Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whether Nintendo Likes it or not, they are in trouble

When I was growing up as a child, Nintendo was king in the video game space.  Everyone and their brother had to have a NES, SNES, Gameboy, and others.  This was a different time.  This was a time before smartphones and tablets when if you wanted to play games on the go, you had to buy a dedicated gaming device and if you wanted to play at home, you had to buy a home console.  Even though PC gaming was big during those days, it offered a different experience.  In today's market, we have smartphones and tablets that will play games for a dollar or even free.  Even though these games do not offer the same depth of a dedicated handheld or gaming console, its enough to scratch the itch.  People are now buying their kids iDevices instead of Nintendo gaming consoles, taking the drawing away the market that Nintendo has built their business around.  There are many other factors that are leading to the decline of Nintendo's marketshare.

The Nintendo DS was hands down the greatest selling gaming system of all time.  It was extremely popular with kids and parents as well because parents could buy a DS at a relatively low cost and provide their kids hours upon hours of entertainment.  Then came the iPod, iPhone, and the Apple Appstore.  I really can't remember a product that was so disruptive in the market than Apple's products. Whole industries struggled to keep up and other industries had to change their business models completely.  This happened to Nintendo as well.  It's even more ironic when you stop to think that Apple didn't even try to make their devices mobile game consoles.  What made them so successful is that parents can buy their kids an iPod, which is more expensive than a DS, that offers games as little as a dollar or even free!  Developers can crank out games at a much lower cost than would take to make a game for the DS.  There are also fewer hoops to jump through.  Even adults who may have had a DS system may now just buy games on the device that they already own.  Couple this with the rise of the Play Store and Nintendo is in a really big bind.  That was clearly evident when Nintendo dropped the price of their 3DS quickly do to low sales volumes.  It is clear that phone and tablet gaming has really taken a huge chunk out of Nintendo's marketshare where they previously dominated.

What I think Nintendo did wrong was first, not change their business model fast enough to allow the same games you see on other devices on their platform.  Second, they felt they were offering the market better products at a higher price.  This may have been true at first but good developers have learned how to make good games at a hugely discounted price.  There are some games on phones and tablets that require on screen controls.  These games could have been where Nintendo provided a better experience than on phones and tablets.  Third, I felt that Nintendo could have courted indie developers that were making games for the Steam platform on PC.  Many of these games were cheap as well but were very good and innovative.  I feel this could have created a market of people who wanted to play great indie games but maybe didn't want to play on the PC or wanted to play on the go.  Lastly, the gambled on a fad with the 3DS that turned out to be what consumers generally didn't want.

The Nintendo Wii was a phenomenon.  It brought gaming to the mainstream unlike any other game console had done before.  It was demoed on Ellen and other talk shows.  It was used by families and nursing homes.  This was possible because the Wii was simple and also a new way of interacting with a video game.  People who were adverse to trying a video video game found it natural to hold the Wii-mote in their hands and play tennis, bowling, or other games.  The Wii was more of an activity than a game console for many people.  Nintendo target the casual market and was immensely successful at it but what they failed to do was keep the "hardcore gamer" interested in the console.  This is where the danger set it.  People who are not enthusiasts lose interest and are not nearly as emotionally invested as your enthusiast gamer.  Many people that bought a Wii as an activity used it as a Wii Sports machine and maybe bought a few more games but that was it.  Since Nintendo wasn't attracting the "hardcore gamer," they lost a lot of potential sales on the software side.  Microsoft and Sony owned the enthusiast market and were enticing the casual market in other ways.

Now Nintendo has the Wii U.  First of all, the marketing message sucks.  There is a problem with the name, in that many people do not know the different between the two consoles, even if it has a U at the end.  People who do not know that the Wii U is actually a new console may think it is either what they already have or maybe its just an add-on for their current console.  Its easy to see how someone who doesn't follow the industry would think this way.  Nintendo really only showed the tablet part of the Wii U and never really articulated to the consumer that this is actually a new console.  I saw this first hand while at Walmart.  They also didn't articulate that this tablet has a very short radius from the system.  People who have seen tablets see them as portable mobile devices, not something that is tied to a console by a leash.  I also think that many of the casual market who bought a Wii probably stopped playing it after a certain point, letting the machine become a dust collector.  Even if they do still play it, the tablet controller is probably intimidating to someone who just wants to wave their arms.

I really never thought the casual market was going to be interested in this machine.  It doesn't have the same marketability and ease of use of the Wii.  Nintendo didn't do the Wii U any favors by providing a terrible marketing campaign.  Nintendo didn't fully target the casual market with the Wii U, they also wanted to bring back the hardcore that they lost.  This is important because that market buys software, and lots of it.  At launch, they released a ton of ports of games that people probably already played unless a person only had a Wii, making that person more of a casual player anyways.  Nintendo didn't have the killer first party titles they should have had.  Not to mention, the Wii U is graphically in the current generation.  If they were going to get any kind of hardcore enthusiast, other than the Nintendo fanboys, they needed to get original games out quick since new next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft were right around the corner.  Nintendo failed to do this and it may be too late to attract those buyers.

If you want a tablet to play games with, your probably going to buy an Android or iPad tablet.  You're not going to go out and buy the restricted Nintendo Wii U.  I think we will see this play out in the future.  Sure, there will be people who buy the Wii U but no where near as many as who bought the Wii, there just isn't that killer app and it doesn't translate well to a talk show.  Nintendo really should have invested their time in releasing a dedicated tablet or phone although they are terrible at making operating systems.  Nintendo is in a lot of trouble and I think it won't be too long until we see Mario on other platforms.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ubuntu mobile, what could it mean for Canonical

Ubuntu mobile offers something interesting to the operating systems that already exists in the market.  In this article, I want to highlight a few reasons why Ubuntu mobile should be taken seriously.  They have some unique ideas that I think could provide a compelling alternative to the current mobile powerhouses.

For most of the current OSs, apps have to be written natively to support the OS APIs.  Web apps can be written but they typically do not perform nearly as well as a native app.  They are also not eligible to be distributed on Google Play or the iOS Appstore.  Even though apps do perform better when written in native code, this is a large investment for the developer to have to develop each app for each OS.  This is not a problem for the large companies but provide a significant barrier to entry for smaller developers.  This is especially true for Android development where varying hardware configurations can make it tedious for developing an app.  Ubuntu mobile and even Firefox OS are hoping to change this way of thinking.  Ubuntu and Firefox OS are going to provide APIs that developers can use when developing mobile web apps.  This will allow developers to access the hardware unlike on Android and iOS where apps have to be developed natively to take advantage of hardware APIs.  Ubuntu mobile, unlike Firefox OS, is also allowing developers to develop apps natively as well.

The reason developers can take advantage of both on Ubuntu is because of the APIs for web apps as well as the fact that Ubuntu mobile is running the full OS.  Their strategy is to have compatibility across all devices.  This is similar to what Microsoft was trying to do but wasn't able to take advantage of.  This could possibly put Ubuntu in a really good position if you could use your phone or tablet as your computer by plugging in an HDMI cable into a monitor and have a full fledged OS on your phone or tablet.  Since it is full Ubuntu, the possibilities are much better than what exist on Android and iOS for a fully integrated device.  I do not think that iOS would ever go down this route but I do believe that Android has the ability to also perform this function although Ubuntu seems to be the one company doing it.  The real question is, will anyone care?

Your average consumer is a fickle person.  They seem to go with whatever is popular and do not normally show allegiance to a particular product.  They are willing to switch to whatever fits their needs.  Look at the Wii for example.  Everyone had to have a Wii when it came out and now that the Wii U is out, they are having enormous trouble selling the device.  The casual consumer is not a fanboy like you and me, The don't have allegiance to platforms, they only care about what is cool and what can meet their needs.  If Ubuntu mobile can fit that mold, they may be in very good shape to gain market share away from the big two.

Ubuntu releasing this fresh, new operating system gives them a good amount of buzz around the tech community and this buzz eventually trickles down to the average consumer.  Whether they are interested or not is a different thing all together.  What is important is that it is creating buzz.  Ubuntu has been around for a while and hasn't been very relavent at all in the desktop OS space.  If they can start getting people to buy into their mobile platform, maybe this means that the mobile version will also sell desktop Ubuntu similarly to iPads, iPods, and iPhones selling Macs.

After looking at the tablet demo video from Mobile World Congress presented by Mark Shuttleworth, I think Ubuntu may actually have something interesting on their hands.  Its a fresh and pretty looking OS that comes with some great ideas.  Hopefully they can attract developers with their APIs for web app developers so they will have plenty of apps at launch.  Also, hopefully they can convince the consumer as to why they should care about Ubuntu.  One thing is for sure, they have some great ideas that I would like Google and Apple to take note of.  I also think they have a much better chance of winning consumers than Windows Phone because they are doing something unique.  If they can take advantage of the integration and get support for developers, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why I think the Google store concept is a great idea for Google.

There is generally a huge problem when a company is selling technology products in a store where said company does not control the experience or the message for the product.  Competition is too high to let an employee, who may just want a job, try and sell or not sell the consumer a product.  This does not go for every employee but it is a risk a company must take when they do not own the customer experience.  Best Buy for example does not care about what platform an employee pushes to the consumer as long as they are able to make a sale.  This is an especially a huge problem for a company like Microsoft that is trying to gain footing in the mobile space.

Apple has obviously found great success in having their own stores.  What helps Apple is that they are currently the trendy company and make products that people like and want.  Their products are perceived to be superior to the competition by many people, even though that may not actually be true.  Microsoft has also tried the store concept with not nearly as much success.  The problem with Microsoft is that they tend to screw up at least one thing associated with a product launch or selling a product.  To make matters worse, Microsoft's product do not at all have the appeal that an Apple products has.  I feel that at this point, Google is popular enough to have just as much success or even more than Apple.

Many people that follow technology and some that do not know that Samsung's mobile platform is Android.  There are also many people that when asked whether Samsung is running Android OS may either not know or just say no, they are running TouchWiz or Galaxy.  In fact, there isn't even a mention of Android on Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones.  This is a huge problem for Google.  Essentially, Android is really a platform that Google can use to push their services and provide advertising.  It is become essential to their business.  If people continue to buy Samsung smartphones in droves and people replace Google's brand with Samsung, Samsung may be able to eventually push their own services and do what Google is doing now with their services and advertising.  Google needs to defend their Android brand while making sure it is synonymous with Google.  This is where Motorola comes in.

Believe it or not, Google has many consumer products.  They have Chrome OS, Google TV, Android, and probably other products that I am not aware of.  Chrome OS is not killing it in the market and Google really hasn't done a great job marketing the product.  The same can be said of Google TV.  Google recently finalized their purchase of Motorola, a hardware manufacturer.  I didn't think that Google was just going after Motorola for the patents.  Motorola has very good brand recognition and Google can use this to push their stock Android OS which none of the manufacturers use.  They can make sure that Android and Google is branded on each phone while making sure their services are paramount on Motorola's phones.  Seeing that Google has had really good success with the Nexus line of phones, I do not think that Google would have a problem selling stock Motorola phones.  People who buy those phones could potentially get their updates quicker considering there isn't a need to skin the OS.  This could lead to a significant advantage for Motorola over competitors.  Couple this with Google having their own stores and controlling the customer experience, they potentially have a pretty big hit on their hands.

Google can use their stores to pushe their own interests while making sure consumers have a good experience.  Even though Google is currently having huge success selling Android phones, at what point are the manufacturers the more important factor than Google.  I think it is essential that Google sell their products in their own stores so that they can push their own products that are essential to their business model.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Widget Locker and why its so great.

I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy S3 and sold my Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 Phone.  One of the drawbacks of using Samsung's TouchWiz over Windows Phone is that the GS3's lockscreen cannot be used to display any information that you may want to view.  Luckily, I found Widget Locker to be my locker savior.

The first thing that is great about this app is that it replaces your old lock screen.  Although every time I restart my phone I have to run the app again to get it to replace the GS3's lockscreen.  I don't know if this is just a flaw with the GS3 or if it is just this way when using Android.  I don't restart my phone often so it isn't really that big of a nuisance.

This app allows you to customize the way you unlock your phone.  Currently I am using the Jelly Bean unlocker but I added an option at the bottom of the unlock circle that will bring me to my dialer.  You can edit this to display a number of different configurations like moto, iPhone, Sense, ICS, and many other options.  No matter what unlocker you are using, you can customize each button on the unlocker so that it will open a different application or shortcut like the dialer.

You are also able to place any custom slider, application, shortcut or widget on the homescreen.  I have a widget that allows me to interact with Doggcatcher so I can pause and play my podcasts on the lockscreen. I also have a widget that displays the time as well as the weather.  In addition to the widgets, I have ten applications that I frequently use on the lockscreen.  What is great is that you can place any widget that you can place on the homescreen on the lockscreen.  Stock Android doesn't allow this flexibility.

I have tried a few other lockscreen widgets but none that allow the customizing that this app allows.  If you are looking for a great way to customize your lockscreen, I highly recommend this app.  If you choose to download this app, also download WidgetLocker Theme Viewer that will allow you change your unlocker to around 2,000 different options.  Currently I have a Pacman theme.  I hope that if you decide to download this app and enjoy it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is Microsoft's new strategy going to pay off?

Its been no secret that Windows 8 is having a tough gaining market penetration.  Microsoft says that they are selling 20 million units a month but does that mean to OEMs or consumers?  The company has made some bold moves with the OS like getting rid of the start menu for the new tablet interface.  Even the companies own flagship device seems to be off to a rough start.  What seems to be the problem?

The first problem is having two different versions of Windows.  All of the advertising for Windows 8 shows the Start screen.  It looks the same on both Windows 8 and Windows RT.  The only difference is that Windows RT has very limited capability even though it also has a desktop.  Since Microsoft chose a horrible name for their ARM version of Windows, people not familiar with the tech industry will have a tough time differentiating the difference between RT and Windows 8.  Another thing that hampers Windows RT is that the app market has to be re-created since normal Windows applications will not run on that version.  Microsoft already had to do this with Windows Phone with limited success, what makes them think developers will be wanting to develop for the RT portion of Windows 8?

Another reason their strategy is off to a low start is that the price of their devices are too expensive.  I understand that Microsoft thinks they have an amazing operating system and OEMs think they can trick  consumers into paying ridiculous prices for their tablets and PCs but those days are over with the advent of the netbook.  Its not really the consumers problem that OEMs fought a race to the bottom with prices.  They made their bed and now they have to lie in it.  If I or anyone else is going to pay upwards of a thousand dollars for a computer, i'm going to buy a Mac and I bet many other people feel the same way.  Even the RT tablets are expensive.  I am sorry Microsoft but your tablet is not an iPad and shouldn't be priced like one.  Didn't they learn their lesson from the Android tablet pricing model?  I guess not.

Lastly, the devies that have been released have not been great.  I like an all-in-one PC but not for the prices they are charging .  I feel like for a desktop PC, your going to want a desktop operating system.  I feel the same way with laptops.  I do not want to touch my laptop screen, that is why I have a touchpad.  Some of the convertibles are neat but they are also lacking on disk space and the prices are outrageous.  If you want a convertible with some real power, your going to have to get a core i3, i5, or i7, that comes with a fan as well as they are bulky.  If you instead look to buy an atom powered device, your making compromises on power.  I think that the atom processor devices, that are convertible or hybrid devices, will sell the most because they do have decent battery life, are lighter and smaller, and can run full Windows when you need it as well as convert to a tablet when that makes sense.  Also, where the hell is a seven inch tablet version of Windows RT.  Has Microsoft been living under a rock? I am pretty sure that Apple released an 8 inch iPad and 7 inch tablets are killing it in the market.  Why was that not released day one?  I think a seven inch surface tablet that is reasonably priced would have done much better in the market that what they released.

I think Microsoft should have kept traditional Windows only for laptops and desktops.  Hybrids and convertibles could have full Windows while also have a mode for a tablet version of Windows Phone.  Tablets 8 inches and under would run only Windows Phone tablet edition.  I don't think Windows RT has a chance in hell of doing anything in the market and until OEMs and Microsoft releases devices that make sense to consumers, they are going to have a tough time convincing consumers that their high priced computers are worth purchasing over the competition.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The invasion of the other mobile OSs...too late to matter or should iOS and Android be afraid?

Whenever there is a new market created, we generally see tons of companies flood to the market.  Many of those companies fail to gain any meaningful market penetration and they give up.  The market is then left with only a few players.  An example of this is e-readers.  Everyone had an e-reader but now we really have only a few that have any real market saturation.  We are absolutely seeing this with the mobile OS space.

Making a mobile OS is obviously much different than making a desktop OS.  There is much less pace to work with and people expect the OS to behave differently.  When a new OS enters the arena, people expect their version to be much better or different enough to switch to that OS.  The OS can also target a different socio-economic market or target of the market.

The problem with the current OS variants that are either out or are still in development is that they are way to late to the game.  Android and iOS already dominate the high end of the market.  iOS will never really target the low end because they expect their margins on their devices to be too high to compete in that space.  Android and Windows Phone to some extent are penetrating the lower end and emerging markets.  Android already controls China, which is such an important market for everyone.

The great thing about Android is that it can be released on lower end devices and it is open source.  Anyone can use the OS on their devices unlike Windows Phone which is controlled specifically by Microsoft.  Firefox OS and Ubuntu Phone OS have this feature as well but they are releasing at a time when Android has permeated so many areas.  It is smart to target the emerging markets because at least either Firefox OS, Windows Phone, or Ubuntu Phone can be a second or third option for those markets.

Firefox OS has a leg up on Ubuntu Phone because the Firefox name is already recognizable.  Ubuntu virtually has no recognition.  I am not sure about how important the Ubuntu name is in emerging markets, but if it is similar to the US, then it is really non-existent.  Ubuntu has been trying to compete in the desktop space for so long with no real gains to speak of.  I bet even Chrome OS has more market share than Ubuntu on the desktop.  Firefox OS is also taking advantage of HTML 5 for their apps where Ubuntu wants you to write native apps for their platform although developers can also use HTML 5 to develop apps.  It is going to be significantly easier to write apps for Firefox OS.  If HTML 5 is the platform that everyone wants it to be, Firefox can have an advantage over iOS and Android that want you to buy apps in their store.  Firefox is the most consumer friendly.  Whether that means anything to anyone is yet to be seen, although it is interesting.  Ubuntu is running their desktop OS on the phone.  This means that you could potentially plug in your phone to a monitor and run the complete OS.  I don't really see this as an important feature because very few people run Ubuntu currently.

I read on that Firefox OS already has deals made with lower end manufacturers for their OS while Ubuntu doesn't really have a partner.  This could change but it really gives Firefox a huge advantage.  If HP hadn't screwed up WebOS so badly, this may be a non-issue.

HTC needs a course on branding

Building a brand that people recognize and want to invest their money in is a difficult thing to accomplish.  Many technology companies to a terrible job branding their products.  At the end of the day, it comes down to having a good logo, name, and advertising.

If someone wants to look at how to brand a tech product, they need to look at Apple.  I don't think anyone has been more successful at building a brand than them.  Their i devices are so recognizable that I am sure there isn't a person alive that doesn't know about an iPod or iPhone.  What they did was pick a product name and stuck to it.  They didn't change the branding constantly like many companies do and they didn't pick some dumb combination of number and letters that no one will remember.

HTC and many other companies have had so many different names for their devices.  It gets really confusing to the consumer what device is what.  Samsung has finally got the message.  They followed Apple's lead and created their Galaxy line that has been incredibly successful.  When it didn't sell gang busters at first, they didn't change it over and over to try and find a name that works.  They stuck with it and kept going.  

How many names has HTC had in their lifetime of products.  They have had the Hero, Evo, Desire, Aspire, and so many other phone names.  How do they expect people to keep them strait or even have any sense of brand recognition.  They did attempt to fix this by bringing out the One series.  I thought this was a great name for a phone.  They also broke it down by the X, S, and V.  It was easy to figure out which phone was which.  After they were doing good, they messed it up.  Instead of sticking with the names they had, they release the SV and XS.  If a consumer goes into a store, how are they supposed to make any sense of what phone is going to fit their needs or budget.  

What HTC needs to do is stop coming up with a new name for each phone.  They need to pick a brand and stick by it like Samsung has done with the Galaxy Series, Motorola has done with the Droid and Razr series.  These phones may not even be as good as the HTC product but what we all know is perception is more powerful than reality.  If you can advertise your brand in a way that makes your product look better than it is, you have won.  

I hope HTC finally learns their lesson on branding.  I really think this is a prime reason they are not doing as well as they could.  Take a lesson from your competition and build a brand that people can recognize  it will go a long way to reaching success.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why I made the switch to Android.

iOS is a nice looking operating system that is well polished in its OS and its apps.  Windows Phone is sleek and has features that I really like.  Sadly, neither of them are for me and I'll tell you why.

I have not had an iOS device since the iPad and my 3G iPhone, although my wife does have an iPhone 4S which I pick up and look at regularly.  I do not have full access to newer devices but what I will do is compare the devices that I do have and have used.

First of all, people will say that iOS is better because of the lag issue with Android.  Yes, this was an issue but its an issue with iOS as well.  There is plenty of lag with my wife's iPhone 4S.  The device is pretty slow at times.  I guess it may have to do with Apple's routine efforts to slow down devices in hopes that people will eventually get fed up with it and upgrade.  Its kind of Apple's MO.

iOS is a nice looking OS and has really nice looking apps.  Unfortunately, its not enough for me because Android looks pretty nice as well.  Google has done a pretty good job in spicing up their OS.  Since they are considered to be inferior in that area, they can experiment without making too many people angry.  I will agree, early android had that "linux" look and feel that makes you think you are using an interface that was made around 10 years ago.  I feel like thats pretty much fixed.  Android does not have the amount of quality apps that iOS has but the ones that are nice are just as good or even better than iOS.

I am a nerd and I like to tinker with my devices.  I get bored with looking at the same interface and I like to look at something new every so often.  I know this is a me problem but this article is also my opinion so bear with me.  iOS pretty much looks the same as it had when it came out.  For a lot of people this is a good thing, especially for those who aren't very tech savvy.  Its almost like they are facing the same issue that Microsoft is facing with Windows.  Microsoft can't change windows dramatically without alienating a large portion of their user base.  I think Apple is in the same boat so they keep their OS looking the same each time.  Apple also wants to control EVERYTHING.  I do not want a company telling me what I can and cannot do to a device that I spend two hundred dollars on, and like I said earlier, I like to tinker.  I want to have a device that is as best tailored to my needs as possible.  Android is the best option for that.

I also like how Android has plenty of choice in their devices.  I am not stuck using whatever device Apple says I should use.  Again, this is a problem that I have and not one that many other people have. I like that range of device sizes and OS skins that are out there.  Companies are competing with each other constantly and I think it has led to lots of innovation and great products.  Google has done a good job getting companies on the newest OS version.  Consumers have done a good job punishing companies that cannot keep their end of the bargain.  I also like that if I do not like the skin I get with a manufacturer, I can just change it.

Android does a great job with notifications and syncing on an OS level.  I am not 100% sure how well iOS notifications work.  Google provides really great services, some of the best in the business.  These services are on iOS but they work better on Android.

Lastly, I like how Google is not afraid to release a product that might fail.  They subscribe to the iterate over time while Apple is more get it right the first time and if it isn't right the first time, they scratch it.  Google will also scratch a service that isn't working but they also release so many that more of them stick and become significant in the industry.  Sometimes Google does over extend themselves.  The company has done a good job honing in on core services.

I had a Windows Phone 7 and 8.  I thought they would actually improve Windows Phone 8.  They didn't.  Why is it that there is only one volume setting OS wide.  This infuriates me to no end and yet Microsoft thinks its ok.  There isn't a notification center.  Live tile apps are pretty much useless.  The apps aren't there and probably won't be there.  The people people hub is a good idea.  I do miss that and that's about it.  It just isn't doing anything interesting that either iOS or Android already does.  This goes the same for Blackberry.  I know there are many OSs in the pipeline for other companies.  This always happens when a new market begins.  Too bad for those companies, its probably too late for them to do anything meaningful, although I can't wait to see what they do.  I think Windows Phone 8 will never really be relevant.  Blackberry will fail.  What the hell is Ubuntu thinking, they can't get any market share with their desktop OS.  If Firefox OS can get the HTML5 apps to work properly, they could have a chance in emerging markets.

In conclusion, Android is great for me.  I think over time it will catch up to iOS in the app department.  The OS will continue to get better.  If it gets worse then I'll move on to something else.

If I forgot anything or you don't like what I have to say, tell me.  That is if anyone is actually going to read this.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nokia, get your head out of your butt!!

I think we all have some nostalgia for Nokia.  Back in the day, they made the best phones.  I owned plenty of Nokia phones in my day and loved them.  But Like all of the other Pre-iPhone companies, they failed to innovate their products in a way that was meaningful to consumers.  Now Nokia feels that their saving grace is Windows Phone 8.  Why put your eggs in only one basket?
I used to buy into the whole Windows Phone 8 promise that Microsoft laid out.  I drank the “cool aid.”  I figured that Windows Phone 7 had some issues and that they would be corrected in Windows Phone 8.  I also thought that developers would jump on the bandwagon since there was a unified core OS.  Microsoft managed to screw this up like they do with many of their products.  Very few things that Microsoft promised have happened, so I switched to Android.  It has so far been a great decision.  I love my GS3 and my Nexus 7.  I think that Nokia should make the same decision except that they should also continue making Windows Phone 8 devices.
There is nothing wrong with continuing to make devices for WP8 but why limit yourself to a platform that, more than likely, isn’t going to stand the test of time.  I think that Nokia has a real chance at being competitive against the other Android manufacturers, ala Samsung. I think this way because they make the most beautiful device on the market.  I had a Lumia 920 and the hardware is FANTASTIC!!  The camera is amazing and the device is well built.  The only problem for me is that it is running WP8 and I feel that this is the same problem many other people have.
Nokia also makes many of their own services and they are good services that people like to use.  I found Nokia Music to be a better option to Pandora.  Nokia Drive is a really good turn-by-turn navigation system.  These are the kinds of services that Samsung wishes they had to offer.  Providing these services allows Nokia to have a competitive edge against their competitors while potentially also bringing in an additional source of revenue.  This is precisely what Google is doing. I really think the manufacturer that provides the best online services is going to win in the long run.  They may not replace Google’s services but they will be a reason to buy their phones.
Another reason to choose Android is that they can modify the OS in any way they see fit.  They can’t do this with WP8.  Despite what the tech pundits say, for the average person, this is a big deal.  I really like Touchwiz and I think that the modifications Samsung has made to Android is a large reason why they are so successful.
If I were an investor in Nokia, I would be a pretty pissed off person.  Nokia making an Android phone like the Lumia is a license to print money but yet Elop thinks differently.  He continues to say that Nokia will not make an Android phone but I think it’s a matter of time until they do.  They cannot continue to leave money on the table by being loyal to Microsoft who isn’t even close to the innovator that Google has become.  I personally would love a Nokia Android phone and would try to get my hands on one asap.

Blackberry’s Mistake

We have all heard the saying, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  I think Blackberry should have listened to this quote and taken it to heart.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they have done a good job with their operating system.  It’s not an operating system that I would like to use but I’m sure there are still people that would like to use a Blackberry device.  I think that instead of buying QNX, Blackberry should have taken a que from Amazon and developed their own custom flavor of Android.
If Blackberry wanted to, I’m sure they could have worked with the interface of Android to have it mimic a Blackberry device and include their services in the OS.  They could have gotten a lot of benefit from doing this.  Firstly, people who want a Blackberry look and feel for their device wouldn’t have sacrifice the app catalog.  Many people who still buy a Blackberry device do so because of the hardware.  It would have taken a lot of work for the developers to change the interface of Android to look like a Blackberry but they did the same for QNX.  Secondly, they would have access to the app catalog that Android currently offers, which is a big deal.  A phone OS is only as good as the apps you can install on it.  Thirdly, they could have included all their services on their device and use it as a competitive advantage over other Android manufacturers.  It could even be the go to Android flavor for business.  Instead, they are going to have to challenge Samsung that is already making a push in that space with SAFE.  Finally, Android is open source, no one is stopping them from doing anything they want to do to the OS.  Blackberry already has services that people are willing to pay for.
Blackberry felt they were making the right decision by buying QNX but I really think this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Windows Phone has been on the scene for a while and hasn’t made any dent in the market and I don’t see any reason that Blackberry will be any more successful.

Blackberry’s new OS, is it what you’re going to get next?

Its funny to me when companies try and do a rehearsed presentation.  Its a bunch of stiff executives looking like they are reading from a card and trying to get anyone to care about their crap.  Watching Thorstein Heinz to a presentation makes me shake my head.  Get someone up there who can present because it looks like he is just phoning it in.  Haven’t these guys ever done a good presentation?  Anyways, I have already digressed.  We are here to see if BB10 is worth any of your attention.  Lets get to it.
I think it was smart for Blackberry to release a phone with a physical keyboard.  Even though there aren’t as many people wanting one as there used to be, it could be a differentiator for enticing people to move to Blackberry.  Then again, companies stopped making physical keyboard phones for a reason, the demand probably wasn’t there.  I’m not too impressed with the hardware.
I was clear to me from the outset that they are targeting the business or corporate market with some consumer hooks thrown in.  I think this is smart because Blackberry doesn’t have a chance in hell at keeping up with iOS and Android in the consumer market.  Blackberry has seen a lot of decline with the bring your own device movement and they are trying to get that market back.  I think they are too late to the game to make it matter.
For the OS, lets start with “Blackberry Flow”, which I think is their real-time multi-tasking feature of the phone.  I think this is great and it is something I wish Android had but I have to wonder how much of a hit this is going to give to battery life.  If it does in fact hurt battery life to a significant extent then it isn’t worth it to me to have real-time multitasking.  I am guessing that depends on how lean the OS is at performing its functions.  I do like the Blackberry Hub but I don’t really see how its any better than having a notification tray like Android and iOS.
They also showed how you move between apps which is accomplished by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.  I don’t really see how this is any better than having a button to accomplish this but it is really about user preference.  I personally do not think I would like a gesture only based OS.  I also think that there is a learning curve that needs to be overcome to learn all of the gestures.  Having buttons allows someone to have a focus point of accomplishing a specific task in the OS, like bringing up a menu or multitasking.  For the average user, I don’t think they are going to take the time needed to really explore the OS and would be lost right of out the gate trying to figure out all of the gestures.  I like having that home button to go when I need it.  I also do not like that the main screen of the OS is the multitasking interface and not the app selection.  Then again, its really trivial.
I think that the Blackberry Hub is an interesting way of doing something that already exists, but I don’t really see how its any better than having a notification tray like Android and iOS.  I get this trend that Blackberry is trying to solve problems that do not really exist.  Its almost like they are trying to trick me into thinking they are doing something different.  What I think the trays do better are having OS wide notifications and not just notifications from my social networks.  I do however think its a better way than what Windows Phone has to offer which only displays notifications from one social network at a time when entering the app.  Windows phone doesn’t have a notification center although live tiles were supposed to be their solution.  Its not a good solution.
The keyboard concept that they showed off is a great idea.  What you would do is start typing and predictions would be laid out across different keys on the keyboard.  You pick which one you want and flick it up, making it easy to type on a virtual keyboard.  I like how you flip up on the keyboard to get to symbols as well.  Well thought out and I feel that solves a problem many people have.  I personally think this is the best idea they have come up with in the whole OS.  I also find it somewhat difficult to type on a virtual keyboard, although it helps to have word completions at the top on android and Windows Phone and iOS autocorrects for you.  The autocorrect feature is terrible for iOS.  To see how terrible it is, go to
Blackberry balance is also another neat feature where the phone can be brought to work and have a work mode and a personal mode so that your personal stuff is not mixed with work stuff.  It makes it inviting to bring the phone to work and not have to worry about having your personal stuff stored on the phone.  This is the feature that makes me feel they are targeting business people and not consumers.  This is also solving a problem that people have and may lead to some sales from corporations that find this feature beneficial to their employees.  The bad thing is that it can be implemented in iOS and Android if they choose to do so.
Lastly, Blackberry tries to make me think they have apps competitive with other platforms, which we know that isn’t really true.  The small developer isn’t going to spend the time and money on this platform unless its business focused.
The whole presentation was focused on the corporate client, which I think is exactly what they should do.  They aren’t going to be able to compete with iOS and Android by trying to get the consumer market.  What I think they are hoping is that the OS is enough to convince companies to adopt the platform and hopefully slow down the bring your own device movement.  Unfortunately for Blackberry, I do not think they will be successful just like Windows Phone hasn’t been successful either.