Dell Streaks but Doesn’t Impress

August 25, 2010 by · Comments Off on Dell Streaks but Doesn’t Impress
Filed under: Technology 

Well, it is official.  The world will be inundated with tablets of all sizes, colors, OSs and capabilities.  Dell recently jumped into the deep end of the pool with the highly anticipated, but slightly disappointing Streak.  It falls smack center in the middle of nowhere: too big for a phone, to small for a tablet.

The OS is archaic, old, last century (well, last year at quarter) in a market that moves faster than you can keep up with.  When Motorola, HTC, and others are boasting Android 2.2, and others talk about Android 3.0, Dell launches a 1.6.  Quite frankly what a waste of one of the most beautiful displays I’ve seen in this category.  I hope Dell brings out an update soon since a lot of apps are not compatible to it (like Touchdown, the only real way to get to a corporate Exchange email/calendar system).

The device is really good looking, and Android is just great (yeah, even the ancient version 1.6).  Just take it out in any public place and people will ask you what is it.  But you will have to take the laughs when you pick it up as a phone.  Maybe Dell, in its infinite wisdom, thought people will use a bluetooth headset to answer the phone or will not mind the geeky look of a huge tablet on your face.  In any case, people will want to know what’s your fabulous device.

Anyway, I have to give them credit for making a bet.  Tablets have 3 places in the market: a substitute for a laptop, a substitute for a smartphone, or a third device.  Apple’s iPad was clearly a bet on the “third device” and against all my predictions, has hit a home run.  Microsoft had bet for the better laptop case in the past, with … well not so good results.  Dell bets on a better phone with the Streak, even with an AT&T subsidy.  Good try, but I don’t think it will work out.  It is too big to be your only phone.

If you’re going out for dinner it takes up a big chunk of the table and it is not pocketable at all.  You’ll need your phone anywhere you go, but a “cleverphone” is not good enough since you may want to use it as a GPS or look for the restaurant, or all the other things we’re used to do with our phones these days.  So you need a smartphone.  At that point you’re in 3rd device territory so you might as well opt for a 7, 8, 9 or 10 inch display.

Oh well, as much as I wanted to toss my iPhone I will still have to wait for a good Android phone for AT&T.

Enjoy.

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Android 2.2 Brings Mobility to the Mobile World

May 27, 2010 by · Comments Off on Android 2.2 Brings Mobility to the Mobile World
Filed under: Technology 

Today Google launched Android 2.2 which, in this humble blogger’s opinion is a leap frog from anything else out there.  Besides the obvious smarter smartphone capabilities like the photo gallery, customizable home screen, better exchange support, etc. , it turns your phone into a real mobility powerhouse.  Hotspot and enhanced bluetooth make your phone a gateway to mobility for all other stuff you may want to carry.  I know what you’re thinking, PalmPre had that already.  But Android is mainstream, supported by multiple vendors, and the 2nd best selling mobile OS (after RIM’s blackberry, not iPhone).

The hotspot feature that essentially turns your phone into a Starbucks without the coffee – WiFi hotspot using 3G as back-haul.  3G may not have enough capacity, but remember 4G is coming to a city near you.  The point is, my phone becomes my only truly connected device via the wireless wide area network, with a single data plan that allows any other device that I might carry to connect to the Internet through it, without extra payments.  As lame as the unconnected iPad is, it is the cheapest out there (before the gPad comes out).  My Android2.2 smartphone  will make it connected and I do not have to pay extra data.  With my laptop I can browse the web, download a book, send email, you name it, even if I don’t have a broadband adapter.  My phone is the broadband adapter.

Enhanced bluetooth means that I can now have an ergonomically perfect set of devices to manage my mobile life.  I can carry my phone in my pocket or briefcase and use my headset or car kit to dial, answer an make all phone calls.  I can even play music through my car’s fancy audio without plugging it in.  You can envision new devices that use these capabilities to get connected.  A camera, for example can upload to Picassa or YouTube directly without having to connect directly.  In-car GPS or portable can also connect and get faster first fixes, maps from your phone or PC, etc.

Again, this is hardly new, but the combination of all this features in Android 2.2 brings true mobility to the mainstream, and will definitely put a dent to iPhone’s reign, that is until Apple decides to add these features too.  The question that remains open is how will wireless service providers embrace a single data plan?  Today they all charge for “tethered mode” which is really what we all use in substitution of a broadband card; we don’t buy a card, but we still have to pay for the extra data plan.  If carriers do away with this extra charge, they will create an explosion of data traffic that they are most likely not ready for.  Sprint in the US has created a plan that allows all this for a fixed rate.  Sprint also has the only 4G phone available today and with its partnership with Clearwire they have a shot to regain market share even if it’s only to geeks like us.  Soon others will follow, though.

Soon 4G, better back-haul from your wireless service provider, and an Android 2.2 (or equivalent feature set) can make every device a connected device.  The ubiquitously connected world is getting a push.

Enjoy.

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iPad, gPad, or MaxiPad?

May 12, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Business, Technology 

Well, it seems that the world is ponying up for what I call the third device unlike I had posted before.  Verizon appears to be working closely with Google on a better Pad.  At the same time Google has been posting videos of how Chrome OS will run on a tablet (I like tablet or slate better than pad for obvious reasons).  The thing is “with Verizon” not “supporting Verizon”.    My fellow reader (singular) this could really challenge the emperor’s Pad.

Let me tell you why I think that’s the case:  As lame as the whole category is in this blogger’s humble opinion, an unconnected (i.e. no cellular support) tablet is the lame of the lame.  It brings me back to the 90’s when you had to go home or to your office to get internet access.  Sure, the 3G iPad is about to debut, but @ $600+ i really think the market will be limited.  Now, if our friends in Verizon Wireless agree to pardon the Nexus One debacle and decide to subsidize the gPad, imagine what will that do to the price.  Neither Verizon, nor Google have to make money with the hardware, which really does a job to Jobs (sorry, couldn’t help it).  Estimates of the iPad cost put it at $250 – $300 US, add a 3G (or maybe a 4G – ooooh – radio), we could be seeing a street price in the $400’s.  Still hefty for a useless device, but less than $600+ for the emperor’s Pad (ePad?  now I’m pushing it).

But wait, there’s more!  Chrome Os is the word on the street, not Android.  What that may mean is a real processor capable of Flash (not Flash lite) and real browsing.  Yes, my friend, I believe it will be x86 based which means that every website you can go to on Chrome today – which is virtually any website known to mankind and robotkind – is accessible to your gPad.  Not even Palm’s (future HP’s MaxiPad) running WebOs can do that!  Apps anybody?  Yeah, sure, real apps with Java or the like, not fake widgets that look pixelated.  Content?  Did I mention it is Google?

So there it is.  As much as I hate the category, a subsidized x86 based tablet may be the ticket to ride.  BTW, Adsense must be having a ball with this post!  I’m sure the ads are funny albeit unrelated. Do comment.

Enjoy.

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iDon’t Flash, say the Steves

May 9, 2010 by · Comments Off on iDon’t Flash, say the Steves
Filed under: Technology 

To start off with a cliché, it is true that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  But to have the Steves ( Balmer -Microsoft’s CEO and Jobs – you know who he is) agree on bashing a competitor is unheard of, at least for this humble blogger.  Apple has been criticized not only for not supporting Adobe Flash video player in the iPhone, iPod, and iPad (i’Ve had it with Apple’s naming) but for banning apps that have their roots on it.  To make matters worse, Silicon Valley’s more revered deity sent out a letter saying that Flash sucks – battery, that is, as well as making devices crash and causing other problems.  Balmer agrees.  They both are in favor of the open standard video version called html5 video.

Hey, we’re all for standards, even better if they are open, but is it realistic to essentially ban all Flash designed websites from your mobile iProducts?  Microsoft definitelly adds some muscle to the fight, but Shantanu Narayen (Adobe’s CEO) got there first.  An estimated  70% of websites with video use Flash.  It has a great advantage over html5: it exists today.  It has also a huge  installed base,  works across browsers, and makes it easier for non-geek developers to use.  The question is: will the the explosion of browsers (especially mobile) makes an open standard needed even more? Indeed, but it will not happen overnight, even with the Steves’ weight behind it.

Claiming that Flash crashed devices and drains battery is a bit too extreme, unrealistic, and quite frankly arrogant.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But when you consider that the iPad has a 6000 mAh battery compared to the 1200 mAh battery in the iPhone 3GS sure, I’ll give you 10 hours of video too!  Simply put, battery problems are solved with batteries.  You want more battery life? put a bigger battery in.  Granted, it drives the device’s weight, but so does the display. Palm Pre, RIM, Windows Mobile (and soon Android) devices that support Flash lite are roughly the same weight than the iPhone, and crash just as often. Reality is, Flash provides the programmer control over the video experience and that makes Jobs angry.  He wants to control it all!  As per Microsoft’s motive?  Well, it just sounded like a good idea to blame computer crashes on somebody else’s software for a change.

Flash’s biggest limitation is the lack of mobile platform support.  It is a heavy weight platform that so far only works well on “big” desktop OS’s.  There is a Flash Lite out there but it is not 100% compatible with all Flash’s features.  But that will have to change soon, if Narayen wants to stay on top.   But then again, with more powerful processors and graphics coming to a mobile device near you will make this limitation a thing of the past.  In any case, it is this bloggers opinion that html5 video will eventually take over video on the internet.  The timing is the unknown.  But I don’t think one should start to short Adobe (ADBE), at least not because of Flash.  Au contraire mon fraire, this makes them a pricey acquisition target for cash rich software companies.

Enjoy.

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Who needs a tablet?

January 26, 2010 by · Comments Off on Who needs a tablet?
Filed under: Technology 

Amidst some of the most spectacular speculation in the history of electronics (even for Apple) every manufacturer is launching some kind of a tablet device, a keyboardless computer with a big screen.   This is not a new concept.  I was recently playing around with a Compaq Concerto – that incidentally had a keyboard, a pen and a mouse, courtesy of a colleague, that was build 17 years ago.   Since then the allure of using the most common way of written communication (a pen) has been just a promise.   This year Steve Balmer, Microsoft CEO announced HP’s “slate” back in the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in a setting that looked more like the Mac commercials than a new category launch.  Dell, Lenovo, and others will soon have one too.  The big question is why?

Acording to ABI Research the world will consume a staggering 450 million laptops in 2012 and [gasp] 650 million smartphones.  If you take into account replacement cycles, that is how fast people buy a new one the results are pretty revealing.  A laptop, on average get replaced every 3 years, which means that roughly 1.35 billion people will buy one within 3 years.  A smartphone, thanks in part to carrier subsidies, is replaced every 2 years, meaning 1.3 billion people will buy one.  Of course, they are both the same people!  The question is, are those 1.3 billion geeks (what an amazing number buy the way) ready for a 3rd device and all the annoyances (chargers, accessories, batteries, breakage, data plans, network connections, etc., etc.) that come with it?  Not so much.

Unless: a) It substitutes a device you already carry.  b) enhances a device you already carry, c) it changes the way you interact with technology or d) it is so damn amazing that you have to have it.

A)  Substituting a device you already carry is kind of lame.  In order to do that it has to do everything the old device did and more.  Kind of what smartphones did for the cellphone.  But it comes at a price.  That is the approach Microsoft and partners in crime are taking with teh “convertible” laptop.  Ever since the Concerto, that approach has failed miserably.  The enhanced user experience that touch brings does not justify the extra cost.

B)  This may be the key to the tablet success.  What if you could share your smartphone’s dataplan but have access to a bigger screen when you need it?  Charge it and use the same accessories and apps your smartphone or your laptop uses but the experience is so much better due to touch, weight, a better screen and better interaction with your media.  In other words, your laptop becomes your “content creation” device and your tablet a “content consumption” alternative with much, much better experience.  The question still remains, how much is that worth and will manufacturers and carriers make money?

C)   Changing the way you interact with technology needs a huge amount of disruption.  One approach, suggested here, is to just make it part your your life and go after the time people spend with media in a different way.  That is all good, but IMHO, it will still limit the penetration.  As I have suggested in previous posts, the internet is desigend for a screem, a keyboard, and a mouse.  Last I checked, there are no plans to change that any time soon.  Be that as it may, media convergence – your pics, videos, blogs, magazines, books, news “papers”, etc. – in a single point may make sense, but again , at what price?

D)  Lastly, an amazing device will drive some crowds, especially from the Silicon Valley sweethart even if there is no use for it, like the Newton or Apple TV.  This unfortunately is very nichy and I doubt Apple, Microsoft, HP, and others will be making such a splash for a niche.

One could argue that the Amazon Kindle, by far the most successful of these form factors (which by the way is expected to sell some 6 million this year, puting it in the category of niche for geeks), has it right.  Mainly because it is designed to read books.  Anyone that has played with it can see why.  Great battery life, great form factor, light, and a brilliant eInk display that is the closest thing to paper that is powerd by a battery.  But the key genius of Amazon is not that the device is brilliant, is the business model.  Buy a book and voila, it gets delivered to your Kindle without having to worry about a data plan, a monthly bill, or extra charges.  It is still a 3rd device, but it substitutes the book, magazines, and newspapers we used to carry around.  THe lesson here is subsitute something you carry today and make it simpler, better, and cheaper (at least over the long run).

The question is what will the tablets strategy be?  It is tough to say, but as geeky as I am, I will wait before I splurge for the $500 – $1000 tablet plus an extra data plan.  For once, a “revolutionary” gadget does not excite me that much.  Is it a sign of aging or just a sign of the times?

Enjoy.

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