August 31, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
There’s a lie among tech journalists that August is a slow news month. The torrent of product announcements finally slows to a trickle and there’s nothing much worth writing about. So why the heck does it seem like our heads keep spinning to keep up with news every other week?
The reality is that August 2011 has been and will be remembered as anything but a slow news months. Between the bickering over patents between Apple and Samsung, and Google making one of the largest acquisitions seen in years, there have been far too many headlines to suggest the speed of news this month was “slow.” Big and small, a lot happened in the mobile landscape that will affect Android. Let’s take a quick look back at one of the most interesting headlines of August.
Google buys Motorola.
On the morning of the 15th, Google gave users a much bigger jolt than a cup of coffee could. Google announced that it is buying Motorola Mobility, a company with roots in mobile older than most people using phones today. The $12.5 billion price was shocking enough, but it also taught us that Google won’t have to worry about internal patent threats (Motorola hinted at targeting other Android makers for patent violations), a stronger portfolio to defend Android manufacturers against Apple/Microsoft, and made Google more than just a software company responsible for Android. Pending government approval of the deal, acquiring Motorola will make Google a direct competitor with other OHA members. [Read more]
DOJ sues to block AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile
There was a great deal of shock and disappointment when news broke in March that AT&T plans to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion. Many existing T-Mobile customers wished aloud that the deal would be blocked by the U.S. government, and the first step towards that goal has been taken. The Department of Justice has filed suit in order to block AT&T from gobbling up T-Mobile, which threatens to put a halt to the deal. All of the parties involved have issues statements for or against this action, and things are about to get real ugly for someone.
Google shuts down Slide, maker of Pool Party
I wasn’t particularly impressed by Pool Party, a photo sharing app developed by Google-owned Slide. Then I got even more confused when Slide released PhotoVine, another photo sharing app that supports only iPhone users. Should these people just be working on making Google+ better for photo-sharing?
CEO Larry Page must have reached the same conclusion because Google is shutting down Slide and pretty much all the team’s projects. Just like that, Pool Party, PhotoVine, and Disco (group messaging), are all finished. There are actually some stylistic features that I like about Slide’s apps, but I always thought the overall experience was lacking. Now that most of those people are transferring to YouTube and the company’s leader is leaving Google, some of those positives will trickle into other areas of Google.
HP pulls the plug on Palm/WebOS
A large portion of long-term smartphone fanatics have probably owned a Treo or Palm Pilot, so it was sad to see the company’s nice webOS software wasted on terrible hardware. Then HP bought the company for $1 billion and made it seem like things might improve. A year later, HP also flopped with its WebOS hardware, and started selling Touchpads at crackhead prices in anticipation of a shutdown of webOS.
There’s already a movement to put Android on the ultra-cheap tablets, but I’m sad to see WebOS put out to pasture. The Pre introduced strong competition (merit wise, not sales) that made Android and iOS have to strive to be better. It also taught some things to Matias Duarte, the man currently responsible for UI design at Google. Having less competition and innovation in mobile is bad for everybody, so HP ditching the fourth or fifth option is no fun.
Samsung vs. Apple: Round 1
You should know the story by now; Apple and Samsung are in a patent battle playing out in multiple courts and countries. At the moment, Samsung can’t import Galaxy Tab 10.1′s into Germany because of patent violations, but a Dutch court found it guilty of only one minor violation (a fix is already on the way). What’s interesting about this is Apple alleges several violations, but courts have rejected most, meaning at least one Android vendor is doing better than expected in its struggle to deal with patent issues. I can’t wait until all of this crap is finished and we can move on to more interesting things.
Samsung vs. Father Time
The Samsung Galaxy S II would have been a massive success had it arrived in the U.S. as early as it did in Asia and Europe. But months of silence and delays have caused millions of devices to be sold that the GSII easily could have been the top choice. We finally saw variations of the device on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but Verizon has been suspiciously absent.
Rumors are floating that Verizon will actually introduce something better than the Galaxy S II – the Nexus/Droid Prime. The story goes that a GSII-like phone with a large screen, blazing-fast processor, and the next version of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich) will head to Big Red sometime this fall. By then, only the hardcore Android folks may be left to purchase it. I’m not holding my breath because time just hasn’t been on Samsung’s side. Heck, even their unveiling of the GS II got pushed back because of Hurricane Irene. Let’s hope the wait is a short one.
Apple loses its leader
Say what you will about Steve Jobs – and after several attempts to moderate the out-of-control venom some of you people have, I know you have plenty to say – but he’s undoubtedly one of the biggest names in tech. Few leaders have had as much of an effect on one company and the market as Jobs, who resigned as CEO of Apple last week. It was major news and led to a long list of stories recapping Jobs’s vision and people questioning if Apple will lose its way now that he’s no longer in charge.
Settle down Android users, because the short term will be business as usual. Apple will still pwn the tablet market, trail in the smartphone market, and still overcharge people for computers. Tim Cook will follow Jobs’ path, and there’s still much to play-out in the Android vs. iOS platform wars.
Also remember that Jobs is someone that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin greatly admired and wanted to be Google’s CEO (they settled for getting him as a mentor), and Vic Gundotra had a story admiring his attention to detail. I’m sure some of that influence will play out in Google’s vision.
Other Interesting stories this month