Bad move by Apple

Apple barred the new Google Talk App from the iTunes App Store.

The initial claim was that the app duplicated core services of the iPhone.

To get around Apple’s monopolitics ban, point your iPhone browwer to www.google.com/talk.

There has been other fallout from Apple’s ban, besides pissed off customers, the FCC is asking questions and Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple’s Board of Directors.

Then there is also the added buzz about Google Talk this has generated. Perhaps it would have been better for Apple just to have allowed the app in the iTunes app store.

I called the Chrome OS back in October

Google announced an OS based on Chrome, this is supposed be a seperate OS than Android, which is already shipping on smartphones and has been ported to netbooks.

The Chrome OS is based on open source LINUX code, and Google plans on freely distributing the OS. This can’t make Microsoft very happy.

Back in October 2008, I noticed that Chrome had the potential to be a thin layer OS.

One of the exisiting theories is that Chrome is the first componet of a Google OS.  Chrome is supposed to be the interface to the applications.  If you look under the hood of Chrome, it is built more like an OS than a browser.

All it will need is a thin layer to access the hardware (boot, and then interface with video/storage/audio/periferal I/O(USB for a start)/network interfaces)  and it’s pretty much good to go.

This would a thin client model with most of the applications out in the cloud, and as much of the data. as well.

Android marches on

Andy Rubin, Google’s senior director for mobile platforms claims that Android will be on 18-20 mobile phones from over a half dozen manufactures by the end of the year.

It will be interesting to see how much of the iPhone/Blackberry Smart Phone market all the G-Phones manages to get.

Google’s Android on more platforms than WINCE (or Window Mobile, which is what they changed the name to after somebody in Microsoft marketing figured out what WIN CE spelled) and Android starting to crop up on netbooks.  If this isn’t causing people at Microsoft to chug Maalox ™ by now, it should soon.

The first Android Netbook

Back in early November of last year, I predicted that Android would be running on Netbooks before Windows 7. Last month, it came out that Asus had Android running on one of their netbooks in a lab.

Now ComputerWorld is reporting that Guangzhou Skytone Transmission Technologies Co. Ltd, based in Communist China, will have their Alpha 680 netbook, running Android, for sale in Q309.  They already have prototypes out in the wild. Here are the known specs so far.

They weigh about 1.5 pounds and measure 8.5 inches long, 6 inches wide and 1.2 inches thick. A 7-inch LCD screen at 800 x 480 pixels, 128 MB of DDR2 RAM (expandable to 256 MB, a 1 GB solid-state disk drive (expandable to 4 GB).  The netbook will have a SD card reader aand two USB ports. It will also have built-in Wi-Fi, keyboard and touchpad. No mention of an Ethernet jack.  Bareboned, but that will put the retail price at about $250, or less than the retail price of your average smartphone.  Battery life is still an issue, with the prototypes running 2-4 hours with the WiFi active. 

This is just the first shot against Windows7 bow in the Netbook market.  I expect more models, more features, better battery life, and sub $250 prices in 2010.

New iPhone hardware rumors

Apple has changed the rules for the Rev 2, 3G iPhone sales. Customers can buy “unlimited quantities” without the AT&T contract that subsides the price.  This is the same tactic Apple used to clear out Rev 1 hardware before they announced the 3G iPhone.

The Apple Developers Conference, June 8-12, would be a good place announce a new rev of the iPhone hardware that will use the new firmware to the best advantage.  Apple could use a new iPhone to offset the Palm Pre and new Android phones.

Android as a Netbook OS

There has been grumbling about the lack of cell phone platforms available for Google’s Android OS. Perhaps it is because the cell phone platform was just a Beta test for Android.

Rumors about Android being targeted for Netbooks have been around for a while.  Well, it’s not a rumor anymore.  Android has been successfully loaded on an Asus Eee PC 1000H Netbook.

A low overhead, open source OS with the backing of the Google brand behind it.   This could be bad news for Micosoft’s sales projections of Windows7 in the Netbook space.  Consumers who are not comfortable with the current alternate of a LINUX based OS would feel more comfortable with a Google branded OS. (Yes, I know Android is LINUX based, but I’m talking marketing here, not the technical aspect.)

The fact that Google has made Android open source, means no OS licencing fee.  The Microsoft licensing fee is a big cut into the profit margin of any netbook sold running XP, Vista or Windows7 in the future.

Add Chrome to the mix, Google’s browser, which many feel was designed more as a platform for cloud based applications than a general purpose browser and you have a platform that fullfills many of the basic functions that users have.   Google has added the “offline” feature” to gmail and their calendar app.  I expect tasks and Google docs to follow soon.

Here is a senario to consider, using your Android cell phone’s G3 connection as the Internet connection for your Android netbook.  The Android to Android connection could be over Bluetooth, WiFi or even a USB cable.

Google’s GDrive

The rumors are flying hot and heavy that Google will start offering online storage.  Ya, you get space with Gmail and with their online photo storage service, but this would be generic storage space.

It will be interesting to see how much ‘free’ space Google offers and how much they will charge for additional space.  Online storage sites have come and gone, so it will be interesting to see what Google’s business plan is.

Personally, I see this as useful for road warriors.  Keep your data in the cloud access it when you need it from your netbook.   For back up, it could be useful, but there are services that do this already and are optimized for backups.   

This will become interesting when the GDrive integrates with Google docs and I’m accessing it on a netbook running Android.

A long post on Operating Systems.

It’s an interesting time for operating systems.

The landscape was Microsoft dominating, Apple with a small, but fanatically loyal share and LINUX pulling up a distant third with a tiny hardcore geek base.

Then Microsoft decided to make its users relive the ME days with Vista, only worse. The timing was horrible, since Apple was gaining new customers with the iPod and iPhone. People who had deep, meaningful relationships with their iPod/iPhone and didn’t like what they were reading and hearing about Vista. So they figured what the Hell, and bought Mac desktops and notebooks.

Now, Vista isn’t as bad as its critics say it is, but it did have its share of problems. Lack of driver support when it was released was a big one. The overall bloat hurt them badly as well. People who upgraded not only found they had problems getting their various components to work properly, but what was a reasonably snappy system running XP became painfully slow running Vista. Then there was the outcry of the geeks against the new layers of “DRM Crap” stuck in the core of Vista. Ok, I was one of them, and it’s one of the reasons I’m still running XP. Then there were the multiple editions of Vista. Home Basic, Home Premium, a couple of business flavors, and for a bunch of money, the full featured version. This alone is all you need to know that Microsoft marketing is operating clueless and without a net. Given that, those who stuck through with Vista are much happier since Service Pack 1 came out. It seems that ugly blind date Microsoft stuck them with, cleaned up pretty good with SP1. Some users speak nicely of the new user interface, but a lot are still looking back at their XP days fondly.

Let us not forget our friend the penguin. LINUX was finally hitting non-nerd hands as the OS of choice for low cost netbooks. Personal computer manufactures work at razor thin margins, and an XP license can run $50. The whole idea of the netbooks was a lean device that did what you needed and not much more. Small screens, tiny keyboards, 4 Gig flash RAM hard drives and 512 Meg memory. Trying to wedge Vista into that wasn’t going to fly from a marketing standpoint, let alone a technical one. (ya, ya…I’ve heard geeks say they have Vista running on scaled down systems. I’m wondering what they had to turn off, and which of half dozen plus versions of Vista they were running).

Still, I’m not seeing much in the way of LINUX market penetration beyond the netbooks. Sorry geeks.

Since Acer got the netbook ball rolling, the larger manufactures have entered the market, specifically Dell and HP. They offer netbooks with LINUX at or near the Acer price point, and more robust (more RAM, bigger RAM flash HDs) models with a more consumer friendly XP loaded.

Even Microsoft figured out that Vista was a non-starter with the netbook market. That is why they extended XP beyond their already announced end of sale date.

Which brings us to Windows 7, which Microsoft has been frantically leaking information about. Call it Vista reengineered if you like. It seems that Microsoft actually learned something from the beating it has taken over Vista, and has its engineers going through the OS code and “cleaning up.” Actually removing unneeded code and rewriting modules to be smaller and faster. A couple of lines here, a few cycles there. When you have all the code teams actively doing it, those small trimmings add up. From what I’ve heard from people who have BETA releases, Microsoft has hit its goal of having Windows 7 run on netbook platform.

Before we get too excited, keep in mind the release date for Windows 7 is Q110. So you have another year of keeping XP running or taking the Vista plunge if you are a Microsoft OS user.

Now let us talk about the new kid on the block. Yup, Google. You have heard the rumors about Google getting into the OS market. Guess what, they already did. It’s Android. The Google OS is already loose in the wilds, running on a mobile platform and trying to pass itself off as a mild mannered phone.

Ok, so you can make calls with it. I can make VoIP calls with my desktop too. The lines are blurry these days. Most people with iPhones will tell you that the fact that they can make calls with it secondary. It’s a mobile internet device. Android is a Creature of the Clouds (You heard that description of a Cloud computing based device here first kids!).

Android is designed to work well with the existing Google net based services like Gmail and Google calendar. It also isn’t locked to a platform and provider the way the iPhone is to Apple/iTunes. Listen, I have a deep and meaningful relationship with my iPhone, but it’s getting dumped once Android gets a bit more mature and supports a few more platforms and providers.

I would not be surprised to see Android, or some flavor of it, running on netbooks by the time Windows 7 hits the street. I wouldn’t bet that Google couldn’t beat Microsoft in getting a netbook running Google OS on the shelves before Windows 7 is commercially available.

Updating right after posting! According to CNET, Microsoft is going to try and get Windows 7 out by Q409, specially for the Christmas buying season.  Good luck guys.  I’m still sticking by my Android on a netbook first prediction.

The First Android Phone

Popular Mechanics has a review of the T-Mobile G-1 phone.

Here is the short form review.   A nice 1.0 product.  A bit bigger than the iPhone, but it has a physical keyboard! Folks with stubby fingers have been complaining about the iPhone virtual keyboard since day one. The G-1 also has a vitural keyboard as well, so take your pick.

The big plus for the G-1 is the Android software.  Unlike Apple’s iPhone OS, it’s open and neither Google or T-Mobile will “gateway” applications the way Apples does through iTunes.

Since its written by Google, expect nice integration with Google’s online apps.  The Android GMail interface is mentioned as the best mobile GMail app so far.

It will be interesting to see Android based phones on different hardware and supported by different carriers.

Microsoft is going into the cloud

Microsoft is playing catchup with Google and entering the Cloud Computing space. Here is what CEO Steve Balmer had to say about it:

 “We need a new operating system designed for the cloud and we will introduce one in about four weeks, we’ll even have a name to give you by then. But let’s just call it, for the purposes of today, Windows Cloud.

“Just like Windows Server looked a lot like Windows but with new properties, new characteristics and new features, so will Windows Cloud look a lot like Windows Server.”

We’re not driving an agenda towards being service providers, but we’ve gotta build a service that is Windows in the cloud.”

Microsoft probably feeds the need to respond to Google’s new browser, Chrome.  What I’m hearing about Chrome is that isn’t so much as a entry into the browser market, but a platform for more robust “cloud” based apps such as Google Documents.

One of the exisiting theories is that Chrome is the first componet of a Google OS.  Chrome is supposed to be the interface to the applications.  If you look under the hood of Chrome, it is built more like an OS than a browser.  

All it will need is a thin layer to access the hardware (boot, and then interface with video/storage/audio/periferal I/O(USB for a start)/network interfaces)  and it’s pretty much good to go.

This would a thin client model with most of the applications out in the cloud, and as much of the data as well.

It seems that Microsoft is taking this serious enough to announce their own cloud base computing plan.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.