Tag Archive | "iphone"

The State of Android Tablets (2011): A Survey of Thoughts From Carrypad Staff

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At the beginning of the year, if you would have told me that, by the summer, there would be a dozen different Android tablets available for order from reliable, first tier manufacturers, I would have told you to get outta town. We were likely all desensitized to the constant stream of news that seemingly had the same message: “Company X announced the Y Tablet today. It features blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. No information was released on a launch date or pricing.” It had gotten to the point that I immediately went to the bottom of any announcement of a tablet-device, and if it had the standard blurb about no launch date or word on pricing, I did not read the article.

Flash-forward to the present. That standard blurb I mentioned above is something that we are seeing several times a day now. The difference is that with each instance of an announcement, there is a level of confidence that we are actually reading a press statement about a device that will be delivered to the market and will not just become vaporware. A year ago, this was not the case. I regarded almost every announcement of an Android tablet as a veritable Chupacabra that I would never actually see. Now, launch events for tablets and the equally interesting Android OS updates are major media events, commanding the undivided attention of the journalists in attendance, and the readers reading the live-blogs in real time or catching up on the ensuing hands-on later in the day. Keeping up with the state of the tablet market is now almost a hobby in and of itself.

As we head into the closing month of this watershed year in the tablet industry, with still more compelling Android tablets promised to hit retail before we turn the corner into 2012, I have been reflecting on the past year and pondering what is yet to come. I have a few ideas of what the recent past has meant, and what the future might hold. Not convinced that there is any way that I could possibly have all of the answers, I engaged my fellow editors and contributors from Carrypad in a dialogue on the topic. We each took a shot at answering three key questions that we felt were critical things to consider and might very well define the picture of the Android tablet market today. Each writer answered the questions in-the-blind, unaware of the answers from the others. Please join us in this dialogue and post your thoughts on our perspectives, as well as your own original thoughts on this subject in the comments below.

Many pundits talk about the belief that there is no tablet market, there is just an iPad market, and the other manufacturers are just flailing, trying to tread water in a marketplace that does not exist. Are they right? If not, what do Google and its hardware partners need to do in order to compete for consumer dollars and a place as the the second or third screen in users’ personal computing kits?

  • Ben: Apple definitely created an iPad market, not a tablet market. You can see this easily with many of the capacitive-only Windows slates that are trying to pull a “me too” move, but are absolutely failing when it comes to user adoption. Trying to shoe-horn a touch (finger only) keyboardless experience onto a Windows machine is just silly. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for Android, but at the moment, Google has a product for geeks, while Apple has a product for everyone (including geeks). I often look at it this way: iOS and Android are comparable, but Android needs heavy customization out of the box to be brought up to the level of iOS usability. Because of this, the iPad dominates the mainstream (probably more so in the US than other places). There’s also something to be said about app-quality and system stability. The competition between the iPad and Android tablets is absolutely healthy for consumers, and it’s great to see the wide range of computing-styles that are offered by Android devices. If the iPad was the only game in town, they’d stagnate (in some regards they have), but thanks to Android, Apple has to be ever vigilant, and vice-versa.
  • Damian: There has been a tablet market, although small, for many years before the iPad. Many of the readers of Carrypad will have had windows tablets since the old days of Windows XP Tablet Edition, which was officially released in 2001. The tablet market then was mostly a business or enterprise market and you’d have to credit the iPad with launching the mass scale consumer tablet market for an easy to use consumption device. The iPad dominates the consumer consumption market but Android tablets are gaining ground. Both still can’t quite make it as an enterprise device and the first one that cracks that will have an advantage. With rumours of Microsoft Office being developed for the consumer tablet OS’s this might be the tipping point. I think adding a stylus that works well changes the equation considerably and a well implemented, pen driven solution (ideally running Office) that allows users to create, in a common, accessible format, will boost the Android tablet market share.
  • Jerry: I don’t think these guys (the pundits) are right. There are some 6 million plus Android tablet devices in operation, and that constitutes a market to me. It took a long time for Android to gain traction in the smartphone market, with the G1 being just interesting, but things really started taking off with the arrival of the original Droid on Verizon. For Google and its partners to push more adoption, I am not sure if the saturation tactic that was has worked in the smartphone market is going to work for tablets. I think general consumers will be compelled by more content. Android has a great hook with its one-source approach to aggregating access to all content mediums via your single Google account. But they need a better library in Google books, a music source for procuring music (Blast it! I drafted this before the Google Music launch), and further integration with Google TV. It would be a huge plus if I could be watching an episode of a show on my tablet, and then have my stopping place synced with a GoogleTV device to continue watching the content from the same place… and for there to be worthwhile, current TV content.
  • Chippy: In terms of tablets there really is only an iPad market at the moment. Android tablets remain a niche, rather geeky option. The reason has nothing to do with hardware design or OS, it’s to do with the apps. There simply aren’t enough devices out there to justify any serious large-screen/fragments-enabled quality developement work. By my estimate there are between 10 and 15 million Android tablet devices out there. Some 5″, some 7″ and some 10″ devices, some running Android 2.x and some 3.x. The effort required to make a quality app across this fragmented product base is too big for the potential returns. For this to change, the number of fragments-enabled devices out there needs to grow considerably. ICS will help slowly during 2012 but for Android to stimulate major development work, soon, it needs a breakthrough product. The Kindle Fire could have been that product but with its 2.x OS it won’t stimulate the important use of fragments. 2012 looks like another difficult year for Android tablet apps.

The pundits also say that fragmentation of the Android OS is a key detractor from the product category gaining ground, not only in the tablet market but across smartphones as well. How do you define fragmentation, or do you feel it does not really exist? There is also a discussion of ecosystems and its criticality in the mobile market. How do you define a mobile ecosystem, or do you think this factor does not exist, or is not as relevant as some suggest.

  • Ben: “Fragmentation” is not an issue inherent to Adroid, but rather a desire of Android device manufacturers. Apple only markets one line of phones and one line of tablets, and at any given time, there is only one model that is considered the flagship device. For Android, any number of phone/tablet makers may have comparable devices, so how can they ‘differenatiate’ (aka fragment) their devices to appeal to customers over their competitor’s devices? The answer often comes in adding custom skins, pre-baking in selected applications and services (some of which may be unique to a given device). This means that the specific experience between tablets is somewhat different. Depending upon the hardware, you might not be able to see the same applications in the Android Market because not all applications are supported on all Android tablet hardware. If a non-techie user buys an Android tablet and enjoys using a specific application that comes with it, they may be surprised to find that when they get a new tablet, that application is not available for it. The only way to avoid this issue is for the user to understand the way this ecosystem works, but that can’t be expected of non-techie users. When it comes to the iPad, you can expect the latest iPad to be capable of running every iPad app (and iPhone app for that matter) that’s ever been made. Furthermore, because all apps are made with the top-end hardware in mind, you can expect any app available to run well if you have the current generation of iPad or iPhone.
  • Damian: I think fragmentation, which I define as multiple hardware manufacturers making different spec’d devices and different implementations of the same OS, is a major factor in consumer uptake of Android tablets, not smartphones. The Android phones need to act as a phone first, then web consumption device, then app using, game playing devices. They usually don’t tend to be used as a consumer of complex media or producer of enterprise content. The phones have different hardware for sure but the manufacturers seem  to be doing a good job of making sure their hardware works in most scenarios, i.e. plays all the media formats it needs to, opens pdf’s and documents when attached to email, renders different websites, etc. The tablet space is more complex and the fragmentation hurts it more. Some devices have full sized USB, some devices have SD card slots, some devices have docks, some devices play all of the video formats and some don’t. This is where the split of the manufacturers seems to hurt most. It’s frustrating when one video plays well on your android phone but not on your tablet. Aren’t they both Android? A website looks great on your Android tablet but when you send the link to anther Android tablet it breaks. Sure you can download a new browser which is one of Android’s strengths but it’s also a hassle. If you see something on one iPad it will work on another iPad – that’s the advantage of controlling the whole ecosystem, both hardware and software.
  • Jerry: I do not think fragmentation exists in the way that I hear a lot of other journalists discuss it. I do not agree that that skinning Android is a form of fragmentation, and the discussion about any difference from the baseline version of Android being fragmentation seems to be a very conservative view. I do not think these perspectives are so close to the reality, and I do not classify mods like HTC Sense or skins like TouchWiz as examples of fragmentation. Where we were as recent as a year ago, there were many new phones being sold that were already whole baselines behind. In other words, tablets and phones were being released with Android 1.6 when Froyo was already out:  that’s an example of fragmentation. More so when those devices were immediately abandoned and never saw updates to a 2.x version of Android, that was also an example of fragmentation. It is the analog to Windows XP laptops being sold when Windows 7 was already out, and then those laptops not supporting  a path forward to Windows 7.  Android is open source, and variety in deployments should be expected, just the same as we expect it with LINUX. Yes, ecosystems are important.  I define ecosystems as a collection of hardware, connectivity, and services, without which, the hardware as a standalone device would offer very little value.  They are obviously important for smartphones, and they are perhaps even more important for tablets. The tablet by itself represents very little functionality. It is only in combination with its network connection, app store or market, and back-end cloud services (email, contacts management, plug-ins to social networks, content availability, and online profiles) that a tablet becomes useful. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has a better fighting chance of being a viable competitor than the Nook Tablet because it brings a kitchen sink of content availability via  its ecosystem and consolidation of that content in one repository channel. The Nook Tablet will have to be configured with several accounts to have access to the same volume of content, and then the content will be available via a spread across multiple channels.
  • Chippy: Fragmentation is a real issue when it comes to developing apps which, in turn, affect the value of the whole Android product range. ICS is the right step, almost a first step, in removing some of the fragmentation but we must not forget that screen sizes, processing capabilities, and sensors all cost development and testing time and are part of the fragmentation problem. ICS development will remain focused on handsets first until the numbers rise significantly. The screen-size/platform fragmentation will remain in the Android ecosystem so Google has to make it as easy as possible to develop. That means fast, quality dev tools and emulators.

What are your current Android devices of choice (tablets and smartphones)? What is your projected next Android acquisition and why? What are your thoughts on Android Tablets as media consumption devices versus their utility for productivity?

  • Ben: I haven’t yet found an Android smartphone or tablet that has quite cut it for me, but I also feel like I have no need for a tablet at the moment, it is too redundant between my smartphone and laptop. It’s quite possible to get done work on tablets, regardless of the platform, but it really comes down to the applications and how well they run on the hardware.
  • Damian: The Asus Eee Pad Transformer with keyboard dock is my current tablet but I am in the market to pick up for an Asus Eee Pad Slider. I don’t need the extra battery life the keyboard dock gives me and I don’t want the extra weight either but I love having the ability to use a full keyboard. What I’d like is a touch screen with a full keyboard when I need it without having to carry around a dock or external keyboard and this is what the Slider gives me. I’m also relatively happy with the build quality and Android implementation that Asus did. The Slider has a full sized USB port – killer feature on a tablet. If you want to provide a level of productivity capability at any volume and have a chance in the enterprise market, manufacturers need to make tablets with a keyboard and possibly a stylus – there I’ve said it start the flames :). I run a Motorola Atrix 4G for business and personal use and it is the best phone I have had to date. I sold an iPhone for the Nokia N900 and the Nokia for the Atrix and I have never looked back. Fantastic hardware coupled with a great implementation of Android and cool, very functional accessories make this a very productive and useful phone. I have yet to defeat the phone with any media format or file type and I credit Motorola with doing a great job of implementing Android and a fantastic out of the box Android experience.
  • Jerry: My current kit includes an HTC Evo 3D as my primary smartphone and a Samsung Nexus S 4G as my secondary, both on Sprint. My tablet kit consists of the Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 16GB, the Acer Iconia Tab A500 16GB, and the Motorola Xoom 3G. The two phones break even as far as the one of choice. I like the stock Android load on the Nexus, and I prefer the display over the one on the Evo 3D. But I like the Evo for its faster processor and speed, and the availability of the 3D camera. Amongst the tablets, while I like them all, my ThinkPad is the device I carry with me every day and I love the utility of digital inking on it over using a capacitive stylus with the Xoom or Iconia. When I originally drafted this, I thought my next acquisition was going to be a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. I mainly wanted it to replace my iPad, which recently died, with  a smaller form-factor option for increased portability. Instead I grabbed a Kindle Fire. It is a lot easier to grab and carry than some of my 10″ devices. I have access to the right amount of my cloud services and content that it makes sense for me to grab it as I head out the door probably about 50% of the time. My initial hour after waking in the AM is spent using the Kindle Fire to read content, communicate with friends, colleagues, and co-workers, and plan out events for the day.
  • Chippy: 15 minutes before writing this sentence I was given an iPad 2. Let’s see what happens in the following weeks but I’m currently writing this text on the Galaxy Tab 7 and I suspect that my mobile productivity will remain in this 7″ space due to size and ease of thumb-typing. Currently that means an Android-based solution. I don’t use an Android phone because of short battery life and poor cameras. Yes, I was locked-in by a test of a Nokia N8 which I still think is a fantastic cam/phone. I’m currently looking at the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus and Galaxy Tab 7.7 as a future upgrade possibility but I may wait for proven Ice Cream Sandwich products first as, to be honest, the Galaxy Tab 7 is still working well for me as a productivity, media consumption, reading and social networking device, despite still running a 2.x build of Android.

Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS Now Available on iPhone and iPad

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Minecraft Pocket Edition was released officially for Android a few weeks back, but Mojang, the company behind the popular indie game, had been ever silent about the iOS version. All we really knew was that they were working on it. Well it seems that Mojang was planning on launching the iOS version at the Minecon event that’s being held today and tomorrow, but they put Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS up on the App Store ahead of time to ensure that it would be readily available at the time of the announcement. They should have known that their ravenous Minecraft fans would spot it in an instant!

Minecon is an event being held in Las Vegas by Mojang this weekend to celebrate the launch of the desktop version of Minecraft. “Launch?”, I hear you say, “but I thought Minecraft already sold over 4 million copies?” And thus the popularity of Minecraft becomes clear. Mojang has indeed sold in excess of 4 million copies of Minecraft prior to the game’s official launch. The game has been in a beta state for many months, seeing slow and continues updates from Mojang, and now what they’re calling the ‘launch’ version of the game is being released at Minecon, today, in fact.

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After numerous knockoffs, copy-cats, and fakes that have reached the App Store, the real Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS is now available for download. You can download it right here for $6.99 as a universal app that works on the iPad and iPhone. On Android, Minecraft Pocket Edition has a free demo, and I expect to see a similar demo come to iOS in due time.

Both versions of Minecraft Pocket Edition for Android and iOS are still in the beta stage,  much like the desktop version once was. Mojang plans to regularly update these versions until they reach a level that they deem worthy of calling the launch version. At the moment, Minecraft Pocket edition doesn’t support the exact same gameplay, and is certainly harder to control through a touchscreen than with a mouse and keyboard, but the charm certainly remains.

If you haven’t played Minecraft before, I would recommend trying the desktop version of the game first. Minecraft Pocket Edition seems, to me, to be more of a ‘you can play it on the go if you can’t get enough of it’ sort of app, rather than an app that works flawlessly on a touchscreen. Not to say it doesn’t run well, but let’s face it, the game was designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, and that’s how it plays best.

Limited multiplayer support exists in Minecraft Pocket Edition and is thankfully cross-compatible between iOS and Android, but unfortunately the Pocket Editions won’t work with the desktop version. In order to build and explore in the same world with friends, you must be on the same WiFi network.

Don’t know what Minecraft is? Well, it’s tough to explain because it’s a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For some, it’s like a virtual lego builder. For others, it’s an unlimited and randomly generated world for exploring. If any video could, this one seems to capture it well:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_yqOoUMHPg

I remember when I first started playing Minecraft. I was thankful that there was no iOS version, because I knew I’d get no work done if I could play Minecraft on my phone. Unfortunately, I’ve no longer got any place to hide.

iPhone 4G Images? iPad? Shanzai? What IS this?

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I just noticed this post over at UMPCFever. It’ a photo set of an iPhone 4G. Is it the first iPad unboxing?

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We guess it’s some sort of Shanzai rip-off but it’s looking good anyway! Stay tuned for an update on this.

Source: UMPCfever

Update: Trixxy thinks it’s a fanboy rendering. Highly likely but wow, these renderings are getting good.

Dynamic Devs, Brisk Browsers and X86 in the Mix at MDC09

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Thanks to the Intel Insider program I was able to take part in the Mobile Dev Camp in Munich last week and what a great day it was. As with Hamburg and Amsterdam (I really must visit a Mobile Dev Camp in a country that speaks my own language soon!) I was blown away by the skill and focus of the developers and the quality of the presentations. I’m not a developer myself but I learnt a lot. I’m sure others did too.

Overall I came away with the impression that, as with Dev Camp Amsterdam, Europeans are slightly more focused towards Android than iPhone and are even continuing with Windows Mobile Symbian work due to numbers of end-users and the fact that a lot of people in Europe started in mobile software development before the iPhone boom. Switching operating systems isn’t cheap so a lot of the early software dev teams are still working with Symbian and Windows Mobile.

There’s also the feeling that the browser is coming of age. Four things seem to be driving the trend.

  1. The growing number of mobile platforms and end-user devices means it becomes more expensive to cover everything.
  2. Improvements in browser technology, in particular javascript engines, mean that in-browser code is now able to provide a better user experience.
  3. Improvements in mobile CPUs also mean that in-browser code can be executed quickly.
  4. HTML 5 elements provide a way for developers to get more creative in the browser.

Improvements in browser and platform technology was at the core of the first talk I attended. Stefan Zaunseder and Christian Schilcher from GISCAD who have both spent a lot of time researching the best technologies to use to present detailed mapping information via SVG. Should they use a client application or should they use a browser?

From the statistics they presented it appears that we’re now reaching a crossover point where, on smartphone devices, in-browser performance is finally reaching levels that can satisfy an end user. Interestingly enough it matches a lot of my own testing that indicates that the latest mobile cores and the latest browser technologies are now able to offer the end user an enjoyable way to use web-based applications without costing too much in size and battery life. Until now, this just hasn’t been possible.

Again, matching my own smartphone platform tests, it seems that the iPhone 3GS browser is leading the pack on the ARM platform. [As a quick sidenote to that topic I can say that although the ARM-based browsers are getting good, the best of the browsers on the best ARM platforms are still a long way away from the X86-based performance we see in Intel's ultra mobility platforms. In my own javascript tests I'm seeing 3-5x more javascript performance at the same clock speed between Intel Atom and ARM A8 cores. Stefan, if you're reading this, check out the Viliv S5!]

The second talk of the day came from Simon Tennant of Buddycloud. The subject quickly went to depths of Android coding that I’m not capable of following but I did pick up on one aspect – Power efficiency. I personally have a problem with chatty protocols over 3G but BuddyCloud are using XMPP (as are Google and others) which they say gives them a full day of connected battery life on a regular smartphone. That’s interesting because although I haven’t tested extensively, I’m finding that Skype is an absolute no-no as an always-connected service over 3G. The protocol is effectively a multi-link P2P service and extremely chatty. I hope Skype find a way to improve that. Until then I’ll be looking for clients that use XMPP!

Simon had a nice slide which highlighted 5 tips for developers. Note how important he thinks power management is. I totally agree. Power management must be a core consideration for developers now.

5 tips for Mobile Developers

The third session was from Simon Schoar who has a number of applications in the Android marketplace. He spent a good hour giving tips about what and what not to do when releasing an app. If I ever get into the Android application developer game (and believe me, I did think about it a few times at MDC09!) then I’ll be getting in contact with this guy.

Mobile phone software development is still very much an ARM-based activity. With effectively 100% of smartphones being on the ARM platform it’s hardly surprising but in my talk about device segmentation I bravely (and partly in German for the first time ever) tackled the subject of device segmentation. I tried to highlight the changing crossover point between devices on ARM and Intel ultra mobile platforms and to show how small the current X86 devices have become using a big set of devices I took with me. I also highlighted some applications that I think don’t really fit onto a smartphone very well. Media playback, ebook reading, navigation and web browsing were my main examples and you can see those functions in the image below.

I also highlighted where Intel are moving to, the expected sizing of Moorestown devices and how the Moblin platform could cover everything from segmentationsmartphones to netbooks. When I highlighted the numbers involved I couldn’t help but notice a few people start to make notes! It’s something to think about because as Moorestown and Medfield platforms feed-in and Moblin develops into a mature OS with a quality application delivery and monetisation process, just a  5% penetration into the smartphone / mobile internet and netbook market means many millions of end-user devices! Imagine what the numbers are going to be like if it penetrates further. Intel like to quote a total addressable market of over 400 million devices. ABI research say much the same. Keep the Intel Atom Developer Program in mind, people!

Thanks to all the organisers and sponsors of MDC09. I’m looking forward to speaking to you all again soon.

@Chippy

More MDC09 information can be found here (German, translation.)

Meet:Mobility Podcast – The Apple Tablet

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appletabletKicking me back into life after 3 weeks away from my desk is this special Meet:Mobility podcast about the (possible) Apple Tablet.

JKKMobile, Sascha, Warner, Xavier, Ben and Brad provided some really interesting thoughts and commentary on what the device might be like and where it will be targeted. At the end of the podcast I ask them all if they would buy one based on the current rumors and there’s a very very interesting response that tells me that the Apple Tablet is a hugely risky product!

Meet:Mobility Round-Table Podcast – The Apple Tablet | Meet:Mobility.

Image from Apple Insider.

Mobile Microblogging Devices. A List that Doesn’t Include Intel.

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Back in Feb, I listed a set of devices that should be high on your list if you’re thinking about mobile microblogging. It included MIDs and UMPCs. As the market for mobile social networking, mobile web search, mobile content creation, location based services and lifestreaming (my rough definition of Mobile Microblogging) gathers steam we’re seeing more and more devices coming into the segment and it’s mainly from the smartphone sector. UMPCs and MIDs aren’t getting a look-in. In fact, in my latest list, below, you won’t find a MID or UMPC.

Smartphones with bigger, higher resolution screens and high-end processors are appearing on the radar almost every week. Smartphone-based mobile software development is increasing too as more and more mobile device application stores tempt developers with easy-to-use, rich SDKs and APIs, a channel that reaches right down to millions of users devices and a good cut of any earnings.

ringoffieWhat’s really interesting about the Mobile Microblogging phenomenon is that very little software development is happening for today’s Intel MIDs, the very devices that were targeted into this segment. Intel have stopped work on the Moblin OS for them and they’re effectively UMPCs. You could even argue that there are no Intel MIDs any more! They are being totally left behind in both software and hardware until Intel push the reset button when Moorestown MIDs with Moblin hit the market. Until then, it’s desktop operating systems for MIDs and UMPCs.

You won’t find an easy-to-use, small-screen, GPS-enabled search service on Windows. You can’t even link Google Maps to a GPS on the browser. Forget the thought of a compass helping with augmented reality, an accelerometer, an FM receiver with RDS or, if you’re into internet photography, a half-decent snapshot camera. There’s no application store either. Only on smartphones will you find the creative software and hardware that is driving the mobile microblogging market and making it exciting, fresh, competitive and, quite frankly, desirable.

Moblin-based MIDs do have a chance as do Maemo 5 based devices but you won’t find any on the market yet so it’s going to take time for the developers to warm to those platforms. Come back in 2010 to discuss that!

Apple and Android have done a lot for the new generation of mobile internet devices and usage scenarios and so it should be no surprise to see smartphones dominating this Mobile Microblogging segment to the point where UMPCs and MIDs don’t get a look-in. UMPCs and Netbooks still have big  advantages for general purpose, day-to-day productive computing but if mobile creativity is your thing, there’s nothing better than the new generation of smartphones.

One could argue that smartphones have grown into the MID segment but for me it was always about usage scenarios rather than device categories. As Intel said, communication, location, entertainment and productivity. It’s a shame that Intel’s MIDs aren’t living up to their own hype yet. (see my recent Moorestown article for thoughts about 2010)

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iPhone 3GS – The Most Important MID

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product-hero-3g-s A few minutes after the iPhone 3GS announcement yesterday I tweeted that it was still the most important MID out there. Despite some ridiculously lame announcements (MMS and tethering for example) the fact that the processor has been upgraded, that a compass has been added along with video capability, that there’s a turn-by-turn navigation offering and the introduction of a ton of ebooks into the store highlights that it can stretch its wings across nearly all the segments that mobile internet devices should be in. Internet, gaming, photography, communications, ebooks, navigation and media playback.

The fact that it’s capable of all these things (albeit in ‘standard definition’ and with carrier-tied 24month contract) makes it important to watch. Imagine what’s going to happen within the iPhone developers ecosystem. The creativity contained within it is incredible and we’re going to see amazing applications, new usage models and a ton of new user-created data.

But…

It’s still not quite the MID most of us are looking for. Keyboard, hi-res screen, 720p recording, hi-def playback, video-out (wasn’t this supposed to be in the new OS?), removable battery, processing power, camera flash, Adobe flash and a general dash of openness are going to be big issues for pro-mobile types and that’s why it doesn’t really challenge devices like the UMID, the S5 or new devices like the Compal KAX-15 or the rumoured Nokia N900. Looking to 2010 and Moorestown/Moblin 2 the iPhone is going to look positively low-def if what’s promised comes true.

It looks like the hardware problems are solved and we could have our ideal MID tomorrow but that software ecosystem is key to gaining a fan-base, developers, word-of-mouth marketing and, quite simply, sales. Moblin and Maemo need to attract some of that creativity otherwise we’re left with some good hardware and a set of basic applications. App stores, stylish hardware, compelling API’s, unique features and attractive brands are a must.  The iPhone may not be the MID that any of us would create in our dreams but it’s still the most important MID out there.

Will Apple really release something drastically different from the iPhone?

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Original image from http://factoryjoe.com/blog/2007/11/05/apple-tablet-concept-the-ipad-touch/

Time draws closer to the event in which Apple is rumored to unveil a new, larger, touch oriented device. Let’s call it the iPod Plus (as Chippy coined it) essentially a device based around the concepts of the iPhone/iPod Touch (simple touch navigated software) but with less focus on the phone aspect and more focus on media and web interaction. No one knows for sure yet but people are imagining a small Slate style device with a highly touch friendly OS with a screen ranging from 5-8”. Being a happy iPhone owner, I’m very excited about the prospect of a new device that could culminate the lessons that Apple learned from the iPhone and use the great part of that experience to power a new media rich device. As I think about what it could mean for the company to release a new device, which would probably have a very different size than the iPhone and also run software that isn’t directly compatible with the iPhone hardware, I wonder if it will really happen the way that it is rumored, considering the hurdles that stand in the way.

Software and Developers

Apple has set off some sort of revolution with their App Store, an application that makes it very simple for users to find useful software for their iPhone/iPod Touch. Since the release of Apple’s App Store, we’ve seen the App Catalog for the upcoming Palm Pre, the Android Market for Android powered devices, the Windows Marketplace for devices running WM 6.5, and the BlackBerry App World for certain BlackBerrys. The concept of an App Store is great for many reasons. The biggest of which are the ease in which users can find and obtain applications and the ease in which developers can distribute their applications. By providing a virtual store for all third party software, Apple makes it easy for developers to focus on creating applications instead of having to make round-about back-ends for activation codes if they wanted to sell their applications. The App Store is an huge draw for developers.

That is apparent as Apple recently announced that the one billionth application was downloaded from the App Store. Just throwing out some rough numbers, let’s say that 50% of the applications downloaded from the App Store were free and that the other 50% cost just $2.99. If 500,000,000 applications have been downloaded at $2.99 each (Apple takes 30% of the price of the app), then you are talking about $448,500,000 of profit directly into Apple’s pocket by doing no more than providing a framework on which developers can reach an audience. Clearly the App Store and the concept of applications is very important to the success of the iPhone/iPod Touch, and I would say that Apple would need to think long and hard before coming out with a new device that would be unlikely to support some 35,000 applications which currently run across the entire iPhone/iPod Touch (gen 1 and 2) line of devices.

If they were considering this, I don’t think that Apple would release a device that is essentially a giant iPhone. More likely it seems that they would release a media rich device using an improved version of the iPhone OS (which is actually based on the full fledged OSX). Given the larger dimension of the device, and the likelihood that it won’t be phone, I think that Apple will have designed a new navigation philosophy and will probably want that experience to translate over to applications. Thus I don’t feel that they could simply port over all of the applications currently available in the App Store. Not only would the existing applications not work without scaling on a higher resoultion screen, but these apps would need to be rebuilt entirely for this new device to be compatible with the improved version of the iPhone OS and to function using the same navigation principals as Apple established with the device, as many apps in the current App Store have a consistent interface design that works to make system-wide finger navigation viable.

By releasing a new device based on different principals of user interaction and making current App Store applications incompatible, Apple would be throwing its current library of 35,000 third-party applications out the window and additionally they would be trying to split their strong base of developers.

As a developer who wants to sell an application, it would be hard for Apple to convince you to start developing for a new device that doesn’t have backward compatibility with the old devices. Any developer would realize that the current audience, which includes anyone with a 1st or 2nd gen iPhone or iPod Touch, would be much larger than a newly released device. And why might someone spend the time developing an application for the newer hardware when the audience would be so much smaller. Sure, eventually the numbers would start to even out, but it would be hard to get the ball rolling and see the same widespread development of applications on the iPod Plus as we’ve seen with current App Store apps.

Apple’s steady strategy for said devices has been based on compatibility. Even while coming out with new generations of the two devices, Apple has made it clear that they want every application in the App Store to be able to run on every generation and model of their ‘touch’ series of devices. Why break the trend now? There is definitely a time to move forward and come up with something new but Apple has seen great success with their current strategy and it might be too early for them to jump to new hardware and thus, new applications that would require that new hardware to function.

Nintendo is a company that works using a similar strategy of backward-compatibility. The company is responsible for one of the most successful handheld game consoles and part of that has to do with the fact that the handheld gaming system can play the same games from the previous handheld game generation released all the way back in 2001. Similarly, Nintendo’s Wii console can play games from the previous generation that was also released in 2001. While the Nintendo Wii definitely isn’t the most powerful of the three current gaming consoles, it is doing better than the other two in sales, partly due to its backward compatibility.

Size and Portability

I’ve recently come to realize how great the iPhone is as a gym companion. Heading to the gym to do some exercise with the iPhone in a holster on the waist has plenty to offer one who is doing various gym activities. Music is the most obvious thing that comes to mind. It couldn’t be easier to put together a playlist and with the included earbuds, you can change tracks easily using the button on the cord without even having to look at the iPhone, one can even answer and hang up calls with the same button and the ringtone comes right over the earbuds. Beyond just listening to music, the iPhone can be great for web consumption when on the stationary bike. Some people like to read a book using the little shelf on the bike, but the iPhone sits there just as well and provides a portal into one’s online life. Its great to be able to exercise while checking twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, etc.

While hunched over and tapping my fingers around on the iPhone’s small screen, I realized how great that the little magazine/book shelf would work with an iPod Plus. Imagine a 7” screen sitting flat right there where a book might go and offering a great touch navigated media experience. You could read full web pages and easily flick your way up and down the page to see the contents without having to frequently pinch zoom. Considering more powerful hardware, you could have a nice twitter app running in the background that would notify you of new updates using a Growl style notification system. Sounds great to me, but when I considered that the iPhone simply comes with me to the gym in a holster on my waist, I wondered how I would carry such a device with me.

With a 7” screen I don’t think it would be very pocketable. It wouldn’t be the companion style device that could play music for you while lifting. What does one do with a device that sits between the size of a pocketable phone and a notebook? The iPhone is usable while walking because it can be held in one hand an operated, but a device such as that which has been rumored sounds like it would need to sit down on a table and have the attention of both user’s hands in order to be operated. Sound familiar? That’s right, notebook basically needs to be put down on a table and have interaction from both hands to be effectively used, and I don’t think that Apple wants to compete with their own notebook line. Apple hit the sweet spot when coming up with a device that could be used with one hand and slip into the pocket with no problem.

Summing it up

There are certainly a lot of factors that go into the creation of a new device and I’m sure that Apple looks into this stuff with much scrutiny before trying to push a big new product. While I would love to see an iPod Plus device with a large screen that featured a great new interface and the ability to consume media rich content, I think that it is unlikely to see anything radically different from an iPhone. It doesn’t seem likely that Apple would release a device that is more powerful, isn’t compatible with the apps in the current App Store and also sits at a size that competes with the MacBook line of notebooks. What’s more is that Apple doesn’t want to split their developer community, and would have a hard time starting up the wildfire of rapid application development that was part of success of the current ‘touch’ series of devices.

Is the iPhone a MID?

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{democracy:8}

iBluetooth adds some real BT capabilities to the iPhone, full stack planned

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Speaking of the iPhone and Bluetooth stereo today, it looks like an interesting application has been released through Cydia today. Quickly: Cydia is the application that allows you to install unofficial third part applications after your iPhone or iPod Touch has been jailbroken. (iPod Touchs don’t have Bluetooth though, sorry guys!)

So what is iBluetooth? The dev says that in its current incarnation it is capable of doing file transfers of images and audio. Maybe not everything we’ve wished for, but its a start. Here is the interesting part:

The developer says that he is charging a small fee for the iBluetooth (3.99 Euros) application for an important reason. Using proceeds from the sale of the application, he plans to purchase a full Bluetooth stack an implement it as a daemon (background service) into the iPhone so that any jailbroken application can have access to the iPhones Bluetooth with a fully supported Bluetooth stack.

What does a fully supported BT stack mean? Well for starters, it would provide A2DP stereo audio over Bluetooth. On top of that it should support all of the other Bluetooth profiles, which should make it possible for the pairing of keyboards and other devices. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of this happening and if you are as well, the dev asks you not to pursue a cracked version of the application, but instead pay for it as it will lead to the implementation of a full Bluetooth stack accessible to any jailbroken application developer.

[MeDevil]



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