Posts Tagged ‘tim cook’

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First Things First

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The Magic is back. The week of September 9th was a monumental week for Apple. Actually it was a monumental week for the entire tech industry. Well, no, actually the world. The Galaxy. Universe. Ummmmm..Multi-Verse. Yeah. Whenever Apple hits one out of the park it’s a game-changer. CRACK! The Cupertino company hit another one of its iconic grand slam home runs. That’s right slugger. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were true game changers, showing that our beloved Apple can still innovate. Boy can they innovate! And it’s not over. Not by a long shot.

After seven years of pint sized piddling with sized challenged smart devices the Cupertino company finally graced we, the waiting world with not one, but two larger devices. Bigger than bigger! Yeah baby! The 4.7” iPhone 6 reaches the dimensions of the 4.7” HTC Titan that debuted in 2011. And it’s even bigger brother the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus pops the parameters of huge measuring in a half inch smaller than Microsoft’s nearly year old flagship phablet, the 6” Lumia 1520. Yeah, some may claim that these and other large screened devices like Samsung’s Note series beat Apple and created this market, and well they’d be right. But we’re not going to talk about that. (Let’s worship Apple instead.) The record sale of 10 million phones in three days show why Apple is indeed the center of the tech universe around which we all revolve.  All hail Apple!

But it’s not over, because two weeks ago, Thursday October 16, 2014 Apple admitted to us “That it’s been way too long” and then pulled another rabbit out of its magical hat. The iPad Air Pro. The tablet that can replace your laptop. Who would’a thunk it?  I was invited to the event. Let me tell you how it all went down.

 

My Struggle; Our Struggle

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Until recent events I have often found myself musing on the following.

It is no secret that the Cupertino company has been accused of losing it’s mojo since the loss of its iconic leader and visionary Steve Jobs. The company which introduced beloved and  now ubiquitous magical devices like the iPhone, iPad and the iPod which heralded in a revolution in how the world listens to music somehow became, stagnant, and responsive rather than innovative and proactive.  I almost choke uttering those words of the company that I personally have come to know as the innovator within an industry whose entire identity was reshaped by what Apple introduced to the world. Consider this, the MP3 was mainstreamed because of the Apple iPod. The tablet PC went from sci-fi nerd dream device to mainstream consumer product because of the Apple iPad. And the smartphone. Yeah, we know the deal. The iPhone put the “smart” in that little pocket sized phone, delivering to the masses a pint sized computer that has become a desired extension of us all.  The Apple iPhone is arguably the industry standard for the smartphone. We Apple faithful form and fill lines eagerly awaiting to acquire these magical jewels of innovation from the company that has changed the world.

Yet in the past few years it seems that my hero company has shifted its place with some of the new comers. I shutter to write these words, reluctant to add credence to rivals claims about the sole company that has forged a path in the industry with unparralleled consumer value. Yet,  candidly speaking it seems that in the game of follow the leader, Apple had somehow become the follower. Yes they have been accused of taking cues from companies like Microsoft,  continuing an age old rivalry reminiscent of the Capulets and Montagues. With their replacing of their skeumorphic laden iOS with the flattened modern flavors found in Microsoft’s Modern (Metro) OS Microsoft fans have cried foul. Calling the leader of the tech world a copy-cat for blatantly taking design cues from a company that they rival. Sadly though, I shutter to admit it,  but I had to agree. I even happened upon a concept by one Jay Machalani that reinvents the iOS home screen and makes it eerily reminiscent of Window’s Phone Live Tiles.  If this makes it to a version of iOS well…

They’re Back

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Ahhhh, but no more. If any thing could declare to a naysaying world and to the wavering faithful that Apple is every bit as magical, every bit as innovative as it has ever been, the companies introduction on Oct 16, 2014, of a device that defies classification does just that.  The category defying  iPad Air Pro shakes the tech industry to it’s very foundation. This device which Apple promises will be the tablet that will replace your laptop is the ultimate Post -PC computer. What magic or incantation was exercised to forge this technological wonder I don’t know but Apple is back.  By combining the convenience of portability with the sheer power required to be productive Apple has created a category defying device. Yes the magic is back indeed. And it’s back with a vengeance. Come on a journey with me and let me share with you the wonder that only Apple can provoke.

The Invitation

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It was a Wednesday afternoon when I opened my email to find a very simple non-descript item which read “Join us for a small gathering, It’s Been Way too Long”. This simple announcement was followed by location, time and RSVP information. That’s it. Clandestine and secretive, typical Apple. This was going to be big. Really big. There was no way I was going to miss this. “Siri, set an appointment for October 16th, 10am PST.” Attend Apple event in Cupertino.” Siri confirmed the creation of the appointment. I was set. “Thanks Siri.” It boggles me that so few iOS users find Siri useful. Sure she often can’t connect to the internet. Sure she doesn’t have the advantage of her own search engine foundation like Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Google Now. Sure she doesn’t proactively offer suggestions, or interests and isn’t capable of learning about a user over time like Cortana. But she’s an Apple product and she’s funny. That’s good enough for me. Hmmm…I’ll be traveling and my old suitcase was getting a bit battle worn I remembered. “Siri remind to get a new suitcase next time I’m at Walmart”, I said to my trusty digital assistant. “Sorry I can’t do that,” Siri replied. Hahahah. She’s so funny. Good ol’ Siri.

Let’s fast forward a bit. I won’t bore you with my sleepless nights of scouring the internet hoping to procure a tiny morsel, a mere tidbit of what could possibly be awaiting me at the “Small Gathering” event on October 16, 2014. I won’t wear your patience with the retelling of the how I placed multiple calls daily to (now former) contacts at Apple who spared me further rebuff by simply changing their phone numbers or blocking me from their email. No I’m not offended. I sincerely appreciate their dedication to Apple’s strict standard of secrecy. How else does a company rise to the heights of being one of the most powerful brands on the globe and grab the interests of dedicated, eh, and sometime over zealous acolytes such as myself. I do wonder however how I will continue my journalism career covering my beloved Apple after having scared off my contacts. Hmmm. Anyway I digress.

On My Way: The Hotel – “Trying to Keep it Together”

The day of the event. It had been way too long in coming. See what I did there? I’m in my hotel room. Time to gear up.

Apple T-Shirt. On. Check.

IPhone 6. Right pocket. Check.

iPhone 6 Plus. Left pocket. Check (I hope it doesn’t bend…gulp)

Apple ear buds. Shirt pocket. Check.

IPod. Also shirt pocket. Check.

I look at my beats audio headphones and ponder throwing them around my neck. I decide, nah, I don’t want to look like an over zealous geek. I shove the headphones in my bag. Check. Mac Book Air and power cord. Check. Check.

Hmmmm. Bags getting kind of tight. IPad Air. Hmmmp..sqish..move Dr Dre Beats headphones just a bit. Ahhhh.

Ipad Air. Check

Ipad power cord. Hmmmm. I can force it into my already bulging bag and risk looking unprofessional like I’m heading on a camping trip rather than a professional event of one of the most important companies on the globe. I choose to leave the cord. I had half a charge left anyway and I have the Macbook Air should I loose power in the tablet. I could get along surfing the web or doing any other menial tasks normally relegated to my iPad on the MacBook. It will just be a tad bit more cumbersome.

IPad power cord. Not Checked. Geared up and ready to go.

I head out of my room, down the hotel hallway, my heart beating literally twice its normal pace manifesting the excitement that I could barely contain. I pass by a mirror. Whoah, reel it in buddy. Is that how all Apple fans look when Apple is working its magic. The ear to ear smile I caught in the reflection looking back at me made me think of the Joker absent the white make up and cheery red lips. I make a conscious effort to tighten my lips as I continue to walk down the hall. Apple on my mind I pass another mirror. Ok I give. I resign to the reality that I’m destined to look like Bat-Man’s nemesis until the excitement of this event abates.

I reach the elevator. There’s an older gentleman standing there; waiting for the doors to open. He’s returns the smile back to me that I’m  beaming to the world. He seems a tad bit uncomfortable with the intensity of my expression. Try to reel it in, I think to myself. I catch a muted reflection of myself in the polished elevators door. My efforts to downplay my perpetual grin made me look as if I was having digestive issues. An inability to pass…well you know. Not a good look. I move my lips about trying to reposition my face.

I catch the gentleman at the elevator eyeing me. I feel a bit awkward and think he’ll understand if I just tell him why I’m so excited. I utter a single word, somehow unable to articulate anything else through my excitement, “Apple!” I squeal. That was bad. Definitely not how that went in my head.  Worse than you can imagine having only read it and not heard how my normally baritone voice uttered the single word in the screechy pitch of a pubescent boy.  Hmmm, yeah. I clear my throat nervously and debate inwardly whether I should make another attempt.

As if the decision were made for me, as if possessed by the spirit of my late idol, Steve Jobs, I fumble my iPhone from my right pocket, and show it to the gentleman like a traveler unaccustomed to the native language attempts to communicate a thought by pointing out objects and stuttered out the word’s “Apple” and “event”. Yeah. This isn’t going to work.  The man looked at me compassionately, the elevator doors opened, we both walked in quietly. The ride down to the lobby was awkwardly silent.

On My Way: The Cab Ride; “Confronting Cortana”

WP8.1 Cortana        cortana Face

After escaping the embarrassing shadow of my Apple induced mental block when I walked onto sidewalk on this sunny day, my previous unfettered elation returned to me and I nearly forgot entirely my embarrassing encounter. Almost.

I flag down a cab. The cab pulls up to me and I tell the driver where I need to go. “Sure thing buddy!” he replies. He then warns me there’s a bit of traffic backed up on the way. “Really?” I ask. How long before we get there. He lifts a phone from the seat beside him. It was bigger than my iPhone 6 plus! Wow. I didn’t really recognize it, not that it wasn’t a great looking phone or that the company that made it had not done its job marketing it. Frankly I didn’t recognize ANY devices outside of Apple devices.

Then I heard the driver say, “Cortana how long until we get to…”, then he said the address. Cortana, hmmmm. A very natural voice stated how far the destination was from our location and how long it would take to get there. According to Cortana, which I recalled based on the commercials was on Windows Phone, I would be about 5 mins late. Bummer. I said to the driver with a smile, “You know what would be awesome. If these digital assistants of ours could tell us proactively when to leave for an appointment, you know, accounting for traffic. We’d never be late! That would be some real serious tech! But that’s probably a few years away huh?”

“Cortana can do that now”, he said, with a raise of his eyebrows as he peered at me in the rear view mirror.

“No, no”…I said to him, trying to make him understand. Surely he misunderstood. “I mean, if I put something in my calendar, right? And without touching it, or anything, Siri would just “know” what the traffic conditions are around the time I need to get to my appointment and would just tell me when to leave so that I could make my appointment on time.” I was content that I had explained my idea sufficiently and the driver would be impressed with such a forward thinking premise.

“Cortana can do that now”, he said.

I was a bit frustrated. Maybe he didn’t understand me. He spoke the language well. As a matter of fact he looked and sounded as if English was his first language. Surely there was no language barrier. What was so hard? I said, “Maybe you don’t understand.”

He interjected and repeated back to me exactly what I had  said.

I said “yeah”, a bit excited, “now you get it!”

“Cortana can do that now,” he said.

He then passed me his phone. Wow. This Nokia (I saw the word just above the display), was bigger than my iPhone 6 Plus, but smooth, light, thin and incredibly well built, I thought. How could a non-Apple company design such a well-built device? And why hadn’t I heard of it? I was pulled from this heretical thought when I suddenly remembered who I was, where I was going, and who and what I was committed to. I chided myself for my blasphemous non-Apple thoughts. I’m sorry Jobs.

The screen on this what looked to be about a 6”display was black with a dim clock and it looked like a calendar event at the bottom. “Pretty poor display I said, with a grin.” Again secure in the inferiority of everything non-Apple.

“Tap it,” said the driver.

“Huh?”

“Tap the screen”, he repeated.

I obeyed, and the huge screen lit up into one of the most beautiful displays I had ever seen.  I had thought the previous screen was a lock screen. But it must have been some sort of low power consumption screen that displays desired info without killing the battery. Nice trick. I immediately felt condemnation for that thought. Sorry Jobs.

“Slide the screen upward,” said my driver, “clearly pleased with sharing the merits of his device with me.” I did as I was instructed. It’s ALIVE! My eyes widened with wonder as I saw a display full of tiles flipping about displaying all sorts of information.

My driver, instructed me to a specific Live Tile, which was actually a webpage which he shared was “pinned” to his Home screen. Wow. The pinned web paged tile displayed live updated information just like an app tile! I touched it as instructed and it I was met with a YouTube page for a Siri vs Cortana commercial.

“Play it,” said my driver.

I watched the video, Siri’s and Cortana’s voices filled the car as the driver and I heard the words that educated me on just how capable his Cortana was.

I bowed my head lightly in embarrassed silence after I handed him back his phone with a reluctant “Thank You.” With compassion, he allowed me to make the rest of my ride in silence.

We reached our destination, I paid the man, glad I would never see him or that awesome stupid phone again. Cortana remind me…I paused…horrified with myself. Siri (Sorry Jobs) remind me to tell my boss that I would like to write an article entitled “All the Ways Siri is Better Than Cortana,” next time I talk to him. “Sorry I can’t do that,” Siri replied.  This isn’t funny.

Into the Sacred Hall- AHHHHHHHHHHH

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Ok. I’m about to enter this building and surround myself with the Apple-est of the Apple. I’m about to hear Apple tell the world about another magical device. So what Microsoft has Live Tiles and an awesome , (sorry Jobs), stupid digital assistant, and a really nice flagship phablet the Nokia Lumia 1520….arrrgghhhhh. Purge these Non-Apple thoughts from me!

I jog, walk, run, powerwalk…all of the above…into the building. I need – Apple.

When I stumble into the room, I see the event has already begun, several disgusted faces turn toward me. “I’m one of you”, I think, “forgive me.”  Though they were a bit upset with my disturbance it felt good to be among my own. The defiling events that accompanied my transit to this sacred place were almost immediately purged from me as I heard the magical words of the presenter unveil the iPad Air Pro as I took my seat.

The iPad Air Pro – The Magical Tablet that Will Replace Your Laptop

This is the tablet that will replace your laptop he said. I salivated. Literally. The woman sitting beside me moved over a bit. But gave me a reassuring understanding look.  I looked at her, said, “sorry”…and with a massive smile that I no longer cared was stretched across my face, (I was among my own now), whispered, “Apple.” She looked back at me, wiped the corner of her mouth with the sleeve of her shirt that had the Apple logo emblazoned on it and echoed, “Apple.”

I returned my gaze to the presenter. Onstage was a scale. The presenter placed a MacBook Air on one side and the new iPad Air Pro, (the tablet that could replace your laptop) on the other. The crowd erupted in rapturous applause as the weight of the MacBook Air lifted the iPad Air Pro high into the Air. Apple.

The presenter proceeded to wow us with the engineering ingenuity that went into creating this incredible magical device. If I were not a practical, purely empirical, data driven, analytical person I would contend that Apple had a wizard or sorcerer locked in the deepest, most secretive corners of their headquarters boldly implementing these incredible design features into this impossible device in bold defiance to all the known laws of physics.

Is This Thing For Real?

How else could a such a beautiful device encased in pure magnesium alloy, with a 12” display measure in at 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.36 inches, weigh 1.76lbs, and contain up to a Core i7 chip, 512GB Hard Drive, 8GB RAM, a USB Port, expandable memory, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, stereo microphones,  5-megapixel front and rear cameras, a digital compass, ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer? This thing was a full computer with the form factor of a tablet.  We were floored. Every last Apple loving one of us. Pure magic.

I was frantically typing notes into my iPad, having pulled it from my bag after my late arrival because it was just a tad quicker than pulling out and setting up my MacBook Air. It was however a bit of a challenge trying to keep up with the presenter as he graced us with amazing detail after amazing detail as the onscreen keyboard was less speedy than an actual keyboard.

As if reading my thoughts the presenter then pulled out a cover. No a Type-Cover, to be exact. Oh my God. No he did not, just click the type-cover magnetically into the base of the iPad Air Pro. Wait…no…wait. This thing has a built-in kickstand too!

The presenter went on to show how the kickstand has a continuous hinge allowing for positioning the device at any point within a 150 degree range. He then demonstrated what he dubbed lapability. He placed the tablet/laptop on his lap and the connected Type Cover he then secured to the base of the device via an additional magnetic strip making the device even more stable!  In-stinking-credible! I want one. I want one now! The battery in my iPad died.  Arrrrgggghhh. Afraid of missing any detail, I quickly fumble into my back pack to retrieve my MacBook, shoving the now useless tablet back into the bag. Boot up. Boot up. Boot Up. I wait. And…action…

Good old MacBook…I look up to see that the presenter has detached the Type Cover from the iPad Air Pro and is holding it like one might hold a legal pad. He also has a pen in his hand. The screen on the tablet/laptop miracle device appears to be off. He clicks the pen. The screen comes to life and automagically launches OneNote. Holy practical application Apple! This is incredible. He scribbles a note on the screen, finishes up and viola it’s saved to the cloud accessible from any device. He showed some other amazing pen tricks like selecting text, handwriting recognition and the like. The weight and the feel of the pen were deliberately designed to feel like a pen. “The pen reinvented he”, he shared. Amazing.

Wait There’s More

I was so full at this point. Apple had fully purged all of that Microsoft, Windows Phone, Cortana stuff from me with this amazing “iPad Air Pro, the Tablet That can Replace Your Laptop” presentation. I was sure that every trick had been presented and the close of this amazing show was upon us. Then the presenter said something that convinced me that there was indeed a sorcerer or magician serving Apple in the creation of its magical devices.  This tablet that was indeed a full computer that was lighter than a MacBook Air, that could replace your laptop, had a soundless fan that you would not feel getting hot. Holy incredible feat of engineering Apple! Apple had reinvented the fan! This tidbit of information excited us so that literally, everyone in the house stood to their Apple-loving feet, applauded continuously with their Apple-loving hands for a full three Apple-loving minutes. Everyone except me.

I applauded for four Apple-loving minutes.

Once Apple security calmly and compassionately sat me down the presentation was brought to a close. Takeaway? Suffice it to say that Apple has a winner with this device. The company decidedly, for this Oct 16th, 2014 event, bounded beyond the beaten path of the mundane uninspired modifications of a thinner, lighter and faster device with a better display. Blah, blah blah. BOOOORING! Instead Apple presented to the world, an impossible feat of engineering wonder, a magical tablet that could replace your laptop! In a word: Revolutionary! Indeed I was sold. Apple announced three different configurations. A Core i3, for the budget conscious, the middle range Core i5 and the highest tier Core i7. I am an Apple fan to the core, i7 I’m coming for you!

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In the weeks since Apples iPad Air Pro announcement the typical avalanche of coverage commenced. News outlets, morning shows, radio programs, tech bloggers, programs from GMA to CNN couldn’t push enough Apple. And we the consumer public voraciously ate it up. News cameras around the country panned lines comprised of hundreds of eager Apple acolytes waiting to get their hands on Apple’s latest game-changing device.

Now here I stand 2 weeks after the event. I am about the 251st person in the line at my local Apple Store eager to pick up my iPad Air Pro which will go on sale in 4 more days. It has been a long time coming. Way too long. But now I’m here and geared up.

Apple T-Shirt. On. Check.

IPhone 6. Right pocket. Check.

iPhone 6 Plus. Left pocket. Check (Sadly it bent a little last time.)

Apple ear buds. Shirt pocket. Check.

iPod. Also shirt pocket. Check.

Beats audio headphones securely in place around my neck. This is a long line. Check.

Mac Book Air and power cord. Nope.

IPad Air. Of course not. I’m here to pick up the tablet that is going to replace my laptop.

I look at the guy sitting in his sleeping bag to my left, and the girl huddled in a small makeshift lean to on my right and say, “the magic is back!”, with a smile that would have hurt if my face wasn’t numb from the chilling rain. They each looked at me, offered their fists, each of which I bumped and in unison we each uttered, “Apple.”

Windows Onslaught

Three Hours Later:

Boy this is a loooong line. How about a little entertainment. “Siri, sing me a song.”

“Sorry, I can’t do that.”

No this really isn’t funny.

Read This Other Fictional Piece

Cortana Lives; Her Final Message to Master Chief

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Microsoft has a problem. The multibillion dollar software-errrr…devices and services company is the third horse in a frantic race for Mobile dominance. This global competition is led by two steeds who have had a substantial head start, have gained the mindshare of the masses and who have no plans of relinquishing their lead to the Redmond company’s persistent efforts at mobile relevance. Yeah you guessed it, we’re talking about Microsoft’s smartphone OS’s, Windows Phone’s epic David versus Goliath battle against the Android and iOS titans that dominate the mobile Promised Land. Some would say that with Android’s and iOS’s combined market share of about 95% of the global market the battle is over. Microsoft however, like Joshua and Caleb’s positive report after spying the promised land(in contrast to the negative report of the other ten spy’s-tech pundits and reviewers) and seeing the giants, are reporting, “we are well able.”  I would encourage the nay-sayers to think again. Microsoft is deadly serious about its mobile endeavors and has gone from 0% market share of its fledgling OS, Windows Phone in October 2010, to a growing 4% today solidly replacing Blackberry as the third player in the mobile space. This is no small feat. In several markets Windows Phone surpasses iOS as the most used mobile OS, coming in second to Android. The Softies have drawn a hard line; they have invested billions to ensure success in this space. Microsoft has a solution.

The Buddy System – Enter Nokia

Nokia which was once a world leader in the cell phone market with the now defunct Symbian mobile OS, in order to save itself (and by default Microsoft’s Windows Phone) had for all intents and purposes, put all of it eggs in Microsoft’s tiled basket. Microsoft and Nokia have been bosom buddies pumping out millions of Windows Phones for the past three years. Nokia who is known for great hardware design succeeded in taking Microsoft’s unique OS to the masses. Microsoft’s bold departure from the mundane static grid and icon based,  multi page design of the competing OS’s sport a fluid UI employing dynamic Live Tiles that update and flip with incoming and relevant data. These colorful and minimalistic live tiles which populate the Windows Phone home screen are a far cry from the icon based “me-too” approach shared between Android and iOS.

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Image The Nokia Lumia 1520 employs dynamically updating Live Tiles to bring users information to the surface.

Microsoft’s first move in the new mobile landscape was to present a mobile OS and user interface that was different from the rest. Nokia took Microsoft’s software and crafted it into colorful solidly built polycarbonate devices that complemented the software.  The industry noticed. The Nokia Lumia 900 was highly acclaimed. Nokia introduced technologies such as wireless charging, super sensitive screens that could be interacted with via gloved hands, and camera technology that turned the heads of everyone in the industry. Though there were many Nokia fans who cried for a Nokia designed Android device sporting the hardware the company invested in its Lumia line of Windows Phones Nokia was fully committed to Microsoft and the Window Phone platform. The only manifestations of Nokia’s dedication to another mobile OS was to its entry level Asha feature phone line. A Nokia branded smartphone, running Android? Yeah, not likely. Additionally, with Microsoft’s $7 billion purchase of Nokia’s devices division which includes both the Lumia and Asha line an Android based Nokia device seemed even more fanciful. Certainly that’s something we could expect when pigs fly.  Well look up.

Flying Pigs
There have been many leaks of late of a device dubbed the Nokia Normandy, or more recently the Nokia X. Screen shots of the device by reliable leaker evleaks show a device sporting Nokia’s classic design language. We hear of specs of a 4” WVGA 800×480 display, 512MB of Ram, a modest 4GB memory, and a microSD port.  Low end to mid-range specs to be sure. The device sounds pretty close to the entry level Nokia Lumia 520 Windows Phone. But this phone may be running the latest version of Googles mobile OS of choice Android 4.4 – Kit Kat. They did it. Microsoft’s most vital OEM partner and soon to be smartphone manufacturing arm made an Android smartphone. Not the high end device fans have clamored for but a device running a competing OS nonetheless. And it looks like its coming to market. Is Nokia straight crazy? Or are they courageously brilliant?

Let’s take a closer look at the device. The user interface of this clearly Android based device has the tiled based layout of Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS. Additionally both Microsoft’s and Nokia services/apps appear front and center on the device. I don’t think Nokia is crazy, but if they are they are crazy like a fox.

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Nokia Android based Normandy is sporting a UI that looks very much like the Windows Phone tiled based Modern UI. Microsoft and Nokia services are likely front and center, with no Google Play apps or services on board. This is likely a forked version of Android(AOSP). Microsoft’s Trojan Phone?

Theory’s, Theory’s, Theory’s
Everything that follows is pure speculation and we won’t know what this all means until time bears the tale. But walk with me. There are, I’m sure a few line’s of thought about Nokia’s move here with the Normandy. So let’s get a couple of things out of the way before we get to the juicy stuff. The less interesting scenario to me is that Nokia is preparing a line of Android devices they can introduce into the market  once, with the support of ex-Nokia employees dabbling in other areas of the smartphone arena,  Nokia is free to resume smartphone production again in 2016. That’s a plausible theory. Nokia is a loved brand.

Nokia Meego Devices

Nokia Meego Devices

Here’s my take. Reminder this is all speculative. Nokia which had become a struggling entity, a mere shadow of its former self, has tied its fate to the success of the Windows Phones OS. They dropped, Symbian which was a dying mobile OS and scrapped Meego  (their most recent take on a mobile smartphone OS) in favor of Windows Phone.  In the wake of the reinvention and growth of the smartphone  market spawned by Apple’s iPhone and iOS and  Android led by Samsung, Nokia, a weakening force needed financial backing and a viable mobile OS alternative to compete with the current juggernauts as well as ensure their survival. Microsoft and Windows Phone was the answer.

Symbian Devices

Symbian Devices

Nokia utilized their expertise and patented technology that made it a global force to be reckoned with in its hey-day, and Microsoft provided billions of dollars and a partnership to meld the Windows Phone OS onto groundbreaking Nokia hardware. The Lumia line of Windows Phones was born. But it didn’t take the world by storm. Not by a long shot. The competition was deeply entrenched. The climb steep. Apple iphones saturated the upper tier of the smartphone market. Android occupied all tiers but saturated the low end of the market providing an entry into the Android ecosystem. Hmmmmm?

(I wonder?)

Nokia’s own feature phone Asha line, though equipped with access to Nokia’s own branded services was still only a feature phone. Additionally some Android devices are priced at around the same price as Nokia’s higher end non-smarphone devices which have no real app or services ecosystem. Low cost Android devices are becoming a much more tantalizing option to the price conscious cell phone buyers who may have initially considered a feature phone. They are real smartphones, with access to a broad ecosystem and can be bought at around the same price as a higher end feature phone. Well you do the math.

Nokia Feature Phone Asha Devices

Nokia Feature Phone Asha Devices

Now Nokia though they are still selling millions of Asha devices, success with feature phones in the low end with comparably priced Android smartphones in the market is just not sustainable. As a matter of fact Asha sales have decreased and it is this Asha line that is Nokia’s bridge to their Lumia line. Their real success would come in the smartphone market. There are billions of consumers whose first or only internet device is a smartphone. The market, particularly in emerging regions is vast. The Lumia 520/521 Windows Phone has been a success in the low end. Windows Phone, which is able to run on low specification hardware, has been a great fit for this low cost device which hit the market at an affordable non-contract price. But Android, particularly with its latest update Kit-Kat, has been modified to run on low specification hardware and has taken aim at emerging markets.  What’s a company invested in the Windows Phone OS to do?

Nokia’s Trojan horse
The Normandy/X. Nokia is all in with the Windows Phone platform.

Wait a minute didn’t’ they make an Android phone?

Yep. A low end Android phone that in no way competes with its high end Lumia line of Windows Phones.

This is going to help Windows Phone how?!?

Ok let’s take it slow.
First, the Android code is open source, and though Google owns Android, no one really “owns” Android. Any OEM can take and shape the Android code into whatever they can envision – even a facsimile of the Windows Phone UI.

But wait a minute what about Google?

Ok, here’s the short version. Google bought AOSP (Android Operating System Project) an open source project and has developed it and made it quite successful. But it’s still open source and free for all. At least the AOSP is. What Google has done to try to control something that is free and open is introduce branded services into the mix. Enter Google Play.  Google takes services that are part of the free and open AOSP “updates” them with their proprietary API’s and markets them through Google Play. So in a nutshell Google has created two branches of Android – the free and open AOSP version and it’s version that is marketed through Google Play and tied it into its devices and services. You know, apps like Google Calendar, Google Search, Google Play Music, Google Keyboard, Google Camera and Google Hangouts. These and an increasing number of services are tied to many devices consumers purchase.

 AOSP Search vs Google branded Google

AOSP Search vs Google branded Google

AOSP Music vs Google's

AOSP Music vs Google’s “Branded” Music

You see OEM’s – Original Equipment Manufacturers  –  do have the “ability” to make devices and shape Android as they please. Here’s the problem. If they do this Google won’t let them “Play”. Get it, no access to the very popular Google Play apps that Google has invested in developing and making their own. Now just so that we’re on the same page, there are older AOSP versions of the apps Google has “updated” with it’s API’s, but they aren’t as slick or robust or feature rich as Google’s versions. Take Google Search with Google Now for instance. It’s much more robust than the simple AOSP search app. So if a company decides to make a device with a “forked” version of Android they are blackballed from the Play Store. This pretty much scares many OEM’s into playing by Google’s rules.

Amazon is an example of an exception. They built the Amazon Kindle Fire, and sell content through their own store. This is what other OEM’s who don’t want to play by Google’s terms would have to do. Provide apps and services outside of Google play.  Most OEM’s, however, are simply hardware companies with no real software products or services to offer to add value to a non-Google Android device. There are millions of “non-Googled” apps that exist out in the wild, and there are thousands of developers. An OEM would need the resources to build an app store to connect to these apps and developers. An additional challenge that once Google tweaks certain Google based services that some apps tie into, like Google Maps, developers would have to update their apps to keep them working. So the challenge for a developer is keeping the Google Play version of his app current as well as the AOSP version. But it can be done.

The Amazon Kindle Fire runs on a forked version of Android

The Amazon Kindle Fire runs on a forked version of Android

Android Open Source Project – Google’s Achilles Heel

Androids market share grew this year. Good news for Google right? Not really. Remember there are two Android camps. Google’s with its Google Play branded apps and services and the free AOSP. The AOSP branch of Android saw greater growth due to the success of OEM’s like Chinas’ Xiaomi. This scares Google; Android growing without it. You see Google has no real physical product that drives its revenue. Its services, distributed through Android devices, (along with ad revenue from Google online) are its bread and butter. An OEM that takes Android and makes it their own, sans Google, is messing with Google’s meal ticket.

Nokia’s Normandy/X project may just take some of Google’s lunch money.
Nokia’s investment in the growing low end market of Android devices via, the Normandy/X has several strategic advantages.
We must first point out that though Nokia is being purchased by Microsoft, they have to conduct business as separate companies and as if no deal is in the works until the deal is sealed.  Otherwise there would be anti competition issues. That’s illegal.

So point numero uno:  Nokias has invested its smartphone success on its Lumia line of phones. As mentioned above they have achieved a measure of success via the low end Lumia 520/521. Part of Nokia’s over all strategy is to equip their Asha line of feature phones with functionality and services that will entice users to transition to their more competitive line of Lumia smartphones. Now as mentioned above competing Android devices are priced similar to the higher end Nokia Asha devices and they have access to a breadth of android apps. This is a clear advantage these low cost comparably priced Android smartphones have over the limited breadth of functionality of Nokia’s Asha feature phones. Yet in many markets Nokia is still a very popular and loved brand.  An affordable Nokia Android device is something many in various markets would quite honestly jump on. Nokia’s strategy with Windows Phone, though yielding positive growth, and introducing groundbreaking devices to market has not yet catapulted the company into a highly competitive position against Apple and Samsung/Android. Huge sums of money, marketing campaigns and incredible hardware have not proven sufficient to substantially breach the walls of Android’s/iOS’ market dominance, mindshare, and mass market appeal. Nokia needed a new tactic. They needed something quieter. More thought out. Strategic. Subversive. How could Nokia continue to support it’s strategy to become a powerful player with Windows Phone based Lumia devices, stem the tide of Samsung’s and others on the low end with their Android devices and create a more viable bridge than it’s suffering Asha line to the Lumia smartphone line?

The Trojan Phone

The Trojan Phone

The Nokia Normandy, the Trojan Phone
Nokia could leverage its good will in the market, its powerful brand to create a device that many would certainly buy. Windows Phone though popular in some markets and growing in popularity in others is still less preferred than Android. Hmmmmm. Nokia could create an Android phone. That would address two issues. One, it could be used to replace the upper  tier Asha line that is priced comparably to but is less competitive to other OEM’s Android devices, thus stemming the tide of other Android based OEMs on Nokia turf. This move could even actually grow Nokia’s share of the market. Two,  Android is a far more robust OS than that found on an Asha feature phone. It’s an actual smartphone OS. It has access to millions of apps and has functionality that the Asha feature phones simply lack.
Ahhh. But what about Windows Phone? Won’t this undermine Nokia’s efforts to build the Windows Phone ecosystem?

Glad you asked. Like Google, Microsoft provides a breadth of services and software products, such as Skydrive(OneDrive), Office, Skype, Bing, Xbox Music, etc. Nokia has its own range of services as well, Nokia MixRadio, Here Maps, Here Drive and more.  Nokia and Microsoft are buddies. Now remember how we said even though Google owns Android, no one really “owns” Android, and an OEM can make it whatever they want- even a facsimile of a Windows Phone UI.
Well check out the display of the Nokia Normandy/X. Looks a lot like the Windows Phone’s tile based user interface doesn’t it? Notice the services that take center stage on the device. Looks like Microsoft and Nokia services to me. Yep, Nokia built a low cost device, running on the forked (AOSP) version of Android focusing on the combined suite of Microsoft and Nokia services, and Google’s nowhere in the picture. Virtually every service Google would provide on an Android device Microsoft and Nokia have comparable or superior alternatives.

xbox-gaming-windows-phoneSome of Microsoft's and Nokia's ServicesHere

 

Some of Microsoft’s and Nokia’s Services

Ok so how does this help Nokia and Windows Phone? With this device Nokia offers a device that has a more popular OS than Windows Phone (to those who want Android) but the device is apparently seductively laced with Nokia and Microsoft services as defaults and it’s UI is a facsimile of the Windows Phone Metro UI. Now most people are beginning to realize that when you purchase a smartphone, you are also buying into the services offered by the ecosystem you’re buying into. One of the first things a smartphone user does is log into the device via a user id associated with that particular ecosystem. Once part of the ecosystem, which has services and products that are interconnected,(services such as email, music, gaming, cloud, etc) a user becomes invested and when they go to purchase or upgrade to a new device, they want a device that will keep them in that ecosystem. The Normandy/X is Nokia’s Android based, Microsoft/Nokia laced Trojan Horse.

I believe Nokia is betting on selling the low cost Android based Normandy/X to a Nokia hungry populace eager for a android based Nokia built smartphone. Nokia will give it to them. To the flavor of Microsoft’s mobile UI and the Softies and Nokia’s services and products, sans Google, that is. So hundreds, thousands, ideally millions of Normandy/X (if successful Normandy/X like) phones will be bought but users will also be buying into Microsoft’s ecosystem. They would also be interacting with a device with a UI that looks very much like Windows Phone.  So when these same users go to upgrade their devices Nokia will have a line of tried and true, well developed Lumia Windows Phone devices waiting for them. So Nokia via this strategy could hit the low end with two OS’s, tied into Microsoft’s and Nokia’s services and products, Windows Phone via devices like the 525 and an Android phone via the Normandy/X.

nokia Normandy Screenshot

Now remember this plan is one that I believe Nokia may have forged acting as if the Nokia/Microsoft buy was not going to occur. Remember anti-competition rules. This slick plan would help dig into Google’s revenue. Google of course fears the untethered use of AOSP; and with good reason. Xiaomi in China builds Android devices which uses none of Google’s services. Xiaomi is growing very swiftly and is quite the powerhouse in China one of the world’s most important markets. This is, I believe one of the reasons for Google’s closer relationship with Android behemoth Samsung. AOSP non-Google Android is growing, while Googles Android is slowing. Now if Samsung goes Tizen that would put Google in a Tizzy.

Now some would say that Microsoft will squash the Normandy/X once the sale goes through. I say, “Maybe not”. We know that Microsoft has shown interest in HTC possibly putting Windows Phone on Android devices. So though this doesn’t reek of Microsoft out right using Android, they have, it seems, considered using the popularity of Android to propel their own platform. Now suppose Microsoft likes Nokia’s subversive idea and they keep the Normandy around. But then wouldn’t they have to manage multiple mobile OS’s? In purchasing the devices line from Nokia they get the Lumia line running Windows Phone and the Asha line running its mobile OS. They have to manage multiple OS’s now. Let’s say they give this Normandy idea a go and it works. They then replace the upper tier Asha line with a forked version of Android devices that looks like Windows phone and ties users into Microsoft services. Now I am aware that Microsoft offers its services on competing devices already but they are not the default. On both Android and iOS devices Goolge and Apple products, respectively take precedence.  Not so on the Normandy/X. Microsoft and Nokia will likely be featured front and center.

Now Microsoft, a multi-billion dollar devices and services company can usurp AOSP, create a forked version of Android laced with Microsoft proprietary products and services, (hmmmm sound familiar?), looks like Windows Phone, is dedicated to the low end, to provide a line of devices that act as a bridge to Windows Phone.

office online

Microsoft Office – The worlds most popular Productivity suite comes preinstalled on all Windows Phones.

Developers, Developers, Developers(Finally?)
Microsoft’s foray into AOSP will help them forge better relationships with developers, some of whom will see the potential of the user base that will transition to WP and will be persuaded to begin developing for WP almost immediately. Other developers will wait it out and later witness the transition of this, what will likely be a massive, user base to WP and will then begin developing for WP. Either way, its a long play, and immediate and eventual developer growth is almost certain. Via this undercover entry into an arena where developers thrive, Microsoft will have an opportunity to court developers in a market they are already comfortable in. Relationship is key. The platform through which the relationship is formed becomes secondary to the forging of the relationship itself. Apples success in it’s app ecosystem can lend much credit to the Cupertino company forming critical relationships with developers. Microsoft will have, via the Normandy/X, a powerful bridge to form lasting relationships with developers with whom they can share thier vision of the Normandy/X as a transition device to the Windows Phone platform. With Microsoft’s resources, products and services establishing an Android Google -free app store for developers to peddle thier wares to millions of consumers, who will likely transition to the Windows Phone platform this opportunity for programmers to potentially double thier revenue over time via this migrating user base is a tantalizing proposition. Even if the user bases transition to WP takes longer than desired, if this line of Android phones prove popular among the Android community (linked to Microsoft/Nokia services) in the absence of Google’s alternatives on the devices, Microsoft services will be utilized and likely favored and the facsimile of the tile based UI may become preferred to the icon based grid layout of Android and iOS.   If Microsoft and Nokia could use AOSP as a bridge to Microsoft’s Windows Phone, yeah that’s crazy, crazy like a fox. It’s crazy brilliant.

The Normandy is possiblya bridge to Windows Phone Devices Like the Lumia 1520 Pictures here.

The Normandy is likely a bridge to Windows Phone Devices Like the Lumia 920 Pictured here.