Wednesday, August 20, 2008

iPhone OS not really updated 5x more often than Windows Mobile

I hate the comparison of today's mobile industry to the PC industry of the 80's - for a variety of business and technical reasons it just ain't gonna play out the same - but Daniel's analysis is informed and thoughtful, and I don't have any real issues with his speculations about the future.

However, he does make a significant factual error that needs correcting...
Daniel writes: "Over the last two years, Apple delivered eleven updates to the iPhone OS compared to two from Microsoft, despite the fact that Apple only sold the iPhone over three fourths of that period. Over the next two years, Apple will likely ship another dozen updates while Microsoft only plans to ship one: Windows Mobile 7."
What has actually happened: Microsoft has shipped one major Windows Mobile release (6.1) since the iPhone was released last June - compared to Apple's three (1.0, 1.1, 2.0). During this same period Microsoft has also shipped at least one minor release every other month.

Since Apple began iPhone development (rumored to be at some point in 2005), Microsoft shipped at least four major releases and was also shipping at least one minor release every other month.

So the total number of releases of the two platforms over the last 2-3 years has been much more balanced then Daniel indicates. And there's no reason to think that Microsoft's Windows Mobile release periodicity will decrease going forward.

It is true that end users have not been able to install all of these Windows Mobile releases on every device, but Microsoft did ship them and did not prevent OEMs and mobile operators from making them available to end users. From an ROI perspective, it often didn't - and still doesn't - make sense for OEMs and mobile operators to do this, and for a given device many of these releases simply weren't relevant. For example, the primary purpose of some releases was to better integrate with a specfic operator's network configuration. For others it was to add support for a new display resolution.

I should know, I was on the Windows Mobile team from January 2004 until January of this year.

BTW I'm defining a major release as one that contains features that end users would consider new or significantly improved, whereas a minor release contains primarily bug fixes or features that only an OEM or mobile operator would consider significant.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

iPhone 3G may cost as much as £1,350 on O2

For those of you in the UK waiting eagerly for July 11, here is a useful comparison of the total cost of ownership for the iPhone 3G on each of O2's Pay Monthly tariffs.

O2's best price for iPhone 3G is £639 over 18 months, which gets you the 8GB model with 75 minutes and 125 texts per month. If you need 3000 minutes and 500 texts, iPhone 3G will run you £1,350 over 18 months. All plans include unlimited 3G and WiFi access on O2's network.

Me? I'm still waiting to see how much the 16GB model will cost under Pay & Go with unlimited 3G and WiFi access since I primarily want it for email, Web and music. I will almost certainly go the Pay & Go route if TCO is equal or less than the cheapest Pay Monthly tariff. I'd love to just transfer my existing company-provided O2 mobile number to an iPhone tariff, but based on previous experience trying to swing similar arrangements in the US this will likely be way too much hassle if it is possible at all.

So, will Pay & Go have better TCO than Pay Monthly?

O2 briefly posted info on their site last week indicating the 16GB model would be £360 with 6 months of free WiFi access. WiFi access would then reportedly cost £10/month after that. Pricing for 3G access wasn't specified, but I'm guessing unlimited 3G access would likely cost another £10-20/month. It's also worth noting that O2 will likely make you top-up at least £10 every 30 days to retain an active account. This would put Pay & Go TCO for the 16GB model at £820-1,000 over 18 months.

If these pricing terms hold and my 3G guesstimate is accurate, the 16GB model under Pay & Go would be at least £130 more expensive than the £30/month tariff (£820 vs. £699) - and you'd have to pay £200 more up front. Unfortunate if you don't want iPhone 3G for talking or texting or if you really just hate being under contract, but not surprising since O2 and other carriers much prefer to have their customers on contract to ensure a more predictable revenue stream.

Looks like I'll be going on contract for O2 mobile number two...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Open source Symbian leaves Microsoft odd man out in the mobile OS game?

Michael Mace highlights one side effect of Symbian's plans to go open source that I didn't see from anyone else...
What happens to Microsoft? Here's the weird thought for the day: Microsoft is the last major company charging money for a mobile operating system. The throwback. The dinosaur. How many companies are going to want to pay for Windows Mobile when they can get Linux, Android, or Symbian for free? This is Microsoft's ultimate open source nightmare, becoming real.
This is a great observation. One of the claims Microsoft always makes against open source platforms is that there isn't a single, strong point of ownership to ensure commercial viability over the long term. The point being, who will you call when something goes wrong and what guarantee will you have that your problems will be resolved in a timely manner and for a reasonable cost?

Microsoft can't make that claim against Symbian or Android, whose futures are both in the control of single entities with deep pockets and vested interests in ensuring their respective platform's success. Although platform success for Symbian under the control of Nokia is very different than platform success for Microsoft or Google. The main difference being that Nokia can continue to make Symbian wildly successful (in terms of # of devices on market) even though their primary business interests are not aligned with delivering a free, open, consistent and ubiquitous mobile development platform.

No matter how it reads in the Symbian Foundation press release, Nokia is and will continue to be primarily interested in driving Nokia handset sales and eventually Ovi service/advertising fees. This means that while they will continue to be the primary benefactor and shepherd (and beneficiary) of one of the largest addressable markets for mobile developers to target, they still have much less incentive than Microsoft or Google to prioritize the unique needs of those developers. The "ability for developers to create cool apps" doesn't directly sell any Nokia phones.

For example, Nokia has repeatedly demonstrated over the last 5+ years that fulfilling the requirements of the latest and greatest phone takes precedence over delivering a comprehensive and consistent platform SDK. Take a look at this and this on the Forum Nokia site to get a sense for how device-centric and fragmented their platform strategy is.

One outcome of this mentality is that at any given time the effective addressable market of Symbian phones is a subset of recent Nokia phones, and maybe even just one phone. Still a large market, but not the sum total of Nokia's Symbian phones. And there's no reason to believe that they would change this modus operandi with the unified Symbian application/UI stack now being freely available to their competitors. What value will there be to Nokia of ensuring that that their latest phones based on open source Symbian are fully compatible with the latest open source Symbian phones from other vendors? How much sooner do you think Nokia will get to market with open source Symbian phones than the next vendor? Will there even be any open source Symbian phones from other vendors?

All of this leaves a lot of room for Microsoft and Google - as independent platform providers with no strong incentive to fragment their offering - to capture the investment (it's a lot more than mindshare) of application developers. Yes, Microsoft's and Google's ambitions are so large they ultimately compete with the most successful developers targeting their platforms (consider Microsoft's most recent target, Adobe). But this eventuality doesn't dis-incent them from acting in the best interests of those developers in the short to medium term.

Leaves plenty of room for Apple (and to a lesser extent RIM and Motorola) too, but they have the same conflict of interest as Nokia. Apple's primary goal is to sell handsets (iPhone), subscriptions (MobileMe) and content (iTunes music, movies, etc.). Any revenue Apple makes (grafts?) from developers will always be a tiny fraction of their earnings.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Welcome to MoTeSoMe

I've decided to start this blog to organize my thoughts, refine my insights and participate in the discussion on mobile technology and social media. It may already be a crowded space in the blogosphere, but there's so much going on and it's what I know and care about.

I have more than 10 years experience as a product manager / product planner in the PC and mobile industry. I've recently joined the Multimedia Devices group at Motorola where I'm responsible for defining next generation consumer handsets, and before that I spent 4 years driving the Windows Mobile roadmap at Microsoft. I currently live and work in London, but I was born and raised and will always love the Pacific Northwest.

Since I spend so much of my time thinking about this stuff I hope I have at least a few useful things to say about what's happening, why it's happening, how it's happening and what it means for the people and companies involved - and the world at large. My aim is to share as many of the non-confidential things as my busy schedule allows.

Just to set some expectations (and ground rules for myself), I'll try to stay away from: general product announcements and reviews, shameless self promotion and name dropping, sensationalism and gossip, unannounced product scoops, long rambling discourses, off-topic posts, repeating or paraphrasing others' insights without attribution and incessant posting at all hours of the day and night. And just so there isn't any confusion, the views expressed on this site are mine and may or may not be shared by my employer, co-workers, friends, family or pets.

As you read this blog, I encourage you to comment on my posts - especially if you disagree with what I have to say. I'd like to know what I'm missing. I'm also keen to learn about new companies and products that are related to the topics I'll cover, so welcome any recommendations or beta invites.