Here’s what’s news in the world of mobile this week…
Sprint and T-Mobile to merge? There were numerous reports of Deutch Telecom being in talks to sell T-Mobile USA to Sprint. A merger of the number three and four carriers in the US could make the more competitive against Verizon and AT&T, but this is pretty far from a slam dunk. First of all, Sprint and T-Mobile use different wireless technologies (Sprint uses CDMA and WiMax and T-Mobile uses GSM) so merging the user bases will be quite difficult. Also, Sprint does not have a great track record in merging with other carriers. The Sprint Nextel merger of 2005 ended up killing off Nextel and their IDN network without increasing Sprint’s userbase.
My Take: Unlikely to happen. Sprint can certainly benefit from the larger user base, but there are huge technical hurdles to overcome make this deal workable and Sprint doesn’t have a great track record in that regard.
iPad 2 ships. Today Apple started selling the iPad 2 to the public. The reviews have been generally positive. I discussed it at some length here. As expected, people are lining up outside of Apple stores to buy one. Analysts are predicting sales of 600,000 units for the weekend. Not too bad considering the expected sales of the Xoom is 300,000 for the quarter.
iOS 5 introduction in April? BRG is reporting that Apple will hold an event introducing iOS 5 in early April. That sounds about right. The OS surely won’t be released until iPhone 5 is released in June/July but this will give developers some time to prepare their apps. What will be new in iOS5? I would guess NFC support and a real notification system. An open question is when will it be available for iPad. iOS 4 was released for iPhone in June, but not for iPad until November.
NoDo Delayed. The anticipated update for Windows Phone 7 (codenamed NoDo) which includes copy and paste functionality has been delayed to late March.
My Take: This is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but if Microsoft is going to compete with Apple and Google in mobile, they have to get releases out more quickly and without problem. The first WP7 patch that went out last week bricked a number of Samsung phones and that’s just not going to cut it.
Microsoft pays Nokia $1B to use Windows Phone 7. When the Nokia/Microsoft deal was announced in February, a rumor spread that Microsoft outbid Google for the deal and paid Nokia $1B. According to Bloomberg, this is the case. The investment gives Nokia the cash to develop new hardware and gives Microsoft a major hardware vendor for its OS.
Microsoft to have more apps than RIM in six months. Microsoft is getting some developer love as its app store just passed 9,000 apps. RIM has 20,000 apps but grows at a rate of 900 per month. Microsoft is adding 3,000 per month. At that rate they should pass RIM in six months. Microsoft invested heavily in getting developers onto their platform (sometimes paying the dev costs) and it is paying off as an OS is judged by its apps. The Nokia deal will also attract developers to Microsoft’s platform.
Of course these numbers are quite small compared to the 350,000 apps in Apple’s store or 200,000 in Android’s, but it is significant progress for Microsoft and illustrates RIM’s problems.
My Take: Until RIM introduces a competitive handheld OS they will continue to lose marketshare and developer mindshare.
Google had a tough week with a bunch of malware apps discovered on the Android Market. These apps looked like games and utilities but would root the phone, send information about the phone to who-knows-where, and left a back door to allow more code to be downloaded and run. Very bad stuff. This vulnerability is patched in Android 2..2.2 and newer, but the vast majority of phones are not running that new of a build.
To their credit, Google acted very quickly by pulling the apps within 5 minutes of being notified. They also invoked their kill switch to remove the apps from the 50,000 infected phones.
My Take: This episode shows two vulnerabilities in Android that must be addressed somehow. One problem is the way Android patches are distributed. Right now, after Google releases an update it is up to the carriers to send out the patches. That has been taking months because of the customized versions of Android. Google needs a way to release important patches like this quickly.
The second problem is that there is no vetting process of apps in the Android world. Many argue they open nature of the Android market is its strength, and while there is truth to that we must deal with the fact that we live in a world where talented programmers write malicious software that can cause real damage. The PC software world is exactly like this, and we now have to live with anti-virus software and constant patching. Hopefully we can find a happy medium between an open jungle and a walled off garden.