Tag Archives: wireless

The Razr’s Edge

It is amazing how my two year old HTC Incredible phone managed to die just as the Moto Razr was released.   While there are 100s of reviews of this phone on the web, I have not found any that describes a real life experience, with the ups and downs of getting this new super phone to work for you.  So here it is…

To begin with there are a few things you have to understand about an Android phone.  No two phones are alike.  Phones that come from different manufacturers have their own custom software add-ons and interfaces.

Android phones are like your Thanksgiving dinner table.  You look around and can tell that most of the people are genetically related, but each has their own “special” qualities and quirks.

This is why these phones are popular with the various carriers and manufacturers.  They have, in theory (and I think its just a theory) the ability to differentiate their offerings from one another.  It gives the marketing folks a “raison d’etre”.

Android phones are not the one size fits all that you get from the iPhone.  Android phones are very capable devices. But as they say “With great Power comes great responsibility”  In this case its your responsibility to make the phone do exactly what you want.

With that preamble, you will understand that my moving from an HTC Android to a Motorola Android required a bit of a learning curve.

I lost the HTC Sense UI that I had grown use to and now have some alien  form of Moto Blur (really a bad name for a UI!) and straight Android.  I also went from my “Froyo” version of Android to “Gingerbread”, with the promise of getting upgraded to “Ice cream sandwich” in the new year.  Unlike Apple, many Android devices have been orphaned at lower versions of their operating system.

Now for the actual device.

The Razr Droid is bigger (length and width) than most phones.  At first it feels awkward in your hand but you get used to it after a day or two, so no “big” issue.  The larger size comes with  a great screen.  It is a crazy thin phone and an amazing bit of consumer electronic packaging. There is also no user replaceable battery.  In this regard it is the same as the iPhone

It has a Kevlar backing and I am sure someone will try to shot it and see it its actually bullet proof.  Note to person wanting to try that, It is not bullet proof, trust me! Leave that stuff to the MythBusters show.

You will also realize that this phone is really, really fast.  Dual Core, lots of Ram , yada, yada, yada.

Once you get over how cool looking and fast the phone is, you have four main tasks.

Getting your email and social media accounts hooked up, finding, installing and arranging your applications, loading up you media (songs. videos, pictures, etc) and figuring out how to make the battery life last longer than 6 hours.

I will assume that you know how to do the first two.

To load up you music and other media “stuff”, the Dorid ships with a app called “MotoCast” whicj can sync any files from your home PC or Mac to your phone.  Motocast works as long as your home PC is on and connected to the Internet.  It took a few tries before I got it to work properly.  It’s a personal cloud service.  In the past I used an app called sailing media to do the media syncing via a usb cable.   I was able to sync up my droid with my fav music and videos, although nothing is as simple as syncing an iPad or Iphone on iTunes

I will now focus on what I did to extend battery life.

There are some basic tricks to start with

Wouldn’t it be nice if something in your phone just knew to do all this for you?

Now comes the Motorola magic part……

The Droid Razr comes with an app called smart actions.  This app lets you set up various triggers and then tells the phone what to do.  Some of the triggers are time based such as what to do in the morning, evening and night, some are based on remaining battery level, and some are based on lack of motion of the phone

Here are the battery saving settings that I use from Smart Actions:

Low Battery Saver:

1.            If Battery is less than 20% and the Device is not charging then:

Make Brightness 0%,  Turn Off GPS (just in case its on), disable Background Syncing of Data ,  Turn Off Wifi, Turn Off Bluetooth, Send a Notification to the phone (make it vibrate) to inform me of this condition, and launch the application LTE On/OFF (to remind me to turn off 4G, just in case its on)

Motion Detector:

2.            If no motion is detected for a couple of minutes, and the phone is Not Charging then:

Turn Brightness to 0%, Make display timeout 15 seconds,  turn off Wifi, turn of GPS,  turn off Background Syn

Call Detector:

3.            On Incoming Calls

Make display timeout 15 seconds, make brightness 0%.

Charge me Please

4.            Charging Reminder

If not charging and time is later than 10:00 pm

Then sound a chime to remind me to plug in the phone to charge it

“Hey its dark and warm in here…

5.            Pocket Detector

If your phone is determined to be in your pocket (not sure how this done, ambient light?  Warmth? )

Turn display off.

All these rules are completely variable and configurable by the user.  I arrived at this set for myself after a bit of trial and error.  With the tricks I listed above and creating these automatic actions , I can get about 10 hours of usable time on my phone before a charge.  This is about what I got on my HTC Android.

As a backup I carry a small rechargeable “Energergizer to go”  model xp2000.  This is about 1/3 the size of the phone and carries one complete re-charge.

I would recommend this phone if you want a thin, yet large screen device,  with lots of speed.  If you get it you will have to spend some time tweaking it to get it just the way you like it.

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Filed under android, Apple, Droid, Droid Incredible, Google, HTC, HTC Incredible, iPad, iphone, iTunes, mobile, Motorola, movies, Music, Razr, Smartphone, social networking, Thanksgiving

Google Acquires Patents – and Also Motorola

Google + Moto is the BIG NEWS of the summer.  It was big enough to grab me out of my blog vacation.  While the pundits are filling the airwaves with analysis on this one , I view it perhaps more simply, more straightforward.

The battleground for supremacy in connected devices (mobile smartphones, Tablets, and  set-top boxes) has moved from the R&D labs to the court rooms.  The patent wars between Apple and Google are fierce, with Microsoft bulking up on its own portfolio as part of the consortium that bought the Nortel patents.

Motorola was worth the price Google paid just for their patent portfolio.  In patent wars if you get sued, you better have a patent in your portfolio that can hurt the attacker.  In this way you trade mutual assured destruction with a patent stand-off.

When Google acquired the rights to Motorola’s 25,000+ patents, they bought both defensive capability and offensive firepower.  Apple may go after Android for an Apple patent but what are the changes that Google now has a patent that can hurt Apple?

It is impossible to design and produce a device such as an iPhone, iPad, or Android device that will not infringe on someone’s patent.  Impossible.  What a company must do is acknowledge that they will infringe and hope the other guy also infringes on their patents and us the mutual infringement to to either create a license arrangement or to have both companies do nothing.

Google’s price of $12.5B is about $500,000 per patent, which seems to be a bargain compared to the $4.5B  Apple and Microsoft for 6000 Nortel patents.  Their price was  $750,000 per patent.

Lets assume that the Motorola sale  is approved and Google gets the Motorola patent portfolio.  Google’s next problem is that they have also bought a company that makes handsets.  I say this is a problem because this is a huge company in a market that is different from Google’s core competency.  This is also a company that competes with Google’s other OEM partners for Android Devices.  The conventional wisdom is that these other OEM partners will start to defect, en mass,  to Microsoft.

Yeah right….

What does defect even mean?  Microsoft will pay these companies to produce some Windows phones anyway.

Android is free.  Can Microsoft compete with free?  Google makes its money on Android from their ad business.  Microsoft must make money from their software license for Mobile 7 operating system.  Besides for being years late to the party, Microsoft is structural disadvantaged to compete.  At best they can hope to be a number 3 player.

Google has two choices.

Number 1: They can acquire the patent portfolio and then spin out the Motorola Mobility Business, probably re-cooping half their initial investment.  They could sell Motorola’s handset and tablet businesses, along with licenses to the patents they now own to either HTC or Samsung, their two most important OEM partners.  This would be an amazing move.

Number 2:  Keep the Motorola hardware business and expand Android into the Cable Set-Top Box market.  This is the riskier of the paths as the sheer weight of a big manufacturing company could alter the culture of Google for the worse.  This path would be an attempt to become “Apple”.  While this path seems to be the assumed defacto strategy of Google, I am placing my bets on scenario #1.  This will take a couple of years to play out, so hold onto this link and let’s see if I am right.

An indicator that we are on Scenario 1 will be if Microsoft acquires RIM (Blackberry) or Nokia.  This would be an acknowledgment that the Google OEM manufacturers are not going to defect to Microsoft and that they must own a hardware company to compete.

This has only gotten worse in the last 10 months!

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Filed under Acquisitions, advertising, android, Apple, blackberry, Cable, Droid, Google, HTC, iPad, mobile advertising, Mobile Application Stores, mobile commerce, smart phone, Smartphone

Calling Microsoft’s Next of Kin

In  Microsoft’s struggle to remain relevant in the exploding mobile device market, they withdrew their latest attempt at a teen social networking device from the market.  The Kin’s market life was about 50 days.  It was a decent device , just  two years late to the game.

You can light a candle in memory of the Kin at kinrip.com. Its a very touching memorial website.  May its memory be a blessing.

According to Engadget part of Kin’s delay was caused by Microsoft scrapping the IP, or part of it, that it paid $500M for in their acquisition of Danger and instead re-developing the device on the soon to also be defunct Windows CE system.   Engadget also reports on corporate power plays, executive infighting and internal office politics.   Not what you would expect.

If this is not a Harvard Business Case Analysis in the making for a new crop of Cambridge bound MBA’s , I don’t know what would be.  You can read the full Engadget analysis through this link. The key element that is dominating the new super-phone marketplace is the ever-increasing velocity of innovation.

Microsoft announced their new Smartphone OS –Windows Mobile  7 – in January 2010.  The first devices with this Microsoft OS are expected to hit the market near the December holiday season.  In that same period of time Apple released their new iPhone and a new iPhone OS, the iPad, an Ad network, and who knows what else we will see in the next 6 months!   The Android ecosystem will have almost two-dozen variants, with each new device more spectacular than the last.  HP acquired Palm and is integrating their technology into their netbooks, and perhaps producing another new line of smartphones.  RIM’s Blackberry will have several releases and a new OS,  and of course Nokia’s product line has a makeover with a new operating system.  The speed of innovation is accelerating at a dizzying pace.  This is great for consumers, great for innovation and great for moving services to the market quicker.

And Microsoft?

They introduced, and then killed one phone and announced that they will have a new system by the end of 2010.

One thing is certain; the world is not waiting around for Microsoft to deliver their Windows Mobile 7 devices.

But maybe we should be, and here’s why.

Microsoft has  too much corporate talent, financial resources and computing market reach to just pull up their tents and go home in the most important computing segment.   Microsoft survived the debacle of Vista because they are Microsoft,  and have had virtual monopoly power in desktop computing.  In mobile, Microsoft is not the leader in market share, thought leadership or industry hype.  They have to slug it out with a crowded field of very nimble and powerful competitors.  This means they have to innovate and be quick about it to survive.   Having almost a one-year duration from product announcement to introduction is just not getting it done.

The irony is that the marketplace could really benefit from a strong Microsoft presence.

Apple is getting very economically aggressive with their high perch in smartphones.   Google’ Android Platform will likely eclipse Apple in aggregate sales in the next year. Do we all want to place our computing futures completely with Google?  Make no mistake about it , I am a big fan of Apple and Google.  It’s just that absolute power in markets has its downsides.  From a U.S. perspective, the only companies with the overall corporate strength to play on the same field with Apple and Google are RIM and Microsoft.  Nokia could be a legit player, globally,  but their position in the U.S. is just not strong enough.

In the irony of ironies, Microsoft is the leading candidate to challenge the emerging monopolistic leaders in the smartphone business.  They can keep the competitive environment going well into the future and prevent it from stagnating into a duopoly.    The issue is that Microsoft seems incapable of getting out of their own way, with failure following failure in this space.  The Kin is just the latest mobile problem for Microsoft.   Even the name “Windows Mobile 7” is a window (sorry for the pun) to the desktop corporate computing bias.   Android, Blackberry and iPhone all sound cool.  Windows Mobile 7 conjures up images of blue screens.

I know that’s not fair but,  it is what it is.

Windows Mobile 7  seems like a name picked for internal synergistic and political reasons and not one geared for mobile market success. If there was ever a company that seemed to have all the assets in place to dominate the mobile smart phone business, it was Microsoft.  Now they are trying to be in the mix and be relevant.

If Windows Mobile 7 is not a success, then the last card for Microsoft to play will be the another acquisition , perhaps RIM?

For the sake of keeping Apple and Google honest in this space, I am hoping for a success from Microsoft.

Do you believe that Microsoft’s Mobile team can deliver?

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Filed under Acquisitions, android, Apple, Droid, iPad, iphone, microsoft, mobile, Mobile Application Stores

Augmented Reality? Really?

I have tried over 100 apps on my new Super-Droid, the HTC Incredible.  One of the more interesting and  hyped areas is that of Augmented Reality.  Here is the  Wikipedia definition for AR –

Augmented reality (AR) `is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.”

On my Droid, most AR applications are a mash-up of GPS, Google search, camera viewing, compass heading and overlay visuals.   The overlays are anything from tourist locations, buildings, roads, bars, restaurants, and of course Starbucks.   You look at your phone as the phone’s camera looks at the world and adds its own heads up display (HUD).

While these apps have an “Ubber-Cool” factor, AR does not yet seem to have found its mainstream raison d’être.  Its fun to show your friends and get them to say  -“ooo”, and “ah”, but then what?

Who is going to walk around holding their 4 inch screen in front of them while looking for something and following an arrow in their AR world?  All sorts of enhanced navigation programs, either for driving, walking, hiking or public transit already exist with great mapping displays.  The potential fro AR is likely huge in the future as the applications further develop.  But for now, it is early days.

If you want to try out AR for and judge for yourself here are 5 programs you can download for free on a Droid.

-Layar

A Legal Neighbor listed as a "Bar" - needs some work..

Layar  (get it –  LayAR) is an environment that permits others to development AR functionality on displays and maps. It is in essence an AR aggregation platform – an AR browser- that is mostly ad supported with some premium subscription services.  I can use my virtual Droid HUD to find everything from apartments, nearby Tweeters, Foursquare locations,  local wikipedia entries and even the weather.  Weather?  Yep – look through the HUD and see an AR cloud superimposed in your view with the temperature on it.  There is even a weather app for tornado warnings.   If you have to look through the phone to determine you are looking at a Tornado, its may be Darwin Award time.

A Landmark on Foursquare

Just because you can do something with technology does not mean you have to do it!  Similar to overall smartphone apps, let a million apps bloom and something good will happen.

Here is the web catalog of all Layar powered AR apps.

-Laser Level

The program superimposes perpendicular red “laser” lines in your HUD to help you straighten that picture you just hung.  The app works pretty good, but not really efficient for hanging pictures and I would still want my contractors to use a physical level.

-3D Compass

This app floats a compass and a map on your screen, along with speed and altitude.

Its fun to play with this app when I take NJ Transit into NYC.  For the record, the trains hit a top speed of around 60 mph, New York is east of New Jersey, and the train rarely gets airborne.

-Zagat NRU

This is a curious app that displays all Zagat rated venues within circular range bands, arranged by compass heading.  Its great to showpeople, but then what?  Okay gang lets go to this new Italian restaurant; we have to walk at 37.6 degrees  NNE for 1.5 km?

-NYC Wayfinder

Hold up your HUD display and it will point out subway entrances.  Does it also paint a target on your back and add a European carry-all to you, virtually?

The potential for AR applications exists and like any technology in its early phases, many potential uses will be explored.  What is amazing is how relatively easy it is to make this apps with the basic tools and capabilities of the Android (and yes, iPhone too)

What will the killer AR apps be?  I have two predictions for AR apps.

My first prediction is for massive multi-user, AR enhanced games.  Pick your favorite version of Human/Zombie, Capture the Flag, etc –   and have all the players be able to track each other in an AR enhanced world and even “shoot” each other and record “hits”, all in augmented reality.  This can take the collaborative gaming experience of the XBOX 360 and get everyone outside actually running around and exercising.  Just like kids did before computer games.  Ironic…..  Of course this is what he U.S. military does, for real. So who would be most motivated to fund and produce such an app?

Another interesting app, assuming the key development enabler of cheap AR viewing glasses will be virtual tours.  Instead of holding a small screen, view the AR world all the time?  I could easily see tourists using these to get around various venues and even have embedded virtual tour guides pointing out local areas of interest.  Imagine visiting the ancient Roman port of Caesarea in Israel and having your virtual guide enhance your view to show you what it really looked like 2000 years ago – virtually. For Real.

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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

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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