Thursday Morning Briefing

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While this week featured some really interesting news (the launch announcement of a new phone manufacturer in Essential Products, Inc and their new device the PH-1, the last Code Conference featuring Walt Mossberg) next week is shaping up to have just as much great stuff, if not more.  Here are a few quick thoughts on the things going on this week and next week that will be making tech news.

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[Rumor] Canadian carrier reports strong BB10 pre-orders

With the end of the month rapidly approaching, and with it the BB10 device and software announcement, early feedback from Rogers Wireless in Canada is encouraging for the embattled company from Waterloo.  According to the report from Rogers, reservations began in mid-December for folks interested in purchasing the new Blackberry handset – and the registration numbers appear to be “strong” in Rogers opinion.  And more registrations continue daily.  Since no specific numbers for these pre-orders were given, it doesn’t mean much.  But it should be encouraging to RIM fans.

Early reviews of the new BB10 operating system have been mixed, with some positives and some disappointments.  But for my money, I’m pretty intrigued, and would very much like to see if Verizon gets a new BB device.  And if I’d consider purchasing one, I’m sure that lots more Blackberry fans would too.  January 30th is the scheduled date of the RIM announcement…it can’t get here fast enough!

*Source:  BGR

[News] Report indicates tablet demand greater than expected

Who knew?  Analysts with IDC are predicting that sales numbers for popular Android and Apple tablets will be greater than previously thought, with an estimated 122.3 million devices sold worldwide (up from the previously estimated 117.1 million).  These trends are expected to continue though the next few years, with forecast numbers published through 2016.  Market share is expected to be largely dominated by Apple products, with Android devices coming in 2nd place, and Windows devices a (very) distant 3rd.  A whopping 282.7 million devices will be in the hands of consumers by 2016 – a number that is mind boggling to me right now.  But if folks are getting as much enjoyment as I am out of my tablet, perhaps this isn’t such a huge surprise after all.

Mobile computing and web content consumption is on the rise, especially in the global market, and tablets (as well as smartphones) are an alternative to get this content at a much more cost effective price point than a traditional home PC or laptop.  Google’s $249 Chromebook notwithstanding, most people have to have a mobile phone for a host of other reasons, and when it comes to spending discretionary cash, a lot of folks are going to choose what they need first.  And that means that the mobile phone (or smartphone) comes before a laptop or PC.  And it looks like the tablet is quickly growing into the “need” category from the “want” category.

*Source:  BGR

[News] Apple’s Tim Cook named most powerful figure in wireless

According to FierceWireless, Apple’s CEO is the most powerful person in the wireless game today.  The website released their list of the Top 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless 2012, and Cook heads the list.  This probably won’t come as a shock to many folks considering the success of products like the iPhone 5 and updated iPad.  Other folks on the list include Larry Page of Google, Lowell McAdam of Verizon Wireless, and Dan Hesse of Sprint.

For the entire list, which is an interesting read, go here.

*Source:  BGR

[News] Analyst claims only 3-4 smartphone companies are generating profits

In what is surely seen as bad news for quite of few companies, an analyst from Asymco by the name of Horace Dediu tweeted this morning that he believes only 3 smartphone manufacturers are actually turning a profit:  Apple, HTC, and Samsung.  LG also is turning a teeny-tiny profit, if you can call  a 0.01% of the 3rd quarter profits “making money.”  Apple and Samsung are the real players here, with HTC sneaking in with 1% of the reported profits, behind Apple’s 60% share and Samsung’s 39% share.  Plus or minus the usual margin of error, of course.  Monopolies in the tech market tend to reduce innovations, so here’s to hoping that other companies like Nokia, RIM, and LG can turn things around with new offerings at the end of this year, or early in 2013.

*Source:  BGR 

[Op-Ed] Where does smartphone evolution go from here?

The perfect smartphone is a moving target that is different for everyone.  In terms of raw specifications, each generation of new phones has surpassed its predecessor in computing power, memory, and display quality.  But now, tech users and producers alike find ourselves at a near “tipping point” in terms of the power and features of our phone technology.
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
HTC’s has in the works the Verizon version of the “J Butterfly” device (specs and info found here) which is truly cutting edge.  Along these same lines, Samsung’s announced recently (info found here) that 1080p resolution displays will be integrated into their phones by early 2013.  Other phones already landing this year (like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2) bear within them quad-core processors and as much as 2GB of RAM.  We have had LTE data speeds in mobile devices going back as far as early 2012.  All of this tech advancement makes me wonder – where do we go from here?  Or perhaps put another way: what will be the next big leap forward in smartphone innovation from major OEMs?
For a long time, there was very little need for major advancements in phone technology.  Most users talked, send the occasional text message, and took a grainy photo from time to time.  With the rise of the internet and mobile computing, end users wanted access to more features from their primary handheld device.  And so computer-like processors found their way into phones, and the requisite RAM volumes as well.  Storage memory had to increase as well, and as mobile apps like Twitter and Facebook and other social media became more popular as forms of communication, camera tech had to improve as well to allow mobile users to be able to share the world around them in real time.  (This is also touched upon more in depth in my piece on software and the mobile revolution here.)
With more content moving to and from the cloud wirelessly, the demand for faster and faster connection speeds brought about first 3G, then 4G-LTE.  As more mobile content was consumed on devices, the desire for larger and higher resolution screens was demanded.  Bigger battery sizes have been included to allow for the increased power of all of these developments, all while enabling most vendors to keep the phone sizes thin and light.  All of these have been achieved in a relatively short period of time, and mobile phone tech will be at a point in a few short months (early in 2013) where a user can purchase a phone with a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a large 5 inch 1080p display, with LTE speeds enabled and as much on board or SD card memory to handle as many apps as anyone would reasonably need.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
So again my question is:  where do we go from here?  I for one can’t think of a single innovation that would dramatically improve my personal experience with a phone.  Other than ensuring that the battery life of these “superphones” is on par with what I’d expect from it (a full day of moderate to heavy usage, even with LTE enabled) I don’t know what more I could ask for.  Hex-core (6 cores) processors?  What’s the point?  Is 4GB of RAM going to allow me to open an app faster or make a phone call quicker?  LTE speeds are comparable or better than the current WiFi standard and streaming video or audio isn’t a problem.  The existing 720p displays on phones (such as my Galaxy Nexus) are terrific but are going to be eclipsed soon with these new HD 1080p displays.
Most phones available today and in the next 6 months already can do more than the average end user would ever need them to do.  Pricing is really the only thing stopping every consumer in the world from having a phone that has as much computing power as a home computer from 3-4 years ago.  Perhaps Samsung’s flexible display tech or something only currently thought of in science fiction (3D holographic displays?) will be the next big breakthrough.  To me, those kind of innovations are at least 4-5 years away.  For now I guess, we as consumers should just sit back, relax, and enjoy the current pinnacle of mobile technology that’s about to happen around us.  It might be with us for a while.