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What would Google’s self branded smart-phones mean for Google, its eco-system, its partners, competitors and Consumers?

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on November 18, 2009

A report by Northeast securities analyst, Ashok Kumar has caught onto the fancies of the Tech Bloggers world. The idea and the question is: What if Google makes and markets self branded smart-phone?

Kumar spoke on Google’s plans: ”Google is expected to launch a self-branded smart-phone by year end followed by netbook early next year. In its smart-phone push, Google is expected to embrace the retail channel at the expenses of carrier with the intent of greater account control. It will embed the same iteration of Android as the Motorola Droid. The hardware, featuring Qualcomm baseband, is expected to be competitive with Motorola’s offering.

Google is also expected to launch a branded netbook, again embedding Qualcomm Snapdragon, early next year. Thus far, Linux has not been able to get a toehold in the netbook segment. But the Chrome OS could be the tipping point.”


The report was half substantiated by Gigaom’s comments saying sources of its own that contend Google has been interested in developing its own Android phone

Essentially the rumor (which is all that we have at this time), speaks about Google’s tie up with smart-phone OEM for a Qualcomm -powered device running the Android 2.0 Éclair. The netbook would be designed in coordination with Quanta and would be Qualcomm Snapdragon powered. It will sport the Chrome OS. This then would be Google’s first effort at devices and the thought leading up-to its foray into devices is that Google intends to take control of its phone experience and is not confident that the current lot of smart-phone makers can make devices that explore the full suite of Google services.

Ashok Kumar also suggests that Google will not sell their phones via carriers, and instead will come unlocked to take any carrier, and will be sold directly in retail stores.


Intending to take control of its phone experience. While it would like to more tightly integrate its online services with a phone, Google is concerned that HTC, Samsung and others would regard a self-branded device as an unfair advantage. Google is apparently in talks with a Chinese company who will be manufacturing both the mobile handset and the netbook. It is not entirely too difficult for any company to make a phone these days, as long as they get at least one part right. Android and its suite of Google services hold a great promise (and challenge to the Apple OS) but Google needs a device as sophisticated as the iPhone to be taken seriously. Google already has all the data they need and they have the software too. So commissioning another company to make the handset according to their specifications does sound like the next logical step.


Delivering Android better: Microsoft has never turned Windows Mobile into anything, in part, because the hardware has not been anything special. Google thinks it can do better and, perhaps, suspects that handset manufacturers are not as smart as Google, which wrote the Android OS and created services the phone will run. This is the “Motorola, Nokia, etc., are clueless” part of the argument.

Game changing move: The Open handset will go down extremely well with consumers who often have to tie themselves into lengthy contracts with mobile phone carriers or go to the hassle of unlocking a phone so that it can be used on another network.

Keeping Apple on its toes: Google does release its own phone. Aside from the wealth of iPhone apps, the iPhone’s greatest advantage over the competition is the sheer seamlessness of its integration of hardware device and the iTunes-related services. Many companies try to ape Apple’s level of hardware-software-service integration, and very few even come close. The Android eco-system Google Smartphone combination may be the best bet yet to challenge the iPhone eco-system. It will surely keep Apple on its toes.


Selling Direct: The cost of the handset would be a big consideration. After all smart-phones do sell the volumes they sell because of heavy operator subsidies. Secondly, it might also have the effect of undermining the carriers and manufacturers who have till now been promoting, subsidizing and selling Android phones.

Partners turn competitors: Google will be making themselves a competitor against many of those who have served as partners in the past. Google is make huge strides in getting manufacturers to develop devices for its Android platform. Creating a handset of its own — making itself a competitor rather than a partner and facilitator — could conceivably hamper those efforts. Manufacturer support for the Android OS diminish if Google itself starts making and selling phones

Loss in focus of its core proposition: One important part of the ecosystem would be to have a set of well-functioning applications (an office productivity suite, for example). Google is mostly leaving applications development for Android to third parties (applications which run in the browser like Google Docs being the notable exception). At the rate things are going, we don’t see enough of these third parties developing applications for Android netbooks in the next 12 months. Google would be better off concentrating on building music and app stores, modeled after Apple. Those are Apple’s no-so-secret weapons and until Google can really compete, there is nothing to stop the iPhone.

Antitrust issues: Google is now so dominant in search that a revived American antitrust division is already making noises. They already have the choice of Android or Chrome for mobile internet devices and now, if they are able to make headways into the netbook industry they’ll make the Microsoft of old look modest.

End Lines: Going forward

Maybe the smart-phone marks the decline of the wireless hardware vendor and rise of the OS and applications provider. The iPhone seems to prove this. Maybe the only company that can make Android a hit in the marketplace is Google itself, by selling hardware it designs. That is the principle argument in favor of Google and its smart-phone efforts. The way Google handles its relationships with its current partners will be crucial to future relationships. Alternately, perhaps Google will get into the handset business and the other handset companies will run away from the Googl eco-system, leaving Google alone with a loser phone and a not-very-exciting ecosystem on the edge of extinction. Almost like Microsoft, but for different reasons. Google may aspire to walk the middle path. A Google-made Android phone would further intensify competition between the Google and Apple.



Booklet 3G: Missing the price equation?

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on September 9, 2009

In an earlier post,  three months back, i had questioned the rationale of N97 pricing. N97 is history (and Nokia si trying to rewrite the fate of the product with N97 mini). In this post, we ddiscuss the prospects of Nokia Booklet 3G in face of its $819 steep price tag!

Nokia has released the specifications for its new netbook. That is no news. The largest handset company in the world has been talking about the initiative for some time. The recent news from the company on September 2, was that the machine will have an unusually long battery life of 12 hours. It will also run Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system.

Nokia Netbook

The press has been quick to criticize Nokia for the netbook’s price at $819. Most netbooks cost under $400 and some run under $300. That’s about double the cost of a typical netbook, though Nokia expects the device to be sold largely by wireless carriers, which will subsidize its cost to consumers opting for a monthly data access plan. This expectation is OK within business framework except that carriers who choose to feature the Nokia netbook will carry huge subsidies which will make their break evens difficult and time stretched. Operators could also look at an increase in usage tariffs which would discourage the usage of data plans making the deal a non starter. The other way to have a viable subsidy model is to contract it for longer periods, which would thus limit the consumer in switching. With a Rolls Royce pricing, Nokia expects to do a Toyota Prius volume! All this in a category with cut throat competition and relatively low margins.

None of these is the real hurdle Nokia faces. It was late to the smart-phone market and allowed a number of firms like Apple to pick off may high-end customers. Instead of focusing on getting its act right in Smartphone, the netbook move is rather inexplicable. Even by the device evolution and device eco-system view, the netbook is only a intermediary to a future in smartphones (assisted with clouds). Nokia should have ideally consolidated its smartphone portfolio for the next gen smartphones. Now it is late, very late, to the netbook business. Acer, Asus, Dell, and HP already have perfectly acceptable machines and some of these have been in the market for over a year.

Despite Nokia’s size and its 39 percent of global handset sales, the firm has been flat-footed and tardy getting into the hottest sectors of the consumer electronics business. And, in tech, the last man in rarely wins.

Watch the Booklet 3G demo:

Apple: iTablet (netbook) and Camera iPod next?

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 6, 2009

Apple’s quest for relentless innovation keeps the technology geeks wondering and guessing on its next product line additions.

In what may be seen as Apple’s first venture into the world of netbooks, Apple seems to be readying up a Qtr 04, 2009 10” screen iTablet using Infineon Chips and ARM technology.The Hon Hai Precision Industry is rumored to be producing the netbook for Apple.
Mac’s iTablet Concept

In another report/rumour the next generation of iPods are rumored to be getting cameras. Rumors from around the web are citing independent verification that the iPod will receive a camera which only makes sense as an evolutionary step.The iPod Touch seems like the most likely candidate to receive the camera as it is currently the top of the line iPod for Apple. Even more so is that the software to take pictures, record video, and edit the film is already written as the software for the iPhone. Apple has placed an order for a massive number of camera modules of the type that they include in the iPhone. These are inexpensive cameras, in the $10 range likely to be used for the iPods.


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Should i use a Netbook?

Posted in The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on May 16, 2009


Nokia’s decision to get into the Netbook space raised a few speculations but then it was the vindication moment of the fact that Netbooks are here and they are here for good as a communications device of the future. The Netbook space is heating up quick and fast and the production lines at the Chinese ODMs are perhaps running on overdrives.

A Netbook is different than a notebook or laptop. It’s built for web browsing, emailing, and word processing. You can also remote in to the office and use applications remotely. They are small, lightweight, and have a low processing power. They generally cost much less than a normal laptop at around $50 – $350. They come with a small screen, small keyboard, and a wireless connection. Nearly all laptop work is made up of email, surfing, spreadsheets and a few power-points and since, there is a fair bit of travel involved for the user, the slot for a mobile SIM card would set up the machine for a complete communications and computing solution.


However, the need for a notebook purchase has to be analyzed well, since these are personal devices. (It is bit like choosing your own wand in the Harry Potter series: You need to check the compatibility between the device and your habits/usage).Consider the following:


  1. Screen Size: We are used to 15 – 17 inch screen sizes and it can be difficult for the eyes to adjust to a 8 inch monitor.
  2. KeyBoards: The smaller keyboard can cramp the hands very easily
  3. With its limited processing power, running MS Office any other productivity-type application, may return disappointing performance
  4. Another critical drawback is in terms of security systems. With the available processing power, you can either run firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware apps or cut that out in favour of other applications. 

Thus it is important that before your next Netbook purchase you analyze your requirements. If you think that your planned activity will involve running applications locally at all, you should consider a lightweight laptop, and there are few of these available which are real good (maybe a Vaio or a MacBook Air). If the applications are all “cloud”-based or remotely accessed, your Netbook would be able to do justice to you. With improvements in the cloud computing space, Netbooks will come of age in sometime and will be equally adept (like a Notebook) in handling computing and communications with all its bells and whistles.

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Netbooks: The new species

Posted in The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on May 13, 2009

The convergence of personal computing and mobile communications is a near reality as different companies use different platforms to marry these services together. The driving force today is the internet”ization” of business, economy and life as a whole. This creates exciting opportunities in the market today in terms of innovation, platform building, product development and the development of the single window of access to the digital world. It is widely believed in the technology space that most of the first time users in the developing states will experience Internet for the first time on their mobiles.

With that background, one can see the technology war heating up in the internet access device space. On one side you have the mobile technology players: Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola who are migrating mobile usage from a talk/SMS centred one to a complete internet experience. On the other hand you have computer majors such as Apple, Acer, Dell who are venturing into the smartphone space. There is a niche of eco-system players like Google and Microsoft who are owning up the content eco-system in a very unique way by leveraging services. Software and Services is another platform which companies such as Apple, Google, Nokia, RIM and Palm are focussing their strategies upon to create stickiness!Hardware Evolution

The Hardware/Services Evolution

Presently the communication and computing spectrum is split under the Lap Tops and Smartphone space. Going forward it is unlikely that either of these devices is going to be out moded completely. Both have their own utility and it is unlikely that any new device would radically substitute them or take their space completely! There will be stages of evolution on the Lap Top and Smartphone eco-systems as technology would evolve.

However, we would also see the evolution of Netbooks, a fusion between Lap tops and Smartphone providing the Internet solution on the go. The change into the 3G/4G technology and the advent of Cloud Computing and other services: SaaS, PaaS would enable this evolution. The Netbook would be an improvement over the smartphone in terms of its internet and software capabilities, screen and convenience, but wouldnot provide the whole host of features that the lap top would provide. Essentially it would be lesser than Lap Tops on memory and its primary use would be to access the internet. Apart from its memory capacity, it would use the cloud as its hard drive. Thus the three categories of internet devices would be so positioned:
Smartphone: Internet enabled voice communication devices. It would offer Social Networking, Navigation as value adds to its basket of services. It would essentially be based on Portability.

Lap Tops: The full monty on computing with data storage, internet access etc.

NetBooks: The internet device per se which would bridge the Smartphone and Lap Top capabilities.

The following table depicts the growth rates expected in the Lap Top versus Netbook across the world.

Netbooks versus Lap Tops
Whether the Netbook will replace the Lap Top or not will depend upon these three factors:
1. 3G/4G data evolution providing fast computing
2. Advent of Cloud Computing and the ability to use the internet as a enabler and dump for all software services
3. Security perceptions and concerns about data in the internet

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