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The Android Dilemma

Posted in New Technologies, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on August 3, 2012

Tight control (Fight Fragmentation) v/s Open Source Innovation – That is a dilemma that Android has on itself.

A connected world of device systems running on seamlessly on a single platform. Embedded systems in the back end are evolving the definition of connected devices. Definition of device connectivity is migrating from Netbook, Smartphone, Tablet, Car, TV to complex enterprise/industrial systems and critical utility infrastructure which are stitched together by a complex network of  NFC, RFID, QR Code Readers, Motion/activity sensors and more (the list is quite large here).  In the later case, Linux has dominated the market for good cause: it’s lightweight, networked, reliable, standards-based, and cheap — a perfect combination that has stymied competitors.

What Linux does well, Android does better

Android pushes these benefits several notches further, adding a graphical user interface and modern mobile networking support, which are huge assets for embedded devices that might be mobile and require increased redundancy or frequent interaction with users who find menus and icons far less intimidating than command prompts or low-grade web interfaces.

One of Android’s greatest assets, and one of its critical weaknesses from a tablets perspective, is that Google essentially provides a blank slate upon which others can build compelling, integrated applications. Google’s desire to deliver a platform might be perfect for embedded devices, but it’s become a hindrance for enterprise tablets.

A solution for embedded devices is unfortunately Platform fragmentation on the other hand

Even while there are  concerns about Android hardware fragmentation, the rapid release cycle has muddied the waters on the software front, especially as it pertains to tablets. Add in Android’s ability to be enhanced and modified by manufacturers, which a great strength on the embedded device front, and you have different hardware providers doing everything from superficial “skinning” of Android on their particular device to providing a unique and different OS shell.

Google shouldn’t take an Apple-like approach to locking down hardware, software, and application distribution, but Android does need to be more tightly controlled by Google in order to achieve tablet success. A significant asset that Google has over Apple is that there are Android tablets available in every conceivable size, shape, and price point. Hardware manufacturers understandably don’t want to be forced into commodity status, but at this juncture, an average user could pick up three random Android tablets and find an inconsistent interface and experience among them. This is not a recipe for a successful enterprise device.

Its an interesting toss up and a marketers dilemma at Google – Maintain course and run out of favour for devices today. Or change course today and loose out on the what appears to be a great future in connected devices

The evolution of the Tablet PC Market: From Consumer to Enterprise

Posted in Enterprise Computing, Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on January 7, 2012

Tablet industry will need mass enterprise adoption for powering growth in 2012. Device makers/eco-system masters will have to customize to enterprise use cases. (Cue Android/Blackberry/Microsoft)

The Tablet PC was designed first by Microsoft and targeted at the enterprise segment mainly.

However, it was Apple and iPad with its unparalled experience which turned the Tablet PC into a consumer segment product mainly (That’s been the niche of Apple). Apple established the Tablet as a media consumption device as against smartphone(communication device) and laptops(computing devices). Apple made iPad the centre piece of its eco-system and still continues to add various other dimensions breaking one frontier after the other.The success of Apple spawned many others notably Android, Blackberry and even HP’s WebOS.

However, it was Amazon with its scale and expertise in media distribution that has now taken the pole position in low end tablet category.The Amazon USP is the media based services.Amazon Kindle Fire is exerting pressure on all tablet makers to reduce prices. Furthermore, with the introduction of iPad3,one could see iPad2 price down to at $300 levels. Android is an example of a strong competitor which has failed to create any impact in the consumer segment. The “Apeing Apple” strategy has not worked for Android (see image below). This is perhaps clear with the “missing in action” response that Ice-cream Sandwich has garnered post luanch.(A .6% presence inspite of Samsung, HTC, Sony and LG device makers pushing it). With the consumer segment taken by Apple and Amazon, there is little left for others. There are options of deep penetrative pricing as practiced by HP and Blackberry, but that doesnot translate in profits and viable business cases.

In 2012, tablet makers will have to go the “enterprise route” to find a foothold in a market which is fast polarizing towards Apple and Amazon.Again this will include a eco-system approach which will include application makers, cloud, telecom operators, MVNOs, value added service providers and other linkages with industries, Operators, functions and solutions which might always not strictly be from within the industry.

Device makers will need to decide which enterprise purposes can be supported by their tablets. The key drivers of successes in enterprises will be Optimization for specific use cases. I am listing out a 7 point use case optimization-
1. The stylus will emerge as an important input method which would enable consumers to annotate, make handwritten notes,
2. Similarly, voice enabled input could be a critical feature for creating compelling user experience
3. Tablet makers will need to drive development of apps and services optimized and uniquely well-suited for enterprise uses
4. Tablet makers will need to enable cross-platform interorperability between phones(smartphones), PCs, back-end legacy systems. Prima Facie, Microsoft has an edge in this.
5. Tablet makers will need to heed to security and piracy as key concern areas when addressing enterprise requirements
6. Device makers will need to Promote peripherals and ancillary services such as keyboard, cloud based services, pairing between office peripherals such as photo-copiers, scanners, servers etc in form of partnerships, shared GTM programs etc.
7. Device makers will have to evolve a new device lifecyle revenue model which balances the CAPEX, OPEX and service costs for optimum margins and sustained profitabilities.

2012 will see a lot of tablet device makers explore the enterprise segment as a viable and sustainable business case. The sooner the better.

Infographic: The state of Tablets in Enterprise

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Computing, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 23, 2011

Source: Socialcast

 

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Infographic: The Tablet Revolution and the Future of News

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

Source: Pew Ressearch Centre’s project forExcellence in Journalism

Amazon Kindle “fires” up the tablet market!

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates, Value added services and applications by Manas Ganguly on September 29, 2011

Amazon Kindle Fire: Playing to a niche, it re-draws rules in the Tablet segment

The $199 pricing from Amazon, is one of the best examples of penetrative pricing- where by Amazon can make more money later by selling books, movies, music, apps through its app store. The reason Amazon can do it is because it has an offering very similar to Apple where it’s controlling the device, platform (it has a modified version of Android) and app store. Hence, it’s looking at a long term revenue by following a penetration pricing strategy. In doing so, it’s also utilizing its existing capacity of billions of gigabytes of cloud storage combined with Amazon Silk interface for faster loading of webpages to provide a better user experience.The reason other tablet players in the market such as Samsung, HTC, Motorola among others can’t follow this strategy, with the exception of apple, is because they only control the device part and have very little control over Android platform (controlled by Google) or app store (again influenced by Google).

On the flip side, Kindle Fire isn’t proper Android tablet. It is a forked version which means, whatever updates Google does will not make it to the Fire. It will Amazon’s prerogative to get the updates. Even the Android Market is out of bounds on the Kindle Fire. What really is unexplainable is the absence of HSPA capabilities on the tablet. Is it cost? For a mobile device which is heavily dependent on anytime available cloud service, not having a innate mobile connection capability is befuddling. And then there is the lack of Camera? Surely That wasn’t a huge investment that Amazon opted out of. It was hygiene.

Kindle Fire has shown us that a successful tablet launch isn’t all about the greatest hardware. It’s the apps and the ecosystem. Without which the brightest of the tablets are destined to fail. And don’t make the mistake of considering this a success for Android tablets. Because it is not. This is a tablet which only an Amazon could have pulled of. In fact Kindle Fire would be a nemesis of Android tablets. Now they have to compete with both iPad and Kindle Fire – one at the top end and one and the lower end of the spectrum.

Amazon has done a brilliant job of picking its niche and playing to its strength – content: gaming, video, music or eBooks and build an ecosystem around it and then start selling. That in essence is the purpose and motto of tablets- Tablet happens to be a conduit to digital consumption. And Amazon has seems to have hit the nail quite on its head.

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Tablets Disruption: Enter Iconia!

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on November 24, 2010

Even while the comparison between Android powered Samsung Tab and Apple’s iPad are still doing the rounds of press and blogosphere, Acer delivers the “Touchpad” a completely new Tablet form factor, one with dual screens. The dual touchscreen ICONIA as it is called is powered by the Windows 7 and is extremely close to Microsoft’s dual screen Courier tablet, which has supposedly been shelved by Microsoft.

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The ICONIA lends a certain “ccol” factor to the design and has a virtual keyboard to mange tasks.Instead of a start button, it features the “Acer Ring” which will appear “by placing five fingers on the screen and making a grab gesture.” The “touchbook” comes equipped with a bunch of Acer developed applications including the TouchBrowser, TouchPhoto, TouchMusic, TouchVideo each enhanced with the gesture library. Likewise it includes the apps SocialJogger, My Journal and Scrapbook.This beauty is due release in Q1,2011 and can be a serious competition to the single form tablets.

The Pics are enticing enough and for one I am not sure if I should postpone my iPad purchase till Q1, 2011!!!

Technical details:

5 reasons for the Blackberry Slide

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on October 27, 2010

About 18 months, Blackberry had an unassailable lead in the US smartphones. An year later, Blackberry was being challenged and within a month or two, serious competition was snapping at Blackberry’s heals. This post examines a few factors behind the fall of Blackberry!

A recent report by Strategy Analytics, puts Apple ahead of Blackberry in terms of devices shipped globally over Q3,2010.Global smartphone shipments surged 78 percent to reach 77 million units in Q3 2010. Apple was the star performer, as it overtook Blackberry and closed the gap on Nokia. The report mentions that Blackberry is still handicapped from the lack of touch devices in its high end consequently its global smartphone marketshare has edged down from 20 percent to 16 percent during the past 12 months.

The 5 reasons that led to the slide at Blackberry are as follows:

1. Blackberry made its mark by being a device of choice for enterprises. However, if latest reports are to be believed iPhone and iPad (In particular) are finding traction at the enterprise segments. Interesting Apple never made these devices with enterprise usage in its perspective. Verizon and AT&T are beginning to sell the iPad in their channels and this could upset the balance for RIM in the enterprise segment.

2. The problem for Blackberry has been that after riding the wave of the same OS for longer than usual, they seem to be running out of favour. Carriers, Consumers, Developers and Enterprises have better options available for them from the Apple and Android stables. Blackberry has essentially gone the Nokia way. For long it rode one prized horse without adding anything substantial. Competition out-innovated them.There are plans of refreshing the Blackberry with the Blackberry tablet: Playbook. The Playbook will have a new look-new feel OS designed by QNX which would run the Flash and Adobe. However, without active developer support and a launch date of Early 2011, RIM has seriously lost on developer mind share already.(More about that later)

To make matters a little more complicated for RIM, as against two (Apple & Android) earlier, now they have three for company (Apple, Android & Microsoft).

3. The latest RIM torch bearer, Blackberry Torch has been an effort to bridge the gap between an enterprise device and a high end multimedia smart-phone. However, Goldman Sachs has declared the launch as underwhelming and RIM had to move fast in dropping the price of Torch in order to stay competitive. (RIM lowered prices from $199 bundle with AT&T to $99).

4. Touchscreen continues to be RIM’s Achilles Heal. After two unsuccessful trials with the feather-touch Storm and Storm 2, RIM still has a long way to go in touchscreen devices.

5. If Smart-phones in the future are about applications and the eco-system is about wooing developers,RIM focus has been inadequate in this space largely. The Blackberry Apps store just hit its 10,000 apps online and a Electronista report confirms that the gaming developers community is giving Blackberry a miss. The corresponding number is 100K apps for Android and 250K for Apple. Nlot adequate for the leader in US smartphones, right? Blackberry is trying all out to try and gain developer support

The Tablet Roadmap

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on September 3, 2010

The iPad has more tablets for company.Every device manufacturer worth his salt is betting big on Tablets. Samsung has already launched its first Android tablet against the iPad a few days back. This is the Samsung Galaxy Tab which sports a 7″ screen and runs on Android 2.2. While the Froyo is not the best suited for Tablets, it gives Android a start into this promising device space. A start that Gingerbread, Android 3.0 will consolidate in its time.

Here are the specs of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet

A video on the the Galaxy Tablet by Samsung:

A pictorial of the 2010-2012 roadmap of tablets that have been announced by different ODMs under the different platforms. From the information available, The Android is seen here with 16 tablets, the Windows has 13 and Linux has 3. Blackberry and others have 1 each. from the looks of its Android is maturing fast as a platform for tablets and thats where the challenge to iPad’s reign begins.

Debating the Microsoft Tablet (Part II): Does Microsoft need to step into Tablet space?

Ballmer has promised that a Windows 7 tablet is on the horizon. Maybe that is a plan in action, may be its just a pipedream.

However, does Microsoft need to focus on developing a Windows 7.0 tablet? Instead what Microsoft needs is to focus on having the relevant and adequate strategy in place for taking advantage of the changing mobile computing market. Ballmer’s reaction to the Apple and Google tablet party can just be not stepping into the Tablet space without having a clear ability in the space. Microsoft has strengths, and it has weaknesses. Rather than trying to overcome its weaknesses to flounder about in a futile attempt to compete in markets that aren’t its core business, Microsoft should focus on its strengths, and how to continue to evolve and adapt them to meet the changing needs of its customers.At one point, mobility was about putting a Windows desktop into a more portable form factor, and supplying the world with Windows laptops, but the game has changed. That means that Microsoft does need to recognize that mobility is rapidly changing and determine where it fits in the new equation, but it doesn’t need to build the mobile platforms.

The rise of increasingly powerful and capable smartphones, and the introduction of the tablet revolution have shifted mobility away from Windows. The next generation of mobile computing relies on a mobile OS that is uniquely suited for mobile devices. Microsoft will shoot itself in the foot if it continues to try to make mobile computing about putting its Windows desktop operating system into new gadgets. Apple and Google have their assets build ground-up for touch based devices which is the key leverage. Windows 7.0, however is not ideally build for a touch screen internet interface,

Most of the world relies on Microsoft Office for essential productivity software. Microsoft’s customers are heavily invested in Microsoft server technologies like Exchange, SharePoint, and Office Communications Server, and they want tools to allow them to access the Microsoft backend while on the go.Rather than wasting time and money pursuing a Microsoft-centric platform that would probably only capture 10 percent of the market anyway, Microsoft should be building its mobility strategy on developing cross-platform solutions, or platform-specific apps that enable the 90 percent of the market to continue using Microsoft software no matter what smartphone or tablet they choose.

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Debating the Microsoft Tablet (Part I):Is there a strategy in the first place?

The Apple iPad has sold of 3.3 million units and the party for Apple has just begun. ABI research forecasts Apple to sell as many as 11 million iPads this year.

The iPad has opened a huge new market and the Tablets are billed to be one of the fastest growing segments of this decade, beside smartphones. Apple has taken a pole position which would be difficult to better, but competition from other OEMs and Android 3.0 Gingerbread will only kick in late this year or early next year Apple a huge first mover advantage.

While one Steve (Jobs) delivers products extraordinaire and is taking his company (Apple Inc.) to hitherto unknown levels, the other Steve (Ballmer) frets, stabs, promises, commits, flounders and makes a mockery of his company (Microsoft).

Steve Ballmer admits that a Tablet is “job one” at Microsoft. Steve Ballmer is confident about Microsoft’s future in the tablet market, and goes as far as to take a stab at the iPad by pointing out that the Microsoft tablet will be able to print documents. Even as Microsoft can’t give an estimate as to when we can expect to see a tablet from their company, Ballmer has stated that the tablet will be ready “as soon as they’re ready”, and “it ain’t a long time from now.” Ballmer claims that Microsoft must take its time to get the product just right which is a subtle indication that Microsoft is nowhere close to producing a tablet. Even the new Intel processor, “Oak Trail” that is supposed to power the Windows tablet, isn’t expected to hit the production line until next year.

Given Mr. Ballmer own outline strategy for the tablet, it’s apparent that Microsoft has no set strategy. As it is, Microsoft will face numerous issues adapting Windows 7 for tablets. Apple’s iOS was designed from the ground up with touch screen devices in mind, while Windows 7 was conceived as an OS for a keyboard-and-mouse equipped PC. Even while Windows 7 is a vast improvement over the disaster that was Vista, but given Microsoft’s recent track record (think…Kin) it is difficult to imagine an outstanding Windows 7 tablet debuting in the near future. Microsoft may take a leaf or two from its Microsoft Surface project and NUI thoughts. But presently it is extremely unclear how mature are these two platforms to support a product of the scope and scale of an iPad.

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