Archive for ‘Windows Phone 7’

August 20, 2011

Tech Wars: The Battle for Smartphone OS Dominance

By Matt Fleischauer, The Auri Group

It was recently decided that the new team members here at The Auri Group would each contribute to the Auri Group Blog.  Being the newest and least experienced person on the team, Naturally, I was chosen to be the first person to contribute.  I gratefully accepted the challenge with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye. Fear sets in. What am I going to write about? I know! Google just announced that it is buying Motorola Mobility. I can write about that! Relief, a topic has been chosen.

Cool. I recently installed the Eclipse IDE, the ADT plug-in and created my first “Hello World” Android App.  I’m excited about learning to develop Android apps with all the possibilities that this open source OS has to offer. This acquisition of Motorola Mobility will be good for Android for sure, right? It’s already a wildly popular OS and with their own handset company they’ll be better able to compete against the likes of Windows Mobile and iOS, right? I decided that I had better learn a bit more about this so I hit the Web.

Woa! Ok, there’s a lot of discussion on this. Google is buying Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion dollars. Cool. That’s a lot of money! But wait, what’s all this discussion about patent infringement lawsuits filed against Google? Ok, so Google may have been remiss in acquiring patents for its new technology. Hmm. Google puts in a bid at an auction to purchase Nortel patents. That’s interesting. Hold the phone. Microsoft and Apple are teaming up, together, as in working together? They are teaming up along with other companies to outbid Google on these Nortel patents?  Wow, they really don’t want Google to get these patents! Ok, proprietary vendors win that one. Hmm. I wonder if that is why Google is buying Motorola Mobility. I bet they have a lot of patents. Ok, yep, they do have a lot of patents. Well, that will probably help with the patent issues. I’m confused though. If Google can afford to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion dollars then why were they out bid for the Nortel patents for 4.5 billion? They could have outbid them, right? I don’t get it.

Wait a minute! What will the Android handset manufacturers think about this move to buy Motorola? What a can of worms. Hmm, it appears that they are OK with it. What? Now there is speculation that Microsoft could buy Nokia? Now that’s what I call keeping up with the Jones’s. This could get interesting.

The more I learn about this the more my head hurts. Companies file patent lawsuits.  Companies buy patents from other companies or buy companies with patents in defense of patent lawsuits. It seems that these companies should spend more time in innovation and less time in litigation. Oh, maybe it’s not all their fault. The patent system in the United States is being questioned by some as broken and creating favorable conditions for frivolous patent lawsuits. It sounds like there are a lot of lawyers making serious money with all this patent litigation going on. I should have been a lawyer. No, I couldn’t do that. I would hate it.

The pending purchase of Motorola Mobility by Google is like anything else in life, the details and reasons for things are often far more complicated than you first realize. The consequences of our actions can be equally complicated and difficult to predict. The technology business, smart phone OS and device development in this case, employ heavily the use of patent litigation offensively to stifle advancement and innovation by their competition. Of course, companies have every right to protect their proprietary IP. However, it appears that the patent system is being exploited beyond its original intent. The way the patent law in the US allows for the patent of an idea rather than the implementation of that idea seems to be a major enabler of this type of behavior by companies.

It remains to be seen who will prevail in this Battle for Smartphone OS dominance. This move could help Google increase the rate of Android adoption in the market or it could backfire. Many factors will need to play out before the dust settles.

February 26, 2011

Striking a Balance: The Case for Windows Phone 7

I am a firm believer in balance. Balance is the key to creating a product that is to be successful in the long run. Striking a balance in the many aspects of a smartphone is a rather daunting task. However, the various teams behind Windows Phone 7 (or WP7) have risen up and delivered a very promising family of devices. Consequently, I have come to believe that WP7 will be a success in the booming smartphone market. In this article, I will compare WP7 with two of the most prominent smartphone ecosystems today – iPhone and Android.

A Balance in Hardware Choices

Let’s begin with hardware. The Apple iPhone is a single device, with a single set of specifications (ignoring radio hardware differences between GSM and CDMA networks), running iOS. It has a set screen size, display resolution, CMOS camera with an LED flash, the iconic single front button, and various other characteristics. But the key point is the fact that, if a consumer wants a current generation iPhone, there are only two choices to make – the network and the amount of internal storage.

Now consider Android. It is an open source operating system from Google. There are dozens of current generation devices from different manufacturers out on the market, with widely varying hardware specifications for screen size, display resolution, camera, internal and external storage, the presence of a hardware keyboard, processing and graphics capabilities, battery life, and even different versions of the Android operating system and its interface. The plethora of options can easily overwhelm even tech-savvy consumers into analysis paralysis, until they decide that it’s just easier to get an iPhone.

Finally, let’s look at Windows Phone 7. It is an operating system from Microsoft. There are currently nine available devices worldwide from different manufacturers. Many of the hardware specifications are identical, such as display resolution, processing and graphics capabilities, the presence of a GPS, and a standard front button layout. Other hardware specifications differ between devices – physical screen size and technology, the presence of a hardware keyboard, amount of internal storage and a few others. WP7 strikes a balance between the monotony of an iPhone and the confusion of Android.

A Balance in Software Development

Apps can be developed for the iPhone only on an Apple operating system, which generally means that Apple hardware must be purchased. There is a large community of third party app developers, to whom Apple rarely pays attention. All apps that developers submit to the App Store must be approved by Apple, in a process that can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. Apps may be rejected for confusing and even plain inaccurate reasons. Apple reserves the right to reject any app that it finds objectionable in its view.

Android apps can be developed on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. There is a community of third party app developers, who are often assisted by Google engineers. The Android Market does not have an app approval process, so any submitted app is approved by default. Google does, however, reserve the right to remove apps if they violate the terms of the Market agreement. Due to the nature of this process, numerous malicious apps have been released and downloaded by unsuspecting users. However, there has been recent news coverage that Google is improving their app policing efforts.

WP7 apps can be developed only on Windows, which most modern Apple computers can run perfectly. There is a community of third party app developers, who are often assisted by Microsoft engineers. The Marketplace has an app approval process similar to that of Apple, save a couple of exceptions: Marketplace apps tend to be approved or rejected in a matter of days to weeks, and the process is more transparent. Again, Windows Phone 7 strikes a balance by rejecting unstable and malicious apps on one hand, and being more open about the process on the other.

Bringing It All Together

As I have been praising the virtues of balance, I must point out that I am biased toward Windows Phone 7. I have been developing apps for it more than for iPhone or Android, although I have worked with all three. Additionally, I enjoy the both the development experience of Visual Studio and the user experience of Metro on WP7 more than the iPhone and Android experiences. Having said that, I still believe that the balance struck by Microsoft with the Windows Phone 7 product will benefit them, as well as the entire WP7 ecosystem, in the long run.