Tag Archives: Upoc

HTC Droid Incredible – The Rest of the Story (Spoiler Alert!)

What Droid Incredible Really Does – and Does Not (Unofficial Review)

After resisting Droid-Rage during the holiday season, I succumbed to the uber- hyped latest Android super phone – the HTC Incredible.  My venerable Blackberry Curve just was not as sleek or sexy and clearly did not have the cool robot graphics.

There are numerous blog reviews and YouTube videos that will espouse all the virtues of Verizon’s number 1 smartphone.  While they are largely correct, they do not tell the whole story.  Yes it is fast, works on a great network, has more features that a human can possibly comprehend, or use – and even makes phone calls.   I will provide another article with my fav Droid features – this article is about the other side.

To quote Paul Harvey  – “And now the rest of the story….”  Here are my top six issues with my Droid.

1. Speed comes at a cost – The Achilles Heal of the Incredible

All the blazing application response and connectivity comes at a cost in battery utilization.  The first day I had my Droid I had to charge it 2 times.  What good is all that capability if the phone is dead?  If you get a Droid you must stay close to a charging source and become an active energy manager.  You should turn-off the GPS when not needed, limit the number of running applications and even re-consider all of those really cool active widgets which use periodic connectivity to update themselves.   If you need an icon of the sun to let you know its sunny outside, perhaps you need more than a new phone.

2. The display rocks – unless you want to use it outside during the day

The AMOLED technology used in the HTC screen is the latest, but not quite the greatest.  The display is great when used inside.  I just got back from a round of golf and the phone was practically unusable in the sunlight.  The bigger issue is using the super Google driving directions app with a map view.  The map will not be viewable in a car during the day!

3. Its not the number of Apps that matters – its having the right ones and ones that actually work

I never got that impressed with the claims of absolute number of apps on device platforms.  If the iPhone has 300K and the Android 30K , what does that really mean?  It’s a little like counting the number of Nukes that the U.S. and Russia have in their arsenals. .  Quality, not quantity really matters. Android has the basic Facebook and Skype apps.  Its the other 30K that may need some help.  My impression is that the apps on the iPhone are not just more numerous, but are generally of higher quality.   Perhaps the Android platform chased absolute numbers to claim lots of apps without as much quality consideration.  Several apps just did not work at all and others just stopped working.  I tried to download the linkedIn app and had a failure.  This is an area that the Android platform will likely get right at some point.

I want quality apps for the handful I will actually use.  Android has to close the app quality gap with Apple.

4. iTunes Integration – Music and Video – ???

The iPhone clearly excels at music and video desktop integration.  The challenge for any other platform is to create seamless integration for their platforms with the defacto standard for online music. Given the critical nature of this feature, one might assume that HTC or Verizon would provide a solution that makes this happen.

And you would assume wrong.  There are a couple of solutions that purported to achieve this function.  I tried both SailingMedia and DoubleTwist.  Both of these third-party solutions did not work.  While I could probably play with them for another hour or so and figure out what the issue is – why should I have to do that?  I did load my music directly by dragging my music to the mp3 folder on my device.  The music plays fine and the external speaker is loud –if that matters to you.  There does not appear to be a pre-loaded video player and I have yet to get a video, other than YouTube to play successfully.  Again, I’m sure I will figure it out – but why should I have to?

5. Gmail Good – Gmail Bad

I use gmail for my personal email domain, I figured that the Android platform would be a good choice for my use.  For the record my Blackberry worked perfectly with my gmail account.  As expected my gmail account integrated easily with my Droid.  My issue with email is the rather poor gmail app on the device.  I tried to use the HTC mail app and for whatever reason it does not seem to work when my gmail application is active.  As with my other issues, I am sure with a little time I can get it to work.

6. Steve Jobs is right – One button is enough

The Incredible Droid has 7 physical buttons -Home, Menu, Back, Search, optical trackball with click, volume and power/wake-up.  In addition to these physical inputs the standard screen has four soft keys – an up arrow to access all programs, a phone button (yes it can make a phone call!), a “+” key for adding widgets, programs and folders to a screen, and lastly a hidden slide down at the top of the screen that gives a list of alerts and running programs.  Wow – that’s a lot of things to keep straight!.  The really annoying input is the totally useless optical track ball and click selector that just happens to occupy the same spot as the single “home” key on the iPhone.  Needless to say, I have been pushing that click selector by accident through pure muscle memory from my iPhone and iTouch.  An optical trackball on a touch screen device?  Why?

Despite these issues, I am sure I will get around the downsides of this device and make it into a very useful tool for business and personal use.  However, how many customers will take the time to become an I.T. manager for their phone?

For the past several years I carried my Blackberry for phone use and light Internet use and an iTouch for fun.  The true test will be if I go to one device.

The iPhone, like all Apple products – just works out of the box.  The Droid can work, and even do more, but you have to know what you are doing and be willing to investigate the necessary solutions.  The Droid is clearly still rough around the edges.

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Filed under Apple, Droid, HTC, Incredible, Incredible, iPad, iphone, Ipod, iTunes, mobile, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, skype, smart phone, Smartphone, Social Media, Steve Jobs, Verizon, wireless

A Special Thanksgiving Lesson – From Mobile Social Networking

Thanksgiving is a holiday that all Americans, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion and politics seem to rally behind. I decided to put this notion to a test.

A couple of years ago, I decided to run a small social experiment during the Thanksgiving season. At the time I was CEO of UPOC. I invited members from several diverse groups into a special “What are you thankful for…?” – mobile chat group. The idea was to have everyone give a “shout out” of thanks. The experimental part of this mobile chat group was the source of the member groups that were invited.

These groups included: Christian Fundamentalists, Atheists, Communists, Hassidic Jews, Muslims, Anarchists, Right to Lifers, Republicans, Druids, Democrats, Red Sox Fans, Yankee Fans, Reform Jews, Blacks, Asians, Gays, Lesbians, Hispanics, Satanists, Israeli and Palestinian, Young and Old.

Yes! I even invited Red Sox fans!

I tried to get the most diverse group of individuals I could possibly imagine that had open chat profiles. In the end I invited about 5000 people and got about 500 to join.

In the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was careful to hide the sources of the groups of the members.

Different Cultures, Religions, Ethnicity, Sexual Preferences, and Sports Affiliations. None of the differences were obvious, just the similarity of giving thanks.

Leading up to the holiday, the expressions of thanks were heart warming. Many gave thanks for Family, Friends and God. Some expressions of thanks were deeply personal including being thankful for a second chance with a loved one, being paroled from jail, having recovered from an illness, having the opportunity to see a loved one for the holiday, etc. The expressions of introspective appreciations knew no boundaries of culture. If you hid the chat handles from the messages you would have had a very difficult time identifying the group that a specific message had originated. It seems that people are really just people.

Everyone has their share of joy and “meshugas”

The second unexpected part of this experiment happened after the long Thanksgiving weekend. The expressions of thankfulness stopped and biases and bigotry emerged.

By the end of the week the word had gotten out to the participants who some of the other members of this group really were. That’s another side of social networking, its tough to keep secrets.

Right and Left Wingers began to spar, Fundamentalists started to try to save the Satanists, Hassidic Jews were condescending of Reform Jews- And the Red Sox and Yankees fans – it was just too ugly to repeat…

Stripped of their diverse background identifiers, people of vastly different cultures have very similar things to be thankful about.

Once the identity veil was lifted I was thankful that everyone in the group was in cyberspace and not really in the same physical room. I removed the group a week after Thanksgiving to avoid potential bloodshed.

Maybe there is something we all can learn from this social experiment in this season of Thanksgiving.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Isarel, lesbian, mobile, politics, sex, Social Media, social networking, Thanksgiving

Biggest Patent Goof in History?

The history of the original Bell Telephone patent for the telephone is thick with claims, lawsuits and races to the patent office. In the midst of all this, the information giant of the late 19th century had a perishable opportunity to become the information leader for another century. They blew it!

This has to be one of the biggest examples of “Innovators dilemma” in history.

AlexanderGrahamBellFacing competing patents and an incomplete invention, in 1877, Bell and his supporters offered to sell the Patent for the telephone to Western Union for $100,000. The offer was refused.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and his financial backer, Gardiner G. Hubbard, offered Bell’s brand new patent (No. 174,465) to the Telegraph Company – the ancestor of Western Union. The President of the Telegraph Company, Chauncey M. DePew, appointed a committee to investigate the offer. The committee report has often been quoted. It reads in part:
“The Telephone purports to transmit the speaking voice over telegraph wires. We found that the voice is very weak and indistinct, and grows even weaker when long wires are used between the transmitter and receiver. Technically, we do not see that this device will be ever capable of sending recognizable speech over a distance of several miles.
“Messer Hubbard and Bell want to install one of their “telephone devices” in every city. The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?
465 “The electricians of our company have developed all the significant improvements in the telegraph art to date, and we see no reason why a group of outsiders, with extravagant and impractical ideas, should be entertained, when they have not the slightest idea of the true problems involved. Mr. G.G. Hubbard’s fanciful predictions, while they sound rosy, are based on wild-eyed imagination and lack of understanding of the technical and economic facts of the situation, and a posture of ignoring the obvious limitations of his device, which is hardly more than a toy… .
“In view of these facts, we feel that Mr. G.G. Hubbard’s request for $100,000 of the sale of this patent is utterly unreasonable, since this device is inherently of no use to us. We do not recommend its purchase”

Western Union quickly regretted this decision and hired Thomas Edison to invent and patent devices to gain control of telephony. These patent efforts must have made money for lawyers, but in the end Bell prevailed.

William Vanderbilt – the son of Commodore Vanderbilt, controlled Western Union. They made their fortune from the railroads The telegraph’s biggest use was as a mechanism to enable better train scheduling, and secondarily as a general communications device.

William Vanderbilt sold Western Union to fellow railroad tycoon, Jay Gould, in 1880 for $10,000,000. The Great-Great-Grandson of Jay Gould founded Upoc Networks in 1999 and served as CEO through 2004. Entrepreneurial genes must run in that family.

In 2004, I joined Upoc as CTO and was appointed CEO in 2006.

dada_index3Dada S.P.A, an Italian based company, acquired Upoc. To the best of my knowledge Dada has no connection with railroads, but is a world leader in provider mobile media to cell phones, a distant relative to the original Bell Patent.

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Filed under CEO, mobile, Patents

Yes Virginia, Santa does TXT!

santa-text1

When I was leading Upoc we would create “Themed” social networking groups around different holidays.  We had particularly interesting groups, and results around Thanksgiving, Valentines Day, New Year’s, Hanukah, Kwanza, MLK’s Birthday and Halloween.  The most interesting, and memorable group was the Christmas group of 2007.

Each social network had a particular question that the members were asked to answer and comment upon.  For Thanksgiving the question was simply, “What are you giving thanks for this year?”  For Christmas it was, “What do you want from Santa this year?”

These social networks were created from the existing Upoc community.  We used our in-house tools to invite members to join.  When a network reached a critical mass of between 500-1000 members, we had a vibrant group.  Since I enjoyed the social networking, group psychology, and the pure fun of these networks, I was often the group moderator and owner.   The majority of the messaging within the group was done via SMS text messaging.  It was not unusual for one of these group to generate millions of messages during its life.

So you probably guessed by now.  I was “Santa”.  I would watch the group discuss their  various needs and wants, and then once or twice a day, as “Santa”, I would interject some pithy (hopefully) comment.  My username was “Santa”.  As Santa I would also boot from the group anyone who wanted nothing more than carnal contact with Santa!

This pattern continued for about a week, when a particularly classic desire bubbled up from a member.  She was a single Mom, with another baby on the way.  She lived in a very rural section of a Southern State.  To protect her identity I will call her “Virginia”.   Either Virginia thought she was text messaging with the real Santa, or she was really good at role-playing.

She texted Santa and said she “really believed in Santa”.  We had several text conversations about her living situation and she would ask about the reindeer.

After communicating with Virginia for two days I decided it was time for Santa to practice some real  holiday spirit . I messaged her that if she really believed ielf_poster1n Santa, then she would get a call from one of Santa’s helpers, “Charlie the Elf”.

In terms of full disclosure,  “Charlie” worked in our customer service department and was eager to play the role of an Elf.  Charlie called Virginia and got her address.  She was a little curious why Santa did not already have her address since he visits every house on Christmas Eve, but we and she let that one slide.

Once we had her address, I went to the web page of the real Santa helpers – Toy’s R Us.  I purchased various items to brighten her holiday- some toys, books, and baby clothing.  These items were shipped directly to her home.

After I made the order I checked out her home on Google Maps.  Using the Satellite view I discovered that the address was in fact a trailer on a secondary dirt road, connecting to the main dirt road, that connected with what may have been a paved road about 5 miles away.

toysrus-logo-high2Santa sent a message to Virginia to tell her that her package was on the way and that it would come from Toys R Us.  She messaged back asking why Santa needed to use Toys R Us.  I thought about sending an explanation about outsourcing and the global flat economy, but instead just told her that Santa needs a little help in reaching the most rural areas.ups-logo

As Santa, I used another of Santa’s helpers – UPS- to track the package.  When the UPS service send me a message that the package had been delivered, I texted Virginia to ask her about her gifts.   She got back to me and messaged that there was no package by her door.   I went back to the UPS web page and it informed me that the package had been left behind the carport.  Santa then messaged Virginia to look behind the carport.  She messaged back in a couple of minutes, totally amazed that I was able to tell her exactly where to look.

If she did not believe in Santa as a magical figure before that, with the help of text messaging, Charlie the Elf, Google, Toys R Us and UPS, she was clearly a believer now!

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Filed under advertising, blackberry, CEO, Christmas, Google, hockey, location based services, mobile, new media, politics, Santa Claus, social networking, wireless

The Technological Political Battlefield of 2012

 

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As I read Jose Antonio Vargas‘ report in the Washington Post   titled “Republicans Seek to Fix Short-Sightedness” on my Blackberry, I realized that this story is an excellent bookend to my previous blog about the Obama Internet machine.

In his well thought out piece he links the Republican election disaster to their lack of technological savvy.  My favorite quote in his article is:

“The Republicans are the party of talk radio, the Democrats are the party of the Internet”

A great observation was that the with the 1990’s technology of talk radio you can broadcast your message and influence the masses. With the Internet you can also influence the masses, with the significant benefit of developing mailing lists and raising money, directly.

This technological campaigning and fund raising changes in 2008 are as significant as Kennedy’s grasp of the use of Television in the 1960 campaign.

Before we once again get consumed with the 2012 Presidential election,we should ask , what will be the technological strategies and tactics of the next cycle?

Here are some of my top three predictions for the technological battlefield for 2012.

(as dangerous as it is to make predictions 4 years in advance!)

Social Networking will be big in the next election cycle
This election saw the beginnings of using social networks such as facebook®, MySpace® and Linkedin® as linkedin4organizing and fundraising tools.   Volunteer recruitment will be a social networking exercise, by 2012 these networks, and probably new ones, will be mature and even more mainstream.  The party that masters social networking will have an advantage.  A key aspect of mastering social networking will be the durability of the networks.  We already can see how the Democrats are continuing to use their social networks post election.  Starting the next election cycle with social networks measured in the 10’s of millions will be a significant asset.

Mobile equals Internet

The advances in mobile devices will largely erase the difference between Internet and mobile campaign efforts.  Direct fundraising via the mobile device will be commonplace.  The mobile will be more prominent in real time organization.  In 2004, the product of my former company (Upoc) was used by protesters in New York to direct real-time rallies during the Republican Convention.  The party that is mobile savvy will have a real-time advantage in 2012.

Management of Viral Videos matters
youtube_logoDuring this last cycle both parties were injured by popular viral videos. Examples of these videos include Obama’s Pastor – Reverend Wright, the Palin/Couric Interview and the more watched Tina Fey parodies.  The news cycle for politics is 24/7, with every moment forever archived on sites such as YouTube.  This election cycle witnessed the first “made for YouTube” videos by the Obama campaign.  The next election cycle will use YouTube as a major battleground.

Please share with me your views of important technology trends for future elections.  It will be interesting to bring this post out of the archives in 2012 and determine how well we did with the predictions.

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Filed under Election, location based services, mobile, obama, politics, social networking, wireless

Social Networking, Vegas Style

Now that I have recovered from the whirlwind week at the CTIA show in Las Vegas, I can reflect on some of the events of the week.   I have to plead guilty to “stirring the pot” and creating some interesting debate in my panel session on social networking. 

  The topic of monetizing social networks on mobile networks was discussed, with the obvious conclusion that advertising will have to pay a key role in any sustainable business model. The debate ensued on the relative roles and economics of this model as it applies to the network operator and the social network owner. Network Operators have a tremendous database of potentially useful marketing data for third party application providers to utilize in maximizing the ad inventory of their products. In the past, and for good legal reasons, the privacy of this data has been honored and not exploited in a maximum economic manner. Now enter the social networks.

 

 
A social networking profile has more information than exists in a carrier marketing database. Profiles are volunteered, are deep with interests, preferences, activities, relationships, friends, etc. The data housed by the social network is a potential bonanza for advertisers. The inability of network carriers to fully exploit their consumer data could become a moot point as the mega social networks integrate their data with mobile ad networks.
The next issue that was debated was the relative power between a social network that may have over 100M members and a network operator that has 60-20M subscribers. Most business discussions with operators have a clear pecking order. In general the carrier is picking and choosing the best partners, from many, that will maximize their revenue and customer’s needs. 
  There are very few application providers who have this discussion with an operator as an equal or superior level of relative strength. One example that obviously leaps to mind is Apple. The Iphone introduction and partnership appears to be a relationship between “equals”.   The existing introduction of large social networking onto mobile devices seems like a partnership of equally motivated and powerful partners, each bringing significant assets to the table. In the future, will the large social networks try to cut similar revenue sharing arrangements as Apple? Will they be able to? And lastly, will it matter. 

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Filed under blog storming, CEO, CTIA, social networking, wireless

Social Networking Welcome Mat

Sometimes you just need a little guidance

Over the lifetime of Upoc, our subscribers have formed more than 40,000 groups. The topics have ranged the entire spectrum of human experience, from dating to religion, sports to politics, and everything in between. The question is, with so many options available, how does a new subscriber to the service get started? Where do they go? It can all be somewhat intimidating, similar to a kid moving to a new area and starting at a new school.

We decided that we needed some safe, friendly and familiar places for new subscribers to start within Upoc. Similar to a welcome mat . So, we started themed highlighted groups. This process began in the fall with groups for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza and New Year’s. The response was overwhelming. Members flocked to these ready-made and monitored groups. Our customer service organization was very diligent in making sure these groups stayed on topic. The big win was that a large percentage of the group members in these themed groups had recently joined Upoc. Just like the first student who reaches out to the stranger in the school lunchroom to show them the way, these guided themed groups provide a familiar safe haven for new users to start to interact on common topics: “What are you giving thanks for on Thanksgiving?” “What do you want from Santa Claus this year?” and much more.

Web 2.0 is all about user-generated content, and Upoc has been at the forefront of this long before it had a catchy name and was considered universally cool. The purist would say, “Create the platform and let the users decide how it is used and provide the content.” What our experience has found is that an unaided Web 2.0 environment can be somewhat foreign and scary to newcomers. Web 2.0 needs a friendly atmosphere and a way to ease users into the full freedom that they can enjoy in this new realm of social networking. Providing themed and monitored groups is one step in making Web 2.0 a more welcoming experience for the masses.

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Filed under mobile, social networking, wireless