Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh - it's on, baby!

Verizon now has an iPhone. Hot rumor today is that Sprint will get their own in February. LTE has been slow enough rolling out to make it worth Apple's time and effort to build a CDMA version of the iPhone. So here's what I see this meaning over the remainder of 2011:

1 - I no longer think that the iPhone 5 will be an LTE device. AT&T doesn't have anything live yet, and Verizon is really just pushing it for data at this time. Sprint is currently tied to WiMax for 4G. Plus the LTE chipsets are still very early-stage.

2 - iPhone 5 will likely be a unified device with a combined GSM/CDMA chipset. I also suspect that VoRA (Voice over Revision A) support will be built in to it, as Verizon has said that that is slated for rollout beginning this spring. Maybe it's supported by the chipset in the current iPhone 4/CDMA, but we won't know until it gets torn down.

3 - Google is scared about US Android numbers. They announced the removal of H.264 support from Chrome yesterday and that is the first shoe to drop. Google controls YouTube, the single most popular video site on the web. YouTube has been experimenting with direct H.264 encoding (I prefer it - far better performance and lower CPU usage), and Flash has been taking hits. Well, now Flash will be the only supported way to handle H.264 on Chrome with Google favoring their WebM codec for HTML5 video.

The two vendors now backing H.264 the strongest? Apple and Microsoft. Look for Google to pull H.264 support from Android in favor of their codec, and they'll try to turn YouTube into a site that only uses Flash or WebM in the hopes of killing it for iOS users. The Hail Mary pass they're throwing here is to try and convince users that Android and Chrome are the ways to get YouTube.

Personally, I think that'll just open up an opportunity for a good YouTube competitor to take over - much as Facebook defeated MySpace.

4 - Google now needs to hit a tablet home run. CES showed us all the new Android 3 tablets, but Apple just sucked most of the handset oxygen out of Vegas with the Verizon iPhone, and within a couple of weeks they'll do iPad 2 as well. The beta of iOS 4.3 dropped today, and you can safely predict that'll ship with the new iPads within 4-8 weeks. Android is likely to be relegated to the extreme low end of the market. The brilliant analyst Horace Dediu at Asymco has it pegged. Android exerts pressure downward at the cheap non-smartphone handsets. They move volume. But those aren't the users buying apps and media outside of ringtones. The iOS users (which also includes iPod Touch owners - nothing is shipping from an Android vendor yet that is comparable) are buying apps and that locks them into the platform. Apple makes a ton of money that way and has people upgrading constantly.

Apps = lock-in. Remember that.

In a market where iPhone is on one carrier, Android is great on all the other ones because it's the best the users can get if they're not on that carrier. If they can get an iPhone instead, they likely will.

Yep, it's on! And it only took 2 weeks of 2011 to get the party going.