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Motorola shows off new iTunes mobile phone

Speaking during a keynote at the International Consumer Electronics Show last month [I think! It’s all a bit of blur these days] an executive demonstrated the phone, which by all accounts functions in a similar way to the iPod.

Not only synchronizing with a computer and the iTunes Music Store, but also incorporating the iPod interface, said Ron Garriques, a Motorola executive vice president.

“You’ll know we hit 2.0 when the Internet is no longer visible … and the PC is a peripheral,” said Ron Garriques, president of Motorola’s personal devices business.

I do like the comment by Ron Garriques. That is precisely the kind of talk Microsoft does not want to hear.

The dilemma for Microsoft is that almost everything they do is a franchise of Windows. If it’s not a franchise, it’s a derivative of Windows, or peripheral to Windows. Thus, the Media Center Windows PC.

Some research organization made an observation a couple of weeks ago that Microsoft isn’t going to steal a march into the living room with the Media Center. For the most part, PC’s are still too complicated, the Media Center in particular because of the amount of stuff they’re trying to make it do, plus it’s just not one-click reliable.

Whereas the likes of Apple can sneak in under the radar with the iPod because they can create a billion dollar business model that doesn’t have to tie in with an existing business model, like that of operating system licensing.

At the time, Bill Gates with the aid of his newfangled Media Center PC were amusing the crowds at the Consumer Electronics Show with blue screens and the like, but the TiVo and the iPod were the stars of the show .. not what Microsoft want people to see.

Apple has done an amazing thing — they’re beating Microsoft with their own strategy: come up with an idea, one that doesn’t have to be amazing but it helps, then foster an ecosystem around that strategy.

The telling difference here is that the idea is amazing. And it’s worth noting this is the only deviation Apple has made from the Microsoft strategy: Apple comes up with a great idea, while Microsoft just has an idea.

Look at the plethora of gadgets and gizmos that you can buy and connect to the iPod! It’s amazing. Now you don’t just have Apple selling the iPod, you have Apple at the middle of a thriving ecosystem, surrounded by partners who rely on the iPod to extend its utility with their gizmos.

So when you have the likes of car stereo manufacturers producing break-out cables so you can connect your iPod, for the likes of Microsoft and their partners, they’re already pissing against the wind.

Now look at the new Motorola / Apple phone. If this was Microsoft, number one priority would be to squeeze Windows CE onto it and all of the incumbent bloat and lack of device one-click reliability that brings with it.

A friend of mine had a ‘Smart Phone’ which ran Windows CE. When he was out and about, he kept a straightened out paperclip in his pocket. Why? Because he kept getting a blue screen on his ‘Smart Phone’ and he needed the paperclip to force restart it from the tiny reset button at the back.

That’s not what Microsoft want you to see. Most importantly, that’s not what the consumer wants to see…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

6 replies on “Motorola shows off new iTunes mobile phone”

Interesting quote there. I was sitting in the office today talking to a guy about Sun Microsystems kit and the “Network is the Computer” theme (they sell SunRays (amongst lots of other stuff) which are interesting devices that make the screen the only bit you have, running programs from a central server and/or the net – kind of like a GUI fronted semi-smart-dumb-terminal if you know what I mean). Anyway turns out that this guy I was talking to used to work for Wang computers (I just used to work on them) in the early 1980s, and they had the same sort of devices, much more than a dumb terminal connected to a mainframe. And they were great! Wang only died because they didn’t have the “personal” as in “personal computer”. Everyone wanted their own computer, and the pc was the only affordable option (Apple still keeping head firmly in sand, believing people would pay a premium for better technology).

And now what? You said it – everyone wants to access the content and doesn’t really care about the device that delivers that content. We’re moving to an era where your mobile device delivers phone/music/internet access/video and probably much more, to the palm of your hand wherever you are.

As you said, Microsoft don’t want you to hear that message, because everything hangs off Windows for them.

There’ll always be a need for big servers for the backbone of the internet, which Sun/HP/IBM will provide. And a multitude of companies (probably including Apple and Microsoft) will provide content and/or operating systems for some of the devices on offer.

BTW, I play tunes on my PalmOne Treo600 mobile phone, from an SD card. Works fine, sound quality’s not great. I haven’t got that iPod yet, but soon, maybe soon.

I think Microsoft are a victim not of their own success, but of a business model that can’t easily be adapted to work in the modern world.

I say the modern world, because the business model Microsoft have been using for over twenty years is still valid, but not on the scale they need it to be.

Because of the size of Microsoft, each new idea needs to be a billion dollar business model and the kind of billion dollar business model that has Windows in the middle of it.

This idea does not scale well, adapt well or stay flexible enough to keep up with the little guys who can be more adaptive and responsive to change.

I thing Microsoft are as big as they can get, and my feeling is, if they want to go after the games market and telecommunications — which are vast and considerable markets in their own right — they may well have to consider spinning those parts of their business off for them to make a go of it without the rest of Microsoft getting under their feet.

Or I could be wrong.

That has happened from time to time…

In my ramblings I didn’t make clear what I meant about the difference between traditional dumb-terminals (a la mainframe) where the mainframe runs everything (intense processing load) and sends it to the terminal (intense comms load), and, smart-clients (a la SunRay, Wang kit, etc) where the server sends the program to the smart-device’s memory and the device runs the program. Basically that’s the way everything’s going, where you don’t have to have loads of memory/hard disk/etc on your phone to run apps on it.

In that environment, Microsoft must diversify, or die. I think they’re doing the right thing in going into the games and telecoms markets, as long as they don’t expect to dominate it like they have with the desktop.

They have the same problem all of us have – determining how quickly technology is going to change (and be robust enough to use)? e.g. I’ve got a Treo600 phone, but how long before it becomes redundant (i.e. unable to handle the latest ‘must have’ applications)?

I’d say redundancy is part & parcel of the cyclical nature of any technology.

The big factor is the frequency of this cycle.

In the computer world, the cycle is getting shorter and shorter all of the time. Eighteen months is about the frequency we’re looking at, now.

And then on top of that, you have the recycle cycle: when big businesses renew their hardware.

This varies, but it seems to be about 3-4 years…

“A friend of mine had a ‘Smart Phone’ which ran Windows CE”

I have a ‘Smart Phone’, an Orange SPV E100, it’s awful. It’s the worst phone i’ve ever owned. Before that I had a Nokia 3310, a heavy brick of a phone, with a black and white screen and capable of nothing more than phone calls and texts. But it worked. I wish I could say the same for my Smartphone

Last month my Smartphone decided that every time I recieved a phone call it would vibrate like normal, but as soon as I answer it would reject the call and return to the home screen. This lasted a week. A week later it decided to do the same thing but for text messages instead, this lasted a week also.

I believe that with computers people are willing to accept things not working sometimes. But with consumer electronics such as mobile phones and entertainment systems, people aren’t going to accept problems such as this. I certainly won’t be buying another Windows-powered phone.

I work for a computer-company that sell Media Center based systems, and from my personal experience trying to support them, they are as reliable as my phone. I personally would hate to have a Media Center in my living room, when I switch my TV on I expect it to show me the TV, not a message complaining about a TV Tuner driver.

If Microsoft intend to make serious inroads into consumer electronics and home entertainment, problems like this need to become problems of the past.

That’s my $0.2

“I believe that with computers people are willing to accept things not working sometimes. But with consumer electronics such as mobile phones and entertainment systems, people aren’t going to accept problems such as this. I certainly won’t be buying another Windows-powered phone.”

An excellent point.

And therein may lie a process of self-regulation within the industry: if you’re shit, people won’t buy your stuff…

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