Monday, March 18. 2013
There has been a lot of talk about Google's displacement of Andy Rubin from the position of Android master in chief, surely one of the most successful product line executives in recent Silicon Valley history. Why replace the executive in charge of Android with Sundar Pichai the executive in charge of Chrome OS and Google Apps ? Isn't the move, based on the market success of the products these two top level executives manage, the wrong way round?
I have to state up front, I am in no way a Google insider. I don't know anyone who works at the company or anyone who can confirm or deny rumours. So with that caveat firmly stated, it strikes me there are several strong possible, if not probable, broad strategic motives behind this move (beyond his general obvious competency in his role within the company).
If you look at this from Google's standpoint as distinct from the "I'm a more than happy Android user" standpoint, the simple fact is Android is not the operating system Google will most want to succeed. Chrome is. And if we give some thought to the benefits of bringing Chrome OS services to Android, its clear several birds are killed with one stone.
Chrome is the original dream of the computer business coming of age. Only it's not the original dreamer IBM, who looks set to make it succeed, but the twice removed young nephew pretender, Google. The delivery of hosted services to a thin media capable client has always been a powerful idea. In the past, in the 80's, it was thought that by centralising computing power, the central host would be able to bring compelling cost benefit efficiencies that would enable the service provider to obtain a scale and dominate with a service the user simply couldn't afford to ignore. Famously the dream failed to come to fruition, with Microsoft and IBM's own personal computer playing a key role in its failure. But the feeling there is something in the proposition never went away. At the end of the 90's, Oracle's Larry Ellison set up Network Computer Incorporated, promising the thin client would be reborn in the age of the Internet. It failed then also and the company pivoted to producing TV middleware instead.
Most agree, the reason why the dream failed was because a rich user experience could only be supported by local computing power. Put the processing on the other end of a network cable and the experience became laggy and appeared to be too database driven. As Apple have amply demonstrated, people like personal technology. They like technology they can reach out and touch and that does their bidding quickly and efficiently more than they liked a model which promised low maintenance and economies of scale at some point in the future. But since the IBM thin client era, the internet has occurred. Now the focus is no longer on processing power - a phone not much larger than a 4-5 inch screen holds all the processing power most people ever need. So now the focus is on data and personal networked shared data. With this shift and the fact the thin client is now the "thin-in-size-but-oh-so-powerful" rich media mobile device, the model is starting to make more sense and hold a lot more appeal. Chrome-books aren't the public's device of choice, yet, but there is now more than the stirrings of public interest. Chrome is teetering on the edge of widespread adoption and backed by Google's deep pockets clear tenacity and seamless integration with Android, there is a good chance software as a service revenue streams will finally come of age, and potentially in spectacular style.
With centralised services computer companies can fulfil Gates's dream of software-as-a-service and impose themselves like a tax on every user. Wonderful for the central tax authority and, quite possibly also not too bad for the user (after all, as much as we complain about taxes - they do get us roads, schools, bridges etc). So this is the first bird that can potentially be killed by a Chrome pebble. Push Chrome into Android and build in and re-enforce the OS with real value add where Google can't be cut out of the picture. So this is the first bird stone killing:
Dead bird 1, Real sustained revenues from diversified sources.
Next up is Samsung. The reality is Google have, in no small measure, helped make Samsung one of the most valuable companies in the world. Samsung make more money from the sales of the Galaxy S3 than Google corps entire revenues. Not to mention other Google competitors such as Amazon having taken Android and used it to create one of the most powerful competitors with the Operating system itself. Samsung have unveiled the S4 to mixed reviews, but did so with much fanfare, massive marketing budget and yet there was nary a mention of their greatest strategic partner and technology enabler; Google. This is remarkable to say the least and portends stormy seas ahead for their relationship. Unless Google can steer Samsung on a better course.
Through Android Google have been funding a lot of success and seeing very little themselves. Their revenues still come from advertising and it is entirely debatable if their bottom line has been enhanced one iota by Android. Yes Google state significant revenues from Android in their annual report, but in the main this is a simple statement of Ad revenue from the Android platform. On the same basis they could claim to have an iPhone division with even greater revenue. They spent several billions to buy Motorola, a very questionable acquisition, and the patents have turned out to be worth jack-shit in relation to the task they bought them for. As much as fans of the operating system love to love it, there remains a very good argument that in pure business terms, it has to date been a net negative to the business (apart from the very positive buzz and positive radiated value that buzz has so far had on sustaining Google's share price). But if Google continue with Android in it's current form and without re-shaping their strategy, nothing but trouble lies ahead. Samsung will be emboldened. They are already taking the Tizen route in collaboration with Intel, but that is likely to fail. In the event it does, the pressure to Samsung to Fork Android will continue to grow. It is simply unsustainable for a company to be investing billions in developing a product that makes billions for other businesses, but generates no demonstrable payback for the owner and investor. At some point, without the upside story being fulfilled, the market will wake up to this simple fact.
But by baking Chrome services into Android in a compelling way, Samsung will be left facing a difficult choice. Cut out Google and cut out value Samsung alone can't hope to deliver. Stay with Google and accept they can't differentiate themselves so effectively from their competitors in a cut-throat market. If Sundar Pichai makes Android work better and more seamlessly and Chrome OS'like with centralised Google services companies like Samsung will come under pressure to pay a heavier Google toll.
In my view, the likelihood is Google can win this one and bring Samsung back into the fold. Consumer electronics companies have never evolved to do software or web services particularly well. Sumasung certainly have the financial muscle to fund projects to buck this trend, but the bigger and in my opinion more significant question is if the have the culture that will allow them to do so. So that gives us the next dead bird.
Dead bird 2, Samsung back under control.
While this last point might seem like a big strategic concern, it's not the biggest worry on Google's plate.
More significant is that their greatest nemesis isn't Apple or Samsung. It isn't a company at all, but rather a rapidly emerging new world superpower. Far worse, under the protective shield of that power, Android now has the potential to irreparably damage not just Google, but the entire US Californian tech industries strategic position in world computing.
Establishing an OS and ecosystem has always proven to be a extraordinarily hard thing to achieve. Through the history of IT, there have been very few winners. But once achieved the totality of the influx of riches and ancillary benefits towards the OS epicentre is incalculable. Consider what Microsoft did for the US tech economy and scene both willingly and unwillingly for the past 20 years. Yet industry insiders will tell you, Samsung apart, there are Chinese manufacturers, such as Xiaomi, valued at 3 billion less than 3 years after startup, gaining immense traction in the World's biggest smartphone market (yes, I'm sure Broadstuff readers know that's China - no longer the US). And in China, Android is almost wholly a Google free proposition (and not just free of the Google brand a-la Samsung but free also of all Google services). It seems Google were unceremoniously hounded out of the country through strategic government sponsored attacks but Google have gifted their greatest strategic enemy the OS it needs to become the new epicentre of all things mobile in tech. Indeed, if the worst case emerges, this has the potential to go down as one of the greatest corporate strategic miscalculations in the history of tech. It's already got the most valuable company in the world rattled (hint, not Google). A and there is potentially a whole lot worse to come.
Perhaps I'm wrong, or ignorant, but by my reckoning Google and Apple have absolutely no chance of making significant headway in China for delivering centralised services. I believe, come what may, there is no prospect that an Authoritarian regime is going to allow the commercial businesses from a rival superpower to filter in intimate detail the daily interactions of its netizens. The data mining power and strategic asset services like Google Mail, Siri and Google Now, Google and Apple Maps, iCloud and Google Drive provide is mind-blowing and in a couple of key dimensions (extent and consent) far exceed anything possible by even dedicated spy agencies. I have little doubt this scenario the Chinese government will avoid at all costs. And let's not get into the additional intrigue added to the mix by the current heightened military tension around the Korean North/South divide, with the South an ally of the US and the North an ally of China. Is it even remotely conceivable politics will not find a decisive way to intervene in the commercial development of Android in Chinese IT market ?
Android has been (rather excellently) described by Benedict Evans as an unguided missile. Google launched it and didn't really know where the strategy would end up. But through the subversion of Google's intent with Android, mostly in China, there is every chance it will come right back and strike the launcher.
By baking Chrome OS like Google service features more seamlessly into Android and you have a strategy, of sorts, for re-attaching a guidance system and an outside hope the rocket can be brought under control. The problem is, it will only be possible now to do this from outside China where Android has already been forked and through a hope and a prayer, through dominating services supplied to non Sina countries, that China's own netizens will start to excerpt a social pressure to allow superior foreign services in. However this seems somewhat forlorn hope because, for it to work, said foreign services a) have to remain significantly superior than Chinese home-brand services - and b) netizen pressure on the Chinese government would have to result in a tangible change in policy re-openness. It's a difficult thing to predict the future, but I'll strongly suspect this will not be happening any time soon.
(not so) dead bird 3, the potential for China to redirect the Android missile right back at Google and the US technology industry as a whole.
So it seems like this last bird is one too many for a single stone and is likely to get away.
Oh well. Two out of three ain't bad. Just a shame the escapee is the goose that lays the golden egg; the pre-eminent stranglehold the US has held over the technology world through software operating systems.
Still at least there's Apple.
But hold on, it seems the Chinese government may already be finding ways to damage their business too.
My Twitter Feed
Saturday, October 29. 2011
Suddenly it clicks. What Steve Jobs had in mind for improving TV (as reported by the New York Times) and why he felt he could do something special with it. And as so often before, he was ahead of the curve.
There was a psychologist I once read about who studied behavioral patterns and was researching the tendency for human thinking to get stuck “on rails” and fail to innovate. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the psychologist, but I do remember clearly a story he told about a female interviewee. The psychologist was studying a woman while she was preparing a roast to be cooked in the oven. He observed her cut off a corner of the meat with kitchen scissors before placing it in the baking dish. 'Why did she do that?' he wondered, and quizzed her about it. But the woman didn’t know why. After thinking about it a bit she said it was just how she had been taught to do it by her mother.
The psychologist then went and interviewed the mother and asked about how she prepared the same meat dish. The mother talked through it and when asked why she had taught the daughter to cut the corner off the meat, she replied “I remember doing that. I often had to do that to get it to fit in the small baking dish I used to use.”
This story gives the perfect example of how we are creatures of habit. Once we learn a way of doing things, we tend to stick with it, often without questioning why. Steve Jobs was famous for his ability to buck these kinds of psychological blinkers. So when the fruit eating perfectionist, said to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, of TV "I've cracked it.” The rest of the TV industry would do well to sit-up and take note.
I have been skeptical Apple would release an Apple TV set (e.g. not just the little black box) but now I’m not. Primarily I was skeptical because Apple’s modus operandi is to deliver technology which meets and excels over the needs of the majority through judicious simplification. Whilst it has been clear to me for some time, TV’s have some dreadful “thinking on rails” design features (like the fact on many, you still have to cycle linearly through AV source after AV source, when changing AV source is now one of the most common operations I want to use the RC for), still they in the main, pretty simple devices – at least in day to day use. There is a degree of unnecessary complixity and I can certainly see how they can be improved. But I couldn’t see there was that much to frustrate with current TV solutions that the improvement would be in the “must have” category. There never seemed to me to be much opportunity for Apple to get their teeth into the problem and apply the 'less is more' philosophy they have so successfully employed for technologies with more complex use cases.
But now there is Siri and the answer has suddenly become, "because less can be so much more."
The biggest problem faced for years by the TV industry trying to deal with convergence has been how to reconcile lean / back versus lean forward modes of use. The TV is firmly what the industry refers to as a “lean-back” device, but all attempts to make it more connected / interactive / social have suffered because they entail less comfortable lean-forward mode of use. Things have improved greatly over the years, but still lean-back TV viewing sits uncomfortably with lean-forward style interaction. The connected TV has never quite managed to shake off a debilitating reputation for schizophrenia.
But that is about to change because now there is Siri. For those who have been hiding under a rock and don’t know what Siri is, it is a technology allowing natural language to control of a device and can also perform tasks. It is proving to be far more capable of understanding advanced grammar and natural ways of speaking than any other voice control solution.
Once more, just as the world is asking if they can possibly do it again, Apple are about to mainline a new category of device. The connected voice controlled information / entertainment system and it won’t have even one ounce of schizophrenia. Siri allows the user to talk naturally and ask for things using language as we already know it and use it.
Start to think about how voice control can be used with a TV and survey the impressive results Siri is already starting to bring iPhone 4S users and it soon becomes clear just how big this can be.
On the following matrix, I compare the kind of use-cases keyboard, button and touch interfaces are good for. Clearly this will be something of a subjective exercise, but I have tried to ensure I have been even handed in evaluating the relative strengths of each interface type for each kind of activity. The last column is something of an odd one out. In the last column, I estimate whether the Use-Case is a significant one in the context of the connected TV.
Look at the results. At first it looks like a fairly random spread. 1 = not well suited. 2 = middling. 3 = well suited. So clearly typing on a spreadsheet is less suited to voice control, a Remote Control or a touch device than it is to a keyboard and mouse. It is also not particularly well suited to a TV. Requesting the latest episode of a Podcast can be accomplished much quicker with a voice interface. “Siri, play me the latest episode of the Archers”, is likely to be far quicker than retrieving the latest episode by navigating a graphical interface with a remote control or mouse.
Here is the thing that really stands out for me with this table. For every use case I’ve thought of that is of higher relevance to the connected TV, voice control provides an as good or superior method of control than the others listed. The one exception here is gaming. But gaming apart, if Apple are implanting Siri technology in an upcoming TV as the New York Times suggests, it seems Jobs will indeed have cracked it.
Thursday, September 29. 2011
Before the Kindle Fire was launched I was thinking it would be less a rival for the iPad and more a rival for other Android tablets. Now I think it is a really effective rival for the iPad. Amazon have out Apple'd Apple through effective implementation of the "less is more" philosophy and Apple finally have serious competition in the tablet space. The answer to one simple question will worry Apple more than anything else and illustrates why, to my mind at least, Amazon are about to pull off a great success;
"Which is the more techie device ?"
The answer for tablets pre-Fire was never iPad. Now it is.
Amazon have also, for me, illustrated why Apple are right in their complaints about Samsung copying. Here is a company who have come along, analyzed the problem and thought carefully about how they can best leverage their assets to serve the market. It will be a success precisely because they have learned key lessons from Apple and applied them intelligently. Amazon have attacked an internally consistent and coherent portion of the tablet Use Case that also happens to be the most significant Use Case for tablets as a whole; Content consumption. The result is something unique and effective, an always open portable shop for content be it games, books, music, movies or apps. They have recognised, according to the "less is more philosophy," if you look at how tablets are actually used, you better serve the majority of user time by taking "iTunes" or the online store, and expanding it to be not just the centre of the OS but the whole of the OS. They have played to their strengths and asset base made the OS the centre point for loading and consuming content. iOS by contrast fragments the buy and "consume content" use-case across a number of areas of the OS (most noticeably dividing iTunes and iPod). The Fire illustrates iOS has perhaps a little more old school PC centric thinking than even Apple realized. I'm pretty sure Steve Jobs will be highly respectful of what Amazon have unveiled and achieved - something that can't be said of his other tablet rivals.
Friday, July 8. 2011
As Corporal Jone’s would have said “They don’t like it up-em.”
[UPDATE see a development to this story at the end of this post, the Times really are in crisis mode - it will be interesting to see if this time they publish my comment, or just keep digging]
A newspaper should not be about the suppression of news and views. Ever. Yet that is precisely what News International owned The Times has done. What is worse, they censored the legitimate, non-profane, reasonable feedback of a paying (non-activist) customer; Me. Twice.
What I wrote is only provocatively worded because they had already effectively banned wholly legitimate comment. Read what I wrote and you will get the gist.
This is the text of the second, comment I submitted last night, (after they failed to publish the first) against The Times article "Hacked to death: News of the World is shut down". Interestingly, it was actually published for about a couple of minutes, before being taken down, thus confirming it was actually actively censored:
“OK I submitted a comment half an hour ago saying pretty much the following:
So let’s put this in context. This is a newspaper, which claims to be at the quality end of the market, trying to bury a paying customer’s feedback questioning the motivations for the actions taken by senior management in the owning group during a time of crisis. The hypocrisy of a newspaper taking this action is simply staggering. It is wrong on every level, and confirms News International are an inauthentic organisation, at least in their moderation of user comments. But let's face it, that inauthenticity has now been shown to have spread through several departments of the organisation. So which nodes has the cancer spread through (and from) ? Having censored my first comment, which I’m sure was uncomfortable reading for them, but not at all provocative, they then censor the second, which was admittedly more provocative but for good reason.
Sorry News International, I may be small fry, but this is the age of the Internet. The balance of power is shifting. I do have a voice. It’s not as though I’m a left-wing activists seeking to see the back of you. And now I'm annoyed.
Here is the documentary evidence of the post:
Unfortunately I didn't get a shot of the fact it had been published. Perhpas naively thinking they had let it through and it would remain published.
UPDATE: The Times really are in crisis mode. I have returned to the story to see if they have published my post (they may do once there are more comments so it is buried by the volume) and found this comment by a Times staff member. You can see I have replied to it. It will be interesting to see if this time my comment is published.
Monday, May 16. 2011
Well that makes a change. Lodsys, instead of hiding behind lawyers, have issued a very public Q&A on their approach to iOS vendors offering in-app purchase. Even if you don't agree with software patents at all, it's refreshing to see a company like Lodsys trying to address the concerns of the tech community head on. In it they confirm the reading of their patents I gave yesterday and that it is indeed US7620565 they are seeking to charge the app vendors licensing fees to use. Indeed they have published the ballpark of their proposed license fee which they say is constrained to %0.575 of US app revenues for apps using their "invention."
While I'm impressed they have faced the tweet-blog-o-sphere head on, and applaud the fact they are seeking reasonable rather than extortionate remuneration, there are as a result of their Q&A some further points to be raised. Anyone who has read my earlier posts on software patents will know that whilst I'm highly critical of them, I don't think the concept is entirely meritless and my criticism is directed towards the current standards of examination and the fact for several years there was opportunistic in-filling of the patent database and that standards for has been allowed to pass as a novel technical effect have been nowhere near strict enough. Indeed the standards have been so derisible, the whole concept of software patents has possibly been irrevocably damaged in their eyes of the wider tech community.
So here are the comments I have against the Lodsys, after having read their Q&A (again I have to add the usual disclaimer. Though I do have some experience with Patents, I'm not a patent lawyer and you must use your own judgement rather than follow my advice. I'm not responsible for any decisions or business decisions you may make as a result of reading this):
1) The lodsys patent is a case in point. The threshold for examination for this one appears to have been inexcusably low. Looking again at the first independent claim, which practically speaking sets the footprint of this patent:
A unit, comprising: a memory; a transmitter; and a processor, coupled to the memory and to the transmitter, configured to: monitor a product for an occurrence in the product of a trigger event of a predefined plurality of trigger events, increment a counter corresponding to the trigger event upon detection of the occurrence of the trigger event, cause the display of a user interface, configured to probe for information regarding a use of the product, if the counter exceeds a threshold, cause the memory to store an input received from the user interface, and cause the transmitter to transmit the input to a server.
The problem here is that if you remove the phrase "regarding a use of the product," the claim still reads perfectly well and there is nothing technically new and that has not been seen literally thousands of times before the 2003 filing date [edit: though there are continuations which would require some study to determine the practical date which prior art needs to precede], that wasn't clearly done by a multitude of e.g. client server databases. However the phrase "regarding a use of the product" is a pure social (e.g. non technical) description of the use of information. As such adding it in makes no additional contribution to a novel technical effect. In other words, the patent is not novel and it doesn't add anything to the pre-existing state of the art. It's simply bad.
2) Given the patent is, in my judgement, bad, it is legitimate to wonder if the Lodsys strategy and apparently reasonable license terms are purely a device to avoid ever having it challenged and then, as a result, struck down.
3) I would like to understand the licensing arrangement Lodsys refer to, where Apple have licensed this patent. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was licensed bundled with other patents in a strategic portfolio of which Lodsys is just one of the contributors. I wonder, if Lodsys had approached Apple, with this one patent in hand and asked for a license, would they have got away with anything other than being unceremoniously ejected from the building. I believe the reasonable tone they have adopted may be no more than a clever strategy based on their own understanding their patent is weak. I think the last thing they want is for it to be challenged, so they are opting to take a low sum from as many people as possible. Pointing out Apple has licensed the patent is a clever strategy for a company who may be aware of an essential weakness.
4) If they are authentically reasonable (and I don't rule out that they believe they are being entirely reasonable and don't share my view the patent is weak - everyone is entitled to an opinion - even one that corresponds with making money from others against with a demand against their preference), then perhaps they could add a clarification as to whether they believe this covers all in-app purchase. My analysis (in yesterday's post) is that it quite clearly doesn't. However they are adopting what is probably a deliberately vague line on the scope of their patent's application to existing in-app purchase apps. nowhere do they acknowledge it doesn't affect every in-app purchase design. FUD is to their advantage on this point and will result in more businesses taking licenses than need to.
Saturday, May 14. 2011
As usual the tech world is frothing over software patents. In case you haven't heard, a number of sites have reported a select number of iPhone app developers have been hit by Lodsys with the claim they are infringing on one (or more of their patents). And, also as usual, the nature of the threat is overstated. This time the general consensus seems to be Lodsys have patents covering the in-app purchase mechanism and that, in troll like fashion, rather than take on Apple, they are going for the small guy, small software houses who have published apps to the AppStore.
I'm always amazed at how often tech articles about patents make generalisations, without reference to the only really significant piece of information, which is there on the web, for all to see; The patent document itself and the legally significant claims therin. Indeed out of the claims, one is most usually more important than all the rest and that is the first one. The first independent claim (independent claims are so called because they stand on their own and don't reference other claims) usually pretty much sets an umbrella over the scope of the patent. Having said that, especially in the US where the patent may contain a family of independent claims that are due to be broken out into a family of separate related patents - it's always safest to read each and every independent claim to gain a quick assessment of if the patent is troublesome. The independent claims are easy to spot, because they don't reference any other claims within the first sentence.
So I've scanned the claims of the Lodsys patents (US5999908, US7133834, US7222078, US7620565) and one of them immediately stands out as likely to be troubling to software vendors offering in-app purchase. Bear in mind, I'm not a patent lawyer, or making any claim over the quality of my reading and can take no responsibility if you take any actions based on what I am saying here (your own judgement and on your own head be it, etc, etc.) I do however have some experience with reading patent claims, so allow me to draw your focus to this one in particular, as listed on the USPTO website:
And here below, is the first independent claim. As annoying as software patents may be, put your annoyance to one side for a moment and think of it as like a linguistic puzzle. At first it will appear shockingly general, especially to technologists used to standard and well understood technology nomenclatures. But patent claims are a very carefully considered mixture of the precise with the general. When drafted properly, every particular of the phraseology makes a meaningful contribution to what is covered. Indeed read a few and most technologists soon start to appreciate the precision and care with which they are constructed.
1. A unit, comprising: a memory; a transmitter; and a processor, coupled to the memory and to the transmitter, configured to: monitor a product for an occurrence in the product of a trigger event of a predefined plurality of trigger events, increment a counter corresponding to the trigger event upon detection of the occurrence of the trigger event, cause the display of a user interface, configured to probe for information regarding a use of the product, if the counter exceeds a threshold, cause the memory to store an input received from the user interface, and cause the transmitter to transmit the input to a server.
In general the claim is the definition of a unit which displays a user interface and asks (or rather "probes" - it's always dangerous to paraphrase patent claims) the user for information regarding use of a product (and remember even a single bit response "yes" or "no" is information - remember what I said about the language, it is highly precise in it's generality) but that this occurs on detection of a trigger event and this in turn "corresponds" (deliberately vague) to a counter. So this appears to cover very generally replying to a question about the use of a product so that a server has information, presumably and most obviously to be able to take a further action such as provide an app update or additional feature (e.g, in-app upgrade).
Here the thing that stands out for me is use of the terms "increment a counter" and "trigger event". As is typical of patent claims, the phrase "increment a counter" has been carefully drafted to sound almost contingent to the detection of this "trigger event." But the very fact it is there means it is likely not to be entirely meaningless. For a start, to infringe this patent, the owner must have something that increments a counter that corresponds with a "trigger event" and if having a counter was merely an entirely contingent piece of frippery - the patent would be pretty useless. Therefore the inclusion of the phrase does effectively limit the patent. It limits by letting anything off the hook that doesn't include a counter that is in some meaningful way corresponding to the trigger event. So the use of the rather vague term "corresponds" is just that, vague; but not meaningless in terms of the legal scope of the patent. Patent lawyers always go for maximum generality whilst including only the tiniest bit of specificity required to make the "invention" stand out as distinct and novel and (importantly) as something that possesses technical effect. However it does mean that to infringe this patent, the vendor must be supplying a solution that has a trigger for the display of a user interface, with an increment counter that is in some way conducive to the triggering and indeed - as we read further - we see that the triggering is "if the counter exceeds a threshold" (though be careful, the threshold number isn't specified so may, of course, be no more than 1).
In other words, on my reading, in the context of in-app purchases, this only practically relates to solutions where the purchase is suggested as a product of the user trying to use a feature (whether entering it, exiting it, whatever) and that use being in some way counted (if only once) and then triggering a prompt (most obviously useful for prompting the user to make a purchase of the feature) when the count exceeds a threshold value.
Whilst this still appears to be highly general and very troubling, and whilst I personally suspect it may not stand-up as distinct over prior art if subject to a carefully exercise in object decomposition, it is most surely not the same thing as in-app purchase full stop. As usual the tech press reaction to this has been one of headline grabbing overreaction. Albeit a rather large indignant reaction is still in my view somewhat justified even for this more narrow case. However accuracy is important if we are to claim authority.
Practically speaking any vendors worried about Lodsys might want to consider avoiding tying the prompt for making an in-app purchase to the user's attempt to use a feature. Though I also think it is arguable that this patent doesn't cover an immediate prompt the instant a user attempts to use or exit a feature if that prompt is invoked based on a simple symbolic logic rather than through observing if a counter passes a threshold value.
I suspect - though I haven't yet investigated the apps from the vendors hit by Lodsys - they will be apps that allow the user to access a feature a number of times before prompt the user to purchase that feature if the user wishes to continue to use it. If that's the case, the easiest course of action for them to take is to stop the prompt being contingent on use of a counter and either make it a much more basic in-app purchase available somewhere in the app, or make it the product of simple logic which doesn't rely on storing or indexing a counter (though that may not for those unlucky enough to have been hit by Lodsys, prevent them suing for damages - it may help others). Note, in this latter case - even if a counter is used and the threshold set to 1 - it would be almost impossible to show clearly that the prompt is dependent on a counter without reviewing the source code (or executing costly reverse engineering), because such apparent behavior may also be achieved using a hard coded logical "if-then" condition.
Unfortunately, if my analysis is correct, it may mean Apple will decline to get involved. Though the patent is troubling, I believe it isn't one that effectively blocks the in-app purchase mechanism. I would love to see Apple hit back at Lodsys with a request for a declarative judgement. And who knows, they may take it as an opportunity to be seen to be backing the small guy and the myriad small business partners who help support their ecoysystem, as the very FUD patents like this create will surely have an impact on their business. And also they may feel they have an opportunity to make up in a small way for some of the lost goodwill over the way they have treated some businesses wishing to supply subscription content
[Edit: I've been thinking about his some more, and now I'm wondering if it is possible to entirely circumvent the Patent by implementing a logic that doesn't implement a pure counter. If the prompt to purchase a feature is triggered according to some other measurable factor, such as data volume, it might be entirely arguable, even if the data volume happens to correspond to a count - that the prompt is no longer contingent on the use of a counter. I'm fairly sure there is case law around deliberate implementation of complex features where that complexity is purely a means to avoid an obvious and more direct implementation covered by patent claims (I would certainly recommend you ask a patent lawyer if you are and app vendor thinking of taking this line), but still, it would be interesting to see if any developers can come up with useful and meaningful alternatives, especially if they are meaningful for reasons other than simply because they allow you to say "it's not a counter"]
Wednesday, May 11. 2011
Today The Register ran a report from Google I/O stating
Google won't open source fondleslab Android before 'year end'
I wrote a couple of comments on the article that now I wish I had published as a post in their own right. What is the real reason for the delay? We can only speculate as to the real motives of men, but in this case, I feel there is more than a little justification for adopting one position as above the others. To a large degree this is a rehash of a point I have already made (so you can save yourself some time if you have already read that article), but I think Google's latest announcement more than confirms it.
Google is making no money outside of advertising revenues and advertising "management" revenues. Sure they attribute about a billion in revenues to Android. But anyone who knows how these reports are prepared and who the audience are will know how companies take great care to present, within the bounds of legality, the picture they want to be seen and it's what's not said that is just as revealing as what is said. Google are also now coming under pressure for being, in terms of revenue, a one trick Pony. You can be damned sure they did everything they can legally do in their reports to dispel that notion. Only they can't because the figures don't lie. Here, from their Q1 2011, report is the tell-tale disclosure:
"Advertising revenues made up 96% and 97% of our revenues for the three months ended March 31, 2010 and 2011. We derive most of our additional revenues from offering display advertising management services to advertisers, ad agencies, and publishers, as well as licensing our enterprise products, search solutions, and web search technology."
I'm rephrase this to say what I think it really means:
"96-97% of our revenues are advertising with the rest coming from advertising management services only their is a negligible amount from other sources, so we will leave it vague as to how much of that 3-4% (ok, ok, how much of that 3%) is actually from non advertising related sources, such as Android preferred supplier relationship fees and licensing."
You can bet, with the heat already on in the earnings calls, if they had anything at all significant to say about Android licensing they would have said it. And even if talking about Android advertising you can be sure their accountants will have been instructed to attribute as much to Android as can conceivably, legally, be attributed to maximise as far as possible the appearance they are starting to diversify. But the analyst community isn't fooled.
Now consider Google are now number two in the massively exploding tablet market; yes that market where the PC industry is being turned on its head, and where for all Google's investment and for all the massive and growing consumer spend, they are making no appreciable money.
Meanwhile Apple are raking it in; $7.4 billion on iPad sales over the last two quarters, and that's also with the constraint of a huge order backlog and reduction in sales due to customers waiting for the iPad 2. To be clear iApple are earning more than half of Google's revenues on iPad alone! All on a product that has been out only a year. And yet there is Google, in the not to be sniffed at number 2 spot making, as near as damit, big fat zero outside of their same-old single-horse revenue model (and one that is highly susceptible to competition from the likes of Microsoft's Bing at that, at least when compared with the MS hegemony courtesy of owning a proprietary closed license OS like Windows). Now consider there is only one thing separating them from instant profit in this insanely exploding market, and that is their public backing of what, to the stock market money men, seems like the slightly hippy ideal of OSS (Open Source Software). That's not what I'm saying. But it's what the money men are thinking. And we should also be clear, it's in Google's power to go back on their pledge and to take full control and just start licensing Android as any proprietary closed source software vendor has done before them. The fall out would be interesting, and they would burn a ton of goodwill, but I say again - look at the opportunity cost of a promise made in youth that can be broken !
Now to technologists like you and me and to people who think about more than multi-million dollar bonuses, Google's stance might sound very laudable. But when you have to explain yourself and the huge $168 odd billion valuation the stock market perceives your company to have to hard thinking, shrewd calculating analysts on an earnings call, it is understandable that Larry Page bridled at being given the opportunity. And of one thing you can be sure, if Google haven't made any headway diversifying revenues, the next call will be much harder. Think of that feeling you have if there is one thing you promised your boss and you suddenly realise the next progress meeting is already upon you and it hasn't been done. That's what it's like in these earnings calls multiplied by the sums involved and the fierce torchlight of exposure in an all too public crucible.
It's becoming all too apparent to investors, the opportunity cost of keeping Android Open Source as opposed to closed and proprietary is so staggeringly huge, Google are beginning to look more than a bit, well, like a bunch of impractical idealists who don't have the balls and guts needed to create the diversified revenue streams they so badly need.
With their pledge to Open Source, they have made themselves a hostage to fortune. But confronted by a staggering revenue earning opportunity they are getting cold feet and, rather than do a full "we admit it, we're no more or less evil than the rest" about-face, they are attempting to leverage value by keeping Android closed long enough it may as well be, and are seeking to leverage money through charging for key add-ons like the Marketplace and preferred partner agreements and seem to be hoping no-one notices why they are doing it. In other words they are trying to have their cake and eat it.
So far to a degree it is working. Many of the more Fandroid of the worker bees in the development community, like brides left at the altar, are now wandering about a bit lost, and coming up with every excuse as to why their beloved Google has abandoned their ideals, except, pierced by Cupid's arrow, they refuse to see the "ugly" capitalist truth. So excuses currently include,
"The codes not good enough for public viewing." (when it's kind of the point of Open Source that community feedback patches up the difficulties)
"It's needs to be merged back into Android for phone first." (No it doesn't)
"It's to protect the open source way from predatory companies who would adopt it and fail to adopt the spirit of Open Source." (No answer required !!!)
But the simple fact is the longer Google keep it under wraps the more they can leverage money through preferred partnerships and charging for their closed source pre-integrated, advantage over the competition, key strategic technologies like the Marketplace. It's sad that devoted and energetic followers are left out in the cold by the harsh realities of unforgiving corporate finance, but that I fear, is the truth.
Thursday, April 7. 2011
Here is the battle to be won. In the UK the customer’s package of choice from the Major Service Operators (MSO’s) like Sky, BT and Virgin is currently broadband dual-play (telephone + broadband or, to a lesser extent TV + broadband). Since the late 90’s the challenge the MSO’s have set themselves, is to convert as many customers as possible to triple play - Telephone + Broadband + Television - bundled services. But before any have achieved success in that task, a new challenge is threatening to upset the apple-cart; namely the availability, via the Internet, of network agnostic Over The Top (OTT) television service. OTT service represents a serious challenge to the ascendancy of triple play subscriptions. Indeed it threatens to bring the trend to a halt. Any man and his dog, is now capable of running a television service and delivering it via the broadband connection, the customer is already committed to paying for each month at a flat rate, with broadband already, in the UK at least, the largest subscribed for service amongst the triple-play set.
There are some modest preconditions that need to be met before customers participate in comfort with OTT service (see below) but once they are in place, there is no friction or inertia that will prevent it taking eyeballs previously destined for the tethered goggle box. Indeed there are now more reasons than ever to think instead there will be considerable factors driving the transition.
OTT has lead to a great deal of talk about “cord-cutting,” which refers to a process where customers opt to cancel their cable television (or satellite) subscription in preference for OTT services. Currently cord cutting is a tethered service provider fear more than a reality. However there are now good reasons to think the fear will translate into reality much faster than the TV industry has been predicting. [Edit, whilst writing this post - I have come across this Tech Crunch post confirming my argument, that cord-cutting rates have been underestimated by the TV Industry, now predicted to be 2 million in the US by the end of this year, up from 1.6 million previously predicted by the Toronto based Consulting Group] Why, can best be understood by challenging the very term “cord-cutting”. Cord-cutting may be the most appropriate term for early adopters, but “cord-withering,” is more appropriate for the general market (though I readily admit it lacks the alliteration required for it to coined by the industry). The distinction may be subtle, but when the new dynamic is fully understood it becomes clear. Triple-play figures are unlikely to challenge dual-play as was once thought at least not without a radical rethink of pricing packaging and contract terms.
Marketeers have a natural conservatism, and are fearful of making grandiose claims about the speed of adoption of a new technology because, most usually, over-enthusiasm proves to be a mistake. However every now and then this strategy is the wrong one. Every now and then a confluence of game changing factors occurs which drive adoption far quicker than was previously anticipated.
The term “cord-cutting” plays into the natural tendency for conservatism implying positive action is required for the transition to OTT to occur and that therefore there is something of an “inertial shield,” or natural “stickiness” that will protect tethered TV service providers for some time yet. It implies the customer has to take radical and slightly risky - scissors through the cord - action to switch. But is this really how it will play out?
Here, as I see it, are the dynamics of the transition to OTT:
The position today. Users are subscribed on mass to TV services because the have had to buy in to a minimum subscription charge that are required to cover the high infrastructure and operational investment of tethered TV service. However by far the largest commercial service from the triple play set, is broadband. As Next Generation (NG) Fibre To the Curb (FTTC) and Fibre To the Home (FTTH) IP network’s continue to role-out, from a purely technical standpoint the need for dedicated TV service infrastructure has largely evaporated. Between them, in the UK alone, Apple TV is proving the quality of delivery can be of the highest calibre (out of over 25 movies rented so far on this service I have yet to encounter a single glitch or failure to stream), BBC iPlayer is proving catch up catalogue content is highly attractive and Sky Player is proving live TV service is entirely feasible. So currently, though there is no single OTT delivered comparison to the full panoply of tethered TV services, there are solutions which demonstrate the practical implementation of every element required to deliver such a service.
Consider the list of often cited strengths of tethered service.
*see my earlier post on HTTP Live Streaming for an example of a key OTT enabling technology
As the MSO’s continue to push triple-play services OTT usage will continue to rise because it’s available and per event on demand purchases are standard. OTT adoption is heavily gated by the connection of either a PC or OTT device to the living room TV, however passing that gate is increasingly low-cost and easy to do.
Until industry standard transport and transaction standards are established, the cost of OTT adoption is equal to the cost of a 802.11n WiFi and HDMI capable TV device. Currently this stands at around $99. Note however XBox and Playstation 3 owners already have a sufficiently capable devices and the combined global customer base exceed that of any single Cable Television network. These devices are hampered because their content offerings are restricted to closed portals but we can expect that to change or at least relax as the model is challenged by game changing devices like the iPad (the iPad also provides a walled garden of sorts, but it is not one where Apple define the navigation of the content hubs - the content owners are doing that).
Whenever exclusive OTT content is available (as is beginning to happen in the US with Netflix service), OTT will gain customer eyeballs and the customer threshold for switching to a triple-play solution will get that bit higher. But the reverse is never true. Exclusive content available via tethered delivery channels won’t similarly excluding OTT service adoption, meaning the process is a one-way street. The inevitability of the outcome can’t be emphasised enough.
Additionally changes to content owner licensing models are also travelling a one-way street. Where is the incentive for any content owner to be tied in to exclusive deals with a restricted market with OTT already promising the greatest reach and with OTT holding out the greater promise of high margins and brand control?
However, in my view, the games consoles and TV connected devices like Apple TV aren’t going to be the prime drivers in the switch to OTT (they aren’t opening to common standards or allowing content owners sufficient scope to integrate with the open internet ecosystem that will prove so effective for driving traffic). There’s a new kid of the block and failure to factor in its effect means predictions regarding OTT service adoption have probably, in my view, been excessively conservative. The new kid is, of course, Apples’ iPad.
True the iPad doesn’t provide a sufficiently dedicated solution for delivery through to the living room TV without the addition purchase of Apple TV. But that means it has been missed out of the equation when evaluating OTT adoption rates. With Airplay and recently released HDMI connectors, the iPad (as well as the iPhone and even the iPod touch) have become mobile TV transaction and subscription processing and play-out devices. However focussing on connectivity to the TV misses the deep and present nature of the challenge. With the iPad proving to be the second fastest selling consumer device in history (second only to the Kinnect, but with far better prospects of sustained sales - and one that starts at $500 to boot) TV service providers need to understand a large part of its success is that it has become an entertainment destination in itself. One that is highly competitive with TV (as well as increasingly likely to drive Apple TV sales).
A key factor the TV industry has failed to adequately identify, is the additional leverage OTT delivered content obtains curtesy of delivery via the open Internet. Facebook, Twitter and the more traditional media channels such as those provided by News International and Sky that have been adapted to the internet are providing increasing competition for customer eyeballs previously watching TV of any description.
The iPad has the enormous benefit of integrating hyper-navigation and televisual experience. iPad video can be initiated from a link in Facebook. It is the nexus and nirvana of media consumption. It has solved the lean/back lean/froward problem providing for Internet usage in the context of relaxation and entertainment time and has quickly obtained massive user affection for that fact. It is proving to be the left of field event that is bound to change the TV industry completely.
Forget all those years of abortive TV STB widget production trying to integrate social networking with STB’s. That model is gone. Interaction with the TV will now be via the tablet interface. Then, when you start watching video on your tablet device and decide you want to share it with others in the room, just throw it onto your TV through airplay. No other device so centrally or so effectively integrates the open internet and media consumption.
So let’s add another row to that table and really consider what these figures mean:
*Wall Street analyst Charlie Wolf of Needham & Company
** Source: Gartner April 2011
Wow, I mean just wow! From a standing start in 2010 iPad adoption at least in the estimation of this analyst firm, is expected to rival where all existing OTT devices are today and overhaul them through having a far more compelling integrated interaction model, all by 2012. [Edit 11/4/2011: Gartner have released their report, indicating just how conservative the previous figures before. Again (and to me unsurprisingly) we are finding earlier estimates have been conservative and have been greatly underestimated - further underlining the main point I am making with this article] This is why iPad should be factored in to projections of TV service adoption more than the PC ever has been. It’s attacking entertainment time and just look where that will have got to by the end of this year.
The OTT consolidation with increased adoption of subscription packages. Like mobile as the customer realises he is consistently making sufficient volume of purchase the content provider will have the opportunity to sell in subscription packages with a fixed monthly rate. By the time this starts to occur - what space will be left for tethered TV services?
That’s cord withering.
The customer isn’t ever going to have to think “I’ll drop all subscriptions and try this OTT thing” The customer will be there already and one day realise tethered TV is bad value. At that point tethered TV will become a mere add-on offer and will no longer be a driver for dual or tripple play service.
The Tech Crunch post on cord-cutting finishes on a cautionary note, reflecting natural marketeer conservatism:
Netflix may be paying up to be able to stream TV shows and movies left and right, but it is still paying only a fraction of what the cable companies shell out for programming. For instance, Convergence says that this year Netflix will double the amount it is estimated to pay for programming to $1.1 billion, while Apple will pay about $450 million, and all the other online providers will pay almost $400 million. Not quite $2 billion total from the Interent for TV and movie programming rights. Meanwhile, traditional TV access providers are expected to pay $38.7 billion for programming.
But consider this, with all the powerful logic behind making the switch - isn’t the disparity in these revenues simply evidence of the enormous potential the OTT model holds? I say again - this isn’t the either/or scenario the term “cord-cutting” implies. Broadband Internet, the prime pre-requisite for OTT service, has the highest penetration of triple play services. The cost of entry for professional OTT service is down to about $100 for these customers. Other devices (iPad) are now driving adoption of services most effectively competing for entertainment time and that offer a more compelling model than POT (Plain Old
Current research by the TV industry has focussed on reasons for “cord-cutting” and blinkered by old usage patterns has not unsurprisingly failed to find many. But that approach has failed to take account of a game changing developments like tablet computing. The conclusion has then been drawn that considerable inertia will see the industry in rude health for years to come. I suspect whilst POT Free to Air will be around for the foreseeable future, subscription service, at least on the current model, has a shorter shelf-life than most TV service professionals currently think will be the case. In what will seem like no time at all the consumer market, currently starting to rounding the curve, will be past the apex. The tipping point will be past. A once vibrant tethered TV service industry will be appear no more than a legacy backwater of diminishing significance. Tethered service with year long contracts that once used to drive revenue, will increasingly be positioned as a mere sweetener for Telephone and Internet available on a month by month rolling subscription.
Saturday, April 2. 2011
The quality of thinking at The Register seems to be tumbling ever lower. They are allowing their committed anti-Apple bias to take precedence over engaging brain and as a result are losing the opportunity to make insightful analysis.
Their latest Apple post “Apple Plays Cloud Catch-Up”, they claim Apple has failed to launch a cloud based music service and are scrambling to catch-up with their competitors. But is that the most likely truth?
It is inevitable a company now the size Apple are will at some point fall behind the curve in many areas they once lead, but my educated guess is that coming second here is by design more than anything else and there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to back this up. Not least the clear repeating pattern of how Apple operate with their partners whilst at the same time introducing disruptive technologies that will inevitably cannibalise their partners business models. Greg Sandoval wrote this excellent, well read piece, on the storm Amazon are stirring up with the music labels and we shouldn’t forget Apple has iTunes and so has a lot to lose by falling out with the same.
When Apple first introduced iTunes, they were disruptive, but not through being radical or, indeed, the first mover (Napster was, of course, earlier and far more the disruptive “root” and Archos provided the necessary music player hardware before the iPod). Apple’s strategy was to side the with the main-stream incumbent music labels and drag them into the realm of cheap digital music supply (I know it doesn’t seem so cheap now - but it was at the time when the only option was to buy an entire CD). Their plan of attack has always been to partner and then lead their partners like the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future to understand the inevitable and accept it and adopt a new strategy to take account of it.
Beyond digital music distribution they repeated the pattern with the iPhone. They first developed a killer device, then partnered effectively with the carriers. Like the need for partners of iTunes to allow digital music distribution, they ensured their iPhone partners acquiesced on one key strategic point; unlimited data (probably at the cost of an exclusivity deal with AT&T). But like a hanging thread on a home-knit jumper unlimited data is leading inexorably to a future the carriers don’t want to see, the unravelling of the per call charging model. Apple knew full well where the path lead, but hung back letting the inevitable play-out and avoiding rubbing their partners noses in it. They waited for other phones to allow Skype to supply voice over the data connections when they could easily have allowed it themsevles. And more recently waited for others to provide internet tethering [edit: and personal WiFi hotspot] when there’s little doubt they could have provided it from day one with the iPhone 3G and 4 had they wanted to.
Apple have a huge asset with iTunes and big partnership deals. So it is entirely in their interest and in line with their strategy to wait again. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if they have been frustrated at how long it has taken other’s to lead the charge and draw the fire. I don’t know this is what they are doing, but it makes a hell of a lot of sense if they are. There can be little doubt Apple will be entering the market with far bigger guns.
The partner and move slowly but surely strategy has the added benefit of helping defend against the possibility of “anti-trust” investigations. The last thing a company the size of Apple needs is for one or more of its’ partners to take sufficient offence they refer them to the DOJ. As I have previously written, they are already getting rather close to the line on that score. Quite naturally, a reference to the DOJ by a partner will raise more questions than a similar reference by a pure competitor.
[Edit, in case it be thought I'm being unfair on The Register, yes I readily admit they have annoyed me somewhat for censoring the post below when I commented on an article they published on this very subject soon after Steve Jobs had again left day-to-day work at Apple for a second time due to Illness. So now I tend to question their intentions.];
It's all very well banning profane insulting or inflammatory remarks - but to ban my comment simply shows a lack of journalistic integrity. The picture of Jobs was the usual one the Register use with an X through it.
Paul Lancefield on Twitter
Thursday, March 31. 2011
Chris DeBona, Google’s Open Source guru, goes a little limp when confronted with the AGPL. The AGPL license is designed so that ASP’s using AGPL licensed code for web services are required to deliver their code back to the open source community. It was used in relation to e.g. the Google database search ranking algorithms, they would all have to be laid bare. Google disallowing it, DeBona claims, is a procedural matter, because dealing with it would tie up too much time. This is almost certainly true, but omits the most obvious and more important precedent truth. Dealing with it would tie up so much time because Google would have to be so damned sure it gets us nowhere close to being used on anything important within the business and fear of the wrong thing occurring would tie every software project up in so much red-tape the CEO’s sign off would be required for an employee to save a variable to memory on a Casio scientific calculator. Chris has picked out what we might call a “happy co-incident truth” as to why the AGPL is not used. He has picked an aspect of the truth that sounds more open source friendly and avoids highlighting Google are only interested in open source in so far as it helps them strategically rather than as a matter of principle. E.g. their motive is first and foremost to run a business and make profit - big news there.
The sad fact is many have been allowing themselves to be duped by Google’s spin on open source. Yes open sourcing Android et. al. is better than staying closed. However you can deliver as many open source projects as you like when your business and revenues are all dependent on a closed centralised database and the products of your open source projects are deeply integrated with the same. DeBona’s use of language and Google’s attitude to AGPL is a very public reflection of this reality. Yes they are committed to Open Source, while it supports their preferred centralised database money making machine. Of course there is nothing wrong with Google making money or keeping their Db closed. Only don't argue they are serving the good of the greater global community by doing so. The reality is, open source provides a great way co-opt worker bees to help build services and an ecosystem that bolster that core business, which will remain closed and earning money for Google for as long as they can manage.
Which leads us on to Honeycomb, Google’s forthcoming tablet specific OS. The most likely reason for the delay to publishing Honeycomb source is due to the fact the tablet market isn't tied-in to operators who have the same incentive to stick with Google's momentum as they currently do for Android on phones. For tablets there is a greater danger a large manufacturer, will branch Android to create a tightly integrated killer device. So why should Google open themselves to that risk? Of course the official line about wanting to perfect the user experience before publishing the source is another one of those happy co-incident truths thrown out to placate and distract the worker bees in the open source community from commercial reality. It deflects but cannot change the simple fact that Google have the keys and they are keeping the box firmly closed until a time of their choosing - thus demonstrating they hold all the cards. Honeycomb will probably end up being open source software, but it isn’t Free Software (free as in “speech” not free as in “beer” etc.). And it is free (as in beer) only while it channels efforts into bolstering their centralised database and services.
I suspect Google are looking at Apple and realising the tablet market has such large potential, they are missing a trick. Google’s position is not so secure as was Microsoft’s during the 90’s and early noughties. The core business is search and unlike when you own your own OS you can be dislodged from it. There is a lot of noise about cloud based services, but encouraging adoption is proving harder than they anticipated. Now they are facing Occam’s razor; stick with Open Source in a hope it will bolster centralised database services, or recognise the tablet market offers huge potential revenues in it’s own right and the opportunity to get an asset people pay for like Microsoft had and still have. They are right there, in tablet number two spot, as the market is exploding but still not making money from it because they are pretending they don't own Android OS (they only don't wholly own the last publicly published version, which will always be 6-9 months behind HEAD - an aeon in IT). Is Apple revenue envy bringing about an identity crisis ? Don’t do evil / yes but make money / drop open source / no ! don’t do evil / yes but make money / drop open source / no ! don’t do evil / yes but make money.
[Edit: Of course I would suggest Google examine adopting an Open Interface license - then the Open Source community and Google could work without friction and Google could fairly deliver a commercial User Experience and potentially allow access to HEAD.]
Paul Lancefield on Twitter
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