Future of smartphones
I was very interested to see that a certain Mr Arthur Goldstuck, an internet and cellphone expert, commented on and was given airtime on News24 that the Android mobile operating system from Google was to be the “smartphone future”.
Mr Goldstuck might be correct that the Android software can run on “any” phone, and that Apple is limited to a certain handset, while BlackBerry also limit themselves to their own handsets.
History has shown us that operating systems for smartphones that are not controlled, will eventually fail. Here I point you to Windows Mobile 6.5 and earlier, and the Nokia OS. Although Windows Mobile had an incredible amount of functionality, the openness of the system was its downfall. Microsoft did not manage the software, they did not manage the hardware spec, and what happened was that any smartphone was able to run the software.
We all know what happened to Windows Mobile 6.5; bad user experience, disjointed ecosystem of handsets, and eventually a big drop in market share.
Android has obviously taken the lead in the smartphone market, and rightly so. It offers broad functionality, is pretty “cool”, and people can choose their handsets from various manufacturers.
However, problems are starting to appear in the ecosystem. Unlike Apple, BlackBerry, and more recently, Windows Phone 7, Google has failed to control the software and the hardware. More and more below-par handsets have been brought to market which has negatively influenced user experience.
Additionally, there are so many operating system versions (Cupcake, Donut, Froyo, Gingerbread, etc) that are not updated to the newest one automatically, that it will also impact longer term user experience as people will demand to have the upgraded versions. Often, the handset specs will not allow for this, and bad performance will ensue. This all points to a disjointed and uncontrollable ecosystem.
Apple have done a great job in controlling their phones, software versions, and always aiming to give their customers the best experience through the latest software. Although I am no fan of the iPhone, Apple needs to be applauded for a very well thought-out strategy.
What astounds me is the limited airtime the Windows Phone 7 from Microsoft has received in South African media, as well as by “experts”. Very high minimum specs for the hardware, a very good operating system, version controlled by Microsoft, meaning users will always have access to the latest version, and functionality that is at least as good as the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry’s. On top of that, various handset makers offer Windows Phone7s, just like Android.
What is also not mentioned is the fact that all Nokia (remember them) smartphones will run Windows Phone 7 starting later in 2011. This gives Microsoft an immediate major chunk of the smartphone market. Industry analysts Gartner and IDC have all predicted that Windows Phone 7 will be the 2nd largest in the world by 2015, behind Android. Nokia is very successful in South Africa, and I predict things to stay that way.
It is debatable whether an app-centric approach will be the most important feature for the future of smartphones. Having an app-centric approach is much like being in your living room at home and wanting to move to the kitchen. First you have to exit your home, return inside and go to the kitchen. User-centric comes to mind as an approach that will rival apps in future, where the application does not play the biggest role, but having the information you need visible to you without the need to enter an app.
Markets change very, very fast. It is not so long ago that people were laughing at Apple when they said they would bring out a smartphone. Two years ago BlackBerry was the market leader for smartphones. Perhaps, articles regarding “the future of smartphones” should have a less bold statement, and read “the future of smartphones for the next 12 months”.
Finally, I am slightly biased as a Microsoft employee. Nonetheless, and apart from that, I am also an absolute fan of Windows Phone 7 and the next release, Mango, and believe it will be a hit with consumers. I would like to know what qualifies a person as an internet and smartphone expert, because if I can qualify myself, I would like to say that “Windows Phone 7 will be the future of the smartphone”.
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