Friday, December 09, 2011

HP dumps WebOS in the open source trash can

Hey, this should be a day to celebrate for me. I wrote a post 18 months ago titled "Why HP should open source WebOS" and it finally happened. They did it.

Yay, right?


When I wrote that post, HP had just acquired Palm. Android was not as big as it is today (not even close). The time was perfect. It was a phenomenal opportunity for HP.

Let me pick a statement from that post:
My suggestion on WebOS is easy: open source it. Fast. If there is one thing I believe Palm did wrong, it was following the Apple model. Keep it closed and you die, unless you are ahead of everyone and big.
I still agree with myself (which is good, I guess).  The "keep it closed and you die" sentence, in particular ;-) HP did not open source WebOS. And, therefore, they killed it.

Throwing something which is dead in the open source trash can does not revive it. Try throwing a dead body in a trash can (after asking Siri where to find one) and let me know.

Open source is not the panacea. Or the emergency room. You can't expect the magic to happen, just because you threw some code out. It does not.

Open source is a lot more than that. It is a community. People who believe on a common mission, with common interests. It is changing the world together.

I know, I am too romantic. Tell my wife. But it is true, even for Android, even when there is a giant behind a project. You get people excited to participate, only if there is a reason, a mission, a common goal.

What is the common goal on WebOS being open source? I have no idea.

Opensourcing WebOS was the right thing to do 18 months ago. Now it is useless. It is an excuse not to say "we screwed up and we killed it".

It is simply too late. RIP WebOS.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The tipping point: Android won

I know we all love Apple. I know you do not see many Androids in the hands of pundits in Silicon Valley. I know you like to think different. Still, Android keeps taking market share away from everyone. And iOS market share is shrinking.

Look at today's data from Gartner:

You are reading it right: Android has now more than 50% of the market, while iOS has less market share than a year ago. Android keeps growing, quarter after quarter. Apple will grow this quarter for sure, because of the iPhone 4S, but Android is going to grow faster.

There is a moment where you realize a team has won, that it has taken an insurmountable lead. That moment is now. Android has passed 50%. There is no way back. It is the tipping point.

Let me brag a little: I told you so :-) Mobile Open Source wins.

All those that claim that Android is not really open source, please click here. See, Google has just released the source code of Android 4.0 (ICS or Ice Cream Sandwich). I know, there is no steering committee blah blah. However, can you negate how powerful open source has been for Android (and Google)?

Look at the tablet world. Amazon has just launched the Kindle Fire. No help from Google whatsoever. It is open source at its best. You can even take other APKs and install them on it. If you ask me, I am ready to bet that the Kindle Fire (with its younger brothers) is going to be the most popular tablet ever, even passing the iPad eventually.

Fragmentation is innovation. Open source is pushing the limit of mobile, making it better and more interesting. More, it is an open world, where the OS moves around, and apps move around. Add an open cloud, where data will move freely, and we will have a perfect world (we are far from it, but there is room to fight).

To me, the game is over. Android is dominating. The next player is so far behind, and it will not catch up. Android won.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WARNING: do not use iCloud while drunk

I have been carefully listening to the feedback on iCloud in the last few days, and I have to say it is underwhelming. I keep hearing people bitching about it: it is not much different than the last time they launched MobileMe.

Of all the comments, one stood out.

If you take a picture on your iPhone, it shows up automagically in Photo Stream and it is synced right away to your other devices. In most cases, that means an iPad sitting on the couch. Cool.

One little feature Apple forgot to add: delete.

Yep, if you take a picture on your iPhone, it gets automatically synced to your iPad. And you cannot delete it from Photo Stream. Ever.

Now, let me imagine an unlikely scenario (also known as a use-case): you are out drinking, you drink too much, you snap a picture you should not take. You wake up the next morning with a hangover. You remember you did something the night before (not sure what, though...), you check your pictures for confirmation and there it is, the picture you do not want anyone to see... You delete it and go on with your life. You are allowed a crazy night once in a while, right? Nobody will found out, anyway.


You get home the next night, your daughter is playing Cut the Rope on your iPad (remember, it is a shared device in any household...), she opens up Photo Stream, sees your picture and hands it over to your spouse with a "mom, look at this picture of daddy!!"...

Ooppps. Didn't you delete it? Yes, you did. But only from your iPhone. You cannot delete it from Photo Stream. It will be there to haunt you on the friend's couch you are sleeping on tonight.

If you want to use iCloud, make sure you are sober.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

Apple cannot build a better iPhone

I admit it: I was wrong. A few days ago I wrote:
First of all, there will be an iPhone 5. I know some of you are thinking "doh", but there are rumors that Apple will actually launch an iPhone 4s instead. I do not think so. There is too much competition, they have to move the number up, whatever they ship. They just cannot give the world the impression that the iPhone platform is not moving, that Apple is not innovating, that Steve Jobs is gone and therefore the company is screwed. They have to ship an iPhone 5, even if it is just the iPhone 4 in pink.
To be fair, I was right on the reaction to the lack of an iPhone with a new number: the analysts, the media, everyone was disappointed. The stock tanked after the event. Everyone is convinced this is a window of opportunity for Nokia (I bet there was a lot of alcohol flowing in Finland last night, knowing the Finns), RIM (stock is up 12% today...), Samsung and the like.

Now, I have been thinking about the "why" since yesterday. Why did they not ship an iPhone 5, improving on the case and the form factor? Why? Why?

They did open a window for the competition, there is no doubt about it. Whatever is inside the device does not change it (Siri being the coolest thing after ice cream). They could have killed Windows Mobile 7. They could have finished BlackBerry. They could have challenged Android for real, stopping their growth (and not just trying to play the price game with the 3GS still alive).

Instead, they did not do it. But Tim Cook is no dumb... Sure, having the same case will make logistics better, probably even increase margins. Now why?

The easiest answer is: arrogance. Hubris is what kills companies, and Netflix is giving us a good example of it. Apple maybe thought they were so ahead of the competition, that the world loves them so much that they could have the luxury of slowing down. Something like: "you know, we kept the iPhone 4 in the market for 18 months and it is the best selling device, another year would not make a difference: we are the best and we win anyway".

I just do not buy it. You finally become CEO of the coolest company on earth and - at your first event - you disappoint? You make your stock go down? You make everyone say "aahh, when Steve Jobs was here..." or "this looks like Microsoft when Bill Gates left"??

No, no, no. I do not buy it.

I have a different theory: they just could not make it. They looked around at ideas, like the teardrop design. But it did not make any sense in landscape mode. They looked around for new materials, but they just could not find anything better than what they had built.

Simple said: the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone factor there is. You cannot make it better. It is the best shape, it has the perfect dimensions to hold it in your hand, the buttons are where they are supposed to be. You cannot improve it.

I believe we have reached the top of the form factor in smartphones. Apple is telling us this is the case. Period.

The game now is inside. It is the software, and the stuff around it to make it faster. It is the cloud. It is the personal assistant and the voice recognition. The outside is not going to change, all smartphones will look alike. Same for the tablet world. Forget the outside, it really does not matter anymore. Apple knows it, and they are delivering on the inside and the cloud.

It is that simple.

The form factor is dead. It is not a factor anymore.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Siri and the evolution of crazy

As you might know, I grew up in a mental institution. Yep, it explains a lot of things. Anyway, my parents were both shrinks and it was convenient for them. It was great for me too, because I learned to see things a bit differently.

Who was crazy back then?

Think about it. It was a person who talks to himself in the middle of the road, like she is having a conversation with an imaginary other person.

What about now?

You still have people walking down the street and talking loudly to themselves. The difference is that they are actually talking to a real person. They have a Bluetooth headset you cannot even see, and they talk loudly. Nobody around them cares about what they are saying, everyone around is just annoyed.

We moved from reacting to crazy people with a smile, to being annoyed. Sad.

What is going to happen next?

Well, Apple just announced Siri. It is a personal assistant for the iPhone. You tell her things like "remember to call my wife when I leave work" or "please wake me up tomorrow at 8 am" or "how do I get home?". She replies with the perfect answer, assuming you do not have an accent (I am eager to try it, of course ;-)

The next crazy person is going to be someone in the middle of the road, yelling to a phone. Not having a conversation with someone else, real or virtual. Yelling to a little piece of plastic. Swearing like a sailor "F***ing Siri!! Do you understand what I am saying??". Not even a Bluetooth headset in sight.

The evolution of crazy. No way to tell them apart.

Monday, October 03, 2011

iPhone 5 predictions

UPDATE with scorecard
  • faster, better screen, better camera (that was easy)
  • no teardrop design (many were betting on it, I got this one right)
  • Siri is indeed spectacular
  • they kept an iPhone 4 and even 3GS for the low end 
  • the cloud was all over the presentation
  • no Iphone 5: wow, I got this one badly wrong. Apple must be feeling really comfortable against Android and Windows. Or they have an iPhone 5 coming up very soon. Or they have no clue on how to make that device better: it is all inside...
Considering I missed the number on the device, I would give myself a 5 out of 10. The real big news was the absence of an iPhone 5, really. The rest was kinda easy.

If you live in Silicon Valley and you work in mobile, you have to play this game: what is Apple going to present tomorrow at their live event?
I play it every year, sometimes twice in a single year. I win some, I lose some. Actually, even when I win, nobody gives me a prize, so it does not make any difference.

Now, what about tomorrow, the launch of the iPhone 5?

First of all, there will be an iPhone 5. I know some of you are thinking "doh", but there are rumors that Apple will actually launch an iPhone 4s instead. I do not think so. There is too much competition, they have to move the number up, whatever they ship. They just cannot give the world the impression that the iPhone platform is not moving, that Apple is not innovating, that Steve Jobs is gone and therefore the company is screwed. They have to ship an iPhone 5, even if it is just the iPhone 4 in pink.

Actually, I do not think it is going to be pink. Just with a bigger screen and a great camera. The best screen out there. The best camera out there. Super light. Very fast. No frills and no teardrop design (this is my biggest bet, I do not believe a teardrop design would fit well in landscape mode, so I do not think they will go for it).

I believe they will go nuts around voice recognition. The event is called "Let's talk iPhone", so - in my opinion - the big message will be around voice recognition. They will sell it as the best thing that happen to a device after Star Trek (whatever that is, you know my love for sci-fi...). If you recall, Apple bought Siri over a year ago.

I am expecting something spectacular, a lot better than what I have today with Google (which is already pretty good, even with my accent). I am expecting you could just look at the new iPhone, talk and it will do pretty much everything you want. Speaking with your normal voice, giving commands with casual sentences and creating a wow effect in the audience (BTW, Windows Mobile is built on a very powerful voice technology but nobody gives a damn, because it is Microsoft. We are talking Apple here, so it will be the best thing after the invention of the wheel).

What else? I think they will have an iPhone 4 or 4S, a low-end phone. 8GB, cramped down features, old look&feel. Perfect for emerging markets (finally entering India) and the low-end of the market in many places. It is not much a tool to attack the Android market, but more to defend and make sure Android does not take the entire bottom part of the pie: those who will buy a low-end Android now, will end up buying an high-end Android later. Apple needs to make sure they get on the iOS bandwagon instead, to move them up the chain later (to a powerful iPhone, iPad, AppleTV and a Mac).

Lastly, the cloud will be all over the place. It is the official launch of iCloud and they will make sure everyone understands why it is going to change everything we do.

Here you have it. My predictions.

One last thing: I do not think Steve Jobs will show up.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Open Source and the Kindle Fire

When I started this blog what seems a gazillion years ago, I had a feeling that open source would become a dominant force in mobile. I was absolutely convinced that it would do better in mobile than in the PC world. That it would be the winning model.

Most of the people out there disagreed with me (not a big deal, I am used to it ;-)

They said mobile and open source together would not work. That this market was too closed. That the carriers would not allow any openness. That the wall gardens were too high...

It turned out to be false, and the walls came down tumbling faster than anyone expected.

Then it came Apple and they said it is going to be the winning model. It is closed, no open source allowed. They said open source was not going to make it. Again.

It turned out to be false, because Google made Android open source and it became the fastest growing OS of all time, passing Apple at a speed nobody expected.

Now look at where we are today. I have been bullish on the Kindle Fire even before it was born. Actually, compared to that post, now that we know the price is $199 (instead of $249), I am even more bullish. I am more convinced than I was before that Amazon is going to be the biggest competitor for Apple in the space (and no, I do not believe the Fire will kill the iPad, they will live happily together for a while).

How did Amazon managed to challenge Apple in such a short time?

Open Source.

Think about it. Amazon took an open source mobile operating system (Android), forked it, changed the UI a little and added a few apps. With that, it is going to build the most successful tablet of our times (my prediction, we'll see how it goes).

There was no chance for Amazon to do the same without open source. It gave them speed and time-to-market. It gave them a stable and high-quality platform. The ability to compete and innovate. And maybe the biggest advantage of all: an enormous development community. All things we always said open source would bring to the table, making a huge difference.

The Kindle Fire is yet-another demonstration of the power of open source. The innovation is not going to stop here. Expect even greater things in the future. With the market moving towards HTML5 and the open web, we'll be talking about the dominance of open source and openness again and again.

And yes, open source in mobile is doing way better than in the PC world. And yes, it is clearly showing to be the winning model. I should close this blog now that I am peaking :-))

Monday, September 26, 2011

When Facebook split from Twitter

I am sure you know about Facebook Timeline and the idea behind it: the history of your entire life in Facebook will be exposed. A great way to see what you did last year, a very risky proposition for people that change girlfriend or boyfriend: your new girlfriend will be able to go back in time and see what you wrote about your old girlfriend. It should be a lot of fun...

The change seems small, since it is just your profile who got larger (and you probably could get that information anyway, clicking on Older Posts). However, I believe the change in paradigm is massive.

Twitter has always been about NOW. Instant flow of messages. Anything older than a few seconds is history.

Despite actually having a memory (I am sure Twitter has every tweet you ever did), the way it is built and presented makes history irrelevant for a user (not for Twitter, that is gold). You can write pretty much what you want, and you know it will soon be forgotten.

Knowing a site has no memory - or shows no memory - makes the interaction completely different. More casual. You write things right in the moment. You do not think what you are doing is written in stone and will be there forever to haunt you one day.

Facebook had nothing like Twitter at the beginning. When Twitter became hot, they added status updates. It became like Twitter, but just for "friends". Then they added a public option (not the Obamacare one), mostly to follow Google+ (yep, they are smart, copying smart ideas is being smart) so it matched Twitter perfectly.

Then they added Timeline.

No actual changes anywhere in the site, just in your profile. You can post a public story, and it is like Twitter.

However, it is Twitter with a memory. A visible one. A searchable one. Not just by you, by anyone who knows you. Or will eventually know you in the future.

The change is dramatic. When you post in Facebook, you are now conscious of it. I am not talking about you geeks, I know you knew it. I know you were aware anything you did was permanent. You know what a database is and how to retrieve anything with a SQL statement. I am talking about the rest of us, the other 99.9999%, the real people.

They thought Facebook was like Twitter. They thought Facebook had no memory. They now have a visible confirmation it is not like that. Facebook has memory. You should not post anything assuming it will disappear with time. It is so clear, so obvious. Every single Facebook user will know it. And they will think one or two seconds more about what they are about to post.

Facebook and Twitter are now miles apart.

I am not sure this is going to be that good for Facebook. Having users worrying about posting might not be such a great idea. We'll see. I sure am glad that I always treated Facebook exactly like Twitter ;-)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook wants your entire life

I have played with Timeline for a few hours and I have to admit: it is great. You can see all the posts you made (they call them "stories" now ;-), the picture you posted (storied?), what others have posted tagging you and so on. It is great looking, and you can choose what you want to hide, because it is your public profile (although people will see just the things you want them to see).

It goes back to the day you signed up on Facebook. Surprised? You thought they would throw away all that gold, didn't you? Nope ;-)

Actually, it goes back one step more. To your birthdate.

Yes, they added a little space to fill up the info you did not yet put on Facebook. The picture of your birth, your graduation, your wedding...

Your life.

Facebook wants your entire life on their site.

It is not surprising to me. We are in the same space. We call it Personal Cloud. It is where you store your life. Where you record what you did. It is the modern version of your photo book, just a lot more interactive (and with comments of other people embedded).

What Facebook wants you to do is to start uploading personal stuff. Things that are private. That you are not going to share with anyone. Have you noticed you now can post a story visible to "Only me"?

Actually, they want you to upload everything. Better if you share (it increases engagement on the site), but it is ok if you do not. As long as you upload everything.

A site that has your entire life is the stickiest thing you will ever touch. It will own you. You will not be able to leave it. Right now, people are leaving Facebook. If it is just "social", it might pass. If it is your life, it is going to stay. Facebook is you. You are Facebook.

My problem with this idea is trust.

I read an article this morning. It went like this:
“You can really put a lot more of your life into Facebook,” says Dave Morin. And all of that is information that Facebook will store and potentially make use of. “Our primary business model and it always will be, is advertising,”
Clever move by the writer to put together in a paragraph "your life" and "advertising" :-)

It highlights my problem with Facebook. I am all in favor of a place where to store my entire life. I need it, my digital life is out of control, I need to take charge of it. However, I want to put my life in the hands of someone I trust.

That someone is not Facebook. It can't be Facebook. Nothing to do with their ethics. It has to do with their business model. They make money on my data. My life. I cannot trust them. Period.

Still, I am going to use Timeline. For my public stuff. My private life will go somewhere else.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Amazon is the real Apple competitor

I have always perceived Amazon as a threat for Apple. After all, they have a mobile device which is kind of a tablet (Kindle) and a bunch of cloud services. Still, they never felt close, mostly because they have always focused on a niche (books).

Everything is about to change: Amazon is about to release a 7-inch touchscreen Android tablet, a direct challenge to the iPad.

Why do I think this will be huge?

Here you have the first eight things that come to mind:

1. Amazon is the most valuable and trusted brand online. The cloud, which goes hand-to-hand with mobile devices, is a place where trust is everything. In particular, if you are storing your most important data. Amazon has gained the trust of about everyone. Nobody comes close.

2. Amazon has your credit card, and everyone's else (at least in the US). Having a billing relationship is something Google is dreaming of, and the big advantage Apple has on the App Store vs. the Android Marketplace. I would bet Amazon has more credit cards than Apple does in this country.

3. Amazon has a phenomenal sales machine to push a new retail device, as they have done with the Kindle. Guess what? They will call this one Kindle as well, a new kind of Kindle, the natural upgrade to all Kindles they have sold so far. It will be on Amazon home page every single day, as the most important gift for your Christmas list.

4. Amazon is setting the perfect price for a tablet: $250. Anything closer to the iPad is a no show. Forget the Android tablets in the market today: if I want to buy a tablet and the price is close to the iPad, I will buy an iPad. Period. There is no game. If you say "half the price", you have my attention. And you are about to end in my Christmas list (and not only for me, it is a perfect gift).

5. Amazon has everything in the cloud. I mean everything you need: they have books (duh), music (Amazon MP3 is awesome) and movies (Instant Video). They match Apple (nobody else does). Actually, Amazon is better at books... There is a chance they will throw in free Instant Video, as they are doing today with Amazon Prime. It would be Netflix on a mobile device, for free... Huge.

6. Amazon is planning to ship a tablet with the right size. A 7 inches tablet does not really compete with the iPad. It is a different thing. It is something you can bring to bed with you. It is an upgrade to the Kindle. But it does everything else the iPad does. It is like an iPad Mini, at half the price.

7. Amazon has an App Store with apps. This tablet is built on Android, and Amazon has its own marketplace. You can be sure that 99% of developers will make sure to upload their app on the Amazon Appstore right away, as soon as the new Kindle ships. Right now, there is no incentive or very little (I downloaded the Amazon Appstore on my Android smartphone, used once and already deleted it) but users drive developers. Trust me, it will take days not weeks.

8. Amazon is choosing the right time to launch it: October, just in time for the holiday season.

Is this enough to challenge Apple and the iPad this Christmas? You bet. We are about to hit the second wave of tablet purchases, the massive one of the Early Majority, now that most of the Early Adopters have one (and some have already lost their first one, ehm...). Right price, right timing, right features, some cool perks (like Istant Video) and Amazon immediately becomes the #1 competitor for Apple. Cool.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Samsung buying webOS? It makes sense

There are rumors floating around about Samsung considering an acquisition of HP/Palm webOS. I am not sure if Samsung is really evaluating or not, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

Samsung is doing just fine with Android. Actually, they are doing great. However, the acquisition of Motorola by Google has changed everything. As much as Google is trying to say that they did it just for the IP, I do not foresee them dumping 19,000 employees any time soon. It is obvious that the next great Android phone will come from Motorola, not from Samsung. The mythical Google phone, the one born to kill the iPhone (yeah, right), will be a Motorola device. Not Samsung.

Samsung is left with a 3rd party OS game, supporting Android and Microsoft, or/and a choice to take their future in their hands. They have done it already, remember: for feature phones, they have their own OS, Bada. It is doing quite well, actually. What they are missing is their own OS for the high end devices. WebOS could be just that.

Apparently, you need a stool with three legs to succeed in this market: a mobile device, a mobile OS and a mobile cloud. Apple has it. Google has it. Samsung has a mobile OS for low-end phones, but nothing on the high-end (and they have no cloud story, but I will leave it for another post ;-)

Now, it is a risky move. webOS still has no developers, which is the reason they did not make it. Samsung would have to build support on it, make it really cool and attractive for developers. Timing - for once - could be on their side. webOS has been built from the beginning with a web app model, rather than a native app model. They added an App Store late and it never really took off. But the market is moving towards web apps, even in mobile. If they time it right, they might have the right OS at the right time.

Should Samsung do it? I do not know, but it makes sense. If Google went to buy a mobile device, and Apple went for the iCloud, maybe it is time for Samsung to own a smartphone OS.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why webOS failed

I have been a Palm fan since the beginning. I have owned a Palm III, a Palm V, a Treo and a Pre. The first software ever shipped by Funambol was an app for Palm OS in 2002 (ooh, the memories). I have been close to the Palm world for years, including the beginning of webOS with Funambol. I am no expert and I have no inside information, of course, but I have been thinking about the demise of webOS for a few days and I finally made up my mind.

webOS failed because it missed the Geek Factor.

The OS is absolutely great. Well designed, fantastic UI, fast enough (it could have been faster, but that was a limit of the HW as well). Missing a personal cloud element - which is key these days - but they had transparent sync at least (and full cloud backup). What was it missing?

It was missing developers.

It is hard for me to say that a phone failed because it lacked developers, since I always said that a mobile device is a fashion accessory. These days, though, with the devices looking very similar one to the other, the apps count. The cloud integration counts. Bluntly, Geeks rule again.

Think about it. In the PC world, you would ask a Geek (with a capital G, there are many phonies out there ;-) for a suggestion on what to buy. In mobile, you would just pick the coolest phone in the store. Now that the smartphones look the same, the pendulum has swung back to the Geeks. You get them to develop for your phone, you have apps. You get them excited, they will promote your device to their friends. They are back.

Take Android for example. Was the G1 the worst device ever built? Probably. What about the Geeks? They bought it. They developed on it. They evangelized it. It was open source. Once good looking Android phones came out, the apps were there. The consumers were ready to go.

The Pre ignored the developers. It was a closed phone. Do you remember the creepy ad with the girl? I do. Not very attractive to a Geek, sorry. The Pre was a phone built for girls (with a mirror in the back), while the developer world is still (sadly) male.

The genius of the combo Verizon-Motorola-Google with the Droid was to go for the Geek. The phone was black, sturdy, incredibly male. The ads were all about black and bold and violent. It was a male phone. A Geek phone (as you know, Geeks like sci-fi and the Droid was all about it). It had the Geek Factor.

It is sad to see webOS go. I asked HP long ago to open source it and I still think it would have been a great idea. It would have captivated developers. Honestly, it is still a valid one today. I do not think there is a chance for webOS to regain the Geek Factor, but it would be a start.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The end of Android as we know it

In my last post, I claimed the race for the mobile OSs was pretty much over. The two winning were iOS and Android, and I felt there was no room for anyone else.

Scratch that: Google just bought Motorola Mobility.

This opens up the race again. It is a fantastic opportunity for Microsoft, and also someone like HP with Palm.

What Google did is the harakiri of the third party OS strategy. The one that made Microsoft what it is in the PC world. They simply acknowledged that the Apple model is better, even if Android was growing like a weed.

Google has just told us that to be successful in mobile you need three things: an OS, a cloud and a mobile device. The whole thing. As long as Apple had OS and device, Google was fine. Now that Apple has iCloud, things are different. Google reacted. The cloud is where they are strong, now they need to catch up on the device.

What about the rest of the pack? What about Samsung and LG? Is there anyone in the world that really believes Android will stay the same, that if you are a device manufacturer you can still use it long term?

Nope, Google is your competitor now. You can't use Android long term. You can't count on the Google cloud anymore. You have to move. You need an OS and a personal cloud play. NOW.

Those who believe Google will keep Android as it is are smoking something funny. There is only one chance: that the move is only and purely about Intellectual Property (I think a big part of it is), and that they will take Motorola HW and sell it to a Chinese manufacturer, keeping just the IPR. I do not buy it. You do not spend $12.5 billion for IPR. That is a bit too much money.

Who benefits from this? Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft. I am sure they are calling all device manufacturers and they are saying "I told you so". They will claim they are the only option for a third party OS. And it is not just marketing anymore.

Who else? Nokia. The game is wide open now. They have a window of opportunity. Android is going to slow down dramatically. Nokia can make a comeback. They have the lead on Windows over anyone else. It is their great chance. Plus, if it does not work well, Microsoft is going to buy them to make sure they own the three legs of the stool (they have only OS and cloud, no device. With Nokia, they will be equal to Apple and Google).

Anyone else? Probably HP. They have said Palm is now something you can license. If you do not like Microsoft, they are now a good option. However, they still lack developers, so it is a long shot. In any case, they have two out of three (OS and device), if they can put together a cloud story they could compete with Apple and Google.

Losers? Samsung and LG, big time. They bet on Android and now they are screwed. I can hear them swearing in Korean even here from Lake Como. They can recover quickly. The rest of the pack is even in a worst shape. I would not want to be Sony Ericsson right now...

I think this is neutral for HTC and RIM. HTC has a long bet on Microsoft as well: they can recover. RIM just lost a potential buyer (not that I believed there was a fit) and now they have Google as a direct competitor. However, a slower Android could give them time to breath. They need time and they might just received it as a gift.

In any case, this is huge. I thought Android was the Microsoft of mobile, it was working so well and they just gave it up. They know better than I do (and the IPR situation was really messy) but I have a hard time believing Google will be able to be a great HW company. We'll see, but I have my doubts (a lot).

One thing is sure though: this is the end of Android as we know it. The fastest growing OS in the history of mankind. Open, meant to be the OS of the connected devices world. The backbone of the Internet of Things.

All gone. It is a proprietary OS. The third leg of the cloud+device+OS stool owned by a device manufacturer. Nothing more.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Is there really room for a third mobile OS?

There was a graph on the Asymco site that caught my attention today. It is shown below.

Few things jumped at me:
  1. The amount of smartphones shipped is growing like crazy. Not that I doubted it, but it is nice to see an exponential curve. It is good for the entire industry
  2. Android growth is just spectacular. I do not believe I have seen anything like this in any market
  3. Symbian is disappearing, while BlackBerry is shrinking fast, in particular recently. I would bet that in a few quarters the BBOS curve will match the one from Symbian
  4. Windows is not growing, actually the opposite
  5. BADA is showing up for the first time, with a significant 4%, four times Windows (!) and a third of BlackBerry already
I wrote before that I thought there was no room for four mobile OSs. I felt one between Windows and BlackBerry was not going to make it. Considering Nokia is behind Windows, and the strength of Microsoft, I was betting on Windows to be #3.

Now I am wondering if there will ever be a #3. I mean, one with significant market share. The way this graph looks, knowing that a Nokia with Windows is not going to be here in Q3 (therefore, this graph is going to look even worse for Q3), considering that the bottom of the market could be taken eventually by BADA, one would conclude there will be two mega players (iOS and Android) and there will just be crumbs for the rest (e.g. below 10%).

After all, 3 is the perfect number, but developers would not mind having just two. I think I have seen this pattern before. Last time, one took 90% eventually. I do not think this is going to happen in mobile, though.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

iCloud is sticky, even before birth

I was reading an interesting analysis today. It is a survey on smartphones, customer satisfaction and the like. The last part talks about iCloud and its effect on users. Let me copy it here for the link-clicking-averse:
The survey found that 29% of Apple’s existing company were “More Likely” to buy Apple products in the future because of iCloud, a service that was announced only a month ago and has yet to be entirely rolled out.
Even more interestingly, 13% of those who do NOT own an Apple device were also “More Likely” to buy an Apple product in the future because of the service.
I always say that a Personal Cloud service is sticky. Your life is in it. The more you use it, the more difficult it gets for you to leave. A few months in, you are stuck forever.

Here, though, we are talking about a service which does not even exist. Sticky before birth.

It is funny, but once again a proof of the power of Apple marketing. They make you desire things that do not exist yet. I will never stop thanking Steve Jobs: he made people understand what a smartphone can do, why you need an App Store, now he is explaining what the a cloud synchronization service will do. It benefits everyone in the industry.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The best technology is invisible

I was invited to attend the Frontiers of Interaction conference in Florence today. It is a fantastic event, sort of the TED of Italy, with speakers coming from all over the world. If you close your eyes, you would think you are in Silicon Valley, then you eat at the coffee break and you realize you are in Italy ;-) The best of both worlds.

Anyway, the talk I enjoyed the most was one by Amber Case, titled Cyborg Anthropology and the Evaporation of the Interface. I was pretty much in agreement with everything Amber said, which is a rare case for me...

One slide hit me so much that I felt I had to take a picture.

The best technology is invisible.

I could not have said that better.

The beauty of this statement is that it comes from a UX designer. The goal of people in this field is to build the best user interfaces. What is the best UI? The one that does not exist. It is there, it does things for you, but you do not see it. It is like magic. The UX designer destroys the UI. It makes it disappear.

It has always been my mantra (yep, I have a usability background too, apparently we like to destroy our jobs as well ;-) and I tried to apply it to Funambol every step of the way. Synchronization should just work. You take a video and it magically appears on all your devices, without you touching a button. No need to click on sync. Ever. We pushed it so far that at a certain point we realized we screwed our chances to add an advertising layer (well, you need real estate for it, if the UI does not exist, it is hard to put a banner anywhere...).

Still, I believe it is the best way to build a user interface. Make it magical. User will like it because they will not see it. The robots out there are working for us, life gets easier, I do not have to upload anything, I save five minutes of my life every day to do what I really like instead.

The best technology is invisible. It just works. The machines are working for us, not the opposite. It is how the future should be.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The iPad is one step closer to be a personal device

What seems a very long time ago (a year in mobile is 10 years in desktop life ;-) I wrote a post about the iPad as a personal device vs. a family device.

You know, as soon as you took it home, it was stolen by your spouse or kids. It became a family device, not a personal device.

I fight daily with my daughter over it, even more than over the TV remote (she does not like the Giants as much as I do, apparently).

Still, I was convinced Apple planned for it to be a personal device, eventually expecting everyone in the family to have its own. The lack of multi-account support was a strong hint...

I concluded:
Do I really think the iPad is a family device? Nope.

Do I believe Apple will add multi-account support to it? Nope.

The iPad is and will remain a personal device, as your iPod or your iPhone. I already know people that bought two, three or four. One for each member of the family.

Everyone in the family will get an iPad, eventually. Apple is more than happy to have you not fight on the remote. So nice of them.
After the WWDC keynote, I am even more convinced about it.

What they are doing is tying everything to one Apple ID. They are piling stuff on it. First it was just apps, now it is calendar, contacts, pictures and your entire life. It is all about personalization (for one person, there is nothing to split it). They are even adding sharing to calendar, something you would not need for a shared device (you could just pass it around...).

It is not just to sell more iPads. It is also to sell you more apps, music, books and movies. If they manage to tie the Apple ID to only one individual in the family, you will not be able to share apps across devices. You will be forced to buy them separately.

Obviously, for now it fits only the adults in the family, because each Apple ID comes with a separate credit card. Unfortunately, I see a lot of fights with my daughter in my future. Unless, of course, I decide to buy her an iPad and make Steve Jobs even richer. Thankfully, my wife will prevent me from doing it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

SMS are going away, so are the revenues

The amount of news out of the WWDC keynote is staggering. Apple has announced three different products, all interconnected, threatening dozens of startups and lifting some (glad to be in the second category ;-)

One thing that did not get much visibility, as one of the 10 features of iOS5: iMessage. It is a built-in instant messaging product, one that will work on all iOS devices (and, I am assuming, Mac and PC down the road).

What is it? Simply: texting. It is the new SMS. It replaces SMS. And it does it transparently, because you receive a message that looks like an SMS and you reply with a message that looks like an SMS. The UI on the iPhone is exactly the same (and it works on iPads too, also the wi-fi only ones).

The difference? It uses your data plan. Very few bytes of it. It is practically free for the end user.

Nothing new: one of the most used feature of BlackBerry is BBM or BlackBerry Messaging. It is what is allowing RIM to stay afloat in emerging markets.

I know this announcement seems small. It is just an instant message product, right? However, it is huge, not only for RIM (sorry for them) but mostly for the mobile operators. Because it comes from the big gorilla.

SMS is by far the most lucrative product ever conceived by a mobile operator (it was an accident, BTW ;-) The amount of money they make with texting is insane, considering the network is practically not used at all.

It is all going away. It will happen slowly, of course. And there is an issue with interoperability between devices because it will work only within the Apple silo. But it is a sign. The direction is clear. SMS are going away, and so are the revenues attached to it.

Years ago I mentioned to a mobile operator that SMS were going away, eventually, and that they would have to move up the food chain (I went all the way saying that voice is a data type and that it will go as well, just wait...). He told me it was not going to happen. The carriers had too much control to let this slip away from them. "They can take everything, but not the cash cow". My answer was: "I spoke a few years back to a fax manufacturer who said the same thing about email"...

Guess what? The cash cow is going. If you are a carrier, you better move up the chain fast, because it is not going to last.

Monday, June 06, 2011

The sweet feeling of validation

Feel free to skip this post. I am not writing it for you, I am writing it for myself. I just want to keep a log of what happened today, because I have been waiting for years for this moment...

Today Steve Jobs unveiled iCloud. I wrote on this blog many times before it was going to happen one day, and it did. What surprised me is the words he chose to explain why cloud and synchronization are so key to the future of computing. Why? Because it sounds like me talking ;-) How cool is that?

This is what he said:
I get to talk about iCloud. We've been working on this for some time. About 10 years ago, we had one of our most important insights. We thought the PC would be the hub for your digital life. Where you put your photos, your video, your music.

You were going to acquire it, and sync it to the Mac, and everything would work fine. And it did... but it's broken down in the last few years.

Why? Because all your devices have photos, have video, have music. If I buy something on my phone, I have to sync it to get a song I bought. Then I have to sync that to other devices, and if I have photos, it's the same thing... and keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy!

We've got a solution for this problem. We're going to demote the PC and the mac to just be a device. We're going to move your hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.
So now, if I get something on my iPhone, it's sent to the cloud immediately, and they're pushed down to my devices automatically. And now everything is in sync without having to think about it. I don't have to be near my Mac or PC.
He even had a slide with the motto our Product Manager has used to focus our team: "It just works".

Here you have it. If the greatest visionary on earth tells the word that the future is what we started building ten years ago, then it means we were doing something right. Seeing Apple catching up to the concept feels great. Validation is sweet.

What about Funambol? This is just a great lift-off for us. iCloud is an Apple-centric platform. If you own an Android device (just one, and keep in mind they are getting everywhere, in your TV, car and so on), or a BlackBerry, or a Windows phone... you are screwed with iCloud. This is the Apple silo. Everything will work as long as you stay within the silo. However, in any family or company I know, there is a mix of everything. And that is where the big money is.

It is great that Apple is showing it to everyone, because when they do, everyone believes it. When I say it, nobody gives a damn :-)) Now life is going to be so much easier!

Thanks Steve, you made my day, and probably ten years of my life.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

It is time to kill the file system

I am sure you have watched the video preview of Windows 8. If you haven't, shame on you, it will turn out to be a crucial moment in the history of computing... Ok, ok, I'll add it below here. Watch it and then come back.

Now, tell me what you felt and what you remember if you close your eyes.

Exactly, it is all smooth and nice and wow until you get around minute 3:00. He opens Excel, Windows creeps in from below and you think "oh, s**t, that's ugly, I want to go back to the other interface!".

I think that reaction is telling. We want good UIs, we want the new touch interface, we are tired of windows, we like tiles and things that magically update themselves. However, Microsoft needs to be backward compatible and - as Michael points out - they were successful once with launching Windows 3.1 while having the ugly DOS window in the background. Maybe they can do it again.


The problem is that we have moved on. Mentally. We, as users of mobile devices and tablets. We like what we have now, we do not want to go back. The paradigm has shifted, a new era has begun, mobile is becoming desktop. The desktop is tired, it needs to move, to become mobile.

One thing in particular kills me in that video. He says: "Because it is a PC, it has a file system". I think it tells everything. It is a PC, it has a file system, it must have a file system, right? Or it would not be a PC!

I do not think so.

The file system is dead.

Think about it. It is the biggest change introduced by Apple with iOS. There is no file system. Documents live within applications. Pictures live within the picture app. Videos within the video app. Books within iBooks. You can move stuff around (from Mail to iBooks) but there is no concept of file system.

I know you know what a file system is. But ask your parents. Did they ever understood the concept. Fully? Do they ever created folders within folders? Do they get the tree? No. It is complicated. It is not intuitive.

Actually, it is not necessary at all. It is a complication of the metaphor. One we can live without.

Of course you'll have a file system underneath. I am not advocating killing the OS file system. We geeks will use it to move stuff around, but the end users do not need it.

Eventually, they will not need the old Windows UI either.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Panic: cell phones are killing us!!

I have read the report from the WHO meeting about the risk of brain cancer due to use of mobile phones. The conclusion is that they have not enough data, but just to be sure they said the phone radiation are "possibly carcinogenic" to human beings.

The category they put phones in is 2B, described as follows.
This category is used for agents, mixtures and exposure circumstances for which there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and less than sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. It may also be used when there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans but there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. In some instances, an agent, mixture or exposure circumstance for which there is inadequate evidence of carcinogenicity in humans but limited evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals together with supporting evidence from other relevant data may be placed in this group."
I am a geek, possibly scientist, and I like to see things before I believe them. I decided to go and look at the list of substances in the 2B category from the WHO/IARC web site.

The list is quite long, but I want to warn you: it is scary.

One thing that hurts like mobile phones: coffee (bye bye all my Italian friends). Another one: pickled vegetables (bye bye all my Asian friends).

Let me call BS on this. You cannot turn the media loose on something that is possibly carcinogenic. They will run wild and scare the heck out of people. It does not help our industry. If you have real data, show it to us. If you do not have it, please shut up.

I would respectfully ask the WHO for a study around how risky is to talk and walk at the same time. I bet it will deserve a 2A, probably dangerous to humans, definitely fatal for idiots.

While waiting for the next report on how dangerous mobile phone radiation are, I will go back to use a landline, possibly extending a cord out of my office to make sure I can cross the street safely.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Five reasons why Windows Phone could make it

I speak with people in the industry all the time. As soon as we talk about Windows Phone, the best comment I hear is "they are dead". I spare you the rest of the comments ;-)

I disagree. I know I am the most unlikely believer in Microsoft, due to my open source background and extensive use of anything non-Microsoft, but here you have my five reasons why you should not discount Windows Phone.

1. Android is getting too dangerous for device manufacturers. I have said many times that the war between Apple and Google reminds me of Microsoft vs. Apple in the PC era. It turns out that Google is winning and has a high probability of becoming the Microsoft of mobile OS, with Apple becoming the Apple (i.e. repeating the mistake they made years ago, with the slight difference that they are making tons of money now ;-) The industry is scared by Google now, more than by Apple and a million times more than by Microsoft. They have seen the PC world and do not want it to repeat. Nobody must own 90% of the market, relegating them to pure boxes makers. Apple is not an option (they do not want help), Microsoft is the only weapon to slow down Google. Windows Phone will get a lot of support and love because of it.

2. Android is getting expensive for device manufacturers. The news of today is that HTC is paying $5 per device to Microsoft, for every Android device. You read it well, for Android... Microsoft is actually making more money from Android than from Windows Phone, due to Intellectual Property BS (a tactic they use it very well, and have no intention of abandoning). ODMs flocked to Android because it was free. If Microsoft lowers the price of WP below $10 and Google keeps increasing the cost of their proprietary add-ons, the field will be leveled on price. At the same price point, splitting production between Android and Windows Phone seems reasonable.

3. Android is less and less open. Because of fragmentation, and some confusion in Google on how to monetize it with advertising (any hint why they are still pushing Google Chrome OS? Yep, that fits very well with the ads play, Android does not). Android becoming close makes it equal to Windows Phone. Same price, same openness, less risky player: ODMs will just do it.

4. Windows Phone is a good consumer OS. If you look at the three points above, it was all about device manufacturers picking one OS vs. the other. However, the king-makers are the end users. If they believe WP sucks, it is game over. However, the (few) people I know with a WP are very happy about it. It looks different. And cool. Even non-Microsoft. It is on par with Android, and it some ways even better. Android still looks too geeky. Windows Phone is everything but. Eventually, it will start to sell.

5. Nokia still enjoys a huge market share. In particular in feature phones and emerging markets. Right now, people upgrading their Nokia phones are buying Android devices. As soon as Nokia has a decent smartphone, they will prefer to stick with the brand they trust and like (Nokia phones do not break, they might not be sexy anymore, but they are reliable. Reliability sells, if you spice it up a bit). Nokia must move fast, because every day they lose is a day of more upgrades to Android. They will ship a WP device, eventually. It is just a matter of time.

The missing element is convincing developers (we hate Microsoft by definition), but if ODMs build good devices and users start buying them, eventually we'll port our software to it.

Here you have it. I believe Microsoft could make it. Nothing close to domination, but a significant market share. Something between 20% and 30% in three years. Wanna bet?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Overage charges will kill the mobile revolution

I have been in mobile long enough to have witnessed every attempt by the mobile operators to milk data revenues. SMS being the holy grail they always wanted to replicate (can't be done, some things are too good to be true...).

It started with outrageous pricing, which did not make any sense. It kept out anyone but large enterprises, mostly using BlackBerry. Finally, the prices were relaxed, consumers could afford them, the smartphone era began and the mobile revolution started. We owe a lot to Apple, as usual.

Then the panic kicked in, combined with some greed. The network started to look overloaded, thanks to the combo AT&T + iPhone in major cities. They began telling us they had to limit the use of the network. They needed to offload to Wi-Fi (smart). They needed tiered pricing, abandoning unlimited data plans (this is happening today in the US).

I am in favor of tiered pricing. I am a capitalist. If you use the resources more, you should pay more. If you use it less, you should pay less. It makes sense. Nothing in this world is unlimited. I get it. It has been like that in Europe forever.

The issue is what happens when you reach a threshold. When you are a network hog. When you are hitting the upper limit that gets you to unlimited.

We know from the landline Internet that very few people do get there. But those few, use it more than half of the rest. They are the one a carrier should target, making sure they do not bring down the network for everyone else. How can they do it?

First option: overage charges. If you go above a certain amount of network use, you start paying per MB or time or whatever. You pass the threshold, you will be punished. The carrier will make it so expensive you are not going to do it again.

Second option: throttling. When you use it too much, the speed of your network goes down. You become a second class citizen. It still works, you do not pay more, but the quality decreases.

Overage charges are a very bad idea. They do limit usage by bad guys, but they scare the good guys (everyone else). You just need one story of the poor kid that got charged $274,000 by AT&T because he made a mistake of some sort: the media will jump on it and everyone will be scared. Parents will not get data plans for their kids. Seniors will stay away for good. The market will not take off. Actually, it already has, so this would likely kill the mobile revolution. Or slow it down dramatically.

Overage charges seem a good idea to carriers. In theory, they can make more money from the bad guys. And that is appealing. But in reality, they won't make a dime. Only few people will be caught and by mistake. They will be pissed and ask for their money back. A PR nightmare, for nothing.

Throttling is the way to go. Limit usage for the bad guys, everyone else will be serene. They won't hit the limit in any case. They will buy in because there is no fear ("worst case scenario, my network will be slow, I do not care"). The mobile revolution will continue.

If you are a mobile operator, please consider this. Overage charges are a bad idea. Throttling is the way to go. Pleeeeeaaaase...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

72% of iPad users do not own an iPhone

Today I bumped into a very interesting report from ComScore on iPad users. In particular, there is one finding that jumped out at me: less than 30% of iPad users have an iPhone (27.3%, to be precise). 17.5% own a BlackBerry, the rest have an Android or something else.

It is interesting because it means that the Apple silo solution (MobileMe + iTunes) will not work for 72% of iPad users. When Apple announces their digital locker cloud solution (I am still betting it is by WWDC in June), they will leave all of them behind, scrambling for a solution to sync their phone with their tablet.

If you have an Android device and you cannot sync it to your iPad, then the Apple solution will be meaningless for you. You would better be served by someone who can go across devices (wink wink ;-)

On the other side, this puts even more pressure on Apple to have such a cloud solution. If you bought your iPad after your smartphone (likely) and you are looking at buying a new smartphone (very likely, you change mobile device every 18 months) then you might be attracted to an iPhone more than any other device. Now that you have an iPad (and you love it), you are more likely to ditch your BlackBerry for an iPhone, because Apple allows you to sync them transparently.

The other option, of course, is ditching your iPad for a BlackBerry PlayBook or an Android Tablet, but the iPad has such a lead in the tablet market - and I feel people will change tablet not as fast as they change mobile phone - that I see this as a 2012/2013 option. Not this year.

Bottom line:
  • there is a huge market for syncing devices across platforms and the iPad is making this very visible (72% is a pretty big share...)
  • there is a huge opportunity for Apple to use the iPad to drive iPhone sales, like they need more :-)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is MeeGo dead or alive?

Yesterday I received a call from a banker asking a very specific question: "is MeeGo dead or alive?". That made me think.

If you do not know MeeGo, it is an open source mobile operating system. It was originated by the merger of Maemo (supported by Nokia) and Moblin (supported by Intel), and it is managed by the Linux Foundation.

I tried MeeGo on a laptop some time ago and I was very impressed. Great UI, playful, very interesting metaphors. I had good hopes for the OS because Intel was behind it, and I assumed the big gorilla (Nokia, funny how they are not considered one anymore...) would push great devices on it.

When Nokia announced their move to Windows Phone 7 before MWC, it was clear they decided to abandon MeeGo. Their slide, depicted below, did not leave many questions. MeeGo was not even illustrated ;-) while Symbian was going to die (an horrible marketing mistake, in my opinion).

That leaves Intel as the only sponsor. And they have not been able to produce a mobile device yet...

If you look at the mobile OS market, there are two clear leaders: Android and iOS. Is there room for a third OS? Yes, I think so.

Who are the competitors? Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Palm WebOS and MeeGo.

If you have to put them in a sequence, which one would you pick? Hard to tell, but MeeGo is probably between #3 and #4, because Microsoft is betting their life on Windows Phone (and they have tons of money) and RIM is still a formidable player (at least in emerging markets). I think MeeGo can beat WebOS, but is there room for five mobile OSs? I do not think so. I hardly see room for four, honestly.

That would mean MeeGo is going to die. Unless they find a home for it. Let me try to see if there is one.

Android is not really open source anymore. It is hardly open. The rest of the pack are closed OSs. MeeGo is the only pure open source play remaining. This is a big differentiation. At the end of the day, if Android stumbles (there are many reasons to believe it could happen, from lawsuits to fragmentation), MeeGo could be a great option for device manufacturers and carriers.

In particular, I have a feeling MeeGo has a chance on connected devices, beside mobile. The world out there is in need of a true open source OS, built for low power consumption and great interactivity. Something you can use for machine to machine (M2M) communication. It could work on cars, digital frames, microwaves, and a lot of more devices. We are talking trillions here. With Intel behind it, providing the chips.

That might be it. Grow in connected devices, hope for Android to stumble and maybe eventually make it back into mobile or even tablets and laptops.

I have great faith in the Linux Foundation and I think they can pull it off. Android destroyed MeeGo momentum and Nokia stubbed them in the back. You could conclude they should be dead by now. However, we know open source does not die, it grows and grows. Sometimes under the radar, but it does not stop.

If you look at the news, you can see some signs of it. LG is looking at MeeGo. Many others could follow, and in many different markets. Android is giving device manufacturers some worries, and they like to maintain their options open (and keep vendors - like Google - honest). There is life here.

Not in great health but not dead for sure. We'll hear about it for a long time, I believe.

A business model for open source (hint: it's the cloud!)

Yesterday I found on YouTube the keynote I gave at the Open World Forum in Paris last September. I talk about what I consider THE business model for open source projects: a separation of a free community edition for deployment (for people that have time but no money) and a commercial edition in the cloud (for people that have money but no time). Obviously, the example I am using is Funambol... but I think it can be a model working for a lot more projects.

Caution: it is 15 minutes long. Too bad the slides are not visible, this was my best zen presentation sequence ever ;-)

Video on YouTube

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Android not open source is suicide for Google

Since the launch of Android, two forces have been at work:

  1. Open Source, which made Android what it is today, the fastest growing OS of all time (I need data for this statement, but I am ready to bet it is true) on its way to connected devices domination (i.e. domination of the future of computing)
  2. Fragmentation, which has generated a lot of problems for developers and device manufacturers, turning into issues for end users
Of the two forces, I think #1 is the key. Android has changed the game of Operating Systems. From a model where you had to pay for the OS (Microsoft Windows) to one where the OS is free and open. Linux and the rest of the Unix variations had tried it before, but only Android made it big. Because of the Google brand and timing (there was nothing like that available, and it was badly needed).

Google does not make money on the OS. They make money if you use it.  Their goal is to make sure it is in the hands of billions of people. Their money is on advertising, through search and maps. It is working astonishingly well.

To me, fragmentation just makes the road not as smooth as one would like it to be. It makes it like a Californian highway, vs. a Northern Italian one. The former is free, the latter is expensive. The former might have bumps, the latter is perfect. Still, I prefer the Californian highway. And I get to work as fast as I would do in Italy. Actually, faster because I do not have to stop at the toll booth. Could the road be better? Sure. Does it matter to me that much? Nope, I like it free.

However, due to fragmentation, I have seen a bunch of news pop up. Scary news.

First, Honeycomb - the latest version of the Android OS - is not going to be available in open source soon. That might be ok, as long as it happens sooner rather than later. The move is meant to cut out the little ODMs which were building devices on the open source version, fragmenting it.

Today, the news is that Google is forcing licensees to abide by 'non-fragmentation clauses'. Therefore, if you are a licensee, you can build your customizations only if Andy Rubin says it is ok.

Fighting fragmentation is very important to Google. They get bugged about it on a daily basis, I am sure. However, check the current distribution of Android versions:

Android 2.x is at more than 90%. That is all you need. Some people will be always left over. After all, 11% of people still use IE6 as their browser...

I do not think fragmentation is such an issue with Android to prevent it from being the dominant force of OS in the future. I believe pissing off all your ODMs and pushing them to choose other platforms might actually do it.

Eventually, preventing fragmentation might be suicide.

Take a bit of fragmentation, keep the open source model, let people vent about it and move on.

Google, you are winning: if it ain't broken, do not fix it...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Did Amazon just launch the mythical GDrive?

The race to cloud synchronization just got hotter today. Amazon has launched Amazon Cloud Drive, a space where you can put all your data. Interesting enough, they decided to market this service with music first, although the system allows you to upload any kind of data (like your pictures, documents, videos). They have just one player for mobile - the music player on Android - but it is clear this is just their first move.

We were all expecting Apple to bring iTunes to the cloud, or Google to launch a music cloud service, and - surprise surprise - Amazon did it first. I actually called it a few weeks ago, when I wrote about trust and who could own your data in the cloud. Amazon is a trusted source, they could be the one going across devices (since Apple will do only iOS and Google only Android). It is a bold move. Maybe this is why the CEO of RealNetworks stepped down yesterday ;-)

If you look at the service, the aim is clear: create a digital locker for all your data. One that you will be able to access across a ton of devices, mobile and not. Some of the data will be synced, some will be streamed.

It does look familiar, doesn't it?

The pricing is aggressive but not too much. They are undercutting Dropbox by 100% (50G cost $50 vs. $100... ouch) and they throw in 20G for free for a year if you buy an MP3 Album (the lowest price for an MP3 album is $0.69 right now, do your math and buy one today...). The price is roughly inline with their public S3 offering (you get to those numbers as a third party when you buy 4,000TB). However, they are not undercutting Google, which has Google Storage at a quarter of that cost (double-ouch).

Yep, Google is selling 1G of storage for a quarter dollar a year, Amazon for one dollar, Dropbox for two dollars. Get ready for this to get better (for consumers) while margins get squeezed. There is no money in storage, the game is on features. If you battle on storage, you are dead.

It is funny all attention is on music right now. The labels are on fire, saying Amazon must pay them a fee (for what, having an hard disk which is not physically connected to your PC? Yeah, right, good luck). Amazon will knock down the labels and it will be a free game for all, as they have done with DRM and mp3 when they launched the Amazon MP3 site. This is going to be fun to watch.

However, the focus should not be just on music. Rumors about Google launching the mythical GDrive have been around for years. Then one day Amazon comes around and does it for them. It is the ADrive. It is big news. The start of the race to the cloud. The GDrive is history.

What will Google do? What about Apple? I bet the answers will come before summer. Get ready, it is going to be a hot spring for cloud synchronization. It is great to be part of it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Your tablet will never be a laptop

I am on record as one of the first who said that the tablets were the future of computing for the masses. I stand by my assessment of a year ago. I am even more convinced that the tablet will replace the home desktop computer for the majority of the population and, for that matter, laptops.

However, I am very surprised when I hear people saying that the tablets will replace laptops for people who use them to work. The tablets are not good to do work, period. Any work.

They are not made for it. They are made for entertainment, with some light work in between. They have a precise scope in the workplace: take notes and give presentations. And do some communication. The rest of their life is on the couch at home or on the plane.

I feel it is insane to really believe you are going to use your tablet for heavy document writing, or to work on a spreadsheet. The UI interface is not conducive of high productivity. Your hands are always in the middle, you cover your visual interaction with your hands. It will always yield to low productivity results.

Some people say "simple, just get a wireless keyboard". Wrong. The OS for a touch device will always force you to touch the screen. You will end up putting your hands on the screen way too many times, which will lead to low productivity.

Some people say "then use a keyboard and a mouse". Wrong. The problem is that the OS for a touch device is built for touch. If you try to overlap a mouse interaction on it, you will end up with a multi-modal device, one that is the classical hybrid that sucks on both. iOS works because you interact with touch. Some of its paradigms will be ported to Mac OS, but Mac OS will always be a mouse-centric OS, while iOS will always be a touch-centric device. They will not fully merge, and for a reason. Look at the success of the Microsoft strategy around one OS for everything...

I am not the only one saying this. Steve Jobs is. Look at the presentation of iPad 2. Where is iWork in the presentation? Where is the innovation around Pages, Numbers and Keynote for iPad? They were not there. What Steve presented is iMovie (cool) and GarageBand (very cool). No productivity tools. He knows, as we do, that the iPad is not going to replace your work laptop. For entertainment, it will.

There is no swiss-knife when it comes to devices. In your pocket, you keep a smartphone. In your bag to go back and forth to work, a laptop (which does perfectly replace your desktop, BTW, just add a keyboard, mouse and monitor). On your couch, and in meetings, a tablet.

You just need to makes sure you keep all of them synchronized. But for that, there are solutions.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Google Voice is key for domination in mobile

I have been a GrandCentral user for a long time, way before Google bought them to create Google Voice. I love the service, and it got better with time. Slowly, but it got better.

[START RANT] I am just waiting for the possibility of sending international SMSs to call it the best tool I own (oops, use as a service). Not sure why international SMS support is not there, because I would pay for it! Nowadays, I have to open up Skype and send an SMS to an international friend (paying dollars), to get an answer in Google Voice, then go back to Skype. Aaarrggghhh!!! [END RANT]

Rant excluded, I think Google Voice is awesome. And I do not believe people understand how critical it is going to be for Google domination in mobile.

First of all, if you have Google Voice, you do not need one particular carrier. You need someone to give you connectivity, but you are totally unplugged from them. You can move to a different carrier and not even notice it, since your number is on Google Voice. It makes the carrier a voice and SMS pipe. You can simply go with whomever gives you better connectivity and lower prices. Huge.

Second: the future of computing are a bunch of devices you carry with you, all with some wireless connectivity. It can be your tablet, your smartphone or your laptop. They will have all-the-time connectivity one day. 4G or 5G, whatever. They will be always-on and able to talk to the world. Still, you will want a single number, one that people dial to call you. They call you, the smartphone rings, or the tablet rings, or the laptop rings (in the last two cases, you'll need a Bluetooth headset if you are in public). Or all of them at the same time. It does not matter.

What matters is that you will need an infrastructure to make all your devices converge into one for the outside world. It is like email and the ability to read it from different devices, but real time. You do not give people three different email addresses, for when you are home, work or in between.

If you have an Android tablet, it will all work through Google Voice. If you have an iPad, too bad, Apple does not have it (actually, they will try to prevent it to limit Google and help the carriers).

Eventually, more people will be forced to choose Android over iPad. For a stupid feature, but a very important one: nobody wants to give the rest of the world two or three different numbers and say "try the first number, then the second, then the third". There is a reason why nobody calls you at home and work anymore: they call you always on your cellphone because they know it is the only number they have to dial (even if it might cost them 10 times more, as in Europe). Convenience is everything. People are fundamentally lazy.

Somehow, Google Voice is key for Google domination in connected devices. Weird.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

No trust, no cloud

A few weeks back, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I was invited to give a talk about "Consumers in the Cloud". It is a hot topic: consumers are putting more and more personal information on the cloud, from their friends (address book) to pictures, videos, files and much more.

My talk focused on one major topic: trust.

Trust is the key when it comes to putting your data in the cloud. There are things you want to share with everyone, some you want to share with few, and few you do not want to share with anyone (probably, not even your mom). My focus was on the latter.

Why would you put your persona data in the cloud, anyway, if you do not want anyone else to see?

First, because you are afraid to lose it. Because your data is important. And if you put it in your hard disk and it blows up, you have lost it forever. A picture gone is a part of you gone, a memory that will never come back.

Second, because you want your data to move across your devices. If you take a video on your mobile phone, where do you want to see it? On the small screen or on your TV (or - at least - on your PC)? Yep, me too.

Therefore, your data will end in the cloud, eventually. Synchronization across connected devices will drive it. Backup, Time Machine will make it secure and easy. Once your data is in the cloud, you can pick what to share (not everything).

Trust comes in because you need to be sure that the place you put your data in will not give it away, or use it for different purposes. You need a safe for your data, a locker, a place with a key you only have. The bank itself cannot open it, cannot see it. You must trust them.

Who do you trust?

Do you trust Facebook for your important data? Well, rent The Social Network and let me know...

Who could you trust, then?

Your device manufacturer, maybe. Can you trust Apple? Probably, but there is a major flaw in their ecosystems: they are close. You must have iPhone-iPad-AppleTV and so on for everything to work smoothly. If anyone in your family has an Android, the Apple world breaks. Device manufacturers cannot go cross-platform, so they will never be able to be a good digital locker.

Google? I doubt it. Maybe. But their business model is built on sniffing your data and make money on it. They will analyze your information. They will know it. And they have another issue: they are the land of Android and they have neglected all the other platforms because of it. It is Android or a browser, anything in the middle is decaying (look at the poor support they give to sync with a BlackBerry... And they do not even have contact sync on Outlook...).

Anyone else?

The carriers. They can go cross-platform. They have a brand known well. Some of them are even trusted, mainly in emerging markets. Are people loyal to their carrier? Not really. Do you want to give all your data to AT&T, get locked in so you can't move to Verizon. Maybe not. But they definitely have a shot.

Ouch, who is left?

A third party, a startup, someone built with with this idea in mind. It could be Yahoo! or Amazon, or someone we do not even know now. I think a company will eventually own this space, and it is going to be huge. It is all your data in the cloud, it means your life, something you will pay for. To someone not doing advertising, not looking at your data.

Someone you trust.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The day iTunes will fly in the cloud

UPDATE: it did not happen ;-) I got the iPad2 predictions, but that was too easy. Apparently, Apple is not ready for the cloud story yet (and I know why: it is hard to pull it off...). Next stop: the announcement of iPhone 5 in June. It will happen, someday... Lesson learned: never bet on something you really care about...

Tomorrow is iPad2 day. As usual, I should come with a list of predictions on the device, getting some right and some not. However, I do not believe it is going to be a special day for iPad enthusiasts: iPad2 will be faster, lighter, thinner and with a camera in the front (and back, although I would not bet my house on this one). Nothing revolutionary, just evolutionary. I know a ton of people who have been waiting for the camera to buy it. They will be in line. Apple will sell a ton.

What is going to change our world is not the iPad2. It is the announcement around MobileMe and the cloud. I am ready to bet any amount it is going to happen tomorrow.

I have been waiting for this moment for months, probably years. Obviously, I am biased: my company, Funambol, provides a mobile cloud synchronization solution, sort of MobileMe for the rest of us. It works on Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile and even iPhone and iPad. We sell it to carriers, device manufacturers and portals, and we have one for consumers too (you can try it out at

It all started with iTunes. It was the Trojan horse for the Apple strategy. Buy an iPod, you need to sync music to it. Get iTunes. First only on Mac, then also on Windows. Everybody installed one.

At the time, Steve Jobs was sure: the PC will be your media hub. The place where you would store everything, from music to pictures to videos. A cable and boom, all your data would move to other devices. Cable syncing was everything.

Then came the cloud. With Google and Facebook pushing it hard. With all your pictures moving to the cloud, with your videos being posted somewhere far away. And the tablets, which screw up cable syncing (syncing one device with a cable is ok, two is too many), and made the PC less relevant (also, I should thank the laptops for this, because they are not always on).

The PC lost as the media hub. The cloud is your media hub. That is where you will store your life, your address book, your calendar, your pictures, your videos, your music, your files. All backed up and secured. And synced across all your devices, from your PC to your laptop, from your IP phone to your TV, from your picture frame to the dashboard of your car.

Steve Jobs knows it and it showed for the first time with the AppleTV: no cable there, not even a sync mechanism with the PC, it is all cloud driven. Now they are ready to go all-in. Moving iTunes to the cloud, making MobileMe the hub for your entire life, from PIM to rich media.

It is going to be a turning point in this industry. The moment that makes the cloud the place where your life is stored. The start of the connected devices game, where data gets synced from the cloud to any of your devices, seamlessly.

Apple created the online music business. The smartphone business. The tablet business. Tomorrow they will be doing again, creating the cloud media hub for Apple devices. It will start a market, which will take off like a rocket.

Why do I love it? Because I am convinced Apple is not going to get 100% market share.

In any family, there will be Android devices and Apple devices, and probably much more (I am sure that if I have an Android, my daughter will want an iPhone, and vice versa). Variation and fragmentation will be key. Apple will not be able to solve that problem. Google will not be able to solve that problem. It will be left to those who can go cross-devices. And I know the best one (although I am biased).

Not sure if I will be able to sleep tonight ;-)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why I believe Microsoft will buy Nokia

I have been pretty lucky in January to predict that Nokia would pick Windows 7 as its new OS. I even won a beer in a bet with the Honorary Consul to Finland in Silicon Valley, clear sign the Finns were not expecting it at all...

I felt it made sense for the situation Nokia was in. I do not think they had many choices. I believed Android was a better option, but it was just not going to happen. Microsoft, also because of Elop's background, was the easiest path.

However, I have been quite surprised by the way they threw Symbian under the bus. I was ok with killing MeeGo, although it is sad to see it (almost) gone, but I feel Symbian has so much market share - still - that a light touch would have been better.

I would be shocked to hear today from any developer in the world "I am still developing for Symbian". As of last week, Symbian is a dead platform, everybody is jumping from it.

Unfortunately for Nokia, developers are not jumping from the platform towards the same boat. They are going to miss the Microsoft boat because it is just a raft, right now. However, they will not miss the Android cruise ship, because it is enormous, it has a pool and a casino on it (check this fantastic video, it is amazing to see how fast Android grew).

Giving up on Symbian, waiting for a Windows Phone to appear (at the end of the year), means wasting a long year, probably even two. If you consider where Android was two years ago (nowhere, check the video above for February 2009) and where they are now, you know what I am talking about. This market is moving at Silicon Valley speed, if you miss two years, you are history.

That's why I think Nokia is doomed as an independent company. Before the announcement, their market cap was $43B, now it is $32B (yep, eleven billions jumped off the platform too). That means today Microsoft has 7 times Nokia market cap (they are at $224B).

With the devastation of the Symbian story (and the grow of low-cost devices from MediaTek and Android), I can only see the stock go south from here. In a year, I bet their market cap will be around $20B, just half of what it was before the announcement.

Put yourself in Steve Ballmer's shoes. At that time, your market cap will be ten times Nokia's. Their company will be $20B cheaper. Apple will be out with iPad 2, iPhone 5 and maybe even an iPhone Mini, with the highest margins ever. Android will be over 80% of market share in mobile, with Google making billions in mobile ads. Where can you go? You can't beat Android, because it is open source and it sells for zero dollars (and it has a momentum that cannot be stopped). But you can chase Apple.

And to chase Apple, you need a vertical integration, from the phone to the OS to the cloud. Microsoft+Nokia is exactly that. Give it a year, there will be friction between the two sides, because the pressure will be enormous and these things rarely work. Microsoft will be left with the only choice of buying, with everyone saying "smart move, you got them for cheap!".

That's why I believe ultimately Microsoft will buy Nokia. And a fantastic story of a company, which was selling rubber boots in the coldest place on heart then moved to mobile to conquer the world, will come to an end. Knowing the Finns, they will drink on it, and move on with a smile. They still have Angry Birds, after all.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Android Honeycomb is no iPad

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Home button of the iPad, what I call "The Panic button" (the one you press when you are in panic, that brings you home). Someone told me the post was Zen, even too Zen... "How can you write an entire post on a single button?".

The answer is "Just because I can ;-)".

Jokes apart, I still believe it is a little detail that makes all the difference in the world (of UI).

Today, looking at the pictures of the new Android Honeycomb operating system (the one designed for tablets), I found a confirmation. Look below.

What is it?

Simple, this is the home button on the Android tablets, just slightly more complicated. Slightly.

First of all, is there really a Home button? Let's look left to right.

The first button must allow you to scroll the screen to the left. The middle one to scroll the screen up. The third one... well, maybe that thing on the top is an arrow pointing top-right: so it must be a button to scroll the screen up and right (although I am not sure why I would do it).

Right? Wrong.

The first button is actually Back. Mmhh, like the circular rotating arrow I have on my Android today. But the circular shape of it somehow gives the impression of going back. This one, it does not. In particular, not with a touch interface (it could, with a mouse-based interface).

The second button is actually Home. Hey, how did I miss it? That is a house, not an arrow! Yep, one close to an arrow, which is not really an arrow...

The third button allows you to switch between applications you have open (I am not even sure what its name might be ;-) Something that would freak out your beginner user, the actual Panic button, but the one that generates panic because stuff move in front of your eyes and you do not exactly know why.

I do not think my mom will ever click the Switch App button intentionally. She would not know what to do with it. She wants one single application open, the one she is using. She does not understand multitasking, multitabbing, multiwhatever. She is old school, when people would watch TV without an iPad on their lap.

However, I am sure she would click on it by mistake. She would panic, she would lose confidence in the device, she would think it is an enemy, not a friend.

That is why I am going to buy her an iPad tomorrow. Android is no iPad, sorry. And yes, just for a little button, however Zen it is. It is $499 more for Apple, Zen.