Best of breed or single platform?

Throughout the 1990’s there was an ongoing battle between the geoscientists and IT departments of oil companies: Best of breed or single platform? The options were simple; did you choose the best tool for each job in the geoscience workflow or did you choose all applications from a single vendor so that communication between the disciplines became simpler. The argument often divided along the lines of the IT department wanted the single solution because it meant lower support costs, the geoscientists wanted the latest toy to play with. Sorry, best tool for the job.

Well, it seems to me that the question is being played out again, this time across the consumer technology space. The amount of money and effort that the major players are putting in to get you to buy your hardware, apps,and services from the same source is vast. So if you buy an iPhone, you will buy an iPad and all your apps, bought from the iTunes store will be available on both devices. If you (possibly foolishly) buy a Windows Phone, then the pressure to buy a Microsoft Surface just increased  and the same with an Android phone and accompanying tablet getting all the applications from GooglePlay or Amazon.

But this is ignoring the question of what is the single best device for what you want to use each of them for? The current PC Pro A-list devices show that the best phone is an HTC One and the best tablet is an iPad. What cost the inter connectivity? I can’t comment on that exact cross breed conundrum, but I am currently experimenting with it: As previously documented I went down the Windows Phone route. Yes, I do feel burned by the decision to not offer an upgrade path from WindowsPhone 7 to WP8,but at least I had entered the whole situation with my eyes open to the risks. So, when I decided that I did actually want to have a content consumption device I faced the decision; stick with the Microsoft ecosystem and by a Surface tablet (or AN Other Windows RT device) or go and find the best tablet out there. Guess what, I chose the path less well trod. And even less well trod than that, after a bit of Bat research and knowing what use I primarily wanted to put it to (watching movies and the like whilst on a train) I picked a Google Nexus 10.

Is it nicer than an iPad? From a pure hardware perspective, yes it probably is. Is the app store as good? Honestly, no it isn’t. Apps that allow you to download content on an iPad only allow streaming on the Android device. How about the price of not having seamless integration? I’m just not the right person to ask about that. I’ve enjoyed playing with a new toy, I mean best tool for the job. But would I recommend this approach to my wife, mum or children? No- honestly, stick with the iPhone, iPod, iPad. You may have paid more for it, but it will just work.

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The evolution of the technology we use

Five years ago I wrote that I divided the technology solutions I used into three categories:

  1. Permanent presences, which was (and still is for most of us) a smart phone
  2. Mobile solution, which was the lightest, most portable, fully functional laptop that I could find
  3. Base station (which I said at the time was a desktop)

Well in the intervening years things have changed. The smart phones have got a lot smarter, though mainly in how easy it is to do something. There is not a lot that I can do now on an iPhone or the like that I couldn’t do on my Nokia from back then, but it’s a lot easier now (and the screen is a lot bigger). And with ease of use comes the desire to actually use all the functionality-so watching films or TV on a phone is not that painful now. And this is resulting in a trend in the technology world that I am not convinced by. OK there have been lots of trends that I have been skeptical of, but this time I may actually be flying with the crowd and not against it. The trend in phones is  for bigger and bigger screens. Now, at this point you have to remember my classification of a phone it’s my ‘permanent presence’- it’s the thing I always have with me. Which means that I need to be able to put it in my pocket. 4 inches fits comfortably (stop sniggering at the back) but much bigger and it’s getting a pain to keep it with me all the time.

So why do we need bigger screens? Watching movies, browsing the web, playing games are the things that most commonly are mentioned. All of which fit into a new (4th) category that I now propose:

4. Content consumption

By this I mean the very things that Steve Jobs saw when he released the iPad. I admit that I was skeptical about the iPad thinking that it was nothing more than a blown up iPod. And in a way I was right and wrong; there is nothing (OK, very little) that you can do on an iPad that you can’t do on an iPod touch,  but it is just that bit nicer to watch a film or browse the web on a bigger screen. I mean if it weren’t, why would we all be buying 50″ TV screens?

So now I find myself with a tablet, a smart phone and a honking big base station. I have managed to move away from the mobile solution, but as I am finding as I type this blog entry on a touch type screen, although the content consumption device can be used for content creation, it really isn’t as nice. So I’ll still leave the mobile solution in there. Maybe the extra split is unnecessary, but it seems to fit for now

The 3rd ecosystem

My blogging frequency has dropped massively in the last three years and there are two very good reasons (and their mother) that explain it. With recent advances in technology there is a chance that I’ll be able to start blogging again- and this post is the first one to test that theory.
It seems to me that there are 4 major mobile ecosystems at the moment: Apple, Google, Microsoft and Blackberry. Apple and the fan-boy army of iPhone slaves have been setting the pace for 4 yeasts or so. Google and the nearly open-source Android is now the biggest smartphone OS (at least by volume) and Blackberry was dominant in the push e-mail, business world until everyone else worked out how to do it. And bringing up the rear was (and is) Microsoft.
To compound matters for the boys from Redmond they have aligned themselves with a bunch of Finns who haven’t made a decent smart phone since before the very first iPhone came along. So who in their right mind would start using a Nokia Windows phone? Well, right now, that would be me. I admit that a major reason for this is that Nokia are offering a 40 day trial and if you don’t like the phone you get 100% of your money back. So, as long as you remember when the return deadline is, this is a risk free trial.
But given the history, why would you even bother? Well, the press keeps giving Windows Phone and the latest Nokia phone really good reviews. And although you may not agree with much of the tech press you do have to accept that they go test a wide range of phones, so they may know a little bit about what they are speaking about. So given the press reviews and the risk-free nature of the trial, I figured I had nothing to lose.

So, how is it going? Much as it pains me to admit it, the phone is really rather good. Certainly better than an Android phone I had 6 months ago and probably better than the iOS device I had a year ago. Sure there are missing apps (Skype where are you?) but for most things that you actually want to do with a smart phone, it just works. And works bloody well.
Will I keep the phone? I’m undecided- Google has massively improved its privacy policies and it does offer a better suite of functionality. But I kind of like this phone. The next 3 weeks are going to be interesting 🙂