Signs of Things to Come?

Although I haven’t posted a blog in a couple of weeks, I have been watching and considering a lot of the news coming out of the IT sector. In the last couple of weeks a few key events have been reported which in isolation are newsworthy, but when looked at as a group, point to a possible shift in some of the key areas of technology. All events seem to have the same basic theme underpinning them all – and that is “choice”.

Choice is what drives competition and spurs companies on to innovate, and separate themselves from the field to offer consumers a viable alternative. You may have already heard about all the news stories below, but I’m looking at them from the angle of how they propagate the theme of consumer choice.

The first one was the news that the new Generation 2 Intel processors had a fault on the motherboard that was designed to be used in the majority of retail computers. This has required a complete return of any Gen2 i3, i5 and i7 computers so they can be reworked with a new motherboard that addresses the original issue, which is related to degradation of hard drive performance over time.

Coincidentally, AMD held their launch of their new APU processors the night of the Intel recall, and it brought to mind a Steven Bradbury situation, where AMD may be able to take the opportunity to offer their processor alternative in light of the Intel issue. I’ve spent time with their new netbook APU, which we’ll be reviewing shortly, and it does impress.

AMD have a very strong new product range and vendors are looking seriously at offering more products with their new APU chip. The Intel recall may provide more impetus for computer manufacturers to produce these alternatives which will give consumers more variety to consider.

The second piece of news was the launch of the online Android marketplace. Although not the first app store launched, the online environment allows for over the air installations. In other words, your google account, which is linked to your Android phone or tablet, is all you need to enter the browser-based marketplace. When you select an app (paid or free), it will be automatically downloaded to your selected phone.

This is great because the online marketplace provides more detail on the apps on offer, and has already been touted as a more visually appealing environment in which to discover and select Android apps than directly from the marketplace app on relevant Android handsets. You can even upload reviews via the browser. This is a great example of innovation to drive choice and add value in the smartphone market.

The third interesting snippet was a report that Sony was considering pulling its artists out of iTunes in order to offer a cloud-based service for users of its TVs, gaming and handheld consoles, and Sony Ericsson mobile phones. It seemed to be the first major crack in the polished and seemingly unbeatable ecosystem that Apple has created, fusing content and hardware together in a closed loop that has to date been massively successful in changing the rulebook for music and entertainment distribution.

The alternative that Sony are offering means a very different way of consuming content, particularly as the content is in the cloud, and therefore would be accessible across multiple Sony devices. It remains to be seen whether this threat is a parting shot from Sony at Apple, or whether they are making their true intentions known.

From the aspect of choice, once again consumers would have an attractive alternative that makes use of the latest technology to deploy content. Cloud-based content and computing is the future, and companies that offer solutions based on this will have a head start as consumers learn to make the most of a non-localised computing system.

The final and perhaps most surprising piece of news to emerge was the Nokia-Microsoft alliance, which will bring Windows 7 Mobile to new Nokia Phones. Nokia and Microsoft are calling it “the third ecosystem” after the Apple and Android environments. This will be a very interesting developing story, because Nokia has not been competing strongly against the likes of the iPhone or the many and wide Android handsets.

Is Windows 7 strong enough to compete with the app-driven system that Android and iPhone/iPad users are so familiar with? Nokia and Microsoft are talking about combining Bing, navigation via NAVTEQ, Xbox Live and Office into an integrated offering on new Nokia smartphones. Right now we have no idea what this may look like, but it does have the potential to be a serious competitor and if its points of difference are compelling we may well see a three-way battle of the Smartphone market. And as I mentioned before, nothing drives innovation like deep competition. This announcement may lead to more choice and better alternatives for users’ lifestyle and usage requirements.

So there we have it: an Intel recall; the Android Marketplace moving online; Sony stoushing with Apple; and Nokia partnering with Microsoft. It’s been a big fortnight for tech news, and I do see a pattern emerging from these individual developments. It highlights that many of the major companies vying for the technology dollar spend are looking for ways to invigorate their market share and position, and consumers will ultimately be the winners with more choice in product and content, and differing platforms on which to enjoy them. And that’s what makes this industry so exciting – the possibilities are huge. We’ll be keeping tabs on all the above, so stay tuned.