Smartphones investigate

The three biggest tech blunders destined to happen in 2012

Learn the three big blunders that we're destined to see from Google, Apple, and Microsoft in 2012.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/PashaIgnatov

We're going to see a lot more cool stuff in the tech world in 2012, from quad-core phones to tablets that can talk to slick cloud apps built on HTML5. Startups will show us things we never knew we needed and tech giants will seize opportunities to give us the tools we're begging for. No matter what size they are, the smart companies will take risks, be bold, and buck conventional wisdom.

The flip side of that is the inertia and inaction that happens at big tech companies because they're afraid of messing up a good thing. This leads to a lot mistakes, including some that end up dooming the company. Just ask RIM and take a look what's happening to BlackBerry.

Look out, because we're about to see some important blunders in 2012. Here are the three biggest.

1. Google will fail to standardize Android

Android is a runaway hit. At the end of 2011, phones running Android crossed over 50% of all new smartphone sales. However, as I wrote in 2010, a big reason for Android's success is that hardware makers and cellular carriers can do whatever they want with it -- and they have. That includes loading Android phones with uninstallable apps that drain CPU and battery life, layering the Android interface with useless software customizations, and changing the look and placement of Android's primary function keys. But, the biggest problem is that all of these customizations have made it impossible for Google to roll out timely updates to Android, because every update now has to be vetted and tested with all of the hardware makers and cell carriers to make sure they don't break or conflict with their customizations. The situation is a mess. It's going to be very difficult for Google to reel its partners back in, and although Google has made some half-hearted attempts at standardization, it's clear that Google is much more interested in getting Android devices in the hands of as many people as possible as quickly as possible. The experience of the user once they've already bought the device is a secondary concern.

2. Microsoft will miss PC-mobile convergence

After being early to the game in smartphones and tablets with Windows Mobile and Tablet PC, Microsoft took its eye off the ball and is scrambling to find its place in a market now dominated by Apple and Android. In August, I wrote that Microsoft's biggest opportunity in mobile is PC-mobile convergence where smartphones will eventually be able to replace a desktop computer by wirelessly docking into a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Bill Gates envisioned this over a decade ago, but Microsoft is unlikely to seize this opportunity out of fear that it would cannibalize sales of Windows and the company wouldn't make as big of a profit on each sale. Also, don't confuse this concept with Microsoft trying to shove Windows 8 on to tablet computers. That's a losing proposition. Microsoft would be better off renaming Windows Phone 7 to Xphone, scaling it up and launching an Xtablet, and making them both capable of wirelessly docking with desktop hardware to replace a PC for light computing (which is adequate for vast majority of users).

3. Apple won't extend Siri across its product line

When I was visiting with family and friends over the holidays, the biggest tech buzz came when I demonstrated Siri, Apple's voice control software on the iPhone 4S. We texted people. We looked up the stock price of companies. We checked how many calories there are in a kiwi and a slice of pecan pie. And it was all done with a few quick voice commands. Everyone was wowed by it and excited about the future possibilities. It reminded me of the reaction when I showed the Internet for the first time or first demonstrated how you could read and send emails from a smartphone. With Siri, Apple clearly has the makings of something big. It could take this experiment to the next level tomorrow by rolling out Siri to the iPhone 4, the iPad 2, and all Macs running OS X 10.7 Lion. Those systems have the capability to run Siri and adding them to the mix would help Apple refine and develop Siri. But, instead of getting Siri in the hands of more users, Apple will most likely keep Siri limited to the iPhone 4S, the forthcoming iPad 3, and then the eventual iPhone 5. Instead of using this tool to push the technology world forward, Apple will treat it like a cheap gimmick for selling more phones and tablets.

Sanity check

All of these blunders look like a done deal to me. But, the best case scenario here is that the companies read this and prove me wrong. I doubt it will happen, but if it did it would be a good thing for technology users in all three scenarios.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

114 comments
dukethepcdr
dukethepcdr

Ever since Dragon Naturally Speaking first came out, I have been trying to find real answers to the dream of touch free computing. It hasn't happened yet. As sophisticated and complex as the voice command programs have gotten since the early days, they still can't understand me. I seem to speak clearly enough for most people (even those from other countries) to understand me, but these gadgets with voice command features almost always 'hear' me wrong. By the time I slowly and oh so frustratingly carefully articulate even the simplest dictation or command to these things so that they can understand and do anything, I've gotten so mad I can barely remember what I was going to do after I succeeded in getting the @#$%^&* thing to do that one thing. It's less trouble and bother to just hit a button or type something with my fingers. I even had a cell phone recently that boasted voice activated dialing and other commands (came 'free' with my cell phone carrier contract). But I wound up taking it back to the carrier and having them disable the voice commands. I got sick of hearing it guess wrong or even sometimes telling me to 'say a command' again after I already had. I could say "call Bill" (or whomever) as carefully and clearly as I humanly can, for example and still have it say "Did you say 'call Bob?' (or someother name that isn't even close to what I said. They said that voice commands would be the answer to reducing distraction while driving and trying to use a cell phone, but I think it actually made it worse. Some days, it was like I was having an arguement with the dumb phone! I find it less distracting to put the phone in a dashboard mounted cradle (every phone should just come boxed with one) and hitting buttons when I'm stopped at lights and such to dial out. My phone still has buttons bigger than a tictac (a requirement I made of the surprised clerk at the cell phone store when I got my latest phone) so it's really no more difficult nor distracting to hit buttons on it in the car than it is to change the station on my radio. For incoming calls, I have it set to auto answer so I can take them while driving. That is no more distracting than having a talkative passenger. They are trying to ban cell phone use, period, in cars where I live. They passed a local law about it lately, but I haven't seen anyone obeying it. It's not necessary. All people need is a good docking station or cradle on their dashboard and a speakerphone setting on the phone that is easy to turn on, or one of those bluetooth type things in their ear. What are the nanny state bureaucrats going to ban next? GPS devices? Talk about distracting! I hate those things. They are like electric back-seat drivers :) Car radios? Eating or drinking in the car? Talking to each other in the car?

Jeff Malm
Jeff Malm

What on earth happend to Microsoft? -Jeff Malm

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abdielt10

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jayohem
jayohem

As Mosaic is the browser underlying IE, it might have been Mosaic. Ah, yes! Remember black and gray and amber letters on the screen? FTP and Telnet? Remember Archie, Veronica, Jughead, and no I don't mean the comic characters?

jayohem
jayohem

Now that dad has gone to his final reward maybe the heirs will have a different view of the products and apps. Let's hope it just doesn't make them either more cautious or more fool hardy.

NZJester
NZJester

I'm told a few lucky people have Siri on earlier Apple devices as it was apparently available in the App store right up until apple announced the features of the 4S. An Android version had also been in the works for Siri up to the point where Apple purchased the company. Apple was smart to buy up Siri before it got to the competition, but silly to limit it just to their new hardware versions.

sbarsanescu
sbarsanescu

Android, while a potentially awesome platform will fail in the long run unless it is revamped and standardised. Looking at the Apple offering, it is clear to see why the appeal is there, for the consumer - they want a simple, pleasant experience with the device - they got it. Updates come in from Apple. You want to rlun something on the device? Well, you can, provided Apple agrees and you pay a fee :) It all looks classy and works smoothly. Just like ordered. In comparison, Android loses on multiple fronts - it's like Linux - anyone can customize it, and updating is a pain. Cool to use, but not necessarily reliable - depending on the knowledge level of the one setting it up. And here is where the answer might lie - just like Red Hat creating the "Enterprise" version, which is regulated and intended for production usage, Google could use a similar strategy.

mike
mike

What version of IE ran on Win 3.11? Who wants to know? Windows is evolving, Apple is evolving, Android is evolving. Me, I like what I see of Metro, be it WP7.5 or Win8; it is true evolution and in my opinion it works really well. I've been running the Win8 Dev. preview on an Iconia tab since it came out and I have difficulty getting it off my wife and daughter, they love it. Can't wait for the beta and the apps store.

Gisabun
Gisabun

The same reason why Microsoft didn't have ported IE9 to Win XP [aside from the end of mainstream support] is the same reasin Siri won't be on any older phones - Apple doesn't want to extend the life of older phones. They want you to by the latest and greatest. Microsoft could of ported IE9 to Win XP but that would just have some users sticking with Win XP instread of going to Win 7 [plus all the negative press].

jzabrams
jzabrams

HDTV vendors will continue to strong-arm unwanted 3D technology onto consumer sets despite competition from froom rapidly falling OLED prices. God I can't wait for this to go away. Smart phones are claiming to have it now, my cable company says it's coming, everything I buy related to my TV is supposed to say 3D now, even speakers. There's not even a defined standard yet - they've only just begun to talk about it!!

mike21b
mike21b

Someone else will come along and become the leader. Big ships are slow to change directions. Android has the capability of becoming a genuine cross-platform OS, but they don't seem to be moving in that direction at all. Microsoft is missing out on the Phone as Primary PC device (would be an easy thing for them to adopt and adapt). Last and not least, Apple is as arrogant as it was during Jobs' reighn, and will remain that way for some time to come. Just like dinosaurs, the little scurrying creatures that can adapt faster will come along and take over. Might take years, but it will happen. Could be RIM! ...But I'm not betting on that.

TechNDN
TechNDN

I am not waiting on companies to offer me one package for all my internet connection needs. Home, tablet (dedicated connection that one signs up for via cell phone company) and smartphone connections I am talking about. Why should I pay for three separate packages? It's the same internet right? And using the smartphone as a hotspot is not a good option. Many times the smartphone will be away from home or away from the tablet. What then? But I am not waiting on convergence of all internet access options. If you only had to have one which covered all three then the company could only charge you once. As is they can charge separately for all three which is why I don't have all three nor will I ever.

realvarezm
realvarezm

im not a fan of apple in fact i use android for my smartphone and linux for PC, but there is one thing about apple with a few exceptions. Once they see a good thing they use it and promote its use. So Siri will be one of the main guns in their products. Google like the article states will never get its carriers and brands in line and Microsoft..well MS is shooping like a rich woman on GAP and doesnt care for anything else.

cybershooters
cybershooters

Apple, Google and Microsoft will continue flogging the "use the cloud" horse while companies are still struggling to get enough reliable bandwidth to use them - then the internet will switch over to IP v6 which will cause mass confusion, especially among small and medium companies, and various outages and mistakes caused during the switchover will sour companies on the whole "cloud" idea when they are cut off from their cloud services. Also I can pretty much guarantee all the major consumer cloud services will suffer at least one serious outage that will have business analysts saying that Apple/Android/RIM/Microsoft are done for. When in reality they aren't. I expect to see a "top ten cloud screw-ups" list on TechRepublic this time next year...

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

Google's already announced that with Android 4.0, they're going to be more stringent about what OEMs can and cannot do in terms of firm customization of the OS. And Google's putting teeth into those requirements...if the OEM doesn't comply, then GOOG takes Android Market off the table. 2011 was the year of the noisy consumer, and a LOT of Android users dislike OEM/carrier-forced locking, skins, and content. I went through the hoops of rooting and ROMing my phone, and it's better now than it was the day I got it from Verizon. That's a process that's getting easier and easier with more 3rd party developers producing quality options (Cyanogenmod & MIUI, for starters). I don't see this trend slowing down unless and until the OEMs and carriers really relax on pre-loading their Androids with stuff that the end users really don't want.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Every 1.0 release of new Windows version has been a nightmare. Don't expect Windows-8 to be any different.

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

Apple has so much things to talk about and you only talk about Siri that Android has a few similar apps compatible with virtually all android devices? Google will fail to standardize Android? Do you know anything or even bothered to know anything about Ice Cream Sandwich? The day Google standardize Android is the day Microsoft begin to fear. Apple is irrelevant. Microsoft will miss PC-mobile convergence? Personally, I think the only thing Microsoft is concerned of is the mobile device hardware capability in delivering the level of performance acceptable for people to use it as a desktop. Think Motorola Atrix (Android version of it).

Thomas.Dahl
Thomas.Dahl

What scares me is that Microsoft makes great products and employs very smart people but somehow are caught in a catch22. If they move in the right direction and create the solutions and products you mention they WILL loose massive revenue from their cash cows (office, windows, SQL etc.). It reminds me of the auto industry in Detroit which resisted change so long that they had to crash and burn before they could embrase the changes happening in their own industry which they used to dominate. Simple things like naming their smart phone operating system WinPhone7 is just plane dumb.. I honestly believe that they would sell more had they rolled out a new platform and called it XPhone or something... Something Fresh and and exciting which the software actually is..! Look at the prices Apple charge for their software.. compared to Microsoft. Once you have paid the entry price into the Apple world users do not appear to look backwards. This is still the case for Microsoft products, but is looking ever more uncertain. The iPhone changed all this and Apple have changed the many ways people use their devices (Apps, Newspapers etc.) that they are asking themselves if they still need Microsoft for anything. I am now using LibreOffice on all my windows devices and it works great. My only issue is that so many applications (such as The Bat email client) are still locked in windows so that I have to use windows. In the forums people are asking the software houses more and more when they expect to port their products to Apple. I am not anti-microsoft. Their products are really good, but they are stuck in quick-sand and cannot move forward. Looks at the pricing policy or Windows7.. I just paid ???130 for Win7 Pro although I only needed the home version (the shop said they only had this one). This so that I could run windows on a new MacPro. ???130 is a lot for a 30c DVD. Apple charges ???29 for Lion. Apple has been severely criticised for dumping older hardware and operating systems for the sake of progress and have upset many users. Maybe this is going to be the wining stratergy. Their products are far from perfect (why is there no USB on the right side of my MacPro for my mouse? Was Steve left handed?) but they seem to be able to excite their customers and Microsoft cannot. Excited customers come back for more... Thomas

Dr BobM
Dr BobM

For those who want to know how this might end up either read or listen to 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' to find out the effect on civilisation of the Siri(eous) Cybernetics Corporation!

cbci
cbci

Posted to wrong article.

t.rohner
t.rohner

The first time i saw Siri in action (not on tv or youtube) was quite funny. Someone standing close to me was talking to his 4S, which is nothing special per se, because phones are made for that. But holding it in front of you, to see what it understood looks funny. But it got even better. Because it doesn't understand dialects, (Swiss-german in this case) the user tried it in "standard German". He looked and sounded like a teacher, trying to get something across to a retarded student. Even this failed, maybe because of ambient noise, but nevertheless he finally tried it in English. I don't know if he got his message across, because i had to walk away. I had a upcoming feeling of ROTFL and didn't want to embarass him... ;-)

cparser
cparser

Siri is a great innovation, but a better move of Apple to converge technology with IBM Watson should be thought of.

mkhangan07
mkhangan07

Yes, I think Siri is definitely a funny but interesting tool.Thou it has some interesting features which attract us towards Apple but still if you observe in a market the same feature is available in many Android phone of Samsung and Sony. And also available ob the lower cost than Apple 4S.

blakjak.au
blakjak.au

This is the thing I don't get. I've used Siri, it's ok. just ok. Google Voice Actions are as good at recognition, but severely lacking the depth of contextual hooks that Siri has. But at the end of the day, Siri is a good implementation of a technology that is older than mainstream internet use, and really isn't much better or more reliable than it was 2 decades ago. But more than that, killer feature? I think not. it's positively yawn-worthy. People who are genuinely excited by this "new" technology appear to only be those who are genuinely ignorant of just how stale it is.

walfud
walfud

Siri is a funny tool, but not necessary to everyone especially to devs. Lots of my friends who works on mobile phone think that Siri is silly and slow to handle. They want to do a series thing without waiting, and so forth. So, Siri is a funny attachment but not a necessary product on IPhone.

rograham1
rograham1

None of them will have addressed the communications and power consequences of the massive (once in a century) solar event disruptions projected to occur in 2012 by NASA.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

Microsoft will be making the "big mistake of 2012" with its obsession of making Windows-8 so tablet-centric--and missing out on the convergence. More tragically (?) will be the market share it loses when PC uses stick with XP and/or WIndows-7 and wait until a "real" new PC Operating System (Windows-9?) is released. So sad.

christopher.smith
christopher.smith

it seems all of the posters here are software-centric. This is important, but one of the reasons I traded in my HTC EVO 4G was the lack of "appliances" that the device could "dock" with. From clocks to stereo docks to chargers the apple-sphere is light years ahead of android. So if we are talking about blunders, Google and MS have both missed the mark for failing to incorporate the hardware / docking interface into the user experience.

mrhassell
mrhassell

If you think Google purchased Motorola Mobility to make better devices, think again. For the few who think Microsoft missed the boat with smart phones, you really should do some research! - Siri.. please... you guys ;)

albeeman
albeeman

Of the 3 blunders the Android one bothers me the most. The "crapware" on Android phones drives me crazy as well as the always tardy releases by Verizon and Motorola. Also, how in the world Android managed to miss rolling out Android 4.0 ICS onto all Android vendors' new Christmas phones makes me think the Googler Geeks need to get out of the GOOGLE "reality distortion field"!!!!! There is a clear trend here... Google TV had amazing potential and what Google didn't do to support that Android family almost wiped out Logitech. Maybe it doesn't matter since the prior Google CEO (Eric) let Facebook eat Google's future anyway. Can Larry save the sinking ship?

Railroad Buff
Railroad Buff

Why would I want Siri in the first place? To encourage apps that take only voice input? Try that in a waiting area at an airport - Chicago O'Hare, say - at 6 p.m. on a Friday evening. Been there, done that, calling an airline's flight status system on flights at another airport - no luck in some 15-20 minutes of trying. Or better yet, teach your phone to call 911, your better half and (horribile dictu) work via voice command and try that in a car. When 911 picks up instead of your boss because your car engine made it sound like that, how do you get through the busy street crossing right ahead?

davebrik99
davebrik99

I predict that the electronic voting machines in Rhode Island will register 4 billion votes and a third of them will be for Ted Kennedy or Jerry Brown. The Russians will try to land a man on the moon and successfully land him on Mars. A 4 year old kid with a Playskool computer will lock up the Strategic Air Command center for two days.....

chaz15
chaz15

If it isn't bad enough to have people making LOUD conversations in the train, on the bus, in the restaurant and so forth on their phones, These loud people will now be shouting voice commands at their phones in all sorts of inappropriate locations. "Up. left, next screen" and so on and we'll hear even more about their private phone use. OUCH! Just hope it doesn't make the bus driver swerve uncontrollably!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

IE wasn't around for 3.11. I clearly remember ordering and installing Netscape Navigator on 3.11 systems. I'm sure I wouldn't have paid for a browser if IE had been free.

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

Most people I know downgraded IE9 to IE8 due to compatibility issues. Personally I've been using Chrome and Firefox for different reasons and occasions. Many people I know who are still on XP are becuz they have legacy apps that just won't work on Win7.

deasystems
deasystems

"Apple doesn't want to extend the life of older phones. They want you to by the latest and greatest" And yet, only Apple supports phones with regular OS updates, including its latest iOS 5 on the 3 year old iPhone 3GS. Go figure...

ben
ben

They are offering this with 4G. There is in the US regulatory reasons why wired and wireless are not bundled together. Verizon is pitchingn 4G for both home and mobile. They have a ways to go on finding the right package and of course it only helps if you have 4G coverage where you live, which will get more likley in the next year (but probably not enough...so many users, so little spectrum).

deasystems
deasystems

"...they're going to be more stringent about what OEMs can and cannot do in terms of firm customization of the OS" Really? I thought Android was "open." If it really is "open," Google won't have any say in what manufacturers and carriers do or do not do with their Android phones.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

but I found the initial version of W7 to be most satisfactory. With that opinion on the record, I agree with you regarding W8, at least based on what little we've seen in the Developer's release.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation was first up against the wall when the revolution came. :D

wild__bill
wild__bill

we have had the same app on Android, LONG before Siri - it's called Vlingo and works even nicer than Siri - so why all the ridiculous fawning over something that is old news?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

From here it looks like the big mistake will be shoving W8's Metro interface onto 'traditional' non-touch desktops and laptops.

ben
ben

You hae to look at the entire "system" for the user. The "smart" part about it is that we have a really powerful personal device we have with us always - my Droid is my alarm clock, media player, backup for email, skype, presenting PPTs and viewign documents (it's a squint but in a pinch I've reviewed docs on it). Moto used commodoty connectors and form factors so I can get connected cheap (car charger for $3.99 at Fry's). Found a $9 dock for charging that makes it sit nicely on the nite stand. It isn't as pretty as the stuff I got for my iPod. For other than charging, I'm going wireless - BT and WiFi for now. My Droad has HDMI out on the side and a standard $9 cable works like a champ. For my iPad it's $40 (anyone, link me to a cheaper one?). I expect Apple will do the same, so a lot of those cool docs will work with either (a real plus for both manufacturer and consumer). Let's hear it for wireless and applicaion profile standards!

ben
ben

Moto Mobility has some foundation IPR. Things like selecting one of several data connections to use (e.g. use WiFi when available instead of 3G). The first smart phone was the Moto-Q, and yes, there are design patents on the layout (look out RIM), and utility patents on many common concepts (which Apple hasn't avoided either). It is a great buy for whomever wants to have the big stick in the mobile IPR fight.

john.g
john.g

I thought I wanted Siri, that was until I tried using it. Especially in the car...when I wanted to call someone hands free, with my Aussie accent and a little bit of background noise Siri is actually worse than the original voice control at finding a contact and calling them. As for extending it across the product lines, forget it until Siri actually works properly.

pepumariusdoru
pepumariusdoru

And this is the main reason why this thing will not catch on to the mass public. Ofc, it is ok in the comfort of your own home, or in the car (when alone), but on the street or at office... I hardly can think of someone using voice-activated phones. The exact same situation is with video-calling. How many people do you see walking on the street with their phone right in front talking to someone on video-call? None. Period!

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

It is open for you to do anything with it. But in order to save your customers from complaining and whining. You better let Google manage at least the core Google services. Google is not trying to completely take control of Android. They are just giving more options to off load the OEMers who have proven to fail at software designs.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Plenty of people have become comfortable walking around in public talking to the Bluetooth-delivered voices in their heads. Headband-suspended cameras and displays can't be too far behind.