Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mobility Computing - Microsoft & Apple

As will be patently obvious to anyone who has read anything I've written on tech in the past, I'm most definitely not an Apple fanboi nor do I wear the rose-colored glasses that the Microsoft mindwashed crowd wear, either - I simply call it as I see it.

Back when the Symbian OS was considered half decent, Microsoft had their Windows Mobile SmartPhone OS and RIM had Blackberry.  Right up front I'm going to pretty much ignore RIM and Blackberry here as I operate in the SMB world and in this market, RIM has never held a market share percentage easily distinguishable from zero.  Symbian was OK, but nothing to write home about.  I tried it on a few handsets and was never really a fan.  Microsoft's Windows Mobile - though bloated and ugly by today's standards - was quite usable as a SmartPhone OS and had email that connected quite effectively to Exchange Server for business users.  Aside from the terrible Office Mobile suite, Windows Mobile basically worked.

And then through a number of version upgrades, a trend became glaringly obvious - Microsoft had pretty much abandoned any idea of making this usable.  After seeing this trend and hoping I was misreading it, I eventually wrote this article in June 2008 where I accused Microsoft of treating Windows Mobile like a redheaded stepchild.  Around 15 months later in September 2009, Steve Ballmer admitted that he screwed up with the SmartPhone market and that they were going to address this.

Windows Phone 7 was announced in February 2010 and devices running this OS were finally available for sale in October 2010 - 8 months later.  Even now, in June, 2012, Windows Phone barely makes a blip on the radar of Mobile OS usage - even the Nokia Series 40 OS out-ranks it!

Microsoft had already effectively killed off their Windows Mobile platform by simply ignoring it so when Windows Phone 7 finally launched, the fact that all Windows Mobile handsets and applications were incompatible with it wasn't a big deal to *most* people.  One big reason for this is that most of those who were previously using a Windows Mobile handset had since bought an Apple iPhone or one of the Google Android handsets.

Microsoft released the "Mango" Windows Phone 7.5 upgrade in late 2011 and a minor "Tango" update in early 2012.  On June 20, 2012, Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8 and an upcoming and final update to the Windows Phone 7 platform - Windows Phone 7.8 - that will backport some of the features of Windows Phone 8, but not application compatibility.


That's right - Microsoft has announced that Windows Phone 8 will run on a different CPU architecture - partly because they couldn't shoe-horn a decent OS into a single core CPU (iOS and Android can, though) - which means that any new Windows Phone 8.x applications will not run on Windows Phone 7.x handsets.  What's worse, though, is that this means that all currently available Windows Phone 7.x handsets will absolutely not be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.

So, anyone who has bought a Windows Phone 7.x handset is now SOL when it comes to worthwhile OS upgrades - they are simply not going to happen.  Sure, the few people who own Windows Phone handsets will be disappointed by Microsoft shafting them once again, but as there are < 5% of SmartPhone users running Windows Phone 7 handsets, this will not have any great affect on the OS share of Windows Phone as a whole.

Now, will running the Windows 8 kernel on a SmartPhone under Windows Phone 8 be viable?  Well, it will be optimized to run on a quad core CPU (which not only means that it NEEDS serious grunt, therefore battery drain, it is also reasonable as mobility CPUs are migrating past dual core to quad core now anyway) and it may mean that Metro apps that will run on Windows 8 and Windows RT could also run on Windows Phone - that would be nice.  We'll have to wait and see...

Apple, on the other hand, has just announced that iOS 6 will be released soon and it supports all of their currently selling devices.  Not all features will be made available, however, and whilst some of these are for performance reasons, a number are purely corporate decisions, which is causing a bit of a stir with many commentators claiming that not properly supporting current devices where possible is not acceptable.  Just wait until they see what Microsoft's done to all of their currently available Windows Phone handsets!  :)

Android - well, there's a conundrum.  The vast majority of Android users are on rather old versions of the operating system and very few are running the current release - Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.x) - because the many and varied devices running Android require their manufacturers to customize ICS for their devices before having it released.  Manufacturers like Toshiba who are glacially slow to release ICS for their Thrive (AT100) tablets are causing their customers to look at other manufacturers for future devices.  Why would you buy another device from the manufacturer who has just shafted you on the device they are currently selling?

And now Android Jelly Bean (4.1.x) has been "announced" on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone.  Google really needs to try and get their shit together here and ensure developers are releasing updates for their devices in a timely fashion - there are still quite a number of Froyo and Gingerbread devices being sold without any ability to upgrade, not to mention the Honeycomb devices still being sold.

So, will the new Windows Phone 8 work?  Microsoft's currently making a last ditch attempt at re-entering the mobility market.  They once owned and then ignored away their SmartPhone market share to Apple/Android and they have previously pretty much owned the tablet market with Windows XP Tablet Edition and the tablet features in F^HVista and Windows 7 even though they have completely disregarded touch functionality up until Metro.  This will be an interesting time for Microsoft in the mobility market - with the newly announced Microsoft Surface Windows RT/Windows 8 tablets and Windows Phone 8 they have one last chance to show the world that they have something decent to offer.  If the Windows Surface tablets omit integrated 3G/4G functionality, though, it shows how little Microsoft actually understands about mobility today.

... and now for some rather telling graphs: showing the mobility space as it currently stands today.  Notice that there's no "Microsoft" anywhere on those graphs...


The Outspoken Wookie


Anonymous said...

Hi Hilton,
interesting comments.
I note though that IOS6 won't run on the iPad 1 or the Old iPad. I forget what it was called.
only the new iPad will have all the new features

Hilton Travis said...

Yeah, that's right - no iOS 6 support on the iPad 1, partial support on the iPad 2 and full support only on the iPad 3 and any upcoming devices. It will not run at all on the iPhone 3G or earlier and only partially run on the 3GS, and the 4. It will run completely on the iPhone 4s and the upcoming iPhone 5.