Friday, March 29, 2013

Tongue in cheek of the week: Sailor talk. Fantastic leaked footage! An average day in the life of T-Mobile USA's tough talkin' CEO.

I don't want to give too much away, but I do advise that you hide the kids, turn down the volume, and get ready for some tough street talk before watching the attached video. You see, you're about to see some footage of T-Mobile USA's CEO at work and at play. As we've learned by now, Mr. Legere calls it as he sees it. The gloves are coming off in the mobile biz. By George, what a fantastic tail! ROLL THE TAPE:

Is the home the next big mobile ecosystem? Samsung experience stores within BestBuy could cross Samsung white goods with Samsung CE products. Totally!

How can other smartphone vendors counter such potential?


KEY MOBILE TRENDS: the mobile home, internet of things, retail

Smartphone vendors, get ready to swing for the fences, because you may need to make a run for home.

It's happening. White goods working together with smart phones. This is what partnerships between Ericsson & Electrolux and Nokia & Whirlpool were supposed to bring about more than 10 years ago. And then fade to black...

...and then slowly back to white, because here we go ago again. Is Samsung the vendor who can really bring it all together now? Washing machines and dryers talking to smartphones? Connected refrigerators which can suggest grocery lists and recipes based on inventory? Samsung dishwashers, televisions, scales, set-top boxes, security cameras, thermostats all working seamlessly together?

The home could be the next ecosystem domain. And now Samsung may be positioning itself to show off its complete solution by opening a series of Samsung experience stores within BestBuy. Stores within stores are nothing new, but Samsung's presence in America's largest electronics retailer could establish a permanent experience exhibit for the vendor, tying it altogether under one roof. (And for BestBuy, this could be a new business model to fight showcasing: become landlords.)

To be clear, Samsung is expected to initially use these in-store experience booths to highlight the Galaxy S 4, but if they are clever, which they sure are, they will be showing off so much more. This could be a great display of solidarity for Samsung and all its units. And a less expensive way to counter Apple's and Microsoft's retail stores.

So, that's the score. LG, Sony, Nokia/Microsoft, others: are you ready to bring it on home?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Will it trend? Remote opportunities. Flagship smartphones could need to morph into super smart TV remote controls on demand.

KEY MOBILE TRENDS: home, content, smart TV

Attention handset product managers and portfolio planners! Are you looking for the next must-have feature to stuff into your spanking new flagship smartphone? Well then, don't look forward, but rather, take a look back to some golden oldie consumer research from last century.

I remember in the '90s reading surveys of features people most desired in their handsets. Rather consistently --and perhaps somewhat facetiously-- at number one on these lists was not an embedded camera or touch screen supporting advanced browsing features. Nope. What people said they wanted most was an embedded bottle opener. I suppose the best bottle opener in the world is the one you have with you at the moment.

And next up on the list of requested features was an embedded television remote control.

It seemed a bit odd to me to replace a $1 device or a $5 device with a $500 device. Why wear down one of your most important and personal possessions to open a bottle of beer and/or do some channel surfing.

The bottle-opener concept didn't catch on, but now it looks like the smart TV remote control might just trend. I must admit that the use cases here do look compelling (please see the demo video below).

To be compatible with the current installed user base of television sets, this will require infrared. Rather retro indeed. (Some cable operators do offer dedicated smartphone apps which use data via WiFi to control programming and Microsoft's Xbox SmartGlass looks smooth as silk.)

Samsung starting putting the infra TV remote feature into their Galaxy Note phablets and now the feature has been added on their flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S 4. And HTC also added a built-in remote to their recently-released HTC One.

I don't know what an infrared blaster would add to bill of materials of a smartphone. I would think not much. Anyway, this is the type of finesse which makes for a great in-shop demo. Which smartphone vendor will be next? Sony, Nokia, ZTE, others: are you ready to work remotely?

Please remember: three makes trend, so stay tuned.

HTC's One as a infrared-based controller:

Related: Microsoft SmartGlass. Not an infra remote, but a nice control:

And then there's this...

Photo via Pocket Lint

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see Tiananmen Square.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Will it trend? The new T-Mobile subscriber non-contract. Is this the end of the 99¢ shop?

Back in the pre-smartphone days, friends and acquaintances in the U.S. would sometimes ask me how handset vendors like Nokia and Motorola could afford to sell phones for one dollar. Of course, the answer is they can't and don't: subscribers are actually entering into an amortization scheme with the operator. Unlike in many European and Asian markets, few Americans ever considered separating the device from the service.

Might the American market now be shifting to mimic the old European ways? America's #4 wireless operator, T-Mobile, with little to lose, is taking a stab at sparking that type of change.

T-Mobile USA is positioning itself as the new bad boy of the U.S. mobile biz with one heck of an anti-establishment attitude. With a few cuss words here and there, T-Mobile USA's rather new CEO, John Legere, insists that it takes an industry outsider like him to shake things up a bit.

T-Mobile is moving away from the industry-standard two-year contact, and pushing month-to-month voice and data at very competitive prices. But the bigger point here is separating the price of the device from the cost of the service. This does make the device financing more transparent with a clear breakdown of hardware and service costs. (T-Mobile calls each payment of the installment plan a "phone fee" which is still a bit misleading in my opinion.)

T-Mobile USA President & CEO, John Legere: No more annual service contracts, all new plans, unlimited, LTE, unlimited 4G FaceTime...

So, are the days of penny candy numbered?

Predictive intelligent personal assistants are all the rage. Windows Phone, you need something like this Now.

Google's Now, Apple's Siri, Samsung's S Voice. Next: Grokr, Mailbox, Tempo, Sherpa and more. Predictive personal intelligent digital assistants seem to be all the rage. Is this a big app gap for Windows Phone?

UPDATE: Someone informed me (thanks AC) of the availability of a voice-input digital assistant app called Maluuba which is available for Windows Phone 8.

MIT Tech Review Story >>

Sherpa Pages >>

Tempo Pages >>

KEY MOBILE TRENDS: digital/virtual assistants, predictive services, location-based services

Predictive services aren't cutting edge per se. Amazon, for example, is kind enough to remind us, usually with great accuracy, what we want to buy and for whom and when. Many connected navigation devices & services know enough to automatically re-route us when there is trouble ahead. And TiVo uses some smart algorithms to do some smart guessing when it comes to pre-choosing TV content. Even home thermostats are getting in on the act.

But now, smartphones are getting ahead of the game with more advanced predictive applications using clever data-mining techniques which cross on-device info with cloud-based data. Newer applications like Tempo and Sherpa are actively promoting themselves as "predictive intelligent" services with the intent of being proactive "to keep you one step ahead." Have a flight scheduled in your calendar or e-mail? Apps will check if it is leaving on-time, check the weather, and the volume of traffic on the way to the airport. It could offer to dial the number of anyone who you might be meeting at your destination in case of delays, and even reserve a table.

In many ways I see this as more of a UI evolution toward natural user interfaces with a touch of machine-to-machine services thrown in. Of course there are very natural input methods like voice in Apple's Siri and open-text input like Google's "quick add." But the ability of some of these newer, more advanced applications to work with semantics and break information out of silos could raise users' expectations going forward. Data, services, apps, and connectivity are being folded much deeper into the device's user interface. This isn't just location-based voice search. This has the potential to be pretty smooth.

Oddly enough, the platform vendor which gave the world one of the best known smart agents ever, Clippy, appears to be quite absent in this space. To the best of my knowledge, there's nothing quite like Tempo for Microsoft's Windows Phone. To be fair, Nokia does have some great contextual-based services for Windows Phone and there are a few other interesting innovative proactive-like apps for the platform (update: like Maluuba). In addition, I must confess that I haven't seen any usage statistics for any of this: it could be there won't be much demand. The consumer is always the greatest unknown variable in business-model equations.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't take the risk of leaving this gap. I would say that Windows Phone should check its calendar: the platform needs something like this soon if it wants to keep up with a potential experience shift. Be proactive with proactivity.

[Update: another term I was kindly informed of by AC is "virtual assistant."]



Google Now:

Maluuba for Android and Windows Phone 8:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wearable computing for hygiene behavior tracking.

Medgadget Story >>

"Please Note: Employees must wash hands... and wear these special behavior-tracking wrist bands."

On one hand I see this concept as a good idea, on the other hand as rather intrusive.

The concept of gadgets tracking our healthcare habits isn't so strange any longer, and it will get less so going forward. Many electric toothbrushes, for example, monitor the amount of time the user spends brushing and some even go further, tracking such things as pressure on the gums. Smartphone apps can record the level of daily activity and prod the owner to get moving, and I've read about specialized computer mice which can check the user's stress levels via the fingertip and advise accordingly.

But now the same technical components can be used by employers to monitor as well as change workers' behavior. Here's a wrist-worn device from a startup called IntelligentM which can track employees seven days per week, 24 hours per day. The device works using accelerometers and RFID to track where a hospital employee is and how properly and how often they wash their hands.

Is this an example of the use of sensors for good hygiene instead of evil? I can see the argument given the stats mentioned in the video below. But, on the other hand, it is a bit Big Brother like. Just hope you don't get called to hospital room 101 for employee evaluation.

The vital importance of removing the "i" from innovation, instinct, intuition, inspiration, invention, insight, ideas... Please help fight the "I Effect."

When thinking about the next big thing, please think about somebody else for a change.

Yes, change is hard enough to push through the system as is. Don't stuff up the channels of progress with your own stuffiness.

During my career, I have seen many good product ideas dismissed because of the painful "I Effect." You see, when it comes to evaluating business ideas, often a fantastically homogeneous group of individuals sit around a table and point out how they themselves would never need such a device or service.

Most world-shattering inventions have suffered at least one such "I" dismissal. The computer in the home, the wireless radio box, talkie movies, television, and then color television.

I've certainly made the mistake myself several times. I once said that there is no opportunity in ringtones because "I would never buy one." And I've made other miserably wrong forecasts based on what I personally thought was annoying or cool. But I've learned. And so can you.

Almost 10 years ago I saw a very excellent Facebook-like service proposal get dismissed by an executive on the grounds that it was something the executive said he didn't need. "I don't understand it, and I don't think I would ever use it." That's not a verbatim quote: the real quote was even more brutal.

It's not easy to remove the "i" from the innovation equation, but I do suggest that your try. Remember, you can't spell myopia without "my." So fight it with fury. For example, when attending any brainstorming session, interrupt anyone who talks constantly about their own day-to-day experiences. You probably know the type already: "Well, what I do is when I get home I turn on..." Or, "I would never use such a thing."

I acknowledge that are times when anecdotal evidence mirrors general behavior. But I have met very few individuals who have the instinctual talent to really understand what ports well to the larger audience.

One reason so many new products & service come from young minds working out of old garages is because in big companies, go-no-go decisions are ultimately made by out-of-touch managers working closely with out-of-touch executives.

When it comes to innovation, please check your I sight and do make sure that you're not getting in the way.

[ images from Patheos ]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Insults are the sincerest form of flattery. And one of the surest indications of success. Why execs should shut up.

Mobile executives can say the meanest things about their competitors' products. But for those product managers on the receiving end of such pejoratives, I have good news for you: there tends to be a near 100% negative correlation to negative comments.

Yes, you know that you really hit a nerve when some top-level manager at a competing company dismisses your product as a nonstarter. And one of the absolute greatest leading indicators of success is when an executive mentions your impending failure during a quarterly results call. You should be so lucky to get that. (My advice is to humble it out on both ends.)

Here is a limited selection of some entertaining opinions, past and present. There are more, but let's start with the obvious. I'll call this list the top-ten failed failure forecasts. (Give it time.)

- Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, 2007: The iPhone has “no chance” of gaining significant market share.

- Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, 2011: You need to be a “computer scientist” to use an Android smartphone. (Android now has around 70% platform share, Windows Phone 3%.)

- Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, 2008: Apple's iPhone is a “niche” product.

- Nokia Executive Vice President Anssi Vanjoki, 2009: The iPhone has a “toy camera.”

- Apple's Tim Cook, Jan 2011: “We're not that worried about” Android tablets. (Apple had around 80% market share of tablets at the time.)

- Apple's Tim Cook: We're not worried about Amazon's Kindle.

- Apple's Phil Schiller, March 2013: “...Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumored to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old. Customers will have to wait to get an update.” Android is fragmented, unsafe, et cetera, et cetera.

- HTC Chief Marketing Officer, Benjamin Ho, March 2013: Samsung's Galaxy S 4 “is more of the same.” (Early indicators show that S 4 sales are much stronger than the S III, which in itself was one of the best-selling smartphones ever.)

- BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, March 2013: Apple's iPhone/iOS is “five years out of date.”

- And finally, here is some good news for Google's Chrome OS, criticism from Ballmer:
So, how silly will Mr. Ballmer's opinion look in five years from now?

LifeBEAM SMART helmet. Another example of wearable data-collecting devices.

Indiegogo pages >>

Here's an interesting project I found on Indiegogo's site: a bicycle helmet which collects heart rate data. The helmet can feed the data to a smartphone using Bluetooth. As the helmet also has an accelerometer, the project owners are looking into the possibility of crash detection. Since bikes or helmets don't have airbags, I am not so sure what good a crash detection feature would do, but perhaps at some points sports clothing will get more protective.

In some ways this could be considered a solution looking for a problem to solve which already has a solution: Bluetooth-enabled heart-rate monitors already exist, and so do helmets. I suppose it could be argued that this saves the user a bit of hassle. But the point here is that sensors such as heart-rate monitors are being "sewn" into other wearable devices.

This on-going collection of vital data has great potential. Let's get it on.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

EyeVerify. With retinal scanning in phones, mobile biometric authentication is looking serious.



I must confess that the term "eyeprint" is new to me, but like any good pupil, I am always looking to learn.

While the term doesn't even have a wikipedia page yet (as of this writing), the use of retinal scans for identification is not something new. Military establishments and intelligence & law enforcement agencies across the globe have been using retinal-scanning authentication for years, and we know that employees of The United Federation of Planets will be using the technology many years from now.

But is retinal scanning about to go mainstream and mobile? A number of firms are working on bringing the technology to smartphone platforms. By using either the front-facing or back camera on a device, software could use the available hardware on the device to scan the user's retina for authentication either alone or in unison with other identifiers.

Here is a demo/pitch from a company called EyeVerify. At first look, this process seems a bit awkward for common tasks, like opening the lock screen. But biometrics in smartphones has certainly been creeping along with facial, fingerprint, voice recognition implemented in devices. And soon some company will come along and move biometrics from slightly gimmicky to truly magical. It's something to look forward.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Tongue in cheek of the week: Nokia demos its amazing new strategy to increase market share!

Vendor plans to up its market share one unit at a time. Story at 11.

Talk about a well-grounded discussion. Talk about throwing caution into the wind!

Sure, it might take a while, but iPhone, you're going down using this new strategic method! (Please note that this amazing new business process is patent pending. Copy at your own risk of litigation.)

I can imagine that some of you out there might say this looks rather desperate, but let's give credit to Nokia's CEO, Stephen Elop, as he stands his ground showing that Nokia's market share has reached the floor and it will go down no more.

NOTE: When I have been recommending that smartphone vendors find new business opportunities, I never even thought of comedy.

And the key mobile trend of week 12-2013 is...


KEY MOBILE TREND: commoditization, MediaTek

Sorry smartphone industry, you are not going to escape the fate of just about very other segment of the consumer electronics biz.

Relying on the value of the brand? That will certainly buy you some time. But when all devices look and act alike, pricing power fades, margins thin out, and market shares shift. Just look at the leading U.S. television set maker, Vizio. Who? That's my point exactly.

Some recent stories for your consideration:
- Eric Schmidt: the $70 smartphone is almost here >>
- BLU Products quad-core, dual-SIM Androd for $229, plus other low-costers >>
- MediaTek to see revenues rally 50% sequentially in March (sorry, no free link, but believe it).
- Neo's N003 is “world’s cheapest 1080p 5-inch smartphone” unlocked at $145 >>
- MIT Tech Review: “Apple and Samsung, beware. Practically anyone can make a smartphone these days.” >>

Yes, some guys you have never heard of are selling millions of smartphone enabled by IKEA-like chipset solutions that are assembled in optimized Chinese factories using off-the-shelf software. For years I was concerned about what I called the “supermarket brands,” that is, operator-labeled devices using white-box solutions. There were certainly some big hit devices with Vodafone and T-Mobile labels, more so in developing markets, but consumers did tend to migrate toward big brand names.

But when your neighbor, Frank, can start selling Android-based “Frank-o-phones” on, you had better find some more WOW to stuff into your devices. And some more adjacent business opportunity. For feature phone vendors, this is a trend which can really smart. Get ready to get down (in price).

What to do? Don't worry, I have solutions.

From MIT Tech Review Article:
“Cheap phones: Workers assemble $65 smartphones at Guo Wei Global Electronics, one of hundreds of small Chinese factories now building mobile computers.”

HP holograms displays.

MIT Tech Review Story >>

KEY MOBILE TRENDS: holograms, displays, components

The long, long-term future of displays is holograms. Hologram move theaters, hologram televisions, hologram computers, even hologram mobiles.

Just like multi-touch input, some smartphone vendor will come along some day and shift the market in a new direction. This is a vision.

Here is some hologram display research from HP:

The internet of bins. Connected waste bins tell when it's time to take out the trash. Truck roll avoidance!


KEY MOBILE TRENDS: M2M, internet of things

Three more words of fantastic opportunity I would like to share this week: truck roll avoidance.

Talk to managers at service-based companies or municipalities about truck rolls and they'll cringe. Talk to them about how they could avoid truck rolls and their ear will perk up. Really.

A truck roll is when some sort of service worker is dispatched to a remote location. It could be a cable repairman, a municipal worker, a nurse. There's the wasted time of transporting the worker, the depreciation on the vehicle, and the potential for some sort of mishap. I learned about the importance of truck rolls when working at Nokia's set-top box unit: develop a set-top box that could find a way around a truck roll and operators would listen.

Here is a great example of the use of the internet of things to minimize truck rolls: connected municipal trash bins which know how full they are and actively report their status. Cities across the globe are getting smart to such ideas of smarter things.

We've all been hearing about connected things and machine-to-machine communications for the past decade now. But it's really happening. Don't throw away this opportunity.

Less wasted time:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Carbon copy. Near-field transfers of up to one terabit per second using graphene antennas. Bluetooth, eat your heart out.

Bluetooth 3: up to 24 Mbit/s.
"Graphene transfer" beta: up to 100 terabits/s.

MIT Technology Review Story >>

Not that he is still looking for career advice, but if I were to give Ben Braddock, the protagonist in the film "The Graduate," a one-word lecture on what to do with his life, it would be "graphene." Yes, graphene. Think about it at least.

So please run this story by your nanotech materials division. What!? Your company doesn't have a nanotechology materials unit? Well, a nonotech group then? A small team? An in-house expert? A hobbyist? No? Then you'd better get one.

So, researchers at Georgia Tech are working on a method of making wireless transfers of up to one terabit per second between devices by using graphene antennas. At such speeds, in a few seconds, you could shoot over a few high-definition movies to your friend and then in return, borrow a library of music. The range of such transfers is only up to a meter (a yard) or so. But get this: at shorter ranges, much faster transfers could be possible, say around 100 terabits per second. And remember how excited we were about Bluetooth. And then sharing pics via NFC coupling?

While it has its limitations and its problems, graphene is looking like an amazing enabler in so many ways. This one-atom-thick layer of carbon rolled up into "nanotubes" can take on many different roles depending upon the angle of the bond and the diameter of the roll. Graphene is super light, super strong, and simply super.

I realize this is nothing you will find in the next iPhone or Lumia (but please prove me wrong Apple or Nokia), but the goal of my blog is to provide exposure for longer-term technology trends and industry shifts. And when it literally comes to shaping the future, it's likely that nanotech-related developments will be in the center. Someday we will really see interesting new device form factors, tiny embedded computers, and super tough devices thanks to advancements in nanotechnology.

Huge advancements are coming in the tiniest of ways. Graphene, the plastics of the new century.

"21st Century story update:
four words of career advice: nanotechnology-related material sciences."

Carbon copy: Researchers are working on using atoms of carbon for super transfers:

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

How do you feel inside? Sensors might soon have that covered too.


KEY MOBILE TRENDS: sensors, mobile healthcare, nanotechnology

Bloody hell. Even more on the mobile sensor trend. This is getting amazing.

I've been reading stories about developments of small, internal sensors that can do such things as sniff out cancer cells or monitor blood for pathogens. Such sensors are placed inside the body using a minimally invasive procedure and provide data about the blood contents either directly or indirectly to a smartphone and further to a healthcare provider for analysis.

Here is one such sensor developed by researchers at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Lausanne (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). From the Institute: It’s “a tiny, portable personal blood testing laboratory: a minuscule device implanted just under the skin provides an immediate analysis of substances in the body, and a radio module transmits the results to a doctor over the cellular phone network. This feat of miniaturization has many potential applications, including monitoring patients undergoing chemotherapy.”

Ideally I would love to pick one of these up at my local supermarket or pharmacy and get to work doing some self diagnosis. But regulators can be so small about such things.

“Potentially, we could detect just about anything:”

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Now thanks to B-Y-O-D, losing the enterprise market can be as easy as 1-2-3.

Shifts happen. Comfort zone, meet my friend Obsolescence.

Sure, you set the standard and now you're sitting pretty. But before you know it, some other company will come along and excel in the same product category. My word, how things can change all of a sudden.

A few weeks back I wrote of the possibility of Microsoft getting "wanged" during the next decade, that is, being leapfrogged by a greater trend that it has no direct answer to.

In that blog post, I pointed to Google's Chrome OS & its low-cost Chromebook, cloud computing, and the working behavior of teens & tweens who don't know of the days of being disconnected. I must say that I find the opinions of many analysts, especially those in their 40s and 50s, rather risible, and a clear reflection of their lack of vision. One analyst I saw interviewed called the Chromebook a "silly" concept because the user "had to always have [an internet] connection or it wouldn't work." I suppose the same argument was made about electricity once upon a time, but now we are practically always connected to the electric cloud. Yes, we are dependent on that. Next issue please.

For your consideration, please see the highly entertaining and very detailed "Smartphone Bloodbath" post by Tomi Ahonen of Communities Dominate blog, in which Mr. Ahonen writes of this most amazing shift occurring under our noses:
Note, this year Android will replace Windows globally as the OS powering most computers in use (when smartphones and tablets are included in the calculation). That will be a nasty wake-up moment for Microsoft investors and owners and partners. That the 'impregnable' Windows PC desktop space ecosystem has been conquerred, by Google's Android? No wonder Google already released a laptop/netbook running Android. Google intends to power the vast majority of all computing platforms from our desktops and tablets to our eyeglasses, televisions, clothing, cars etc. Yes, Google and Android have won the IT platform war of the century, beating Windows like a rented mule, just like I wrote last year.

Let's hear that again: Google is in the process of surpassing Microsoft in the platform battle. Across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and even the U.S., Google-developed computing platforms either already have or are about to take the lead. If it doesn't happen this year, it will next year: there will be a new global leader and nobody is really noticing. Insidious!

The stats could be debated and we could wonder what the definition of a computing platform is. But as the smartphone experience takes center stage, and the desktop experience is being reverse engineered to be more like the mobile experience, it's time for Microsoft to do some leapfrogging of its own. (Where the heck is that advanced gesture-based "KinectPhone" from Microsoft I thought we would see by now?)

At first thought, the notion that Microsoft might lose consumer interest doesn't seem odd, but losing the enterprise market seems impossible. After all, Microsoft makes great tools for conservative IT departments everywhere, whose goal is not to experiment with the new but to provide 99+% secure up-time for the company staff. Unfortunately for Microsoft, those were the same arguments I heard about BlackBerry not too long ago: security, IT maintenance, provisioning, robustness...

But then came along BYOD. Yes, the power of the crowd forced their own devices into the workplace. Personal iPhones replaced BlackBerrys, personal tablets replaced some laptop usage. As Apple, Samsung and other vendors make their gadgets more and more enterprise-friendly, I do see the bring-your-own-device trend pushing the envelope with personal laptops replacing IT-issued machines and personal cloud storage replacing company server space. (I have heard terrible rumors of workers using Dropbox to share company files!)

I might be aging myself here, but I remember learning Lotus 1-2-3 back in the '80s. That spreadsheet was such a killer app in its day, that anyone graduating from business school with strong knowledge of "Lotus" was very likely to get a good job based on that skill alone. 1-2-3 wasn't just the market leader in spreadsheets, it was the market. What could go wrong?

And here we are again. A shift is taking place that you can tell your grandchildren about. Mobile is merging with desktop, big numbers will dominate over the small, and the crowd will do as it pleases. Go calculate the implications if you like.

This killer application for advanced calculation needed salvation,
but not even the likes of an IBM could save it from cremation.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wearing, thin. The white hot mobile trend: ubiquitous computing & thin clients is wear it's at.


KEY MOBILE TRENDS: wearable computing, sensors, multi-device ownership, smartwatches, wellbeing, ubiquitous computing

Talking shoes from Google, contextual-sensing jewelry from Samsung. Big brands and small, device vendors had better get to wear the action is.

You will certainly be hearing lots about wearable devices over the coming year, and some of you might get tired of the exaggerated stories and the miserable puns. But when hype reaches its peak is when it's really time to evaluate market potential and write down business-development plans.

I've been hearing about ubiquitous computing since the turn of the century. The long-term vision of migrating machine interaction into everyday things and away from personal computers and handsets has excited technology executives to such a degree, that most large tech companies and campuses formed UC units. Now, the enablers are nearly in place and products will rain onto the market during the coming years. Many products will fail to deliver, but a few will really change the way we live and breath.

Google Glass and Google's talking shoe concept (please see video below) are two examples of keeping people contextually informed and constantly connected to the grid. Every smartphone vendor worth its salt will be sprouting sensor-filled mobile accessories during the coming years.

While we know the components enabling this key trend, as is so often the case, the supporting business models are the real uncertainty. Some legitimate mobile healthcare-related services will prove to be a good value for healthcare providers and individuals, but leveraging the vast amounts of data collected could lead to a trade of atoms for bits, that is, lower-cost accessories in return for some of the contextual data.

I suspect most large handset vendors have their wearable computing in-house experts and major mobile platforms are working on robust APIs to support the development of an array of accessories and applications. Vendors who aren't prepared could be left out in the cold.

So, looking forward, computing power and sensors will be everyware. Are you ready to uncover the opportunities?

Platitude & attitudes: this shoe from Google/Adidas will make life much tougher:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Smartphone cameras can take your pulse


KEY MOBILE TREND: healthcare

Front-facing cameras moonlight as healthcare monitors. It seems like everybody has a few jobs these days.

While there are existing apps for smartphones that use the device's camera to read a person's pulse on a fingertip, this is the first I've heard of such passive reading of blood flow in the face.

Read more:
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

( Photo via )

Monday, March 18, 2013

BLU Ocean Strategy. Miami-based BLU Products finds a low-cost, dual-SIM smartphone niche in Latin America.

( With Chinese-made products of course. )



Related articles:
Here’s Where They Make China’s Cheap Android Smartphones. Apple & Samsung, beware >>

MediaTek to see revenues rally 50% sequentially in March >>

KEY MOBILE TRENDS: commoditization, MediaTek, China

There are many smartphone vendors around the globe that I have never heard of. Most of them are based in China or India or other Asian markets. Here is one that is not. BLU Products. BLU who?

I don't think I had heard of BLU until earlier this month. According to the company's website, BLU was founded in 2009 "by Latin American entrepreneurs" and is headquartered in Miami. "More than one million BLU mobile devices have been sold in 25 countries throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the U.S." These are not huge volumes for the handset market, but BLU seems to have found a niche.

BLU sells both feature phones and Android-based smartphones, all of which are certainly imported from a Chinese manufacturer. The newsworthy point here is the relatively low prices of their recently announced devices. One Android phone, called "LIFE Play," will sell for $229 on Amazon and other sites. Life Play is 7.9mm thin, has a 4.7-inch HD (720p?) screen, an 8 megapixel camera with 1080p recording, a 2 megapixel front-facing camera, a microSD expansion slot, and support GSM and HSPA networks. And apparently it's dual SIM. There's no LTE support, but this might not have much consequence in some target markets. This smartphone and other Android handsets recently announced by BLU are based on top of a MediaTek quad-core chipset.

Last week we saw a 5-inch, 1080p smartphone from a Chinese called Neo for around $145 in China. It's clear where things are headed.

BLU Products "LIFE Play," a dual-SIM, 4.7-inch Android smartphone for $229:

Samsung Galaxy S 5+ conjecture. What features might the next few generations of flagship smartphones have? Progress has been very linear.

One, two, four, more. Can I have another core? Yes, faster, thinner, brighter, lighter: the smartphone's evolution has been straight as an arrow. But has all the low-lying fruit been picked when it comes to smartphone hardware?

So, what is arguably the smartphone industry's newest flagship product has been announced, the Samsung Galaxy S 4. Now it's time to wonder what's next. What hardware features might the Samsung Galaxy S 5 have? And how about its 2014 contemporaries? Bendable or transparent 3D displays? Floating holograms? Fingerprint readers or brain readers? Dual screen? Powerful built-in projectors? Infi-pixel cameras? Software-defined radio. Nanotech-enabled batteries. Massively multi-core processing...

Given the fact that hardware features tend to expand in a rather predictable fashion, there are rarely any surprises. However, there are opportunities for smartphone vendors to stand out in the crowd for a short time at least. Taking a look at some component and product announcements over the past few years points to some of these possibilities. Here are some things smartphone vendors might be working on implementing behind the curtains:

Cameras and lenses: Whatever happened to optical zoom in handsets? Nokia and Samsung introduced phones last decade with optical zoom. Then fade to black. But get ready for a zoom comeback: Huawei, LG, and others, are expected to get back into the fold. Perhaps we'll see folded optics lenses in smartphones in the next generation of flagships for lots of great video clips of Rover and the kids.

Storage: room to grow. I've been hearing about the terabyte phone for more than five years. Yes, a terabyte or more of on-board storage memory. The platforms have to support it, but it's coming. Why? For content creation and consumption, there will be a reason, for example, to store lots of great video clips of Rover and the kids

Haptics: I've never felt the need for tactile feedback, but that's me. I've learned to never judge the market based on "I." There are some interesting improved haptic APIs coming for more realistic gaming and new types of interfaces and communications. Reach out and touch someone, for real.

Biometrics: Only a few smartphones have fingerprint readers. A few feature facial recognition. More biometric-based recognition is coming using fingers and eyes, voice and looks.

Resolutions: 1080p is it for the time being. A move to ultra high definition would make little sense in a pocketable device. The law of diminishing returns has been reached.

Screens sizes: a matter of consumer taste. Screens might grow a fraction of an inch, but soon after that they enter the tablet market. Then again, it could be that the tablet becomes the new smartphone.

Tougher phones: Gorilla Glass aside, handsets are still too fragile. Drop your keys, you simply pick them up. Drop your phone, you scoop up the pieces and hope it powers up again. Nonetheless, expect smartphones to become only marginally tougher with such improvements as water-resistant coatings. Handset makers are likely looking at impressive new materials such as graphene, but wide implementation is still some years off. Anyway, it seems that consumers in developed markets never paid too much attention to toughness given the fact that purchase upgrade cycles are around two years and significantly less in some countries. A cracked phone only accelerates the inevitable. And third-party accessories have been covering this area quite well.

Connectivity: 5G is still a long, long way off. The 2G/3G/4G/WiFi world phone will be the standard at the high-end with LTE at around 100mps. Network providers will continue to work on the other side of the equation with WiFi becoming a more important operator element.

Battery: There are battery breakthroughs coming according to scientific papers, but for now, it looks like lithium-ion will continue to be the norm. You can read up on some interesting demos using, for example, nanotech-based materials for batteries.

Processors: Quad core and more. Samsung's clever 4x4 technology could set the standard for power-efficient smartphones, coaxing more use out of the given juice. More powerful mobile graphics processors will give living-room game consoles a run for their money.

Speakers: There are some interesting surround-sound Bluetooth speaker accessories around. More of this technology will find its way into smartphones.

Form factors: The world will remain flat. Unfortunately there's little chance of bendable, foldable, stretchable, transparent devices coming to market anytime soon. The component videos we've seen of flexible displays are neat, but until everything else in the device can flex as well, this song remains the same.

User interfaces: Non-touch input features are making for more natural user interfaces. PrimeSense, the company behind the Kinect, recently introduced their technology for mobile devices to support 3D gesture input. Leap Motion and competitors could make 3D gesture input a norm. In addition, sensors will continue to be used in clever and contextual ways. Get ready for more non-touch.

The software & services experience: Expect more of following: HTML5, WebRTC, smoother cloud storage, sensor friendly apps, really useful NFC-based services, home integration, laptop replacement

Modular: The number of sensor-filled accessories will expand enabling a customized experience for the user. This could be the killer trend over the coming two years.

Price: Flagship devices are expensive, but in a historical context, are absolute bargains. Top phones will continue to retail in the $700 range (unsubsidized), making a difficult entry point for many consumers around the world. Yet the good news is, the trickle-down effect will put the power of what would once have been considered a supercomputer into the hands of millions of first time smartphone owners, connecting them to the internet and opportunity.

The bottom line is, the arrow still points up. There's still a lot to think forward to.

Samsung Galaxy flagship screen sizes from March 2010 to March 2013.
Marching uphill in a straight line makes predictions rather easy:

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Remember this heart-warming video from Nokia?

All this talk of mobile healthcare apps and sensors brought back some heart-warming memories for me: remember the Nokia N79 Active? (Actually Mobihealth reminded me about this.)

From 2009, Nokia's N79 Active sensed, collected, and shared. Too bad it ran out of time. This sort of gets the blood boiling in some ways. Samsung is running with this baton now.

Friday, March 15, 2013

And the key mobile trend of week 11-2013 was...

sensors. Yes, sensors both inside and outside the device are growing wild like weeds.

For your consideration:

Samsung's new well-being related accessories >>

Samsung Galaxy S 4 sensors include gestures, barometer, thermometer, hygrometer (humidity), eye-tracking... >>

Ingestible sensors interact with handsets to get to the heart of the matter >>

Scanadu senses like a Star Trek Tricorder >>

Asthma data collected in Louisville via GPS, other sensors >>

Cool teaser of the Leap Motion 3D sensor >>

And there was a lot more sensor-related news around this week. Sensor expansion in smartphones and accessories including barometers, humidity sensors, thermometers, gestures, pedometers, breathalyzers, ECG monitors, allergy testers, more...

Barometers in smartphones? Yes! They're trending now. (Likely used to increase the accuracy of altitude measurements with the added potential of some crowd-sourced weather forecasting.) If you're a smartphone vendor, you're under pressure now to expand your senses. The heat is on:

Samsung gets a jump on competitors in sensor fusion potential:
Sensors in the new Samsung Galaxy S 4 include accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, temperature, humidity, gesture, eye-tracking...

Tongue in cheek of the week: Another amazing new mobile healthcare accessory from South Korea!

Get ready to feel alive again!

After years of start-and-stop developments, mobile healthcare is really moving forward now. Yes, it's been a bumpy ride so far, but I feel it has come to life. ROLL THE TAPE:

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Samsung S Health accessories. Samsung's Sensor fusion play.


KEY MOBILE TRENDS: mobile health, sensor fusion, sensors, big data, big proactive, wearable computing

Last week I wrote a blog entry about my take on a potential wrist-worn device from Apple (please see "An Apple watch could be a genius big-data play"). It's complete conjecture on my part, but I see that any such device would be just as much about collecting information as providing it.

I have no detailed comments to share on Samsung's Galaxy S4 which was unveiled yesterday. The vendor showed off a series of evolutionary new features which anyone following the latest trends would have expected. A 1080p, 5-inch screen, eye-tracking, wireless charging, NFC... Samsung ticked off all the right boxes for a 2013 flagship device.

But the more interesting development wasn't in the device itself but what was happening around it. Samsung also introduced a series of health-related accessories which will work with the device and its "S health" software. The accessories included a scale, a heart-rate monitor, and an "S band" similar to the Fitbit or Nike's FuelBand. These accessories collect and feed info to the smartphone for further processing and storing. The data allows users to see journals over time.

Vendors of smartphones should be aware that opportunities are growing outside of the box and beyond the screen. Sensor fusion is no illusion.

Nintendo Wii Fit, eat your heart out.

It looks like Samsung got the jump on Apple in sensor fusion:
Images via GSM Arena & CNET:

Video via Laptop Mag:

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ingestible sensors? It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's true.

story via SPRINGWISE >>


KEY MOBILE TRENDS: mobile health, sensors

Talk about sensor fusion. Now sensors will enable you to discover your innermost feelings.

More pill signals connected to mobile health. What a day. A company called Proteus Digital Health has introduced something called the "Feedback System," which includes a wearable patch for collecting information, and an ingestible sensor, which the company says is the size of a grain of sand.

The sensor reports biorhythms such as heart rate, temperature, activity and rest patterns it collects internally to the patch which in turn connects to a smartphone for further uploading and analysis.

Sensors will let you get to know yourself inside and out. (No word on pricing or availability from the company.)

Philips connected Hue LED bulbs, AKA "a personal wireless lighting system"

via >>

KEY TRENDS: Internet of things, home networking, LED, ZigBee

Does anybody else remember when our light bulbs weren't connected to the internet?

There is perhaps a touch of overkill here, but I do like where this is heading. For $280 at, you can buy a kit consisting of three Philips adjustable LED bulbs plus a central control hub which hooks into the home network. An iOS app allows the homeowner to adjust lighting from near and far.

I suspect gadget lovers are throwing caution into the wind with this one as supplies appear to be consistently short despite only fair reviews. Anyway, these are not the only network-enabled bulbs around and the general trend is clear: things are looking bright for the smarter home.

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

The internet of pills. New high-tech pillboxes are very smart, very proactive, and very well connected.


KEY TRENDS: mobile healthcare, big proactive, internet of things

Internet-connected pillboxes. Of course.

I came across an interesting article at the very useful Mobihealthnews site about the growing number of connected pillboxes and pillbox caps available on the market. I must say: this is truly a pragmatic use of connecting things.

Here is one product example: GlowCap from a company called Vitality, glows orange as a reminder when it is time to take medication and can also make a chirping sound and even send out updates via e-mail, texts, or make a robocall. Apparently it can be very tenacious.

GlowCap also tracks use over time in a journal and can even connect automatically with the pharmacist when it is time for a prescription refill. GlowCap retails for a reasonable $10 to $75 or so in the U.S. but it does require an on-going service plan which costs $15 per month. That's a nice recurring revenue stream for several players, and does appear a bit costly at first. However, the value of the service could be well worth it for certain demographics.

Here is a case where the internet of things can really be just what the doctor ordered. I don't want to seem like a pill pusher here, but this can really be an interesting device + service for some.

GlowCap® Medication Reminder Kit by Vitality:
Price is around $60 in the U.S. are major retailers.

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Scanadu. Star Trek Tricorder-like device headed this way.


KEY TRENDS: healthcare, big data, big proactive, wearable computing, sensors

Product tagline: "Sending your smartphone to med school."

Some nice visions here. Perhaps a touch of vapor as real products won't hit the market until the end of the year. But it sure is high time we learn a bit more about ourselves. Something to keep an eye on. Scanadu.

Neo's N003 is “world’s cheapest 1080p 5-inch smartphone” retailing at 899 yuan/€112/$145


KEY TRENDS: commoditization, 1080p, 5-inch screens

Smartphones keep reaching new lows.

I have friends in Europe who bought unlocked, unsubsidized smartphones in the €80 range with tax. Small screens, little memory, child-like cameras, but brand names. The low-end of the smartphone market is coming down and absorbing feature phone market share.

And the market will keep shifting down. Here is a smartphone from Chinese maker Neo which is being called the “world’s cheapest 1080p smartphone." The Neo N003 has a 5-inch, 1080p display running Android on a quad-core processor and is expected to retail at 899 yuan (€112/$145).

This is a Chinese device for the Chinese market, but devices like this will have trickle down effects across many markets.


After eights. iOS, Android, Windows Phone after 8 full quarters of sales. Is 3 a magic number for Microsoft?

At the beginning of 2012, I predicted on this blog that Windows Phone would reach 5% of smartphone platform share during Q4 2012. At the time, WP had around 1.5%. A few of my industry colleagues then contacted me wondering why I was so pessimistic about Windows Phone. But there was some logic behind my calculations.

A year ago, the struggle wasn't for 100% of the market, but for the 25% that Android and Apple didn't already control. And given Android's growth momentum and lower price points, Microsoft's addressable market was actually quite small.

I suspect those individuals who thought my five point assessment was unrealistically low are very aware of the current market numbers. Analysts estimate that Windows Phone took about 3% share during Q4 2012. Some estimates were lower. I was about half right, which, academically at least, is very wrong.

Nonetheless, I continue to maintain that Microsoft will push and push until Windows Phone is indeed established as that third platform. If things do work out, Microsoft could surpass 7 or 8% within two years and approach 10% soon after that. That's the type of a share a third-ranked player in a duopoly-type market is usually lucky to get.

Windows Phone was released in October 2010. It was and still is a solid, competitive smartphone platform. And that's what should be most concerning to Microsoft and Windows Phone vendors: it's good and still nobody cares. What more can one do? There's a three-letter answer to that question: it's time to find the WOW.

After Eights: iOS vs Android vs Windows Phone after their first 8 full quarters of sales:

Is 3% a magic number for Microsoft?

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Big data in Louisville. Asthma stats are collected at the real-time, hyper-local level.

KEY TRENDS: big data, big proactive, mobile healthcare

Using large amounts of data to pinpoint problems to the hyper-local is part of the fantastic potential of big data. Data can be used to both proactively warn of immediate health concerns as well as discover causes and solutions over longer periods of time.

Here's a project backed by IBM in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, using a pool of data collected at the individual level from asthma sufferers.

The long-term potential here is fantastic. There's really something big in the air now.

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

G-Trip & GMIC 2013. Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing May 2013. Go Get networked.

I've been writing quite a bit lately about the fantastic global influence of the Chinese mobile market and its players. China is not only the world's largest market and home to the world's largest mobile service providers, it is also home to more global top-ten smartphone vendors than any other country. Chinese companies are altering the market at all levels of the stack: Chinese component vendors, for example, are changing industry dynamics by lowering barriers to entry, and new Chinese mobile-web services are being envisioned and rolled out across a market of greater than one billion potential users. And beyond.

So, for those of you following this white hot market and its vendors and entrepreneurs, here's a conference that provides you with an opportunity to network with many of the key players.

The Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing this May and the extended "G-Trip" will provide you with the opportunity to meet an eclectic series of interesting executives including leaders from Tencent, Sina, UCWeb, Nokia, BMW, Jolla, Samsung, Softbank, and one of the hottest smartphone vendors around, Xiaomi.

The kind producers of G-Trip and GMIC contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT .

Sony, you only live twice. Again. Why aren't we more impressed with Sony Mobile's golden comeback?

One thing we should learn from Sony is that we should never say "never" again.

At the turn of the 21st century, the term "smartphone" wasn't used. Instead, some were talking about communicators, converged mobile devices, connected digital assistants, ultra mobile computers, and the such. Inside of Nokia, I heard the term "personal trusted device" a number of times, but that didn't stick. In some meetings, we didn't always know what to call the gadgets, but we knew those things were coming.

When it came to predicting the companies which would lead this new market, the names were obvious: there was Nokia, Palm, Sharp, Motorola, Microsoft, Ericsson, Research in Motion, perhaps even HP, Compaq, DELL, or Psion. And there was also Sony, the company which had a track record of making things small and mobile.

It's been a dynamic dozen years since then, and things aren't quite like we expected. Many of the companies predicted to lead, left. And most of the others have slivers rather than thick, chunky slices of market share.

But the surprise now is the one company that is not a surprise: Sony. According to IDC, Sony was the world's number four global vendor of smartphones last quarter, having shipped 9.8 million units giving them 4.5% share, right behind #3 Huawei. Sony's volumes were up 57% year-on-year, outgrowing the market which was up 36%. In addition, Sony outgrew Apple, ZTE, and most other vendors.

I must say that we are not impressed enough with Sony, and perhaps Sony would like to keep it that way for now, being the tall, quiet, and handsome type. You know: suave, clever, secretive, and a bit insidious.

Many would have given Sony Ericsson and Sony Mobile up for dead not long ago. Just another discarded corpse in the vicious smartphone battle. But it looks like Sony is alive and rather well. If Sony does die as a smartphone vendor, it won't be today, but rather, they will die another day.

To the T with Sony. Sony Mobile. Ignore them at your own risk.

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Monday, March 11, 2013

More look at it this way: "eyeCharm" piggybacks on a Kinect to bring eye-put to PCs.


KEY TRENDS: eye-put, natural user interface, Kinect

Gestures and words, thoughts and looks. User interfaces are changing. Naturally! Is it time for mobile device vendors to set their sights on non-touch input?

Here's another eye-put signal: "eyeCharm" from a startup called NUIA rides on top of a Microsoft Kinect. Hooked up to a PC, the accessory allows the user to control scrolling with eyeball movement.

Weather users will actually take to this new type of user interaction remains to be seen, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

For those looking to network with Chinese mobile players and understand the market: the kind producers of the Global Mobile Internet Conference 2013 and the extended "G-Trip" contacted me to share a 25% discount code with any readers who might wish to attend. You can register your attendance at and paste in the following code into the "discount code" section: GMIC-VQ9596MT

GWIC 2013. Be there. And see see Tiananmen Square.

Long-term shrinking. As the smartphone market quickly drifts away from some vendors, it's time to find a life raft or risk going down with the shift.

Nobody likes the smell of rotting animal flesh on their front porch.

KEY TRENDS: China, business development, services, long-term thinking

One of the more interesting – and impressive – business development stories of 2012 was Maersk's decision to slowly shift away from the shipping business (FT story) and into more profitable sectors such as oil services. At first read, a story about Maersk moving away from shipping is like hearing that IKEA will be getting out of the plywood-based furniture business. But for Maersk, this is an acknowledgement of a real and perhaps uncomfortable longer-term trend: although shipping volumes have been increasing, rising fuel costs and increased competition have been driving down freight rates and margins.

Does the theme music here sound familiar? Despite growth in global volumes, increasing competition is driving down average-selling prices and profit margins. Smartphones? Yes. So, at what point do vendors decide to sail for greener shores, where ever those may be?

When looking for larger market trends, take a good look back before looking forward: think long-term in reverse. Tangent lines can be very misleading. So, let's look back about six years to an era when the smartphone market was still in its youth. Nokia had greater than 50% of the smartphone market in early 2007 (and Symbian greater than 70%). To get an idea how powerful a position Nokia had then, take Samsung's current market share and Apple's current market share, add them up and then add a few extra points. That's what Nokia had. This shows the significant contrast to the current-day situation.

The market changes are amazing and nearly unprecedented across industries: not one of the top-five smartphone vendors from early 2007 (Nokia, RIM, Sharp, Motorola, and Palm) remains in the top five today, and some of those don't even remain. In addition, only 3.5 or 4.5 of the top-ten volume vendors of that era still remain in the top ten: Samsung (which dominates the market now but had less than 3% in early 2007), Sony (was "Sony Ericsson" thus the 0.5), HTC, RIM and possibly Nokia.

What should be highlighted here is the number of Chinese vendors who have entered the top-ten. Six years ago there were none. In fact, only two years ago there were none. But last quarter there were at least three (Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo) and it looks likely several more China-based Android vendors will join them in the coming quarters to satiate both local and global demand as the feature-phone market makes way for low-cost smartphones.

The market presence which some big smartphone brands had enjoyed has been shrinking at an accelerating pace and there are few solid or even delusional reasons to believe things will reverse. So now it's vital for those vendors to think forward five or six years and picture what the market could look like given current trends discussed above.

If such fading smartphone players aren't thinking about the possibility that they might not be in the business at all in five or six years from now, then they quite simply aren't thinking. For some vendors, it's time for reality to sink in: ignore long-term market trends and you'll go away.

Canalys' smartphone stats from 2006 highlights dramatic market changes.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Targeted tablets. News Corp looks to the education market for recurring revenue streams. A smart opportunity for other vendors?


FT STORY on tablet >>

Tablets for tots, tablets for docs, tablets for teens, now tablets for tweens.

Is the tablet computer the spiral notebook of the 21st century? The new pen and pencil? And even the teacher's planner?

Here is a new tablet teaching solution from Amplify, News Corp's education unit, that is being marketed directly to schools. At $299, the 10-inch, Android-based tablet is priced in-line with similar tablets on the market. Samsung's 10-inch Tab, for example, sells for $330.

But News Corp is looking to make this into a service-based business: the tablets are part of a larger education-focused ecosystem, complete with attendance-taking tools, achievement tracking, and a trinket reward system for students. For this on-going software and services package, Amplify will charge $99 per tablet per year, which would be a nice recurring revenue stream if it takes. News Corp's approach here of developing a service-based model could have some merit if the results justify the RoI.

The goal of getting in the classroom is nothing new. Apple has always done well in school going back to the early '80s, and other big-name hardware and software vendors were making their own tracks.

Other device, service, and platform vendors would be wise to monitor developments of this move and get ready to do a fast-follow or risk losing mindshare of future generations: namely, Google is pushing schools to "Go Google" and could be on its way to successfully establish its platforms as the new work standard. It will be worth following the developments of Amplify's platform: perhaps we can all learn something from this.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

MYO. A gesture input accessory that could arm a new generation of mobile users.


KEY TRENDS: wearable computing, gesture input, natural-user interfaces, non-touch input

Is the future of touch non-touch?

Thanks to Wendy S. for pointing this one out. In a world of boring, flat, look-alike devices, here is some wow,

Wearable computing has become a white-hot trend over the past few months. And with devices like Leap Motion Controller and Kinect around, gesture-based input looks like a great complement or even replacement for touch.

So, here is the MYO from a startup called Thalmic Labs. MYO combines two hot trends in one making it hot squared.

Below is a promo video for MYO. This does look smooth. The screen of the future could be the space in front of you. It even appears that the military is interested in using the device to arm their field soldiers.

More just think about it. Neurowear's "mico" headphone relies on the user's mood to automatically select music.


KEY TRENDS: brain-computer interface (BCI), wearable computing, sensors, natural-user interfaces

Tokyo-based Neurowear, the company that gave the world the brain-controlled cat ears accessory "Necomimi" and the BCI tail called "Shippo," has introduced another thought-inspired accessory, "mico."

Mico, which stands for "Music Inspiration from your Subconsciousness," relies on the user's spirits to select music. EEG sensors on the headset pick up signals from the wearer and send it to an iOS app that uses an algorithm to select songs that fit the mood.

As EEG sensors fall in price, expect to see more BCI implementations. So far, most accessories like these have been playful, but at some point expect vendors to switch tunes to something more serious.

Neurowear: “Mico frees the user from having to select songs and artists and allows users to encounter new music just by wearing the device. The device detects brainwaves through the sensor on your forehead. Our app then automatically plays music that fits your mood.”

Neurowear's mico crosses thinkput with music.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Battery stretch. This flexible, stretchable battery technology could enable some wild form factors.


KEY TRENDS: Flexible design, new form factors, "Follow the components," healthcare, wearable computing

Get ready for some more flexibility in design.

Samsung, Sony, Corning and other display component vendors have been showing their enablers for flexible smartphone screens for several years. These make for fun demo products at industry trade shows, but won't result in any real-world form factor changes until other components can bend as well.

So, here we have a bendable battery. Researchers at Northwestern University in the U.S. are showing a stretchable lithium-ion battery. The battery could be placed inside a device, or inside a human body. It can be charged via inductive coupling which would allow it to be placed in some odd places indeed.

Of course these are early days and this is still a laboratory demo. But now is the time for designers to think ahead and stretch their imaginations. The definition of what a device is and where it will be is evolving quickly. Get ready for powerful changes ahead.

Will stretchable battery technology enable tinkering outside the box?


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Breaking news: Samsung's Galaxy S IV might really be an eye phone!

Yes, even more just look at it this way! EYE-PUT.


TRENDS TO NOTE: eye-put, natural-user interfaces, biometrics, non-touch input

Samsung has been doing some great re-purposing of smartphone sensors. For example, Samsung's "SmartStay" feature uses the phone's front-facing camera to determine is a user is actually looking at the screen or not to maximize the use of battery juice.

And now, according to The New York Times, it looks like Samsung will be taking this further with "Eye Scroll:" when the user looks down at the end of a webpage, it will automatically scroll down to more info. It's a small convenience, but it's easy enough to envision a few use cases where this non-touch input could really be practical. And it shows that Samsung is taking marginal steps forward as it grows its lead in the handset market. All innovations great and small count for Samsung.

I've written about a number of "eye-put" developments over the past year. (Please see the eye-put signals on my blog here.) Is this something to look forward to? It could be, so other smartphone players had better see to it.

Related: Tobii's Gaze technology brings a new look to Windows 8: