Fiber series fifth week news Abstract 5
Week News Abstract For Fiber Series in 10GTEK
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2011: the technology year in review
In retrospect, 2011 was a year of enormous change in the computing and internet industry – although it was one in which the ground was
laid, rather than coming immediately to fruition.
• the ascendance of the ARM chip architecture, and Microsoft's
• the ascendance of Android, and smartphones
• Samsung's rise to prominence
• the humbling of Nokia and the crushing of RIM
• the destruction of security and online trust
• the death of Flash and the rise of HMTL5
• the (continued) erosion of privacy
• the intrusion of patents
Into Microsoft's ARMs
It opened with the Consumer Electronics Show, and on everyone's lips was just one question: which of the dozens of tablets being announced
(and in some cases shown off) would overtake Apple in this intriguing, fast-growing market? "Honeycomb", the 3.0 version of Android, was
wafted under our noses by Motorola (and promised but not shown by Asus), while RIM briefly showed the PlayBook, with its promise of Flash
playback – the place the iPad would never go.
Then Microsoft leapt into CES and dropped a stone whose ripples will spread for years to come. The next version of Windows wouldn't only
run on Intel chips; it would also run on the ARM architecture used in smartphones, as well as in the iPad and every other non-Windows
tablet out there. The idea of tablets running Windows Phone (then only three months old) was simply not countenanced: Microsoft was going
to get Windows onto tablets. Why ARM? Because its low-power characteristics mean that you get better battery life. Try as it might – and
it has tried plenty – Intel's performance per watt has simply never matched ARM's.
For Microsoft, seeing the way that the market is shifting – with PC sales shrinking in the west, its traditional market – tablets are an
important bridge to the future. The demonstration at CES laid the groundwork for the next version of Windows, which we'll see in 2012.
Microsoft then has a thin line to tread: if Windows 8 on the traditional Intel desktop form factor is like Windows 7, why upgrade? If
Windows 8 on a tablet has both the same licence price as Windows on the desktop and a curated app store (the former is unknown, the latter
has been announced) then will people want it? And how will tablet makers be able to undercut Apple with comparable equipment if they're
paying a Windows licence fee?
Despite everything we saw at CES (where Apple didn't exhibit), the iPad is finishing the year with about 60% of the market, with some
Chinese companies withdrawing from the tablet market altogether because it just isn't profitable if you're not selling iPads.
Taken together, 2010 and 2011 have been the years of fastest growth ever in the smartphone market, at 72% and 50% respectively. In a world
where people have 8.1bn mobile phones, and mobile connections are outnumbering fixed ones, having a significant share of the mobile market
During those two years, Android went from being 9.6% of smartphones sold to 52% – while the volume of smartphones being sold tripled. That
means it was far more dominant at the end of the period than the beginning; Andy Rubin of Google tweeted that activations were now running
at 700,000 per day (though an analysis by Horace Dediu of Asymco suggests that Google cherrypicks the activation numbers for peak periods).
But still, there seem to be between 224m and 253m Android devices out there.
The reality is that it's Android which is driving the smartphone revolution. Be in no doubt that that revolution is a good thing: bringing
the internet to everyone across the globe, so that they can tell their stories, or get help, can only be positive. Look no further than the
Arab Spring, and the way that Syrian activists are able to get their story out by filming and uploading from their phones, for the proof.
Among the rivals, while Apple has had blowout quarters (becoming the largest smartphone vendor both in revenues and shipment in the second
quarter, only to be overtaken by Samsung in the third), the sheer tide of Android phones is overwhelming it along with all other
competitors. So far Apple has shown no sign of wanting to compete directly on price at the low end, letting older models such as the iPhone
3GS serve to fill gaps in its offering.
It's nothing like its approach to the music player market, when it constantly refreshed the iPod lineup, in different sizes and prices. But
the smartphone market is not like the iPod market (or the tablet market): it's divided among many players, and none has more than about 25%
of the sector. That makes it prone to sudden shifts when one company or another gets a competitive advantage.
The Korean company has grasped the opportunity offered by Android with both hands and made the most of it. It was the first to react to the
iPad with an Android tablet, the 7in Galaxy Tab (remember?). That didn't sell, so it ditched it and moved to a larger version, while its
smartphone division worked overtime to produce more and better phones.
Samsung's advantage isn't just that it's big: it's also inventive, and can get a lot of what it wants done in-house because it makes
everything from NAND flash and DRAM chips to touchscreen panels to flatscreen TVs. The only thing it doesn't make is the software (apart
from its Bada mobile OS, which is being quietly deemphasised.)
2011 was the year that Samsung discovered it could rule in the way that it wants to: it is reckoned to have become the largest smartphone
vendor by shipments and revenue in the third quarter. I say "reckoned", because it didn't release any precise figures for revenues or
shipments. (Contrast that to Apple, RIM or Nokia, which provide hefty amounts of detail about where their business comes from.)
Will analysts start querying its financial and shipment figures (which presently they have to guess at)? Will Samsung provide more clarity
about its financial workings, or does that go against the rules of the chaebol?
Crushed by circumstance: Nokia and RIM
On arriving at Nokia from Microsoft in September 2010, Stephen Elop found a company whose strategy was in tatters. Symbian, the mobile OS
that apparently dominated the world smartphone market, was making no impression in the US, the biggest smartphone market, and dwindling in
Europe. Worse, it wasn't suitable for the touchscreen operation that people were demanding.
Elop decided that Symbian had to go; it wasn't future-proof. But the parachute that the Nokia team had been relying on, Meego, wasn't ready
either, and he could see it wouldn't be ready in time. After some rapid negotiations with Google and Microsoft, he convinced his former
employers to hand over $1bn for marketing and let Nokia tweak Windows Phone to its taste. The announcement came in February, and had been
expected (helped by a tweet from Google's Vic Gundotra – who'd been in on the negotiations – that "two turkeys don't make an eagle".
Nokia didn't do well as a result. Its travails have been well-reported: Symbian's market share has gone from Android-ish levels to an also
-ran. Its Lumia 800 may or may not have sold well (the lack of any hard figures suggests there's nothing stunning happening). A company
that once ruled the mobile world is now under attack on all fronts – in China, its former stronghold (where cheap white-label phones are
taking off) and in Europe.
Yet Nokia has determination; there's a sort of corporate culture that drives the company onwards towards the light. Elop made tough
decisions which have killed projects and moved thousands of jobs out of the company, but Nokia has snapped to it: the Lumia is a wonderful
piece of hardware, as nice to hold as any phone produced in the entire year.
One can't help but contrast that with RIM, which began the year promising that it would have a 4G version of the PlayBook which would
connect to the Sprint network, yet when it arrived it underwhelmed: there was no inbuilt email or calendar functionality, and its lack of
apps made Android's Honeycomb look well-stocked – which it wasn't.
RIM wasn't helped by the late arrival of new phones, and the fact that it had completely overestimated how the PlayBook would sell: it
ordered something like 2m, and shipped about 850,000. Overconfidence is a continuing trait of the public pronouncements of RIM's chiefs.
The company has serious problems. The co-chief executives don't seem to be able to figure out a strategy that will keep them ahead of the
rivals. The situation was bad enough when it was just Apple and Android; but now that Microsoft and Nokia have teamed up, adding their heft
to the Windows Phone platform, RIM is beginning to look like the runt of the pack. In December, when RIM announced its quarterly financial
results, Mike Lazaridis – or was it Jim Balsillie? – said that they were in a strong financial position, given that they have a billion
dollars in cash.
True. But six months earlier, they had two billion dollars in cash. Like Nokia, but about a year later, RIM is discovering that its
existing operating system isn't up to the challenges of present competition. However, Nokia has survived multiple existential threats, and
adapted to them. RIM has never had to go through that.
You haven't seen us
The hacking of Sony's PlayStation Network in April is claimed to have revealed tens of millions of credit card details. It's impossible to
know how many were actually stolen, or used. Nor do we know – even now, seven months later – what Sony has found out, or who was behind
it. The loose hacking collective Anonymous was blamed, though no definite proof has been provided.
Then came the hacking of the business owned by Aaron Barr, who had been promising that he could get inside Anonymous and identify – in
real life – its "leaders". He got turned over himself, and the results weren't pretty – although it's worth noting that by the end of the
year Barr was back, and appeared mostly unscathed.
But that was the start of a hacking spree, by a "crew" calling themselves LulzSec ("lulz" for the laughs, sec for the security, or lack of
it) who broke in to various sites. The lesson was obvious, and has been known among security circles for a long time: many websites aren't
that secure, because they use slightly outdated software (for the web server, or PHP, or database). LulzSec simply brought that into the
open, most notably in breaking into the News International servers to put up spoof pages.
It couldn't last – principally because they had attacked the US Congress website and the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) site.
"If they had just stayed with the commercial ones, nothing would have happened apart from some folks would have had meetings and consumed
huge amounts of coffee and biscuits and resolved to improve their security," one expert told me. A number of people are awaiting trial in
2012 in relation to attacks on a number of sites.
Those, however, were just a sideshow. Elsewhere, the entire web of trust surrounding secure sites was unravelling. In March, a certificate
authority called Comodo was hacked, and used by a self-proclaimed Iranian hacker to issue "legitimate" SSL certificates for a number of
sites – including Google, Skype, Mozilla, Live.com and Yahoo.
Certificate authorities are to SSL-based security (when you see the padlock in your browser bar) what domain name servers are to web
navigation – you have to trust that they're correct, because otherwise everything falls apart.
SSL certificates confirm that a secure site really is what it says it is; your computer (or smartphone) has a list inside it of certificate
authorities that it trusts, so when you visit an SSL site it checks the certificate against the issuer. If the issuer isn't on the list,
you get a warning.
But what if a hacker has created a fake certificate from the real authority? Then any site is, as far as your computer or phone knows,
legitimate if it presents that certificate. The implications for shopping or other interaction are huge: you become vulnerable to a "man-
in-the-middle" (MITM) attack, where someone operates a site using the "new" certificate between you and the real site. From your end, it's
a legitimate SSL site. For the person running it, they can see everything passing between you and the real site. Comodo's certificates were
revoked, but it depended on whether people accepted a browser update whether they would be protected.
That wasn't the end. In July, a Dutch SSL certificate authority Diginotar – which provided the SSL certificates for sites including the
Dutch government – was hacked, and a number of certificates, including one for Google, issued. That was used for a MITM attack on Iranian
users of Google Mail – another indication that web security really does have human consequences.
Nobody quite knows what the next step for the certificate authority system is. But those in the know agree that it's broken. This is,
potentially, one of the most important things to have happened to the web in 2011 – and how it is dealt with in 2012 may be crucial.
Flash in the pan
You'll probably have noticed that Apple hasn't exactly been in love with Adobe's Flash platform since the launch of the iPhone, but that
intensified with the iPad's arrival in spring 2010. So what was Adobe going to do about it? Initially, fight. During the Mobile World
Congress in March, Adobe put out some forecasts (go to 11.45) about how many mobile devices would have Flash on them by year-end: 132m,
including 50 tablets. However, in the context of an expected 450m smartphones to be sold this year (which is on target; 324m in the first
three quarters), that was less than one-third.
Apple didn't support Flash, RIM didn't support Flash on its BlackBerry (though confusingly it did on the PlayBook), Microsoft didn't on
Windows Phone 7; in fact, only Android handset makers did. Of course, they're rather important, but Adobe could see that it was more
important to be pervasive – as Flash is on the desktop, with 95%-plus penetration – than a "nice to have".
And so in November, in a rather mealy-mouthed blogpost, said – as if happy – that "HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile
devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile
platforms. We are excited about this."
Flash for the desktop will continue, it suggested, but it's hard to imagine that it will have any energy poured into it: the share of
browsers capable of showing HTML5-specific content is growing rapidly. Flash was necessary once, but that was then, and HTML5 is now – or
at least will be in 2012. Especially given the way that smartphones have outsold PCs in every single quarter, and that tablets (of all
sorts) are going to be equivalent to 25% of PC sales for the fourth quarter.
In 2011 both Facebook and Google were told that they would have to submit to oversight from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US
for the next 20 years. Google was pulled up over Buzz, which opted you in whether you wanted it or not; Facebook over its continual
changing of privacy settings. Facebook's approach to privacy seems to be to suggest that you don't really want it. Just when you think
you're comfortable, it changes again.
Google tried again with Google+ in June. My own first experience wasn't great (it improved) but – like almost everyone, I suspect –
nobody could work out was Google+ was for, except to be "something that will divert some people away from Facebook". The idea of "Circles"
into which you put people, and then tell them things specific to them, is classic Google – the engineering solution to a people problem.
In a way, it's the flipside of Buzz, where everyone got connected whether or not they wanted to be.
The trouble with Circles is that nobody who has anything resembling a job has time for them. Should that thoughtful insight about Strictly
Come Dancing go to everyone? Just your family? The workmates who you might see on Monday, so they can enjoy your wit? Hell, who knows? As
for Sparks, its source of "highly contagious content from across the internet", that seems to have been killed. (If it's there, it's well
Details of the number of users have been well-hidden, but the real problem with Google+ is that its approach to privacy works against what
we've gotten used to over the past decade. We're used to putting our stuff on the net, and then desperately rowing back; the European
Commission's forthcoming data privacy principles are expected to allow us to wipe out embarrassing or unwanted data from the past – an
Nevertheless, privacy is starting to look very ill indeed. All a private investigator needs these days is a couple of pages where you've
left a pseudonymous comment, and they can follow you around the web and unearth your real name, family connections and probably phone
number. No subterfuge required; it's all there if you join the dots.
Patents. Oh, what a year. Apple's war on Android (more specifically, what Steve Jobs saw as Android's copying of iPhone features –
something which Google's lead designer declined to comment on) spawned dozens of lawsuits. Microsoft pitched in, extracting per-handset
licence fees from Samsung, HTC and a number of other Android manufacturers. Google huffed that: "Failing to succeed in the smartphone
market, they are resorting to legal measures to extort profit from others' achievements and hinder the pace of innovation."
The response of Frank Shaw, Microsoft's head of PR: "Let me boil down the Google statement … from 48 words to one: Waaaah." Android is set
to do better business for Microsoft then Windows Phone at the moment. And it's all profit.
Then there were the ones by Lodsys on app developers, despite the fact that both Apple and Google had licensed its in-app purchasing
Yes, yes, you can argue about whether those should be patentable. But they have been, and the US does have a patent system, and that's how
it works. Grumbling really isn't going to change it – although the protestations of large companies with powerful lobbyists might. That,
and the fact that non-American app developers began moving out of the US, because they worried about its effects.
Overall, it was a remarkable year: Android's rise means that there's a new ruler in the smartphone market, rather as Microsoft used to be
with Windows Mobile. The hard question now is whether it can hang on to it.
Meanwhile, the mobile web is growing faster than the desktop one, and becoming the focus. But the far, far bigger question is about what
will replace certificate authorities and rebuild a trust system on the web. That's far more important than the ups and downs of the
A look ahead: 2012 is Microsoft's turning point
2011 was in many ways a quiet (albeit thoroughly profitable) year for Microsoft. The company made big, important announcements—the Nokia
partnership, the Windows 8 reveal—but neither had much impact in 2011. Nokia has released only a couple of handset models in a few
countries this year, and Windows 8 is not yet in beta.
2011 for Microsoft was all about telling us what to look forward to.
2012 will be when that talk becomes real. 2012 will be when lots of Microsoft's talk becomes real.
Microsoft has talked of its "three screens and a cloud" strategy—the plan to have Microsoft software on the PC (which, in Redmond's view,
includes the tablet), the TV, and the phone, with the Microsoft-powered cloud tying everything together. In 2012, this strategy is going to
become visible in a way it hasn't been before.
For businesses and system administrators, Microsoft has long provided a kind of "common platform." Windows and Windows applications can be
managed and deployed in consistent ways, and different business applications all tap in to common infrastructure like Active Directory and
Windows Installer and Group Policies and so on.
But for end-users and consumers, the story has been very different. Historically, Microsoft's attitude towards consistency and commonality
has always been lackadaisical. Windows Phone doesn't look or feel like Windows 7. Until lately, the Xbox 360 dashboard looked like neither.
Office always worked in a way that was downright weird and totally different from the rest of the operating system.
This was deliberate to some extent—distancing the gamer-oriented Xbox from the staid and business-like Microsoft brand, for example—but
it has a downside, as it means that, for consumers the different Microsoft platforms don't really form a coherent ecosystem. You might like
using Windows 7 on the desktop, but that counts for nothing if you want a phone or tablet or gaming system or entertainment system.
That's starting to change.
The most important event for Microsoft in 2012 will be the release of Windows 8. Windows 8 will fuse Microsoft's long-standing tablet dream
—the tablet as a kind of PC—with the post-iOS notion of "touch" and a new "design language"—that is, a standard look and feel, a
standard set of idioms and concepts—known as "Metro." And Metro is going to be everywhere.
Some of the Metro pieces are already on the market. The first is Windows Phone. Windows Phone is still struggling to gain traction with
users, and 2012 will be a critical year. Microsoft is counting on Nokia to be able to expand the reach and market share of its phone
platform. Early indications in the few markets that Nokia is selling its first Windows Phone models, the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800, are
inconsistent. Reports from mobile networks and resellers are positive, but analysts are claiming that the phones are not selling well.
The Xbox 360's dashboard update last month gave that platform a new Metro-style user interface. It also marked the start of the Xbox 360's
transition from a gaming platform into an entertainment platform. The Xbox 360 has long served in some capacity as a media system in
addition to its main role as a gaming device. For example, LIVE Gold subscribers can use it to stream Netflix; it also works as a Windows
Media Center Extender. But these features have been narrow—it couldn't tap into the growing number of catch-up video-on-demand and
streaming services that many broadcasters offer, for example—and the Xbox wasn't a general-purpose media platform.
With the new dashboard, it's now turning into one. Many broadcasters are already supported with more coming soon. And the new features are
just "applications," enabling new ones to be trivially added whenever the company (and broadcasters) want. The Xbox 360 is now relevant to,
and attractive to, even those without any interest in playing games: Microsoft at long last has a system for any living room.
It's not just the three platforms that'll pick up Metro styling. Microsoft has started to roll it out to Web properties—even those that
aren't consumer-facing, such as its Windows Azure site—management interfaces for server applications, and more. The design will become a
unifying element across the company's range of products.
How this will work for complex applications such as Office remains a concern—but in a change from practices of old, the company is taking
design seriously, as the company's design lead Steve Kaneko told the Verge in an interview earlier this month.
Presenting a common message to consumers now matters for Microsoft, and over 2012, the Metro look-and-feel will increasingly become the
"The cloud" isn't to be forgotten either. Windows 8 will support the use of Windows Live credentials to log in. Settings and applications
can be shared between computers, all using "the cloud"—in particular the Windows Live and SkyDrive services. Windows Phone similarly
leverages and integrates SkyDrive and other cloud services. These consumer-oriented cloud services are being opened up to developers, too,
with an improved SDK for both Windows Phone and Windows 8.
Much hinges on Windows 8's reception. If Windows 8 doesn't appeal to consumers, Microsoft's position will become very difficult. A flop
won't be fatal. Microsoft is too big a company, with too many successful, diverse products, to fail just because one product does badly,
and that's true even for a product line as important as Windows.
But the Windows 8 release will be instrumental both in defining the PC's role in the future, and Microsoft's role in the tablet market. For
all Microsoft's position of the tablet as a kind of PC, Windows 8 could succeed in one or other of the tablet and desktop markets and fail
in the other. Failure in the tablet market is perhaps the more grave. It may be awkward and embarrassing for Microsoft if desktop users to
stick with Windows 7 on the desktop, but this has happened before, with many users sticking with Windows XP instead of switching to Windows
Vista, and the long-term impact was slight.
Failure in the tablet would mean conceding that market to Android and iOS, until and unless Windows 9 does something so tremendous that it
makes the tablet market simply irrelevant. Either way, the PC isn't going to disappear, and it's certainly not going to be replaced by
tablets across the board. But it offers little in the way of growth potential, and with tablets filling some of the roles traditionally
filled by PCs, PC replacement cycles will become longer. That's not good for Microsoft.
Success in the tablet market, however, will reap rewards beyond the tablet sales. Popular Metro-style tablets are almost certain to have a
positive influence on (Metro-style) Windows Phones. If people like the interface, and recognize that it works well, they're going to want
it in more places. To really take advantage of the possible halo effect, Windows Phone's interface will have to change, too, to handle some
of the new gestures and concepts that Windows 8 introduces.
Though we don't think it's time-critical, there's an outside chance that Windows 8 will ship on more than just tablets and desktops next
year—it might even power Windows Phone 8 (codenamed Apollo), finally bringing the "Windows Everywhere" dream to life. Even if this doesn't
happen, software development across the Microsoft ecosystem is becoming far more consistent.
The risks posed are substantial. If consumers don't buy in to the Metro vision, if they shun Xbox 360, shun Windows Phone, shun Windows 8
tablets, if their reaction is that they hate it, Microsoft is damaging not just a single product, but its entire product line up. The
company will survive, but it will be a lesser company if it does. Redmond has never tried to pull off such a big move. The closest it came
was with Windows 95, but although it did introduce a new look-and-feel that spread to most Microsoft software, this was a far more
But if the gamble pays off, the rewards will be considerable too. Microsoft could take a big chunk out of the tablet and phone markets, a
chunk that will only expand as the value offered by its unified platform grows larger. A good 2012 will cement Microsoft's dominance for
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