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Audit

Gate And Sky

I’ve been reviewing a couple of the predictions and pieces of advice I’ve given people about tech in the last year, just to see how I did.

In April, I said don’t buy anything, because:

  • Pixel Qi will start shipping their awesome screens in late 2009. As of now, they’re apparently cranking them out, but they’re not available at street level yet. They really are awesome, though, so I hope to see them soon; so not false, but definitely not timely advice.
  • ARM processors are going to be all over. On this, a resounding sort of! They’re not everywhere, and not a significant player in the subnotebook/netbook space because you can’t run Windows on them. But they’re the go-to for the increasingly smart smartphones of the world, so there is that.
  • nVidia’s ION platform is coming out. Which it did! And it’s also pretty awesome, and while it didn’t appear in a ton of portables, it did appearing in a bunch of “net-top” boxes and small-form-factor PCs. So, one unqualified yes.
  • Windows 7 is going to ship and be good. It did, and it really is. Two! Two yesses, ah ah ah ah ah!
  • Apple is going to come out with a next-gen iPhone, a tablet of some kind, and more affordable iMac. So, two for three there, with the cruel fault of logic being thinking Apple would aim for “affordable”, ever. The 3GS shipped that summer, and while it was much later, the iPad was announced a few weeks ago. Hardly timely, that last bit, for which I will award myself only part marks.
  • Palm will be releasing the Pre, and the EOS, now called the “Pixie”. Which they did, go me. It depends on who you ask, but if you took away the App Store and the Apple marketing juggernaut, the Pre would be a legitimate contender in the smartphone arena. But you can’t, so they’re in the process of doing what scrappy underdogs usually do, and getting stomped in the marketplace. Which is a shame, because the Pre is a pretty good product.
  • Nokia will ship something running Maemo. Which they did, also go me. It’s called the N900, and it’s pretty shockingly good except for the fact that Nokia strangely refuses to build enough of them or market them at all.

So, dropping a full point for Pixel Qi not making it to stores and half a point each for the general half-assedness of the ARM and Apple predictions, let us say five out of seven. And the “November or so” timeline I gave seems to have been born out for many, but not all of them – the iPad was came later, and didn’t use the Pixel Qi screen I’d been hoping it would. So, let us say 5.5 out of 8.

Trippy Monster Will Trip You

On the subject of open software, I also said that “unless Windows Mobile 7 is at least as good as iPhone OS 1, then the walled-garden fuck-you-and-your-freedom model wins. Which makes me really sad, because the alternatives to the Microsoft approach right now are way, way worse.” Windows Phone 7 as it’s now called is apparently not Windows Mobile at all – it’s slated to ship around Christmas of this year, won’t be compatible with any software from any previous version of Windows Mobile and the development environment for it was just announced to be Silverlight/XNA.

Which translated into English means Windows Mobile doesn’t exist anymore; this is a Zune Phone, but they’ve decided to stamp “Windows Phone” on it so it’s not associated with that boat-anchor of a media player. But why not build your own little snow-globe of a software ecosystem out of the leftovers of a failed media player a Flash knockoff?

I mean, who wouldn’t want that?

One thing I did say a while ago was that the Zune brand would continue to be an albatross around the neck of that company and that the management of their entertainment division needs to be keelhauled, which continues to be very, very true, and now they’re gearing up to throw the Windows Mobile development community under the same short Zune Bus they drove over their PlaysForSure efforts.

So all told that’s a relatively arbitrary 6.5 out of an entirely arbitrary 9, a little shy of a 75% success rate.

3 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. Mike Kozlowski

    So on the last thing, I think you’re wrong in three ways:

    1. Android is getting pretty legitimately open. If you click the checkbox for “Allow installs from unknown sources” you can just click on a .apk files on the internets, and install it on your phone without having done any weird rooting or anything.

    2. Silverlight has two elements. One of them is a browser plugin that (while not a failure; it’s very widely deployed and used for things like the Olympics) has not been a smashing success and is poised for irrelevance once HTML5 matures. The other element is a “stripped-down” .NET development environment that jettisons a lot of the legacy baggage and basically gives you the most modern and relevant bits of things (e.g., no clunky DOM-style XML API, but instead the fluent Linq to XML API). As a development environment for mobile apps, Silverlight is really really good. Instantly, Windows Phone has the best development environment out there. Using that as their mobile API is one of the smartest things they’ve done.

    3. In this case, I think throwing out the legacy baggage was the absolutely correct thing to do. Legacy WinMo apps are all a) uglier than sin with Windows 3.1-style widgets, b) assuming you’re using a stylus, which no modern phone will have, and c) written to a set of APIs that would doubtless be a pain to re-implement on a ground-up reworking of your mobile OS. Supporting them on Windows Phone 7 would have made the platform seem worse than it is. Palm didn’t support PalmOS apps on WebOS for the same reason. I like backward compatibility as much as the next person (and way more than Apple usually does), but occasionally you need a reset button.

    Also re ARM and Ion, I think aught-ten will see ARM be even more important (it’ll power ChromeOS netbooks, Windows Phone, and basically every single platform except the big two desktop OSes) and Ion more irrelevant (as the new Atom includes an on-chip GPU, and the power and dollar cost of adding a separate GPU is even less justifiable).

  2. mhoye

    Yeah, I didn’t mention Android; I have another thing coming up about that, and you’re correct that they’re trending in the right direction. But on point 3 and to some extent 2, the only reason that throwing out their legacy baggage became necessary was their de-facto abandonment of the previous platform years ago. It didn’t have to be this way – Microsoft’s long-term interoperability is absolutely legendary, or at least was until recently – but they let it happen anyway.

    You’re probably right about Ion, but it will take longer than you think. Creative still sells stuff, after all.

  3. Mike Kozlowski

    Weirdly enough, I agree that if they had more sensibly evolved WinMo over the years, they wouldn’t have been in a position to throw away legacy — but I also think they’d be in a worse position overall, because they’d have this ecosystem that was a weird mix of stylus and touch and that had to support all this old stuff AND all this new stuff, and which in general had a lot of rough edges where the mobile equivalent of Raymond Chen could tell you that they had to leave that in to support something from 10 years ago or whatever, but which isn’t great in modernity.

    Windows-for-desktop’s genuinely impressive backwards compatibility is a major asset to it, obviously, but it’s also something of a millstone around its neck, and if you can jettison back-compat, it’s almost always possible to make something better than the compromised product you’d have to otherwise make. Since back-compat for WinMo gets you very little value (there aren’t that many apps, and the ones that exist aren’t that great), dumping it makes perfect sense.