Month: May 2009 (Page 1 of 3)

Palm Pre syncs with Apple, and more!

Palm came out with a bit of news that reiterates the old wisdom of joining who you cannot beat. The Pre will apparently be able to sync with Apple’s iTunes and iPhoto apps. Apparently, the Pre makes iTunes think it is an iPod or something. The whole thing apparently fails on the DRM side, so no “old” iTunes for the Pre then… What Apple will say to this? Well, that remains to be seen. They surely won’t be happy. But on the other hand, they will probably want to avoid any in-depth tussle over the question of their proprietary software, monopolization and all.

We also learned that, because Palm Executive Chairman Rubinstein is an old Apple hand, “the engineering culture at Palm bears some similarities to [Apple’s]”. There you have it.

But the Pre is doing even better on the music front: its MP3 player includes onboard support for Amazon’s MP3 Store. Files are downloaded directly over the air to the device. Now that’s pretty cool!

More coolness comes with search: the Pre searches, and then – if you want – it searches some more, in Google, in Twitter, … Neat, very neat!

Now, on to the app store. Oops, it is called “web catalogue” at Palm. How many apps at launch? Um, “a dozen or so”… Ah…

So will it succeed? Of course it will: according to Roger McNamee, managing partner of principal Palm investor Elevation Partners, all iPhone users with expiring contracts will switch to the Pre at 4.25pm. There you have it, again!

Android Wave rolls in

No, this post will not muse over Google’s new Wave announcement today. I rather wanted to give a brief update on the wave of Android devices that is promising to roll in over the course of this year. I had posted on this before (e.g. here and here), and Google, at its Google I/O developer conference gave a hint (yes, funny enough through Yahoo! News…) on the size of the deployments we can expect this year. And its not bad at all: 18-20 Android phones this year tells us Andy Rubin, Google’s Sr. Director for Mobile Platforms. The article then goes on to quote a number of analysts on earth-shattering insights but let’s leave these aside.

Android’s advantage was always going to be two-fold:

  1. As an open-source platform based on a Linux kernel it would be a) cheap and b) stable. This is invaluable for handset manufacturers as it reduces their development costs for new handsets significantly. I have no hard numbers but the rumoured ones are fairly high…
  2. Because it is a stand-alone OS rather than a combo of hardware and software (as the iPhone or – at least for the time being – Blackberry devices are), it will be used and deployed by a plethora of manufacturers rather than only one. And, well, this results in many more devices in the market (think MS DOS vs. Apple OS).

And this is now starting to show…

In terms of increase of “smart” phones (and these will, I would suggest, in the future include models we would today class as “feature” phones) this is seriously good news. How a slick and versatile operating system can spurn extended use of a mobile device beyond voice and SMS was impressively shown by the iPhone (8% smart phone market share equal 43% of web requests). Others are catching up (cf. here and here) and the more is the merrier when it comes to providing devices consumers actually can use. Avoid the term of “educating the consumer”; the consumer is quite educated but if people need a customer service helpline to even open the box (courtesy of a cider ad in the UK), one must not be surprised that people do not use it. Ease of use rules and well-made operating systems support that.

Are you Smarter…?

mathbordThe sales power of the Apple App Store is legendary with its 1bn+ downloads in record time. I have repeatedly held though that the other end of this ecosystem, i.e. the entry door to the app store (and related SDK and all) – and its relative ease of use – was an equally imporant contributor to Apple’s success. And now we have a beautiful example on how cool this really is: in Chicago, an 11-year old and his 9-year-old brother designed and programmed an application called “MathTime” that has just gone live on the app store. It provides random addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems and their solutions.

The creators, Owen and Finn Voorhees, worked on it for 9 months and it is now live on the app store, which means available for sale in every country the iPhone is currently available – on deck so to speak! Try this with a J2ME app…

Now, I do not want to belittle Owen’s efforts (it is spectacularly awesome for any 11-year-old!) but this would arguably not have been possible on any other (mobile) software platform. Even if some smart kid might be able to write such a programme. To get it into live distribution on official on-device app stores (or operator portals) would be just utterly unthinkable. Try close those deals with all them operators. Good luck.

I have not seen the MathTime in action but since Apple approved it to go live, it must have passed at least certain thresholds. The whole ecosystem on any of the “classic” carrier channels would have thwarted any attempt to do the same. Would it have worked on Android Market? On the Blackberry App World? Nokia Ovi? I don’t know but it does not really matter since they are basically only further iterations of the model that Apple came out with first: a cr0ss-carrier, multi-territory, single-SKU deployment channel with a fairly regulated development environment. Fragmentation? Hah! Multi-channel distribution? What?

It is here where we should sing Apple’s praise: to make it possible that 5th graders can not only write but publish an application is truly stunning! That their dad needs to front it as the seller for being the only adult involved in the process is then only a touching and even more pronounced little detail, isn’t it?

Carnival of the Mobilists #175

The Carnival of the Mobilists #175 is being hosted over by Igor Faletski at his Mobify blog, and you can read it here. Included is my post on Vodafone’s forthcoming app store as well as a couple of great contributions on use of mobile technology in the education sector as well as politics, Palm OS/WebOS (see also my last update on the Pre), history of innovation in mobile technology, and, and, and. Now, go read!

Palm Pre & iPhone: O2 wants it all

o2_logo_no-bubblesO2 has won the exclusive distribution rights for the Palm Pre in the UK it is reported. This is noteworthy as the carrier also is the exclusive distributor for the iPhone in the country, so putting the iPhone “killer” next to the ubiquitous uber-smartphone might be a bit of a daring move? Or is it? Let us bear in mind that there are a lot of voices that caution about the operators’ for the iPhone: huge average data consumption on flat rate plans is not likely to drive ARPU. Apple managed to break the old operator model by taking chunks of the revenues realized through its devices and it does not share in any content sales. Apple does not allow anyone to put their brand onto its device (I am struggling to find any O2-related information on my iPhone, and even I think they might have taken it a bit too far… So, the Palm Pre deal actually does a couple of things:

  1. It gives O2 a shot at what might (or might not) be the next big thing (although analysts expect that – at least initially – sales will be much lower than for the iPhone: “Its going to sell principally into the base, to existing Palm owners and existing Sprint subscribers”).
  2. It allows O2 to put a little more leverage in its relationship with Apple. Having a device on its roster that has a powerful specs, an appealing interface and something like a cult following (although the cult appears to being a smaller one than the one of the Apple fashionistas) would help O2 in future negotiations.
  3. If (or when?) the exclusivity period for the iPhone ends (which commentators expect to happen soon), O2 would have another uber-cool gadget exclusively (I for one swapped over to O2 to get my hands on an iPhone).

So whilst few people do not know much, the combination of the above provides any number of good reasons for O2 to go for the Pre (assuming the business model agreed with Palm is not too bruising; but one can expect Palm, which has to fight its way back into the market, to be slightly less demanding than Apple), which promises to being a fairly cool device indeed: besides having a lot of all the things the iPhone has (touchscreen, multi-touch, cult following) and some more (QWERTY-keyboard) it beats Apple on home court: take Apple’s aversion to cables, the Pre doesn’t have to be “plugged” into anything; you just place it next to its touchstone charger and it charges by magnetic induction. Steve Jobs will be fuming about this one… oh, and it runs 15-20 apps simultaneously. The one question might be: which apps? But, hey, let’s see where they’ll get to…

A new home for my blog

After a little over 2 years on Blogspot, I decided it was time to grow up and move to my very own domain.

I will now blog over here. All old posts have been imported and are part of this blog though links to (even older) posts will still refer to the old location.

Expect a few more refurbishments to take place over the coming weeks and stay faithful!

Thank you!

Handset Choice: Ease of Use Rules!

A lot of iPhones later, the industry now also has it black on white: Ease of use is the primary reason influencing the choice of a handset for users. Or so we are being told. It is not that surprising, is it? Here’s the top answers users gave on what they look at when buying a new phone. It is taken from 1,500 interviews that were conducted for Nuance, a top sponsor of MEX (which is, you guessed it, a conference on Mobile User Experience).

So any vested interests aside, here’s the top results:
  1. Ease of use (69.0%)
  2. Screen Size (61.4%)
  3. Coolness Factor (61.1%)
  4. Camera (60.8%)
  5. Range of Accessories (58.4%)
  6. Keyboard (58.1%)
  7. Battery Life (56.6%)
  8. Music Playback (50.9%)

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