The getting-to-know-you phase is over for smartphones. During the past couple of years, Apple's iPhone and Android, an open source platform from the Google-led Open Handset Alliance, have established themselves in the marketplace. Both have made a lot of news, but there hasn't actually been a flood of devices from each camp. That will change during 2009, as the focus shifts more fully to smartphones. HTC alone will release three Android-based devices during the year, according to the company.
The next move from HTC, which launched the first Android device, the T-Mobile G1, last November, is the Magic, known by some as the G2. It replaces the physical keyboard for a touch-based approach. TechWeb says details are sparse on the two devices that still are in the pipeline. The piece ends with the interesting observation that high-end smartphones "share a similar set of technical characteristics" and that the emphasis is shifting to design and other non-hardcore technical attributes.
While there is ample evidence that the consumer and business markets are coalescing, they still are distinct. TechRepublic's Jason Hiner-posting at ZDNet-argues that the key determinant of the smartphone's fate will be how it does in the business market. After making that point, he posts Gartner's smartphone sales figures. The numbers are great for the iPhone (the Mac OS X), very good for Research in Motion (BlackBerry), okay for Microsoft's Windows Mobile, and a bit disheartening for Symbian. The heart of the piece is a look at the major players. BlackBerry is the champ, with the best security, ecosystem and management capabilities. Hiner goes on to describe the iPhone, Symbian, Windows Mobile and Android.
The jockeying for position among the players will be determined by more than the introduction of new devices. The devices are only as good as the applications that can be run on them. LinuxInsider reports that QuickOffice is the first app available that enables Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets to be opened on Android devices. The content is opened, according to the story, either from a secure digital card (via an interface that opens with the application) or on a Gmail account. The writer expressed some disappointment with the product because it does not support the OpenDocumentFormat, takes a while to open the documents and doesn't allow editing. The writer doesn't believe that it is worth the Android Market asking price of $7.99, but seems to think it has potential.
Apple just previewed a firmware upgrade for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The Washington Post outlined the news, as gathered from the company and several live blogs covering the introduction event in Cupertino. iPhone 3.0 will enable selection, copying and pasting of text; support full multimedia; extend search functions across all programs; offer more choice in calendar selection; and provide the ability to record voice and output stereo via Bluetooth. The upgrade, which will be available as a free download this summer for iPhones and cost $9.95 for the iTouch, clearly has implications for the growing number of people who bring their iPhones to the office.
If nothing else, those who follow the industry should get ready for stories such as this one at pocketnow.com. The piece details the nascent battle between iPhone 3.0 and Windows Mobile 6.5. This particularly piece favors the Microsoft concoction. It says that many of features new in iPhone 3.0 already are in Windows Mobile 6.5. The writer did say that the Apple device has some unique medical accessories and applications. The takeaway is not whether the writer is correct. Clearly, there will be many opinions on which operating system is ahead. The main point is that it will be quite a horse race, and one that will go one for some time.