Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Liquipel. When it rains, it really does pour. More nanotech protection for devices.


I first started hearing about the possibilities of nanotechnology years ago and I’ve seen some really amazing slidesets and concept videos here and there over the years.

Nanotech will be to the ’10s what plastic was to the ’50s.

Last week I wrote a blog entry about a nanotech-based protective coating for devices called WaterBlock from a startup Hz0. (I said it looked like Gorilla Glass for the guts of the device.)

Here’s a very similar offering called "Liquipel" from a company with the same name. The company claims that Liquipel is a super-thin nanotech layer that is steamed onto and into devices. The company offers the service to individuals for $60, but I would think their business model is to go after big volume vendors. Needless to say, volume costs would have to come way down as to not harm BoM and margins.

On the company’s webpage they claim that their technology makes devices "waterproof" but what they seem to mean to say is water resistant.

Robust handsets are nothing new. Mainstream vendors such as Nokia, Samsung, and Sony | Ericsson have been showing beach-friendly phones for years. But they have always been a niche. Now it looks like the wet look is going mainstream.

It’s looking like Samsung and Apple are already starting to talk tough. If I were a competing handset vendor, I’d pick up the phone and call these vendors today. You don’t want to be all washed up.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nike+ FuelBand. Just count it. Accelerometers have come a long way.


It wasn’t too long ago when accelerometers were very costly components: they were used in very high-end equipment, made their way into car airbags and expensive laptops, then foot pods and gaming controllers and now, well, if you can wear it, it can track.

Here’s Nike’s "FuelBand." It’s really a glorified pedometer that uses an accelerometer to track the wearer’s movement. It can synch the collected info with an iOS app for more detailed analysis. There’s nothing ground breaking here and we say something recently in Jawbone’s "UP" that tracks movement and sleeping patterns.

According to reviews, UP has let users down. Let’s see if Nike's FuelBand really counts.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tongue in cheek: It’s time to get smart about multi-device ownership.

You have one smartphone. Maybe another smartphone. Perhaps even a third. You have a tablet, an e-reader, a laptop, a connected car, and maybe even one of those new hip smart watches. Yup, you’re maxed out, well-connected, and tied into the information superhighway in every way.

Everything’s getting hooked in. All things are tied together. Welcome to the age of the internet of things. And the age of multi-device ownership.

The chief concern now among operators is managing all these device. Creating identities. Keeping connections. Maintaining the bandwidth. And it should be noted that the current batch of service providers are not necessarily a shoe-in to control the future of the wireless world.

It’s time to get smart when it comes to managing all these devices. Someone will get this right.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is it time to watch the smartch space? Will devices like Sony's "SmartWatch" slam the Garmin's and Polar's of this world?


Sony's "Four-Screen strategy" (the tablet, the televsion, the PC, the smartphone) now adds a fifth element: the Android-based SmartWatch. Will this convergence kill the market for advanced sports watches?

Last week at CES, Sony introduced a device the company is calling the "SmartWatch." The SmartWatch is essentially a external, wrist-worn screen for Android smartphones. The use cases with such connected watches are easy enough to envision: read text messages during a jog, see calendar entries, answer in-coming phone calls Dick Tracy style.

The general idea of such evolved hybrid watches is not new: over the past few years, products such as Apple's iPod nano, RIM's inPulse BlackBerry Watch, Sony Ericsson's LiveView, and Motorola's MotoACTV have been introduced to the market.

The smart watch market is developing for real now and some of the products have impressive features and specs: touchscreens, Bluetooth, GPS, accelerometers, open operating systems, music players, app stores. Just like camera makers and PND vendors have been getting hit by the expanding smartphone market, is the smart watch market about to pound the market for dedicated watches from the likes of Garmin, Polar, and Suunto?

Let's watch this space.

Sony Ericsson's Q4 2011 results. Financial and market share losses.

Sony Ericsson PR >>

Sony Ericsson posted a loss of €207m for Q4 2011 on sales of 9 million handsets. This is down from 11.2m Q4 2010, a 20% YoY decline. More cost cuts / job cuts are expected, unfortunately.

Declining volumes is a growing market means Sony Ericsson's smartphone market share is likely down to lows not seen since early 2010.

The good news is this is the last quarter as Sony Ericsson, and perhaps Sony can do more to use wireless synergy across devices. But this will be a challenge for Sony, a company that is already challenged on so many fronts.

Breaking development: Eastman Kodak declares bankruptcy. This is not a pretty picture. Did it have to be this way?


Did they try to live up to their image as an innovator or did they rest of their laurels?

Did Kodak fail to see the big picture? It seems that way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is nanotech about to make a mobile splash? Hz0’s WaterBlock could save the day. It looks like nanotechnology could be here to stay.


If you haven’t seen any of Nokia's animated "Morph" videos demonstrating a vision of devices to come based on nanotechnology, take a look here. If nothing else, it’s very relaxing. But really quite inspirational.

Nanotech is really coming to save the day.

While water means life to practically all living things on earth, contact with a significant amount of water is a virtual death sentence for devices such as smartphones.

But this has got to be one of the first nanotechnology material implementations I think I’ve seen ready to be used in handsets. "WaterBlock" is a material coating created by a startup called HzO that is apparently looking for major smartphone makers as clients.

If it does what the backers say it doesn, WaterBlock could be to electronic guts what Gorilla Glass has been to the screen. At least some of the web-based demos appears impressive and the technology has received good feedback from CES 2012. While WaterBlock doesn’t waterproof a device, the coating does make gadgets water resistant.

Nanotechnology is coming to protect us.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kodak connects. More WiFi enabled cameras coming to market, this one from Kodak.


More on the connected camera trend for 2012:

At CES, Kodak introduced the EasyShare M750, a 16 megapixel camera with WiFi connectivity enabling immediate cloud connections so that images can be shared directly via e-mail, Facebook, or through other venues. The camera can also be connected to Android, iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones.

At an expected retail price of $169 in the U.S., it's nice to see that wireless cameras are going mainstream for 2012.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Apple 3D breakthrough? Should Apple's new 3D GUI IPR for iOS worry other vendors?

STORY via Patently Apple >>

I've been trying to follow mobile 3D developments for quite many years now. This is no sudden technology disruption: 3D has been around for more than 50 years and there's no doubt at some point some company will get this right. As opposed to television sets, individual-user 3D-enabled handheld devices have the advantage of only have to cater to one single user, so it's more appropriate for glasses-free 3D viewing.

There have been a few handsets on the market supporting 3D content, but the first mainstream handheld electronic gadget is probably Nintendo's 3DS. I've tried the 3DS a few times. I'll reserve judgement here as I understand I'm not the core addressable audience for the device. But to go mainstream in handsets, some company is going to have to do better in 3D.

Will that company be Apple?

Apple has filed a number of 3D-related patents over the past few years. If you work at a large handset company, I recommend your IPR department do their research here.

Here's some new info via the very useful site Patently Apple on a new 3D GUI patent applications for iOS. Stick-figure drawings in patents aren't always so clear,
patent application from Apple that reveals an exciting new 3D GUI for iOS mobile devices.

The patent covers the use of device sensors such as gyro sensors to adjust the 3D display. I would think that this isn't the only patent out there covering this general approach and it will be interesting to see who gets to market first with a 3D smartphone with a real WOW effect.

3D will be coming someday. It might even be holograms. But some company will get this right. Get ready to stick out in a crowded marketplace full of look-alike products.

Steam Punk. “Hugo” survives on the mean streets of Paris in 3D. Does 3D matter now?

Is this the breakthrough 3D has been waiting for?

Woody Allen once quipped that by making “Schindler's List,” Steven Spielberg finally earned the right to “eat at the grownups’ table.” Well, Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “Hugo,” has earned that director the right to sit in the back of the banquet hall with the kids.

A Scorsese family flick, fun for all ages? Yup. But not only is “Hugo” a bona-fide kids’ movie, it’s also a new level for 3D in which three dimensional imaging is used in such a subtle way, it never seems forced or fails.

If you haven’t seen “Hugo,” I do recommend it. And do throw down the extra three bucks for 3D. The story, which first centers around the gritty daily survival skills of 12-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret, slowly turns into a tribute to French revolutionary filmmaker Georges Méliès. It’s some smooth story telling by Scorsese and gives recognition or a rather unknown innovator and a man Scorsese certainly studied while a young film student at NYU.

“Hugo” is “Mean Streets” crossed with “Sesame Street.” It’s “Gangs of New York” crossed with “Oliver Twist.” But “Hugo” is not only a new genre for Scorsese, it’s a new genre for 3D content. It is 3D done right. Now I wonder if it’s soon time that mobile 3D will be done right.

Will more 3D get in our face? And in our pockets soon? More to come.

Une adventure 3D.

Tongue in cheek: on the radar. I have a sinking feeling this isn't going to end well.

[ Thanks to Jesper Z. M. for spotting this one. ]

File this one under "Arrogance."

You're a big, powerful corporation. Flexibility? Nah. That's for the weak. Your momentum is all you need to command you forward. You plan to crush anything and everything in your path.

But what's this coming your way? Doesn't matter. It's no match. It is but a speck compared to you. Full steam ahead. And roll the tape:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Samsung's well-connected cameras. Wireless cameras will be all the rage during 2012.

PC World STORY >>

Thanks to Shi W for pointing this one out to me.

So, it does seem that any fashionable camera worth its salt will soon be wearing wireless. WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, maybe NFC soon.

Samsung announced a family of cameras at CES 2012 that have WiFi connectivity, including a WiFi-enabled camcorder. While WiFi connectivity in cameras isn't unprecedented, it does appear that it's developing into a standard feature for 2012.

More cameras from Samsung get well connected.

Polaroid connects with an Android-based camera with WiFi, Bluetooth, Geotagging, and optional cellular connectivity.



The other day I wrote that the camera market would develop or die in 2012. It was time for camera makers to develop products with more connectivity and computing power. More WiFi. More Bluetooth. More geotagging. More touchscreens.

And here's an immediate step in that direction. It's not by Samsung or Sony as I thought it might have been. It's from Polaroid.

Polaroid introduced their "SC1630" at CES, a camera that looks and acts more like a smartphone. It runs some build of Android providing it with connections to social-networking and image-storage services, and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth (no WiFi Direct). The product pages mention geotagging, but there is no mention of GPS, so it might depend entirely on Google's WiFi location data. It comes with some image editing apps and connect to the app store.

Some sites mention the option of cellular connectivity in the device. So it has a microphone and a speaker and various connectivity radios. At what point does this become a smartphone? You get the picture.

Video via Android Central from CES:

Monday, January 09, 2012

Let's face it. Input is changing.

Is your mobile platform ready to face the facts for 2012?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

2012 in preview. Some predictions for 2012 and beyond: Identity Crisis, Going Soft, Microsoft Kinects, and more...

Since it’s the season for predictions, I’ll throw my hat into the ring. Below are some are some predictions I have for 2012 and a bit beyond. I’ve been wrong about many of these in the past, so read at your own risk.

In general, I would say that making predictions, especially about the future, is quite easy... as long as you provide yourself with a little bit of wiggle room, like 10 to 20 years. But if I have to choose some market developments for 2012, here are a few that come to mind:

1. Identity Crisis: The beginning of the end for the phone number.
Summary: The phone number as an identifier will begin its decline during 2012 and will be all but gone within ten years.

I’ve embarrassed myself many times during the past seven years with this “death of the phone number” prediction. But to me, phone numbers are like IP addresses: a terrible form of identity given out rather randomly, tied to a particular location, and usually difficult to remember.

This is an issue of network identity. We’re at a point now where we can move beyond the phone number, using such ID methods as OpenID, Google Talk, FaceTime, Skype names, and Facebook. The incumbents won’t make this easy, and there is very heavy legacy think holding us back. Nonetheless, I think we’re about to reach escape velocity and leave the phone number behind.

I’m not sure how to grade this prediction next January, but I think we’ll know it when we get there.

2. Microsoft’s Power Point: Windows Phone will take 5% market share of the smartphone biz Q4 2012: no more, no less.
Summary: Windows Phone v*.* will catch on slowly during 2012 as a smartphone platform and begin to soak up some Symbian share as well as some enterprise business. It’s quarterly share during Q4 2012 will reach 5%.

A lousy five percent? This might not sound like a risky stab at where Windows Phone will be in a year, but this would be close to a ten-fold increase to what Microsoft had last quarter and thus would be a significantly better trajectory than what Android had during 2009. Please note that I’m not talking about some Windows Mobile + Windows Phone market share combo. That’s just Windows Phone software running on handsets. Furthermore, I predict that Microsoft might actually release some real clear sales figures for Windows Phone devices at some point during 2012.

3. Newton’s law: Apple’s smartphone and tablet market share will decline during 2012. Apple suffers from software quality issues.
Summary: Apple’s smartphone market share will be diluted during 2012 and fall below the teens by Q4 2012. Apple’s global tablet share to fall to around 40% from their current ~70% level.

An immovable object? Either Apple’s smartphone margins and ASP of $630 goes down down, or their market share does. Apple’s smartphone share during Q3 2011 (around 14.5%) was actually back to 2009 levels, and about four points below levels from early 2011. While iPhone sales during Q4 2011 may have reached record levels and Apple may have taken around 18% of the smartphone market, that is where it peaks. iOS share will take 12% of the smartphone market by Q4 2012 and thus be back to levels not seen since early 2009.

In tablets, Apple, for the most part, has had the only competitive product on the market to date. But as prices get cut and competition increases, Apple will under grow the tablet market which they defined. Their global share during Q4 2012 will be cut in half from its peak, and will be around 40%.

4. Jungle Land: Amazon enters the smartphone biz, marginalizes Netflix with a strong video streaming offering, and becomes an MVNO, and possibly buys T-Mobile USA. Meanwhile, talk of Amazon monopoly heats up.
Summary: Amazon’s will branch out using their fantastic position as one of the world’s largest retailers and the world’s largest mall as they provide more consumer services.

The Kindle was just the start. Amazon will move beyond tablets and introduce a smartphone sometime during 2012 tied closely to their own content and other cloud-based services. Furthermore, Amazon will introduce their own labeled voice and data services during 2012 possibly by purchasing or investing in T-Mobile or leasing time with LightSquared. While it can be argued that Amazon is already an MVNO with the Kindle, they will become a full-fledged MVNO during 2012.

However, Amazon’s aggressive expansion into new areas will cause additional friction and spark significant new lobbying efforts against it.

5. That’s the ticket: Mobile wallet makes a big break through during 2012, but based more on barcodes, screens & cameras than NFC.
Summary: This time it’s for real: the mobile wallet really is right around the corner. Credit cards, loyalty cards, keys, tickets: they’ll all be in our phones.

Tickets, coupons, cards, and cash. 2012 will be a big year for the mobile wallet in many ways as consumers make the screen mainstream. Retailers will be forced to adapt to new shopping behaviors using a combination of technologies. Barcodes and screen readers will enable the current installed user base given the lack of NFC-enabled handsets. Mainstream NFC use is still two to three years off.

6. Microsoft Kinects: MS comes to the realization that they have the only WOW product currently on the market.
Summary: Microsoft pushes the Kinect and its technologies to new places in new ways and re-defines usability and input.

I’ve been saying for a while that the smartphone business has become rather boring. A market full of lookalike black rectangular screens and everyone playing a game of follow the leader, there has been little real innovation over the past few years. The PC market is pretty much the same. I would say the one product that has the potential to add some WOW to the mix is the Kinect. If Microsoft can port that smoothness to other platforms, they could add a dash of much needed WOW to other Microsoft-based products.

7. Last shot: Camera makers attempt to compete with smartphones with more sensors and more software and more services.
Summary: Digital cameras will begin to get competitive using established technologies such as Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi positioning, cloud storage & backup services, facial recognition, more touch input, and on-device apps.

I’m surprised how little the camera makers have done to add well-established technologies to their devices. I get the idea of doing one thing very well, but the smartphone market is taking away their business and Camera makers have no choice but to compete by adding more sensors and better basic processing features. I suspect that Samsung and Sony will lead the way, given their expertise from the smartphone business. The cost adding most sensors is marginal to BoM at this point. So shoot.

8. Downhill fast: LightSquared hype gets popped, unfortunately.
Summary: Things aren’t looking so bright for this LTE MVNO enabler.

I never believed much in Clearwire, but I was hoping that LightSquared would enable a new generation of wireless competition in the U.S. market from cable operators and retailers such as BestBuy, among others. Given interference issues and rapid LTE deployments, LightSquared will hit significant speed bumps during 2012 and possibly sell off frequency.

9. Going soft: software-defined radio finally has its coming out party.
Summary: SDR is nothing new, but the enabling technologies are coming around and some real commercial implementations will take place during 2012.

Software-defined radio is a glacial trend: it’s coming this way so slowly you can barely see it move. But when it hits, it will hit hard and leave its mark. I’ve been hearing talk for about a decade on how SDR will change the wireless market. Currently there are some military implementations, but device vendors of all sorts are planning commercial implementations. 2012 should be a breakthrough year for SDR.

10. Road trip: The car becomes the next battleground for usability and services. Automakers offer a screen.
Summary: Auto makers introduce better smartphone connectivity mainly using the MirrorLink standard and charging options as the handset becomes the heart of telematics and in-car entertainment.

MirrorLink will kick in during 2012 allowing easy connections from smartphone to car. (The "MirrorLink" brand replaces the bizarre "Terminal Mode" label.) Auto manufacturers will begin offering more screens to accommodate car connectivity and begin to implement standard APIs for in-car services and apps.

Other predictions for 2012: Facebook reaches one billion users but user security concerns get serious; indoor location is all over the map; Europe tries in vain to regain some of its past mobile glory; more than half a billion smartphones are sold globally during 2012; the smartphone market becomes painfully commoditized; the mobile infrastructure market gets shaken as Asian vendors challenge Ericsson for top spot; wireless operators become credit card companies; Intel has limited impact on the handset business -- again; Eastman Kodak disappears and gets picked to the bone for IPR; Shake-up at Microsoft as Steve Ballmer takes a new role; iOS replaces Mac OS on some laptops.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Augmented Unreality. Virtual worlds and reality collide. A touching concept.


Is this a future form of the internet? Of gaming. A new form of touch input? The opposite of augmented reality?

Check out the fascinating "Kickstarter" interaction concept by Jayne Vidheecharoen, an MFA candidate from the Media Design Program at the Art Center in Pasadena, California.

There's lots of potential with this concept. Parallel universes are close at hand with this. Best of luck with the project:

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Everyone has a plan. Best of luck in the New Year with yours.

Just avoid getting punched in the mouth.

Have a good one.