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Spillikins #92. USA as the technological centre of the world
People increasingly rely on mass market technologies, which frightens me at times. A tragicomic situation happened in Nicaragua, when its soldiers invaded Costa Rica and camped on a foreign soil, because Google Maps showed that the territory belonged to Nicaragua. The company has already corrected the mistake, but can we rely so much on mass market services? I am terrified by possible mistakes. Nobody suffered this time and we merely have an amusing accident here.
The week brought so many news I will just try to enumerate them. Samsung Galaxy S hit the shelves in Japan through NTT DoCoMo. During the first week of sales this Android smartphone overtook iPhone 4 32 GB, which had been the chart topper for more than 18 weeks. If we combine the sales of 16 GB and 32 GB models Apple is still in front though. The data was provided by the Japanese company BCN.
In October of 2009 Apple lodged a claim against Nokia regarding the infringement of mobile phones patents. It was a retaliation associated with similar Nokia claims. The proceedings have not come to an end, but according to Wall Street Journal the preliminary position of ITC (International Trade Commission) will not make Apple smile. No patents infringement was found, but the final judgment should be expected in February of 2011.
Can you name instant messengers available on the market today? Let's see what I have in my phone – Skype, AIM, Google Chat and Nimbuzz. The last one brings an opportunity to work in several networks at a time. IM features are also available in the Facebook client, which is also nice. I will not mention other social networks, but there are dozens of similar clients and all of them have loyal users. The most popular clients attract more attention and boast the highest number of users. The social component comes to the fore here, when your friend, colleague or a relative tells you to find him or her in ХХХХ under the appropriate nick. One more person joins in. It seems there is no place for newcomers in this segment, but it is not true, as there is always an opportunity to create something new and offer old services in a new package. Everything is in the message transmitted by developers to potential users.
Welcome a new IM application named KIK. The startup is associated with the person, who took part in the development of Blackberry Messenger. The concept of KIK is slightly different from that of other IM clients. The company claims to have found the replacement for text messaging. The client is very simple and today it can only send SMS. Every message has its status – sent, delivered and read. It is easy to use, but so far we have no settings to customize these confirmations. If you have read the message the sender will know about it. There is no black list as well, but we are promised to see it in forthcoming versions.
What is the unique selling point of KIK? I think it is in its simplicity. The interface is undemanding and the concept is easy to understand for any mobile phone user. Unlike other IM clients you cannot set a status. You cannot be invisible or busy. SMS are delivered no matter what you are doing at the moment.
In KIK blog several feature boosts are promised for the next months. The app is supposed to work faster and need less power (this parameter is already acceptable for Android as the battery does not become dead within hours). Interestingly, we will get a chance to use profile pictures and geo tags will come to the frame. Probably, people or places could be detected in real time, but it is still not clear.
I would be happier if the contact list had been broken into groups to classify people. On Twitter I tested the application and asked people to send me several words. Surprisingly, my KIK list contains around 100 contacts. During the day I talked to everybody who replied. I had extensive discussions with some, while others got only an emoticon. It cannot be considered as a fully fledged testing, but the app showed its strengths during these 24 hours. I liked the simplicity of use above all.
According to statistics I was not the only person who liked KIK and its popularity is gaining momentum. Within 15 days 1 million of copies was downloaded worldwide. Don't forget that it is available for Blackberry, iPhone and Android only. In comparison ICQ managed to amass 400 million accounts with 15 million active users throughout its existence. Every hour 25,000 new users sign up for KIK. Look at these graphs:
The company behind KIK was not ready for the surge in popularity and during the first pressure servers went down when so many users registered and started using the client. Around 7 hours KIK was out of operation, while new servers were being installed. Let's see what happens in the next several days and if KIK can handle the unprecedented influx of new users. I have a feeling the even the wildest dreams of people in the company may look poor in comparison with real life. KIK is already No 1 in iTunes Store US, Blackberry App World and is moving to the top of Android Market. It is only the beginning and I think that after this dramatic growth KIK will easily find investment to develop it further and keep the application afloat. The question is how much time is necessary to reach the 10 million mark? One month and a half, two or three months? The speed is phenomenal anyway and it highlights many important ideas ignored by other developers.
Simplicity of ideas. Can you express the idea in one sentence? For KIK it is a substitution of ordinary SMS with appropriate status for every message. When developers target all possible features they end up with a monstrous product supporting dozens of social networks and IM clients, which is not really required by customers. They need a clear idea and something useful, like saving on SMS almost without losing necessary features. This is precisely what KIK offers.
The application must offer numerous features from the very beginning. This myth is very harmful. You set your own quality standard, while nobody requires your app to be ideal from day one. Users value when your fix bugs and add new features quickly. The speed of development is more important than the initial features. The absence of many features in KIK (copying of the text in different messages, transfer of messages, etc.) is not a problem at the beginning. Later on these features will have to be added alongside many others (messages archive, notes export and transfer to other devices).
Proprietary standard. The standard of messages exchange in KIK is closed for other developers. Whether it will be opened one day remains to be seen, but we cannot treat the proprietary standard as a downside. It offers protocol protection (a dubious argument, but it adds security anyway) and helps to develop one client and not to compete with many unofficial applications. Some are afraid of the word "proprietary", but there is nothing scary here.
I hope these comments will be beneficial for novice developers. I definitely advise to try the client as it will become even more popular pretty soon. There are all fundamentals for this. The number of new users increases day by day. You can find me in KIK as Eldar Murtazin or eldarmurtazin.
I remember my discussion from 2 years ago with the top manager of the Finnish company. We were speaking about different scenarios of the market development, but all variants came to the fact that in 2-3 years Europe could lose its leadership in cellular networks. Automatically it translates into technological inferiority in phones and associated services. If you don't have a modern network you will not require feature rich models. The absence of cutting edge handsets hampers the introduction of new features and users become less active, at least in comparison with other markets.
Which country is the technological leader of the cellular market? It is surely the US. Unfortunately, Europe has lost this stage of the battle and to bridge the gap several years will be required. Why am I so pessimistic about European perspectives? The answer is in the sales of smartphones as these devices will fuel next generation services if we don't take LTE into the account. USA always benefited from the developed Internet networks pioneered in the country. All social networks and biggest websites come from the US. The same applies to software developing companies. Europe is trotting down behind and adapts American services and rarely creates something unique.
Europe always had a developed telecommunications market, which helped the cellular networks and mobile phones, though it was Motorola who created this market. During two decades Europeans stayed in front because US carriers were reluctant to invest in GSM networks, which let them down. It was weird when the country with the most advanced Internet services was in Stone Age in terms of cellular communications. In 2005 US carriers decided to bridge this digital divide and channeled all money into the area. Within 5 years the gap was bridged regarding the quality and number of networks, while now the country makes impressive strides into 4G. European companies are still hesitant.
Look at the US market. The quarter of all sold models is smartphones. Think again – 25 % is a very impressive figure. It means that the shift has already taken place and the situation will develop in the similar vein. What are the models in this segment? The answer is obvious –Apple iPhone, Android and handsets from RIM. Nokia is almost absent from the US market. Its stronghold is in Europe and the same applies to Sony Ericsson. It only boosts the technological inferiority of Europe. By concentrating on home markets Nokia and Sony Ericsson hamper the development in these countries. We can argue about the weak and strong points of Symbian in comparison with Android or iOS, but the point is that all modern and future services are being developed for iOS and Android. In other words they target the USA, which has a considerable advantage for developers by offering numerous users with one language. Any application is created with the English interface first and is then localized for other markets. It is easier to launch it in the USA and move to other markets afterwards. Look at Microsoft, because even this giant failed to localize Windows Phone 7 for main European languages from the very outset. We cannot say that Microsoft has no appropriate expertise or resources.
I have not changed my position during the last several years. As a person, who lives in Russia and Europe I would be more than happy to see strong local players. Mobile-review needs access to cutting edge handsets, which define future developments. That is why we have correspondents in the USA now to work with local carriers and manufacturers. This common sense is another proof of the technological battle won by the USA. European market will be more home oriented, but consumers will be waiting impatiently for US models (or their European versions). This market will receive similar models, but with a bit of a delay, which is sad. Nokia complaints about the bad reception of its brand name across the ocean and blames the US media for derailing its sales in Europe and elsewhere. Unfortunately, Nokia failed to hear sensible people throughout the years. Adapt or make way for those who can create modern phones. Nokia always enjoyed the utmost support at home. Our website is also interested in strong European players. They should not be strong just on paper though.
Look at some data regarding the US market and how far it is in front of Europe. According to NPD Group in the 3rd quarter of 2010 44% of smartphones sold in the US featured Android. This OS became No 1 in the country and its expansion to other markets will increase. Apple products have 23% of the market, while RIM is losing its share fast (22% today) compared with 28% in the second quarter.
More interestingly, 4 out of 5 most expensive phones in the US are smartphones. 3rd quarter sales are the following:
Any comments? Speaking about global tendencies I have to mention the fact that Android is unstoppable no matter what its enemies think. It has the highest priority for developers and the platform will become even more popular in the nearest future.
On traffic consumed by different OS, minutes used in different networks and traffic income. This little article was written by Sergey Maltsev and I recommend following his blog.
During the previous week we received a whole bunch of Sony Ericsson phones represented by commercial models. To my mind, the crisis in the company became permanent and it is closely connected with developers' skills. We cannot dream of new features, because it is pivotal not to spoil what the company already has. I will not speak much about Yendo, but I was surprised how slow it was. I even had doubts if it was a commercial version, but there were no mistakes here.
At the end of October Sony Ericsson X8 had to be updated from Android 1.6 to 2.1 together with other SE models. Now the company cautiously mentions the end of the year as their target. It can be either November of December, but I am not sure the update will speed up the phone (you need 2.2 for that), though some changes will be included. Having closely connected their models with the proprietary interface Sony Ericsson made it virtually impossible to update the OS quickly. The case of X8 is exemplary. Why spoil what can already work? For example, a simple mail client does not allow configuring the mailbox at mobile-review.com and shows that the website certificate is not valid. Apple iPhone has an option to agree with such a statement and enter data. After that everything works well. Other Android models (including the ones made by Sony Ericsson) have no similar problems and you can create a mailbox within 5 minutes and start using it. What is the reason? The company hurries and has no time for proper testing of new models.
Sony Ericsson X8 will quickly become the best selling Android handset from Sony Ericsson. An aggressive price of €175 coupled with a decent 3″ screen of 360 х 480 resolution will do the trick. On the other hand, Android fans will not be happy with slow updates and a different interface. The weird solution is interesting for SE fans and resembles an ordinary phone more. Traditionally, when sales go down Sony Ericsson does everything to decrease them even further. It sounds strange, but the facts point in that direction. X8 had all prerequisites for success, but the company made everything to avoid it. Details will be described in the review this week.
Sony Ericsson prepared a series of videos on the fictitious Product Testing Institute. The purpose is to promote Sony Ericsson X10 as an easy to use phone. The videos are well planned and the concept is excellent. In every video they use a particular group of users and provide them with a simple task. For example, models had to count the number of photos, while kids and seniors were asked to take a picture of a toy. All videos are staged with actors, but everything looks quite realistic. Look at several videos and if you want more go to Sony Ericsson channel.
It's a pity that a once innovative Sony Ericsson has to advertise the unsuccessful X10, which failed in retail sales and the OS was updated only recently. It is clear that further updates will become available with a similar delay.
Remember 1800 employees fired from Nokia and Symbian Foundation? European Commission decided to help Nokia in a very sophisticated way. Job cuts increase the unemployment rate, which puts pressure on social services in European countries. It's the worst case scenario for civil servants from the European Commission. If it can be avoided with not much effort this route should be taken by all means.
Instead of Symbian Foundation we receive SYMBEOSE (Symbian – the Embedded Operating System for Europe). Within 3 years the European Commission will invest around €11 million, while the consortium of 24 unnamed companies will also provide €11 million. €22 million are required to boost Symbian features and insure its leadership position in Europe. It is a good undertaking, which will not have enough of passion. The amount of money is not insufficient to offer new direction for Symbian. On the other hand I had already described the nature of the technological leadership and why Europe lost it. Attempts to save jobs and help a dead horse cannot bring benefits in future. Every country has its own vision. May be Europe wants to follow the path of the USA twenty years ago and concentrate on outdated resources? Europe has the rights to make this choice and we should not interfere.
Another advertising campaign highlights the dangers of SMS while driving a car or riding a motorbike. It does not look really harsh, but it is good that the topic is in the center of attention.
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Published 08 November 2010
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