Price of the 3G service can be cheap if you do it right. The usual arrangement with M2M applications (like for example a moblie version of the ive-fallen-and-cant-get-up button that I was involved in--it used an earlier UBlox module) is to arrange contract pricing in bulk. So if you know your firmware only needs an average 100 kB/day of data service, you buy a bucket of 1 GB/day to cover your 10,000 devices and bundle data service with your device.
But yeah, the battery drain issue makes this sort of device suitable only for wide-ranging mobile applications. For in-buildling/factory/campus installations a short range ISM band radio is more suitable. A tiny module isn't much help when you have to bolt it to a fat battery and decent antenna. Often a short-range radio should be included even when when a 3G module is present if doing so can keep average data consumption down and conserve battery energy.
I had something similar to your experience at an airport. I saw 5 computing devices (not counting phones): a Macbook, two iPads, and what looked like an Android tablet, plus my own Linux laptop. Not a machine in sight running Windows. That would have been unimaginable as recently as a year ago.
According to the stats I have seen, this is the year that the number of Linux systems in use (in the form of Android) will exceed Windows systems. In current sales Android is already blowing out Windows and, for that matter, everything else on Earth. The year of desktop Linux has arrived, but not in the way everyone was expecting. High fives, for now at least.
The existence of things like the Nitdroid project and Jolla/Sailfish, plus the fact that N9 matched or possibly outsold the Lumia crud despite the massive disparity in corporate support, shows how good the technology was. The last time I saw this was...ooh it hurts to type this name...the Amiga. Commodore went under, not due to poor demand for the Amiga, which was profitable to the very end, but due to massive losses in PC clones that led them to credit default with their suppliers. They couldn't get parts to build Amigas anymore.
I hope that the prevalence of open source these days gives the keepers of the Meego flame more success then the Amigans had.
I would make a stronger point about the removal of the floppy: Apple has an indifferent attitude toward removable media generally. The iPod, as hardware, would make a perfectly serviceable external hard drive, but software support for this was thin, and we also have the absence of SD slots. The organizing principle seems to be to have iTunes managing data instead of a file manager. iTunes knows more about the (meta-)data and can handle it with more aplomb than a general purpose file manager. That comes at the cost of limiting its scope (taking things out again) to AV media and rinky-dink apps, and keeping removable media at arm's length (copy and import rather than open up and look inside); using iTunes to manage CAD files or source code would be ridiculous.
On Gnome, I don't have much complaint. With Ubuntu and a fast connection, it is very easy to add in stuff as you need it, "Golly, I need XYZ...sudo apt-get install XYZ". My bigger beef is with KDE, which seems to be built by people who have spent too much time looking at Macs in the Apple store and not enough time trying to use Macs to do actual work. More broadly, I find that everyone in the industry apes Apple too much; Apple has their niche, and serves it well, and profitably, but it can never be more than a minority of the market. Workhorse products serving the bulk of the market will be made by others.
That is sort of the crux though. Steve Jobs takes things out: the SD slot, the keyboard, the command prompt, the floppy drive. Taking stuff out makes it possible to simplfy the user interface. If anyone else did this, the product would fail in the market for being feature-poor, but he could get away with it because he was trusted (by some, not all) to do it well. Granted, some of the stuff Jobs took out should have been left in, the lack of fan on the early Macs comes to mind. That is the charisma, the RDF, or maybe just street cred for having introduced the Mac. Whatever it is, it accrued to him personally, not to Apple as an organization which went adrift whae he was gone.
That also explains the stupid holy wars that surround Apple:
I would say the walled garden metaphor misses the point, or at least it gets taken too far. A better way to think about it is delegation and trust. With Linux, you can, in principle, trust no one and collect all the cource code yourself and compile it. The next step is to delegate the job of compiling code to a distro, trusting them (or for Slackware, Pat) to use only open source software in keeping with the distro's community values. Various other relationships can go from there: you presumably trust your employer-provided laptop not to spy on you, and they trust you not to improperly divulge company information on it.
I would say that Steve Job's real innovation was to be cognizant of this delegation of trust, and he was good at getting people to buy in: Call it Charisma or the RDF. Apple products are offered as a package deal, take it or leave it. If you want the nice ease of use and aesthetic package, you have to play by Apple's rules. No modding, no tinkering, no exceptions, no whining. I never cared for the deal and always walked away, but I would admit that it is appropriate for some (most notably the very old and very young).
Yahoo, well, can't say I have an opinion of what it is like now, haven't used it since 2004. Does it still exist?
A few months ago, I did an analysis of the list of parents' email addresses from the school drama club. Yahoo was the most common provider with about a third of them. After that was the local DSL or cable ISP. Third place was people using work email addresses. GMail was fourth at about 15%. Then Hotmail/Live. Only about 1%, myself and one other person, were using a paid 3rd party service. For the record, I use usermail.com and am very happy with them, and seldom use my Gmail account.
What conclusions can be drawn from that? I would say Yahoo-email's first-mover advantage is much more durable than Friendster's or Myspace's was. Or perhaps Facebook's is. I would think that a survey of younger people would have fewer yahoosiers and more GMailers
The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project