Why Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 is the best way to pee in your pants

DISCLAIMER: I work for Nokia, Forum Nokia.
DISCLAIMER 2: What I am going to say here is exclusively my own thinking and analysis and based only on what is publicly known.
I have no insight on why and how the decisions were made, no insight of any behind-doors-agreements, gossip or promises.
What I am writing here is simply the result of my thinking based on what I have read and heard in the public announcements. Continue reading “Why Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 is the best way to pee in your pants”

Google, Apple and the Internet OS

The other day I was reading a great post by Tim O’Reilly entitled The State of the Internet Operating System. It’s a long article if you are used to the average blog post (not very different from what this one will be!), but it’s worth reading all of it.

Now, if you are done reading it, I wonder if you agree with him or not. When I started reading and probably up to one third, I was not understanding where he was going to end up, but then I had a A-HA moment and all of sudden I realised what he means and I completely agree. It is something that has been in my mind for a while, but I was never able to put it down in words as well as Tim O’Reilly did. One of the reasons recently I’ve been paying particular attention to where I sign in, which cookies are in browser and where I go is that I can see where Google are going and how they are expanding their APIs and how developers are using them more and more. Google are amazing at how they are identifying growing trends, developing new technologies or acquiring companies and integrating their existing products. Add to this their release speed and you have an amazing juggernaut heading to the conquest of the Internet Operating System. They are obviously dominating the Web and you don’t need me to tell you that they are doing very well with APIs. Come in mobile devices and more in general mobile computing. Google have not left any base uncovered and they have the already successful Android and the upcoming Chrome OS. Then at the latest Google I/O the Google TV is announced in partnership with Sony, a company that has always tried to develop its own technologies and keep them as closed as possible. If they have given up to Google it means Google is giving them something that is worth a lot.
Continue reading “Google, Apple and the Internet OS”

My 3 euro iPad stand

I will not mention how I could not resist buying an iPad while visiting a friend in NYC, but I will say that while I love using it on the couch, when watching movies I like to have have it standing on a table or desk. When I bought it the kind Apple store seller offered me a cover in fake-leather (very disappointing!) for just 40USD that could also be used as a stand. I was not impressed at all and decided not to get it and save the 40 dollars for a later occasion.

When I was at home the other day I noticed an unused plate stand that seemed perfect and in fact IT IS perfect for my iPad. Here is a picture:

Also, you can find as many as you wish online and if you get it in clear plastic like mine you won’t even notice it. Looks perfect to me!

Apple headphones are crap

I got my first iPod many years ago (even if I was not an early adopter at all!) and the headphones that came with it were crap. They were the classic plastic headphones that you can buy anywhere for 2 Euro. I don’t know about you, but when I use them for more than 1 hour they hurt my ears.

Later I bought the first generation of Apple in-ear headphones and while they never hurt my ears they actually never worked properly. I expect them to remain in my ear for more than 10-20 minutes without having to keep pushing back in. Yes, I tried the other plugs that came with it and no big change.

Following a friend’s recommendation I bought some really expensive Shure in-ear headphones. While the Apple’s in-ears costed me about 50 Euro, that was money thrown down the drain, while the Shure have been rocking for more than 2 years now and I am really satisfied.

When I got the 3GS a couple of weeks ago it came with the original plastic-headphones. I had seen some presentation that explained how better they were, so I gave them another opportunity and the result is, I’m afraid, that they still hurt. 😦

If you are planning on buying headphones, please, consider buying some good ones, Shure, Sennheiser, Atomic Floyd all make great ones. It will seem like you are spending way more, initially, but if you use them regularly it’s a well worth expense.

Maps and navigation innovation

For quite a few years in-car navigation has been a very good business. Companies kept improving their hardware and selling every other year (if not within a year) a new device to their customers. I am talking about the navigation systems like TomTom and Garmin, not those that you buy integrated in your car, of course.

The interface had, over the years, small improvements and refinements, but hardly any major change. While Garmin was the leader up to 5 or 6 years ago, at least in Europe TomTom has taken a clear lead both in pricing and UI. Some might argue Garmin has better accuracy, but it’s not SOO much better, in my opinion. Companies like Navigon have tried some innovation, but they haven’t conquered enough market share, at least until now.

Then mobile devices entered the game. It happened in various small steps like the introduction of GPS chips and Nokia’s acquisition of NAVTEQ.
Also, Apple has proven that people LOVE maps on their phones and need something that is not necessarily a navigation system while driving. See for example slides 5 and 11 from this great presentation by Skyhook (the technology providers for location services on iPhones and other devices).

Nokia has come with some interesting application, service and business model, see the Ovi Maps and these 2 demo videos. It is very interesting, it is definitely going to hit Garmin and TomTom, but it’s still a paid service, so it will not kill the other businesses.

Apple has quitely acquired a company called Placebase. This confirms the interest of mobile device makers in location and maps services (and probably also adds to the current Google-Apple competition). Obviously, relying on Google’s Maps wasn’t good enough for Apple, hence expect some innovation here. It will have to be seen what they can achieve when competing with Nokia’s technology acquired from NAVTEQ and Google, it cannot be just eyecandy.

Now comes in Google with Android 2 and the new maps service. There’s a good quick look from TechCrunch, Google Redefines GPS Navigation Landscape: Google Maps Navigation For Android 2.0. Google’s service is going to be free to use and comes in an Open Source OS. Not only, it comes with some very interesting innovation in the UI and service such as the use of Street View, the ability to search for Points of Interest on your route and traffic alerts. Yes, points of interest have been there for a while, but how good are they? It doesn’t seem to me like they can be compared with Google Maps on the web. I expect this on-device service to be as good.

OpenStreetMap proves that you can create a good map with crowd sourcing and if Google is going to be in millions of phones within next year, it will not be hard to add a small button that makes you share “anonymous” data to Google so that they can track a lot of information with minimal effort (it’s not hard to guess there’s a motorway when you’re traveling at 150km/h on a straight line).

What is the future of companies like TomTom, Garmin, or even those that sold maps? Who can provide the level of detail that Google will have?

Predictions on the Apple Tablet/Netbook

Here I am, on a nice Samsung NC10, according to a personal survey one of the most popular netbooks these days (every single netbook at dotMobi is an NC10!). I really wanted an Apple netbook, but it’s not coming and Apple seems reluctant to release one or at least according to their public announcements, the last one just a few weeks ago.

My own take on this is that they are still not happy with what they have and certainly they have no plans to compete with the 200-300 USD products such as the Dell Mini 9 (AMAZING price for a whole laptop).

If I look at the general Apple trends and the technologies they rolled out in the last year or two, I have a list of features that I think they will (or would) include in a netbook if they ever released.

Let’s start from the display which of course determines the overall size and is often identified as the main battery-eater. In line with the latest Apple products, it should be an LED monitor and should be 10 or at most 11 inches. Smaller than that you should use an iPhone, bigger you should buy a 13″ MacBook or MacBook Air. I am not going into the reasons why you would want a 10″ laptop, I’m using it just now and I know a lot of users that are happy with this size. Even though admittedly very small, it is VERY portable.

The hard disk will not be there or rather, it will be SSD memory. The MacBook Air had it since launch and even if expensive it has a number of advantages such as that it’s not a movable part (very important in an ultra-portable), uses less battery, weights less. Apple has already leveraged the technology and know exactly how to use it and what the downsides might be. The Dell Mini 9 has a ridiculous 4GB SSD, Apple should do something better, the Air has 128GB, for a netbook 80 or 100 might be enough even though these days space is never enough.

Now think about the experience Apple has with engineering design, casing of the new 17″ MacBookPros and the MacBook Air, you can expect that it will be VERY light and very thin. I doubt it can be much thinner than the Air, so I would expect it in the range or 1.8cm in the thickest point and the weight should be around 1.2kg VERY attractive.

The small details: no ethernet, wifi 802.11n, bluetooth, 1 USB. Pretty much like the Air.

I think the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix has an interesting UI, clearly optimised for such a small laptop with limited resources. I would not be surprised if Apple came with a version of OS X optimised for these power CPUs and small screens. It would be slick as usual, simple and effective, as Apple has got us used to. Could be touch screen, but I think it will not be, if you want tactile feedback it needs to be thicker than what you can get with an LED display and they will want to be able to say it’s the lightest and thinnest of all. I would expect a comfortable keyboard, or at least as much as it can get in such a device. I repeat, a comfortable keyboard and this should rule out a large multitouch trackpad that also acts as a keyboard, users still need tactile feedback while typing (did I mention how impressed I am by the NC10 keyboard?).

If you factor in all these specs, add the Apple premium price, it is going to be in the price range of 1000 USD (or Euro as they are pretty much the same at least in Apple’s mind). It’s a high price for a netbook, but Sony has already done that, they paved the way, consumers will not be so surprised by the price and I can see them queuing to get one. 1000 is still a reasonable price for a computer, do you remember how much we used to pay for laptops 2 years ago?

Safari 4 like Chrome lets you kill unresponsive windows?

The other day I had some background process taking up a lot of CPU while synchronising some data. I knew it would be slow and so I decide to read some news on the web. One of the pages I opened had some flash in it and after a few seconds a popup appeared asking if I wanted to kill that window. I assume that the background processes PLUS the greedy Flash player were making everything too slow.

It is interesting though that this is clearly a feature that appeared first in Chrome and apparently has propagated to Safari. A good feature, of course!

SecurityFocus on mobile devices for the first time?

SecurityFocus Newsletter #485 is I think the first issue of the newsletter where mobile devices are listed. 2 issues have been reported one about the iPod Touch and iPhone and the other about the Nokia 6131, both are vulnerable to remote attacks on the browser.

The interest for security on mobile browsers is yet another proof that mobile is about to take over the rest of connected-electronics.

4. Nokia 6131 Multiple Vulnerabilities
BugTraq ID: 30716
Remote: Yes
Last Updated: 2009-01-05
Relevant URL: http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/30716
Nokia 6131 is prone to multiple vulnerabilities.

The device is affected by URI-spoofing and denial-of-service issues.

Remote attackers may spoof the source URI of a site to direct users to a malicious location and trigger crashes in an affected device.

23. Apple iPhone and iPod Touch Prior to Version 2.0 Multiple Remote Vulnerabilities
BugTraq ID: 30186
Remote: Yes
Last Updated: 2009-01-05
Relevant URL: http://www.securityfocus.com/bid/30186
Apple iPhone and iPod touch are prone to multiple remote vulnerabilities:

1. A vulnerability that may allow users to spoof websites.
2. An information-disclosure vulnerability.
3. A buffer-overflow vulnerability.
4. Two memory-corruption vulnerabilities.

Successfully exploiting these issues may allow attackers to execute arbitrary code, crash the affected application, obtain sensitive information, or direct unsuspecting victims to a spoofed site; other attacks are also possible.

These issues affect iPhone 1.0 through 1.1.4 and iPod touch 1.1 through 1.1.4.

Apple Safari to support WML?

I was checking the latest changes of the webKit nightly to see if it’s worth updating my current nightly (about 1 month old) to something fresher. While looking at the timeline I noticed how a few commits have been made in the last few days to implement WML card, timer and do tags, some WMLScript and so on. BIG SURPRISE!

You can see for example a few changesets such as [38816], [38833], [38838] and a couple of bugs, #22522 and #22550.

I am definitely among those that think that WML is dead and that everything should be in XHTML by now and surely Apple as a company has been promoting the iPhone and the iPod touch as “full web” devices and in fact Safari Mobile does not even support HTML-MP. The addition of WML seems very strange to me.

OK, the main committer is not an Apple employee, but rather a KDE developer (Nikolas Zimmermann), but we all know that webKit is mostly controlled by Apple and if they are working on WML it means there is some interest. If they are working on WML, why not XHTML-MP?

We’ll see. I’ll keep an eye on this and definitely test a recent nightly!

Everyone wants an App Store these days

Apple has changed the world with the iPhone. Developers (and users sometimes) complained there were no open APIs to build native applications. Apple noted the request and changed the world again with the App Store.

Everyone in the mobile space seems to be running now to create his own store. Google has launched its store called Market (also see a short review with some nice screenshots) and while at this time it’s all free, it is going commercial next year.

RIM has its own BlackBerry Application StoreFront.

T-Mobile, who is already benefiting from Google’s Market, is going to create its own based on Apple’s experience.

Now Orange comes with Orange Downloads.

There are probably more that haven’t announced it, or simply I haven’t heard of.

BUT, did any of these guys ever think that the great thing about Apple’s App Store is that it is one place and there’s no fragmentation? How are these guys going to cope with this? Replicating and renaming won’t solve those issues. They will all be just like the existing “Decks” or portals, simply on a pre-installed application. That will not make them win.