A recent BBC piece makes some factually incorrect and outlandish claims about the history of the smartphone. It boggles the mind that an otherwise excellent news organization gets this so wrong. It’s the sort of thing you get when a lazy (or stupid?) journalist appears to us a bad Motorola commercial as their source.
I’ll start this with a confession: I have written and discarded about a half-dozen posts on Bitcoin, but none of them ever seemed “right”. But something else caught my eye in the mean time: a piece on Ars Technica trying to sensationalize an EU investigation into Google’s practices with Android as an “attack on open source”. I’m not sure that the author actually understands antitrust law, even in a casual sense, nor do they seem to know what comprises a predatory practice.
Walt Mossberg at AllThingsD has a review of 3 convertible Windows 8 tablets which is succinct, but makes a subtle point (if you read between the lines): a convertible laptop/tablet is a compromise. None of the devices he reviewed are particularly light or thing. None of them have battery life that approaches the iPad or mainstream Android tablets. And, as we’ve seen from past reviews, Windows 8 doesn’t seem to be a great tablet OS, and the presence of tablet features may have compromised the traditional PC experience. But these convertible tablets beg a bigger question: will consumers change their mind on these things?
Okay, first, never say never. What I’m about to say could turn out to be completely wrong. But I am a big believer of using history as a guide for the future, at least in the general sense. And I am not convinced that either Blackberry 10 or the forthcoming Tizen are going to do anything to unseat Android and iOS as the smartphone platforms of choice (let alone the upcoming Ubuntu for smartphones). And it won’t matter how technically superior either are to the incumbents, and it won’t matter than one (Tizen) is being backed and promoted by the largest manufacturers of smartphones in the world, Samsung. And it certainly doesn’t matter what technologists feel should be the case (read the comments in this Wired article to get an idea of what technologists think about this) You do not disrupt incumbents by building a slightly better variant of what they already make.
I saw an interesting piece on Microsoft trying to woo Apple iOS developers over to Windows Phone. This got me thinking about developer platforms, and how some companies have limited themselves by limiting their development tools. The idea that I’ve been mulling for a while: if you want developers to build for your device, make your tools available to them on the platform they use. What does this mean? If you want iOS developers, you need to make sure your development system is available on OS X. It also applies in other directions.
In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Thorsten Heins admitted that RIM had considered Android to replace the Blackberry operating system. They decided against it because “If you look at other suppliers’ ability to differentiate, there’s very little wiggle room”. On the face of it, that would seem to be a reasonable conclusion. But if you take some time to scratch below the surface of that assessment, it appears that RIM’s leadership may not comprehend the state of the mobile computing industry. It assumes that there is “wiggle room” for new mobile platforms, and ignores just how mature the smartphone is.
One this has become clear: for about a year now, Android and iOS have commanded the vast majority of the mobile operating system space, at least in smartphones. Together they have made up 85% or more of the mobile space. While their overall gains on the market have slowed, they continue to pile up the installed base and more and more people have chosen them over the “also-rans” of Windows Phone, Blackberry and Bada, and the orphans Symbian, WebOS and Windows Mobile. There are many that are saying “wait, the game is still young” and that other systems will show up to give the top two competition. While obviously you should never say never, I will say that the odds of displacing either iOS, Android or both from the top of the mobile heap are so incredibly long they might as well be zero. As I pointed out in a previous post, the only way to really disrupt them is to change the game. Okay, so why don’t I believe that Blackberry 10, the upgraded Windows Phone, Tizen or the forthcoming Firefox OS will displace the incumbents?