Google and Apple Call it Quits.

August 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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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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Blackberry running out of juice?

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Technology 

Blackberry 957

Research in Motion, responsible for those of us “thumb-typing” all day long and undoubtedly king of the smart phone market announced quarterly results today. Impressive!! They beat analyst estimates again. Yet, the stock traded at some point after hours almost 10% below yesterday’s close (it has then recovered all but the last 2% or so). Is the Blackberry is running out of juice (I hate puns!) at last?

People buy things because of the things these things do (whaaat?). Applications are what sell devices, not the devices themselves. Sure a sexier iPhone will sell better than an ugly one but first and foremost you have to want to do what the iPhone does before you consider it.

Continue …

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The battle for the Smart Phone is on!

June 14, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Technology 

Palm-Pre

The industry seems desperate to find an alternative to the iPhone so far with no success. Palm (the inventor of the category in a way) launched last week the “pre” a successor to the “pro” (pretty creative naming) that is supposed to be what we’re all been waiting for. Based on what Palm calls WebOS (do not try to pronounce it in Spanish) which is really a WebKit browser on top of a Linux kernel. It is to me just another “clever phone”, pretty well designed, but just a follow up.

The phone looks promising with a full touch screen, a sliding qwerty keyboard, a well thought out user interface and a great webkit browser. It is really an adequate challenger to the iPhone’s kingdom. The problem is the partner carrier. Sprint has been losing customers since the Nextel acquisition (at the tune of 300K/month at some point!) that did not go well at all. It has the worst coverage in the US and the least amount of international carrier partnerships. It has put all its eggs in the 4G JV with Clearwire and has not invested enough in the mundane 3 or 3.5G. If it wasn’t enough, the Pre is built on the CDMA technology, which is great, but very few carriers in the world support it. One will hope they thought about it and they are cranking an HSPA version as we speak for AT&T and most of the world. Better yet, a dual mode (like the Blackberry Storm) that supports both technologies in the same device. But for the Pre to stand a chance, it needs to find other carriers pronto.

The battle for the smart phone kingdom currently dominated by Research in Motion (aka RIM) the creator of the Blackberry with the most successful lineup in the industry that seems to yet unchallenged (yeah even by the iPhone). The interesting thing is that Windows Mobile (WM), the first mobile OS with (sort of) a real mobile browser after WEP is falling behind, way, way behind. LG, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, and others serve up WM phone of varying success but no where near what RIM has been able to accomplish. When in 2006 there were twice as many WM phones shipped than any other smart phone.

Now, there is still the battle of the App Stores where Apple has an apparently unbeatable lead. Palm has not announced its store yet (as RIM has) but the Pre is iTunes compatible…weird thing. Is it a play for the true alternative to the iPhone or is it something else like someone getting ready to buy Palm? Who knows. But in any case, Nokia failed miserably with its store, RIM’s success is yet to be seen, and Windows’ App store, well …, will be Windows: late and not so impressive.

This battle brings memories of the glorious days of the RAZR, where everybody had one but Moto still sold 100M phones until it fell off a cliff with no true follow up. Will the iPhone follow the same fate? and the Pre, HTC-magic, G2, Moto-Q, STORM, Dare, and all sorts of weird unimaginative names – all probably registered trademarks – being the “me too’s” will also fall into oblivion soon? Check out a great comparison here.

A real mobile internet is what is needed. Check my other post What’s next after the iPhone and tell me what you think.

Enjoy.

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Is there still room for a landline?

April 7, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Technology 
Image rights belong to the Science Museum Library, UK.

Image rights belong to the Science Museum Library, UK.

 

We may feel nostalgia for out traditional telephone lines or what the industry calls POTS (Plain old telephone system) but is the world still in need for something so 20th century? Every year millions of landlines are being canceled in the US and Western Europe and in some places in the developing world they were never even installed.  It seems that the world is doing away with wires in lieu of wireless or cellular telephony.  Vonage and other VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) providers have  given a bit more life to the traditional telephone but in some places cellular is the only phone.  Why hasn’t it totally moved over?

For a home installation the phone is supposed to ring throughout the house so you can pick it up wherever you are.  The traditional telephone industry came up with cordless to cut the wire, but it still rings in multiple places.  The VoIP providers created the little boxes that you plug into you wall phone jack to “transform” your phone wires into VoIP phone wires.  This way all your phones ring with a single number and you can still hook up things like your alarm, answering machine (not sure why you still want that), a fax machine (ditto), modem (seriously?), etc.  But the cellular providers have not done the same.  Think about it.  For example in the US if you have AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint and you are on a family plan, you can add a line for $10 / month and all your calls within all numbers in the plan will be free (well, actually included) plus every call you make to at least 40 million people (within the network) or 70 million + 10 chosen are also included.    So why nobody has come up with a little cellular box that you plug into your home phone wiring to make your home number another number of your family plan?  If you can get a free phone from any of these providers you have to imagine that someone can build this little box.  This “box” will make your home phone work like you’re used to.  Why haven’t they done it is a mystery.

Verizon has been advertising The Hub.  Essentially a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone not too different from your Vonage box with an attached cordless handset.  It has the additional advantage of making it part of your Verizon family plan for “only” $35/ month plus a $200 entry fee.  Sure it does things like the Chaperon feature that allows you to monitor where your kids are, it has a message center, picture sharing, etc.  But when you can get the phone service for only $10 / month you’ll have to question yourself.  Furthermore, you could use your internet service to duplicate the hub’s features if your provider gave you the app.  It hardly looks like a useful device.

So AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or any other provider ask one of your suppliers to do “the box” so I can do away with my home phone. Give it to me for free, create an app over the internet that I can use to send messages and manage my accounts and you will make it a lot more difficult for me to move to a different network.  Well, at least until they offer me the “box” and a free year of DirecTV.

For enterprises, though it is even more puzzling.  Why do PBXs still exist?  We all carry cellphones, don’t we?  Can enterprises outsource their telephony services to a cellular provider the same way they outsourced their shipping needs to UPS, FedEx or DHL?  But this is a topic for a future post. Enjoy.

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