Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 15th Feb 2012 23:36 UTC
Google Forget patent trolling - Android's biggest weakness, and most daunting obstacle to overcome, is its complete and utter lack of updates. Motorola has detailed its upgrade plans for Ice Cream Sandwich - and it ain't good. If the company Google just bought can't even update its phones properly, what can we expect from the rest?
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RE[3]: ARM lock-in
by Neolander on Thu 16th Feb 2012 14:59 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: ARM lock-in"
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"People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware."
Alan Kay 1982

Ah, the old quote from the 80s... And what happened to companies which used to follow that advice back in the day ?
-Amiga corporation : Dead.
-Be inc : Dead.
-Commodore international : Dead.
-Atari : Left the PC business.
-IBM : Left the PC business.
-Apple : Nearly died, got back in the race by swallowing its pride and making Windows-compatible DAPs.

Doesn't sound like such a good plan in the end, does it ?

The hardware world is a jungle. Companies must either keep up with the crazy pace of its permanent arm race or implode. With each decade, more computer hardware companies are quietly buriend. In the end, the only thing that survives across the years is software that betrays its friends when the time is right and abstracts itself from the hardware it runs on.

It may be that the old PC model - one OS and many OEMs - is simply no longer viable in the post-PC world of computer devices.

The IBM-compatible market has never been easy on OEMs, and yet we find that kind of computers in every home. It seems like you just realized that the computer market is easy on software manufacturers and hard on hardware manufacturers, whereas it has been the case for some time now.

In the entire phone and tablet market only two companies are making any real money and only two look like long term sustainable businesses, which are Apple and Samsung and the latter's financial performance is quite a bit weaker than the former.

Excuse me, but did you just compare Ferrari with Citroën ? Regardless of OS considerations, manufacturers which solely focus on high-end and high-margin products are likely to make more profit that manufacturers which try to cater to everyone's needs. In the end, though, it is in everyone's interest that the car and cellphone markets do not become filled with premium brands.

Maybe Nokia can come back from the brink with WP7 but I wouldn't bet on it, a Microsoft takeover of Nokia is still likely I think.

And what would that change exactly ? If Nokia's smartphone division is not able to keep up with the hardware race and Microsoft's OS is not attractive enough to attract the masses, I don't see how merging both can magically make everything better.

Android does not look like a very healthy ecosystem
for OEMs or developers, it's primary impact has been to prop up the power of the carries (which iOS may have been able to kill) and it is ironically the power of the carriers that leads to the OS update fiasco.

What you do not seem to assess is that in today's telecom business, carrier racket is a mandatory step when you want to make low- and mid-end phones, which is what most people use and what Apple consciously avoids to make.

Let's sum up why.

Along the course of cellphone history, carriers have successfully led people to believe that low-end phones cost €1 and mid-end phones cost less than €100. And that being forced to stay 12 to 36 month at the same carrier was just linked to some technological constraint.

They probably did so because they understood that people would not pay the full price for a cellphone if they knew how much it was, but were ready to pay a smaller sum each month if they claimed it was used for telephony services.

Now, this is a problem because it gives carriers a ridiculous amount of power. They can just say "Nice phone you got there, sir, it would be sad if something bad happened to its retail 'price'", and cellphone manufacturers will do whatever they want.

High-end phones are not so much hit by this situation : since they are way above the €100 psychological threshold anyway, even once subsidized, they can afford to cost a bit more. But for the lower-end, the problem is real. People who are not informed of what happens behind the scene won't buy a low-end phone with a contract for more than 1€ if they find a similar one for 1€, so subsidizing is a question of life or death.

The only way this could stop is if carriers stopped cooperating with each other to maintain this broken system in place, and if one of them set out to inform users of what's going on.

Here in France, there is some hope of this happening as a new carrier, Free Mobile, has set out to have two separate contracts for cellular services and phone subsidizing. As an example, for a phone which costs €145, you pay €1 on "purchase" and will pay €6 more for 24 months before the phone is officially yours. You can leave Free's cellular services anytime during this period, only keeping the phone subsidizing contract alive. Phones are sold unlocked.

I wish them well, and hope that this example will be followed around the world by other minor carriers who want to get some PR and differentiate themselves from "the big ones". It's about time people find out how much phones actually cost, and make a choice in an informed way.

Structurally there is no reason for any of this to get better unless Google does something spectacular with Motorola and if they go the route of making their own hardware the marginal OEMs may all jump ship.

Again, what could this possibly change ? If people do not buy Motorola phones now for some hardware reason (they are too expensive, they break easily...), why would they be more likely to buy them with a Google logo on it ?

Most likely, it would only damage Google's brand, and weaken the relationships between Google and other phone manufacturers. I really don't think that Google want to rely on a single phone manufacturers that was until recently on the road to bankruptcy.

One option for Googlerola would be to focus on cheap (free?) feature phones running a cut down Android OS and with Google services baked in and pushed out in the hundreds of millions to the developing world markets. Google need to do something about their long term mobile strategy soon as the one they have is not working (from Google's business point of view) and their primary source of income (advertising served via the PC) could be under real threat as the PC appears to be entering a secular decline.

I wouldn't worry for Google's future, if I were you.

As one of the world's largest search engines, they have so much control on the information that people see on the internet that there will always be someone willing to pay in exchange for some privileged presence in their search results.

Since they have a quasi-monopoly on web advertising, Google are also making money on almost every web page someone sees, no matter whether it's on a cellphone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop. Due to the Internet's freely accessible nature, websites live and breathe via advertising, so as soon as mobile-optimized websites start to represent a significant amount of server bandwidth, people will find out a way to put ad in them. With a bit of luck, we'll even get rid of the animated interactive ad crap in the way.

Google have a symbiotic relationship with the internet as it exists today, each one relying on the other for its proper operation. The only ways to sink Google, as it stands today, would be to sink the internet, or completely change the way it works.

The latter is possible, but I'm not sure whether it's a desirable outcome. I like the fact that I can browse the web without constraints, only giving money to websites in the form of ad hits, shopping, and voluntary donations. I'm not attracted by an internet made of tightly closed silos that each require a paying subscription before information may be accessed, or an internet that is only accessible via "apps" that are tied to a number of devices and OS versions, and at the mercy of the will of my phone's OS manufacturer.

Google's power on the internet is frightening, but so far they have not abused it so I'm relatively fine with that. I just avoid using their services. If one day they go crazy, well, I guess I'll join the protests on the road...

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