I have been a Linux user since at least 1995. That was the year I bought my first distribution copy of SlackWare 96. I have fiddled with almost every distro you can think of over the years. I can remember going through all the dramas with Linux: the Window Manager wars, the libc mess, the Gnome wars, the growth of Redhat. During all of these moments I honestly didn’t hold it against Linux that I always needed to have a copy of Windows available to get real work done sometimes. Linux was usually the best environment to get development work done for Java or LAMP so I never had a problem not having a proper Office Application. The Dual boot thing was annoying, but, I could get over it with the rock solid stability and close compatibility with other Unixes.
In the last 5 years I have somewhat settled on using “Desktop” distributions. My reasons:
1. Easier to update so I could see new features without having to do some funky configuring.
2. Less maintenance. I like to pretend that my computer is not a hobby that requires constant caring and feeding like a house pet.
3. Easier installation of addons and new software.
I know I’m losing patience with my old age and quite frankly I don’t have the time for spending overnight to get printing to work.
Honestly I was in a state of Détente with Linux because I wasn’t really happy with a few things. Driver support in Ubuntu has always been atrocious and this distro had some of the best driver support. I hated how simple things would not work like my HDMI port. Don’t even get me started on Linux’s lack of support for the Hybrid Graphics in my Dell laptop.
This weekend I updated to Ubuntu 11 with its new Unity Interface and I just realized that I had been using Linux for 17 years and I was still unable to do something very basic: Upload images to PicasaWeb that were loaded on my laptop. First off, all my years mucking about with fstab made me know to load my windows partition as a mounted drive when I installed Ubuntu (that saves a lot of headache, but, frankly why doesn’t Ubuntu mount every partition it sees on the drive automatically?). So getting to the pictures wasn’t the problem. The problem was the the new Nautilus interface that popped up inside of Mozilla Firefox was complete indecipherable. Now, I am something of a UI geek (its why I went to Ben Schneiderman’s school for my undergrad and tried to get a job in that lab) and I have worked with computers with all sorts of weird interfaces (look, I programmed doom into my TI 85 calculator, so I know how to get things done). Its hard to admit, but, I couldn’t figure out how to get to my windows mount inside the file list window. I thought I was losing my mind so I tried another browser, but, they all default to using the Nautilus file browser. I’m sorry, but, after trying for about 15 minutes I gave up.
Good job Ubuntu, I just gave up on Unity at that point. Its clear they never tested this with any user groups. I had Gnome running pretty nicely with CompWiz (Desktop Cubes, extra effects, :)). I switched back to Ubuntu “Classic”, but, I decided to boot into Windows to upload my pictures. The funny thing is that I see how quickly Android has gotten away from the mistakes of Linux. For one thing there is only one GUI for Android (though folks implement add-ons). I find it very satisfying using the stock Android 2.2 Ui on my G2X (drool). Over the years I have been forced into liking stock interfaces and I can say that Android is a nice one. The travesty that is Unity is not ready for prime time. If you can’t bring in a user group consisting of basic users and see how productive they are in using the UI then you can’t make that UI the default. Regardless of Shuttleworth’s feelings about Gnome the decision should have been made to keep users productive even if you are using a messy code base.
I am as shocked as anyone that the Verizon Iphone is a reality. Its very good news for Apple. I am not so naive to believe that it will have any impact on the growth of Android. Android didn’t grow because of an absence of competition, but, because of the strength of the platform.
For those that know me personally, I’ve been working on a great platform idea. I wish I could say more, but, eventually it will be all I will talk about. I am happy to be back in the game, its a lot of fun being at the start of something. Its a chance to jump into something exciting.
Apple has loosened restrictions on developers writing code for IOS. This is entirely to be expected. Apple is a smart company. They can feel themselves losing their grip on the mobile marketplace. They need all the hands on deck to offshoot this winter’s Android tablet invasion. If this year is any indication, Android will dominate the mobile phone market even quicker than I could have expected. I predicted 3 years earlier this year, but, honestly, with 800,000 of one brand of Android phones selling out in a week and no vendor capable of stocking any high end Android phones, the tea leaves are clear. Apple knows that their last and best has to be the Ipad. If the Ipad doesn’t remain the dominate computing platform for media delivery then all those media houses and Apple are in trouble. But, how could the Ipad be that device. First off, its not the best tablet. Its just Apple’s first successful tablet. That is saying something, but, Apple will not be able to hold off the Android tablet phenomenon. There are going to be at least 10 to 12 tablets with more features and lower prices than the Ipad this christmas. Once the media houses realize that they have to do Android apps as well then Apple is sunk in the tablet market. I have to admit that Apple is going to lose this battle not because their product is second best. In fact, if the Ipad was the most amazing tablet pc ever, it would still be a disaster. No one can compete with multiple competitors offering even the same product for lower prices. This fantasy that somehow Apple has an intuitive understanding of consumers will be proven for the bunk it is. The most brilliant product apple has ever created was Apple OS X. Unfortunately there are literally dozens of oses available (most for free) that offer the same or better features than OSX. That Microsoft Windows is dominant is a reflection of the market saturation of Microsoft rather than any inferiority of the Apple products.
Apple is smart enough to accept that they will lose the mobile phone market. They can accept that as long as they can still charge a premium for their phone device (which is why they will never leave AT&T). What they cannot accept is that ubiquitous computing will leave them behind. Apple is not going to be defeated by an Android sword. Instead it is going to be defeated by a million Android paper cuts. Its a familiar feeling for Apple and it can’t feel good about it. Even I wish it would happen to a worse company.
Speaking of a worse company what the hell is Nokia thinking. Symbian 3’s opportunity was back in 2008 before Android hit the street. The moment the G1 came out the opportunity for a new mobile phone stack to make it pretty much disappeared. Android is literally the best we can do right now for a phone stack. I know it sucks to accept this, but, honestly we should have been able to have something like Android with J2ME and I don’t even know how long ago that disaster was. Android’s greatest innovation is that it is an open source mobile device platform. Sure you can make a better platform. But, if you aren’t willing to give it away you can’t beat Android. I suspect that Nokia is going to undergo a painful market readjustment once the failure of Symbian 3 is accepted. Once they and Blackberry start selling Android devices I will invest in them. Otherwise, they are on the wrong side of history.
Before I say anything, let me say that I have a tremendous amount of respect and regard for Apple and their marketing expertise. This is not a slam, but, they sell 5 year old technology and make more off it than even the creators. Thats not their shortcoming, but, its a recognition of how talented they are at the sale. There is a genius in that. Complain all you want about being outdated and boxed in, but, you are getting a product that reflects the ideals of the packagers better than almost anything out there.
With that being said, I completely disagree with Steve Jobs vision of the world. I prefer freedom and independence even if it means that I have to have more diligence and put some effort into making it my own. As a software developer, I find the latest Iphone SDK odious. I can understand that Apple has an interest in controlling the “user” experience for it’s customers. However, frankly its none of their damn business really how I use their devices. To me, this started with the way they responded to “jail breaking.” For those who don’t know, that was the term for the way an IPhone can be rooted so that the users is able to configure the phone as they like and install whatever software they like. As a customer, I think that if you ask me to pay full price for this phone I have all rights to install whatever I want on the phone. While on the Verizon network I was running a Motorola Q with a nonstandard ROM. Though Verizon had a problem with that they didn’t block me from the network or not allow me to get updates etc. I had a nonstandard ROM because I wanted to use extra features that were in my phone that the Verizon ROM didn’t allow. My ROM did not have any impact on the Verizon network (though some customizations may have an impact). Now I can understand if a company feels that they should not suffer negative impact because of some change to a standard release. However, its usually impossible or difficult to tell ahead of time that a particular customization will have a negative impact. Until someone does it in the wild there is no way for Apple to know what impact some customization will have. What I find disturbing about the SDK is that it makes the presumption that developers will do things that have a negative impact. As a developer I find that insulting, but, understandable. However it is illogical. Without any testing there is no way to know these things. Since Apple isn’t testing nonstandard customizations there is no way for them to know ahead of time. Therefore they cannot jump to the conclusion that customizations will be bad.
This latest SDK is really about Apple wanting to further control customization to the IPhone. It is all apart of how Steve Job sees the world. I’m not going to comment on how valid or invalid his world view is. Frankly people can believe what they want about the world. However, this cannot justify him trying to change the world to fit his particular world view. I want the freedom to use what I paid for however I want as long as it doesn’t negatively impact others (such as Apple). For him to presuppose that something I do will negatively impact is quite insulting and infringes on my rights as a customer. It will only be a matter of time, before Apple’s philosophy about closing the user experience becomes a legal issue. It will already become a market issue. Everyone knows that wherever you find lots of programmers you are now going to find lots of Android phones. It is no accident. Developers all like to flirt with the vision of perfection that is Apple. However, when we roll up our sleeves we want systems that allow us the freedom to customize. For cellphones, Android is that platform. As I have said before, over time this will result in a shrinking market share for the IPhone. As I have said, this has happened before.
Since I know the market will correct the influence that Apple has on mobile application development I am not really concerned about what Apple is doing. Apple is doing the worst to their own interests. The current spat with Adobe strikes me as further desperation. If Apple really believes that they are going to have the market share to direct the future of web application development then they are under some grand illusion. Not even Google has that much influence and Google is probably the closest to having that influence.
What I get from all this is more of the old Apple conflict between Jobs and Wozniak (link). This is actually an old conflict between closed and open systems. As influential as Jobs is on consumer electronics is how influential Wozniak is on software engineering. In the end I believe the bazaar will always be larger than the Cathedral. However, I believe there will always be a Cathedral. The thing is that there will be fewer and fewer people flocking there.
Unfortunately, Motorola has decided to leave a gaping hole in their Android device offensive. Motoblur is a great technology. I have a Cliq/Dext and I love how when I press menu something happens in less than a minute. However, I don’t like the fact that even G1s have a later version of Android than me. Also, I have heard that Android 2.0 solves a lot of the problems that I had with Android 1.X. However, I have no way of knowing that because Motorola has chosen to have the Droid be the only “Google experience” Android device. What this leaves for users like me is frankly unclear. As a developer, I know it will take at least 3 months for integration work for a new Android platform to take place before they can do an update for my phone. However, its been more than 3 months since Donut and no OTA from Motorola. This could mean one of many things
1. Motorola has slow developers or they had a problem updating Motoblur to 1.6.
2. Motorola has no intention of doing incremental updates and is working on an Eclair 2.0/2.1 update around February timeframe.
3. Motorola is still using the old phone development model and is going to wait a year before they come out with a version .1 of the Cliq and do an update for all devices then.
Of all these possibilities I hope it isn’t 3. This would indicate that Motorola’s Jha may be missing the market. The pace at which things change is quickening for everyone. I can see how it is hard to appreciate that users would be impatient with a device that isn’t updating every 6 months when people used to keep phones for 3-5 years with no update. However, this is a critical failing. Bluntly, customers want the latest and greatest and they want it for free. This is actually why the on-line pornography business is going to implode. Any sector that had its hopes set on a stagnant market with the same customer demand for years in software is going to die out. Google is demonstrating this to the world everyday. If you don’t accept the Goggle model of continuous, free updates then you are dead in the water as someone else will. That someone else will have your customers the next time you are late with an update. Every day there are thousands of competitors out there looking at your products and business model and trying to see how to “Googlefy” it. That is
1. Create a better user experience for it that is as easy to use as Google search.
2. Make use of more data that is “smarter” about how it does things than your software is.
3. Come up with releases as frequently as they can
4. Provide it with no costs or at the most a low subscription model (And even subscription models are disappearing as well)
What these means for companies like Motorola is actually pretty devastating in the long run. The only way to beat Google is to do like Google and hope that you can still bring in revenue in a fashion similar as possible to your current revenue schemes. Not everyone can offer it for free, but, if you provide 3 out of the 4 things I called “Googlefying” then you stand some chance of a long term strategy. To be fair, Google hasn’t quite figured out a revenue scheme for all the products it creates, so you may actually be beating them to the game there.
Hopefully, Motorola is working on a 2.0/2.1 release that will probably be a minimal version of Motoblur since Eclair includes so many of the features of Motoblur. If not, I will likely keep my phone for at least another year, but, to be honest I won’t be able to afford to keep an outdated device for much longer than that.
I don’t have to pretend to be a futurist (this has happened before ), but, its worth noting. As it stands the Apple Iphone is the 8001b gorilla in the mobile device space. They have over 50 million devices and are racking up record sales numbers every quarter. However, as they have stumbled in the past, they are about to stumble again. I am assuming that Jobs prefers having Apple as a recognizable quantity rather than a sizable one. Apple is going to lose the mobile desktop, just like how they lost the PC desktop. This time, it may be more painful as there are far more investments depending on Iphone dominance. Hopefully, this post can get some folks to avoid major investments. The truth is that within 2 years Android and Maemo will be on more devices than Apple currently has in the wild. In fact, I predict that Verizion wireless alone, will have more Android devices sold in 5 years.
This is not a hard prediction to make as I have seen the movements occuring in the last year. I am quite surprised by how quickly Android has matured in less than a year. I am also surprised by how much better Android is than other phone stacks from its launch. Android is a game changing platform, because, it is the first mobile stack that gives a desktop experience to the mobile market. This is a sea change that will be replicated though not with as much success. The Verizon development was the killer launch for Android. The largest mobile phone provider in the United States is putting its entire heft behind a single platform.
The Windows Mobile and Iphone teams must have simultaneously gasped at this announcement. If not, the end of year reports on Android device sales will. Let me be the first to encourage Microsoft to enter the Android development business and stop wasting money on a platform that has not achieved the quality of Android’s first iteration in its umpteenth iteration. There will be plenty of room in the mobile device space for all competitors, but, soon it will consist of Android devices and those that are not Android devices. Android will set the trends and will be the platform to match in order to be successful. Apple neither has the technical capability nor the corporate mindset to compete with Android. Microsoft is also facing an also ran status, but, will continue to have a sizable market share. However, it will become harder and harder to justify purchasing an Iphone.
That’s it. It is officially on for Android. This platform is beginning to rule.
Thats it, the tmobile G1 is officially awesome. Not the best phone out there, but, Android is a killer app imho. Open Source Phone Stack. Its going to lay waste to all other Phone OSes. All other manufacturers should immediately open source their phone os or face the consequences of the open source revolution being brought to the masses. I would write more, but, I am streaming BassDrive…