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?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Apple’s new Maps: Great eye candy, but you can’t take it with you (no offline maps).

MIT Tech Review story >>

Without offline maps, imagine the mobile bandwidth crunch during rush-hour traffic in iPhone-heavy markets like San Fran and Stockholm.

As part of Apple’s iOS 6 announcement yesterday came some expected news of a new Maps application. As expected, Apple turned away from Google for its mapping data. As a replacement, Apple is using mapping data from TomTom/Tele Atlas. While the business model behind the switch wasn’t disclosed, it’s easy to think ahead a bit and imagine an ads-on-maps revenue sharing model.

OpenStreetMap could be one of the losers in this game of maps chess. OpenStreetMap received a great deal of publicity from Apple’s use of OSM map data.

Apple be will be offering some smooth features in Maps in iOS 6 including turn-by-turn navigation, crowd-sourced live traffic feeds, 3D mode, and voice UI via Siri.

All-in-all, Apple is rolling out some fancy navigation features in iOS6. But, unless I have completely missed something, maps cannot be downloaded for offline use. This means users will have to stream map data along the way, eating up data, taking bites out of data plans. For users roaming outside of their home countries, this can lead to some phone-bill sticker shock upon their return.

When it comes to offline maps, searching, and navigation, Nokia still leads the way with Google chipping away with incremental offline features.

Enabling offline maps for navigation could conflict with Apple’s business plans: requiring live map streaming creates a much more fertile environment for up-to-the-moment, location-based interactions. But for the consumer and operator, this can be very costly under some circumstances.

Apple’s competitors here would be wise to drive home the potential costs of this model. For mobile customers under more limited data plans or for those who roam often (which is more common in Europe), navigation could be very costly with Apple. And for operators already struggling with spectrum shortages, potential rush-hour bandwidth crunches could be another reason to thrown more support behind other mobile platforms.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Even more thinkput. Pong with your mind. Pong, you've come a long way baby!

via The New York TIMES >>


Gestures, voice, eyeput, thinkput. Is touch about to get company.

Yes, the head games keep on coming. Here are some more cool examples of the potential of brain-computer interface.

For those of you in the audience old enough to do so, think back to the days when you first saw Pong and think how far computer games have come. Now let's think ahead 30 years or so and wonder how far mind-controlled input can go. Imagine how it can help the disabled. Prevent auto accidents. Exercise the mind.

If you haven't had a chance to try any BCI devices, please do so. It will make your head spin.

Brain Wave Pong by Cornell students, via ENGADGET

Brain Pong in New York. Photo via Figment Project

Friday, June 08, 2012

More thinkput. Brain wave meters for real-time thinkput.


Think about the possibilities with such new user interfaces. How could games interact with users when they aren't concentrating? How would navigation applications react when the user is sleepy?

Here's an inspiring video of what could be in store a decade or so down the line. Perhaps "a cellphone that could text what you're thinking."

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Google announces limited offline maps. Can help prevent roaming sticker shock [within a 10-mile radius].

via CNET >>

This announcement is significant news for some handset vendors and more bad news for makers of personal navigation devices. The ability to conveniently pre-load maps onto an Android device means that no connection is required to stream map data while navigating. And map data can gobble up bandwidth very quickly.

Android devices did already have the ability to cache map data, but the intention was for a smoother map viewing experience. Google has also announced some improved aesthetic features for Maps and Earth such as a series of impressive 3D Fly-overs and expanded Street View.

While this might appear to be a marginal category improvement from Google and has been expected, it is meaningful to most industry players such as Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Garmin and TomTom.

Free, high-quality offline navigation from Google has altered the playing field. Mapping has become on the of key mobile battle grounds, and no vendor can afford to get lost along the way.

Sucking blood from your laptop. Intel shows a wireless charging solution with the laptop in the center.

via GIZMODO >>

Wireless charging for mobiles? Soon. Very soon.

As some point out, the use case isn't amazing and it isn't new. Wireless electricity doesn't mean mobile electricity, at least not yet. But here we have one small added convenience. One less cable to carry.

I believe that 2013 will be the year wireless charging becomes a rather standard feature in devices.

Power efficiency is a concern though, as it takes power to transmit power with such solutions. So cutting that last cord has its costs.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Will “touch-tile” become a new device form factor? Making buttons where there were none.


Tactus Technology >>

Is this some wow opportunity for some device vendor?

This tactile display stuff on touch looks pretty amazing, but it's nothing spanking new. Concepts have been around for years. The idea is great: a touch device that can create keys when needed. Want a QWERTY to text, a numeric keyboard to calculate?

Many of us miss real physical keys. But they are becoming an endangered species on smart devices. Could they begin to make an occasional appearance on touch devices of tomorrow?

It will be interesting to see how well solutions like that from Tactus Technology work in the field. But some component vendor is bound to get this right at some point. Then get ready for the touchtile form factor. (Sorry, couldn't help but use another hybrid word.)

A phabnomenon? Is the “phablet” a real new device form factor?

In a world that has brought us “stagflagation,” “brunch” and “Brangelina,” comes the latest portmanteau. It’s the “phablet.” It’s too big to be a phone, too small to be a tablet. And now we have to wonder if phablets are a real phabnomenon?

Suddenly I've been coming across the hybrid word “phablet” very often. I suppose it’s an obvious combo addition to the lexicon. But what the heck is a phablet? One definition I’ve found is it’s a touch device with a screen size between 4.6 and 5.5 inches. Any smaller, it’s a phone. Any larger, it’s a tablet.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note is the device that probably started the species. The Note has a 5.3-inch touch display and even comes with a stylus (so it’s a “stouch” device... or a “stablet”). And Samsung’s new Galaxy SIII could very well become the best-selling phablet in history. With a 4.8-inch display, please don’t confuse it with being a smartphone.

Other vendors such as HTC, LG, and Huawei either have or will soon be shipping phablets as well.

Is it time for all device vendors to get their phabet acts together? Phobviously it is, so make a note of it and don’t phall behind.

Part lion, part tiger, it’s a liger.

Part phone, part tablet, it’s a phablet.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The new temporary help? Avatars at airports.


The multi-screen strategy. The Nintendo Wii U. Good news and bad for Nintendo with this one.


First, the bad news: Nintendo's efforts to make the most nauseating preview video of all time (please see the emedded video below) falls far short of the world-class work done by Microsoft back in 2009 with the amazing "Windows 7 launch party" video. But clearly Nintendo and their PR firms gave it their all. So kudos guys.

But the good news for Nintendo is that the new "Wii U GamePad" looks like a rather swift, albeit bulky, addition to Wii family. I suspect the demographics of the bobbleheads-styled Nintendo sports games are a bit different than that shown in the video and most 20-something men have moved onto more significant developments in their lives than playing Wii games, like having their first children or playing Xbox games.

All in all, this is a rather nice multi-screen play from Nintendo. The use of NFC in the U GamePad deserves extra credit. The company still has significant gaps and challenges in front of it, but this could be a fairly happy holiday season for Nintendo.

Question 1: Is this the goofiest product preview video ever?
Question 2: could this be the same guy in both videos who doesn't know how to button a shirt?

NOPE! Sorry Nintendo, Microsoft still has you beat by a mile with this classic from 2009:
WARNING: This video will make you sick.

More on being flexible: Corning's new "Willow Glass" is tough but flexible.



Are flexible, rollable, even bendable devices just around the corner? No. But the components are.

It's nice to see the enablers falling into place for future form factor devices. These flat, touch-only devices are all looking and acting alike -- and it's getting boring.

Here's Corning's Willow Glass. It's Gorilla Glass for the flexible generation. It's tough and it's flexible.

Which vendor will be the first to bring some wow to the market with something a bit different?

The multi-screen strategy: don't leave home without it. Microsoft's SmartGlass bridges the gaps.

Home, mobile, and all things in between.

Sure, these happy-perfect-people videos get a bit annoying. But the general idea here is something mobile device vendors have pursued for the past 15 years: a smooth connection between this and that. The lines between home and away are blurring. So take yours to go.

Device vendors: get your multi-screen house in order. There's no more time to play around: tt's finally time to get going for real.

Monday, June 04, 2012

All Creatures Great and Small. Euro Mobile crisis deepens as Apple's selected as European nano SIM standard.


How the mobile tide has turned: The European Telecommunications Standards Institute accepts Apple's proposal for the next-gen SIM card.

Only a decade ago, Europe lead the world in wireless. As Americans struggled with texting and Asian markets such as Japan were a bit too proprietary, Europe led the way in mainstream mobile developments. European vendors of all things mobile had more than their share of influence in wireless standardization efforts. ETSI had standardized GSM which had been adopted in most markets around the globe. Times were good.

But one of the key trends we've seen over the past five years is the transfer of mobile power to the New World: U.S.-based companies are leading the way in creating user experiences. And, an achievement that's more amazing than it's given credit for, the American audience has leap-frogged most other developed markets to become one of the most upwardly mobile in the world. When it comes to smartphone penetration, mobile broadband, texting, VoIP usage, America has gone from the Bronze Age to the Space Age in half a decade.

So, this past Friday, The European Telecommunications Standards Institute chose Apple's proposal for the new SIM card standard, or the "fourth form factor" SIM, with the street name Nano SIMs. Nano-SIM cards will be 40% smaller than micro-SIM cards, providing more device real estate for other components.

For anyone following the history of mobile developments closely, the contrasts between decades is striking. For a while I was literally counting standardization proposals as part of my job: companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Siemens were the most valuable players at the time. To be fair, Cisco and Qualcomm were also extremely influential, but Europe had a lot to be proud of.

These are new times though. Europe now has to play a game of catch-up. Perhaps European vendors flew too close to the sun. It will take a lot of Angry Birds to fly that high again.

SIM card generations 2, 3, and maybe 4: