Archive for category Mobile
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.
So a couple of days ago I wrote this post about Android and the crippled NFC support that it has. I just saw this
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 …
There have been rumours about Apple including NFC capability in both iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Just to be clear about this, Apple has no choice in the matter if they are to sell a high end device. This is not at all the same as LTE. LTE is a network with is currently under consideration by most mobile operators and some have started running trials. Coverage is bad, the chips are still in their first generation meaning that if you want backwards compatibility you have to include a 2nd chip, and at the end of the day all you get with LTE currently is faster data speeds. That might be great for iPad but is hardly anything for the iPhone. Considering that the coverage is currently horrible and Apple revises hardware annually it is no wonder that LTE is not being considered for the upcoming iteration. Actually it probably won’t be considered for the next one either.
NFC however, has been around for many years. The problem was that noone seemed to care about NFC and various IC manufacturers had their own implementation. Well the smart card manufacturers (mostly of Europe) have come to an agreement and there is an NFC standard and an organization that does nothing but promotes the technology. Various pilots were completed and the response is overwhelmingly positive. Telcos and financial institutions are all onboard and have mostly come to an agreement as to the revenue split and all is about to explode. Apple has no choice other than to include NFC. The 2nd half of 2011 will be marked by multiple operators around the globe releasing NFC enabled SIM cards and devices simply have to be ready for them. The way NFC will go forward is with a SIM embedded NFC application that uses the antenna provided with your phone. Now that most likely does not mean the same antenna as the one you use to connect to the telco but the phone has to be NFC enable too. Apple sells premium devices and the NFC cards will first go to premium users so there is nothing to think about and Apple simply follows the needs of the market.
There is however one issue about NFC that is important. See you don’t have to use NFC only for payments. Yes it is a painfully slow connection and you will not be transferring files over it any time soon. However, cleverly designed applications can use NFC for some quite innovative and cool things. And if Apple wants to have the competitive advantage over Android, they simply have to allow developers full access to NFC. Unlike what Google would like you to believe, there is no issue with security. Payment applications are stored on the SIM itself. What that means is that the only way you can access that data is with the SDK that was used to program the SIM. Well I don’t know much but I know this, you can write SIM programs in a way that noone has access to their data and not only that but most of them are exactly like that. Also data out of the SIM for the payment applications would be encrypted and you cannot decrypt AES on the fly on any mobile that will be released in the next 10-15 years.
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.