Posts Tagged ‘ Review ’

Google VS. Apple

Google’s been on a tear lately with its Android operating system. It has become the most popular phone operating system, commanding 40% of the smart phone market, and still expanding at an incredible rate. It’s hard to imagine that the adorable little green android’s humble beginnings on the bulky, sluggish, and unpromising T-Mobile G1. From there came a torrential downpour of phones, each better than the last until finally we had a true iPhone competitor with the HTC Incredible (Verizon’s rendition of the first Google Nexus phone). From then on it has been a chase, every year Apple would announce a new phone that would blow all the current Android phones out of the water and the enclave of Android would continue to push back until a clear competitor would arise and the cycle continues. But, while this trend is what makes Android profitable, it is also a huge crutch moving forward. Android is the bestselling OS by far but three major aspects of its growth keep it far behind Apple’s throne:

  1. In all its growth, the Android OS has managed to completely avoid Apple’s market share. Apple has been growing steadily and untouched since the first iPhone came out. Every year they break records (4 million in the first weekend this year) and every year they mint more and more income. Android has actually planted itself in the lush soil left behind by decaying giants Nokia, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry.                     
  2. Android also isn’t that profitable once you break it down. Google actually makes little or no money on the operating system itself, it just gives it away and profits on the tail end with the search engine, baked in services and (mainly) Android Market… That’s how it’s supposed to work at least. In reality the Android Appstore isn’t even as profitable as Blackberry App World even though it commands more than twice the market share. The companies are also not touching Apple’s numbers individually.      
  3. And the biggest reason, like it or not, is that they’re just not Apple. Before you light your torches, let me explain myself. An Apple product just has an air of prestige and class that no Android phone has matched to date. Even six months after the iPhone 4 was announced, it was still outselling the latest and greatest of the Androids even with their dual-core, LTE, massive screen and all that. No Android has ever been a heavy hitter after more than three months of shelf life.
               

And I shouldn’t forget to mention Apple’s earnings on the iPhone. No phone comes close to having the same market dominance as the iPhone. In fact, carriers pay top dollar just to have the iPhone in their line up just because it brings that many customers. Sprint’s deal to get the iPhone on their shelves is losing them money and they won’t start making returns on profit until 2015! That just shows you how strong a presence the iPhone has. Add to that the amount of capital Apple has to put towards R&D for new devices and their complete control of hardware and software and it doesn’t look like they’re being dethroned any time soon.

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Amazon’s Long Game (and Wall Street’s Woes)

 

Q3 earnings calls came out last week and they had Wall Street worried about Amazon’s prospects. The problem is that Amazon has been losing money even with its incredible, record-breaking sales volumes and income. But, this doesn’t mean that you should throw your Amazon shares out the window just yet. As much as analysts hate the idea, Amazon’s actually taking a loss now in order to gain more in the long run. Case in point, the new Kindles. The new Kindles with ads aren’t making strong returns on sales right away and the Kindle Fire is actually costing Amazon about $10 a piece, with pre-sales already in the millions. What’s harder to see in these numbers is the future return on the investment. With the Kindle readers, Amazon just has to sit back and watch the money roll in from ads throughout the device’s life span. But the Kindle Fire is a trickier beast. With the Fire, Amazon is deploying a number of tactics to make sure it gets returns on its investment: Operating system, Amazon’s Ecosystem and the Silk Browser.

 

Operating System:

 

The Fire isn’t running vanilla Android, far from it. The Operating system has been heavily coated and tied down with Amazon services. You can’t even access Google’s Android Market from the device. While this might sound like a negative, it’s actually almost necessary for Amazon to turn a profit on its tablet business. Android apps are notoriously easy to download and play for free from the device’s browser, and when the plan is to make a profit on the tail end… that can really be a problem. Instead, Amazon has its own Appstore on the device and the version of Android is different enough that you can’t just download pirated apps. The lack of an SD card also closes a lot of leaks such as side-loading illegally. And the ties to Amazon services aren’t exactly hurting the company either, which takes us to our next topic….

 

Amazon’s Ecosystem:

A major fact we shouldn’t forget about the Fire, it’s basically a glorified Amazon storefront. All the Amazon services are riding on board so you have access to the app store, kindle store, music/video stores and let’s not forget Amazon.com in its entirety. Everything you could ever want you can purchase straight from the device anywhere, any time. And just to get you hooked, Amazon has the one-click purchase so you can spend without realizing it and throws in a free month of Amazon Prime. After just a month of access to the thousands of videos on demand and free second day shipping, most people will probably find it in their hearts to pay the yearly fee. And because of the device’s ridiculously low price, people will definitely be coming back to buy. This factor alone will probably assure a tidy return.

 

Silk Browser:

 

To squeeze even more money out of the device, Amazon played a dirty little trick on us with Silk. The Silk browser (developed in-house by Amazon) actually runs most of the tasks on Amazon’s servers, making for a faster browsing experience… but that’s only a front. On the backend, the browser funnels user information straight to Amazon. Just imagine how powerful that information is. The device has your name and account information tied to it and added to that they also know what you’re interested in from your searches, what you watch, what you listen to, what you read and what you’ve bough. And they have access to the rest of your information through other web services you use… talk about a gold mine. That information could be used to make extremely targeted ads or sold to third party companies who’ve only seen such user information in their wet dreams. I’m not saying that there is no end-user benefit to Silk (in fact, first reactions have been quite positive) but I’m just saying that Amazon was looking pretty closely at its bottom line when it came out with the feature.

 

And, there is another reason for biting the bullet that isn’t so strictly monetary: customer relations. Amazon has always tried to get prices as low as possible for its customers and keep them coming back. The Kindle Fire is literally too good a deal to be true, and that sentiment will not be lost on customers. So, even though Amazon’s Q3 spread sheets aren’t glittering, they’re making wise investments on something that will definitely pay off in the long run (and they definitely have the capital to start investing). In fact, they’ve already started manufacturing millions more devices than they originally anticipated. So don’t go worrying about Amazon, they’re gonna be just fine.

Amazon on Fire!

Wow, 3 (4 if you want to be technical) new Kindles in one day! The star of the show was no doubt the Kindle fire but all the models are noteworthy (to put it lightly). To keep things simple, I’m just going to give impressions and post the tech-specs down below. Let’s start from the bottom ($) and work our way up.

 

Kindle:

   

The $79.99 kindle was a marvelous play on amazon’s part. To get to this price point, amazon cut out the mic, speaker, GPS and touch and threw in some sponsored ads but this really shouldn’t be a problem for 80-90% of e-reader users. This price point also obliterates the second-tier e-reader market.

 

Kindle Touch/ Kindle Touch 3G      

Stepping up from there we’ve got the kindle touch starting at $100 ($150 with 3G).  Besides the keyboard , there really isn’t an advantage to the touch screen but if you upgrade to the 3G version you really get your money’s worth. I know this seems a bit backwards (How could throwing in $50 raise its value?) but you have to take into account the fact that you’re getting free data service for the life of the device: That’s access to any book from Amazon’s store as well as rudimentary internet browsing from basically anywhere you may find yourself… for 50 dollars more. You can’t beat that.

Kindle Fire                                                                                                            

Now let’s get to the belle of the ball, the Kindle Fire. The first thing that comes to mind when looking at this device (unfortunately) is the Blackberry Playbook. And the similarities aren’t just cosmetic, the tech specs also give you a major case of Déjà vu. But don’t get me wrong; this isn’t going to be the flop that the Playbook was. The Fire has three killer features that the Playbook desperately needed: Amazon’s massive Ecosystem, Android, and Price.

  • Ecosystem:
  • Amazon has the most extensive ecosystem by far. They have more movies on demand (and better prices) than Apple, they practically own the e-books business, they can give Apple a run for its money in music sales and to top it all off they have the Amazon Appstore (not touching Apple, but more than sufficient).  All of this means that you’ll never feel like you’re missing out on anything.
  • Android:
  • Let’s not forget that at its core this is an Android 2.3 Gingerbread tablet (not honeycomb interestingly). What that means for users is that you get access to Android’s app catalogue (the second most extensive app catalogue for tablets) while still maintaining a custom UI feel. Amazon has done a splendid job skinning the tablet to make it unique and stylish while keeping it functional thanks to Amazon’s vast media ecosystem.  The Playbook on the other hand ran on QNX (Blackberry’s last hope of renewal), which didn’t have any notable apps, let alone the support that android has had. The game has changed from the days when Blackberry was king. Nowadays the app selection is practically as important as the hardware it’s running on and the Playbook isn’t getting any love from developers (and never did).


  • Price:
  • $200. Let me repeat that, $200!! That’s what you could expect to pay for a no name, half-baked, bargain bin tablet… and you’re getting a full-fledged android tablet. You’re paying $150+ less than you would for the entry-level playbook and you’re getting so much more. Just to add icing to this already delicious cake, Amazon Prime subscribers ($90 a year but totally worth it) get free access to their entire video on demand collection on top of free second day shipping. It’s not exactly hard to choose the winner here.

But Blackberry isn’t the only competition that should be sweating right now. Barnes and Noble can kiss its Nook Color “readers tablet” (a nice way to phrase “cheaply made and with terrible specs”) good-bye. The Fire is $50 cheaper, has more than double the horsepower, has much better build quality and absolutely obliterates the Color when it comes to media selection (apps, music, movies, e-books, etc.).  Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy tab is also going to find itself swimming with the fishes along with the HTC Flyer (talk about overpriced) and all other tablets sharing 7-inch form factor. The reason Amazon can afford such a low price is because it isn’t a tablet seller but an online store. Whenever you buy off the Amazon Android Appstore (mouthful!), kindle store, or directly from the Amazon store, they reap more and more profit.  The actual device probably won’t earn them more than $10 if they are profiting at all.

Summary:

To summarize it all, Amazon may have just dealt a fatal blow to practically all e-book device makers and any tablet makers selling in the 7-inch form factor. There isn’t another company out there (besides Google perhaps) that can afford to do what amazon is doing while remaining afloat. All that being said though, I still can’t 100% recommend the Kindle Fire. There’s nothing wrong with it, It’s actually something the Vice President of Amazon Kindle said. According to the man with the long title, there’s a 10-inch version of the same tablet (hopefully with better specs) coming out soon-ish (probably Q1 or Q2 this upcoming fiscal year). For me, the extra screen real estate (along with a more storage, a Micro SD card slot and better specs) is easily worth another Benjamin or more so I would wait for that to come out. Because of the size and the fact that I haven’t used it personally, I can’t say that this is an iPad killer (at this point it isn’t even competing with the iPad) but it’s definitely has second-place wrapped up.

 

 

 

If you have any questions or want to share your personal opinion, feel free to comment below!

Top 5 Assets of Windows 8

Over the last week I’ve been giving Windows 8 Developer’s edition a test drive and I wanted to share my experience so far. This post is written with the fact that this is only a developer’s preview. Not all features are working yet, there are some bugs and implementation needs work but let’s keep in mind that Microsoft has at least a year (based on previous dev. editions) to get everything fixed and polished. So, without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons Microsoft could hit a home run with Windows 8.

1) It’s gorgeous!

Let”s face it, Microsoft hasn’t had the best track record for making beautiful products but with 8, they’ve come a long long way towards that goal. From the moment you turn it on, you get his beautiful splash screen that shows the time and your choice of background. Once you get into Metro UI, that’s when 8 really shines. I’ve always been a fan of windows 7 tile theme and to see it on the big laptop screen just makes it look all the better. It’s minimalistic, breathtaking and functional all at once. If you need to know the weather, check your emails and notifications or any other information, you just need to glance at the tiles. But the appeal isn’t just skin deep, even the oldest and most utilitarian of windows programs (I’m looking at you Task Bar) gets a makeover. This deep integration of Metro UI into Windows 8 is gonna be paramount to 8’s success.

2) Tablets!

Another area apple has taken the lead over Microsoft in. The only response windows has had so far was to put windows 7 on tablets but, as we’ve learned time and time again, it just doesn’t work. A tablet isn’t even at half the power of laptops and desktops yet so everything runs slowly or not at all. With tablet ownership is growing at a faster rate than all other PC’s, you can’t consider a tablet UI as secondary. And 8 definitely gets that right. Metro UI is beautiful, finger friendly and easy to learn. Even in it’s beta, I’d put it head and shoulders above Honeycomb (based solely on looks and implementation since 8 obviously doesn’t have the same selection of apps available as android).

3) Integrated

This is what 8 is all about. Microsoft doesn’t want two separate UI’s for it’s big screen products but wants to unify both under one roof. The outcome looks good so far and if they can make sure that both Metro UI and the traditional desktop get the attention they need, They’ll do just fine.

4) Apps (programs for the windows user of all of us)

The iPad’s monopoly is based almost entirely on the app selection that you just can’t get elsewhere. But this tactic is taken straight out of Microsoft’s playbook. Because of the integration, and he fact that 8 will have  a built in base of 400 million plus users, there’s gonna be a large incentive for developers to build for windows instead of Honeycomb (or ice cream) and maybe even iOS.

5) It’s unique

This is the reason that I’ve always been a fan of windows phone 7. If you’ve payed any attention to the big Apple/Samsung wars, you’ll have realized that iOS and Android have a lot of similarities (I’m not saying I agree with apple or that they should win, especially in light of the recent discovery that apple Photoshopped Samsung’s devices to look more similar to theirs.. but more on that later). Metro UI’s tile layout is unlike anything else out there and it’s still beautiful and functional. But that wasn’t enough to help Windows Phone 7 so Microsoft doesn’t exactly have an easy home run on its hands. But 8 amends some of Windows Phone 7’s woes with it’s built in library of programs (and shorter name).

Although, from what I’ve seen, Windows 8 isn’t perfect, It’s definitely the best update from either Microsoft or Apple in years (I’m looking at you Lion). It’s combination of sex appeal, performance and programs/app selection make for a winning OS that’s definitely worth following (and eventually purchasing