By Greg Mills
A lot of what Apple has done is incremental. They build upon one successful concept to support another. The iTunes method of selling digital material set the stage for the app store that creates the environment that is making iPhone and iPad so hard to beat. It takes more than a capable device to make a platform viable.
Dull continued their losing streak by pulling a high-end lapflop off the market. Intended to compete with hig- end (Apple) portable computers the market pumped another dose of reality into them. When you sell US$500 laptops there isn't enough profit left in them matter. No one wants to pay for a top end laptop and walk away with just a Dell. They have created their own corporate image, and it isn't high end.
HP yesterday launched two cell phone and announced a line of slate computers that appear to be reasonably viable but held back on announcing price points. At this stage of the game, they certainly know what it cost to build that product and what it has to sell for to compete with iPad. I think the price point is the sticking point. The technology of creating a touch screen slate computer is well known. The devil is in the details and the software that makes slate computers magic or not.
Getting back to my first paragraph, the infrastructure of slate computers and cell phones matters a lot. While hardware issues and prices are strong selling points, what good is a device that you can't do anything useful with? This was the dilemma Apple faced when launching the first Mac. Great hardware without great software isn't going anywhere. Nokia, RIM, HP and the reset of the "me too" crowd are fully beginning to understand that it takes an entire infrastructure to compete with Apple. Where are the apps that will make HP slate computers competitive with the Apple system?
What makes Android so attractive to hardware companies is that the platform amounts to an instant environment for their products. While clearly second best to Apple's offering, Android is really the only other alternative that is viable. A complete rundown of the apps for each platform isn't all it takes.
There has to be a developer community that is supported by good app creation tools. There has to be a solid basis for developers to get paid without major piracy. There has to be critical mass in the number of devices on that platform to support the economics all the way around. There has to be a solid foundation of patent protection to defend against infringement suits.
Apple is firmly based on all counts, while Android is wobbling and the rest of the platforms are missing major platform elements required for success. This is why Nokia may well completely drop development of its proprietary OSs and get in bed with Ballmer and the gang that can't shoot straight. How weird is that? While the handset industry is going with Android, the potential for a catastrophic collapse of that platform due to pending infringement suits on basic touch OS elements Apple has filed, creates a niche for Windows Mobile 7 to find refuge in.
Microsoft skated on ripping off the Mac OS look and feel despite legal efforts by Apple to stop them. I heard somewhere Steve Jobs muse that that won't happen with the iOS platform due to extensive patent protection and a fierce gang of Apple's patent attorneys. I predict that once Apple has slipped the sword into the raging bull that is Android, they will set their sites on Microsoft's Mobile 7 as it certainly has touch screen technology that can be attacked in Federal Court. I suspect this is the year of touch screen patent infringement suits drawing more blood than the market place.
That's Greg's bite for today.
(Greg Mills is currently a graphic and Faux Wall Artist in Kansas City. Formerly a new product R&D man for the paint sundry market, he holds 11 US patents. Greg is an Extra Class Ham Radio Operator, AB6SF, iOS developer and web site designer. He's also working on a solar energy startup using a patent pending process for turning waste dual pane glass window units into thermal solar panels used to heat water see: www.CottageIndustySolar.com . Married, with one daughter, Greg writes for intellectual property web sites and on Mac/Tech related issues. See Greg's art web site at http://www.gregmills.com . He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org )