With “Platform” hardware so good now, do we need HTC, Blackberry, and other small company devices anymore?

Before platforms became so important, any company could make a laptop or even a phone, and they might attract users. All they needed was one interesting hardware feature, or some slick marketing.

But the rise of apps and the related importance of “platfrom”, has changed all that. Hardware is so good now, users do not need to be as concerned about spec’s; what matters now are apps. Ideally you want all your devices to not only work well, but to work together seamlessly. And that is largely based no apps and how apps interact.

Everyone wants apps!

We are recommending that owners of Blackberry, HTC, and other smaller device makers sell their phones now, while they still have some value.

Get your cash out and do the phone upgrade to get a late model phone from one of the full-platform companies; and so on. When you commit to a platform you can have confidence that your favorite apps should run on all your devices: phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. But if you buy a device from one of the smaller manufacturers, they don’t offer all the elements of a platform. HTC for example does not have a full selection of laptops and tablets.

Imagine you run a sales team, and are in a meeting trying to land a big contract. You are going up against one other sales team. The people on your team have various phones and tablets, with no platform focus (and some of the devices not even running the latest OS). The other sales team are running all devices from one manufacturer, working together seamlessly, and some of their apps are more recent than yours. They have a competitive advantage in the meeting… and they win the contract. Not good.

Obviously, Apple and Android are the two best platforms. They are best both in terms of the number of apps; in terms of sales; and in terms of the extensive platform of devices and services. Samsung is starting to ‘represent’ Android, in effect; and Samsung has phones, laptops, and tablets. If Samsung could improve the process of ‘app discovery’, then Samsung could become an actual platform.

The question thus needs to be asked: do we even need independent device makers anymore? Why do we need an HTC, or a Blackberry? The market is basically answering that question for us, as these companies falter and their sales/profit declines. You have to wonder what is going on in their decision process when no true platform is emerging. My current phone is an HTC, and it is not a good phone at all. I have been very disappointed in it. My previous phone was a Blackberry, which I liked a lot. I remember thinking, when I first got it, how cool Blackberry would be as it evolved – but Blackberry has made mistake after mistake, and has no platform. Blackberry gave up on tablets, which makes no sense at all. Blackberry apps are good, their app ecosystem is well managed – but the apps just do not have enough choice in hardware, like a variety of tablets.

Our advice: if you own a Blackberry phone, the best thing you can do is sell it right now, or trade it in – while it still has some value.

Even the very large players, like HP, are in effect an ‘independent device maker’, if they do not have a true, full-range platform. HP has no phones and almost no tablets. This fact strongly suggests that HP is out of touch with what users want, and the dynamics in the mobile industry. Its very disappointing for me personally, as I have bought tons of HP products in the past. But I no longer buy HP products. Companies need ‘agile thinking’, and need to be open to new ideas.

Non-platform companies like HP can exist by selling at the low end, but this puts them at great risk; the margins are so small that any downturn in the market will affect them the most. In our new world, a company that is very adept at hardware engineering can still be relegated to the low end price tiers, if their overall strategy is flawed – or not agile.

Therefore, my next phone will be a Samsung, because I feel their strong and broad platform means I will have better options, a better device, and a more consistent app experience across all devices.

My laptop runs Windows 8, and I like Microsoft a lot. But right now its very frustrating. Many of the tasks I need to do take more time under Windows 8, than they did under Windows 7. I don’t understand that. The whole point of a new OS is that it should be better than the old one. You have to wonder, how can Microsoft say they did user testing when there are so many issues and problems with Windows 8? There are articles online, over and over and over about issues with Windows 8. Either Microsoft is not listening to testing feedback, and not listening to users in general – or Microsoft has lost touch with what people really want.

Nevertheless, I am still a Microsoft fan. I think Microsoft has the potential to get back in the game. They need to listen to users before their own ‘corporate ego’, and they need to focus on APPS. If they were to tweak Windows 8 the right way, end Windows RT, bring out cheaper tablets, and become the premier platform for apps, then Microsoft can be in the top three and possibly even get back to number one. But Microsoft has to be realistic, they cannot rely on past accomlishements; they have to do everything possible in apps, to get back in the game.

So in summary, I think people cannot go wrong with Apple or Samsung; the independents like HTC and Blackberry do not seem needed anymore; and Microsoft still has huge potential. If Microsoft can start actually listening to users, and if they focus on apps, they will be very effective.

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Filed under: App DiscoveryAppsBlackberryGalaxyHPHTCSamsungTablet AppsTabletsUbuntu

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