When the US elections were taking place, there were a number of topics which caused the US public to either get really annoyed, or behind in support, however some of these topics were perceived as smokescreens to get people to invest their time in one matter, whilst the offending party was forging ahead with their real agenda.
Much the same can be said about the state of today’s mobile phone market. The announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is anticipated mid-March 2013 and there is debate about the next iPhone (iPhone 5S). In either case, much conversation has focused in on the hardware specs and screen size.
What’s really important
Whilst having a processor that’s capable of handling function, storage memory sufficient to accommodate photos, videos, apps and music and form that allows the phone to be both of a quality build, handled comfortably and screen size appropriate to needs there are a couple of really important things to consider:
The Operating System
Given that we as consumers appreciate and are more critical of the User Experience (and User Interface), having an operating system that looks and feels intuitive and can be adaptable to your own use of the device is essential. Neither Android nor IOS are yet there, with IOS being somewhat now overdue a UI/UX refresh and Android being plagued by layers of OEM fluff (e.g. MotoBlur, HTC Touch) to confuse the user experience.
Another example of this shortcoming is being able to share to your preferred social network should just be an option, regardless of network. Typically being able to share content from an IOS device to Google+ is more difficult than Facebook – but why is that? I as a user prefer to be able to define my social networks, not be constrained.
[UPDATE: Andy Parry brings the Ubuntu mobile OS to my attention – see this – this is exactly what i’m talking about how the UX should be more like]
I’ve mentioned this before; the mobile phone needs to be revamped totally in the experience; not only a good sensor, but also the ability to create more useful metadata such as learning different faces so that it would be possible to then retrieve all the photos of Uncle Dave (person metadata), taken in Chicago (GPS metadata) last Autumn (time/date metadata), near Sears Tower (GPS metadata).
Also the actual holding and storage of a phone needs to be considered; I like the iPhone 4/4S for its compact size, yet it still manages to deliver a solid feel and also very view able screen.
The battery life
It’s all well and good having a powerful phone with an amazing screen, but it’s totally negated if you don’t have the battery life. I feel almost certain that the maximum brightness on phones, whilst very appealing, is hardly used by many due to the battery consumption – effectively rendering it a sales medium. When we start to have efficient batteries and components that consume them, then we have a truly adoptable phone.
Of course, this is skimming the surface, but the point is, don’t be fooled by the processor power etc. Think about the application of the phone to you. Would having a Galaxy S3 vs. S4 make a difference Maybe, if you’re an avid photograper. However if you’re just browsing facebook, youtube, etc. it may not be of discernible difference (depending on the battery life)… case in point I have an iPhone 4 – initially a temporary phone until the iPhone 5 came out, but after due consideration, cost and features were not quite enough to upgrade for upgrades sake, based off my use.
Seeing as many of you are searching for this question, here’s an update! If you’re still deciding which one is the best for you, the answer is that either Google Chrome, Opera or Mozilla Firefox are more than adequate at serving your browser needs.
Having installed all of them, my personal preference is:
Everyday surfing : Google Chrome
Web Development : Firefox + extensions
That being said, I also have Opera still installed as I like what they’ve done with it; it’s very much similar to Firefox, with a sidebar which tries to extend the browser functions in the social space, filesharing, etc. Definitely interesting, but not something the masses will pick up.
As for browsers I don’t like? Internet Explorer (any version) and Apple Safari – neither have the usability or capability that I am looking for. What’s your flavour?
The number of Android devices spilling from manufacturers begs the question what this means for both the platform (Google), the market (manufacturers) and consumers. It seems every week you hear of another Android device being prepared for launch and in doing so are we heading towards a critical mass?
Google creates a beautiful monster
Google produces the Android operating system (OS) and licenses it to manufacturers, such as Motorola, Samsung and HTC, who in turn don’t have the costly overhead of developing their own OS – instead they can focus on getting the hardware right and other aspects to their product.
On the flipside of this, they are at the behest of Google releasing new and improved versions of Android to keep the ever hungry “next-gen” public satisfied (“Wow! This new version is great! When’s the next one coming out?”). This also creates a legacy question for manufacturers – e.g. should Google releases a new version, this might not be totally compatible with their existing or older hardware. This risk is mitigated in a number of ways, including Google working closely with those manufacturers to ensure the roadmap for their product is understood.
Manufacturers = Android + YMDB?
With so many potential vanilla Android devices, some manufactures provide “value-add” layers on top of Android to become differentiators – or Yet More Dumb Bloatware (YMDB). For example, Motorola introduced “MotoBlur” on many of their phones which aimed to provide a means of streaming your social media site conversations (e.g. Facebook, Twitter). Although this sounded useful, the reality was that many users did not like this “feature” and so Motorola now play this feature down The reality is that many additions to the already very capable software can frustrate users. Mobile carriers take note.
So what is it that drives consumers to buy these products? There are several factors, all of which interact with each other, including consumer profile, retailer conditions (price, availability) and manufacturer features. Let’s delve futher into these before we see how they interact with the mass of Android devices.
Who are the consumers?
Those buying devices today tend to fall into one of several categories:
Budget Tech – these people tend to know their technology but want a device that’s fit for their budget; they know there will be reduced features (perhaps no camera or HDMI output), but really are looking for core capability (capacitive touch, good processor and memory). Extremely price sensitive.
The Casual Curiosity / Novice – these folks tend to get seduced by the hype and want to dip their toes in the tablet water. They are moderately price sensitive.
The Business User – annoyed with the thought of carrying unwieldy laptops and cables, probably hating the in-built trackpad mouse, these users want a device that lets them retrieve emails and work on documents efficiently. These folks are not extensibly price sensitive.
The Power User – Heavily invested in all things technology, these folks will want a powerful, fast device that’s very flexible (typically they will want to “root” the device, or customize it in some way that makes it more “unique” for their purposes). These people are somewhat price sensitive but will pay premium for advanced features.
Now we have a pretty good picture of the key consumer categories, let’s look at how they interact with the market.
Keep the Consumer hooked, keep the order sheet booked.
Manufacturers tend to focus on a number of key things, including:
How many units will I sell (what is the demand – and demand vs competition)?
What is my price per unit vs the competition price for comparable devices?
What’s in both mine and my competitors’ innovation pipeline (i.e. what’s next)?
What is my market share? (How much % of the market do I have?)
What Drives Price?
There are several factors including:
Exclusivity – how unique and desirable is my product (the more unique or exclusive products will drive their price up)
Features – What feature set does my device have (this can drive price up or down, depending on what features are available)
Competition – What are the competitive devices and their respective prices?
Market Share – Low market share devices might want to set their prices aggressively to gain more consumers – or have some strategy that lures consumers to their products; products with high market share should also maintain their prices accordingly to retain that share.
Production cost – Manufacturers need to make a profit so price their products so that a profit is determined at some point in the future.
When you put these factors together you get a very complex picture – each manufacturer is looking at all these different aspects to try and determine
Breakout of the Mobile OS Share; Source: Nielsen
Although Android commands the market share with 29% of all devices, because of its’ very accessible and successful adoption, many manufacturers are playing in this space
Android isn’t alone in this challenge; Windows Mobile – and specifically Windows 7 Mobile is starting to challenge the market – however there is still resistance to many users adopting the Microsoft platform for many reasons including dislike of Microsoft, being burned by previous Windows Mobile platforms, or just the perception of the OS.
The Difference is the Differentiator
Sounds obvious, but with perhaps little to differentiate products between manufacturers, it requires controlled innovation to succeed. Currently Motorola and Samsung are leading the charge by either producing new-to-market products (Motorola Xoom was first Android tablet) or enhanced products (Samsung offering high quality screens and dual core processors). As the market develops, these manufacturers will need to continue to develop their products to capture the market segments. This requires research & development funding which can only come from existing product sales, which in turn means they will have to charge a premium for their products. This can only be sustained so long as the brand equity is there and the consumer is prepared to pay that premium. With a glut of Android devices this may become an increasing challenge to maintain. Apple (and to some extent, RIM) face less of a challenge in this respect, yet need to keep at least in line with the Android innovations to retain their market share.
Mobile device manufacturers will face increasing challenges to maintain market share and fund / develop new products whilst retaining a unit cost which is realizable to the consumer. Additionally with network providers dropping their unlimited network plans, those devices may have to innovate in the communication space (e.g. reducing bandwidth requirements) which, especially in these increased economic sensitive times, would a differentiator that the price conscious consumer would respond to and help drive market share.
With Android as a platform being easier to adopt to a device, it begs question how will the multiple manufacturers provide relevant devices to the consumer and be different enough to gain enough market share and profit to be viable. I believe there will be three tiers that will emerge – namely, budget, mainstream and premium. Even then, those manufacturers playing in those spaces will face a great deal of competition. The difference then, is the differentiator.
A friend started to get alerts and warnings that it was his PC was infected with viruses. Despite best efforts to remove them using a cacophony of tools, most of which detected elements of an infection, things just didn’t seem to be quite right with the system. The most notable thing being Google Chrome wouldn’t start – even after a re-install. The final piece of the puzzle was the PC being infected with a TDSS rootkit which appears to be quite prevalant out there.
Having solved the PC woes, here’s some things that I noted as we went through the process, particularly if Google Chrome won’t start (Chrome seems particularly susceptible to infections):
Check that your system is not directing internet traffic through a malware proxy; In Windows go to “Internet Options” > “Connections” > “LAN Settings” and make sure that if the “Proxy Server” is checked that it’s something you recognise. If you don’t recognise or are not sure about it, uncheck this box.
Check your HOST file hasn’t been altered. Go to $WINDOWS (e.g. C:\WINDOWS) > System32 > Drivers > etc – edit the “HOSTS” file. This will have an entry referring to localhost 127.0.0.1 but anything that has other website URLs may be suspect. Consider removing them.
Check your Windows Startup; Go to Start > Run > type msconfig – Click on the “Startup” tab and check each entry – those with blank or what appear to be random text entries could be virus/malware related (e.g. TklERc01). Uncheck them as needed.
If you want to check a file using a multitude of virus checker, try VirusTotal (http://www.virustotal.com) – this is a great little site to help understand potential threats.
Hopefully the above will help you either remove threats or avoid them. If you want to be extra-safe, try Sandboxie if you’re not confident the file you’re running is free of issue.
(Please rate / comment if this article helped you!)
If you’ve read my first two blogs on the possible acquisition of Yahoo by Microsoft (or Google…) – if not they’re available here and here – I summarised that potentially Microsoft taking over Yahoo could be a good thing, provided they take the right strategy and approach.
Television Financial “Guru”, Jim Cramer suggest “The outside of Yahoo is very good. The inside? They haven’t been able to figure out how to monetize these pageviews. So basically, [Microsoft] can take their pageviews [and] fire everyone. Maybe there’s some sales people you keep.” (source – and view video here).
I think this is spot-on. I believe the acquisition will cause a huge round of redundancies in Yahoo – their assets would be retained and the extra “baggage” of people removed, with key folks kept in place to either rip their minds of their emotional intelligence and/or align their thinking into the Microsoft mantra.
Microsoft is using the search dominance as a key reason for the take-over – a Microsoft/Yahoo combo would have 30% of the search market against Google’s current 60%. With such a large transaction this will make good sell to the regulatory bodies – equally I’m sure Google will point out all the other reasons why this would be bad (for them).
My view on the take-over then has shifted somewhat – I’m still in favour, but would look for reassurance that the things Yahoo is known and good at are not lost in a sea of MS services and thus lose their effectiveness (thinking Flickr particularly).
Reuters reports that Google is now considering its’ position on acquiring Yahoo in light of Microsoft’s recent bid proposal, whilst “a second source close to Yahoo said it had received a procession of preliminary contacts by media, technology, telephone and financial companies.” (quotes Reuters).
Microsoft and Google are the true contenders here in my opinion; The other companies would be making strategy moves which would be of benefit to themselves in the sense they would rape and pillage Yahoo assets, leaving an empty husk that was once a revolutionary company (Netscape anyone?).
Google’s argument revolves around MS’s dominance in the browser and OS. Equally Google forgets that Yahoo being #2 to Google’s #1 in the Search service means that Microsoft gains there, whereas Google would get nothing new – of course they would absorb other services like Flickr and maybe integrate with YouTube (somehow), but I personally feel that MS would make best use of what they aquired.
That being said, we have to consider what happens to the brand; It’s a powerful brand right now – albeit not nearly as powerful as G or MS – if MS take over Yahoo they’re sure to wind down the branding, consolidate the IM services and tie everyone back to having a WindowsLive! ID – that’s not such a great thing.
IF Microsoft could somehow retain the independent feel to Yahoo whilst rolling up services back into the main corporate stream I think that would work pretty well in terms of consumer positioning – much like Google/YouTube. They (MS) also need to consider their strategy for webservices and web APIs – Google is rapidly pushing out new ones which are way ahead of anything I’ve seen out of Microsoft – this is where the power of Web 3.0 will come into play – more SOA with Web APIs, extended mashups and seemless intelligent services combined from many sources.
Google has started to make rumblings about this proposal (understandably); Ars Technica is covering this in an article – quote “It isn’t an understatement to say that Google apparently opposes this deal. Going for the jugular, Google’s Drummond instantly suggests that the Redmond giant could (would?) use unsavory tactics for unfair advantage, ultimately harming the Internet and the very open and innovative environment that’s driving it.” This is the one concern I do share – that Microsoft will MS’ify all the services and close off systems so that you’re locked in to MS proprietary systems and components.