Posts tagged Waiting~
The fitness-tracker market is exploding. There are a ton of new devices on the market to track steps, sleep, heart rate, and other bodily metrics, many unveiled earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One reporter tried on 56 different models on display at the event.
I don’t know if this Cambrian explosion of gadgets can be a good thing. Only one in ten consumers currently has a fitness tracker, which suggests that they have yet to become truly mainstream, despite their potential health benefits.
What the market really needs is a mass extinction event, some Darwinian species-killer of a product that wipes out the less fit and leaves a few strong players to survive. We need some asteroid of a product that blows everyone else away.
Looking For The iPod Moment
There are very few examples of this kind of category dominance.
Let’s wind the clock back a decade. The year was 2004, and Apple’s iPod—the iconic music player that turned around the company’s fortunes and transformed it from a computer company into a consumer-electronics giant was on the verge of ubiquity.
Its market share would peak at 92 percent. Apple CEO Steve Jobs bragged to Newsweek how the iPod and its iconic white earbuds were taking over cities:
“I was on Madison, and it was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s starting to happen.'”
How did the iPod achieve ubiquity? Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but it improved it, taking advantage of smaller hard drives to create a more compact yet capacious player than had previously existed. It also, crucially, improved the interface so that it was easy to play all those songs. Then Apple cunningly cornered the market on the parts needed to build similar devices. No one could catch up with it.
Palm, too, back in the day, cornered the market on personal digital accessories—those contacts-and-calendars pocket computers which predated and anticipated smartphones.
Survival Of The Fittest
I don’t see anyone in the fitness-tracker market employing similar tactics. There are plenty of examples of good design: Withings’ Activité Pop, for example, shines with its watch-like good looks and eight-month battery life.
But the Activité Pop, at $150, just does steps and sleep tracking—a commodity offering. And its companion app, Withings Health Mate, is unremarkable, offering the same features you see in a host of similar fitness apps. It’s a good device, and its design will surely sell some people on it, but it’s not the killer we need.
Likewise, I like the Runtastic Orbit, which is the best example I’ve found of integration between hardware, software, and services—but I have a hard time seeing it get the distribution it needs. And because it’s closely tied to Runtastic’s apps, it suffers from the extreme fragmentation that rules the fitness-app market, too.
Fitbit is the leader in selling fitness trackers at retail right now, but their Charge and Surge models are, I feel, just keeping up with the competition, not breaking away.
What about the Apple Watch? What about it, indeed? First of all, it’s a smartwatch, not a fitness tracker—and NPD reports that smartwatches are far behind fitness trackers in consumer interest and adoption. They’re more expensive, harder to keep charged, and more demandingly twiddly in their interfaces.
Before Apple launched the iPod, it started offering iTunes software for managing collections of digital music, which gave it a ready-made audience. iTunes users became tied to the iPod, and vice versa—a virtuous cycle where software drove hardware sales. (I know it’s popular to complain about iTunes these days, but back in the 2000s, iTunes blew away competing tools for managing music libraries.)
Apple had an opportunity to do something similar with HealthKit and its companion Health app, and it blew it, big time. HealthKit is glitchy and the Health app just isn’t very good. If Apple had strong fitness software and collections of workout and nutrition data—the health equivalent of those iTunes libraries—it would be set up for an easy entrance into the fitness-tracker market.
As it is, I think the Apple Watch will do very well in the smartwatch category. I just don’t think many people will use its fitness features, and those interested in health tracking will gravitate to dedicated devices.
Who wins in a fragmented hardware market? I think it will be the fitness apps that pull in data from the widest possible range of devices and sort it and make sense of it all. The leading contenders here include MyFitnessPal, Under Armour’s Connected Fitness group, and Jawbone, whose app no longer requires a companion Up.
Indeed, if someone doesn’t come along with an iPod- or Palm-like smash hit that dominates the market, we may see fitness-tracking functions fade into smartphones. Our phones are with us constantly, after all, and we might as well think of them as wearables for all the time they spend in our pockets or otherwise on our persons.
It’s a pity, because I can see a role for fitness trackers. While steps are trivial, more sophisticated movement analysis as well as heart-rate measurement and sleep tracking need a wrist-based device.
If only there were one device to explain and define the market, the way the iPod did for MP3 players and Palm did for PDAs. Without that, the fitness-tracker market may rise and fall quickly—a blip in the evolutionary history of gadgets.
Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite
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Google has finally released its new mobile operating software, Android 5.0 Lollipop. But if you’re not buying a new phone that comes with Lollipop installed, it’s much less clear just when—if ever—you’ll see the update.
Of course, Lollipop looks worth having. Google’s tweaks to the mobile platform are designed to make it much more intuitive and attractive as well as function, in part so that people will embrace it on devices beyond phones—tablets, TVs, watches and more. That still doesn’t mean you’ll see it any time soon.
The company’s “reference” devices—its Nexus line of phones and tablets—will get first crack. Other phones will have to wait until their manufacturers and the mobile carriers greenlight the updates.
In theory, that process should move more speedily with Lollipop. For the first time, Google released a developer preview of the software this summer, hoping to give app makers and partners some lead time. The idea was that by the time Lollipop officially launched, developers and manufacturers would already be prepared to ship out Lollipop updates and updated apps more quickly.
So far, though, Lollipop doesn’t seem to be picking up the pace.
Android Phones Queue Up
Unlike Apple, which controls both its software and hardware, Google doesn’t have a big, shiny red button that mass-blasts new Android updates to gadgets in one shot. Software updates don’t gush forth; they trickle out, bit by bit.
Google’s Nexus devices should get upgraded to Android Lollipop first. Those units were designed to show off unmodified “stock” Android, free of manufacturer tweaks, added layers of user-interface “skins” and carrier-mandated bloatware. So naturally, as gadgets bearing no custom features or tweaks to Google’s original software, they get first dibs on the latest version.
The brand-new Nexus 6 smartphone (by Motorola) or Nexus 9 tablet (by HTC) will ship with Lollipop installed. Other Nexus devices, if they’re relatively recent, will likely receive the update before devices from the other partners. The Nexus 4 and 5, and select versions of the Nexus 7 and 10 appear to be next up. As for the rest, updates will go out in stages.
GigaOm attempted to fashion a loose Lollipop release schedule based on statements from various hardware makers. Unfortunately, when it comes to actual dates, there were slim pickings.
- HTC One M7 and M8: Within 90 days, according to a tweet from a HTC vice president of product management.
Lollipop will work with the current version of HTC’s user interface, Sense 6, as version 7 reportedly won’t be ready in time.
- LG G3: Maybe Q4 2014
- LG G2: Perhaps sometime in 2015
LG Germany posted a Facebook status update, a translation of which says:
Hello everyone, we want to inform you hereby, that it upgrade to Android 5.0 2014 will be published lollipop for the LG G3 in the fourth quarter. The upgrade package for the LG G2 will follow.
The information may be true in Germany, and perhaps LG has similar plans in the U.S. But it doesn’t look like it takes into account testing by the wireless carriers, which could throw a wrench into the plan.
- Moto X (1st and 2nd generation)
- Moto G (1st and 2nd gen)
- Moto G with 4G LTE
- Moto E
- Droid Ultra
- Droid Maxx
- Droid Mini
Motorola announced these phones will get Lollipop, though it didn’t say when. However, GigaOm writer Kevin Tofel thinks the first of these might get the update as early as later this month. Also note that the Droid Turbo was not mentioned. This may have been oversight, though. The Turbo, as the latest Motorola Android phone (apart from the Nexus 9), is not likely to be left out of the Lollipop fold.
Extremely likely, but there’s no official announcement yet:
- Galaxy S5
- Galaxy S4
Samsung’s current Galaxy S5 is all but certain to get Lollipop—a S5-specific build of Android 5.0 has even been spotted—and tech site SamMobile cites unnamed sources who say last year’s S4 model will, too.
- Xperia Z
- Xperia ZL
- Xperia ZR
- Xperia Tablet Z
- Xperia Z1
- Xperia Z1S
- Xperia Z Ultra
- Xperia Z1 Compact
- Xperia Z2
- Xperia Z2 Tablet
- Xperia Z3
- Xperia Z3v
- Xperia Z3 Compact
- Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
- Sony Z Ultra Google Play edition devices: Will receive the update first, though exactly when is not known.
Last month, Sony announced its Xperia Z smartphones would get Android 5.0, even the older handsets. But it wouldn’t offer dates or timeframes, apart from saying its Google Play edition devices will get it first (though it may not arrive until next year).
The Lollipop Guild
There’s plenty of uncertainty in this list. Some of that goes back to complications resulting from the simple fact that phone makers love modifying Android.
Adding new interfaces and features lets manufacturers believe they’ve set themselves apart from the mobs of other Android gizmos on the market. (Think Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense interface.) During a major Android update like Lollipop, though, those modifications can break or become unstable. That’s why it’s crucial for device manufacturers to work with the new software and run swarms of tests on their devices.
But that’s not the final hurdle before a phone gets upgraded. Because even if the smartphone makers are ready to roll, nothing happens update-wise unless the carriers are ready, too.
Wireless providers also have to test major Android software updates before pushing them out to customers. It’s one reason Android updates can take months to go out.
I contacted all four major wireless carriers—AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint—and as of this writing, only the latter responded to my inquiry so far: “Google has not provided a date for the rollout,” a Sprint spokesperson told me. “Once testing is complete, we will roll out with the update accordingly.” Sprint, like the others, puts the updates through “a very thorough testing process.”
So far, the earliest timeframes for non-Google devices seem to linger around the three-month mark. It’s not clear whether that includes the carrier testing phase or not. Either way, you’re not likely to be unwrapping a new Lollipop upgrade until at least next year.
Nexus devices photo by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite; Motorola photo courtesy of Motorola
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Only one open-source company that’s so far managed to break $1 billion in annual revenue. But that’s not stopping venture capitalists from spreading billions around in the hopes of helping create the next Red Hat.
Too bad Amazon Web Services (AWS) is out there waiting for them.
Let The Venture Money Flow!
Over the past two years, the sums pouring into open-source enterprise software companies have been remarkable. Last year MongoDB (full disclosure: my employer) raised $150 million at a reported $1.2 billion valuation, while NoSQL peer DataStax took in another $106 million, valuing the company at $830 million.
Meanwhile in Hadoop Land, investors handed Hortonworks $100 million at a reported $1 billion valuation, after which Cloudera pulled in a monster $900 million round, most of it from Intel, at a nosebleed valuation reported to be around $4.1 billion.
And we’re not done yet. On Tuesday, Mirantis—which offers software and support for OpenStack, a collection of open-source tools companies can use to build their own clouds—raised $100 million from a variety of investors including Intel Capital and Ericsson. Nobody disclosed a valuation.
This kind of Oprah money has fewer companies to flow into these days. Many standalone OpenStack and open-source cloud startups have already been gobbled up by large vendors, mostly for nominal sums. Oracle scooped up Nimbulus last year. HP recently bought Eucalytpus, EMC acquired Cloudscaling and Cisco bought Metacloud.
That leaves Mirantis standing in an industry with some very big players as competitors, in a market that seems to be Amazon’s to lose.
Mirantis, of course, is not the only open source company competing with Amazon. In a world increasingly gone cloud, every software vendor, open source or otherwise, competes with AWS.
Amazon: The New Microsoft?
There must be something in the water around Seattle, as the area keeps breeding hegemons. Microsoft dominated desktop and data center computing for decades. Now it’s Amazon’s turn.
Amazon Web Services is perhaps the fastest-growing software business in history, ramping to $1 billion and beyond at a torrid pace, as Pacific Crest Securities estimates:
Now that Amazon CTO Werner Vogels has made it clear that Amazon is in the “enterprise pain management” business, and won’t be content to merely provide infrastructure services, no area of software is safe from AWS’ deflationary grasp. Yet hard as it may be to compete against AWS with a proprietary licensing model, in some ways it’s harder with an open source model.
Just ask MySQL, once a burgeoning developer of the popular open-source database of the same name.
At the time of its $1 billion acquisition by Sun in 2008, MySQL was doing roughly $100 million in sales. That’s not bad, but it pales in comparison to how much AWS was making on that same MySQL code, both in terms of RDS and MySQL-related EC2 revenue.
While there are no official numbers from AWS on its cloud business, I’ve heard from inside sources that AWS made several hundred million in revenue at the time of the MySQL acquisition, and I would venture that its RDS + MySQL-related EC2 revenue is now approaching the $1 billion mark.
It’s not just MySQL, of course. Amazon is also the world’s largest Linux vendor, the largest Hadoop vendor and so on. Importantly, AWS has done what no open source company has ever managed to do: make money off all otherwise free open-source software. By turning open source software into managed services, AWS can turn any open-source code into cash.
A Quixotic Mirantis Counterattack
Now Mirantis and its investors hope to stem that tide. The good news is that Amazon has no interest (so far) in selling OpenStack private cloud services.
That’s also the bad news.
When I talked to Mirantis CEO Adrian Ionel about why VCs would pour money into an AWS competitor, he didn’t hold back:
We have seen strong customer traction and out-sized business results, and we are working with some of the best brands in the world, including Home Depot, Wells Fargo, and PayPal. Earlier this year, we closed the largest OpenStack deal in history with Ericsson (more than $30 million in software licensing revenues over five years). We are becoming known as a the breakaway independent OpenStack leader, and it’s exciting to see the momentum build.
That may be true, but it’s not yet clear that Mirantis and its 450 engineers have much chance against AWS. Ionel is quick to point out that Mirantis can hold its own against other OpenStack contenders like VMware, HP, Oracle, Red Hat and possibly Cisco-via-Metacloud: “We already have the largest OpenStack customer base of any vendor, and dominate Web/SaaS, service provider, and enterprise markets.”
He further notes, “Customers routinely tell us that they chose Mirantis because there was no proprietary agenda, which means so that they can avoid the lock-in of traditional IT.” But those same customers are actively embracing AWS, with GE the latest poster child.
Fighting The AWS Beast
In fact, as I’ve argued before, OpenStack’s best chance at relevance is likely Red Hat, which has the broad open source portfolio to make it a potential contender against Amazon’s array of services. Ionel disagrees, saying that “The ‘benevolent dictator’ model may be past its prime,” and that “Other models can be more powerful, like an open, market-driven meritocracy combined with deep user engagement in R&D.”
This still doesn’t answer the AWS threat. To that Ionel retorted,
OpenStack lets them fine-tune their cloud to their needs. By contrast, AWS is a much simpler “one-size-fits-all” platform which standardizes everything to the lowest possible denominator for its customers. Although this makes sense for some enterprises and workloads, it cannot make sense for all of them.
Maybe, maybe not. But I seriously doubt most enterprises today are concerned with the “one-size-fits-all” epithet and instead view it as a convenient way to get to the cloud fast. Until OpenStack can deliver a deep cloud experience as easily as AWS does, $100 million isn’t nearly enough.
Lead photo by kayugee
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Software version numbers seem increasingly passé in these days of continuously updated apps and cloud services, but in some corners of the programmable world, they still matter. A lot.
While Node isn’t exactly an industry standard, several high-profile websites swear by it, including LinkedIn, eBay and Uber.
See also: What You Need To Know About Node.js
Yet the world is still waiting for Node 1.0. That’s the somewhat arbitrary milestone that to many developers (and, perhaps more important, many IT managers) distinguishes experimental, “beta” software from a mature, ready-for-prime-time product. That’s no small thing for a software platform like Node, which aspires to be an everyday tool for big business as well as individual developers.
Which is the main reason Node project lead Timothy Fontaine, who goes by “TJ,” is in the midst of an intermittent international tour called Node on the Road. His aim: to convince the business world that even Node 0.10 is ready to handle big tasks—such as, for instance, Walmart.com’s massive traffic spike every Black Friday. (Walmart is one of the largest corporations to adopt Node.js so far.)
On The Road With Node
“That’s part of what this event is about,” Fontaine told a crowd Wednesday night at a Node on the Road event in Washington, D.C. “To highlight production use cases and to show that Node is a thing you can be using on an enterprise level.”
PayPal is one of the companies that bet big on Node as an early adopter. In a blog post late last year, engineer Jeff Harrell explained that the team slipped Node in as a prototyping platform before deciding to try it out in production. Even then, a separate team built an equivalent application in Java so the company would have something to fall back on should the Node project stumble.
Much to their surprise, the developers managed to build the Node application almost twice as quickly, and with fewer people. In tests against the Java app, Node handled twice as many requests per second and served up pages 35% faster. Node worked out for PayPal, which has since been building all its consumer-facing Web apps using Node.
See also: How Node.js Stays On Track
We’re Number 1.0! Just Not Yet
Fontaine, however, can still sound a little defensive when pressed on the question of when, exactly, he expects Node to graduate to 1.0 status.
“I could move the decimal today,” he said. “We could call it version 1.10, problem solved. But the last thing we want to have happen to the Node ecosystem is to create a Python 2, Python 3 situation.”
That’s a reference to a version-related schism involving the Python programming language. Its most recent major update, Python 3, came out in 2008, yet many developers still prefer to work in the incompatible Python 2, which dates back to 2000. Reasons for the split are still hotly debated, although two major factors seem to be the difficulty of migrating to Python 3 and the fact that the language’s overseers never wound down Python 2.
Overall, Fontaine is reluctant to announce Node 1.0 until the project is ready to “commit to a version we want to support forever.” In other words, he doesn’t want to risk breaking Node by crowning a formal production release too soon.
“1.0 is tricky,” he said. “We can’t just release something and then say, ‘Oh, we’ll just fix it up with version 2.0 next year.’ We don’t want an environment where we create Perl 5 and Perl 6 and then get zero adoption moving forward.” (That’s a reference to yet another version issue—in this case, one that helped stall growth of the scripting language Perl.)
See also: It’s Time To Bet Big On Node.js
Until version 1.0, the Node.js project can experiment freely. It’s unwilling to commit to a higher version since some people will inevitably use that version forever and will resist moving to news ones.
So before that happens, there are still a few unreliable features that still need fixing, Fontaine said. Simply pulling out those features isn’t really an option, because they’re widely used. “We have to very cautiously make those decisions because people are depending on Node to be a quality piece of software,” he said.
Instead of 1.0, Fontaine focused on Node’s next release, version 0.12, a relatively minor upgrade. “We’re very cautious when we make changes and add features that we’re adding them for the right reasons and fixing the right things,” he said.
Photo of Timothy Fontaine by Lauren Orsini for ReadWrite
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Bing has always had a lot of room for improvement when it comes to keywords. The majority of advertisers preferred to use Google’s keyword tool to build out campaigns in Bing because Bing’s tools were not user-friendly. This has a big disadvantage: the keyword lists were not customized to Bing’s unique search trends. Now, Bing has finally launched a solution called Bing Ads Intelligence. It is an add-on for your Excel that allows you to work on keyword researches for all of your accounts on Bing. Easy to Install Once you download and install the extension from Bing Ads, you will be able to open […]
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