Tuesday, May 4, 2010

iPhone OS and Android continue to be the path for mobile media; H-P, however, may push hard for WebOS

As publishers continue to mull over their mobile media strategies, many continue to ask themselves "what do we do first?"

The iTunes app store continues to beckon publishers for two reasons: its a central marketplace, easy to enter (as long as you are not a Pulitizer Prized winning cartoonist, that is) and easy to monitor. A quick review this morning, for instance, reveals no new iPad news apps, and a couple independent news apps for the iPhone.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showing off a tablet running Windows, the least likely choice of OS for most tablet makers. Source: AFP

But new tablets are on the horizon and none will be using Apple's iPhone OS.  With the Android market exploding, any publisher wishing to reach their audience through mobile devices, especially cell phones, need to demand Android apps from their development staff or development partners. (That is why it was interesting to find out that IDG's developer for their Gamestar mobile app develops for the iPhone exclusively.)

The very recent purchase of Palm by Hewlett-Package opens up the possibility that a third mobile OS could be aggressively pushed. H-P is the one company out there capable of building a mass market for a third mobile operating system. While it is most likely that H-P will concentrate in the tablet area, most likely building bulky, slow tablets, just as they do laptops, they will also probably price them low and sell millions of them.

For the next 12 months, however, the game will continue to be played in Apple's home court, with Google's Android growing and with Android based tablets possibly appearing (make that, most likely appearing).

Why the emphasis on the mobile OS? The short answer to battery life. The days of getting two hours of battery life on your laptop is over. My iPad's battery level has never been below 60 percent, and that was after six or seven hours of continuous use. The whole definition of a mobile computing device is evolving. A laptop is being recognized for what it always was: a portable desktop -- that is, a powerful computing device that can breathe out of the water for a few minutes (unplugged) but must return to the water quickly or die.

Netbooks were supposed to be the answer to this battery life problem but the tablet is proving a better solution.

Another reason for the success of the mobile OS is instant-on: the ability to push a button and instantly start surfing the web, read the paper or play a game. Anyone who owns an iPad can tell you what a job it is to read newspapers on the device -- any newspaper in the world, that is. Just as the print newspaper is convenient because it doesn't need to be booted up every morning, neither does the tablet run on a mobile OS.

These may have been the big reasons that H-P decided to shelve its Slate tablet, scheduled to run Windows 7. (The third reason, of course, is the licensing costs of running Windows versus an OS you own yourself.)

This may all seem like inside ball to some publishers but it is the equivalent of discussing paper weights and coating.