It’s no secret that Android is gaining momentum. The release of the Droid on Verizon and the upcoming Nexus One announcement have gotten people’s attention in a big way. A recent survey by ChangeWave shows us just how much Android’s star has risen in the last few months. With the millions Verizon has spent on advertising the Droid, this shouldn’t be too surprising.
In December, ChangeWave asked 4068 consumers that planned on purchasing a smartphone in the next 90 days which mobile platform they would like to purchase. They found that 21% of people planned to get an Android phone, up from only 6% in September. The iPhone still won out with 28%, but that’s down a few points from the last survey. Android’s 15-point jump seems to have also come at the expense of Windows Mobile and Palm’s WebOS, both down 3%. Blackberry weathered the Android storm well, and actually saw a small uptick in the December numbers.
Google’s brand and Verizon’s marketing seem to be combining to lure in consumers. While the iPhone isn’t about to be knocked off by Android, Palm is hanging on by a thread. Just a year ago Palm was the underdog darling of CES 2009, but they may have to pull another rabbit out of their mobile hat to make it to 2011.
“We need a Principle Program Manager who can help drive the platform and bring Xbox LIVE enabled games to Windows Mobile. This person will focus specifically on what makes gaming experiences 'LIVE Enabled' through aspects such as avatar integration, social interactions, and multi-screen experiences,” Microsoft announced in one of the listings.
The company is also on the lookout for a Software Test Engineer to join its Windows Mobile division. The person chosen for the job “will report to the Gaming Test Lead in the Windows Mobile Entertainment team and have the opportunity to make a critical impact the next release of Windows Mobile.” The company clearly wants to offer a unified gaming experience across various device platforms. It will be interesting to see how exactly Microsoft integrates Windows Mobile 7 and Xbox Live.
Mozilla points to the frustration developers experience trying to get their applications onto multiple platforms. They hope Fennec will put an end to that by making web apps the standard. The Firefox creators are hoping to position the new browser to take advantage of the future of web apps, which they claim will win. But didn’t we hear this when the iPhone launched? Apparently Mozilla thinks it will be different this time around.
Mozilla is baking all sorts of goodies into the new mobile browser to try to get mobile users to make the switch. There will be a mobile version of the “Awesomebar” as well as extension support. Current Firefox users will also be able to have their history and tabs sync down to the mobile device. The browser will be out the N900 soon (betas are available now), and on Windows Mobile and Android early next year. The iPhone? Probably not.
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.”
It’s all a numbers game. If the numbers look good, you look good. If they don’t, neither do you. Doesn’t matter if the numbers have meaning, just so long as they exist. Such is the world of perception. And in this world the “maturing” of the Android OS market is not only evidenced, but assured, by it now having 20,000 apps.
What’s the big deal with 20,000 apps? This number puts Android’s app market on par with the older Windows Mobile market (and ahead of Symbian and other mobile device operating systems). And Android’s third-party developers only took a fraction of the time to get there. That, by itself, proves the widespread acceptance of Android which, any day now, will surpass even the mighty iPhone’s 100,000 apps.
In a world where perception trumps reality, this figure, and the speed with which it was achieved, means something. At the very least it can found a self-fulfilling prophecy. Which, if you are Google or a seller of Android-based mobile devices, is a good thing. But whether it is grounds for the enthusiasm expressed by some, only time will tell.
We always take leaked information with a healthy grain of salt, though in this case, it's worth noting that HTC's leaked 2009 lineup turned out to largely true. It's déjà vu for HTC all over again, as the company's 2010 lineup has been leaked to the web.
There are 10 new smartphones in all, with both Windows Mobile and Android devices broken up into four categories: Design / Lifestyle, Social, Performance, and Productivity. And naturally it's the Performance category that's going to draw the attention from power users. According to the roadmap, only one smartphone will fall under this designation. The 'Bravo,' as it's being called, will support DivX playback and 720p video capture through a 5MP AF cam with flash. It will also boast a 3.7-inch AMOLED display and Qualcomm Snapdragon chip racing along at 1GHz. Look for this one to ship sometime in April.
What's interesting about the list is that HTC has seemingly positioned all of its upcoming WinMo devices under the Productivity heading, while Android roams freely about the other categories.
View detailed specs of all 10 upcoming smartphones here.
In an official blog post earlier this morning, the Opera team announced it has released its Opera Mobile 10 Beta 2 browser for both Symbian/S60 and Windows Mobile smartphones. According to the announcement, the use of a new cross-platform UI framework enabled the developers to port the same features and browsing experience to both platforms.
There are a bunch of new features in the latest browser release, including a more intuitive interface, faster browsing with page loads up to 50 percent snappier than with pervious versions, Speed Dial, which allows users to visit favorite websites with a single click, and tabbed browsing.
There are some known issues on both platforms to be aware of. Some of these include only partial IME (Input Method Editor) support (S60), persistent soft keyboard display even when the hard keyboard is out and in use (S60), no plug-in support (S60 and WinMo), certain HTC devices with TouchFLO will force opera back to portrait mode if visiting the home screen when Opera is in landscape (WinMo), and lack of support for non-touch devices (WinMo).
The Droid isn't the only Verizon-serviced phone making waves, nor is Android the only platform in town. Come December 2nd, Verizon will release the Samsung Omnia II, and despite earlier speculation, it will run Windows Mobile 6.5 rather than old 6.1 code.
Available in black with red accents, the Omnia II will ship with a 3.7-inch touchscreen and a virtual QWERTY keyboard with Swipe technology. It will also come with full HTML web browsing capabilities with the Opera 9.5 enhanced browser.
Other features include one-touch access to social networking sites via shortcut widgets, a 5MP camera with flash, auto-focus, and camcorder capabilities, integrated support for Divx and Xvid movie files, 8GB of internal memory expandable up to 16GB vai microSD, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
Verizon and Samsung will price the handset at $200 after a $100 mail-in-rebate (in the form of a debit card) and new two-year customer contract.
One might be tempted to think that Ray Ozzie, chief software architect for Microsoft, spent a prior life at Apple. In a chinwag with technology developers at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference he maintained that the number of applications available for a smartphone platform isn’t all that big a deal. After all, he says, “All the apps that count will be ported to every one of them.” Wasn’t that the Apple mantra about ten years ago?
The crux of the matter, says Ozzie, is that mobile apps are pretty simple to crank out. “Mobile apps require very little development, so it’s much easier to bring them onto every platform,” he told his audience. If a particular app isn’t available now it probably will be in the future, so that shouldn’t be a crucial factor in deciding which smartphone, or smartphone platform, to buy into.
Ozzie’s comments suggest Microsoft is keenly aware of the all the apps currently available for the iPhone. It would hard not to be aware, the way Apple touts this as an advantage. A cynic would conclude that Ozzie is dismissive of app numbers because of Windows Mobile’s current disadvantage in this respect. An optimist might counter that Ozzie has a point: do you really need ‘an app for that’?