Thursday, August 26, 2010

Could Microsoft Get Shut Out Of Tablet Computing?

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The introduction of Apple's iPad earlier this year has made tablets the fastest growing segment of the computer industry.  Multiple hardware manufacturers are said to be ready to launch competing tablet computing devices featuring Google's Android operating system by the end of the year.  HP is working on a tablet of their own running WebOS, the operating system HP acquired when HP bought Palm last year.  Research In Motion is also rumoured to be working on a BlackBerry tablet as well.  With all these tablets about to go head to head with the iPad, running different operating systems, one question is top of mind. Where is Microsoft in all this?  Where is their operating system for tablet computers?

Just before the announcement back in January when the iPad went from rumour to reality, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, Ballmer announced that tablet computers running Windows 7 were on the way from HP, Dell, and other PC manufacturers.  Since HP bought Palm all the talk of a Windows 7 based tablets have vanished.  Potentially Microsoft could find themselves on the outside looking in if the tablet computer market takes off when more tablets from more manufacturers end up in consumers' hands.

Just shoehorning Windows 7 onto a tablet would be the wrong path to take to try to move into the tablet computing operating system market.  Despite calls from many tech industry analysts and journalists to put a full version of OSX onto the iPad, and went with iOS instead because Apple understands that a full sized computer operating system is just unworkable on a tablet.  The Windows Phone 7 OS and user interface would be much better suited for a tablet than a full version of Windows. 

Could it be that Microsoft executives are asleep and are just not seeing the potential that the tablet market holds, or are they consciously forfeiting the tablet market to Apple, Google, HP, and Research In Motion?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do Canada's New Cell Carriers Hate Android?

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Less than a year out of the gate Wind Mobile has announced that they have already attracted 100,000 subscribers.  Mobilicity has just a couple months of service under their belt but have already signed up thousands of subscribers as well.  Just like the launches of Fido and Clearnet over a decade ago, these new cell carriers using new technology, their selection of phones isn't that great right now.

Both Wind and Mobilicity both offer the Blackberry Bold 9700 and smartphones running Windows Mobile.  Both carriers have networks that are not compatible with the iPhone.  There are plenty of phones running Google's Android operating system that are compatible with the AWS networks operated by both Wind Mobile and Mobilicity neither one offers any Android based smartphones.

For incoming cell carriers who need to do everything they can to get cell phone subscribers to switch, it's a mystery to see potential customers looking for an Android based phone having to stay with Rogers, Telus or Bell.  For the new carriers the price they have to pay for phones is much higher than what the incumbent carriers have to pay for similar phones.  The incumbent carriers have to buy more phones which means they get lower prices from handset manufacturers.  While that is big factor that determines which phones the new carriers sell, the cost of Android operating system isn't a factor.  Google provides Android to handset manufacturers for free.

The only way for Wind Mobile and Mobilicity subscribers to get a phone running Andorid is to buy an unlocked phone off the shelf and put in their SIM card.  T-Mobile runs their 3G using AWS bands.  When hunting for an Andorid phone compatible with Wind Mobile or Mobilicity won an online classified or auction site, a phone has to be unlocked of course and will need to be compatible with Advanced Wireless Spectrum or AWS, if a listing says 1700/2100 MHz or 1.7/2.1 GHz then it is an AWS model of phone.  The cost of buying an Android online for Wind Mobile or Mobilicity may be pretty high, but it's the price that needs to be paid, for now.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Call To Delay Canadian DTV Transition

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The transition to digital over the air broadcasting similar to what happened in the United States in June 2009 set to happen on August 31 2011, just a little more than one year away.  While most Canadian viewers who use antennas to get TV signals haven't seen any difference yet, since only five of Canada's largest cities have digital TV signals available from broadcast stations. 

Already one of Canada's broadcast networks is already claiming that they can't switch all their stations by the deadline.  It's not the impoverished (yeah right) CTV or Global, it's network with big pockets of Canada's taxpayers funding it.  CBC has announced that they won't get all their transmitters changed over to send out digital signals.  CBC stations in Yellowknife, Regina, Winnipeg, Windsor, Saint John/Fredericton, Charlottetown, Halifax and St. John's will not be switched in time according to the CBC. 

The current regulation as set out by the CRTC is that Analog broadcasting will end after 11:59 PM. While the CBC is asking for a one year extension to keep CBC broadcasts operating while they make the change over.  Under the DTV transition regulations as they are today CBC broadcasts in those cities will cease on August 31, 2011 and will resume when Digital transmitters are in place. 

Since Canada's private networks are able to make the deadline although probably just barely in some markets there is no reason that the CBC with all their access to taxpayer money can't make the switch on time as well.  The CRTC should not give CBC any special treatment, giving the CBC an extension means that the private television broadcasters will want an extension as well.  That could potentially snowball into years and years of delay before some areas of Canada will be switched over to digital TV.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

When Will The Blackbery Torch Launch in Canada?

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Research In Motion, having just announced a new Blackberry, a new model called the Torch launching on AT&T on 12th, now technology analysts and journalists north of the border are wondering when the new Blackberry will be available in Canada and with which carrier.

The Torch is a GSM/UMTS/HSPA smartphone which means that it will not be available on MTS or Public Mobile.  It doesn't support Advanced Wireless Spectrum so Wind Mobile and Mobilicity won't be able to offer the Torch ether.  That leaves the incumbent national carriers, Rogers, Bell and Telus.  For Bell and Telus offering the Torch would let both carriers to retire CDMA based blackberries such as the Storm and the Tour.  For Rogers offering the Torch will help re-establish the reputation that Rogers had as Canada's Blackberry leader.

One of Canada's smaller regional carrier has a special interest in offering the Blackberry Torch,  Sasktel will be relaunching their network using UMTS/HSPA about the time that the Blackberry Torch is going to launch.  So far Sasktel's HSPA phone line up is pretty limited, With Blackberry Bold and Pearl that are the same that Rogers offers, There are a few Nokia models as well.  That's about as interesting as Sasktel's CDMA phone linup which is limited and sucky at best.

The smart bet is that there will be at least two national carriers, I would suspect Telus and Rogers are the most likely to land the Torch.  It would be highly unlikely that Research In Motion will enter into an exclusive agreement with a carrier.  Learning the lession from how the Palm Pre died in Canada because of only being available on Bell.  RIM needs to successful with the Blackberry Torch to claw back some market share lost to the iPhone and Android.  Fragmenting down to subscribers of just one carrier would be counterproductive to that goal.

What RIM Will Need To Do To Sell The 'BlackPad'

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Research In Motion, Canada's smartphone pioneer and current market leader showing that they are not going to let Apple eat their lunch, is launching a new version of their operating system and launching new models of blackberries, and according to recent rumours preparing a tablet computer similar to the iPad.  Already dubbed the 'BlackPad' the tablet from RIM will have a challenge ahead of it going head to head against Apple's iPad.  The tablet market is pretty young which will make it easy for a RIM tablet to get a foothold with both businesses and consumers.  There's a few things RIM can do to make the 'BlackPad' tablet a hit.

1. Price it below the competitor: While the iPad is the current tablet that is the hot gadget, it takes at least 550 dollars just to buy one.  If RIM can get the price down under 400 dollars then that's what it could take to get consumers to rethink getting an iPad. In order to be a successful competitor to the iPad, the Blackpad will have to be the first competitor to the iPad.  There are already are tablets running Google's Android operating system on the way to the market and their manufacturers will undercut the iPad, RIM will need to get in fast and inexpensive.

2. Embrace CDMA: Even though many consider CDMA to be a technology that has one foot in the grave, since Canada will only have cell carrier, MTS that will be CDMA only by the end of 2010. Stateside both Verizon and Sprint will be at least two years away from widespread deployments of their 4G technologies.  Their combined base of 120 million subscribers have been green with Apple envy since the launch of the original iPhone.  Being able to use a RIM tablet with the 3G service they already subscribe to makes the iPad less attractive to subscribers on Verizon or Sprint.

3. Do Flash:  Apple's well known cat fight with Adobe over flash has left users of iPads, iPhones and iPod touches unable to use features on most web sites.  If the 'BlackPad' does flash then that opens up all the videos on YouTube, all the shows on Hulu and just about every video and animation on  the web. 

4. Don't forget the corporate world:  Blackberry has enjoyed a stranglehold in the corporate world, while the stranglehold has eroded somewhat since the introducion of the iPhone RIM can still use that stranglehold to sell the 'BlackPad' Features to make the Blackpad attractive to corporate users just have to be there.

Despite the popularity of the iPad, Research In Motion can and will find their place in the tablet market because of it's small size.  The tablet market will be open to all players large and small.  Apple was first RIM is coming in next.

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