Saturday, I spent some time in a mall where they opened a Microsoft store. I wondered if they were actually doing anything, other than having an opposing opinion/option to the Apple store in the mall.
I remembered the original opening weekend of 2 Microsoft stores, where the employees broke into a spontaneous, planned dance. Microsoft tries so hard to be kewl, but they just don't get it.
The employees at the local store were friendly and they wanted to be helpful, but they seemed to be standing at the front of the store in order to keep people out. I seemed to be the only one willing to go into the store, even though the Apple store was rather busy.
What's happening with the iPhone 5S? The rumors are in conflict. You can bet that there will be a device the same shape and size as the current iPhone 5. That's a given, as it's too expensive to change the physical design every year.
There should also be a lower cost model, as selling the iPhone 5 as the low cost model just won't work well. They could do it as a loss leader but they are a profitable business and all devices must be profitable. Will they have a MacBook-type of model to offset their MacBook Pro-type that's always been the model? It makes the most sense.
I have buddies who are in the computer/phone/tablet repair business and they were talking about the price of the iPhone 5 display being prohibitive to replace at around US$300. As there are more manufactured and sold, the price will eventually drop, but demand is still good. Of course, the iPhone 4S display is around US$100 so it's cheap enough that they could lose a little money to gain customers. I doubt seriously that they'll go back to a low (320x480) resolution display to offer in developing countries.
Don't expect great changes with the iPhone 5S. It'll be the same, but better. That's Apple. You should expect an improved camera and 802.11ac WiFi, plus improved LTE. Right now, they need to work on fixing iOS 6, rather than doing big things with new hardware. Oh, and they'll likely have a low-power, higher performance CPU + enhanced GPU with almost double the performance.
I was told to expect some iPad mini-related changes in April but I don't feel they're coming, unless they're placed in the tablets without a word. I believe that they're testing a more power-efficient CPU/GPU for widescale release later. That doesn't go along with the other hints about the higher resolution display, but they're apparently having trouble securing enough of those to produce tablets without a press-worthy scandal.
What should be coming in April are some announcements from Panasonic and Olympus for micro Four-Thirds. Panasonic's supposed merged GX1 and GF5 replacement didn't happen. The GX1/G5 replacement should happen at the same time. What's not being mentioned is a replacement for the AG-AF100/AF105 video recorder but there is a rumor for a totally new camera. Would they bring a semi-professional model to the masses, above the GH3 but at half the price of the AF100? I seem to remember the Canon XL1 and GL1 being the gateway drugs to Canon's film-making products. Shouldn't Panasonic have more?
Noting my earlier thoughts about the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera, will Panasonic quickly revise the GH3 to compete? Will Canon do something, anything to compete? At US$995, the device stands to wipe away a lot of barriers with what it can do. Of course, high quality lenses are still cost-prohibitive. They've shown the camera body attached to cine lenses, mounted in a typical rig. Obviously, being used in hand, it presents typical problems of using a tiny camera body attached to a heavy lens, which is why I don't like most of micro Four-Thirds bodies.
T-Mobile--the last stand
Is it destined for erasure from history? It seems that way. They're going all out to either change the industry or destroy themselves. I've seen that Verizon picked up on the finance a full-priced phone bit but I suspect Verizon won't end the Early Termination Fee or contracts. It would give their account department heart attacks trying to predict future income. Right now, when someone signs a contract, they can fill buckets for 24 months and project how they'll be faring a long way into the future. If T-Mobile is all month-to-month revenue, can they predict anything?
I've noticed that Sprint has fixed a few things locally. They can't keep up with the onslaught of new smart phone users, but they've fixed some problems with their current capacity and speeds. As Nextel and the chirp go away, things will improve. If the agreement with Softbank and the other agreement with Clearwire work out, Sprint should shake off the past and regain some of its strength. Smart phones do seem to be killing all the providers, but at least, Sprint isn't publicly blaming their customers the way Cingular/AT&T does. (Oh, geez, Dish Network is proposing a US$25.5 billion merger with Sprint. Since Dish Network was trying to buy Clearwire, it makes sense but nooooo!)