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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

the ever shifting web « Previous | |Next »
January 6, 2010

In his review of the just released Google phone--the Nexus One---Tim O'Reilly questions the common view that the Nexus One is at its core just another Android smartphone.

He makes the following argument:

What we see then is a collision of paradigms, perhaps as profound as the transition between the character-based era of computing and the GUI based era of the Mac and Windows. We're moving from the era in which the device is primary and the web is an add-on, to the era in which a device and its applications are fundamentally dependent on the internet operating system that provides location, speech recognition, image recognition, social network awareness, and other fundamental data services.

Unlike Apple's iPhone Google's Nexus One is a web-native device. Despite its rudimentary connecting features, it is still a more fundamentally connected device than any previous phone. Apple has done a fairly poor job on its cloud integration so far. Its MobileMe is yet to be backed by big data and powerful algorithms running on a cloud platform.

The competition between phones platforms is one front in what Reilly has called a war of the web, with its references back to the Microsoft/Apple war around the personal computer in the 1980s that was one by Microsoft.

Reilly's thesis refers to the conflict between two models of operating system, which he characterizes as "One Ring to Rule Them All" and "Small Pieces Loosely Joined," with the latter represented by a routing map of the Internet:

The first is the winner-takes-all world that we saw with Microsoft Windows on the PC, a world that promises simplicity and ease of use, but ends up diminishing user and developer choice as the operating system provider.The second is an operating system that works like the Internet itself, like the web, and like open source operating systems like Linux: a world that is admittedly less polished, less controlled, but one that is profoundly generative of new innovations because anyone can bring new ideas to the market without having to ask permission of anyone.

Apple has the proprietary position relative to Google's open position and Reilly's argument is that we're facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill in the web economy.

Reilly also argues that database management is a core competency of Web 2.0 companies and the race is on to own certain classes of core data: location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespace. The failure to own an application's core data (eg., maps) will eventually undercut the applications competitive position. The key is to effectively turn certain classes of data into reliable subsystems of the "internet operating system".

Google is moving in this direction. It, for instance, has taken the role of data source for maps away from Navteq and TeleAtlas and inserted themselves as a favored intermediary. They are giving away the main product for future advertising revenue alone. Google's strategy is to use open source software to commoditise – and make cheaper for consumers – any technology that brings more people to its advertisement-serving algorithms, whether via a computer or a mobile phone. It wants to make mobile devices and software more accessible to raise demand for advertising, the segment it dominates. And it makes products that don't suck.

I'm not sure that the dynamics of the internet are about open systems vs. closed systems and about Google vs. Apple. It seems to be more about the mobile web and mobile computing, which in general appears to be growing leaps and bounds, and will continue to do so over the next few years. Is there something special about the mobile internet that compels people to pay for things they wouldn’t pay for on the desktop internet?

Though Microsoft is still dominant in PC operating systems it is a bit player in the world of online music downloads and digital media devices, and is increasingly becoming a has-been in smartphones. This is significant because it appears that people will carry their TV (and print entertainment? ) around with them instead of being glued to a TV as we are now.

Thus Apple tablet customers---ie., Apple scales up the mobile screen size from 3.5 inches to 10 inches---will watch their favorite movies and TV shows anywhere they go, and without commercial interruptions. Apple will make money with the iTunes model for the content and it is advert free viewing for the customer. Content is the key.

The implication is that broadcast television is past its peak. We can see that in the steady drop in the quality of the content, due to the fragmentation of the TV audience and the decline in revenue from mass advertising.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:32 AM | | Comments (12)




where next I wonder?

dunno. I'm not a techno-futurologist or a geek. I don't really understand the dynamics of internet apart from it changing very fast and very quickly. I'm able to get the idea of both open source (available for anybody to use, add to, change), and platform, and I see how Google is tying this to their web based applications. Beyond that it goes blurry for me.

I can see that the potential of Apple's iPhone--or its iTablet if it ever eventuates--- as a mobile platform is currently limited by it being tied to telecom networks with their limited download quotas and their huge bills for over the quota downloads. We really need unlimited quotas to use this kind of mobile technology.

On the iPhone you pay between $100 and $70 for an app that turns your phone into a functioning GPS sat-nav unit. Or you can buy a stand-alone unit for anything from $100-plus to around $400. On the Nexus, they're handing it out for free.Google's control of data sure cuts the ground under Apple.

As a result of Google free TomTom and Garmin and any other sat-nav business find their business model in ruins.

one possibility that has been mentioned in the media is Fetch TV Australia, which is expected to begin shortly to test low-cost pay-TV as well as on-demand TV and movie services. Internode is a part of this.

What I'd like is something like this and for similar reasons.

John Gapper in Google’s open battle with Apple in the Financial Times questions the secretive Apple versus the open Google interpretation of their skirmish. He says:

et Apple is not as closed as Google portrays it, and nor is Google as open. Instead, like the proverbial half-empty glass, Google is best regarded as half-open and Apple as half-closed. That is significant because it shows how such companies need to compete in a networked industry....The Android operating software that Google uses for the Nexus One and other “Google phones” is indeed, unlike Apple’s OS X or Microsoft’s Windows, open source. But the search advertising technology from which it makes money is as closely guarded as the recipe for Coca-Cola.

On the other hand, Apple
Apple has not pursued a fully closed strategy with the iPhone, but has been tactically pragmatic.
The clearest example is the App Store, which Apple has opened up to rival software developers with great success. ...Apple’s iPod revival was achieved with a mixture of closed technology – proprietary software such as iTunes – and open content. Mr Jobs turned the iPod into a must-have device by signing deals with music labels, a tactic he is repeating for the tablet with publishers.

Both Apple and Google compete by openly expanding their reach while staying partly closed.

To me its all much like the car business. Every year they come up with a new model with new colours and a few new functions and put up the balloons in the showroom. Then every few years they have a shape change and put up even more balloons. Some people care, lots don't. At the end of the day all the cars drive down the same highway.
Touch screen is just like pushing a button but its just less buttony. Think I'll just snap the lid off my notebook and write tablet on it.

all that is true Les. The changes are often incremental and minor. The industry is full of companies stuffing our device with as much whizz-bang flavour-of-the-moment tech as possible. As you note they make little or no impression by doing that.

But the other side is the dynamics of the internet requires new operating systems and more powerful computers every 3-4 years; plus computers, especially laptops, die after 3-4 years.

They key is usage defined, not tech-defined. Thus my recent shift from text (Canberra based policy work) to image (photography) requires me to make the expensive shift from PC's to Mac's with the grunt to handle graphics well. Macs are much better for image based work. So usage defined, not tech-defined -

There is also the shift from desktop internet to mobile computer to consider. This comment, for instance, is being written on a laptop in a coffee shop with free wireless provided by Internode. That was not possible to do several years ago.

My guess is that Apple's much talked about tablet it's all about the content - print media, user-generated-content, TV and movies all redefined. Our tablet will connect to Apple's massive new data centre and everything you buy, rent, subscribe-to or create will be available on your iSlate in 2 clicks.

the iPhone is a game changer in an industry hooked on on launch strategies that involved upgrading their phones bit by bit - a better camera, a brighter screen or larger memory - so as to make the "new" device just a little more attractive and increase sales.

The iPhone has sent some of the largest technology companies in the world back to the drawing board --to create smart phones---and proved that, given the opportunity, people will do far more with a phone than make calls and send texts. Everybody is trying to produce an iPhone killer.

The high end smart phones have touchscreens, play and store music and videos; access the internet and send emails; have cameras and download applications on to some devices in order to personalise them. They are a form of mobile computing.

Apple didn't invent a totally new technology for the iphone. They rethought the whole mobile experience and produce a very polished user experience compared with what people were used to. Even though the iPhone/iPod Touch is still a comparatively small player, it accounts for a large proportion of people using their phones to access the web, a market Apple has singlehandedly prised open.

Now we need to break the resistance of telcos to "unlimited data" packages.

I bought my 12 year old a macbook for xmas and have been having a good look around it. My initial thoughts are that it is a better system for newbies and perhaps better overall. Anything I have wanted to work out has had a youtube tutorial done by other mac users.
Annon, yes I agree with the telco's point.
One thing I am looking forward to is having SKYPE on my T.V soon. I tried to get the skype name "George Jetson" but it was taken.

re your comment about a MacBook "Anything I have wanted to work out has".
That's a big plus since Microsoft's Vista did not work. That operating system was junk. I had to deal with it for 2 years re the Canberra policy work.

It was one reason why I decided to switch to Apple.

odd the reactions new technology causes. An example by Helen Razar in The Age