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March 19, 2013

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Tencent

Hi there Tomi I was just wondering were you assinated by Elop the psychotic dick-wad and Ballmer the idiot? Since you haven't really posted anything on your blog for like weeks?

Tester

@Winter:

>> For billions of people, a $70 Android Smartphone is too expensive, but a $30 Firefox OS "Smartphone-alike" would be in reach. And that handset would be their only "Personal Computer" and their only real access to the Internet. Like SMS and MMS are still massively popular (and profitable) in most of the world, ready Internet access with a much larger bandwidth would be a boon.

Who tells you that Firefox devices can be produced for so much less when running the same specs?
Second, let's be serious now. For any developer who is in for the money these customers do not have any appeal whatsoever. Since they won't generate any revenue there's little motivation to do stuff for them.

In the end this is precisely the scenario I envision: Firefox OS will become the next generation feature phone, nothing more, nothing less. It's indeed fully sufficient for people who want a device that allows them to have mobile access to the internet but little beyond that.


>> And you ask what people could ever develop in HTML5? There are lots of data online. Setting up a web-site to connect to with an App is in reach for small businesses and organizations even in the shanty towns of the world.

Sure, nobody's disputing that. The issues I have still remain: No developer is going to write software out of their good heart. It still needs to generate revenue somewhere along the line.


>> Your argument seems to be that you do not need an HTML5 app if you have a browser. But for many tasks you need local storage and off-line processing.

No, that's not my argument. My argument is that if you provide a service that needs a connection to a web server to work there's little point to run that service locally instead of designing a website around it.

I have once been tasked with precisely this kind of app on Android. It was nothing more than an interface to an online web service, it could do nothing more than getting the data off the internet and display it. Ultimately it was a pointless app, but the customer didn't want to 'use the browser' for it. Had they done it as a real web site it would have been far less work for everyone involved and also provided far better user experience.


>> I am pretty sure that there is plenty of ingenuity to fill that market opportunity, even for a dollar a day.

That may well be, but the fact remains that you cannot target a single low end platform with such a service exclusively. Firefox, even in low end emerging markets will never be able to fill in the high end demands, so it will never create a market share that would allow any developer to target it exclusively with their service - and this is precisely the point where it risks to fail. Let's just be optimistic for Firefox and assume it becomes a runaway success. What market share would you give it?
Let's just say 30%. I consider this a highly optimistic projections though.
Now you got a service to offer. How much of the market do you want to reach? 30%, 70% or 100%, when it must not be forgotten that the 30% are probably the less affluent customers. Tell me what you want but any serious business would go after the more affluent 70% first and then decide, based on cost, if it's worth targetting the other 30% as well. Or if you know you can do it, target everybosy right away.
But there's one thing that will never *EVER* happen - and that is to target the lower 30% exclusively!

What this boils down to is, that despite all the ease of development, you just cannot ignore the rest of the market. You will have to take care of that as well or you get a lot of angry customers. As a result the best case scenario what Firefox OS can be is to be on par with the better systems regarding these specific apps. But this is a best case scenario, because you can be dead certain that many developers will be satisfied with the other 70%.

And now the real problem will set in: Everybody who can afford, will skip the platform and go for the better one that offers all the same plus other stuff, creating an even bigger divide between the high end and the low end.


>> What you do not seem to appreciate that for the billions that cannot afford a $70 Android, it is a cheap Firefox OS handset or no Smartphone. If you see what people are willing to endure to get internet access, I think cheap Firefox OS phones would have a good chance. And with enough users, I am convinced apps will follow.

Oh, I see that part perfectly well. I won't even dispute that it will get apps eventually. I just dispute that it can ever become a significant generator of revenue, either directly or indirectly, if it fills that particular niche of the market. Currently that niche is filled by high end feature phones and look at any statistics out there, how much revenue they generate. Yes, it's close to absolutely nothing!

>> Where I do agree with you is that the current crop of App developers for the 'rich ecosystems' is unlikely to make a dent in that market.

They won't just not make a dent. Far worse, if the platform becomes what you describe, they just won't care. But these people are inevtiably the ones most needed to push the platform out of the 'jungle phone' zone.

In the end I don't think we really see much different things, you just happen to see them as potentially positive but for me as a developer they make the platform a complete non-starter.
Furthermore, I have strong doubts that Mozilla wants to see its platform end up being demoted to the de-facto feature phone of the future. They clearly have higher goals but I don't see these goals ever being fulfilled.

Winter

@Tester
> For any developer who is in for the money these customers do not have any appeal whatsoever."
> I just dispute that it can ever become a significant generator of revenue, either directly or indirectly, if it fills that particular niche of the market."
> Far worse, if the platform becomes what you describe, [developers] just won't care. "
> but for me as a developer they make the platform a complete non-starter."

Your whole point seems to be that a certain class of developers will not earn enough from this market to care. But in places where $300 is a good monthly income, I think a lot of "developers" will try to make a living writing cheap apps for poor people. 750 times $0.10 is another week's pay.

You might not find this worth it, but these are places where people earn a living renting out mobile phones for a single call. And poor people are perfectly willing to pay for services that are valuable for them. Setting up such services, eg, a web site in an internet cafe and an app to supply the service, is a perfect way to make a living. Even a simple "Mini bus pooling" service could become widely popular (and profitable) in the right place at the right time.

Tester

@Winter:

>>Your whole point seems to be that a certain class of developers will not earn enough from this market to care.

No, my main point is that even in emerging markets you won't get far by just targetting this one platform. Even in the best case scenario you won't be able to reach all the customers you need. Even if you want to target it, you still need to consider the (normally more affluent) customers that got better phones.


I still think that for most such services a real web site is better suited to do the job, though. Unless there's some very solid reasons to use local storage it has the clear advantage, that everybody with internet access can use it, regardless of hardware and normally this stuff is a lot easier to handle on the server which then would only send processed pages to the device for display, nothing more.

Winter

@Tester
"Even if you want to target it, you still need to consider..."

But the point is, if *you* or *I* do not target them, someone will. You talk about people who have a choice of platforms and services. I am talking about people that can only chose between using the cheapest option or not using anything at all.

@Tester
"I still think that for most such services a real web site is better suited to do the job, "

Great, but data over the air cost real money. These are people who buy handsets that can handle multiple SIM cards to cut back on calling costs. They will invest in anything that reduces bandwidth. The same for those who create the web-sites.

We are talking about shanty town developers working for shanty town businesses with shanty town customers. Replace shanty town with favela if you want. You will not develop for them, but someone else will.

RottenApple

Yeah, sure. I'm sorry to sound like a capitalist asshole, but frankly, nobody cares about that user base.

There's no money to be made. All what you propose is ultimately pointless. This stuff will never be seen in larger app stores, it will never count in any meaningful statistic.


Concerning this:
"You talk about people who have a choice of platforms and services. I am talking about people that can only chose between using the cheapest option or not using anything at all."

If we are talking down FF as the 'lowest option imaginable' it has already lost by default. This is not what Mozilla wants and it's not what its backers want. For Mozilla such a perception would be an utter disaster. Besides, what makes you think that an Android-based phone cannot be produced for the same cost? If that happens the entire situation changes again.

Winter

@RottenApple
"but frankly, nobody cares about that user base."

They themselves care a lot. And they do have talent living among them. That was my point.

zlutor

@Kim: "What do you guys thing of Qt environment? Upcoming Qt 5.1 should support both Android and iPhone." - personally I'm waiting that day... :-)

URNumber6

@Tester
>> Just one hint: A server needs to run under considerably different conditions than an end user device.

Perhaps you should read the point I was making again, it was about stripping away everything that wasn't absolutely necessary.

>> For an end user what you describe is just that: a dumb terminal, the ultimate devolution of a computing device.

Yes, just as a phone is pointless without a network the same is true for many of the services smartphones will be used for. Samsung are working on Tizen, Google will eventually merge Android and Chrome OS, LG have bought WebOS and carriers are already getting behind Firefox OS. The direction is clear. Beyond being a phone the primary function of all these devices will be as browser based terminals to 'cloud' services such as mobile payment systems, social networks, location based services, etc...

The more these companies focus on HTML5 based terminals the more performant JavaScript will become and the better it will be for frippery like games.

>> Also, what's the job? If you want to do an app that needs to do some heavy number crunching you quickly reach the limit of most interpreted languages.

Any serious number crunching is a process that belongs on a server.

>> Animations? Yeah, sure. If you don't have to do any serious computing there's certainly nothing in the way of good performance. What's about fully featured games with complex logic?

I'm not a gamer myself but my kids all have DS Lites and love playing with them. I've watched my daughter play Sonic Rush and the graphics were undeniably splendid. Those things only have 100MHz of processing power and 4MB of RAM. Even a base level current smartphone will have a 1GHz processor, separate GPU (I understand Firefox has a GPU accelerated canvas) and 512MB of RAM. I find it very hard to believe JavaScript is so slothful that it will simply swallow up such an enormous gulf in processing power.

To me this sounds like the FaceBook scenario all over again, they blamed HTML5 for their crappy app until Sencha showed how it could and should be done. Sencha's HTML5 app was superior to FaceBook's native Android app and equal to their native iOS app. It was a case of bad developers trying to blame the tools for their own defficiencies.

http://www.sencha.com/blog/the-making-of-fastbook-an-html5-love-story/

Perhaps it's time for you to challenge your assumptions and learn how to do HTML5 properly.

>> I honestly don't care about ethics when the end result is a sub-par product.

This is not just an issue of principle; Apple have been caught tracking their users (Anonymous have hacked data that suggests Apple is also collecting data about its users and sending it to the FBI), Google are snooping on their users, Carrier IQ was keylogging, encrypted traffic from NOKIA's Asha devices is being decrypted on NOKIA's servers before it reaches its true target... the abuse of trust goes on and on.

I care about ethics, Mozilla's 'do not track' campaign shows they get the gig better than any of their alternatives.

Tester

@URNumber6:

Well, I earn money making software for Apple phones. I also earn money making software for Android (Google) phones. Hell, I even earn some money making software for Microsoft Windows phones.

I do not earn, however, any money making software for Mozilla Firefox phones. The people I work for consider the platform DOA, so please forgive me it I say 'screw ethics' to you.

I can't earn a living by being 'ethical' if that means I lose my job.


>> I'm not a gamer myself but my kids all have DS Lites and love playing with them. I've watched my daughter play Sonic Rush and the graphics were undeniably splendid. Those things only have 100MHz of processing power and 4MB of RAM. Even a base level current smartphone will have a 1GHz processor, separate GPU (I understand Firefox has a GPU accelerated canvas) and 512MB of RAM. I find it very hard to believe JavaScript is so slothful that it will simply swallow up such an enormous gulf in processing power.

... try to run any modern high end game on such a system. Good luck watching the slideshow.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi everybody

Wow, lots and lots of good discussion here, thanks everybody!

I have been doing some heavy travel (and more to come) so been unable to participate on the blog but hopefully will be able to do more (did a short update blog today, and Forbes kindly runs a series of interviews with me about the smarthphone wars, obviously same themes mostly as in this article)

About those stats, the Kantar numbers - remember first, that Kantar compares this period to the same one year ago. Windows Phone one year ago (their February stats obviously, the latest numbers) was near its all-time low, as Nokia was only launching in most markets with Lumia and the other 'partners' mostly had bailed out of the Windows world. So to compare now to 1 year ago, will create an artificially strong impression of growth. The relevant comparison is to the previous Kantar report - which obviously showed very similar numbers, in a few of the countries WP is slightly up, in a few they are down. There is no 'surge' happening in the OS inspite of what some clueless reporters have concluded on their superficial reading of that comparison to one year ago.

(I think there was another published statistic some referred to, now I forgot, I'll go re-read the thread to find it and return to comment)

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

Ah, yes BB10..

So yeah, good point in the thread - BB10 on only one device and few weeks of the Quarter, did 1M sales. Not huge in an iPhone stand-in-line-overnight kind of absurd scale, but for mere mortals, thats nice for the start. Now, remember, the Z10 was the only Blackberry on BB10 that was sold then, and its the pure touch-screen variant. I think it was a mistake not to first release the Q10 if you can only sell one, the Q10 is the QWERTY variant and I believe it will far outsell the Z10 for Blackberry loyalists, and we can expect the pent-up demand for a 'real' Blackberry with the updated software was still there now, only now being addressed with Q10 sales. Thus, for the second Quarter sales of BB10 OS, expect it to far outsell what Nokia was able to do in its second quarter selling Windows Phone back in 2011...

A word on Tizen, I didn't say it would be third ecosystem for the full year 2012, I said by Q4, so for the fourth quarter sales only

And on the HTC features, someone asked why don't I talk about the handset features - this isn't a handset review blog, so mostly I don't bother unless I've played with some particularly nice phone (or atrocious one). So this blog is more looking at the ecosystems, the economics, the services and customers of mobile, and the recent focus on smartphones was more on the evolution of the environment for mobile developers, not to judge a given phone model. But I should also point out, that a great phone is no guarantee of success if the carriers decide not to support it (witness death of Palm), and mediocre or even bad phones can sell well if the manufacturer has great carrier support (Nokia N97.. ouch!)

Keep up the great discussion

Tomi Ahonen :-)

chithanh

@Tester
I agree the VB example does not fully fit the mobile situation, however it perfectly fits your arguments against FirefoxOS.
Before VB, if you had asked anyone in the know: What does it take to write successful enterprise applications? The answer would probably have been, years of experience, a company with good reputation, strong sales and support teams.
Then came VB and it empowered the clueless to write their own enterprise applications. They were usually crappy but they did things that nobody else did, so users stayed with them. VB did nothing to advance technology, it provided nothing a "serious" programmer would want over the other platforms at that time. All it did was lower the barrier to entry. And boy was that a success.

Now comes the VB of mobile applications, HTML5/Javascript. Winter already mentioned that what you may see especially in developing countries soon: A smartphone owner who barely knows HTML starts coding his own app for a very small audience, like finding out the price of goat milk at the local market. The same I predict to happen in other communities (not only in developing countries). Multiply this by millions and you have now crowd-sourced your app development. Each of these apps will have a monopoly because few Android/iOS developers would waste his time writing niche apps for small audiences with no money to be earned, when instead he can make so much more money by writing serious apps for a large audience.
In the end you have recreated the exact situation that lead to success of VB in the Enterprise. HTML5/Javascript does not contribute anything significant to mobile technology, it only dramatically lowers the barrier to entry and as added bonus allows easy import of web apps.

>> I still think you are seriously underestimating the effect of badly written software.
>> Here's a secret: You don't need lots of developers, you need lots of development companies to develop for your platform. And they need to develop stuff that's worth using it.

Let me tell you a secret too: App store operators already anticipate that developers will publish good apps but also crap apps. That is why they use rating systems to highlight the good apps and show bad apps only to users who explicitly search for them. A few gems will be enough to satisfy a lot of users, even if one person's gem is another person's turd. And it doesn't really matter how large the dungheap is that you have to find them in.

Rodrigo Girão

Please stop calling Ubuntu "the African Linux", that's just silly. It is developed by a British company (whose founder happens to be South African).

Joshic

Tomi,

>> And on the HTC features, someone asked why don't I talk about the handset features - this isn't a handset review blog <<

I am not expecting you to review or remark on the quality of a handset. My question was - should you not take into consideration the possibility of a game changing device turning around the fortunes of a company? I agree with you that a great handset is not guaranteed to be successful, but it gives the company a fighting chance.

The "HTC One" is a gorgeous device and I have hopes that it will boost HTC back into contention.

An earlier comment called HTC stupid because of absence of SD card slot and removable battery. Well, Google didn't put either of these in Nexus 4, Apple doesn't include them in iPhones to name a few. HTC One has enough storage and most people will not miss an SD car slot.

iocean X7

New domestic mobile phone brand in China also occupied part of the market. like iocean x7 is a smartphone that has a very beautiful appearance. I think it is a most pretty one that I have ever seen.

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