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Month July 2010

Mobile asymco

Asymco.com is now touch friendly. Visit this site with an iPhone for a touch optimized experience. Mobile theme is WPtouch.

This posting is also made using the WordPress app for iPhone and geotagged with my approximate location. At this location one has to do with only Edge and no broadband (or electricity or running water). Fortunately the iPhone and iPad can be charged from a boat battery via a regular car charger.

5 billion and no saturation in sight

An Ericsson survey shows that the number of global subscriptions to mobile phone services has passed over 5 billion. The global population is estimated at 6.9 billion.

It’s hard to estimate what 100% penetration in this industry is but there is a strong possibility for another billion accounts to be added in the next year. This estimate includes all service accounts, not individuals. As users begin to carry multiple devices (i.e. phones and iPads), the number of subscriptions could easily exceed the global population. In some countries, penetration above 100 percent is already the norm.


Next of Kin

When the Kin was launched, many, including myself, were skeptical. It was a product that contradicted much of what made sense in the industry. It was not a smartphone, it was not a platform and it was predicated on a niche use case. It was, in essence, a feature phone, and as such was not differentiable. However, most people, myself included, were willing to overlook some of these flaws on the basis that Microsoft *must* have done some rigorous product research to support this concept. We fell for the premise that the Emperor *must* have been wearing clothes.

It turns out he wasn’t. With this knowledge, we should ask the same question regarding clothing to the “next of kin”: Windows Phone 7. There is this same sense of deja vu, that there are a lot of things wrong with WP7, but Microsoft can’t be foolish enough to fail on this. The problems with WP7 are indeed potentially fatal:

– It is a new platform with no ecosystem facing entrenched incumbents
– It is expensive relative to Android for OEMs while being completely symmetric in its approach to the licensing market
– It is not leveraging the installed base of Windows Mobile, and is alienating to WM’s core business users/buyers.
– it faces a branding challenge, like its predecessor
– it is feature incomplete, barely on par with iPhone from 2008

In fact, it’s hard to come up with any key value upon which to anchor the platform. Beside the fact that it is new or, if one were charitable, “fresh” in the interface, it seems to be a solution looking for a problem. Reminiscent of the Zune in many ways, it’s tempting to dismiss it.

Yet there is always the benefit of doubt being from Microsoft. Or is there? After Kin, is it time to give up on the old adage that Microsoft persists until it wins and never gives up? The Microsoft that won was a low-end disruptor. Offering less-than-good-enough products at lower prices or bundling parts of software into compelling packages, Microsoft expanded markets and increased computing consumption. This is not in the cards for mobile computing.

Microsoft in Mobile is not playing to its core strengths. Indeed, mobility is a disruptive force for their core. Doing “the right thing” in mobile cannot but threaten the sustaining cash cow of Windows. Microsoft seems to be floundering precisely because it’s trapped in the innovator’s dilemma.

More than 20 percent of US wireless subscribers use smartphones

According to a recent ComScore survey, 49.1 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in May, up 8.1 percent from the corresponding February period. This is equivalent to 20.1 percent of total users. A previous survey from December showed 17 percent penetration.

In a previous article I pointed out that more than 1 million Americans are switching to smart phones every month. This number is now 1.2 million per month. The number of non-smart devices in use is 185 million and at current rates smartphone users will outnumber non-smart users in 4.5 years. With a very small acceleration I reckon less than 4, or by 2014.

(posting from my iPad)

Nokia says the fightback starts now. Oh Really?

2010.Realization that iPhone is a threat from new dimensions (user experience). Planning begins on reshaping the software base as a market-driven (not technology-driven) asset (5 year cycle). Apple begins to be evaluated as a competitor in devices and services, although still not compliant with current market definitions.

via asymco | Assessing Nokia’s Competitive Response.

I wrote these words a year ago based on observations made three years ago.  My expectation was and still is that Nokia does not quite understand what they are competing for and what the competition actually consists of.

On Friday Anssi Vanjoki wrote that “The fightback starts now.” He seems to contradict my timeline which has the “fightback” starting in 2014.

How do we settle this?  Let’s turn to the claims:

In the article he says they sell 2 in 5 smartphones on the planet, yet, he turns around and says that Nokia is now the challenger in that space.  He says Symbian is the way forward on smartphones, yet he says MeeGo is the way forward on ‘connected devices’. He writes that he is obsessed with getting Nokia to being number one in high-end devices (presumably by volume or sales or profit) but a recent survey by third-party tool developer Appcelerator shows 90 percent of developers surveyed said they were interested in the iPhone while 81 percent expressed interest in Android; for Symbian and MeeGo, the related figures were only 15 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

I’m not ready to revise my timeline. The fightback begins in 2014.

Open always wins, unless it's Symbian or LiMo or Openmoko or Qt

In June 2008, Nokia made its first big move to turn around the platform, and announced that it was acquiring Symbian, with the intent of turning the OS into an open source project.

Two years later, the move to open source has proved to be a miscalculation that is slowing down Symbian’s development. It would be better for Nokia to take full control of the OS, according to Wood. A lack of support from other vendors means Nokia has to do most of the work itself, while the open nature of the platform allows competitors to keep a close eye on its progress.

via Nokia on long comeback trail after smartphone misses – Digital Lifestyle – Macworld UK.

Then there’s LiMo foundation open source mobile Linux. Maemo is/was open source, Openmoko and Qt Extended and PalmSource/Access moving to open source and there was the Motorola Linux OS that launched years ago. If Open always wins, whatever it wins, it’s not market share.