You’ll agree with me that differentiating products by fancier colors and “me-too” capabilities wouldn’t cut it, and there seemed to have been a few of those in Barcelona. The following are some of the coming, not-so-radically-novel-but-nevertheless-interesting, tech attractions, some of which were showcased in Barcelona.
Mozilla, the developer of Firefox browser, is making waves with its plans to develop and market a smartphone that will cost you no more than $25. If this works out as planned, the innovation will further democratize high tech, by making it possible for more people of the world to afford smartphones, thereby expanding the reach of the Web to a few more billions of folks in poor countries. Low-tech versions of high-end phones are produced by scaling back on features in order to bring the price down. An overriding question seems to be how lean manufacturers can go in scaling back features.
Come next month, Samsung, the world’s leading smartphone maker, will be putting out a new smartphone, Galaxy S5, which will be dust- and water-resistant. It will also have fingerprinting capabilities, to match the same capabilities in Apple’s iPhone 5S. The fingerprint feature will allow you to scan your fingerprint and access your phone and download media. S5 promises a faster processor: 25-gigahertz, against the 16-gigahertz (Samsung chip) processors in S4. The 5.1-inch screen of S5 is slightly bigger than S4’s 4.99-inch, but the resolution of the two phones is the same (1920 by 1080 picture elements, or pixels). Although the plastic casing looks very much like the one on S4, Samsung says it is waterproof and dustproof. Overall, the swipe-enabled finger-scanner is believed to be the biggest change from S4.
My take on S5 is that, because it is not sufficiently differentiated, consumers may not be beating path to it. Competition is still there, from Apple, at the high-end, and the myriads of Chinese phone makers, from the commodity end. These competitors won’t be going away soon!
WhatsApp to offer free voice service
As if to justify its $19 billion out-of-this-world price tag, WhatsApp is now planning to offer a free voice service; so it wouldn’t just be text messages. Given the high cost of making phone calls, this contemplated feature will be quite attractive indeed. However, competitors abound, the least of which is not Microsoft Corp.’s Skype, which is used for making relatively cheap international phone calls to avoid the high calling rates that are charged by the telcos. Jan Koum, the co-founder and chief executive of WhatsApp, disclosed this plan at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. According to the plan, the first version of the voice service will be released on Apple’s iPhones and on smartphones running Google’s Android operating system (OS).
Sina Weibo to sell shares globally
Sina Weibo, the Chinese answer to Twitter and Facebook combined, wants to sell shares internationally. The company has hired Credit Suisse AG and Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. for a U.S. initial public offering (IPO) of its micro-blogging service worth about $500 million.
4.5 G (LTE-Advanced)
Long term evolution (LTE), or the fourth-generation (4G) of wireless transmission technology, will soon be passé, as 4.5 G, which is referred to as LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), surfaces. Though faster and better than 4G, LTE-A cannot foot the bill of a 5G, which some project will not be available until the year 2020. However, with LTE-A, we could be seeing bandwidths as awesome as 150 Megabits/second. LTE is currently the fastest way to transmit data (as in texts, photos, streaming songs, watching videos, etc.) from masts (towers) to your phones and other gadgets like the tablets. You should remember that the global adoption of LTE seems to have been somewhat undermined by the fact that different networks use different frequencies for LTE, so devices cannot easily be switched between operators. That is, equipment made for different networks may not always be compatible because of different frequency bands. Hopefully, this situation will improve as we welcome the next “half generation” of the LTE technology.
Smartphones by Boeing
Business diversification can take several forms, as exemplified by the recent Boeing’s foray into smartphones. Boeing, one of the world’s largest aerospace companies, has filed an application with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to get into the business of making and marketing phones. Boeing’s phones will be different from your everyday iPhone or Galaxy types, in that they are specially designed for high security. Before now, BlackBerry was the purveyor of secured phones, the types that defense and security-conscious organizations used. Boeing’s phone, which is dubbed “Boeing Black,” uses a modified version of the Android OS. According to Wall Street Journal, “the modular construction of the phone’s 5.2-inch-tall body, would allow users to attach devices that add such features as advanced location tracking, solar charging, satellite transceivers and biometric sensors.” Boeing will guard the technology behind the phone very tightly. This phone is designed to effectively self-destruct if tampered with, by triggering functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable.” The journal gives the specs as: 4.3-inch (540 x 960 pixels) display, 170-lb weight, LTE, WCDMA, and GSM networks, and 1.2 gigahertz ARM Cortex-A9 chip.
Boeing’s initiative is obviously advised by today’s cyber espionage and cyber-attack landscape, an area that is seeing increasing levels of funding. Boeing’s device is expected to be in the market by the end of September this year.