In the February issue of The Knightly News, I mentioned five tech trends that I thought were on the rise and five that were…rising in the other direction. For this last issue, I examine how much things have changed since then.
It looked like iPad was set to sweep away all the competition, and that has largely been the case. While Apple has sold around 2.4 million units, its competitors have barely managed 1 million, and that’s a generous figure. The Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Asus Transformer, Blackberry Playbook, and HP Slate 500 have been met with a large “meh.” The iPad 2 is a strong step ahead of the rest, which continue to struggle to compete with the original iPad. I also thought sales might slow a bit as the hype faded, but that certainly hasn’t been the case… yet.
I noted that Android was being fired out of a rocket and that new updates were promising, as the OS expands into the new form factors. Every 4G phone on all four networks runs Android, and they are aggressively grabbing market share. However, fragmentation is starting to take its toll: tablets run 3.0, smartphones run 2.3, TVs will get 3.1, and the track only gets more convoluted from there. Plus, Google is becoming the evil capitalist by restricting what phone makers can do with the software, and preventing unlocking.
3. Smartphone (hardware)
Plenty is new on this front. Qualcomm and other chip manufacturers are providing mind blowing updates. The latest 1.5 Ghz Snapdragon processor is…wait for it…6.5 times faster than the iPhone 4! Suppliers plan to get a 2.5 Ghz to market soon, and want closer integration of graphics to increase battery life. Even if one does not care for ridiculous silicon, you can still be happy that prices on existing hardware are going to go down.
4. Cloud services
Not too much noise here. Most of the updates to cloud services have been under the hood: performance updates, graphics enhancements and the like.
5. Windows Phone 7
Microsoft has been very aggressive in pushing its new system with heavy discounts on phones and nice bundles with games and even Xbox 360s. The marketplace has over 11,500 apps at this point, and it’s growing about 1,000 per month. Microsoft has already rolled out two updates to its phones and a major update is expected later this year, as well as the release of some new phones.
Blackberry is still falling, fast. Their Playbook hasn’t materialized yet, and most of their new announcements have been yawn worthy. They’re mostly updates of existing phones, and as I mentioned before, there are only so many ways to slice a portrait QWERTY keyboard, screen, and trackpad.
2. Video Chat
Facetime and Qik launched with some nice fanfare, but has anyone actually used them? Skype is undoubtedly the king here, but that’s mostly because it’s a desktop client as well. Mobile networks just can’t really handle the stress at this point, and if you have to sit at a Wi-Fi network, why not just break out the laptop?
So, I didn’t see the merger with T-Mobile coming, but the doomsday predictions of the Verizon iPhone haven’t been as earth-shattering as expected, mostly because everyone who wanted one is already locked into AT&T contracts. Their 4G plan is confusing because they are promoting network upgrades to rival 4G speeds while creating an LTE plan, so they are, in essence, claiming to have two kinds of 4G. They are probably in a holding pattern right now as people try to figure out their next move.
There are at least two 4G phones per network now, but the problem is that 4G saps battery like no one’s business, and there are often pricey premiums for 4G data plans that will make many question its worth. T-Mobile merging with AT&T might help, or it might create a huge mess, as they try to reconcile their bandwidth differences into meaningful upgrades.
This might be the most profound change I will have to make, but I might put Nokia very low in the winner category, up from worst loser. Why? They signed a deal with Microsoft to get some exclusive inside benefits to the Windows Phone 7 OS, finally dumping their Symbian OS which was terrible. MeeGo is now a secondary priority, and now that they are using someone else’s software, all that money for research and development can be cut, giving them better balance sheets. They plan to have new phones out by 2012.
By Simon Wu, Technology Editor ’12