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"Tell the chef, the beer is on me."
So I figured that, instead having this Blog idle around so much lately, I could test the WordPress Android app to write quick posts every once in a while when I don’t have time or a real computer with me for real posts.
The app even supports pictures so let’s see how that goes.
I am in the market for a new smartphone (my old Nokia E75 is showing its age and I’d just like a new spiffy device) so I have been looking at a few of the coming Android devices, especially the Motorola Atrix (and other Dual Core thingies).
If you look at the website of the Atrix thingy, you might notice a very interesting paragraph:
At the end of the day you’ll know all the information stored in your smartphone is safe, thanks to the fingerprint reader with its unique fingerprint recognition technology.
This tackles one of the most problematic aspects of our mobile lifestyle: We put more and more of ourselves into our laptops and our smartphones, but what happens when those devices get stolen (or just left behind)? You don’t want some random dude get access to all your data, “borrowing” your identity and buying a metric fuckton of crap on your name.
So we need to lock our devices and Motorola thought that a biometric lock would be nice, cause we know how it is: People forget their PIN or the touch gesture that unlocks their phone and they’re screwed, but they never forget their finger, right?
I wrote about biometrics before and why they suck but this case is a very special one. Let’s think like an attacker for a second.
So we found or stole this neat phone thingy and not we want to access that data in it, we have no PIN and the thing is protected by a fingerprint sensor. Maybe we just found the device so we don’t even know whose phone it is. What can we do, where can we find a fingerprint of Mr. or Mrs. X? Let me think … how about the bloody fucking touchscreen of the device you hold in your hand?
As I wrote in my old article
The problem with biometrics (and I know how ridiculous that sounds) is that they are connected to the body. All the details you can use to identify someone biometrically are always visible, because we can’t be anywhere without our body. We could of course start wearing gloves all the time, and hairnets and whatever we can think of to stop our body from dropping our biometrical identity all over the place but is that the world we want to live in? No.
Not only are biometrics in general not really that smart of an idea, but when we talk about touchscreen devices, fingerprints are probably the worst thing you can use for authentification, it’s in fact worse than not offering any protection because then people know that the device is insecure.
Motorola just used that thing as a gimmick, their engineers probably laughing at the people who believe that it’s a serious security measure. The real problem is that many people still carry devices around with them that contain a lot of personal, valuable data that are not encrypted.
Authentification is one thing and helps a little bit, but anyone who has physical access to your machine can get to it without knowing your password. The only thing that really helps security is to encrypt your harddrive with a strong passkey. And that is what needs to happen with smartphones fast (in fact that is one of the areas where my old Nokia E75 shines because it already offers that feature): Encryption needs to be available for the end user. Simple to use encryption that makes sure that your data is secure even if you lose your phone. And don’t connect that encryption key to your fingerprint.
So Microsoft needed to get its rather unpopular new phone operating system out and Nokia hasn’t managed to release anything worth talking about in the last year while burning money on projects with an obvious lack of vision and direction (MeeGo). But Nokia still has a big name so those two merged their activities by establishing a “strategic partnership”: Microsoft provides the software stack and developer tools, Nokia the hardware and connections to carriers. So why are we still talking about this?
Well turns out that today we basically see two different perspectives in the comments about this event: The one side feels betrayed because Nokia whored itself out to the “evil” Microsoft basically dropping most of the open source activities. The other side says that Windows Phone OS is great and the partnership is great and people should stop complaining because competition for Android and Apple is good. Both of these perspectives are wrong or at least off but each of them in a slightly different way.
The betrayed open source crowd is wrong because they still believed that Nokia would continue to pour money into MeeGo. MeeGo had no direction, no clear vision and no future. It changed GUI frameworks all the time, there was no reasonable schedule for device releases while the rest of the competition (Apple and Android) build up huge market and mind share. Nokia is a company that needs to make money. You can always invest in the future but when you realize that it will never pay off you gotta change what you are doing. So Nokia had to change its path and choose a different way: Build a new system (well, MeeGo didn’t work out so well so that was not a great option), choose Android or choose Microsoft. With Android Nokia would have just been one of the many Android customizers, not how Nokia sees itself. Microsoft was the last thing they saw as an option that looked good (especially with the main Nokia dude coming from Microsoft).
So we have the people saying how great it’s all gonna be who are wrong as well. Microsoft is about the slowest moving company in the IT world. Nokia’s problem is exactly the same: They don’t get their projects out of the door quickly enough, for simple phones cheap Chinese ripoffs are stealing their lunch and in the high-end sector they are non-existing. So we have two behemoths that want to enter a very quickly moving, technologically challenging market. Both partners are not really qualified and ready for it (Nokia said that they guess they’ll have their first Windows phones out in 18 months or something which is like a decade in the smartphone market.
What those two wrong opinions illustrate are two very common misconceptions about money.
Companies do not spend money on things because it’s “right” or “good”. They support open source if it helps them make money, they stop it if it makes them lose money. Really simple.
On the other hand: Just having two filthy fucking rich companies throw their power together does not magically fix problems: Every big company has its own structure, processes, agenda and culture that more often than not do not mix well with another partner. You create a lot of friction, your goals might or might not align. And even if that is not your problem, your goals align and your companies work together perfectly, you still have a lot of work to do just to catch up to the rest of the competition.
Nokia’s decision is understandable because it is the only one left for them. But it won’t save them, they managed to maneuver themselves into a corner with no good option left (coming from absolute market dominance). Today Microsoft effectively bought Nokia for 0€ because Nokia believes the move will keep them alive – which it will not. And as soon as Nokia fails to reach relevant market share with the windows phones Microsoft will be searching for a new “strategic partner” amongst all those companies that have not kept up with the market and can be considered “losers”.
So before you jump to one of the two conclusions I outlined earlier, just take a minute and think. The problem is simple: Just cause one move is the best one left to you, it still does not make it a good one.
"Tell the chef, the beer is on me."
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