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Microsoft’s platform fragmentation: The impact of V.2

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on July 19, 2012

A difference in V.2 gives insight into the (non) user-centricness of Microsoft

June 20th 2012: Microsoft unveils the Windows 8!

October 26th 2012: Reported Windows 8 commercial launch!

Kudos has to be given for the Windows Phone feature designers and engineers. They created a phone that makes you feel more connected to your friends and family. The Live Tile updates are a small thing but make a huge difference for gleaning information. All that work has been undone by the way Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8.

According to estimates by Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft 7 sold 3.5 million units. And all these 3.5 million users dont get any shot to Windows 8. These 3.5 million users are the real Windows Mavens – a readily available bank of users who had moved to Microsoft 7 inspite of options such as Android and Apple. There are reasons for these 3.5 million to be bitterly dissapointed. There is a reason to think that the choice in purchasing a Windows 7 was in vain.  All they get is a shot at 7.8. The difference of V.2 here is more than just a number – it is an experiential change. It also shows that Microsoft still is all about technology and less considerate of the users and user loyalty.

As defined by Microsoft, Windows Phone 8 encompasses improvements that require better hardware, so old devices will not receive Windows Phone 8. Instead they will get the features compatible with their device and it will be called Windows Phone 7.8. 7.8 is not equal to 8. An engineer would appreciate the transparency. A general consumer will be disappointed. His trust is compromised. Would that be an improvement or platform fragmentation.

It shows that while Microsoft is thinking from a product perspective – putting out an outstanding product in the market, it really understands less of the 3.5 million users who are left out in the cold with only a minor improvisation in Windows 8.

Compare that to Apple, which establishes a general compatibility between its successive versions. What many dont know is while, not every feature in iOSx runs on the older devices, but Apple still calls it iOSx and users are happy that their device is running the latest OS.That is a significant gap illustrating how Apple knows how to present itself to the consumer compared to Microsoft.

So what is the difference between V0.2? Alienating the supporters of Windows  phone 7 instead of cementing their loyalty for Windows Phone 8.

The Tablet takeover

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on May 17, 2012

According to Gartner, the Tablet segment sales are going to increase from 68 million units in 2011 to 118 million units in 2012 registering a 98% increase in volumes. 2011 saw tablet shipments multiply by 3.5X over 2010. Furthermore, the segment will see growth at 60%+ CAGR for the next 5 years and gartner expects that the total number of tablet users will be in excess of 660 million by 2016.

Apple will be the key player and influencer in the segment, even while Amazon, Android and Windows build base and shall continue its leadership position well in 2015 albeit more smaller margins.

Presenting my first infographic build to emphasize the promise in the Tablet devices segment.

Developer Interest in Android wanes as Hybrid Apps take over

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on March 20, 2012

HTML5 is taking over as the key enabler of Internet on mobile phones. The Internet of all things and cloud based convergence will be a key theme in this decade and it will be powered by a tight integration powered by APIs. The future will be about Platforms on which devices and services will be enabled will be powered by applications both native and web based. This post examines the platform, applications and developer intent.

A recent survey by Appcelerator finds that Apple iOS leads the developer interest charts with 89% intent. iPad comes a close second at 88%. On the Applications side, the loser is a very unlikely candidate: Android (79% on the Android phones,64% on the Tablets and 51% on the ICS platform). Appcelerator in its quarterly survey figures out that Android is gradually slipping down mobile programmers’ priority list, with HTML5 powered Web apps stepping in to as an answer to development difficulties. HTML5 ended up showing 67% positive intent from developers.

The wanning interest in Android platform is being attributed to the Fragmentation of the Android platform. The survey concludes that a lot of developers are unhappy with the fragmentation of the platform as well as the fragmentation of the monetization platform. Fragmentation impedes monetization on the Android platform. Customization for screen size, feature sizes, even skins that device manufacturers have put on top of that eats into resources allocation on the platform.

79% of developers think that HTML5 was going to be a component of people’s apps in 2012. Only 6% developers plan to make all-out Web app that runs in a browser; a much larger 72% plan a hybrid approach that wraps native interface elements around an app that relies on a browser engine behind the scenes. A hybrid has some native code on device, but content will be delivered via HTML.

For developers on open platforms it’s a tough line to walk. They want to have an open OS, but openness means they’re going to have fragmentation.

Web applications–those built with technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that run using a browser engine–answer at least some of Google’s fragmentation challenges.Web apps rose slightly to 67 percent, passing Android tablets in the last quarter. Thus HTML poses the answer to fragmentation.

The good news for Android is that even while it has suffered recent declines it fares much better than Blackberry (16% Developer interest) and Windows (37% developer interest).

The good news for Google is that developer interest is on a rise for Web-App hybrid environment like the one running on its Chrome OS and Chromebooks.

The Three Platform paradigm in connected future of technology

The future belongs to connected experiences over a large range of devices starting from Smartphone, Tablet, Networks and not limiting only to TV, Vehicles, Home appliances and more. As a new era of convergence sweeps in, increasingly its evident that the Apple, Android and Windows will lead this march of convergence into the future.

Apple leads by the experience example on a relatively modest number of its own devices. The key will be the experience factor which will power Apple as a high margin and profitable enterprise. The key challenge for Apple will be to enable experiences seamlessly across platforms and devices. Apple will not be in the game of out-innovating Android. It will be more about how well it is able to merge exepreince, interface with technology services on various platforms and devices.

Android will emerge as the mass vehicle. Being open and free will anchor a lot of innovation, some of it across some very new devices and interfaces. The key here is Android’s flexibility which will provide sound base for innovation across platform and devices. The challenge for Android will be in terms of providing a common user experience. There may not be any pure Android experience since innovation on various platforms will add to disintegration of the “pure” Android Interface and experience. This is both good and bad for Android (the Amazon example) because it would mean staying ahead of the curve at the cost of not having an interface as good as Apple.

Microsoft Windows will consolidate its Enterprise position and leverage its advantage across legacy platforms and security.  Microsoft however has been loose in bringing innovation to markets. For every Kinect, there is a surface which is not yet commissioned. However, Microsoft’s niche has to be the enterprise and with its Windows8 it is trying to establish credibility across mobility experiences. Microsoft may still be lagging the “killer app” in enterprise mobility- and a Balckberry acquisition can give it just that edge in terms of the Blackberry infrastructure. There are some reports of a acquistion afoot. Interestingly enough Blackberry has put off its QNX platform till end of 2012. If one wishes to read between the lines … a struggling Blackberry puts off QNX almost indefintely, a Microsoft is fishing for “the killer enterprise app”, RIM is a prime sell off target, Microsoft had evinced interest…. is the acquisition a near reality?? We shall see

Gartner: Q3, 2011 Mobile Phone and Smartphone Market shares

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on November 15, 2011

• The global mobile handset market gained 5.6 percent in the third quarter to 440.5 million phones. It slowed from 35% growth reported a year earlier and 16.5% in the previous quarter. The slowdown in Western Europe has been compensated by stronger growth in emerging markets such as China.
• Nokia retained the top spot with a 23.9 percent market share, climbing from 22.8 percent in the second quarter, down from 28.2% year on year. Samsung, LG Electronics Inc., Apple, and ZTE Corp. rounded out the top five vendors.
• Smartphone sales by volume grew 42 percent. Smartphones gained one percentage point from the previous quarter to 26 percent of all mobile-phone sales. Smartphone sales to end users reaching 115 million in the quarter
• Google Android accounted for 52.5 percent of smartphone sales, more than doubling its share from a year earlier. This is up from the 20.5 million Android-powered smartphones sold in the third quarter of 2011, when Android accounted for a 25.3 percent market share.Android benefited from more mass-market offerings, a weaker competitive environment, and the lack of exciting new products on alternative operating systems. Android was estimated to sell 60.5 million units in the third quarter of 2011
• Samsung, maker of the Galaxy line of Android smartphones, became the biggest smartphone maker for the first time. Samsung sold a total of 24 million smartphones in the third quarter compared with Nokia’s 19.5 million. Symbian handsets lost almost 20 percentage points from a year earlier (36.3% last year) to account for 16.9 percent of smartphones as the company shifted to Microsoft Corp. Nokia accounted for 22.1% smartphone sales in the quarter that ended June.
• Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) declined 4.4 percentage points from a year earlier to 11 percent of the smartphone market in the quarter.
• Apple was the world’s fourth-largest handset vendor, while its iOS operating system was the third-largest smartphone operating system with a 15% market share, down from 16.6% a year earlier. With a limited number of iPhone models taking on a plethora of Android-powered handsets from multiple manufacturers, Apple’s iOS actually lost market share in the worldwide smartphone market last quarter despite growing sales
• ZTE Corp.’s smartphone market share increased to 3.2% from 1.9% in the same quarter a year ago, while Research In Motion Ltd.’s (RIMM) share declined to 2.9% from 3.0%.

Gartner: Q2,2011 Mobile Phone and Smartphone Market shares

Posted in Industry updates, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on August 12, 2011

Analysts predicted that sometime around the first week of July, the Mobile phone population of the world touched 5 billion devices mark.The global mobility is at 73%.However growth in the mobile phones devices markets continues unabated as Gartner recorded 16% Y-o-Y growth in number of mobile devices sold. However, look deeper and there are a few other interesting trends.Smartphones as a sub-category is powering growth in mobile phones. While smartphones have grown at 74% Y-o-Y as against 16% Y-o-Y growth registered by Mobile phones, Smartphones have also contributed 75% to the differential volume units in mobile devices sales.

Smartphone sales continued to rise at the expense of feature phones.Google and Apple are the obvious winners in the smartphone ecosystem. The combined share of iOS and Android in the smartphone operating system market doubled to nearly 62% in the second quarter of 2011, up from just over 31% in the corresponding period of 2010. The platforms’ popularity can be tied to their usability and apps

The mobile phone category is rapidly evolving and is actually moving away from brands. Sample this: While the today number of branded OEM units remained constant at 252 million, the entire growth in the mobile phone category was powered by Local brands and white label manufacturers such as ZTE and Huawei. Others, ZTE and Huawei grew 52% by unit volumes Y-o-Y. Nokia, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, Blackberry-all the players who defined the market pre-2008 are loosing thier markets.

Consumers in mature markets are choosing entry-level and mid range Android smartphones over feature phones, partly due to carriers’ and manufacturers’ promotions. Local ODMs are making decisive inroads into the markets basis a better value equation and prices on their handsets. Operators are also increasingly looking at the device bundle space to support value propositions to consumers. Mobile phones category is one where value-for-money is winning over the brands proposition. Do we term this as commoditization? In some sense, yes!

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.

Windows is Dead. Long Live Windows 8!

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on June 4, 2011

Apart from Kinect there has hardly been a Microsoft product which is as deeply intriguing, scope changing and an indicator of a breakthrough strategy, a shift from the roots approach as the recently announced Windows 8! I had blogged earlier about how it would be a mistake to write off Microsoft. It is clever business strategy to make oneself obsolete by one’s own new products than being forced into obsolescence by competition.(One of Microsoft’s closest friends is facing forced obsolescence, remember?)

Here’s how Windows 8 is a major departure from everything that smelled of Microsoft Legacy:

1. Whether or not Windows 8 is a financial success for Microsoft, we’ve now crossed a critical threshold. The old Windows of mice and icons is officially obsolete. That resets the playing field for everybody in computing.

2. Windows 8 has been announced early and This may be to stem the Microsoft disadvantage and loss of mindshare against competitor OS announcements recently.This may adversely impact sale of Windows products in the near term, but Windows 8 refreshes/resets the Microsoft approach to computing wholly and 8 is the first sensible response by Microsoft to the strategic challenge it faces from the web. It apparently introduces not just a new user interface, but also a new programming model that embraces web technologies and integrates them with Windows resources and APIs.

3. Microsoft has an awful lot to manage and answer for in terms of how it migrates its legacy baggages, but then the good things about Windows 8 is the fact that Microsoft is beginning to re-think. The alternative was to cling to the past and be a stationary target, gradually eaten away by the iPad and Android and Chrome and smartphones and whatever else the web world cooked up.

4. The downside here for Microsoft is that by embracing the next generation of computing, Microsoft is obsoleting its current products. So unless Windows 8 finally gets all the traction, Windows 7 which is the last generation of Old Windows will not fly of the shelves and keep loosing out in terms of consumer focus. That could help Google and Apple products, which is a tactical quagmire for Microsoft. Change and you loose in short term, Dont change and you are obsolete in the long term. So there is a risk and a likelihood that Microsoft will stall its own revenue this year.

5. Microsoft’s biggest strength is now its Achilles heal. Backward compatibility (with legacy apps, even in the video, looks so so antiquated). Microsoft really needs to walks the path; Cleaner Design versus Backward Compatibility very very subtly and deftly. A old world dino in a swanky new world could spoil the views (and the experience).

6. The other flaw in Windows and its announcement of Windows 8 is that it has come in early… 18 months early. That means Microsoft will feed us 18 months of vapour-ware. Thats way too long and will allow iOS, Chrome and others to come better than Microsoft at a constantly evolving game. If Microsoft has to create an impact it should release Windows 8 by Q1,2011. Sales and Interest in the product tends to suffer over longer periods!

7. Platform transitions are huge opportunities for developers/ dessigners/ OEMs. They reset the playing field for apps and devices. Windows 8 has not hinted anything about Apps, hardware, docking, compatibility and hopefully within the 18 months leeway, and the eco-system players will get to know more of what to expect when WIndows8 finally does hit them.

A reading in history reminds us about the fall of incumbents in the era of evolving technology. The leaders in DOS applications (Lotus, Word Perfect, etc) were second rate in GUI software. The leaders in GUI apps (Adobe, Microsoft, etc) were not dominant in the web. It’s actually very rare for a software company that was successful in the old paradigm to transfer that success to the new one. Microsoft by positioning itself as a key competitor to itself, now has a better chance to ride into the web dominated space than it had holding on to the Windows of yesteryears.

The battle between Old Windows and New Windows will challenge Microsoft fundamentally. This could be the largest challenge for Microsoft in its history. After, all its used to being a dominator in the market as against being a challenger, which is what Google, Apple, WebOS and other web technologies have forced it to become.

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Gartner: Q1,2011 Mobile Phone and Smartphone Market shares

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on May 21, 2011

Mobile phones device sales increased 19% Y-o-Y to total 427.8 million units in Q1,2011, On the same lines, Smartphone sales registered a 85% increase and accounted for 23.6% of overall mobile sales in 2011. Smartphones registered 100.8 million unit sales in 2011. Smartphone numbers have seen a depression due to the situation in Japan and the fact that buyers haven’t invested in smartphones in Q1,2011 anticipating stronger and bigger device releases in Q2,2011.

Graphic:Gartner Mobile device market shares

Graphic:Gartner Smartphone market shares

The smartphone numbers only re-inforce the familiar rise of Android to Ubiquitous status, the marginalization of Symbian in Smartphone OSs and pressure on Nokia to defend its leadership. Symbian lost 24% share in 9 quarters, whereas Android gained 35% of its market in the same 9 quarters propelling the likes of HTC to No.7 in Devices and lifting the ASPs for Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Motorola. Android currently is in the mode of moving into the $100 price feature phones to get into the mass mode.

Nokia’s move from Symbian to Windows was announced this February and there is a 1 year or more waiting time before the Nokia Windows Phone hits the shelves. In the meantime, consumers are expected to shy away from Symbian and thus in the ensuing quarters, Symbian market shares are expected to free fall further. By the time, the Windows tie-up kicks in for Nokia, Nokia could well be around 10% market share points and combined with Windows, it would claw back to 20% but never really challenge the dominance of the Android OS, eco-system and partners.

Graphic:Market shares for device makers over the last 9 quarters

With presence across 90 countries from 186 CSPs, Apple has doubled its number of units sold Y-o-Y. It is unlikely that Apple will push past the 20% market share in Smartphones majorly, but the unique eco system of devices, applications, platforms and services would make it the most profitable mobile platform.

Graphic:Market shares of device majors

In the first quarter of 2011, RIM announced that it would transition its BlackBerry portfolio to the QNX platform in 2012. This should make its smartphones more competitive in graphics, performance and touch, and unify RIM’s tablet and smartphone user experience.
Windows devices launched at the end of 2010 failed to grow in consumer preference and CSPs continued to focus on Android. In the long term, Nokia’s support will accelerate Windows Phone’s momentum to double figures.

It is pre-mature to dismiss Microsoft from Tablets and Connected Media experience.

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on April 9, 2011

Is Windows a step behind others in Smart-computing? After being one of the earliest entrants in the smart-phone segment, Windows Mobile took a back seat and allowed Androids and iOSs of the world to steal the march. It refused to take notice of Applications as a product differentiator and has only pushed the pedal lately. While, it came out with Windows Phone 7 in 3Q, 2010, it hasn’t really set the cash registers on fire.

However, the mobile market continues to evolve, this time with tablets. The tablet fore-shadows dramatic consumer and eventually business, behavioral changes ahead. In the wake of Apple’s blockbuster success with the iPad, various manufacturers are countering with tablets running Google Android. Later in April, Research In Motion will issue the BlackBerry-branded PlayBook, and Hewlett-Packard is prepping tablets for summer that run its recently acquired webOS. So far, Microsoft has refrained from a hard push of its own into the consumer tablet market. This, inspite of the fact that the concept of Tablet PCs is a Microsoft thought of yore.

Given that Tablets are increasingly making deeper inroads into enterprises, the threat is here and now to the Microsoft strangle-hold of the enterprise business. Sample the following:
1. A Google Admob survey reveals that 28% of tablet owners have made PCs their primary devices and cannibalizing PC sales.
2. Enterprises are notably increasing their spends on media tablets.
3. Tablets and smartphones are the ideal delivery mechanism for the semantic web through media-applications. Thus the demographic habit is going through a huge change undermining Microsoft’s position of strengths.

However, all is not lost for Microsoft and Windows. Many believe the only company with the resources and ability to seriously challenge the iPad in the enterprise is Microsoft. Considering, how deeply office is rooted within companies, and how well Microsoft understands the enterprise and their needs, it seems to me that we should be careful not to rule them out. So far, the biggest missing piece of the media tablet puzzle right now are desktop applications. Many cannot run on the iPad and similar devices. But Microsoft has already demonstrated the ability of such applications to run on their platform because they are using Windows. Microsoft’s experience and expertise with the cloud is another strength that can be leveraged. Combined with operating systems for TV set-top boxes, telematics systems and other devices, notably the Kinect. Windows has the front end presence which can readily be plugged into Microsoft Cloud. Laterally, Microsoft could also port Office and Outlook apps for Android and iOS, all supported by Microsoft’s cloud (or in-enterprise data centers running Microsoft hosted software). By letting consumers or IT organizations buy add-ons and connected cloud services, Microsoft could make up for its lost time in the smart-computing sphere. There is also another synergy in bringing Xbox game titles to tablets. Microsoft has the capacity to literally roll over the tablet (and smartphone) markets with the best apps and supporting cloud services.

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