RIM, or Research in Motion, is in trouble. That isn’t news anymore because it’s become fodder for every tech blog around. The mobile company that used to own the space has fallen by the wayside and the only thing left to decide is where the users will go and what last-ditch effort the company will make to save themselves.
As for saving themselves, there is one rumor that has been floating around – that they will go the Nokia route (another company that was in trouble) and become a Microsoft partner in the Windows Phone space. While that remains to be seen, there was a recent survey done over at the Blackberry enthusiast site, Crackberry, that asked where users would go if they couldn’t wait for the long-delayed Blackberry 10.
The results weren’t very surprising, except for one thing. iPhone 5 garnered the most votes at 47%, while Android picked up a solid 34%, but, most surprisingly, Windows Phone picked up 19% of the votes.
Windows Phone remains behind in the market and also in this survey, but they are gaining ground steadily and perhaps can still turn this into a race. Clearly it’s a three-way battle at this point with Nokia, while still making Symbian, conceding, and Blackberry losing their mojo. Android, iOS, and Windows Phone will be the only three mobile operating systems that will matter going forward.
Over the break, there’s been a bit of discussion by some of the big names regarding the reasons why Windows Phone 7 handsets haven’t been flying off the shelves this holiday season. Charlie Kindel started the debate with “Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn’t It Taken Off?” and largely faults the relationship between the OEMs, Microsoft and the carriers.
MG Siegler responded with a fairly weak response largely citing the mantra of “too late and not enough apps” but as can be seen from today’s news of 50,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, the latter argument really isn’t that valid.
As usual, Robert Scoble hits the nail on the head. People buy Android or iOS because it’s a safe bet and they don’t want to look stupid or uncool by buying something else. Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and RIM’s Blackberries simply don’t have the gold-plated appeal of a sure-thing.
And he’s right. I was a big Palm fan and look how that turned out. I do feel stupid. After spending years waiting for Palm to move from PalmOS to WebOS and then HP promising to do big things. I bought in with a succession of Pre phones and pre-ordered a TouchPad. Maybe I shouldn’t be so shallow and have a less of an ego, because WebOS is a great operating system and even with the smaller app selection, it does 99% of what I need a phone to do. But when everyone else is, “Have you got this app and that app” on their Galaxy S IIs and iPhone 4Ss, you do feel a bit of a chump.
So thanks, HP. I feel stupid.
Wireless expert WDS is reporting that high failure rates in Android handsets are costing mobile network operators as much as $2 billion per year in dealing with repairs and returns. Reviewing the four leading mobile operating systems, its study found that Android-based devices seemed more prone to failure as 14% of technical support calls on Android were for hardware, versus 11% for Windows Phone, 7% for iOS and just 6% for BlackBerry OS.
Simplistically, Android handsets were twice as likely to suffer a hardware fault that an Apple or RIM device. The study suggests that cheaper hardware, software customisations and OS updates all contribute to the failure rate and in turn, the increased impact on the network operators to provide technical support and customer service. WDS analysed over 600,000 technical support calls from July 2010 to August 2011.
“One thing we must be absolutely clear on,” says Tim Deluca-Smith, Vice President of Marketing at WDS, “is that our analysis does not find any inherent fault with the Android platform. Its openness has enabled the ecosystem to grow to a phenomenal size, at a phenomenal rate, and it’s this success that is proving challenging.”
He added, “The Android customer experience differs enormously between devices and this means that the way in which Android devices are retailed and supported must consider factors such as the hardware build and quality of components.”
If you are thinking about buying or upgrading your smartphone, you might want to bear this research in mind before you purchase.
The full WDS whitepaper can be downloaded from this page.
ZDNet is reporting that Canonical is intending to make the next release of Ubuntu, 12.04, a LTS (Long Term Support) release with intention of then expanding Ubuntu beyond desktops and laptops into smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, with a target of 2014 for an all-platform release.
Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, in an interview said, “This is a natural expansion of our idea as Ubuntu as Linux for human beings. As people have moved from desktop to new form factors for computing, it’s important for us to reach out to out community on these platforms. So, we’ll embrace the challenge of how to use Ubuntu on smartphones, tablets and smart-screens.” The full announcement is expected at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, which starts tomorrow and runs for a week in Orlando, Florida.
Having already been in discussions with partners for around 18 months, it seems that this is more than wishful thinking, but one can’t help feel that the whole Palm-HP-WebOS debacle bodes badly for any company wanting to get in on the smartphone and tablet space. If HP can’t make it happen with a solid OS and Zen of Palm, what hope has Canonical? When quizzed about this, Shuttleworth said that he saw “Android as its primary competitor…..We’ve also already heard from people who are already shipping tablets that they want Ubuntu on the tablet.” And of course, “Ubuntu already has a developer and customer base.”
While there’s no doubt that the mobile space is still maturing and there’s plenty of change still to come, I have a hard time seeing Ubuntu on anything but a small niche of tablets and an even smaller niche of smartphones. iOS and Android have their foothold and Microsoft will be a solid third if Windows Phone 7 continues to deliver and Windows 8 delivers as expected. A fourth player is going to have difficulty making inroads, especially one as relatively unknown as Canonical and Ubuntu.
Smart TVs are a more plausible destination as the internal software is of less concern to the consumer. Most people buying a TV are looking at the exterior brand such as Sony, Samsung or LG, and not what’s inside, although this may change if a “Powered by Roku” or “Google TV inside” campaign runs. Plenty of change to come in this space too.
I wish Ubuntu every success.
A few days ago we received the sad news that HP was discontinuing webOS devices. The only good news out of that was for gadget lovers – HP has slashed prices on the recently released TouchPad (it’s already out-of-stock at Walmart online). The bad news for HP, beyond the bad press and bad stock prices, was that Microsoft leaped on the news and immediately began recruiting webOS developers for their Windows Phone platform.
Microsoft’s Brandon Walsh reached out to webOS developers on Twitter, and began the process of bringing them over to Windows Phone. He even went so far as to offer free phones and other tools. At last check, he had received more than 200 replies.
While HP has killed off the hardware-making side of their webOS business, they are hoping to keep the software alive by licensing it to third-party hardware makers, as Google does with Android. That means HP needs to keep these developers on board. That will be difficult with no agreements in place yet to ensure the OS’s future. Still, they are trying their best to maintain ties – see their blog post The Next Chapter for webOS.
Given the current state, it will be hard for HP to hold onto these developers, and given what they have already done, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t pull the plug on the software side of webOS at any moment. This has been a short ride for HP and webOS, and I can’t help but think that they didn’t give it it’s deserved time and effort. Consider it a premature death.
Mobile data usage has been rising for quite some time now. But, with the release of the latest Nielsen report on cell phones, there’s some interesting data. The fastest rise is Windows Phone 7, which has shot up 89% since it’s launch. As of the November launch (4th Quarter 2010) data usage was at 149 MB, but now, as of the first quarter 2011 (March 2011), data usage has climbed from to 317 MB.
While it is the fastest riser of this time period, WP7 still lags far behind iPhone and the industry-leading Android. iPhone has risen steadily to 492 MB, while Android has risen to 582 MB. By contrast, RIM’s Blackberry OS has flat-lined and Windows Mobile, which is now on life support, has slowly trailed off. Web OS unfortunately did not garner a mention in the report.
This seems to indicate that the field is narrowing to a 3 platform race between iOS, Android, and WP7. While Blackberry remains popular with corporate customers they are falling behind overall, despite their recent efforts.
So what are all of you using, and why? What do you like and dislike about your mobile OS? Which mobile OS do you think will come out on top in the future? Give us your thoughts in the comments.
Microsoft made some big announcements today at the E3 gaming show, most surrounding the Xbox, but a few involved Xbox Live in Windows Phone. However the bigger, or at least more interesting, Windows Phone news came from Microsoft Vice President of Windows Phone Joe Belfiore, via his Twitter account.
Today an Apple fan got excited about the fact the volume up button can be used to take a picture. Mr. Belfiore responded, good-naturedly, that Windows Phone can do a good bit more. It was a rare bit of humor from Redmond, which tends to stick to the policy of ignoring Apple completely (while sometimes borrowing an idea).
Perhaps the Windows Phone team has some reasons to be happy. After all, they are definitely on the rise, while Apple may be running a bit low on new ideas as they have slipped behind Android and are looking over their shoulder at Windows Phone. Today’s announcements didn’t break any new ground, but seemed more like playing catch-up.
Make no mistake though, Apple can never be counted out and may have something huge brewing that hasn’t yet made it into the rumor mill. But, at least for one day, it seems Microsoft may have a leg up.