Earlier this month, I wrote how Mozilla’s Firefox mobile OS was the future of mobile apps. Why? I believe that the browser will be the operating system for future mobile devices. In fact, Google’s announcement that Chrome OS chief, Sundar Pichai, is taking over responsibility for Android reinforces my thinking.
While former Google CEO Eric Schmidt tried to deny the merging of the operating systems in a recent interview, the fact that the other two major OS vendors are consolidating their efforts provides a strong signal. As pointed out in a Gizmodo article commenting on Google’s changes, both Apple and Microsoft have been working at merging their mobile and desktop operating systems into one. It’s only natural that Google would start moving in the same direction, and what better way to do it than to have both teams report to the same person?
There’s also a strong motivation to merge the two efforts. Maintaining and managing two separate operating systems is inefficient (and hard). Google has exhibited through its spring cleaning efforts that it is not afraid to make tough decisions to reduce costs and inefficiencies. A merger of Chrome and Android, at least from the outside, seems like it would be a slam dunk. In my mind, it would be as simple as encapsulating Android within Chrome and providing a method to install and run Android apps. It may not be the best way, but it could be a simple way to get started while a better and/or more robust solution is developed.
So is this the beginning of the end for Android? I don’t think so – it will survive. Google will somehow fold Android, or Android capabilities, into Chrome OS, but Android will continue to be available on a standalone basis. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google were to step aside as the leader of Android and leave it for the open source community to take over. In this way, manufacturers could continue to use the Android operating system, continue to evolve and grow it with the help of the open source community, and even fold it into their own browser-based operating systems.
When looked at in this context, Eric Schmidt is right on with his comments. Android and Chrome OS will continue to stay separate for a long time. However, he doesn’t say that Chrome will not take on features of Android or allow Android apps to run inside of it, something that people are chomping at the bit to see in their Chromebooks, particularly the Chromebook Pixel. Plus, he’d be foolish to pre-announce the demise of Android. Such an announcement could produce an Osborne effect around Android in which people begin to abandon the operating system before Google has had a chance to migrate them to Chrome.
In the end, I don’t see the merging of the operating systems as a matter of “if”, only”when”.
Things were a bit busy last week, and I’m still catching up on general happenings in the industry. A couple of items that caught my attention were the release of Mozilla’s mobile browser, codenamed Fennec, and the intention of Skyfire to release a version of their browser for the iPhone.
Why did these catch my attention? Well, earlier this year, Opera created quite a stir when it released its Opera Mini browser for the iPhone and then goaded Apple into approving it. Tech punidits were certain that Apple would reject it, but they didn’t. In hindsight, I’m not surprised.
I’ve used the Opera Mini browser on Android and seen it on the iPhone, and while it’s capable, it is not a replacement for the built-in browser. Over the last year, the stock Android browser has come a long way, and Safari for the iPhone has always been a good browser. Opera Mini can’t compete with either of these, and neither will Fennec or Skyfire.
The opportunity for third party browsers has passed. Today’s problem is not compressing web content for the mobile environment. The issue is providing the user with a relevant user experience over the mobile web. What do I mean by a relevant user experience? I mean a mobile website that takes advantage of the features of a mobile phone, such as the touchscreen and location-based capabilities, to present information and content that a user cares about when they’re mobile. For a real estate mobilesite it is searching for properties, for retail it is nearest locations and coupons, for restaurants it is reservations, directions and special offers. The point I’m making is pretty obvious: it’s not about trying to cram a website designed for a 24″ screen onto a 3″ screen, it’s about presenting content relevant to the mobile consumer in a usable manner.
Put simply, it’s not about the browser, it’s about the presentation of the content.
So while I am sure that the mobile browser technology from Mozilla, Skyfire, and Opera is top notch, my advice would be to stick with the stock browsers on your smartphone with one caveat. If your using a BlackBerry other than the Torch, any one of these three browsers is a huge step up from the old BlackBerry browser. The old BlackBerry browser can be summed up in one word – AWEFUL!
OK, enough of the rant. On a lighter note, a new smartphone app caught my eye this week called Bartab. It allows you to send an actual drink to a friend for a $1. You spend $1 to send your friend a mobile coupon for a drink that they redeem at the participating bar you specify. Your friend then has to pay an additional $1 to redeem the coupon. It’s been launched in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but I’d love to hear from anyone who has. In particular, does it work as advertised?
You can say what you like about Apple. You can love ’em or hate ’em, but make no mistake, they’re delivering results – in spades. Yesterday’s quarterly results were impressive, and they were dominated by results from the iPhone. Last quarter alone, Apple sold 8.75 million units. Over the last two quarters, that makes an impressive 17.5 million iPhones have been sold.
Combining those results with other reports from around the web has led me to the following conclusions:
- For those who thought the desktop internet was huge, the mobile internet is going to blow it away.
Mary Meeker and crew’s latest Internet Trends Report reinforced and built on the positive mobile internet outlook from their December mobile internet report. I recommend reading both reports if you are thinking about or doing anything mobile. My key takeaways from their latest report are
1) mobile will be bigger than the desktop in five years,
2) there will be 10x more mobile internet devices sold than desktop internet devices, and
3) mobile usage is more about data (web usage, texting, etc.) than voice.
- Websites will need to be not only accesible but also usable over mobile devices.
Nielsen is one of my favorite research companies because their notes are concise and to the point. A recent Nielsen study looking at the penetration rates of smartphones versus feature phones projects that smartphone will overtake features phone by mid-2011. Why is this important? Smartphone users access data and the mobile internet a lot more than feature phone users.
- While Apple still dominates mobile web traffic, your applications need to work across all platforms.
Quantcast puts out a lot of great information on both desktop and mobile internet usage. They recently reported on mobile marketshare for both operating systems and handset manufacturers. Comparing the two reports against Apple’s results is interesting. In operating system market share, Apple has declined from a peak of over 75% in January 2009 to just over 60% in March 2010, while selling more units. Over the same period, Android’s market share has increased from under 8% to 17.1%. Android’s reach is expanding – rapidly.
- RIM’s mobile web share will improve, and overall usage for the mobile web will follow.
comScore’s February 2010 Mobile Market Share Report reinforced both Apple’s results and the Qunatcast numbers, with one major addition – BlackBerry maker RIM still leads the race with 42% of the market. Apple’s been holding steady at 25%, and Android is quickly gaining on both at the expense of Palm, Windows Mobile and others. RIM’s low mobile web share shows just how poor their platform is for web browsing, but rumor has it that BlackBerry 6.0 will sport an improved webKit-based browsing experience. When that occurs, more BlackBerry users will use the web, and there are a lot of them.
- I expect growth rates in mobile internet usage to accelerate during the second half of this year.
Just like last quarter, the mobile web continues to grow with no signs of slowing. We’ve seen a better than 20% year-over-year increase in traffic to mobilesites that we host. All leading indicators, such as smartphone market share and shipments, point to increased usage of the mobile internet.
If you haven’t put a mobile strategy in place for your marketing efforts, or worse yet, if you haven’t even looked at your web presence on a mobile phone, feel free to contact us. We’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have and help you develop an effective mobile presence for your service or business.
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This week’s mobile news was a little lighter than normal. Looks like the holiday season is underway. But, reading through my feeds this week, there was one interesting theme I saw – mobile browser wars. With all the new smart phones and so called “super” smart phones, mobile browsers add an additional level of customization for mobile users. This week alone, Skyfire, Firefox, and Opera announced new releases with additional features intended to enhance the mobile web:
Over the past few months, I’ve written lots about Android and its future. This week was good for both Google and Android as Time released their Top 10 Everything of 2009 on which #1 is Motorola’s Droid and #2 is Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Both of which are powered by Android. I can’t wait to see what else comes out next year.
AT&T also made the spotlight this week with regards to their data network, fees and poor performance. I don’t understand how AT&T can survive with all their stupidity. I’m getting a little tired of analyzing their problems and providing my insights, so instead, I decided to simply list this week’s articles and let you form your own opinion:
As always, here is a list of this week’s handset announcements, rumors and analyses:
To wrap up this week’s update, here are some additional articles I enjoyed reading this week and wanted to share with you:
See or hear anything else interesting in mobile. Let us know by leaving a comment below.