Tag: Linux (Page 1 of 2)

Vodafone 360: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

After much huffing and puffing, Vodafone unveiled yesterday what everyone had been waiting for for months and months: its new Vodafone 360 concept, which will replace Vodafone Live! It launches on – drumroll – LiMo-OS Linux phones from Samsung with touchscreen and GPS and, for the H1, AMOLED display (yum!), WiFi, HSDPA, etc, etc, etc. and also supports a fairly big range of Nokia (not on the N97 though!) and Sony Ericsson devices (although, judging by the screenshots, it doesn’t look as sexy on those).

The 360 thing is, according to the press release

a brand new set of internet services for the mobile and PC which gathers all of a customer’s friends, communities, entertainment and personal favourites (like music, games, photos and video) in one place.

It has an address book with nodes into Facebook, IM (Windows and Google) and will “soon” also cover Twitter, Hyves and StudiVZ (the German Facebook clone). Two tailor-made (!) handsets that use a proprietary (!) interface based on LiMo’s release 2 mobile Linux OS. Users can create groups across different networks (which is very neat!), an app store with 1,000 apps at launch (no word so far what this comprises) and syncing with your computer.

So is this the big thing then? Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good

  • The service reaches out. It acknowledges (this is a big step for most carriers!) that users have a life outside their carrier. Facebook, Live Messenger and Google Talk are a bit thin, I’d say, but let’s cut them some slack; the others will follow.
  • It has a couple of neat twists built-in: I mentioned a few above but there is also a feature that uses some spooky thing called the “Vodafone’s proximity algorythm” and which basically automatically favourites your most-loved people: the most frequently contacted people (like your mom?) come closer to the front.
  • At least on the custom-built devices, it looks much better than previous attempts by carriers to make something look and feel a little more user-friendly.
  • I hear that the whole widget-thing should be really neat. Now, I haven’t seen any of it as yet but the concept sounds good.
  • It works across different operating systems (at least LiMo and Symbian).

As a funny side remark, the PR blurb points out that

The beauty of Vodafone 360 is that all the services work together and they are easy to use.

So they weren’t before, huh? 😉 — sorry, couldn’t resist…

The Bad

Some commentators mentioned that the cloud-hosted address book and generally aggregation of contacts, networks etc through a provider rather than through the handset would tie people to the provider more closely (which might not actually be anything Vodafone would object to). I am not sure how tough it would really be (as you have your computer back-up), so easy on that.

It is still very much a closed-circuit affair: It is Vodafone and no one else. It is proprietary, tailor-made and not open. This is not good (and, yes, I know that the oft-cited iPhone is proprietary and tailor-made, too). Alas, its applications are not – unless your name is Spotify; then it takes a little longer… 😉

The Ugly

The underlying proprietary thinking is nothing I can see working longer term. In a world that is (Vodafone press speak)

a substantiator of Vodafone’s new brand expression – ‘power to you’ – which is focused on putting the customer in control and enabling simple and easy to manage communications, both mobile and fixed

this is also a little bit of a contradiction.

But I will say that it seems to be the nicest operator-built environment I have seen so far. And for this to come from the world’s largest operator is no mean feat and might actually yield some results. Go on, guys, tweak it, improve it, show us!

Android Wave rolls in

No, this post will not muse over Google’s new Wave announcement today. I rather wanted to give a brief update on the wave of Android devices that is promising to roll in over the course of this year. I had posted on this before (e.g. here and here), and Google, at its Google I/O developer conference gave a hint (yes, funny enough through Yahoo! News…) on the size of the deployments we can expect this year. And its not bad at all: 18-20 Android phones this year tells us Andy Rubin, Google’s Sr. Director for Mobile Platforms. The article then goes on to quote a number of analysts on earth-shattering insights but let’s leave these aside.

Android’s advantage was always going to be two-fold:

  1. As an open-source platform based on a Linux kernel it would be a) cheap and b) stable. This is invaluable for handset manufacturers as it reduces their development costs for new handsets significantly. I have no hard numbers but the rumoured ones are fairly high…
  2. Because it is a stand-alone OS rather than a combo of hardware and software (as the iPhone or – at least for the time being – Blackberry devices are), it will be used and deployed by a plethora of manufacturers rather than only one. And, well, this results in many more devices in the market (think MS DOS vs. Apple OS).

And this is now starting to show…

In terms of increase of “smart” phones (and these will, I would suggest, in the future include models we would today class as “feature” phones) this is seriously good news. How a slick and versatile operating system can spurn extended use of a mobile device beyond voice and SMS was impressively shown by the iPhone (8% smart phone market share equal 43% of web requests). Others are catching up (cf. here and here) and the more is the merrier when it comes to providing devices consumers actually can use. Avoid the term of “educating the consumer”; the consumer is quite educated but if people need a customer service helpline to even open the box (courtesy of a cider ad in the UK), one must not be surprised that people do not use it. Ease of use rules and well-made operating systems support that.

Carnival of the Mobilists #166

This week’s Carnival of the Mobilists is hosted by the formidable Caroline Lewko at WIP Jam. I am very happy to note that my latest post on Apple’s growing relevance as a gaming platform is included in last week’s line-up. For the remainder, there’s stuff on LiMo (for some background on where they came from see here) and some very worthwhile piece on mobile marketing amongst much more. And now go to read it here!

Smartphone Market Shares & Growth

World market leader Nokia had a bruising 2008, at least in the smartphone field. According to a study, the Finns’ market share in this segment dropped by 10% to a – well – still fairly respectable 40.8% in Q4/2008 (as compared to 50.9% a for the quarter in the previous year). Painful!

The big winners were RIM (growth of 84.9% year-on-year), Apple (111.6%) and Samsung (138%) although the latter grew from a fairly low share (1.8%). HTC was up 20% but its carrier-branded handsets (T-Mobile G1, etc) were not listed under its own tab but under “others”, so there might actually have been more (probable when considering that the company’s profits rose sharply in Q4/2008 on G1 sales).
Apple, interestingly, is said to have suffered a fall of sales during Q4/2008 with growth in that quarter driven by the Blackberry Storm, T-Mobile G1 and strong Samsung sales. On the OS side, Windows Mobile made headway, mainly via the successful HTC Touch line and the Samsung Omnia.
Overall smartphone sales in Q4/2008 were 38m and 140m for the whole year. This seems to tie in roughly with the numbers I discussed earlier this month.
The changes are of interest to the content industry, too. Smartphones make for a disproportionate amount of content consumption, and smartphones also lead the way for the new app stores that are breaking through everywhere after Apple showed its competitors just how much consumers are craving content. RIM is out of the blocks, as is Android. Nokia announced its Ovi Store and runs similar programmes with N-Gage, NCD and Comes with Music already and Windows Mobile has just announced the shop it will launch itself. Remains to be seen where Palm will go with its Pre and WebOS: it only had 0.9% of the market (some faithful Treo users!) and hence lots of catching up to do. And what about the newly coined JavaFX?
Here are the charts (courtesy of Gartner via Cellular News) for 1) Q4 2008 by vendor, 2) all of 2008 by vendor, 3) Q4/2008: by operating system and 4) all of 2008 by OS:

Worldwide: Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor

(Thousands of Units)

Company 4Q08 Sales Market Share4Q08 (%) 4Q07 Sales Market Share4Q07 (%) 4Q07-4Q08 Growth (%)
Nokia 15,561.7 40.8% 18,703.3 50.9% -16.8%
RIM 7,442.6 19.5% 4,024.7 10.9% 84.9%
Apple 4,079.4 10.7% 1,928.3 5.2% 111.6%
HTC 1,631.7 4.3% 1,361.1 3.7% 19.9%
Samsung 1,598.2 4.2% 671.5 1.8% 138.0%
Others 7,829.7 20.5% 10,077.3 27.4% -22.3%
Total 38,143.3 100% 36,766.1 100% 3.7%

Worldwide: Smartphone Sales to End Users by Vendor, 2008

Company 2008 Sales Market Share 2008 2007 Sales Market Share 2007 Growth
Nokia 60,920.5 43.7% 60,465.0 49.4% 0.8%
RIM 23,149.0 16.6% 11,767.7 9.6% 96.7%
Apple 11,417.5 8.2% 3,302.6 2.7% 245.7%
HTC 5,895.4 4.2% 3,718.5 3.0% 58.5%
Sharp 5,234.2 3.8% 6,885.3 5.6% -24.0%
Others 32,671.4 23.5% 36,176.6 29.6% -9.7%
Total 139,287.9 100% 122,315.6 100% 13.9%

Worldwide: Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System, 4Q08

Company 4Q08 Sales Market Share 4Q08 4Q07 Sales Market Share 4Q07 Growth
Symbian 17,949.1 47.1% 22,902.5 62.3% -21.6%
RIM 7,442.6 19.5% 4,024.7 10.9% 84.9%
Windows Mobile 4,713.9 12.4% 4,374.4 11.9% 7.8%
Mac OS X 4,079.4 10.7% 1,928.3 5.2% 111.6%
Linux 3,194.9 8.4% 2,675.9 7.3% 19.4%
Palm OS 326.5 0.9% 449.1 1.2% -27.3%
Other OSs 436.9 1.1% 411.3 1.1% 6.2%
Total 38,143.3 100% 36,766.1 100% 3.7%

Note: The “Other OSs” category includes sales of Sharp Sidekick devices based on the Danger platform.

Worldwide: Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System, 2008

Company 2008 Sales Market Share 2008 2007 Sales Market Share 2007 Growth
Symbian 72,933.5 52.4% 77,684.0 63.5% -6.1%
RIM 23,149.0 16.6% 11,767.7 9.6% 96.7%
Windows Mobile 16,498.1 11.8% 14,698.0 12.0% 12.2%
Mac OS X 11,417.5 8.2% 3,302.6 2.7% 245.7%
Linux 11,262.9 8.1% 11,756.7 9.6% -4.2%
Palm OS 2,507.2 1.8% 1,762.7 1.4% 42.2%
Other OSs 1,519.7 1.1% 1,344.0 1.1% 13.1%
Total 139,287.9 100% 122,315.6 100% 13.9%

Note: The “Other OSs” category includes sales of Sharp Sidekick devices based on the Danger platform.


Funny. Sometimes a theme somewhat haunts you… After I have posted about the demise of Tira Wireless (and added some alternative views on the labyrinth that is platforms and handset fragmentation; also go and revisit my posts on the same topic here and here), today we can read that it will all get worse (or maybe not). I bet they read my recent post on the issue… 😉

The article only mentions somewhat curtly two new platforms, namely iPhone and Android (both of which I have covered before, namely here, here and here – amongst others), and then goes on to report on a panel at CTIA where a panel sponsored by the “Symbian stakeholders” apparently dismissed the whole notion, stating that the market would solve it. Now, it will have to, I guess. However, it is not all that bleak: Symbian, UIQ, Linux, BREW, Win ME and ultimately the iPhone OS are all C-based. Most of them (with the notable exception of the iPhone) also run Java Virtual Machines (JVM), so you can either code in J2ME (which is arguably the most widely supported language) or go native and code native in C+/C++ with then much easier ports to the varying iterations.
The challenge naturally remains (and, yes, I have voiced this previously) with a view to supporting all those odd handsets here and there and everywhere but, let’s face it, a lot of them are being imposed on publishers by the carriers who want to make sure that even that last customer that hangs on to his SE T-610 will be served with content (even though he won’t ever download a piece). Wouldn’t it be so much better marketing if they would simply return a message telling that poor customer:
“Hey, we noticed you tried downloading content to your T-610. You may not have realized that this phone is utterly outdated and will give you no joy when playing games. We would like to offer you a discounted upgrade to the brand-spanking new N76/ W880i/ Pearl/ iPhone/ Viewty/… and your life would be so much cooler. We are confident that you would then also have more luck with the girls/boys… Best. Your carrier”

What I am trying to say is that a lot of the fragmentation issues are (nowadays) artificially imposed, not technologically warranted. Any carriers reading this? Think about it, folks. It won’t harm you, I bet!

Mobile Games: Platform Standards!?

Mobile games blogger extraordinaire, Arjan Olsder, provided for a great guest post by Qualcomm games guru Mike Yuen, and it’s well worth a read! Mike addresses this most horrible of issues to mobile game developers that is called fragmentation or, in his words, “[t]he lack of platform and hardware standards continues to be a major inhibitor to mobile game growth in the United States [and elsewhere; ed.]. This diversity in development platforms (Android, BREW, Flash Lite, iPhone, Java, Linux, Symbian, WAP, Windows Mobile) and hardware configurations (display resolutions, RAM/heap memory size, processing and graphics power, audio formats, keypad and other input modes.”

Mike rightly points out that, “[i]n many cases, the costs associated with individualizing software builds to the particularities of each handset, operator and language account for more than half of the overall development budget for new game titles. It’s a simple, but important concept. If fewer resources were diverted to porting a title from handset to handset, operator to operator, more resources could be dedicated to advancing the development of new and innovative gaming concepts.”

He goes on to draw an interesting comparison to the Korean and Japanese markets where there are not as many handsets (and platforms) around and where consumers are more than twice as likely to download mobile games. He then goes on to look at market disruptors like Apple (iPhone anyone?) and others only to conclude, sadly, that “[m]obile gaming is in a state of flux – platform and hardware fragmentation has clouded the once blue sky of gaming’s future and positive disruptive products such as Apple’s iPhone have changed industry perception and consumer expectations about the future of the mobile gaming device. I’m not expecting us to reach consensus anytime soon. Fragmentation is an inherent element of the mobile industry and perhaps always will be.”

Now, is that really so? He is of course right in his analysis of the current environment. But does this really have to be like this? The mobile space suffers from too many very large companies with very large markets. And if this wasn’t enough, there’s two different groups of them, with diverging interests, namely operators (carriers) and handset manufacturers: the former want everyone to be on their network, the latter to be on their handsets. Both are more often than not big old molochs of companies with a lot of market power in their segments. However… the markets seem to gravitate (under consumer demand) towards a more open set-up: operators seem to be accepting the fact that they cannot reign their users into walled gardens forever (more and more resign to flat-rate data and open the mobile web to users) and OEMs seem to realize that they need awesome numbers of users to have a real impact and so most of them gravitate to more open platforms (or, in the case of Nokia, create them).

As most of the newer platforms appear to be based on C++ or siblings thereof (Symbian, UIQ, Linux, Android [yes, I know that they us a JVM], BREW, Win ME, etc), it would appear that a reduced complexity might be nigh. Not as easy as online, mind you, but light at the end of the tunnel nonetheless. And it makes sense as the current fragmentation isn’t really helping anyone: consumers grow frustrated with ever-changing platforms. They want cool content, not a proprietary operator-variant of cool content. Hope, my friends, there is hope!

Linux Mobile on track

After delays on the part of the much awaited Android (see my original take on that here), one of the “other” Linux Mobile initiatives, namely the LiMo Foundation announced the release of its first version (“R1”) on schedule for March. The beta version of the respective APIs is available on their website immediately. They also said there would be sneak previews of all the good things at next week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and I will be sure to check it out!

The LiMo Foundation, which is backed by an impressive number of industry heavyweights (quite a few of which are also members of the Open Handset Alliance, the maker of Android), seems to be moving swiftly ahead, and their platform is, in their own words, basically the following:

“The LiMo Platform—leveraging standards and open-source projects—is a modular, plug-in-based, hardware-independent architecture built around an open operating system, with a secure run-time environment for support of downloaded applications. Linux was selected as the core technology for the LiMo Platform for its acceptability by the whole mobile industry, its rich functionality and scalability, its record of success in embedded systems and mobile phones and its potential to easily “cross-platformize” with other product categories.” Middleware components for the platform can apparently be implemented in either C or C++ programming languages.

What seems noteworthy is that the good folks at the foundation seem to have managed to leverage the substantial resource of its members. Its chairman praised “the transparent, balanced and harmonious contribution process […].”

Just before Christmas, the third consortium, LiPS, had announced that its first release was now complete.

However, it would appear of not so much being a race of who is first but of who manages to deploy on most devices. Given the membership of the three consortia comprises most of the big players (with the notable absence of Nokia although its recently acquired Trolltech is a member of the LiMo Foundation; read the excellent analysis on that deal here), one might ask if would not be perhaps the best idea to merge the whole thing, and deploy one common platform. Wouldn’t that have real impact?

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