Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM and the Phone Wars 1

Rumors are flying about whether Google Android is replacing iOS as the top mobile OS.  We will examine the rumors.

Apple's iOS and Google have been fighting for control of a huge empire - the mobile market.  When this battle clears, there will be one clear victor who will dominate the market.  Other players will exist, but they will pick up the crumbs from the table of the dominant company.  Who will it be?

The History of Smart Phones
Amazingly enough the first smart phone was made by Nokia.  It released its Nokia 9000 Communicator in 1998.  This device stood alone as an exclusive item (for a hefty price of $1,000) until 2000 with the advent of the Ericsson R380 phone running an OS named Symbian.  Within a year in 2001, appeared the Kycoera 6035, which used the Palm OS used in Palm PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants).  The term PDA was first used
Nokia 9000 Communicator
by John Sculley former CEO of Apple in 1992 when used to refer to the ill-fated product called the Newton.  In 2002, the Palm Treo 180 and the first Pocket PC Phone arrived.  These last two phones had touch screens and continued the use of styluses to fine-tune the touch experience.  According to wikipedia, it was Ericsson that first coined the term "smartphone." Here is an early commercial for the Ericcson R380. If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link:

Microsoft really focused their attention on the business market and their Windows Mobile phones cam to dominate among non-Blackberry users.  In 2005, Windows Mobile had a 10% smartphone market share while RIM had a 46% share.  Some analysts predicted back then in a pre-iPhone era, that Windows Mobile would grab 32.3% of the market leaving RIM with only 14.9%.  This obviously proved untrue.

What Apple Did To The Smartphone
Sony Ericsson P900i
Blackberry 8703e
The current form of our smartphones with a large screen, using your fingers in gestures, was invented by Apple.  To some, it has become fashionable to put down the company.

T-Mobile Dash
They accuse it of being greedy, they accuse it of being secretive, closed and dictatorial.  Some of these statements may have truth in them.  But these critics take this company for granted.  They oftentimes fail to give it is due credit.  This can best be illustrated by showing what the market was offering the year before the iPhone came out.  Most smartphones had touch screens.  These touch screens
HTC 8525
were designed for styluses.  Your fingers would have been too big to accurately select menus or buttons.  The GUI resembled that of a computer, especially in Windows Mobile.  A substantial amount of the front of the phone was dedicated to a thumb keyboard.  Amount of memory ranged from megabytes to 1 gigabyte.  If you are interested in seeing how these phones worked using your fingers instead of a stylus, you can watch this video.  This is an HTC phone from 2003.  The author of the video is trying to see it as advanced, and it was for its time, but no one today would accept such an interface on a screen.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link:

Apple was the first cell phone that used was entirely based on your fingers.  Apple made popular the phrase "multitouch" to indicate using more than one finger at the same time on the screen.  This far surpassed what any phone could do.

Wayne Westerman
TouchStream LP
Although Apple did popularize this technology, it did not invent it.  Indeed this technology had been experimented in 1982 by the University of Toronto's Input Research Group.  The pinch gesture now so popular in the iPhone was invented in 1983.  In 1999, Wayne Westerman finished his Ph.D. Thesis at the University of Deleware in Electrical Engineering, entitled, Hand Tracking, Finger Identification, and Chordic Manipulation On A Multi-touch Surface.  Upon graduation he formed a company named FingerWorks, which Apple purchased in 2005.  Before FingerWorks was purchased, it produced several models to combine multitouch with a keyboard.  These models were nothing close to what Apple produced in the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.  As can be seen from the following pictures.

Mac TouchStream
So there is no question that Apple not only innovated on top of the technology it purchased from FingerWorks, but it popularized it.  Before Apple very few people were using the technology and many did not even know it existed.

The App Store
FingerWorks Interface
Apple built an entire method for delivering applications to each device wirelessly and directly.  At first Apple tried to market what were called "web apps."  These were applications that worked through the mini browser Safari in the iPhone.  The user experience however was not optimal and Apple began to allow stand alone software programs which were just termed "apps."  This market took off and has since become legendary.  Before this the only unit that had any significant software for it in addition to what came with it was the Palm phones.  And with these, you had to download them into your computer there was no direct wireless download.

The launching of the app store in July 10, 2008 turned out to be a revolutionary decision by Apple.

In our next part in this series we will present what is really going on in all the hype and positioning of Apple, Google, Blackberry and Microsoft.  Stay tuned.



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ItalianBlogger said...

The first smartphone was SIMON, in 1992, not nokia 9000 communicator.