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Is Android the key to everything “smart”?

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on February 9, 2012

We spend a lot of time talking about operating system market share and usage share, but could Android explode to the point where it make such data irrelevant?

When we talk about Android market/usage share, we’re usually thinking about devices like smartphones and tablets. It seems that knowing how many people use a particular thing is important to some people (I’m not sure why, maybe it helps people think they’ve made the right choice or something). But Android isn’t confined to just smartphones and tablets. Chances are that if you have a gadget like a personal media player or an ebook reader or an in-car GPS receiver, it’s powered by Android. It might not say Android anywhere, and people might not know that it’s Android, but it’s there nontheless.

Android is already all around us, and pretty soon the OS is going to be in a whole lot more places. The next device that Android is set to invade is the TV set. Given the operating system’s heritage in media it seems like a good fit. It’s going to take a long time for people to replace their dumb TVs with Android-powered ‘Smart TV’ sets, but it will happen (people on the whole seem to keep their TV sets for a lot longer than they do cellphones, tablets and PCs).

The TV is just the start of things in my opinion, and it’s the beginning of an in-home Android revolution. As the price falls on low-power computers it becomes feasible to fit make things ’smart’ … smart oven, smart microwave, smart refrigerator, smart washing machine. smart thermostat. Heck, why not go the whole hog and have smart lights and smart doors too?

Smart devices are the next step in evolution for devices that have traditionally been dumb devices. And one of the keys to making dumb devices smart is the a flexible operating system.

Android offers just that.

Note: One company is going to absolutely love it if Android is everywhere … Microsoft. The Redmond giant already pulling in millions every year from patent deals struck with smartphones and tablets makers.

I can see Android in other places too … watches (now there’s something that needs revolutionizing), cars, binoculars, telescopes, home automation devices, remote controls and much more. Android’s power is its versatility, and it is that versatility that allows the platform to be customized and tweaked for a whole variety of applications. It’s because of this that I see an explosion in Android usage over the next few years.

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Why Nokia chose Windows as against Meego, Android or any other OS?

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on June 26, 2011

Stephen Elop has been emphatic about the fact that N9 launched recently will be the ONLY MEEGO phone regardless of the success or failure of the N9. Elop has been extremely focused on the Nokia-WP tie-up as the future for beleaguered Nokia. Symbian and Meego have been relegated to science projects! With all this in the background Nokia’s N9 launch really seems pointless, doesn’t it? Promising or not,who would bet on an OS which is shelved even before it hit the road?

With Stephen Elop at the helm, Nokia is more than ever looking at partnering with Telecom Operators to bring handsets to markets. The insight here is that pricing and carrier marketing plans will be critical deal breakers for consumers when all other factors and brands are at level.

Nokia had 2 choices here, either to go with Meego and start from scratch all over again with a new OS, new eco-system, developers, partners and the service layers or embrace WP7. Meego OS maturity could easily take 18-24 months to happen. Meego acquiring critical mass and being of interest to the eco-system and the developer community was a choice that was fraught with risks. Nokia needed answers now and here and was hence looking at the big guys to partner with them. No doubt Nokia has a very fine looking OS in Meego, but maintaining an eco-system needs strong partners in service layer who are willing to commit to allocating resources for that particular platform. Which I think is a major weakness for Nokia.

Amongst the big guys, Apple was always “out of the consideration set” and Android would not provide Nokia a “preffered” kind of partnership. Besides, Nokia seems to think that the Android market is pretty crowded, to a good rational.

If you actually look at successful mobile ecosystems- Android & iOS; both of them have very stong service layers built around them. Nokia unfortunately doesn’t have the kind of reach Apple or Google has when it comes to developers or partners in service layer. (Services like iTunes, Google Docs, Google Music, iCloud etc)

Elop and his Microsoft connect, Microsoft service layer competencies and Microsoft’s efforts at making contemporary OS and the fact that Microsoft is the 800lb gorilla in software markets were the scoring points. On the other hand Nokia was critically lacking on these counts which made the marriage “ideal”. With Microsoft this service layer problem is solved, Microsoft has Bing, Xbox Live, Office, Skype, Exchange Server, SkyDrive, great developer tools etc. Competitively Meego is not as well positioned as Windows Phone OS.

Thus even if Meego and N9 will be well received, Nokia will have to go the WP7 way because it has shorter lead times there, ready eco-systems, greater acceptability/credibility and a larger market to address thru that partnership.

Android Steam rolls

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on August 6, 2010

Gone are the days when critics used to tag Google as a one-trick-pony. The Android has truly established Google as more than just Search and Ads on the internet. Android OS with its open source mantra has brought the first global scale success of open source platform.

Two days back, a report released Wednesday by NPD Group placed Android as the leading smartphone operating system in the U.S. in market share beating the heavyweights iPhone and Blackberry.Following a slew of new smartphones released in the second quarter, the Android operating system accounted for 33 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. consumer market. That number pushed it ahead of Research In Motion with 28 percent and Apple with 22 percent. It also marked the first time since the fourth quarter of 2007 that RIM dropped to second place, said NPD.Android activations are topping an astounding 200,000 number on a daily basis thus making Android activations run at a rate of 73 million a year (200k/day X 365).

This report from NPD follows another such report from Canalys which found that Android shipments in the U.S. had jumped 886 percent in the second quarter from a year ago. The strength of Android was its presence across a wide range of OEMs and carriers. In Fact, it would not be wrong to attribute the resurgence of Motorola to the Android (Moto Droid). Sony Ericsson’s turn around is also largely Android led (X10i,Mini). HTC also saw a turn of fortunes after having walked the path with Android.

With Froyo already on its way snapping at the heals of iOS4, and reports of Gingerbread being readied for Tablet consumption, Android has not only established its solid presence in Smartphones but also taking the fight to Apple in Tablets. It may be slow on Tablets, but it was also slow to start in the smartphone space lagging Apple by an year. Mass acceptance by a large number of OEMs and Carriers has helped Android sail past Apple and Blackberry in smartphones and the story could look similar in Tablets as well.

As a signing off note, heres, how the juggernaut went version to version gaining strength all along.

Post Release notes on Android 2.2: Froyo (Part III)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on June 1, 2010

Continuing on the series of posts on Android and its latest OS version 2.2: Froyo. Read the earlier posts here: Part 1 and Part 2. Froyo will feature tethering and WiFi Connection sharing, improvements to the browser and Android market place. Most Importantly Froyo comes with Adobe Flash 10.1. In Android Flash may have a strategic ally to counter the iPhone shunning them.

Froyo also sees the introduction of native support for tethering and connection sharing over Wi-Fi. Android thus is the first platform to introduce native support for portable Wi-Fi hot spots, but operator commitment to the feature will be limited, at least initially. Connection sharing puts extra strain on cellular networks, and many operators will choose to offer the service on condition that users opt for a higher-value data tariff. This scenario supports the thought that US and European markets will shift away from “unlimited” data tariffs toward a tiered structure dictated by usage and potentially even by quality of service in the longer term. The advent of tethering and connection sharing over Wi-Fi may also prompt the advent of tariffs structured according to particular functions or applications.

Of all the new features in Froyo, improvements to the browser arguably have the highest profile. Google claims the browser is the third most-widely used application on Android devices after phone and text messaging functions, meaning it is an ongoing area of focus for the platform. The primary enhancement in Froyo is to the speed at which it interprets JavaScript, through the integration of the same V8 engine as the Chrome PC browser. Google demonstrated Android 2.2, Android 2.1, and the Apple iPad running the SunSpider JavaScript test, in which Android 2.2 substantially outperformed its competitors. Google claims that Android now boasts the mobile industry’s fastest browser.

In Line with Google’s intent of providing a comprehensive browsing experience, Froyo is the first platform to offer native support for Flash Player 10.1 as well as Adobe’s Integrated Runtime (AIR) both of which were demonstrated extensively at Mobile World Congress in February 2010.However, it should be noted that although Android 2.2 supports Flash Player 10.1, hardware requirements dictate that not all Android devices will be compatible.

The final pillar of focus in Froyo is Android Marketplace. Google claims that application usage has far exceeded its expectations, with the average user downloading more than 40 applications. Google has opened up the search function in Froyo to allow developers to “plug into” it, so applications can be easily identified on the device. To this end, the search function now spans the Web, applications and contacts, offering a drop-down menu for users. Applications can also be updated automatically over the air.

However, the next version of Android will see bigger developments to Marketplace. Demonstrations showed over-the-air application downloads to the device controlled from a PC browser, and music also featuring in the Marketplace. This will be supported by Simplify Media, a company recently acquired by Google, which will enable users to stream music and photos between PC and device. This echoes Apple’s purchase of Lala in December 2009, a company similarly focussed on music streaming.

For a point release, Froyo includes an abundance of new features and Google has to be applauded for the speed at which it is innovating and improving the Android platform. However, new features in Froyo and hints of future plans confirm that the rate of innovation and the requirement for new code releases is accelerating rather than slowing down. While the seventh platform release in 18 months is a remarkable achievement and indicative of the value Google is adding, it may also be unsustainable for a large proportion of manufacturers.

The need to keep pace with a vertically integrated player in Apple is a challenge Google relishes but its partners find highly demanding.Most Android manufacturers are struggling to deliver customised user interface layers on top of Android 2.1. With competition increasing and device prices falling, the number of manufacturers will be able to maintain a high level of differentiation on Android will shrink dramatically over the next two years. Many phone-makers will be driven to offer devices with “vanilla” Android or with lightweight customisation that is largely cosmetic. As performance and feature distinctions grow larger between each Android release, manufacturers struggling to keep pace risk becoming uncompetitive.

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Post release Notes on Android 2.2: Froyo (Part II)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on May 31, 2010

Android 2.2 betters on runtime performance, enterprise capability, exchange calendars, data back-up and cloud to device messaging services.

Android 2.2 includes a new just-in time compiler which Google claims improves application performance by two to five times compared with Android 2.1 using the same hardware. It is clear that Google views the capability of application runtime is central to the long-term success of the platform. Android is extending across a diverse range of hardware, so performance needs to reside on a consistent basis within the software stack rather than requiring hardware acceleration or changes to device specifications.

Froyo also improves Android’s enterprise capability following the addition of support for Microsoft Exchange Server in Android 2.0. The latest update extends the number of features supported with a particular emphasis on security and device management. Additions include remote wipe support and the ability to enforce password policies over the air.

In addition, Exchange calendars are now supported within the native Android calendar, and configuration has been simplified with auto-discovery only needing an e-mail address and a password to set up an account (on Exchange 2007 and beyond). Global address book look-up is also included.

Although these are vital improvements, Android still falls some distance behind RIM and even Apple as an enterprise-class platform. However, personal devices are increasingly making their way into organizations, and a fuller suite of business-friendly features will mean Android will also start to enter corporate networks as the iPhone has done.

Developers at the event reacted very favourably to two new services and their corresponding APIs. The first of these is a data back-up feature, which ensures application data as well as the application itself are backed up to a Google ID in the cloud. This means previously downloaded applications and associated data can be restored to a device over the air.

The second service — cloud-to-device messaging — is among the most interesting features in Froyo. The messaging service enables developers to build Web-based functions that communicate directly with an Android device. A demonstration showed a location in Google Maps viewed in the Chrome browser on a PC sent via Google’s server and pushed down to a device. Similarly, a Web page was sent straight from Chrome on a PC to an Android handset. This will prove highly attractive to users at a basic level for content synchronization between different devices but also offers huge potential for developers, particularly given the recent announcement of Google TV. The cloud-to device messaging API will allow developers to create applications that remain synchronized across a wide range of devices.

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Post release Notes on Android 2.2: Froyo (Part I)

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on May 30, 2010

Android is beginning to see the traction that it was always expected to it as Manufacturers, carriers and Consumers are opting for Android. The recently concluded Google’s annual developer event is a clear indication of the phenomenal momentum Android has secured in 18 months flat. Over 5,000 people were present at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, with a further 24,000 watching the first day’s key note presentations on a live stream on YouTube.

Android is now running in over 60 devices from 21 manufacturers in 48 countries with 59 carriers. It has over 180,000 developers and more than 50,000 applications are available in the Android Marketplace. The most significant statistic is the activation rate for Android phones, which is now in excess of 100,000 units a day. This has increased from the 30,000 units announced at the end of 2009 and the 60,000 mentioned by Eric Schmidt at Mobile World Congress in February.

While Android may have some distance to go in the Apps space and creating a UI which wows the consumer (Apple’s forte), Gartner and other numbers seem to suggest that Android is well on its way to become one of the top 3 smartphone OSs around. Gartner’s Q1 results for Smartphone OS markets shares have shown Android taking a 8X volume growth to position it 4th in the leaders board. It beat the WinMo in doing so. CCS insight has predicted that Android would ship close to 35 million devices in the 2010 calendar year. These doesnot include other Android devices such as tablets, set-top boxes and netbooks,which are likely to appear later in 2010.Given Android’s growing momentum and broad segment coverage, CCS insight predicts shipments of Android-powered phones will overtake those of Apple’s iPhone in 2011.

Frozen Yoghurt (Froyo) is Android’s latest Android version releases (2.2) and it looks like Google has been busy at work plugging the gaps in its earlier releases as each new release not only plugs the older one’s holes and gaps but also manages to better it.

The Froyo feature lists include the portable Wi-Fi hot-spot functions, improvements to the browser, including support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1, changes to Android Market, new enterprise capabilities and a range of new application programme interfaces (APIs).

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Android OS update:Eclair (OS 2.0)

Eclair follows Donut and Cupcake as Android roles on

Android

Google today announced the release of Android 2.0, the next iteration of Android OS. Android 2.0 is codenamed Eclair!

Android 2.0 brings new developer APIs for sync, Bluetooth and adds  multiple accounts support, a search functionality within SMS, an improved virtual keyboard and a much sought after camera menu enhancements. The camera menu now includes options like scene mode, digital zoom, color effects, white balance and macro focus. Eclair also brings with it a refreshed browser UI as well as support for HTML5. Users can now double tap the browser for zooming in.

Motorola’s Droid which is set for a November 6th release will most probably be the first device to use this OS. Catch the video demo 0f the Android 2.0 Eclair on the following link.

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Profiling the slide at Nokia (Part III)

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 28, 2009

Dan Carter’s blog says it all. http://www.worldofnokia.co.uk/2009/07/nokia-loosing-its-grip/

The blog illustrates how Nokia looses the big game from a consumer perspective, with the most vociferous fans now slowing conceeding to the fact that Nokia’s smartphone challenge is outplayed and outsmarted by other worthy competitors.

To quote Dan,” Through thick and thin I have been promoting Nokia, Blogging about Nokia, Talking about Nokia and Buying Nokia!. However more and more recently my eyes are being opened to the rest of the Smartphone world and it is clear to me there are other phones out there that will do the job I need them to do, and maybe in some cases better?.”

Dan adds, “The problem I seem to have is with the Symbian OS not evolving enough compared to other manufacturers. Apart from some transitions and Feature Pack updates the OS looks the same today as it did 3 years back with the N95.”

The last when Nokia was able to make waves with its smartphone was the N 95. However, there after, N 78, N 79, N 82, N 85, N 86, N 96 and now the N 97 havent really given audience the kicks they were worth! Another user Ashutosh Timary comments, “You can almost predict what nokia is going to churn out next and not only that, even without playing with the new device, you can almost feel the experience.”

HTC hero

HTC Hero with a new Android OS and ‘Sence’ system, is a very sexy looking OS with a great piece of hardware packaged in one phone. The Hero has a large touch screen, HSDPA, 5 Megapixel camera, 3.5mm headset jack and looks like a real multimedia phone.

Another prime case is that of iPhone 3GS which has been selling out all around the world despite being very over priced for the specification. The N97 beats the 3GS in pretty much every area apart from usability of the screen and the OS.

Does Nokia have any more smartphone winners in its portfolio? No probably.. All current Nokia devices seem recycled.

N 97Nokia are starting to become boring with their same devices repackaged and using the same OS over and over again, especially when other manufacturers are doing such a good job at getting things right.

Ref: http://ronnie05.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/nokia-ii/;http://ronnie05.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/nokia-i/

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How Microsoft is underprepared for next gen computers?

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 28, 2009

Microsoft’s Windows is still shipped on 97 per cent of all new PCs. Thanks to the emergence of new classes of portable, internet-connected devices, a potentially disruptive sea-change is now under way in the fastest-growing areas of personal computing and Windows is not exactly in the driver seat on this ground.

As a PC operating system, it turned out that the world did not need, or want, Linux. The ubiquity of Windows guaranteed that other software developers would write their programs to run on it, creating an effective barrier to entry for others trying to break into the market.

That market dynamic has also helped Microsoft to hold its ground so far on netbooks, the new class of small-scale machines that have been the sole bright spot in an otherwise shrinking PC market. While early netbooks came with Linux and were designed to act mainly as simple internet devices, they have since been recast as scaled-down versions of the familiar, software-heavy laptop.

Yet this victory has come at a cost, and has exposed a flaw in Microsoft’s development plans. With most netbooks incapable of running the Windows Vista code, it was forced to use the older Windows XP operating system. And with prices far lower than for standard laptops, Microsoft has already seen an erosion in the average price it gets for Windows.

A second phase of the netbook wars is now looming. Google’s Linux-based Chrome OS, announced this month and planned for the second half of next year, is designed to carry through on the original promise of netbooks: to let users do all their work on the web through a browser. The web is thus a platform for applications and the operating system becomes less relevant.

Other operating systems designed for the web are also in the works. The Linux and Intel open-source project, known as Moblin, will be available in a range of machines before the end of the year.

The backers of software platforms like these see netbooks as the thin end of the wedge. Getting a foothold on small laptops is the first step to expanding into a wider range of internet devices – including the emerging class of tablet computers and so-called mobile internet devices (MIDs) that many in the industry hope will eventually create a new personal computing market, between today’s PCs and smartphones. Maemo, Nokia’s Linux-based operating system for portable tablet computers, is also pitched at this market.

That convergence promises to bring another dimension to the emerging software platform war.

Smartphones have seen a wave of software innovation, with the emergence over the past two years of a number of new purpose-built platforms: Google’s Android, Palm’s Web OS and a version of Apple’s OSX for the iPhone.

Microsoft is suffering because some of its licensees are looking to do more business with Android.

Designed for the power-constrained world of mobiles, these smartphone operating systems could start to invade a bigger piece of the personal computing world – particularly if the low-power Arm processors on which they run move up into larger, netbook-style devices.

Even in this shifting world, though, the power of Windows could be a deciding factor. If it released a version of the new Windows 7 to run on Arm-based processors, Microsoft could still be well-positioned to ride the wave of new devices.

Refernce: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ec988a10-76e8-11de-b23c-00144feabdc0.html

OS Wars (Part IV): Google, the Cloud and the OS

Google has now announced that it plans to enter the operating system game in the second half of next year with a Linux-based OS that can run on both traditional PC chips and the ARM-based chips popular in cell phones. The idea behind Chrome OS is to create an extremely lightweight operating system that boots directly to the browser, in which all applications run. Chrome, will be used in netbooks and full size desktop PCs for consumers in the second half of 2010 and aims to make web applications easier to use.

“The operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web,” Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google. “The Chrome OS is our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be”. “People want to get to their email instantly, without wasting time waiting for their computers to boot and browsers to start up,” Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Linus Upson, engineering director, wrote in the blog. “They want their computers to always run as fast as when they first bought them. They want their data to be accessible to them wherever they are and not have to worry about losing their computer or forgetting to back up files. Even more importantly, they don’t want to spend hours configuring their computers to work with every new piece of hardware, or have to worry about constant software updates.”

Google is already working with a number of manufacturers to produce and distribute the system. “It’s been part of their culture to go after and remove Microsoft as a major holder of technology, and this is part of their strategy to do it,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. “This could be very disruptive. If they can execute, Microsoft is vulnerable to an attack like this, and they know it.” Google and Microsoft have often locked horns over the years in a variety of markets, from internet search to mobile software. Microsoft Windows is currently installed in more than 90 per cent of the world’s PCs. A key factor will be whether Google can strike partnerships with PC makers, such as Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc, which currently offer Windows on most of their product lines.

Google brings a considerably larger arsenal and with Google Gears, Google Native Client, and a host of other projects, Google is trying to blunt many of the browser’s shortcomings, including the inability to fully tap local processing and storage. This effort will take time, as Google itself acknowledges, but the company’s full-frontal assault on Windows is definitely out in the open.

Google’s push on the open source based OS has opened up the sibling rivalry between the Linux OSs: Mark Shuttleworths Ubuntu and the Google Chrome. While Ubuntu in its present form is only a desktop based OS (Windows alternative, in classic sense) and Chrome in its promised form will be a cloud based desktop interface/OS, it won’t be too long before both these OSs confront each other on the convergence front.

Reference: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-10281843-56.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/google/5775764/Google-to-launch-operating-system-to-rival-Microsoft.html

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