Mobile Sands

May 8, 2009

Palm Pre May Revive Sprint’s Fortunes

Filed under: iPhone, Smartphones — Tags: , , , , — AJ @ 8:44 pm

Palm Pre has been getting rave reviews from all those who have seen it and many believe if there was ever an iPhone killer, this is it.  In a few weeks, Pre will be available exclusively on the Sprint’s network and combined with all the operational improvements Sprint has done in the last 18 months, it may very well revive Sprint’s fortunes.

What’s special about Pre?

 It has singular design vision – just like the iPhone. Almost two years ago, Palm managed to hire Jon Rubinstein, previously Apple’s head of hardware engineering and the guy behind Apple’s product design revival over the last decade – from iMacs to iPods (see details in Newsweek story). As WSJ reported in December 2007,  Jon has been actively involved in designing Palm’s smartphones and setting its strategy. Plus, as the Executive Chairman of the company, he has given “design” a seat on the board.

Palm started building buzz around the Pre at CES 2009 and it wowed everyone who saw it. Here is a link to a video recording of Pre’s CES debut. And here is another video that shows some of the really cool features of the phone – including its advanced multitouch capability, QWERTY keyboard, and amazing graphics.  At the heart of Palm Pre, is a new operating system called WebOS. According to a recent article in The Industry Standard, developers who have created apps on WebOS agree that it lives up to its hype. And according to Fast Company, Palm Pre can give iPhone 3.0 (the next-gen iPhone) a run for its money.

Though Palm will not have the tens of thousands apps that Apple boasts at the time of launch, it is working on getting all the top applications on the device before launch, from Google and Facebook to integration with MS Exchange and Pandora.  Just like iPhone, its browser is based on WebKit and beautifully renders web pages. And yes, it has a music store too – from Apple’s arch-rival – Amazon. 

Sprint has dry powder

 Palm Pre may be able to work a charm at Sprint only because Sprint (under CEO Dan Hesse) has aggressively trimmed its capital and operating expenses over the last 18 months, and has maintained positive free cash flow despite losing almost 6 million post-paid subscribers. 

Sprint has countered some of  the subscriber losses by winning pre-paid subscribers (its Boost service added ~700K subs in Q1’09) and adding more wholesale subscribers (like Amazon Kindle).  But more importantly, it has slashed cap-ex (Q3’07: $1.2B, Q1’09: 0.3B), and trimmed operating expenses (SG&A Q3’07: 2.7B, Q1’09: 2.2B). As a consequence, it generated $536M of FCF in Q4’08 and $796M of FCF in Q1’09. At the end of March 2009,  Sprint had $4.5B of cash and cash equivalents – a significant war chest to compete with the biggies.  (All numbers from Sprint Investor website)

A resurgent Sprint – small, nimble and hip?

If Palm Pre lives up to its hype, it would help Sprint reverse post-paid subscriber losses.  Consumers want cool devices, and just like Apple, Palm has its cadre of loyalists.  Not only can the Pre win new subs for Sprint, it can create a positive “hip” halo around Sprint.  The Pre, combined with the growth of Boost Mobile, could help Sprint reverse the trend of subscriber losses and may even add 5M between March and December 2009.

The world (yes, that is correct) needs Sprint. The US has been the center of wireless innovation – from new air interfaces like CDMA and WiMAX to devices like Blackberry, iPhone and now Pre – because it has carriers that need to compete.  And for competition to be vibrant, Sprint needs to be successful.

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May 5, 2009

Smart Grid – A billion dollar opportunity for wireless carriers?

Filed under: New business models, Uncategorized — Tags: , — AJ @ 4:15 am

Last month, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile announced M2M initiatives targeted at the smart grid, talking about how this may be a multi-billion dollar opportunity.  My analysis suggests otherwise. In my opinion, even if all 175M electricity meters in the US were digitally connected to smart grid, it may not generate more than a few 100 million in annual revenue for wireless operators.

Revenue per smart meter

Typically, a smart meter is expected to record information (approximately 50-100 bytes) every 15 minutes, though it is not expected to upload it that often.  Even if, a meter were sending 50 bytes ever 15 minutes, it would send just 4.7 KB/day or 141 KB/month. Not much.

Today, carriers are earning more than $0.3/MB (or $300/GB) for data downloaded by retail consumers. Even though most data plans offer 5 GB per month, average smartphone usage is between 30 MB (for email devices) to 100 MB (for iPhones). If a carrier prices its retail smartphone offering at $30/month and an average subscriber downloads 100 MB, the effective price would be $0.3/MB. (I hope this also explains why AT&T and Verizon charge around $0.25-0.50/MB for any data usage above 5 GB on their “unlimited” plans).

If utilities were able to negotiate the same rate – 30 cents per MB – they will be paying the wireless carrier 50 cents a year per meter. That puts the market size for 175M meters at a mere $87.5M per year. It is unlikely that this number would get any carrier excited, and probably many utilities see more value than 50 cents. The questions remains – how much more? where will the pricing stick?

Not every smart meter needs to be a 2G/3G node

Many utilities are thinking about aggregating multiple residential meters at a concentrator (or a “collection point”) using private local-area networks and to then connect these concentrators using 2G/3G wireless data.

Different companies are advocating different approaches here:

If there are 17.5M concentration points (1 for every 10 electricity meters), a carrier would have to charge $5/month per concentration point for the total available market to exceed $1 billion a year. There may be some justification to the $5/month number. This is what Aeris used to charge its M2M customers according to an April 2005 story in Forbes. However, by 2015 and with all the competitors in this market, I would be surprised if any carrier can charge a utility more than $2/month per concentration point. At that number, the total available market would be little over $400M/year.

Utilities have strong incentives to go for cap-ex that reduces recurring cost

Over the next few years, utilities will have access to billions of dollars of stimulus money. In addition, unfortunately, regulators are agreeing to levy a surcharge of $3-$4 per month for over a decade on consumers in the name of grid modernization.

Take CenterPoint Energy’s 2.4 million smart meter deployment in Houston as an example. Itron has offered to create meters that can be meshed, and GE is providing WiMAX radios to connect mesh concentration points. This is also the deployment in which regulators have allowed CenterPoint to charge each consumer over $3/month for 12 years for grid modernization.

In my opinion, it is much more cost efficient (cap-ex and continuing op-ex) for a utility to integrate low-cost, high-volume cellular (GSM/CDMA/UMTS) modem in meters and negotiate long-term deals with public network providers rather than build a private radio network. But, I guess, that would not create as many “green jobs”!

Comments?

Smart Meters is just something I have been reading about recently. If you have a different view on the topics in this post, please do share.

Notes:
1. Itron investor presentation provides information on number of utility meters in North America and other parts of the world.
2. Interesting article in the MIT Technology Review (registration required) on how the rush to create “green jobs” in the stimulus bill may be hurting technology and innovation.

April 28, 2009

Amazon Gets eBook Store on iPhone by Acquiring Stanza

Filed under: App Store, eBooks, iPhone — Tags: , , , , — AJ @ 3:10 pm

One of the key features missing in Amazon’s Kindle iPhone app is the ability to browse and purchase eBooks.  A customer must purchase eBooks through Amazon’s website and add them to her account, before she  reads them using the Kindle iPhone reader.  As I have speculated in earlier posts, this feature is missing because Apple does not want anyone, especially Amazon, to create an alternative to its App Store on the iPhone.  However, one eBook seller that had slipped through iPhone’s app approval process was Lexcyle/Stanza – back in the days when Steve Jobs was saying that “people don’t read anymore”.  Yesterday, Amazon acquired Stanza and may have fixed that gap in its offering.

Back in January (before Kindle’s iPhone app was released), I spent some time comparing Stanza and Fictionwise’s’ eReader. While (in my opinion) eReader offered a better reading experience, Stanza offered a better way to browse and acquire books.  Stanza has tie-ups with several book sources (Fictionwise, feedbooks, Smashwords etc.) and provides book reviews from GoodReads. Unlike eReader, customers could browse through all these book catalogs without logging in, and it was easy to purchase books.  

Stanza grew quickly and was downloaded over 1.5 million times. However, things started changing after Amazon released the Kindle App in early March.  Another established bookseller, Indigo, released its Shortcovers app. And, at the same time, Stanza’s main book seller partner, Fictionwise got acquired by Barnes and Noble.  Plus, several publishers are now selling books as stand-alone apps on iPhone. With larger booksellers in the game, Stanza probably became untenable as a stand-alone business, and agreed to Amazon’s embrace. Amazon now gets the Stanza store, and we wil see how the Stanza store changes in coming months.

April 21, 2009

AT&T’s Investment in GSM/UMTS Delivers Subs & Easier 4G Uprade

Filed under: 3G, LTE, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — AJ @ 4:11 am

AT&T’s investment in GSM & UMTS is paying off.  Not only does it have an exclusive on the most desirable handset in the US market, it may also be able to upgrade to 4G at lower cost than its major rivals.

Almost 10 years ago, the different components of today’s AT&T (AT&T Wireless, BellSouth, SBC, others…) started migrating their 2G TDMA networks to 2G GSM.  They launched their first GSM/GPRS networks in 2001 and completed the migration by 2004. See this AT&T and Cingular milestones chart for more information.  Also, see this 2002 press release on the first TDMA-GSM handset

This was a period in which CDMA carriers had the lead. While Cingular and AT&T were migrating their TDMA network to GSM, Verizon Wireless was improving the coverage of its CDMA network and getting ready to launch 3G.  By the time Cingular completed nationwide 2G GSM coverage (07/2004), Verizon Wireless was ready to launch 3G EV-DO networks in over 30 major cities.  

Further, Verizon and Sprint – the two nationwide CDMA carriers – were able to rollout 3G relatively inexpensively. Both carriers just had to add channel cards to their existing CDMA base stations.  As per Verizon’s January 2004 announcement, it planned spend $1 billion to build out nationwide EV-DO coverage (compare this to the $7.2B for broadband in the stimulus package!).

Verizon may still have the best voice and data coverage in America,  but advantage has now shifted to AT&T.  With HSPA, AT&T can now boast of having the fastest 3G network and AT&T’s GSM network allowed it to get Apple’s iPhone device in 2007. As Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg admitted in a recent interview with the WSJ,  Apple never seriously considered building a CDMA device.  And it is the  iPhone that helped AT&T outpace Verizon in 2008.

Things get more challenging for Verizon (and other CDMA carriers) with 4G.  While Verizon and Sprint (Clearwire) invest billions on building their respective 4G networks, AT&T claims that it will be able to increase the peak sector throughput of its UMTS base stations from 3.6 Mbps to 7.2 Mbps via a software upgrade,  and then to 21 Mbps by upgrading to HSPA+ (the HSPA+ upgrade will involve upgrading antennas to MIMO).  These incremental base station upgrades, combined with backhaul upgrades, give AT&T the time to wait till LTE equipment is stable and cheaper.  Of course, Verizon and Sprint (Clearwire) understands the risks, and are taking aggressive steps to drive their network equipment and handset vendors to make their 4G migration as successful as possible. Still, the next two years will be very interesting.

April 18, 2009

Verizon’s Open Device Initiative – now with LTE

Filed under: eBooks, LTE — Tags: , , , — AJ @ 5:00 am

Verizon today released its initial set of technical specifications for “open devices” that will run on its LTE network. The specs are avilable at www.verizonwireless-opendevelopment.com. Intrigued, I decided to register, download the specs and read some more about Verizon’s ODI. Verizon also has scheduled a web conference on May 13th that I plan to participate (if you would like me to ask any questions, please post them as comments on the blog)

Devices for LTE

As the first operator in the world to deploy LTE, Verizon must be thinking hard about what to do with the network, especially in the first 12-24 months when there will be few compelling consumer devices and apps.  As with EV-DO, the first devices sold to consumers will be data modems. Verizon has also been positioning LTE as a way to address the rural broadband problem and has recommended that its LTE network be included in the national broadband coverage map that NTIA is putting together.  

To go beyond broadband coverage, Verizon needs new hardware and software applications that leverage its network. Its competitor, Clearwire, is making the same push and recently announced a WiMAX “sandbox” network in Silicon Valley. The device specifications that Verizon has released at this stage are limited to communication features of the device i.e. how one can get a LTE modem certified.  It is a good start. However, before application developers start investing, Verizon will have to provide information on:

 

  • allowed application development platforms and OSs
  • pricing – per MB and for “unlimited” usage
  • policy towards bandwidth hungry applications like video 
  • policy towards applications that may be compete with Verizon services
  • services offered by Verizon’s to-be-built LTE core
  • (and perhaps, more)

 

Perhaps, some of these questions will be answered on the May 13th call, and more details will appear soon after. 

Verizon’s Open Device Initiative (ODI) So far

It is worthwhile to look at the track record of ODI so far. When Verizon announced it last year, it was touted as “Any App, Any Device”.  And folks like Gizmodo believed that, “a small company with mobile knowhow can develop and get their iPhone-killer certified and on Verizon’s network with minimal interference”.  

Perhaps, that may happen some day, but not yet. The devices Verizon has certified so far are:

  • modems for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, from BlueTree, Cal Amp and Telular
  • smart grid communication devices from Ambient and OpenWay
  • routers for sharing your EV-DO connection from folks like Cisco
  • specialized PCs like Motion Computing’s mobile clinical assistant 

From the website, it does not seem that the ODI program is very well staffed. For instance, both the devices announed at CTIA on 04/02/09 – Motion Computing’s Mobile Clinical Assistant and Sierra Wireless’s USB 598 – were not listed on the page for certified devices on 04/18/09 . I was able to read all the posts on the developers’ forum (yes, all) in less than 15 minutes and all the Verizon replies were from one person, with many questions unanswered.

Further the ODI program focuses on devices only, not on applications. So, if you want to an application certified, you need to go to http://www.vzwdevelopers.com.  The ODI program seems to be limited to device certification. There is no information on how data plans are priced on these devices. That is still a case-by-case discussion.  

Even if we believe that no one has submitted an iPhone-killer for approval, it is surprising how few devices have been certified so far.  Perhaps there are dozens of devices in the pipeline! At CTIA, Verizon’s Tony Lewis did say that the carrier has been approached by five Kindle rivals (Kindle runs on Sprint’s EVDO network) and Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg forecasted the proliferation of M2M devices will lead to 500% wireless penetration.  Or perhaps, Verizon has a long way to go in making the process really easy and streamlined.


April 5, 2009

LTE in spotlight at subdued CTIA

Filed under: 3G, LTE, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — AJ @ 3:52 am

CTIA 2009 was subdued but well attended.  Still, people and companies that had to be at the show to network were there.  LTE continued its march towards becoming the undisputed 4G technology, with most major infrastructure vendors either demonstrating their LTE products or presenting their story, with many claiming (optimistically, I think) that they will have a “commercial solution” by the end of 2009.

Several large vendors demonstrate LTE

  • Motorola was not only demonstrating LTE speed but also mobility. It had set up two LTE base stations (700 MHz, FDD) close to the convention center. A van equipped with an LTE modem and capturing HD video and piping it to the booth, while passengers in the van could see the van. Motorola also had an LTE TDD base station in the booth and were using it for additional video demos.
  • ZTE was demonstrating LTE data speeds and were showing a prototype LTE base station (digital functions running on microTCA chassis, connected to a remote radio head).
  • LG was demonstrating its handset baseband implementation using infrastructure from Nortel and Alcatel-Lucent.  LG was showing 40 Mbps download rates with Nortel’s LTE gear, and using the ALU gear for a VoIP calls.
  • Qualcomm was demonstrating LTE handset baseband with third-party infrastructure (I believe, Nokia Siemens Networks) and talking about three multi-mode LTE chips (MDM9200, MSM 8960, MDM 9800 ) that will sample in mid-2009. 
  • I did not see LTE demos in Huawei, ALU, Ericsson and NSN booths, but that does not mean they did not have demos for select customers and analysts.  All of them did have presentations in which they talked about their “end-to-end LTE solutions” covering eNBs, EPC, and OA&M.  And I am sure, many of you have already read about how Nokia compared WiMAX to Betamax.

Smaller vendors thinking about building LTE base stations as well

I had written off LTE RAN equipment as a play for big infrastructure vendors.  However, during conversations at the show, I was surprised to hear that several smaller companies are thinking about building LTE base stations as well. Airwalk is one. And I heard about few WiMAX companies who want to build LTE base stations as well.  Practically all of them are thinking about pico/micro base stations that implement standards-based interfaces to the core. 

From CDMA2000 to LTE

CDG had organized a workshop to convince CDMA2000 operators that they can deploy LTE directly, without having to switching to UMTS now.  I made it to the workshop for the last 30 minutes and heard part of ALU’s presentation in which the ALU speaker argued that it would be best to leave voice on CDMA 1xRTT for several years and use LTE just for data…

Blackberry App Store, Next-gen Backhaul and more

Of course, there was lot happening at CTIA besides LTE.  RIM’s CEO Mike Lazaridis formally launched Blackberry’s App Store at CTIA.  Initial reviews were mixed.  See CNET and Sensobi.  Backhaul was on the minds of the few operators I spoke to, and there were several Ethernet and wireless/microwave  backhaul solutions on display, as a well as a half-day workshop on next-generation backhaul open to all attendees.  Verizon reiterated its aggressive LTE plans, talked about the need to reduce the number of handset platforms, and announced that it had teamed up with Vodafone, Softbank and China Mobile to create a “single platform” for developing applications.  If you are interested, CTIA has posted all the keynotes on its website.

Please feel free to comment, or add any other information about the show!

March 28, 2009

Open Access Makes Networks Valuable Platforms – Not Dumb Pipes

Filed under: Android, App Store, iPhone, LTE, Mobile Apps, New business models — Tags: — AJ @ 2:13 am

“Open” is in the air 

Recently AT&T chief Ralph de la Vega talked about open development platforms with FierceWireless. In his view, handset platforms are not open if they use proprietary APIs to access handset capabilities and he stressed the need for open APIs within handsets. A friend at Verizon reminded me earlier this week about Verizon’s Open Development Initiative (ODI) which allows third-parties to get hardware certified to work on Verizon’s network and Verizon’s upcoming 4G innovation lab

Among handset vendors, Nokia wants to open-source Symbian and Google is already doing so.  Google’s Android, in particular, is widely regarded as open. In contrast, many industry commentators, including FierceWireless editor Sue Marek, call iPhone and Blackberry closed because Apple and RIM will not license their OS to other handset vendors.

 Defining “open”

 If we are willing to accept the Internet as the gold standard of openness, the more a system resembles the internet, the more open it is. Therefore an open system is one that

  1. Anyone can access on equal terms
  2. Anyone can build content and applications on equal terms
  3. Anyone can distribute their content and applications on equal terms

Based on this definition, Apple’s iPhone provides a remarkably open platform for application developers and consumers, even while Apple keeps its OS closed to other hardware manufacturers. In a sense, iPhones are a similar to Sun Servers that power large parts of the Internet – a proprietary hardware/software combination that is available on equal terms to users and developers.

 “Open” does not mean “free”

Since the terms “open source” and “free software” have been used interchangeably, it has created the impression that free means open. This is not true in general. For example, free broadcast TV is actually a closed system.

On the other hand, two of the most valuable “open systems” we all use – the electricity grid and the phone system – are not free. However, they are open because everyone can access them on equal terms. Anyone can create applications and end-points for them (cordless phones, answering machines, refrigerators) and can distribute these applications. Technical standards that require patent holders to contribute IPR under a FRAND regime are open in the same way.

 The “dumb pipe” misnomer

Whoever came up with the term “dumb pipe” did a tremendous disservice to the mobile industry. Imagine how people at facebook would have feel if they were dubbed  “that dumb online directory” for offering open access to application developers. Instead facebook have been celebrated as a “platform”. In the same vein, the right way to describe a network that provides open access on equal terms is not “dumb pipe” but “platform.”

Once network providers start thinking of themselves as platforms, they will see the benefit of allowing huge number of third-parties to create applications on their platform.  Most of these applications will fail, but the applications that succeed will not only make the developers who creat them rich, but will also make the network  incredibly valuable for consumers, and for the investors who own the network.

 

March 20, 2009

With iPhone OS 3.0, Apple Takes Aim at Game Consoles

Filed under: App Store, games, iPhone — Tags: , , , , , — AJ @ 12:44 am

Apple may have single-handedly revived the mobile games market.  Within 8 months of iPhone 3G’s launch, more than 6200 games are available on Apple’s App Store and 74% of them require payment.  And iPhone users are downloading them, voting with their dollars for the games they like.  At the end of January reported that 32.4% of iPhone 3G users download games, compared to 3.8% of all mobile subscribers.  

With iPhone OS 3.0, Apple is going after gaming consoles popular with casual gamers – Nintendo DS (NDS), Playstation Portable (PSP) and Nintendo Wii, by providing:

  • Peer-to-peer gaming over Bluetooth. P2P gaming (over WiFi) is a very popular feature of NDS and PSP. Apple claims that its “Bonjour” application will discover other users who are playing the same game, and customers will not have to do manual Bluetooth pairing
  •  Accessories controlled via iPhone. Accessories are a big part of Wii’s value proposition, enabling products like Wii Fitness and EA Active. Now similar applications can be created for iPhone devices

Further, iPhone OS 3.0 will offer “In-App” purchases. This enables developers to use business models similar to those used for PC games. Developers can

  • Offer subscription based pricing, popular with PC-based MMOGs
  • Start users on free version, then convince them to upgrade to a premium version
  • Sell a wide range of virtual goods

By offering developers 70% of the selling price, Apple has attracted a wide range of developers – small and large. Several experienced independent game developers have hit the jackpot and some small development teams like Smule are turning their hits into venture-funded game studios.   At least two large publishers, EA and Gameloft, are making a significant investment in iPhone games and seeing real revenue.  Gameloft has 20 games available on iPhone and, by early March, had seen 2 million downloads. With In-App purchases, Apple is further sweetening the deal.

Apple’s installed base is still a fraction of NDS, Wii and PSP. According to Nintendo’s Q4’2008 results, they had sold 96 million NDS and 44 million Wii devices worldwide.  Sony PSP has an installed base of 50 million units. In contrast Apple announced on March 17th that it had sold 30 million iPhone 3G and iPod Touch. Probably, just 30% (i.e. 9 million) of these are used for gaming. Still, Apple is growing its base at a rapid clip and I will not be surprised if the number of iPhone 3G and iPod Touch devices crosses 100M by the end of the year – a respectable market share compared to the console biggies.

Update (03/25/09)

March 18, 2009

An alternate way to use TV band spectrum

Filed under: white space — AJ @ 10:19 pm

In the past, I have argued that FCC’s proposed rules for TV band white spaces make this spectrum unattractive for launching either wide area broadband services or local-area data/video services.  Limiting transmit power to 4W dilutes the coverage benefit of operating in 600 MHz (UHF) spectrum. Requiring CPEs to determine their location and connect to a central database makes CPEs expensive and difficult to install. The FCC is placing these requirements to ensure that white space devices can co-exist with terrestrial TV and all other existing services in these bands. Though these problems can be overcome with significant investment, the unlicensed nature of this spectrum weakens the business case to make such investment, especially since unlicensed spectrum with fewer strings attached is available. Bottomline – it will be years before TV band spectrum will be productively used.

All this raises the question – shouldn’t there be a better way to utilize this valuable radio spectrum? This afternoon, I was listening to a podcast on EconTalk with Thomas Hazlett – Professor at George Mason University and Chief Economist of the FCC from 1991-92, with stints at several other universities in between. Professor Hazlett argued (convincingly, in my opinion) that the FCC should pay all terrestrial TV stations to migrate to a free-to-air satellite system, give free satellite dishes to the 30 million or so Americans who still watch terrestrial TV, and auction the almost 300 MHz of spectrum that will be opened up.  Auctioning ~300 MHz of spectrum in the the 400-700 MHz band will more than cover the cost of the TV transition. If you decide to listen to the podcast, the discussion on spectrum starts after 44 minutes.

Just imagine the kind of wireless broadband services that could be deployed if ~300 MHz of spectrum in low frequency bands was made available. It would make wireless broadband a credible competitor to cable and fiber in the last mile, increasing consumer choice and lowering prices.  I am surprised that groups like the Wireless Innovation Alliance are not pushing for something as radical as this rather than unlicensed use of TV band white spaces.

March 14, 2009

Windows Mobile Needs a Killer App To Attract Developers

Filed under: Android, App Store, iPhone, Smartphones, Windows Mobile — Tags: , — AJ @ 5:22 am

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that like Apple, Android and Nokia it will give developers 70 percent of app sales revenue.  However, unlike other platform providers, it will provide  “transparency throughout the certification process, and guidance and support from the stage of development to the final sale to the consumer.”

Microsoft’s differentiation sounds good on paper and I have read analysis which claims that since developer relations is Microsoft’s strengths, leveraging it against the czars of Cupertino is a wise thing.  Even if Microsoft can economically provide cradle-to-adulthood support to hundreds of thousands of developers, will that be enough to attract the best developers to WinMo?

The best development teams are breaking down walls to create fantastic apps. They will build their apps for platforms which consumers buy.  Android is a case in point. Despite all the buzz around it, Android Market has around 1000 apps compared to over 27,000 on the App Store. Unless the G1 moves off-the-shelf as fast as iPhone, majority of developers will not invest in it.

To really get legions of developers on board, Microsoft must find a way to make Windows Mobile devices fly off the shelves. To do so, Microsoft needs to internally develop (or acquire) at least one application that alone provides enough reason to buy and love a WinMo6.5 device – a killer app.  Blackberry’s killer app is Wireless Email and Apple’s killer app is Safari.  What does Windows Mobile have up its sleeve?

To close off, I don’t think is lousy in supporting developers, it is just selective.  Recently, I went for a talk by Jamie Gotch, one of the two developers who created the hit iPhone game, FieldRunners. Jamie talked about how extensively Apple promoted their game once it had received great reviews from users and the press.  And this afternoon I was reading about how Apple has allowed another top gaming app iMafia – a multiplayer online role playing game – to do microtransactions. Bottomline –  if a developer builds an app that consumers love, Apple will bend the straitjacket and provide it great support.  Rest of the developers should just be happy that they get to hang out with the hip crowd.

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