Category Archives: MAc

My excellent iPad adventure in the land of Les Habitants

During the past couple of weeks I have been using an iPad and trying to figure out where it fits in my digital hierarchy.  For the record my technical stack includes an iMac , a  MacBook,  a netbook and, an HTC Droid Incredible and a Kindle.   While at home the iPad was a toy.  It was something to use while watching television.  Thus it was slightly more convenient than having a macbook or net book  for light browsing and email.  As a book reader it was much nicer than my Kindle (which I still like).  I installed the Kindle app on the iPad and read  a couple of books on it.   It was aggravating that movies that I can watch online easily with my Droid phone cannot be watched on the iPad due to the lack of Flash support.  When will we have an Android Pad?

The interesting part of my iPad experience came when I had a business trip last week.  Instead of taking my laptop I went cold turkey and just took the iPad as my second device, in addition to my Droid phone.  This decision shocked my colleagues, including the one who lent me the iPad to try out!

The iPad did well on the plane as I read the New York Times.  This was especially interesting since the person next to me had the paper version and lusted after my alternative format.  After finishing the Times, I read USA Today, played a couple of games and started to read one of the books I had downloaded via the Kindle app.

I could also imagine that the iPad would make a great personal Video device for longer flights.

At the business meeting I was the cool kid at the table.  After all, what do you really do with a laptop at a meeting? You browse the web, check email and possibly access a presentation.  Since I did not have a presentation to show, the later two were just fine.  For the record if you want to display a power point presentation on your iPad the easiest way is to upload it to Google Docs and then access it directly from the Web.   The iPad is really shines as a net connected device and thus using cloud services is the way to go.  If you don’t have Web access then converting the presentation to JPG images or video also works.  I also installed dropbox on the iPad and it worked great giving me access to my Cloud virtual drive.

The funny part of my day occurred as I was leaving to fly home.  My meeting was in Montreal and that day was also the first day of  iPad sales in Canada.  At an airport sports bar I was killing about an hour why reading on my iPad.  I attracted a crowd of very interested on lookers.  The waitress even brought her boss out to have a gander (Canadian Goose reference…)  Again, I was the cool kid.    This was similar to elementary kids who have their school lunch sandwiches cut on the diagonal, instead of squares.  (Or at least that is what I was told by my kids)

When I passed through Canadian security I was asked if   I had a laptop and I of course proudly proclaimed, no – I have an iPad.  At that point Ihad no less than 4 inspectors handling my device.  They made me turn it on for “security” reasons.  Once I had it on I demonstrated some apps and the book reader.  I was decl

ared safe.   It was a slow day in Montreal for air travel.  This had the makings of a real live Apple commercial.

Note to Steve Jobs:  Get that security tape and air it – great publicity.

When convinced that I no longer was a threat to Canadian airspace with my iPad, I proceeded to the gate.  The flight was an hour late and I began to read my book on the iPad.  Again I drew a crowd when a little kid pointed and yelled – Look DAD, that’s an iPad , cool! I was then obligated to give another demonstration and let some of my fellow passengers check it out.    Just when I was feeling my coolest someone asked me – “hey it looks cool, what does it do?”  All I could thing of was – “It will do whatever you want, once someone figures out what you want”

Understand ? Ehh?

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Filed under Apple, AT&T, cloud computing, Droid, Droid Incredible, Google, HTC, HTC Incredible, humor, Incredible, Incredible, iPad, iphone, Ipod, MAc, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, smart phone, Smartphone, social networking, Steve Jobs

Kudos to Verizon for taking on Leadership – Mobile without Phone Numbers

Approximately one year ago I wrote an article entitled “The Future of Mobile – without phone numbers.” In my discussion I put forth the proposition that social networks would take over the fundamental connectivity for individuals and that phone numbers would be a network “IP address”.   This article generated 100’s of emails and questions, some supportive, some not, but all thought provoking. It was clear that I had hit a nerve.

A major step towards my view of the future of mobile communications was taken by Verizon in the last week.  Verizon Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and later confirmed and launched at CTIA 2010, an integrated Skype calling service.  This service enables users to click any Skype username, make a call, and not be charged for mobile minutes.  This service even uses the mobile voice connectivity of Verizon for the wireless network of the call.

This is a major watershed event for the industry.  A major carrier embracing voice as a data service, with calls completed outside of the carrier’s equivalent phone number – DNS.

In fact, this capability had been  available by such applications as ISkoot.  What is big news is that Verizon is openly promoting this service and not charging for mobile minutes.   Another advantage of the Verizon version is that it is “always-on”.  I received my first Skype call on my mobile yesterday.  It just happened like any other mobile call.  It was an important business call and all I could think about at the conclusion was – that was cool.

The use of social networks and non-phone number connection services implies that that contact DNS aggregation services will become even more important.  My network contact list will be an amalgamation of my Facebook, Linkedin, Skype, Twitter,  existing phone books, AOL IM list and likely several others.  Aggregating my contact lists, storing them in the network cloud and presenting them to me on demand in a usable form is essential.

While at CTIA I was on a panel discussion with   Mike Mulica, CEO of FusionOne.  FusionOne is a leading example of such a network based contact/address book that spans social networks.  They are certainly a company worth watching in the future, as they appear to be “on the right side of the technology curve”.

A question that remains is how does Verizon generate revenue by connecting calls for free?  Simple answers include increased data subscriptions and greater subscriber growth via churn from other carriers.    In the U.S. market, with mobile penetration approaching 90%, carriers can only increase subscribers by churning their competitor’s customers.   Since the Skype app on iPhone is not as full featured and cannot be “always-on”, VZW has given leading edge users a reason to switch NOW.

In the future I would expect connections between Skype calling capability and other applications on Verizon, especially those provided through the Verizon’s own app store.  I also expect that full mobile video calling and even video conferencing via Skype is no doubt on the roadmap.

This feature is only available to VZW smartphone subscribers , and that means a $29.99/mo data charge.

Regardless of the long term revenue sources, VZW has taken a clear leadership position in its market and now has the their competitors determining a catch-up strategy.  Kudos to Verizon on this move.

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Filed under Acquisitions, advertising, android, Apple, AT&T, cloud computing, CTIA, facebook, FusionOne, iphone, location based services, MAc, mobile, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, portal, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Twitter, Verizon, Web2.0, widgets, wireless

Verizon FIOS Execs – Please Read – It’s Not Me, It’s You

vonage-logoToday I made the jump, the leap, to Fios. For the record my previous home technology stack had been Vonage for voice, Comcast for Internet and TV. I have had VZW for mobile since the days they actually called it a “car phone”.

Since I was working from home today, I was able to observe the FIOS tech as he went about his business in my house. He arrived promptly at 9:00 and greeted me like the chef at a Japanese steaks house. “Okay, Mr. Spencer, you have one Triple-Play, three sets, two with, one without, HBO , Internet and Phone….correct?” Should I have ordered the soup also?

He told me that installation is an 8 hour job and that he would be in and out all day. No Problem. I went about my business, we went about is.

After a couple of hours I took a break from my work to see how Verizon guy was doing. He was busy6-18-08-fios_installerattaching the “ONU” (Optical Networking Unit) to the side of my house. I found it interesting since during my early days at Bell Labs, in the 1980s, my department had worked on the Darwinian ancestors of the ONU. Back then the evolutionary process was first called FTTC (Fiber to the Curb), the unfortunate acronym -Far Access Remote Terminal, and lastly FTTH, Fiber to the Home. These were all technologies that were decades ahead of their time.

verizonfiosbackupHe then proceeded to install a battery backup for the phone service in my basement. The phones I use are all cordless and my family has 5 mobile phones. The battery back will not help my cordless phones and a blackout should not impact my mobile phones. This is a pure expense for legal air cover should the power go out and -GFB- I need to call 911. For such an advanced service, very backward thinking in 2009.

After buzzing out the phones, the Internet came up quickly and then the last pulling and tugging of cable to get the television service going. All went smoothly to that point. Just like the commercials, he sat me down and demonstrated my remote (without a cable guy glaring in from the window). Total effort was the advertised 8 hours.

As soon as he left and we started to use the service, the quirks emerged.

Firstly the Verizon set up disk only works on a Windows machine. I had to morph my Mac with a VM to fire up Vista. The setup program executed, updated and churned for 45 minutes. The only think useful that happened, through all the screens, T&C’s and other useless info, was that I got a Verizon email. One that I will never use.

I then tried to register at Verizon.Net. I tried several times and continually got a message that said “We cannot register you now”. This seemed strange. Then it hit me. Verizon has nothing that supports Mac, even Safari browser. So, I switched to Firefox and the registration worked perfectly.

Next task was to set up my personal and work email using the outgoing email server at Verizon. I prefer to use my ISPs outgoing service so that my free personal email with my own domain does not have ads on the bottom.

Everything seemed to work with just one small problem. The test emails that I sent to myself never arrived? I connected to the Verizon server just fine. The email was accepted by the server and then got lost.

This could not be a Verizon issue. After all, when I leave my house I have that nerdy guy with glasses and 300 of his friendssplash_verizon_crowdfollow me around to make sure my service is ok. Having served Verizon as a vendor for most of my career I appreciate that they take 99.999% reliability seriously.

I checked and double checked all the passwords, permissions etc. I stopped and thought about this and then I remembered another strange occurrence about 4 months ago.

I had just started a new job and was configuring my corporate email account on Google. Like most people (I assume), after you set up an email account you send yourself some test emails to make sure it works. I had the same problem with Google. I struggled with that one for a couple of hours. Next, I checked some bulletin boards and found out that Google mail was in the middle of a significant outage! Three hours later, without touching anything, my service was up and working.

I wondered. Could I be that unlucky? Could Verizon be having an email problem the exact moment I tried to use my new Verizon service? I checked the Verizon user self-help bulletin boards and…..Bingo!….. Verizon was experienceing hour plus delays in email delivery due to server outages.

I put email aside and next tried to tackle voicemail. There was nowhere on a Verizon support site or any piece of paper or booklet that I got from Verizon that instructed me on what to do to set up voicemail. I know that Verizon has some portal somewhere to listen to voicemails online and send yourself alerts, but they certainly like to keep it a secret.

Since I’m not exactly new to the telephony world, I just dialed my own number and walked through the VM set-up. But, I still wanted to find this portal. I figured it was accessible through Verizon.com – a logical guess. I had previously registered on Verizon.net and thought that user name and password would allow me into Verizon.Com. no such luck. I tried to register at verizon.com (with a non-Apple browser, of course!) and still no luck.

Now its time to call Verizon. I have to say one of the reasons I left Comcast was because their customer service was , well, sucky. Verizon, with my nerd friend and his army of techs clearly have their act together, right? Wrong….

I called customer support, waited 10 minutes with really bad music, and spoke to a lovely lady with a heavy Indian accent. I explained that I was trying to find the Verizon voice mail online portal. I am not sure exactly which word she did not understand, but I guess it was everything after the word “Verizon”. I gave here my address and phone number twice and she said, “Oh my, you have fiber optic voice service!” Bursting with geek pride I said, “Yes I do!”. I figured I must now be in line for some very special VIP treatment.

Her next words were, “I can’t help you , I will transfer you to Fios” , The line went silent and then I was put on hold with music for another 10 minutes. At this point another guy answered the phone, asked me for all the same information and gave me the same line – “I can’t help you, I will transfer you” click, ring, music, another 10 minutes.

The third person I spoke to understood what I was looking to achieve. He also told me that he could not help me but said the “e-desk” is the place for “you”. Frustrated and wanting to have a little fun; when he asked me if there was anything else he could help me with , I said yes. “The Verizon email? Does it always take an hour to deliver an email? Is that standard?” He launched into the tech support speech that I call “you are a dumb person with technology and let me tell you why….” He went on about how Verizon can’t be held responsible for the whole Internet and that was obviously the problem. After he finished reading from the prepared speech on his PC (obviously not a Mac) . I asked him , “If that’s the case, why did my email stall in a Verizon server for 67 minutes?” I gave him the server name and the IP address. I am not sure what I gained by that, so to that Verizon CS guy…..sorry.

He then connected me the e-desk. Finally some satisfaction? I got a recording that the e-desk ‘s hours of service had ended two hours ago. Click, disconnect. Oy.

Hey Verizon, I could have gotten this treatment from Comcast!

Epilogue:
In this change over of home technologies I had to cancel Vonage and Comcast. This is almost as frustrating as my Verizon help desk run around.

First Comcast:

comcast21After working my way through the automated phone system I finally got to they “cancel service” option. I nice upbeat guy answered and I told him I was cancelling my TV and Internet Service. He told me he was “Shocked” to hear that. That I was such a good customer. (paid my bills?). Then he starts to launch into the “Save this customer “script. These scripts can last 15 minutes. Once he launched into all of the new special offers and services that Comcast could bring me, I asked him to stop, jump to the last page of the script where you give me my cancellation confirmation number. He was “deeply saddened”, and asked Why would I leave?
I told him “Its not you, It’s me” and I promised to still be friends.

Next breakup call was Vonage. The guy on Vonage was “amazed” that I was a Vonage user for 5 years. I was one their longest tenured customers, practically a celebrity. I also asked him to skip the next 10 pages of script and just give me my cancellation confirmation number. He decided to read the next 10 pages anyway.

I also told Vonage , “Its not you, it’s me”, and my new BFFL Verizon. He could not believe I would leave Vonage. I even asked him if he wanted me to put Mike, the Verizon tech on the phone? Now, that’s a good Verizon commercial in the making.

So – To Comcast and Vonage – Bye, Loved it while it lasted, but we grew apart and you are not a match for Fiber.

And to Verizon, Please get your CS act together. Just because you provide the same services as cable companies does not mean you have to provide the same customer service experience! It takes your tech 8 hours to install your service, you need me to stick around for awhile to re-coup those kind of costs.

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Filed under Apple, Fios, Google, Love, MAc, new media, relationships, Verizon, wireless, wirless