Why the Windows Mobile Marketplace sucks for now

With the tepid release of Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft also released their answer to the iPhone App Store, Windows Mobile Marketplace.  And once again it seems like the developers themselves seen to have missed the boat. Apparently they have never seen nor heard of the App Store.

What is the death knell of the Marketplace? PRICE!!!  There are way too many applications in this store that are more than $2.99.  If you browse through the App Store most every app is a dollar or two and selling in droves.  This is not a new problem.  As far back as 2003, there were applications for a mobile device that were selling for $30 dollars!  Sadly, some apps still are.  I’m sorry but I just cannot justify a small password holding program costing me as much as a full on piece of software for my desktop.  What is worse about this is that most of these programs look and feel horrible.

There seems to be a few developers in the store that either are also developing for the iPhone or have watched it.  They have priced their applications to a more palatable scale.  Others seem to want to extort the WinMo users with higher prices. For example Namco Pac Man – iPhone 4.99 WinMo 6.99.

Please can we get some developers to create some compelling, beautiful, and cheap programs for the WinMo platform.  And to Microsoft, you need to do whatever you can to compel and help developers to get to that point.  Otherwise WinMo will totally fall out of favor with consumers and the iPhone and Android will slay it (as if they weren’t already).

The Mac’s two enemies and where Apple iPhone can take us

While sitting around doing nothing, my brain was wondering.  I happened across the thoughts of the endless battle between Windows and Mac fanboys.  How everything from market share, viruses, ease of use, crashes, etc. is used as fodder for one side to continually peg the other.  All of a sudden it came to me; there really are two things that are going to be over the next probably ten years that are going to make or break it for Apple; Web Apps and the Apple iPhone.  Subsequently it also morphed into a future prediction for the world of Mac and Tech.

First, it’s time for full disclosure.  I am a Windows guy.  I’ve used Windows since the 3.0 days and have used it ever since.  I’ve also used Macs some.  From the horrible System 7 when I was in middle school to a much improved OSX.  With that said, I think Apple has done some great things for the technology world.  OSX is truly a great operating system and the Mac hardware is beautiful and functional (except rev. 1 products).  The house that Jobs built is definitely a worthy competitor to the Microsoft world.  The only reason that I have not owned a Mac is the price makes it hard for me to justify it, but to each his own.

So now let us dive in to the meat of my out of left field idea.  Web Apps will be the killer of MacOS (and most desktop OSes) for the general public.  Most of the computing public does a few things with their computers.  They surf the web, edit a few documents, look at pictures, update their Twitter and Facebook status, and maybe play a casual game.  All of these tasks can and do exist in the browser already.  Now there are those of us who do other things that have to be native apps, but the majority of the computer owning public do not.  Very few people are PC gamers, the consoles have taken the lion share of that market and the Mac platform has very few games written for it.

Since most things now run in the browser, how important is the OS.  The OS is not going to die anytime soon, but as the browser becomes the main screen for most users why pay for the glitzy OS.  Of course this argument also applies to Windows, but I see it affecting the Mac platform first.  Why spend $2000 dollars for an iMac that can run OSX (even if it may be better) when all you need is a cheap windows PC with a functional browser?   This is going to force Apple eventually to either lower the price of its systems, which given Apples reaction to the netbook segment seems unlikely, or cause a major paradigm shift for the general computing public.  This leads me to my second reason, the iPhone.

I see the iPhone as the next widespread Mac platform.  Going back to our mainstream user needs, what about that can the iPhone not do now?  The Apple iPhone is everything the public wants, a cheap Mac.  Apple has already shown that they can sell the hell out of the thing.  Plus if I’m not mistaken, iPhone platform has more applications and games developed for it then OSX.  The only thing missing from the iPhone is a larger screen (for document editing and better web browsing), a keyboard (for document editing and email), and more storage (for pictures and documents).  I truly see in years to come the end of the iMac and Macbook.  Instead I see “extenders” of the iPhone taking their place.  How awesome would it be to have a larger screen on your desktop, with a keyboard, hard drive, and broadband network connection to dock your Apple iPhone in.  Of course Apple would keep OSX and the Mac Pro for power users, but you could even have a Foleo type mobile dock for the phone to replace the Macbook.  What about processor intensive tasks?  Let us say Apple’s desktop dock has a graphics chip to offload the graphics tasks.  Through OpenCL the iPhone OS can offload video processing, picture manipulation, etc. without requiring the phone to have a beefy processor.  Ubiquitous computing would come true and I can see Apple being the only one to bring it to fruition.  What else could lend credence to a shift like this?  Take the gradual market shift from desktops to laptops.  While laptop power has increased, it still is not close to the power on the desktop.  It works though because a laptop has enough power to do what most people need it to.  Even the iMacs that Apple produces now use mostly laptop components.

Now that I have the entire Apple fanboy world wound up, let me temper the flames by saying that this same paradigm shift will also affect Windows.  It’s just going to take a lot longer to make the shift.  Marketshare and business penetration will slow this progression on the Microsoft side.  It would take a radical break from the status quo, architecture, and people to jump on the idea to make it come to fruition.  Who else has the knowhow and balls to make this happen?  Simple, Steve Jobs.  It makes the acquisition of PA Semi and the patent from Apple a few years ago for a large docking station for a mobile device make sense don’t it?

Barnes and Noble Nook reader; Kindle Killer?

It’s no secret that Amazon’s Kindle has defined the e-book reader market segment.  It brought in a breath of fresh air to a segment that up until that time was well, boring.  In Apple like fashion they integrated a great bookstore, wireless downloading, and via Oprah, a cult like following.  Like all market leaders though, they have been attacked via the 1984 fiasco and calls for a more open platform.

Enter Barnes and Noble.  The brick and mortar book mega-tailer has finally seen the impending writing on the wall for paper in this digital age.  They took what the Kindle has and cranked it up to 11.  My one peeve though is the name, Nook.  Don’t get me wrong, Kindle is not much more descriptive, but Nook just sounds like a Fisher Price product.  I just hate product names that sound hokey and childish.  End Rant.

The Nook gets so much more right then the Kindle.  The segmented screen, part e-ink and part color, makes for a much more user friendly and eye appealing presentation.  It also integrates the tech sector’s newest fad, multi-touch.  The killer feature to me though is not part of the device itself, but the Barnes and Noble stores.  You can actually go to the store and touch it, evaluate it, and see if it works with your eyes.  The Kindle has yet to match this, but I see deals with retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy on the horizon.  They allow you to use the stores themselves as libraries, browsing the physical books and then being able to sit in store and read books for free.  This is a great idea to boost the coffee shop portion of the stores.  It makes it much more intuitive and easier to find books in a genre that you enjoy when you can pick up the book see the covers and scan through it quickly.  This is something that no website will be able to match.

One killer feature that seems to be getting poo-pooed by the tech community is the book “loaning” process.  For 14 days you can “loan” a book to a friend, allow them to read it, and get it back.  Now while this loan is occurring you do not have access to the book.  Now first off, I’m sure that the content providers were the ones that demanded this feature.  In all reality though, if I lend a paper book to a friend, I can’t read it while they have it.  So it only makes sense to me that I cannot read the electronic version while I loan it to a friend.  Come on people, we can’t have our cake and eat too all the time.

Now for the bad.  To compete with the Kindles download anywhere feature they used AT&T’s wireless network.  Why this decision was made, given the hatred of that network by iPhone users is confusing at the least.  I guess the argument can be made that GSM is a worldwide standard, saving on design costs for an international version and the fact the T-Mobiles network in the US is nowhere near as far reaching.  The other deal killer is the question of how many publishers will allow the “loan-a-book” feature.  If too many publishers opt-out of this, you take a positively killer feature and murder it.  B&N really needs to make sure as many publishers are on board as possible.

Lastly, I have one small gripe with the tech press more than I do with the reader itself.  Everyone seems to think that the fact that the Nook is based off of the Android platform is a killer feature.  I contend that it doesn’t matter.  Most of the people who buy this product could care less what the underlying software is, just the same as they could care less who makes the processor, screen, memory, etc.  The only way Android becomes a “feature” is if B&N opens the platform up for development, something I do not see happening.  I highly doubt they will allow developers to use the data connection on a device where the connection is essentially subsidized.  I could be wrong on this, but if they want the product to “just work” outside applications will not be allowed.

All in all the Barnes and Noble Nook will definitely give the Kindle a run for its money.  The biggest problem is that Amazon has already locked up a good portion of the e-reader market.  Current Kindle owners now face the reality of any closed system, if they want to move to the Nook, all the books on the Kindle are now useless.  This harkens back to the days of Apples FairPlay system on iTunes, locking people into that ecosystem.  I’m sure though there will be some intrepid hackers that will find ways to remove the DRM and allow people to move the books they paid for over.