Saturday 17 September 2011

The fall '11 device technology landscape

Being somewhat busier these days, my posts here tend to have bigger gaps between them .. but they will still happen! And they may be a little longer when they do.

As summer disappears and the leaves begin falling, more froth is bubbling on the technology landscape as many await the next move by mobile device leader Apple. Yes the next generation iPhone is coming and my 3GS is due for replacement so I await with interest. It's likely that this time the range of iPhones will be increased by a choice of high-end and less expensive models in order to broaden market appeal. The storage capacity of a lower priced model could certainly be smaller, given the imminent simultaneous launch of iCloud and the storage/streaming/download features it supports. The latter will also open the door for a couple of innovations, through its instant app-sync across devices facility.

The first is that when Apple decide the time is right to introduce NFC (Near Field Comms) to their devices, this will likely support multiple features/services, and not just the small-value contactl-less purchasing that most commentators talk about. I expect the sensing and proximity aspects of NFC to feature in a number of distinctive ways. The seconds is in the mapping space and especially how people locate and track other people and things that they care about, in a secure and privacy-aware way.

Away from Cupertino, what else is happening? Well RIM have continued to see BlackBerry sales drop sharply and are shedding jobs ... not good for the major corporate smartphone supplier. Its 200,000 PlayBook tablet sales have also disappointed investors. Travelling by train a lot recently, I see many employees juggling the corporate BlackBerry and their personal device of choice (Android or iPhone). This is an unsustainable behavioural situation and I believe that change will continue to happen in favour of the consumer/personal devices, especially as IT managers, CTOs and employees become more aware of the way that corporate security policies can be automatically and securely deployed remotely to protect company data while leaving the users happier and more productive with an experience/device they enjoy using.

Microsoft have begun to show people what Windows 8 will look like. Something tells me that many Windows users are not yet ready for another new operating system upgrade, they just want their existing PCs to work better like the smiley "I'm a PC" folk shown in Microsoft's recent TV advertisements. (Note that the Redmond company never used to have to advertise PCs a while ago!) And for those that do yearn to embrace the next Windows experience, they may be a little surprised to find that it may not be so happy to run some of the software they traditionally rely on. They may also be wary of the latest layer of user interface to be slapped on top of the system. But that is all in the future.

Samsung are having a hard time in the courts, with rulings in increasing numbers of countries that they cannot sell their Galaxy Tab models which not only compete with iPad but also look so similar in most design aspects that lots of non-geeks could be confused. HTC and other Android system smartphone makers must be still reeling slightly from how Google appeared to get into bed with Motorola last month, and looking for additional alliance options for mobile operating systems, either by partnering or acquisition in order to mitigate risk. However there aren't too many competitive options out there. You might expect the LinkedIn profiles of a few ex WebOS designers to be updated with new employment details soon.

Finally for this time, Intel has announced more about their roadmaps including extra support for even lower power processors that PC manufacturers may use to attempt to compete with the MacBook Air which continues to sell in huge numbers. Intel have also announced support for OpenCL in such processor families coming soon which should increase further the performance of future lightweight Air models. Then, like their bigger notebook siblings, they will be able to ship out some general processing tasks to the GPU (graphics processing unit) when it is not busy painting pixels on the screen.

More of a roundup and opinions of it soon!