Daniel Eran Dilger
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Google’s Android Platform Faces Five Tough Obstacles

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Daniel Eran Dilger
Google new Android mobile platform has been received by some members of the tech media with such glowing adoration that one might get the impression that Android is destined to waltz into the smartphone business just as surely as Bill Gates’ robotic dance killed off the Seinfeld ads. Here’s five aspects of Android reality that they’re failing to consider.
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Hopelessly Devoted.

Whenever CNET or VNUNet and their ilk fawn over a new product, it’s a bad omen. This is the crowd that applauded Vista, the Zune, PlaysForSure Windows Media DRM, and so on. In each case, rather than presenting two sides of possible outcomes, that entire segment of punditry professed to have a special insight into why the world would simply be taken by storm, and of course they were completely wrong.

Just having their breathless support is a warning sign, because they all want certain things to happen so desperately that they ignore all sorts of pesky warning and potential problems to deliver a perfectly cheery, single minded outlook.

There’s nothing wrong with stating a hopeful opinion or voicing support to see a given technology take hold. However, these sites are supposed to be reporting news, not advocating for their advertisers. Here on the eve of the Google announcement, I’ll present five things the tech media either hasn’t considered or has purposely covered up to deliver a more convenient tale.

I walk through the valley of the shadow of hype.

The first problem for Android is that it is being deployed during a rainstorm of iPhone hype. Apple introduced the iPhone nearly two years ago, and managed to maintain rapt media attention for six months until it shipped. Unlike Android, the iPhone was brutally assaulted by CNET and the other usual suspects.

Even pundits who had never written about mobiles before came out with regular attacks and potential criticisms that were often laughable. They bent over backward to assure readers that Apple could never do to smartphones what it had done in to MP3 players with the iPod, and that everything about the iPhone was wrong, from its lack of a chicklet keyboard to price tag to its missing features and its unnecessary features and its woefully inadequate security.

This was absurd. The iPhone was clearly a breakthrough product, and also had some clear limitations. There was plenty to write about on both sides. The fact that the iPhone emerged through all this hailstorm of overstated and often dishonest reporting to become the most talked about product of 2007 and the largest selling smartphone model in the US throughout its debut is pretty impressive.

Apple iPhone Rumors Off the Hook
Secret iPhone Details Lost in a Sea of Hype and Hate
More Absurd iPhone Myths: Third Party Software Panic

Apple continued to keep attention up through a series of upgrades, the release of the iPod touch, the announcement of the App Store and enterprise-friendly 2.0 features, and the delivery of the new iPhone 3G to a worldwide audience. Apple has kept iPhone media attention going for nearly two years now, and things are just getting more exciting for users and developers.

The problem for Google isn’t that the iPhone can’t be competed against; it’s that there’s not enough room in people’s minds to keep track of a second place achiever. The iPhone is the phone that phones are measured against, just as the iPod is the MP3 player others are compared with.

Not even Microsoft’s deep pockets could deliver a serious threat to the iPod after two years of trying with the Zune (and two years of trying with PlaysForSure before that). There wasn’t enough room in people’s minds to keep track of several different products. Apple got there first and set up shop and became the brand people think about.

There are other historical examples of good enough products being shut out by insufficient air for a rival. IBM’s OS/2 Warp was superior to Windows 95 in a variety of ways, but after Microsoft impregnated Windows 95 in the minds of users, there wasn’t room to think about competitors. The Sony Walkman is another example. It had competitors, but none really memorable for your mom to recall. It took an entirely different product category and technology shift for it to be unseated by the iPod.

Android will forever be lurking in the shadows as the iPhone killer, not the product others seek to kill. This is a problem for Google, because mindshare is very difficult to buy once a rival brand has established itself as the brand in a category. It’s like competing with Xerox, Kleenex, Viagra, or in the area of web search, Google. Anyone who is particularly familiar with those products can probably name competitors, but the general public doesn’t think about them very much.

It also doesn’t help that the shadow Android walks out into is now in its second generation, taking on the world stage, creating its own weather by generating tens of millions of development incentives, and has been aggressively priced. If Android phones were being floated as a cheap alternative to the iPhone last year when it was $599, things would look better. How does one compete against a $199 wildly popular icon with robust features and an established reputation and software base?

The definition of Android pretty much has to make some mention of the iPhone, just like the definition of Zune has to acknowledge the iPod. Selling Android will be like selling Royal Crown cola. It doesn’t matter how good it might taste, and therein lies challenge number one.

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Will Google’s Android Play DOS to Apple’s iPhone?

Welcome Graduates to the New Recession.

A second problem for Android is that it is being shoved into the market during an economic crisis. This nearly bit Apple too, and pundits worried aloud repeatedly if Apple’s $599 iPhone would flop miserably as consumer buying began to slow in 2007. Instead, buyers shrugged off no name basic phones and older models like Motorola’s tired RAZR and the Palm Treo and snatched up the iPhone, leaving all the predicted economic pain on everyone else.

Apple has continued to outpace the economic downturn with robust sales of iPods even as the average sale price rises and the MP3 player market contracts. It’s been selling 35 to 40% more Macs year over year as the overall PC market slows to a crawl. And despite contracting smartphone growth worldwide, Apple’s iPhone sales are off the hook. How many more companies will be able to cheat reality?

Things are bad and getting worse. Google’s debut smartphone is a gadgety toy model that will primarily appeal to people who want the frilliest device available. The economic crisis going on will hit that segment the hardest. Again, if Android had shipped a year ago things might be very different, but that’s now impossible.

Apple can offer examples of its own of floating a premium product out into a downturn. The PowerMac G4 Cube was introduced just as the dotcom bubble popped, leaving the high tech box ignored among a population of buyers whose discretionary spending had evaporated just as they were getting hammered by the AMT on investment paper wealth that didn’t exist anymore. Cube sales tanked.

One can add the first two problems together to find that not only is Google debuting Android in a tough economic crisis, but its doing so in the shadow of Apple, so that anyone in the market for a fancy new phone will likely have either already bought the iPhone 3G, or will be making plans to do so without giving Android’s first generation attempt much time to prove itself. This reality is also complicated by problem number three.

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Is the MacBook Air Another Cube?

The Hype is About to Evaporate.

The third major problem for Android is that the media has been doing nothing but singing its praises. While the iPhone was brutally attacked for six months before its debut, customers were able to see it and make their own opinion about why they might want it. After weathering all the criticism, the original iPhone was like going to a movie that had been panned by the critics as a monstrous failure; expectations were blown away by what was actually a very good product.

The iPhone’s debut was good enough to get Apple through a far more problematic 3G 2.0 release. Users had decided that they could put up with the bugs because Apple was clearly going to fix things. And sure enough, Apple delivered within a few weeks. The iPhone was never oversold to the point where anyone felt cheated. Its flaws had been painstakingly recounted to the point where nobody could possibly be surprised by any missing bits.

Not so with Android. It has received nothing but frothy setup as the messiah, something that will rival the iPhone while offering a magical aura of absolute freedom and low prices and no restrictions. Android faces the impossibly difficult task of living up to the critics’ anointing of it as rarified perfection in every way, with no design compromises anywhere.

Android is going to be unfairly compared to the iPhone. ‘Unfairly’ because it doesn’t have the advantages Apple has as a solitary integrator with more than a year of experience in shipping its phone, nearly 7 years of shipping the iPod and managing user experiences with it, and nearly a quarter century of delivering an integrated hardware platform.

Android doesn’t even support multitouch. The T-Mobile debut model isn’t slim and sexy and refined; it’s clunky and cheap and plasticky. Android isn’t trying to compete against the iPhone, but the tech media has erected a fanciful snow machine of hype to blow around Christmas in September. Android should have floated out as a nice alternative to Windows Mobile, but it has been set up for failure and consumer ridicule because pundits have positioned it as an iPhone killer, something I pointed out was in error before Android even debuted.

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The Great Google gPhone Myth

Gartner’s Kiss of Death.

If dancing out into the world stage in the shadow of the iPhone and during a recession after being setup up with hopelessly high expectations isn’t bad enough, Android has also received the kiss of death from the forked tongue of the Gartner snake. The group has come out with the prediction that Android will become the de facto distribution of mobile Linux and take over 10% of the smartphone market share by 2010.

This is the think tank that assured the world that Itanium would rapidly take over the PC server world and become a roughly $30 billion industry by 2002. By 2002 it had changed its tune, and a half decade later Itanium remains a major failure. Gartner also celebrated the release of Vista and initially predicted a rapid adoption in the enterprise until it was obvious that wasn’t happening. It predicted Macs would go away and said that businesses shouldn’t care about the iPhone because Apple didn’t care about the enterprise market, another prediction it was forced to hastily review a few months later.

Gartner is mostly always wrong in the long term because it never makes ballsy predictions based on critical thinking; it merely says what the industry seems to think is obvious at the time, and generates statistics to support the consensus opinion. The problem is that general opinion in the tech industry is usually wrong. Things happen so quickly and change can abruptly plot a new course so dramatically that the celebrants of the status quo are nearly always left looking foolish.

The people celebrating Android’s prospects in advance are similarly looking at things, not with an analytical view of what is likely to happen, but either with a naively unblinking optimism about the wonders of open software or, in the case of Gartner, a desperate attempt to reflect whatever they think the tech industry wants to be told.

Market Share and Share Alike.

Gartner’s prediction that Android will become the de facto distribution of Linux is what everyone thinks will happen, because it’s simple and easy to believe. However, everyone predicting the future of Linux has been wrong so far, whether they were advocating it and expecting the ‘year of Linux on the desktop,“ or criticizing it as tainted by SCO and unlikely to every be accepted by the enterprise. Tech predictions are almost always wrong, often in an inverse proportion to how optimistic and certain they are in making a claim.

Gartner’s random generation of a 10% market figure was no doubt custom crafted for Google’s press release. But this figure is ridiculous whether Android takes off as the mainstream distro for mobile Linux or not. For starters, the various mobile Linux platforms currently have a 7.3% share of the market for Q2 2008, down from 10% Q2 2007, according to Gartner itself.

Linux smartphone share drops

If Android absorbed all of this, it would still have to cheat the trend to get back to 10% over the next two years, and it’s only starting with one phone set with a rather limited appeal from the fourth place mobile provider in the US. More likely, Android will compete in its own space against other Linux distros already in use, such as the simple embedded Linux kernel that powers Motorola’s phones in China, where Android would offer no real advantages.

Android is unlikely to engulf the Linux world in a year or two, because it really holds promise as an alternative to Windows Mobile, not as a drop-in replacement for simpler embedded Linux phones.

Disaster Around the Corner.

If the poisonous sting of a Gartner endorsement isn’t bad enough, I’ve lobbed my own prediction of pain for Android, a topic that nobody else in the industry seems to have given any regard to at all. Unlike Gartner, whenever I make a prediction it’s so impossibly against mainstream thought that nobody takes it seriously.

I predicted crazy things like why Vista wouldn’t storm the world stage in the manner of Windows 95, and that PlaysForSure subscriptions and later the Zune wouldn’t put a dent in iPod sales. I predicted that Apple would parlay the sixth generation iPod into a smart messaging platform with both business and consumer applications. I predicted Apple would ignore the PC Gamer industry and target casual gaming. I predicted that Blu-ray would triumph over HD-DVD but that it wouldn’t matter because consumers would largely ignore DRM discs for enhanced DVD and video downloads.

I also predicted that iPod Games were a harbinger for a new deployment of mobile software for the iPhone, secured from piracy by invisible DRM and distributed through iTunes, creating a workable model for mobile software in an industry that had been as dysfunctional as the music subscription and sales arena before the iTunes Store. I didn’t sell my white papers for $300 a copy, and I supported my ideas with rational explanations rather than invented statistics.

Windows 95 and Vista: Why 2007 Won’t Be Like 1995
Myth 6: Microsoft’s iPod Killer Myth
Strike 3: Why Zune will Bomb this Winter
Why Microsoft’s Zune is Still Failing
Generation 6 iPods
Blu-ray vs HD-DVD in Next Generation Game Consoles
Why Low Def is the New HD

I’m sure some readers can recall mistakes I’ve made in the past, too. However, just as I was sure that Apple would launch a dynamic change in the mobile software world, I’m also sure Android Market will burn things down by trying to deliver software in the security free model of YouTube. I’ve already written that up in article form, but the short version is that Google has simply (and negligently) decided to sidestep the complex issue of platform security by not having any, just like Microsoft did in the 90s. The grievous problem with this is that we now have the hindsight to outline what a costly and tragic mistake that was for Microsoft.

Google is set to burst on the scene with a new phone that purports to do everything the iPhone can and more: run all sorts of crazy apps developers can think of with no authoritarian restrictions on spyware, performance sapping background activities, or human interface guidelines like those from Apple, no burdensome infrastructure providing the $40 million monthly development incentive of the Apps Store, no pesky certificates that prevent pandemic malware distribution, and no lever to pull to stop an epidemic once it breaks out. This is insane.

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Google’s Android Market Guarantees Problems for Users

The Five Flaws in Android.

To recap: Android is launching in the shadow of the heroically large iPhone brand, on the cusp of a consumer electronics economic coma, it will be compared against a slick, mature, purpose built icon rather than its intended audience, it has the fawning praise of pundits that are nearly always wrong about their hunches, and it fails to take any precautions to do software correctly right out of the gate.

Android may well succeed, and I certainly have nothing against it. I’d rather see Google become the widest deployed operating system among mobile devices than Nokia’s creaky old Symbian mess; or Microsoft’s pitiful catastrophe named Windows Mobile; or Palm’s archaic OS fossil; or RIM’s proprietary shell of an environment; or the various squabbling bands of Linux distros that hold each other back like lobsters trying to crawl out of a fish tank.

The problem is that everyone who is hyperventilating about Android hasn’t even taken the effort to examine its outstanding problems, and that in itself will contribute to setting it up for a disappointing debut.

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  • Joel

    When was the last time you used the Add/Remove Applications tool…? As of Ubuntu 08.04 tt has a short description of the application (including a link to the applications home page) and has a “popularity” rating for each application. If, by the “behind the scenes stuff” you mean Synaptic, the gui interface to apt, admittedly thats a bit more basic but still details what a package is used for and a handy link to the package’s homepage.

  • Realtosh

    @ John Muir

    Apple went with 3G because ATT uses that technology. Had Verizon been the exclusive iPhone partner, the first iPhone would have been CDMA, and would have gone second to Japan and other territories with CDMA. We might have had to wait for iPhone 3G to have an iPhone that was usable in Europe.

    As it turns out, since ATT uses GSM and Europe only uses GSM by legislated fiat, Apple had a chance to run with GSM only for a while. In many territories that had only GSM or only CDMA, you will find both. Some carriers will have one technology, some the other. Those networks that use GSM have won the iPhone lottery.

    Until not long ago, there were more CDMA handsets in the world than GSM. The US, Japan Korea more than made up for a GSM-only Europe, with the rest of the world divided. But as we all know, the growth in the cell phone markets around the world has been astronomical.

    The world is divided between the two technologies, but I ‘m not sure of the market share breakdown between the two, but from my research it seems that GSM is ahead in number of handsets.

    Europe continues to be GSM only. The US is evenly divided between the two. South Korea is all CDMA. Japan was was half CDMA and half TDMA-based Japan-only PDC. The Japanese PDC networks are going to HSDPA for 3G technology. Some of these phones have GPS, but it only works outside the country roaming, since Japan lacks GPS to this day.

    China’s large number of subscribers gives GPS a huge boost. Seems as if GPS handsets are selling quite well in the developing world, even in countries that have both technologies.

    CDMA does well in many high-tech industrialized countries. GPS, is Europe’s standard so it does well there, plus in China and in much of the developing world.

    My guess is that the GPS royalties scheme must be more favorable than that for CDMA from Qualcomm. CDMA is the better technology. In fact 4G will be based on CDMA technology. And even 3G technology for GPS is also alternatively known as W-CDMA.

    But none of this really matters. Apple lucked out that ATT uses GSM. GSM seems like a better technology to go worldwide at this moment 1) because Europe is only GSM, China is mostly GSM, and it seems that GM is available in more locations.

    But at some point Apple will want to do a CDMA iPhone ( likely EVDO) to make it available in countries like South Korea that don’t do GSM at all, and on networks like Verizon in the US (once the exclusive contract ends) and throughout the world that are using CDMA.

    At the moment Apple’s got its’ hands full getting the current iPhone 3G to as many countries and networks that use GSM/EDGE/UMTS or HSDPA technologies, of which there are quite a few.

    Some time next year, they’ll be ready to fill in the rest of the world that is not GSM.

  • Realtosh

    @ John Muir

    I even posted links to the types of coverage maps that you refer to above. Those links delayed the above post by a day, and haven’t yet appeared, when posted separately. When Dan has a minute to check the post and mod it OK, you’ll be able to check the links for yourself.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ Joel

    I admit it: I’ve never liked the “Add/Remove Applications” idea. I’ve only cautiously poked about in Linux repositories because, for me, software is best downloaded as a discrete file from the developer’s site, after lots of browsing through recommendations and careful perusing of screenshots, videos and the manual first! I’m kind of cranky that way. I think many users are, actually. On the Mac: we’re particularly well catered to as developers go the extra mile to present their wares. Check out Delicious Monster, iSlayer, Panic, etc. etc.

    Yet the App Store still appeals to me. It’s the first repository that does. Apple made sure to make it sparkle (especially on the iPhone’s limited screen space) and I appreciate that no end. Sorry to be a snob! :D

    Linux has bigger problems for the like of me than the software distribution side of things anyway. Adobe’s cold shoulder, Apple’s too with no iTunes, and so and so forth. But in the enterprise, it’s got to be a contender like you say. And I’m glad it is. It’ll always be there, in case Apple and/or Microsoft ever go under.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ Realtosh

    Well, I hope they don’t take the Fat iPhone route in order to fit the antennas. Knowing Apple as we all do, I expect they’d rather people switch carriers than any of that. ;)

    As for Korea: good point. There are a few places which took the polar opposite to Europe route. Let’s see if they get region specific iPhones, and if those wind up popular as jailbreaks back in America!

    Seriously: I’ve nothing against CDMA as a technology. I’m no digital transmission enthusiast. My view has always just been that Apple had a no brainer decision given how Europe is such a sizeable single-format bloc and their home market’s leader also uses GSM. If it were vice versa, I’d have been backing CDMA as a priority instead.

  • The Mad Hatter

    John Muir { 09.25.08 at 9:26 pm }

    I like to give Ubuntu a shot every time they hit a milestone, just to keep a look out. I recently tried Kubuntu for it’s new KDE, and a couple of years ago tested DSL and Yellow Dog.

    They all have their charms, but I find them very limiting, being the Mac user that I am. Installing Linux now (and especially just tasting it via Live CDs) is vastly improved, but I still find installing subsequent software a chore. The Mac and Windows both make it a simple user-friendly single file download, but Linux often prefers the arcane. I know why some like apt-get but I certainly don’t.

    You either haven’t tried anything recently, or haven’t paid attention to what you were trying. Add-Remove programs is very useful. Think of Apple App Store delivered 3 years earlier for your desktop and laptop.

    Compared to a Mac: every Linux I’ve ever seen lacks consistency and polish. Noi to mention pro software.

    Polish. Yes. Software? No. A lot of what is available for Linux is as good or better than what is available for Windows. Oh, and all of what is available for Windows is also available for the Mac, besides IWork and ILife ALL of my installed software is free (GPL) software.

    Compared to Windows: they lack drivers and games.

    Linux has far wider driver support than Windows XP, Vista, or OSX. Quite frankly installing either version of Windows is a nightmare, Linux just runs (except for wireless). OSX driver support is limited (but perfect – after all OSX only needs to support Macs).

    If you can live in OpenOffice and Firefox, Linux is a viable choice. If I were a tech guy at a company which couldn’t afford Macs, I’d certainly prefer Linux boxen over the nightmares of Internet connected Windows. But there’s more besides, and a great deal of uphill territory Linux has yet to reach.

    Actually I’ve been living with Open Office and Firefox for over five years now, on three operating systems, Windows, OSX, and Linux.

    Linux passed Windows for ease of use, stability, and capabilities 3 or 4 years ago. It may not have caught up with OSX (which after all is a moving target, and gets regular updates unlike Windows) but it’s damned good. It’s far more suitable for a non-techie than Windows, if not as good as OSX.

    But it’s a close second.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/lunaticsx/ LunaticSX

    @Realtosh

    Why are you mentioning GPS is a discussion of cell phone carrier technologies? I can only guess that you were typo’ing “GSM.”

    Regarding GSM vs. CDMA (specifically when I write “CDMA” I’m talking about the cdmaOne/CDMA200 mobile phone standard, and by extension EV-DO):

    Outside of the U.S., carriers are migrating their CDMA networks to UMTS/HSPA (HSDPA/HSUPA) for 3G. The major carriers in South Korea are doing this. Telstra in Australia did this, and CDMA no longer exists there. Telus in Canada is doing this (so Rogers will eventually no longer be the only game in Canada for world phones). Companies are doing it in Israel and Jamacia too.

    NO ONE is converting their networks from GSM to CDMA/EV-DO.

    In Japan au/KDDI still uses CDMA/EV-DO, but NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank clearly understand that HSPA is the way to go. (NTT DoCoMo pioneered UMTS, which is what HSPA is evolved from. SoftBank migrated from PDC to UMTS, and have now upgraded to HSDPA.)

    As far as the basic technologies, UMTS/HSPA does use W-CDMA as an underlying technology, as you pointed out, but W-CDMA is in no way compatible with cdmaOne/CDMA200.

    As 4G technologies develop, most carriers that use HSPA are expected to migrate to LTE (“Long Term Evolution”). Verizon in the U.S. has also stated that they will migrate their CDMA/EV-DO network to LTE.

    Don’t expect to ever see a CDMA/EV-DO iPhone. By the time AT&T’s exclusivity runs out in the U.S., 4G will be on the horizon (4G is a ways off, but so is the end of AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity).

    The best hope for getting a post-2G iPhone in the U.S. that isn’t on AT&T is to wait for LTE, when an LTE-capable iPhone should be able to work on Verizon. (Sprint may eventually jump on LTE, as well, as they’ve distanced themselves a bit from their WiMax efforts. Who knows what T-Mobile is going to do; they’re struggling just to get their 1700/2100 Mhz HSDPA network out to more than a few cities, right now.)

    In South Korea the major obstacle to iPhone deployment is not that the iPhone’s 2G technology is GSM and it won’t work on their 2G CDMA networks. The 2G GSM technology of the iPhone won’t work on Japan’s PDC and CDMA networks, either. Just like in Japan, where the iPhone CAN work on the 3G HSDPA networks of SoftBank and NTT DoCoMo, the iPhone WILL work on the South Korean 3G HSDPA networks of SK Telecom and KTF.

    Instead, the major obstacle to the iPhone in South Korea is the South Korean government’s mandate that phones there support their WIPI middleware platform. This is largely a protectionist anti-competitive measure to ensure that the South Korean companies LG and Samsung can keep a lock on the market for mobile phones in the country. The South Korean government has granted waivers from the WIPI requirement in the past, for example to allow RIM’s Blackberries. No doubt there’s lots of behind the scenes wrangling going on right now to try to get the same kind of waiver for the iPhone 3G.

    Apple’s actual luck is actually that Verizon walked away from the deal. That meant they weren’t stuck with creating a CDMA/EV-DO iPhone for the U.S., and either a GSM/UMTS/HSDPA iPhone or a hybrid CDMA/UMTS/HSDPA iPhone for the rest of the world.

    While on the one hand Apple could have had a 3G EV-DO iPhone sooner, and Verizon’s 3G network is much more mature than AT&T’s, on the other hand the GSM/HSDPA iPhone 3G is much better positioned for worldwide coverage than a CDMA/EV-DO model.

    Plus there’s the fact that international roaming agreements for CDMA/EV-DO phones are almost non-existent, while international roaming for GSM/HSPA is de facto.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @LunaticSX

    That’s more in line with what I’ve heard. But your network nerdery is clearly far in advance of mine! Thanks for clearing it up.

  • Joel

    @John Muir: I suspect that Apple may introduce an App Store for Mac in 10.7 / 10.8 with same benefits to developers (no piracy!) and consumers (cheaper prices, no spending time having to hunt around sites for downloads). I’d be interested in your opinion then. You still want to employ the hunter/gatherer instinct…? :D

    (I see it as part of a larger change where stores switch from having people browse there wares, to having people order direct. And I think there will be a section of people who’d rather slog there way around looking at everything than efficiently ordering from a central point…)

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Well I have actually been strongly in favour of a Mac App Store ever since the iPhone version was announced! Piracy stifling, perfect bundled advertising, and circumventing the need to roll your own infrastructure are all very good things for Mac developers; especially the newbies.

    But I’ll let you into the secret of my apparent hypocrisy. How I use the App Store (and how many do, it seems) is as the store, but not as the directory. I read the Mac sites (and a few of the new ones cropping up for the iPhone) and get the measure of something there, and over at its developer’s site just like the old days! Then, once convinced, finally a quick tap on the App Store icon and a search, tap, tap, buy for me.

    We have a retail chain in Britain called Argos who are a good example of a repository in action. Their stores are like the warehouse section of an IKEA, without the showroom. You walk in, and order from the paper catalogue which is the entirety of their consumer face. I’ve never liked them because the whole feeling of exposed warehouse economy seems at odds with the retail experience. Indeed, I find Amazon better (not least because you don’t have to travel) because they’ve gone to the bother to let customers rate, review and rank things. Apple’s webstore for hardware is somewhere around the same level.

    I know, it’s touchy-feely bullshit really. We are all human! And actually, repositories aren’t at the top of my reasons why I prefer Macs to Linux. (I already noted that the Firefox + OpenOffice experience is seamless for those whose needs are fully met by it.) But you may be catching on to the idea by now that Mac users, spoiled as we are by consistently designed and finessed interfaces and experiences, can be the biggest pain to please! It’s true. Apple knows it too, from MobileMe to the transparent menu bar!

  • Realtosh

    @ John Muir

    I’m not advocating a fat iPhone. If anything, Apple may want to develop a CDMA phone to serve the subscribers of those CDMA network carriers, who cannot use the current GSM based iPhone.

    Apple is too busy expanding their production and sales with GSM networks. So Apple doesn’t even have to consider the CDMA question for the moment. But likely next year or the year after that, Apple may certainly have to consider making a CDMA iPhone. I see no reason why iPhone should not be available on every network in every country, just like the phones of most major cell phone makers.

    It may be a while for CDMA iPhone at Verizon in the US, but only because of the exclusivity deal with ATT. Trust me that I’m not waiting for CDMA for iPhone: I’m not going to be holding my breath.

    I couldn’t imagine ever being without iPhone, that I’ll use whatever network the iPhone uses, even if in my case it is inferior to the network that I used for over a decade.

    ATT market leadership was only because of acquisitions. ATT was/ is a frankenstein amalgamation of various different networks, not all of them with the same technologies. The ATT (wireless) monster has not been known for their network quality. This reputation works against them, as they rush to build out their HSDPA network in advance of a massive sell-through of Apple iPhones, the likes of they likely never experienced before. They had an exclusive deal with the Motorola RAZR phone, which was also a blockbuster hit, but ATT did not have to build out a new network to accommodate it.

    Plus, market leadership will in the US will change again soon. Verizon had been the market leader for years before ATT jumped ahead by acquisition. Before the iPhone, Verizon was quickly closing that gap between itself and the new market leader (ATT), that many very questioning the value of the ATT acquisition.

    The iPhone changed all that. The ATT subscriber lead was eroding even during the exclusive deal with the very successful Motorola RAZR phone. Only the iPhone has been able to reverse that trend. ATT desperately renegotiated an iPhone exclusivity extension because it has been a strategic game changer for them. That is the only reason that ATT agreed to make payments in their contract renewal that has a material effect on their earnings statements.

    But the reason that market leadership in the US wireless market is because Verizon is acquiring alltel. alltel has a network that is complementary to Verizon’s, and fills in some areas where Verizon was weak or not present, apart from roaming agreements with alltel and other similar smaller CDMA networks throughout the country.

    With ATT’s reversal of fortune with the iPhone, Verizon likely felt like hey had the back against the wall. The alltel deal will cost Verizon $28.1 Billion, aprox $2,100 per subscriber. It’s a shame that Verizon didn’t pick up all-tel years ago at a reduced price point, without so much pressure to regain the market lead. all-tel was always a strategic match for them.

    alltel is a great regional network with the same great technology as Verizon, with great service. Merging the networks will involve simply slapping the Verizon name on alltel’s subscriber bills and trucks.

    ATT will have a difficult time making up the difference between themselves and the newly leading Verizon, even with the game-changing iPhone as an ATT exclusive.

    Apart from huge lead that Verizon will have on ATT, the number 3 network Sprint also uses CDMA, as do virtually all of the 20 or so networks in the US. Hardly anyone but ATT Mobility and the weakly T-mobile (#4) use GSM in the US. Most of the others are smaller regional networks, mostly using CDMA.

    ATT Mobility’s predecessor Cingular consolidated all the GSM networks that were worthy of combining.

    GSM won’t advance much beyond ATT and T-mobile in the US. CDMA will be dominant in the US until 4G hopefully replaces both GSM and CDMA.

  • Joel

    @John Muir. That assumes that all Mac users are a homogeneous mass with one opinion. Ny experience is that they have many opinions…

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    I always try to remember to include weasel words to keep me out of that pigeon-holing trap. Note the words “can be” in the sentence in question!

    Mac users are indeed a varied lot. Something which seems to be present in a certain number of them though, including me, is a web-savvy instinct coupled with picky perfectionism. An old friend of mine on Windows forever causes himself trouble by instinctively installing every plug-in or converter or one-time app he comes across, no questions asked. You can probably guess what follows. If only he weren’t quicker at clicking YES and dismissing UAC by reflex than I was at Googling their names and perusing the wise words of other suckers who trod the same path! (Naturally, he works supporting Windows boxen for small businesses. Make of that as you will.)

  • Realtosh

    @ LunaticSX

    Thank you. Your piece was very informative. You provided some more industry context; for which I was searching these days.

    W-CDMA is an attempt by the GSM consortium to confuse. It is just the standard to which they decided to transition the GSM world. It is no more compatible with GSM than with CDMA. Likewise EV-DO is not backward compatible with older CDMA networks either. I know that W-CDMA is not a CDMA development group standard, however the underlying technology is CDMA like I said and you acknowledged. It is interesting that both cellular technology consortiums are moving toward standards that incorporate underlying CDMA technology. Even 4G uses underlying CDMA technology. If you want to create more network capacity to push more data, at more subscribers, you go wherever the technology takes you.

    Cost may be pushing many operators toward W-CDMA from the GSM consortium, instead of CDMA from the CDMA Development Group. The cost of the CDMA EVDO chipsets or the cost of deploying the CDMA EVDO transmitters or the cost of the CDMA EVDO royalty payments must be excessively greater than the W-CMDA counterparts pushed by the GSM consortium. As the creator of CDMA, Qualcomm is likely getting royalty payments from both competing technologies. In addition, EVDO was developed by Qualcomm, so they’re probably getting greater royalty payments for EVDO.

    Similarities can be drawn with the competitions, between VHS and Betamax, and between DOS and Mac. In both of the comparisons, lower-cost inferior technologies won in the marketplace against better but more expensive technologies. More recently, Microsoft was unable to push HV-DVD over the superior Blu-Ray. In this latter example, key industry participants were weary of concentrating too much power in the hands of Microsoft. Parallels may exist with similar cellular industry fears of Qualcomm gaining too much control in their industry.

    From my research, I got the similar impressions about worldwide trends that you reported, which I had also mentioned. Plus, I also noticed in the GSM coverage maps showed spotty GSM coverage in in third world countries that have strong CDMA coverage. This may in fact be signs that new GSM networks are sprouting up in previously CDMA-only third world countries. GSM is strongest in the industrialized world plus the fast growing BRIC countries (Brasil, Russia, India, China) and southeast Asia.

    The GSM Association’s world coverage map shows great GSM coverage in Europe all way through western Russia, decent coverage in North and Central America, fairly solid coverage in eastern Brasil, spotty coverage in the western half of South America, very spotty coverage in Africa, with fairly strong coverage in South Africa and a second cluster of service in the Kenya/Uganda area in West Africa, and a thin strip of coverage on the Mediterranean coast opposite Europe, and fairly solid GSM coverage on the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, eastern China, Philippines, New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia. Any GSM coverage around the world not mentioned here is spotty at best according the the GSM world coverage map.

    W-CDMA seemed to be limited to a subset of that. In fact the GSM Association’s own world coverage map from earlier this year showed that outside of Europe’s strong 3G coverage, there’s only spotty 3G coverage in the US, no 3G coverage in the fast developing BRIC countries at all (although these countries had very strong GSM coverage, even better than western US and parts of Mexico), no 3G coverage in Central and South America, no 3G coverage in Africa (outside of South Africa), no 3G coverage in the Middle East (outside of Israel), very spotty 3G coverage in Australia and Sri Lanka, and strong 3G coverage in Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.Go figure. No 3G coverage elsewhere in the world was apparent on the coverage map.

    The developing world is racking up the numbers of GSM handsets, especially in India and China. This what lends me to believe that we are looking at a cost issue. For example, in India there are lots of GSM and CDMA networks; but there are more GSM networks and lots more GSM subscribers. Although CDMA is growing to nearly 500 million subscribers, there appears to be a cost differential that is causing GSM to grow even faster.

    I agree that GSM seems to be the better of the two technologies to deploy a worldwide phone, if you could only do one phone. Fortunately, Apple can also deliver a CDMA iPhone whenever they want. Given that they have their hands full trying to get HSDPA working properly, that won’t happen right away. It is not Apple’s style to do 2 products poorly; they would prefer to get one product done right instead. But once iPhone 3G is working properly, they can move more engineering talent over to a CDMA team. It would seem impossible for Apple to not have a CDMA team working on prototypes all along. By then, Apple would have pushed iPhone 3G to as many GSM and W-CDMA networks and countries as they can. That would then leave open the possibility to deliver an iPhone for all of the CDMA networks around the world.

    Opening up the possibility that the iPhone can go over to Verizon will force ATT to work harder to get 3G right and get ATT to pay big bucks for keeping the iPhone for themselves. Alternatively, it would make it possible to offer the iPhone to more subscribers on more networks around the world.

    In the end all Apple wants to do is sell lots of iPhones. Once Apple decided to replace the exclusive network strategy with the as many networks as possible strategy, then there’s no reason to stop at only GSM networks.

    I don’t think 4G will come soon enough to replace EVDO and W-CDMA soon. Apple will likely have to deliver 3G iPhones for both W-CDMA as well as EVDO, at some point in the near to mid-term. Network carriers are currently building out both EVDO and W-CDMA (HSDPA) networks all around the world. With the cost of building out that infrastructure in the $Billions of dollars, these networks will be with us for many years. 4G wiLl be an all new technology that will have to be over-layed on top of previous networks, just like EV-DO AND W-CDMA are being overlayed currently on op of GSM and CDMA networks.

    So, I wouldn’t wait for CDMA iPhone. If you only had to do one phone, GSM gets you to more markets faster. But there is no good strategic reason why Apple will neglect half a billion CDMA subscribers around the world for most of the next decade. It will be a few years until the 4G standard is established, begins to get deployed and gets enough critical mass of network infrastructure to overtake W-CDMA and EV-DO as a viable alternative for good reliable pervasive coverage.

  • Realtosh

    @ John Muir

    “I always try to remember to include weasel words”

    Weasel words are so useful, aren’t they. I find myself using them as well, as do many good writers; especially in forward looking narratives.

  • Realtosh

    @ LunaticSX

    Sorry for the errors in the above post (#52). I had submitted a more finished version of that post, with links to some source material, which I quoted in the more recent post above. Unfortunately, the links created a need for the post to be moded OK, which never happened. After a day’s time, I went back and reposted a draft version of the post out of frustration. A separate post with the links alone, was never moded positively either. You can ask Dan about that.

  • roz
  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @roz

    http://www.macrumors.com/2008/09/29/verizon-iphone-in-2009-unlikely/

    “The problem with the report is that the Apple and AT&T exclusivity deal is fact, not rumor.”

  • roz

    The exclusivity deal is a fact, agreed. The number of years has never been revealed. Multi-year can mean two.

  • Realtosh

    @ roz

    LOL
    I just read that story over at 9to5mac regarding CDMA iPhone potential.

    Thanks for sharing it with the folks here. I had considered adding such a link myself.

    Makes my analysis seem visionary or almost prescient. I just consider it some good ol’ analysis, and common sense reasoning. Many people forget that Apple uses a big dose of good ol’ common sense. They take their quest for innovation, and use common sense, to create excellence in their products and financial performance.

  • Realtosh

    It was widely reported that ATT added another year of iPhone exclusivity to the iPhone agreement with Apple, in exchange for phone subsidies that would have a material impact on ATT financial results.

    ATT wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble to extend their exclusivity agreement by just ONE YEAR if the end of the terms of the original agreement were not visible on the horizon.

    The extension, especially its’ short term being only one year, is a sign that the end of ATT’s exclusive run with the iPhone is not too far off in the distance.

  • Realtosh

    Plus, I would not be surprised if Apple had an escape clause that allowed Apple to free themselves from being exclusively on the ATT network, if certain customer service metrics or network performance metrics were not reached by ATT.

    Either way, Apple needs to deliver a CDMA phone with or without Verizon. There are enough CDMA markets around the world, that Apple need not wait for Verizon, if the end of ATT agreement is further than some speculate.

  • The Mad Hatter

    A CDMA IPhone would be useful. Quite frankly service from Rogers Communications has dropped like a paralyzed falcon over the last couple of years, and if another carrier offered the a reasonable deal on the IPhone I’d go for it. While I wanted to get an IPhone I am not willing to sign up for the deal Rogers is offering. Calling them a pack of thieves is insulting thieves.

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