Mobile Internet Devices
These look more interesting. While the first generation, due in a few weeks, is about 4x the size of the iPhone, they have similar capabilities (including voice for some of them).
This large size lends itself more to Web browsing and video viewing, particularly if youre sharing the video with others. For phone most seem to be going down the VOIP route and most of those will likely use less expensive Wi-Fi services than 3 or 3.5 G services. Basically they are focused products using X86 technology designed to run multi-media applications. My favorite is the Lenovo and it is being heavily used at the Olympics this year.
What makes these particularly interesting is that Intel is doing their own Linux distribution and providing it to hardware partners. This largely addresses the concerns with both generic Ubuntu and Windows above, and brings the result closer to what Apple did with the MacOS and the iPhone.
The difference remains the backend services, with the same iTunes-like requirement needed for this platform, but more focused on just entertainment, as it was for the Netbook.
This will probably grow to be a real contender in its 2nd and 3rd generations, as size of these devices drops dramatically. However, for those who want something that is connected, has a larger screen, better browser experience, and probably a better built-in camera, these might be a better alternative than an iPhone once the solutions mature in the market a bit.
This is clearly the big near term risk. Pictures of the new HTC Android phone are out and it seems to blend the advantages of the iPhone, the Windows Mobile platform, and the Blackberry into a single platform.
That sounds like perfection, but this is Googles first hardware product and they have clearly been having problems with things like Gmail, which dont bode well for initial product quality or execution. Google does get the power of the backend and they are apparently working to avoid the Apple and Atari problems of too many crappy applications for their new device, limiting the initial applications to the top 50.
This has, however, upset developers, who have flocked over to Apple. I actually think, given the Atari experience, doing this is wise.
Given how much crap has appeared in the Apple store Im not entirely sure this has worked to Googles disadvantage. In the end, if the phone is successful, people will move back to it. But it is that success that is doubtful, given Googles track record and the fact this is a brand new area for them.
My expectation is that this will be a typical generation one device and will have initial teething problems; fortunately HTC is far from new to this market and should be able to mitigate at least some of the initial issues.
No iPhone Killer this Year
If there is a threat this year, out of these three, Google is the most likely to bring it to market. However, it appears that all of these platforms gain substantial advantages as they move into their second and third generations.
Key in all cases will be a blend of great hardware, modern and compelling software, mature backend services, a great out-of-box experience and a strong marketing. Youll see parts of these from each of these platforms this year but the perfect storm of all of them is at least 12 months off, meaning well need to revisit this next year.
On the other hand, several of these products may be compelling in their own right and, coupled with the right third party services, could be very useful today. Should be an interesting few months as each of these products goes through its launch cycle.