Sunday, July 11, 2010

Android IS the next winner in Mobile Computing

I make no secret of the fact that I'm not a big iPhone fanboy. Part of the reason is the closed nature of the platform. You have to get apps from the Apple store, approved and sanctioned by Apple. As someone who has helped design and develop corporate PDA apps, this ALONE makes the platform an abysmal failure in my eyes.

As I've mentioned before, these "smartphones" are actually PDAs with telephony capabilities added. The only people who haven't figured that out are the manufacturers. But they will be dragged kicking and screaming to that same conclusion as business replace their Windows Mobile and PalmOS apps with modern upgrades. This upgraded functionality will NOT be provided "in the cloud"; and if you need a reason, there's a map for that. Even when you can get a phone call through, you can't always get a data connection. Also, this functionality will not be provided on the iPhone. AT&T's poor coverage and Apple's close-mindedness have combined to form the perfect storm of irrelevancy for this platform when it comes to internationalized business functionality. You can argue it, but it's true.

Remember 1982, when Apple had the lion's share of the home, small business, and educational computing markets? Well, I do. Apple's operating system was tied directly to their hardware, and Steve Jobs wasn't about to let it wander. He cited all manner of reasons, usually harping back to "quality". Meanwhile, Microsoft came along with an operating system for the IBM PC, but not exclusive to that platform. They licensed it to anyone, and as a result, Apple slid into such irrelevency in the computing market that they dropped "Computer" from their name.

George Santayana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Steve Jobs has learned absolutely nothing whatsoever from history. He is making precisely the same mistakes now with regard to the iPhone as he made in the 1980s. Those mistakes lost him supremacy in computing, and it will lose him supremacy in telephony... and with it, he will lose supremacy in the music market.

Google is doing for telephony exactly what Microsoft did for desktop computing in the 1980s. They are providing an open platform that can be used on anyone's hardware. And they're doing Microsoft one better, in that this platform is based on the Open Source Linux operating system. Look at the difference in strategy:

You can buy your fragile glass iPhone from one supplier and use it one network, and get your apps and music from one source. Lame. Weak, and lame.

In contrast, you can buy an Android phone from numerous manufacturers and use it on any of a wide number of telephone networks. You can get apps from anyone who produces them. You can produce them yourself for sale or for your internal company use. You can download and use the development environment freely.You're not chained to a single supplier for the phone, for the apps, or even for music. In short, You can leverage this phone as a competitive advantage. And because it's not tied to a hardware platform, we're seeing Droid on tablets, a wide variety of consumer phones and beefier phones suitable for heavy-duty PDA functions.

The business advantage is clearly with Android. The personal advantage is clearly with Android. The only thing that the iPhone still has going for it is waning momentum from having been first in the marketplace. I hope they've enjoyed the ride, because it'll soon be over.

One of the things that keeps me on my Palm PDA is the ability to sync apps with my desktop. I'm not just talking about calendar and emails. There are business applications that run on the Palm that must be able to send specific data to external systems. There are companies, like CompanionLink, that "get it" and know you need this ability, and are willing and able to provide it. With Android, I can freely develop apps that can take advantage of this. So I know where my development and training budget is going, and it isn't to Apple.

(FYI, It's not going to Microsoft, either. They've been MIA when it comes to any decent next gen telephony products. Kin was an horrible, embarrassing flop. Windows Mobile 7 isn't impressing me at all. When you say, "business applications", Microsoft immediately trots out Word and Excel as if that's what's being talked about. All this time, and they're still struggling with the concept that these are NOT tiny desktops.)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Please don't take my PDA!

Today, David Gewirtz asks why old people still like their PDAs... All I can say is, I love mine.