Buying a Cell Phone is Worse Than Buying a Car!

These days it seems that all I ever talk about is Cloud computing and Cell Phone operating systems.  As a contract-free AT&T customer, I should relish in my freedom to choose a new carrier or smartphone, yet instead I revel in cell phone indecision.

While Apple makes a wonderful and polished operating system (iOS), their ecosystem is both closed and proprietary.  After all, these are the same guys that won’t let me change a simple battery!  Another problem with the iPhone 4S is that the form factor.  It just isn’t very pleasing, especially when compared to its alternatives.  How about all those cracked screens out there?  Of course, iTunes is awesome and iCloud has some exciting possibilities.

Meanwhile, Android has come a long way in a short time.  It’s not nearly as polished as Apple’s iOS, but has many innovative features and is open source (kind of).  However, Android is experiencing tremendous fragmentation and is at the mercy of the Cell phone makers themselves.  While Samsung makes great phones, they have been slow to upgrade to the latest Android versions.  Also, what will they do now that Google is purchasing Motorola?  Speaking of Motorola, they seem like a safe bet since Google is purchasing them, but their less than stellar earnings results don’t instill confidence in a purchaser.

Finally, Windows Phone 7 Mango is lurking around.  It’s a blend of Apple’s polish with Android’s innovation, but has suffered from lackluster hardware and non-existent applications.  However, with Nokia’s recent announcement of 2 new Windows Phone 7 phones, there is some excitement that this may change.  What Microsoft needs to do is focus on the development community.  I’m not just talking about porting over existing applications, as they need some originals too. Of course, Microsoft has a really nice integration with iTunes, Office, and a slick SkyDrive offering.

Some would say I need to add Verizon vs. AT&T vs. T-Mobile vs. Sprint to this discussion, but I’m not really dissatisfied with AT&T.  In fact, the ability to use both data and voice is something I wouldn’t want to live without.  For now, I’ll leave this for a later discussion.

So, do you buy a new Samsung Galaxy S II, Nexus II, or Motorola Droid Razr or wait for the iPhone5, Nokia 800, or whatever else is yet to be announced?  Of course, in technology you can keep waiting and waiting and waiting because what you buy today is obsolete tomorrow.  Any thoughts?

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MicroNokiaSoft For Broke In The Cloud

It is quite amazing how much bad press Microsoft and Nokia generate.  If you didn’t know any better, then you’d think Microsoft was broke and Nokia had been left for dead.  While Google and Apple are the darlings of the industry, Microsoft and Nokia are abhorred.  Why?  Do we always need to create winners and losers or heroes and villains?

Amazingly, the haters love Apple; a company destined to repeat the mistakes of their past.  While iOS is a wonderful and polished operating system, it as closed and controlled as anything Microsoft could ever dream up.  From iOS to iTunes to the App Store, you only get what Apple wants you to have.  For goodness sakes, they even try to lock you out of the hardware that you purchased with their crazy pentalobe screws.

Of course, you have Android an operating system only Google could create.  On the surface it’s open, but in reality it shares many of the same characteristics of its archrival.  Devoid of any real challenge by Microsoft, Google was the only company that could stop Apple.  By diversifying their hardware, Android quickly gained on Apple and created a vibrant development community.  However, Android’s tragic flaw is its reliance on Google and their appetite for advertising dollars.  While Apple innovates and focuses, Google follows and is schizophrenic as their core business is under attack.

Alas, here comes Microsoft the old man of the crowd as Microsoft was founded in 1975 while Apple was founded in 1976.  Microsoft has been remarkably quiet in the mobile / Smartphone market.  Perhaps Microsoft took their eye off the ball, as they too had to defend their core business from new and disruptive technologies.  Microsoft responded, as a dominant software application provider should, by creating new and innovative applications and operating systems while investing in cloud technologies.

Fresh off the release of Windows 7, a pretty nice operating system, Microsoft has its eyes set on the mobile business it surely wants to dominate.  Windows Phone 7 is a decent first attempt by Microsoft to reinvent the Smartphone.  It has some disruptive features and some product weaknesses; I’d put it somewhere in-between iOS and Android.  While they don’t have the developer community of Apple or Google, they have applications (Exchange, Office, etc.) and now they have Nokia.

Remember Nokia?  They were the company that had beautiful designed phones with the easy to use operating system.  Somewhere along the line, they became the company with the so-so designed phones with the “ I don’t want to use operating systems”.  Nokia, like Microsoft, lost focus and tried to buy their way out of their mess with Symbian in 2008.  Dubbed the “open-source Android killer”, the operating system was lacking polish and failed to cultivate a developer community, not to mention the woefully underpowered phones.

Faced with the reality that the market has rejected Symbian in favor of Apple and Google, Nokia was faced with an unthinkable choice; create a new OS or become an Android drone.  However, like a perfect storm, a third choice emerged as Microsoft’s lagging Windows Phone 7 sales created an opportunity for a new partnership.

At last, Nokia has the opportunity to concentrate on their core competency and get back to building world-class phones.  These new designs will be powered not only by Microsoft’s software but also their desire to trump both Apple and Google.  Nokia gains access to Microsoft’s best and brightest doing what they do best, creating software and applications that are polished, user friendly, and innovative.

Will this partnership work?  In reality, it may be both companies last chance.  Think about it, if Nokia can create new high-powered phones that are beautifully designed and Microsoft can continue to polish Windows Phone 7 while adding deep integrations with Microsoft Office, Exchange, Live, and Azure then this may work.

Finally, don’t count out a 4th operating system from entering this mix as HP is making some noise with webOS.  Amazingly, they’ve escaped a tongue lashing by the press for not going Android but that’s another topic for another time.

For now, its MicroNokiaSoft for broke in the Cloud.

Google Must Change Tactics and Android Must Succeed

It is safe to say that I have not been a big fan of Google. I have issues with their tactics, business model, and insatiable appetite for personal information. It will come as no surprise to my readers, that I was delighted by Google’s recent announcement to cancel plans to bring the Nexus One to Verizon. However, my reasons behind supporting this decision may come as a shock to you; Android must succeed. Why?

To put it bluntly; Google may be the only company left that can stop Apple’s dominance in the mobile space. While Microsoft certainly has the talent, I question if they have the will as they continue to chase Google for advertising dollars. Meanwhile, Nokia seems a bit dazed and confused by Apple’s success as they cling to Symbian OS. RIM is stuck in the Enterprise world as they must now fight Apple on their home turf with devices that seem behind the times. Finally, Palm may find a buyer but also obsolescence.

One of my best friends put it this way, “When you buy an iPhone you are buying a device without root access.” In essence, we are forced to use and develop applications on the iPhone via the pleasure and direction of Apple. In the past few months, we have tried to develop more than a few interesting iPhone applications only to find we were in danger of violating Apple’s Licensing or Apple’s iPhone OS did not support or allow what we were trying to build. While some have gone the “jail breaking” route to overcome these obstacles, we would rather stay within the mainstream user population and remain legal.

While Apple controls every aspect of the iPhone, Google has the chance to disrupt this model. For some reason, Google has a tenancy to follow leaders in particular spaces. In my opinion, that is why they created the Nexus One as they thought controlling the hardware and software was key in creating a successful device. HTC and Motorola proved this notion incorrect when they created superior devices with the same Android OS. What Google really needs to do is concentrate on improving and refining Android’s usability and functionality to exceed that of Apple’s iPhone OS.

A refined Android with a vibrant community filled with robust application development has the chance to trump iPhone because it is open (we have root access!) and a killer application is sure to be developed. Google has many different avenues to make money off of Android including advertising, cloud services, and more.

Therefore, Google must change their tactics by concentrating on refining and improving Android while supporting their hardware and carrier partners.

Technology: A bright future!

Today’s technical headlines are dominated with the likes of Cisco, Juniper, IBM, HP, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, Google, Research In Motion, Apple, Dell, SAP, Nokia, and more. The common denominator with all these companies is size; size of their revenue streams, size of their sales forces, size of their channels, size of their bank accounts, size of their checks to Gartner, Forrester, EMA, etc. and more.

Some companies believe in organic growth while others prefer inorganic growth through large and small acquisitions. Some spend time winning and keeping customers happy while others would rather spend money on fancy marketing campaigns. Some have grown so large that they compete with themselves while others seem lost defending tired old positions and ideas. Some have executives that are the envy of the industry while others are saddled with executives born out of the dot com boom.

We have lived through HDLC, X.25, Banyon Vines, Frame Relay, ATM, Token Ring, Twin-X, give way to Ethernet, Wireless, MPLS, and more. We’ve lived through the wars between OS/2 and Windows, Active Directory vs. Novel Directory Services, Word Perfect vs. Word, Cisco vs. Motorola, Palm vs. RIM, Inktomi vs Google, and more. We saw RISC vs CISC, Unix vs Linux, Mainframe vs. Servers, Distributed Computing vs Datacenters, Mainframes vs. servers acting as mainframes, Virtualization vs. everything, and more.

While we have come so far, we have so much further to go. While the Internet has become a nice to have to a must have, it remains slow, unsecured, and unreliable. While TCP/IP binds us together, it has created a new wild west for criminals and electronic warfare. While we cannot live without our mobile phones, we can’t drive across town or enter our homes without the connection dropping. While everyone’s memories are electronic, data back-up remains cumbersome and an afterthought. While we crave open standards, we are saddled with proprietary operating systems and applications that stifle innovation and choice.

To the large companies, trash the Innovator’s Dilemma and innovate your respective industries. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it (and I’m not talking about reorganization!) To the small companies, disrupt with technology and business models. Don’t be afraid of the large companies and carve out your niches. To the start-ups, go for it!
Don’t believe the naysayers whether they be analysts, VCs, or “friends” and believe in yourselves.

Here’s to innovation, disruption, and the bright future of technology!

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