Dec 27

The smartphone wars: Fortune catches up with me

Fortune magazine says 2011 will be the year Android explodes and makes a number of predictions that track what I’ve been writing on Armed & Dangerous for the last year so closely that I have to wonder if their correspondents have been reading this blog.

Nice work, guys, even if you are a bit late to the scene. Me, I kinda thought 2010 was the year Android exploded, what with posting several quarters of market share growth in the 600% range and overtaking Apple in the U.S. userbase figures. But the article isn’t just old news presented as though it were breaking; there’s some fascinating info about a new chip from Broadcom that’s going to blow a Jupiter-sized hole in the price floor of the smartphone market.

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Nov 29

The smartphone wars: Symbian Foundation folds its hand

Some drastic change of direction is about to take place in Nokia’s smartphone strategy. We can predict this because Nokia has shut down the Symbian Foundation. What we can’t tell yet is what direction they’ll jump, and there are at least four somewhat plausible scenarios. I’m going to list them in what I think are roughly decreasing order of probability and then explain my reasoning.

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Sep 28

The smartphone wars: Android thunders on

My prediction months ago that Android would pass Apple iOS in total share in the fourth quarter of 2010 is looking more prescient all the time. this ComputerWorld reports IDC’s conservative prediction that global (not U.S. share) will reach 16% for Android, 15% for iOS at the end of 2010.

More interesting is the report from ChangeWave that corporate IT buyers now favor Android over iOS in new purchases. The installed base of corporate iOS devices is about double that of their Android counterparts, but Android’s recent growth in that space is a factor of twenty larger than iOS’s. In fact Android is perceptibly eroding the position of market leader RIM’s blackberry line even among corporate IT buyers, RIM’s core market.

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Sep 13

The smartphone wars: Google goes Taoist, Microsoft uses the farce

A few days ago, I observed that Google is not pushing back against cell carriers’ lockdown of Android phones as vigorously as I had expected in the wake of the Android 2.2 announcement. If this Twitter rumor is true, Google locked horns with the carriers and lost that confrontation, leading to the semi-discontinuance of the Nexus One. Does this mean the carriers have won the war?

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Sep 08

The smartphone wars: a global perspective

While doing some research to check an assertion made by a commenter on More dispatches from the smartphone front I ran across excerpts from a very interesting report from investment analysts at Piper Jaffray on global smartphone market share and how they expect it to change in the next few years.

I can’t get at the full report, as Piper Jaffray has it paywalled and sells it to customers. But I have to say that for bankers the excerpts I can see make them look pretty smart to me. They’ve suggested a scenario for a radical change in market conditions that I actually think is quite plausible.

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Sep 07

More dispatches from the smartphone front

Four days ago I blogged about upgrading my old G-1 to CyanogenMOD and complained that the mod’s home site contained no high-level overview of the modding process to help pepople understand all the details in the modding instructions for individual devices.

It took some days of research, but I have now fixed that problem. I had that narrative description reviewed by experts on the IRC #cyanogenmod IRC channel while I was writing it, so it’s an outsider view with insider correctness.

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Jul 17

Jobs Crashing to Earth

The stench of desperation must be getting pretty thick on the Infinite Loop. Can it be that the generator for Steve Jobs’s notorious Reality Distortion Field has finally broken down?

Two days ago, we learned that Jobs knew of the iPhone 4’s antenna problem before launch. They had warnings both from an in-house antenna engineer and “carrier partner”, presumably AT&T. Yes, this means all the Apple fanboys who had hissy fits at me when I said fifteen days ago that Apple was lying about the problem now get to go sit in the stupid corner.

Also two days ago, New York Senator Charles Schumer issued an open letter to Steve Jobs regarding the iPhone 4 antenna issues. Chuckie Schumer is the worst sort of political bottom-feeder, a power-worshiping greaseball with a spine of pure jelly; when such as he thinks it’s good politics to pile on Apple, you may be sure that Jobs’s teflon coating has definitively worn off.

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Jul 02

Apple gets egg on its face — single platform = single doom

One of the predictable responses to my recent writings on the smartphone market and the rise of Android has been a deluge of scornful invective by Apple fans confidently predicting that Android’s 1Q2010 surge in unit share represented a bubble that would pop under pressure from Apple’s “superior user experience”.

Then came the flap over the iPhone4’s antenna problems, and the silence of the fans. Yeah, that’s a superior user experience, all right – huge percentages of dropped calls (including reports that it drops 100% of calls when the bottom left corner is touched), and Steve Jobs telling iPhone 4 users it’s all their fault because they’re holding their phones wrong. The satirical backlash at Jobs on the Internet has been merciless, and completely deserved. Nokia even had the cheek to post a blog entry on the many ways you can hold your Nokia phone.

Now comes Apple’s attempt to spin the problem out of existence. The tone of desperation is palpable. “Oops…” Apple says “…we fucked up the display algorithm for the signal strength meter.” Oh, yeah, that’s a superior user experience all right. It’s Apple, and It Just Works!(tm).

But there’s a story behind this story. Actually, two stories. One is that Apple is lying outright about the scope and nature of the problems. And the second, more important one, is that the fragility of the single-carrier, single-platform strategy for iOS has come around to bite Apple hard. There’s a lesson here for the future.

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Jun 10

Missing the point: The real stakes in the smartphone wars

The responses to my last several posts on the smartphone wars (The iPhone 4: Too little, too late; More dispatches from the smartphone wars; Steve Jobs’ Snow Job; Flattening the Smartphone Market; Now’s a bad time to be an Apple fanboy…; Android Rising) demonstrate that many of my readers continue to miss the real stakes in the smartphone wars and the real point of my analyses of them.

It’s not about whether or not Apple will be crushed. It’s not about who makes the “best” products, where “best” is measured by some interaction between the product and the speaker’s evaluation of the relative importance of various features and costs. It’s about what the next generation of personal computing platforms will be. Down one fork they’ll be open, hackable, and user-controlled. Down the other they’ll be closed, locked down, and vendor-controlled. Though there are others on each side of this struggle, in 2010 it comes down to whether Apple or Android wins the race to over 50% smartphone market share; after that point, network effects will become self-reinforcing until the next technology disruption.

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Jun 07

The iPhone 4: Too little, too late

As I write, the announcement of the iPhone 4 at WWDC is just a few hours old. See the Engadget coverage for details. The bottom line? This is too little, too late to stop the Android deluge.

There are some very cool individual features on this phone, no doubt. The two that stand out the most to me are the onboard gyroscope and the “retina display” – yes, 960 x 640 at 326ppi will be damn nice, and if I were writing apps I would seriously lust for that six-axis motion sensing. But the improvements are mainly in the hardware; Apple has conspicuously failed to address the areas where it has fallen behind Android 2.2 in software. There’s no progress on voice recognition, Flash, or WiFi hotspot capability. And even the hardware falls short of where it needs to be; while 802.11n is nice, the “G” after that “4” is conspicuously missing.

If I were an Apple marketing guy, I’d be asking “How the hell can I compete against the EVO 4G with this?”

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Jun 04

More dispatches from the smartphone wars

Well, it was fun carrying the most advanced smartphone on the planet. For a whole 32 days. But the Sprint EVO 4G launched today and its specs – especially the larger OLED display and WiMAX capability – put the Nexus One in the shade.

The bigger story today, though, is the ripple effects of AT&T consigning its unlimited-data plans to the dustbin of history. Gizmodo’s take, AT&T Just Killed Unlimited Wireless Data (and Screwed Everybody in the Process), is pretty representative.

Because I understand how network costs scale I’m more sanguine about the longer-term prospects than Gizmodo is. Unlimited flat rate will return when someone – probably Sprint, given the nature of their network buildout – decides it’s a useful competitive weapon. That will force others to follow suit; the market-equilibrium condition will be all flat rate, same as it is in voice calling today and for exactly the same reasons.

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May 25

Flattening the Smartphone Market

Common cellphone operating systems like Android, WebOS, and Maemo are depriving cellphone carriers of one of their most treasured means of keeping customers in the dark and feeding them bullshit. They’re making smartphones comparable to each other, and by doing so brutally intensifying the competitive pressure on the carriers.

Before these common platforms, one of the ways carriers had to quell customer demand for features like tethering was simply that the feature sets of different phones were difficult for customers to compare in meaningful ways, and there was no real benchmark for what a cellphone could or should do (I mean, other than make phone calls).

That’s all changed now. To see how, consider the impact of the Froyo announcement – Android 2.2. This was a feature list of what upcoming cellphones would be able to do that wasn’t censored by a carrier. Every actual Android phone offering from now on will be compared against the Froyo feature list and against all other Android cellphones. And if any come out with an Android feature disabled or available only at extra cost, the pressure won’t be on Google – it will be on the carrier.

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May 23

Now’s a bad time to be an Apple fanboy…

It’s an unhappy day for Apple fanboys. Dan Lyons Newsweek’s tech correspondent just ditched the iPhone for Android, slamming the phone and Steve Jobs’s control-freak strategy in very harsh terms.

It might be tempting to dismiss this on the grounds that Dan Lyons is, not to put too fine a point on it, a fool whose confidence in his own judgment is in inverse proportion to its quality; his gullibility about SCO’s allegations in their lawsuit against IBM became legendary, and some of the stuff he’s written about blogging is hilariously stupid. Given his track record, betting directly against his technology and market projections would be smarter than betting on them.

Yes, but…Newsweek is an awfully big megaphone. And the larger news isn’t the bad stuff that pushed him away from Apple, it’s the good stuff the pulled him towards Android. The Android 2.2 feature list is a body blow from which the iPhone, already trailing Android devices in unit sales, may not be able to recover.

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May 11

Android Rising

The news comes to us today that in 1Q 2010 Android phones outsold Apple’s iPhone by a significant 7%. As it said on the gunslinger’s gravestone, “I was expecting this, but not so soon.”

Business Week and the Wall Street Journal are on the story, but the most interesting version is from the story they’re apparently deriving from at All Things Digital, because it includes a graph showing recent market share trends that conveys a lot more information than the present-time numbers.

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May 04

How many ways can you get Android wrong in one article?

One of my regulars pointed me at Is Android Evil?, an article by one Andreas Constantinou which purports to be a brave and hardhitting contrarian take on Android.

I read this, and I’m asking myself “Wow. How many different ways can one guy be wrong in the same article?” Particularly entertaining, and the main reason I’m bothering to rebut this nonsense, is the part where Mr. Brave Contrarian Guy claims that the success of Android has nothing to do with open source and then lists three “key factors” of its success in every one of which open source is critically involved.

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