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...