A Bit About Me

My Photo
Rochester, Kent, United Kingdom
Amateur sleuth interested in finding out what's happening in the world today!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Android 4.0 - ICS and what it holds in 2012

Android has come a long way since v1.6 Donut back in 2009. In under three years it has attracted nearly 250 million or to put it into a different perspective nearly quarter of a billion users. That's a lot of people using a lot of phones. What does this mean for Android, as a platform, in 2012?


The good ship 'Android' seems to be in ship shape condition as of January 2012. Market Research, whilst highlighting post-Jobs Apple iPhone sales boost, indicates that Android's market share is growing, and growing strong. Although the wider impact of singular handset manufacturers, like Apple, versus multi handset vendors, like HTC or Samsung, highlight the central problem in Android's eco-system.


Android 2.3.3 distro is now the most popular variant of Android. According to figures released by Google, as of the 1st of February 2012, 58.1% of all Android users have Android 2.3.3. The importance of this figure is rivalled by the slower rise of Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.0 which has 0.03% market share as of the same period. The importance of this lies in the platform differentiation between the distributions. This blog, has on many occasions, discussed the wider impact of OS fragmentation. The problems of OS fragmentation have, largely, been fixed - the issue facing users in 2012 is of handset eco-system fragmentation.


Ice Cream Sandwich will highlight this vulnerability within the Android eco-system with renewed user-complaints on handset fragmentation. The ICS update, for example, on HTC handsets, will not be available to all users below their HTC Sensation-level phones. Meaning all Desires, Heros and Wildfire variant users will be denied ICS updates in 2012. 


More phones for the scrap heap? What does this say - do we need perpetual cutting edge expansion in the phone industry which means phones are useless within days of being sold? We have handsets now that can access bank accounts, pay for goods, buy cinema, train or other tickets and entertain us with music, video or television on demand whilst continuing to give us social media feed updates along with the occasional phone call and text message. The problem here is that Apple or BlackBerry do have handset and OS working in harmony. The Open Handset Alliance fails on this precise point.


The Samsung Galaxy SII and the Samsung Galaxy Mini are two phones, running the same Android OS but have wildly different handset fragmentation issues. For example; some apps like BBC iPlayer wont work on HTC Wildfire S but will on HTC Desire S. The same issue is visible on the two Samsung examples cited above when playing Need for Speed Shift a game designed by Electronic Arts but on the Galaxy Mini handset is a non-starter as it wont work on that handset. 


The problem is that Android, whilst it has matured, is still a young OS. The breakneck speed by which Google is publishing updates is unrelenting - the seven month "gap" between Froyo and Gingerbred clearly highlights this fact. The OS is released to handset vendors AND phone companies who need to tweak it for their own ends - because we all want Vodafone 360 Music or Verizon Music don't we? The tweaking is adding a delay on updates but it is important to remember that Froyo isn't that old? 


We need to understand a key point - HTC or Samsung do not make money from updates. Those free OS updates cost the handset manufacturer money and as such they don't get anything in return. Think about it this way the HTC phone with Froyo or Gingerbread that isn't being updated forces the user to abandon that phone, whilst hopefully buying a newer model. That's the Samsung, HTC or even Sony market plan. That's why its not in manufacturers best interests to issue updates.


Apple or Blackberry update direct to handset but Android, as stated above, goes through the carriers/phone manufacturers. Perhaps Google will have to allow certain updates to by-pass carriers. There has been research published by Michael Degusta which found that a majority of phones were sometimes 3 OS versions behind the latest version. The wider impact of this Google phenomenon has only just become visible.


The implications of this OS Update fragmentation will change the way users interact with Android. For all the market share increases - if Google continues this path an exodus might occur to Windows/Nokia, Apple or BlackBerry and will reverse the stampede towards Android we are now seeing.


sources:


http://developer.android.com/resources/dashboard/platform-versions.html (accessed 06/02/2012)

http://theunderstatement.com/post/11982112928/android-orphans-visualizing-a-sad-history-of-support (accessed 06/02/12)

http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2012/2/comScore_Reports_December_2011_U.S._Mobile_Subscriber_Market_Share (accessed 06/02/12)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

ANDROID BUGBEAR - RETURNS

It's not a title to a film - far, far, far from it... Android Bugbear has been away and will be back reporting the Android biz and updates!

Next Post due before 25/09/2011

Thursday, 30 June 2011

The War of the Smartphones: The fact Apple, RIM and Android are taking different routes to hegemony

There is a battle in progress - the winner will take a profitable chunk out of the mobile phone market and with it the ad and app revenue generated therein. The problem is that the media, bloggers, journalists and even the public believe there is an on-going battle between Google and Apple/BlackBerry in progress. But in reality this isn't the case, far from it, in reality Apple and BlackBerry are competitors as they have handsets which use a proprietary operating system and then they spend a small fortune marketing the brand. Google does something else. It does not make handsets (granted the Nexus is a Google handset but made and co-branded by Samsung) and it does not sell its operating system (it gives it freely to handset manufacturers under terms which allow Google services to interact within the network and handset to generate advertising revenue).


This creates a quandary whereby Apple and RIM are creating in all intense and purposes 'lifestyle' devices incarceration within a pre-determined ecosystem and enclosed application-based environment but Google leaves the portcullis to the castle open to anyone able to adapt, develop and thereafter resell their software. The problem is that Apple/RIM are intoxicated by their own 'brand', although that is not to say Android isn't a brand it's just what that brand means and therein becomes associated with is completely different to anything Apple or RIM create and distribute.


So, what the issue here surrounds is that of the public perception whereby 'Google' is going to steal or beat Apple and RIM into inferiority within the smartphone market. However this just isn't the case, in reality a free Google product will help to see an increase in market share, but that does not mean Google captures that market share for its self. HTC or Samsung capture that market. We need to remember that Handsets and Operating Systems, partially due to the success of Android, have become divorced from one another. This cleavage creates a perception  problem and one that needs to be cleared up.


Apple makes the iPhone. The iPhone is in incredible piece of both technological and marketing accomplishment yet it's operating system iOS is confined to the Apple mobile computing environment. You cant install iOS on a BlackBerry 9780 or a HTC Sensation. So that means Android cannot be compared to Apple or BlackBerry in the same way. Yet, this is what has happened so far. Android is battling BlackBerry and Apple. The question is can this be healthy for the future of Android.


The argument about Android's open eco-system are predominantly based on the Wintel arguments of the 1990s where, generally perceived, PC manufacturers and Software manufacturers colluded to bring down quality and technical excellence so as they could compete on a race to the bottom. Price was everything and that's how Intel, Windows and HP/Dell or IBM won out! The arguments are transplanted into the twenty first century that Google's Android will with Samsung, HTC and Sony Erricson's help see 'excellence' eroded through a battle of 'dumbing down' and racing to the bottom and competing on price.


Yet, the issue here is that we are arguing that BlackBerry and Apple, the undoubted smartphone pioneers, worked hard to keep their phones at a certain cost level so as to retain their incredibly profitable revenue streams from collapsing because of engineering excellence. Apple and RIM make billions from selling phones, so when Android came along and people like DoCoMo, Huwaei and HTC created mid-range phones offering similar experiences to the iPhone or BlackBerry but at a substantially reduced price this created the perfect storm to occur within the mobile phone market. Apple and RIM went tooth and nail for the premium customers whilst Android's open handset alliance went all out for the budget and mid-size customers. The result was the undoubtedly that Android would dominate the smartphone market. Android handsets are shipping at 3-1 to Apple or RIM handsets according to Catalyst/comScore but, importantly, to different customers. 


The issue here is that Apple/RIM are now going to begin dumbing down their products for the mid-size/budget markets whilst Android is going to have to cater for premium customers. This is evident as BlackBerry  is now creating low-end phones and Apple, allegedly is creating a toned down iPhone for 2012, is mimicking RIM's business plan however Android has gone premium because we can see that premium phones are awash since 2.3 was released on dual core smartphones. But the differentiation between ecosystems needs to be made clearer. 


Apple and RIM are rivals but Google's Android isn't, yet, a competitive rival to these two smartphone rivals. More premium models, better quality apps and more security/functionality on the Android market is needed before premium customers (who, if we remember spend money on apps as oppose to budget/mid-size users who avoid payware for freeware) switch in large swathes. HTC or Samsung need to match handset sales with RIM and Apple for this 'battle' to become a reality. Android is using the old Roman adage of 'divide and conquour' but this might not help them with the premium custom-base. This change requires a change not just from Android and Smartphone manufacturers but security firms, software developers and web content developers to come together, like RIM and Apple have created, to build Android a tiered platform for different user expectations. Therefore budget users on £39 Android smartphones, or pay monthly customers with a £200 or premium customers on £500+ handset pay monthly contracts will be catered for in the correct fashion. Only then when all sections of the mobile market are fully catered for by Android and that there are a plethora of designated tiered phones available will there be any reality in the 'battle' between the Smartphone giants.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Quality or Quantity what governs the basis of the Android Market and what relation does free versus fee-based software actually have on the model

 

The Android market, over the last year, has listed 283,889 new apps. This gigantic number equates to a 97.5% increase of the Android market on 2010 levels (1). The importance of this increase can be seen in the relationship between free apps and paid apps. It is here that developers which include small developers to large multi-national companies can make money, yet, in reality, it is here that the Android Marketplace has a problem.

The Android platform has between 2010-2011 dominated the smartphone market. Nielsen/Catalyst have already stated that Android will and has surpassed Apple, Blackberry and Nokia’s variant operating systems to become the number one Smartphone OS. The reason for this lies in the Android dominance of the budget to mid-range marketplace. This is a problem! Whilst HTC, Samsung and DoCoMo have begun making major inroads into the premier/upper-mid-range market the lower end of the marketplace does not equate to users who are big spenders on apps.

The average Apple user, according to Nielsen, is aged between 29-39 and is a middle to upper earner who on average earns  $ 33,000. This means a larger disposable income, than that of, say, a budget smartphone user who has a smaller available disposable income. Now this miniature economics lesson is important in highlighting the glaring problem with the Android Marketplace. Money, or revenue, is important as its the reason developers create the apps in the first place.

Rovio didn't just create Angry Birds because they wanted to create a game that would be freely enjoyed without strings. No, they, as do other firms like Backflip Studios, wanted to make apps that generated revenue. Now the introduction of ‘lite’ apps are designed to be a selective taster and after ‘tasting’ the app, and if one enjoyed using it, they would then purchase the app. It works, and works quite well, on the Apple appStore platform but they're attracting a different user demographic than that of Android. The dearth of quality apps is telling. Now this isn’t the end of Android, far from it, it shows that the market lacks maturity. Electronic Arts have released apps and other larger developers are releasing apps because Android is perceived to be a platform with the potential for exponential growth. But there does need to be a ‘wake up call’ moment for the Google Android team.

Is Android too ‘open’? Any Tom, Dick or Harry with the ability to code is able to upload their ‘app’ onto the Google servers for a $ 25 dollar fee. The telling issue here is that the app isn’t verified by Android analysts which is indicative of a wider lack of platform understanding. No one can deny that Android Marketplace has a lot of, well to put it kindly, crap applications. Perhaps, maturity will mean closer control of the gates to the Android kingdom. This, whilst not micro-managing to Apple levels, will deter developers of naff apps to take their wares elsewhere. This will not stop determined criminals, but neither has the Apple, Nokia, Palm and as has been seen recently the Android marketplace platform.

What’s needed is quality – The Oxford English dictionary defines quality as thus: the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something – quality is unfortunately whilst not exclusively linked to payment. This is not the end of freeware, far from it, but to get the developers in revenue is important. So over the next 12 months you, as Android Marketplace users, will start seeing apps with pricetags increase from those ‘lite’ or free apps.

This is not a moment to despair, no, it is a moment to pause and think about the quality of hardware and cellular technologies available and to think about what quality apps will bring to your handset. This will bring about a change in how we use and interact with our apps. Free apps are something we take for granted to entertain us during moments of boredom, be it on tubes, metros or commutes, but we do need to think about using our phones in a different way.

The Motorola Atrix is the beginning of this ideology. The dual-core wave of smartphones along with Android 2.3/4 being released this year will mean a greater capacity and quality of hardware. But this also means we can use our Superphones in a different way. Think about writing that presentation on your phone instead of the laptop? Or maybe look over the business accounts on your phone. This is a reality, now, not in a month’s time or even a year’s time. The technology is available now; but what is required is the ‘app’ to go with it.

Think about Quickoffice Pro, a $20 dollar app, which allows you to create or edit Microsoft Office documents, worksheets or database queries. Think about it; the Motorola Atrix with Quickoffice Pro means a Laptop with an office suite. This means we can write, edit and distribute material from our phones. This is a great future, but such quality comes at a price. It’s time to think about purchasing apps. This great new age of mobile computing does have a big problem: Ever been late to work and called your boss and said your in traffic and the bus, train or tram and your going to be late. Now he can turn around and say ‘don’t worry – just finish your work on your phone and email me’. That’s the end of the wonderful excuse when you woke up late and are running behind.

 

(1) for information on Annual market apps increases visit http://www.androlib.com/appstats.aspx and for information on Increase of the Android market see http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/05/android-to-surpass-apples-app-store-in-size-in-august-2011-report-exclusive/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29 (accessed at 17/05/2011)

Saturday, 2 April 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Android Gingerbread is changing its name to, eh, Android Gingerbread!


Android 2.3 is called Gingerbread and Android 2.4 is called, well, Gingerbread. Not following, well you’re not the only one. Google released Android 2.3 in December 2010 and it’s now March 2011, at time of writing, and how many new devices do you think run Android 2.3? Well it’s 2.5% that’s how much Android 2.3 accounts for which is month on month stagnant. Now Android 2.2 is climbing it currently accounts for 63.9%.[1] The reality, Gingerbread was dual-cored out! Dual core Honeycomb hardware can’t run on Single Core software. This is the problem with dual core hardware and single core software – the prevalence of Wi-Fi and high-end apps means tasks which were once the domain of Personal Computers are now used on Smartphones – the original Gingerbread could not run dual-core processors so Google had to quickly repair that by releasing Gingerbread mark two. That’s why 2.4 is called Gingerbread and not, well we need to skip H because of Honeycomb, so that’s Ice Cream. The reality is that, as NVIDIA argues, flash-based content or High Definition movies or music streaming takes a lot of juice out of microprocessors so the introduction of dual core technologies will make smartphones function quicker and more importantly a lot more stable. 

What’s dual core technology and what will it bring to smartphones in 2011?  Got a HTC Wildfire or a LG Optimus? Ever ran a browser, music player and Angry Birds concurrently? Do you see major performance degradation? It’s because the architecture wasn’t designed to handle this ‘tidal wave’ of processes.[2] Increasing the size of the processor from say 600Mhz to 800Mhz does increase performance but also increases the voltage which means batteries will be sucked dry. This is why devices like HTC Desire HD or the Samsung Galaxy S have lower battery life – their infrastructure, on a semiconductor level, wasn’t engineered to handle such intensive processes. Also the cooling of the device along with battery depletion sees the form-factor increase this is problematic. So this is why Dual Core is important.

The NVIDIA Tegra 2 is two ARM Cortex A9 microprocessors which handle the main system processes with added microprocessors for graphics, audio etc. and this collective of processors work in a homogenous form-factor which require fewer transistors and delivers higher performance whilst consuming less battery power. Meaning if you’re playing Angry Birds, whilst listening to music with social networking apps, like Seesmic, running in the background added to the bloatware UI and your anti-virus software the system would probably feel a bit, well, the technical term is ‘sluggish’. 

Single Core processors have to handle Java, Flash, Active X or embedded video and other rich media content along with system processes in a combined fashion. Now a Dual Core processor has a processor which looks after the system processes, a processor which looks after the media rich content, a processor for the audio. You get it… It means the architecture works in synergy and the result is improved performance and battery life.

NVIDIA aren’t the only players in 2011 releasing the next wave of microprocessors for Smartphones. They include the Motorola Atrix, Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8960 and the Intel Moorestown. The new phones which will incorporate Dual Core are expected in 2011. They include the LG Optimus 2x, Motorola Atrix 4G and Droid Bionic and Samsung Galaxy Pro. These phones will incorporate both Dual Core technology and, more tellingly Android 2.2. Why would the latest smartphones from the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturers release flagship devices running an older Android OS over the new Gingerbread variant. 

Android 2.4 when is it due? Well the word is April 2011. It’s why Android 2.3 hasn’t been released by carriers and Google. They’re waiting for Android 2.4 – don’t worry it’s still Gingerbread – which will change the architecture-to-software relationship for smartphones from 2011 onwards. What this means is that we have reached the end of the Smartphone era and now we are entering the Superphone era! This is not an exaggeration it’s a reality. This year will see phones with processor speeds reaching 1.2Ghz to 1.5Ghz yet with the smaller form factor and increased power and graphic capabilities – Win Win? – well only time will tell if this will usher in a new era in Android functionality. This is why Android, the new dual-core processors and the new raft of phones will create a period of change within the Android community.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Motorola’s purchase of 3LM Inc and what this means for enterprise-class computing on the Android platform.


Three Laws of Mobility is a little known setup from two former Google executives Gaurav Mathur and Tom Moss.[1] They have setup a business which wants to create enterprise-class security that beats BlackBerry. On their website they state, quite simply, what they’re about

  • Protect your user. A mobile device may not harm its user or, through inaction, allow its user to come to harm though malicious code or content.
  • Protect yourself. A mobile device must protect itself and the integrity of its data and secured communications.
  • Obey. A mobile device must let the user use the device freely, as long as such usage does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

What does the acquisition by Motorola of 3LM mean to the Android platform as a whole? Firstly, 3LM Inc will be an independently run organisation which will be wholly owned by Motorola but not device-locked. They have strategic partnerships with HTC and Sharp. But what is the 3LM technology and how will it change Android enterprise computing?[2]

3LM platform will help IT managers to better secure their infrastructure and how they go about this by allowing managers to better administer their users and more importantly devices. Therefore ICT Managers who have a pre-defined LDAP and/or Active Directory groups can have better control of their users/devices. With this system in place network administrators can remotely install, wipe, lock out, recall or perform any other corporate ICT policy objective with ease.

Secure enterprise computing with Android Is that possible? With 3LM’s platform yes it is. With their secure enterprise link technology it takes away the requirement of password credentials and links via an encrypted connection to the internet, corporate resources and intranet simultaneously. And on top of this it links with Corporate Exchange servers to deliver quick and up-to-date mission critical information from calendars, documents to email. These combined elements will create an Android enterprise platform which could surpass even BlackBerry.  

2011 is going to be the year of the Tablet and added to this will be the increase in smart phones sales. Business organisations are now looking at these devices as viable replacements of Laptops and even desktop devices. These devices can increase productivity and allow a greater distribution of resources in different environments without losing your businesses security or data integrity.

Although, market research firm Gartner Analysis predicted in 2010 that Tablet PC’s wont account for more than 10% of the enterprise-class computing device market before 2015. Gartner adds that it will take the consumer market to ‘push’ the enterprise-class market into changing. This is because it is cheaper for personal consumer users to upgrade than enterprise-class overhauls. Yet, does the increase in smartphones being brought to work which is a challenge to ICT professionals and the boom in tablets mean ICT professionals will be forced to think about ways of securing their organisations data integrity?[3]

Only time will tell whether Motorola’s acquisition and the broader partnership with HTC et al will bring about a change in the Smartphone/Tablet enterprise-level market and break the BlackBerry monopoly?


Thursday, 10 March 2011

N97 is this what Apple meant by 2011 being The Year of the Copycat?

Steve Jobs this month released the iPad 2 and during this keynote speech he made reference to 2011 being the year of the copycat. But is Steve guilty of hypocrisy?
image
In February, the media and finance news giant Bloomberg leaked information about Apple creating a cheaper mid-range market iPhone. It’s codenamed N97 (No relation to the Nokia of the same name) and it’s going to be a cheaper cut down version to invigorate the mid-share market. The importance of this is that Apple have finally realised they’re loosing market share and need to quickly stem the leak.
Old Steve knows what he’s doing and he’s not a fool. When he arrived back at Apple in the late 90s he turned around a near-bankrupt PC and Software minnow into the world’s largest tech firm. The problem is that, as research by Canalys shows, they are loosing the budget/mid-range markets whilst they're retaining (along with BlackBerry) the high-end market which has been successfully dominated by Apple.
Apple’s advertising has made sure that it’s connected with ideas of high fashion. It’s usually purchased, according to Nielsen, by 29-39 age group with high-end incomes. This niche means they can charge £599 or the US$ or Euro equivalent without anyone quaffing. The threat comes from Android making discounted or budget phones, mid-range phones and high-end phones.
image
This copy-cat move from Apple illustrates Jobs fear. As the old adage goes you beat your adversary by beating their argument. Android’s argument surrounds the idea of device-agnostic ecosystem and Apple has reacted by carting out a sick Steve Jobs who took turns smashing into Android, not because of technical prowess but just to knock the competitor. His claim that appStore had 65,000 apps ready for iPad whilst Android had only 100 is just that. In 2009 Android had 6,7 million users worldwide by the end of 2010 this had increased a hundredfold to 67,2 million and by the end of 2011 analysts predict that 202,2 million.
This freedom from handset strictures and a freer ecosystem has its faults (just see the latest app scare on the Android market along with fragmentation fears over OS and microprocessor variants) but it’s winning the market share. Apple knows if it doesn't do something soon it just might loose its crowning glory as the market leader in the high-end market. Samsung, DELL and HTC are creating high-end phones which are being released in 2011 this will create further tensions within Apple.
But all is not lost for Apple, far from it, the support for Mac is legendary. The marmite motto just might fit the mac phenomenon – you either love it or you hate it – its that simple. Android is building a fan-base but without a strict hardware fan-base Android could have problems. Diversifying the iPhone brand will help gain market share in the mid-range section.
So 2011, with tablets, Honeycomb and Gingerbread and new phones coming Android has a good year lined up. But so do RIM with the BlackBerry PlayBook and so do Apple with their iPhone5 and iPad2. This year will be interesting.