Friday, December 28, 2012

ZTE Nubia Z5. A super-thin, quad-core, 1080p superphone. Time to catch some Z's.


Here come the Nubias!

ZTE recently established the "Nubia" sub-brand to stamp on its higher-end devices in order to make a serious push against competitors such as Samsung, Apple, LG, Nokia, and HTC. Will it work? This latest device does look serious.

The ZTE Nubia Z5 runs Android Jelly Bean on a Qualcomm 1.5GHz quad-core chipset, has a 5-inch 1080p display with 443ppi, 32GB of internal memory, a 13-megapix camera with a Konica Minolta branded lens, a 2-megapix front-facing camera, and 2GB of RAM.

All this comes in at 126 grams with a thickness of 7.6mm.

The unsubsidized retail price for a Chinese-specific version is $550 which is a good value for such a super smartphone.

So, will Nubia phones like this soon be on sale at your local Carrefour or Walmart or via key operators? I think it's safe to say that you will soon be able to catch some Z's at a retailer near you.

ZTE Nubia Z5:

Nubia logo:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Flexibility in design: Will Samsung be flexible during 2013? And if phones screens do get softer, will it be just a curiosity?

We've been seeing flexible display components for many years now. Will 2013 be the year they finally get used in some truly innovative ways? Fingers crossed.

When it comes to device form factors, the smartphone business is a snoozer. More than 90% of devices on the market look essentially the same. And let's be honest, they work the same as well.

What happened to the excitement of future innovations? I've seen some pretty cool device prototypes and concepts during my career. Sadly, I suppose most of these are collecting dust in storage boxes somewhere, and others are used as very expensive paperweights.

So, will 2013 be the year of something just a little bit fresh? Maybe. Samsung is expected to show some sort of prototype device using their own flexible screen components. Whether this will be a technology display to interest other handset vendors in their displays or a working Android smartphone from Samsung's mobile unit isn't clear. But we'll see the light soon at CES.

We've been seeing these flexible screens from Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, 3M and other component vendors for approximately four years now. The bigger question is how useful are these if all the other building blocks of a handset are stiff as a board? Would a handset that conforms to the inside of your pocket be a subtle solution to a slight problem? Now it's up to designers and software engineers to think outside the block.

And let's face it, this is what we're all waiting for:

Twenty trends for 2013 from Trend Hunter.


Trends for 2013 from trend-spotting firm Trend Hunter:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Smells like 1961. Did you get a 3D printer for Christmas? Now print your own LPs. (Gen Xers and older only need apply)



A record printout.

Amanda Ghassaei from the instructables! website provides directions on how to 3D-print a record album using your own music making it possible to create a customized LP.

So for those of you who may have taken a step into the future and received a new 3D printer for Christmas, but who simultaneously want to take a step back in time, here's a project for you. I suppose this could be rather tough on your turntable's needle. Perhaps the day will come when you can print one of those out as well.


Monday, December 24, 2012

1080 is the new 720. In flagship smartphones & phablets, Full HD could be your New Year's resolution.

— OPPO 1080p display smartphone >>
— SAMSUNG GALAXY SIV expected with 1080p >>
— PANASONIC Preparing 1080p smartphone >>
— PANTECH preps 1080p resolution Android phone >>
— XIAOMI rumored with 1080p >>
— SONY's 1080p 5-inch Z Phone >>

One recurring theme over the last few days is stories of 1080p resolution 5-inch smartphone/phablets to be announced at CES 2013 next month (January 2013). HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Oppo (who?), Panasonic, Pantech, Samsung, Sony, Xiaomi, ZTE. Large-screen smartphones with Full HD (1080 x 1920) screen resolutions could become the flagship norm during 2013.

So, if your top-end device is 720, you had better be prepared to sharpen your image. Thanks to screen components from vendors such as Sharp and LG, small screens are becoming amazingly crisp.

Some might argue that Full HD is a little bit too crisp, that is, the average person won't ever notice in screens as small as five inches. But to the naked eye, the number 1080 will always look bigger than the number 720: when checking over a product's tech specs, this could become yet another numbers racket.

So, what's your New Year's resolution?

HTC's DROID DNA. What time is it? Is it time for 1080p?

Picture source: GSM Arena

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Is Google about to release the high-end "X Phone." Maybe, but sorry to tell you Google, the name is already taken. See the unbelievable xphone.

SLASHGEAR STORY: Google X Phone flagshipp tipped with Motorola in tow >>

Is Google about to make a serious push into the high-end smartphone and tablet business with amazing new devices? Will they alienate some of their best Open Handset Partners with direct competition? After a series of dull years, 2013 could turn out to be interesting for the smartphone biz.

Frankly, It doesn't make too much sense to me: Google would push deeper into a low-margin business from a high margin business. That's business development in reverse. Sure, they've had the Nexus-line of handsets. But those were more like technology demos made by OEM partners. But if Google starts using its Motorola skill set to challenge Apple at the high-end of the smartphone and tablet market, perhaps as an attempt to get an early jump into mobile finance, the ramifications across the handset industry could be exciting. Perhaps it would push more OEMs and operators towards Windows Phone or Firefox OS.

So, are Google "X Phones" really in the works as is being reported? will Google release in-house designed, high-end devices to shake up the market. I'm not sure. But I do have some bad news for Google: the xphone has already been done. It's an unbelievable product out of Germany.

I've tried myself to find this device, but supplies do seem to be limited. Perhaps you'll find an xphone under the tree in the coming days. So, good luck with that and happy holidays!

PLEASE NOTE: The video is in German, but you'll get the picture.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tongue in cheek of the week: Living in a bubble.

Things are going your way. In fact, business has never been better. Crowds wait in line to buy what you're selling. Your ASP is through the roof. You sure are sittin' pretty. Oh what glorious days.

So, sit back & relax: there's no reason to worry. These days will last forever. ROLL THE TAPE:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Welcome to the jungle. An Amazon phone can be expected to "pack a lot of sophisticated hardware into a very low price point."



Will 2013 be a very unlucky number for many incumbent smartphone vendors? Will Amazon become the piranha of the industry, ripping away profitability flesh?

It's most tempting to look for your greatest competitive threats coming directly from existing competitors. But that's like looking for your lost keys under the lamp because that's where the light is.

So, rumors of an Amazon smartphone are getting loader and more serious. According to some sites including several in Taiwan, Foxconn has leaked info about an Amazon smartphone coming mid-2013. Such a device would likely run an Amazon-spiced version of Android, but no real solid spec details were included.

The price of such a device —perhaps as a cliché it will be called the Kindle Phone— is reported to be between $100 and $200. Such a price is not at all unprecedented for a subsidized smartphone, but if Amazon sells such a device with no strings attached at around the cost of materials, it could require handset makers to re-examine their existing business models.

There are certainly no guarantee of success for Amazon. Google has not set the world on fire with their own Nexus line of smartphones. And there are many unanswered questions concerning service providers and geographical markets.

It could be that '13 really does turn out to be an unlucky year for some smartphone vendors —as long as we make it past tomorrow (December 21, 2012) that is.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos on the Kindle: "Our approach is to work hard to charge less. Sell devices near breakeven and you can pack a lot of sophisticated hardware into a very low price point."

iTube: mobile food allergen detector. I heart the potential of sensors + big data + clever algorithms.


Facebook tells us about old friends we may want to get back in touch with. LinkedIn tells us about jobs we may be interested in. Amazon tells us about books we may like. YouTube tells us about videos we may be interested in seeing. The supermarket even prints out customized coupons for ice cream I might be interested in trying. All this without asking.

For the most part, I find that such proactive marketing is rather helpful and amazingly accurate. But this shouldn't be surprising: there is a lot of big data and clever algorithms behind each notification.

And the potential for combining big data with proactive notification is just beginning. Let's call what we'll be seeing in the near future "big proactive." There will be more proactivity concerning individual healthcare and well-being as a history of data compiled from sensors overtime will calculate risks of disease. Sensors know the when, the what, the where, the weather. And going forward they will sniff out problems with our bodies and the air around us. Sensors will even be checking our food.

Here's an interesting project done at the University of California, Los Angeles called "iTube" which uses sensors to turn a smartphone into an allergen detector. By detecting food allergens such as gluten, peanuts and eggs, the smartphone can act to warn users of potential food risks.

I'm positive that sensors and big data will be big moving forward.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maersk to shift away from shipping. Cisco to leave home routers. What to do when your high-margin ship has sailed?


STORY: Maersk to switch focus from shipping >>

The Financial Times reported last month that the world's largest shipping company, Denmark-based Maersk, plans to shift away from its core business of shipping as competitive pressures and slowing demand decay profitability in the segment. Maersk management plans to invest more in oil, drilling, and terminals services in order to fill the gap being left by its iconic cash cow.

When it comes to reliable cash cows, at what point does a company need to move to greener pastures? How weak does pricing power have to be and low do profit margins have to go to walk away from a dog?

IBM left the personal PC business earlier in this century and successfully concentrated on the market for business services. That's an impressive journey. IBM is the eponymous creator of the market for devices once called "IBM clones." But commoditization pushed prices and profits down. Maersk to move its business focus from shipping sounds nearly as strange as IBM leaving the PC business. But companies move on.

The news that Cisco is getting ready to off load its Linksys unit is another decision of leaving a dog —I say that in a BCG Matrix manner and is no reflection on its products— behind. Motorola once made car radios and televisions. Nokia made boots and tires.

Over the coming years we will see companies pick up and leave the handset industry as profit margins continue to thin out. Those companies will try to move into adjacent markets, perhaps mobile advertising, mobile finance, mobile enterprise services. Some will succeed.

It's difficult not to fall in love with an industry and breaking up can be hard to do. But avoid falling in love with any business segment, no matter how sexy: it will only cause you pain. It's important to recognize when your growth ship has sailed. Then you need to reach for the stars.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Follow the components: PrimeSense's Capri 1.25. The technology behind Microsoft's Kinect is going mobile.



Smartphone vendors, you had better move it!

What's after touch? Non-touch of course. Gesture and voice and other forms of natural user interfaces are coming our way to complement ubiquitous touch.

Here's some interesting news from Israeli-based PrimeSense, the company that makes the 3D sensing technology behind Microsoft's Kinect, the one exciting device on the otherwise boring CE market. PrimeSense announced that it is introducing similar 3D input technology to market in a "revolutionary small form factor and low cost." This could mean Kinect-like interactions and gaming built into in smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other small places.

From experience, I know that it takes a few years between the introduction of new component technologies like this and their real-world implementation. But the journey to change is starting soon.

With technologies like (and also from companies such as Leap), are we heading towards a hands-off experience?

Coming soon to a phone near you?

Kinect the dots: PrimeSense's technology goes out on a limb:

Sony's Yuga super phablet to feature 128GB internal storage. Is storage the next mobile arms race?


Sony's Yuga, expected to be available early next year, is high on the tech specs charts: it has a 5-inch 1080p display, a quad-core Samsung processor, 2GB of RAM, LTE support, 12-megapix camera, and is water and dust resistant.

Plus it comes with 128GB of built-in storage. It's been years now since I've heard that the first terabyte phone would soon be available, so this isn't a technology breakthrough. And given the advances of virtual storage via cloud-based services, there are some smooth ways to get around on-device storage limitations these days.

Nonetheless, the first terabyte phone will come at some point allowing users to carry around an entire library of content in their pockets. With the Yuga, Sony is one of the first mainstream device vendors to take a step in that direction.

So, will big storage become a big trend?

SD storage roadmap from years back. Tera is coming.

Image source:

Samsung Galaxy Grand 5-inch dual SIM. Even phablets are going dual SIM these days.

STORY from the Next Web >>

Samsung introduced a device which is in essence a lower-end Samsung Note. Called the Galaxy Grand, it runs Android on a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, has 5-inch LCD display, and an 8-megapixel camera.

The trend to note here is the availability of the device in a dual-SIM model.

For those who follow the mobile industry, please don't fall for the "six billion mobile subscribers" stories that have been floating around earlier this year. The proper word should be "subscriptions," not subscribers. Some estimates are that there are actually fewer than three billion global subscribers, and some say as few as two billion. Granted that's still an amazing number.

The math indicates that there are possibly more than one billion people, and likely a great deal more, who have more than one mobile account, and thus at least two SIM cards. This is not niche market.

I am still waiting for Microsoft to announce support for dual-SIM hardware in Windows Phone. Unfortunately I suspect a long delay which will cost them share when and where they need it most.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tactus Technology. Will device form factors soon be changing... in front of your eyes?


A nice tactile technology that could change things. Eventually one of these technologies will catch.


Philips Lumiblade: "a material that emits beautiful light."


Interesting light prototype from Philips: "a material that emits beautiful light." The surface is the light source.

Picture furniture, windows, even walls, that light up. And this could enable some interesting devices.

Breaking news: Microsoft still isn't going to buy Nokia. And Franco is still dead.

An old friend contacted me a few days ago wishing me a merry Christmas -- and asking me if I thought Microsoft was finally going to buy Nokia. That's the second time I received that question in a week, and the third time in a month.

The Microsoft-buying-Nokia rumor goes way back. The rumor actively floated around inside of Nokia for many years when I worked there even going back to a time Nokia was at the top of its game, and Nokia's enterprise value was more than five times what it is now. There was no evidence, just some people's gut instinct. And Friday-morning, market-trading rumors of course.

The rumors popped up now again, but talk really went wild when former Microsoft exec Stephen Elop was hired as Nokia's CEO in late 2010, and again when Nokia announced its partnership with Microsoft to bring out smartphones based on MS Windows Phone.

Some say Microsoft needs Nokia's brand and distribution in order to make it big in the mobile world, others say it's Nokia's IPR, others say it's Nokia's design skills, and still others say it's Nokia's maps.

But the key argument I've been hearing is that Microsoft needs a manufacturing base and when it comes to mobile logistics, who in the world is better than Nokia? There's no doubt that few companies can put handsets together like Nokia. The company assembles something along the lines of 10 handsets per every second of every day of the year and each handset requires more than 100 components. It takes a well-oiled machine to pull all these pieces together.

But let's note the trend. Manufacturing is heading East. Over the past few years, Nokia has closed or is in the process of closing handset factories in Germany, Romania, Finland, and Mexico and moving production closer to the components.

And contract manufacturers such as Foxconn, Compal, Quanta, and Flextronics are literally picking up steam. Handsets, laptops, televisions, cameras, Blu-ray players, remote controls. If you've never heard of any of these companies, look around your living room and your kitchens for one of their products. A handful of assembly firms in the world almost certainly made that CE stuff you see. (Foxconn is so big, that during the financial crisis of 2008, the company announced layoffs of 100,000 and nobody really noticed.)

(NOTE: I am aware of the stories of Apple possibly bring some PC manufacturing to the U.S. and perhaps in-house.)

So the news of the day is that Microsoft still isn't going to buy Nokia. One large, rather slow-moving company of 92,000 is not going to buy another large company of 45,000 (105,000 if you include NSN) hoping to become more nimble and quicker to market.

In my opinion, it's always been a strange rumor. The pieces just don't fit together.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Just released! Market shares: Q4 2017. The future history of the handset industry.

Apologies. Actually I don't really have the handset market shares for Q4 2017 here. But I always think it's a good idea to do some scenario planning. It's useful to think outside the pie chart blocks once in a while. Call it a mental exercise.

So please forget linear for a moment. Forget slightly curved trajectories or minor market modification models allowing for demographic adjustments. Don't think small changes. Think big chunky market surprises. Think consumer boredom followed by new entrants and extreme excitement. Think new business models, and perhaps even new form factors.

Before looking at the market of 2017, let's look back a bit, say 20 years before that. In 1997 Motorola had around 25% global market share followed by Nokia at 20% and Ericsson at 15% and Panasonic at 8%. Motorola, Nokia, and Ericsson had been and continued to be the reliable big three for years.

Five years later, in 2002, the market looked very different. Nokia became the dominant global handset vendor with around 36% global share, Motorola dropped to a distant number two with 15% and Samsung reached number three with 10%. Siemens was close behind and had surpassed the recently formed Sony Ericsson. Note that only half of the top-ten handset vendors of 2002 still exist as stand-alone companies, some being bought, others just disappeared.

Many top names came and went over the years. Sharp, Siemens, BenQ, BenQ Siemens, Philips, Alcatel, Sagem, Kyocera, Sanyo, Sony, Ericsson, Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, NEC...

So, it's time to think new -- and old. Some fresh faces, some familiar. Some mergers. Some acquisitions. Of course I have no idea what the market will be like in five years, but experience tells me there will be bigger market changes than our minds will care to think about. So, here's my fun stab at the future of mobile market shares (all very unlikely, but do think just for a moment about how your company would need to adjust if changes this big were to take place):

So, it's time for the audience to fill in the blanks. Consider it weekend homework:

Tongue in cheek of the week: Who said that? Android is winning the war says Google's Eric Schmidt. Exclusive Google business model video!

Who would have guessed that Android would so quickly become the extreme power of the smartphone universe? Who would have envisioned such market domination?

Google's CEO Eric Schmidt said this week that it is now clear that Android is winning the mobile platform war against iOS and of course others. And according to analysts, Android has as much as 75% global share of the smartphone market.

It's about time we face reality: Android has basically exterminated most of the other competitors on the market. This is no laughing matter! Who will save us now?

Is there a doctor in the house?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

AT&T Asthma Triggers. Sensors get proactive.

eWeek STORY >>

More sensor fusion collusion.

Here's a potentially life-saving mobile accessory from AT&T. AT&T "Asthma Triggers" monitors surrounding air quality for potential air quality problems and uploads information via a gateway to a central AT&T service which in turn feeds information back to the user's devices such as smartphone, tablet, and laptop.

I've seen many working prototypes like this get stuck in a lap somewhere. It would be nice to see ideas like this make out into the real world. Such proactive health-monitoring services could be taken much further over the coming decades monitoring data over time and providing ongoing feedback about potential health problems. The power of sensors and the power of crowds used for good (and hopefully not evil).

Crowd-sourced crowd support with Sony's Vamos Viewing app. Shake things up a bit.

I wonder if the inventor of the accelerometer envisioned this: an app used to create virtual crowds for supporting sports teams.

As part of its World Cup Japan 2012 sponsorship, Sony has released an app called Vamos Viewing which allows viewers anywhere to shake their Sony smartphones to show their team support. The shaking data is collected in real time and visualized with other fans. It's like creating a virtual crowd. Throw in some location data and you have some nice sensor fusion collusion going.

This is rather sweet in some ways if shaken in moderation. I'd like to see more like it.

The world is becoming a crowded place.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How low can they go? How will the market adjust to lower revs and margins?


TECH CRUNCH on $50 Androids >>

Informa: 1 in 2 smartphones to be sub $150 by 2017

There were several interesting stories this week directly related to the on-going trend of smartphone commoditization and dropping ASPs. Forget the $100 laptop, we're entering the world of the $50 smartphone.

Let's look at MediaTek's plans to begin offering low-cost quad-core smartphone chipset solutions. Taiwan-based MTK says that their quad-core platform will be available during Q1 2013 and already one big-name smartphone vendor, Sony, is kicking the tires. MTK provides the guts for hundreds of millions of handsets per year. While most of these are feature phones, the company has been pushing into smartphones over the past few years. Expect more competitive disruptions to come and a plethora of even more new industry entrants.

At a conference talk, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales highlighted the popularity of a $50 Android-based Huawei smartphone in Africa. And that's street price according to Wales. Frankly, I wasn't aware prices had already come down so low as only a few years ago, the sub-$80 trade-price smartphone still seemed years off. But it's a nice story about the march towards the democratization of information.

Today, industry analysts at Informa released some info from an interesting report saying that 50% of "smartphones sold in 2017 will be priced below US$150."

The average smartphone price will drop from US$188 in 2011 to US$152 in 2017 as a result of it balancing the huge demand for entry-level smartphones in emerging markets and the demand for “super-smartphones” in developed markets. The devices’ average gross margin is expected to remain flat – in the range of 20 -25%.

I suppose they are referring to retail prices. Informa believes that Apple and Samsung will continue to maintain profit margins well above average, which runs under the assumption that the value of those brand names will continue on a linear trajectory.

In the year 2012, it seems like a safe bet to state that Apple and Samsung will continue to be the mind-share leaders in 2017. But let's recall that the Motorola RAZR and Nokia's N95 were two of the market's premium devices about half a decade ago.

I am not sure about brands, but one trend is clear: smartphone prices and margins are coming down and it's time for vendors to adjust to the competitive environment. And what happens to the market for feature phones when smartphones are retailing for $50?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Skating to where the puck is growing next. Good foresighting is only part of the game.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being a guest lecturer at a master's business class at Lund University, a large university in southern Sweden. (Thanks to the course arrangers for the invite.)

My talk was about some of the lessons I learned during my decade and a half working with Nokia including the dangers of taking the cash cow for granted while pursuing stars, the threats of egocentrism, and the threat of dismissing wounded competitors.

I found it interesting that included on the course's required reading list was a Harvard Business Review article from November 2001 entitled "Skate to where the money will be" by Clayton Christensen, Michael Raynor, and Matt Verlinden. (I know that there were many Christensen fans in Nokia and his business theories influenced many managers in the company.)

The article used the ice hockey metaphor of the importance of skating to where the puck is going to be, not to where it is now. The article points out that it was such a foresighting instinct that made Wayne Gretzky a great player. Similarly, businesses should have the foresighting ability to go to where the action will be. It does make for a good business-world metaphor.

Ironically that same HBR article was practically required reading within Nokia for many years. The article was widely circulated around the company and the "skate to where the puck is going" metaphor was widely quoted both inside the company and externally by upper Nokia management. (Perhaps not surprising coming from a Finnish company given the hockey culture.)

But let's throw out some scenarios. What if you have the foresighting instinct to see where the puck is headed but aren't too good at skating (bad at implementing), or you are looking a bit too far ahead and you waste time waiting for the puck to come to you (bad timing).

A company called 3Com introduced the "Audrey" tablet computer back in the year 2000. The device was a bit bulky and awkward to use (implementation) and many of the enablers weren't quite ready at the time like the screens and wide WiFi adaption (timing), but we have to give them credit: they certainly were skating to where the action would be -- about ten years before it got there. They were waiting there with hockey stick in hand until the product and later the company died of boredom. The road to oblivion is sometimes paved with good inventions.

I've deviated Woody Allen's success quote before on this blog. I will do it here again: 80% of success is showing up at the right time and in the right style.

In the mobile game, the ultimate goal is not just to make a goal, but to win the title match season after season. That's the real trophy. That's the real trick. But if you don't realize when you are skating on thin ice, it might be time for the coach to call a timeout. Or it might be time to replace the coach.

Y2K problem? The Audrey tablet device (picture below) from the year 2000.
3Com (three who?) skated to where the puck would be a decade too early.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Is the web about to get real? This nice Web Real Time Communications API demo by Firefox could make some market players uncomfortable.

When it comes CoIP (communications over IP) news, I follow The CoIP Blog. It's run by a guy who knows his CoIP. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, he coined term "CoIP."

That blogger, who was Nokia's in-house communications over IP expert for many years, has been providing some great coverage of WebRTC developments. Web Real-Time Communication being developed by the W3C could become an incredible enabler for open-standards based live communications over the web including live voice and video. Of course there are solutions on the market now, but the APIs being developed by the W3C could lead to some interesting new, low-cost communication approaches.

Below is a good video of VoIP things to come thanks to the coming WebRTC APIs. Will those mobile operators who are now blocking Skype packets begin blocking pages that use the WebRTC APIs? Legacy fightback can be such a bummer.

NEWS SOURCE, CoIP blogger Janne K.

Xperia E dual. Another lower-end dual SIM Android smartphone. It's a real market.


Most dual-SIM smarties are Android based. So, where's the Dual-SIM Windows Phone? (Could be called "Dual-WIN" or maybe even the
"Win-Win phone" if it ever arrives.)

There's really not a thing exciting about this smartphone other than the fact that it has a feature that is going to excite a lot of potential smartphone users around the world: two SIM slots.

The new "Sony Xperia E dual" runs on a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon processor, which is rather tame by 2013 standards. It has a 3.5-inch HVGA display, ships with Android 4.0 ICS, has a 3.2 megapixel camera, supports HSDPA (not LTE), and ships with 2GB of user accessible storage. No prices provided. Sony says this device will start shipping during Q1 2013.

This isn't the first dual-SIM smartphone from Sony, but this is another signal that there's a market developing out there. Many bloggers and news sites say that such devices are great for business people who travel a lot, but in reality, much of the demand is coming from SIM-card jugglers who have become experts in squeezing value from different operators.

Dual SIM demand is moving from feature phones to smartphones. All mobile platform vendors should be prepared to double down.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The inventory of things. This is good news for losers like me. Stick-n-find.

Stick-N-Find WEBSITE >>

SOURCE (boing boing) >>

I've been looking for something like this for a long, long time. Oh Stick-n-find, where have you been hiding all my life?

So, are you a loser like me? Do misplaced things cause you to lose your mind? Don't lose heart: technology is here to save the day.

To be honest, this concept is nothing new to me. I once found a great product idea like this being developed in a lab. I found it exciting. And I waited for it to come to market. And I waited some more. But unfortunately that product idea got lost in the shuffle.

Anyway, check out this cool mobile accessory that allows you to mark and track people, pets, and things. And if the company behind "Stick-n-find" is looking for a spokesperson, they need look no further than this blogger: I'm misplacing things all the time -- my phone, my keys, my wallet, even my kids. And of course there's the ultimate paradox, the misplaced eyeglasses. I've been looking for a way to look for things for many years now. And I know I'm not alone.

Yes, Stick-N-Find is exciting for losers like me. For scatterbrains and the disorganized. It allows you to track items using coin-sized, low-power Bluetooth tags with a range of around 30 meters/100 feet. The company says the batteries in the Stick-N-Find tags last around a year. An iOS app assists in locating the tagged items using a radar metaphor giving hot-or-cold indications. And misplaced items can be buzzed and even flash.

Ironically I couldn't find any pricing info for Stick-n-find as the product is still in development. Please don't lose your way Stick-n-find. I do hope you find what you're looking for. (Funding.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Qeexo's FingerSense. It's the what touch of the touch input world.


Will smartphones and tablets soon be wondering what touched me?

There are almost certainly more than one billion touch devices being actively used today. Android-based devices account for at least half of a billion, iOS for around 400 million, and there are tens of millions of touch Symbian devices still being used. And there are Windows Phone phones, and there are Bada phone phones. The list goes on, and it is touching.

With at least 90% of smartphone sales being touch monoblock, the number of full-touch devices is growing very quickly. So it's nice to think that many of these devices could be introduced to a new UI paradigm through a software upgrade.

Check out this user input enhancement called FingerSense from startup Qeexo. FingerSense informs the underlying platform about WHAT is touching the screen: a thumb or an index finger. A knuckle or a fingernail. A big, fat stylus or a little, skinny one. Etc.

Apparently Qeexo accomplishes this using a clever software algorithm which can, among other things, distinguish the sounds and physical vibrations of what's touching the screen together with variables such as thickness and placement.

I could imagine that clever UI designers could do some amazing things with such flexibility. And poor UI designers could ruin a platform.

With touch device activations around two million per day (around 23 per second), it's nice to think there's something a bit refreshing on the horizon. Unfortunately I've seen lots of good ideas like this die on the operating table. I do hope this one has the magic touch.

PCMAG: Android Device Activations Top 500 Million,2817,2409601,00.asp

Engadget: Apple brags: sells 365 million iOS devices, 140 million iMessage users

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jolla, unveiled. Is this the Red Bull of the smartphone biz? Did one of the world's most boring industries just get an energy boost?



I used the analogy of the soft drink market several times now when describing the duopoly that has formed in mobile platforms. There's Coke, Pepsi, and some hopeful cola competitors. There's Android, iOS, and some hopeful platform competitors.

And then there are the Red Bulls. The companies that hit an industry from the side with something different, something fresh, and something unexpected. Today we get a first look at the Sailfish OS from Jolla.

Jolla is in essence the grandchild of the Maemo OS, which was one of my favorite mobile platforms ever. (I was lucky enough to be a test user for the Maemo-based Nokia 770 tablet which was released back in 2005. The touch monoblock device provided real browsing and a smooth overall user experience.) In addition to the platform unveiling, Jolla has also announced a partnership with ST-Ericsson for optimized mobile chipset solutions for the Sailfish OS, a support in the Finnish operator DNA, and the fact that Sailfish will support Android apps.

More info from Jolla is hitting the market as of this writing. But for now, I like the little bit we see here. A UI filled with nice big clear words rather than vague icons. A UI that cuts to the chase and could be one some operators embrace.

So, is Jolla Bull? Red Bull?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Misfit Shine. An activity-tracking device that radiates simplicity. The pairing is the real magic.




Activity tracking devices have been popping onto the market over the past few years with companies such as Nike, Jawbone, Motorola, Sony, and a series of start-ups introducing smart, wearable devices to encourage better living.

Here is another one from a company called Misfit Wearables, which was co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley. The device is called "Shine," a coin-sized metallic device that, the company says, can intelligently and automatically track activities such as running, swimming, and biking.

No matter how well the activity tracking works, what I find most amazing is the super smooth pairing between a Shine and an iPhone. According to the Misfit, all that is required to sync the accessory to an iPhone is placing it on the screen. This is where the device really does shine. As the iPhone does not have NFC, Misfit is making some very clever use of the iPhone's existing capabilities, possibly via sound waves and/or WiFi or Bluetooth.

Prices start at US$79.

Check the pairing. Sound, BT, WiFi? How'd they do that?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tongue in cheek: Get your market timing right or you could be history

The business world can be so medieval.

So, an idea clicks in your head. You get to work. Yes, you're an innovator. A real visionary well ahead of your time. You have concepts and even near-working prototypes of products and services long before your competition. Sorry. Take a number and get in line. You're missing one key ingredient.

Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up. I would add that showing up at the right time greatly increases your odds. History is full of sad stories of missed opportunities. We've learned over and over that being first to a market that isn't quite ripe is a recipe for failure.

Here's to hoping you get your timing right and your good ideas don't simply get shelved. After all, you don't want your company to be history. ROLL THE TAPE:

Wave hello to a new UI parameter: electrical fields feel 3D gesture input.



Some pedant scientists are quick to remind us that there really is no such thing as touch as we know it. The sense we call touch is actually an illusion. A misunderstanding. A method for the mind to simplify a more complex process of electron avoidance. We can hover and transfer electro impulses, but we never really reach out and touch someone. The universe is actually a very repulsive place.

As far as smartphone user interfaces go, we've been stuck in 2007 for five years now. The monoblock touch form factor now accounts for approximately 90% of all smartphones. The world is flat as a pancake it seems, full of dark dark black, rectangular screens.

When will the next UI shift happen? Follow the components.

Here's an interesting story in MIT's Technology Review about a new technique for devices to sense 3D gesture-based input for devices. Rather then using cameras or accelerometers, Microchip Technology has introduced a way to used electrical fields to sense 3D movment. Microchip calls this enabler "GestIC Technology," and could lead to some interesting user interactions in devices a few years down the road. Picture an accurate gesture-based UI in a car, or perhaps under the car. In the kitchen, or in the garden.

A touch replacement? Probably not. But it's clear that handsets are becoming more sensitive. And thanks to the magic of sensor fusion, data from the growing number of device sensors can be made to work together in wonderful ways.

Perhaps we won't be waving goodbye to touch, but rather hello to another step towards the UI of the future.

3D input cubed. Concept video from Microchip:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Coming up for air. Report: Microsoft surface sales expected to fall far below company expectations.


Watch out for red herrings. Beware of excuses.

Reports are coming in from both Microsoft execs and suppliers that Surface sales are coming in far below expectations. In fact, some rumors have it that Surface volumes could be almost half of the company's original expectations going into the end of 2012.

So, what are we hearing? The typical industry newspeak platitudes and the classic slow-start excuses: "there are component issues, supplier troubles, sales channel limitations, encouraging levels of early interest, it's really only meant to be an early adopter device, we're creating pent-up demand, steady as she goes..." Oh yes, supplies are limited so order now, max two per household, must be over 18 to order.

And just wait until the next version!

To be fair, Surface has only been on the market for two weeks, but as I speculated after release, Microsoft's Surface tablet was overpriced and under app'd at start. Given the risk to consumers, expect pricing trims and free accessory throw-ins.

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer "We've had a modest start because Surface is only
available on our online retail sites and a few Microsoft stores in the United States."

Yes, you heard it right!
The product is so good that supplies are limited, so order NOW!!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Astounding Translation. Microsoft takes speech recognition to the next level.

Picture the ability to speak to anyone anywhere in the world and whatever language you want in your own voice.

This project from Microsoft Research is going in that direction. Star Trek fans might call this a sort of universal translator. Microsoft is one of those companies that has some great stuff in the pipeline. I hope things don't get clogged up and this sort of product and/or service sees the light of day.

I'd hate to see this translation get lost.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Something Nubia. Can ZTE establish a hot new smartphone brand? Asian hardware influence is increasing no matter what.

Brands come & they go, and they're born & they grow.

Before there was LG, there was Goldstar. Back in the '70s and '80s, those who didn't want to spend the money on a Zenith-branded television set or a Technics-branded amplifier went to K-Mart to buy Goldstar-branded electronics. It was a downscale brand for the lower-end of the market. But back in the '90s, rising like a phoenix from the ashes, the LG brand was born from Lucky Goldstar. It went upscale. It went quality. And it worked.

So here comes the "Nubia" brand from ZTE. It's one vowel and one consonant away from the "Nokia" brand, but who's to say where inspiration comes from these days?

ZTE has been successful with some reasonably solid Android-based phones, and they've made some significant volumes with operator-branded devices, but now it looks like ZTE means business. Will the Nubia brand become a household name in Western Europe and North America. Is Nubia another Samsung or LG in the making? It could be.

The bigger trend here, however, is the on-going commoditization of smartphone hardware with Asia-based companies such as ZTE, Huawei, HTC, MediaTek, Foxconn, Compal, Xiaomi, Lenovo, TCL, and others growing their influence over the industry. If strong brand names can be built or bought by the same, more power to them, literally.

If Chinese and Taiwanese companies can build up big brand names, it's icing on the commoditization cake. There might soon be a nu sheriff in smartphone town.

The "Nubia" brand from ZTE. Will this be the hot, nu thing?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Portfolio inflation. A mile wide, an inch deep: does your portfolio suffer from device creep?

Let's forget about feature creep for just one moment. It's time to talk portfolio creep.

Consumer segmentation is a delicate process requiring a steady hand and a sturdy heart.

Sure, it might be tempting to micro-manage by creating mini segments to maximize margins. But significant overlaps usually result in under-impressing and end up being a mega mistake. In the end you might go beyond market cannibalization and you end up eating your own young.

Don't think too big, don't think too small, for in the end you please nobody at all.

(Thanks to those Facebook acquaintances who shared this video.)

A look into the future of screens from Japan.

I always say that future mobile device trends are easy to spot: just follow the components.

Here's a look at screens to come. From Japan:

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

De Frag. Fragmented thinking created a temporary comfort zone for Android competitors. Painful.

Cellular News Story & platform market shares >>

Android took 75% market share during Q3 2012! With fragmentation like that, who needs unity?

A few years back as Google just began kicking up its huge mobile dust storm in earnest, most Android competitors took some comfort in the fragmentation myth: that the many emerging isotopes and skins of Android would result in a broken ecosystem and developer & consumer pain. So when IDC announced the other day that Android's share of global smartphone shipments reached 75% during Q3 2012, I began to wonder what went wrong with that fragmented way of thinking. Where did it come from?

The current market stats are amazing: there were 136 million Android-based smartphones shipped during Q3 according to IDC, five times as many iOS-based smartphones. Those two platforms now have an oligopoly with 90% market share, leaving the others to fight for the market crumbs. How did it come to this?

The contradictory notion that Android's sudden white hot success would turn into its undoing reeked of sour grapes. Android's wide market adoption was a painful lesson for the market incumbents to watch. Google, a virtual mobile newcomer, was being taken very, very seriously. By operators. By vendors. By developers. And by consumers.

Smartphone portfolios were suddenly filled with Android-based devices, and Google's apps store quickly filled with high quality apps and services.

And then came talk of potential binary breaks as Google amazed with version updates at an inhuman pace. Some industry executives chimed in. There were too many OS builds on the market at the same time. Too many form factors. Too many APIs, too many tweaks, too many options, and too much customization. Supposedly the belief was that all this would be Android's Achilles' heel.

But for the most part, in the end, this fragmented thinking did a lot more harm to the competition. It enabled the creation of artificial comfort zones and supported the on-going denial of real-world trajectories. Industry executives from several non-Android adopter companies pointed to Google's market dynamics as being self destructive. Thick PowerPoint stacks were creating trying to prove this theory. All a waste of energy.

Exaggerating or inventing competitors' weaknesses is an effective --but expensive-- method of rationalizing. Rather than looking in the mirror, it's tempting to spend energy in trying to prove the competition is wrong than prove yourself right. It's a matter of creating the proper mental attitude. And aptitude.

Binary breaks? A million tiny pieces? Android managed to keep itself together.

Friday, November 02, 2012

BCI reaches new heights: a thought-controlled artificial leg teams with this stair climber.


More think about it!

This young man with a thought-controlled artificial leg will climb 103 flights of stairs up to the top of Chicago’s Willis Tower, aka the Sears Tower.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The next best thing to being there? BEAMING there? Is this the future of telecoms? Maybe some day.



Beaming. This ambitious European Commision-funded project is looking to add a physical dimension to telepresence services by choosing from a smorgasbord of trendy technology topics including neuro-interfaces, avatars, haptics, 3D scanning & input, and robotics.

This advanced telepresence project could lead to a leap in what remote workers and educators could achieve, and in the long run trickle down to consumer services.

Contemporary professional videoconferencing systems like those from Tandberg have come a long, long way in usability and enjoyability. Here's a vision of what's to come:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blacksocks scandal? At $19 a pair, do socks really need RFID, or is this just abuse of available technology?


Has technology implementation reached a new low?
Does a sock really need an iOS app to find its beau?

I don't mean to knocks this great idea for socks.

For $190 you get a box that is filled with smart black socks.

And with these smart black socks comes a little black box.

This little black box can help you sort your special dark black socks.

But what if you lose your dark black box before you can sort your smart black socks?

Perhaps it's me and I'm a bit over the hill,
But is this the sort of thing that is technology overkill?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is Muse the new mouse? Think about brain-computer input using the InteraXon "Muse."


"The technology will know what's on your mind, and respond..." InteraXon.

Brain-computer interfaces have the potential to change the way we think about using devices. The why isn't very clear yet, but the how is getting there.

Here's how such things start: with devices like the Muse from a startup called InteraXon. It is a head-worn device with four EEG sensors supporting the collection of information such as stress levels and concentration. So what? Please think about the potential.

For learning, for gaming, for well-being, for healthcare, the applications will be discovered and they will be developed.

MOTO SOLUTIOS HC1. Just a heads up: computing form factors are expanding.


Over time, technology developments for the military and high-end enterprise bleed into markets below and eventually affect the markets for mainstream consumer devices.

Check out this Borg-like, wearable computing device from Motorola Solutions (not the Google-owned Motorola unit). The intention is to keep field workers well connected to back-office support. It relies on voice input for its UI, leaving the hands completely free for getting them dirty.

Near-to-eye display devices are nothing new: I've seen various gadgets from mainstream CE vendors such as Sony more than a decade ago at trade shows. But now the pieces are coming together. As Google has demo'd with their Project Glass, the components and software is out their for fresh approaches.

Slashgear reports that pricing for the HC1 is in the “$4,000-$5,000” range. In the world of truck rolls and field work, this could be a very reasonable investment.

A heads up: computing form factors have the potential to evolve in amazing ways:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Making the SAL (Spousal Approval Level). Is Microsoft on the wrong side of 400?

At $500, too many competing products are well below the Surface.

Sure, hindsight is always 20-20, but it's still entertaining to look back and be judgmental about past judgments. Shortly after the original iPhone was unveiled back in 2007, Steve Ballmer said a $500 device without a keyboard wouldn't appeal to enterprise users, if anybody. So, last week when Microsoft announced that their Surface tablet would cost $500 without a keyboard and would appeal to enterprise users, I have to wonder if humble pie wasn't being served at the Microsoft cafeteria in Redmond that day.

Early rumors about Surface pricing had the device pegged as low as $200. That would have made it a loss leader for a company which is losing big time in the laptop 2.0 world. Low cost is the strategy Amazon is using in its tablet business and Google is using in its Chromebook push, so cost as a wow factor would not have been an unprecedented market maneuver for Microsoft. Instead, now the Surface device has to go head-to-head with Apple on brand, UI, features and app availability.

Surface is available via pre-order. I haven't seen any sales numbers as of this writing: some reports have it that demand is very strong. It's likely that Microsoft expects a cross-platform halo effect will begin to kick in soon, with the same Metro UI being used on top of Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, there doesn't appear to be nearly enough Metro interest to create any real halo effect out of the gate. And I'm convinced that Microsoft's tablet is too expensive to create any mass appeal to spill over to other device families.

For Surface pricing, I was expecting Microsoft to go for sub "Spousal Approval Level" pricing in an attempt to build volume to give some backbone to their tablet ecosystem. (Consumer electronics priced below the psychological Spousal Approval Level number tend not to be considered a major household purchase). Spousal Approval Level pricing was often considered to be sub $300, so when the new generation of gaming consoles were introduced a decade ago, it was no coincidence they were all priced at $299.99.

Microsoft's tablet pricing strategy is surprising if the company is looking to gain significant market share in short order. $500 might be a fair price for that solid piece of hardware. But unfortunately for Microsoft the equation doesn't end there. The company needs to allow for the fact that it is the RC Cola of the business. If Microsoft really wants to establish a solid third ecosystem, margins have to take a hit. Why should consumers take the risk when they can get a sure thing with Apple? The higher the risk for consumers, the greater the discount has to be. Lower prices certainly haven't been driving Windows Phone sales.

When your market share is zero, and you're long behind your competitors, and your retail stores appear empty, and your CEO tends to get most things wrong, and you're considered the old, boring man in a young man's game, and you're staring down the barrel of a loaded rifle, and your stock has been stuck in the same range for more than a decade, it's time for a strategy of shock and awe, not pause and bore.

Microsoft is behind the Windows eight ball now. Premium pricing won't SAL the deal.

Pricing is the wow factor:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Squeezeput. Is 3D input coming our way? Will depth soon become the new angle in UI? The pressure is on for something fresh in smartphone form factors.


I recently got a quick peek at a prototype of a smartphone expected to hit the market in the coming weeks. I don't want to give too much away, but I suspect you already know exactly what it's like (a black, rectangular capacitive touch screen).

In the smartphone biz, there are no longer any rewards for hardware innovation. Follow the form-factor flock in a V formation and you just might make it to your destination alive. I do hope some day a lone eagle will come along and shake up what has become the most boring market in the world. Even the market for rather boring white goods such as washing machines and refrigerators has greater variety in form factors than the smartphone market. That's where we are today.

Looking for something new and fresh? Check out NTT DoCoMo's "Grip UI" shown recently at CEATEC 2012. In addition to classic touch-screen input, the proto device supports pressure-sensitive input from the sides enhancing one-handed usability.

I've seen demos and protos of squeezable pressure-sensitive devices for a number of years now as component vendors look to create a hot new wave among vendors. There doesn't look like much form-factor flexibility in the near future; these things take time, but at some point the market will bend under pressure.

NTT DoCoMo's Grip UI. Something fresh. You can say that again.
Video from DigInfo:

Nokia's shows flexibility in design:

Synaptics "Fuse" concept from February 2010. Input all around:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Printernet of Things. For 3D printing of consumer electronics, how soon is now?

Download, print and wear. Are we almost there? Kind of.

Let's call this process "The Printernet of Things."


For those not familiar with 3D printing, picture something along the lines of Star Trek's replicator, then tone your expectations back a couple of centuries. There is a great deal of 3D print chatter around these days, and that means VC interest and funding. And that means hype and lots of exaggerated expectations.

Professional-quality 3D printers costing tens of thousands of dollars have been around for the past decade or so supporting rapid prototyping for manufacturers of all types. Through the use of 3D modeling software and 3D scanning, designers can hold a physical prototype --sometimes with functional moving parts-- in hand within hours at best or often after a long weekend. This is a real time saver for go/no-go decisions and thus can cut time to market significantly. And as we see so often, technology trickle down results in a nice long-term dividend for consumers.

So now the market for 3D printers is expanding from professional-quality, closet-sized devices to low-cost, desktop "thing" printers costing as little as a few hundred dollars for lower-quality hobby-level units.

There are some bold predictions that 3D printing be domesticated sooner than we realize and alter the global economy. After all, ubiquitous personal fabrication could eliminate the need for Christmas shopping. Suddenly you don't buy a box of Lego building blocks, you download them and print them out for little Betty or Johnny.

But like most earth-shattering technology changes, the hype comes long before consumers are ready or interested in the goods. And when the technology reaches that level of maturity, the changes are often unexpected. If we look at the parallels in the market for laser printers, even after hardware prices fell to a few hundred dollars and consumers snapped them up, printing books and newspapers at home never became fiscally prudent. The economies of mass production aren't so easily beat.

Nonetheless, it's vital for CE companies to be mentally prepared for all coming disruptions. The printing of complex consumer electronics --a large-screen LED television for example-- is a very, very long way off. But if you're a manufacturer which depends on the market for smartphone accessories such as cases and stands, you should certainly take note.

And here's a start for you. Need a pair of fashionable headphones? Then check out this project by Mr. John Mabry on "thingiverse," a website that supports the sharing of pre-physical things for 3D printing. Download, print, and snap together a working pair of headphones. (Or most of it at least.)

3D printing is certainly a top technology trend for the coming decade(s). Company trend spotters and futurists should certainly create internal awareness of this one. It could take customization to the extreme. Madonna had it right: the universe might be going digital, but we still live in a material world.

3D printing is making noise now.
Instructions to download and print out a pair of headphones:

FORM 1, a $2300 3D printer by startup Formlabs:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Déjà vu deux? Get ready to see double again with dual-SIM smartphones. Samsung intros the low-end Android-based "Galaxy Music Duos."

Galaxy Music Duos, MOBILEBURN STORY >>

Yup, get ready to lose feature phone share to dual-SIM smarties.

I've been seeing more and more dual-SIM smartphones hit the market during the past year and they're getting more mainstream.

Here's one from Samsung, the low-end Galaxy Music Duos. It runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, has a 3-inch QVGA screen, a 3 megapixel camera with no flash, and some additional hardware to live up to its "music" name tag such as stereo speakers.

All-in-all, not an impressive piece of hardware. But the price can be expected to match the low-end specs (I didn't find any pricing details).

Over the past year, we've seen dual-SIM smartphones from most mainstream vendors including from Acer (Liquid Gallant Duo), Alcatel (Blaze Duo), Gigabyte (GSmart G1355), HTC (the Desire V), LG (Optimus L3), Motorola (XT390), Samsung (Galaxy S Duos, Galaxy Y Pro DUOS, Galaxy Y DUOS, GALAXY Ace DUOS, Galaxy Music Duos), Sony (Xperia tipo dual), and ViewSonic (ViewPhone 3). And local vendors such as India's Micromax are always among the first to introduce such dual-SIM products given their understanding of local demand.

For vendors looking for volume in markets such as India, Russia, Italy, Portugal and Greece, check your portfolios for dual-SIM smartphones. If you've got a gap, get going.

Galaxy Music Duos, low-end Android-based smartphone with two SIM slots:

So get ready to support SIM one SIM two:

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Coat size xoxo. This connected jacket hugs you when you're liked.


Check out "Like-a-Hug." A nice, touching idea for a physical-digital interaction from Melissa Kit Chow, a graduate of Harvard's Graduate School of Design and Andy Payne and Phil Seaton from the MIT Media Lab.

Soon our digital and physical worlds will begin working together. So group hugs all around.

It's the un-hands free. Is this accessory inspired by an April Fool's joke? Anyway, it's quite nifty.

It doesn't just work with gloves on, it is gloves.



Somehow I missed this product intro at the end of August. But it works well to establish both a "hand" theme and a "wearable computing" theme today.

These "hi-Call" gloves from Italian-based company hi-Fun are also a Bluetooth hands-free kit. So how much would you pay now? Don't answer yet. Hi-call also supports touch-input on capacitive touchscreen devices. Now how much would you pay? If you said €49, you'd be right. And actually that seems like a fair price to me.

I do have to wonder if this product wasn't inspired by the Qualcomm "HandSolo" April Fool's video (see bottom video).

Hi-Call gloves (Engadget video from IFA 2012):

Inspiration? Qualcomm's HandSolo:

Digital input! Thumbs up to Microsoft for this.


Microsoft deserves a hand for this: gesture input taken to the next level. Each finger has its very own meaning. Every gesture its own action.

Is this the Kinect of things to come? Fingput?

(And this is introduced just as handset vendors are introducing touchscreen smartphone that work with gloves on.)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Cola wars. With 15% of the market up for grabs, who will be the RC Cola of smartphone platforms?

Coke + Pepsi: 75%.
Android + iOS: 85%.

When a classic duopoly is formed, outsiders are left to fight for the table scraps: the market-segment leftovers that the two major players have likely decided to ignore.

Serious challengers usually revert to the classic think-different campaign, trying to convince potential customers not to simply follow the flock: why be like everyone else when you have this opportunity to be unique. To show the world you can make up your own mind. You don't just go with the flow, you decide, you know.

The irony of most of these be-your-own-person campaigns is that they are all so similar, often using the same assembly-line metaphor rather than highlighting truly useful and differentiating features. (Check out some of the commercials at the bottom of this entry.)

When it comes to smartphone platforms, the two dominant market leaders are in place, and it seems unlikely they will be unseated anytime soon. So now the fight is now on to be the Royal Crown Cola of the market. And if you've never heard of RC Cola, point made.

Coca Cola and Pepsi have a combined market share of 75% of the global carbonated beverage business. Cadbury, the producer of think-different brands such as RC Cola and Dr. Pepper, comes in a distant third with around 16% of the market, with many small, local brands taking the rest.

When it comes to smartphone platforms, there is no Cadbury equivalent yet: no clear bronze-place finisher. Might it turn out to be Microsoft's Windows Phone, HP-supported (Open) webOS, RIM's BB10, Tizen, Boot to Gecko, something unknown from Amazon or Baidu, or none of the above?

Mind share and thus market share are especially difficult to change in this business due to the intense and increasing stickiness of platforms. And as smartphone penetration rates surpass 50% in many markets, the window of opportunity is slowly closing for most challengers.

So it's no longer time to think different; it's time to think better. Better features. Better usability. Better localization. Better apps and better maps. Better innovation. Better wow. And you had better start moving: it's the real thing now. Decide for yourself. Enjoy.

Drink different:

Think different:

Think different:

Think different:

Drink different:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Faceoff. Is it time to become anti-social?

Here's one trend forecast I've gotten wrong three years running. But now I'll ask this again: is it time for people to faceoff?

Thinking back to the mid-'90s when we were all still wearing our internet training wheels, we got some quick, back-of-the-envelope instructions about the do's and dont's to be safer in cyberspace: keep things to a minimum, don't openly share your phone number, keep travel plans secure, keep financial transactions very secure, and don't ever, ever place photos of your kids on the 'net.

So, what have we been up to lately? We've been giving every HR manager, burglar, and pedophile a fantastic head start in life. They know who you are well before you walk in the door, or before they walk in your door. They know your home layout, where the new LED TV is, and how much you had to drink the night before.

A few weeks back, one Facebook friend of mine posted info about an upcoming trip to Hawaii. The dates were the set, the tickets were in hand. There were geo-coded pictures of them getting in the taxi, boarding the plane at the airport, arriving at their fancy hotel. Two weeks in paradise. The only missing info was where to find the spare key to the garage, and the alarm code.

A very entertaining website entitled "Please Rob Me" tried to get the message across several years ago. The site compiled open feeds from social networks to create an efficient list of out-of-towners. Unfortunately, from what I see, the message hasn't gotten across.

All this info we share is non-biodegradable. You might think it is, and that's smooth trick. It's out there for good, and could cost you a job interview, or a lot, lot more. It's time for the I.V. dopamine trigger we call social networking to come face-to-face with reason.

Now if you excuse me, I'll be out of town for the next two weeks. (And to my kind friend who volunteered to water my plants while I'm gone, I left the key under the doormat.)

Thanks to Facebook friend R.M. for sharing this video.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

For Nokia, the gloves come off. But now they don't have to. How does egocentrism affect product plans?

When the first iPhone was unveiled back in January 2007, I was working for Nokia out of "Nokia House," the company's beautiful bay-side crystal headquarters located in Espoo, Finland. A few days after Apple's announcement, I happened to have lunch with one particularly sharp Nokia vice president. Just like most water-cooler talk in the building that week, the iPhone became the topic of our lunch-time conversation. While I (like most of the other grunts in the building at the time) insisted the product would be a game changer for the smartphone business, that particular Nokia VP was rather dismissive of Apple's entry into the segment. His key argument against the iPhone's potential market success was the all-touch form factor. After all, he said, the device couldn't even be used with gloves on.

Wouldn't work with gloves on! I thought that was unique rationalization, but I then began to hear the same argument from some other top Nokia executives. While this might sound like bizarre thinking, you have to realize that these executives come from the land of the frost, not too far from the North Pole. Winters often start in October and can end in April. If you live in an environment where you might need to wear gloves outdoors half the year, it's not strange to want a smartphone you could answer without stripping down a bit.

So, yesterday Nokia (CNET story) unveiled two new smartphones, the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820, which could indeed be used with gloves on. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a mainstream smartphone vendor touted gloves-on usage as a feature. I doubt any California-based handset company would ever have thought to make this a key-selling point.

After working in foresighting for many years and seeing many good products and features get canceled for strange or no reasons, I have often wondered how much egocentrism can contaminate product and feature planning. Egocentrism is the very natural result of projecting one's own experiences and environment to a general level. It's gut instinct gone very wrong, and as we see in industry over and over again, egocentrism can lead to some extremely painful and expensive lessons.

I've said many times that there is no such thing as a technology disruption, that is, rarely does a new technology come along and change the playing field in a very short amount of time. For the most part, competitors who do their foresighting homework have access to the same information and the same or very similar technology developments as the so-called disruptor companies. No, there are no technology disruptions, only bad judgement calls and strange decision making.

It's good to learn from your own mistakes. It's even better to learn from the mistakes of others. Welcome common sense in your decision making, but beware the potential deceptions of egocentrism.

Don't let your company get left out in the cold.

Does your view of the world fit across the globe?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lookout! Should we face the fact that privacy is dead?


Cool or ghoulish?

Let's face it: maintaining your privacy is an uphill battle. You name it, they know it. The where, the when. The how, the why.

So what's the next step? Is it to accept? Or except?

NOTE: An advertisement might precede the video below.
I'm not sure how targeted said ad will be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Death by a thousand cuts. The European mobile crisis deepens with Sony Mobile's departure.

Fierce Wireless story >>

And then there was one...

Not a great start for the end of summer: last week Sony announced that it would be cutting 1000 jobs from its Sony Mobile unit and moving Sony Mobile's headquarters from Lund, Sweden to Tokyo. While Sony Mobile will continue to have a large presence in Lund, this downward spiral is making a large sucking sound.

This is certainly sad news for the many who will be losing their jobs. And very sad news for the continent that was once the center of the mobile world. There was a time when most key mobile developments such as standardization, design, and even advanced manufacturing took place in Europe first. Companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens, Alcatel, and Philips led the way.

But like the Ten Little Indians, these leaders disappeared one by one along the way. Some were careless, some were unlucky. But in the end, they were all gone.

The "East-West" trend continuing. Most hardware development has gone East. Most software and services development has gone West. And in the middle, nothing but a big, ugly hole in the ground remains.

This gap will hurt for years to come. The mobile business is still a baby in many ways, and the European economies stand to lose out in the coming decades. The real advancements the industry has been talking about for the past 10 years is only starting to materialize now. There's NFC and mobile payment. There's mobile healthcare and well-being.

There are exceptions and there is hope. Ericsson and Nokia Siemens are still top players in the mobile infrastructure market. Spotify and Skype (now owned by Microsoft) are great examples of top services coming out of Europe. And there are many small, interesting startups.

The good news is that shifts happen both ways and there is plenty of room for everybody. There are large pools of mobile talent in many European hotspots, and many innovative mind.

European leaders would be wise to get mobile again, or risk simply watching the game from the stands.

Sony Mobile's current HQ in Lund, Sweden. Is the sun setting on mobile Europe?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Windows shopping. Does the employee-to-patron ratio indicate doom for Microsoft?

Let's go to the mall -- today!

Looking a bit like a lonely Oldsmobile dealership before closure, one Microsoft mall store I visited a few days ago had a pitiful melancholy feel to it. It stood in contrast to the bustling Apple store a few doors down. If this level of disinterest is indicative of things to come, Microsoft and its partners are in for a hard fall during the coming years.

The Microsoft store opened very recently, but was not enjoying much of a honeymoon period. Although Microsoft was practically giving away $25 gift certificates in a Pepsi-Challenge like mobile OS competition, I didn't see anyone buy a single item at the store, and most Windows Phones being displayed went completely untouched.

I calculated what I'll call the "employee-to-patron ratio" at both the Microsoft store and the Apple store. Even during the busiest of times, there were always more Microsoft employees on the floor than visitors, and this included teenagers who just stopped in to play Xbox games. The average ratio I came up with was 13-9, that is, 13 Microsoft floor employees to each potential customer in the store. And there were times the store had only two patrons.

Compare this to the Apple store which consistently was filled with engaged patrons and real customers. I counted 18 floor employees at this particular Apple store and never less than 38 patrons. And many of these were really purchasing products.

Perhaps it's not fair to read too much into this anecdotal observation. Things might be significantly different at Microsoft stores in other parts of the country. Or during other days of the week. Or perhaps this is just a teething period for Microsoft's brick-and-mortar retail push as it builds awareness. There is obvious potential for the stores to become great arcades, marketing Xbox and Kinect.

One thing is for sure: Microsoft and its partners must begin to monitor market conditions very closely and take any feedback (or lack of feedback) very seriously. Microsoft isn't the near monopoly it once was, and we've learned over and over again that giants can fall hard and fast.

There might be more below the surface here to Microsoft's retail strategy, but I'd say it's time for Microsoft to learn how to be hip. And it's not hip to be bare.

The Microsoft store: room for contraptions

At the Microsoft store: standing room lonely.

So go to the mall, today, to visit the Microsoft store.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do long-term business-model shifts lie below the Surface? As Microsoft bypasses PC manufacturers for tablets, should Windows Phone makers be worried?

Should Nokia expect the Xbox model for the Windows Phone market?

With friends like this, who needs competitors?

Back in the year 1995, Apple began a short-lived Macintosh clone program by licensing the required ROMs, Macintosh operating system and other software to a series of ambitious hardware makers. These included Motorola, Tatung, APS, and Power Computing. When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997, he quickly ramped down this cloning program in order to pull hardware profits back in-house and maintain tight software-hardware integration.

Microsoft's unveiling of the Surface tablet earlier this week was certainly not significant from a technology point of view. However, it does have the potential to make some significant ripples across the tablet, laptop, and PC markets, and very likely, the smartphone market as well.

Microsoft's Surface is the tangent point between tablet and laptop. And between mobile platforms and PC operating systems. And between hardware and software. It is not a technology shift. It is a business model shift.

It appears that Microsoft's tablet announcement truly caught many PC makers unaware. As the once profitable laptop market is shifting towards tablets, phablets, and smartphones, companies such as Dell, HP and ASUS must feel slighted. Microsoft is playing Windows 8 close to the chest. If the company discovers advantages of tighter software-hardware integration, they can be expected to follow Apple's 40-year lead in taking control of hardware across the board.

Given the modest installed user base of Windows Phone devices, Microsoft might decide they don't have much to lose and pull a similar stunt with smartphones, taking control of hardware design at some point, using their own sales channels to push the products. This would cause a significant shock to Nokia, the vendor that went all in with Windows Phone. While the details of the agreement between Microsoft and Nokia aren't known, it can be assumed there is some sort of expiration date written in. Anyway, history has taught us that partnerships are made to be broken.

Apple continues to make life miserable for so many companies in so many ways.

Do bigger business-model shifts lie below the Surface?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Breaking news: Microsoft introduces esoteric product video!

Note to Microsoft: esoteric doesn't make up for lack of wow.

For Microsoft's sake, I really hope that there's more below the surface. At least I was hoping for something a bit more special. More amazing. More appealing. More, more, more.

But instead, this is what one would expect. A big Windows Phone with a splash of Apple inspiration. Where's the built-in Kinect? Where's the leap-frog effect?

Tongue in cheek: getting it tögether

Thanks to MB for the lead on this one.

Yes, it's true: IKEA is entering the world of home electronics. It's a competitive market, so this can get messy. Hopefully their plan will come together in the end.

What's next from IKEA? Perhaps the IKEA smärtphöne?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nest. The iPod of thermostats. Finally, this is what home automation should look like.

A click wheel in a thermostat? Why that?

Yes, from the designer of the original iPod comes Nest, the thermostat for the iPhone generation. It learns as it burns, it knows as it grows. It's well connected, and auto corrected.

I'd say this is exactly how straight forward devices of the new age should be. A device that senses people... and their needs. It gives advice, but doesn't get bossy. And it even looks and sounds good. UI people, watch and learn.

At $250, Nest is at least twice the price of more ordinary thermostats. Nonetheless, Nest is hot. And cool. And it could quickly earn its keep.

Moodvertising. Microsoft’s idea of serving mood-customized ads.

via PSFK >>

Interesting idea if they can make it fly.

So, companies are really getting to know us know. What we search for. Who we write. Where we are. And now, it appears, how we feel. Put this altogether and it creates an interesting formula for targeted advertising.

Microsoft has patented the idea of serving up mood-related ads to users. By combining information about historic online activities together the user’s current attitude, presumably based on data gathered from sensors such as Microsoft’s Kinect or a smartphone’s microphone, in theory advertisers can address very immediate needs.

Whether this sort of behavior fusion collection is a positive or simply creepy is a matter of opinion. But the fact is it can be done.

For game makers or broadcasters, the potential to target advertisements down to specific individual moods could feel rather satisfying.

Perfect time for a Frosted Flakes ad?