One of the best things about being involved in this industry is the continuous stream of new goodies I get to look at. The IFA gadget show was held recently in Berlin with the usual range of new devices on display. A Cliff's Notes-type synopsis follows.
From Acer comes a 6-inch screen on a mobile phone that records at 4K and a 27-inch all-in-one PC based on Android. Alcatel also has a 6-inch device, but this one has an LCD screen that comes with an eInk cover _ yes that's two screens _ to save on power. Asus has a 7-inch phonepad with dual speakers. Lenovo has new ThinkPads and a 7-inch budget tablet. LG has a new 8.3-inch tablet and a massive 77-inch OLED-based TV. Samsung has the expected Note 3 and Gear watch along with its own 55-inch OLED screen.
Sony has a smartphone with a 20.7MP camera. It also has a curved LED TV, a Win 8-based tablet and a new smartwatch of its own. HDMI 2 was announced, and most other television manufacturers announced their own 4K or ultra-high-def version. Logitech has a new long-life gaming mouse, keyboards and tablet covers.
For pure drool factor, the first prize this year goes to Samsung for its new 110-inch 4K TV. A retail price for this has yet to be announced so I'm not sure when, or if, it will come down to my affordable-price range, but I'm still trying to figure out how on Earth I'd be able to squeeze it into my living room.
There's lots of mobile phone news this week. Amazon may be getting into the market by offering a free smartphone. It would be Android-based and the idea would be to attract customers that would then use an Amazon Android store while the rest of the competition fades away.
This would include access to the firm's large range of multimedia content, apps and the Amazon Web Services cloud with an estimated US$200 (6,400 baht) per person coming back in after-sales services. But will it work?
That's an excellent question and will depend on Amazon's shareholders sticking around and the service dollars rolling in once the free devices have been given away. It remains to be seen if this will actually happens, but you can bet there are a lot of people thinking about it over at Amazon.
In other Android news, the Jelly Bean version of the OS is still gaining ground as the most popular version to date. The code name is a bit misleading because it covers the suite of versions from 4.1 to 4.3, with 4.1 still being the most popular in that group. The next version will be called KitKat to keep with the confectionary theme; it was recently announced but, at the time of writing, was not yet out. The next updates for the Galaxy S3 and S4 devices are not expected until some time next month. Over half the current users are still on older versions that have security issues. Part of the problem lies with the manufacturers, some of whom have been rather slow in getting updates out after a sale, or just haven't managed any updates at all.
The Chinese smartphone firm Xiaomi has announced that it is expanding its focus to countries beyond China. This company has been growing rapidly over the past year, is profitable and claims to make the world's fastest smartphone using Nvidia's Tegra 4 processor. Its Mi3 has a 5-inch, 441ppi screen capable of 4K resolution recording, with a 13MP camera; and it only costs around US$400 for the 32GB version in China _ that's about half the price of an iPhone.
The company also sells nicely priced television sets and its boss likens Xiaomi to Amazon rather than Apple. Like Amazon, Xiaomi provides competitively priced hardware and makes its money on providing various services. This will be a company to watch in the next 12 months.
Over the past week I've spoken to a few people about the recent announcement that Nokia is to be purchased by Microsoft. The consensus seems to be that this move will boost Microsoft phone sales, but have no impact on Android devices. According to IDC, the expectation is that Windows Phone will have about 10% of the market by 2017, compared to around 4% at present, putting it third (behind Android and Apple's iOS). The real issue is that instead of their OEMs distributing, these now become rivals and Microsoft itself is going to have to drive hardware sales and growth. Nokia is already responsible for about 80% of all Windows phones sold, so the predicted growth is going to have to be all Microsoft-driven.
With the emerging and unknown market of China and (as pointed out above) local manufacturers expanding onto the world stage, I just don't see Microsoft being able to compete in this hardware marketplace. In this rapidly developing industry, 2017 is just too far off to make the kind of predictions found in the IDC report.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at email@example.com
About the author
- Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer