Sunday, February 13, 2011

About Operating Systems

"Those who don't understand UNIX are condemned to reinvent it, poorly." – Henry Spencer
One thing not mentioned in the controversy about ditching Symbian OS is that making an operating system is a very solved problem, just port the whole of Unix and you're done with it. If you want to subtract things from it, you better know what you are doing, 'cos you will get in real trouble.

Android is Linux, which is classic Unix at its core. Mac OS X is a BSD derivative, and BSD is a conformal Unix. Windows 7 is not a Unix, therefore it is a poorly reinvented one. All the Windowzes are the same: perhaps only merely adequate for the current fashion in the world of computing; but woefully inadequate for everything else. I would gamble hard on Microsoft not being able to do better than what they have in the last 15 years.

Nokia shitting on its pants followup

I think this is the first time I write two articles about the same subject in the spawn of one day, it's that I found the perfect opposing view to better illustrate my opinions:
written in defense of the move. My followup:

Scoble says that Windows 7 mobile does not have as many apps as Android, and that's why it apparently flopped. Complete agreement here. I went the Android route when it had about 18,000 apps and the iPhone had like 120,000 or seven times more applications than Android, and merely 15 months later the number of applications is roughly 130,000 versus 300,000, clearly both numbers are dizzying, but Android is growing much faster (look at these very exponentially trending graphs). For Windows mobile to ever be successful, it would have to populate its platform with many thousands of applications, and this requires to inspire legions of developers. I am a developer. Do I want to make Android applications? -- I am dying to, I am thinking about really doing it professionally and all. Do I want to make iPhone apps? yes, those too after Android. What about Windows 7, BlackBerry, or Symbian before the news? -- absolutely not; I am utterly fed up with bad APIs, I do not want to pollute my head with a single one more. (by thew way, there is no need to learn an API to know it's bad).

Scoble then goes on to explain that Nokia's very deep distribution network with it's supplier network is the game changer and Windows Mobile is better than Android. Well, bullshit. Nokia's networks might be better than Samsung, HTC, etc., but no way it is significantly better, and many of these also make Windows Mobile devices... I think that if the promiscuous integration of Nokia hardware with Windows mobile makes it significantly better than the other Windows Mobile, what will happen is that they will progressively withdraw and leave Nokiasoft alone.

Scoble also explains that it did not make sense for Nokia to compete in an Android level playing field because "Nokia can't compete with China's brightest minds", so, he sorts of admits Nokia's hardware to be inferior to what HTC and others can do...

So, there you have it: The virtual merger works for Nokia (which is extremely improbable) and then the Windows platform will be left alone of other hardware manufacturers; or it does not work for Nokia, and it gets killed.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nokia said going Android was like peeing on your pants, IMO using Microsoft has got to be worse that shitting on your pants

Nokia descended into irrelevancy and rather than learning from their mistakes, gave up its independence and chose the wrong ally.

First, the title of this article: Yes, Anssi Vanjoki said that Nokia relying on Android for its devices was like peeing on your pants for warmth in the winter, when he was executive vice president of devices and front runner to become the CEO. Then, like a friend of mine said, becoming Microsoft's bitch has got to be worse than shitting on your pants. Elop said about using Android that the "option was carefully examined, but would have left Nokia with little control over its destiny and killed its ability to differentiate from rivals" (quoted from here, got link from here). Am I the only one who thinks this is an evident oxymoron? how's any better turning Microsoft's bitch than being one of the many Android suppliers?, turning Microsoft's bitch let's you differentiate, alright, as the dumb choice.

There are several precedents that illustrate how bad the decision to dump Symbian (a nice platform, by the way) not to go Android but Windows 7 is; I will mention only one for brevity and similarity, Motorola. Apple (or Steven Jobs) screwed them with the Rokr, the precursor of the iPhone, and at one point, they only had bad products in the market, zero credibility, and looked pretty much done, a company soon to become another roadkill of emerging technologies. Fast forward a few years, and now, they have placed four extremely good products in the market: The original Droid (1) (called "Milestone" in other parts of the world), which I acquired in November 2009 and I still use, which I think was the best smartphone for a couple of months (the iPhone had greater processing power, but not so much more to compensate for the disadvantages of AT&T vs. Verizon and Android), then the Droid X came, the Droid 2, and now the Xoom. Using Motorola went in 18 months from being a shame to becoming cool.

Back when the Rokr was launched, I predicted it was going to flop, and that Apple will get in the handtop business with an iPad + Palm Pilot + mobile telephone and that this will be hugely successful because Apple would allow what nobody else dared: a platform open to developers that could take the product to the infinite of its possibilities; and the capability of creating a foundation of high quality. I was sure of the high quality, because Apple had the experiences of consumer electronics from the iPod, including video; the applications for Mac OS X; the porting of Mac OS X to x86 which strongly indicated the capability to port it to ARM, and the nature of Mac OS X itself, classical Unix plus the Apple intellectual property on graphics, media and user interfaces; although I was not certain about the freedom to make applications. I just thought that was the natural thing to do. For exactly the same reasons, the way that they apply to Microsoft, I am certain that they will continue to fail; and Apple allowed some freedom to make apps for the iPhone, for sure, but fell way shorter of what I expected or hoped for. Then, as I have repeatedly said, the opportunity for what became Android was left open, a truly free platform, and Android arose to the point of beginning to displace iOS one year after launched; and "snowballing" on the combined creative energies of multiple hardware manufacturers and thousands upon thousands of developers that leverage the great default application set developed by Google which feedsback on raving user and consumer enthusiasm.

Microsoft used all of its might for Windows 7 mobile, came to market with an otherwise compelling product, but the market rejected it as not up to the standard set by iOS and Android, it just isn't. And this is the platform Nokia chose. It is doomed to fail catastrophically. You only have to see that RIMM/Blackberry is fighting for its survival because the iPhone is entrenching and Android is growing by leaps and bounds.

In previous posts, especially "Exploration" (2) I have explained at length about why there is no substitute for real knowledge in the direction of a company. I submit another example of this, Sanjay Jha, since I mentioned the case of Motorola: he is not a marketroid, he is an engineer. I think a marketroid would choose Windows over Android, the big, established partner; versus the upcomer. We have seen the results of Sanjay Jha; we will see how Elop's Nokia will go to hell pulled by Windows

There is more to say about this theme...

(1) I recently discovered that what came to be the Droid was originally designed and developed as a Windows Mobile phone. Hard to imagine how it could have turned to be the fortunes-reversal product it was if so.

(2) From "Dirk Meyer", third footnote:

I dread showmanship in leaders. Examples: Steven Jobs, before ratifying his genius has thrice-empire-builder (Apple, Pixar, and Apple again) ran Apple, his first empire, into the ground, and had a diet of humble pie for years. Carly Fiorina and her nonsensical acquisition of Compaq; Jeffrey Skilling of Enron, etc. Observe that showmanship is all it takes to convince the meek to take great risks; while real knowledge is what determines their success, showmanship is therefore bound inexorably towards disaster, and the sooner it happens (Steve Jobs), the better.