I’m attending the Microsoft VC summit in California. Some interesting presentations and updates regarding various happenings around Microsoft. I’ve got some items that will be of interest to start ups which I will post about later.
In the meantime, I received a great food for thought email from a super smart guy, Pete Field. Pete has done some great work in various portfolio companies of JLA and his thoughts may interest you.
Over to you, Pete:
This might be a common topic around your forward looking circles, but I thought I would drop you a note as I have not seen anybody write about this in the bit of research I have done online. With Apple’s announcement a few weeks ago that it was dumping the Portal Player chips in favor of a Samsung chip, I was struck by the big question of…why?
The Portal Player is a 16bit chip and has proven itself as a solid performer for the main applications of a portable media device (music, photo’s video), and Portal Player is releasing a new chip with improved video performance. The Samsung chip is a 32-bit chip based on an ARM design. This will of course result in decreased battery life, and I didn’t really see what was to be gained.
Then I was struck by the possibility that they could run OS-X on a 32-bit ARM with very little changes to the OS. Though I haven’t come across much data about Unix running on an ARM, I have run across some details of Linux running on ARM devices so I don’t think it is a huge step for OS-X to make that jump. Look how quickly they made the jump to x86.
Once again Apple gets second mover advantage (following Microsoft devices OQO and UMPCs). I suspect they are smart enough to not have a device try to do all things for all people, but the new caveat may be – at all times. I think this is where Microsoft and their hardware partners are missing the boat with the UMPC. Running OS-X on an iPod would quickly gain market share for their OS.
I see the potential for Media mode and computer mode.
1) Media mode – a non-docked iPod with the ability to play Music, video and view pictures. Very little overhead and clutter of the complete OS.
2) OS-X mode – running the complete OS – potentially the device may have to be docked to use most of the features as the experience of running a full desktop OS on a limited device doesn’t seem to match apple’s dedication to usability.
With a number of people using iPods as portable storage devices, the iPod could quickly move into the Mac Mini as Media Center role, with the exception that the iPod already comes with you anyway. By the time the iPod with the Samsung chips are released, flash memory will be available in the 20gb range, and hard-drives should be nearing the 200gb range. I believe that Apple has also attempted to patent some new computer input methods and this would go a long way to getting the iPod adapted by more business users. The whole thing is as big as the power-supply for most laptops. How many business users would ditch their laptop for something like that? And the cost of the iPod would not have to increase much in order to fulfill this goal.
The rebuttal of course is that Windows has the UMPC, but the price of the UMPC is currently double that of an iPod, and apparently the UMPCs are a bit lacking in experience. Many users won’t need the ability to access all their files all the time. When docked – I use it in computer mode. When not docked, I just want the media functions easily accessible.
The next question on my mind is of course – how best to take advantage of this?
Thanks for the email and thoughts, Pete.