Even though Near Field Communications (NFC) has been around for 15 years, it could become mainstream in the U.S. smartphone market this year. NFC operates at 13.56Mhz and at speeds from 106 kbits/s to 848 kbits/s all within a 4 cm range. We are finally catching up with Japan (e.g., Osaifu-Keitai system) and other areas of the world where NFC is used for mobile commerce and payments. With better software integration, you now have the intersection of context, proximity and event handlers that blend the physical and virtual worlds. It would make sense if Google announced a mobile payment platform since NFC is natively supported in Android 2.3. You have to consider other players with a little more "trust" than Google such as Apple iTunes or even Paypal. Merchant players like First Data or GPN are reluctant to adopt an offering that is not industry standard. MasterCard and Visa have made progress raising consumer awareness for NFC but financial institutions are not good catalysts for ecosystems. Even though NFC silicon can be standardized, individual competitors that bring their own implementation of payment systems can stall adoption and create payment silos. The battle will be which model will prevail - operator-centric, bank-centric, collaboration-centric or peer-to-peer-centric. Perhaps it doesn't matter since once a user has selected a smartphone platform, they automatically get the mobile payment system. Otherwise we would need a system like "payment roaming" similar to what evolved during the early expansion of cellular networks and billing systems.
Results tagged “iphone”
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.
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.
A WSJ article highlights recent discussions between Verizon and Microsoft to develop a new touch-screen multi-media device "in an ambitious effort to challenge Apple's iPhone." With Apple recently reaching over 1 billion application downloads, the bar is quite high for RIM, Google, Palm and Microsoft. Both Microsoft and Google prefer to stay out of the hardware design altogether. That makes sense because they are software companies. However, Apple has better control over the harmony between device and software. They recently hired AMD/ATI's CTO, Bob Drebin. A new CPU/graphics processor could be in the works under Drebin's direction utilizing talent Apple acquired from PA Semiconductor. Apple OpenCL is a specification that enables a single chip to do both graphics and computing. In chip-speak, it allows GPUs and multi-core CPUs to handle tasks like physical awareness & video rendering on a single die. Verizon seems set on retaining control by launching their own download store for a variety of applications and devices. I don't see them being too eager to introduce the device reported to be bigger than an iPOD and smaller than a laptop because it will have native WiFi & VoIP capability. Verizon is keeping their options open but they seem to be increasing subscribers fine without the iPhone ... for now.
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!
Peter Parkes, chief blogger for Skype reported there were over a million downloads of Skype for the iPhone in just two days. As reported here before, eBay failed to monetize their investment in Skype and realized a huge write-down. The surge in user interest is more a function of pre-release promotion, teasers & blog coverage, than anything else. The application does not work on 3G, only WiFi, therefore it automatically obsoletes those Skype WiFi phones. I like the application on a laptop and it's quite useful for international Skype-to-Skype calling. There are other alternatives; Truphone has an unlimited call package and other bloggers have tips to JailBreak your iPhone and install voipover3g to spoof the device in to thinking it's on WiFi. If you have a good connection, the voice quality is better than Fring or Truphone, but how many people will really use this application? If you already have Skype on your laptop at home and have a Skype contact list, all you'd be able to do is make calls from your handset unwired. We saw this pre-launch hype with the Palm Pre too and today they had some early looks at applications during CTIA 2009.
The Kindle is not a game changer like the Apple iPod was with music. This product has less of a growth curve than iPhones, NetBooks or other consumer devices. People are questioning the grayscale, the price and the experience but some like the aluminum case, the Stephen King eBook, "Ur" and the ability to get any printed book in 60 seconds. For $359, you can shop for a Netbook and get more functionality. The total cost of ownership of Kindle is higher because with newspaper subscriptions, books and other additions, you could run up to $100/month easily. Amazon doesn't break out the sales of their eBook business but they claim it is 10% of overall titles sold. The Kindle is Amazon's call option on the future of reading. I'm afraid that call option will expire worthless, there's a reason books haven't changed for 500 years, they still work!
Despite the lowest holiday sales in 40 years, Apple powered ahead in the fourth quarter with both a rise in profit and revenues and sending its quarterly sales past $10 billion for the first time. Tim Cook even took a shot at would-be copycats saying if anyone "rips off" Apple's IP, they will "go after anybody that does." Former Apple executive, Jon Rubinstein was in opposition with Steve Jobs to the keyboard design of the iPhone. He left the company last year and with $325 million funding from Elevation Partners, he became Executive Chairman of Palm. My short evaluation of the Palm Pre was positive on the technology but negative on the business prospects. Maybe Jon should use some of that funding to pay royalties to Apple.