It's Time for iOS Default Apps

In 2009, the European Commission and Microsoft came to an agreement to provide a screen that offers the user a choice as to which browser should be opened by default upon the selection of a web link. It's time that people demanded the same of Apple. Already, Apple's own applications are being steadily replaced with better alternatives. Many people choose to use different camera applications because they are faster, provide better image stabilization features, or simply provide fun filters. I choose to use Chrome when possible as my browser. However, there are times when I am not able to exercise this choice. In particular, this is when the operating system's ability to highlight text areas that match a web link is used to open that link in a browser.

Similarly, this is true for other items: text that looks like addresses will always open in Apple's maps app, which we all know to be a disaster when it comes to finding locations, and for which we have an alternative.

There are certain ways to change your default browser or other applications, but they generally void your ability to get support from your carrier and are difficult for the average person to use.

Apple should:

  • Provide for selection of a default web browser
  • Provide for selection of a default maps application
  • Allow applications to provide default sheets, such as send mail, take photo, pick photo, send message, etc.

There are signs that iOS has the functionality to allow this already. When pressed, I'm sure Apple will come up with arguments indicating that disallowing these choices keeps the platform secure and keeps the quality of user experience very high. However, we should remind ourselves that neither Firefox nor Chrome (and for that matter, Safari) would have gained popularity without that original decision.


How hp Became #2

When I joined Microsoft in 2003, I had done so for a few reasons.  One of them was that I believed that computing would move to devices (though I wasn't as positive about the phone being the universal computing device as I am today) and that Microsoft was the company that had the right stuff to make that happen.  Plus, it would all start from a video game console - how cool is that?

While Microsoft had its fits and starts getting into Xbox and Zune, even the first versions were great consumer experiences on their own (even if they did pale in comparison to competition).  When Microsoft entered both of these markets, it was instantly #2 on the charts.  That is not an easy place to reach.

It was last year around this time that myself and a team of people were gearing up to make one of the coolest devices ever.  About 2 months later, the courier device would be canceled.  And that, right there, was the event that made the devices story at Microsoft die.

Sure, there's Kinect and there will be future versions of Xbox, and Windows Mobile will be a profitable business some day.  But, one is hard pressed to see Microsoft expanding or enhancing the devices with which we live our daily lives.

It was unclear to me what company other than Microsoft could possibly become #2 to Apple in device categories.  However, when Steve Ballmer told us the project was being shut down, he also told us that hp had canceled the Slate.  It's snarky for me to say, but I personally believe Mark Hurd killed the Slate due to the pitiful demonstration Steve Ballmer made of it at the 2010 CES.

hp had a strategy in mind when they bought Palm.  As the number one PC manufacturer in the world facing the decline of the PC as the primary computing device, they needed to compete in mobile devices.  Dell knows this too, but has had trouble getting into the market in meaningful ways.

Mobile is hard.  Device manufacturers are clawing tooth and nail to find differentiation because margins keep eroding.  It's just like the TV industry.  When so many devices are a box with a touchscreen, what perceptible differentiation could you possibly have?  Software.  Steve Jobs always maintained that making hardware means making your own software, too.  hp realized this last year when their product resulted in a pathetic demo.

So, hp had the same choice Nokia had, only they didn't have a platform that was burning.  They've simply decided to build an ecosystem rather than join one.  The ecosystem, however, isn't a huge list of third parties - it is their own.  Two of the most important points of hp's Think Beyond event is that their devices will start working together, and that webOS will eventually make it to PCs.  As a side note, Microsoft might actually have a problem if the number one PC maker in the world decides Windows licenses just aren't worth it.

Could hp really be another Apple?  It's hard to tell.  I've heard a lot of great people left after the Palm acquisition, and hp needs to grow some muscle here first, but just like Microsoft entered the market as #2, hp will be a clear leader among the riff-raff of mobile device makers.


Nokia CEO Stephen Elop rallies troops in brutally honest 'burning platform' memo? (update: it's real!) -- Engadget
Our competitors aren't taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we're going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem.

This is some great insight from Stephen Elop. Microsoft should never have lost him. I remember seeing Stephen Elop as a fairly erudite person, but I never had the opportunity to see him be this insightful while at Microsoft. I wonder if it is simply that, at Microsoft, it is easy to be drowned by so many conflicting opinions of very smart people. Is this different elsewhere? It obviously helps to be CEO, but maybe it is possible to be analytical & insightful and steer a ship without being at the top.

Regardless, the outsider has called out Nokia's problems. I like how he has clearly outlined 3 strategies to solve the major one: build, catalyse or join. Everyone doubts Nokia's ability to build, and it would be insanely hard to catalyze other ecosystems like Apple's. I think the only choice they have is to join.

I'm very anxious to see if Mr. Elop can lead the change in culture of one of the largest organizations in the world. That would truly be a feat.

Microsoft's iPad battle plan for partners

This presentation is pretty desperate; it has a lot of FUD that is really unwarranted.  For example, the question about line of business apps on the first slide would have you believe Microsoft is foreshadowing the point that iOS cannot handle line of business apps, when in fact that was one of the facets of the iOS developer program when it launched.  Another piece of excellent FUD is the "rich, searchable filesystem" support on Windows 7 devices.  It's obvious that users never cared about it in the first place, and even Bill Gates confessed that WinFS was a waste of time.  If rich, searchable filesystems were that important to enterprises, Microsoft would never have stopped engineering on that as enterprise sales account for so much of its revenue.

One of the main, valid points against iPad is that it is not focused on productivity.  This is a fair criticism, but again, if Microsoft actually cared about Windows-based devices that could spur creativity & productivity through interfaces like touch and pen, it wouldn't have cancelled Courier.