. My main gripe is that I can’t uninstall a whole bunch of crapware that HTC/sprint kindly provided with the phone and which I never ever use.

    To go back to tablets

    I think a 7″ tablet is about the right form factor because that fits into a pocket more or less.
    My basic requirements for a tablet would be
    Wifi (3g/4g cell not required)
    SD (or microSD) slot
    8-10 hours battery while doing low CPU activities (e.g. reading)
    Epub & kindle ebook readers
    Adequate performance on non flash/JS heavy websites
    Read PDFs, PPT(x) and DOC(x)
    Ability to run SSH terminal for access to other things

    With the caveat that battery life may not quite be there I think many of the ones mentioned in the comments will work fine for this and when I next go to the US I’ll be taking a look around

    Having said that, I think there are a couple of things that would make me really happy in addition. A USB A jack (i.e. can plug in an external USB HD or flash memory) and a decent slide out keyboard (the transformer sounds like the perfect one here). With those two bits added the device gets to be genuinely useful for work as well as leisure activities.

  57. I’ve been using the Kindle (4th Generation, the one one without the keypad). It comes with 2 GB of storage. I’m not sure what software is running underneath, but whatever it is, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of problems because once you move a number of files in, it constantly complains of not having enough storage. You reach a point where even deleting a large number of files doesn’t solve the issue. I’m guessing the algorithms for handling storage, particularly, deleted files, is sub-par. I think it’s the old problem where a deleted file is not really deleted, and just continues to occupy space unless you do some kind of disk recovery.

    The other problem with it is that while you can store quite a number of books on it, the mechanism for searching and moving to any particular book, is still very rudimentary. There’s LOTS of room for improvement in this area.

    Where I find Amazon has pressed all the right buttons is the form factor: a very light 6″ e-ink screen with two buttons on either side of the Kindle for scrolling a page forward or back is perfecto. Add to that support for non-DRM books in the mobi format, and you have a killer product. Fixed the UI for finding and scrolling to a particular book in a largish number of books on the SD card, and improving the accounting for storage space will ensure that it remains a killer product.

    I’m getting a Kindle Touch in the next few days – it has a 4 GB SD Card and a touch interface – let’s see if it has those improvements. Will also be getting my paws on a Kindle Fire – let’s see if a color screen trumps MEMS e-ink.

  58. Oh, I should also note that while Amazon has it’s own DRM format and it’s own marketing eco-system, it doesn’t lock you in on it’s proprietary .azw format. It accepts mobi, pdf and number of other formats. Also, adding a book to the Kindle is just a matter of dumping the file on the SD Card. No iTunes. Nice!

    If Apple offered a choice besides just iTunes, I would buy a lot more Apple products, because I think their products are just superb. In fact I did some five years ago – a Nano and an iPod Video. The first thing I did was put RockBox on them, ie. instant goodbye, iTunes. I still use them, with RockBox.

    However, I am grateful to Apple. Their outstanding product design and quality played a definite role in the quality of choices we have today.

  59. To begin with, I *hate* the way people use the term “memory” to refer to both RAM or flash storage, interchangeably depending on circumstances. I’ve hated for literally decades now, when mom-n-pop types would complain they were “out of memory” when their PC hard drive filled up with downloaded toolbars. OK, rant over.

    The lack of storage issue is a little complicated. Mostly it’s hardware, with some devices being skimpy om internal storage. Partly it’s software, with the internal storage being partitioned in a suboptimal way. I’m not an expert on this (haven’t had to be, never had the problem) but I have seen a lot of discussion on issues with /data/data being too small- there are even programs (search for ‘Ext4All’) and mods designed to work around the issue. For whatever reason, this /data/data being too small issue seems to be most severe on the Droid Incredible. It may just be a Sense thing. There are also certain apps (like Facebook) known for crapping all over /data/data.

    I’ve heard that HC and ICS use a different partitioning scheme that avoids the /data/data issue.

  60. s/usr/support/

    Nexus S with ICS uses separate data and SD partitions – exactly like Gingerbread. Galaxy Nexus merges them together as explained. This means that if you have Gingerbread today then OTA update will not save you: chances are high that you’ll continue to see the dreaded split. New devices with ICS will probably have problem fixed from the onset.

  61. @franklin “Except that I have 4G on both devices. Does that change your estimation at all?”

    Didn’t notice it had LTE. It specs out nicely – better than iPad 2 I would say. But it’s certainly not what esr was talking about – the $250 tablet that doesn’t suck.

  62. @Patrick Maupin “I don’t disagree, but In your experience, what does that do to your phone’s battery life?”

    Yes, it’s a hit on battery on the phone. And certainly not as convenient as just having 3G built in. If you are loaded, I’d definitely go for 3G on the tablet. But for me, it’s worth the small amount of hassle + battery hit to just use the phone’s hotspot.

    Apple does keep selling the 3G, so people obviously are buying them. So maybe I should have said “non starter for me”

  63. @Kinley Dorji “Definitely hate iTunes. It’s not just that it’s a walled garden, it’s also an extra step you have to take compared to just connect the device and dumping a file in (as we are used to in Android).”

    I find this argument, which keeps popping up here bizarre.

    So here is how it works on iTunes these days: you buy a song in iTunes or on the iOS device itself. The song almost instantly shows up on every other device hooked to the same iTunes account. How is manually managing your files in any way superior?

    The files are stored on your computer in the file system, you can access them if you wish. But why would you want to?

  64. > So here is how it works on iTunes these days: you buy a song in iTunes or on the iOS device itself.

    You lost me right here. Sure, if you are good little drene^Hfollower of St. Steve and buy all your music on iTunes then everything is just peachy. If you are blasphemer like me and like the music which is just not available there then suddenly iTunes is a barrier, not help.

    This typical for St. Steve creations: they are work of the art, they are fine-tuned to be VERY usable – if used in certain, prescribed, way. Step one step outside – and you feel the intense PAIN.

  65. @Jakub, the OLPC didn’t ever use an E-Ink display. Instead, they used a display which had 2X resolution when in monochrome not color, and which, in the sun, faded from color to monochrome, but was still visible.

  66. @khmi “You lost me right here.”
    Apple offers 2 options for your scenario. 1) drag your songs into iTunes and they will appear on your devices next time you sync (which is done via wifi these days). 2) use iTunes match. This lets you upload any non-itunes avail songs to the cloud for auto-synching.

    Seriously, for this use case if you were CEO at Apple and trying to design a product for the general population – what would you do differently?

  67. @phil the 3G on my iPad allows me to move outside of tether range when the kids are watching netflix or YouTube. That worth the $150 (whatever) right there. If it were only me using the thing is go wifi only.

  68. @esr I am hoping for a $250 5″ iPod touch soon

    Having used a 7″ tablet I much prefer both my 10″ iPad and touchpad for everything except maybe ebooks and movies. The 7″ widescreen isn’t much smaller for movies over the 4:3 10″ form factor

    While I view the bigger iPod touch as iffy I do expect that apple will sell the baseiPad 2 for $100 less reducing the price differential while maintaining ASP and margins. The iPad 3 might see a price hike to compensate.

    As far as disruption from below I find it interesting that you continue to use that case against products that are currently doing the disrupting as opposed to being the incumbents. The market that is visibly being disrupted is the traditional PC market. Neither the iPad nor Fire will be disrupted by cheaper Andriod tablets as they both have distinct advantages over them.

    I also find it funny that you call the primary value add of the fire and iPad as gold plating. Many folks buy these devices precisely to get the ecosystem. In particular Netflix and amazon video.

    Given that apple has some unique apps and amazon appears willing to pay for exclusives for their apps store I expect these ecosystems are likely to have some app advantages as well.

  69. @phil: “So here is how it works on iTunes these days: you buy a song in iTunes or on the iOS device itself. The song almost instantly shows up on every other device hooked to the same iTunes account. How is manually managing your files in any way superior?” and “Apple offers 2 options for your scenario. 1) drag your songs into iTunes and they will appear on your devices next time you sync (which is done via wifi these days). 2) use iTunes match. This lets you upload any non-itunes avail songs to the cloud for auto-synching.”

    That’s fine and dandy if you are all in with Apple as you obviously are. It’s not fine if you aren’t all in, and own Apple and non-Apple media devices. What if I want some of the songs bought on iTunes on my Android phone? It becomes a whole lot more problematic then. That’s my point – this is bothersome enough for folks like me to eschew Apple, even if we find the products to be otherwise excellent.

  70. Are Amazon.com and B&N in the tablet hardware business for the long term?

    If they are selling at cost, I wonder if the long term strategy is to help make eReader content (books, magazines, textbooks, etc.) ubiquitous to the extent virtually everyone looks for the e-version first before “settling” on the paper version, it the paper version is even available.

    I purchased an ASUS TF101 for school and used it extensively throughout my Masters program. Running Android Honeycomb, it has an app for Kindle and Nook as well as the ability to do many things the Kindle and Nook tables cannot do out of the box. In other words, with the TF101, I have a Kindle, a Nook, and a useable netbook rolled into a single unit. I certainly paid extra for that flexibility and functionality. But the life span of my TF101 is likely to be longer than a Kindle or Nook purchased at the same time.

    Once the quality of competing Android tablets rise and the price falls to the sweet spot described by ESR, will Amazon.com and B&N begin to move out of the tablet business and focus on content delivery?

  71. >Are Amazon.com and B&N in the tablet hardware business for the long term?

    A good question, and I don’t think we should take for granted that the answer is “yes”.

    Amazon.com and B&N are in a position rather like Google’s. Victory for the iPad/iPhone would be dissastrous for them, because Apple could then use its control of the delivery channel to skim off the profits. More generally, they don’t want anyone else to be able to put a tollbooth between them and the consumer, but as long as that constraint is met they don’t need to stay in the hardware business themselves. Once generic Android devices are sufficiently ubiquitous, why not just sell an app and let someone else bear the costs of developing and distributing hardware products?

    Seen in this light, the Kindle and the Nook look less like sustaining products than they do like moves to fend off an Apple lock on the tablet market long enough for something like Android to win.

  72. @esr, that would be a rational strategy and it would be an echo of the Google strategy. But I’m not convinced that Amazon and B&N see it that way. I really get more of an impression that they are not just trying to avoid seeing Apple control a channel but they are trying to create dedicated channels to consumers of their own. Not a fully walled off channel but one of their own with mid sized walls.

  73. >I really get more of an impression that they are not just trying to avoid seeing Apple control a channel but they are trying to create dedicated channels to consumers of their own.

    You may be right. They’ll take whichever strategic fork delivers the highest expected margin, of course.

    The key point here is that, like everyone else whose business is centered on content delivery or advertising, they have to view Apple as the enemy. Nobody is going to forget the iTunes example.

  74. I think this is the case where “want” and “ready to accept” are quite different. Do they want to keep their own small walled garden? Sure – but only if it’ll be profitable. If not – they will part with it easily. B&N already made such noises: http://www.electronista.com/articles/12/01/05/barnes.and.noble.may.separate.and.sell.nook.line/ I think Amazon will follow.

    It all will depend on the popularity of content-less tablets (ASUS, Samsung, etc): if they will be popular enough then Kindle and Nook will be historic curiosities, if not – they will continue to sell them to make sure Apple can not choke them.

  75. >That’s fine and dandy if you are all in with Apple as you obviously are. It’s not fine if you aren’t all in, and own Apple and non-Apple media devices.
    >What if I want some of the songs bought on iTunes on my Android phone? It becomes a whole lot more problematic then. That’s my point –
    >this is bothersome enough for folks like me to eschew Apple, even if we find the products to be otherwise excellent.

    Then you plug in your android phone and drag and drop the song directly out of iTunes or the folder that you told iTunes your music was in. iTunes music is DRM free, and the audio files are in AAC which according to Google (http://developer.android.com/guide/appendix/media-formats.html) is a supported file format.

  76. “Shhh! Let the Android fans have their angry / superior argument. Don’t tell them that iTunes works with Android. Jeez, then everyone will want it on Linux.”

    Har, that’s a good one. I can see the Linux users clamoring for iTunes, after all the cows have come home. :) The bottom line is that iTunes is a product, and Apple gives you only one of its kind: No choice. Apple fans are OK with that, and that’s fine. For others, iTunes doesn’t cut it so the only choice is to go else where. That’s just being practical, as we can in fact find far better media managers, both on Windows and Linux.

    Just to clear the air a bit, I’m no Android fan boy. I just like choice and I love great technology. I am in fact seriously considering a Mac Pro as my primary desktop. You pay more for Apple but the product has both performance and design class. BUT, I will be doing so only because in addition to Mac OS, I can run both Windows and Linux on it, along with all the applications I need.

  77. >The bottom line is that iTunes is a product, and Apple gives you only one of its kind: No choice.
    >Apple fans are OK with that, and that’s fine. For others, iTunes doesn’t cut it so the only choice is
    >to go else where. That’s just being practical, as we can in fact find far better media managers, both
    >on Windows and Linux.

    Wait, now I’m confused. Are you complaining that:

    1) You can’t load iTunes music onto Android
    2) You can’t use anything other than iTunes on a mac
    or
    3) You can’t use anything other than Apple iTunes to manage your Apple iPhone?

    Because only one of those is true.

  78. >Don’t tell them that iTunes works with Android. Jeez, then everyone will want it on Linux.

    Cute but unlikely. iTunes on windows is lousy at best, and while I imagine it might be a bit better under linux, I wouldn’t have high hopes for it. There’s too much behind the scenes that Apple relies on to make iTunes work that it would have to port.

  79. ” iTunes on windows is lousy at best, and while I imagine it might be a bit better under linux, I wouldn’t have high hopes for it. There’s too much behind the scenes that Apple relies on to make iTunes work that it would have to port.”

    Exactly.

  80. Cute but unlikely. iTunes on windows is lousy at best, and while I imagine it might be a bit better under linux, I wouldn’t have high hopes for it. There’s too much behind the scenes that Apple relies on to make iTunes work that it would have to port.

    Am pretty sure that iTunes for Windows, like Safari for Windows, is based on a whole-hog port of much of the Cocoa infrastructure to Win32. And that’s to the bone, not a skin-deep API-compatible port. So you have much of the Apple rendering infrastructure in there, sitting on top of the Windows rendering infrastructure. Where have we hard of this before? Oh yeah: shit sandwiches like Swing.

    No wonder Apple’s Windows software are such pieces of ass.

    With that in mind, a port to Linux should be in theory relatively easy. But Apple’s not going to do it. Especially not when hackers and other technical users are jumping ship to the Mac in droves for desktop usage.

  81. > The key point here is that, like everyone else whose business is centered on content delivery or advertising, they have to view Apple as the enemy. Nobody is going to forget the iTunes example.

    It seems that anyone who delivers bits and voice over the air should also consider Apple the enemy, if we go by the iPhone example, which appears to be designed to skim off wireless profits right through the black and into the red. Whatever happened to win/win?

    If iTunes on Android is as good as iTunes on Windows, well, then iTunes is no good for me now. Of course this could be because I have a burning lack of desire to carry music with me where ever I go.

    That said, I will probably buy an iPhone soon to see how I like it. If I am like my sister, I will like it as well as I like my Android.

    Yours,
    Tom

  82. >4) I don’t like iTunes.

    Then you should say that rather than couching it in some pseudo argument over choice.

  83. Interesting data point on global shipments.

    http://www.cable360.net/ct/news/thewire/Apple-Takes-Biggest-Bite-Of-2011-Smartphone-Marketshare_50421.html

    According to those folks, Apple hit a global high of 25% of the global smartphone market (9% of total handset shipments).

    Another interesting stat was that all the growth in handsets was in smartphones (duh) but that there’s still a lot of life left in dumb/feature phones — a 1.6% YOY decline to “only” 259 million handsets for the quarter.

  84. Hmm, that’s an interesting way to put it. I don’t like iTunes. And I don’t like iTunes because it limits my choices by channeling me the Apple way. The only way this argument can be pseudo is if iTunes gives me more choices than I already have. Are you saying that iTunes gives me more choices?

    Hey, by the way, as we exchange posts on this front, an interesting thing happened. My daughter was gifted an iPod Touch yesterday, and it forced me to once again look at my options (this time with some urgency as she wanted to use it right away, *whatever* my personal preferences about iTunes :). So here’s what happened – at the risk of boring all here. At least it should prove I’m not religious about Apple/Android on devices or Mac/Windows/Linux on the desktop:

    First, all my boxes are Linux. So that’s already a problem as there is no iTunes for Linux, and AFAIK, iTunes is the only path through which to initialize the iPod (“the Apple way”). Luckily, I use VirtualBox and have both Mac OS X and Win XP virtual machines. OS X comes with iTunes, so I don’t have to bother downloading and installing iTunes just to initialize the device. One bother out of the way.

    I take iTunes through its paces on Mac OS X for the first time ever, and @tmoney, I have to agree, it is a much more pleasant experience on the Mac OS than on Windows. Of course, the last time I played with iTunes on Windows was more than 5 years ago (when it truly stank), thus there’s the bias of progress in this view.

    So I initialize the iPod Touch and it comes to life, iTunes on the Mac virtual machine.

    Next problem: I still don’t want to run my Mac OS virtual machine every time I want to add or remove media. So I search for the top media managers on LInux that can write to Apple devices. The best reviews point me to Clementine, which upon running, turns out to be quite a well designed application, and yes, it does iPods. It transferred a bunch of songs to the iPod from my media library quite smoothly. So I now have what I want (or don’t want): I don’t need iTunes on Linux nor do I need it all beyond the initial initialization of the device, and I don’t need to jailbreak or other wise hack the iPod itself as I had to some 5 years ago. Clementine allows me to manage the device directly from Linux.

    Basically, what I learned was the things have moved quite a bit from my last experience with Apple devices. iTunes is more dispensable now (though AFAIK, not totally dispensable for that one time init requirement – I’d be happy to know if this is also not the case). Also, none of this is thanks to Apple. It’s thanks to the creators of software like Clementine. And thanks also to great products like VirtualBox which gives me the choice of running any (almost) virtual system to meet my needs. CHOICE. Good. NO (or less) CHOICE. Bad. :)

    Thanks of course to Apple for great hardware products, which I look forward to using more than I have in a while (again, the Mac Pro beckons). But most certainly an emphatic no to the iTunes way, and thank heavens there are better (even if not complete ways) to avoid it. Also, I’ll grumble less about iTunes though only because I can avoid it more than before. I’ll stop grumbling about it entirely when it isn’t needed at all to initialize Apple devices.

  85. @tmoney: Yes, you are right, it came with iOS 4.x. I’m glad to hear iOS 5 doesn’t require iTunes to set up a device – sure seems like Apple is making a few concessions, and I will stop complaining about the iTunes lock in from here on. :)

    I’d be interested to know if iOS 5 doesn’t require iTunes to upgrade itself on a device. If so, I will entirely bury my reservations about Apple devices!

  86. Oops, just checked the link you sent. iOS 5 does allow pc free updates of firmware as well. Okey dokey, I consider my grouse with Apple handheld devices settled. I have no issues with Apple’s firmware – the UI/UX is superb as far as I can tell.

  87. There is one big advantage to a low end generic android as an ereader over the nook or kindle: you can download an app to read both sets of ebooks without rooting your device. Normally, the kindle won’t let you read nook books and vice versa. Calibre can sort of make it moot, but that’s a bigger headache than just having one device read both. OTOH, I’m quite happy with reading on my nook simple touch that I got for christmas.

    On a different note, regarding multi-core systems, I believe the CPU makers have a reached a point where it’s cheaper to add another core than it is to increase cpu performance directly for the same level of improvement. Yes, you can get the same improvement either way, but one way requires you to retool and redesign more thoroughly than the other. I may be wrong about this…

  88. Kinley,

    I hope that Mac OS VM is actually on a Mac box, otherwise it’s a EULA violation and you’re effectively running pirated software.

  89. @Jeff: Yes, I’m aware of that. That and other Apple positions such as the jail breaking of their devices is another point of discussion.

    To be honest, the Mac OS VM I’m using isn’t on a Mac box. I’ve installed it for trial purposes some months ago, and this is about the only time I’ve actually used it (to initialize the iPod Touch, that is). In all probability I won’t use it again, except maybe to give Mac OS a look over again if the interest arises. I’d consider that fair use, and given the opportunity it’s given me to change my otherwise dour view of Apple’s history of tight control over its devices, I think it’s been to Apple’s gain as well. I still prefer Android, but as a result of this exercise I’m much more open to considering Apple hand held devices as well.

  90. Smartphones, not tablets. But MS seem to lose the smartphone and future computer wars in a “blip on the horizon” fashion. As usual, anyone partnering with MS is standing already with one leg in his grave.

    I do not expect a tablet rise from the grave from MS.

    How Many Lumia Sales? As Nokia (and Microsoft) ashamed to reveal number, lets count – and compare to N9 MeeGo sales
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/01/how-many-lumia-sales-as-nokia-and-microsoft-ashamed-to-reveal-number-lets-count-and-compare-to-n9-me.html

    And then we can see that if Nokia did about 1.1 million Lumia sales ‘to date’ – it would mean so far 500,000 more sales in January. Multiply that by 3 to get a full quarter, and we have 1,5 million sales. Add more growth or some more countries and in rough terms, expect Q2 sales for Lumia 800 and 710 to sell approx 2 million units in Q2. Pretty pathetic actually (especially if you are still holding your breath, that Nokia somehow matches that Morgan Stanley projection of 37 million Lumia sales this year haha).

    …..

    Note, I set my target 6.4 million before we had this data. And if only Nokia release the N9 globally, rather than bizarre distant lands like Kazakhstan and New Zealand – and offered the sister phone N950 – even before any real strong Nokia support, the math suggests Nokia would have easily cleared the target I said what Nokia should be able to do today, when launching a new smartphone platform and device. Why Elop only managed 600,000 in Q4 – yes, only one TENTH of what any reasonable expectation would have been – says less about how bad Elop is as a manager, and more about how much the carriers and retail channel hate now Elop, Nokia as it currently is seen, and especially Microsoft, and Windows Phone.

    But yes, 6.6 million unit sales is what Nokia had in its hand for Q4 if any sane manager had been in charge. This is BEFORE we consider Elop’s personal support of MeeGo and any reasonable marketing support by Nokia, which would boost those sales considerably! Remember, the N9 already is being called superior to the iPhone 4S by some comparisons (the Lumia 800 and even Lumia 900 comes nowhere close to such comparisons). Remember the German newsmagazine Der Stern endorsement that was so glowing, they urged Germans to drive to Switzerland to buy an N9 rather than buying a Lumia 800 today.

  91. And here is a summary of why MS Phone and the Lumia will fail (from the same author as my previous comment). Read the 13 (14?) reasons!

    The real Top 13 reasons why Nokia Lumia and Windows Phone will fail, not just in USA but across planet
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/01/the-real-top-14-reasons-why-nokia-lumia-and-windows-phone-will-fail-not-just-in-usa-but-across-plane.html

    If Stephen Elop can deliver 6.4 million Lumia sales in the past Q4, I am willing to say in public, I was wrong, he is competent to manage Nokia and I will accept he’s made some mistakes that should be forgiven as learning on the job.

    If Stephen Elop can deliver at least the 4 million Lumia sales that Nokia N8 and Symbian S^3 did last year – without adding the industry growth, I would conclude that Elop is spectacularly incompetent or irresponsible or foolish or rash, but perhaps the Board can be forgiven to allow some more time for Elop to try to make his strategy work.

    If Lumia sales are below 4 million, Lumia has failed to an unacceptable degree. Elop will have squandered the only chance Nokia had had, to try to shift platforms, and blasted what any opportunity may have been left for Lumia. If the Lumia sales in Q4 fall under 4 million, the signs are undeniable that Lumia’s path is a dead end, a cul-de-sac, and the sooner Nokia Board sees this, the sooner they must terminate all activites that waste resources pursuing that route. It is the proverbial dead horse. And you can’t ride the dead horse the only thing you can do, is get off the horse and find some other way to proceed. If Lumia fails to sell 4 million copies in Q4, it will be so comprehensively rejected that Nokia cannot revive it. Then it is time to think what to replace it with? Android? MeeGo? Tizen? bada? Blackberry OS? Palm/WebOS? (check out where the leading forecasters now estimate Lumia sales for Q4. Can you spell 500,000 units?)

  92. @Winter: I do not expect a tablet rise from the grave from MS.

    Don’t bury Microsoft just yet. Yes, they (and theirs partners) are one leg in the grave. But Microsoft will just send all the partners to said grave just to slip out of it itself. Not the first time it happened.

    IOW: I’m pretty sure Nokia is a toast, but I’m not so sure about WP7.

  93. @khim
    “IOW: I’m pretty sure Nokia is a toast, but I’m not so sure about WP7.”

    If you read the paper I linked to in my second comment, you will see a lot of things in WP7 that make it difficult for MS to sell it.
    (http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/01/the-real-top-14-reasons-why-nokia-lumia-and-windows-phone-will-fail-not-just-in-usa-but-across-plane.html)

    But with some tens of billions in cash, you can indeed try out a lot of failed strategies hoping to hit gold. However, I think the shareholders will at some point think about what useful things they themselves could do with all that cash. At that point they will probably decide they will continue without Steve Ballmer.

  94. @khim
    A commenter to the first linked article gave a nice list of WP7 technological failures:

    Posted by: cycnus
    http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2012/01/how-many-lumia-sales-as-nokia-and-microsoft-ashamed-to-reveal-number-lets-count-and-compare-to-n9-me.html?cid=6a00e0097e337c88330167612869e9970b#comment-6a00e0097e337c88330167612869e9970b

    the answer to your question is simple, because Microsoft Windows Phone platform does not support HDMI (or in other word a multiple screen), microSD slot (because it’s a wall garden a.l.a iphone, where we need zune on PC to access the file, but not all files), USB-OTG (again, because WP7 does not support it, microsoft don’t want people able to copy file without computer, and as for USB-OTG mice&kb, it because it’s not supported in WP7).

  95. @winter Ah, that blog has some weird axe to grind vis a vis MS. I guess it’s fairly common. But in any case, his numbers for N9 sales don’t seem to be accurate and pretty much every other number he posts is pulled out of his ass.

    His reasons are very subjective and many if applied to the Apple he’d be predicting that the iPhone would fail. For example Reason 7: Variety of models. First, the iPhone shows that you don’t need a huge variety of models to sell millions of handsets and second these are the first of many WP handsets from Nokia. Claiming that Nokia is going to fail because they have thus far only launched 2 models is idiotic. Likewise the lack of keyboard. They will launch a phone with a keyboard. Reason 8 is just stupid. The WP app ecosystem will beat the crap out of Ovi. For one thing, developing WP apps is a hell of a lot nicer and easier than Symbian apps.

    A lot of the other reasons are just his opinion. Like the OS is “deficient”. Or that Nokia as a “poisonous” relationship with carriers. And his opinion about what is important to smartphones is just wrong or the iPhone would have been a flop too (SMS and camera) because both sucked for a long time. His litany of failure is just idiotic. No HDMI, no TV out, no microSD. Yeah, notice any on the iPhone 4S? No.

    Is the N8 camera better than the Lumina 900? Sure. The question is does it really matter? And the rumored Lumina 910 is supposed to have a 12MP camera.

    You like them because they align with your desire for MS to fail. They aren’t facts and barely supported opinions about what he likes and feels is important. Meh

  96. Nokia: Lumia Sales Show Promise

    “In the lead-up to the earnings call, we had a BNP Paribas survey reveal that only 2% of Europeans are interested in buying the Lumia 800. However, the first official sales statement on better-than-expected Lumia sales puts the matter to rest and shows promise in Nokia’s long-term strategy as the company launches the Lumia in more countries and puts its global sales force to work.”

    http://www.thestreet.com/_yahoo/story/11392293/1/nokia-lumia-sales-show-promise.html?cm_ven=YAHOO&cm_cat=FREE&cm_ite=NA

  97. I picked up a Samsung Galaxy device (not a phone) that’s a little bigger than an iPod around Christmas. I wanted a glorified mp3 player with the ability to use various apps to help with studying Japanese and occasional light-duty browsing or movie watching.

    Overall, I like the iPod better, as the os and apps and market are much more mature, but I was also curious to give the Android platform a try. It can only get better now that they are falling into so many hands. Commercial developers are taking it more seriously and that’s fine with me.

    It’s nice not having to worry about Flash and things like that. Just works.

    Overall, though, I’d say the iPod experience is a bit sweeter and more polished. Give it time, though.

    Larger android devices are great for browsing and reading (or playing, skyping or whatever) while sitting, in ways that laptops aren’t, for a price of entry much lower than an iPad.

    If your into music or video production rather than mere consumption, though, Apple is the only way to go. There are some great recording and beatmaking apps for the iOS which simply cannot be re-created on Android without all sorts of latency issues and what not which Apple has had nailed down tight for years. It’ll happen though, now that there’s enough of a market for some real money to be made.

  98. @nigel
    I do not believe J Random Blogger. But your optimism about WP7 is just as beside the mark. The Lumia has nothing that would make it stand out in the crowd. Neither has WP7.

  99. Students are a big market, especially STEM students. And they’re buying the mid/high-end 10″ tablets.

    Why? Textbooks. For the cost of 2 average engineering texts you get a single device which can hold all your textbooks in PDF format. And Android tablets (or TouchPad’s with CM7) are preferred for this because loading PDF’s is drag & drop rather than having to jump through iTunes hoops. This is a bad thing for textbook publishers for now, textbook piracy is rife in STEM faculties due to excessive costs already, the one problem has been that PDF texts are a pain, but a tablet solves that. Oh, and tablets are superb for covert entertainment in 3 hour lectures.

    I see an awful lot of 10″ tablets in my classmates hands (and my own) as a mature student in Electrical Engineering. And iPad’s are a minority (where it’s uncommon to see a non-iPad tablet in public outside of school here in Toronto). Except for a couple PlayBooks, 7″ tablets and cheapo tablets are nowhere to be seen.

    Personally, the ease of getting PDF’s and eBooks onto the tablet made the Galaxy Tab 10.1″ my choice over an iPad (at essentially the same cost, the 16GB iPad’s only $20 more than a 32GB Tab 10.1″ around here) despite the fact that there are a number of iOS-only apps that I was interested in for my Photography hobby. My Galaxy Tab is now full of IEEE papers related to my 4th year design projects.

  100. @winter

    I do not believe J Random Blogger. But your optimism about WP7 is just as beside the mark. The Lumia has nothing that would make it stand out in the crowd. Neither has WP7.

    That’s hilarious given how much credence you give Tomi who has an obvious axe to grind with Elop. I just picked a random news piece about Nokia’s Q4 performance and Lumina sales. Tomi is one analyst among many and is peddling his own agenda just like all the others.

    Here’s the NYT with pretty much the same news:

    “But shares of Nokia rose sharply in Helsinki trading after the company reported that it had already sold more than a million Lumia phones,

    “The results suggest a good start for the Nokia Windows phones,” said Francisco Jeronimo, an analyst in London at International Data Corporation. He said that other makers of Windows phones, like Samsung and HTC, were also benefiting from Nokia’s promotion of the operating system. “The massive marketing investment to promote the Nokia Lumia 800 contributed to ship better-than-expected volumes.””

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/technology/1-billion-euro-loss-and-a-silver-lining-for-nokia.html

    “Nokia Rallies On Q4 Results; Lumia Unit Sales Top 1 Million…

    While the company is still shrinking, it is showing signs of improving performance, in particular in the key smarktphone market, where it sold more phones in the quarter than investors had expected.”

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2012/01/26/nokia-rallies-on-q4-results-lumia-unit-sales-top-1-million/

    Bloomberg

    “Nokia Oyj (NOK1V)’s first phones running Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) software may have sold enough units last year to help rebuild investor confidence in the Finnish company, which lost $19 billion in market value in 2011.”

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-22/nokia-lumia-sales-seen-topping-1-million-in-respite-for-stock.html

  101. @Adam given Apple’s big iBooks 2 textbook push I’d guess that the ipad is likely a better edu tablet than most others. $15 for a textbook is pretty awesome.

  102. @Nigel iOS also has a large ecosystem of eReader apps/stores, including other attempts to reinvent the textbook, and other educational apps not in “book” form. And lots of great pdf readers and tools to transfer/sync/store/manage them. iBooks textbooks is probably less significant overall than these factors.

  103. @nigel

    That’s hilarious given how much credence you give Tomi who has an obvious axe to grind with Elop. I just picked a random news piece about Nokia’s Q4 performance and Lumina sales.

    I am a sucker for numbers, and if someone gets a number of global polls that show messaging and SMS is first and Camera is second on every list of consumer preferences, then I take notice. Especially as I see this all around me. The carriers even throw fits because users switch from very lucrative SMS to Whatsup et al. Messaging was the most loved application on the Blackberry.

    So when I then see you arguing:

    And his opinion about what is important to smartphones is just wrong or the iPhone would have been a flop too (SMS and camera) because both sucked for a long time. His litany of failure is just idiotic. No HDMI, no TV out, no microSD. Yeah, notice any on the iPhone 4S? No.

    Then I think you are rather suspect arguing that the Lumia, with no distinctive advantages, can pull off the same game as the iPhone years back when Apple had no competitors. Especially as Apple has worked hard to get better SMS and camera (actually, I see people filming gatherings with an iPad).

    And his N9 numbers are speculation, you argue, therefore I should discount everything else he writes. That is a very old tactic: Find one number you can throw doubt on to take down the whole article. I know I am gamed by a fan-boy whenever I see this FUD tactic employed. It means you are trying to sweep valid arguments under the rug with, “don’t look there, look here, where there is nothing to see”. Btw, I do not care by what margin the N9 outsold the Lumia.

    In short, there are around 500 million smartphones going to be sold in 2012. For MS to get a 15% market share they will have to sell 75 million Windows Phones. That is 6 million phones per month. They do not manage to sell 1 million phones in a quarter (as has been argued before, a lot of these 1 million are still stuffed in the channel). At least, with the N9, Nokia had a chance by all accounts.

    The Lumia could have been a hit in 2009. But now, it is just an expensive, incompatible me-too phone. And it is worse than many cheaper phones on the market. And I cannot imagine that all those loyal Nokia customers will not notice that the Lumia is branded by Nokia, but is in no respect a Nokia phone. That point was very good made by Tomi.

  104. And here is a positive note about WinPhone by none other that Orlowski on The Register. Based on previous experience, I do not believe a single word Orlowski writes, but maybe this time he changed his ways and tries not to deceive his readers.

    Orlowski has compiled a list of things MS should change to have a chance of success with WinPhone. He too thinks it is not a success at the moment.

    Five ways Microsoft can rescue Windows Phone
    A critical success, a market dud. Here’s what Redmond should do next
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/02/windows_phone_get_going/

    But Xbox was a success that was years in the making, soaking up billions of dollars of capital. Nobody involved in WP has this luxury. Nokia is fighting a battle on three fronts – and haemorrhaged €1bn last year – and Nokia is absolutely key to WP’s success. Although it has cash in the bank, it can’t fight on with this kind burn rate.

    This verdict is the main point. Apple had years to perfect iOS and the iPhone, as there was no competition to what it delivered. The same for RIM. MS could fight it out for years to shoehorn XBox into a mature gaming market.

    But MS now still have money, but no time. With an expected half a billion smarphones to be sold this year, they have to sell phones now. The network effect will be enormous.
    Next year, another 0.5-1.0B smartphones will be sold. He who gets more than a hundred million phones sold this year will be in the race. He who does not will be out. I still think WinPhone is out.

    Nokia can still do a U-turn and sell the N9 with Android to stay in the race (even Meego would sell better). Better still, sell their smartphone business to MS and upgrade their dumbphone range with Android.

  105. Overall, though, I’d say the iPod experience is a bit sweeter and more polished. Give it time, though.

    I have an Android phone (Samsung Epic) with the “ACS ICS” custom ROM on it. It’s not really Ice Cream Sandwich, but they… did something to it. It feels almost as good performance-wise, and the lagginess that Android phones usually suffer from is almost gone.

    So yes, Android will get there. By the time (real) ICS phones become widespread, though, Apple will have made the next great leap forward and moved a hojillion units doing so.

  106. Winter

    I claim he’s pulling numbers out of his ass is because he is. Take his Lumina sales example. He pulls percentages and numbers out of thin air to make the case that Nokia sold well below 1.3M phones. Seriously, WTF? Most other analysts watching the same market agree that Nokia met or exceeded Lumina sales expectations. As meager as you might judge those expectations were in the face of 37M iPhone 4S sales might be Nokia apparently met them to investor’s satisfaction.

    What was the basis of his “analysis”? Sales reports? No. A survey. Then he takes this 2% survey number and extrapolates to 9 out of 10 Nokia customers will try but reject the Lumina.

    He keeps going in the same trend. X market is Y% of the total market so they must have sold Z smartphones. So we take the 2% or that number, divide by PI, multiply by Plank’s constant and we get 42.3 Lumina sales in Hong Kong.

    I guess you are a sucker for numbers. Call it FUD tactic if you like but most of his “analysis” is BS.

    As far as messaging and camera goes, the Lumina and WP phones have adequate ones. In any case, the 800 has the same camera as the N9. His point is bullshit given many reviewers like the camera. Here’s ONE random example by Engadget:

    “The eight megapixel camera on the Lumia 800 is exactly the same unit that we reviewed on the N9. It’s been around for a while and it suffers from a few foibles, but the underlying hardware is top-notch. The Carl Zeiss Tessar lens opens to f/2.2, which is up there with the best camera phones on the market and makes for relatively good low-light performance. Coupled with the Windows Phone OS, which has a fast and easy-to-use stock camera app, as well as the AMOLED screen which is great for framing and viewing pics, this Nokia is a capable stills shooter.”

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/11/03/nokia-lumia-800-review/

    It’s obviously not the disaster he paints it to be. Sure, not best in class like the N8 and the iPhone 4S and other phones judged better but probably good enough for most folks.

    From the same site regarding the WP SMS bug they note:

    “Before you go abandoning WP7′s ship, just know that SMS issues are a known phenomenon and have affected all the major mobile players, iOS and Android included. ”

    The iPhone had a SMS vulnerability as well:

    http://www.engadget.com/2009/07/30/sms-vulnerability-on-iphone-to-be-revealed-today-still-isnt-pa/

    MS is going to patch quickly and resolve the problem making this a non-issue as well.

    As far as MS not having time goes, Nokia may be on the ropes but as long as HTC, Samsung, LG continue to make WP devices they have time. If they stop then MS loses nothing by getting into the handset business, buying Nokia if it comes to that.

    Network effects is your and esr’s oft used trump card. It’s like saying Air Power dominates warfare. Which is true except when it isn’t. Even when its true it’s only true for a very few number of players able to execute well. Most companies and most militaries can’t use either network effects nor airpower to dominate their respective battlefields. And Android is being balkanized by Amazon, Baidu and others. The content ecosystem is as big a component of “network effects” as apps. Likewise the social networking ecosystem. Google has already compromised search to promote Google+. If they deprecate other social networking *cough*Facebook*cough* support on Android as a 1st tier participant by baking in far better Google+ native support you again see reduction in “network effects”.

    Not to mention MS has Skype…which beats the crap out of iChat and Facetime in usage.

    As Tim Cook pointed out, there’s a horse in Redmond that always suits up and always runs and will keep running. If Nokia falls they’ll find another partner. The idea that everything must be a duopoly I debunked earlier here.

  107. And I cannot imagine that all those loyal Nokia customers will not notice that the Lumia is branded by Nokia, but is in no respect a Nokia phone. That point was very good made by Tomi.

    Another BS point since essentially the 800 is the N9 with WP buttons added.

    This isn’t a Nokia phone like the N9!!!111!! Really? Because it sure looks like the N9 modified to be a WP device.

    But IT WAS MANUFACTURED BY A TAIWANESE COMPANY! Yeah? So is the iPhone.

  108. @Nigel
    We will see next year whether this relaunch of WP7 will be a thud like the previous one ( remember?). Or whether it will be a success this time.

    Until then it will be reading the tealeaves. Still, the signs look bad.

  109. >So yes, Android will get there. By the time (real) ICS phones become widespread, though, Apple will have made the next great leap forward and moved a hojillion units doing so.

    Under the schedule you just posited, Apple doesn’t have a lot of time to pull that rabbit out of a hat. Between new sales and OTAs, we can expect ICS phones to “become widespread” in 2Q2012.

  110. Winter writes: “Nokia can still do a U-turn and sell the N9 with Android to stay in the race (even Meego would sell better). Better still, sell their smartphone business to MS and upgrade their dumbphone range with Android.”

    Microsoft already bought Nokia’s smartphone business, they’ve just not taken delivery and recorded title yet … ;-)

  111. @Nigel: The iPad may see some takeup in the US as a textbook replacement, but not really elsewhere due to licensing issues. And even in the US the basic problem remains that there already is a strong ecosystem of PDF textbook trading that Apple has to fight and that ecosystem has advantages that Apple will not (mostly in available solution manuals, which are not officially available to students for most texts). They’re also late to the market and are in a position where Amazon, a MUCH bigger player in the eBook & textbook market could easily eat their lunch by simply matching the deal. Amazon is already the go-to place for cheap textbooks and has a FAR stronger relationship with the publishers than Apple can hope to have.

    All in all, I don’t think the iBook textbook deal will matter outside of a handful of campuses which manage to get most of their required texts available quickly.

  112. @TimF: iOS doesn’t have much of a ecosystem of eBook readers ever since Apple forced the gimping of Kindle and Nook apps. This is one place where Apple shot themselves in the foot with their closed ecosystems. The Android Kindle app is greatly superior to the iOS one for two simple reasons: I can buy books directly via the App (which has been disabled on the iOS version by Apple’s decree) and I can easily sideload eBooks via drag & drop (which is not possible with iOS). It’s the same deal with B&N, and the smaller ones don’t particularly matter, they have essentially no takeup aside from Stanza which is pretty much dead at this point (Baen eBooks, arguably the main reason to use Stanza, has quit recommending it)

  113. “iOS doesn’t have much of a ecosystem of eBook readers ever since Apple forced the gimping of Kindle and Nook apps.”

    I disagree. But I guess some people prefer apps to the web.

    “I can easily sideload eBooks via drag & drop (which is not possible with iOS).”

    I don’t have a problem sideliding books into the Kindle app.

    “and the smaller ones don’t particularly matter”

    Weren’t you arguing about choice? Now you’re dismissing choices. I don’t find any of these options “gimped.” Weren’t you also focusing on simply loading pirated pdfs into a reader? Aren’t there about 50 options on iOS?

  114. @Tim F: The Kindle app is a far better reading experience than reading via the web, and also a much simpler way of buying eBooks, unless you’re running iOS and therefore have in-app purchases disabled. The market in general seems to prefer Apps to the web for dedicated uses, it is in fact one of the strengths of iOS in general, albeit one which Apple has broken in the case of eBook readers.

    As to iOS, how exactly do you sideload books into the Kindle app without paying Amazon for wireless delivery? Is there some way to force iTunes to do it? On my Android devices I simply drag the file to my Kindle directory and it’s there.

    And unfortunatly the small eBook apps don’t matter, they’re a tiny fraction of the market. I like choice, but I don’t expect my desires to reflect the market as a whole and the availability of a few dozen apps with no takeup doesn’t reflect an actual viable ecosystem. Note those PDF’s, either legit or pirated (and I’ve referred to both in my posts) are getting read in Adobe Reader for the most part, which is a fairly major app, but not a direct eBook app competitor as it is directed to a somewhat different market.

  115. “Note those PDF’s, either legit or pirated (and I’ve referred to both in my posts) are getting read in Adobe Reader for the most part, which is a fairly major app, but not a direct eBook app competitor as it is directed to a somewhat different market.”

    Right, which is why iOS is better: tons of great pdf readers — PDFPen, ReaddleDocs, GoodReader, etc…

  116. @TimF: Plenty of great PDF readers on Android as well, hell the stock one is even pretty good and Adobe Reader is solid on both iOS and Android. It’s one of the areas where iOS has no advantage over Android despite iOS’s general advantage in App selection & quality. Virtually all the PDF readers for both platforms are just UI skins over a standard BSD/linux PDF engine anyways, with Adobe’s offering being the exception.

  117. I disagree with your assessment that PDF readers are equal on the platforms.

  118. Funny that NPD reports a two year old iPhone design outselling Android phones. So much for all the features of Gingerbread, ICS, or whatever pastry of the day being a key selling point.

  119. @Pinhead:

    > Funny that NPD reports a two year old iPhone design outselling Android phones.

    Funny how misleadingly you worded that — it didn’t outsell Android phones in general, nor did all the Apple phones combined.

    There are actually two interesting data points there. The first is that, if you work NPD’s numbers, you will find that the iPhone 3GS accounted for 5% of sales, and since the most popular Android handset had to be less than that, the most popular Android handset only accounted for around 10% of Android’s 48% share of the market. Some (including me) consider that a market (e.g. the Android subset) where the most popular product has less than 10% to be highly competitive, and think that’s a good thing.

    The second interesting data point there is that, even with the extra $250/handset subsidy that the carriers give to customers buying Apple phones instead of Android phones, and even with the shiny new Apple model that a lot of upgraders absolutely had to have for Christmas, customers still preferred Android overall.

  120. How is that misleading? NPD is pretty clear with what they said, as was I:

    ” the top five best-selling mobile phone handsets in Q4 were as follows:

    Apple iPhone 4S
    Apple iPhone 4
    Apple iPhone 3GS
    Samsung GALAXY S II
    Samsung GALAXY S 4G”

    And as I posted, I find it funny that a two year old iPhone design outsold Android phones. I didn’t say it outsold all Android phones, nor that Apple cumulatively outsold all Android phones. Nope, I just wrote what I wrote, and you don’t like what it implies.

    No Android phone sold more than an iPhone 3GS. You don’t find that odd? If I was an OEM, I’d be really concerned that my best, newest, shiniest Android phone couldn’t dethrone a two year old design.

  121. And as I posted, I find it funny that a two year old iPhone design outsold Android phones.

    You did it again.

    I didn’t say it outsold all Android phones, nor that Apple cumulatively outsold all Android phones.

    The statement implies that the 3GS by itself outsold all Android phones together.

    Nope, I just wrote what I wrote, and you don’t like what it implies.

    You’re right — I absolutely don’t like the false implication that the 3GS outsold all Android phones together.

    Perhaps you didn’t deliberately set out to write a misleading statement, but now that you’ve been informed how the statement looks, you continue to use it, apparently deliberately. Is it really your intent to continue to write misleadingly?

    No Android phone sold more than an iPhone 3GS. You don’t find that odd?

    No, for reasons already explained. The same $0 gets you an Android that isn’t as good as the 3GS, because the carriers don’t subsidize Android as heavily.

    If I was an OEM, I’d be really concerned that my best, newest, shiniest Android phone couldn’t dethrone a two year old design.

    If I were an OEM, I’d try to figure out how to get the same carrier subsidies that Apple gets, but I wouldn’t worry that a phone that was selling for $0 was selling faster than mine at $200. I’d be more than concerned about the iPhone 4S at $200 selling better and not being able to match it simply because the real price that Apple gets is much higher than I can get from the carrier.

    But one thing I’m curious about is how many of those 3GS phones went to new customers vs. old customers. If I’m a happy Apple AT&T customer, and my 2 year contract is over and I can get a brand new iPhone 3GS just like the one I’ve already got for a backup device for $0, I might just go for that deal.

  122. Maybe you just like to read too much into any criticism of Android? I wrote exactly what I meant to say. If I mean to say that the 3GS outsold all Android phones, I would have said so. The facts don’t bear that out, so I wrote what I observed, that it was funny (in the odd, not haha way) that the 3GS outsold Android phones. The fact that you see it as misleading doesn’t mean you’re write, just that you are interpreting my sentence to have a nefarious purpose. I think the readers here are smart enough to look at exactly what I wrote, what NPD wrote, and make their own conclusions.

    My intent isn’t to “continue to write misleadingly” but to write concisely. Brevity being the soul of wit and all that.

    In your world, this is how you’d prefer me to write it?

    “Funny that NPD reports a two year old iPhone design outselling Android phones. Of course, despite the clear report saying that the 3GS was ahead of any Android phones, don’t misinterpret me as saying that the least popular iPhone was outselling the cumulative total of all Android phones.”

    My guess would be yes, because that would blunt the criticism of Android that you seem to be so eager to ignore.

  123. Why do you have to go from too few words to way too many to make your bogus point?

    What’s wrong with simply saying the 3GS outsold the best-selling Android handset?

  124. Why do you have to be obtuse? Just because you read something into what I wrote doesn’t mean I was intending to be misleading, nor that I was misleading at all. I wrote what I meant to write. You’re trying to parse words to avoid what I wrote, instead of discussing what it means for both Apple and the Android vendors.

    I think it bodes poorly for Android vendors who have tried to develop “me too” devices (both smartphones and tablets).

    Unique, well designed, well performing devices are the best hope for competing profitably with Apple.

  125. You’re trying to parse words to avoid what I wrote, instead of discussing what it means for both Apple and the Android vendors.

    No, I’m not. You wrote:

    Funny that NPD reports a two year old iPhone design outselling Android phones. So much for all the features of Gingerbread, ICS, or whatever pastry of the day being a key selling point.

    But that’s a complete non-sequitur. Obviously the features of Android are a big enough selling point to attract a huge market share, especially among new subscribers — more than all apple phones combined, which is why I think those particular two sentences together are misleading.

    I think it bodes poorly for Android vendors who have tried to develop “me too” devices (both smartphones and tablets).

    Certainly they won’t pull the profit margins of more innovative designs, but when the market settles and grows, there will almost certainly be enough profit to continue to attract multiple players.

    Unique, well designed, well performing devices are the best hope for competing profitably with Apple.

    I think there’s room for profit at all levels of the market, including building “me too” phones. The real key to sustained performance is to not get a reputation for shipping stuff that fails immediately. Smartphones are becoming appliances. There are lots of companies making money in the appliance market, although you have to be structured such that you can sustain razor-thin margins.

    The question is whether Apple will be able to maintain its profit margin edge by continuing to convince the carriers they are worth more (obviously they are convincing smaller and smaller percentages of new end users of that).

    I would not be surprised to see Android smartphones start to be branded by companies with reasonable reputations in other areas, like with other kinds of appliances. So some no-name factory pumps out handsets to Sunbeam’s or Black and Decker’s specifications, the label gets slapped on and the thing gets shipped. It’s becoming easier to use unlocked handsets on most networks, and some MNVOs such as Simple Moble now eschew even selling handsets, preferring to direct you to retailers who carry phones which work on their network. This allows them to concentrate on their core competency of running a network, and there is no question about whether it is really your handset or not, like there is with Boost or Virgin.

  126. The iPad may see some takeup in the US as a textbook replacement, but not really elsewhere due to licensing issues.

    Are we referring to the old poorly worded agreement or the new clarified agreement? What would be different in other markets either way? Other than the obvious of needing to work with a different set of publishers for different languages and school curriculums?

    And even in the US the basic problem remains that there already is a strong ecosystem of PDF textbook trading that Apple has to fight and that ecosystem has advantages that Apple will not (mostly in available solution manuals, which are not officially available to students for most texts).

    The iBook textbooks are very different from PDF given that they are interactive and media heavy.

    They’re also late to the market and are in a position where Amazon, a MUCH bigger player in the eBook & textbook market could easily eat their lunch by simply matching the deal. Amazon is already the go-to place for cheap textbooks and has a FAR stronger relationship with the publishers than Apple can hope to have.

    Ah, Kindle textbook rentals started in July. B&N a little before that. It’s not just the price but the book features that they need to match. Yes, they trialled the Kindle as a textbook back in 2009 to rather dismal results.

    It’s not really until the Fire that they had a ebook device that could handle textbook duty and the Fire is a tad small form factor wise. A Fire the size of the iPad (and Kindle-DX screen size) would be much better.

    All in all, I don’t think the iBook textbook deal will matter outside of a handful of campuses which manage to get most of their required texts available quickly.

    Given that the iBook is not geared for universities but for K-12 (mostly High School) I’m wondering why you think that. The publishers lined up are K-12 textbook publishers or the K-12 divisions within publishers.

    My impression is that Amazon is going to be the one playing catch up.

  127. Now you’re changing your complaint about one sentence to the “non sequitur” that follows it.

    “Obviously the features of Android are a big enough selling point to attract a huge market share, especially among new subscribers — more than all apple phones combined, which is why I think those particular two sentences together are misleading.”

    I think ascribing the features of Android to its market share is not entirely clear, nor conclusive. It’s obvious (at least in the US) that despite ESR’s claims to the contrary, that once customers had access on multiple carriers to the iPhone, that its share increased dramatically.

    And if smartphones become more commoditized, then profits in the hardware side of the industry will accrue to Apple, just like they do in the PC world. You’ll have a variety of shitty/mediocre hardware that clogs the market, while Apple skims off the profits with MacBook Airs, iPads, and iPhones. Ask all the PC vendors how well commoditization has served them. Differentiation is not to be underestimated.

  128. You were misleading. If you say you weren’t trying to be misleading, good. Patrick reworded your sentence perfectly to avoid being misleading, just as you asked him to do. “The 3GS outsold the best-selling Android handset” is concise without being misleading. Excess brevity is the soul of misleading.

    Yours,
    Tom

  129. That non-sequitur is what makes it appear that you’re talking about Android in general, because if it were true that all Apples outsold all Androids, then your second sentence would make sense.

  130. Sword, living, and dying:

    Apple Faces $1.6 Billion Legal Challenge Over iPad Name in China
    http://business.time.com/2012/02/07/apple-faces-1-6-billion-legal-challenge-over-ipad-name-in-china/

    The dispute stretches back years, and is fairly convoluted, but here are the basics: Proview International Holdings says it registered the iPad name for use in Taiwan and China in 2000 and 2001, respectively. In 2006, Apple bought the iPad trademark from a Proview subsidiary, Taiwan-based Proview Electronics, which now says the deal only included the rights to the name in Taiwan, not China. It says those rights are owned by yet another subsidiary, Proview Technology, which is based in the southern China city of Shenzhen.

  131. You’re looking at it from a macro perspective. HTC doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how well Android does in total; they care about how the Sensation, the Explorer and the Rhyme sell. They care about their bottom line. And they’re getting their head handed to them by a two year old design. That’s how they view it. That’s why Samsung is aping Apple’s design as much as possible.

  132. > You’re looking at it from a macro perspective.

    Thanks for noticing!

    > HTC doesn’t give a rat’s ass about how well Android does in total;

    And I don’t give a rat’s ass about how well any particular Android vendor or model does. I sincerely believe there is enough momentum and potential profit in the ecosystem to keep the batters swinging for a long time, and to give a few of them the occasional home run and a lot of them lots of base hits.

  133. Bad? You mean their EBITDA dropped from the high 40s to the low 40s. Yep, cry me a river for the telcos.

  134. I meant to touch on this earlier, but do you have any links regarding Android subsidies? When I look at an unlocked Galaxy S2 on amazon (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_7?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=galaxy+s2&sprefix=galaxy+%2Caps%2C228) it lists for roughly $600. Yet when I go to AT&T, it is selling for $149, implying a $450 subsidy. AT&T also sells it with no commitment for $500, implying a $350 subsidy.

    If I do the same with the iPhone 4s, I can buy it an unlocked 16GB iPhone for $649 direct from Apple, AT&T offers it for $199, implying a $450 subsidy. So for the topline models, the subsidy appears roughly equivalent.

    The case isn’t the same for the 3GS though, since it’s available unlocked for $375.

    My guess would be that AT&T sees the 3GS appealing primarily to the cheapskate market, and paying $375 to secure two years of revenue pays off. But as the latest sales figures have shown, the 3GS is relatively small compared to the 4 and 4s.

  135. And that’s fine from a macro perspective, though the proof of this potential profit is only visible from Samsung so far.

    Where it gets sticky is with the individual OEMs. If they see that their chances are competing with the goliaths (Apple, Samsung, and GoogMMI), they might decide not to enter the market at all, or to cut their losses.

    Perhaps a good thread topic would be what differentiates Samsung’s success with Android versus the rest of the Android OEMs.

  136. More on the basic question of why telco’s sell iPhones from Sprint’s release of results. Contrast these results from all the press releases from October about Sprint’s “record breaking” sales of iPhone. They were expected to sell 2 million iPhones, but only sold 1.8 million (again, this is from a news release and I don’t know how reliable “sold” versus “activated” is). But only gained net 161,000 subscribers (short of the 200,000 analysts expected). 40% of iPhone sales to new customers – “gross add” ? Not sure how to combine those two sets of numbers – lots of non iPhone customers leaving?

    Meanwhile, the Sprint CEO talks up iPhone even though Sprint’s results blame the costs of selling iPhone for their poor financial results. Quoting the Forbes article: “The company has pledged to pay Apple at least $15.5 billion over four years for access to the device. The commitment limits Sprint’s ability to discount iPhones to attract subscribers.” Ouch. Again, we see Apple skimming all the profit from the telcos and then some.

    Sprints release.

  137. Good name. :)

    Did you read the rest of it? The folks at BGR are, while not rabid about it, still Apple partisans. If even they find it worthy of comment that iPhone might not be the best thing for carriers (they touch briefly on the much higher iPhone subsidy, something we’ve talked about in these smartphone wars comment threads) then there may just be something to it.

    As it stands right now, Apple sales are artificially high because carriers pay people to choose Apple. Yes, Apple’s best customers, by far, are the carriers. As to why that is, and how long it will last… If that preferential treatment went away (exactly what kind of tiered data plans are the $0 3GS customers going to sign up for? hmmm) Apple would take several enormous hits.

  138. Remember when the iPhone was launched? It didn’t have huge subsidies, and still people waited in line for it. I don’t see carriers paying people to choose Apple. If anything, they did with the BOGO offers for android phones. Carriers are basically making loans for the hardware at APRs that would make a pawn shop envious.

    And people keep saying that Apple would take enormous hits based on vague, unsubstantiated ideas such as this “preferential treatment.”

    IF, if Apple is getting preferential treatment, maybe it’s because the telcos see that gaining and retaining customers via the iPhone leads to great profits than if they don’t sell the iPhone.

    The only way for Apple to experience “enormous hits” or “catastrophic collapses” as ESR is wont to say, is if they release hardware that doesn’t meet what consumers want, at a price they are willing to pay.

  139. Sprint has two networks — the CDMA “Sprint Platform” and the IDEN “Nextel Platform.” They’ve been bleeding like a stuck pig from the Nextel Platform, and those customers aren’t necessarily moving to Sprint — once they decided to move, Sprint has to compete for them like everybody else.

    So, the Sprint postpaid platform had 539K net adds. Still less than the 40% of 1.8 million == 720K new customers with iPhones. Churn was essentially 2% of 33 million customers, or 1.6 M new customers replacing 1.6 million leaving customers, so all in all, there were probably around 2.1 million new customers (539K + 1.6 million) on the Sprint platform, meaning that 34% of new subscribers got a shiny new iPhone.

    The press release also said that approximately 9% of the 33 million postpaid customers upgraded handsets. That would be 3 approximately million, and if 60% of 1.8 million iPhones sold went to upgraders, that would mean that 36% of upgraders got an iPhone.

    It is interesting that iPhones constituted approximately the same percentage of handsets sold to new Sprint subscribers (34%) and preexisting Spring subscribers (36%).

  140. Churn math was fubar, and I noticed they broke out Sprint platform churn separately:

    1.99% of 28.2 million, or 560 K or so. SO, new subscribers getting iPhones was probably more like 65%.

    This makes a lot more sense to me. The purpose of acquiring the iPhone was to pull customers from AT&T…

  141. I got completely confused with the numbers, Patrick. Your efforts are appreciated … I think. ;-)

  142. Yep, the carriers have lost ALL their profits to Apple. Oh wait, that must be some hyperbole; It looks like the insane margins have simply dropped 3.8 pts for Verizon, and AT&T dropped 8.9 pts. But wait, it’s not really margin but EBITDA. And of course there are no other factors, nor would the carriers like to accept responsibility for boneheaded moves (cough AT&T/T-Mobile merger).

    And these analysts are so good at their jobs. I mean, it’s pretty sad when an amateur analyst (www.asymco.com) routinely trounces the paid analyst forecasts by an incredible margin.

  143. > It looks like the insane margins have simply dropped 3.8 pts for Verizon, and AT&T dropped 8.9 pts.

    What insane margins? They are losing money hand over fist.

    > But wait, it’s not really margin but EBITDA.

    Exactly. Which means the opposite of what you think. Those numbers should be a lot higher for a capital intensive business that has to refresh its infrastructure really often. Hopefully the LTE equipment they install will have a long service life; that should help.

    > And of course there are no other factors, nor would the carriers like to accept responsibility for boneheaded moves (cough AT&T/T-Mobile merger).

    Things like that are accounted for separately; it is up to individual investors to decide how much they worry about whether those will be repeated or not.

  144. Losing money hand over fist? Verizon had a net profit of $2.4 billion last year. AT&T had a profit of $3.9 billion. Sprint did lose money last year, $3.5 billion. Perhaps that’s why they decided they better get on the Apple bandwagon…

  145. > Verizon had a net profit of $2.4 billion last year.

    Sure. Right after admitting that profits for previous years were 20 billion less than previously thought:

    http://www.pionline.com/article/20110121/DAILYREG/110129975

    And AT&T wants you to focus on the $4 billion T-Mobile failure rather than its $3 billion pension charges.

    Personally, I think it’s somewhat doubtful we’ve seen the end of the pension and other issues for these companies.

  146. Well, it’s not fair to blame the iPhone for Verizon’s past earning issues.

    Though I do agree with you about the pension stuff. Companies have underfunded them for years, raided them whenever they felt, and otherwise taken advantage of employees as much as possible.

  147. Where on earth did I blame the iPhone for Verizon’s past earnings issues? We were talking about your definition of “insane profit margins,” although I didn’t think you meant “insanely negative” when you wrote it.

  148. I can tell you who is buying them. What is actually happening that China is becoming a technology leader, not merely a manufacturer – go to any of the better restaurants in Shanghai and they hand you an Android tablet for a menu card, selecting first the province and then the picture of the food you want to eat…

  149. Samsung just announced the Galaxy Note 10.1, which is a decent enough competitor to the iPad 2. But it doesn’t even come close to the iPad Next in tech specs. No high density screen, older version of Bluetooth, slower CPU.

    I get the argument that the competition will come at the low end, but there’s clearly a market for $500+ tablets with good capabilities. We’ve suspected a double resolution screen would be coming for the iPad for quite some time. It says something about Apple’s OODA loop and engineering that they can get theirs to market before any Android manufacturer can.

  150. I use Toshiba thrive tablet. It is powered by Android. I use it because it is easy to carry and has almost all the features of a PC which is very helpful for me while traveling. So why we have to use iPad which is costlier when compared to Android tablet and almost has all the features of an iPad.

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