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Let me take a stab at explaining Google's grand strategy.
Well, sort of. You may, instead of buying Microsoft Office, suscribe to Google's GMail and have a rudimentary office system with a gigabyte or two of storage.
But to say Google is going after Microsoft, the way we said Microsoft was going after IBM, is really to damn with faint praise.
Google isn't aiming at Microsoft, or at IBM. It's aiming at the entire computing-telecommunications complex, building out what I'll call the Google TeleComputing Environment.
The idea is to take advantage of not only the Internet's ability to disintermediate clients, but its ability to disintermediate the phone network at the same time, and to do this in an entirely open source way.
What do I mean? Here are the ingredients:
Google is flattening the world. More on what this means after the flip.
Americans are finally following the rest of the world toward the controlled interface of the cellular phone.
This has profound implications. Mobile carriers are not Internet Service Providers. They control where you go and what you do on their networks. They act as gatekeepers, and take a proprietary attitude toward every bit transmitted.
The difference between the Internet and a mobile network is like the difference between a downtown city center and a shopping mall. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shopping mall, but it is controlled by the mall owner, and everything which happens there must be aimed at making the mall owner (and his tenants) money, all assumptions of liberty to the contrary.
In other words, cellular turns the Internet into a shopping mall, neutering it, and making it solely a means toward a commercial end.
Thus, is has been difficult for mobile (Americans call it cellular) to gain the kind of reach and use that we find even in Africa. But that is changing:
A 17 year old who admitted to hacking Paris Hilton's cellphone (and some other things) drew an 11-month prison sentence from Massachusetts today. (Next time, kid, go with Drew Barrymore.) He also draws two years' probation with no computer access.
Blogging let us all become commentators.
Now we can become true journalists.
Dialogue announced that it Mobile Applications Portal can now be used by news aggregators to take in any cellphone video you may want to offer, as an MMS message.
Yes, I can see the problem here as well. This is expensive stuff. It's being offered as a service to Big Media operators, who will then take stuff from ordinary Joes, probably free, and spin it.
But it is a step in the right direction.
Back in 1985, you would have spent big money to get an Intel 386 chip, with over 100 Megabytes of storage, and a local network that ran as fast as 1 megabits per second.
I know I didn't have one. The closest I saw to one that year was an entrepreneur 10 miles north of me who had a Digital Equipment PDP-8 minicomputer in his office.
Yet that is just what you see in the picture to the right:
If you have a mobile phone, and it claims you have Internet service on it, you may not.
Mobile service providers have become increasingly aggressive in stopping access to services and sites they don't like, writes DeWayne Hendrick.
This is especially true for Vodafone, which owns half of Verizon Wireless of the U.S. (Verizon, in turn, has been the most aggressive in pursuing the "Walled Garden" approach here.)
According to DeWayne, Vodafone has summarily blocked access to all Voice over IP services, and even the main page of Skype, a VOIP procider. In the UK Vodafone is blocking access to all content that isn't "Vodafone-approved." (Translation: anything that might lose money for Vodafone.)
Every decade of computing technology can be summarized fairly simply. (That's an Apple ad to the right.)
The 2000s are the decade of wireless.
It's now clear that wireless technology defines this decade. Mobile phones are opening up Africa as never before. WiFi is making networking truly ubiquitous.
Walk or drive down any street, practically anywhere in the world, and you will find people obsessed by the use of wireless. Behaviors that in previous decades were shocking -- walking around chatting animatedly to the air for instance -- are now commonplace.
What's amazing, as we pass the halfway point, is how far this evolution has to go, and how easy it is to see where it can go:
Who do we have to thank for this?
His source on this is Bob Frankston, co-founder of Visicalc and one of those great online friends I've never met personally. (As you can see by this picture, he's also well on his way to being a Truly Handsome Man (that is to say bald)).
Here's the key bit, as Berlind saw it:
By Frankston's calculations, for example, Verizon is reserving 99 percent of its government-ordained right of way (in the form of bandwidth that should be available to us as well as its competitors) for itself so that it may compete in the IPTV market.
Frankston's got the whole story, in hiw own words, here.
More on the flip.
The idea is to give cellular carriers their own "triple play" -- combining paid WiFi (through controlled real estate), VOIP (long distance) and cellular service on one bill.
I understand why Verisign is on to this. What I don't understand is why the carriers are getting in bed with them.
Also, how cold does Hell have to freeze before you're going to buy a phone run by a music publisher? (I think pretty cold.)
Verizon has begun selling one of the dumbest machines I've ever seen, a "DSL modem," (their term), wireless router and cordless phone combination dubbed Verizon One.
Essentially this ties together the obsolete telephone network with the Internet Verizon is actually selling and tells customers it's the same thing. It pushes fancy PBX capabilities on residential customers who don't need them. (Just to make things a little better, it locks them into its cellular service, too.)
The FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) can be easily seen in the phrase "DSL modem." DSL is a digital service. It doesn't need modulation or demodulation to trick an analog line into taking a digital connection, which is what a modem does. It is an oxymoron.
What's ironic is I happen to know Verizon was talking to Netopia two years ago about a massive contract for DSL gateways that would have been far superior to this piece of nonsense. (Here's a 2001 press release, delivered in the early days of the relationship.) I have one of these gateways in my house now, a review unit. What would have made them powerful was a promised co-branded service providing full security to home users, saving them as much as $200/year on "security suites" from various software vendors. (There are currently no Netopia press releases, going back to 2002, referencing Verizon.)
More on what a truly clued-in person feels after the break.
A number of items have come across my desk today advertising cool mobile stuff, but failing to offer anything resembling a business model.
Here is one of them -- Navizon.
It's advertised as a "peer to peer location service" combining "WiFi, cellular and GPS." But what exactly are you supposed to do with it? Where are the applications that will get Navizon's money out, let alone a profit? No clue.
SMS.Ac is hoping for a PR boost from a press release offering a cellular customer bill of rights. (The release went out over the signature of CEO Michael Pousti, right. from sms-report.com.)
Here's Oliver's charge:
This is a company about which DOZENS of websites have multitudes of individuals complaining of things such as spamming everyone in their personal address books, which they exposed to SMS.ac during what can only be described as a deliberately deceptive sign-up process where unsuspecting people, many of them young or speaking English as a second or third language unwittingly provide the username and password to their primary email accounts, thus making it possible for SMS.ac to scour their friends and family member's addresses and solicit them with messages that look as if they come not from SMS.ac directly but from the known individual that subscribed to the service.
I was giving more thought to yesterday's rumors of Cisco buying Nokia (or part of it).
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a very smart M&A move Cisco could make on today's technology board, something that would give it an infusion of both technology and backbone, plus get it into the mobile markets it seems so hot for.
But what's in it for Cisco? Plenty.
Two really stupid predications crossed my desk this morning. (The image is by Katie Guenther. From the University of Vermont.)
While a straight look at technology and the desires of consumers could lead you to these conclusions, they're dumber than dirt.
Let's start with the first one.
Even if people start leaving their laptops at home, laptop sales are not threatened by mobile phones, because laptops are replacing desktops. It's basic ergonomics. Where does your lap go when you stand up? If you're standing, or walking, you can't use a laptop, you have to use some sort of handheld device. As PDA functionality moves into phones, as the two markets merge, then, yes, phones become the handheld of choice. But that doesn't mean they replace laptops. It means they replace PDAs.
Now for the second prediction.
As regular readers here know, there is no Moore's Law of Training.
Training, learning, adaptation -- call it what you will -- must happen at its own pace. This is why the productivity boom arising from the 1990s IT spending boom didn't become apparent until this decade.
But there is a way to accelerate Moore's Law of Training (which doesn't exist) -- publicity. If a good idea, an obvious use of existing technology, is heavily publicized, it can spread very, very quickly, and provide real benefits.
ICE is just such an idea.
Given the direction of antitrust law recently I was surprised to see the recent suits by AMD and (more recently) Broadcom. They left me scratching my head.
But there is an answer to my quandary.
Antitrust has become a process. It's not a goal, but a weapon in the business war.
The idea that Qualcomm has a monopoly in the mobile phone industry is laughable. It may abuse what position it has, charging chip makers like Broadcom the equivalent of an "intellectual property tax" in areas which use CDMA (and its variants). But GSM is the major world standard. It would be like calling the Apple Macintosh a monopoly.
The Broadcom antitrust suit comes right after it filed a patent suit against Qualcomm, accusing it of violating Broadcom patents regarding delivery of content to mobile phones.
The first shot didn't open up the Qualcomm ship, maybe the second will. All lawyers on deck!
Blogging is filled with comings-and-goings. Mostly comings these days.
But some goings as well. Some, in fact, are quite sad.
Put this on the sad list. TheFeature is no more. I found out about it a few minutes ago, and confirmed it at the site.
TheFeature was among the best blogs I've seen on the mobile Internet. Their "columnists" ("bloggers") were good writers, with good sources and real insight.
You can see the reactions of some of those columnists here. Russell Buckley, who clued me in on all this, has also announced his own blog, Mobhappy, and one of TheFeature's best, executive editor Carlo Longino (above), is moving over there.
T-Mobile has become the first cellular operator to offer full Internet service on its mobile phones.
The service will be sold under the name Web'n'walk, with Google.Com as the designated home page. (Yeah, I know, in the real Internet world you could change the default to, say, http://www.corante.com/mooreslore. But one step at a time.) New devices, with larger screens, will also be sold as part of the campaign.
The decision is critical, because up until now all cellular providers have offered only their own "walled gardens," sometimes using a small i (for Internet, customers think) on their phones, but in fact offering only a tiny fraction of the Internet connectivity customers are used to.
But as phones move to offering true broadband speeds, and some users use cellular broadband on their PCs because of its better coverage, this is finally breaking down.
It will be interesting to see how, and when, T-Mobile starts advertising this feature, and what Verizon and Cingular will say (or do) in response. T-Mobile, while owned by Germany's formerly state-owned phone company, is the smallest of four major operators in the U.S.
Cellular operators love to go on about how much better their walled data gardens are than that nasty Internet, because consumers are safer.
But there was a sting in the tail. People (mostly kids, but at least one BBC reporter as well) found they didn't just buy a 3 pound ringtone, but a "premium SMS" service that charged them as much as 3 pounds more for each add Jamster then sent them.
The two companies are being investigated but according to the BBC the maximum penalty could be a mere 100,000 pounds to mBlox, plus loss of its British business license. It's estimated the scam has earned over 10 million pounds so far.
But do you want to know the rest of the story, the bit the Brits don't know (yet)?
Despite what the snarky set may say, medical applications for Always On technologies are starting to get real interest from people with money.
An outfit called Wirelesshealthcare in the UK has come out with a report called "101 Things To Do With A Mobile Phone In Healthcare."
The only unfortunate thing here is that the writers of the release on this interesting report call the area eHealth.
My problem is not with their intent. A rose by any other name and all that. My problem is that the term eHealth is stifling, limiting. It minimizes what is actually happening, and isolates wireless network applications to one small field.
The 1990s were all about the Internet. (The picture is from a great site called i-Learnt, for teachers interested in technology.)
This decade is all about gadgets.
Digital cameras, musical phones, PSPs, iPods -- these are the things that define our time. While they can be connected to networks their functions are mainly those of clients.
In some ways it's a "back to the future" time for technology. We haven't had such a client-driven decade since the 1970s, when it was all about the PC.
In some ways this was inevitable. The major network trend is wireless, so we need a new class of unwired clients.
But in some ways this was not inevitable. If we had more robust local connectivities than the present 1.5 Mbps downloads (that's the normal local speed limit) we would have many more opportunities to create networked applications.
I didn't blog much yesterday because I was researching the state of play in Always On. (The illustration is from Georgia Tech.)
I had a book proposal before Wiley rejected out of hand. But when I then suggested to step back and do a book on RFID for the home, I got real interest. Just make it a hands-on book, I was told.
Thus, the research.
As regular readers here know well there are many Always On application spaces, that is, functions fit for wireless networking applications.
Absent this understanding that a unified platform already exists so that all these applications can be created together, what is the state of play specifically regarding Radio Frequency Identification? (Or, if you prefer, spychips, although since I'm talking about home applications you're spying on yourself.)
Evidence is increasing of a backlash against mobile phones and the behavior of those who over-use them. (The image comes from a page on celliquette from Indianchild.com.)
What is the meaning of all this?
I've seen the TV ads and maybe you have, too. "Get a free ringtone. Simply text (whatever) and get (name of hit song) as a ringtone!"
Well, it's a scam. It's not free. In fact, writes Stephen Lawson for The Industry Standard, it's a lot more costly than a regular ringtone. This is because you get multiple texts in reply, with directions for the download, and these texts cost money -- $1.99 plus call charges each. It's an easy case to make, it's simple consumer fraud, it's aimed at teenagers. A state attorney general who wants to make a name for himself (or herself) can have a field day with this.
Want to know the best part?
What's the difference these days between the developed and developing world?
One difference can be found in their attitude toward mobile phones.
In countries like the Philippines, there is great concern these days over mobile phone theft. In some cases they're after purses and other valuables, with the phones just being an incidental. In places like Kenya SIM cards are hacked and the phones are re-sold.
Writing in his personal blog, Carmack said he was intrigued when his wife got him a new phone with a color screen.
His post about the project is an excellent primer not only on the inside of game design, but the creative process at work.
Thanks to Joystiq for pointing it out.
I have made few comments about the so-called conspiracy against the Apple iPhone.
The story was that Motorola was ready to release a cellular phone that was also an iPod device, but it couldn't find any carriers for it.
What's more interesting to me is the tug of war now taking place among entrepreneurs between these two technologies.
And, surprisingly, cellular is losing.
The reason has to do with business models and open standards. (Thus the picture above of standard pawns, available from the good people at Rolcogames.)
Perhaps I should be skeptical, given that this is a company-funded study with a result favorable to the company that funded it.
But the evidence is just too compelling. The cure for the Digital Divide is the mobile phone, and the results are so obvious no big subsidies or taxes are needed to make the change happen.
Here are some facts that really jumped out at me:
It is finally going to be possible to transfer MMS messages between U.S. carriers.
Yes, X.400 is finally here.
X.400, I should note, was an interoperability system for moving messages betwen X.25 networks, and for billing the costs through the carriers. It took years to negotiate, it was difficult to implement, and it was made obsolete by the Internet's basic agreement to move the bits first and settle later.
Today's mobile or cellular operators (take your pick on the name) are much like the old X.25 operators, such as GEIS and CompuServe. The networks they operate are walled gardens, very proprietary, so it takes both technology and diplomacy to get stuff over the walls.
This is not cool, once customers start taking pictures with their camera phones and (under operator urging) want to share them.
Technology moves in waves. What's passe in one place may be very cool in another. This is how you can cross the digital divide.
Here's an example. At the same time NTT DoCoMo is closing down its Personal Handyphone System, moving customers to more advanced forms of mobile telephony, it's growing like topsy in China, and Atheros is rolling out a new PHS chip.
How does this work?
Cellular companies used to be the small, scrappy, second-tier telecomm carriers.
They're now morphing into ILECs, like the Bells. The two largest cellcos -- Cingular and Verizon Wireless -- are in fact owned by Bells. The other big guys -- T-Mobile, Sprint -- also have local coverage areas. (T-Mobile's is in Germany.)
But I'm talking about more than a superficial resemblance. At CTIA, CEO (and former Congressman) Steve Largent (right) announced MyWireless, the beginnings of an effort to use all forms of manipulation -- including Astroturf , to protect the industry's position and stall change through the courts and legislatures.
This is not how Largent (who was also a record-setting wide receiver for Seattle in a past life) put it.
This summer will be the peak of the Voice Over IP (VOIP) boom. (The illustration, by the way, is from Poland. No, he doesn't look Polish.)
It's an easy prediction because Philips announced at CTIA a reference design for "converged handsets," with 802.11 and GSM or GPRS cellular in the same package.
We've seen the success of Vonage and Skype. We've seen the growth of 802.11 "hot spots" in hotels, airports, and on campuses. We've now seen the cellular industry adopt to VOIP. It's happy days.
So why am I predicting it's all going to end?
One of the biggest problems we face in cellular data is the lack of MMS interoperability.
If I'm on Cingular, and you're on Verizon, and our friend is with U.S. Cellular, in other words, we can easily exchange short text messages. But exchanging, say, photos or music is nearly impossible.
Video clips, sold like ringtones. The mobile Web is TV, just as last year's mobile Web was radio. (The picture is from the story linked-to in this paragraph, at PocketPCMag.com.)
I think this is wrong-headed thinking.
That's not to say video won't have a place. It will, especially where desktop Internet penetration is low. Within a few years, I suspect, we'll see a "mobile BitTorrent", because the kind of video that will be in highest demand will be that which is most likely to be suppressed, and not shown on TV.
But video still isn't the Killer App for the next wave. Video is going to remain a niche.
What is the Next Big Thing? Glad you asked.
Look, there he is on the cover of People. ROKR-Roker, get it? Since much of Roker the host has in fact disappeared recently, thanks to surgery that made his stomach the size of a chicken egg, the irony is even richer. There are laughs a-plenty. Tears are literally rolling down some journalists' faces. (Not.)
Anyway, the real story here is much more important and much, much nastier.
There is a move afoot among the world's mobile (or cellular) carriers to keep absolute control over all the money to be made with cellular (or mobile) broadband. It's not just the users they seek to control, and not just the phones.
If you download a bit, even megabits, the mobile (cellular) carriers figure they should look at what you're accessing, decide whether you should get it at all, and take a cut of the revenue as well. (A pre-operation Roker-sized cut.)
This is not Internet service they're offering. These are private networks.
Of all the American entrepreneurs you read about a decade ago, which do you think is doing the best today?
Which one, do you think, is kicking back, living the life, doing what he wants, and bringing in tons of money on something that's relevant to 2005?
The answer: Thomas Dolby Robertson. He blinded them all with mobility.
As Thomas Dolby (his oeuvre is at ArtistDirect, along with this picture), Robertson had a brief vogue on the pop charts in the early 1980s. He even had a pop hit, She Blinded Me With Science.
Then, a decade ago, he morphed into an entrepreneur, doing stuff at the intersection of virtual reality and gaming. The media left him behind and left him alone. (I met him at a few trade shows during the dot-boom. He should have been a pathetic figure. He wasn't.)
It seems Robertson has a talent rare among entrepreneurs, the ability to make lemonade out of lemons. He explained what happened to the Onion AV Club. It was a piece of blinding entrepreneurial insight.
The cellular technology called EDGE doesn't make sense for the U.S.
It's not that fast. It costs real money. By the time a carrier installs EDGE his competitor may have true 3G available, and now you've spent your budget but lost the market.
I don't always agree with Nicolas Negroponte (right), but he made a point in Korea recently that really makes sense.
This is true for hardware, for software, and for services. Future hardware designs must make it easy to connect, hands-free. Software must have intuitive user interfaces, as simple as speech. Services need to be spur-of-the-moment.
A lot of the mobile services I see today violate these principles big-time. They're based on Web interfaces, and thus have a limited time horizon. The key is to get inside the phone, so you're bought as soon as the customer thinks of buying.
Yahoo is what it has been since 1997, a portal. Google is a search service. Now, with the rise of the Mobile Internet (we're still at 1994 with this, in fact) Yahoo is gigging Google and calling it "limited."
This is not just rhetoric. Yahoo has long been a leader in mobile services. And it's extending that lead with a new games service.
But this does not mean, as Business Week writes, that Google is a "one-trick pony," that its offerings are "limited." This is pure spin from Yahoo's PR people.
Forrester (via the Pondering Primate) offers some better suggestions. Provide other ways in which people can use Google to search for things outside the Web.
It's faster, has less interference, and it's just better.
Uh-huh. Maybe that's all true. But even if it is, that will take time.
Bluetooth has taken over a half-decade to reach its present level of prominence, and many mobile phones still don't have the capability -- despite cool applicationsl like Hypertag being written for it. (Thanks to point-n-click and Billboard for that link.)
I have headlined this Moores Law of Market Acceptance because, again, there is none. (It's like Moore's Law of Training.) Market acceptance is a human process, involving many actors.
The rate at which a new technology is accepted and replaces an old one depends on how revolutionary it is, how nimble its sponsors, and how rapid is the replacement within the older market.
Taiwan has the greatest OEMs in the world. They can take your design and turn it around faster than anyone.
But Taiwan is not known for its equipment designs. Taiwan doesn't dominate the brand market.
That may be about to change with the Universal.
High Tech Computer of Taiwan has sold versions of it to most major European cellular outfits. The Windows Mobile device features a QWERTY keyboard which can fold into the device, making it a touchscreen PDA. It also has two cameras (one still, one video), Bluetooth and WiFi standard.
Sony released its Walkman phone yesterday.
It is what it is, a phone with a half-gigabyte of storage in it, enough room for about 500 songs.
Those songs are subject to Sony's DRM, just as iPod songs are subject to Apple's. Both now face the wrath of France because their DRM schemes are incompatible. Unfortunately for France, another unit of the government had previously ruled the link between its proprietary format and its iTunes store is OK so this is going nowhere.
And the Walkman phone is going nowhere in the market.
Haptics recreates touch and texture artificially. If your kid has a "force-feedback" joystick on their computer game console, they're getting a taste of haptics. Northwestern, USC and MIT are among the universities doing research in the field. (The image is from USC.)
It's vital that something like haptics comes to mobiles because, in a hands-free environment, you can't depend on just sight and sound. Bringing other senses, like touch (or smell) into the mix allows for communication to happen invisibly.
It's also vital for haptics to come to mobiles because this is a huge (in terms of installed base) platform. If the coding and messaging can be delivered in this space, we're talking about billions of users. And we're talking about a universal language.
That's right, gang. The old joke from The Graduate is here again, aiming to drive silicon into the ground.
Nanomarkets, a market research outfit with a beat that looks like tons of fun from here (call me) has a $2,000 report out with a hockey stick chart for plastic semiconductors, estimating the market at $5.8 billion in 2009 and $23.5 billion three years after that.
Plastic electronics -- chips built on conductive polymers and flexible substrates, will be cheaper, take less power, and (obviously) be more flexible than silicon circuits. This makes them perfect for, say, mobile phones.
It will also bring a bunch of new suppliers to the electronics market, names like Dow Chemical, DuPont, Kodak, and Xerox, along with the usual suspects.
What does this mean?
The last time Paris Hilton featured on this beat, she was leading to the rise of BitTorrent, and crying crocodile tears over the interest we had in a sex tape she made with a (presumably ex-) boyfriend.
That's because Paris Hilton is totally innocent this time. As with other Sidekick II users, her data was synced to a T-Mobile Web site, and it was T-Mobile that got hacked.
Now her calendar, phone list, and photos taken with her cameraphone are being spread all over everywhere.
This is very bad for T-Mobile, which is still advertising the Sidekick II as a way to have a private box to store connections to your rich-and-famous friends. (Snoop Dogg is the ad's star, although Paris does appear.) Those ads are still running, but what kind of impact are they making now, as the story of this hack (and how it happened) gains more prominence?
There's another implication.
From Medgadget comes word that Always On was a theme of the Demo conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, last week, even if they didn't use the name.
It's all quite wonderful, but there is one big problem.
Lusora's medical gadget uses Zigbee, and its hub, on the surface, looks proprietary, even though it's based on industry standards like WiFi and TCP/IP.
I could be wrong. I hope so. I've contacted their PR folks to see if they can be helpful. And I'm certain they can be.
The 3GSM Conference in Cannes featured a lot of flash, a lot of optimism, even some good writing.
But Cannes is a place of fantasy, a willing suspension of disbelief. It even has Las Vegas beat in this regard. Hey, the French thought the Maginot Line would hold. Some of them no doubt think smoking is good for you. When a diet of red wine and goose fat leaves you without heart disease you'll believe anything.
What drives the optimism is what is happening in the developing world. Beyond the desktops of the Internet, mobile phones represent everything positive about the future. They're telephony and computing in one hand-held package. They have driven technological change in Africa as nothing before has, and they're just getting warmed up.
Still, if mobility wants to succeed in the developed world -- and the 3G explosion is all about Western markets -- it does have to compete. And most carriers are not yet willing to.
Obstinacy, over-expansion, and hubris killed the National Hockey League, killed it deader than Maurice Richard. They can kill 3G too.
If I were a rich man I'd want some of these new Oakley Bluetooth sunglasses.
Of course, I'd need the prescription version. And I really like photograys. And have you got that in a bifocal model?
As you can see there is a way to go before Motorola's Cannes fashion statement turns into a really big market. Yes, there are cool-types who will grab on to this, so they can walk down the street gabbing away, like well-dressed homeless. But how many are there? And are all these fashionistas going to be satisfied with just these Oakley wrap-arounds?
A better solution, to my mind, would mount this user interface on the frame, with the electronics hidden in one of those cool eyeglass retainers 49er coach George Seifert used to wear? (That's George, left and above, and you may be able to make out his retainers. From the Seifertsite on Earthlink.)
Microsoft may have as little as a year to take command of the mobile phone platform, or the opportunity will be lost. (Image from Petrified Truth.)
At the 3GSM conference in Cannes, France, they gave it their best shot.
The mobile broadband business is at what Gandalf called "the pause before the plunge." Enough equipment has been deployed so broadband can be advertised. The time has come to define the experience and see if any money can be made from it.
I'm fascinated with how Western technology filters into the developing world and changes lives.
For instance. Back in the mid-1990s we had the idea of the "Internet Cafe." It would be flash, it would have broadband, it would have great food. We were crazy.
In the developing world, however, the Internet Cafe idea lives on (and on and on and on). There, though, it's a little shop with some PCs and basic connectivity. It's a lifeline to families, to markets. After the tsunami one was set-up quickly in the disaster area. It was a lifesaver.
Now we have cellular, or mobile service. (Whichever you prefer.) In the West, it means everyone has a phone, and they're on it all the time. Young girls drive like little old ladies. Guys look crazy seemingly talking to themselves, but then you see the little bud in their ear -- oh.
Then it filters down. Read how it filters down in Cameroon, from the Cameroon Tribune in Yaounde. (Then get the scene at the top of this item as desktop wallpaper, free, from Dane Jacob Crawfurd.)
Mobile carriers are trying to make an impossible transition.
They want to move from a data world where every bit is precious, and where every file is controlled, into a broadband world where phones have PC functions. And they want to do it without changing their business models.
It can't happen. The industry's dirty little secret prevents it.
That secret is that most cellular minutes today are wasted. Perhaps as many as 80% of the minutes customers are allocated in their contracts each month aren't used. And this has been the source of immense profits. (The illustration, in time for Valentine's Day weekend, is a Korean product for women that also enables the creation of twin secrets.)
Modern cellular marketing is all built around contracts, with a fixed monthly charge for a fixed number of minutes over a fixed term. To get contracts incentives are offered, including free phones.
But look at what happens. Marketing convinces people to pay high prices for plans with high limits. Cingular's "rollover" plan costs a mininum of $40/month, which comes out to about $45 with taxes and other fees. Advertising convinces people they need high limits to deal with "ugly over-age charges." But it's difficult to measure your usage in the middle of the month, and the vast majority of customers don't come close to their limits.
When the contract term expires, usually in a year, customers can theoretically leave that carrier for another one, taking their phone number with them, and even get a new set of incentives, like a new, more advanced phone. But most are as ignorant of their contract expirations as they are of the status of their minute bucket. (Quick: what's your contract expiration date?)
Carrier profitability thus depends on ignorance, customers with old phones who don't take out new contracts and don't use their gear. And in that environment, who needs broadband? Where is the market for PC functionality?
Exactly. It doesn't exist.
Middleware was a very big buzzword a few years ago. (Image from the Southern Regional Development Center.)
By middleware, vendors meant software that let people below take advantage of resources above. Queries that delivered reports to managers on how stores were doing, or that placed real corporate data into neat little graphs.
But every organization of any size is based on human middleware. School principals are human middleware. Store managers are human middleware. Party committeemen are human middleware.
These people sit between the decision-makers at the top and those who carry out orders on the bottom. When we like them we call them "sir" or "ma'am." When we want to disparage them we call them bureaucrats.
America has the greatest bureaucracies in the world. We have done more for our human middleware than people in other societies. (Try getting your driver's license renewed in Mumbai if you don't believe me.)
But we can do much, much better.
Software can be part of that solution, but it's only a part.
Yesterday, I wrote about how the PDA was rapidly being transformed into the smart phone, so the rumors of the PDA's demise are somewhat exaggerated.
I actually wrote that while looking at a post from Palm Addict about a possible new Palm design. Sammy McLaughlin was virtually hanging about the Patent Office (he's in Manchester, England but the Internet lets you do that) and found an application , from PalmOne, for a device that looks like a "candy bar" phone but flips open to become a PDA.
There is more here than just a new design.
We have read for the last year about the death of the PDA, and it's true the stand-alone version (one without a phone) is fast disappearing.
As Tom's Hardware notes, PDA sales have fallen to a five-year low. I have one, but it was free.
As David Linsalata, the IDC analyst who delivered the report noted, ""Consumers don't see the need to invest $600 in a handheld device if a smart phone can do the same basic tasks."
But isn't this "death of the PDA" business simply a matter of semantics? Isn't this merely the creation of analysts who put technology in boxes, when everyone knows the first thing people do when they get technology is take it out of the box?
Maybe. Here's the headline on a recent story published in Ireland on the subject. "Smartphone and PDA sales go skyward."
Erin go wha?
The glue Sky Dayton will use to stitch together a network is called Unlicensed Mobile Access.
UMA is a set of specifications allowing roaming between WiFi and cellular networks. (JoeJava showed me how it works.)
The problem for Dayton is that the current specification only works with GSM and GPRS networks. Dayton's two cellular partners use a competing system, CDMA.
Qualcomm, which created CDMA, should now be under enormous pressure to do something like UMA. How much you want to bet they announce that something very, very soon?
Many companies re-sell cellular capacity. It's a simple branding exercise.
Earthlink is the first to enter this business with a vision. The vision comes from founder Sky Dayton, who kept the chairman title for years after leaving for Boingo, but has now relinquished it to run this new joint venture, SK-Earthlink. (Glenn Fleishman interviewed Dayton and has a great story on him.)
Dayton's vision, since the beginning, has been based on the idea that spectrum is plentiful, that WiFi can be connected, and that a telecom firm doesn't consist of wires and switches but software and marketing.
Earthlink itself is based on the idea of re-sale. Its dial-up service rides on top of the existing phone network. Its DSL offerings are based on the same networks. It's not a stretch.
So, what's the vision? Jump over there with me and I'll tell you.
English health experts are warning that over-use of the Blackberry for texting can lead to thumb pain.
Seriously. (My daughter failed to identify this anime nanny, but it's Hisu, Princess Allura's nanny on Voltron: Defender of the Universe. I was surprised, too -- I thought she had the cast list memorized.)
Fortunately, we have some other unofficial health warnings, from the home office:
If the last several months proves anything, it is that there are many ways to grow in the cellular business. (Birthdaycraftsandsupplies.com offers a fine selection of Pinatas. Ask them to bring back the dollar sign one to the right. Don't you agree it looks cool?)
Word that mobile phone makers (and some networks) want to embed WiFi and VOIP into phones brings up a crucial point about the VOIP market, and about how technology works in general.
There are two major threads of VOIP software out there. Most, like Vonage, work along a standard. Then there's one who doesn't.
But that one is Skype.
Guess which of these two "standards" leads?
Skype. By a bunch. This puts another twist into the whole discussion of VOIP, and VOIP-cellular in general. Because there are multiple models to choose from:
There may be a simple, quick, easy, and cheap answer to any problems from alleged mobile phone radiation.
Dr. Lawrie Challis says a simple ferrite bead, as small as 1 cm. in diameter, would do the trick, cutting radiation to the head down to almost nothing.
Of course, implementing the solution would be to admit to a problem. Admitting the problem would open up immense liability.
Thus does the cure become its own worst enemy.
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming doesn't lie in cutting voice costs. (The picture, by the way, comes from Novinky, a Czech online magazine, a story about DSL.)
The significance of WiFi-cellular roaming lies in Always On applications.
Think about it. Cellular channels are relatively low in bandwidth, WiFi channels are high in bandwidth.
Now, you're wearing an application, like a heart monitor. When you're at home, or in your office, this thing can be generating, and immediately disgorging, tons and tons of data, detailed stuff that may be fun for your doctor to analyze later.
I have talked about this before, but now everyone else is talking, too. So we will, again. (The picture, by the way, is of a single-chip radio from two years ago, a "mote" from Cal Berkeley. The link is very worthwhile.)
What does it mean for TI to make, and Nokia to sell, a complete cellular phone on a single chip? For one thing, it means phones can be one-chip cheap.
Right, cheap as chips.
Toshiba's much-hyped Ubiquitous Viewer may be the most over-rated story of the year.
The software basically allows a cellular phone client to take over a remote PC. Sounds great. But it requires a broadband cellular connection (which few phones have), or Bluetooth (in which case why not just sit down at the PC).
Assuming it does work, and it does get used, it's like the story of the dog that chased the car and finally caught it. What's the dog going to do now?
Yet there are some lessons here:
Over the last few weeks I've read a lot of commentary about the recent mobile phone health scares.
Much of it follows the industry line. Even on blogs, the tone seems dismissive. Case not proven, nothing to see here, move on.
But that's the wrong attitude to take. (The ostrich came from a financial planning site.) It's ignorant on how easy it would be to address valid concerns, and even improve the product at the same time.
What seems to matter is the power of the wave hitting your head, the distance between sensitive tissue and high frequency waves, and the duration of exposure. Stick a high-powered microwave brick next to an ear for 10 years or more, it seems, and something's going to fry.
But Moore's Law of Radios shows we don't need that much power. We're better off without it. Frequencies are used most efficiently when you have a lot of very low-power devices -- this lets you put more traffic in less space.
As I've said before, separating the handset from the headset can also work wonders, not just from a health standpoint but from a user interface standpoint. A close friend of mine has had a Bluetooth headset on his ear for some weeks, and now he's hot to replace his phone with something that has more functionality, more expense, that's more like a PDA. This should be good news for the industry.
But by sticking our heads in the sand, by dismissing reports of health effects out of hand, rather than addressing what we can now, the industry is setting itself up for a nasty fall, and many unhappy jury returns.
But here's what is worse.
Does your cell phone help you pick up attractive women? (Or men?)
Well, it might if you subscribed to Dodgeball, a social service for mobiles whose founders, Dennis Crowley and Alex Rainert, talked to our own Russell Shaw (right) recently.
The idea is that you and your friends subscribe to Dodgeball, then text your location to one another at night, so you can get together. (And if they have friends with them, and those friends are attractive, voila!)
Absolut Vodka sponsored a "nightlife channel" on the service last year, like a traditional media buy, so Dodgeball members could associate the brand as a "friend." (Beats having an AA sponsor, I guess.) Now they're looking to make more money from things like Premium SMS and applications.
I recently wrote in high praise of Motorola for the MS1000, calling them The Kings of Always On.
The following does not detract from that call. Motorola has come closer to building an Always On platform (as I envision one) than anyone else.
But there are still a few things they could easily add:
Samsung is getting a little ahead of itself.
And what do they get for all this effort? Profits for the quarter were actually down, with the phone and flat panel units taking the blame.
What's wrong with this picture?
This is big stuff, a real "killer app." I lost my best teacher ever, Dick Schwarzlose, to a heart attack last year, an attack that could have at least been treated had his doctor known it was coming.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women die each year from sudden heart attacks which are not detected, but most of these people were known to be at risk based on factors like their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. (Heck, I'm at risk for those reasons.)
If this solution can be productized and delivered with, say, the client monitor and communications hidden inside an Under Armour shirt (wicks away the sweat and looks wicked cool), then many lives can be saved, and many middle-aged men can look marvelous at the same time.
I may catch a lot of flak for using the word tsunami in that headline. (Innocent restauranteurs in South Africa are already catching such flak.)
But I use it deliberately. I know over 150,000 people died in the tragedy. I do not minimize it. But if the electromagnetic waves from mobile phones are as dangerous to health as recent studies indicate, then how many preventable deaths are we looking at some years down the road, from brain cancer? Given the enormous numbers of phones out there today, and the incredible use being made of them, I'd say 150,000 potential deaths is a rather low estimate. Assuming, that is, that the danger is as bad as alarmists are saying.
Note that I use the word preventable. Because a few product changes, in a market where most people keep their equipment for barely a year, means all this potential damage is, indeed preventable.
Motorola has launched a very Clued-in strategy to push Always-On applications.
The idea is that you sync the phone to your home using a verison of the old Palm cradle, then control home automation applications remotely using the phone.
This is clever in many different ways:
Sometimes big news turns out to be small.
Sometimes small news turns out to be very big.
Here's an example of the latter. It's word that MPEG-LA has combined all the DRM patents for mobile phones and begun offering them at $1/phone (plus a cut of all revenue). The patents are all endorsed as industry standards by the mis-named Open Mobile Alliance (because its proceedings are about as open as a grand jury).
As with all such news, there's good news here and bad news.
A few years ago Jackson, Mississippi was the center of the telecom universe.
That's because it was the home of Canadian-born Bernard Ebbers . He married a Mississippi girl, Linda Pigott. On such chances does history turn.
Ebbers launched a long distance outfit called LDDS in the early 1980s and turned it into a classic "roll-up," buying other companies (usually for stock) and managing to the numbers.
Eventually he named his monstrosity Worldcom.
The result was the MCI scandal.
Roll-ups usually end this way.
At CES mobile phones (cellular to you and me) are no longer certain what they want to be.
Are they cameras? Are they PDAs? Are they going to be expandable? Will they be for games, for instant messaging, for fashion, what?
Normally, after a show like CES, the market would make those decisions. Some products would sell well, others would sell poorly, and next year we'd see copycats of the former, then scratch our heads trying to remember the latter.
Not in this case.
In a great little piece about Kodak's coming WiFi camera, the EasyShare One, Glenn Fleischman delivers a Clue about T-Mobile's coming strategy.
On the whole, yes. (And that's him on the right, yeah.)
The evolution of mobile devices is going to center on the phone. WiFi is not a competitor, but a complementary technology. Most of what we'll need, we have.
But the word missing from this excellent piece is -- application.
The big problem with Russell's vision is that, if everything's based on the present networks and the present devices, the future is controlled by carriers. And carriers are stupid (even when their networks are not).
So things won't evolve that way.
My mom (the Tillie of the headline) has been near-blind since the late 1970s. It has been, in some ways, a blessing, giving her new friends, new perspective, and a more positive attitude toward life.
But it's still near-blindness. So I'm always on the look-out for new gadgets she might use to live more freely.
And here's one. (The image is from a release at 3G.co.uk.) From Korea, it's a Samsung "helper phone." Keep the 5 key depressed (it's the one in the middle, so easy to find) and you'll get operator assistance with difficult calling tasks.
With Sprint's pending acquisition of Nextel I'm already hearing about T-Mobile needing to sell out and leave the marketplace so we can have a nice little oligopoly, everyone guaranteed profits and customers guaranteed nothing. (It's the American way.)
But T-Mobile isn't in nearly as much trouble as the idiots think. Their marketing puts rivals to shame. They've hired Catherine Zeta-Jones as spokeswoman and successfully pushed the Sidekick-II in celebrity-filled ads that star rapper Snoop Dogg. (I couldn't find a picture of Snoop for you -- is that so wrong?) They're letting gadget makers lead, but making sure their own brand still gets top-billing. It's the best of both worlds.
Gadgets and marketing make a good start. (The Sidekick ads feature its data applications, giving them a leg-up on the market's future growth.) What else can T-Mobile do that's clever?
We're in the midst of a transition. Mobile phones are becoming integrated with the rest of the computing world. (Crystal ball courtesy this great site on psychic phenomena, reminding all of the need for skepticism.)
It's a time of exciting new products. It's also a time of wholesale confusion.
Mainly it's a time when network owners are trying to re-do history, to "get the Internet right," in a way that benefits them, to give vendors control over what people do with their technology.
That effort is doomed. We care no more for Little Brother, in the end, than Big Brother. The Internet didn't win-out over proprietary networks by chance. It was by design. Pass the bits and worry about the money later. Keep the inside as dumb as possible. Let the market sort it all out.
That was then. This is now. So what happens next?
A few months ago Forbes had a nice article on NTT DoCoMo's iMode service, and Kei-Ichi Enoki, the man behind it. (Forbes stories are all about heroic executives, since the rich strivers are the only people who matter to it.)
The point, for us, is the direction mobile data services may take after the obvious niches, like e-mail and games, have burned out.
Enoki's answer -- remote controls. Not in the sense of point it at your TV, but in the sense of remote control of life functions. Enoki is turning iModes into electronic wallets, personal shoppers, GameBoy and iPod replacement.
There's also an answer to the item that follow this (and was written a few minutes before):
Give a carrier a great idea like WiFi, let them tinker with it a while, and you're always going to get the same thing back.
How crippled is it? It will only work with the user's own WiFi network. It won't find public hotspots, although DoCoMo says it is "considering" support for its own paid hotspots, called M-Zone.
People in Japan (that's the only market it's at so far) are going to be paying hundreds of dollars for a phone they think bypasses the mobile network, and they're not going to get it. How do you think they will feel?
I can't wait until Verizon tries to import this business model...
The lack of celliquette (etiquette, netiquette, blogiquette, celliquette!) is creating a noticeable backlash against mobile phone over-use, even among mobile phone users. (The picture is from Phoneybusiness, a fine site that concentrates on this very issue.)
How else do you explain the flame war that erupted with word last week the FCC may drop its ban on mobile use in airplanes, because (it turns out) they don't really interfere with navigation.
If you ever ride with me in a car you're bound to hear me shout (unheard by fellow drivers) "Get Off The Phone!" at least a half-dozen times during any 30 minute drive. Whether or not they have the handset stuck to their ears, drivers on a mobile call just aren't paying attention -- they speed, slow, and cut others off with complete unconsciousness.
I can't tell you how silly you look, standing their in the market, gabbering to someone unknown on your phone. I want to put a net over you and deliver you to the local happy house. Or go by Costco some day and watch couples shopping together -- with one half of the pair somewhere else.
So what would you put into a celliquette guide? Some starters follow:
The enormous popularity of the iPod, and its dominant share of the market (some say as high as 95%) has created a new family fun game for reporters this Winter, which I call "Get Steven."
The idea is to find someone, somewhere, who can threaten the iPod's market dominance, then spin a story around it.
Most reporters do the easy story, interviewing all known competitors and repeating their claims.
Others, like Hiawatha Bray (right, from Dan Bricklin), know what their editors really want -- a local guy who claims he can take down the giant.
And that's what Bray delivered, in today's Boston Globe. (This is why he gets a fat paycheck and I'm just a blogger.)
Bray found a little outfit in suburban Andover, Massachusetts called Chaoticom. Chaoticom is OEM'ing technology for putting music functionality into new mobile phones, the kind with hard drives in them.
Good story. And since in the Chaoticom universe the music delivery is under the control of the carrier, there's some momentum.
Here's why it won't work.
The answer is, in a word...
Note to history buffs. That's Alger Hiss's typewriter on the right, from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
IDC is predicting slower growth in mobile telephony next year, due a "lack of new catalysts."
No catalysts? Not true broadband, not true multimedia, not true PC functionality? Not music, not games, not TV and radio, all in the phone?
Mobile phones are what the Internet was because the industry lives in dog years.
The difference is that while the Internet was defined by server software, mobile phone change is driven by devices.
The specific phone you have defines everything about your mobile experience. What you can do, where you can do it, and what you can buy are all defined by the particular phone in your hand at any one time.
So, unlike the situation on the Internet, not everyone is on the same page. Not everyone is in the same year.
Now here's the perfect gift for the gadget freak on your list, assuming they have the right phone and Windows XP.
It's software for burning DVDs onto your mobile. Just $25, from Makayama Software, a Japanese outfit with European representatives.
Before you start thinking what's that for, imagine yourself in an Airport facing a nasty business flight. Imagine if you could turn on your phone and watch that DVD you got from someone else for Christmas.
I'm dating myself here, but back in the 1970s, at Wiess College on the Rice campus, there was a four-square court. Four players, you bounce a dodge ball into one square or another, and the person who can't get it into another square on the bounce is replaced, with everyone rotating around.
Sometimes the ball would fly into the crowd of waiting players and passers-by. We'd shout "IBD," which stands for Innocent Bystander Drilled.
If the Sprint-Nextel deal goes down, Motorola is IBD. (You might want to get Motorola CEO Ed Zander one of these nifty t-shirts.)
I've been looking up-and-down this proposed $35 billion acquisition of Nextel by Sprint.
It's the worst deal I've seen since Time Warner bought AOL. And it's going to hurt the whole industry.
There is a lot of wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on about ESPN entering the mobile phone business, through an agreement with Sprint.
It's not that big a deal. Sprint made these co-branding deals, called MVNO in the biz, a big part of its strategy. Virgin, Carphone Warehouse and 7-Eleven are signed-up, and Wal-Mart is reportedly taking a look.
What do you need to become a Big Time Mobile Phone Brand?
The explosion in cameraphones is creating an explosion of litigation, legislation and innovation.
Here's some of the latter, solutions from two Japanese inventors and Hewlett-Packard that blur the view of anyone caught on camera without their consent. (The H-P version requires a compatible camera.)
Pretty cool, huh? Solves a lot of problems, doesn't it?
Glenn Fleishman drew a lot of admiring attention over the weekend for his experiment in frugality, trying to see just how little he could pay for the telecom service he needs. (The picture is the thumbnail from Glenn's blog.)
Basically he moved calls to his mobile phone and DSL line, using Vonage and SkypeOut. He also spent $3/month for a Cingular service called FastForward that moves all calls to his DSL when he hits the limits on his calling plan.
Glenn figures he's saving $130/month. (Your mileage may vary.) I wish I could do as well.
The bandwagon on behalf of "Mobile TV" is coming down your street, just in time for the holidays.
If you're a kid it's pretty exciting. But I've seen this parade before, many times. I can enjoy your pleasure, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to join "Santa" later at our favorite bar for a few pops and expect he'll make me pick up the tab.
The big truth is that it's now pretty trivial to put a TV tuner into a mobile phone. Yes, the days of Dick Tracy's wristwatch TV are really here. (Image from USA Today.)
Of course you remember what Tracy used the technology for? To see his boss while he was talking to him. I did the same thing at the 1964 World's Fair, where AT&T had a videophone demonstration. It was no big deal then, and it's no big deal now.
Entrepreneurs like Blake Krikorian of Sling Media, who is profiled in the Business Week story above, think you'll use the capability to watch their streams. Most people watch brief snippets of TV anyway, not whole shows, he says. No time. So offer them such streams for the moments where they're standing in line at the Airport, or waiting for a meeting to start, and they will pay through the nose for them.
Maybe. But maybe not.
The big trend in cellular or mobile telephony for 2005 will be...gaming.
The reason for that has to do with the nature of gaming in the 21st century (as opposed to the 20th). It's online. (That's why the makers of this Lord of the Rings game won't at all mind paying the bandwidth charges on your download of that troll over there, in exchange for the above link, which acts as an advertisement.)
The point is that in modern online games the game itself takes place in an online realm, for which you pay by the hour. The download of the game itself is trivial. Many game makers offer free downloads. It's the old razor blade analogy (or the computer printer analogy) -- give away the razor and sell the blades (or the toner).
Why will this happen so quickly?
This morning, let's put two and two together to see how change happens. (That's the watch-cameraphone from an Australian photoblog.)
The Korea Times reports that the entire Korean market -- 99% at any rate -- will be camera phones next year. This kind of thing is happening throughout Asia.
Amazon Mobile notes this and creates a service that turns this capability into cash.
Hope you're enjoying the novel. As I have said it's about pushing the medium, trying to see what it's capable of.
In that it's a very Chinese concept, it turns out. (The illustration, by the way, is from the entrance screen to a Chinese romance game.) Only over there the big medium is SMS. Freedom is precious when it's in short supply, and like water it will flow through any chink it can find in tyranny's armor.
Given the heavy censorship of the Internet, the huge volume of SMS, the immense user base, and (more important perhaps) the concision of Chinese (a 16-bit computer "word" can handle your whole ideographic character set -- do the math) it should not surprise that the idea of "SMS Novels" has hit the country like a storm. (Thanks to Mike Grenville of 160 Characters for the heads-up.)
A six-year old girl in Nara, Japan is kidnapped. But she has a mobile phone, with GPS on it. She reaches her grieving mother. Then the kidnapper calls. And a few hours later her body is found, near where the last call came from.
The Mobile Technology weblog headlines this, "kid tracking is useless."
This trojan has been distributed on some Symbian shareware download sites as "Extended Theme Manager" by "Tee-222".
The BBC has a wonderful series of articles on its Web site about the failed state of Somalia. (The picture, of downtown Mogadishu, is from the BBC Online series.)
Since American troops abandoned the country to its warlords a decade ago the place has been a study of anarchy and Hobbesian choices. There is no government to educate the people, or to protect them. Private checkpoints that extort money from everyone and line the pockets of those manning the checkpoints are everywhere.
Many people live in makeshift structures "made from branches, orange plastic sheets and old pieces of metal" on what were the lawns of schools and hospitals. Even aid agencies have left, citing the danger.
Yet there is a success story to be told here, mobile technology.
Take a real close look at this AP photo and see if you can spot the problem with the new version of Windows Mobile, Microsoft's mobile phone software.
Reviewer Bruce Meyerson missed it, so if you have problems I understand.
I understand if you give up because it not only skipped past Meyerson, but it apparently skipped past everyone involved in the design and manufacture of this phone. Otherwise it likely would never have seen the light of day.
Still don't have it? OK, click below for the answer.
The physics folks at UT-Dallas have won nearly $1 million to study the idea of making every radio part of a giant "mesh network." (That's the UT-Dallas seal over there, with its motto of discipline, civilization, and absolute rule by a self-appointed elite.)
The idea is that mobile phones and laptops could act as relay points for other users' transmissions, creating what the physicists call "cooperative wireless networks" but which might best be termed a "giant mesh."
PalmSource is saying it's no big deal that Windows has overtaken it in sales of PDA software.
The report covers only software shipments for PDAs and excludes sales to makers of smart phones, Palm said.
On the surface, good point. PDA sales in general are down. Sales of the Treo smart phone means Palm's total sales are understated.
But compare the share of Windows Mobile in the smart phone market with that of Palm, and look at who has more development deals pending.
Someone's whistling past the graveyard here and getting away with it.
The idea, which is valid, is that through blogging ordinary communication becomes content. I know this is true because my own newsletter, a-clue.com, has been losing readers ever since I started blogging here. It's not just that readers prefer getting my thoughts through the blog instead of e-mail. It's that the one-week lag between my writing and your reading is eliminated by blogging. You're not just an audience here, you're practically reading over my shoulder as I type.
But it seems to me this is old news.
The phones have always been the tail in the mobile phone game. The carriers are the dog.
If carriers don't let your phone on their network, you don't have a business. I had a tail-less dog as a kid so I know what I'm talking about concerning dogs and tails. (As a puppy our dog Duchess looked a lot like this cutie, from Haslam's Terriers.)
Already, in the U.S., I've heard reports of carriers demanding crippled features on phones -- cameras whose pictures can only be moved off the phone on the carrier's expensive network.
So it was inevitable that the carriers would take the last piece of the tail's independence away -- the branding.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Korean people. (Image from the University of Wisconsin.)
I tell friends the Koreans are the Irish of the Orient. They're full of tragedy, blarney and (sometimes) alcohol. They know how to tell a story. They're fiercely independent. They're great folks. Since my mom's Irish, I figure this makes us kin.
So when I saw a few months ago that two Korean outfits -- Samsung and LG -- drew leading grades on customer satisfaction from J.D. Power (trailing only Sanyo), I took notice.
And my patience has been rewarded.
My vision of Always-On has always been based on the idea that applications would live on the wireless network in your home. A Wi-Fi set-up has both the bandwidth and computing power needed to handle several such applications.
But early medical applications move with you. And thus they ride on the mobile network.
The Mobile-Technology Weblog (the picture is taken from that blog) has an example today from Korea. (It's a small world. The author lives in Munich, he's represented for ads by a British firm, and here I am blogging about it from Atlanta, Georgia.)
The hook is "here's the fat police," but the story is that there's a Samsung SPH-E3330 mobile that can measure your body fat level.
There have been several claims on the title of "first mobile virus" during the year. Our first contestant turned out to be a copy protection feature. The second, it turned out, was harmless.
Now we have a "winner," a Russian trojan aimed at phones called Delf-HA. This claim, too, may be open to dispute. The payload itself goes to PCs, which then call Russian mobile numbers and send those phones SMS spam.
But it is becoming clear that firms like Symantec, which are readying versions of their anti-viral tools for mobiles, are no longer just playing on false fears. Whether their stuff works or not will, of course, remain open to testing.
With all the hoop-de-doo over mobile phones being bad for you, it makes sense that a wireless headset, connected to your phone or (maybe even) your iPod, would make sense.
The Wall Street Journal (sorry, no link -- they're too good for the Web) has a feature today about the cable guys' new ambitions for mobile telephony.
There's a lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). As usual with the Journal, there's not much insight.
Here are the industry's choices:
Now that you've read the book, see the movie. (He's fun-ny.)
HMI stands for Human-Machine Interface. (The image is from a student page at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany.)
This subject is finally getting real attention, especially on mobile phones, where tiny screens and a paucity of buttons make conventional interfaces impossible.
While at the Accelerated Change conference last weekend I happened to bring up the shortage of HMI to a small group of other speakers. "We haven't had a real innovation since the mouse," I said, adding "no offense" because the inventor of said mouse, Doug Engelbart, was sitting right behind me.
But it's true. When you stand up your lap disappears, so how do you use a laptop? PDAs require two hands and full attention to use. A mobile phone is a one-hand device, and it's this limit that is finally sparking innovation.
Remember Apple's early Mac campaign saying it was the computer for "the rest of us?" (That's Bangalore, India, to the right, from Sean Breazeal's WorldCityPhotos.)
Well, the population of the "rest" of us never grew very large. It wound up meaning "the best" of us, those with the education, discerning eye and (most of all) fat wallets needed to get one of those cool Macintosh machines rather than settling for the cheaper, kludgier Windows box.
The rest of us should mean everyone, everyone in the whole wide world, including everyone in India. And while everyone doesn't have a PC, at least now they can have a phone.
Mobile telephony is the first major technology to leave Americans in the dust since the dawning of the computer age.
We fell behind in some areas, temporarily. We fell behind in PC manufacturing for a time. We abandoned displays and keyboards. But, thanks to Microsoft, we always controlled these products, and these markets, partly because we grew faster and partly because the technology they needed to survive belonged to us.
In mobile telephony it's different. International carriers are smarter. International suppliers are dominant. (This guy, from the New Internationalist, may have better mobile service than you do.)
And, because they use a single technology standard, based on GSM and Java, they're able to do things we can only dream of doing.
Since word came early this year that Nokia was losing market share, having missed the move to clamshell-type phones, it's been busy. (Image from Dexigner.com, the world design portal. )
Depending on how European and Asian users react, this could be big news. And the risk is minimal.
Qualcomm made its name on a mobile technology, CDMA, that efficiently squeezed extra digital voice calls on scarce cellular bandwidth. This put it in bed with mobile carriers, like Verizon, as a key technology supplier, which was offered in the form of phones and infrastructure.
But by offering to take over construction and management of mobile broadband networks, Qualcomm is betting heavily on those carrier relationships, and its ability to manage them.
Today, nearly one in six mobile phones in America has a camera.
From Alan Reiter comes word from Japan of a mobile phone program that edits your pictures into ghost images.
The idea, according to International Gaming News, the program focuses on a sub-image within the picture and generates the ghost from it. (The image here is from the IGN story.)
But here's what it really cool.
Hey, kids! You can get this cool wallpaper of the Hollywood sign for your PC right here. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled tech blog.
Texas Instruments has a new chip, code-name Hollywood, that will deliver real TV to mobile phones.
The chip doesn't just process TV images using mobile phone frequencies. It actually connects you to TV signals, over-the-air, including digital TV standards. It includes a tuner, OFDM demodulator and channel decoder processor.
It's great. But in a way it's a stunt.
U.S. MMS interoperability is coming.
This is something people in other countries take for granted. You have a picture or audio file, you want to get it to someone who uses another network, you send it. They play it. No problem. (This particular image of MMS interoperability in action is from Russia.)
That's not the way it works here, where each network has its own technical standards, its own software standards, and its own bureaucratic gatekeepers.
Amazingly, this week's announcement is not the solution. It's an announcement that says folks are going to work toward a solution.
Yet they trumpet it like it's peace in our time. Amazing.
Nokia's Preminet is a direct lift from Brew's business model. It solves a lot of problems, but leaves some intact.
The idea is to simplify how developers get their products certified, marketed, and paid for. All good. But there's one big problem that isn't addressed.
Here are some of the questions you might ask if you're a mobile phone user:
Cingular's deal to buy AT&T Wireless is going through.
There will be some caveats. The Justice Department wants Cingular to sell assets in 16 markets. The FCC will add a few more.
But it's all over but the shouting. The official announcement should come at any time.
American analysts are constantly trying to determine what will jump-start the mobile payments industry.
All sound good, but the killer app will automate the purchase of something everyone wants and uses, then give us the opportunity to expand that system into other areas, and into all sorts of price points. How about something like, say, parking.
Camera phone makers today are trying to one-up one another in what I call the Megapixel Wars.
Now, how are we going to get these lovely pictures off these phones, what's it going to cost me, and what will the gimmick cost me in terms of camera features I can't get when the camera is stuck to a telephone?
I get it. You can put a very high resolution phone inside a camera. You can put that camera inside a phone. The question is, why do I want one?
These are real questions that real customers are going to ask. Are retailers prepared to answer them? Are they prepared to support these cameras?
I didn't think so.
I'm a big Marlee Matlin fan. I really love her latest film, the highly-recommended What The Bleep Do We Know. (Image from Washington University of St. Louis, where you'll meet other deaf celebrities.)
But I can't call her to congratulate her because, as everyone knows, she's deaf.
Now this is not a huge problem. We have TDD phones. And the Internet remains very friendly to those who communicate with text. (I must admit I need to work on my signing.)
What does this have to do with the technology I cover? A lot, really. Marlee and I could text message one another if U.S. networks used the same underlying technology -- but they don't.
The big trend of the next year is going to be mobile phones entering the computing mainstream.
You've heard this before from me. But now the evidence is piling up. Following are just a few of the stories that hit my inbox over the last few days. Read them closely, and see if you don't agree with me:
Part of me understands why churches and others would want to jam mobile phone signals. They want your attention, clear and undivided. (That's the old West End Church in Atlanta. Read more about it here.)
This is why, when my wife was on jury duty recently, the judge actually confiscated all the jurors' mobile phones. She was demanding peoples' attention.
Of course, there are lots of other ways in which people can ignore their preachers. They can play video games. They can read. They can nod off.
But there is another reason why I am certain this will be a short-term phenomenon...
The big news that mobile phone waves can cause cancer (if the power is high enough, if you use it enough, if you consider a benign tumor as cancer) represents a huge opportunity for the mobile industry to improve itself. (Image from Apple, via Chaosmint.)
How? By replacing the phone in the ear with an earpiece, by placing the phone itself in a shirt pocket, coat or purse, by separating the interface from the device.
Once you do that you can add power to the device without compromising performance. You can add storage, you can add programs, you can make the thing anything the consumer wants. (Remember the consumer?)
Remember all that nonsense about cellular phones causing cancer?
Unlike previous scares, this is a real scientific study, funded by the industry, and conducted by an independent, scientific group. But before we all panic let's get a few facts straight, shall we?
A Swedish study finds an elevated risk of a benign tumor, called an acoustic neuroma, in people who have had analog cellular devices for at least 10 years.
Russell Beattie (pictured) thinks he's figured out what mobility needs.
Syncing. That is, we need to be able to synchronize what's on our mobile devices with what's on our home PC, our PDA, and the network as a whole.
He calls this the "killer app" for mobility.
Russell's article is long and recommended, but let me tell you what I think.
Earlier today I did a piece on plastic antennas. Apparently I missed what is taking place in batteries:
Fuel cells, high-power batteries, fiber batteries and other power technologies are about to transform mobile computing, essentially untethering it completely from the need to plug-in. This is according to Lawrence Dubois of SRI International.
(This battery recharger is available at 88-factory Discount Outlet.)
In today's world you go into a meeting room and hunt for a power plug if you're using a laptop. You worry about your PDA making it on a cross-country flight, and if you forget the re-charger cable for your mobile phone a long business trip is ruined.
That's going to change. Here's how:
So far, nothing comparable is happening in the U.S.
The time has come to ask why.
To get signals past German jammers, Lamarr and composer George Antheil proposed that both ends of a call use synchronized piano rolls to hop among frequencies. The hopping would seem random to someone who didn't have the music, and the message would get through.
This turned out to be the most efficient way to send data over a given piece of spectrum. Replace the piano rolls with computers and the improvements are in line with Moore's Law. CDMA is based on this principle. So is Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), which is used in 802.11g Wi-Fi.
Now Flarion is bring this to cellular and it's won the cooperation of Siemens in that effort. If they can sell systems to cellular carriers, it means you'll get something resembling true broadband speed on your mobile. And, as the power of mobiles increases, they will be part of the computer mainstream.
Thanks again, Hedy. (Loved you in Boom Town, playing a smart career woman rather than the bimbo the moguls preferred you as.)
At a recent Mobile conference in the United Kingdom David Wood (pictured), executive vice president for research at Symbian (a small kernel OS maker for mobiles) brought two slides that really show you what Moore's Law means.
NOTE: The above paragraph originally said the conference was in England, but Chris Potts corrected me. Also, the folks at Semacode deserve credit for extracting the slides and pointing them out to us.
First was a chart tracking the cost of making a smartphone over time, going back two years and forward six. (These are PDF files.) Despite the fact they're getting a lot better, they're also getting cheaper -- the bill of materials cost could be cut in half in four years.
How is this possible?
In a previous life I did some work for Intel's mobile and wireless folks. One thing I learned is they were inherited from Motorola and are based in Chandler, Arizona, rather than in San Jose.
They're pretty easy to scam.
Rather than insisting on the Intel way, which is to define a robust, modular scalable standard that can handle multiple generations of product, these guys follow their competitors' rules. They essentially beg manufacturers to take their products, then trumpet the announcement like it's a big deal when, in fact, it's not. Just beause the maker of a mobile product decides they'll try your stuff doesn't mean they're committing to it -- they commit to what sells.
What are the true facts?
A new mobile phone called Baby Phat sports a pink case, a quilted texture, and .4 carats of real diamonds, all for $700.
Inside it's a Motorola i833 with service from Nextel. (Thanks to Dailygadget, which also had the picture, for the pick-up on this story.)
The designer is Kimora Lee Simmons (Mrs. Russell), and the phone itself will be available exclusively at Bloomingdale's, and at the designer's own Baby Phat store in New York. (Oh, and if you think that makes this just a New York thing, please note that Federated has transformed Bloomingdale's into its upscale nameplate nationwide.)
The idea is to add some bling-bling to your mobile thing.
The idea is not Pfat. It's dumb.
In Japan an outfit called Searchteria (sorry, this is a kanji link) is launching a keyword-based ad service that will do for mobile phone ads what Google's AdSense does for ads on the Web. (The illustration is actually a map of Japan's energy grid, from Bucky Fuller.)
Send an SMS message to 46645 (that's GOOGL on your mobile keypad) and you'll get snippets of data from your local area. Full instructions are at http://sms.google.com and the current beta works only in the U.S.
The idea is that you click on one of several sound files and it appears you're where you said you would be, not where you actually are. Thus you can lie with impunity because the background noise backs you up. (Of course this won't work in the face of a photograph, but are you going to believe me or your lieing eyes?)
Thanks to Lance Knobel for the tip.
Does one of your credit cards carry the name of your college, a charitable group you support, or the name of your favorite sports team?
If so you are playing the "affinity marketing" game. Credit card companies like MBNA sign deals that give these affiliates tiny rake-offs on your charges, in exchange for using the affiliate's name to get your business.
The wires are full of news that AT&T Wireless is opening a mobile music store.
It's a stunt.
For one thing, the only thing mobile about the store is the store. The product can only be downloaded to a PC. So what's the big deal -- they've made some store pages that you can access by phone? They have ordering through the phone?
If they're not selling a product for the phone it's not a breakthrough, it's a press release.
It's all part of a PR campaign to keep the AT&T Wireless name before the public so that, after Cingular finishes its acquisition of the company (probably early next year) they can then turn around and use the name to become a Sprint PCS re-seller.
And they talk about political reporters falling for spin...they've got nothing on the folks in our beat.
We get it that, with mobile area codes untethered to location, I may not know where you're really calling from.
But now I may not even know who you are, either.
From JIAHE comes a voice changing headset, which can actually change your voice from male to female, all off a set of controls hanging from the lanyard connecting the device from your ear to your phone.
JIAHE, by the way, is a district in China.
Hey, that's not the strangest cellular gimmick I've seen this week. Not even close. Hideto Tomabechi has a ringtone called "Rockmelon" which, he claims, can actually increase the size of a woman's breasts (without the woman actually having a baby).
If you ask me some Orientals are becoming awfully scrutable.
Finally, from Spain, something useful, a piece of software for Symbian phones (most of those made by Nokia and Ericsson, among others) that can magnify the text on the screen so you can actually read it. This is great. Now if we can get a screen I can see without squinting, that would be even better.
I'll bet you've been wondering to yourself, "Self, how can I keep up with Dana's great Mooreslore blog while I'm on the go?"
Well, Self (I can call you Self, sir or madam), we have just what you're looking for.
WinkSITE is an RSS reader for mobile phones (as well as PCs and PDAs) you can set up in three minutes, according to the company's Web site. Best of all, if you're using it as an individual, it's FREE.
So you need never again miss another episode of your favorite tech blogger (me) again.
Want to know more?
Over at The Feature, Mark Frauenfelder has an essay wondering whether mobile phones shouldn't have compasses. (Meanwhile, over at Woodshop.Com, Nils Alving produces wonderful wood inlays like this compass rose, which is Bubinga and Maple on Walnut and Cherry.)
Certainly phone compasses would be cheap to make. Much of Frauenfelder's story involves the technology that would be used to do it. And they would have a use, starting with making GPS more useful by telling you what direction you're headed into.
It's the commercial implications that have me scratching my head.
There is a solution to the quandary operators now have over cameraphones.
Games can handle all the megahertz, megabytes and megapixels the coming camera phone technology can throw at them. And the network load from gaming can be quite modest since, in a role-playing game, you only transmit those bits necessary to describe changes in character or action.
This could also be the route Microsoft is looking for into the heart of the mobile market. Translating XBox games, even XBox online games, for a mobile platform could be very powerful.
Especially if simulations can be engineered that simulate the business conditions at work.
As it was at the Dawn of the Web, so it is today. Brands have a choice between posting their products with a carrier, putting it into distribution or going it alone.
MTV in the UK has decided on this last course and Mike Krisher has an analysis.
As more mobile phones run versions of Windows, as the Palm OS becomes more robust, and as hardware price-performance keeps improving in line with Moore's Law, mobile phones are pushing to become real computers. (Like the illustration? Buy it as a rug here. And it's on sale. Mooreslore looks out for you.)
But there's a downside.
Just as adults must accept more responsibility than kids, so a mobile phone that's a computer becomes vulnerable to the temptations of rogue code.
Here's something we need.
Think I'm kidding? Here's the entry form.
Good luck. And tell Mr. Spielberg I'm ready for my close-up.
In order to encourage the (then) nascent cellular industry 20 years ago Congress gave them the upper hand in any discussion of towers. (Here's an imaginative maker of towers, based in South Africa.)
I learned about this firsthand some years later when an AT&T representative told the Decatur, Georgia city council they wanted to put a tower near my house and there wasn't thing one we could do about it. The council members present reluctantly agreed.
So I piped up. There's a BellSouth training center across the street from this proposed tower, I noted. If they put up the tower it can be secured, it can be used for training, and you won't trash the neighborhood. That's where the tower wound up.
As a confirmed fan of geeky things, I hate to admit this.
But my mobile phone is just a phone. (For more, visit where the picture came from.)
While I'm going off amazed at the wonders of the latest gadgets, fact remains that a mobile phone itself is, in terms of much of the world, a revolution.
Imagine. No wires. Small enough to fit in a pocket. Easy to use. And it lets you talk to anyone, anywhere, instantly. For pennies. Wow.
Asian telecom executives had to remind folks of that at the 3GSM conference recently.
I'm glad they did. Know this, 21st century man. The most revolutionary invention in the history of man was probably...the telegraph.
I have long felt that Microsoft had a key advantage in the mobile space because Windows runs a robust, scalable kernel and offers the best way for people to sell applications.
This last puts it ahead of Linux. The Linux business model is based on selling services. Microsoft has a huge team of people focused on building application software markets under its operating system.
Now ABI Research has put some numbers to this and the press is all in a dither.
It is inevitable that someone will write a virus that runs on a mobile phone.
The press is salivating over the issue. Everyone is on the lookout. But when something pops up there's always a caveat that lets the search continue.
You'll remember, for instance, how an alleged first "virus" recently turned out to be a copy protection scheme? It did the work of a virus, it spread virally, but it wasn't a virus because it wasn't designed to be one.
Well now we have one that's designed to be a virus, but how much you want to bet this one won't count either because it doesn't really do any damage? (The illustration above is from the BBC story on this virus.) And right on the heels of this is the first offer of anti-viral software (that's where the real money is here anyway).
When we finally get a real mobile virus outbreak, a program written as a virus that does substantial damage, of course, that "first" will be watered-down by all the others, like yesterday's.
So there's no real glory in writing a mobile phone virus. Don't bother.
Which bright bulb over at AT&T Wireless came up with the idea that teenagers don't want to talk?
Donald, do your thing now.
AT&T Wireless has released a Taiwanese-device called Ogo that, for $100, plus $20/month in service charges, lets you do everything a mobile phone does, except talk!
That's right. A messaging-only mobile. For kids. (The image is from the C|Net story, by Ben Charny, which was completely non-judgmental. Fortunately blogs don't have to be that way.)
The online photofinishing wars were supposed to be simple.
There would be Kodak (of course), their big photofinishing partners, and maybe some competitors.
That's not the way it worked out.
What we've got instead are a host of Web sites working to top one another in offering free tools. It's not a photo market, but an Internet market.
Simpay has won agreements with Europe's four largest mobile providers to offer third-party billing services next year.
While The Inquirer touts this as the death of mobile phone portals like Vodafone Live, it's actually far more significant than that.
Or it could be.
At the CTIA show this spring a lot of U.S. carrier representatives walked around with big silly grins on their face, proclaiming MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) to be the kick-start the mobile data market needs.
As Eric Lin notes over at The Feature MMS is slowing in Europe. The percentage of users in England who have never sent one jumped in the last year, from 27% to 36%. Those who do send them are sending fewer.
The reason is obvious.
Mobile phone makers have been trying to put various versions of the Web onto phones for years.
I've seen text interfaces, menuing interfaces, even an interface that talked. What I've seldom seen is a real browser, because phones lack the screens, the storage, or the interfaces to handle them.
Yet it's clear many people want the "real Web" anyway. The most popular download for Symbian phones (like the Nokia I own) is Opera, the Web browser, with 1 million copies downloaded. (Opera.Com's home page has lots of pictures of phones these days. That's where I found this one.)
What makes the mobile or cellular market so much fun now is that no one has a clear lead.
Motorola and Nokia are both close. Symbian and Microsoft are both in there. You can rise or fall quickly, depending on what you introduce today. And there are new introductions from some quarter nearly every week.
Why is that?
Ringtones are fun, but they are what they are, right?
A company called Notesenses (in Sweden, naturally, you betcha) has introduced Moodies. It's basically a software-driven service that lets you customize the sound of a polyphonic ringtone in any of four directions aggressive, musical, happy and romantic.
I was being a little flip the other day in talking about how R.I.M. had "gone international" by linking with Nokia.
It goes further than that. (The picture is from the New York Times.
The new Blackberry device looks like nothing so much as...a Nokia mobile phone.
And it works like one, too.
The headline is not about politics. It's about micro-payments.
I've talked about them here before. The question is, how do you collect on digital content that carries a low, low price?
In the real world the answer is cash. While credit card outfits have rules against merchants refusing to take cards when the sale is tiny, many merchants ignore the rules. That's because, when the price gets down to a few dollars, taking plastic means taking a loss. So cash is king.
But what if you're buying a digital good on a cellular phone?
The problem is that it costs too much to handle the transaction and settlement to make charging a few cents per whatever worth it.
The buzz that got this latest train rolling is iTunes, which sells songs at 99 cents, and ringtones, which can cost as little as $1.50. Right now iTunes is handling billing through accounts that aggregate purchases while ringtones are running through carriers' billing systems that can only handle a few prices.
Most papers spun this the other way, as Nokia wooing the business market, and that may be true. But it's far more important to note here that the Blackberry, a U.S. technology, is now going to spread into Europe and Asia, which have far more mature mobile markets, thanks to Nokia.
That's right, kids.
Samsung has announced a new mobile phone with a 1.5 Gigabyte hard drive inside it. (Photo from Slashphone.)
In some ways the SPH-V5400 (they really know how to name things over there at Samsung) is a stunt. It goes out the door at $800, the processor and software really can't keep up with the thing, and they don't have the iPod license that would fill it with sound. (They do have a camera.)
What's more important is what this says about the future.
Homes are considered 30-year property. Cars last three years. Most of us replace PCs every three years.
But mobile phones are one-year property. That's all they're good for. If your phone is over a year old, toss it. (Looks like this guy, UVALGBTCenter will take it.)
That's the key Clue in news that sales of such phones reached record levels in the second quarter. Gartner analysts claim the figures indicate people are replacing sets after 3-4 years, but I'm not buying that.
The customers you want -- the 20% that does 80% of your business -- they're replacing their gear every year, maybe even more often than that.
What does this mean?
Right now the power in the cellular data business is held, not by the carriers, not by the software companies, not even by the transaction processors, but by the people whose technology delivers the goods to your phone.
For an industry that wants to make money, the mobile data business does not move fast.
The problems, as I've written before, involve billing and control.
Today I talked to Dov Cohn at Powerbyhand, which is a leader in the mobile data market. (The image is from Interpug.com.) They sell big applications to the Palm and Windows markets. They recently bought a German outfit called Mobile2Day.De, which sells ringtones and other mobile data products using Premium SMS in Europe.
But that's not how on-phone sales happen here. In the U.S. the game is micro-billing through carriers.
Cohn acknowledged that most of PowerbyHand's direct sales are made by credit card on the company's own Web sites. For the rest, Powerbyhand works with QPass.
QPass is the leader in cracking micro-billing, with what's called a bill on behalf of (BOBO) interface to most carrier transaction processing systems. (Verizon remains an exception.)
Cohn described the present situation in the U.S.:
The "cellular wallet" could debut as early as next year. (But Philips needs to find a better acronym before they hit the U.S. with this -- to most Americans NFC means the National Football Conference.)
There remain questions, of course:
Your cell phone is about to become a sell phone. (Picture from Philips.)
Near Field Communication is a communications protocol that can work with a variety of short-range technologies -- Bluetooth, 802.11, RFID. The key is that commerce is defined within the protocol. It's not so much a communications engine as a commerce engine.
If you're reading this in Asia this is not news. You've been able to buy even expensive trinkets with Near Field for years.
But it's finally coming to America. The result will be a revolution. We're accustomed to think of wireless purchasing in terms of cheap goods. We hear about using our mobile phone to buy a Coke from a vending machine, or a game from a Web site.
But NFC will enable you to buy plane tickets, meals, anything in fact, simply by waving your phone at a port and pressing a button.
Wired has a story this week accenting the fear side of this technology equation. If you devote yourself to Near Field (or NFC) purchasing, your carrier would know exactly where you were, what you were doing, your whole pattern of behavior. All they would have to do is combine GPS technology with NFC, and voila.
Well, so what? Once we establish in law that the data you create belongs to you, and cannot be shared without your consent, this fear should dissipate. (Should doesn't mean won't.)
Over at The Feature Mike Masnick asks a question that has occurred to me many times.
Today a cellular handset serves two purposes. It's your voice interface, with the speaker and microphone. It's your computer interface, with its buttons and (perhaps) a touchscreen.
Those are completely different things, aren't they?
Since taking over Motorola former Sun COO Ed Zander has been hitting on all cylinders, grabbing market share and building alliances.
This is his biggest yet. (Oh, and word to Motorola PR. Why are all the best pictures of your CEO still on the Sun site?)
Motorola is going to make phones for DoCoMo, Japan's leading cellular provider.
DoCoMo isn't just big. DoCoMo is smart. They have the best reputation in the world for commercializing data applications. The rest of the world is at least three years behind DoCoMo.
And now Motorola will be in the forefront of trying to solve DoCoMo's biggest problem, how do you make all that fast data functionality usable in the tiny form factor of a cell phone.
Cingular and AT&T finally settled the outstanding issues resulting from the Baby Bell cellular's acquisition of Ma's cellular assets.
The deal was beginning to confuse even me, given the extensive advertising of the AT&T Wireless brand during the Olympics.
The power of Windows lies in your ability to create and market profitable applications using it.
Yes, there's a limit. Once Microsoft decides it wants your market, your cost of defending the market will likely exceed any incremental sales from that effort.
But Linux lacks Windows' ability to make software profitable. And that is why Windows, not Linux, will lead the next evolution in cellular equipment.
SSEYO has announced miniMIXA, an audio mixer for Windows smartphones.
As part of the roll-out a Reading, England arts festival will use it this weekend to mix what is being played on-the-fly..
This could do to the cell phone market what programs like Musicmatch did to PCs.
The impact could be massive. Ringtones could be created at concerts, and sold right after the show. On the other hand, concert-goers could potentially bootleg the same concert and offer better mixes, free, within hours after the show.
This leads to Dana's Law of Creativity Software.
The cheaper it is, the more people can use it, and the lower the premium paid for poor results.
If you want to see what this thing is capable of, check out these sample mixes for yourself. Or, if you don't have a Windows cell phone, get a taste for the technology by downloading Sseyo's PC plug-in.
Denny Strigl is president of Verizon Wireless. There are millions of dollars, maybe billions, he doesn't even know he has. They're locked away in a nascent cellular data market.
All this makes Greg Wilfahrt (right, from his Web site) into Geraldo Rivera. Wilfahrt, co-founder of SMS.AC, has gotten the key to this vault, in the form of a "premium billing agreement." He's gotten similar keys from most of the world's carriers, so he's opened the vault. He's even gotten a taste of the fortune inside.
But only a taste. The fortune, you see, has yet to be made.
There is minimal pressure to raise taxes from cellular in the U.S. The land-line industry still generates enormous tax revenue. And the same tricks that serve to "hide" those taxes from consumers (and allow government to keep raising them) can be used on cellular bills.
In advanced cellular markets (with minimal land-line infrastructure) it's not so easy. So I thought it would be fun this morning to highlight the battle over taxes taking place in one such market, the Philippines.
(The Philippine map here is from the CNN International site.)
Is this an instance where Verizon is on the side of the angels? (You can buy this little angel for your favorite Verizon executive (or anyone else) here, at Folkmanis Puppets.)
I've hammered Verizon Wireless often on this blog. They're control freaks. That's preventing the development of a unified cellular data market, and we're less than a year away from phones and networks that can indeed be part of the computing mainstream.
But in the case of cellular 411, consumer advocates say, Verizon's proprietary, protective attitude may be a good thing.
In an advanced cellular market (not the U.S., I said an advanced market) how often do consumers change out their phones?
There are some other nuggets here as well:
The media, the digirati, even some government figures are laughing today at the East Buchanan Telephone Co-op of Winthrop, Iowa.
They laugh because the co-op has threatened to cut-off cellular calls from Qwest on Monday, claiming it's not being paid for their termination.
The town bought a device that can distinguish between cellular calls and landline calls coming in over Qwest's long distance service. Qwest has won an injunction halting the shut-off for two weeks.
Most reaction has been that the town is crazy, that it doesn't stand a chance.
But they don't know the rest of the story.
Word of the cellular virus spread around the world, and millions of customers are now being told that their phones are no safer than their Windows PCs.
F-Secure, which first reported on this virus, continues to classify it as one.
And it is.
The New York Times has reviewed the new Danger cell phone, under the name of T-Mobile, the cellular operator that will offer it this fall. (The illustration comes from the Times' story.)
The new device carries the name Sidekick II, and the Times likes it.
I don't. Here's why.
It's the devices, and the fact that cellular networks have absolute control over which devices work on their networks.
So it doesn't matter if someone announces a box that works on both 802.11 and cellular. (Oh, and this is beyond the question of whether said box is any good.) Unless a carrier allows the device to go onto their network, it doesn't exist.
It also doesn't matter if Avaya and Motorola have technology to allow 802.11 roaming. If it is not supported, then it does not exist.
Over at The Feature Mike Masnick has a little piece asking whether mobile phones are a black hole for the chip industry. (This drawing passes for Mike's picture over at The Feature.)
On the surface the charge is silly. Chip makers make chips, phones use chips. Phones are quickly replaced, which means the industry sells more chips. If by "black hole" you mean something that sucks up all the industry's capacity, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
But there is danger here, and it's based on the nature of the phones now being produced.
I have been spending time lately documenting cell phones for a friend. And one of the most remarkable things about them is how capable they are not.
Many of the phones being distributed in the U.S. lack cameras, sound recording, even messaging capability. They are designed solely for use as phones, with a simple phone book, and it all goes ker-blooey if the SIM card is jostled (requiring that you take it out and replace it, a true cold re-boot).
In essence the U.S. is years and years behind the times when it comes to cellular technology. We are truly a Third World country. (That image, by the way, is from the Georgia Citizens' Coalition on Hunger, which does fine work.)
Where's the First World?
You ever leave a pot of coffee on the counter too long? I have. After several days it starts tasting really funky, and these nasty white organisms start partying on the top of it. (BREW logo from Vayusphere.)
Well, that's what seems to be happening to Qualcomm's BREW development environment, in which Verizon is demanding all applications on its cellular network be written. There's no circulation in a proprietary environment . If the creator doesn't apply regular heat (and risk that nasty, metallic taste) things are going to get funky fast.
NOTE: The following is from my free weekly e-mail newsletter.
I have recently begun working with Egoscout, a company dedicated to teaching people how to get more from their cell phones, giving them bargains on data services, helping them upgrade, and helping those in the cellular data business find their market. (The slogan is, "turn the cell phone into a sell phone." Cute, huh?)
I actually conceived of this business during the recent CTIA show in Atlanta, test-marketing the concept with exhibitors and attendees, drawing an enthusiastic reception. Our CEO is Jeff Vick, a serial entrepreneur with experience at Turner and iXL.
The dark lords of the CTIA show were the executives of Verizon Wireless (left, from their home page), who strutted about the event in black suits, arrogantly aserting that they would, could, and should control all data markets on their network. You can't sell data services (like ringtones) to a Verizon customer except through Verizon. All programs must be rewritten, to Verizon's specifications, in Qualcomm's Brew, and before they are marketed they must be approved by Verizon Wireless executives.
The video industry seems determined to follow the music industry in trying (unsuccessfully) to stifle the Net.
Proof comes from Europe, with its well-developed cellular industry, where competition minister Mario Monti (pictured, from Der Spiegel of Germany) plans to investigate the refusal of video rights-holders to deal on licensing.
What makes this ironic is that the cellular industry, from top-to-bottom, is totally intent on "protecting" content for rights-holders, and getting the very highest price for licensing it. What else can you call a $2.50 ringtone?
Me, I blame Mark Cuban.
Yesterday Verizon Wireless introduced what it called Mobile Web 2.0.. It was a true triple play - it's not mobile, it's not the Web, it's not even new. (To top it all off, it only works on two camera phones, including the LG VX7000 pictured, from Engadget.com.)
Verizon insists on running its data efforts as a walled garden, with all applications written in Qualcomm's Brew, and with Verizon controlling the store. The new "service" locks Verizon down as the home page, and was actually produced by Infospace and Vindigo. Only a few phones can access it, and they're charging $5/month, plus airtime.
One byproduct of The Register's business model (see below) is it provides an excellent platform for newsletter publishers seeking subscription income.
Here's an example. Wireless Watch, from Rethink Research, has posted a thought-provoking commentary on Microsoft's challenge in the cellular business. (Microsoft's play is Windows CE. You can buy the developers' overview to the right from Amazon.Com.)
The latest new cell phone craze is lieing. (Everything I know about telling lies came from this old Mattel game, described on Spookshows.Com.)
The Times story notes that text messages are being used to set up "alibi and excuse clubs" so people can cheat on one another. Enterpreneurial companies like Kargo are selling ringtones that simulate things like traffic jams, dentists drilling and hacking coughs.
You may remember how earlier this week I wrote about how cell phones will be the most popular way to access the Internet in a few years, and about how XHTML MP development today is centered on Openwave?
Here's an alternative, plus an endorsement of open source browser technology from a major cellular phone vendor.
As previously noted HTML is not going to be the lingua franca of the Web for much longer.
That's because, as most HTML devices are going to be cell phones in a few years, you will really need XHTML MP to reach them. (The illustration, by the way, is from Nokia's Russian page on XHTML MP.)
How do you get there?
Back during the dot-boom, America Online was a very big player, despite the fact that its system remained (and remains) proprietary.
But AOL is no longer a big player. It is no longer a big player because the common standards of the Web, like HTML, have left it in the dust. (This cartoon is from the site of harmonicist Bass Harp. The caption reads "Let's just turn the company off, wait 10 seconds, then turn it back on again.")
I call this "The AOL Price." It wasn't fully seen even in 2000, when Time Warner bought AOL for what it thought was a bargain price, but was in fact a boat anchor on the whole economy. But to those who were Clued-in, the price was obvious, the price was ruinous, and in the end the price was paid.
What few people know is that the AOL Price must be paid in the cellular world as well. Either the cellular world's AOL pays the price by moving toward standards, or the price will be imposed by the market.
So who owes?
What is the key to XHTML MP?
It's the X. (These Xs come from L'il Fingers, a wonderful site for small children. It's a reminder that when it comes to the mobile Web we're all small children.)
The problem all these cellular data schemes have in common, at least in the U.S., is the problem of getting paid. That's not a problem in Europe or Asia, where tools like Premium SMS billing, and common standards like Java, not only enable payment schemes but let all operators compete directly with one another.
But it is a problem here. A big problem.
One of the most important trains now coming up the technology tracks may be XHTML MP. (My thanks to Russell Beattie (pictured, from his blog) for beating the drum for it. His prize is entry onto our blogroll. Give him a shout.)
XHTML MP is sometimes put-down as the second coming of WAP. While it has some sponsors in common with WAP it is, in fact, a serious effort to bring together the Web we know and love with the tiny screens mobile phones must have.
Nokia's new phone announcement was advertised as a "comeback," but it should really be seen as another marker on the road toward cellphones entering the computing mainstream. (The picture is from CNN, and we'll talk more about it later.)
Just consider the features in the phone Nokia was most anxious to discuss, its 6630:
Apparently the company is also losing market share to European rivals Siemens, as well as Samsung, Motorola, and the rest.
But these are just the semifinals. Nokia can turn this around.
Last month, on this blog, I asked "Who Killed the PDA?"
I was hammered for it. But I wasn't wrong. (PDA image is from nec.com.tw)
Proof came today when Sony announced it was "suspending" production of its Palm-based PDA, the Clie.
The PDA is dead. So what comes next?
You may remember how, during CTIA, I harped on how the cellular industry was rapidly entering the computing mainstream and the industry didn't have a Clue about it? (The image is from a cellular re-seller, but look at the whole page to see how far from next year's reality these people are.)
Here is more evidence. Toshiba's stand at a monitor trade show in Seattle this week will feature new cellular phone displays that can take input as well as output in very high resolution.
AT&T's sale of its AT&T Wireless division to Cingular for $41 billion should count as the best scam of the century -- so far.
What Cingular thought it was buying was the AT&T name, exclusive rights to frequencies and an end to competition keeping prices down.
But Sprint has thrown a monkey wrench into its plan, simply by wholesaling the capacity of its PCS network. Thus, AT&T won't be out of the market when the sale closes (although its current customers will be confused, converted into Cingular accounts). Virgin and Qwest are also wholesaling Sprint's capacity under their names.
This story, however, could become far more important. (The logo above is from one of Sprint's fine PR counsel.)
There's a huge market boom coming in cellular data. (Image from the Bell System Memorial.)
This is because the use of nVidia graphics technology, combined with 3G networks, are rapidly bringing cell phones into the computing mainstream.
But greed is causing the industry, most especially Verizon, to miss the boom.