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All posts by Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

  • Mxit reboots with #mxit7… Now what?

    Mxit 7 on iOS is gorgeous. Its reimagined J2ME client is perhaps even more impressive. But, as we’ve seen over and over again, a gorgeous product does not a successful product make... First, a disclosure: I know a fair number of people at Mxit. I've known CMO Vincent Maher for almost a decade. New rockstar chairman Michael Jordaan. Product manager Peter Matthaei. Brad Whittington. And a few ex-Mxit staffers, like Sarah Rice. I haven't spoken to any of them about this piece. Nor have I spoken to them about what's gone on behind the scenes over the past year....

  • With Android KitKat, Google knows everything you do… and that’s scary

    Android KitKat (4.4) is all about “connecting the next billion users”. That’s a lofty ideal from Google, and the fact that the new version of the OS has a vastly slimmed down memory footprint should not be underestimated. That Android can now run comfortably on 512MB of RAM is critical to extending Google’s reach beyond a hundred-million or eight devices. In fact, it’s easy to argue that this is the most important feature of the OS (ignore all the other bells and whistles). Look out below, Nokia Microsoft Asha and BlackBerry! But hidden in plain sight is a feature that’s...

  • Feed the CEO to the wolves! Raise $1bn! That solves everything for BlackBerry! (except it doesn’t)

    Let’s be honest. Fairfax was never going to be able to raise the US$4.7-billion it needed to take BlackBerry private. And let’s remember: the buyout didn’t really solve anything. BlackBerry wasn’t suddenly going to be on the front foot overnight. It would’ve only served to take the painful surgery out of the public eye (much like Michael Dell’s smartly engineered Dell buyout). As the death spiral now accelerates, BlackBerry’s followed the playbook perfectly (excuse the pun)... it's thrown its CEO to the wolves. Of course, the biggest irony in this move is that Thorsten Heins had very little to do with the...

  • Here’s the problem with BBM for Android and iPhone

    BlackBerry is understandably making a big deal about the 10-million downloads of BBM for iPhone and Android it saw in the first 24 hours. That’s a massive number. Compare it with the previous unofficial record set by Angry Birds Space, which saw 10-million downloads over three days when it was released in 2012. Welcome BBM for #Android & #iPhone users! More than 10 million downloads in the first 24 hours: http://t.co/Mft7h6PFtq— BBM (@BBM) October 22, 2013 But, there are a few problems with the 10 million number... It doesn’t yet put BBM as a platform back into a strong growth position....

  • Forget the fashion: Apple hiring Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts has nothing to do with wearables

    Finally the curious Burberry fashion show shot entirely on the iPhone 5s four days before the phone was actually available makes sense. The original news was described by many as ‘un-Apple-like” - it's never done anything like this. Tellingly, the announcement doesn’t quote or even refer to new Apple retail chief (and outgoing Burberry CEO) Angela Ahrendts. We should’ve seen the clues, hidden in plain sight. She gets it. Ahrendts understands retail. And she understands lifestyle retail. Apple’s retail stores are far more similar to the luxury good boutique outlets (think Prada, Burberry, Cartier, Hugo Boss) than they ever were to...

  • Unseating Samsung: who has the stones to depose mobile’s current king?

    On its relatively speedy ascent to the position as the world’s biggest phone maker, Samsung has crushed practically every incumbent and all new comers. It's dethroned (and crushed) Nokia -- which managed to actually hold that position for about a decade. It's decimated LG, HTC, Motorola and -- to some extent -- BlackBerry too. And it hasn’t done so just because it's vertically integrated (it owns the semi-conductor fabrication plants and makes acres of LCD panels). Samsung has become king by out-Nokiaing Nokia. Its global distribution (on a broader electronics backbone that was built on its TV -- and washing...

  • RIP: app discovery on iTunes and Google Play is dead

    When last did you browse an app store? As the iTunes App Store hurtles towards 1 million apps, with Google Play passing this number in July already, apps -- especially good ones -- are becoming near impossible to find. Analyst Benedict Evans hit the nail on the head on episode three of the Cubed podcast, where he likened both app stores to the Yahoo! directory from the late 1990s. All app stores are currently nothing more than a directory of "things" with very limited curation. And they haven’t changed substantially since Apple popularised the idea through iTunes. The software remains...

  • Massive risks for operators, consumers as BlackBerry faces a death spiral

    The only certainty about BlackBerry’s future is that it's completely uncertain. Yes, there’s a buyout offer on the table from Fairfax Financial Holdings under Canada’s ‘Warren Buffett’ Prem Watsa, but that bid itself is filled with questions. The problem is not whether BlackBerry is going to be taken private or not. Rather, its whether it’ll exist at all in its current state in 12 months time. First, the facts. Watsa and Fairfax are insiders. He was on the BlackBerry board until a month ago! And aside from the nearly $1bn write-down of unsold Z10 devices, there are some serious questions about...

  • iOS7: three game-changers hidden in plain sight

    Yes, iOS7 looks different and has caught up to 2013. The faux textures are gone and importantly, without the need for images of woodgrain to be sized resolution-perfect for apps, different screen sizes become a real possibility. The new operating system makes a year-old iPhone feel brand new. There’s no disputing that Apple needed the clean break. But, hidden in the new OS are a number of features and technologies that are going to fundamentally change the way people use their phones. These aren’t buried deep in code, waiting for a switch to be flipped. We’re already using (most)...

  • As Twitter hurtles towards an IPO, remember… it’s not Facebook

    There’s more than a single reason for Twitter going public now, versus -- say -- in a year or two’s time. Obviously, its valuation is getting to the point where any new rounds of funding are substantial. Its most recent round, a Series G, was closed in 2011 and saw the company raise an eye-watering US$800-million at a US$8-billion valuation. Any subsequent round would pass the US$1-billion mark and be even more complex to structure. Obviously, investors -- especially early ones -- and employees want to cash out. Sure shares can be private traded on secondary markets, but Twitter has strict...

  • Fragmentation, OS upgrades: Do people even care?

    Microsoft's decision last week to not offer an upgrade path from Windows Phone 7.5 (currently in the market) to Windows Phone 8 opened a can of worms most thought only applied to Android. The F-word: fragmentation. But do the few million people using Nokia Lumias even care? Do those 200 million-plus people using Android phones care? “Fragmentation is busy killing Android.” It has become one of those facts that are widely believed and repeated in the web’s echo chamber. Worldwide, Android remains in the lead when it comes to market share but there are indications that activation rates have peaked...

  • Apple and Microsoft have forced Google into a corner

    The timing of the Microsoft’s announcement of Surface was particularly peculiar. “Hands-on” demos were decidedly hands-off. Microsoft didn't allow anyone to use the SmartCover keyboards -- bizarre, given that this is the most innovative feature of Surface (and a real differentiator between the iPad). It’s obvious now that Surface is not ready. So why did Microsoft unveil something that it isn’t launching yet? The answer is Google. It is expected to launch a Nexus tablet to showcase the “best of Android” at its I/O conference which runs from 27-29 June in San Francisco. Microsoft simply had to “launch” Surface. It doesn’t matter...

  • Facebook IPO drama: conspiracy or mispricing?

    Everyone is suing everyone. Everyone is upset with everyone. Everyone is blaming everyone. Get over it. It’s history. The biggest IPO since Google has happened. Some made millions. Others lost even more. Someone got it wrong, and they’re to blame, right? It’s doubtful that this was some deep-rooted, intricate, secret conspiracy by investment banks to overprice Facebook stock. But the mispricing cost it. Morgan Stanley as lead underwriters (and the others) spent billions propping up the stock price to ensure that it closed above the IPO price of $38 on day one. That’s a simple cost to figure out. Beyond...

  • The problem with iMessage

    iMessage doesn't work. Well, that's not entirely true. It works perfectly well as a traditional text messaging replacement. To a point. The first problem with iMessage is its lack of awareness. It's a simple broadcast bus (think back to parallel connectors used to transfer data between components or computers). At its launch, Apple admitted that iMessage runs on top of its notifications engine (based on XMPP). But that's the problem: it's treating messages -- two-way communication - as what seems to be one-off, one-way bursts. It all syncs, which is great as you're able to be messaged or message (should that...

  • iPad > PCs

    Apple sold more iPads last quarter than any computer manufacturer in the world sold PCs. Read that again. Apple sold 15.4-million iPads between October and December. Compare this to HP (15.1-million PCs), Lenovo (13-million PCs), Dell (11.9-million PCs) and Acer (9.8-million PCs) and suddenly you’ll realise why we saw over 100 tablet competitors launched during 2011 by every hardware manufacturer. Tablets > PCs. iPad > PC. And, as much as Twitter and tech blogs tried to have you believe otherwise, the use of the phrase “Post PC” at the new iPad launch was not the first time we've heard it. In fact, despite...