Being Bruce -: My Take on the Current iPhone vs Android vs Blackberry 'Discussion'

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Take on the Current iPhone vs Android vs Blackberry 'Discussion'

[Okay, so I usually don't write/comment/post about technology. I'm a recovering technology journalist (1982-2004) and try to stay away. This morning I couldn't resist, however, so the following is a bit of a rant and roll touched off by some recent discussions on my Facebook wall about smartphone OSs and devices. - bb]

[warning - the follow is rated PG-GEEK - consumer advisory]

Here's an historical perspective. And, as they said about the story of Judge Roy Bean, if it's not exactly the way it was, it's the way it should have been.

In the 80s, while the big iron mainframe folks  were blindly confident they'd be the only real "computer companies" and grudgingly let the mini folks do some back office number keeping and front office word processing, Apple's open box (II and IIe) strategy was winning the day over Radio Shack's closed box Model IIs and IIIs for consumer and education use. Commodore and some of the other toy computers were clearly low end. CPM was the first serious OS for PC business applications and started to gain major traction - chipping at the mini computer market and pulling up the PC market, when finally IBM took it all seriously (on a fluke) and took over the market with an open box design, helped along of course by MS. Secure in the safe choice, with an open hardware design and a standardized OS let them rule, but the biggest factor was stability and security. Apple took a back seat for a long time as a niche market device (graphics), somewhat in education, and for purists/hobbyists.

In the late 90s and up until 9/11 Palm and Windows Mobile were battling for PDA and eventually smartphone supremacy - Palm was the safer, more controlled and stable standard that knew what it was supposed to do, organize personal information. When paging/messaging and telephony applications were added it got funkier - what was business going to do? Apple wasn't event playing. Windows PDAs and the early Windows Phones did (or tried to do) too much and were confusing and unstable. People snuck Palm PDAs into corporations for their easy utility, but not much was certain till 9/11. Blackberry OS devices were bad PDAs but excellent pager/message devices - the first ones tied to servers. When 9/11 let the world know that the only secure device (and network) at the time (not counting satcom) was the Blackberry system (with encryption co-developed/kissed by NSA) suddenly that single purpose device was the secure, safe choice for business users. (Think back to the mid 80s and the IBM PC and PC/MS-DOS). The early Blackberry phone combos weren't players, but eventually the strength of what they did do well (secure messaging and then follow-me email) brought the phone share up as well as normal people got tired of carrying and charging and keeping track of mutliple devices.

The Internet and WWWeb added another dimension to the mix that no one as yet has a good solution other than maybe netbooks or tablets (will third time be the charm for tablets? or the second time for netbooks?). People don't want their WWWeb diluted, so the current solutions still fall short - with some slight promise from netbooks and tablets.

Apple, however, after essentially sitting out for about 20 years, totallyl killed it with the iPod. People did want their music - even if they had to pay for it (too bad Napster). And then, while the smartphone players and messengers duked it out, Apple continued their unsurpassed interface development and focus on saavy, smart, and cool. And now where are we?

Palm is gone - too limited a platform in the end (despite 100s of thousands of APPs and an open platform).

MSPhone is trying again, for what, the fourth time around? Hard to be taken seriously (ON THEIR OWN ANYWAY).

Blackberry, despite their 31% (ref orig article above) smartphone marketshare, isn't keeping up with growing consumer and mainstream demands. But who cares if their system and content are secure? Remember, security and stability are what really matter in the long run for corp and business use.

iPhone has huge share - close OS, only slightly (and recently) open application market, high price, still cool, still desirable style wise. Battery life goes begging and reception is tough - both will improve incremently.

Android is the wild woolly west in this scenario. Locked and cocked, techies like it, gamers drool, open source OS, open apps, multiple hardware vendors, apparently easy (!!) to develop for. Okay, fine, but will Android devices present a secure enough and stable enough device, OS, and application platform for the vast world of users who want devices that work, as they want, when they want, where they want.

Will Google's Android be the 2nd Decade's IBM PC/MSDos (from the 80s) or Blackberry (post 9/11)? The question is, who can the market
count on for safe, stable devices - that will be the solution for business.

Consumers and other non-business uses will be mainstream and huge markets and will allow multiple big players, but the platform that will rule for business applications (and remember that so many people only want to carry one device) will promise (and DELIVER) security and stability.

That's what I think. The most intriguing matchup I see in this world right now is Bing (MS) and Facebook - but I still wonder if Google and MS will decide to put on their respective big kid pants and own it all - for the next decade anyway. There's no reason (other than the same respective corporate egos) why that wouldn't work easily to take over the whole shootin' match for smartphone - BingDroid could handily handle iOS/iPhone.

So that's what I think.

Now I'm going back to Zen and Rock & Roll.

Bruce Brown
Personal and Business  Development  Coach and former Contributing Editor to PC Magazine, Computer Shopper, and a slew of other publications