Category Archives: widgets

Why I like the iPad 2….confessions of an Android user

My experience with the first generation iPad ended with my returning the loaned device without a purchase While my first experience with the IPad1 left me wanting, I was completely seduced by the iPad 2. With all my positive experiences with my Droid Incredible, I had been holding out for a new Android tablet.   I succumbed to the iPad 2 when I realized that what I wanted  in a tablet could be provided by Apple.

This was my wish list

1.  Business applications and the ability to leave my laptop home for some business  trips

2.  Infotainment, interesting multimedia formats for my news

3.  Entertainment, generally video from my favorite Television and Sports programs

4. Great looking device, want to be one of the “cool kids”

5. New applications coming everyday that matter

6. Decent customer support

I concluded that for this generation of devices, the iPad2 is king.  Here’s why…

To begin with I have a Wifi-only 32Gig model.

For business apps I need email access to multiple accounts, including Exchange. The iPad was easily configured for 4 accounts and I had all my email singing within a minute.

Next, I need to edit Microsoft office docs.  I installed “QuickOffice” and it works great for most light-editing tasks.  I am writing this blog article using the word version of quick office on my iPad. Of course, I also need to print documents. These are several printing apps for the iPad.  I use “PrintCentral” for printing. I just installed the app and it found all the printers in my house. I was able to print from my iPad with less problems than we typically have from a Microsoft machine!

I also require access to the “Dropbox” application. This is a shared, synchronized cloud storage service. I use it to share files among my computers, Droid Smart phone and now iPad, with clients and family.  This app effectively adds 50gig of virtual storage to my IPad.  I have Microsoft office files, music, video and pictures in various Dropbox folders.  Not only is the Dropbox app for iPad great, but Dropbox  and Google Docs seamlessly integrate with QuickOffice.  The permission and privacy features on Dropbox allow me to share access for specific folders with specific people.

A mission critical business app for me is Skype.  While it works great on my Droid phone, having the iPad (really an iPhone App) with video is a good addition.  I wish Skype would upgrade their app to take more advantage of the real-estate available on an iPad screen.

Another business oriented app I tried was “logMein”.  Initially, I  thought this was a new dish at my local Chinese restaurant, but it is program that connects with a Mac or PC and displays the screen of that machine on your iPad.  LogMein (Log-me-in) gives you full control of your remote machine to access files and programs.  I have to admit that while it works, I am not sure how often I will actually use it.

So, for business environment the iPad gets high marks.

Infotainment

Generally this category consists of websites turned into interesting multimedia applications for the iPad.  I have the NY Times, CNN, the Daily, CBS News, Fox News, ABC news, Huffington Post, The Onion, BBC, USA Today and even my old college newspaper, now an IPad app, “The Concordiensis” from Union College. The mix of text, photos, audio and video creates a multimedia publication unlike anything else.

Entertainment

This is the area that I originally had the most concern for the iPad due to the lack of native  (or any) Flash support. The savior for entertainment is the app “iSwifter”.  Using this proxy browser app I am able to watch web video from NBC, Fox and even HBOGo. The video I want to see on the web is completely accessible on my iPad, even Flash video.  Other great entertainment apps include MLB At Bat 11. If you like MLB on an iPhone or Android, you will love it on an IPad.  I just wish you did not have to pay for it separately on each device.

Kudos to the guys at MLB for having the best Sports App…period.

Another cool app is “Tune-In”.  This is a live radio app that gives streaming access to many radio stations within the US and the world.  I recently listened to a Tampa/Carolina NHL hockey game on my IPad.  All of these entertainment apps are in addition to the usual YouTube, iTunes, and video apps that are built into the IPad.

Great looking, cool device.

All I can say here is that like most Apple products, the iPad sets the standard for physical design that all the other tablets will chase. The incorporation of the smart cover is another great feature. Among its other capabilities, the ability of the cover to support iPad at an angle for typing is key.

Applications

This is a major reason for my decision to go with an iPad in lieu of an Android. Unlike the smart phone app market in which there is a rough equivalence between the must have iPhone and apps, Apple seems to have a clear lead in tablet specific apps. Apple also has a huge sales lead in tablets. For these reasons my logic is that an iPad will have a distinct app advantage for the duration of this generation of tablets. (Next year or so)

Customer support

Generally I have been very happy with customer support from Apple. An exception to this was a call I made for an iPad issue. The first I tried to sync my Mac iTunes to my iPad, none of the music or videos would sync.  I called Apple support and the first answer I got was that since all of my music was not bought on iTunes, it would not sync.   What??! Despite the logical problems with that statement, the Apple rep stood firm with his answer.  I then called back and got someone different who directed me to “clear my sync queue” with a program called “iSync”. After I followed her directions, all of my media was able to sync.

Overall, I have been pleased with the new iPad.  As a confirmed Android user for Smart phones, I was hopeful that the Droid tablets would be more competitive with the iPad.  This round goes to Apple.  We will have to wait another year or so to see if Google will catch-up in this segment as they have with smart phones.

As for Blackberry or Windows Tablets?  As we say in New Jersey…

Fuggeddaboudit!

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Appvertainment from Jobs-Apple and the iAd

The announcement of iPhone OS4 changes the Smartphone  world – yet again.  As Steve Jobs described the 7 tent poles of the new iPhone/iTouch/Ipad OS, it was clear that the tent was not quite large enough for everyone. The center pole of this tent is clearly– iAds.

The raison-d’etre  for the much heralded multi-tasking feature is Appvertainment.  (e.g. iAds).    Do not be distracted by the fact that he introduced multi-tasking first and iAds last.  They are intimately linked.

Apple is pursuing their app centric  vs. search (Apple vs. Google) strategy for smartphones  through the introduction of their own OS integrated  ad serving technology.  Multi-tasking is the key component in this ad strategy to permit a user to return to an app after an ADHD moment is fulfilled by playing with a cool appvertainment.  Without multitasking you lose your application state/status and have to start over again.  Jobs is trying to change user behavior and reward users for clicking on an ad with an engaging experience, instead of punishing them by having them have to re-start their app.

Appvertainment targeting was not discussed. The social  and geolocation information that the host apps maintain on users will most likely be used for targeting purposes.  The Apple social game network API will no doubt  be used for providing this targeting information for game hosted appvertainments .    Apple is betting that App hosted ads will be valuable than Internet style search ads.

Jobs boosted that the Apple platforms would be capable of serving 1 billion app-ads per day by the summer of 2010.  Even if we cut that number in half and apply a modest $10/CPM ad rate – that represents daily gross appvertainment revenue of  $5M.  Apple’s vig on the ad revenue is 40%.  This is easily approaching a $1B+ annual revenue opportunity for Apple.

Click for full commercial

Another interesting aspect of this strategy is that Apple is clearly focusing on large brands and advertising agencies – in other words, the folks with the largest budgets.   This clearly makes sense.  The cost of an appvertainment production can easily be in excess of $250K+.  The inclusion of integrated and compelling video with engaging interactivity is not the domain of amateurs, but rather professional digital agencies.  The examples that Jobs demonstrated during his presentation (Nike, Disney and Target) are all major national brands with large budgets and big Madison Avenue agencies.

As I watched the presentation another thought came to mind –  “Is this legal?”  What would happen if Microsoft integrated a proprietary ad serving system in their OS and demanded 40% of the revenue of every ad served on a Windows machine?  This topic will clearly be discussed in the blogosphere and perhaps courtrooms in the future.

Did anyone hear a mention of sharing ad revenue with Mobile Carriers?

Another  “pole” of significance is the enhanced suite of enterprise features. Corporate CIOs have had a set of killer issues that prohibited the iPhone from significant corporate sanctioned and supported utilization.  Apple is trying to remove these roadblocks with OS4.  In addition to the enhanced  security and email capabilities is device management.  Device management includes the feature of permitting corporations to load their own private apps on the iPhone.    The execs at RIM should be concerned about their Blackberry franchise.

Apple would not be investing in enterprise features while maintaining an exclusive relationship with AT&T.  OS4 changes Apple from the Trojan Horse of a sexy consumer device on AT&T to a machine poised for world domination.

The competition between Google and their Android platform and Apple will only get fiercer.  Nokia is the only other global player who can play at this level.   Palm, RIM and even Microsoft will fight for the leftover niches.  It is a battle of the controlled and planed eco-system of Apple vs. the Open-Source world of Android.

The Apple tent has room for enterprise applications, has a new revenue source for app developers, and embraces big brands, ad agencies and publishers.  Adobe (no Flash support) and Google are outside the tent of OS4.  Microsoft got the biggest slight in this announcement as their mobile efforts were ignored as though not relevant.  And what about the mobile carriers?  Do they exist in the Apple world? Continue reading

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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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Cheers and Jeers for Mobile without Numbers

My article “The Future of Mobile – without numbers” created a large reaction.  I received a full inbox worth of cheers and jeers.  For those who cheered, I say “thanks.”

comedy-tragedy-maskFor those who jeered, I say, “Thank you very much!”  I have always believed that when people challenge your thinking and your logic, you have the opportunity to learn and make your own arguments better.  With this in mind, I have created a couple of broad categories of challenges from my critics.   (If you have not read the original article you should first check it out with this link)

 These areas are:

1-The sociological, technological and economic feasibility of my hypothesis that social networking and VoIP will fundamentally change the mobile industry

2-What should the Wireless Service Providers do to counter this threat?

Item 1:

To explain and expand on my logic more fully it is useful to look at some history.

What was the key invention that made the Internet a global phenomenon?

It was not TCP/IP, or browsers or even Google.

barilan_internet-thumbThe key invention was the Domain Name Server (DNS).  DNS translates a domain name to an IP addresses.   It is much easier to remember www.nytimes.com, instead of its IP address (170.149.173.130).  DNS servers are continuously updated around the globe as Internet services switch IP addresses; add new destinations or new web services are created.

DNS is also what makes email possible.

Prior to global DNS services the translation of a name to an IP address took place (if at all) in the equivalent of a local address book on your computer.  You would update this local file with new IP address/Web name pairs as you discovered them, with the obvious problem that your local address book did not automatically update to track changes.

 Does this sound familiar?        

For nearly 100 years telephone services have been in the local address book mode.  As a telephone subscriber, the implied requirement was for you to carry your own version of a local DNS in your pocket. Antique telephoneYour phone contacts would only update if you physically made a change to your address book.

The phone company would issue all subscribers a regional, printed, version of DNS on a yearly basis, the big phone book.

This fundamental use case did not change until the introduction of phones with imbedded contact lists.  With embedded contact lists you could scroll through a list and click to call.  This feature eliminated the need to dial or punch all the digits yourself, but was still limited to your personal updates.

Prior to the ability to look up and retrieve phone numbers for people and businesses on the Internet, the only global DNS equivalent for telephone service was “411”, information service.

The use case for smartphones is the start of a fundamental change.  With their larger screens and easy keyboard entry, you just type the name of the person you want to call and press send.  The connection with the phone number is further eroded.  The contact list still, however, must be maintained personally, just like our Grandparents did with their paper versions.

I can still remember the phone numbers from my friends in high school, but have to look up my kids’ numbers.  The reason is that I never use my kids’ numbers; I just type their name.

The ability to take your phone number with you when you change providers (landline or wireless) was a big boost to the manual updating of address books.  This was made necessary because of the lack of Global DNS in telephone service.

The emergence of large, ubiquitous social networks is the final missing puzzle piece that will finally alter this 100-year pattern and make phone calling similar to typing “nytimes”, instead of its IP number.  These social networks provide several key elements.

They are a collection of your friends, family members and business associates.  Your network(s) contain the majority of people you need, or want, to communicate with on a regular basis.

fhw1uoifmega5hwmediumSecondly, your networked friends should give you permission to view and have access to their actual phone numbers.  This access will give you the equivalent of global DNS for your contact list!  The updating of the phone numbers will no longer be your responsibility, but the responsibility of your friends.  This is the same scenario as a Webmaster updating their web services IP address for DNS.  Even if Voice over IP (VOIP) services do not emerge as a dominant mobile trend (I believe they will), then the social network aspects will be a major force unto themselves.

So, at least to this point the logic is that Social Networks = Global DNS.

The last aspect of social networks is that they can easily provide an “always connected” status.  This is the way instant messaging services (AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Skype) work today.  This always-connected feature creates a direct IP path between any two (or more) members.  If you have a direct IP path, you can easily create voice and video communications services.

The combination of social networks providing DNS-like service and IP connectivity is the core of the technological argument.  The fact that the Internet has trained a large segment of the world to access sites and services by name, instead of by IP number is my proof point that there should not be a sociological issue with my scenario.

The economics of this scenario are more difficult to predict.  I agree with those who said that the social networks and VOIP providers such as Skype would not run a global communications network without significant revenue and profit.  The issue to consider is:  Have the economics of providing a significant portion of this service forever altered in a significant manner?

VOIP service for home or business is significantly less expensive for the consumer than a direct-wired solution using 100-year-old twisted pair telephone technology.  The ease of provisioning and maintenance, and the lower cost of transmission and billing, has changed the economics of landline services.   It is less expensive to transmit and manage a very high bandwidth data path using Internet technologies, than to maintain individual transmission paths.  

Why not the same for mobile?

Item 2:  What should the Wireless Carriers do?

If I were the CEO of a major service provider I would execute the following strategy:

vzw_logo_1024Recognizing the importance of the trends that I discussed, the game that is now being played puts this mobile carrier at a structural disadvantage.  If you think you are going to lose at the game that is being played, you change the game.

The Carriers should obtain their own DNS service for their subscribers that updates continuously and allows for one click friend calling.  This service should be a collection of the key social networks.  

The Carriers should Interface/partner with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc and create a superset DNS of their subscribers’ contacts.  Then they should build the social networking application(s) directly on the phones to permit IM, voice, and video communications. The existing mobile numbers can be used as the equivalent IP addressing scheme.  The integration with the social networks will also permit contextual communications as the subscriber has access to their friends profile and status.

The strategy of partnering with the social networks for calling DNS functionality and contextual communications would create tremendous value. 

The marketing possibilities for a Wireless Carrier with this strategy are huge.

If this strategy was implemented by just one carrier (Verizon for example) then they could market to your friends list to switch and get In-Calling rates (free) when they call each other.  If 98% of your calls were within your social networking contacts, then it would make sense for that group to be on a single carrier.

The Carriers have tried viral marketing in the past with In-Calling and T-mobiles Fav-5 program.  What I am suggesting would be many orders of magnitude more impactful.  The first carrier that figures this out and executes will steal many of their competitor’s subscribers and really change the game.

The last issue for the Carrier strategy section is to counter the VOIP threat.

My strategy would be to embrace and profit from it.   There are two obvious moves to capitalize on mobile VOIP.  First, follow the strategy of the landline providers by creating your own VOIP mobile service that utilizes your connections into the social networks.  You can have a flat monthly fee for VOIP calls.

Secondly, you can also provide a “bring your own VOIP” service plan.  The Carrier would charge a lower monthly fixed fee that would reflect their lower costs in servicing these 3rd party subscribers.

theatre_and_the_internet

Over the past five years the bulk of new mobile service investment has been on mobile data applications. Mobile  voice services have not evolved beyond the basic voice call, callerID, voicemail stage.  This is the opportunity to merge the data application investments directly with the core voice service.

The real issue for the Wireless Carriers will be in the recognition of this threat and the real opportunity that this fundamental disruption in the market it creates for a first mover to capitalize on the changes and redefine how people communicate.

I hope I have addressed many of the Jeers that I got last week.  I welcome your comments on these expanded explanations and logic!

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Note to the New CEO of Yahoo – Mobile desktop matters

What is your mobile homepage? And does it matter?

jerry_yangThe exit of Jerry Yang from Yahoo got me thinking about the implications, if any, it would have for mobile.    In the desktop browser world, the fight for your homepage has been waging for years between Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, AOL, and anyone else who managed to hijack it.  The theory is your homepage selection drives page views, which in turn drives advertising revenue.  More views equal more bucks.

So, what does this mean in a mobile device context? Does homepage matter?

What is particularly interesting in the mobile domain is the competing paradigms for driving traffic.  There is the “traditional” browser homepage war, the mobile desktop icon, a range of Java or Brew applications, and widget portals.

The key question is what to you want to do with your mobile device when you access the Internet and how best to get the answer you want.

A second factor is despite the proliferation of full keyboard mobile devices; the long-winded entry of URL’s and the point and click model of a desktop still does not translate well in the mobile arena.

The specific models at play on the Blackberry are:

1-    Set your homepage
2-    Download bookmarked Icons for specific sites and services
3-    Java Applications that mange collections of information feeds
4-    Widgets and Portals that are a collection of widgets.

Here is my solution – let me know if it matches what you have or you have a different use model.

When I access the Internet on my mobile it is usually about answering a particular question or reading a specific newspaper or blog.

I have my homepage set to the minimalist Google mobile.   I can enter anything I want in the search box, from a website I want to visit to a question.  This is a very functional model for me when I need business information or just want to impress family and friends with some arcane trivia.  Did you know that the state bird of Alaska is the Willow ptarmigan?mybb1

For routine information and entertainment I use the very easy downloadable bookmark icon.  The icons I have on my device are:  NY Times, Washington Post, ESPN, MLB, NY Yankees, Weather Channel, CNN, CNBC and ABC News.   This library of information is great for those commuting train trips.  In 25 minutes I can catch up on the news, read my favorite editorials, and follow the local sports teams.  This is very efficient for sites I visit often, and much better than bookmarking these sites within the browser.  This is another good example of the difference between the desktop and mobile experience.

Next, I have certain downloaded applications that I use often.  My favorites are VZW navigator, followed by Google maps and iskoot (for Skype).  For navigation applications I am asking my device a specific question and getting a specific answer.  It is either, “How do I get to….”, or “ Where I am and how did I get here?”  I use Skype on my desktop and there are rare occasions that I us it contact a business associate.  Iskoot works well and is free.

The next category of applications isthe content aggregation portal.  I have two examples that I have on my device.  The first is a very good RSS reader called Viigo.   You can easily set up the blogs that you follow and they also have pre-loaded feeds that you can keep or easily delete.  If you want to follow this blog on your mobile device, this is the solution.

I have also downloaded a specific RSS reader from “The Hockey News”.  If you read this blog regularly you know I am a big Hockey fan.  I am sorry to say the Hockey New RSS portal is poorly executed and rarely gets used.  This should be bad news to the editors at the Hockey News.  If a diehard mobile guy who is also a diehard hockey guy finds your mobile application to be poor, it is time to rethink.

Note to the Hockey News:

I make the same offer to you as I did to the New York Rangers.  I will volunteer to fix your mobile application.

yahoo1Lastly, the widget portal that I have downloaded is “Yahoo Go! “.  In my view, this is a good implementation for the wrong paradigm.  Yahoo Go! Is a mobile version of the  “My Yahoo” desktop homepage.  It has lots of general information categories in a very slick carousel interface.  What is interesting is that, although I have used Yahoo as my desktop homepage for 10 years, I almost never use “Yahoo Go!”.   The reason for my low use of this service is simply that I have no reason to use it.  It does not function as a way for me to get quick answers (Google), quick information (Icons), or navigate (VZW).

It is interesting to speculate what Obama had on his Blackberry?

The Iphone, G1, HTC and other large screen devices can easily enable similar models.

With advertising revenue the ultimate goal, understanding the mobile desktop paradigm is step one.

We can hope that the successor to Jerry Yang will re-think the mobile environment to be truly mobile and not just a transposition of the desktop.

Will the Yahoo and Google be the only advertising game in down, or will quick footed start-ups like Mojiva make even bigger inroads in this lucrative market?

Please share with me what you have on your mobile desktop.  I will collect the input for a future blog article.

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