Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Technology is a wonderful thing and sometimes produces some moments of real hilarity.
AT&T’s rebuttal to recent Verizon attacks, which can be seen here, sadly is not one of them. Rather, it is sad, in a kind of #fail way.
Unlike the Island of Misfit Toys, which manages to hit nostalgic heartstrings and be wickedly evil at the same time, although my neighbor here in cubeville has expressed her unhappiness with the usurpation of her childhood for commercial purposes, one could also argue that the original was more or less a commercial effort anyway.
Another piece of comedy was AT&T taking their unhappiness with the whole “There’s a map for that” campaign by means of the court. Sure, this is America and we are the most litigious people in the world but sometimes we pass from the questionable to the absurd and this is one. I would recommend more spending on towers and less on lawyers, a sentiment which seems widely echoed in The Valley and on the blogosphere.
Anyway, this brings me to the quote of the day, which is from the judge who got to hear complaints that AT&T did not like the Misfit Toys spot:
"Most people who are watching TV are semi-catatonic, they're not fully alive." said U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten while commenting on the case.
Classic. Wonderfully classic.
Read more at PC World
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
This piece originally appeared on TMCnet.
Well, Sanjay Jha needed to deliver a home run with the Droid, and by all accounts he did. Unlike the past couple years, people are finally talking about Motorola and they are talking about things other than what a fine phone the RAZR was or how the company is bleeding to death in a sea of red ink. Handset news and blog sites have been verging on “all android, all the time”. Verizon has come out with their first memorable ad in recent history (check it out) and finally there are people talking about Moto in something other than funereal tones.
That said, I can’t help but wonder if they haven’t blown it.
Yep, I get the feeling that they may have blown the launch and shot too low. Let me explain…
So, I get the angry red cybernetic eye. I like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, gadgets, widgets etc. I also get the stealth fighters and the missile bombardment stuff in the ad. I like bombs and explosions and things that go boom. I am a macho gadget fetish geek and I am their target demographic and they nailed it. My heart is filled with lust for the glowing red eye monster.
The problem is, the person in the next cube over, we’ll call her Sandy, isn’t. As a matter of fact, she is repulsed and turned off by the whole thing. Sandy understands technology and mobile in general better than many of the engineers who build it. She is clueful and “gets it”, but the ads with the “creepy red eye” and all the violence are for her a huge turn off. Personally I would love to see an ad where Kimbo Slice takes on the Get a Mac guy but there are a whole bunch of people who would not.
Early adopters, hardcore geeks and macho techno supremacists are of course interesting folks and they usually want smartphones. They want badass high spec smartphones and are willing to pay for them as well. But if we are really trying to do an iPhone killer, they are not the target to shoot for. The target that the iPhone has so successfully hit is broader - the intelligent person who perhaps didn’t realize that she really wanted a smartphone, but once she has tried an iPhone found herself hooked because suddenly the power of the Internet and a meaningful Appstore was available in a pocket able form factor and it sure was cool. This is not the person who is going to be chasing after geek superiority looking after more CPU - this is the type of person who wants her technology to help her get things done and on this front they have missed the mark.
I guess Droids are from Mars and iPhones from Venus.
Now, how about that cute little green Android, where did he go?
Monday, November 9, 2009
I snuck out of the house for a little bit to spend some time down at some Brick and Mortar stores, which is always a fun thing.
In a piece published on TMCnet (available here) I wrote about how I thought that Droid was being pitched wrong and that the Angry Red Eye of Droid was not going to help sell the phone to females. Of course, over the weekend when I was at Best Buy hoping to get my sweaty hands on a live demo machine. While the Best Buy phone guy was trying to get the device activated (guess inputting *228 is harder in some cases than others) one of his coworkers, a young female, heard the word "droid" and scurried over with some excitement to check it out. Exception that proves the rule?
A further exception proving the rule was the quality time I spent with an AT&T Tilt 2, aka the HTC Touch Pro 2.
I have a special fondness in my heart for the original Tilt, which turns out to be an awesome Windows Mobile Demo phone.
The Tilt 2 is without a doubt the finest Windows Mobile device I have ever used. If you have for whatever reason decided that you must have Windows Mobile then the Tilt 2 is not going to disappoint. Big screen, responsive UI even in Touchflow 3D mode and the best mobile keyboard I have used, for those who don't mind a big hunk of technology bouncing around in pocket, this is a fine choice for a phone.
Not perfect, but a solid and well executed example of the breed.
In a way, it is sad to see Windows Mobile finally hit its stride with some of the new 6.5 devices, as it seems to be a platform which has lost its steam and mindshare, sort of like a really bright velociraptor at the end of the reign of the dinosaurs.
Then again, all this may be of little relevance. I am increasingly often seeing parents pacify their kids with iPhones and iPod touches. The thing that stands out is that even children find these devices to be intuitive and pleasurable to use. They want them, they like using them and it can be hard to reclaim the device as the child often seems reluctant to give it up.
Now, try that with a nice S60 device and let me know how hard it is to get it back from a 4 year old.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Back 40
noun - wild or rough terrain adjacent to a developed area.
This article originally appeared in a similar form on TMCnet here.
This last week marked an auspicious event for those of us rooted in Silicon Valley. The 40th anniversary of the creation (and yes, I’m not using that world lightly) of the early Internet… a single link between UCLA and SRI (http://www.lk.cs.ucla.edu/first_words.html). For four decades we’ve been working to tame that Back 40. And what taming it’s been. Every decade, speeds and applications improve a hundred-fold. On the mobile front, I can’t say mobile we’re completely there yet. I still see weeds. But we’re getting close.
So what does this mean, after all these years, when we can finally focus on reaping what we’ve sown? When we can finally turn our attention to services and applications, assuming a network infrastructure to support them? And what does it mean for the mobile operators?
With 3G (mostly) in place, you can now turn your attention to growing the subscriber base. As Morgan Stanley reported, this coming year will be the inflection point on a global level… the year that operators turn their attention to offering the types of data services optimized for mobile broadband, thanks to a billion subscribers with advanced devices. What is almost more telling is iPhone growth, a proxy for the future of advanced applications leveraging the global 3G infrastructure. Compare this growth to the geographically-limited i-mode offering, the world’s first 3G data service, offered by DoCoMo in Japan, and the urgency is clear. What urgency? What does this growth imply for your support organization when you are a Tier 1 operator with 20 million or so subscribers running around with the equivalent of PCs in their pockets?
As a contrast, in the wireline space, customers rarely call their provider. When was the last time you called AT&T, Comcast, or your local ISP? Why? Your end device… the PC or laptop… isn’t provided by the operator. You are more likely to call Microsoft, Dell, or HP with OS or hardware issues. The opposite is true with mobility. In most cases, there is an implied link between the phone and the operator, subsidy or no subsidy. Support call volumes are much greater; call types are more complex.
Unfortunately, you are only marginally staffed to even meet today’s requirements. Fast forward a few years with the majority of your subscribers calling with media, browser, and navigation issues, and it can’t be business as usual. You require a new support paradigm. As I’ve written in the past, you’ll need a real-time over-the-air link between your frontline CSR and the phone itself, capable of reading and sending configuration settings as well as diagnosing software and hardware issues. But what about updating the phone? It isn’t a day you go by without reading of some HTC issue, RIM’s plans to load their 5.0 OS onto existing phones via a desktop application, or Apple’s use of iTunes to push upwards of 5 updates a year to the iPhone.
What you’ll require is a scalable and secure way of pushing large updates OTA to the phone, be it the radio image, the embedded OS, or even applications. Think of Windows or Mac Update, but wireless. You must be able to plan mass updates in advance, targeting groups of subscribers at off-hours. And, the client code running on the phone should select the best network available for the download, including WiFi, while delaying it if necessary due to roaming or lack of 3G connectivity. The client must also be able to intelligently pick up where it left off if a download was interrupted. Needless to say, any update process must clearly explain to the user what will occur and the reason for the update. Admittedly, some of these capabilities exist with the likes of Android or even the Palm Pre today, but they must be scaled many-fold, and incorporated within an operator’s OTA solution for frontline care.
Smartphone OTA updates…. one implement for taming that Back 40.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The folks over at TelecomTV ran a story about one of Nokia's latest failures, the comes with music debacle. While the Finnish giant had made considerable noise about the service, they found but 691 customers in all of Italy and another 580 in Switzerland. Not very impressive penetration considering that central Europe is Nokia's stomping ground.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Tough times are the forge of, if not god, then at least the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith. These are tough times indeed, and like fire climax pines, the scorched earth of the valley in a downturn provides fertile soil for startups, which provided the fertilizer of cheap rent and auctionhouse desks and chairs can get a toehold on otherwise rocky soil.
Of course, even in the big fires of the Redwood Forests in California, you don't tend to get scorched earth. While many of the smaller and weaker plants end up returning to the carbon cycle, the bigger and more vigorous redwoods often end up strong as they were before but with less competition for nourishment and light.
At InnoPath, we have been very fortunate through the downturn so far. Sure, things have been rough for many, but in tough times you find the big players are looking for ways to get more from less and that is where our products, Over The Air customer care software, come into the picture. Like snowshoes in a nuclear winter.
Deloitte, a leading audit, consulting, financial advisory and risk management firm is in the job of finding snowshoes, parkas, snow mobiles and other objects useful in nuclear winters. With their expertise across a wide variety of markets and businesses, they are in a unique position to sort the wheat from the chaff, something they do well with their Technology Fast 500 program.
Quoting from the Deloitte website:
Each year companies rally behind innovation, break down obstacles and systematically defy the odds. We salute their efforts with the Technology Fast 500™ program, a ranking of the 500 fastest-growing technology companies in the United States and Canada.
Established in 1997 in California's "Silicon Valley," the program is based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth over a five year period, recognizes all areas of technology — from Internet to life sciences, from computers to semiconductors — and includes both public and private companies.
Anyway, my favorite little software company from Sunnyvale made the list at #238.
Here is the Press Release.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time in Japan, a wonderful wonderful place, particularly when you speak the language. Even if you don't speak Japanese, the country is very English friendly, most can speak at least a little bit and very welcoming. That said, reality is often far weirder and more unexpected than whatever you might imagine so being able to parse the protocol does add to the experience.
The picture above probably doesn't remind you much of an Apple store, does it? Then again, perhaps it shouldn't. It wouldn't really be Japan without attractive young women wearing Space: 1999 costumes pushing electronic gear in an overamped, overcrowded frenzy. I don't recall if this was Yodobashi Camera or some similar place, but it was in Akihabara, an odd and peculiar place at the very core of Geek Chic, a place where costume play, manga, anime, maid cafes and all the latest and greatest gadgets, widgets and toys all come together in a frantic mass of churning, burning consumption.
Apple's iPhone, when initially launched in Japan July 10, 2008, was regarded as a lukewarm success at best. It lacked features, it wasn't a portrait formfactor clamshell, no keyboard, no special animated messaging characters. A foreign oddity, a misborn, malformed freak unsuited to survival in the rarified air of the Japanese hyperphones, a gimpy cripple doomed to playground bullying and a life best characterized as traumatic, brutal and short.
However, as seen here: http://plusd.itmedia.co.jp/mobile/articles/0909/18/news086.html things are less grim for the feisty little scrapper from Cupertino than you might think.
Rankings courtesy of Wireless Watch Japan (thanks for a great site, Lars!)
Yes, of the Top 10 Handsets in Japan, 3 are iPhone variants, including the #1 slot. This is in spite of being on the SoftBank network, a newcomer in a deeply conservative land where many still view Toyota as being a car for an adult but a new, wet behind the ears company like Honda? Bit too new, best for ricer kids, car from an unproven company lacking in history and depth like that.
Wonder what would happen if it was available on DoCoMo and KDDI as well? In France, it seems the answer is about 40% market share.
It is not clear that this would happen in Japan, but it is clear what has happened with SoftBank since the launch of the iPhone.
7/2008: 19.1m total market 103.6m (18.44% share)
1/2009: 20.0m total market 105.8m (18.89% share)
9/2009: 21.1m total market 108.9m (19.37% share)
Windows Mobile is a bit of an enigma in the marketplace, not only due to confusion regarding 6.5 and 7.0 strategy, but around whether or not Microsoft will deliver an integrated platform. A recent article in Fierce Wireless by Mike Dano (http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/chill-through-windows-mobile/2009-09-24?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal) added fuel to the fire in regard to what is to become of Windows Mobile in the face of handset vendor defection. The flip side of the WM story are the rumored Pink devices (http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2009/09/23/images-of-microsofts-mass-market-turtle-and-pure-handsets-leak-out/) which could very well be the way that Microsoft regains vertically integrated control of the OS and hardware, successfully demonstrated by Apple and more recently, Palm.
But beyond absolute market share, what is important is application availability, a good proxy for what handsets a consumer will actually go out and buy. This sets the stage for future success, since everyone can build a phone with GPS and a big touchscreen. We’re already seeing the shift in OS dominance, from the legacy to the new, and based on applications and internet use. Just this week AdMob issued its latest update (http://metrics.admob.com/2009/09/august-2009-mobile-metrics-report/), showing just how the tide has turned. The iPhone had taken the #1 share (40%) from Symbian (34%), and both Android and webOS had strong showings at 7% and 4% respectively. RIM was at 8% and WM at 4%.
So, application availability should translate into a given OEM’s decision to support a platform (or not). Per the chart below, most vendors are fragmented in their Open OS support, even if they have only a few % of the global smartphone market. Nokia, the largest, is probably the best positioned of the ‘independents’ due to its Symbian experience and up-and-coming Maemo support. The real issue with Nokia has been its inability to counter Apple, even in its home territory of Western Europe. Motorola has taken a more focused course, placing most of its technical and marketing weight behind Android while continuing to support WM due to its strong enterprise footprint. This seems a reasonable approach and from all accounts, the CLIQ is a fine device. They’ve spent their time on matching the hardware to the OS. Unfortunately, this was not the case with HTC’s first generation Android G1, and issue addressed with the Hero.
HTC, best known for Windows Mobile devices, is now doubling down with Android. They can’t walk away from their WM legacy, but if the Hero is any indicator, their Android devices will be successful. That leaves LG, Samsung, and Sony-Ericsson, all three at the bottom of the table below, and all three fragmented in their Open OS strategy at the same time they are transitioning from legacy OSs.
Sony-Ericsson has stated that they must support all three – Symbian, Android, and Windows Mobile – to hit different geographies and market segments. But are they large enough to support the engineering and support base? Samsung and LG, though larger, are still less of a factor in the Open OS space. Samsung and LG, BTW, are also members of LiMo, as evidenced by Vodafone’s 360 announcement highlighting Samsung LiMO devices. The recommendation would be for all three vendors to take a strategic view of their market approach including tiers, geographies, and operator customers and then each prune at least one platform from their roadmap. All three have their own UI approaches. They could apply their engineering resources to perfecting this on one or two platforms, building a user experience that would begin to approach Apple.
As to the Chinese, I don’t see any reason for them to adopt anything other than Android, or in some cases, some other Linux variant. The logic when looking at application support, cost of development, and installed base just isn’t there. It permits them to better focus their development efforts and customer support, and by relying on an easily adaptable OS foundation they will be better able to apply their efforts towards differentiation (i.e., at the UI level as HTC has done with Sense on Android or TouchFlo3D on Windows Mobile) vs OS maintenance and other forms of reinventing the wheel.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
This week, I’ll couple it with a perspective from the developer community, and what it means for the future success or lack thereof of the various Open OS platforms.
Next week I’ll fold in the handset vendor perspective, discussing whether they should spread their development across multiple platforms, or stick to one or two. Their future success could hang in the balance.
It goes without saying that Apple, in a relatively short time, has garnered the greatest mindshare amongst developers, independent of any perception as to the transparency with the application approval process. Apple has built sufficient momentum with regard to the types of applications available and cost points, including a wide variety of low-cost applications, try-and-buy, and ease of application discovery.
The Android Market in contrast is still on the upswing, and according to Admob, it has a ways to go to compete with Apple. The survey found that 55 percent of Android users have not yet downloaded an application from the store, in contrast to only 23 percent of iPhone users. Admob goes on to state that although the checkout process may be holding back subscribers, the real culprit is the lack of quality applications and mainstream software.
Applications are the outgrowth of a critical mass of developers, and as of August, 2009, the iPhone footprint was 40 times that of Android. More recently, Motorola and others have stated that application organization within the Market requires improvement. The new 1.6 release is expected to address some of these concerns.
The veteran, Symbian, claims the largest development community, but to its disadvantage, applications have traditionally been scattered, mostly handled by legacy operator platforms or 3rd parties. Nokia with its Ovi service and Sony Ericsson with its Play Now Arena are attempting to counter this, but their devices each only hold a portion of an operator’s network, and this varies by geography. In addition, users may not naturally gravitate to their handset vendor for applications as their primary financial relationship is with their operator.
On the operator front, efforts such as Vodafone’s 360 could help facilitate application awareness, but operator offerings do not build platform identity or directly address the developer issue.
At the same time, Symbian itself is in a transition to an open source model, and after the ^4 release, applications will no longer be backward compatible. This too will influence application development. Further confusing the Symbian issue is Nokia’s move to its Linux-based Maemo for some platforms and Sony-Ericsson dividing its loyalty across Symbian, Windows Mobile and Android. Neither vendor may therefore be considered as a proponent for the ultimate Symbian appstore.
Perhaps the Symbian Foundation will rise to the occasion, but at present the foundation’s Horizon initiative is more to act as a publisher to make sure that Symbian applications are available on 3rd party app stores such as Ovi, and the continued comfort of developers working within the framework of the foundation is unknown. This could create further fragmentation vs the centralized models of Apple and Android, as developers may need to maintain financial relationships with multiple operators and handset vendors. Additionally, one would expect that Nokia will begin to develop an application ecosystem around Malmo, influencing the prominence it places on Symbian.
Microsoft is only now launching its Marketplace with Windows Mobile 6.5, while the Blackberry App World launched at CTIA in Spring, 2009 enjoys moderate success. Both Samsung and LG also intend to launch stores in the near future, with both positioned as multi-OS in the same way as Ovi and Sony-Ericsson. Finally, the dark-horse platform with a great deal of promise is Palm’s WebOS, though the developer community is still quite small due to a minimal installed base. Nevertheless, in a short period of time and with minimal device penetration, it has garnered mindshare.
The graphic below helps clarify the various relationships. iPhone and Android developers need only maintain a financial relationship with their respective App Stores, and in the case of Android, will develop to a single, controlled ‘flavor’ despite support from different handset vendors (i.e., HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson). Developers for RIM take two paths.
The first is via the branded App Store, and the second is to the operator directly. Here, unless RIM’s App World acts as a strong broker, the developer may need to maintain a relationship with each operator. This of course won’t scale. However, development itself is still contained based on strong RIM device guidelines.
Development for Windows Mobile is more complicated. Although Microsoft has announced the Marketplace, it will take time to develop. The developer therefore must maintain a relationship with one or more operators, and at the same time the handset vendors who are launching their own storefronts. Design guidelines may also be more flexible than RIM or Apple, so a developer may need to be cognizant of handset vendor specific implementations. If successful, the Marketplace option could be the best path for the developer.
Symbian is more complex and fragmented, with no strong storefront or broker with the exception of the foundation’s Horizon. The developer at present must maintain a financial relationship with multiple handset vendors as well as with multiple operators. In addition, the various flavors of S60 result in software fragmentation, and the emergence of the foundation only adds to the confusion. Clearly, a better solution along the lines of the Windows Marketplace is required.
Here's a graphic display that I call "The Developer’s Conundrum: Application Development Ecosystems":
Separate from developer support, how do the various OSs stack up with regard to their UI, browser, and vendor support? Credit Suisse recently released a report (Smart Phones...Smarter Investments, Aug 31, 2009) looking at the smartphone market, as well as vendor and OS strengths and weaknesses. As expected, when taking the OS view, Apple is Number 1. Palm’s new webOS is 2nd, though limited in deployment, has some of the same advantages as to the UI and browser, as does Android, which is at 3. In fact, both platforms are close in the ranking and if market adoption was included, Android would be ahead. RIM, Symbian, and Windows Mobile all trail, within a few points of each other. The chart reaffirms the position that Android is the strongest ‘open’ OS (i.e., applications not controlled by a single entity as is the case with Apple). As I mentioned, next week I’ll look at how this compares to the vendor view. So what are the impacts on the developer community?
Ideally, an operator would embrace those platforms that combine large developer communities with ease of implementation. In addition to hardware design and usability, customers no longer wish to be limited to the traditional operator-controlled walled-garden and will seek out those devices with the widest application variety. Other than the iPhone, Android seems to be best positioned here for the mass market and in fact is a more open ecosystem. The success of Blackberry’s App World, Microsoft’s Marketplace, or the Symbian Horizon approach is too early to determine, though they could be more viable within an operator-controlled store. This is the approach Blackberry is taking with Verizon’s V CAST Apps Store as described last week.
Focusing on a small number of platforms will also help the operator or handset to focus its engineering, marketing, and support resources, and will also help to build loyalty by creating a critical mass of supporters . This is the path taken by the more successful operators, and given recent confusion over whether Verizon Wireless will or will not carry the Palm Pre, it is obviously top-of-mind.
Take a look at these Credit Suisse smartphone OS rankings:
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
A lot has been written recently regarding appstores and the role, or lack thereof, of the mobile operator. Regarding roles, it is not that operators have been unaware, or that they’ve not tried in this space. Every mobile operator has their ‘legacy’ store, and the term walled garden would be an understatement. Ever been to one? What Apple has done with their App Store, and to a lesser extent, Android with its Market, is that they have reset the bar on usability and convenience for the subscriber, as well as ease of development (and thus building a critical mass within the development community).
The cat is out of the bag, so to speak, with Apple, but operators still have the chance to play what they consider to be their rightful role. The key to success will be to balance the points mentioned above with their business model, a model different from the OS platform provider. It embraces the notion of an open and dynamic market for applications across platforms, and the role that the operator may play in brokering applications across the various open OSs supported within their network.
Verizon Wireless, based on their announcements, is taking this approach. As reported in Verizon to its smartphones: thou shalt have no other app store before mine (Jul 13, 2009), the operator will handle all billing and will have control over what 3rd party appstores and applications are made available on the handset out-of-the-box when its V CAST Apps Store launches before the end of 2009. They will revenue share with the application developers, and a subscriber will only need his or her single Verizon account for payments. A customer will still be able to access a 3rd party appstore directly but only after taking the initiative to download the specific portal software for the store.
In Verizon’s favor, the operator promises a more streamlined application approval process than that for Apple, and is pushing for a set of common standards that would permit application developers to more easily adapt their applications for multiple OSs. Verizon has traditionally maintained more control over the user experience, and this approach seems to align with this.
Verizon states that developers will retain 70% of the proceeds, which is equal to that of Apple but a change from what mobile operators took in the past. This is acknowledgement that Verizon understands this new world, a world very different from the very limited operator-driven software portals of the past. They understand that they either create a business model and user experience equal to Apple or Google, or get cut out of the equation. In addition, there are larger issues at play. As Shaw Wu in The Wall Street Journal pointed out, an effective appstore is also key to facilitating hardware sales. Users are no longer interested in just a static hardware platform. Just like the PC, they expect applications and capabilities to evolve.
Telefonica with its planned ‘mstore’ offering (http://saladeprensa.telefonica.es/jsp/base.jsp?contenido=/jsp/notasdeprensa/notadetalle.jsp&id=0&origen=portada&idm=eng&pais=1&elem=13765&titulo=Telef%F3nica%20launches%20'mstore',...) is also taking the same approach, leveraging Telefonica’s strong Movistar branding. What is interesting is that they plan to eventually launch across their operating companies, a user base of 200M. This will provide developers with a critical mass for development. They have described the organization structure, application pricing, but have not detailed platforms supported or how mstore will interact with the likes of Microsoft’s Marketplace or Android’s Market. Much like Verizon, Movistar-branded handsets will have the store application pre-installed.
These are just two current examples of operators getting into the game. Others will follow. But what OS platforms will succeed? Where should operators place their efforts? Next time around I’ll look at the operator appstore from the perspective of the OS platform, taking guesses on which will succeed based on the strength of their developer communities as opposed to only looking at OS features and hardware.
By Jason Lackey, Marketing Manager, Innopath Software
Thursday, September 10, 2009
On the heels of a pulled BB Bold update (http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2009/09/04/att-pulls-blackberry-bold-software-upgrade/), rumors have it that they’ve now issued a recall on the recently launched Nokia Mural (http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2009/09/10/att-stops-all-sales-of-the-nokia-mural/) due to erroneous 2G vs 3G settings set at the factory. What is interesting is that the internal announcement hints of an available software update. Given that FOTA has proven to be both reliable and scalable at at least one other NA operator, the question is why AT&T doesn’t push an update to the impacted Murals. Is only a cabled update available and has Nokia not provided an OTA package due to the severity of the problem? Or, could FOTA have addressed the issue but the Mural is not FOTA capable? In this day and age, that seems hard to believe, but I’ve not seen evidence that FOTA is active on the handset. Any deeper insights into what could have been an easily prevented embarrassment?
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Thus, our latest office, in Paris:
52, rue de la Victoire, TMF Pôle
75009 Paris, France.
+ 33 1 56 53 63 60
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Native speakers of English and those using relatively plain versions of the Roman Alphabet have it easy with regards to high tech in general and computers and computer-like devices. The reason I say this is that since many of these things were either invented or refined in English speaking countries support of English and the Roman Alphabet is usually pretty good. In fact, these might be the only language and character set choices available. Great for Americans, not so wonderful for others.
Although InnoPath is based in the US, we try to be a very international company. Part of this is we have to. Our market is global, our customers are all over the world. Part of this is a conscious decision and part of this is the organic result of having a very diverse staff at our Silicon Valley headquarters along with offices in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Mumbai, London and Atlanta.
This international perspective is reflected not only in our attitudes and workforce, it is also reflected in our products. The ability to deliver the UI in the user's native language makes a real difference. The US is spoiled, here we demand everything in English and people don't even like to see movies with subtitles. Other countries should be able to enjoy products and services in the native language of the user but far too often such is not the case. With the InnoPath Care Portal the portal reads the browser's language settings and presents the UI in the user's language of choice. Certainly many people over the world can read and function in English, but it provides the user with a better and more welcoming experience when they can work in their native language.
Internationalization (i18n) also known as Globalization - is the process of designing and building your product in such a way that it can easily be adapted to a number of different languages and locales. Some of the factors include being able to effectively deal with foreign characters - Roman alphabet with diacritical marks, non-Roman characters such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, Hindi etc. Unicode, a character set containing all the world's scripts (or at least many of the world's scripts) is often used. Challenges include coping with left to right as well as right to left and/or up to down reading direction, handing text input and coping with a variety of input method editors.
Localization (L10n) is the process of taking a product and translating it for a particular locale or language. If a product has been properly internationalized from the start then this is an easier process. For example, the InnoPath Care Portal contains text for the UI in a resource file. This makes it easy to edit the text of the UI without touching the code. A non-globalized approach might have text for the UI hardwired into the code, meaning that any changes will involve hunting through and changing the code, a time consuming and potentially risky process. Places sharing the same or similar languages may treat things like address, dates and times differently, so these concerns would have to be addressed as well.
Friday, August 21, 2009
While weird and wonderful in their home market, Japanese device makers have had trouble selling their phones abroad, largely due to this divergent evolution of the market where features considered a necessity in Japan are not seen elsewhere. This problem is called the Galapagos Syndrome.
That said, let’s take a look at some of the unique features of Japanese mobile phones.
QR Code (two-dimensional bar code)
While many phones technically can read QR Codes, the two-dimensional bar codes seen in many Japanese ads, this is a technology not widely used or understood in the US. You can almost think of it as mobile Cue Cat except that, at least in Japan, QR has caught on and is widely used. This helps overcome the not so fun task of multitap/T9 input of long URLs.
You see a young couple saying goodbye on the street. Then you notice they are pointing their phones at each other like they were taking tricorder readings. The tricorder must have some good news, because both smile and bow and go their separate ways. What you just saw was the exchange of contact info over IR. Infrared, being short range and line of sight, is good for the semisecure exchange of info like contacts. Because it is short range and line of sight, it can be secure without having all sorts of passwords get in the way and it is a lot easier to do than to manually input a long, complex email address by hand.
Osaifu-Keitai is trademark of NTT DoCoMo, meaning Wallet-Mobile Phone. This technology uses Sony's Mobile FeliCa ICs. "Osaifu-Keitai" uses NFC radio and provides electronic money, credit card, electronic ticket, membership card, airline ticket, and other functionality. At convenience stores, you only need to hold a phone over a machine at the casher to purchase anything if you have enough money on your phone, which saves time and is very convenient. More from docomo.
One-Seg is a mobile terrestrial digital audio/ video and data broadcasting service. One-Seg is free and in many cases is used to watch TV on the handset. 86% of handsets shipping in Japan ship with One-Seg.
Japanese featurephones have been application friendly for a while, a feature which in combination with the powerful hardware helps blur the lines between a Japanese featurephone and a traditional smartphone. Games, including 3D shooters and the like requiring hardware acceleration, are available, but beware, downloads and use can chew up a lot of data which is expensive unless you have an unlimited plan.
Animated Emoticons and Email Decoration (cHTML email)
Japan is big on the cult of kawaii, people old and young all love “cute” and cHTML email puts the cute into mobile mail with animated emoticons, graphics, backgrounds and the like. This is particularly popular with women and children. There are more and more cute pictures, so actually I enjoying receiving new ones from my friends. You can reuse emoticons and pictures you have received, making this a fun, social feature. This feature was said to be one of the barrier to entry into the Japan market for the iPhone, which did not support this feature. Here is KDDI's page on this feature in Japanese.
So, just like the Galapagos Islands, Japan is a small island country and mobile phones, like the blue footed boobie, have taken on unique forms and colors to better meet local requirements. Sadly this supreme adaptation to local conditions, while useful in the native environment, makes life harder once off the island.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Recession? What recession? We are busy, as in we have more work that we have people. As in we need help! The wireless business has, far more than many other industries, weathered the recession fairly well. Customer care and mobile device management, as slices of the larger wireless industry, done very well themselves.
Part of the reason for this is the Rise of the Superphone. Sure, we all knew that the day of the Smartphone was coming, but it was not clear how fast and how hard it was going to hit. Just today we learn that Smartphones have taken 28% of the US market. The additional functionality of smartphones is great, especially for powerusers. However, with power comes complexity and with complexity comes difficult support. Difficult as in long phone calls to do things like fix email etc.
Another part of the equation is that while support is always a place where operators are going to want to find ways of being more efficients, during rough economic times it goes without saying that mobile operators are going to want to save money on support, which is one of their largest expenses.
Other things contributing to things being busy around here include megatrends like The Rise of the Rest. For too long a disproportionate amount of the world's wealth and power have been concentrated in too few hands, leading to vast, global imbalances. With the rise of the BRIC and other nations, taking their rightful places at the table, global demand for wireless is rising and countries like India are no longer just buying cheap dumbphones, devices like the N97 are selling briskly there. Wonderful stuff!
We are also seeing trends like the Third Screen (ie the mobile screen) being the Only Screen for many millions of subscribers around the world. It used to be taken for granted that someone wealthy enough to own a smartphone would be wealthy enough to own a PC to run Nokia PC Suite or iTunes on. As it turns out, this is not necessarily the case anymore. Many can buy and desperately want a nice smartphone but may not be able to afford or really want a desktop PC. Guess for those people their updates are coming over-the-air, at a brick and mortar, or not at all. Hmmmm...wonder which way is cheapest and most convenient?
Anyway, we are hiring. Check out our Jobs Page but don't be overly fussy about the exact job description. We are hiring in many groups across the organization and if you have significant experience and/or expertise in Java, Oracle, Weblogic, Solaris, IP/SS7 networking, technical writing and even product marketing our recruiter would probably like to talk to you.
Just like the Jesus Jones song says, "Right here, right now, there's no other place I want to be."
Monday, August 17, 2009
I’m remembering back to my Driver’s Ed and the videos they ran. In the same way that alcohol was compared to a drug, it is even easier to make the comparison to texting. It’s not like you drank 200 beers in a day, but that many SMSs is common amongst hard-core users. And though we jokingly draw comparisons to our Blackberries, calling them ‘crackberries’ in reference to another well-known drug, the urge to email when first waking up won’t do fatal damage to those around you (the impact on your relationship could be another matter, though).
California is one of the states that has banned texting while driving, and just last week announced a crackdown, countering those that claim the law is ineffective. Southern California was also the site of a texting incident last year on a commuter train in which a number of people died.
So, it’s not like texting is a bad thing. Just take it in moderation, and at the right time and place.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Some industries seem to feel that they have the right to abuse their customers. In the US, airlines are one. While most have grown used to surly trolls bitterly tossing tiny bags of peanuts, once in a while even US domestic airlines rise above the threshold and venture into new and uncharted territory. In a previous post, we talked about United and their collective hatred of guitars: http://thecsr.blogspot.com/2009/07/customer-service-epic-fail-united.html, but Continental recently outdid them with a mini hostage crisis where pax (passengers) were kept on the plane overnight until 6:30 in the morning despite no food, little drink, crying babies and an increasingly rank smell. Bloomberg has more on this: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aGBrdHwGc3x4
You can keep pax or subs hostage for a short time, but later they tend to remember that they did not enjoy it very much. Hopefully this lesson will not be lost.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Apple has a way of getting things right, both with product and with the branding around the product. Then again, they have passionate people who are fanatic about the customer experience from ad, through the unboxing until product end of life and these people pay attention to the whole thing from end to end. Speaking of Apple, remember the Ellen Feiss Switch Ad? Classic! Well, her long lost twin was recently found in Santa Cruz at a City Council meeting!
Friday, July 31, 2009
David Pogue of the New York Times is on the warpath. While perhaps not as passionate or heartfelt as Marvin Heemeyer's killdozer rampage, his "Take Back the Beep" Campaign has certainly ruffled some feathers and caused some difficult questions to be asked.
The basic premise is this: the voicemail instructions you hear when calling many mobile devices are too long and are there for the purpose of racking up billable minutes. By Mr. Pogue's math, this works out to about $620 million per year for a large North American Tier 1.
Of course, there is a flip side. I used to run a corporate helpdesk and anyone in the business of providing technical support will back me up - you can never be too clear, too explicit or repeat yourself too often when you are trying to provide the general public with instructions for using some widget or service, no matter how simple. Sure, the instructions burn cycles and take time, but it could be argued that being less clear would leave at least some customers clueless and that would result in an even greater burden in terms of total time spent on support calls for people trying to figure out how to use voicemail.
I hope the Komatsu D355A stays in the garage!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The recent AT&T/Apple/Google fiasco with the banning of the Google Voice App from the Apple App Store highlights the type of issues and conflicting perspectives that the industry will increasingly face, with the dawn of 4G helping to bring things to a head.
Let me explain. The operators, being large and profitable, like the way they have been doing business and would like mobile to continue to look like wireline services just without the wires. They want to deliver a service with the reliability and predictability of a utility.
Subscribers, increasingly raised on IP and the internet, have different expectations. They see services, the network and devices from the perspective of an internet user - they can (for some, perhaps should) come from different places. The operator carries the bits, someone makes the phone and services exist in the cloud. Oh, yeah, almost forgot, the services should also be free.
Of course there are regional market differences. For example, Gmail and Yahoo don't get much mobile love in Japan, where most people tend to use operator provided mobile mail accounts. Europeans seem to have a better understanding of handsets not needing to come from the operator, probably due to the dominance of GSM, while in the US near universal subsidies and sim locks on GSM devices help curb the view of the mobile terminal as being something not tied to the network. However, the tide is turning.
Which brings us to the slippery slope. Folks like Apple insist on control as that is the only way they can guarantee a good user experience and that sometimes things that would be impactful in a bad way will be verboten. Fine. What about things that don't break or harm the phone or network but that the operator doesn't like for business reasons? VoIP, for example. The operator may want to block such things, but is this in the best interest of the subscriber? Microsoft, for example, believes that Internet Explorer provides the best possible user experience for PC users, but the EU seems to differ.
Long term, I suspect that the world of wireless will come to more closely resemble the internet, but it will take some time and there will be some bumps in the road. Just like some ISPs try to block p2p traffic, you will also see some operators try to block apps they see as threats, but I suspect that long term the operators will come to see stuff that runs over their data networks as being good because it drives demand for data. Until then, expect an occasionally bumpy ride.