Archive for March, 2010

Microsoft’s $100 billion Nokia acquisition: Absolutely unbelievable!

March 31, 2010

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft got up on stage at 7am this morning in London to announce that they intend acquiring Nokia for $100 billion in a mixture of cash and equity — a substantial premium over the company’s $58.2 billion market cap. The markets are going nuts, as one might expect, with Nokia shares topping $20 each, sending their current valuation to well over $74 billion already. Ballmer and the team at Microsoft presumably expected this rally based on their tabled offer. Of course, it’s important to point out that this is just the opening gambit and that although Ballmer claimed that institutional investors (who account for a large portion of Nokia stock) are in favour of the deal, there is no guarantee that they’ll be able to reach agreement for the whole company.

But there’s a sweetener: Microsoft is offering Nokia shareholders 2 shares for every Nokia share — a smart move seeing as Microsoft’s market capitalization closed yesterday well north of $250 billion.

Now then. What does this impending transaction mean for the marketplace?

Shocking. Absolutely shocking. Whilst there’s long been rumours that someone might snap up Palm, the fact that Microsoft has made a bid for Nokia changes things dramatically. There’s been no secret that Microsoft — once dominant — has really screwed up their mobile division time and time again. But they’ve got the cash pile, the patience and the market clout to keep at it.

Analysts reckon that whilst Microsoft’s new Windows Phone has a pretty good chance of success in the North American markets, the reality is that India, China and the other major developing economies are completely cold to Microsoft. And guess who’s storming ahead in those sectors? Nokia. 1.2 million handsets a day fly out the Nokia factories, many of them low-end handsets aimed at the developing countries.

Why would Microsoft want in there? Let’s put this in perspective. In December 2009, India added 19.2 million NEW mobile customers. That’s like adding the equivalent of o2 UK every month. Just in India! Every single one of those customers needs a handset (not necessarily a new one, by the way) and every single one of them is going to want to start using basic mobile services — something Nokia has been investing in heavily with it’s Ovi Suite. Did you know, for example, that Nokia Messaging is now in use across 70 countries? So if I buy a new reasonably priced Nokia handset, guess what, I get email, instant messaging, Maps, sharing, the whole shebang, all included. Microsoft wants in there.

And goodness me they’ve got the cash to make it work.

There’ll be a bit of a culture shock though. Ballmer explained that he reckons that if the acquisition was to go ahead, they’d run Nokia as a separate unit for at least 2 years whilst the work out how precisely to integrate the companies.

A sensible move.

Anyway, let’s see how things go.

An exciting morning!

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/dwQaV)

Footy Fans – Wear Your Shirt for charity

March 31, 2010

I was chatting to Patrick Smith of Joshua PR the other day. I’ve not spoken to him for a while, so I asked him what he’s been up to. It turns out he’s been busy working on a project that is miles away from his usual mobile, PR stuff. Instead he’s been getting ready to launch Wear Your Shirt day to raise money for charity.

It’s a genius idea. All you need to do to get involved, is wear your football shirt for the day on Friday April 23rd and pay £1 to charity. It’s a dress down Friday for a great cause.

The charity they’re supporting is called Free Kicks and it arranges days out at football matches for disadvantaged kids in the UK.

Well done Patrick. I hope it’s a great success. I hope that the UK is awash with football shirts on the 23rd.

Who knows, if you invite me to a meeting you might even see me wearing my Scotland shirt!

Do pass this on!

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/avu3J)

Checking out the Acer Liquid Android handset

March 31, 2010

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I’ve been checking out the Acer Liquid Android handset — Acer’s first Android device. I’ve been looking forward to actually getting hands-on with the device because I’m excited to see what manufacturers make of the platform. Initial impressions are good. I like what they’ve done with the device.

Just to be clear, the Liquid is a mid-market handset. A few months after launch and you can pick one up for a fairly reasonable £280 sim-free if you shop around. Carphone Warehouse will, for example, give you a Liquid free on a £25/month T-Mobile contract (24 months).

So with the target market in mind, I won’t be comparing it to the likes of the Nexus One. It’s a workhorse handset that I think will be appreciated by anyone who’s been stuck on a feature phone for the last five years. The fact that you’ve got all Google’s glorious services accessible by a touch of the button is nothing short of wonderful — compared to the laborious click-click-click send-receive nonsense of yesteryear’s feature phones.

Google’s Android really does let the manufacturer sit back and relax. Oh, Acer have done their own set of customisations as Android manufacturers are wont to do — but they’ve not gone overboard. I don’t think they need to. Instead, Google steps in. Setting up the device is a total doddle, especially if you’ve already got a Google account. It’s nothing short of miraculous. And from then on, the basic stuff just works. That’s the magnificence of Android.

There are problems with Android. Significant problems — but from the end consumer viewpoint, the fact you can get your email, IM and related services (Google Maps, for example) easily and without friction will be good news. Acer have turned out a decent device. I’d be quite delighted to put this into the hands of my wife, my brother, my mother — although perhaps the Android UI isn’t quite ready for her (she’s very comfortable using the iPhone).

But for any feature phone refugee, the Acer will be a revelation. Reasonable price, good features, capable 5 megapixel camera and all the services we’ve come to expect with any Android device (e.g. integrated GPS, speakerphone, expandable SD card, WiFi, Quad band, HSDPA). I like that things such as this come as standard. You don’t have to think.

The phone is only 135g in weight. Of course, that’s because it’s encased in plastic which — well — it’s not got the Nexus One metal sheen. But it’s also not got the Nexus price tag either.

I’m going to do a a video of the phone shortly and I’ll be using over the next week or so and let you know how I get on with it.

Here’s a little series of photos I took of the box and phone with the Photo Booth Classic Plus iPhone app earlier:

(iTunes link for the app)

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/U3hAa)

The Symbian London Stammtisch is coming soon

March 30, 2010

If you’re wondering what the hell the ‘Stammtisch‘ is, then wonder no more. It’s German for ‘the regular’s table’ or ‘regular get-together’.

The Symbian chaps in London regularly hold get-togethers all across the world. It’s a super way of connecting with Symbian’s team and asking them for input, perspective or assistance — and it’s also a good opportunity to contribute your ideas — and what’s more, if it’s a really good idea, you could conceivably see it included in the next build.

The next Stammtisch is at 5pm on April 12th at The Stage Door pub, 28-30 Webber Street, London, SE1 8QA. The topic is a pretty good one: “Making our platform information a competitive advantage for Symbian” and has the follow up questions:

Symbian should lead the field when it comes to platform information. How do we get there? What information do we lack? Who is the audience?

I’ve got a lot of views on the subject! I’m sure you do too. If you’d like to express them to the horse’s mouth directly, then now’s the time. Pop by and say hi to the chaps. Tell them I sent you!

You can get the full Stammtisch details here.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/H6Tq7)

HTC Smart (the Brew one) launches on India’s Airtel at £148 price point

March 30, 2010

Good news for Qualcomm and HTC as they continue their race across the simply stupendously large development marketplace. To India, then — Bharti Airtel have announced that they will launch the HTC Smart in 30 Indian cities. The ‘market operating price’ will be 9,990 Rupees — or approximately 148 Pounds Sterling ($222).

Now in a country where the average income per head is just over $1,000, spending a quarter of that income on a phone is not necessarily a sensible decision.

But there’s an emerging middle class in India, thirsting for the latest and greatest handsets — so I’m looking forward to seeing how they react to the HTC Smart. Of course the Smart, at the £148 price point, is a heck of a lot more reasonable than some of the other HTC Devices — e.g. the HTC Legend will top out at around $660. Three times the cost of the Smart.

The Smart is a handsome phone. It boasts HTC’s rather swish Sense UI and it looked like quite a capable device when I played with it at Mobile World Congress. You’ve also got HTC’s Friendstream integration too — which puts Facebook, Twitter and Flickr into one stream of updates. Compared to your bog standard Nokia 1600 series, the Smart is going to look pretty nifty.

Good luck to everyone. Get it right in India and the rewards could be massive.

And just to put this in context, the Indian Regulatory Authority reports that India added 19 million new subscribers in December or about 630,000 customers every day. That’s the equivalent of adding an o2 UK every month.

Every single customer will be looking for a handset, too.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/QRtDV)

Vodafone is on a roll; opens Legend pre-ordering

March 30, 2010

Vodafone’s UK handset team are on a roll. They really are. If you’re looking for a new handset and one of the widest selections of new handsets, you should be examining Vodafone.

Hardly a week goes by when I haven’t had a piece of news in from the nice ladies at Shine Communications telling me about yet another flippin’ cool handset launching on Big Red.

This morning they’ve announced the HTC Legend is heading their way. Here it is:

It’s a mighty nice looking Android device and it’ll be free on £25/month (on a 24/month contract). Order now and you’ll get it around April 6th — i.e. next Tuesday.

If you’re thinking of going Android, you might also check out the HTC Desire — another one heading to Vodafone in the coming weeks. And of course you’ve got the Vodafone Nexus One in the background too.

Or if you’d like a little more familiarity, check out the Sony Ericsson X10 — also running Android — sporting Sony’s excellent 8 megapixel camera. That’ll need £35/month on a 24-month deal but might be worth taking a look at if you’re been a long Sony Ericsson fan:

Lots of choice on Vodafone at the moment. Good work!

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/1qQip)

BBC urged to delay iPhone apps because competition cannot hack it

March 30, 2010

You’ve heard of the great British Broadcasting Corporation, I trust? For the avoidance of doubt and for the international readers, let me point out that the BBC works for me. For me and for the rest of the Great British public. If you own a television or a ‘wireless’ (“radio”) you must — by law — pay the license fee.

A colour TV license costs £142.50. There are stringent fines if you’re found without a license. More or less every household in the country pays for this, raising £3.493 billion in revenues during 2008-2009.

As The London Telegraph reports today, the BBC has been planning on launching a series of super dooper iPhone applications to help it deliver it’s content to Smartphones such as the iPhone. For example:

These [applications] would also see every kick from the BBC’s World Cup matches in South Africa being broadcast live to smartphones.

Pretty good, right?

Having already contributed to the cost of producing the content through my license fee, I very much like the idea of being able to access that content ‘live’ and on-demand whenever I want, especially through my Smartphone.

That’s not going down too well with the rest of the marketplace, especially the commercial operators who aren’t happy at all as the Telegraph reports:

But the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) has accused the BBC of barging into the market and trampling over commercial news firms which were exploring this growth area.

I think these commercial news firms should explore all they want. Meanwhile, I want the value I’ve already paid for.

This is the big issue with the BBC. They’ve already been funded by you, me and the rest of the British population. So I’d like my value, please. And the smart people at the BBC are working really hard on innovating and delivering this value.

Only now there’s a fly in the ointment in the form of the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA). Their problem? They’ll find it difficult to compete. The BBC, they reckon, should be prevented from this kind of innovation because, you know, it might prejudice their members abilities to make money.

Yeah. It probably will. As one of the best funded broadcasters on the planet, the BBC has access to some of the best and brightest talent, content, services and facilities. Good. Because, once again, you and I give it that cash.

So it’s no surprise that when you look at the BBC’s output versus the output of some of the commercial services — in whatever area you’d care to look — the BBC’s stuff is often much better quality. And it’s free. It’s got to be free. We’ve already paid for it, so they can’t go charging us again.

Given the choice between paying for content from a commercial supplier or getting it free (and really good quality) from the BBC, which would you choose?

Right. So in the case of mobile applications, everyone-and-their-dog will download the free BBC World Cup app (for example). And next to nobody will pay £9.99 (or whatever the cost will be) of a competing commercial service.

My view is that’s a problem for the commercial service. They’ll either need to innovate or exit from the market if they can’t make it work.

You’re on very rocky ground when you start demanding the BBC should limit or withdraw output because that might hurt commercial operations. Because what you’re actually saying is that the BBC has already been paid to create the content by the British population… and you want that same population to have to pay for the content from your commercial service, so that you can make money.

What about the license fee payer?

Aye. It gets people very hot under the collar.

However those same commercial companies complaining about unfair competition need to understand that the British population don’t have a choice. They need to pay the license fee or risk being fined. They have to support the BBC.

So you’re not going to get a fair hearing, at all, from the millions of UK iPhone users who want to access World Cup or News content immediately via their iPhone. We’ve already paid. The BBC is already funded to deliver it to us. They’re already allowed to deliver content online — mobile is simply an extension of online.

I thus have sod all time for the commercial argument. I welcome the opportunity for competition in the marketplace. I like the idea of being able to choose who provides my content and whether I should pay (again?) for it. That’s up to you, Mr Commercial Company, to hire some smart people and deliver some decent innovation — and make it a fair price. Deal with it.

I’m severely disappointed that the BBC Trust has bowed to the NPA (and other representations) and decided to do a Sir Humphrey — that is — carry out an assessment. Which means postponing the launch of these new BBC applications.

Which means stuffing the Great British public — in particular, the folk who want to use their iPhone, Nokia or Samsung to watch the England Football team screw up their World Cup games, one after another.

Commercial companies have already had a load of time. Years, in fact, to get stuck into the smartphone applications marketplace. The BBC is very late to the party — anything that’s rather frustrating anyway.

I hope the BBC Trust will do the assessment quickly and that when they do their Google Search, they pick up this post and add it to the ‘Don’t be so flippin’ stupid, of course you shouldn’t delay the iPhone app launch’ pile.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/dp34M)

Report: Two new iPhones on the way

March 29, 2010

Right then, let’s get guessing.

The Wall Street Journal’s Yukari, Ting-I and Niraj are big on what they reckon is coming with iPhone. They’re quoting ‘people briefed on the matter‘.

Whenever I see those type of things, I can’t help but think of Jim Hacker from the BBC’s Yes, Prime Minister sitting with a journalist negotiating over his ‘source’ title.

– People close to
– Sources close to
– Informed sources
– Insiders
– Familiar with the matter

And so on.

Apparently we’re going to be lucky chaps and ladies when Mr Jobs gets up on stage some time soon to introduce the next generation iPhone. It seems there are two models coming. One is CMDA. The other is… well. GSM we presume. The ‘people briefed on the matter’ didn’t brief enough, alas.

Apparently Verizon will be getting hold of the CDMA version. And goodness me, that’ll be worth having. Their network is utterly stupendously ridiculously fast and I’m sure they’ll be able to handle the iPhone’s data demands nicely. You never know though, perhaps Sprint might even get in on the iFun.

Begin your speculations…. NOW!

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/7NyJa)

Why any sane individual with $499 is getting an iPad

March 29, 2010

If you’re thinking about purchasing an iPad, have a watch of these Apple-made guided tour videos.

I’m having two. Or three.

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/1tf4L)

Windows Mobile demo videos – interesting stuff

March 29, 2010

Microsoft has launched a round of videos showing off the next version of Windows Mobile. It’s very interesting to see how they’re marketing them. (These videos will only work for UK users unfortunately.)

First up — Windows Marketplace:

Windows Phone demo:

Windows Live demo:

Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile:

Windows Mobile email:

My first reaction is that I’d have liked to have seen this from Microsoft two years ago. But at least they’ve got there – at least it’s finally coming. I wonder if they’re too late to have captured the zeitgeist? Are consumers far too obsessed and enamoured with the iPhone? We will see. I think there’s still a lot of love in the room for Microsoft. When the last video swapped into ’email looks like Outlook’, I had to wince. That interface is broadly unchanged since I was doing email on my Compaq iPaq back in 2002.

Anyway I look forward to seeing how the devices get on in the wild.

(I should point out that thanks to Unruly Media — who provided the videos — we will receive a glorious 8 cents per view of these videos… which, with a fair wind, might keep the lights on here at Mobile Industry Review for about 20 minutes)

(My Original Blog Post: http://ping.fm/3LaAZ)