Inquiring minds might not really care, but developers for smartphones certainly do. And what they care about is what mobile OS platforms are most prominent among users, so they can better direct their limited resources to a market with potential. Unfortunately for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, it looks to be one of those markets where potential is dwindling, with figures showing it slipping into third place behind Research in Motion’s (RIM) Blackberry and Apple’s iPhone.
The numbers reported are from ComScore, which conducts monthly user surveys of U.S. mobile subscribers, age 13 and over. The three month period ending in October show RIM with 15 million users, the iPhone with 9 million users, and Windows Mobile with 7 million users. (Non-proprietary OS rules the roost with 197 million users.)
The good news for Microsoft is that the number of Windows Mobile users has stayed fairly constant in 2009. The bad news is that Apple’s user base has shown a relatively steady increase during the year. And the really bad news is that Google’s Android has yet to make its presence felt in the market.
Jason Ankeny, at FierceDeveloper, a site dedicated to wireless developers, writes that “Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform seems increasingly irrelevant with each passing week.” He notes that Windows Mobile lost 28 percent market share between the 3rd quarter of 2008 and the 3rd quarter of 2009. Steve Lohr, a writer for the Strategic New Service, echoes Ankeny, stating “It’s time to declare Microsoft a loser in phones. Just get out of Dodge.”
We aren’t supposed to be distracted while operating our cars, but there seems no end to how much our cars will soon be able to distract us. The upcoming generation of electric vehicles are expected to come with apps that will let us be appraised of their status, and better service their needs.
GM is planning to have, at the least, Blackberry and iPhone apps that will let you connect with the Chevy Volt. Owners will be able to set times for charging and, through GM’s OnStar system, track electricity rates from local utilities. The app can also alert an owner on charging status, or if the owner forgot to plug the car in.
Seems that Nissan has something similar in the works for their electric vehicle: an iPod app that manages charging, and lets owners get text messages from their car. (Not while the car is driving, I hope.)
The apps for the Volt do raise the question of too much and too little. Are we becoming a society so out-of-touch with basic car operation we need constant reminders? Or has car operation become so complex that we need a whole new stream of information just to keep us on top of things?
Existing web content can be brought to the surface easily in the form of an always-on widget. The widgets will have full access to the operating system via the Widget API. Apps would be able to take advantage of the email system to display messages, location-based services, and the Blackberry’s push notifications system, just to name a few.
The new Blackberry Widgets will be distributed via the Blackberry App World interface. Unfortunately, all the live widget running goodness will only be available on Blackberry OS 5.0 or greater. When official, 5.0 will include an enhanced browser (finally), and support for both SQlite and the Widget API.
Blackberry users will no longer have to feel let down by their inability to download music wirelessly. UK-based service provider 7digital and RIM have made good on their promise of an over-the-air music download service for Blackberry. 7digital’s application is now available on the Blackberry App World Store.
The absolutely free app provides access to 7digital’s 6 million track-strong library of DRM-free music. Users can download low-quality tracks when on the move. Such downloads are automatically replaced with high bit-rate tracks (usually 320kbps) when the device is connected to a Wi-Fi network. The majority of tracks and albums are priced at $.77 and $7.77, respectively. Smartphones supported at launch are the BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve 8900, BlackBerry Tour, BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Storm.
If the idea of watching your favorite movie on a mobile phone titillates you, mSpot’s new streaming movie rental service is right up your alley. The Palo Alto-based mobile entertainment company will begin providing streaming rentals of a particular flick a few weeks after its DVD release. The service can be accessed from 30 different phone models, including the iPhone, Palm Pre, Blackberry Tour and Storm. mSpot plans to charge $5 for every movie rental.
Each title will remain available for viewing for anywhere between 24 hours and 5 days after it is rented. Film buffs can also opt for one of the monthly subscription plans. “With so many people watching TV episodes and movies on their iPhones, mobile phones are now viewed as an entertainment device,” said Daren Tsui, mSpot’s CEO. Its film catalogue currently features 350 titles from Paramount Studios, Universal Pictures and the Weinstein Company.
Microsoft and Adobe have been duking it out on the desktop to become the definitive platform for rich media content, and now it looks like that fight is going mobile. We'll file this one under the rumor category, but BoyGeniusReport (BGR) says it has "pretty much confirmed" that Research in Motion is planning on integrating full Flash and Microsoft Silverlight support into the Blackberry browser.
You might be wondering how today's Blackberry devices can pull off the power needed for full Flash (not Flash Lite) and Silverlight support, and the answer is, they won't. BGR says we won't see either one until next summer when RIM will release more powerful handsets along with a major overhaul of the software.
The next summer release gives the competition plenty of time to catch up. As it stands, just a few Nokia devices boast Flash support, and Flash Lite at that, along with the HTC Hero. As for Silverlight, we don't know of any smartphone that supports the platform, but come next summer, we can't imagine Blackberry will be the only one.
According to Gartner, Inc., a business technology research company, cell phone sales totaled 286.1 million units during the second quarter of this year – a 6.1 percent decrease over the second quarter of last year. But, smart phone sales picked up considerable steam surpassing 40 million units in sales, a 27 percent increase from the second quarter of last year.
“Despite the challenging market, some devices sold well as consumers who would usually have purchased standard midrange devices either cut back to less expensive handsets or moved up the range to get more features for their money,” stated Carolina Milanesi, a research director at Gartner. “Touchscreen and qwerty devices remained a major driver for replacement sales and benefited manufacturers with strong, touch-focused midtier devices. However, the decline in average selling price (ASP) accelerated in the first half of the year and particularly affected manufacturers that focus on midtier and low-end devices, where margins are already slim.”
A great deal of this is credited to Apple’s expansion to a larger number of countries, which has had a clear effect on volume. Still though, companies like Nokia with their N97 and Research In Motion (RIM) with their popular BlackBerry line continued to dominate the number one and two positions respectively.
In the movie Braveheart, there's a pivotal scene involving Mel Gibson and a Scottish battalion where, as William Wallace, he tries to muster some courage from his ragtag company. Face painted blue and half-hysterical, he rallies them with a memorable speech about freedom and love of country. Then, the army proceeds to completely destroy the foreign oppressor in a fight to the bitter end.
In some ways, the current war on smartphone devices could be just as pivotal...and bloody. Companies such as Palm and Nokia have everything to lose if their platforms do not thoroughly crush the competition. Meanwhile, Apple has taken a strong lead with the iPhone, and BlackBerry devices do not appear to be losing any momentum, at least in the business sector. Google has entered the fight with their Android OS, attracting legions of developers to the platform in record time.
All of these operating systems support touch control, rudimentary multi-tasking, rich media, desktop-like Web browsing, and advanced messaging. Yet, only one OS is superior and will ultimately emerge as the victor. It might seem like Apple has already had their Braveheart moment, and maybe there is room for several companies at the top of the pile, but if Windows has taught us anything, it's that a single operating system can become so dominant that every other desktop OS becomes inconsequential. Developers lock into a platform, users get accustomed to it, and that OS wins the war.
We set out to put the major contenders to the test and find out which could become the most dominant. Really, it's too early to call Apple the victor, even though it would be easy to do so with 50,000 apps available and over a million iPhone users. As any technology analyst can tell you, there are actually significantly more Nokia and BlackBerry phones in use today than the iPhone, especially in Europe. The surprise is that the OS that seems to be winning the battle (the iPhone) may not eventually win the OS war in the long run.
Stalking your friends and family (and others?) just became a lot easier thanks to Google’s latest app for your mobile device, Latitude. The app simply works by using location-based technology built into one’s cell phone to track their every movement, so you can know exactly where they are, at all times.
Currently Latitude is available for Google’s G1, color-screen BlackBerrys, most Windows Mobile devices as well as other assorted smart phones. Google has mentioned that they’re working on a version for the iPhone, iPod touch and Sony Ericcson phones.
Sadly for Google, they’re a tiny bit late to the party, as other applications such as Loopt and Where are already following people on plenty of devices. But, given the name-power of a company such as Google (as well as the admittedly good work they do), there’s little doubt that this will catch on to be as popular, if not more, than the other guys.
Sound a little creepy? Well, truthfully it is. But, when you think of it as a tool for weary parents to keep track of their kids, or weary kids keeping track of their elderly parents it does make a little bit of sense.
Research In Motion, maker of the Blackberry, is in a bad way. The recent economic crisis has seen their stock fall from $148 to $60 in just 4 months, Reuters reports, leaving the company on shaky footing.
At the same time, Microsoft is looking to strengthen its presence in the handheld market, an arena recently invaded by two of the Redmond giant’s key rivals: Apple and Google. There have been rumors of Microsoft’s interest in RIM for years, but the Blackberry maker’s present financial situation has renewed and reinvigorated talk of a Microsoft takeover.
Peter Misek, an analyst with Canaccord Adams has said “RIM is a massive strategic fit [for Microsoft]. I’m fairly certain they have a standing offer to buy them at $50.”
It’s unknown how strongly the co-CEOs of RIM would oppose such a deal. If they resisted strongly, it’s considered unlikely that Microsoft would attempt a hostile takeover.