Nobody’s Perfect

As I continue to evaluate my technology needs in the face of HP’s upcoming event on 2/9 (and to a lesser extent, Sprint’s event 2/7), I’m struck with how every available platform has something that significantly detracts from its potential value to me. Whether it’s HP Palm (webOS), Apple (iOS), Google (Android), or Microsoft (Windows Phone 7), each platform has a near-fatal weakness (yes, I’m cutting RIM out of this; they have nothing at all that’s attractive to me, while the others have at least something).

Without further ado, here’s what I don’t like about the major players today:

iOS: Oppressive Curating

Simply put, I can’t stand how Apple controls its ecosystem. I don’t have anything (too great) against Apple, and I do give them all due respect for how well they’ve filled the needs of their particular market. At the same time, I simply can’t stand how Apple dictates every aspect of how apps and content are developed and made available for iOS. Obviously, their success has created a huge market for iOS apps and accessories, but the fact that Apple basically tells users how to use their own devices and developers how apps must be written strikes a bad chord with me. I understand that Apple must curate their own App Store, and I have no problem with how they do it, but their refusal to allow users to install apps from other sources really turns me off. No, Apple, you’re really not smarter than me, thanks—and as long as you insist upon selling your products as if you are, I’ll continue to refuse to buy them.

Windows Phone 7: Multitasking

Of all the platforms out there, Windows Phone 7 is perhaps the most frustrating (and yes, that includes webOS). WP7 has so much going for it—Zune Pass support, Xbox Live integration, Windows Live services, Office apps, SharePoint support—and yet my time with a WP7 smartphone convinced me that it just won’t work for me. The reason? You can’t do more than one thing at a time with WP7. Oh, sure, you can play music in the background and receive email and such, but the interface is so single-tasking that even those functions are hard to get at. And the fact that something so simple as running a timer in the background is impossible makes WP7 the least functional. If WP7 had even iOS-style multitasking, I might very well be using it today as my primary mobile OS. The fact that it supports absolutely no third-party multitasking at all, however, makes it a non-starter.

Android: Fragmentation

I can live with Android’s less-than-elegant user interface and sometimes frustrating quirks, but the fragmentation just kills me. The Epic that I’m currently using is stuck on Android 2.1, which limits its functionality versus other devices, and raises questions about whether I’ll ever be able to upgrade even so far as Android 2.3. Whether that’s Google’s fault or the manufacturer’s is irrelevant to me, and yes, the Epic is a decent enough phone on Eclair. But, knowing that I could be running a better mobile OS on this very same device but can’t, only because Samsung and Sprint haven’t given it to me, drives me batty. Android works for me because it has the apps I need, although of course more and more apps are being written for Froyo (Android 2.2), and so I’m sure I’ll start running into that limitation soon. Will Samsung release Froyo for the Epic, as they’ve essentially promised? Maybe, someday, but then what about Gingerbread (2.3)? The phone can run it, but will Samsung continue to provide updates? Something makes me doubt it.

webOS: Third-Party Support

Everything else aside, and as I’ve written elsewhere, webOS is both the best mobile OS out there and the second least functional for me (behind WP7). That’s because so many things that I need and want to do with a smartphone—edit Office documents, take voice recordings, read Nook ebooks, remote control my PC, enjoy fully functional apps like Evernote—remain elusive due to such relatively poor third-party support. I keep going back to the pickup truck analogy—webOS is the best pickup truck made today but it doesn’t have a trailer hitch. And I simply must be able to tow my boat.

Conclusion

What does all this mean? In practice, it means that my decision as to what my platform will be going forward remains in limbo. I expect to go back to webOS at some point in the near future (defined as sometime within the next year), but there are no guarantees that HP will manage to elevate webOS to the point where third-party support is sufficient to ensure that all of my needs (and wants) will be fulfilled. Android’s fragmentation issue isn’t going away soon, and Microsoft has given no hints that multitasking will be added to WP7 anytime soon.

About the only thing I do know is that I won’t be buying an iPhone. I can’t imagine that Apple will manage to concoct any magic Kool-Aid that will convince me to drink it, and frankly I think Apple’s place at the top isn’t nearly as secure as they and many others seem to think it is. But no matter whether or not they maintain their dominant position, I won’t be jumping on that bandwagon.

Here’s to hoping that HP just blows me away on 2/9, because I really don’t like such uncertainty. I just want to choose a platform without feeling like I’m holding back.

Comments

  1. lisandrodiazu says:

    Lets hope that all that will change this first half. Love the pickup truck analogy

  2. Disco Stew says:

    I am sorry but your article loses lots of credibility given your Apple comments.

    WebOS is more Mac like than anything out there and yet you view Apple as the evil empire of the lot.

    The WebOS developer community is very similar to the Mac developer community in the 90s to boot so the similarities and likely trajectories will be the same.

    Do you want an OS to be successful, make money and evolve or do you want it to fragment into oblivion or fail?

    As someone who has to plunk down $200 for a phone and make a 2yr commitment I don’t see Apple doing anything but staying viable and at the same time innovating on a predictable path.

    BTW – I use Pre, an Evo and a iPhone 3GS so I am not wed to anything at the moment.

    Also Apple doesn’t control how people use their phones anymore or less than how Windows controls how you use a PC.

    BTW – Talk to most CIOs and they will tell you there is no way on earth they will support or promote Android phones inside their networks b/c the Android App Mktplace is loaded with security risk apps and the OS is a hackers playground.

    They support Apple because of how Apple manages its OS, ecosystem and for how they implement MSFT ActiveSync.

    Want more proof?

    Look for HP to announce a revised App Store strategy that is more Apple-like and enterprise ready on Feb 9th.

    What is better an Android store with thousands of apps which have almost zero quality control and many of which are loaded with malware or an IOS app that has been tested & properly vetted?

    Until Google does that – maybe they will on Feb 2 – Android will be a consumer OS and a hacker’s play pen.

    The ironic thing is HP will adopt many of Apple’s practices to sell more WebOS devices and attract more WebOS developers.

    They will not go the free range chicken route that is Android today.

    If they are smart and I believe they are they will provide a very secured and vetted App Store experience and look to first knock off RIM as an enterprise play.

    Once they have done that they will take on W7 and move into the #3 spot.

    While this is going on they will see a decent though perhaps not explosive improvement on the consumer side especially i the go the Samsung route and offer their devices on all major carriers.

    HP IMHO will do much if not all of this over the next 12-18mos and will announce this plan in a little over a week.

    Book it.

    • Mark Coppock says:

      Disco – What I mean when I say Apple controls iOS devices is that they don’t allow for installing apps from any source other than the App Store. At least, you can’t install them unless you’re willing to jailbreak your device and thus void the warranty. Certainly, your comparison to Windows isn’t valid, because Microsoft has no say whatsoever over where I get the apps that I install on my PCs.

      With webOS, and so far with HP’s backing, you can install apps from a variety of sources, easily. That means that although they have their own curated App Catalog, and definitely apply many of the same rules as Apple, they also allow users to install apps from other sources as well. Now, if you’re correct that HP will follow Apple’s lead, that is, if they lock down webOS the same way that Apple has locked down iOS, then I’ll have the same concerns.

      In answer to your concerns about Android (and, by inference, about webOS), I’d say: we’ve been facing the same situation with PCs (including OS X and Linux machines, albeit they don’t have the market share). That is, we can install apps from anywhere, many of which can be loaded down with malware, and yet somehow the industry manages to survive. Yes, there are viruses and bots and the like and yes, we have to install virus protection and such, but I’d take the freedom that it affords over Apple’s iOS strategy any day. Are you saying you’d accept it if Apple were to sell you a Mac and then say that the only place you can buy an application is from the Mac App Store? If not, then why accept it with iOS? And if you would, then we’re definitely in disagreement about computing in general.

  3. Great write-up… fair points and I agree with them all. Let’s hope we get that third party support!

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