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Do we care about gadget specs?

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Nokia's Lumia 920, left, will be available on Telstra and the 820 on Vodafone and later Optus.

Nokia's Lumia 920, left, will be available on Telstra and the 820 on Vodafone and later Optus.

It is simply a battle of ecosystems?

Everyone has their favourite smartphone and tablet. Ask them why they love it and they'll probably rattle off a list of specs and features which help it stand out from the crowd -- the slender design, amazing display, raw grunt, varied connectivity and impressive photographs. Clearly it's the best gadget money can buy, with the OS and ecosystem the icing on the cake.

But here's an interesting experiment. Imagine that the iPhone 5 ran Windows Phone 8, the Galaxy S III ran iOS and the Lumia 920 ran Android. Think about it seriously -- would you still be blown away by all those amazing features if your gadget of choice was suddenly part of a different ecosystem?

I think we simply pick out the best parts of the spec sheet to justify our bias. Android owners wouldn't be as impressed by the Galaxy S III's raw grunt if it ran Windows Phone 8. Alternatively the Lumia 920's impressive camera and strong mapping features would lose their appeal for WinPho 8 lovers if it suddenly ran Android. We'd all simply go back to the spec sheet and pluck out the biggest numbers to support our love of our platform of choice.

When you think about it this way, the gadget wars will never be won with gadgets. Nokia's new Lumia 920 could print money and it would still struggle to win over Apple and Android fans. So how does Microsoft claw back market share from its established competitors? It's all about the ecosystem -- about offering devices which play nicely together and make your life easier, rather than devices which simply boast the best spec sheet.

Microsoft is actually leading the way with Windows 8, uniting computers and handheld gadgets under the one interface and ecosystem. But to be honest I'm not confident that Microsoft can pull it off. Not because Windows 8 is terrible but because Microsoft is terrible at selling itself. I saw my first Windows 8 advertisement on television last night and it simply looked like an iPad wannabe. There was no sense of the ecosystem and smooth interoperability between devices, because that would require a consistent wider strategy which Microsoft seems incapable of maintaining.

Surface tablets were treated as an aside at last week's Windows 8 launch and only two units were available for the country's tech media to try out. The so-called pop-up Windows 8 stores around the country are reportedly not much to get excited about either. Meanwhile Windows Phone 8 was relegated to an entirely separate launch this week. Individually these Microsoft gadgets will struggle to win people away from Apple and Android, regardless of their spec sheets. The ecosystem is the killer feature, but Microsoft seems so large and fragmented that the left and right hands never synchronise their calendar appointments.

What floats your boat, a sexy spec sheet or a smooth ecosystem? How will they influence the gadget wars?

10 comments so far

  • For me it's ease of use and reliability. I want a phone which is great as a phone, fit's in a pocket, and has good connectivity, camera plus battery life is important. Easy data transfer is also important - my old Nokia E71 had pc software that automatically collected all the photo's & video's from the phone. I was also very impressed with HP's tablet & smartphone and how they linked, was ready to buy both when they dropped them! Right now I'm Droid, but not sure where to go and I need a new phone...

    Commenter
    lidone
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    October 31, 2012, 12:44PM
    • For me, the ecosystem rules, OK? But so far, I see no signs that Microsoft has woken up to this.

      The Windows PC is where I live, and visits to tablets and smart phones are mere occasional diversions. So if I am to be enticed into the mobile end of Windows 8, it will be for one reason and one reason only: so that I can maintain the Windows PC feel. Oh, plus also use the Windows PC software. Unfortunately, I am unconvinced it will do either.

      Microsoft's problem is that it tends to be focus so much on what it WANTS to achieve in its own head that it forgets to pay attention to what is happening elsewhere. For me, this was never so evident as during the launch of the ill-fated Vista. As it happened, I found myself a guinea pig in its marketing research, and being asked questions like, did I think that Feature A is (a) Excellent; (b) Awesome; (c) Absolutely Orgasmic? Answers suggesting any lesser opinion were neither invited nor allowed.

      I would very much like Windows to succeed with Windows 8, but I agree with Adam Turner: they are well off the mark so far. My guess is that Windows 8 will go down in history as a failure to rival Vista, and only with Windows 9 will they finally get their act together. My instinct is now to write off Windows 8, and wait till the real thing comes along.

      Commenter
      Arafurian
      Date and time
      October 31, 2012, 12:49PM
      • Gadget specs only matter if your gadget has the best!!

        Commenter
        Noel
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        October 31, 2012, 1:08PM
        • MS *can* pull it off, but it will not be easy and will take a few years.

          Android continues to be consistent at what its doing, not much to say there, but fragmentation within its own ecosystem remains very messy. Still though, the Android uptake from consumers remains really strong.

          Apple is starting its downhill slide and everyone can see it. iTunes 11 is delayed by a MONTH, and several key figures at Apple have resigned or been fired. The reaction to iP5 was poor (even though sales are good), as is the reaction to iPad-mini.

          Many people now are shifting gears. Lots of people sick of Apple and wanting to try something new. Some people on Android are curious about Windows Phone, as are some Apple users too.

          There's little about Windows Phone which is actually lacking - but yes, the problem is Microsoft's marketing and that they are still considered daggy.

          They are TERRIBLE at marketing themselves - even when they bring out two AWESOME new products in Surface and Windows Phone which are actually very cool, forward thinking and different.

          Commenter
          Mr M
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          October 31, 2012, 1:27PM
          • Is there really a huge difference between the various android/apple/whatever else devices? The specs are all pretty similiar, they all do pretty much the same thing. It just comes down to personal preference and what you are used to. And reading most of the comments that accompany these articles, apparently it is the most important choice in the history of human civilisation.

            And the windows tablet might be the best thing ever, but that ad with the two blokes who went on adventures together was really lame.

            Commenter
            Leg Side Wizard
            Date and time
            October 31, 2012, 1:49PM
            • My laptop runs Windows7, I own an iPhone and an iPad, and I've just bought a Nexus 10 tablet. Technological convenience and functionality means diversifying, not blind allegiance to any particular OS.

              Commenter
              Jessica
              Location
              Mosman
              Date and time
              October 31, 2012, 6:39PM
              • Nice comment. You are the actual opposite of the typical fanboy/girl. If you are totally down one path, some may say ecosystem/ apps etc, I prefer to think that they are closed minded.

                Commenter
                Glen
                Date and time
                November 01, 2012, 1:14AM
            • Great specs definitely do make a difference, but not every spec is created equal.
              * A great resolution screen is almost a must.
              * Size matters, I like a bigger screen, my eyes aren't what they used to be.
              * A special camera might sway me to switch OSs (Nokia 808 - sadly that's symbian which is a step too far).

              The rest are nice but not deal breakers or makers.

              Commenter
              James
              Date and time
              October 31, 2012, 6:49PM
              • Absolutely. The OS has always been the first choice when deciding on a gadget, and in recent years, the choice of OS has become a choice of ecosystem as the smart providers saw the value in convergence across devices. Personally, i've always chosen the OS and then checked the specs of the relevant devices.

                For years, that meant Android. I had an iPad, but as I got it when there were no other tablets available, it wasn't much of a choice. Everything else defaulted to Google because it was a complete ecosystem that was compatible with Windows.

                More recently, I've made the jump to Apple and the OS X ecosystem for an even more streamlined experience. Even Android/Google still has to include Windows in the mix as a Chrome desktop doesn't exist - yet.

                So I find it highly entertaining that Microsoft have a) finally woken up to why their competitors have been stealing market share in recent years and b) still pretended in their launch PR that this ecosystem idea is somehow new and revolutionary. And then they completely stuff up that core message with the disjointed way they've released the various devices.

                They'll still find a market in those rusted-on Windows-using businesses that have wanted to include tablets and smartphones efficiently within their IT environment for years, but it's not necessarily going to entice others back from the other ecosystems. They'll possibly slow the erosion of their market share, not stop or reverse it.

                Commenter
                Kimota
                Location
                Glebe
                Date and time
                November 01, 2012, 10:08AM
                • Of course specs matter, if they didn't phones would still be 'just phones'. That said, the ecosystem in which they exist is also a factor when buying and for me:

                  iOS: I don't like the closed ecosystem for both hardware and software. I also generally don't like the people who flock to buy new Apple products just because they are out
                  Android: So far a fan and being able to buy an app once to install on the 5 Android devices I own is a huge bonus - and yet schools still pay per copy with iTunes. The fact that using the hardware as an owner of it (mods, removing bloatware, etc) will void my warranty sucks
                  WP8: I would love this to be my PC in my pocket, but with WP8, Surface and my PC all running different versions of the OS, with incompatible products across them, stupid, stupid mistake MS. When Windows 9 lands and is more unified, where my $200 Office suite is installable on all products I own, then I will be a supporterOf course specs matter, but the ecosystem in which they exist is also a factor whether for better worse

                  Commenter
                  MP
                  Location
                  Sydney
                  Date and time
                  November 01, 2012, 10:34AM

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