Dell Streaks but Doesn’t Impress

August 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Technology 

Well, it is official.  The world will be inundated with tablets of all sizes, colors, OSs and capabilities.  Dell recently jumped into the deep end of the pool with the highly anticipated, but slightly disappointing Streak.  It falls smack center in the middle of nowhere: too big for a phone, to small for a tablet.

The OS is archaic, old, last century (well, last year at quarter) in a market that moves faster than you can keep up with.  When Motorola, HTC, and others are boasting Android 2.2, and others talk about Android 3.0, Dell launches a 1.6.  Quite frankly what a waste of one of the most beautiful displays I’ve seen in this category.  I hope Dell brings out an update soon since a lot of apps are not compatible to it (like Touchdown, the only real way to get to a corporate Exchange email/calendar system).

The device is really good looking, and Android is just great (yeah, even the ancient version 1.6).  Just take it out in any public place and people will ask you what is it.  But you will have to take the laughs when you pick it up as a phone.  Maybe Dell, in its infinite wisdom, thought people will use a bluetooth headset to answer the phone or will not mind the geeky look of a huge tablet on your face.  In any case, people will want to know what’s your fabulous device.

Anyway, I have to give them credit for making a bet.  Tablets have 3 places in the market: a substitute for a laptop, a substitute for a smartphone, or a third device.  Apple’s iPad was clearly a bet on the “third device” and against all my predictions, has hit a home run.  Microsoft had bet for the better laptop case in the past, with … well not so good results.  Dell bets on a better phone with the Streak, even with an AT&T subsidy.  Good try, but I don’t think it will work out.  It is too big to be your only phone.

If you’re going out for dinner it takes up a big chunk of the table and it is not pocketable at all.  You’ll need your phone anywhere you go, but a “cleverphone” is not good enough since you may want to use it as a GPS or look for the restaurant, or all the other things we’re used to do with our phones these days.  So you need a smartphone.  At that point you’re in 3rd device territory so you might as well opt for a 7, 8, 9 or 10 inch display.

Oh well, as much as I wanted to toss my iPhone I will still have to wait for a good Android phone for AT&T.

Enjoy.

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Two Recent Deaths in the Smartphone world. Long Live the Emperor.

July 23, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Within the last couple of weeks two surprising deaths happened in the Smartphone world: Kin and Nexus One (direct from Google); both of whom I had blogged about before here and  here.  Similar to my predictions on tablets, the world has decided to make me look bad.

I can’t say either action is a real surprise, given the success – or lack thereof – of both products, but it begs the question of what the hell is so unique about Apple that makes them so successful?  Both products were reasonably good and both came out with some marketing strength and high hopes, albeit none had Jobs sticking his turtleneck out for.  In fact one can almost say they are truly cleverphones.  Nexus One sold directly by Google lasted a few months but managed to sell more through the carriers than direct.  Kin, on the other hand, didn’t even last enough to hear comments about it.  Microsoft has decided to protect their channel by pulling it out of the market and allowing HTC, Dell, Samsung, and LG who will release Windows 7 Phone Series (gotta love Microsoft’s marketing) devices this year for the “holidays”.

What I think is really happening is that even strong players like these tend to underestimate the power of the wireless carriers.  They own the customer since people buy phones in order to get a service, not the other way around.  Smartphone OEMs have learned the game and have succumbed to the carriers’ will, quite successfully I might add.  The market has turned into a selection of services where you pick a desirable phone for.  In other words, I know I want AT&T, Verizon, Telus, Vodafone, etc.  for whatever reason and then I select my phone.  Nexus One tried to separate it out unsuccessfully, even given the fact that Google didn’t need to make money on the phone!  People still bought the subsidized phone through the carrier in spite of a long term commitment.

Microsoft on the other hand didn’t try to sell direct, but attempted to bypass OEMs, where carriers buy more devices from.  So it is easier for them to add a Windows 7 Phone from HTC to the portfolio they already buy from them.  Besides, Kin was a succession of project “Pink” in which Microsoft had an agreement with Verizon to supply a device.  This contractual agreement forced Microsoft to release Kin with an OS that was not quite Windows 7 Phone.  In addition to that Verizon changed data plans and made the Kin less than attractive cost wise.  Again, a wireless carrier took control of the market.

One can also blame Palm’s near demise (and HP’s gain) on carriers’ acceptance or choice.

Whatever the reasons are, wireless carriers will continue to dominate and control the market.  Granted, both Google and Microsoft have a potentially great future with their mobile OS without their own branded phones as long as they follow the desire of the carriers they sell through.

The only exception so far is Apple.   AT&T has gained millions upon millions of customers that wanted one and were willing to compromise their carrier selection for the privilege of carrying an iPhone.  When Apple opens up to Verizon we’ll most likely see them run back and abandon AT&T.  Apple will churn the base, Verizon will add users, and AT&T will lose them.  Very few new iPhone users, but Apple will continue to sell them new ones.  Will Jobs be open to have an unsubsidized dual system (AT&T and Verizon) iPhone to sell direct so users can declare him his loyalty?  I can see it if AT&T and Verizon decide to create cheaper iPhone plans since they will not subsidize the phone anymore and create a price war.  We’ll see.

But for the time being iPhone remains the only device requested by name and the carriers maintain control over everything else.  For how long?

Enjoy.

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iPad, gPad, or MaxiPad?

May 12, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Well, it seems that the world is ponying up for what I call the third device unlike I had posted before.  Verizon appears to be working closely with Google on a better Pad.  At the same time Google has been posting videos of how Chrome OS will run on a tablet (I like tablet or slate better than pad for obvious reasons).  The thing is “with Verizon” not “supporting Verizon”.    My fellow reader (singular) this could really challenge the emperor’s Pad.

Let me tell you why I think that’s the case:  As lame as the whole category is in this blogger’s humble opinion, an unconnected (i.e. no cellular support) tablet is the lame of the lame.  It brings me back to the 90’s when you had to go home or to your office to get internet access.  Sure, the 3G iPad is about to debut, but @ $600+ i really think the market will be limited.  Now, if our friends in Verizon Wireless agree to pardon the Nexus One debacle and decide to subsidize the gPad, imagine what will that do to the price.  Neither Verizon, nor Google have to make money with the hardware, which really does a job to Jobs (sorry, couldn’t help it).  Estimates of the iPad cost put it at $250 – $300 US, add a 3G (or maybe a 4G – ooooh – radio), we could be seeing a street price in the $400’s.  Still hefty for a useless device, but less than $600+ for the emperor’s Pad (ePad?  now I’m pushing it).

But wait, there’s more!  Chrome Os is the word on the street, not Android.  What that may mean is a real processor capable of Flash (not Flash lite) and real browsing.  Yes, my friend, I believe it will be x86 based which means that every website you can go to on Chrome today – which is virtually any website known to mankind and robotkind – is accessible to your gPad.  Not even Palm’s (future HP’s MaxiPad) running WebOs can do that!  Apps anybody?  Yeah, sure, real apps with Java or the like, not fake widgets that look pixelated.  Content?  Did I mention it is Google?

So there it is.  As much as I hate the category, a subsidized x86 based tablet may be the ticket to ride.  BTW, Adsense must be having a ball with this post!  I’m sure the ads are funny albeit unrelated. Do comment.

Enjoy.

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Ma Bell teaches us a lesson

April 21, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Business, Finances, Technology 

In the shadow of Apple’s kick-butt quarter, AT&T reported results that made the market yawn.  “Yeah, yeah, you sold 2.7 million new iPhones in the quarter, added 1.9 million subscribers for a total of 87 million (1 in every 3.5 US residents uses AT&T), reduced churn, and increased ARPU (average revenue per unit) 3.9%,  and a 30% increase in data revenue; so what?” is essentially what Wall Street said.  I don’t know about you, but a company that still manages these numbers in a market that is essentially 100% penetrated is impressive – sure, a 6%+ dividend helps .  But the really impressive, albeit insignificant number to this humble blogger is the “connected devices” increase of 1.1 million to a total of 5.8 million.

AT&T has close to 6 million non-phone devices on the network.  Now why is that even relevant, my fellow reader (singular)?  Simply because there are a lot more non-phone devices and a lot more things out there that need to be connected than there are phones or people.  Yes, they may not be sexy, play music, browse the web, or even wash your car, but they essentially do everything else.  Beyond the obvious (Kindles, iPads, etc.) these things are everywhere and in desperate need to be connected.

Take your car, for example.  If you have Onstar it’s already connected (not with AT&T) so you know some possible apps.  But imagine a world in which you go to Google Maps, plan a route and squirt it into your car’s GPS!  Or simply download the movie you want your kids to watch from your home DVR.  Your electric meter one day will be connected to so you can monitor your consumption real time (Ok, Ok, i don’t know why would I want to do that either, but you can).  Every thing out there can be connected and can benefit from the internet.  But where things really start changing is with Enterprise Applications.

Next time you receive a FedEx or UPS package go to the web  immediately after you sign for it and voila it says received, in real time because the device where you signed is connected.  The copier service personnel can consult schematics and order parts in real time when his/her machines are connected. Or the copier can ping someone when it’s running out of toner; the end of the  empty copiers or useless service visits.  Making every device a smart device has endless  applications that are starting to look affordable.  Ma Bell’s humble cellular non-phone numbers are starting to show growth.  The ubiquitously  connected world is getting started.  Make sure you are ready for it.

Enjoy.

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Google and Apple Call it Quits.

August 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Technology 

Gapple is no more

It is all over the news that Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, resigned from Apple’s board recently citing “conflict of interests”. Businessweek published an article contrasting the two companies. It highlights the fact that they are still aligned against Microsoft, but their ideologies are vastly different. There are some speculative blogs that tie this resignation to Apple’s removal of Google Voice application from the iPhone store. Although it might have been the proverbial “last straw”, it is hardly the reason. How much conflict was there really and how different are their interests? Google Voice proves the point in a very interesting way.

For those of you who didn’t get the traditional Google “invite” for Google Voice or never heard of its acquisition of Grand Central a couple years back, it may sound weird that a voice app will be so game changing. But Gran Central started with a simple concept: You sign up and then you can manage all your numbers every way you want by writing rules to deal with your all calls. Your boss calls any of your numbers and you decide where and when it rings. Let’s say you want it to your cell only during work hours (you don’t have to tell him/her it is 11 -3). An 800 number calls and you can send a “number canceled” tone so they take you off their list. Your spouse calls? All you numbers ring. Anything else goes to voice mail. And – this is the feature that makes me drool – it is a single voice mail for all your numbers. And, are you ready for this? you get an email with a visual version of your voice mail. Sort it, read it, delete it, whatever you want! No more fiddling around with “6-6-6-4-7” or whatever weird combination of digits you always forget to look for the one important message you know you missed!
Cool, so far, isn’t it? How much will you pay for the convenience of your true Personal Digital Assistant? $20, $50 / month? How about nothing? Sounds like a deal doesn’t it? Not too fast. Being now owned by Google you will expect them to make money. And yes, you guessed it, through advertisement. They recently were awarded a patent in which they claim all sorts of advertisement opportunities: ring-tones, busy signals, call waiting, while you wait for the call to be connected, etc, etc, etc. Although some may be annoying to users, I’m sure Google will not abuse it so you want to turn it off. And that model is where Apple and Google do not see eye to eye.
Apple has made boatloads of money by keeping control over every element of the value chain of their solution. The little (not really little) exception on the iPhone is the cellular carrier. But you’ll have to forgive them (for now) since building worldwide cell networks requires amounts of cash that even Apple cannot pony up. But it is controlled through a tight partnership with, for example in the US AT&T. Apple sells iPhones only to them (again for now) and in exchange the vow not to allow applications that will cause damage to AT&T’s cash cow. As you can imagine, Google Voice is one of those. So Apple pulls it off the App store.
On the other hand, Google is a friend of the open source initiative. They claim (and quite successfully) that openness is the way to go. Allow the best software engineers to produce the best product and improve on it around the world. We will all benefit. Android (Google’s mobile OS) is an example of that. We will soon see lots of new phones using this OS and they will all be slightly different but will share the core (Linux kernel with a Webkit browser) defined by Google but handed over to the industry, source code and all. Chrome OS (which isn’t really an OS either) will follow suit. Google’s model is based on making money by all the information that passes through their cloud (or humongous array of computers).
The core is Google’s mantra and let the best software win. Whereas Apple is end-to-end control since I am really the best. One can draw parallels to the political ideologies of the world and reach unsubstantiated conclusions on what may happen some years after this “wall” has been built. I won’t, just to avoid hurting cult fans in either side of the battle, since I am not sure, my faithful reader (yes singular), which camp are you on.

Enjoy.

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