Mobile miscellany; 14 April
Some updates on a few developing stories in the mobile space.
- First of all, the Palm acquisition. Right now the chaos is only increasing. Mobile consultant Tomi Ahonen gives an excellent overview of all major mobile players and why they would want to acquire Palm — or not. His bet is on Lenovo, with HTC running second.
- See also this piece which pinpoints Palm’s distribution model (or rather lack thereof) as a serious problem. The Sprint-exclusivity in the US was a bad idea.
- Meanwhile, Huawei and Cisco are also mentioned as potential candidates. I myself continue to root for HTC. The Cisco article makes an interesting point: if a Chinese company acquires Palm, Palm employees may vote with their feet and leave the company. The reason is that Chinese companies right now have an aura of non-quality that might hurt whomever buys Palm, as well as the remains of Palm.
- HTC is looking into creating its own OS (Gizmodo, Endgadget, Bloomberg). This is not inconsistent with its interest in Palm; buying an already-existing OS might be cheaper than developing one themselves. HTC senior management is understandably vague about the details.
Eventually, if HTC wants to continue on its chosen path as a high-quality smartphone producer, having their own OS is necessary. Sure, they release Android and Windows Mobile phones, but in the end that leaves them at the mercy of Google and Microsoft. Having their own OS would strengthen their bargaining position relative to the two US giants.
- Announcement #1: Microsoft Kin; two phones that run on a kind of dumbed-down Windows Phone OS. In a long discussion Endgadget mobile watchers weren’t too impressed, and I’ve seen the same arguments cropping up elsewhere.
The problem here is that the new MS Kin phones should not be compared to the iPhone, Android, or other high-level smartphones. They’re not meant to be high-level smartphones. Instead, they aim at a lower segment of the market, which you could call either low-end smartphones or high-end feature phones (these categories start to overlap).
That said, I’m curious about the price of these phones; that’ll give us a serious clue on how Microsoft wants to position them. If they get high-level smartphone pricing, then all criticism of Microsoft is well warranted. If they get low-level smartphone pricing, Microsoft may be on to something.
Besides, what’s wrong with releasing a dumbed-down Windows Phone version first as a kind of an extensive beta test? Remember that the true Windows Phone will appear only in Q4.
The fact that Microsoft is (re-)entering the high-level market with the full-fledged Windows Phone does not preclude them from entering other markets with other phones. We should separate these story threads and judge each of them on its specific merits.
- Announcement #2: Nokia announced three new phones (Mobiledia,
WAP Review) that also seem to be targeted at the low-end smartphone/high-end feature phone segment.
- There’s a common theme in the Microsoft and Nokia announcement: social networks. The big fashion nowadays is releasing phones that have “integrated” social media aggregators that allow users to send anything they do, see, or hear to any social media service they’re subscribed to.
Sure, this is an aspect of mobile that isn’t going away any time soon. Still, I feel that the current attention on this specific aspect of the mobile experience is over the top. I wonder if end users actually want to send everything they do to all their social media channels. I could imagine that people want to send private stuff to private channels, public stuff to public ones, etc.
Then again, I’m not a heavy social media user so I might miss something here. Still, the current behaviour of mobile companies seems more lemming-like than well-thought-out.
- It was already known that iPhone OS 4 wouldn’t run on original iPhones, but now it seems that it won’t run on 3G either. That’s a pity for me personally, because I own a 3G and would like to evaluate OS 4. Won’t work, I’m afraid.
- Finally, Apple’s wager is an interesting read. It starts to answer a question that’s been bugging my mind for a while now: is Apple starting to suffer from imperial overstretch? I mean, I kind of understand Apple’s argument with Adobe, which is escalating into a full war. I also kind of understand Apple’s competition with Google, which is getting nastier and nastier. And there’s the age-old rivalry with Microsoft, which may be re-ignited with Windows Phone (The current strategy of the Apple camp seems to be laughing their asses off. Do I detect a note of worry there? We won’t know until we actually see the Windows Phone.) And don’t forget that most of the rest of the mobile space hates Apple’s guts for barging into the mobile game, claiming a slice of the smartphone market for itself, and especially being so obnoxiously self-righteous and closed about it.
And now Apple also takes absolutely every opportunity to piss off developers.
My point is, is it a good idea for Apple to go to war against several major players and piss off developers all at the same time?
I don’t understand Apple’s strategy here. It might actually be a mistake.
This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer.
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