Archive for category Software Releases
The launch of Windows Phone 7 is fast approaching and if the initial impressions of the OS is to be trusted, it is likely to be a credible account from Microsoft in the mobile space. The OS borrows heavily from the user experience found on the Zune HD which is both a pleasure to use and can become easily superior on a mobile phone. I have used both an iPod Touch and a Zune HD and I must admit that the latter presents a superior user experience. As personal as all preferences, I am intrigued by dynamic aspects of the Zune HD user experience. For example, it is quite easy to find new entries to device because they are prominently displayed and hence easy to reach quickly. Also the device is capable of remembering up to the last 6 artefacts that you played including media as well as games and radio stations that you have listened to recently. I have not come across such an offer on the iPod Touch though subsequent upgrades to iOS have brought better organization on the device through universal search that is so far lacking in the Zune HD.
Recently the number of applications available to Zune HD users has steadily increased; all the applications available on the Zune HD thus far are not frivolous applications – there is no iFart type application (yet). While that speaks to the value of the application available on the Zune HD so far, any (if not all) of these applications have been not been developed by third parties. All of them remain Microsoft applications; given that some of them may rely on other existing web services like Facebook and Twitter but they retain Microsoft as developer. How is the imminent launch and subsequent release of Windows Phone 7 going to affect the third party application count is a matter that will become apparent with time. Microsoft is certainly not a player to be discounted as they have been platform and tools vendors for quite sometime and there are is a general consensus that one her strength lies on rallying developers to its tools and platforms.
However, Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft’s attempts to get back into the smartphone mobile operating system game. It is an interesting play as well since Microsoft is coming into the game with what is essentially its desktop and server business model – charging OEM licenses to use its platform. Based on noises made by senior Microsoft officials in the media, they believe that paying for Windows Phone 7 is an advantage as the license fee is virtually a guarantee that any of the licensees will not be sued for intellectual properties infringement. I am yet to catch wind of a case that has resulted in clear cut victory for whoever is suing though what has been evident so far is that players in the industry end up counter suing each other. However, if the main attraction of Windows Phone 7 (at least to OEM) is in its lack of any likely law suites then it becomes a platform of choices for licensees whose business models are not strong enough that they can’t protect themselves from litigation and/or they are not aggressive enough to push products to market that dare to challenge the status quo.
Other players in the smartphone industry have advantages that are unique to each one: so far Apple by far as the best laid out infrastructure (the hardware, iTunes) and the accompanying processes and people that have contributed positively to their bottom line.
Google’s environment is increasingly becoming more robust as additional phones are released and the platform continues to make progress by leap and bounds. Android will face growing pains as it tries to maintain its open nature while balancing it with the fact that the operating system is maturing thus issues of backward compatibility become ever more pressing. People have voiced concerns about fragmentation of Android; a valid question to ponder but it also calls for the OEMs that support Android to ensure that the chances of fragmentation are reduced.
Windows Phone 7 is an important project for Microsoft has computing is steadily shifting towards mobile devices. However, third party application development and environment remains important for the success of the platform. Based on the challenges that Microsoft has faced in the smartphone operating system space, it becomes acceptable to postulate that they are in this for the long term. This will hopefully translate into better applications for corresponding devices like the Zune HD.
Browser competition has heated up in the recent past with all major browser currently having a better release. Microsoft is working out the details of IE 8 and Mozilla is polishing Firefox 3.1. These two browsers currently dominate the market share and Google’s Chrome will be looking to become relevant. Usage data for Chrome currently put the number of active users at 10 million which is barely 1% of the web surfing public.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer leverages the Windows monopoly on desktop operating systems which means that every installation of Windows comes with Internet Explorer and of course Microsoft services like Windows Update can be used to push new versions of Internet Explorer to desktop users.
Firefox is largely credited with igniting competition in the browser space and there are those amongst the ranks of Mozilla who believe that it is Firefox that reminded Microsoft to pay attention to Internet Explorer and make improvements such as tab browsing in IE 7. Its key advantage is the large number of extensions that have been built around Firefox. There are extensions of all kinds and users have come to rely on these extensions.
The main selling point of Google Chrome is its speed and stability. Its interface is clean and simple. How this proceeds going forward will be interesting to watch since an increase in the number of users will most likely lead to requests for features which may very well include an extension mechanism. Extensions can slow down the performance of a browser and so Google has a balancing act to pull off.
The web is a blaze with news of the 9 million downloads that the recently released Firefox 3 garnered. That is 9 million downloads within a period of 24 hours. Firefox 3 has come a long way in; I have been using it since its alpha releases and hence I hardly see any cause for excitement about the release but it is truly an improvement. Memory utilization is better as compared to Firefox 2 and the awesome bar is great though it does take some getting used to.
That aside, the Internet browser war may be back up on us once again and it is indeed a joyous time for netizens. Such competition should lead to some innovation as each camp attempts to out do their rivals. An increasingly visible Apple is pushing Safari and sometimes using questionable tactics like offering the said browser as an update to Apple software. Firefox 3 does install itself as the default browser on the machine though this setting can be changed at the browser preference window.
A mention of browsers would not be complete without a reference to Internet Explorer which is the market leader at the onset of of the Browser Wars 2.0 and the current production release of IE is version 7 though beta 2 of IE 8 is in the works. One of the positive side effects of the emergence of Firefox as a browser is the resurgent interest and investment in IE which has resulted in tabs featuring in IE 7 and a push for better standards compliance in IE 8. In general Opera has always been viewed as the more standards compliant browser in the market but for some reason it didn’t effectively challenge the dominance of IE.
Most people would probably remember what happened to Netscape during Browser Wars 1.0 and the war did bring the true colors of Microsoft to the public’s eye; However with Wars 2.0, Microsoft’s IE Team sent Mozilla a cake to congratulate the latter on the release of Firefox 3.
Jokes aside, consider the symbolic meaning of the Mozilla team eating that e? Yes, very cannibal – so let us have a good, clean fight over who comes out with the best browser. Underhanded tricks will probably be displayed more openly but then again we hope that users join in the fun as well. Notice the rise of Firefox and the level of support that it has as reflected by the sheer number of extensions and addons that are available for the browser. 9 millions downloads thus far speaks of an ability to market the browser through the strength of the community surrounding the browser. Browser users can play a very clear and important role in refereeing Browser Wars 2.0