Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jesus Phone vs. the Cylon, with a guest appearance by the Nexus

I had a chance to play with a Motorola Droid for a bit a couple of weeks ago, and think about how it compares to my iPhone.

On the positive side, the network is much better.....better signal and faster than the iPhone. No surprise there, but an NYT article yesterday blames that on the iPhone's radio rather than AT&T.

For me, the Android killer app was not the nav (which was very cool), but the Dave Chappelle Soundboard. "I'm Rick James, bitch!" as a ringtone is hard to top. The nav was accurate....I have been using the Maps app on my iPhone as a simple nav for a while, and the Android version just makes this a lot better.

Size-wise, the Droid is not much thicker than the iPhone, but it squareness makes it feel a lot larger in a pocket than the iPhone. The physical keyboard is garbage and a waste of space.

App-wise, the iPhone OS is still way ahead, but I think there will be parity, at least of the useful apps I use, within 6 months.

A big issue for me is iTunes. I have a lot of music, videos and photos which are managed from iTunes/iPhoto and dumped into my phone. There is not an easy equivalent for Android yet, though I have seen a couple of beta products (eg. DoubleTwist) that may do the trick, without being quite as simple.

So, I figured I would wait until a Droid sans keyboard came out, and the Andriod ecosystem evolved a bit, before considering whether to jump. And l0! The Google Nexus appears!

I had my hands on one last night at an event. It looks sexy, it even feels sexy with its satiny rubbery plastic. It is thin, with a great screen. It only works on the T-Mobile network for now, but that is rumoured to change sometime next year. T-Mobile's network is a big unknown. They only recently even started turning on 3G.

This does make things interesting in the smartphone market. Having just set up a Blackberry for my mom, RIM seems to be in deep trouble. They will keep the corporate market for a while, but their OS is very clunky by comparison, and there are so few apps.

Android devices are already practically free on a contract, so they are going to really drive smartphone penetration. Some more apps and a media solution will bring Android up to parity for most users.

At that point, the iPhone may become a premium niche product the way Macs were a few years ago. Of course, Steve Jobs figured out how to conquer that problem, and he probably has a few tricks up his sleeve for the iPhone.

The closed environment of the app store is a pinch for developers, but a few are starting to go around native apps and use HTML5 in mobile safari instead.

It will be fun for phone geeks to watch.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sustainable Financial Models--broadcast TV and the Internet

There is an interesting article in today's NYT ( on the slow death of broadcast tv as a business model, in favour of cable tv, where a combination of ad revenue supplemented by subscriber fees provide greater stability and much higher operating margins.

I can't help but think of the analogue of the Internet, where many companies that have found success over the last 4 years did so with an advertising based model that is now under pressure.

The Internet equivalent of cable is the freemium service. An advertising supported free, basic offering is supplemented with subscription offerings. Many of the hot young companies gaining traction are using the freemium model.

The advertising only model is in such disarray that NBC is probably being sold to Comcast. Given the famous discipline of GE, NBC's corporate parent, that is a vote that the broadcast, advertising dependent model is mortally wounded.

There are still areas where advertising dependent models work on the Net, such as blogs, where the costs of production are sufficiently low. But for applications that have to support expensive development teams, you need something more.