Good or bad, 2010 will be known as the year we stopped staring at each other and started staring at our screens. We are now in the mobile computing age. Really. The past few years has given us one of the most epic and lucrative industry battles since the automobile and personal computer. Mobile computing not only allowed us to keep up with current events, it gave us a way to keep up with each other at any time, any where. With that, here are some important moments and observations.
The Build Up:
Flash back to 2007; With Google already leading the way, manufactures finally stood up and took notice that what Apple was doing with the iPhone, was not only genius, it was a threat. Apple was providing the first and only real mobile computing experience and they were going to take control of the industry if something wasn't done. Competing companies like HTC, Samsung and Motorola saw the sales numbers posted by Apple in the first two years and watched major mobile service providers from the U.S., U.K., Germany and France vying for exclusivity, they understood the consequences were literally “life” altering.. Back to 2010.
There Is No”i”:
With the successful responses of the HTC G1 and Motorola Droid in 2009, Google's Android operating system not only showed that there was another option, it was a better one. Providing a stable Linux based open source OS, it would prove to be profitable for Android and damaging to Apple's psyche. Best of all, the operating system was free to anyone. News broke at the tech shows that more than 30 new Android based devices would be in consumers hands by 2010-11 ranging from phones and GPS devices to tablets and even laptops. Names like Droid, Desire, Eris and Legend came first and with Apple binding those exclusive carriers with a no Android clause and essentially shutting out the other mobile providers, it gave the industry the ammo it needed to carry out it's plan, kill the iPhone. Android continues to evolve rapidly through out the year with three major OS updates. (v2, 2.1 and 2.2) All of which were meant to mature the operating system and spread Google's information dominance to the mobile industry. Apple, I'm sorry but you now have company.
Apple quickly understood that simply providing an intelligent phone to the masses will no longer fly in the face of competition. Strategic or impulsive, Steve Jobs takes stabs at Android's prematurity while preparing a new iPhone. Apple announces the iPhone 4. A fast, smooth operating system and visually defining piece of tough hardware that improved all aspects of the previous iPhones, or so we thought. Apple fans or not, consumers flocked to exclusive carriers to get their hands on what was an already well established OS, application market and device. What would come next ultimately spelled disaster for Apple and placed Android neck and neck at the fore front of the mobile computing industry.
Can You Hear Me Now?:
iPhone 4 is an instant hit and possibly a big hit in the wrong direction for what Android was trying to do. Carriers can't keep up with initial demand and iPhone 4's are selling at $900 and up in some parts of the world but no one can find them for sale. Apple looks like it may take a good chunk of the industry and even announces that it will provide to other carriers that are selling Android based phones the following year. And then it happens. Massive reports begin pouring in about dropped calls and signal issues. Apple initially tells it's users that there is nothing wrong with the phone and “they are holding it wrong”. Weeks go by with people beginning to return the devices due to major call issues and denial from Apple and it's carriers. Jobs does damage control and accused the media blowing the iPhone 4's "death grip" problem (or "Antennagate," as he called it) all "out of proportion." After outcry, Apple offers to take back the phone from unhappy subscribers, give refunds and give them “bumpers” for a short time to users who could deal with the issue and wanted to keep the phone. Luckily, the chaos subsides.
The Two Year LIMITED Bandwidth Contract:
A year after wide spread criticism from consumers that cellphone providers were attempting to limit the bandwidth consumption on most smartphone users, even after the contracts on most providers stated that they would not alter internet usage, essentially breaching their own contracts, they finally come up with a feasible conclusion. Tiered data plans ranging from ten to forty dollars began to take hold. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint tinkered with their plans while Verizon sat and waited for the response. Being that most providers were charging $30 a month to it's smartphone users for unlimited bandwidth, not much changed, but people who didn't use that much bandwidth and wanted a lower costing plan, could opt for a metered plan. Most users who were initially worried and ready to hop on the class action lawsuit train, shrugged the who thing off. Don't mess with our internet!
ARM vs. Tegra 2: The 1Ghz+ War:
The Snapdragon vs. Hummingbird vs. OMAP battle ensued through out 2010. Qualcomm, Samsung, Apple and Texas Instruments are currently the major SoC players, and they have something in common – all of their chipsets are based on the ARM architecture. ARM Holdings owns the intellectual property rights on processor architecture; they develop the next generation’s schematics, and then sell them to chip manufacturers to come up with their own custom SoC ( system-on-a-chip ) solutions. The current 1GHz mobile CPUs are based on ARM's Cortex-A8 generation, but Cortex-A9 is just around the corner. But now Nvidia has stepped into a mobile computing arena and many smart manufactures have waited it out, releasing their supply of 800mhz to 1.2Ghz processors to the public on an array of different styles and names, but all seem to carry the same elements; ARM CPU, 5-8Megapixel camera and Android 2.2. Regardless of what variation of “Top Tier” smartphone you have, it doesn't over power your competition much. That will all change in 2011. Nvidia has already released their first batch of 2Ghz Tegra 2 chip sets to manufactures who are prepping the new lineup of devices for release in the coming year.
iPad vs The Tablet World:
April 2010 saw another huge day for Apple as they released the iPad personal PC tablet to the world. Based on the successful iPhone iOS platform, the iPad would be an instant hit with fans and stock was shut out almost the weekend. Again, Apple became the innovator, drawing the line in the sand, leaving Windows to rethink their position in the tablet world and Android to step over that line. With over 7.5 million units sold, it looked like Apple may attempt to corner another market. Seven months later, Samsung releases the Galaxy Tab, running Android 2.2 to the public. A formidable iPad foe, but there are also a lot of unanswered questions about the Galaxy Tab. How much will it cost, and will consumers expect to pay less because of its smaller display? Also, can Samsung do as good a job as Apple demonstrating how its tablets and other products work well together? The answer comes crashing down and literally no one bites. Samsung's tablet costs are too high and doesn't stack up and over the iPad . The iPad doesn't break a sweat, in fact sales increase with a price lowering of the iPad and news of the iPad 2 in development. Most manufactures see this as a sign that units costs must be lower and the Android OS and app markets need to be more evolved. Something that is still a year away. Manufactures await, Android OS 3.0 (code-named Honeycomb) and are refining their Tegra 2 based tablet stock.
Lets get one thing straight. Apple is still the king of the mobile computing world, but that throne is being threatened by the companies I've talked about in this blog post. Android and it's manufacturing army not only has the power to convert Apple users, they are. Android is now on the fore front and is directly behind Apple in manufacturing for that front lines war. 2011 will be the biggest year for both Apple and Android as Apple attempts to fend off with more innovation and while Android finally peels on it's cocoon and shows the consumer world what it's really made of. Developers are slow to convert due to the nature of the Android OS, but Google has no choice but to evolve. The key things to look for in 2011:
• Will Apple succeed in maintaining dominance by opening the iPhone up to everyone.
• Can Google answer the fragmentation concerns, mature it's OS and develop a real application Market for consumers and developers and will will it be lucrative enough for those developers convert over?
• Will Tegra 2 and ARM technology surpass the 2Ghz mark cost effectively?
All of which will set the tone for the next few years of mobile computing.
Wow, what a year 2010 has been and what year 2011 will be. We're going to finally see the birth of a competitive mobile PC market and what could spell trouble for the laptop and desktop computer down the road. Regardless, it means that I'll be busy, working on new device .PSD's and drooling at the next tech spec and device to cross my desk. If you made it through this blog, I appreciate your patience and encourage your thoughts on this.