Sep 03

The Smartphone Wars: Nokia gives it up for Microsoft

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a Smartphone Wars post; I let the series lapse when I concluded that the source I was using for U.S. market share figures had likely disconnected from reality (and more recent surveys from other sources suggest I was right). But the developments of the last couple of days demand comment. Nokia has sold its phone business to Microsoft; Stephen Elop has returned to Microsoft to head its devices group; and there is talk he might succeed Ballmer.

You couldn’t make this stuff up for a satirical novel and have it believed. The conspiracy theorists who maintained that Elop was a Microsoft mole sent in to set up a takeover look prescient now – but a takeover to what purpose? Nokia’s phone business, the world’s most successful and respected a few short years ago, is now a shattered wreck.

And as for Elop: he masterminded what was probably the biggest destruction in shareholder value ever – and this is the guy who’s being talked of as Ballmer’s successor? Astonishing. On his record, the man isn’t competent to run a Taco Bell store; that that he’s even in consideration suggests Microsoft’s board has developed some perverse desire to replace a strategic idiot with an even more wrongheaded strategic idiot.

Continue reading

Aug 19

The Smartphone Wars: The Limits of Lawfare

It’s beginning to look like Apple’s legal offensive against Android might backfire on it big-time. Comes the news that Judge Koh has declined to suppress evidence that Apple may have copied crucial elements of the iPad design from prototypes developed by Knight-Ridder and the University of Missouri in the mid-1990s.

Continue reading

Jul 26

The strategy behind the Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 I ordered for my wife last week arrived two days ago. That’s been enough time for Cathy and me to look it over closely and get a good feel for its capabilities. It’s a very interesting device not just for what it does but what it doesn’t do. There’s a strategy here, and as usual I think Google is playing a longer game than people looking at this product in isolation understand.

Continue reading

Jun 22

The smartphone wars: Inauspicious exits and debuts

RIM’s death rattle became audible a few days ago when its manufacturing partner announced that it would no longer be manufacturing Blackberries. And Nokia is entering the final stages of one of the most spectacular implosions in the history of business, taking the Windows phone down with it.

So what’s Microsoft doing? Announcing a brand-spankin’-new Windows 8 phone line with no upgrade path for its Windows 7 customers. Riiiight. Then, stiff-arming its PC and smartphone business partners by telling them it’s going to do an Apple and ein-Volk-ein-Reich-ein-Führer its new tablet – it won’t be licensing “Windows RT”, and nobody else is going to get a piece of the hardware revenue. So let’s see – Microsoft is throwing away both its historic strengths – backward compatibility and a multi-vendor ecosystem that needs it to succeed – and replacing them with, what exactly?

You know, at this point Microsoft’s board ought to replace Steve Ballmer with an orangutan. Screaming a lot and flinging feces in all directions seem to be the job requirements; the orangutan would cover that for a few bunches of bananas a week, and its strategic decisions couldn’t possibly be worse.

Continue reading

Jun 20

The Smartphone Wars: Oracle lawsuit’s final fizzle

OK, this is just weird. “Oracle agrees to ‘zero’ damages in Google lawsuit, eyes appeal” That vast lawsuit that, according to some idiots (including a few of my commenters), was going to destroy Android and sow the earth with salt in its wake? It’s done – but in a bizarre way that makes me question the sanity of Oracle’s lawyers at Boies Schiller.

Continue reading

Apr 03

The smartphone Wars: Finally, Android breaks 50%

The newest comScore figures, for February 2012, are out. Android has finally achieved majority market share in the U.S.. This is three months later than a linear fit to most of 2010 and 20111 predicted, but whatever happened in 4Q2011 to throw everybody off their previous long-term trend curves seems to be over. Android, in particular, is back to pulling about 2% of additional market share per month – actually, its growth rate seems to have increased a bit from before the glitch.

I was right not to overinterpret Apple’s very slight loss of market share last month. The iPhone is back to very, very slowly gaining share. Apple fans should resist the temptation to overinterpret that, though, since the gain is within statistical noise level.

RIM and Microsoft continue to go down in flames, losing not just market share but total userbase as well.

What does it all mean?

Continue reading

Jan 24

The Smartphone Wars: CyanogenMOD Rising

CyanogenMOD, the third-party, fully-open, bloatware-free port of Android, has recently passed a million installs. And there’s talk of creating an underground Market app for CyanogenMOD to distribute apps that the cell carriers and the MPAA/RIAA don’t want you to have.

Set this against Apple’s mind-bogglingly greedy and evil new Eula for iBooks, and it couldn’t be clearer what the ultimate stakes in the smartphone wars are.

Even in the short term, CynogenMOD’s numbers, and the plan for the Underground Market, and the wideapread revulsion against the iBooks EULA are a big deal – they’re going to crank up the pressure on cell carriers and various other malefactors in interesting ways. But maybe the most important thing CyanogenMOD’s numbers tell us is that there is, in fact, a mass market for freedom.

Continue reading

Dec 28

The Smartphone Wars: a bit of Christmas cheer

On Google+, Andy Rubin reports: “There were 3.7M Android activations on 12/24 and 12/25.”

That’s a 170% spike over the 700K activations per-day Rubin announced on 20 Dec. I’ve previously observed that only about 1 in 10 of Android activations show up in the smartphone statistics for the U.S. so Android is probably looking at about 370K new U.S. smartphone users for Christmas, the way comScore counts them.

I’m guessing Apple won’t be releasing the corresponding number, because on previous trends it would only be about 185K Christmas users for their smartphone – and that wouldn’t look good. Well, it could be worse; they could be RIM.

UPDATE: My spike-percentage calculation was wrong. Way too low.

Dec 20

The Smartphone Wars: Andy Rubin brings the news

Over on Google+, Andy Rubin says:

There are now over 700,000 Android devices activated every day…and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don’t count re-sold devices), and “activations” means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.

This does clear up some points people have been wondering about, but it raises larger questions. Like, why aren’t those users showing up in the comScore statistics?

700K users per day ought to translate to about 21M a month. But Android has only been gaining 2M U.S. smartphone users and change per month. If comScore isn’t way undercounting, that implies than a bit less than 9/10ths of daily Android activations are tablets or overseas.

That percentage seems pretty high to me. But I don’t have any alternate theory.

Nov 17

The Smartphone Wars: Samsung Busts a Move?

Well, now, this is interesting. Cyanogen hints via Twitter that we may get a 4.0 Cyanogen ROM in two months.

The news coverage I’ve seen so far misses what I think is the most important bit of context – that Cyanogen’s eponymous founder and lead developer got hired by Samsung a few months back. Samsung is subsidizing this move.

Continue reading