Paul Lopez Unwired

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Results tagged “android”

AndroidTwitter.jpgThere's a lot of commotion lately about Twitter launching its own client applications of what I would call "house apps" for platforms like the iPhone, Blackberry and today the Android. While many developers have outstanding Twitter clients, the better ones come with a price. Now that Twitter has introduced more of its own client apps free of charge, those early third-party apps quickly lose their value proposition. Some believe the trend could hurt companies like Seesmic or Twitterific. Developers will need to come up with ways to structure their applications to offer other benefits besides just connecting APIs. This is no different than what Microsoft did in the early days. Microsoft grew to domination in the desktop market on the backs of third party developers. Old applications like Harvard Graphics, WordStar, VisiCalc and dBASE were the early pioneers before we had MS Office. No one should be surprised with Twitter's actions, it's part of the software growth lifecycle. Developers will adapt and Twitter will do what fuels its own business growth. I see no problem with that.
palm_webos_HP.jpg Most industry observers credit HP's acquisition of Palm as a good move to get back in the mobile business. I see it as potentially bending the Android developer growth curve. Programmers have to write Objective C for the iPhone, JavaME for Blackberry, Java for Android and Symbian for Nokia. That didn't leave much room for Palm webOS development, until now. Even though they already knew what they needed for webOS:  HTML(5), CSS and JavaScript, there just wasn't enough critical mass because developers couldn't get to it. This acquisition is about software and I believe the Pre and the Pixie will become collector items. The webOS is much lighter than HP's Touch Smart for Windows so I expect to see it powering the new HP Slate. In fact, webOS is better suited for places where Android doesn't work well like e-readers and web tablets. The issue is the open source Android device orphan. Remember, the Nexus One had new features not available to the Motorola Droid via a software download. When you get an Android, you are tied to the device, not the OS. With webOS, your phone improves when the OS is upgraded, just like the iPhone. I wished RIM had been bold enough to consider buying Palm. They certainly needed it. Now HP can come after RIM in the enterprise. HP can offer a mix of Android and Windows Mobile 7 for consumers or corporate users. Palm webOS gives them something of their own and a developer community waiting in the wings.

Why Google and Sprint makes sense ...

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Sprint's core postpaid business has been gradually shrinking as seen by a net loss of approximately 3 million customers during the first nine months of 2009. They have increasingly been focused on the prepaid market with recent success in their $50 monthly unlimited prepaid rate plan. Their subsidiary, Boost Mobile offers prepaid services to nearly 6 million customers in the United States. Their recent acquisition of Virgin Mobile this summer for $483 million provides Sprint another 5 million prepaid customers. Let's not forget their other 48 million subscribers. Sprint has about $20 billion in debt, 2.8 billion shares outstanding and with the recent price of $4.00/share; Google could pick up the company for a 25% premium. This would only be about $14 billion in Google stock with Google assuming their debt. At Google's share price, that's only 7% of their outstanding shares. (See Exxon's recent acquisition of XTO, all stock deal of $31 billion). Google would have the spectrum, WiMax/4G, and access to Sprint's R&D. This is the fastest way they can become a carrier. The open Android OS would still be available to other handset manufacturers and market acceptance would be a result of who creates the better user experience.

Android everywhere? Could happen ...

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In 2009, Google made great strides with Android with key cell phone makers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung and high-volume Asian OEMs and ODMs. Because the OS only supports a limited number of processors and does not support the native C language, tool makers such as Mentor Graphics have begun to port Android to a variety of chip sets in an effort to overcome these limitations. This opens up a larger market beyond smartphones. Contract manufacturers supporting ARM or MIPS processor designs have a tremendous opportunity if Android penetrates consumer electronics. If this happens,  we could see Google Android powered large-screen TVs, Set-tops, GPS handhelds, automotive gadgets and MP3 players. Japan's Open Embedded Software Foundation already has 50 participating companies. If you know anything about "embedded" devices you know that market is several orders of magnitude larger the computer and communication device market.

HTC Hero or Villain for Developers?

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Last week HTC launched their latest Android device, dubbed the Hero. In addition to supporting multi-touch Flash Player 10 content, the Hero has a new UI layer called "HTC Sense." Among other things, it allows the use of widgets to bring information up the UI stack, like Twitter or other applications. It has similar behavior to the Palm Pre in this respect, allowing more end user customization. From a business perspective, it is strategically valuable to separate the user experience from the underlying operating system. That way, HTC can choose to change out Android for Windows Mobile and HTC Sense will still look the same. However this begins the fragmentation of open source code that could disrupt a fledgling ecosystem. For one thing, users would need to wait for HTC and the carrier to release updates. Google Android has made strides last year at the expense of the more prolific mobile OS, J2ME. Both Windows Mobile and J2ME variants suffer from a high degree of code fragmentation. J2ME is slowly dying and MIDP3 is way too late to make an impact. Apple got it right because they control the device and the OS, not to mention making app discovery and payment seamless and carrier independent. Developers will still need to maintain multiple versions of popular applications for Smartphones. We need a stable Android in order to achieve break-through market traction and avoid the developer frustration experienced with J2ME.

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Warren East, CEO of ARM Holdings says there will be over 10 ARM-based Netbooks on the market by year end. That puts a lot of pressure on Microsoft to port Windows to the ARM processor, or does it? Here's the dilemma. If Microsoft ports to the ARM, Intel could optimize x86 CPUs like Atom for Linux (and Android). Even though Microsoft has embedded versions of Windows for kiosks & cash registers, it's not clear to me the ARM processor could handle a scaled down version of Windows. Not to mention how it would perform against a lightweight Linux ARM implementation. Intel wins either way. Apple's not playing this game; they've segmented the processor platform of the Intel MacBooks from the iPhone. They will most likely develop their own MPU/GPU combo chip as I've discussed here before. Microsoft should stay the course and stick with Intel. 

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With all the focus recently on social media and cloud computing, some might have missed recent developments in the next generation wireless network, LTE. Verizon announced at CTIA their new development center and one thing I find interesting is the fact that the operating system choices will have to collapse for 4G. Developers are still forced to choose between Windows Mobile, Android, iPhone, Qualcomm Brew and Symbian. Maybe what's needed is a mobile hyper-visor of sorts that will run managed code on any device, more on that later. The other thing that will trip us up will be the change in the economics of mobility revenue and profit opportunity. I believe LTE will require operators to abandon flat-rate, monthly unlimited data plans altogether - including wired. Time Warner and other MSOs got some backlash this year with their experimentation of metered broadband. Real-world bandwidth is nowhere near theoretical peaks (I expect users will get 10-20Mbps download links for LTE vs. the 100 Mbps advertised). Busy websites and network congestion happen. Spectrum is a shared and non-deterministic media. Combine this with operator backhaul capacity, device receiver power and cell configuration diversity and you have an industry marching to data caps, bandwidth restrictions and questionable service guarantees. Think about this easy example: when you are able to download data faster, you download more thereby triggering increased usage and reaching your data cap more quickly. Stacey Higginbotham had an excellent example of the difference in downloading HD video in a metered world where you thought you were saving money by not driving to Blockbuster! 

Rich Internet in high gear ...

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Enabling offline capabilities for web applications is the nemesis of desktop software since the browser could become more powerful in terms of functionality and operation. Web technology like Google Gears enables desktop-like behavior. Gears creates client-side data storage by exposing an API that allows the web application to store a database cache on your mobile or desktop machine. This allows you to access data when you are not connected to the Internet. Although gears works with other browsers; Google Chrome has it built-in and it works the same way in Android too. You'll be able to read, reply and open attachments in your Gmail account offline.  I just attended a technical overview of Windows Azure, Microsoft's new cloud computing "operating system." For the programmer, there is an offline development environment and SDK that allows client-side debugging in the Visual Studio IDE without ever "publishing" your application to Azure. The Microsoft team demonstrated a fully disconnected Silverlight application that once developed in the cloud, operates on your desktop independently of the browser. This has rich-internet-application (RIA) behavior but when asked, the team did not divulge any "gears" like capability in Silverlight. I believe Silverlight has "gears" features since it is a browser technology. The question will be if it is software plus service or just service.

Android SDK - a science project?

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Since Google has launched the much anticipated Android mobile developer SDK, many programmers have expressed disappointment with the completeness of the development tools. Poor documentation, and more importantly, the lack of a public software bug tracking system will limit the ability to accelerate the availability of real implementations that are market ready. No one will deliver polished mobile applications with this first generation toolkit. Many companies are far ahead of Google with supporting a voracious developer community. It takes many years to develop this type of ecosystem - companies with best practices include Microsoft's MSDN, Sun's Java Developer Network (JDN) and IBM's developerWorks. It is surprising that Google with all its resources would put out software developer program that is way inferior to what is currently in use.

About Paul Lopez

Paul Lopez Paul Lopez is a 20+ year technology veteran whose career has spanned multiple disciplines such as product management, software development, engineering, marketing, business development and operations... read more

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