Samsung Galaxy S5, The (Almost) Next Big Thing Is Here

"The Next Big Thing Is Almost Here", that's how Samsung Galaxy S5 is announced on Samsung.com US:

Of course, what you read is "The Almost Next Big Thing Is Here". Here? Barcelona, at the 2014 Mobile World Congress.

Analysts seem disappointed by the last generation of the leader's star product, but it simply confirms the long expected commoditization of smartphones. Like computers before, performances will keep improving, and more enablers shall bring interesting changes in the future, but the device itself has reached a plateau for a while.

Even smartwatches and smartwrists have become commodities*: meet Samsung Gear 2, Samsung Gear 2 Neo, and Samsung Gear Fit.

Boring? Not so much: Gear has switched to Tizen, the - of course Linux based - OS propelled by majors who don't want Google and Android to rule, but don't want to resurrect Microsoft or Jobs either. Samsung already launched a Tizen camera last fall, and continues its low-key approach from minor connected accessories... 

This Tizen ain't the world heavyweight champion yet

I'm waiting for Tizen on a heavyweight boxing ring, not just around a wrist.
Ah, if only Samsung had a iTunes to leverage, that could boost the launch of a Tizen smartphone. And unlike Apple 2007, Samsung 2014 can't afford to launch a technologically imperfect first model...

mot-bile 2014

* MWC confirms CES: see "CES 2014: Beep Beep Goes Bling Bling"


With WhatsApp, what Facebook gets is what you pay

With 450 M active users of one of the most pivotal services - messaging, WhatsApp is already an interesting catch for Facebook. But the best thing about WhatsApp subscribers is that in order to keep the service after the first year, they must pay a fee. Only 99 cents a year for now, but on a messaging platform, you can plug in an infinity of free or paid apps.

How many of these 450 M active users are actually paid subs? Probably much less than the half, since the bulk of the growth has been made over the past 12 months (e.g. 350 M active users back in October 2013). The key question is how many will want to pay knowing that Facebook will be tempted to peek into their messages and somehow monetize stuff. Beyond advertising, off limits according to Facebook; WhatsApp already pledges to bar ads, and Facebook needs new kinds of revenue streams, preferably CtoC or BtoC for a change. I bet that WhatsApp user fora are going to scrutinize any changes in the fine print of privacy and terms...

Business models are one thing, brands and platforms another: they too open up new horizons for Menlo Park at a time when churn rates get worrying.

Today, Google rules with the two most powerful search engines, its main service and YouTube... but both are free. Facebook already raised many eyebrows when it launched its vanity URL service precisely because terms and conditions opened the door to future fees, and a non-free Facebook could be the final straw for many users on the verge of deleting their accounts. Keeping WhatsApp as it is sounds a wiser bet to collect recurrent fees from hundreds of millions of endusers, but wisdom doesn't seem to exist in Zuckerberg's dictionary.

Anyway, the winner is WhatsApp founder Jan Koum: waiting one year before giving in to Facebook's siren calls proved very profitable for him.

mot-bile 2014


Tomorrow won't be about Samsung v. Apple any more than the present is about Microsoft v. Nokia

Over the past weeks, Samsung buried the hatchet with Ericsson, before signing cross-license agreements with Google, and then Cisco, days after a similar deal between the last two (note that Google sold Motorola to Lenovo in almost the same breath, but this is not about hardware - Big G keeps the bulk of the patent portfolio).

Samsung and Google concluded in their press release ("Samsung and Google Sign Global Patent License Agreement" - 20140127) that "there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes". A clear memo to Apple, and food for thought - and juries - ahead of the next bouts in court between Suwon and Cupertino.

"Samsung and Google are showing the rest of the industry that there is more to gain from cooperating than engaging in unnecessary patent disputes". Follow my eyes...

Again*, I'm not taking sides here. It's just that I'm interested in innovation dynamics, and that I don't like to see lawyers or finance people set the agenda in that field. Such partnerships don't put them out of the equation, but allow innovators to keep their eyes on the ball.

And key players to prepare for what comes next. 5G standardization, for instance, or the still open internet of things, domains where Google and Samsung don't want to become the Microsoft and Nokia of yesterday, leaders who were supposedly the best positioned for convergence and pervasive internet...

Samsung outqualcommed the Americans for 4G but now, the Korean needs to build a common platform with them and what's left of Europe before China Inc or other players try to claim their own time slot.

Tomorrow won't be about Samsung v. Apple any more than the present is about Microsoft v. Nokia

mot-bile 2014

* see "Apple - the end of the affair" or "Omnipatent v. Impatent"

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