Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Mobile Landscape, Part One

I have written quite often about mobile devices. I have to say that we've come a long way since the first gadgets that fit this description. Years ago when I traveled, I had a PDA, Radio, Music Player, and a Cellphone. The merging of these devices has created some amazing gadgets, and made my life a little easier.

The newest gadget runs Windows Phone 7. I have to say, I like WP7. It is exactly what Microsoft is marketing it as; an easier, and quicker way to get to your most important information. I like the tile interface, and the email client is excellent. There are still a couple of features missing, but WP7 will mature, just like iOS and Android had to.

The music player is great, and I complement HTC on creating a device with great audio (especially when compared to my other smartphone, an LG Optimus S). This device has replaced my MP3 player on a daily basis. HTC has even included an FM radio, which works OK, since stations are close and powerful here in NYC.

I was asked by someone yesterday what I recommended in the mobile space right now. I explained that it depends on what you want. I see four major contenders at the moment (counting WebOS out for now, but that might change).

Blackberry is for Blackberry people. If your number one and two functions, by a wide margin, are email and telephone, the Blackberry still wins I think. The options for notifications, sound profiles, battery performance, and phone quality make the Blackberry the best option for a busy work device. If you only occasionally need to browse the web, and aren't looking for games and media apps, this is still the best way to go.

iOS (iPhone) is the Apple experience in a phone. Closed, managed, and polished. That seamless experience we've seen from Apple in all of their products. Visually impressive, and great for browsing and media. My issues with the iPhone are battery life (without stock options for a spare battery), Poor notification options, no sound profiles, plain and sparse email support, and the whole iTunes-tethering requirement. I had an iPhone for almost a year. I like it, don't get me wrong, but it is not for people who live on their email.

Android is for people who like to tinker. Very customizable, and open. Not as polished as iOS, but more so than Blackberry. Better than the iPhone for business users (sometimes helped by apps), but still lacking in some areas. Many devices with replaceable batteries, and similar media and app performance to the iPhone.

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has taken an approach similar to Apple. WP7 is a closed platform, not allowing for much customization. I commend Microsoft for not attempting to clone either iOS or Android, and going in a different direction. For those of you who still have nightmares about Windows Mobile, this is NOT Windows Mobile. WP7 is an elegant and smooth mobile OS, and I look forward to it maturing over the next few years. I only wish they had realized this was the way to go earlier.

What's coming? HP purchased Palm recently. Palm's new OS, WebOS, is impressive, but the devices (Pre and Pixi) were not. Also, the poorly capitalized Palm was no match for Apple and Google in the marketplace (destroying what chances they might have had with some unexplainable and freaky advertising for the Pre). I'd like to think that HP will have some success with this but, we'll see. Even though it's been out for a couple of years, because of the poor market penetration, I consider WebOS to be a new platform, and VERY late to market against everyone else.

Blackberry will change over the next year. RIM, the company behind the fruit, purchased the embedded OS company, QNX, to use as a base for their new tablet OS. It is believed that they will also port the new OS to their handhelds soon. I think if this is implemented correctly they might manage to at least maintain their market share. RIM's challenge will be to engineer a device that has all of the options that make the Blackberry OS attractive to business users, while adding the touchscreen experience and multimedia performance that long-time customers are leaving for.

Could there be something else? Of course! Even though NOKIA has abandoned MeeGo for now, their Android-killer, the key words there are 'for now'. If NOKIA does well with their WP7 devices, I wouldn't put it past them to dump some of the profits from that partnership into a proprietary platform, and MeeGo is mostly developed already.

We, the end users, get to sit back and enjoy the battle, as long as the carriers don't destroy the experience in the process.

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