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Posts Tagged ‘original equipment manufacturers’

Microsoft’s Surface Tablet Is Already Crushing the Dreams of Other Windows Hardware Makers

June 20th, 2012 06:09 admin View Comments

The first Microsoft Surface tablets won’t hit the streets for months, but the devices are already causing problems for other companies who make tablets and raising difficult questions about how how Microsoft is treating the companies that build computers and mobile devices based on its software.

Just a day after Monday’s Surface press event, Korean electronics maker LG announced that it was discontinuing its tablet product line for now in order to focus on smartphone production. The move gave instant credence to worries that Microsoft, by making and selling the Surface itself, was screwing its hardware partners.

Is LG Surface’s First Victim?

For its part, LG denied that Surface had anything to do with its decision. “LG doesn’t see Surface competing with anything we’re focusing on at the moment,” LG spokesperson Ken Hong told Bloomberg.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that Surface wasn’t just “one more thing” that tipped LG’s decision to withdraw – if it even knew about the new device.

Tablet makers aren’t saying much about the Surface (Bloomberg quotes Microsoft partners giving generic reassurances of their commitment to Windows), but a Reuters report today reveals that many hardware makers didn’t have details on Monday’s announcement: “The earliest that Microsoft’s personal computing partners were told about the tablet was last Friday… according to sources in the U.S. and Taiwan technology industry who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

By launching Surface entirely on its own, Microsoft has completely departed from its traditional arrangement of licensing its software to third-party manufacturers, so called Original Equipment Manufacturers, or OEMs. Potentially, the Surface turns Microsoft into a direct competitor of any hardware manufacturer making a Windows 8 tablet.

We say “potentially” because it is not clear whether Microsoft plans to stay in the hardware game any more than it has to.

Is Microsoft Pulling a Google?

Drawing a comparison to Google’s own production of the Nexus device line for its Android phone is easy, because it often looks as if Google is thumbing its nose at its own smartphone OEMs. But Google says production of its “pure” Android devices is done only to create a reference device: a vision of what a solid Android device will look like.

Timing seems to support Google’s reference-device assertions: Nexus devices are typically produced early in an Android release’s lifecycle. But Surface is coming in after other Windows 8 tablets are already in development.

Still, Businessweek’s Ashlee Vance sees Surface as a kick in the pants for OEMs trying to figure out a decent Windows 8 tablet offering. “This does not sound like a full-on break with the PC makers. Rather, it sounds like Microsoft giving them a wake-up call: You can make something different and sexy with a bit of effort, guys,” Vance wrote.

Playing a Dangerous Game

Even if that’s Microsoft’s intention, the company is taking a big chance. Why would Microsoft jeopardize its relationships with OEMs just as it’s about to bet the company on a radically new operating system?

Perhaps Microsoft believes that the OEMs have no other computer operating system options. Linux never got its desktop game going, and Apple owns OS X lock, stock and brushed aluminum barrel. Google’s Android hasn’t set the tablet world on fire, either, and its Chrome OS is still a bit player. But there is always the possibility that manufactures could simply opt out of the whole business.

Dell, for instance, has already made plans to cut back on its PC business by $2 billion. Enterprise and cloud computing are today’s target-rich environments for hardware vendors, so cutting back investments in PC and tablet production might not be so far-fetched – at least for marginal vendors.

Given this, it makes sense for Microsoft to position Surface as an after-the-fact reference device. The company had better hope its manufacturing partners see things that way because, whether or not Surface succeeds, Microsoft’s future depends on those partners building a robust collection of top-of-the-line platforms for Windows and the rest of its software product line.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, Calif.

Source: Microsoft’s Surface Tablet Is Already Crushing the Dreams of Other Windows Hardware Makers

Microsoft’s Smart Decision for the Windows Phone Marketplace

May 23rd, 2012 05:28 admin View Comments

From a theoretical perspective, there is really not all that much of a difference between Windows Phone and Android. Both operating systems were created by well-established technology giants. Both are licensed to multiple original equipment manufacturers to provide a variety of devices. Both have regulations about how the OS can be used to access the platform’s application stores. But this is where Microsoft and Google diverge. While Android is a Wild West that orbits around Google, the search giant does not directly control much of the ecosystem. For Windows Phone, everything originates with Microsoft. 

Google calculates its platform distribution (between how many people are using Android 2.2 Froyo or Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, for instance) by measuring what version of the operating system accesses Google Play. In May, 63.9% of Android devices accessing Google Play were running version 2.3.3 – 2.3.7 Gingerbread. Google does not regulate a minimum version of Android to access Google Play, which is one of the reasons that 6.2% of all Android devices are still running version 2.1 Eclair or below.

While Google has tried to whip the precarious ecosystem of manufacturers and mobile carriers into shape to push out operating system version updates in a timely manner, the initiative has mostly failed. The Android Update Alliance, announced by Google at its I/O conference in May 2011, has proven largely ineffective. Updating old phones to function with new versions of Android is cumbersome and expensive for both the manufacturers and carriers. All parties involved would rather just create a new device and force consumers that want the newest flavor of Android to buy a new device. 

Google has a big stick to wield against the OEMs and carriers with Google Play, but it has not been effective in using that stick when it comes to platform updates. The carrot approach will not work either, as pushing users to new devices, over updating old devices, is all the carrot that companies in the Android ecosystem care about.

Microsoft’s Control of the Platform

This is the distinct difference between how Microsoft and Google approach their mobile operating systems. Whereas Google has been laissez-faire with how its ecosystem behaves, Microsoft has learned from Android’s shortcomings and controls as much of the Windows Phone experience as possible. Yesterday, Microsoft announced that only phones running Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) would be allowed to access the Marketplace. Users that do not have version 7.5 will be prompted to update through Microsoft’s “Update Central” when trying to download an app. 

This is the benefit of centralizing the entire mobile experience. Microsoft states a minimum standard and makes users and partners rise to that standard. It then takes control of the ecosystem and makes sure that happens. For instance, look at how Microsoft initially handled the update of Windows Phone from 7.0 to 7.5 last September. All updates originated not from the OEMs and then through the carriers, but from Microsoft itself. It was a mass update, graduated over a period of a couple of weeks. By the end, almost every person with a Windows Phone had the Mango update. With this week’s announcement that 7.5 is required to access the Marketplace, the stragglers who have not made the update yet will be forced to upgrade. 

Microsoft has made some interesting choices when it comes to how it has handled Windows Phone. Think of it as the operating system that sits in between the two philosophies employed by the leaders in the smartphone market, Apple and Google. Apple controls everything, making its own hardware and shipping its own updates. Google does not push its own updates, letting whoever wants to build on top of Android do it for free and stipulating that to have access to Google Play, certain requirements must be met. Microsoft licenses Windows Phone the same way it licenses its desktop Windows platform to any manufacturer that does not mind paying that fee. While the operating system is spread out among OEMs such as Nokia, HTC and Samsung, Microsoft still places itself as the cog that makes the machine run. 

Say what you want about the interface of Windows Phone and whether it can eventually catch up in market share to Android or iOS, but Microsoft’s strategy is good for users and developers, because the experience is consistent across the board.

Source: Microsoft’s Smart Decision for the Windows Phone Marketplace

Mozilla Putting all the Pieces Together to be a Smartphone Contender

February 27th, 2012 02:00 admin View Comments

Firefox_Fennex_150x150.jpegWhen we think of HTML5 as a mobile platform, devices are not what come to mind. The mobile Web, almost by definition, is an amorphous set of technologies, standards, designs, contents and ideas. The mobile Web is more of a Wild West these days then its desktop counterpart. Mozilla is attempting to give the mobile Web shape and definition and today announced a partnership that will bring the first HTML5-based mobile operating system to a device in 2012.

Mozilla announced a partnership at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today with Telefonica and Qualcomm to create the first mobile Web handset, dubbed open Web devices. The platform will be based on Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko platform and will bring core device APIs to the HTML5-based devices. While many other would-be operating systems have tried to counter the dominance of Apple and Google, Mozilla and the open Web may have the best chance yet.

The goal of Mozilla is to create the first truly open source mobile operating system for devices. While Android is technically open source, Google has preferred partners among service providers and original equipment manufacturers and is consolidating design guidelines. Android is as open source as Google lets it. The Open Web Devices program will be more than just Mozilla releasing the source code of platform. Mozilla is building its mobile operating system with open source tools and all references will be submitted to the W3C for standardization.

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There will be no proprietary APIs, no backroom partnerships. Just an open platform that anybody can build upon within reason. The goal is to create a browser-based operating system for smartphones that can compete with high-end capabilities on a feature phone budget. In many ways, the Boot2Gecko mobile operating system will be the smartphone equivalent of Google’s Chrome OS that attempts to bring a browser-based OS to netbooks. While the Chrome OS has not been successful on the market, Mozilla has the ability to capture the hearts and minds of developers looking for easier cross-platform standards to deploy applications.

HTML5 and JavaScript are preferred tools for Web developers. That is no different for mobile Web developers. The problem is that HTML5 and JavaScript have limited access to device capabilities like calling, contacts, camera and messaging. Mozilla will bring those core functionalities to the browser (mobile Firefox) as writable applications.

The partnership with Telefonica is interesting. By teaming with the international mobile operator, Mozilla is showing that it will be aiming its operating system at emerging markets. That fits with language in its press release, stating that it intends to bring smartphone level capabilities to the world in feature phone price ranges. This will bring Open Web Devices in direct competition with low-end Android devices, Samsung feature phones and Bada-driven handsets and Nokia’s Symbian series. Whether or not we will see a high-end device come from Mozilla to the United States remains to be seen.

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From a development perspective, apps for the Mozilla mobile OS will be browser-based and built with open standards. It is likely that the Mozilla Apps Marketplace will be featured prominently on the phone. Last week we said that Mozilla has a chance to be the king of the mobile Web and it is setting up all the appropriate tools from and app store, a functional operating system and soon a series of devices to deploy them. Other operating systems such as Tizen (MeeGo) and webOS were unable to find a niche in the current mobile ecosystem but Mozilla has the opportunity to succeed where the others have failed.

Mozilla may also be able to avoid the issues that have plagued Android. The Open Web Devices program can avoid fragmentation issues because the primary driver of the OS is the browser, not the device. Mobile HTML5 and JavaScript applications should be able to run well in any device as long as the browser supports specific aspects of those standards. A more pressing concern though might be that of malware, something that is bred and native to the Web precisely because it is so open.

Developers: are you excited for the Mozilla Boot to Gecko device? Can this be the first real open source smartphone based on Web standards? Or is it destined to become another also-ran in the ecosystem? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Mozilla Putting all the Pieces Together to be a Smartphone Contender

[Infographic] Mapping the Tools in the Mobile Development Ecosystem

February 9th, 2012 02:00 admin View Comments

shutterstock_killer_apps_150.jpgThe mobile development ecosystem is a large, complicated space. There are innovative startups making tools for native and mobile Web apps along with large enterprise-grade companies that offer solutions from cloud support to frameworks and developer environments. For a mobile developer, it can be confusing to know where to turn and what to use to make the best app possible.

Mobile “backend-as-a-service” startup Kinvey created a map for ReadWriteMobile to help developers understand the ecosystem. Kinvey brackets the mobile ecosystem between two primary pillars: the service providers and the original equipment manufacturers. In between lay the meet of the environment from the “as-a-service” providers (platform, infrastructure and backend) to mobile software developer kit and application programming interface sources. Who has acquired what? What partnerships dominate the ecosystem? Use the map below as a resource when developing your next mobile app.

Mapping the Complicated Ecosystem

The original players in the mobility space were the OEMs and carriers. In 1998, there would have been next to nothing in between those two pillars on the map below. With the rise of the application ecosystem, the service structure for developers has grown rapidly as enterprises and entrepreneurs rush to meet the needs of developers.

“In the mobile world, the service providers and the handset OEMs were the original two players. With the transition to apps and services, all the other new layers have inserted themselves in between the original two players of the ecosystem,” said Kinvey CEO and co-founder Sravish Sridhar.

Kinvey places itself in the middle of the ecosystem. To its right are the PaaS and IaaS companies such as IBM, Rackspace, that are closer to the carriers than the OEMs. To its right are the mobile SDK and API providers, which have more in common with the OEMs.

“Slowly, major players have come into the space, and are now tunneling their way across the ecosystem through acquisitions or by launching new services themselves. For example, Google has been most proficient with an acquisition-led strategy,” Sridhar said. “Companies that are not acquiring are launching new services on their own. For example, Amazon Web Services started with IaaS and now have PaaS, and are growing out other mobile-specific services. Apart from developing Windows Phone, Microsoft is now improving Azure IaaS, and will soon have a robust PaaS platform.”

The goal of the BaaS providers is to bridge these worlds by bringing cloud infrastructure to developers and make it easy to integrate SDKs and APIs. It is not an easy task as it requires a knowledge of robust technical networks as well as the needs of front-end developers.

“As a leading Backend as a Service provider, we tie in IaaS, PaaS and Mobile APIs, and connect them right down to the Mobile SDK, so that millions of dynamic and rich apps can be easily built on any platform, bringing value to billions of users all over the world,” Sridhar said.

There is a lot of movement n the ecosystem, as the map shows. Appcelerator’s acquisition of Cocoafish is the latest example of one pillar moving to another. Kinvey has partnered with Urban Airship and talks with a variety of companies in other pillars, including appMobi. The company’s platform ties into a variety of cloud providers including Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and Microsoft Azure.

Click here for a larger map, hosted by Kinvey.

kinvey_map_ecosystem_610.jpg

Kinvey, Competition and Consolidation

kinvey_real_150x150.jpgBoston-based Kinvey (a recent TechStars alum) is a unique startup in the mobile development world. Sridhar is very supportive of the ecosystem at large, including his primary competitors like Parse and StackMob. The idea is to see every company grow to the fullest of potential.

Sridhar often writes about startup and entrepreneur relationships. Kinvey does not attack its competitors or make edgy comments about how Kinvey may or may not be better than its rivals.

The first startup that Sridhar worked at was Austin-based United Devices, a company that focused on grid computing to manage high performance computing (HPC) infrastructures. From 2000 to 2005, grid computing was a hot vertical in the technology community with a variety of large and small companies entering the space. Sridhar noticed the ill affects of how sniping and holding negative opinions of the competition had on the ecosystem at large.

“A lot of this perspective came from my last startup. I was part of the founding team at United Devices and we were building grid computing software and a very similar thing happened at that company that is happening right now at Kinvey is that we thought we doing something cool and unique and low and behold, within about six to eight months, there were about 20 competitors,” Sridhar said.

“We got really paranoid about them and started talking about each other in the press in a negative fashion and started talking negatively about each other with customers and what happened is that I found that was doing more harm than good and the space took a while to develop. One of the reasons that grid computing, which was all the buzz between about 2001 and 2005, didn’t take off is that the whole ecosystem didn’t push it forward. We were waiting for the bigger companies to adopt it. My theory about creating this ecosystem called backend-as-a-service is that we should all work to collectively define it and make it successful.”

We wrote about the consolidation in the mobile services last summer when Urban Airship bought SimpleGeo much to the surprise of the mobile developer community. When it comes to the BaaS players, some of the first startups are beginning to be acquired, representative by Cocoafish and Appcelerator. When it comes to Kinvey, StackMob and Parse, each has a tie to a major company that may be interested in acquiring it within the next few years. Of those three, each has created a niche for itself to the point where it could grow to be fairly large and stave off acquisition as well. It behooves the companies in the space to help each other grow at this point.

That is in stark contrast to another emerging segment of the developer ecosystem that has emerged with the app economy. Mobile analytics is a high-growth area with companies large and small growing rapidly and looking for developer and media attention. Whereas there is very little bad blood between Kinvey, Parse and StackMob, mobile analytics startups like Kontagent, Apasalar, Flurry, Localytics and others hate to see one company mentioned and not their own (this plays out in my inbox on a daily basis).

Developers: What services are you using to create a backend infrastructure for your app? What do you think about the startup competition in the space vis-a-vis larger cloud providers or in juxtaposition with the mobile analytics space? Let us know in the comments.

Top Image Courtesy Shutterstock

Source: [Infographic] Mapping the Tools in the Mobile Development Ecosystem

[Infographic] Mapping the Tools in the Mobile Development Ecosystem

February 9th, 2012 02:00 admin View Comments

shutterstock_killer_apps_150.jpgThe mobile development ecosystem is a large, complicated space. There are innovative startups making tools for native and mobile Web apps along with large enterprise-grade companies that offer solutions from cloud support to frameworks and developer environments. For a mobile developer, it can be confusing to know where to turn and what to use to make the best app possible.

Mobile “backend-as-a-service” startup Kinvey created a map for ReadWriteMobile to help developers understand the ecosystem. Kinvey brackets the mobile ecosystem between two primary pillars: the service providers and the original equipment manufacturers. In between lay the meet of the environment from the “as-a-service” providers (platform, infrastructure and backend) to mobile software developer kit and application programming interface sources. Who has acquired what? What partnerships dominate the ecosystem? Use the map below as a resource when developing your next mobile app.

Mapping the Complicated Ecosystem

The original players in the mobility space were the OEMs and carriers. In 1998, there would have been next to nothing in between those two pillars on the map below. With the rise of the application ecosystem, the service structure for developers has grown rapidly as enterprises and entrepreneurs rush to meet the needs of developers.

“In the mobile world, the service providers and the handset OEMs were the original two players. With the transition to apps and services, all the other new layers have inserted themselves in between the original two players of the ecosystem,” said Kinvey CEO and co-founder Sravish Sridhar.

Kinvey places itself in the middle of the ecosystem. To its right are the PaaS and IaaS companies such as IBM, Rackspace, that are closer to the carriers than the OEMs. To its right are the mobile SDK and API providers, which have more in common with the OEMs.

“Slowly, major players have come into the space, and are now tunneling their way across the ecosystem through acquisitions or by launching new services themselves. For example, Google has been most proficient with an acquisition-led strategy,” Sridhar said. “Companies that are not acquiring are launching new services on their own. For example, Amazon Web Services started with IaaS and now have PaaS, and are growing out other mobile-specific services. Apart from developing Windows Phone, Microsoft is now improving Azure IaaS, and will soon have a robust PaaS platform.”

The goal of the BaaS providers is to bridge these worlds by bringing cloud infrastructure to developers and make it easy to integrate SDKs and APIs. It is not an easy task as it requires a knowledge of robust technical networks as well as the needs of front-end developers.

“As a leading Backend as a Service provider, we tie in IaaS, PaaS and Mobile APIs, and connect them right down to the Mobile SDK, so that millions of dynamic and rich apps can be easily built on any platform, bringing value to billions of users all over the world,” Sridhar said.

There is a lot of movement n the ecosystem, as the map shows. Appcelerator’s acquisition of Cocoafish is the latest example of one pillar moving to another. Kinvey has partnered with Urban Airship and talks with a variety of companies in other pillars, including appMobi. The company’s platform ties into a variety of cloud providers including Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and Microsoft Azure.

Click here for a larger map, hosted by Kinvey.

kinvey_map_ecosystem_610.jpg

Kinvey, Competition and Consolidation

kinvey_real_150x150.jpgBoston-based Kinvey (a recent TechStars alum) is a unique startup in the mobile development world. Sridhar is very supportive of the ecosystem at large, including his primary competitors like Parse and StackMob. The idea is to see every company grow to the fullest of potential.

Sridhar often writes about startup and entrepreneur relationships. Kinvey does not attack its competitors or make edgy comments about how Kinvey may or may not be better than its rivals.

The first startup that Sridhar worked at was Austin-based United Devices, a company that focused on grid computing to manage high performance computing (HPC) infrastructures. From 2000 to 2005, grid computing was a hot vertical in the technology community with a variety of large and small companies entering the space. Sridhar noticed the ill affects of how sniping and holding negative opinions of the competition had on the ecosystem at large.

“A lot of this perspective came from my last startup. I was part of the founding team at United Devices and we were building grid computing software and a very similar thing happened at that company that is happening right now at Kinvey is that we thought we doing something cool and unique and low and behold, within about six to eight months, there were about 20 competitors,” Sridhar said.

“We got really paranoid about them and started talking about each other in the press in a negative fashion and started talking negatively about each other with customers and what happened is that I found that was doing more harm than good and the space took a while to develop. One of the reasons that grid computing, which was all the buzz between about 2001 and 2005, didn’t take off is that the whole ecosystem didn’t push it forward. We were waiting for the bigger companies to adopt it. My theory about creating this ecosystem called backend-as-a-service is that we should all work to collectively define it and make it successful.”

We wrote about the consolidation in the mobile services last summer when Urban Airship bought SimpleGeo much to the surprise of the mobile developer community. When it comes to the BaaS players, some of the first startups are beginning to be acquired, representative by Cocoafish and Appcelerator. When it comes to Kinvey, StackMob and Parse, each has a tie to a major company that may be interested in acquiring it within the next few years. Of those three, each has created a niche for itself to the point where it could grow to be fairly large and stave off acquisition as well. It behooves the companies in the space to help each other grow at this point.

That is in stark contrast to another emerging segment of the developer ecosystem that has emerged with the app economy. Mobile analytics is a high-growth area with companies large and small growing rapidly and looking for developer and media attention. Whereas there is very little bad blood between Kinvey, Parse and StackMob, mobile analytics startups like Kontagent, Apasalar, Flurry, Localytics and others hate to see one company mentioned and not their own (this plays out in my inbox on a daily basis).

Developers: What services are you using to create a backend infrastructure for your app? What do you think about the startup competition in the space vis-a-vis larger cloud providers or in juxtaposition with the mobile analytics space? Let us know in the comments.

Top Image Courtesy Shutterstock

Source: [Infographic] Mapping the Tools in the Mobile Development Ecosystem

Mobile Carriers and OEMs Get Android App Testing Cloud from Apkudo

February 7th, 2012 02:15 admin View Comments

apkudo_150x150.jpgWhen developers think of application testing, it always centers around how an app will perform on a particular device. This is especially important in the Android ecosystem that has upwards of 300 devices from a variety of original equipment manufacturers worldwide. From the inverse perspective, nobody ever thinks of the testing needs of the carriers and OEMs.

Cloud-based testing platform Apkudo thought about manufacturers and carriers with a new release of device analytics platform. Manufacturers can now test devices against the top Android apps before releasing. The idea is that if a device is tested from the supplier side, fewer handsets will be returned by consumers, potentially saving manufacturers billions of dollars.

apkudo_device_chart.jpgApkudo tests with what it calls a “device cloud.” The configuration of more than 300 Android devices are set up in the cloud and mobile app developers can run their projects through that cloud to make sure it will work across OEMs and Android system versions.

For Apkudo’s device analytics, the opposite approach is taken. Manufacturers and network operators can test their apps against the contents of the Android Market. Apkudo will run a device against the top 200 apps in the Market to test functionality with the touchscreen, keyboard, audio, device access (accelerometer and GPS, for instance) along with performance characteristics.

This should provide developers, network operators and manufacturers with tools against Android fragmentation. As we noted last week, there is actually less fragmentation of Android devices than many think, with the optimal Android handset running on a 4.3-inch screen on version 2.3 Gingerbread. Yet, with the sheer volume of devices and applications available in the Android ecosystem, testing is still one giant headache.

Apkudo can speed up on the process that OEMs must go through to test devices. According to CEO Josh Matthews the process normally takes 6-8 weeks. Apkudo says it can do it in three days.

Device analytics will break down the results into two categories: characterization and optimization benefits. Characterization benefits help operators target competing devices while expanding their own portfolios. Imagine it as a bench mark against the rest of the ecosystem. Optimization benefits recommends how devices can be made better before release to be truly competitive in the market place.

apkudo_device_analytics.jpg

The first U.S. carrier to sign on with Apkudo is MetroPCS. Apkudo also has agreements with “most major OEMs” in the Android ecosystem.

App developers should be happy with Apkudo’s testing abilities because it means that the OEMs could have a more efficient testing program to make sure apps work on their devices. When it comes to app functionality on Android, developers need to work the manufacturers and carriers to ensure a quality experience. The end of fragmentation, after all, is a two way street.

Source: Mobile Carriers and OEMs Get Android App Testing Cloud from Apkudo

Apple’s iPhone Strategy Cutting Into Android Market Share

January 18th, 2012 01:45 admin View Comments

Apple’s strategy to take over the lead in the smartphone market from Android is working. In new numbers from research firm Nielsen, 37% of recent (within the last three months) smartphone buyers chose the iPhone, well above the 25.1% that did so in October 2011. Android still holds the market lead but the margin is beginning to shrink.

Android rose to the top of the smartphone heap by sheer volume. It has a plethora of original equipment manufacturers pumping out new devices every week that are distributed across the four major U.S. mobile carriers along varying price points. Why has Apple caught up? Well, because it now does that too.

For the most of the life of the iPhone, what was its major limiting factor? Primarily, the fact that it was only available at AT&T. In March of 2011, the iPhone 4 came to Verizon and the world seemingly rejoiced. While Verizon iPhone sales have been solid, they have not been quite as killer as Apple or the pundits had originally thought. People have expensive contracts and early termination fees to contend with and the notion of jumping from one carrier to another does not make sense for a lot of consumers.

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Those AT&T contracts are starting to expire. That does not mean users are dropping the nation’s second largest cellular operator in droves, but freedom of choice has finally be awarded to would-be iPhone buyers. There are also a variety of price points available. The iPhone 3GS is now free from AT&T on a contract. The iPhone 4 is $99 on Verizon and AT&T with a contract while the iPhone 4S is available across AT&T, Verizon and Sprint for $199. That makes the iPhone available to more than 260 million Americans whereas it used to only be available to the 95-100 million or so on AT&T.

Market depth plus price point … more smartphone sales. It should come as no surprise and we have been curious to see these numbers since Apple made the announcement of the 4S last October. It is also no surprise that the 4S is leading the charge. Of new iPhone buyers, 57% chose the 4S.

nielsen_q4_2011_smartphone_2.jpg

Of all smartphone owners (not just recent acquirers) that Nielsen surveyed, 46.3% are Android owners. Apple has risen several points in the overall market share to 30%. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry has dropped precipitously in these types of surveys, going from near 22% at this time last year to 6% of new buyers in Q4. Windows Phone and Windows Mobile (which indeed still exists) made up for 3.8% of new users and 5.9% overall in Nielsen’s numbers with Windows Mobile making up for 4.6% of that.

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The nature of the smartphone market is cyclical. Apple made its big push with iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S in the fall. The company is likely to do that again this year with a late season rollout of the iPhone 5. Meanwhile, it is time for Android to reassert itself as version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich makes its way to new devices across carriers. The seesaw battle will continue and when we see Nielsen’s numbers for Q1 or Q2, the tone of this story might be quite different.

It is not like Android is losing much steam. Of recent acquirers, more than half chose Android at 51.7% in Q4. The growth of Android and Apple comes to the detriment of, well, everybody else, but especially RIM. Of all smartphones purchased in Q4, 88.7% were either iOS or Android. That leaves several billion dollar companies such as Microsoft, RIM and to a certain extent Hewlett-Packard to battle over a very small slice of the pie.

Source: Apple’s iPhone Strategy Cutting Into Android Market Share

What Is the Problem With the U.S. Smartphone Market? Ask the Carriers

January 12th, 2012 01:00 admin View Comments

When you control the pipes, you control the ecosystem. At the very least, you can impose your will on a good portion of the environment. This is what the mobile industry has come down to in the United States. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have as much or more say about the devices that eventually reach consumers hands than the platform providers or manufacturers.

Why do Android device updates take so long? Ask the carriers. Why are there half a dozen different skins for Android smartphones? Ask the carriers. Why do high-end smartphones cost what they do? Ask the carriers. Why did Nokia have to wait to enter the U.S. market with its new Lumia line? Ask the carriers. Why are there a ton of different versions of the Samsung Galaxy? Ask … you get the picture.

The Requirements Of The Carriers

Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha sat down with The Verge at the Consumer Electronics show this week and made the comment that “Verizon and AT&T don’t want seven stock ICS devices on their shelves … The vast majority of the changes we make to the OS are to meet the requirements of the carriers.”

Think about that last sentence for a second. “The requirements of the carriers.” Like it or not, the carriers are the gatekeepers to the entire mobile ecosystem in the United States. Hence, the carriers can make almost any demands and the original equipment manufacturers are forced to comply. This is why we see the skins on various Android smartphones like TouchWiz for Samsung and Sense from HTC.

The problem for Android and carrier-driven differentiation is fairly simple. Most OEMs are not very good at software. Motorola, for instance, has struggled for years in coming up with useful, dynamic and functional user interfaces. HTC is a lot better and Sense is actually an enjoyable interface on its Android smartphones. Samsung is a different story altogether.

Samsung Sets The Tone

Samsung is on a course to be the largest smartphone manufacturer on the planet. How have they done this? Outside of the bland argument that “they have copied everything Apple has ever done,” the answer is easy to understand. Samsung is completely willing to do whatever Google, Microsoft or the carriers want. More than any other company, Samsung plays the current mobile ecosystem to great success. Be everything to everybody. It is a brilliant strategy.

Samsung wanted to launch the original Samsung Galaxy S on every carrier in the U.S. That was not going to happen though if every device was exactly the same. That is why we have four different devices that are ostensibly the same hardware. Sprint wanted its Galaxy S to have a keyboard and use WiMax “4G.” Hey, no problem. AT&T wanted a slimmed down version that looked like an iPhone. This can be done. Verizon wanted something similar but looked different than AT&T’s. That should not be a problem.

By being pliant to the their wishes, Samsung gives the carriers power and to a certain extent hamstrings the rest of the OEM and mobile operating system ecosystem. To keep up with Samsung, the rest of the Android OEMs have to attempt to play the same game.

In The Verge’s interview with Jha, it sounds like he is fed up with trying to match Samsung and the rest of the OEMs and the carrier requirements. Jha understands that to make money in the Android ecosystem, Motorola smartphones are going to need to be different. Jha said this week that Motorola is going to make fewer phones and, presumably, think outside of the rat race that Android has become.

The Real Source Of Fragmentation

att_150x150.jpgMore than any other force, the carriers are responsible for the “fragmentation” of Android. The individual skins are not a specific requirement, but not having several stock Android devices on the shelves (at least one with that option would be nice) forces the OEMs’ hands. When it comes to device updates, such as what phones will get Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the carriers dictate how much data will flow through their pipes. The OEMs are not outside of blame for updates but the fact of the matter is that the carriers are the primary drivers of the fact that each OEM has to come out with a new Android device seemingly every other week. That puts a huge burden on the software integration departments of the OEMs that have to update each device.

Google chairman Erik Schmidt says that Android is not fragmented and argues that differentiation is a good thing. Hey, variety is the spice of life, yes? To a certain extent, he is not wrong. Personally, I do not want seven stock Android devices to choose from either. The problem comes when the skins, screen sizes and lack of updates make it difficult for developers to support several different types of Android.

Microsoft, Windows Phone and its biggest champion, Nokia, are not immune for the whip of the carriers either. One of the reasons that the Lumia line was not released to the U.S. before the end of 2011 was that Nokia had to navigate the individual wishes of every carrier. T-Mobile made it easy for Nokia by basically saying, “we do not mind taking a stock Windows Phone Lumia 710.” It is likely that no other carrier is going to sell the Lumia 710, so that is differentiation in and of itself. But AT&T was not having any of it. The Lumia 900 is what Nokia delivered and it is different from not just T-Mobile’s 710, but also the Lumia 800 that most of Europe got. Verizon will likely take something akin to the 900, but it will not want it to be exactly the same thing that AT&T got. Nokia is willing to play this game because it does not have much of a choice. Samsung set the precedent with the carriers and Nokia does not have the U.S. clout or the hype of Apple’s iPhone to defy what the carriers’ want.

Apple is the one OEM that stands outside of all these politics. The smartphone revolution was started when Apple released the original iPhone. It was such a revelation that it has become a symbol as much as a smartphone. Apple can dictate terms whereas the other OEMs cannot. It would be interesting to go back into a deviant version of history and replace Apple with Motorola or some other OEM and see if Apple’s strategy remained the same or if it would be forced to carrier whims.

The gatekeepers set the terms. Until a real alternative is created and realistically implemented, this is the way the mobile industry in the U.S. will continue into the future. Outside of Apple and Google creating their own data networks, terms will be set by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint for years to come.

Source: What Is the Problem With the U.S. Smartphone Market? Ask the Carriers

What Is the Problem With the U.S. Smartphone Market? Ask the Carriers

January 12th, 2012 01:00 admin View Comments

When you control the pipes, you control the ecosystem. At the very least, you can impose your will on a good portion of the environment. This is what the mobile industry has come down to in the United States. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have as much or more say about the devices that eventually reach consumers hands than the platform providers or manufacturers.

Why do Android device updates take so long? Ask the carriers. Why are there half a dozen different skins for Android smartphones? Ask the carriers. Why do high-end smartphones cost what they do? Ask the carriers. Why did Nokia have to wait to enter the U.S. market with its new Lumia line? Ask the carriers. Why are there a ton of different versions of the Samsung Galaxy? Ask … you get the picture.

The Requirements Of The Carriers

Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha sat down with The Verge at the Consumer Electronics show this week and made the comment that “Verizon and AT&T don’t want seven stock ICS devices on their shelves … The vast majority of the changes we make to the OS are to meet the requirements of the carriers.”

Think about that last sentence for a second. “The requirements of the carriers.” Like it or not, the carriers are the gatekeepers to the entire mobile ecosystem in the United States. Hence, the carriers can make almost any demands and the original equipment manufacturers are forced to comply. This is why we see the skins on various Android smartphones like TouchWiz for Samsung and Sense from HTC.

The problem for Android and carrier-driven differentiation is fairly simple. Most OEMs are not very good at software. Motorola, for instance, has struggled for years in coming up with useful, dynamic and functional user interfaces. HTC is a lot better and Sense is actually an enjoyable interface on its Android smartphones. Samsung is a different story altogether.

Samsung Sets The Tone

Samsung is on a course to be the largest smartphone manufacturer on the planet. How have they done this? Outside of the bland argument that “they have copied everything Apple has ever done,” the answer is easy to understand. Samsung is completely willing to do whatever Google, Microsoft or the carriers want. More than any other company, Samsung plays the current mobile ecosystem to great success. Be everything to everybody. It is a brilliant strategy.

Samsung wanted to launch the original Samsung Galaxy S on every carrier in the U.S. That was not going to happen though if every device was exactly the same. That is why we have four different devices that are ostensibly the same hardware. Sprint wanted its Galaxy S to have a keyboard and use WiMax “4G.” Hey, no problem. AT&T wanted a slimmed down version that looked like an iPhone. This can be done. Verizon wanted something similar but looked different than AT&T’s. That should not be a problem.

By being pliant to the their wishes, Samsung gives the carriers power and to a certain extent hamstrings the rest of the OEM and mobile operating system ecosystem. To keep up with Samsung, the rest of the Android OEMs have to attempt to play the same game.

In The Verge’s interview with Jha, it sounds like he is fed up with trying to match Samsung and the rest of the OEMs and the carrier requirements. Jha understands that to make money in the Android ecosystem, Motorola smartphones are going to need to be different. Jha said this week that Motorola is going to make fewer phones and, presumably, think outside of the rat race that Android has become.

The Real Source Of Fragmentation

att_150x150.jpgMore than any other force, the carriers are responsible for the “fragmentation” of Android. The individual skins are not a specific requirement, but not having several stock Android devices on the shelves (at least one with that option would be nice) forces the OEMs’ hands. When it comes to device updates, such as what phones will get Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the carriers dictate how much data will flow through their pipes. The OEMs are not outside of blame for updates but the fact of the matter is that the carriers are the primary drivers of the fact that each OEM has to come out with a new Android device seemingly every other week. That puts a huge burden on the software integration departments of the OEMs that have to update each device.

Google chairman Erik Schmidt says that Android is not fragmented and argues that differentiation is a good thing. Hey, variety is the spice of life, yes? To a certain extent, he is not wrong. Personally, I do not want seven stock Android devices to choose from either. The problem comes when the skins, screen sizes and lack of updates make it difficult for developers to support several different types of Android.

Microsoft, Windows Phone and its biggest champion, Nokia, are not immune for the whip of the carriers either. One of the reasons that the Lumia line was not released to the U.S. before the end of 2011 was that Nokia had to navigate the individual wishes of every carrier. T-Mobile made it easy for Nokia by basically saying, “we do not mind taking a stock Windows Phone Lumia 710.” It is likely that no other carrier is going to sell the Lumia 710, so that is differentiation in and of itself. But AT&T was not having any of it. The Lumia 900 is what Nokia delivered and it is different from not just T-Mobile’s 710, but also the Lumia 800 that most of Europe got. Verizon will likely take something akin to the 900, but it will not want it to be exactly the same thing that AT&T got. Nokia is willing to play this game because it does not have much of a choice. Samsung set the precedent with the carriers and Nokia does not have the U.S. clout or the hype of Apple’s iPhone to defy what the carriers’ want.

Apple is the one OEM that stands outside of all these politics. The smartphone revolution was started when Apple released the original iPhone. It was such a revelation that it has become a symbol as much as a smartphone. Apple can dictate terms whereas the other OEMs cannot. It would be interesting to go back into a deviant version of history and replace Apple with Motorola or some other OEM and see if Apple’s strategy remained the same or if it would be forced to carrier whims.

The gatekeepers set the terms. Until a real alternative is created and realistically implemented, this is the way the mobile industry in the U.S. will continue into the future. Outside of Apple and Google creating their own data networks, terms will be set by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint for years to come.

Source: What Is the Problem With the U.S. Smartphone Market? Ask the Carriers

What Is the Problem With the U.S. Smartphone Market? Ask the Carriers

January 12th, 2012 01:00 admin View Comments

When you control the pipes, you control the ecosystem. At the very least, you can impose your will on a good portion of the environment. This is what the mobile industry has come down to in the United States. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have as much or more say about the devices that eventually reach consumers hands than the platform providers or manufacturers.

Why do Android device updates take so long? Ask the carriers. Why are there half a dozen different skins for Android smartphones? Ask the carriers. Why do high-end smartphones cost what they do? Ask the carriers. Why did Nokia have to wait to enter the U.S. market with its new Lumia line? Ask the carriers. Why are there a ton of different versions of the Samsung Galaxy? Ask … you get the picture.

The Requirements Of The Carriers

Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha sat down with The Verge at the Consumer Electronics show this week and made the comment that “Verizon and AT&T don’t want seven stock ICS devices on their shelves … The vast majority of the changes we make to the OS are to meet the requirements of the carriers.”

Think about that last sentence for a second. “The requirements of the carriers.” Like it or not, the carriers are the gatekeepers to the entire mobile ecosystem in the United States. Hence, the carriers can make almost any demands and the original equipment manufacturers are forced to comply. This is why we see the skins on various Android smartphones like TouchWiz for Samsung and Sense from HTC.

The problem for Android and carrier-driven differentiation is fairly simple. Most OEMs are not very good at software. Motorola, for instance, has struggled for years in coming up with useful, dynamic and functional user interfaces. HTC is a lot better and Sense is actually an enjoyable interface on its Android smartphones. Samsung is a different story altogether.

Samsung Sets The Tone

Samsung is on a course to be the largest smartphone manufacturer on the planet. How have they done this? Outside of the bland argument that “they have copied everything Apple has ever done,” the answer is easy to understand. Samsung is completely willing to do whatever Google, Microsoft or the carriers want. More than any other company, Samsung plays the current mobile ecosystem to great success. Be everything to everybody. It is a brilliant strategy.

Samsung wanted to launch the original Samsung Galaxy S on every carrier in the U.S. That was not going to happen though if every device was exactly the same. That is why we have four different devices that are ostensibly the same hardware. Sprint wanted its Galaxy S to have a keyboard and use WiMax “4G.” Hey, no problem. AT&T wanted a slimmed down version that looked like an iPhone. This can be done. Verizon wanted something similar but looked different than AT&T’s. That should not be a problem.

By being pliant to the their wishes, Samsung gives the carriers power and to a certain extent hamstrings the rest of the OEM and mobile operating system ecosystem. To keep up with Samsung, the rest of the Android OEMs have to attempt to play the same game.

In The Verge’s interview with Jha, it sounds like he is fed up with trying to match Samsung and the rest of the OEMs and the carrier requirements. Jha understands that to make money in the Android ecosystem, Motorola smartphones are going to need to be different. Jha said this week that Motorola is going to make fewer phones and, presumably, think outside of the rat race that Android has become.

The Real Source Of Fragmentation

att_150x150.jpgMore than any other force, the carriers are responsible for the “fragmentation” of Android. The individual skins are not a specific requirement, but not having several stock Android devices on the shelves (at least one with that option would be nice) forces the OEMs’ hands. When it comes to device updates, such as what phones will get Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the carriers dictate how much data will flow through their pipes. The OEMs are not outside of blame for updates but the fact of the matter is that the carriers are the primary drivers of the fact that each OEM has to come out with a new Android device seemingly every other week. That puts a huge burden on the software integration departments of the OEMs that have to update each device.

Google chairman Erik Schmidt says that Android is not fragmented and argues that differentiation is a good thing. Hey, variety is the spice of life, yes? To a certain extent, he is not wrong. Personally, I do not want seven stock Android devices to choose from either. The problem comes when the skins, screen sizes and lack of updates make it difficult for developers to support several different types of Android.

Microsoft, Windows Phone and its biggest champion, Nokia, are not immune for the whip of the carriers either. One of the reasons that the Lumia line was not released to the U.S. before the end of 2011 was that Nokia had to navigate the individual wishes of every carrier. T-Mobile made it easy for Nokia by basically saying, “we do not mind taking a stock Windows Phone Lumia 710.” It is likely that no other carrier is going to sell the Lumia 710, so that is differentiation in and of itself. But AT&T was not having any of it. The Lumia 900 is what Nokia delivered and it is different from not just T-Mobile’s 710, but also the Lumia 800 that most of Europe got. Verizon will likely take something akin to the 900, but it will not want it to be exactly the same thing that AT&T got. Nokia is willing to play this game because it does not have much of a choice. Samsung set the precedent with the carriers and Nokia does not have the U.S. clout or the hype of Apple’s iPhone to defy what the carriers’ want.

Apple is the one OEM that stands outside of all these politics. The smartphone revolution was started when Apple released the original iPhone. It was such a revelation that it has become a symbol as much as a smartphone. Apple can dictate terms whereas the other OEMs cannot. It would be interesting to go back into a deviant version of history and replace Apple with Motorola or some other OEM and see if Apple’s strategy remained the same or if it would be forced to carrier whims.

The gatekeepers set the terms. Until a real alternative is created and realistically implemented, this is the way the mobile industry in the U.S. will continue into the future. Outside of Apple and Google creating their own data networks, terms will be set by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint for years to come.

Source: What Is the Problem With the U.S. Smartphone Market? Ask the Carriers

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