I suspect Apple will have a good day on 11 July. I’m pretty sue Apple could release the iGumWrapper and people will camp out 2 days before to be the first to purchase a gum wrapper made out of napkin and far less superior in functionality than what exists today. It’s the lure of Apple, the marketing engine behind them and the fact that despite that napkin material, it would likely be so beautiful and make you forget some things that you’ve depended on for so long.
But I digress :-). In all seriousness, Apple excels at the hype and the experience (yes, two distinctions that shouldn’t always be confused as one). With the release of the iPhone 3G, they’ll sell a lot I’m imagining and it will cause other mobile manufacturers concern…or it should. The iPhone is being marketed as ‘half the price’ but others have already pointed out that that asterisk on the advertisements is a large asterisk…and in fact the ultimate cost to the consumer is actually higher (including service plans, etc.) than the current model. But who cares…I’ve seen the cost analyst and it is negligible. Misleading advertising? Maybe. Some have even pointed out that other than the 3G there isn’t much core upgrade to the device. No camera upgrade, no IM, no Bluetooth support for cars, no cut/paste, no MMS messaging. Some have even pointed out that despite GPS support there will be no guided turn-by-turn navigation provided.
Regarding Navigation: Some have said that 3rd parties will use the SDK to solve that problem. Ah, but read the terms of the SDK…no applications can provide navigational guidance using the SDK. Why? If you are aware of US carriers in telecom, you may notice that devices equipped with GPS all have an icon for directions – provided by TeleNav – provided as a monthly service fee of approximately USD $10 per month. I think this is one area where the carriers won against apple in negotiations…to protect their own agreements and cross-revenue opportunities on services.
One thing that has bothered most developer geeks about the SDK is the lack of background processing. Apple’s keynote has pulled a little of the 'these aren’t the droids you're looking for’ magic by stating battery life, blah blah blah. Hey guess what…Blackberry does this just fine and has great battery life. Is this an area of “we couldn’t get it done” for Apple? How many think this will change? I do. If there is any plans for iChat to be on the device, it would have to be. Rely on an middle messaging server to deliver what is effectively an SMS command and then prompt me to launch the app again? Seriously?! Is this another way of retaining the carrier’s service costs for messaging fees?
Have you ever noticed that Visual Voicemail is actually delivered as an SMS command to the phone with information on what that voice mail contains?
Another sore spot for developers was the lack of Flash on the device. There has been some bickering from Adobe/Apple on this, but it still isn’t there. Adobe has said in their last company call their execs have noted they have it working via SDK but would hope the software would eventually be a part of the iPhone software. A similar request has been made to me by developers of ‘when will Silverlight be on the iPhone’? Hey guess what, no plugins are allowed on the iPhone – let’s wait for Apple to change that first, then let’s talk…you can’t complain when the platform doesn’t allow it first!
And then comes Android. When I first saw the video demonstration of this I was impressed. It incorporates a lot of what modern devices have as well as what people like in the iPhone from a usability standpoint. Oh, and it will be free and open source. Some of the Open Handset Alliance have already announced devices with Android that might be available as soon as the end of this year!
Will Android be successful in mainstream? That is a big question. Why would I ask that? Tim, it’s Google, they do everything right, how could you be so stupid? But consider this. What makes Apple so successful in their software implementations? Their ad campaigns shed some light on this when they jab Windows. They control everything…the entire channel from hardware design to implementation. There are no other (legal) hardware providers creating iPods, iPhones or MacBooks. What does this have to do with Android? Well Android is an open source project that will directly affect consumers. Most of the time I think we see open source projects that are hiding behind consumer services. Take, for example, any web server running their site on Linux. Sure that affects consumers visiting the site, but not directly…the HTML/rendering is what affects me…not the implications of the hardware.
Android will be literally in peoples’ hands. There have been others that have done this successfully…like Sansa running Mono on their MP3 devices. But how is this different? Google isn’t providing the handset. Will Android feel the same pains of the distribution channel that Windows does? That being that you are providing an OS and don’t control the hardware that it resides on? Android will be picked up by handset manufacturers and modified and tweaked and installed on various chipsets and handsets with differing peripherals that may not always comply to the specs or to what Android may expect. Will that give Android a bad name when someone wants to put it on a device that is ‘minimum requirements’ (I hate minimum requirements---ever try anything on a min req machine…it never is a good experience)? That remains to be seen. Perhaps Google may have to do what they said they never would: the Google phone – to ensure that Android has one place where it can be guaranteed.
And when it does come out, will it beat iPhone even though it shares some similarities? I’m not convinced. Apple (and iPhone) have a culture behind it. iPhone itself has become somewhat of a mnemonic. If you have an iPhone, when you tell someone that you just took a picture, do you say “I took it with my phone” or do you say “I took it with my iPhone”? I hear this all the time…I <fill-in-the-function> with my iPhone. I never walk around saying “I took this with my Blackjack.” This is an advantage Apple has over the market…the brand strength. I took it with my Android. Still doesn’t sound right. Even the newest devices like the Samsung Instinct, HTC Diamond, etc. will not gain that level of brand recognition.
Where does all this leave developers? Let’s see:
- Apple – closed platform; closed hardware; Objective-C/Cocoa dev platform (OSX only for best tools); controlled distribution channel for apps;
- Android – open platform; Java dev platform; tools everywhere; available for any hardware
- Windows Mobile – open/closed platform; C++/.NET dev platform; tools everywhere (best tools on Windows); available for any licensed hardware vendor
What a minute, Windows Mobile an ‘open’ platform?! Tim, you lie. Well, I’m not sure the marketing teams would agree with my statement, but consider the facts. Windows Mobile provides an operating system to device manufacturers to leverage. We actually provide what we call “platform builder” and those who license Windows Mobile can customize and pick and choose what “Windows Mobile'” means to them. Is it completely open to alter the base code of WinMo? No. But if you have ever picked up a phone that had WinMo from T-Mobile and one from AT&T and one from Verizon, you’ll see that it is not the exact replication across the board. Those carriers have done some of their own customizations and added/altered some of the applications that exist.
Basically developers will have a choice…not a consistent choice by any means because each choice has a specific skill set. I don’t know Java well enough that Android will be my choice, for example. But if it is compelling enough, will that cause me to want to learn? Who knows…
So what’s with my rant. Who knows…just had some thoughts on mobile that I wanted to get out. Carry on.
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