With Google Glass Sergey Brin Betrays Us All

A buff Sergey Brin strode onto the TED stage. He branded smartphones “emasculating.” “Is this the future of connection, just people walking around hunched up, looking down, rubbing a featureless piece of glass?” “Is this the way you’re meant to interact with other people? It’s kind of emasculating. Is this what you’re meant to do with your body?” Brin, with TED serving as both promotional backdrop and technical validation, then showed off Google Glass, a fashionable pair of glasses complete with video recording, Internet connectivity, voice commands, phone, texting and augmented reality overlay. A true marvel of engineering. “But I whip this out and look as if I have something important to do. What Sergey whips out and deems important, I consider a violation. Google, I understand. Google benefits from capturing my personal privacy. They sell my information to the highest bidders, just like yours. I confess, however, that I am surprised that Sergey Brin is leading this latest charge. Sergey Brin is the co-founder and Director of Special Projects at Google. He is worth $23 billion. His work and life story are in many ways an inspiration. Yet I believe he has betrayed us. Brin may think smartphones are emasculating. He may feel super-cool and extra-masculine wearing his Google glasses on the New York subway, but I am merely creeped out. You should be as well. I think of this while relaxing in a large public courtyard in Southern Caifornia, soaking up the sun and pining for a mojito. Suddenly, and without warning, the place is overrun with about fifty middle schoolers. Gangly, goofy boys and pretty, uncertain girls. Wearing my sunglasses, just sunglasses, I realize what a violation Google Glass can be. Perhaps I should record these children – merely out in public; the boys chasing the girls, the girls teasing the boys till they chase them. I could then upload the video onto YouTube, this very moment, with their real-time location embedded. Perhaps a few of them I can stare at just long enough for my Google Glass to facetag them – then in nanoseconds have the Googleplex deliver any information on them directly to me. How could Brin do this? You want a continuous visual overlay between you and your fellow human beings, that’s your choice. I choose otherwise. Only, Google and Brin are now trying to strip me of my ability to choose. Google Glass is neither empowering, nor liberating. Rather, it is the tool of the stalker, or a device worn by the masses to ensure any upstart never thinks of straying from the popular line. Brin has repeatedly noted that anti-Semitism, experienced inside...

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HTC Should Abandon Android And Embrace Firefox OS

Once mighty, the smartphone wars have badly weakened HTC, which continues to stumble, delaying product launches and issuing profit warnings. I do not expect the HTC One to mark any appreciable change in HTC’s fortunes. I propose a radical solution: embrace Firefox OS. As we have documented since last year, Samsung so utterly dominates Android that it leaves little room for anyone else to succeed. After Samsung takes its oversized profit share, there are simply too few profits remaining for HTC and other Android members to survive. Samsung will not destroy iPhone. Samsung could, however, destroy Android. Samsung sucks up nearly all the profits of the Android handset market. This limits product roll-out, marketing and ongoing innovation from other ecosystem members. No profits, no business. Samsung is a threat to iPhone, no doubt, but in this case, it’s more a threat to Google and its vision for Android. Google will not come to HTC’s rescue. The news out of Google last week was that its chief, Andy Rubin, is out, replaced with the man behind Google Chrome. Consider that as a sign of which platform CEO Larry Page most values. Add to that the persistent rumors that Google’s Motorola division is working on a “X Phone” to take on Apple and Samsung, and Google’s long-term commitment to fostering platform partnerships is in doubt. One of the first Android handset makers, HTC should be celebrating Android’s dominance. Except, it can’t. The 2012 smartphone sales numbers reveal that while Android currently leads the global smartphone market – with a 65% market share compared to Apple’s iOS at 20% — HTC placed no better than 8th, accounting for a meager 4.5% of all smartphone sales. Worse, HTC’s already low numbers are trending downward. Their sales share fell from 4.6% in Q3 2012 to a shockingly low 3.2% in Q4 2012 (including both Android and Windows Phone products). Android will not save HTC. Neither, however, will Windows Phone. It’s innovative UI and ‘live tiles’ based operating system arrived too late — well after the ‘app phone’ became the global standard. As of Q4 2012, the Windows Phone share of the global smartphone market sits at a laughable 2%. Of this, Nokia accounted for 77% of all Windows Phone sales. Samsung accounted for 11%. HTC came in third, garnering a meager 10% of the already meager Windows Phone sales. HTC can’t rely on Android, nor on Windows Phone. The company may claim that they are ready to “challenge” Apple and Samsung, but victory is unlikely. HTC simply can’t compete with Apple on product innovation. Nor can HTC compete with Samsung on scalability, manufacturing prowess or on...

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As Galaxy S4 launch approaches, has Samsung surpassed Apple where it matters most — Marketing Hype?
Mar12

As Galaxy S4 launch approaches, has Samsung surpassed Apple where it matters most — Marketing Hype?

The real smartphone wars are nothing more than a battle between Samsung and Apple. No one else is even close. Blackberry and Windows Phone barely rise to the level of also-ran. Operating systems such as Tizen, Jolla, Aliyun, Firefox Mobile et al appear to be nothing more than tools for hobbyists. Across nearly every single market, Android dominates in market share and iPhone dominates with profit share. Even this is a distortion, of course. While Android and iPhone may lead the pack, one company, Samsung, thoroughly dominates Android. Samsung dominates Android to such an extent that there are real questions about the sustainability of the Android brand and the Android ecosystem. As Unwired View reported last year and as the Wall Street Journal noted last week, Samsung has grown so dominant that Google is concerned the South Korean giant could effectively swallow the ecosystem. This is not a linkbait assertion. As we discussed last January, “Samsung could destroy Android.” Only Apple stands in Samsung’s path for complete global smartphone dominance. Who is winning? Samsung leads in nearly every relevant metric — excepting profit. Part of the reason for the ‘profit gap’ is because unlike Apple, Samsung sells numerous devices across many price points, including into lower-priced, lower margin markets. Another reason why Apple wins on profit is because unlike Samsung, Apple has full control over its operating system — iOS — and the entire iOS ecosystem. This includes iTunes and App Store, Safari, integration with its OS X computer platform, a massive retail point of presence. Samsung, though a vertically integrated chaebol, is still highly dependent upon Google for Android, for Google Play, for Chrome (and Chrome OS), and even to help expand distribution. There is another reason, of course, why Apple does so much better on profits: Rabid product buzz. With Apple, there is a constant stream of news, an unending cry of new product rumors, even rumors of mere product updates. Has anyone actually seen the iWatch? The Apple Television? Doesn’t matter. With Apple, press buzz months and weeks before a semi-official product launch grows and grows, the tech blogs incessantly discuss what new specs, what bold new design will be revealed. All in rapturous language, naturally. No one comes close to Apple in building anticipation, nor in rousing the faithful. In all the ways Samsung has copied Apple, make no mistake: they desperately want to develop Apple-like buzz. Samsung may mock Apple fanboys but  that’s exactly what they want. Rabid fanboys waiting in line to buy the newest product, delivered from on high. Samsung is a Marketing Company Samsung is everywhere, it seems. On billboards, YouTube, Facebook,...

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iPads are not computers, Google does not do hardware, Facebook Phone and other predictions

EXCLUSIVE! Called it! First! We analysts love to point out what we got right. Rarely do we admit when we are wrong. If you look back over the past eighteen months, however, you will note that those of us who engage in mobile industry speculation are wrong nearly as often as we are right. Consider this my confession – given on behalf of the entire fraternity. These are what I consider to be our biggest flubs: The Facebook Phone How did we get this one so wrong? Of course, this should have been a slam dunk. With the most used app on iOS and Android, over a billion users, and more users actively checking-in regularly via mobile than desktop, it seemed only logical that Facebook would develop not only the fabled “Facebook Phone” but offer a highly robust, developer-friendly Facebook Phone OS. All the ingredients are there: a fork of Android, sticky social media, a newsfeed, chat, Instagram, gaming, homegrown apps and more. Facebook are a cornerstone of user identity on the web. Facebook are working on ways to replace email and even calling via phone numbers. Facebook’s money comes from ads. Add it all up and there simply must be a Facebook Phone! Only, there is no Facebook Phone, not really, nor a Facebook Phone OS. Bonus confession: I don’t think we analysts got this one wrong. I think Facebook’s engineers just aren’t very good at mobile. Android fragmentation will solve itself Fanboys insisted that fragmentation on Android either did not matter or would resolve itself in time. Wrong on both counts. Fragmentation creates a lesser user experience, reduces the value of the device, and ensures that the top app developers will continue to focus on iPhone first. Fragmentation may not matter much to Android’s maker, Google, but for actual users, it’s a sad state of affairs with little hope of resolution. Google can’t make hardware While some reviewers panned it, the Nexus 4 is a stellar device. If you must have a tablet that is not iPad, your best bet is probably a Nexus. True, Google makes these in conjunction with hardware companies, such as LG, but do not be fooled: these are made to Google’s specifications. What’s more, Google seems intent on extracting value from their Motorola acquisition. The rumored “xPhone” will be made entirely by Google, hardware included. Google Glass is all their own. Google is learning hardware. Everyone else, beware. Just wait till Microsoft responds It may be hard to believe now, but years ago Microsoft mattered, at least when it came to “smartphones” and the mobile web. Many of us in the industry...

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My son switched from iPhone to Android HTC One X. What do I do now?

This is war! Despite everything I taught him, my fifteen-year-old son chose an Android device – the HTC One X – over the iPhone. Despite the fact that I told him the iPhone is the best. No, despite the fact that iPhone is the best. Why would he do that? Teenage rebellion? The other kids at high school convince him that Android is cool, not Apple? Relentless marketing from Google, Motorola, Samsung and the entire Android ecosystem? Just being a dumb kid? Why! No, I will not get angry.  I have a better idea. In the interest of trying to bridge the gap between Apple and Android partisans, ensuring peace within my household, and reaching out to the younger generation, we sit across from one another at our favorite taco stand and I ask him directly: “why did you choose Android”? “Because it had a bigger screen.” “That’s it?” “Yes.” “No. There must be more. Why else? And put that phone down when I’m talking to you.” He set down the device, powered it down, in fact, so I couldn’t see what he was looking at, haughtily drained his purple soda and resigned himself to my questions. “It was cheaper.” “Not really. It was $99 on contract. The iPhone was only $100 more. Over a two-year contract, with voice, data and texting fees, that really isn’t much of a savings.” Revealing that he had done the math and I had not, my son replied: “You and mom said you would pay for the monthly fees. The phone cost me $99. I saved $100.” I smiled. The boy has my looks and his mother’s brains – a deadly combination. “That’s a good reason, actually. What else?” No response. Instead, he asked the waitress for more chips. To be fair, he is a teenager and despite the free tacos I had already asked far more questions of him than he typically allots me over two days. But I was not to be deterred. “What about the big screen appeals to you?” “I watch a lot of video and YouTube clips. Most of what I do is on the web. It all looks better on a large screen.” “Yes, but the display is not as good as the iPhone.” “I think it’s fine.” Switching gears, I asked: “Don’t you use the camera? Have you noticed how on your device that pictures taken in low light –“ “The camera’s fine. The video camera’s fine, too.” He hoped we were finished. I was only getting started. “I just read a study. iPhone is 300% more reliable than most Android devices.” He shrugged, his way...

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The Smartphone Wars on Television. The best smartphone commercials.

Apple sold an astounding 47 million iPhones in Q4 2012. This was only good enough for second place in the “smartphone wars”. Samsung, the clear leader, sold nearly 65 million smartphones. The success of Samsung, which is dominating the Android market, is no doubt partly due to their constant, aggressive marketing. Expect more of this as the market continues to grow and continues to attract more and more competition. Since the 2007 launch of the iPhone, then the App Store, then the Google Nexus in 2010, smartphones have come to dominate the personal computing landscape. More than a billion Apple iOS and Android devices have sold in only a few years. Within a few more years – at most – it’s possible that both iOS and Android will each have a user base larger than the global Windows install base. Smartphones represent one of the largest markets in the world, touching consumers and the enterprise, government and education, and impacting work and healthcare, the movie business, retail, gaming and so much more.  No surprise then that we are bombarded with commercials to buy the latest device, to switch to the newest platform. Does this advertising work? We know that Samsung sells the most devices and outspends everyone else in the industry on marketing. Certainly, advertising helps. At least, when done right. Here are what I consider to be the ten best smartphone commercials since the launch of the iPhone. Warning: I am no pushover. Advertisements filled with pretty women or lasers or ninjas, for example, have almost zero impact on my buying decisions. The ads below were appealing enough, clever enough and informative enough to make me consider the product. Or at least, to remember their product long after its demise. 10. Really? While very few people on the planet purchased a “new Windows Phone” this series of ads were funny and memorable. More than that, the entire premise of this campaign was based on an entirely new reality: suddenly we all had smartphones and we were using them all the time, no matter the circumstance.   9. Tacos! This ad from AT&T was not about a single device or even a specific smartphone platform. Rather, with its humorous take on office politics, it showed us all the benefits of the ‘new’ 4G service. In a way, this made it an Android ad, given the number of 4G-ready Android devices,  but that was not the larger point. Rather, this commercial told us that to keep up, even over the most mundane of matters, we needed the most advanced data service available – and a smartphone to match.   8....

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Top 10 things I hate about iPhone

Confession: I do not hate iPhone. I may love it, in fact. iPhone is my primary personal computing and communications device. I use it everywhere, all the time, and for an increasing – seemingly limitless – number of functions, tasks, activities, chores and stolen moments of leisure. But, I made a promise. In the interest of fairness, I agreed that as a follow-up to last week’s op-ed, “Top 10 things I hate about Android”, I would create a similar list for iPhone. This is going to be hard. I don’t simply love iPhone – and use it constantly – I remember the days before iPhone. Back when Android was a pale imitation of Blackberry, rather than a pale imitation of iPhone. I remember thick, clunky Palms, and brick-like Nokias, and the days before a million apps and an amazing full-touchscreen display. iPhone rescued me, and rescued the world, from what we did not know were the dinosaurs of mobile computing; a dank, dark and exceedingly harsh world until Apple, like some giant ball of fire from the heavens destroyed the planet’s ancient life and made the world better, brighter, made it so fast-moving, highly communicative, exceedingly intelligent new species could thrive. iPhone changed the world, changed how the world functions – for the better, in my view. I’m not sure I could ever hate the iPhone then. Of course, rather than limiting myself to iPhone, I could include all of Apple. Spend but a day on the Internet and you realize that Apple generates a radically disproportionate amount of hate. Those who hate Apple the most, the loudest, always strike me as, well, slightly deranged – sufferers of Apple Derangement Syndrome. Perhaps I have judged them too harshly. Perhaps they have a valid argument. I will give it a try. Here, then, my top 10 reasons for hating Apple. 1. Steve Jobs I never met Steve Jobs. I do not know anyone who ever met Steve Jobs. But I do read the Internet and the Internet says Steve Jobs was a total dick. Sure, he helped launch the personal computing revolution, the online music revolution, rescued Pixar, turned a dying American company into the world’s most successful, launched the tablet revolution, launched the smartphone revolution, launched the app revolution, was a shockingly prescient visionary who left the world at a young age but not before telling us all that life should be treasured and each of us should embrace that which makes us special. Don’t care. Internet says Jobs was a dick. That’s one! 2. Porn Apple refuses to sell porn in its store. Who do they think they...

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Top 10 things I hate about Android

I admire Apple, and love their story. They are a wildly successful, highly innovative company, founded by one of America’s great visionaries, Steve Jobs. Apple’s story encompasses birth to boom to near-death to re-birth to conquering the world. Yet their best days lie ahead. I believe that mobile computing is the central computing paradigm for this generation and Apple, simply put, makes the best; the best smartphone, the best tablet, the best laptop. I believe they will be valued at well over $1 trillion before this decade is out. But, I do not love Apple. I am not swayed by their marketing or history or their coolness factor. I simply admire them. Android, however, I hate. At least, as much as any person can hate a smartphone platform. Android just isn’t that good. Worse, it’s just not that good when the potential to be good is easily within reach. Whereas iOS, Apple’s operating system, is a thing of beauty, I view Android as a copy of a copy, one whose primary purpose is to capture more of my digital footprint. This is not an emotional view. It is fully rational. Here are my ten reasons for admiring Apple iPhone and hating Google Android: 1. It just works iOS is more functional and more intuitive – by far. It works seamlessly across all my iOS devices, including my old iPhone 4 and my second-gen iPad, and integrates well with my four-year-old MacBook. iTunes is easier to navigate and use than Google Play, payments are a snap, finding the right music and video works simply and efficiently. I’ve even found that oftentimes the exact same app works better on iPhone than Android. This is not by chance. Everything about iOS is simpler than Android. Simple is always better. If you are harder, more complex, difficult, than you better offer some valid reason for this. Android does not. 2. Support The majority of Android users are using an outdated version of the OS. This is anti-user nonsense. As an iPhone user, I do not have to rely on Samsung or HTC or Verizon or Google for my updates. Apple makes sure I get every single update, without fail. If there is a problem with my device, I go straight to Apple. There is no confusion, no uncertainty, no multiple points of culpability. Every app I purchase, every movie I rent or song I buy I do so through Apple’s iTunes. I do not ever concern myself about carrier billing versus Google Checkout, for example. Better, simpler, and with a single point of contact for support. 3. Security To the best of my...

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If only Nokia had a Steve Jobs
Jan28

If only Nokia had a Steve Jobs

Six years ago this month, January 2007, Steve Jobs stood before the world and announced the iPhone. His words were few and telling: “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything”   Accuse Steve Jobs of showmanship if you like, but in this case he was absolutely correct about iPhone’s revolutionary impact. Thanks to the iPhone, Apple is now the world’s richest tech company, has a global user base of over 500 million – and is growing rapidly. During this same period, Nokia has lit itself aflame, been forced to leap from its own burning platform, and finds itself, still, drowning in the icy waters below. It should not be so. The Apple iPhone went for sale in June 2007, in the US, on AT&T, with 2G connectivity. There was no app store. The device was priced over $500. It looked unlike anything before it. No wonder Nokia – and everyone else – assumed iPhone would flop. As Apple launched iPhone, Nokia gave us the N95, a device many experts considered possibly the best smartphone ever for its time. The N95 included a great mapping service, had a awesome 5MP camera – as opposed to iPhone’s 2MP version – included camcorder functions, excellent sound quality for music, possibly the best web browsing for the time, and a myriad of great games. The problem, however, was Nokia had no Steve Jobs. No, not to help market the device. Rather, to re-imagine the future. The N95, great as it was, was more of the same. Only, the world did not want that, even if the world had not yet realized what they desired. The N95 was a hunk of metal and plastic and glass that was not comfortable to hold. It had far too many buttons, all crammed next to one another. The screen was too small compared to the total size of the device. Many of the N95’s design and hardware failings were there because Nokia had no choice. Its software, Symbian, was simply not that good – not in meeting the needs of the future. What the future wanted, what we now have thanks to iPhone, is a full touchscreen device, highly responsive, with an OS that is both intuitive and powerful, so much so that the device only requires a singular ‘home’ button. In 2007, the N95 looked like a high-end mobile personal computing device. The iPhone looked like nothing else. Critics, and Nokia, got it all wrong. They foolishly compared the iPhone against the N95. The N95 was the best of all that came before – a fast, voracious, powerful…dinosaur. The iPhone,...

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Samsung could destroy Android. Not iPhone

Forget the smartphone war between Apple iPhone and Google Android. It is in their mutual interests to achieve a semi-permanent détente, and to own this rapidly growing global market. Apple’s iPhone dominates on the hardware side, sucking up the bulk of all handset profits, while Google dominates the mobile web landscape, capturing valuable data across a billion users. A smartphone ‘cold war’ could prove highly profitable for both Apple and Google for the long-term. Think, Coke vs Pepsi, or the more obvious, US vs USSR. They were enemies, yes, but they could only assume that to destroy the other would be to destroy themselves. Each, however, could dominate their respective spheres. Only Samsung stands in their way. Apple and Google already directly benefit from each other. iPhone users provide both more and more valuable data to Google than do Android users. In this way, Apple benefits Google. By having Google’s apps, including search, voice search and maps, which are considered better than Apple’s defaults, available to its users, Apple knows that its platform will remain the world’s most favored. Google benefits Apple. The threat to Apple and Google – in the smartphone wars – is not from Windows Phone or Blackberry, nor from Symbian or Jolla or Ubuntu or Firefox. It is from Samsung. It is in the interest of both Apple and Google to work together, at least tacitly, to minimize Samsung’s threat. The Rise of Samsung One of the more interesting aspects of Samsung’s rapid rise to smartphone prominence is that they are cheered on by staunch Android fans, those who have sworn a vow of abstinence towards Apple. Why? Apple is accused of being a mere “marketing company”. Yet Samsung spends an estimated 10X more to market their devices. The oft-repeated claim is that Apple doesn’t innovate – they just take what’s already in development and put a shiny coat over it. But who is more guilty of this than Samsung? They take Google’s operating system and apps and place them inside devices that look suspiciously close to an iPhone, resulting in tremendous sales, of course, but also a series of costly lawsuits around the world. In cheering on Samsung in their epic battle royale with Apple, I think the Android faithful have it all backwards. Samsung will not destroy iPhone. Samsung could, however, destroy Android. True, Samsung almost certainly takes revenues and profits away from Apple’s iPhone business. More importantly, though, Samsung sucks up nearly all the profits of the Android handset market. This limits product roll-out, marketing and ongoing innovation from other ecosystem members. No profits, no business. Samsung is a threat to iPhone,...

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