The Pixel C is just and oversized phone

The new convertible tablet from Google is available at last, and reviews came as expected from different big media assets. Ars Technica, Engadget or The Verge (in two ocassions, this one and this one) speak about the device and mostly arrive to the same conclussion, expressed very well by Walt Mossberg on The Verge:

Without a decent selection of true tablet software, especially for productivity, it’s just an oversized phone

That’s why Pixel C is another attractive device no one would really recommend. Google’s proposal follows the ones made by Apple (iPad Pro) and Microsoft (Surface Pro 4, Surface 3) but fails at the software part. Android is not ready for that multitasking features we get on these other platforms. Even iOS 9 has included a dual-window mode, and reviews weren’t that nice on that front either.

We’ll have to wait for that hybrid between Android and Chrome OS, I guess.

Follow-up (12/11/15): This new report from Ars Technica shows that Android was probably a last minute solution to launch a product that was meant to be based on Chrome OS and that will probably was affected by the decission to merge Chrome OS with Android. Interesting.

Windows Phone and the bumpy road ahead

IDC released estimates for Windows Phone market in the next few years, and that data is not nice. According to them, Windows Phone / Windows 10 Mobile will have a 2.1% share in the mobile space, and that number will not change much in the next 3 to 4 years.

mokiax

Universal apps “won’t work”, like Ballmer said, and IDC seems to agree. They’re not the only ones, and Jean-Louis Gassée writes about this on Monday Note:

There are well-understood reasons why this slam-dunk idea has never paid off in practice. At one end of the spectrum, we have lowest common denominator mediocrity: Compromises must be made to ensure that a single Write Once code base will work on the smallest, least powerful Run Anywhere device. Imagine music that’s written so that it can be played, without rearrangement, on a flute or by an orchestra. You’re not going to hear many orchestral performances.

To solve the problem, we can go to the other end of the spectrum and devise modules that are tailored for each supported device and bundled inside a universal app. When an app is launched, it determines which device it’s running on and activates the appropriate module.
I certainly see problems for Microsoft in the future, but I also consider this was the boldest of their options in the mobile space right now:
  1. Universal apps: that’s the only way to become themselves a hardware/software ecosystem to compete against Apple and Google. Microsoft is late to the party, yes, but it was late too with the Xbox, and their entertainment business is doing well.
  2. Fork Android: Nokia showed us what an Android fork could work on their phones -remember Nokia X?- and Microsoft seems to have a plan B in mind: talks with Cyanogen suggest a possible Android fork based on Cyanogen OS populated with Microsoft apps and services instead of Google ones. I predict Microsoft will take this road when if Windows 10 Mobile and the universal app strategy fails.
  3. Goodbye, mobile: I really don’t see Microsoft leaving this gigantic market to its rivals, but others have surrendered. Microsoft should focus on apps and services, and would abandon it’s convergent OS  strategy.

I want to be optimistic here. I think Microsoft has a chance, but it’s not a big one. Yes, Android and iOS seem to be invincibles, but it felt the same way with IBM in the 80s, Microsoft in the 90s, Google in the 2000s an so many others along the way.

Numbers are just that: numbers.

The 4-inch iPhone strikes back, and no Android maker is paying attention

Ming-Chi Kuo has been right in the past on his predictions several times, so when he tells us a new 4-inch iPhone is coming, we should believe him. The move is pretty smart for Apple, that will solve several problems at the same time:

  • There will be a solid iPhone 5s refresh: according to his report, “we estimate 15-17mn 4-inch iPhones will be shipped in 2015. We estimate the new 4-inch model will account for 8-9% of total iPhone shipments in 2016F
  • Emerging markets: I wouldn’t say the $400-500 price range is affordable, and emerging markets have expressed their desire for big iPhones (China is a good example).
  • Apple Pay for all: 3D Touch won’t be part of this model, but according to Kuo we’ll have the Apple A9 chip, 2.5D cover glass with curved edges like on the iPhone 6s, and Touch ID & NFC for Apple Pay, which by the way, hasn’t be the star of the show at Black Friday. The cameras aren’t improved from the 5S, but maybe iOS and the post-processing software will help on this. I wonder what will happen with the battery.
  • Metal or plastic?: Kuo predicts the design will be similar to the one on the iPhone 5s, but we know what happened with the iPhone 5C. Plastic could be again an option for Apple, and that could explain a reduced price. The current iPhone 5s is $449-4999 (16GB-32GB model), so I expect the price to be the same (no 3D Touch, no camera improvements, old design). If they use plastic, though, the price should be $399, but Apple is clear on its price tags strategy. Even on that case I suspect not many will protest if they maintain those prices.

Anyway, the move is, as I said, smart. No one in exploring 4-inch high end smartphones anymore in the Android camp, and although we’ve got some nice alternatives (Sony Z5 Compact is $506 at Amazon) the rest of the crowd is using that ‘bigger is better‘ motto.

Not for everyone. And Android smartphone makers should get the hint here. Btw: my guess for the name of Apple’s new baby? iPhone 6c 😉

Update (12/05/2015): Gene Munster seems to disagree with the new 4-inch iPhone potential.

Christmas is coming: OnePlus 2 is invite-free forever, OnePlus X will be just this weekend

Good news, OnePlus lovers. The OnePlus 2 will be available for everyone without an invitation starting tomorrow, Dec 5th.  That’s great news for the patient users who have wanted to get their grips on the smartphone that OnePlus launched this summer and that was his new “flagship killer”.

The step comes at the right time: Christmas time provides a nice excuse to get a new smartphone, and the OnePlus 2 has received great reviews (4.5/5 stars at TechRadar, 86/100 at Engadget, 8.5/10 at The Verge).

You’ve got to remember that this has no NFC of MicroSD slot (the 64GB model is therefore specially recommended) but the screen, the fingerprint scanner, the processor and a nice camera -not top-notch, though- make this model really attractive.

It’s a pity that we’ll have to wait for a invite-free forever OnePlus X, but if you’re interested this model (with an even better price/features ratio, I only miss the fingerprint scanner), this weekend you’ll be able to get it without an invite too.

Source: Just in time for the holidays: The OnePlus 2 is invite-free forever. – OnePlus Forums

Ballmer vs Nadella

Ballmer has never been the shy CEO, but I thought that at times it was just a role he had to play in order to represent Microsoft. His public/business image never worked for me. I can only think of him shouting, and his business decissions were debatable to say the least.

It seems Ballmer was just Ballmer, and the recent critics against Nadella and its strategy are harsh, inelegant and not necessarily smart.

When he says the new universal apps approach “won’t work” and he points out that users must be able to run Android apps on their Windows mobile devices he is making the same mistake BlackBerry did.

Getting other platform apps on yours is not the solution, and it’s not the solution because if I want to take advantage of a platform software and services, I will buy a device that runs these software and services natively.

Your ideas won’t work, Steve. Your ideas won’t work.

Source: Ballmer Chides Microsoft Over Cloud Revenue Disclosures – Bloomberg Business

The SSD democratization

There’s no better investment to update your old computer than installing an SSD on it. Forget about memory or CPU upgrades: you will really feel the difference with that simple upgrade.

This kind of storage was pretty expensive a couple of years ago, but that’s not true anymore, and a new DRAMeXchange report shows this. The cost per gigabyte has been narrowing between traditional HDDs and the new SSD, and the gap will be hardly noticeable in 2017 according to their estimates.

SSDs and hard disk drives pricing

Those prices solve the cost problem. The other advantage HDDs have still today is their larger storage capacity, but even that is starting to feel untrue when you discover that there are 16TB units made by Samsung that solve that issue and pave the way for future advances. This graph by hblok.net shows a clear evolution (full size image)

Hblok

We’ve got similar cost per gigabyte, good storage capacities are becoming quite normal, and new advances in NAND memories (with 3D NAND and V-NAND technologies) promise even better features in the near future. I’d say SSD have already won the battle.

About time.

Windows 10 on the Xiaomi Mi 4 is all about freedom of choice

We are approaching a new turning point in the smartphone market: you’ll buy a smartphone and will be offered the chance to install not different Android ROMs, but different operating systems on it.

That’s what Xiaomi will offer next December 3rd when it makes available Windows 10 to their Mi 4 customers in China. This launch follows a trial Xiaomi and Microsoft started a several months ago.

From Android Authority:

While additional choice is always welcome, it’s not exactly clear what Xiaomi has to gain by offering two operating systems, as the extra support is sure to be resource consuming. Perhaps the company is looking to better cater for the business market, an area that Android could arguable use some improvement in.

I’d say this goes beyond that. It is maybe a message to Google and Android, and operating system that have been commoditized. Makers will be able to offer new options to customers, and that is an interesting move in itself.

Interesting move that adds to Google’s rumored intention to design its own hardware and become itself something more similar to Apple, controlling both aspects of the smartphone.

Interesting times, indeed.