Of turkeys and eagles

February 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

“Can two turkeys make an eagle?”

If you believe in the occult and in magic, maybe it can. Or if you are a fan of technology being able to do everything including fusing two turkeys to create an eagle, you are a believer or maybe you work for Microsoft or Nokia. Ill not spend a lot of time explaining the turkey and eagle reference of the post. You can get it all here.

Last week in a less than surprising move, Microsoft and Nokia shared stage in London to announce a far reaching partnership between the two companies where Nokia will start using Microsoft Windows Phone 7 OS on their high end smart phone devices and slowly but definitely start phasing out their iconic and immensely popular Symbian platform. The move means different things to the two companies and this post reflects on the present on the future of this partnership.

The announcement is a big win for Microsoft, atleast in getting a solid partner for its WP7 devices. The operating system, while garnering good reviews has not really translated into the kind of sales it was hoping for with the gargantuan investment. It gives the Redmond behemoth a large market for its fledgling OS, one that will span multiple continents and hopefully millions of new users. It also makes its Bing search engine a player in the search wars from a mobile standpoint.

The big question is what it means for Nokia. For certain, it is a massive fall from grace for the once biggest mobile player and architect of the mobile revolution in much of the developing world. It is also a significant chapter in the woes of the Finnish legend that has refused to innovate against the oncoming hordes of iOS and Android. The last quarter was a clear indication of Nokia’s woes. Nokia was, until recently, pursuing a highest open source smart phone platform project titled MeeGo with Intel. MeeGo has seen multiple delays, although Intel believes it has value, unlike Nokia. Intel was supposedly caught off-guard with the Nokia announcement.

The first Nokia WP7 devices are not expected until next year, but the conspiracy theorists are already speculating if Microsoft alum and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was really a Microsoft plant and part of a Redmond plot to takeover the Finnish company. A recent move to replace Nokia USA President with another Microsoft vet is only fodder to the theory.

Apple and Google might have much to gain from this alignment. Both companies have been trying to and have been partially successful in making inroads in developing markets. A void in products from Nokia coupled with the Android plan to penetrate all segments of the market will help. In addition, a rumored low-cost phone from Apple could fit very well into the segment that Nokia so admirably filled for many years.

Only time will tell if the partnership benefits either of the companies but I will leave with a parting note from a wireless industry veteran, who on hearing the news said, “Nokia+Windows=No Win”. For the sake of Nokia employees, the country of Finland, and the thousands of engineers in both companies working hard on the Nokia WP7 handsets, hope that is not the case.

Update: There is talk and also confirmation that Nokia had partnership conversations with Google and RIM which went nowhere and the one presented to Nokia board was only the Microsoft one. Even more interesting (although not very significant based on the scale of the effort) is a Plan B outlined by ex-Nokia folks that is getting some press time. See more here.

Second Update: Looks like Plan B was a hoax after all. Not that it had the muscle to go anywhere, but it doesn’t hurt to wonder the power of the Internet does it?

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Bite sized games

January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you were asked to remember the first game that came to your mind, chances are that it would be “Angry Birds“. This insanely addictive and immensely popular game has captured the minds and fingers of mobile users all over the world. Be it on iOS or Android, the game has taken its place in millions of mobile devices and promises to go even further with smartphone proliferation. Angry Birds is not alone. The Internet is abuzz about a 14yr old kid whose game, Bubble Ball topped the iPhone App Store game download charts recently. And most developers by now have read the BackFlip Studios case study presentation from GDC, where the company charted its growth from a one man operation to a developer whose primary game is a free app that generates over $1million a year in ad revenue.

Are console games on their deathbeds?. Is this the end of full sized blockbusters like Gran Tourismo, Call of Duty and Halo?. No. But there is an undeniable paradigm shift in the kind of games that attract attention and sell. Gone are the days when blockbuster games were PC or console only experiences. Today, the standard for console and PC blockbusters are very high. For developers with smaller pockets and not so infinite resources, the world of bite sized games is much more preferable. The mobile game market is exploding with all sorts of players big and small. Electronic Arts makes big blockbusters like its Madden NFL franchise. It also generates a ton of money selling Scrabble and Sudoku on every conceivable platform from iOS to Android to Kindle. The risk with these smaller games is much lesser than the budgetof a console game which can run a few million dollars. There is also a greater appetite for such games from users who dont mind spending 99 cents to $4.99 compared to the the $49-$59 that pc and console games cost.

To point, consoles now have a significant library of download only titles on the Xbox Live, PSN and WiiWare platforms where smart and addictive games are cheaper to build and play, not to mention, easier to obtain via direct downloads. Game developers and publishers will continue to build multimillion dollar blockbuster titles for the PC and consoles. But they will also prop their calendar and revenue with smaller download only titles that have the potential to turn into goldmines. They will also port such games to as many platforms, mobile and otherwise to reach the widest audience possible and maximize their revenue from the small investment.

It is a great time to be a small developer who can build breakout game hits from the confines of his home office. It is also a great time to be a gamer to experience fascinating games, indie and otherwise on all platforms at a very affordable price. Game On !

Disclosure: I did not invent the title moniker. I first saw its usage here. Since then, some references have popped here and there.

WP7

October 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

Windows Phone 7, the experience, was unveiled to the world earlier this week. In an interesting approach, Microsoft launched the operating system with multiple carriers and multiple device vendors. At launch (Fall 2010) about 10 devices are expected from every major manufacturer not named Apple or Motorola has a device scheduled for launch. Microsoft has also realized that apps and software are what drive smartphone adoption. No one cares if it looks or feels like their desktop. Hence the focus on apps at launch. Also evident is the impetus on highlighting the social aspect of the OS with tight Facebook integration. With a tight requirement list controlling each handset sold under the WP7 moniker, Microsoft is trying to do what it didn’t do with Windows Mobile and Apple does so well with iOS, namely close hardware software coupling. This also ensures that user experience is consistent across multiple handsets that hawk WP7. MS has also used the one successful element from the failed Kin experiment namely the cloud syncing of user profiles, information and data in bolstering the WP7 offering.

With iPhone soon to arrive in Verizon (want to bet on it?) and the Android juggernaut rolling forward, this was a critical launch for Microsoft. It also means something for AT&T which will soon lose iPhone exclusivity (and a lot of customers along with it) and has partnered with Microsoft for the WP7 launch. They have done well until now in terms of drumming up some excitement for the new OS and the handsets that will carry it. Will this translate to meaningful marketshare remains to be seen. To be fair, it would be unwise to expect WP7 to even make a dent on the iOS or Android marketshare. What it can and needs to do is to make Microsoft relevant again. That would be well worth the investment.

The Kin is dead

June 30, 2010 § 1 Comment

A few posts back, I had written the following on the Microsoft Kin.

“The one thing I found extremely interesting is that the Big V network is positioning this as a tween device but with a data plan akin to an iPhone or Droid. This makes no sense. Why would I pay more for a half baked browsing experience with poor phone performance and a good social networking interface when I get all the good stuff and a much better phone, awesome screen and a Webkit based browsing experience with the Droid or an iPhone.”

Turns out, I was not the only one. Microsoft canned the Kin today admitting that the product was a debacle. A few years back, maybe it would have been a marginal seller worth keeping in your portfolio. But with the bevy of Android devices, enterprise friendly Blackberries and the juggernaut that is the iPhone, any other vendor trying to make a dent needs to work extra hard. Hopefully Windows Phone 7 series will get much better traction than the Kin. For Microsoft’s sake.

And yes, its big enough that its trending high on twitter.

A niche handheld device- Microsoft Kin

May 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

Microsoft’s Kin mobile experience is being unleashed on the suspecting public in the coming week [Official Website]. The two devices being launched as part of this social experience portfolio of Microsoft are the Kin 1 and Kin 2. Early reviews [1][2][3] are middling and while the design sensibilities have gotten some praise for its uniqueness (something very refreshingly new for Microsoft) the performance of the next generation social networking driven OS has come for some criticism. There seems to be universal praise for the Kin Studio feature and backup of social experiences- read posts, tweets and thus.

The one thing I found extremely interesting is that the Big V network is positioning this as a tween device but with a data plan akin to an iPhone or Droid. This makes no sense. Why would I pay more for a half baked browsing experience with poor phone performance and a good social networking interface when I get all the good stuff and a much better phone, awesome screen and a Webkit based browsing experience with the Droid or an iPhone.

Coming on the heels of its acquisition of Danger, the maker of the teen crowd friendly Sidekicks, Microsoft has attempted to make a unique device to target the iPhone generation but with Sidekick sensibilities. It should be lauded for this attempt at redefining a niche genre. This also bodes well towards what we can expect from the Windows Phone 7 launch later this year. At the same time, Verizon needs to figure out what it wants to do. Drive more people to the Droid/iPhone combine or truly create a niche in its network- similar to what T-Mobile did for years with its Sidekick fans.

For the design minded reader, there is a nice press kit from Microsoft detailing the design thinking behind the Kin. I liked it. Recommended viewing/reading here.

Disclosure: I do not own a Kin nor is this a review of the actual device. It is just my thoughts based on what I have read about it over the last few months leading up to its launch.

One more thing: For a device platform like this, you dont get to download apps of your choice. MSFT apparently polled 50000 strong target audience and identified apps that it built into the system. Until the Windows Phone 7 marketplace arrives, whenever that is, no more apps for you. Seriously.

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