Telecom week in review, part 2: Scenes from the mobile market

galaxy s5 and iphone 5S

How goes the competition between Samsung, the biggest Android device vendor, and Apple? Well, in May, the iPhone 5S outsold the Galaxy S5 by 7 million units to Samsung’s 5 million. To counter Apple’s Beats offering (which Khoi Vinh suggests is about being able to offer well-made and fashionable audio accessories at scale), Samsung launched their “Level” family of high-end headphones and speakers. To counter Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Nest, they’ve been talking to SmartThings about acquiring them.


After the announcements about the upcoming Android L (the next version of Android; the current one is K) and the Material design language, Google have been busy. They’ve spending several hundred million dollars in a big marketing push to sell Android One phones in India, adding support for Android Wear custom watch faces, designing fonts that look good and are readable on all manner of devices, and updating the Google Play Store with a beautiful new UI that’s a little closer to the specs in the Material design language.

In non-Samsung Android news, LG announced the G3 Beat, a mid-range version of its flagship G3 smartphone.

How about that Amazon Fire phone? It seems to be an Amazon shopping device that just happens to act like a smartphone, and its first ad seems to have confirmed many suspicions:

BlackBerry are saying “better late than never” with the announcement of their assistant technology for Blackberry 10.3: BlackBerry Assistant. Even Microsoft’s Cortana shouldn’t worry about this one.

And finally, on the general mobile accessories front, there’s GoTenna’s messaging gadget, which works even “in the middle of nowhere” where you can’t get a signal. In New York magazine, Kevin Roose asks an interesting question: Does anyone outside Silicon Valley even want a smartwatch? Keep in mind that once upon a time, mobile phones — never mind smartphones — seemed frivolous, not vital.

this article also appears in the GSG blog


Telecom week in review, part 1: The Apple-IBM partnership

apple and ibm - 1983 and 2014

Bottom photo by @darth.

On Tuesday, Apple and IBM announced their partnership to “transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps”, combining Apple’s iOS ecosystem with IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities. According to Apple’s press release, the promised outcomes of this partnership are:

  • a new class of more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions including native apps, developed exclusively from the ground up, for iPhone and iPad;
  • unique IBM cloud services optimized for iOS, including device management, security, analytics and mobile integration;
  • new AppleCare® service and support offering tailored to the needs of the enterprise;  and
  • new packaged offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management.

Horace Dediu, on his blog Asymco, made this observation about this partnership in light of both companies’ histories and transformations:

This dramatic turnaround–Apple moving to a device leadership position and IBM moving to a service leadership position–created the conditions for today’s announcement of a strategic partnership–an event which is astounding to those who witnessed the 1980s and 1990s. Were it not for the tenacious independence of Apple and the business model agility of IBM, neither company would be around today to leverage one another.

Over at ZDNet, Larry Dignan asks: In IBM and Apple’s wake, what will team Android do? He quotes a Forrester analyst: “Seek partnerships that offer a credible alternative” and suggests that Google and Samsung would team up and partner with Accenture and HP, both of whom would be reluctant to become an Android-only consultant given how deeply iOS has made its way into the enterprise already:

good - ios and android activations

He believes that SAP and Salesforce would prefer not to get involved with such an alliance, and that Oracle, who believe that Android ripped over Java in building their platform, would hope that Android fails in the enterprise.

In light of the announcement, BlackBerry shares fell by more than 10%. In its defense, Blackberry released an email statement saying that Apple and IBM’s partnership “only underscores the ongoing need for secure end-to-end enterprise mobility solutions like those BlackBerry has delivered for years,” and as the “clear leader” in the market, “enterprises should think twice about relying on any solution built on the foundation of a consumer technology that lacks the proven security benefits that BlackBerry has always delivered.”

Our reaction to that last statement:


this article also appears in the GSG blog


Stephen Elop’s layoff email begins with a terribly inappropriate salutation


It’s been noted how terrible Satya Nadella’s letter to Microsoft’s employees about the upcoming layoffs was. Stephen Elop — the guy who left Microsoft to run Nokia into the ground and then return to Microsoft triumphantly as the Executive VP of Devices and Services —  wrote a matching company-wide email that pertained specifically to the Devices and Services division, which would undergo “an estimated reduction of 12,500 factory direct and professional employees over the next year”.

It begins with this salutation:

Hello there,

Really? “Hello there?” “Hello there” is a suitable opener for an announcement such as “The restrooms on the 4th floor are out of commission today” or “The email servers will be down for an hour tomorrow”. It is completely inappropriate for a memo that essentially says “We’re firing 12,500 of you…and it could be up to a year before you find out if you’re one of them.”


Why is my photo in CITEworld’s article about Satya Nadella’s memo?

Rodney Buike, who used to work with me on Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Evangelism Team, pointed me to this article in CITEworld that features a photo of Yours Truly. It’s from July 11th, and it’s about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s July 10, 2014 company-wide email, titled Starting FY15 – Bold Ambition & Our Core:

joey devilla in microsoft citeworld article

The photo accompanying CITEworld’s article is of Yours Truly, and was taken in September 2009, when Microsoft Canada hired Kris Krug (who always takes excellent pictures, especially of me) to get photos of the evangelism team outside the Vancouver edition of the TechDays Canada 2009 conference. They could’ve used the many photos that Microsoft provided along with Nadella’s letter, but for some reason, they went with the photo of the Microsoftie with the accordion making a smoochie-face.

My best guess is that the image of someone in a bright orange Microsoft shirt (which I loved) playing accordion reflected the message in Nadella’s email: a new, different, unexpected Microsoft, committed to a change in direction and being “the best place for smart, curious, ambitious people to do their best work”. I can get behind that.


An attempt to cancel Comcast service over the phone turns into an opera of obstruction

comcast - hold on with a bulldog grip

What started as gdgt founder and former Engadget editor Ryan Block’s attempt to cancel his Comcast service turned into a maddeningly excruciating and even Monty Python-esque back-and-forth with a tenacious support rep who stuck to his script and hemmed, hawed, evangelized, and did everything he could to get Block to cancel the cancellation. Realizing after about ten minutes that he was in for a long phone call, Block had the presence of mind to record the conversation. Here’s the recording, which captures the last 8 minutes and 14 seconds of the opera of obstruction:

Here’s how Block annotated the recording:

Please note: this conversation starts about 10 minutes in — by this point my wife and I are both completely flustered by the oppressiveness of the rep.

So! Last week my wife called to disconnect our service with Comcast after we switched to another provider (Astound). We were transferred to cancellations (aka “customer retention”).

The representative (name redacted) continued aggressively repeating his questions, despite the answers given, to the point where my wife became so visibly upset she handed me the phone. Overhearing the conversation, I knew this would not be very fun.

What I did not know is how oppressive this conversation would be. Within just a few minutes the representative had gotten so condescending and unhelpful I felt compelled to record the speakerphone conversation on my other phone.

This recording picks up roughly 10 minutes into the call, whereby she and I have already played along and given a myriad of reasons and explanations as to why we are canceling (which is why I simply stopped answering the rep’s repeated question — it was clear the only sufficient answer was “Okay, please don’t disconnect our service after all.”).

Please forgive the echoing and ratcheting sound, I was screwing together some speaker wires in an empty living room!

I’m impressed at the fact that Block stayed calm through the exchange. The stubbornness that the support guy shows is enough to make you want to reach through the phone lines and throttle him, and after this audio posting went viral, Comcast have announced that they’re looking into the matter:


We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.

Having worked at organizations that have been incredibly wrong-headed about metrics and their use, I know where the service rep’s tenacity is coming from. In this job market, and especially as a phone service rep — where you’re recorded for “quality purposes” — you don’t risk losing your job by engaging in unsanctioned behavior, and you don’t go off-script. His behavior is extreme, but when you look at what he’s paid to do, he’s merely following the directive he was given: to retain customers. There’s likely a culture, if not a bonus, that promotes this behavior within Comcasts’s CSR pool.

Listen to the call a couple of times, and you’ll notice the bag of verbal and psychological tricks that the service rep uses: repetition, deflection, harnessing loss aversion, bait-and-switch. The skill with which he obstructed Block is impressive; I’d be willing to be that prior to the recording of his call going viral, he was actually hailed as an example and “hero” to his fellow phone-drones in the service rep pool.

If he loses his job at Comcast, he could parley the recording into a job opportunity at a brokerage and position himself as a salesman like the one Vin Diesel plays in this scene from Boiler Room:


Make the most of your Android and iOS devices

If you use your mobile devices as much as we use ours, you’ll want to check out these tips and tricks for making the most of your Android and Apple phones and tablets. From maximizing your battery life, to things you didn’t know your mobile or Apple earphones could do, and what Lifehacker considers to be the best audio recording tool for Android, we think you’ll find something useful in this collection.

Tips and tricks for extending your battery life

low battery

Maximizing battery life has always been a concern of mobile technology users, and it’s become a more popular topic of discussion since the TSA revived the “you’ll need to show your mobile devices powered on at security” edict at selected airports. Here are some tips from Pocket-Lint and The Guardian on get the most out of your battery’s milliamp-hours.

10 things you didn’t know your iPhone could do

10 things you didn’t know you could do with Android

13 Apple earphone tricks

apple earphones

They’re not just earphones, but they’re remote control devices for your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and even your Mac! Learn about all the functionality you can control from your Apple earphones (and even some earphones not made by Apple).

Lifehacker says Cogi is the best voice recorder for Android

Cogi functions as a standard audio recorder, but shines for recording long meetings or other lengthy events, where you want to record only the “highlights” — key snippets that are 5, 15, 30, or 45 seconds long. Its creators knew that audio doesn’t always capture everything in a meeting, so they included ancillary tools to write notes in your session or capture the whiteboard with your phone’s camera. Best of all, it’s free!

this article also appears in the GSG blog


Gartner predicts that tablets will outsell PCs in 2015

poised to outsell pcs in 2015

Creative Commons photo by TribeHut. Click to see the original.

Tablets aren’t outselling traditional desktop and laptop PCs, but Gartner’s most recent forecast for global device shipments says that day is coming soon. Their prediction for this year is that PCs will still outsell tablets, with 308 million desktops and laptops shipping this year vs. 256 million iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, Kindle Fires. However, in 2015, they expect tablets to edge out PCs, with 321 million shipments versus 317 million PCs.

TechCrunch have published Gartner’s data in tabular form, and we’ve taken their tables and turned them into easier-to-read graphs. This first graph looks at worldwide device shipments for 2013 through 2015 (with 2014’s and 2015’s numbers being projections), and without smartphones (you’ll see why we excluded them in a moment):

wordwide device shipments no smartphones

Remember, these are shipments, which refers to the number of devices sent to retailers, as opposed to sales, which is the number of devices actually sold to customers. As TechCrunch say, “A shipment is a guess on how many will be sold based on previous performance, which means that sometimes if sales are disappointing/surprisingly good there will be a correction, with lower/higher shipments in subsequent periods.”

Smartphone shipments dwarf the shipments of other device categories, which is we excluded them in the graph above, so that you could better see the lines for the other devices. This second graph of worldwide device shipments includes smartphones:

wordwide device shipments with smartphones

In their report, Gartner makes the following observations and predictions:

  • The tablet market is showing maturation, and in more developed markets, tablets are now in the “late adopter” phase of the technology lifecycle. Being in this later phase is expected to affect their rate of sales, and what sorts of tablet models and features will be in demand.
  • The tablet market is shifting, and according to Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal, lower price points will drive the next wave of adoption, not superior functionality.
  • The tablet market will have a relative slowdown this year, even though the total number of shipments is expected to increase almost 24% over 2013.
  • Smartphones will account for 66% of all mobile sales in 2014, and by 2018, they’ll account for 88%.
  • Android shipments are expected to rise 30% this year, and iOS shipments are expected to rise 15%.
  • Windows Phone is expected to get 4% market share this year, with this figure climbing to 10% in 2018.

this article also appears in the GSG blog