Thursday, January 3, 2013

The $60 Adroid stick computer that kills them all

The causalities is or will be Microsoft, Apple Inc, Intel.  The winners will be those who doesn't depend on hardware/software nor the IT industry.  Those will be Google, and Amazon.

The exceptions will be companies who know how to compete and have competitive edges that are non-volatile.   That's ARM who supplies all those low-cost processors for smart-phones and tablets that made it all possible.  Their reasonable royalty make it possible for the $60 stick computers.  But they are on a tight rope anyway.  All semiconductor fabs or design houses will want to design a replacement for the ARM.  Apple has been known to reinvent itself to get the competition edge, from computers to music players to selling music and TV and then tablet computers again.  This is totally unpredictable for outsiders so I can't really count them in.

If I am correct, Samsung used to have preferential  treatment from the South Korean government.  Indeed Wirlpool has accused them of unfair government subsidies.  Anyway Samsung is king in S Korea as Nokia is in Finland.  Price fixing is common among S Korean conglomerates.

The consumers has spoken!  The last time I upgraded my desktop is just before the dual-core Intel 3GHz processors were introduced.  At the time I have some video coding to be done so I opted for the lastest Intel CPU.  Now that mp4 is standard and my TV understands many codecs, my current desktop is overkill.  At the time I was wondering will people keeping paying for a supercomputer for word processing and web browsing because Microsoft and Intel wants them to?  Now they have spoken.

Android is dominant in the smart phone market, like 80%.  Android is overtaking the tablet market very fast at about 50% now, and will only get more market share like the phones.

Now everybody is going to have a phone, a tablet, a portable and a desktop, and in that order.  This is true especially for kids.  What you can do without is a desktop and a portable.

Android is Linux.  Chrome is Linux.  Kindle is Linux.  The rest is Apple OS.  This is what get Microsoft shitting in their pants.  If their own tablet and phone fails, Windows will be outnumbered by at least 3 to 1 in new purchases and falling.

People realize that they can do most of their stuff on a smart phone, and almost all can be done on an cheap Android with dual-core processor.  They are not afraid of Microsoft, Intel and their own IT department.  Smart phones will stay as you need a phone, and must not be larger than 4 to 5 inches to be carried conveniently.   All you need is a larger screen at other times.  Everybody has HDTV, but they will be in use most of the time.  Then tablets fit the bill.  7" is good to carry for reading but for 10 to 12 inches you can use it as a desktop too, after adding bluetooth or wireless keyboard.

Microsoft is their own biggest enemy.  Although Windows have over 90% of the OS market, Windows 7 has just recently taken over Windows XP (!!!) as the most popular OS.  Now many people have seen that Windows is no more than 5-blade razors, when one or arguably two blades will do the job well for a fraction of the cost.

People buy Windows because there isn't much alternative.  Apart from Apple, nobody sells another OS with their hardware.  You have to pay a premium for Apple's own hardware.  If you want to compete with Windows, you have to find hardware vendors or make your own hardware.  Google did just that.  They don't even need to make money on it as opposed to Apple.

Motorola (owned by Google) know that people realized that they can dock their quad-core phone and use it as a desktop.  That the project doesn't take off two well isn't the issue.  The time hasn't come.  CPU's will be more powerful.  Hopefully there will be something portable that it can dock to.

Now that Android solved the hardware supplier problems, it's Microsoft turn.  They know they have to sell hardware to compete, otherwise Android/Linux will invade their desktop/portable space.  The Surface is what people want - powerful enough and screen large enough for a desktop, more portable than a laptop, and good portable keyboard, and easy to use as a phone.  The problem is - it runs on Windows!  Do you want to run anti-virus suits on your tablet and smart phone?  Oh please.  The market share of Android is big enough to show that the security problems is all Window's problem.  Or, Microsoft's unwillingness to acknowledge the problem.  It's not that difficult.

Window's brand image is so bad that users are asking "do I need anti-virus on my Windows phone? my Windows tablet?".   Users are beginning to ask the questions on Android too.  The security industry isn't helping.  They may be asking the questions themselves and answering themselves.  It's like Y2K or 2012.  If they can't scare enough people they will fall with Microsoft.  Basically modern CPU and OS are designed to be secure.  The problem with Microsoft is legacy.  2nd, they have many of their own very complex closed software with security holes in it.  3rd, they outsource their security team while it should be the OS design team's 1st priority to tackle malware problems.  When I opened my new laptop that comes with Windows 7, I can see anti-Virus on it prominently.  For any other products in life, people will throw that trash away.  Of course I install Linux in it.  It is understandable that Apple can make a living out of it.

There is malware in Android or anything else if you install and give permission to apps from unverified sources.  That include apps that your trusted friend send to you but not from play store (for example).  Other than that, the Linux OS is mature and stable.  With the popularity of Android, patches will be faster and security scrutiny will be tighter.  Linux and Google will be fixing the security holes rather than waiting for Panda security to discover it and Macfee to fix it.  For the 3rd party malware detection for Android, you have to ask what they are selling you?  Are there 3rd party virus detection for Apple?

The problem of open OS is finding hardware to go with it.  No major hardware manufacturer will produce a Linux PC because the demand will be low at first.  So the lack of drivers for Linux is a problem.  Being dominant, Android solved the problem.

The other MS problem is their bread and butter Office.  Now when apps are selling for dollars and cents, what place has Office?  Google office is free, no worries cloud storage, and collaboration and version control.  If you don't know the importance of the latter, I understand why you need to stick to MS, so you won't have be the being left alone feeling.  Corporate IT has nobody else to blame if they go for Google Office.  Now Google begin to take some corporate business and earn some money out of it just as well.  IT strategy will change.  Corporate don't view consumer advertisements, which is Google's bread and butter.  That's why the low priority until now.

MS word has been the 6-blade razor for decades.  Google Doc is still minimal in comparison but what else do you need?  Now that file formats are all open and compatible.

Does Apple has something game changer under it's sleeves?  You can never know.  But that mode of operation is hard to maintain.  You rely on true disrupting innovation.  You can see how fast Apple rise to the top and how easy they are not the dominant player.  Their old main competitor Microsoft is selling low for an inferior product.  Android is a different animal.  It's open source and free.  Google don't even need to make money out of it as long as more people have a Google account and use it more often.

Intel can always fabricate other's chip design like ARM's, but they can't get that sort of revenue margin from each one.  They already did a Microsoft for flip-flopping about their architecture.  They are going nowhere.  They are still designing and making very good CPU's, but too good that they are super computers that people don't need.  Netbook/nettop is an idea to sell weak chips for lower price and don't admit that most people don't need 3 GHz quad-core CPU's.  Atom ended up to be pretty fail.  They can always find an answer to ARM, but they have to sell them as cheap as ARM.  RISC architecture, that the ARM is, is decade's old idea that everybody predicts will win the day.  But Intel's legacy chip killed them all, include high end work stations.  (What? Work stations?)  A consumer product that everybody pays can get enough revenue and margin to support development of complex chips that are hard to compete.  ARM survived enough to save the day.

Now you have a dual-core Android on a stick for $60, forget about docking phones, nettops, media servers and all those.  The dock may cost more than that.  Plug that into an HDTV and you have an Android desktop.  Of course you need a wireless keyboard with a touch pad on it.  Or just a touch pad.  They are pretty good and I'm using one on Linux.  Since you have TV's at home and monitors at work, nothing's more portable than that.  If you really need something done on the go, you really need a tablet.  But it makes sense to me if they produce a 11 inch sized monitor (with touch) that can be easily carried or easily stand on desktop.  You plug your stick in and it's a tablet.

One computer per child goal is pretty much accomplished - by Chinese factories.  There are already tablet target priced at $99 for major manufacturers.  For the Android stick, how much is it to add a 8GB microSD card and a 1280x720 display?  Or a QHD display?

A display and touch pad makes sense because it is pretty hard to be obsolete.  My 17" monitor is doing well.  The magic number seems to be 1920 x 1080 full HD.  It will take decades to adopt to another standard.  Sitting on the desk, there's a lot of limits for what a monitor can become.  Retina display is a gimmick as you need to be close to notice anything.  A monitor cannot be too big otherwise you need to mount it on the wall as your TV.  Even Windows is going to give up multiple overlapping windows, so the day of huge monitors is over.  If you need that, you can always have more monitors.  It's much easier to plug in an Android stick each than having a common computer.

"But Android doesn't do word processing!" But Android is Linux.  You can download the terminal app and try typing "echo hello world".  It should be trivial to add or replace with another Linux.  I think Ubuntu becomes an app in Android.  The graphics drivers and the are the difficult part.  Now you have it in Linux.  There are also word processing app in store now.  Google didn't go all the way because they don't need to.  They are not making direct money on the OS.  Once you get enough hardware for Linux, software will come. Is 80% smart phones and 50% tablets enough?  I predict next year it will be 80-90% for smart phones and 80% tablets.  This will be the US market.  Asian markets will lag behind because of the brand name problem.  China snatched up a lot of ipads because of brand and image.  Americans always have less of such concerns.  They are more of the "bang for the buck" people.

There are so many things that the iPhone cannot do because it's not an open market.  The smart phone is the ideal platform for bittorrent download!.  For a 32 GB card you can download the whole blu-ray disk.  You can then stream it to your HDTV or monitor.  Openvpn is easier to install and use on any platform I have tried.  It's a few dollars a month for subscription services and may be cheaper if you only pay for bandwidth use.  Android could revitalize bittorrent and kill some of the annoying file download sites that rely on spams to get business.

Is Google really king?  If the $50 wifi bulb that you can control on your Android sells, Google can get more user time on their device, their account and their websites - meaning more advertisement.  If that doesn't work out, find something else.  Who doesn't need advertisement? Amazon.   Ironically, you SEARCH to compare on Amazon and then buy.  Amazon earns when you buy, doesn't matter which product.  Years ago, my buying decisions are based more on specifications and reviews, rather than advertisement.  Reviews are problematic but Amazon had been educating the public for a decade and most can detect good reviews, fake reviews and dumb reviews.  Being Bezos, I think he could have had the vision of reviews are the answers to advertising.  In the beginning I went with epinions to get some pennies even though Amazon reviews has much more views.  I switched to Amazon because the reviews at epinions became, well, advertisements. 

Facebook is a dating site.  Yes, it still is.  Who wants to be on it so everybody else can look you up?  You pay to get off the phone list!  When all's said and done, when you have family and kids, and understand that nobody else want to see your family albums, you will retire out of Facebook.

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