Sunday, December 13, 2009

Always blame the dumb pipe

I have written many times about the risk for mobile carriers to become dumb pipes. The device manufacturers are all out trying to steal the relationship the carriers built year after year with their customers.

It started with RIM and the Blackberry, then came Apple the iPhone. Nokia with Ovi, Palm with Synergy, Motorola with MOTOBLUR, Sony Ericsson with Rachel and more to come.

The carriers are all fighting back: Vodafone with 360, built on technology they acquired (Zyb), and many others licensing code from third party vendors (many, many carriers, I know for a fact ;-)

I always knew that being a pipe is painful. Your revenues become flat, then they start going down. The brand of the device manufacturer becomes all of a sudden more important than yours. Your users become their users.

However, one thing I did not expect: the carrier being blamed for everything...

This is what is happening these days with at&t and the iPhone. Anything cool about the iPhone is Apple's making. Anything bad with the iPhone is because of the network. It is because of AT&T. They get blamed over and over, with crowds dreaming of a Verizon iPhone (ready to blame Verizon as soon as they take on the device).

This article on the New York Times talks about the AT&T network versus the Verizon one, claiming AT&T is not worst than Verizon. Actually, some of the issues iPhone users are experiencing are just due to the iPhone bad usage of the network.

That does not surprise me. A few weeks back, I put the SIM card linked to my AT&T Blackberry account into my iPhone: a few moments later, I received a call from my AT&T representative asking me not to do that. I asked why, since I believe I am paying the same amount for the iPhone plan and the Blackberry plan. They said the iPhone use of the network is way different and my Blackberry plan does not cover that. No surprise the AT&T network is collapsing...

Who did I blame for the call? AT&T, of course.

Always blame the dumb pipe. After all, they must be dumb because they let the device manufacturers take their users and blame them for anything. Dumb and dumber.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bada starts with bad

Picking a name for a product or a company is not an easy task. When I chose Funambol, I looked for a Latin word starting with Fun, and the concept of tight-rope walking fit perfectly a commercial open source company. I found out later the word can't be pronounced in English or spelled on the phone. Too late, I got stuck with it :-)

Still, I like that Funambol starts with Fun. It brings a good vibe to everything we do.

Today Samsung announced Bada. The name means ocean in Korean. Which is nice. And you can always yell Bada Bing Bada Boom. Which might cheer you up.

But Bada starts with Bad. And there is more to the name.

First of all, it is yet another platform. How many do we need?? Enough already... There is a reason why Funambol decided to acquire an Ajax framework. The future of mobile development is web apps, locally installed with sync and push... We are fed up with any language which is not Javascript+HTML+CSS.

Bada is C++. Developers have had enough of C++, they need something cool to feel their time spent in front of a computer is worth it. I know it is geeky to talk about languages, but Windows Mobile is not going anywhere, also because people like to use Java. And Objective-C is kinda cool.

Then the SDK and IDE are only on Windows. I know, I know. I am an open source guy who does not get that Windows has 92% of the market. It is an obvious choice if you are developing a consumer application (!!!). If you are targeting developers, Linux is much better. Mac OS is much better. Windows is just one choice and most likely not the good one. If you want people to work on your C++ platform, better make an SDK on Linux or Mac fast.

Moreover, they call it "open" but it is not open source. I think we are past SDKs that are not open source. We are past platforms that are not open source. If you are targeting developers, please get yourself in line. We (I have been writing some code lately ;-) do not want to touch proprietary SDKs anymore. Period.

I know users do not understand what open source is and they can't appreciate the benefit of it. But developers do. They see the code. That is what they use to develop. If the code is not open, they go somewhere else.

Lastly, with all written above, there are no phones supporting bada today... Do you really want me to buy a Windows machine to write C++ code on a proprietary platform for a phone that does not exist?



Some days I wonder why Google is the only company in the world getting it right. As evil as they are (and they are, the Google DNS service is the incarnation of evil) they just get it. They get developers. They built a platform around a mobile operating system out of nowhere. They got developer to write Android code before there was a phone. They open source everything (although I do not like the way they keep the development process closed, the code is open and they get by with it). They let you use your tools. Maybe it is just that they are a company built by developers. But they got every device manufacture to adopt it (they sold it to the OEM developers, you know? Not their users...) and they are going to dominate the market next year. Every carriers I talk to is about to deploy Android phones, not one or two, five or ten in 2010...

I am sorry but I feel Samsung does not get it. If they want to lure developers, they better call someone who knows how to do it, or they have a guaranteed failure in front of them. Bada is going to also end with bad.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Somebody better build a sexy Android phone for Europe soon

I was reading an IDC statement the other day about Android in Europe:
Android OS continued to grow its market share from 4.2% in 2Q09 to 5.4% in 3Q09. Several operators listed Android devices in 3Q09 for the first time, which helped Android shipments to grow, though consumers steer clear of Google's OS and sell-out is below everyone's expectations. Consumers recognize the Google brand, but still do not understand what Android is.
Once again, I do not think anyone in Europe buys a phone for what is inside. The fact there is Android in a phone does not matter. Not that much inside the phone matters.

What matters is the outside. It is the look.

Yes, you can claim that with Android you can now take a picture of a book and have the book name show up in a search. And you can do the same with business cards and touristic spots. Or search by voice. Or show your friends augmented reality. That is super cool.

If you are a geek.

Sorry, if you are not a geek looking for a geeky companion, you are not going to score showing off your Android phone. Actually, you better keep it in your pocket.

I am not saying this is true only in Europe. But we Europeans do look at what you wear and at what you carry. You get judged based on the color of your socks (if you are Italian, you know what I am talking about...). Your image is important to you and it is reflected on what you wear and carry (purse or phone, same thing). We Americans (cool to be able to talk about both without taking sides ;-) are not looking at people that way. Not in Silicon Valley, not around the part of the country I have been to. What you do matters a lot more. And if you can find a product by its barcode and save a buck or two, you might even be considered cool. Actually, geek is kinda cool, at least in the Valley (now you know why I moved here 10 years ago :-)

For Android to sell hard in Europe, we need a sexy device. Something that sends out the right message to the people around you (your message). Something that matches your purse, shoes or belt.

I haven't seen one in the market yet. Until there is one, I fear Android will not take off in Europe. However, I guess it is just a matter of time. There are so many device manufacturers on it that we'll probably see one or two in 2010.