I knew there was a reason I was keeping my old Think Outside Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard from my Windows Mobile days. Windows Mobile and for that matter Blackberry and Palm had Bluetooth keyboard profiles in 2005. Apple has finally implemented the keyboard profile for both the iPad and now the iPhone.
The Apple keyboard profile is compatible with the Think Outside (acquired by iGo) StoweAway keyboard.
Here is a picture of my 5 row Bluetooth keyboard paired to my iPhone 4. The fn + key don't seem to work which makes sense but otherwise it is fully functional. There is also a smaller 4 row keyboard which is available on eBay northwards of $170. It has crossed my mind to sell it but I like the portability.
Since the days of gray scale LCD screens on PDAs, the stylus has been the invaluable tool which allowed you to precisely navigate the small screen. With killer applications like the venerable PhatWare Calligrapher, which converts hand writing to text, you can use the stylus to mimic the analog world of pen and paper. Along, with integration of cell phone technology, the hope of a converged hand held device for your mobile life was starting to become a reality. As cellular data and push email where implemented, the world was starting to be at one's stylus tip. Microsoft along with Palm were visionaries in understanding that the success of this new world was tied to the innovation of third party applications and there again the stylus played a key role in providing an easy way to access application functionality. Although, Research In Motion has proved, with its thumb keyboard, that not everyone was or is a stylus devotee. However without the stylus the BlackBerry never became an multi faceted application device. The Windows Mobile vendors adjusted quickly to that fact and offer the best of both worlds with physical keyboards and/or styli support.
Four years ago, Apple through a monkey wrench into the device design paradigm by introducing the iPhone, a device with no stylus or physical keyboard. Google Android has followed suit by providing a finger friendly OS which does not require a stylus but does allow for form factors with physical keyboards like the Motorola Droid. On the Windows Mobile front the HTC HD2 is the first device that I know of, that does not ship with a stylus. As we slowly move towards Windows Mobile 7, will the stylus become extinct? With the talk of capacitive styli (HTC HD2 stylus) for the new breed of touch sensitive screens, designers seem to be on the fence and if a majority of users are not clamoring for a stylus, over the next couple of years the stylus could become instinct.
What are your thoughts, do you use a stylus or do you prefer your finger?
Apple and the iPhone just keep trucking along with a record quarterly sale of 7.4 million iPhones and 440,000 Macs. The only disappointing news was slightly lower iPod sales, but Apple still holds 70%+ of the MP3 player market. Maybe the Zune HD is having an effect! (I had to say it)…
The interesting tidbit in all of this is that smartphone competitors are throwing everything they have at the iPhone and are barely dinging it. It seems that even the mighty Verizon is growing concerned and have now started to attack the iPhone with the Motorola Droid TV ad.
That said Apple still has a formidable opponent; Research In Motion's BlackBerry holds 51% of the smartphone market (IDC), while the iPhones is at less than half with 22%. The basic reason is that Apple has neglected corporate functionality especially on the email front (when do we see full Exchange ActiveSync functionality?). Tim Cook's (Apple COO) response is that iPhone is being piloted or deployed in 50% of Fortune 100 companies and he is very pleased. From my contacts in the Federal government and corporations, IT is begrudgingly allowing the iPhone but they are not supporting it. This means users are on their own, which is very problematic for most users. Until Apple can show they are serious about corporate requirements they won't make a real dent in RIM's lead.
I have taken 2 cruises in the last 3 years, one to Alaska and this recent one in the Mediterranean. The cruise in Alaska was on Holland America, a cruise line owned by Carnival Corp. and this recent cruise was on Regent Seven Seas owned by the Apollo Group. Both cruise ships had internet and cell phone service. Both services are offered via a satellite link provided by SeaMobile, although the cellular service (Cellular@Sea) is managed by a subsidiary called Wireless Maritime Services which is joint venture with AT&T Mobility.
The cellular functionality on Regent's Seven Seas Navigator provided GSM/GPRS and CDMA/1XRTT voice/data services. As I remember it the Holland America ship only had GSM service, but by now it probably has been upgraded to handle CDMA traffic as well. The ship's cell site only operates when the ship is out of range of local cellular service. It is a roaming service where your cellular carrier bills you for all voice and data. The costs seem to be fixed across all US carriers at $2.49 per minute for voice calls, $.50 to send an SMS, $1.30 to send an MMS, and $.0195 per KB for data. The fact that all carriers are charging the same seems like price collusion but who am I to say. The Bottom line it is expensive, but much cheaper than using the wired phone in the cabin at $6.95 per minute. Also carriers offer data plans which can be very beneficial for heavy email users, Verizon offers a global unlimited email plan for $69.99 per month and includes cruise ships. AT&T International Data plans do not include cruise ships which is a real shame. I talked to both AT&T and Verizon customer service before I left. They gave me detailed information, provided me with alternatives and more than once warned me about the costs. Given the articles that have surfaced about surprise bills (especially with the iPhone); it is clear that carriers are going out of their way to educate consumers. The catch you have to call them. Even if you think you understand it all, I strongly urge everyone to call their carriers before leaving on trip abroad. AT&T emailed me an FAQ about the iPhone, and Verizon emailed a detailed rate chart with the list of countries I planned to visit.
On the internet front, both cruise ships I have been on had Internet cafes with workstations, the Regent Seven Seas Navigator even had WIFI throughout the ship. The service is run by another arm of SeaMobile called MTN Satellite Services. They charge by the minute and the cruise line can offer several different plans to its guests. On the Seven Seas Navigator I had the option of 250 and 500 minutes. As part of Regent's loyalty program, after you cruise 21 nights you get free internet which is a very nice benefit. The 250 minute plan was $87.99 with a first time registration of $3.50. The 500 minute plan was about double. Additional minutes on the 250 minutes plan were $.35 and $.25 on the 500 minute plan. I find it interesting that they charge by the minute rather than the Kilobyte, but given all the activity I saw in the Internet Café I can understand why; minutes should get people off of the workstations faster but I was amazed how many people seemed oblivious and where typing email tomes in web based editors. I was told by the Internet Café manager that the average speed is about 65Kbps per user. Unfortunately I neglected to run a speed test, but from an end user perspective it was not broadband but response times where decent. If you want to see the world and have some IT skill they are looking for people, here is the job description.
I ended up purchasing the 250 minute plan which over 11 days gave us about 22 minutes a day. Since I had problems with my Sony VAIO P's wireless drivers, my wife and I ended up using our iPhones. We would connect to download email, disconnect, respond off line, then connect again to send. One of my major pet peeves with the iPhone's email application (ActiveSync/Hosted Exchange) is its inability to deal with deletions offline (you get an error message). I would love to know how Apple thought that was a good idea…Anyway, the plan worked out well and I even had some minutes left over to go to the Internet Café to check in with United Airlines online and print our boarding passes. I also tried Skype on the iPhone using the $2.95 per month unlimited subscription plan to call phones in the US and Canada. It worked well, the person on the other end heard a little breakup (I would expect that with constrained satellite uplink speeds), but we heard them very clearly. This made calling much cheaper ($.35 per minute on our plan) than using the in cabin wired phone or on board cell system, but still more expensive than the calling card (although you need a dry land wired phone!). During the entire 12 day trip we only had a couple hours one evening where we could not get connected. The default web page told us that interference was blocking the satellite signal.
I think bringing your own computing device makes a lot sense so you can perform tasks off line to save your minutes, and then connect for data transmission. I saw a couple of Dell Mini notebooks, and a Mac book. On the mobile device front, the BlackBerry was king (looked like mostly corporate types), although iPhones were around. I did see one bulky satellite phone (it reminded me of early cell phones), why someone would think you need one on today's cruise ship intrigued me, maybe they owned it or their company wanted them to have failsafe communication. The gentleman had to stand outside on the pool deck to make a call. I also thought that newer satellite phones could switch between cell and satellite.
The bottom line is that staying connected on a cruise today is possible and easy. You just have to do a little research on plan options with your cell phone carrier or purchasing an on board internet plan (I suggest bringing your WIFI enabled smartphone or netbook) make to cost manageable if you need to stay connected without needing to be online 24/7…
The saga of bringing SlingPlayer to the iPhone has been a real soap opera, but the release of the application even though crippled by the lack of 3G functionality is still a milestone. Sling Media confirmed it was building a SlingPlayer for the iPhone last March, a year later they submitted the application to Apple. Since then it seems that AT&T, Apple and Sling Media have been in a tussle over whether to allow the Sling Player to stream over the 3G network. AT&T even modified its Terms of Service to block Sling Player type applications to use its network, and then rescinded the change. Last week they reinstated the ban on with this language: "Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service". They equate the iPhone to a personal computer.
With the release of SlingPlayer, according to engadget, last night AT&T felt compelled to issue a statement on the subject (I could not find the official statement), but engadget published this:
"Slingbox, which would use large amounts of wireless network capacity, could create congestion and potentially prevent other customers from using the network. The application does not run on our 3G wireless network. Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service. We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.
That said, we don't restrict users from going to a Web site that lets them view videos. But what our terms and conditions prohibit is the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to their personal computer or smartphone.
The Slingbox application for the iPhone runs on WiFi. That's good news for AT&T's iPhone 3G customers, who get free WiFi access at our 20,000 owned and operated hot spots in the U.S., including Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, hotels, and airports. AT&T is the industry leader in WiFi."
It almost sounds like AT&T is apologizing for the inability of its network to handle the potential load. You could view this as a brave move on their part, essentially admitting to capacity weaknesses in their network and it the end saving them from more network performance issues which have plagued them since the release of the iPhone. Maybe Verizon should promote the fact that their Terms of Service does not block this functionality; under their Permitted Uses section they state that "(iv) uploading, downloading and streaming of audio, video and games;" is permitted.
As everyone in the blogosphere is pointing it out, there is no mention that the 3G functionality is available on the version of SlingPlayer for Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices, although I think the Terms of Service also covers those devices, so I guess I can longer use my Windows Mobile SlingPlayer on their 3G network.
Although the SlingPlayer for iPhone lack 3G connectivity, it is priced at $29.99 in the App Store the same price as for other mobile platform with 3G support. I went ahead and purchased it and I have to say that the user interface is pretty cool. Hopefully with their planned network upgrades, AT&T will allow 3G functionally sometime in the near future.
Apple sold 3.8 million iPhones last quarter in 81 countries; 1.6 million of those were activated on the AT&T wireless network. Approximately 640,000 of those were new AT&T customers. Those are great numbers but not as impressive as the total combined iPhone/Touch count of 37 millions. In March Apple announced that they had reached the 30 million mark at the end of December 2008, which means they sold 3.2 million Touch in the first quarter and through March 30, 2009 have sold 20.8 million iPhones and 16.2 million Touch.
Even though the Touch is not a phone, it is a email/internet capable mobile computing device. If you include the Touch in a Windows Mobile/Blackberry comparison, the iPhone OS platform leaves Windows Mobile in the dust and it is fast on the heels of the Blackberry. As Apple has dominated the mobile Music Player world, it looks like they are on track to dominate the mobile email/internet mobile computing device marketplace.
With comments from Verizon and AT&T lately, it is also clear that sooner or later a bidding war may erupt for exclusivity once the current contract with AT&T is up, Verizon has their 4th generation LTE network is running, and Apple delivers an LTE capable device. I would love to see an iPhone LTE device available on both networks. This would let AT&T go head to head with Verizon on network coverage and performance, but I am afraid Apple won't be able to refuse the cash incentives.
Gartner just released their 2008 Smartphone sales estimate this week. On a device manufacturer basis Apple came in 3rd place behind Nokia and Research In Motion (RIM). On an Operating System basis, Apple's OS X came in 4th behind Microsoft's Windows Mobile. Nokia's Symbian was 1st and RIM's Blackberry OS was 2nd.
The interesting number in Gartner's report is the growth between 2007 and 2008 worldwide market share:
The Symbian 2007 market share was 63.5 %, and 2008 was 52.4%; a decrease of 11.1 points, a 17% loss.
The Blackberry OS 2007 market share was 9.6% and 2008 was 16.6%; an increase of 7 points, a 73% increase.
The Windows Mobile OS 2007 market share was 12% and 2008 was 11.8%; a decrease of .2 points, a 2% loss.
The OS X 2007 market share was 2.7% and 2008 was 8.2%; an increase of 5.5 points, a 204% increase.
My take on these numbers is that the real race is between the Blackberry OS and OS X, while Symbian and Windows Mobile have the most to lose. The questions for 2009 will be whether Apple can break the Blackberry corporate hold with their 3.0 release (March 17th SDK announcement), is Microsoft's slide real or just a blip, and will Palm make a miraculous comeback with the Pre.
As with any statistics you can view the numbers in many different ways and come up with your own conclusions.
Last week the Hill newspaper (via arstechnica) reported that "iPhones are a must-have for Congress". According to the Hill "The Chief Administrative Office (CAO), which oversees the communications systems for the House, has begun testing a small number of iPhones within its ranks to see if they are compatible with the working needs of lawmakers and staff.". The article goes on to say that their email system is currently not compatible with the iPhone because they use the Blackberry Enterprise server, but that is incorrect.
The House and Senate use Microsoft's Exchange server as their main internal email system. With version 2.x of the iPhone's firmware you are able to connect to the Microsoft Exchange server directly. There is no need for Blackberry's convoluted architecture (it was innovative in the 90's, but now seems archaic) which requires messages to be funneled to/from Exchange via Blackberry's Enterprise Server then to RIM's Network Operation Center (NOC) in Waterloo, Canada and finally transmitted to/from the cellular network. With the iPhone and Exchange everything happens over a secure SSL Internet connection directly to the House or Senate's Exchange server (Windows Mobile devices work the same way). There is no intermediary server or NOC required.
As pointed by the Hill, the major issue with the iPhone is whether the available functionality provides what congress needs. The lack of some key Exchange ActiveSync functionality like email search, and creating appointment invitations may hamper its adoption, but I understand the move is on by many staffers on the Senate side to switch to the iPhone even though they are paying for the devices themselves and have to sign a document stating that they will not receive any support. It is now up to Apple to ramp up its Exchange ActiveSync functionality and make it harder for congress' IT organizations to stem the trend towards the iPhone.
The Microsoft Exchange group understood the power of the iPhone when they licensed Exchange ActiveSync to Apple. Last night Apple reported sales of 6.9 million iPhones in the last quarter. According to Steve Jobs, this outpaced sales RIM's Blackberry sales for the quarter. Since every iPhone is shipped with Exchange ActiveSync they are capable of connecting with Exchange Server, however for now I am sure there is only a small percentage of iPhone users like myself which connect to Exchange. This is mainly due to corporate IT blocking the iPhone and the lack of marketing of Hosted Exchange Services for individuals and small businesses. Apple also chose to implement the minimum functionality for Exchange ActiveSync to work, but they have a dedicated team working on adding key features like the ability to create invites to calendar appointments and synchronizing tasks.
As of today Apple says that they have sold more than 10 million iPhones this year. At this point I am not sure how the Blackberry and Windows Mobile fend off Apple's attack. Today is also when T-Mobile's Android based G1 goes on sale in retail stores, I will be curious to see if any lines are forming... There are reports of 1.5 million units pre-orders, I seriously doubt it, but that does not rule out the G1 being a success for T-Mobile and according to reviews it is somewhat a worthy competitor to the iPhone. I think the iPhone needs a competitor to keep Apple on its toes, unfortunately I think the G1 is the closest one we have. The HTC Touch Diamond/Pro/HD, the Samsung Omnia and Sony/Ericsson X1 are all very good attempts at making Windows Mobile more of a touch environment but they are hobbled by what is now considered an archaic user interface paradigm. I am sure some will differ and praise the paradigm as more efficient, but that does not mean it is user friendly or intuitive. I think it is clear that the overall marketplace has decided that touch is better than using a stylus. The lessons of the current marketplace is probably why Microsoft has chosen to delay the launch of Windows Mobile 7. They have a lot of work to do...
To paraphrase Mark Twain, I think that reports of Windows Mobile and Blackberry's death have been greatly exagerated. The smartphone's marketplace is huge, Windows Mobile and Blackberry both currently have a lock on corporate smartphone use, and Apple has a ways to go to meet corporate functionality needs. But with Apple current quarterly results the marketplace has spoken and even though it is the consumer who has chosen the iPhone hands down, Windows Mobile and Blackberry need to step up or in the long run they could become a casualty.
I think the good news for Windows Mobile is the appointment Terry Myerson as corporate vice president of the mobile communications product group. Myerson oversaw the successful re engineering of the Exchange platform into Exchange 2007. Hopefully he can make Windows Mobile 7 a success, until then I am sticking with the iPhone.
I ran across this press release from canalys.com, a technology research firm, providing shipment estimates for smartphones in 2007. They breakdown their statistics into five major OS' in the smartphone market place; Symbian (Nokia), OS X (iPhone), RIM, Linux and Windows Mobile. They have statistics about Palm shipments but no breakdown between Palm OS and Windows Mobile. On a side note I find it interesting how journalists seem to want to lump devices by manufacturers rather than by OS. In my opinion this leads to misinformation, especially for the consumer. I think the OS is a critical part of the decision making process when selecting a device.
In the Q4 of 2007 North America was the fastest growing smartphone market with a 222% increase vs EMEA's (Europe, Middle East, Africa) growth of 79%. This is significant growth which I attribute to individuals becoming aware of smartphones with the introduction of the iPhone.
In the US Q4 2007:
OS X (iPhone) 28%
Windows Mobile 21%
This is quite interesting compared to the world stats for Q4 2007:
Windows Mobile 12%
OS X (iPhone) 7%
From a world competition Symbian leaves everyone behind in the dust while the next four are pretty much in the same league, yet Windows Mobile leads the pack behind Symbian. From a mail perspective the lone wolf is RIM, other than Linux everyone else supports Exchange ActiveSync. That said it was incredible to see RIM growth numbers for the last quarter (+2.2 million subscribers). It just goes to show how important name recognition given that RIM is still behind Windows Mobile on features. We will however have to wait see how the stats add up at the end of the year, when the iPhone has had a full year under its belt. Apple is within spitting distance of RIM and could overtake them in North America and possible the World once 2.0 and a 3G iPhone are out. The statistic also show that the US/North America has been behind in the adoption of smartphones but is catching up quickly. From a Microsoft perspective the worldwide statistics are actually pretty good, but they need Windows Mobile 7 very badly to make any progress against RIM.
I think this also shows how the US/North America marketplace has been behind the rest of the World in the adoption of smartphone. This is due to the subsidy model which pushes customers towards cheap phones, however thanks the Apple customers are slowly getting more choice and its looks like things are taking off. A very good situation for all of us who have felt that we had very little choice of advanced handset compared to what was available Europe. This off course is contrary to the claims from the CTIA's commercials that the US has the most choices and advanced cellular network (laughable in my opinion)...