While RIM’s PlayBook is late to market, and is receiving a range of positive to negative reviews, RIM has the benefit of a large and loyal user base. Don’t underestimate PlayBook interest in you enterprise just yet.

Apple extends iPads beyond iPhone users
A recent comScore report suggests that over 72.7 percent of iPad owners, don’t own an iPhone. As comScore claims, “Apple iPad ownership extends beyond just fanboys”. This, of course, is a great opportunity for Apple to grow its customer base in the smartphone, and potentially even laptop or personal computer arena.

At the other end of the spectrum, RIM’s PlayBook is decidedly focused on existing RIM customers, at least initially. To say these customers are, by in large, loyal to RIM would be a huge understatement.

According to comScore’s data, 17.5 percent of iPad users have a RIM smartphone. These are customers, like me, that RIM is more likely to lose when they decide to purchase a new smartphone. As I’ve said before, the only thing that keeps me a BlackBerry customer is BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). I’m not updating my smartphone for fear that I’ll upgrade to a new BlackBerry only to have RIM announce that BBM is now available on an iPhone or Android device.

Excluding turncoats like myself, one can extrapolate from the comScore data that upwards of 80 percent of RIM smartphone customers have yet to make a tablet purchase decision, and could be swayed by the PlayBook or a future version of the device. Yes, some within this 80 percent have the option of selecting an Android tablet. But, there’s little in an Android tablet that would convince a RIM smartphone user to choose an Android tablet over an iPad. Said differently, if a RIM smartphone user is going to select a non-RIM tablet, chances are they’ll select an iPad.

RIM selling into the loyal 80 percent
So, for argument sake, let’s talk about this 80 percent of existing RIM smartphone customers and their future plans for a tablet.

A friend of mine won a PlayBook through RIM’s launch party contest in Toronto, Canada. She was able to bring three friends to the party, and I was one of them. Of the approximately 200 to 250 attendees at the event, I counted two non RIM smartphones over the course of the 3 hours we were at the event. Everyone else had a BlackBerry, and was feverishly BBMing, on Facebook or updating their twitter status throughout the night.

After using several PlayBook devices throughout the night, in case one was a lemon, and comparing with my iPad 2, I would say that the PlayBook software needs a little more time. This is not to suggest that the OS or browser is poor quality. However, both are lacking the fit and finish that a few more weeks of development would have afforded.

I am purposely not describing the issues I found. Why? Well, this is not a review of the PlayBook, and I’d expect them to be resolved in the next few software updates.

What’s more important is that my friends at the event, others using the device at the event, and even BlackBerry toting friends and colleagues who had yet to touch the PlayBook appear willing to look past the issues. Luckily enough for RIM, these prospective buyers aren’t drawn to the iPad 2 either.

Trust me; I’ve tried to preach the virtues of the iPad to my RIM loving friends and colleagues, to little avail.

The reality distortion field that RIM co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, once described around Apple and Apple products may in fact be occurring around RIM and the PlayBook.

At the Toronto PlayBook launch event, one user was wowed by the HD video capture and playback, which frankly put the iPad 2 to utter shame. Another couldn’t get over how fast the browser was. Another colleague used the recent revelation of iOS tracking a user’s location as, “just another reason I’m more likely to buy a PlayBook than an iPad”. Finally, to my surprise, many existing RIM smartphone users I’ve spoken to prefer the smaller size of the PlayBook.

For all the reviews about the PlayBook, existing BlackBerry smartphone users are still quite impressed with the device.

Whether they’ll purchase version 1.0 or wait for a future release is an open question. And yes, it’s unlikely that the PlayBook will draw in new customers to the RIM franchise, at least initially. However, keep in mind that RIM enjoys well over 60 million smartphone subscribers.

Don’t count the PlayBook out, just yet
Talking with several RIM staff, from their development team and developer outreach program, I left the event much more confident in RIM’s future than when I arrived at the event. They are also doing more with open source, which I’ll cover in a follow up post or interview.

While nobody said it in so many words, there’s a real sense of pride and scrappiness in what they’ve delivered and what’s coming, whether in the form of software updates or PlayBook v2.

The vast majority of RIM’s 60 million plus subscribers are eagerly waiting as well. Some will surely purchase the PlayBook v1 and want to bring it into the enterprise, especially if travelling.

Enterprises may be reluctant to adopt PlayBook v1. However, the great hardware specs mean that the PlayBook v1, with updated software, will be a great tablet for some time to come.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.”

A high profile VC and a well-known mobile application developer were recently involved in a debate about whether to build for Android or Apple mobile platforms. The answer it turns out is, it depends, or both, or simply build for the mobile browser.

App developers and companies have different goals, so why follow the same advice
Well respected VC, Fred Wilson, principal of Union Square Ventures, has previously suggested that developers interested in the largest user base should invest as much, if not more, in developing for Android as they do for iOS. Wilson justifies his recommendation by looking back at the desktop operating system market. Wilson writes, “I believe the mobile OS market will play out very similarly to Windows and Macintosh, with Android in the role of Windows.”

Countering Wilson’s advice is Marco Arment, founder of Instapaper and former lead developer of Tumblr. Marco suggests developers need to keep a closer eye on development economics, degree of fragmentation, payment integration, and the willingness of users to pay for applications or extensions on a given mobile OS platform.

Marco’s advice is likely to resonate with individual developers hoping to directly monetize their mobile application either through selling the application or through in-application purchases. Over time however, one shouldn’t bet against Android closing the gap versus Apple along the lines of development economics, payment ease of use and fragmentation.

It remains to be seen whether Apple’s platform can continue to generate higher application and in-application purchase revenue for developers even while Android boasts the #1 mobile OS by unit share. Today, the App Store revenue gap between Apple and all other mobile platforms is striking.

On the other hand, a company that sells goods or services which are exposed through the mobile application, but does not monetize the application itself, needs to pay more attention to Wilson’s advice. If the vast majority of a bank or retailer’s prospective users are going to use an Android device, the company had better offer a compelling user experience on that platform.

But why choose between developing for Android or Apple?

Build mobile web browser applications
It’s somewhat amazing to watch companies that don’t rely on directly monetizing their mobile application invest in native mobile applications for iOS or Android. In a rush to be the first to market, companies optimized for a device rather than following the cross-platform and cross-browser web application strategy they’ve used for the better part of a decade.

Not surprisingly, this will change thanks to HTML 5, CSS 3 and JavaScript.

For instance, if TweetDeck, which is best known for its thick-desktop client, can see the light and deliver the same user experience in a web-browser across desktop and mobile devices, chances are your company’s web application can evolve into a mobile web browser application without paying the cost of device-specific implementations.

The key element of TweetDeck’s announcement is that “TweetDeck Web, however, is a standalone web site and requires no downloads, no App Stores and is not limited to any one brand of web browser.”

No App Stores is a win for the browser
The “no App Stores” angle obviously has its pros and cons. However, unlike individual developers, companies that aren’t monetizing the mobile app itself don’t need to rely on an App Store to attract users. They already have users and other processes to attract new users. Their users simply want to interact with these companies through mobile devices. Putting the company’s web application into an App Store adds extra hurdles for users and for the company when it comes to fixing defects or updating the application with new features.

If users begin to rely more on App Stores and less on the Internet itself for finding new vendors of goods or services, being in the App Store of choice will become as important as being listed in Google’s web index. But we’re years away from this scenario becoming reality, if ever. In the short to medium term, established companies can well address new and existing customers through a mobile web browser application.

It’s strange that Google hasn’t recognized the mobile browser-based application opportunity and is instead attempting to replicate Apple’s App Store strategy. The browser undermines the value of the underlying OS.  And since Google doesn’t much care to profit from the underlying OS or the device, unlike Apple, they should be encouraging companies to build mobile web applications, not device-native applications. Google should be indexing and promoting these mobile web browser-based applications.

Consider cross-device frameworks as a step towards standard browser applications
For individual developers and companies that need to be an App Store, or want to access more of the device native capabilities, such as the camera or GPS, then evaluate the various cross-device frameworks previously covered on Open Sources. For instance, PhoneGap already has an impressive list of cross-device native feature support. Using a framework such as PhoneGap, and their build service could make it easier, faster and cheaper to build applications for Android and iOS, instead of having to decide which platform to prioritize.

Over time, standards will emerge to access core mobile device capabilities, such as the camera or contact list, in a cross-device fashion. Whether this occurs through defacto standards around a framework such as PhoneGap, or a formal standards body efforts is unclear. Maybe Google will smarten up and realize they have more to gain by spearheading this initiative than trying to play Apple’s App Store game.

If the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that the browser is the application runtime that matters most. Build for the browser.

Follow me on Twitter at SavioRodrigues. I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.”

Here’s a BusinessWeek article about how “Microsoft is Fighting Back (Finally)”.  The most interesting part is about Microsoft’s new “Windows Anytime Upgrade” strategy. Here are some details:

“Because of the smaller size of Windows 7, three versions of the program will come loaded even on lower-end machines. If a consumer on a cheaper PC running the “Standard” version tries to use a high-definition monitor or run more than three software programs at once, he’ll discover that neither is possible. Then he’ll be prompted to upgrade to the pricier “Home Premium” or “Ultimate” version.

Microsoft says the process will be simple. Customers enter their credit-card information, then a 25-character code, make a few keystrokes, then reboot. Brooks says pricing hasn’t been determined, but upgrading “will cost less than a night out for four at a pizza restaurant.””

After reading this, I instantly thought about Cote excellent post titled “The Return of Paying for Software” from last summer.  Cote wrote:

“When it comes to making money with software, the iPhone App Store is the glossiest example of trend I feel creeping up on us: people paying for software.

Yes, people have been paying for software forever, but the expectations for most consumer software of late has been that it’s free.

The change here is an environment where people will spend $0.99 to $20 for a piece of software. I often comment that this user-mentality – spending small amounts of cash on software – exists in the OS X world, but it’s been lacking from others.”

While I initially balked at the thought of a popup window with: “Hey, it looks like you can afford a high definition monitor, so why not get the most out of it with Windows 7 Home Premium, for an low price of $19.99?”, I’m willing to give this idea the benefit of the doubt.  This recent NYT article (via Cote – that man is Gold!) explains the success of an iPod/iPhone game called iShoot, and is a reason behind my openness to the Windows Anytime Upgrade strategy:

“In January, he released a free version of the game with fewer features, hoping to spark sales of the paid version. It worked: iShoot Lite has been downloaded more than 2 million times, and many people have upgraded to the paid version, which now costs $2.99. On its peak day — Jan. 11 — iShoot sold nearly 17,000 copies, which meant a $35,000 day’s take for Mr. Nicholas.”

Consumers are getting accustomed to acquiring software for instantaneous incremental gratification.  The consumer gets some value off the bat, but is faced with a purchase decision to get incremental value.  When the consumer decides to follow through with the transaction, the gratification is instantaneous, not tomorrow in the mail or through a 4hr download.  With the Windows Anytime Upgrade strategy, consumers would get some value off the bat.  Upon hitting a feature/function wall, a purchase decision would be presented.  And if the consumer chooses to transact with Microsoft, it seems that the incremental value would be provided on the spot, without having to download or acquire and install another DVD’s worth of an OS.

Seems like an interesting strategy that’s much closer aligned to how consumers pay for software today.  Maybe an unexpected outcome of Apple’s App Store strategy is to educate consumers ahead of Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrade strategy.

Okay, I’ll admit it. Like many of you, I’m easily impressed by shinny, beautiful objects.  Apple products typically fit that description to a tee.

So far, I’ve done my best to not buy Apple products, for the simple fact that Apple doesn’t trust me to do what I want with Apple products that I pay for and own.  (Note, my wife owns an iPod and I borrow it from time to time).  I still find it shocking that Apple can get away with such a closed stance.

Reading about the “iPhone kill switch”:

“…such a capability exists in case Apple inadvertently allows a malicious program to be distributed through the App Store.

Jobs is quoted saying: “Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull.””

Just imagine if Microsoft or a hardware provider such as HP had put in an equivalent “feature” on PCs. Seriously, talk about a double standard when it comes to Apple!

I was going to argue that Apple should have learned the lesson from the early PC vs. Apple computer market.  But the truth is, Apple is happy to remain a closed ecosystem and not face the downward pressure on prices that ultimately results from an open marketplace.  Apple must have realized that closed and beautiful wins out over open.  They’re just applying that learning to the iPod/iPhone applications market.

I’m pulling for RIM to offer mobile application developers with an open development platform without restrictions on the applications that developers can build and users can freely choose to run. It remains to be seen how/if RIM can offer the user experience of the iTunes store for RIM-based applications and content.

ClosedVery insightful post from Cisco’s SVP & General counsel about the iPhone trademark negotiations with Apple:

“What were the issues at the table that kept us from an agreement? Was it money? No. Was it a royalty on every Apple phone? No. Was it an exchange for Cisco products or services? No.

Fundamentally we wanted an open approach (emphasis added). We hoped our products could interoperate in the future. In our view, the network provides the basis to make this happen—it provides the foundation of innovation that allows converged devices to deliver the services that consumers want. “

Makes you wonder how much longer Apple can continue with a walled garden approach. However, if Cisco was seeking some form of exclusive interoperability rights with the Apple iPhone, then maybe I can see Apple’s point (i.e. wanting to interoperate with a multitude of vendors/products).

[UPDATED: 2007-01-12] From Slashdot this morning:

“In an interview with the New York Times, Steve Jobs confirms reports that the recently-announced iPhone will not allow third party applications to be installed. According to Jobs, ‘These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them.’ In a similar vein, Jobs said in a MSNBC article that, ‘Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.'”


The pic is from Gaetan Lee at Flickr and just felt right :-)

By now the interweb has several articles and opinions on the new iPhone from Apple. It looks like a sweet device ;-)

Silly iPhone Prototype from EngadgetAside from wanting to use this picture from Engadget, the reason for this post is to question the value of open source during a consumer purchase decision.

We all know that a key benefit of open source is the freedom and choice that the consumer/user/purchaser is granted.

But if we look at arguably one of the most successful consumer electronic device marketed in the past 5 years, the iPod, you quickly see that freedom and choice are lacking. Apple considers the iPod a closed platform, and along with iTunes and its DRM “protection”, Apple may as well send along a pair of handcuffs with every iPod purchase. And yet, over 70 million units have been sold since inception in 2001.

Back to the iPhone:
First, Apple & Cingular/AT&T entered into an exclusive multi-year agreement around the iPhone. So, it’s only available to Cingular customers for some period of time until the exclusivity agreement runs out. One should be able to unlock the iPhone and use it on another network, but some features (like visual voicemail) will likely not work. Score another point against freedom & choice. As Cingular’s CEO said in the keynote:

“iPhone owners will be Cingular and AT&T customers…”

Second, the iPhone runs OS X. A logical decision for a company that develops their own operating system, namely, OS X. (Where have we seen this story before?). But the following quote from Jobs makes it sound like OS X was the only answer. Linux would have been another answer. But that would have meant duplicate development effort and cost, even if greater freedom and choice would have been a customer benefit

“Why would we want to run such a sophisticated OS on a mobile device? It’s got everything we need. Multitasking, networking, power management, graphics, security, video, graphics, audio core animation…”

It’s a little funny that the people who back open source and sing its praises are usually very happy Apple iPod or Mac (and future iPhone?) customers. I started to wonder why considering that Apple has historically been such a closed entity, and most of their products limit customer freedom and choice. Is software freedom and choice only important during our work day and unimportant during our consumer lives? Are we willing to trade software freedom and choice for coolness, usability and enjoyment? I’d say that the latter seems to be the case not just for open source backers who are Apple aficionados (to varying degrees), but definitely for the average consumer that is not very technical. If so, then can we not make a case where open source doesn’t “take over” the software world. Instead we see is a software ecosystem in which open source and traditional software co-exist in some (happy) balance?


Disclosure: I do not own an iPod. My wife does and I used to use it when I was traveling for work (which I don’t do anymore). I’ve been waiting for the iPhone before buying an iPod. I don’t know when the iPhone will come to Canada or which network it’ll be on….but if you’d like to send me one in the summer, I’d be your friend and write you a glowing recommendation on LinkedIn ;-)