Archive for category Android

On Flawed Market Research

There is a particular report that was recently released and has been heavily promoted through various publications. What I am referring to is a report by Strategy Analytics in which they claim that apparently Android has well over 30% of the tablet market because of some numbers that they collected. This post is not a rant about how iPad has a lot more than 65% of the market. Arguing about that is just silly. What this is about is how most companies collect statistics on business performance without even considering what it is that they are counting. Don’t get me wrong, it is not an easy problem and it’s made even harder by the fact that most MR companies offer relatively low salaries compared to actual consultancy jobs and hence they get employees with sometimes poor understanding of business. What blows my mind about some companies however, is that senior executives in those companies such as Neil Mawston don’t know any better and actually stand by crap like this. Oh and before I go any further I don’t know Neil and I am most certainly not associated with Strategy Analytics and never have been.

Here is the problem guys, you have collected shipment numbers for Android devices from manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, etc. and then compared them to actual sales numbers from Apple. In a stable (read mature) market that might be ok because you can use some reasonable assumptions for inventory levels. The problem here however, is that none of the Android table manufacturers know how much they are going to sell. They are manufacturers and not retailers and the numbers that you get from them are projections of shipments based on orders that they have received or expect to receive. Well I’m here to tell you that orders get cancelled if a device does not sell well and they most certainly get scaled down. And all that is OK with the Asian manufacturers because they are used to getting stuck with unsold products. If recent months are any indication, Android manufacturers have grossly overestimated their own importance on the market. There is a clear lack of understanding the stages of product competition if you will and they have all of a sudden decided that it’s all down to competition of price when clearly the features stage hasn’t been passed. But back to the MR problem, you cannot compare retail numbers (Apple’s) with manufacturer shipment numbers (Android squad) in a growing market such as the tablet one. You have no point of reference for the growth curve of the market and trying to predict it is nothing more than an exercise in time wasting. Furthermore, without knowing what the market growth curve is, you cannot predict the difference between products being shipped and products being sold. What that leads to is an unpredictable level of inventory and any forecasts based on data like that would be extremely unreliable. Further more Mr. Mawston I very much doubt that you have any reliable information on the inventory levels that Apple keeps. In fact I know for a fact that your assumptions are wrong and also that Apple requires you to sign an NDA before they show you any performance numbers. So conclusions like “Android captured [a] 30% share of global tablet shipments in Q2 2011,” are laughable at best. Please do you damn homework and for the love of God take some MR courses if you must. I don’t know how you got to be at the position that you are at but I really feel sorry for the people that have to work under you.
Yes, a manager does not have to be the smartest person in the team, in fact you have a problem if he/she is, but a manager most definitely needs to know his/her stuff and you Sir do not!

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Recap of MWC 2011

I’ve been away for a week or so. I went to Mobile World Congress and I just needed a long weekend after that. There have been a lot of in the press about the event however, it seems like quite a few things got missed.

Nokia adopting Windows Phone 7 pretty much overshadowed everything else. I had the chance to attend the Nokia analyst event on Monday morning so here is what was not covered in the press. Nokia is adopting WP7 because they desperately need to reduce OPEX. Effectively what this means is that Nokia is content with the idea that they are never going to be as big as they were. The gold days are over and now they have to scavenge whatever is left from the wrecked ship. There are no talks about expanding market share. It is all about stopping the decline and maybe retaining the existing market share. Windows is being adopted because it reduces OPEX and because as it is, turning Symbian in to a smart phone OS would take too much money. I personally doubt very much that that is the case but that’s just me. For me, Nokia is chopping off their nose to spice up their face but hey we’ll see how it works out for them.
A lot of people are upset that Nokia did not pick Android but here are the facts about Android. Motorola aside, Android is the OS of the Far East. East Asian OEMs are the ones selling Android phones and Nokia cannot compete with any of them when it gets to OPEX. They desperately had to get out of that market and despite what WSJ says Android was actually never close to adoption. A statement like that seems uneducated and overly enthusiastic.

Here is the ugly side of the deal. Nokia is giving up Ovi maps. Yes Ovi Maps never brought the company any direct sales but it was one of the selling points for Nokia phones for years. Nokia has agreed to give the Ovi maps content to the Bing so now certain, or all Bing content will be powered by Ovi maps. It is not clear at the moment, but the difference might be that Ovi maps run from the phone on Nokia and off the web with other phones, but essentially they are the same maps. However, given the tone of the analyst briefing, Nokia Windows phones will be very very similar to any other WP7 phone and more likely than not, they all will have the same version of Bing Maps. It was not discussed why Nokia chose to give up so much, but there were talks about supposed revenue sharing with MS.

Symbian is not going anywhere. It will stay on smartphones (low end ones) until Nokia and MS figure out a way to put WP7 on them. Symbian will also power all the feature phones for as long as they exist.

RIM was a complete disappointment. No new phones and nothing to show so they rented out their own booth to software providers. Oh and the tablet is an utter disappointment. It has a small screen and apparently the whole interface was written in Flash. Really Flash! It runs OK and they were showing off some games, but the device is strictly consumer oriented. I don’t care what the press says, this is not a corporate device unlike iPad. I was amazed to see so many people at WMC using iPads actually. Looking back, it is a bit like when mobile phones hit the streets. Almost everyone had one and it was the same with iPads.

HP had a very nice demonstration of devices. WebOS is truly great but I am not sure if it can make it. There are simply too many competitors. Oh and HP has skipped NFC … what were you thinking. The touchstone does not use NFC but rather a proprietary standard, as if we needed another.
But to be fare the devices are nice and I hope HP gets to release them soon.

All the new Android devices are absolutely pitiful. The interface is slow and when you consider that they are running crazy fast chips compared to my iPhone 3GS it makes them look even slower. Also the new LG phones kept locking up constantly and there is no way in hell that I am buying a device like that. 3D displays are mostly a gimmick unless you have one of the Sharp phones that Docomo sells. Those actually work well.

Overall there was a bit of a confusion over NFC and we got a lot of conflicting statements. It seems like operators and suppliers of NFC chips cannot make up their mind whether embedded NFC is a good or a bad thing. But this will sort itself out by next year.

What was really amazing is to see small software developers being represented at MWC. You have 5 man outfits churning huge profits and being able to afford the entrance fee and this is simply unheard of in an industry that is basically pinching pennies. That said, Huawai was spending money like it was the end of days. By the looks of it. it was the company with the biggest show budget and this is hardly an exaggeration. But then again when you pay hardly anything to most of your workers and expect then to work well over 12 hours a day you can afford to splurge every once in a while.

Oh yeah Qualcomm had a little show and tell about Mirasol … unfortunately the portable light was dead but that was hardly the only problem. The demo was basically a video running in a loop and was exactly the same as the last one we saw. Yes the device is light and thin but Mirasol displays are like the display on my sister’s truly ancient GBA. Only when Nintendo released GBA, expectations were a lot lower and we both didn’t care that an addon light was needed to play it in the dark. No offence to Qualcomm but the market for a Mirasol display is shrinking very fast. But you never know. Maybe Amazon can make it a success despite the small size.

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Why Android’s team still doesn’t get it

Ok bare with me here. Android’s market share is growing very fast and yes I know it is quite popular but it is heading for a very rough reality check. The main reason why the market share is growing so fast has nothing to do with superior technology or great ideas. It has only to do with Android being better than the Symbian and Windows phones that it replaced and with the large number of East Asian manufacturers that are involved. For those it is indeed an improvement however, Google seems to believe that they are actually competing with Apple and they most definitely are not. They have never taken any significant number of iPhone users and there is a very good reason why as it stands they can never compete with Apple.

Yes, Android has a great promise and it is a good OS however, they have a huge problem and it comes in the face of Google Checkout. No offence to the Checkout team but it is the stupidest payment system ever. It has no recognition for the fact that you are selling to a global market and you have to use different currencies. If you have to use your bank to pay in a different currency then you will get hit by some massive charges and you cannot sell cheap goods like that. And if Google will be nothing than an advertising agency then why do they take 30% off your profits? Quite frankly Apple gives you a lot more for your money and it is no surprise that developers make more money there. You can release an application and sell it to everyone in their currency and you do not penalise them for living in a different country. Effectively there is no artificial barrier for the customer making the sale very easy.
And while Google might focus on technological improvements, at the end of the day they still make money from something else and since Google is not willing to pick up the slack you can bet that others will. There is an Amazon Market place which most definitely does currency conversion in the countries that Amazon exists and there are other coming out. Google is in fact in danger of being pushed out of their own operating system and that is just sad. I actually amazes me how business inapt the Android team is and how the crazy corporate policy that Google has is eating into their profits. I get it Google never uses services that compete directly with their own but when yours are clearly lacking you have to do something about it. Google needs to recognize that Android is no longer a pet project and is actually the future for Google. If you can’t fix Google Checkout please do everyone a favour and hire some financial gurus and please DO LISTEN to what they say. Otherwise Android is going to hit the glass ceiling a lot sooner. At the current rate I personally think that Android adoption rate will peak in 2012 and I don’t even think that it’ll be a flat line from there on.They will have to deal with disappointed customers and disillusioned developers and that does not equal a flat line.

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Android’s Approach to NFC (part 2)

So a couple of days ago I wrote this post about Android and the crippled NFC support that it has. I just saw this

link to article

So apparently it is just the current iteration of Android that has limited support for NFC and the long term plan is to enable full access to the NFC controller. That is all great news but still I think that Google should have first finished their development and then released the support rather than releasing what I consider an Alpha version. I mean come one this is not even a feature complete implementation and while NFC is still a bit of vaporware Google should know better than this. Beta’s are acceptable for user space applications but you DO NOT release a work in progress SDK. Makes you wonder if this is not even feature complete release how much testing actually went into things like stability and security …

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Android’s Bizarre NFC Support

Android has been the mobile OS to embrace new standards and for the past year it seems like they were on the bleeding edge and were offering features that Apple and other were either choosing to ignore or simply haven’t gotten around to just yet. Unfortunately, Google seems to be dropping the ball this time around.
Regardless of what you have heard, NFC will be the biggest thin in telecoms in 2011 and especially during the 2nd half of the year. Yes LTE is important and makes the news every day but it is still years away. Operators are massively gearing up towards NFC adoption and so are banks and handset manufacturers. Bottom line is NFC will finally make it and deliver on it’s promise. Unfortunately for Android, Google has chosen to only implement a crippled version of the new protocol. I was watching a video of one of the developers talking about Nexus S last night, yeah I know old news, and he said that you can ONLY read NFC tags with Nexus S. You cannot send information from the phone and other devices cannot read information sent from your phone. I thought that is a bit of an oversight considering that NFC can indeed be used for so much more than a glorified bar code scanner so I looked up the developer documentations. Sure enough, the Android SDK actually only allows you to read NFC messages and you cannot send them.
I don’t know what Google’s reasoning for this is, but this effectively leaves the NFC field open for Apple, RIM, and Nokia and believe me, at least one of them will use NFC for a lot more than just reading tags.

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