Technology StocksSmartphones: Symbian, Microsoft, RIM, Apple, and Others

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To: Eric L who wrote (1264)2/4/2012 3:44:08 PM
From: zax
1 Recommendation   of 1647
Thanks for the response. :)

It is going to be a lot of fun to watch indeed. Times will be very exciting when Windows "8" comes out. If history repeats itself, I am pretty certain that Win 8 will catch some initial malignment like Vista did and all will be forgiven in a successor that will be more widely adopted. In reality Vista and Windows 7 were very similar OSs and the reality in the media and on the street were rather different. But there was a significant difference in development model guidelines as LUA (least user access), program and data separation and file and registry virtualization were concepts that developers needed to grasp and work with to bring about a more secure platform. Much of the initial issues with Vista were the software catching up to the newer model and tweaked to work well within it, and the rougher edges of any new model getting smoothly polished. I can't imagine Windows "8" not experiencing similar initial difficulties.

I am certain that Windows 8 on x86 will do great, but the real question is whether Windows 8 on ARM will compete well. I fired up the earliest Windows 8 developer preview and found that and it was strikingly backwards compatible with legacy Applications - e.g. even VB6 stuff - going all the back to Windows 95. Thats hella impressive; the challenges must have been enormous to do this in parallel with the development of the Windows 8 RT. If Intel (I know its a big if) releases atoms that compete with ARM in efficiency; I wonder if Windows on ARM will have a chance at getting any real penetration outside of Windows Phone and Embedded platforms. I haven't heard this discussed much... but it seems a fundamental question and challenge.

What I most look forward to seeing is how Visual Studio will target the Windows 8 RT. I feel certain that something very similar to Silverlight will be core. None of the dev tools are public yet.

It's all going to be fun to watch and participate in. There will be Virtual Warfare for every Virtual Warrior wearing Virtual Armor and sporting Virtual Weaponry that frequents message boards like those offered by SI, regardless of the various nutball fringes native persuasion.

I do so enjoy trolling the nutball fringe. Did you ever step on fire anthills when you were a kid? ;)

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To: zax who wrote (1269)2/5/2012 12:47:41 PM
From: Eric L
   of 1647
ARM Powered Unified Windows: Opportunity, Risk, and Reward ...


<< Times will be very exciting when Windows "8" comes out. If history repeats itself, I am pretty certain that Win 8 will catch some initial malignment like Vista did and all will be forgiven in a successor that will be more widely adopted. >>

I feel the same way, both in terms of potential initial 'malignment' and a more widely adopted, smoother running successor. Stripping back the WinMob CE kernel to bare bones, introducing a code break, and fleshing out the new write to create WinPhone OS 7.0 was bold and courageous.

Nokia flubbed the dub by not doing similar with Symbian despite the pain it would have caused. They did a fine job moving Symbian to open source and getting over the IP humps but got bogged down with code development. Too many decentralized and competing teams were involved. Microsoft and its early adopter OEM licensees underwent pain with the rather simple NoDo upgrade to 7.1, but experienced some positive learning in the process. The 7.1 --> 7.5 Mango update went remarkably well, however, and even Samsung who really struggled with the NoDo upgrade got through it unscarred although slower than HTC and others.

Despite the fact that WinPhone OS 7.0 was sadly lacking in basic modern day smartphone features and functionality the Metro UI justifiably got very positive critical reviews in its early stages. Mango closed the gap with iPhone and Android considerably but its comparative shortcomings remain(ed) several and obvious.

None of us should underestimate the challenge Microsoft faces in moving to a unified Windows for Desktop, Notebooks, Ultrabooks, MIDs, and Smartphones (Mobile Multimedia Computers as Anssi Vanjoki called them) thanks to a common kernel with shared underlying code, components, and user experiences. The upside potential opportunity of doing so is huge but the attendant downside risk looms large.

<< Much of the initial issues with Vista were the software catching up to the newer model and tweaked to work well within it, and the rougher edges of any new model getting smoothly polished. I can't imagine Windows "8" not experiencing similar initial difficulties. >>

The OEM licensees and component and peripheral manufacturers struggled with the newer model as well. Drivers were a real issue. Much smoother with 7. While I skipped Vista (other than babysitting and troubleshooting systems purchased by friends) and stuck with XP, I did prep a new highly discounted Vista SP1 equipped system in early October 2009 for the free upgrade to Win7 I installed a month later. Fortunately although Vista's SP2 was not yet in auto download distribution it was available for download. I had one serious conflict with a software app (a files and folder manager replacing Explore) and Vista SP2, and after the update to Win 7 I waited about 6 months for Canon to update drivers for software to manage software for my digicams. Other than that t'was a breeze and Win7 was everything Vista had promised to be and more.

I can't really imagine Windows "8" not experiencing similar initial difficulties either, but the ability of working through it relatively rapidly is going to be critical. Microsoft doesn't need another Vista and WinPhone really can't afford to get bogged down. For all its promise WinPhone must start to gain legitimate traction with Mango/Tango in the coming quarters and then get Apollo to market relatively cleanly to keep that momentum going and legitimately become the 3rd smartphone ecosystem.

<< I am certain that Windows 8 on x86 will do great, but the real question is whether Windows 8 on ARM will compete well. >>

That IS most certainly a legitimate question. I have great respect for ARM Holdings, and for Qualcomm who I think will be considerably more focused on ARM architecture for Windows than Intel or AMD, but while their challenge is considerable I think they'll work through it well.

One advantage I see for Microsoft in the transition is that the WinPhone ecosystem of OEMs and silicon supply is comparatively small compared to Android, but the key primary dedicated strategic partners (Qualcomm and Nokia along with ARM) are well chosen, sharply focused, and highly motivated. Qualcomm and Nokia San Diego are in close physical proximity (as are their teams in Bejing) with Microsoft not too far north, Despite the fact that Nokia's Salo and Tampere Finland teams are physically remote the partners are making diligent and frequent use of HP's Halo video conferencing technology ...

Halo, which [Microsoft's Terry Myerson} said he hadn’t used before the Nokia deal came together. The [video conferencing] customized room lets a team in one place seem like they are separated only by a window from colleagues sitting halfway around the world. “It’s as if we are sitting in the room with people in Finland or London,” Myerson said. “It’s like something out of ‘Star Trek.’” Halo is used, on average, five or 10 times per week to bridge the engineering teams from Nokia and Microsoft.

There's also been important cross-fertilization of key personnel ...

But sometimes that’s not enough, of course. Nokia has transferred a top executive — Waldemar Sakalus — to Seattle to oversee the Microsoft relationship, and is spreading hardware development work across several locations, including San Diego, Calif., and Beijing, as well as two sites in Finland: Salo and Tampere. ... Nokia also hired Kevin Shields, a former member of Myerson’s Windows Phone team, to oversee Nokia’s efforts to build on top of Microsoft’s operating system.

[The quotes above are from an interesting July article by WSJ's All Things D writer, Ina Fried (formerly Ima Fried. See the post that follows for the article and another from last November on the Qualcomm connection]

<< I wonder if Windows on ARM will have a chance at getting any real penetration outside of Windows Phone and Embedded platforms. I haven't heard this discussed much... but it seems a fundamental question and challenge. >>

Most likely in the initial years the Win on ARM focus will be on WinPhone and tablet slates. I've wondered recently to what degree ARM will power Ultrabooks or hybrid laptops or convertible Ultrabooks with detachable tabletlike displays in the relatively early going. Intel architected Ivybridge or Fusion Trinity powered units are quite likely to have the strong upperhand in that arena for some time. I can't yet even imagine using an ARM powered desktop.

<< What I most look forward to seeing is how Visual Studio will target the Windows 8 RT. >>

I really haven't figured out or even paid much attention to how the requisite dev tools will evolve or what the fate of Silverlight will be.

<< I do so enjoy trolling the nutball fringe. Did you ever step on fire anthills when you were a kid? ;) >>

I have an Evil Twin to troll and agitate the nutball fringes. As for fireant hills ... no, not growing up in New England, but I sure did as an adult playing golf on unfamiliar courses on outings in the south. <g> ###


- Eric -

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To: Eric L who wrote (1270)2/5/2012 1:05:15 PM
From: Eric L
   of 1647
The Power of 3: Microsoft's Key Strategic Development Partners (Nokia and Qualcomm) ...

... for ARM architected systems development.

1+1+1 does not always = 3. Properly focused on crunch time collaborative strategic software development in Tiger Team fashion between 3 dedicated and talented individuals or 3 dedicated and highly motivated companies the 'Power of 3' (i.e. 3³ = 9) from a productivity perspective is in play. More (individuals or companies) than that becomes unwieldy.

There are two 2011 WinPhone development related articles clipped below that I found above average interesting when I originally read them. Quotes in the prior post were lifted from the 1st.

>> Reindeer Antlers and Reykjavik: How Microsoft and Nokia Are Getting Down to Business Together

Ina Fried
All Things D
The Wall Street Journal
July 11, 2011

Like many marriages, the partnership between Nokia and Microsoft began with a lot of celebrating and travel and presents. And reindeer antlers.

As both companies’ chief executives announced their partnership in London in February, the Windows Phone team gathered at Daman’s, a watering hole near Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters. Having sealed the most important mobile deal in the company’s history, the workers toasted each other with a custom concoction they dubbed the Noble Finn: A combination of Finlandia vodka, Chartreuse, sparkling soda, sugar and lemon juice, stirred with a reindeer antler.

The next month, Windows Phone engineering head Terry Myerson and a group of his co-workers traveled to Finland to get to know some of their Nokia compatriots better. The teams went snowshoeing, then hit a dry sauna to warm up.

“We ran out of the sauna on fire and rolled around in the snow to survive,” Myerson said. “It was indescribably hot.”

The next day, with the courtship phase over, it was down to business, as Myerson and his team toured Nokia’s factory in Salo, Finland.

So far, executives on both sides of the partnership insist the marriage is a happy one.

“We’ve spent the last couple months working really closely together to get first products really materializing,” Nokia’s Jo Harlow, who is in charge of Smart Devices at the phone giant, said in an interview. “We all feel confident about where we are.”

Although the deal was announced in February, the paperwork wasn’t signed until April.

Well before all the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, though, the engineering teams had already been hard at work, the companies said. Nokia had prototype hardware designs running prerelease versions of the next Windows Phone software.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has been boasting for a while that he is carrying something along those lines, and a recently leaked video shows him with an early version of the hardware.

Harlow declined to comment on that leak, but says she is increasingly confident in the first product that will arrive this year, and that the company may yet have multiple devices for sale before the end of the year. The first Nokia phones are expected to arrive this fall alongside Mango, the first major update to Windows Phone 7.

“I’m committed to one model this year,” Harlow said. “More would be great.”

For next year, though, Harlow said there will be a steady stream of releases — something that Microsoft badly needs as it tries to keep up with rivals, particularly Android devices, which are released on a constant basis.

If Microsoft was close to the latest hardware when it released the first Windows Phones last fall, it is fair to say that its models now look dated when stacked up against the latest Android models, some of which boast 3-D screens, dual-core processors, high-definition video recording and other features.

“I’m hoping that won’t be an issue next year,” Myerson said.

Harlow said her goal is that Nokia will have more frequent hardware updates, keeping the company, and by extension Windows Phone, front of mind with phone shoppers.

As the two companies settle into working with one another, they are using a variety of methods to manage their long-distance relationship.

Although most physical travel involves workers from one company visiting the other, the two companies have also found an in-between location to meet — Reykjavik, Iceland.

Why? Because it’s roughly in between Finland and the U.S., and there are direct flights from both Helsinki and Seattle. On occasion, executives have often met at Iceland’s government-owned Culture House, a spot just a couple blocks from the Höfði, the spot where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev held a now-famous summit in 1986.

While the Americans and Soviets often struggled to find peace after a long Cold War, Harlow and Myerson say they share a good deal of common ground.

Nokia and Microsoft find themselves in a similarly tough position in the mobile space. Both companies have fallen behind Android and Apple’s iPhone in the smartphone race and have bet their future on each other as the way to recover.

There are other ties binding Myerson and Harlow: Both graduated from North Carolina’s Duke University; Myerson got his engineering degree in 1991, and Harlow, who graduated in 1984, was captain of the women’s basketball during her time in Durham. To honor the shared heritage, workers at Nokia presented both executives with custom Nokia E7 phones emblazoned with the logo of Duke’s mascot, the Blue Devil (pictured left).

While Harlow said she expects to rack up plenty of frequent-flier miles as a result of the deal, the intercontinental travel has been reduced thanks to a video conferencing technology known as Halo.

“We were planning on going to Finland, but decided to give Halo a try first, and decided we didn’t need to fly over there [as much],” said KC Lemson, who works for Myerson on the Windows Phone camera team.

Myerson echoed the importance of Halo, which he said he hadn’t used before the Nokia deal came together. The customized room lets a team in one place seem like they are separated only by a window from colleagues sitting halfway around the world.

“It’s as if we are sitting in the room with people in Finland or London,” Myerson said. “It’s like something out of ‘Star Trek.’”

Halo is used, on average, five or 10 times per week to bridge the engineering teams from Nokia and Microsoft.

But sometimes that’s not enough, of course. Nokia has transferred a top executive — Waldemar Sakalus — to Seattle to oversee the Microsoft relationship, and is spreading hardware development work across several locations, including San Diego, Calif., and Beijing, as well as two sites in Finland: Salo and Tampere.

Nokia also hired Kevin Shields, a former member of Myerson’s Windows Phone team, to oversee Nokia’s efforts to build on top of Microsoft’s operating system.

For its part, Microsoft said it has shifted its priorities to make sure that Nokia’s needs are being met first. The company has increased its focus on going global more quickly, as Nokia counts on Windows Phone to quickly fill a gap created by the rapid decline in its existing Symbian phone business.

“We had been focused on North America and Western Europe,” Myerson said of the company’s early efforts. That, he said, has now changed.

Although Microsoft is also working with its other partners, Myerson isn’t shy about saying that he is pouring more energy into his partners in Finland. After all, while HTC and Samsung build Windows Phones, they also make phones running Google’s Android software. Nokia, meanwhile, has pledged to make Windows Phone the core of its smartphone strategy.

“We are prioritizing work proportionate to Nokia’s commitment to Windows Phone, which is unlike anything we have had before,” Myerson said. ###

>> Nokia Plans W8 Tablet, Will Be Critical Moment for Microsoft and Qualcomm Too

Rethink Research
Wireless Watch:
November 16, 2011

In the week that the microprocessor turns 40, its inventor Intel is besieged by ARM-based rivals in the biggest growth market for the chips, mobile devices. Its highest hopes rest in the mobile processor’s move beyond the cellphone, into larger, more PC-like products which fit more comfortably into Intel’s ecosystem. But it will have a tough battle on its hands. The leader of the mobile ARM pack, Qualcomm, used to say it wanted to stick to what it knew best, smartphones, but it reversed that strategy when it unveiled Snapdragon, targeting it at a huge range of consumer and ‘post-PC’ devices, and when it acquired Atheros, with a beady eye on the home wireless market. Now Qualcomm is eyeing Intel’s traditional place as the primary partner for Windows, using its early moves into next year’s Windows 8 as a springboard into Intel’s heartlands – and this time, it has Nokia on its side too.

Qualcomm is an expert at forging a wide mesh of alliances around its efforts, working with carriers, developers and consumers as well as its direct customers. One of its most important partnerships in recent years has been with Microsoft, in whose unloved Windows Mobile platform the US chipmaker has invested far more time and effort than it would seem to merit (the new iteration, WP7, had only 1.5% share of the smartphone base in the third quarter, according to Gartner). But Qualcomm can afford to play a long game, and it has its own challenges - just as it aims to take on Intel in mobile computers (whatever they may look like in future), so it is being squeezed on one side by low cost challengers for its cellphone crown, such as MediaTek, and on the other by immigrants from the PC market like Nvidia. So usurping Intel’s traditional place at Microsoft’s right hand is a strategic imperative for Qualcomm, and even if that does not bear much fruit in WP7, it is likely to reap rewards in the far more important Windows 8, which spans ARM and x86 architectures, and various device formats.

The possible obstacle in Qualcomm’s path, after years of wooing Microsoft, was the sudden anointing of Nokia as the lead WP7 partner. Despite settling their legal differences in 2008 and even signing a supplier deal in 2009, the two firms had a long history of hostility and Nokia had its own well established alliances in the chip market, with Texas Instruments, ST-Ericsson and more recently Broadcom. In addition, Nokia had got close to Intel, via the aborted MeeGo effort and because it buys chips for low end phones from the firm’s Infineon Wireless unit. This was where Qualcomm’s intensive cultivation of Microsoft really paid off – at the point where Nokia was launching its first WP7 devices, the make-or-break Lumia family, no other silicon vendor had a platform optimized for the new OS and ready for market. Nokia insists it will include STE in its Lumia range as soon as possible, but it knows that Qualcomm brings significant advantages in its deep understanding of the Microsoft platforms, and will be basically unavoidable in WP7 for years to come – a position it looks set to extend into Windows 8.

So as Qualcomm gloated over the “close relationship” and “multiple device plans” it had with its new, if reluctant, best friend, the two firms are already reported to be gearing up to launch one of the first Windows 8 tablets, as early as the second quarter next year. Qualcomm urgently wants to make Nokia dependent upon its Snapdragon processors, and permanently win a major OEM customer from which it has always been excluded, so Enrico Salvatori, president of Qualcomm CDMA Technologies in Europe, was keen to stress in a recent interview that the Lumia collaboration went beyond the usual supplier relationship. Instead, the US firm had significant input into the smartphone design, he said, adding: “We are working on a roadmap [with Nokia] and not a single device, a single launch. It’s an important collaboration for Qualcomm, so we are very excited about working together. It’s been very effective in terms of time to market because we developed the phone together. It’s been a very successful development.”

If Nokia is planning to be first off the blocks with an ARM/W8 tablet, it will certainly need Qualcomm’s help. The San Diego giant was loud in its support of the new OS at its launch and back in March, Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Internet Services, said the firm was preparing tools and software to make Snapdragon attractive to the huge Windows developer community, and not just the programmers focused on smartphones. These efforts will almost certainly feed into Nokia’s tablet plans. Prevented by Microsoft’s bar on large-screen WP7 devices from entering this space in 2011, the Finnish firm will need to make a splash next year. Its French chief, Paul Amsellem, said in a newspaper interview that the company will launch the product by June 2012, though official spokespeople stressed that there had been no formal announcement. Last month, at the Nokia World event where Lumia was unveiled, CEO Stephen Elop (and former Microsoft man) commented: "From an ecosystem perspective, there are benefits and synergies that exist between Windows and Windows Phone. We see that opportunity. We'll certainly consider those opportunities going forward."

An early W8 tablet launch would be a critical moment for both partners and for Microsoft. If successful, it would take Qualcomm into a segment of the tablet market which it could almost certainly have to itself for many months (apart from Intel x86 models), offsetting the mounting pressure it feels in Android tablets from Nvidia and Texas Instruments, in particular. It would give Nokia, for the first time in years, a frontrunner position in a new sector, the Windows/ARM slate, and an operating system which promises to be hugely impactful – a big improvement on ageing Symbian and neglected WP7. Of course, for Microsoft, it would mark a belated move – perhaps disastrously belated – into touch-based tablets, and the hope that the attractions of W8 would succeed in stealing iPad or Kindle Fire upgraders, while appealing to a broader base too.

However, the focus on W8 does leave WP7 rather isolated. With no slates in sight, even the OS’s friends are concerned about its growth potential. AT&T, which promised to be the world’s biggest WP7 carrier at its launch, and is reported to be negotiating with Nokia for the Lumia launch, nevertheless sees “challenges” for the OS, according to Glenn Lurie, head of emerging devices. “I think we’re still going to see a lot of challenges,” Lurie said at a Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona. “I’m actually a fan of the Windows devices, I’m also very excited about Windows 8 on the tablet devices, but you’re still going to have a lot of people competing for that space.”

Meanwhile, tablets are certainly not the only new target market for Snapdragon. This week, Qualcomm broadened the Snapdragon range and had its eye on Nvidia’s favorite market with the release of GamePack, a set of features and apps for the gaming sector, all optimized for Snapdragon. And by combining the processor and its Atheros products in future, it could look at pushing into smart TVs and other consumer home gear.

The new models in the Snapdragon S4 range (the high end of the family) aim to lower design, engineering and inventory costs for a broad variety of devices including tablets, said Qualcomm, while supporting feature sets for multimedia, connectivity, camera, display, security, power management, browsing and natural user interface design. The products include the new Krait CPU, integrated with various combinations of modems supporting EV-DO, HSPA+, TD-SCDMA, TD-LTE, FD-LTE and Wi-Fi. Devices based on Snapdragon S4 processors are expected to appear in early 2012.

Craig Barratt, previously CEO of Atheros, sees a role for Snapdragon in the home connectivity markets his unit targets, as connected home and media platforms increasingly require intelligence and processing power in the end points as well as wireless links. "We're going to drive technology to more media devices in the home," he said in an interview with CNet. In future, Qualcomm will be able to tailor processors for specific devices in the home, he said, particularly tapping into the expected rise in the processing power of the television. Much of the technology needed to work in a TV is already available in Snapdragon, he said, and as in handsets, connectivity and CPUs will increasingly be integrated together. ###

- Eric -

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From: Eric L2/5/2012 3:26:43 PM
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Canalys on Q4 & CY2011 Branded Smartphones and Client PCs

Note that Canalys does NOT include Samsung's Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus in their branded smartphone totals and instead counts them under the Google brand. As a consequence they have them 2nd to Apple in total 2011 annual sell-in. They do count bada units in Samsung's smartphone totals and in smartphone 'platform' totals while some sources count bada as an advanced feature phone platform.

Note also Canalys counts Tablets (including e-Readers) as Client PCs.

>> Smart Phones Overtake Client PCs in 2011

Vendors shipped 488 million smart phones in 2011, compared to 415 million client PCs

Canalys Press Release
Palo Alto, Shanghai, Singapore and Reading UK
3 February 2012 [PDF Format]

Canalys today released its full, detailed Q4 2011 country-level smart phone shipment estimates to clients, so completing the picture for the year. One notable result was that total annual global shipments of smart phones exceeded those of client PCs (including pads) for the first time.

Vendors shipped 158.5 million smart phones in Q4 2011, up 57% on the 101.2 million units shipped in Q4 2010. This bumper quarter took total global shipments for the whole of 2011 to 487.7 million units, up 63% on the 299.7 million smart phones shipped throughout 2010. By comparison, the global client PC market grew 15% in 2011 to 414.6 million units, with 274% growth in pad shipments. Pads accounted for 15% of all client PC shipments in 2011.

“In 2011 we saw a fall in demand for netbooks, and slowing demand for notebooks and desktops as a direct result of rising interest in pads,” said Chris Jones, Canalys VP and Principal Analyst. “But pads have had negligible impact on smart phone volumes and markets across the globe have seen persistent and substantial growth through 2011. Smart phone shipments overtaking those of client PCs should be seen as a significant milestone. In the space of a few years, smart phones have grown from being a niche product segment at the high-end of the mobile phone market to becoming a truly mass-market proposition. The greater availability of smart phones at lower price points has helped tremendously, but there has been a driving trend of increasing consumer appetite for Internet browsing, content consumption and engaging with apps and services on mobile devices.”

However, Canalys expects to see smart phone market growth slow in 2012 as vendors exercise greater cost control and discipline, and put more focus on profitability. Notably, even vendors who have focused on conquering the low-end of the market with aggressive pricing, such as Huawei, ZTE and LG, are now placing greater attention on the higher tiers. Flagship models aimed at raising selling prices and improving margins will feature more heavily this year.

Apple’s impressive end to the year resulted in it becoming the leading smart phone and client PC vendor in Q4 2011, with shipments of 37.0 million iPhones, 15.4 million iPads and 5.2 million Macs. It also smashed the record for the most smart phones shipped globally by any single vendor in one quarter, beating Nokia’s previous record of 28.3 million shipped in Q4 2010. Moreover, Apple’s performance meant that it displaced Nokia, for the first time, as the leading smart phone vendor by annual shipments. Apple shipped 93.1 million iPhones in 2011, representing growth of 96% over 2010. The iPhone 4S benefitted from pent-up demand resulting from the launch coming in October rather than June, but Apple’s overall volume was also buoyed by continued shipments of the now more aggressively priced iPhone 4 and 3GS models.

Samsung also finished 2011 with a flourish. It shipped 35.3 million smart phones in Q4 2011 under its own brand, bringing its total to 91.9 million for the year, compared to just 24.9 million in 2010. This excludes shipments of rebranded products, such as the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, which Canalys counts under the Google brand. Samsung continued to spend big on marketing activities, and its strong product portfolio – particularly the Android-based Galaxy S II – performed well.

Despite a disappointing set of financial results, Nokia’s smart phone performance in the fourth quarter gave cause for optimism. It shipped 19.6 million smart phones, down 31% from the record high of a year earlier, but up 17% on Q3 2011. The total was helped by 1.2 million and 0.6 million shipments of its Windows Phone and MeeGo-based products respectively, as well as improved Symbian Belle volumes from competitively priced devices such as the Nokia 500, 700 and 701. Its total smart phone shipments for the year came in at 77.3 million globally.

“Its first Windows Phone products, the Lumia 800 and 710, along with the recently announced Lumia 900 through AT&T in the US, have improved the outlook for Nokia,” said Canalys Senior Analyst, Tim Shepherd. “They are well-designed, competitive devices that demonstrate innovation is still alive within Nokia. But the battle is not over and it has huge challenges ahead. Nokia must continue to build out its Lumia portfolio with devices tailored to address all price points and all the markets in which it aims to compete. It must hasten its transition from Symbian to Windows Phone around the world and, with Microsoft, promote and generate excitement for the platform and new products. And it must succeed in attracting more developers to build high quality, locally relevant apps.”

RIM’s demise in 2011 has been over played by some, with the company ending the year as the fourth largest smart phone vendor and delivering annual unit growth of 5%. “There is no denying that RIM has had a tough year,” said Canalys Principal Analyst, Pete Cunningham. “But when you consider that it is transitioning to a new platform it has done well to increase volume while remaining profitable; the latter point being something that many other vendors struggle with. The appointment of Thorsten Heins as CEO will bring new energy to the company while ensuring that it does not radically deviate from its overall strategy in this transitional year. However, 2012 will become even more competitive and RIM needs BlackBerry 10 devices out there to ensure it retains its status as a major player.”

At a platform level, Android accounted for 52% of global smart phones shipments in Q4 2011, with iOS representing 23% and Symbian 12%. Android was also the leading smart phone platform by volume for the whole year, accounting for 49% of all devices shipped in 2011 and ahead of iOS with 19% share and Symbian with 16%. Collectively, Android smart phone shipments grew 149% year on year in Q4 2011 to 81.9 million units, resulting in a total of 237.8 million for the full year, up 244% on 2010. Samsung’s success and focus on Android have contributed substantially to the growth of the platform, but other vendors, such as Sony Ericsson, Huawei, Motorola, LG and particularly HTC, have also seen significant growth in their Android volumes over the course of 2011.

Canalys analysts in Asia Pacific, the Americas and EMEA are available for press interviews on topics related to all mobile devices and the client PC market, as well as the growing ecosystem for mobile applications and services. There will also be a significant Canalys analyst presence at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from 26 to 29 February 2012. ... ###

>> Apple Storms Past HP to Lead Global PC Market

120 Million PCs shipped Globally in Q4 2011, Up 16% Year-on-Year

Canalys Press Release
Palo Alto, Shanghai, Singapore and Reading UK
30 January 2012

Canalys today announced that Apple, after reporting stellar results, became the leading worldwide client PC vendor in Q4 2011. Apple shipped over 15 million iPads and five million Macs, representing 17% of the total 120 million client PCs shipped globally in Q4. Overall, the total client PC market, including desktops, netbooks, notebooks, and pads grew 16% year-on-year. Excluding pads, the client PC market declined 0.4%. The floods in Thailand, that impacted hard drive assembly plants, caused mild disruption to shipments during the quarter, but the side effects are likely to be felt in the first half of 2012.

Among the other top five PC vendors, only Lenovo managed to increase its market share, by a relatively modest two points, compared to Apple’s six-point gain over the same quarter a year ago. Acer, Dell and HP – the hardest hit – all lost market share. Now the second largest client PC vendor worldwide, HP will struggle to compete with Apple following the end of its Touchpad.

“Currently, HP is pursuing a Windows strategy for its pad portfolio, producing enterprise-focused products, such as the recently launched Slate 2, until the launch of Windows 8,” said Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling. “However, questions remain over Microsoft’s entry into the consumer pad space. While early demonstrations of the Window 8 operating system seem promising, Microsoft must focus its efforts on creating an intuitive user experience that is far less resource intensive.”

Lenovo continued to close the gap on HP, thanks to successful investment outside of core markets. The acquisition of Medion in Germany helped Lenovo double its shipments in Western Europe during the second half of 2011. The vendor’s decision to use Android for enterprise and consumer pads gives it a better opportunity than HP to continue gaining market share.

Dell placed fourth among the top five PC vendors, followed by Acer. Acer’s shipments continued to decline, as a result of the pad’s impact on the netbook market. It did, however, make headlines at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in January, when it revealed its S5 Ultrabook. Unsurprisingly, Acer and other vendors have been quick to announce their support for the new Ultrabook form factor, with the view of driving innovation and renewed customer interest in notebooks.

“We expect Ultrabook volumes to see limited adoption through the first half of 2012, before finally gaining momentum later in the year as price points decline and Intel launches a new line of processors and embarks on an aggressive marketing campaign,” said Canalys Research Analyst Michael Kauh. “In the short term though, vendors will experience more pressure in the netbook and notebook segments, especially with Apple’s annual iPad refresh approaching.”

Pads accounted for 22% of total PC shipments during Q4 2011. In addition to Apple’s strong performance, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet by Barnes and Noble boosted volumes in the U.S. market, allowing both vendors to claim spots among the top five worldwide pad makers, in second and fifth place respectively.

All regions grew year-on-year with the inclusion of pads. Excluding pads, however, shipments in Europe, Middle East and Africa and North America declined, due to weaker consumer demand in Western Europe and the United States, despite the traditional Q4 sales periods. Vendors and channel partners took a cautious approach to inventory levels in Q4, as many had expected a slow quarter. Notebook volumes grew slightly, at approximately 1% in these regions, but continued their impressive rise in Asia Pacific and Latin America, as more consumers embraced mobile computing.

“The consumerization of IT continues to be a significant disruptive force in the PC industry, but many of the leading vendors have failed to capitalize on the trend to date,” said Coulling. “This year will be a pivotal year for those vendors that were slow to launch pads. It is not just the product that they need to get right, business models are equally important - driving revenues from content delivery can help vendors reach lower price points in a market that is incredibly price sensitive.”

About Canalys

Canalys delivers smart market insights to IT, channel, and service provider professionals around the world. Our customer-driven analysis and consulting services empower businesses to make informed decisions and generate sales. We stake our reputation on the quality of our data, our innovative use of technology, and our high level of customer service. ###

- Eric -

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To: Eric L who wrote (1270)2/7/2012 1:55:50 PM
From: zax
   of 1647
Don't know if you've got it bookmarked, Eric, but I'm generally posting stuff specific about Windows 8 to a new board that FUBHO started not too long ago...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Windows 8 Secrets: WinRT, the Windows Runtime
Subject 58172

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To: Eric L who wrote (1261)2/10/2012 12:53:15 PM
From: Eric L
   of 1647
WinPhone 8/ Windows 8 & The Apps Future

>> Why Apps Could Make Windows Phone THE Dominant Mobile OS

Andrew Hoyle
Crave c|net UK
9 February 2012

Windows Phone hasn't made much of an impact since its launch in 2010. For all the praise from reviewers, it's still trailing miserably behind Android and iOS. But with Windows Phone 8 just around the corner, I reckon its fortunes are about to change.

Calling Microsoft an underdog feels about as ridiculous as calling Jupiter a mere asteroid, but that's exactly what Windows Phone is. Next to the goliaths of Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems, WP is a drop in the ocean and appeared on just over 1 per cent of smart phones at the end of 2011.

So what's wrong with it? Very little, in terms of functionality. Windows Phone is clean, simple and arguably very attractive. I often read comments by new users raving about the interface and the way it takes the simplicity of iOS and adds some of the customisability of Android. It even managed to tempt our very own Rich Trenholm. [see clip below]

No Longer Hard To Port

A key part of the update will see Windows Phone apps being built with similar core structures to iOS and Android apps, which would allow an existing app to be ported over without having to rewrite the entire thing, saving devs time and money. If you're currently making a hit app for other platforms, you won't need to shell out your kids' inheritance to pay for the app to be rebuilt from the ground up for Windows.

Ideally, apps currently in use on iOS and Android should only need a few relatively small tweaks in order to have them run on Windows Phone. It won't attract developers to build solely for the platform, but it may very well persuade many to launch a WP version of their current apps. If Microsoft can get this right, it'll be a definite ace in the hole for Windows Phone 8.

Perhaps more important, though, is Windows Phone 8's integration with Windows 8 for PCs. Windows Phone 8 and Windows desktop 8 will share the same kernel (the core architecture on which the software is built), which could potentially mean apps purchased through the upcoming Windows 8 app store would also be able to run on Windows Phones.

A Market of Millions

While this has yet to be properly discussed by Microsoft, it would mean -- in theory -- that Windows Phone developers would immediately have a potential market in the hundreds of millions of Windows desktop users worldwide.

Apple has a similar setup with the iOS and Mac app stores, but they're treated as totally separate entities -- if you buy an app for your phone, you'll have to buy it again for your Mac. If Windows apps could be offered as a one-time purchase, however, simultaneously running across desktop and phone platforms, Microsoft would have a huge incentive for hungry consumers like me to pick WinPho over iOS.

Of course, many apps -- such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop -- wouldn't be identical on a PC and phone, but if they were built on the same basic foundation, it would be much more simple to build mobile versions, which would keep costs low for developers. If costs were minimal, it would be much easier for both apps to be offered together as a single purchase.

With such a vast potential market, we may well see developers flooding to Windows Phone in the near future. Couple that with Windows Phone 8's support for multi-core processors and micro SD storage and I fully expect to see it posing a serious threat to Android and iOS.

If Microsoft plays its cards right with these updates and allows developers to easily bring their apps to Windows Phone and Windows desktop cheaply enough to be offered as a one-time purchase, it won't be long before the store is bursting at the seams and Windows Phone can become the platform of choice for the hundreds of millions of Windows users across the globe. ###

>> Why I Don't Want an iPhone Any More

Rich Trenholm
Crave c|net UK
28 November 2011

I can barely remember a time before smart phones. How did I know where I was supposed to be -- and when? How did I tweet? When the iPhone 3G came along, with its elegant software and giant screen and the Internet in it, it was like going from black and white to colour, like when Dorothy crashlands in Oz. Ding dong, the WAP is dead.

I loved the iPhone. It was pretty, it was fun, it did everything I wanted it to. Which makes it all the more weird that just a few short years later, I wouldn't be seen dead with one.

The original iPhone was revolutionary. That's just a fact. (This is the point where some early adopters start banging on about the Nokia N95 having the Internet and apps, but that's like comparing a steam engine to an Aston Martin because they both have wheels.)

Android came shortly after, and the new narrative was established for the mobile story: Apple's refined but restricted walled garden versus Android's liberated but chaotic hippy dreamland. I'm not going to argue that one is better than the other. I've lived with both and loved both -- but always with something missing, something that can only be found in the other.

The iPhone and iPad get the apps first, in classy and refined hardware. But Android puts you in charge of every aspect of your phone, with a far wider choice of blowers. If only there was some middle ground...

With the Nokia Lumia 800 and Windows Phone, I reckon there is.

Wait, what just happened?

When the new world order of iPhones and Androids began, the old lags were caught flat-footed and left dazed for years. Nokia, BlackBerry and Sony Ericsson found themselves staring at Apple, Google, Samsung and HTC (who came from nowhere) and wondering what the chuff just happened. Microsoft too.

Microsoft at least had the nous to start afresh, chucking out the rubbish Windows Mobile and going back to the drawing board. On that drawing board some touchy-feely type drew some big squares, and the best mobile phone interface ever was born.

Interface is King

Yes, there are many aspects to an operating system. The app ecosystem. The extent to which it can be customised. The integration with the hardware.

But ultimately, the interface is the most important thing about a mobile phone. Everybody has a phone nowadays, so it has to be easy to use even if you don't know your app store from your elbow. We use them all the time, usually for very small tasks, so they have to be usable with one hand and one eye without breaking off from a conversation. We have to be able to dip into them while barely engaging our brains.

Processor speeds, screen sizes, app stores; all those things are important, but they mean nothing if the software fails to harness those smarts to an interface that's enjoyable to use. You could have the world's cleverest octo-core, eleventy-megapixel, high-definizzle phone in your pocket, but if the interface is a chore to grapple with then you're going to leave it there.

This may be news to some of the tech-frenzied readers who go ballistic at us in the comments whenever we emphasise interface -- hi guys! luv ya! -- but not everybody wants to feel like they're doing a maths exam every time they make a phone call, look up a film time or download an app. Interface is king.

Sure, we tech-savvy early adopters like a challenge, but mobile phones are no longer the domain of nerds like us who want a gadget to be complicated, so we can feel like we've mastered it. Mobile phones belong to our mums and dads now, our nieces and nephews, our ditzy co-workers who don't even read XKCD. The chumps.

My dad loves cars, but he wouldn't want to drive even the most souped-up supercar if it had a Rubiks Cube instead of a steering wheel and you had to line up all the greens to turn left. No sir: Interface. Is. King.

The King is Dead

Until not so long ago, that meant Apple. But something insane has happened. Something that we simply wouldn't have countenanced just three short years ago.

One company makes a beautiful, intuitive, elegant interface, and the other makes a dated, clunky interface. But now it's Microsoft showing off the thing of beauty, and Apple that's behind the times. Microsoft is the underdog and Apple is the monolithic, restrictive monopoly. Has the world gone mad?

Sure, the iPhone and iPad interface is still slick and simple. But the shine is gone -- iOS 5 looks almost exactly the same as iOS 4. Android showed what you can do when you can truly customise the look and feel of your phone, with its flexible home screens, handy widgets placing information right at your fingertips, and the capacity to alter any feature you like.

Long Live the King

Windows Phone strikes the perfect middle ground between the two. The slick, instantly recognisable and totally intuitive live tile interface is playful without being toylike, knocking Apple's once-revolutionary front end into a cocked hat. And on the other hand, widgets and dynamic live tiles give you the flexibility that marks Android.

It's utterly compelling, and that's why I won't be swapping my Nokia Lumia 800 for an iPhone any time soon.

Nope, Apple will have to do more than nick Android's notification system to tempt me back to that dated interface. No widgets? Pssh. Delving into the menus for simple tasks like killing the Wi-Fi? Whatevs. iTunes? See ya, most definitively would not wanna be ya.

Of course, I'm not saying Windows Phone is perfect. The pool of apps is more like a muddy puddle. It's only the arrival of Spotify in the Marketplace that has triggered this damascene conversion in your humble correspondent, as that's the first app I download on any new phone. And I still haven't got used to how when you zoom right in to a map it switches to satellite view.

But I love it how the directions tell you if you reach a certain road, you've gone too far. I love how if there's a problem with a text message, the smiley face messages icon turns to a frowny face. And I bloomin' love those big colourful tiles. Because, lest we forget, when you look at a gadget a hundred times a day it should make you smile every time, not want to kick it against a wall (the fate of my last iPhone).

My God. We're through the looking glass here, people. I'm a Windows fan now. ###

- Eric -

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To: Eric L who wrote (1274)2/10/2012 5:08:07 PM
From: sylvester80
   of 1647
No traction on Nokia (NOK).. No Plan B should Windows Phone fail

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From: Eric L2/11/2012 9:41:52 AM
   of 1647
The New Nokia's Strategy at 1 Year ...

Elop Speaks ...

... on February 11 2012 on the 1st anniversary of the announcement of Nokia's new 3 pillared strategy, in South Africa. He looks back, comments on where Nokia is at today, and looks forward to 'Big Windows' (Windows 8), and Location Based Services as evolving opportunities in a 25 minute roundtable interview with SA's TechCentral editor Duncan McLeod, Talk Radio 702's Aki Anastasiou, the ZA Tech Show’s Simon Dingle, Moneyweb’s Hilton Tarrant and World Wide Worx’s Arthur Goldstuck. He also discusses the significance of evolving 'smarter' feature phones as a complement to Nokia's WinPhone smartphone strategy. It's yet another worthwhile Elop listen.

"Our Plan B is to focus on Plan A. We'll Learn and adjust; React and improve." - Stepen Elop -

>> TalkCentral: Episode 60 – ‘Stephen Elop Interview’

- Eric -

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From: Eric L2/11/2012 11:06:34 AM
   of 1647
Woody Leonhard on Tablet MIDs: Microsoft and Established Competitors ...

Where is Microsoft? Well behind the curve, at this point. Any significant rival to the iPad is tied to the launch of Windows 8. We probably won’t see low-powered Win8 tablets until early 2013 — an eternity in a market that’s already exploding. About the time Microsoft gets a true iPad competitor out the door, Apple will be rolling out its fourth-generation iPad 4. And tablets based on Google Android 4 — or version 5 or 6 — will be commonplace. ... Microsoft may be behind in its tablet technology, but it obviously knows that a sea change is under way. As it focuses on Win8 and the Metro user interface, the company is starting to refer to traditional Windows applications as legacy apps and the Windows desktop as the legacy desktop. ... Let’s start with a given. A tablet is not a PC. - Woody -

>> Your Next Computer Could Well Be A Tablet

Woody Leonhard
Windows Secrets
February 2, 2012

Like it or not — and I know that some of you don’t — tablets are changing the way the world works and plays.

Whether it’s an iPad, Kindle, Nook, or a tablet based on Google’s Android OS, mobile devices are swirling across the computing landscape. Here’s how to pick the right one.

Don’t believe that mobile devices are taking over? Consider these eye-popping numbers.

Based on numbers published by Gartner, the estimated total units of Windows PCs sold in the U.S. (desktops, laptops, Ultrabooks, netbooks — everything except Apple computers) dropped by 8.6 percent from Q4 2010 to Q4 2011. (The number of Macs sold rose by 26 percent, according to the company’s earnings report.)

During approximately that same time period, the number of iPads sold rose by 111 percent — to over 15 million in Apple’s fiscal Q1 2012, according to the earnings report. (Apple’s fiscal year ends in September.) If you combine tablets with more traditional computers, Apple might be the largest computer manufacturer on earth. (Combining tablets with traditional computers to tally sales numbers will become more common when Windows 8 ships on tablets.)

And where is Microsoft? Well behind the curve, at this point. Any significant rival to the iPad is tied to the launch of Windows 8. We probably won’t see low-powered Win8 tablets until early 2013 — an eternity in a market that’s already exploding. About the time Microsoft gets a true iPad competitor out the door, Apple will be rolling out its fourth-generation iPad 4. And tablets based on Google Android 4 — or version 5 or 6 — will be commonplace.

Microsoft may be behind in its tablet technology, but it obviously knows that a sea change is under way. As it focuses on Win8 and the Metro user interface, the company is starting to refer to traditional Windows applications as legacy apps and the Windows desktop as the legacy desktop.

That’s not to say we’re approaching the post-PC era just yet — no more than we’re into the post-combustion engine era. PCs will have a place for a long time to come. But that place is no longer the undisputed center of the computing universe. And PCs are certainly not the center of computing innovation.

Just as many of us moved from DOS to Windows, from desktops to portables, and from printed and faxed documents to the Internet, tablets are becoming an important addition to our digital life. So let me step you through the current options, from the point of view of a long-in-the-tooth Windows veteran.

From e-readers to personal-computer substitutes

Let’s start with a given. A tablet is not a PC. I can draw a thousand analogies — a motorcycle isn’t a car, a dome tent isn’t a house, a golden retriever isn’t a quarter horse. Tablets and PCs have different capabilities and limitations. There are tasks performed routinely on PCs that are, at least for now, nearly impossible to accomplish on a tablet. Tablets are lighter and more mobile, and they typically have excellent battery life (eight hours or more, unlike most full-sized, Windows-based notebooks.)

Tablets are great for many computing tasks we do obsessively every day — such as reading e-mail, searching the Web, checking Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and (when we’re feeling really decadent) watching Netflix movies in bed. With their relatively small size and light weight, they fit nicely between a full-sized notebook and our smartphones.

There are undoubtedly uses for a tablet that haven’t even occurred to us yet. For example, I’ve recently discovered that tablets are excellent for keeping children amused when your attention must be elsewhere.

So while I’m not going to tell you to toss out your PC just yet, I will suggest you seriously consider a tablet — especially if you’re in the market for a netbook or second PC. I did, and it was the right choice.

Right now, there are four basic tablet options, discussed below, plus hundreds of variations. They start as low as U.S. $79 for a simple e-reader and go up to just over $800 for the state-of-the-art tablet technology. They all include built-in Wi-Fi, so you can go to the Internet, download media and e-mail, and purchase apps without connecting them to a PC. Some also include 3G connectivity for times when Wi-Fi is unavailable.

Apple iPad: Whether you like Apple or not, the iPad is the standard by which all other tablets are measured — and is likely to remain so for some time to come. It’s expensive and big, compared to the other options in this review, but it offers just about everything you could want in a tablet. The iPad 2 runs from $499 for a 16GB model with no 3G to $829 for 64GB and 3G connectivity.

More than any other tablet currently sold, the iPad nicely handles many of those basic computing tasks we face every day — e-mail (unless your needs are excessive), Web browsing, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, instant messaging, and text messaging. As a mark of its success, the iPad is finding its way into a plethora of business applications.

The iPad 2 also goes well beyond computing tasks. Its 9.7-inch screen makes it an excellent Web-research and entertainment device. Use it to search Google Earth, catch up on the news (including Flipboard), check the stock market and weather, and stream audio and video (via Hulu, Netflix, TiVo, and many more). You can watch most YouTube videos, except for the few that are available only in the Flash format. (In a controversial move, Apple kept support for Adobe Flash out of the iPad and iPhone.) It offers more games and apps than you could shake two sticks at. Apple’s world-leading app store has a larger collection of games and apps than any other tablet format.

The iPad’s internal touch-screen keyboard is relatively easy to use, but if you’re doing a fair amount of typing, you can attach a Bluetooth external keyboard. Even with the external keyboard, however, the iPad won’t replace your PC for answering piles of e-mail, writing long reports, or cranking through massive spreadsheets. You’d also be hard-pressed to create high-end graphics on an iPad.

Overall, the iPad is a pleasure to use. If you want to work in a Windows/iPad world, check out these two Top Stories, “Top iPad apps for Windows users:” Part 1 and Part 2 ...

Thinking of buying an iPad 2 soon? I suggest waiting a couple of months — rumor has it that the iPad 3 will be announced in February. That usually drops the price of the current model by $100 or so, plus the next iPad might have new features you’ll want.

Bottom line: Consider the iPad if you’re looking for a smaller and lighter occasional substitute for your full-sized PC.

Kindle: Amazon’s Kindle readers range from a simple U.S. $79 model with a six-inch, grayscale screen to a $379.00 version with a 9.7-inch grayscale screen, built-in physical keyboard, and free 3G communications.

I own the Kindle Fire — the only Kindle with a color screen — and I use it often. Smaller, lighter, and at $199 roughly one-third the price of an analogous iPad, the Kindle Fire has a gorgeous screen; simple controls based on a bookshelf metaphor; and access to Amazon’s huge library of books, other types of media, and an expanding library of games. Currently, the Kindle’s application offerings are far fewer than what’s offered for the iPad, but there are apps for Facebook and Twitter; Netflix, Hulu and Pandora; and many other popular online activities.

Although its seven-inch touch screen is significantly smaller than the iPad’s, it’s better-looking — making it ideal for reading books, playing videos up-close, and sneaking in an occasional game of Angry Birds. It just doesn’t match the iPad for tasks that need larger screens and on-screen keyboards, such as managing e-mail and — with my vision — browsing the Internet. That said, my brother likes his Kindle Fire because its e-mail app automatically syncs with Microsoft’s Exchange Server. He says it works like a champ.

My toddler son likes the Kindle Fire every bit as much as the iPad because it’s easy to use and he doesn’t mind watching videos and playing with interactive books on the smaller screen — those short arms naturally keep the Kindle up close. Although the iPad has a larger kids’ library, Amazon offers enough Kindle media to keep any kid going for years.

Bottom line: If you’re willing to live with fewer features and capabilities, the Kindle is a bargain compared to the iPad — and it gives you a better screen for reading books.

Nook: I’ll confess I don’t own a Nook, but I know people who do and they love it — primarily for its simplicity. Models range from the basic $99 e-reader with a six-inch, grayscale touch-screen to the $249 tablet that comes with a seven-inch, color touch-screen.

The Nook’s forte is as an e-reader. After playing with the color version for a while, I liked it better than the Kindle Fire when reading digital books and magazines: the scrolling works more naturally and more quickly, and in bright light the screen is a bit easier to read. I also preferred the Nook’s microphone, home key, and hardware volume control. The Nook also has a microSD card slot, a feature missing on the Kindle Fire.

On the other hand, browsing around the Web is easier on the Kindle; the built-in Web browser simply works better. The Kindle Fire is also cheaper, it has more cloud services, you can download videos to the Fire for later playback — and I just plain prefer the Kindle’s interface.

There are rumors that Barnes&Noble might spin off its Nook division, possibly selling it to some company that can afford to keep the format competitive. But given the number of Nooks in the hands of avid e-book readers, the Nook should be around for years to come.Bottom line: If you’re willing to live with fewer features and capabilities, the Kindle is a bargain compared to the iPad — and it gives you a better screen for reading books.

Bottom line: Although the color Nook has tablet-like capabilities, it’s best as a light, compact, inexpensive device for reading digital books and magazines. If in doubt, try both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color, and decide which interface you prefer.

Android: This group is the least polished and most confusing of all tablet categories. Currently, there isn’t one common “Android” interface, and even the operating system has been modified and hacked to the point where making blanket statements about all Android tablets is nearly impossible. There are literally dozens of different flavors. (The Kindle and the Nook also run Android — somewhere deep down inside.)

That said, after a rough start, Android tablets are starting to come into their own. They could soon flood the tablet market, pushing down prices and raising user expectations. But here’s my advice: If you’re going to buy an Android tablet, wait for one that runs Android 4.0 — the so-called Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) version of the operating system. To my knowledge, there aren’t any currently shipping tablets that run ICS yet. ASUS has, however, released an ICS upgrade for its existing Eee Pad Transformer Prime, a hybrid notebook/tablet. (CNET has a good overview of the improvements on its product reviews site.)

The main draw of ICS isn’t a bucketload of new features. Rather, ICS should help reduce the explosion of tailored code in Android devices. (The operative word here is “should.”)

One way around the many OEM mods is to root the devices. For example, you can root an Android-based phone and install a generic version of the OS. Rooting will sometimes give you more features than the locked-down OEM software. But rooting carries risks such as a failed phone or broken warranty. (Although the new rooting tools are fairly well automated, always back up your original factory setup.)

For more info on rooting Android phones and other devices such as Kindles and Nooks, enter rooting {device} into your favorite search engine.

Bottom line: As the owner of an Android phone, I’ll consider getting an Android tablet when ICS has been out a few months. I suggest you do likewise. If it lives up to expectations, it will give the iPad its first real competition.

Coming to a tablet near you — Windows 8

You know Windows. You feel comfortable with Windows and you don’t particularly want to learn a new operating system. So should you wait for a Windows 8 tablet?

That depends on why you’re willing to wait for a Win8 tablet and for how long.

If you want a Win8-based tablet because it’ll feel more like Windows than an iPad or Kindle, you’re almost assuredly waiting for something you don’t really want. Yes, the first crop of Windows 8 tablets will most likely offer the legacy Windows 7-style desktop, but do you really want to run the Windows 7 desktop on a tablet? Probably not.

Windows 8 tablets will also have the new Metro interface — the one that looks a lot like Windows Phone. Most likely, you’ll end up running the tablet on the Metro side and rarely, if ever, go to the legacy desktop. (Conversely, if you buy a new Windows 8 desktop, laptop, or maybe even an Ultrabook, you probably won’t bother with Metro. It all comes down to form factor and use.)

Moreover, unless something magical happens in the land of Intel hardware over the next few months, those first Win8 tablets will be heavy and expensive — even when compared to an iPad. But they’ll still be “compatible” in that they’ll run all those Windows 7 apps you currently have on your desktop.

Further down the road — probably well into 2013 — Microsoft says it will have Windows 8 tablets that run on ARM hardware (more info), now found in the sleeker and less power-hungry mobile devices you’re used to (iPad, Kindle, Nook, and many smartphones). But unless Microsoft can pull a huge rabbit out of its hat, those ARM-based, iPad-competitive tablets will be incompatible with Win7 apps.

If that’s the case, why wait? You can have an incompatible iPad now or wait a year for a mostly incompatible Windows 8 tablet.

Perhaps that explains why even many Windows users have succumbed to the iPad. ###

- Eric -

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From: Eric L2/12/2012 10:30:59 AM
1 Recommendation   of 1647
Paul Thurrott on Windows Phone 'Tango' and WinPhone 8 'Apollo'

>> Windows Phone in 2012

What you need to know about Microsoft's two 2012 Revisions to Windows Phone

Paul Thurrott
Windows IT Pro
February 10, 2012

This year, we can expect two revisions to Windows Phone, one minor and one major. But unlike with previous versions, these releases won't necessarily supersede each other and will instead coexist in the market as we head into 2013. And that means that both are quite important to the future of Windows Phone, despite their minor and major tags, respectively. Has Microsoft finally found a recipe for success in the smartphone market?

Windows Phone "Tango"

The first of these releases, code-named "Tango" and expected by mid-2012, is aimed at broadening the Windows Phone user base. It will do so by undercutting the requirements of the current Windows Phone platform to support lower-end devices that can be sold more cheaply in emerging markets. Microsoft is thought to be working closely with its special partner, Nokia, on this Windows Phone version.

The biggest change to Tango, which will likely be called Windows Phone 7.5.1 when released, is that it will lower the platform's memory requirements. It will do so by ushering in a new generation of low-end Windows Phone handsets that utilize just 256MB of RAM, down by half from the 512MB of RAM that's more common today.

But it's not just that these handsets will include less RAM, according to my sources. The underlying OS is also being optimized for the lower RAM allotment, with apps certified for this release being required to use less RAM and other resources, and certain resource-intensive background tasks being disabled.

Developers will be able to target Tango or Windows Phone 7.5 going forward, or both, and users of the new low-end systems will basically be able to access a subset of the existing Windows Phone Marketplace apps selection. (That said, I'm also told that Tango users will be able to browse, but not download, incompatible apps. That's a rather unfortunate prospect.)

This situation will lead, of course, to charges that Windows Phone, like Android, is being fragmented. And while true enough, it's currently unclear how much of the existing Windows Phone apps library will be incompatible with the new devices. I'm told that some high-end games such as "Plants vs. Zombies" won't work, for example, while others such as "Angry Birds" will run normally.

Whatever your feelings on the strategy, it's clear that Microsoft is pursuing a two-prong approach that gives it both quantity (Tango) and quality (Windows Phone 8, see below), albeit in two separate product lines that are familial only in that the available apps are (largely) compatible between the two. Given Windows Phone's relatively low impact in the market so far, this strategy is, at least, excusable.

Developers should receive a new version of the Windows Phone SDK by April, I'm told. This SDK will let developers test apps on both 256 MB Tango devices and mainstream 512MB handsets in emulation. Developers can choose to opt out of Tango going forward if they'd like, though that might not be desirable if these devices sell as well as expected.

I've seen rumors that developers will get support for C++ in the Tango SDK, in addition to supported managed code languages such as C# and Visual Basic, but I've not been able to corroborate that. (And I doubt such support would be tied to a minor OS upgrade such as this.)

More credible are rumors that Tango will support up to 120 different languages, up from 35 in today's Windows Phone versions. I've not verified that either, but it at least makes sense given the target markets. We should know more soon: I'm expecting Microsoft to formally unveil Windows Phone Tango in late February at Mobile World Congress.

Windows Phone 8 "Apollo" Revealed

Thanks to a rather exhaustive leak by the mobility blog Pocketnow, I can now discuss a far more compelling Windows Phone release that will be launched alongside Windows 8. Dubbed Windows Phone 8 and code-named "Apollo," this release is a major one in every sense of the word.

Windows Phone 8 is part of the Windows 8 family of products, and it will share core technologies with its desktop- and tablet-based stable mates—including the kernel, multicore processor support, networking stack, security, and multimedia, according to Windows Phone honcho Joe Belfiore—as well as various user experiences such as the Metro-style UI.

In a leaked video, Belfiore explained that there were two major new functional areas to Windows Phone 8—Scale and Choice andWindows Reimagined—and four supporting functional areas: Seamless Communications, Lights Up the World Around You, Smarter Way to App, and Built for Business. So maybe it makes sense to frame this discussion around those areas.

Scale and Choice

Windows Phone 8 will add support for higher-end processors, including those with dual cores, Belfiore notes in the leaked video. It will also enable up to four different screen resolutions, though he doesn't specify what those are; today's Windows Phone devices support just one, 480 × 800. It will also officially support removable micro-SD expansion for the first time. (And yes, I know that a handful of first-gen Windows Phone devices included this expansion, but Microsoft didn't support it.)

A new feature called Data Smart will help users get the most out of their increasingly restrictive cellular data plans, while underlying changes to the platform will ensure that Windows Phone 8 uses less data than before. The system will use Wi-Fi and not cellular data whenever possible, and a new Kindle Fire–like browser proxy service will make web browsing and third-party app usage 30 percent more efficient.

Data Smart will include a dedicated app for managing data usage and also a live tile with live data usage stats. The Local Scout feature in Bing is being updated to help find nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, and in many regions, cellular data will be automatically offloaded, when possible, to operator-run Wi-Fi hotspots.

Windows Reimagined

The big news for many will be that Windows Phone 8 is officially part of the Windows 8 family of systems. Previously, Microsoft has said that Windows 8 would work on devices with screens as small as 7”, and it appears that Windows Phone 8 will fill the gap for devices with smaller screens.

Regardless of the plan, Belfiore said that the Metro UI used in both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 would become "the new familiar," and that hundreds of millions of people will get Windows 8 on their PCs, laptops, tablets, and, yes, phones, in the year after the whole platform launches. (My sources tell me to expect a Q4 2012 launch for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.)

As noted previously, Windows Phone 8 will share key components and user experiences with Windows 8, while some experiences will be custom tailored for the smaller form factor, including Internet Explorer 10, which will ship in a special IE 10 Mobile version just on Windows Phone.

For developers, hardware makers, and device driver writers, the two platforms are so close that those who "are writing apps or device driver writers can reuse, by far, most of their code, making it easy to target both the phone and the PC," according to Belfiore. The grand unification begins.

Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will also share several online services, including SkyDrive and Xbox LIVE. SkyDrive will assume a far greater role in this generation, as it will be used for syncing settings and files between Windows 8–based PCs, devices and phones as well as media and other content.

Belfiore specifically mentions storing music and Microsoft Office documents on SkyDrive and then accessing that content "magically" from the phone. He notes that the Windows Phone 8 music experience will be able to stream user-uploaded songs from SkyDrive seamlessly.

Microsoft is also killing off the Zune PC client, which is currently required to sync phone-based photos to the PC and to deliver large software updates to the phone. In Windows 8, this app will be replaced by a dedicated companion app for Windows Phone 8. Presumably, those activities that do require the Zune software today—phone camera downloads and software updates—will also be able to be done through the cloud, but that's not clear.

Seamless Communications

Windows Phone 8 handsets and Windows 8 devices (primarily tablets, but also some laptops) will also include Near Field Communications (NFC) chips and, as important, exterior "tap points" so that users with these devices can share information. NFC, of course, is also used for making secure digital purchases, so Windows Phone 8 will also include an integrated Wallet experience, similar (I imagine) to Google Wallet.

Windows Phone 8 will also support an emerging IP Multimedia/Rich Communications Suite (IMS/RCS) VoIP standard called RCSe. As with Skype, this functionality will be provided as a dedicated app but also with some interesting integration into the relevant platform pieces, such as the People hub contacts management system.

I'm told, however, that Skype will be optional in Windows Phone 8, which I take to mean that certain wireless carriers might choose to leave this feature out of the phones they sell.

Lights Up the World Around You

This rather nebulous category revolves largely around the location-aware features of Windows Phone, a fairly obvious area of functionality for any mobile system. This includes various improvements to Bing and Local Scout, but Belfiore didn't offer much in the way of explanation. I'm told that Local Scout is picking up personal recommendation capabilities, however.

Smarter Way to App

While Microsoft has evolved its app platform through subsequent releases of Windows Phone, adding interesting but limited extensibility functionality in Windows Phone 7.5, Windows Phone 8 will enable a new app-to-app communication capability that appears to be based on Windows 8 Contracts.

It will also add native app creation abilities for all developers, and not just for those who partner with Microsoft, as is the case today. This will help developers more easily port games and apps between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, of course, but also with iOS and Android too, Belfiore claims.

The camera app is being thoroughly overhauled in Windows Phone 8 to let third-party developers—and Nokia—dramatically enhance the capabilities of the camera and even take over the built-in camera app, which Belfiore described as "basic." These so-called "lens apps" offer "mind-blowing possibilities," according to Belfiore.

Microsoft is projecting that the Windows Phone Marketplace will have over 100,000 "Mango" (Windows Phone 7.5) apps by the time Windows Phone 8 launches. And all of these will be compatible with Windows Phone 8, which is fantastic. Improvements to the Marketplace experience will surface relevant apps during searches more naturally, Belfiore said, and will utilize Bing technologies to deliver real-time results to users.

Built for Business

One of the most exciting aspects of this system is that Microsoft, finally, is addressing the business market. Windows Phone 8 will "greatly satisfy IT admins" with full support for Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) policies, including full-disk encryption courtesy of BitLocker, and, get this, the Windows 8 Secure Boot feature. And BitLocker will be on by default on every single Windows Phone 8 handset, Belfiore says, so they're secure by default.

Windows Phone 8 will of course include updated versions of the Office Mobile Apps that are tied to the "Office 15" wave of solutions. It will also include enhanced device management and inventory support through System Center, and private software distribution, so corporations can deploy and manage apps inside their firewall.

Folks, this is exciting stuff. And while I might quibble with the two-pronged approach that Microsoft is taking with Windows Phone Tango and Windows Phone 8, there's little doubt that the Windows Phone 8 wave, in particular, will be a huge hit with consumers and businesses alike.

Here, we see the makings of a renaissance for a product line that, frankly, deserves more than the scant attention it's received thus far. With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft's mobile OS is finally poised for success. ###

- Eric -

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