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The upcoming WebOS ecosystem February 10, 2011

Posted by CK in IT, Mobility.
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I was particularly impressed by the HP announcements yesterday, that in addition to a couple of new phones and a tablet based on WebOS, it is also planning desktops/notebooks with the same OS. The main reason being, HP seems to be the second behemoth in a few days that realizes the obvious: Offering a complete ecosystem attracts developers; and a large range of applications attracts users — given, of course, a decent OS in the first place. Apple did this and has been winning the race so far. Microsoft does offer an ecosystem as such, but it doesn’t seem capable to capitalize on it, presumably because the platform/OS itself is not good enough. Android is apparently managing very well on the mobile world, but Google’s proposal on the desktop, ChromeOS, does not integrate on a development level (even though Google’s services make up for that to a large extent). Although this does not hurt Android-phones sales, I believe it is only due to the fact that Android is an open system, so phone manufacturers feel safe to base their businesses upon it.

I really think that WebOS can remain (become?) one of the big players in the future, given this new strategy of HP, its deep pockets, and the system’s quality. If I was a developer, I would be more than happy to create applications for this platform — especially if they have "write once, run everywhere" properties with as little customization as possible.

Hopefully, Nokia will also build on a similar strategy with Meego — even if it must divert towards Windows/Android for a while, to keep the stock holders happy. It would then have the additional advantage of offering an open platform (like Android is) to attract other manufacturers, but compete on device quality where it shines. Revenue from desktop H/W sales would be a bonus.

Apple no more February 21, 2010

Posted by CK in IT, Mobility, Personal.
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Apple is becoming a real pain.

On the iPhone, they decided users cannot be trusted with changing their phone battery. They also decided, no one installs anything unless Apple gets a premium out of it. More recently, they decided that noone has a right to choose even the content on their ridiculously expensive iPhone, even if willing to pay for that, unless Apple says so.

And it’s not only the iPhone. On the newest Macbooks, users can’t change the battery either — a worldwide first. My Macbook’s battery is useless after 20 months of use; literally, yesterday my laptop switched off without any warning whatsoever, while the battery indicator was at 80% or so. And that was 20 months of careful use. Thankfully, I have the previous model and I can just buy a new battery, but if I had the latest one, I’d have to part with the laptop for a considerable number of days, and that’s only because Apple says so.

I had recently decided to upgrade to an iPhone (Android-based phones came a close second). But looking at where Apple is going, also taking the iPad into account, I decided that this is not going to happen. As a matter of fact, although I had decided in the past that I’m not going back to other (existing at the moment) operating systems on the laptop, now I’ve changed my mind. Openness is not just a philosophical issue, it’s a real matter of freedom. I have been using Linux and FreeBSD on various laptops in the past for a long time, and it’s clearly time I return to that practice. Apple desperately wants to lock us in, and Google desperately wants our data, so it’s not Chromium or Android either. With both companies preparing for the mother of all IT battles for advertisements on mobile platforms, I don’t want to be part of it. Any platform whose defaults I can’t override, is not good enough.

So my current plan, as soon as I finish with my academic obligations and as long as things remain the same until then, is to convert to different hardware and some Linux distribution. On the mobile end, I will wait for Nokia’s update to N900; Meego sounds promising.

I only regret the hundreds of euros I spent on software for the Mac OS, and feel sorry I’ll have to part with some favorites such as Things, Journler , BibDesk andOmniGraffle.

The joys (not) of searching for a new phone December 24, 2009

Posted by CK in Mobility.
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I have already mentioned in the past that I am not too fond of my Nokia E71. Practically since I bought it, I’m thinking of selling it and buying something else. These days, being the fool that I am for nice new toys and Christmas presents to myself, I thought of looking at my options. From the beginning, I have written off all types and incarnations of Windows for mobile devices as well as Symbian and anything building on it. I looked at various phones, and here are my conclusions.

The first phone I checked and liked after playing with it a bit, was the Samsung Jet (S8000). I liked using it quite a lot: The interface was prompt and beautiful (although I know others despise the inconsistencies in the TouchWiz 2 UI, for me it wasn’t really a problem). I initially thought it was Android-based, it turns out it is using Samsung’s proprietary OS. Samsung is about to release Bada, an open platform that I presume is basically this currently-proprietary OS opened up. Until that happens though, and until it attracts enough developers, the owners of the Jet are constrained to the applications that Samsung releases for the device with its firmware upgrades (plus J2ME applications). In the times of Apple Store, Android Market, and Palm App Catalog, this is a serious limitation. So I had to move on.

Then I looked at the Palm Pre. I’ve been a loyal fun of Palm devices for more than 10 years now, so I was very excited when it came out. It’s available in Germany, and I could even do with the QUERTZ keyboard, if it supported the Greek language (which, to the best of my understanding, it does not yet). This is an immediate show-stopper, so that’s out of the list too.

The iPhone and Android-based choices are basically the only options by now. I find the former to be terribly expensive, and I am much bothered by the way customers are tied up: No replaceable battery, no memory extensions, device sold only by specific telecom providers. I have been spoiled by option so far, and I have a serious moral problem with getting myself restricted in such a manner. On the other hand, it has the most complete application list by 3rd party developers, it synchronizes seamlessly with Mac OS X which I am currently using, and it offers a beautiful, consistent user experience.

From the various Android devices out there, the HTC Hero is quite nice and complete, and the price is reasonable for what it offers (still not cheap though). I also like how Android is open, but on the same time I am much bothered by its strong ties to Google and things I’ve been reading about how one can’t get rid of this integration. Unfortunately, I had no chance so far to take a close look and see if these phones are actually usable without a Google account. The Android Market also seems to be catching up with the Apple Store as regards applications, although still a different league. One issue about the Hero in specific, is that it’s more than 6 months old and is about to be replaced — typical HTC release cycle…

So at the end, I’m still trying to decide between the two (iPhone and Hero), or maybe just wait. Ideally, I’d like something as complete as the iPhone, and as liberal as the Android-based phones, minus the strong coupling with Google services. It feels like one is going after my money, the other one after my data, and I don’t like any of the two.

Maybe I should just forget about 🙂