Monday, October 30, 2006

Upgrade Day

I had read some posts over the weekend about Firefox vs. IE and so I spent about 15 minutes this AM upgrading to Firefox 2.0, IE 7.0 and Skype 2.5. My computer still appears to be working.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Flash Epilogue

Sometime between 24 and 48 hours I was emailed the binary for the Flash player and was good to go. It was niece to see a couple of readers reach out to people they knew at Adobe but I think that the customer service rep who finally figured it out got it all taken care of. The 2.0 stuff is really cool. I am sure I will have more on that later.

Mobile Social Networking Article

Tomi Ahonen wrote this great piece on mobile social networking as the killer app for 3G. Aside from my bias, it is a well written piece and if the topic is of interest to you it is a must read.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Speaking of Flash

On a lighter note from the previous post, we have been a little busy as you can see here.

Flash Mobile Update - Customer Nightmare

In my previous post about Flash I held out that Adobe is putting unnecessary barriers in the way of developers for charging for the Flash light player. While looking at some application and development options I decided that I needed to get Flash 2.0 on one of the Nokia handsets in the office to look at some things.

I went to the handy dandy Adobe store to by the 2.0 version. $9.99 again. Sigh. Ok. It's not that it's the money, it's the barrier, but I digress. So I buy it and head to the download page. I click on the download link and the javascript/ajax thing pops up and low and behold there is a message. It states that the download store is not available and that I should try back later or call one of two phone numbers if the problem persists.

I wait for a couple of hours and try again. Same thing. I call the first number. It is disconnected and I am instructed to go to the main Adobe number. I call the second number it is disconnected and says to go to the main Adobe number. Clever. I decide that my trip to the Midwest for fun is more important and I will resume this exercise the following week.

Flash forward to yesterday (pardon the pun). I try to download yet again. No pop up thing and no download. No nothing. I try this across Firefox/Safari and I/E across windows/linux and Mac. Nada.

I go to the website. If you want support for your purchase of a Flash product you have to go to another website that only allows customer support for corporate customers. I go back. I try multiple navigations and realize that I just have to call.

I call the main number from the speakerphone at my desk and continue working as I suspect that the call will take a while. I couldn't have imagined what a while meant. I wait in queue forever. I get to talk to a friendly Adobe rep who decides that it is not a problem she can help me with. She transfers me to someone else. After a long delay and a couple of questions this person determines that it is something a download tech has to help me with. I get transferred to the download tech. After another significant hold time he quickly decides that he can't help me and that it is a flash problem. He sends me to some hold queue where I keep the phone on for the next 30 minutes or so before I hang up on my way home. I think I may have burned through that $9.99 in customer service time so I am starting to understand why they charge people.

This morning I had a long meeting scheduled in my office so I thought I would continue where I left off. I call the main number. Long hold. Talk to friendly rep. Explain long sordid story as detailed above. She sends me back to download guy. Slight hold. Download guy. New Download guys says its a flash problem. He proceeds to transfer me to the same disconnected number from the previous week. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go back to start. I am in tears with laughter.

I continue on. Friendly customer service guy comes on after about a 10 minute hold. I tell him I have a really long story. I detail all the above in a painful recital. This guy is actually better than friendly. He is smart. He says, "How about I try to download it." Great idea. I give him my account information and he tries. He asks me to hold. Disappears for a while. He comes back and asks me if I was able to download 1.1. Yep, no problem. He says he can't download either. Ouch. He tells me that they are going to email me the binary in the next 24-48 hours.

I am sure that there will be some more to come but I hope not. It seems astonishing to me that their site would be down for almost a week like this and they hadn't figured it out but given the march of death customer service circle of hell I could see how they might not be getting to the root cause more quickly. Just a thought.

I want to like Flash, I really really do...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Investing in the Mobile Space

Although I am clearly biased since I work with Shawn, I think that his latest post here is one of his best. Go check it out.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mylo Review

While I was in San Francisco last week I strolled by the Sony Style store and saw that they had the Mylo on sale. I had read a hypey write up of the Mylo on one of the mailing lists I am on and decided to grab one. So here is my abbreviated review:

Form Factor/Industrial Design - Big points. The Mylo is slightly smaller than the Sidekick 3. Rather than the tricky but cool swivel action of the Sidekick, it has a slider action similar to the Cingular/Windows Mobile 8125 with slicker action more similar to the Helio/Pantek Hero. Both the Hero and the Mylo have kind of a switchblade locking action.

The keyboard on the Mylo isn't as good as the Sidekick 3 and both of them are inferior to the Sidekick 2 although they are all better than a normal phone. The tactile response of the Sidekick 2 with the rubber buttons was just amazing.

The screen size on the Mylo is decent, certainly nothing compared to the PSP but comparable to the video Ipod and some other smallish devices. One of the coolest features of the Mylo is the ambient color action that switches from a soothing blue when Wifi is enabled to a subtle orange when adhoc networking is invoked.

Features - The Mylo supports audio, video, web browsing and a variety of other things. After a couple of hours playing with it I came to the conclusion that it is mostly one thing the most and that is a Wifi communication device. It comes preloaded with Skype, Google Talk, and Yahoo messenger. Sitting in a Starbucks connected to wifi I can scroll through my list and call my buddies with better than cellular sound quality. I was really impressed with this while trying it out.

Summary - When I originally bought the device I choked on the $350 price tag. Cough, Cough. $100 more than a PSP? Are you crazy? Well maybe not. What I didn't know at the time was that you get a years free access at any Tmobile Hotspot. That about covers the cost of the device. Also you currently get unlimited Skype Out calling (which also applies to all computer users currently). I had an aha moment when I realized that you can bundle enough services to offset the initial sticker shock although I have to believe that if you could get a wifi device down to about $150 you could get some serious adoption. I am sure that will come. Clearly the necessary connection to the wifi coverage is both a drawback and a bonus. At most times at work or home I now have this really cool looking Skype phone that people can call me on. On the road it is a bit of a pain. For pulling down some web content quickly, the data rates kick butt on anything over my all my current carrier backed devices. For now.

When I was talking to Michael Robertson a couple of weeks ago he made a pretty strong argument for hybrid devices and I think generally I would concur, but it seems that there is a small window of opportunity for a number of players to collaborate to try to get a wifi network and device combination to get a jump on where Wimax plans to be. At the very least it is an interesting customer acqusition strategy for players like Skype, TMobile and Sony.

If you are a gadget freak like me I think it's worth checking out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Flash for Mobile

About a year ago we were talking about some of the various platforms for mobile and took turns prognosticating on who would win. Windows Mobile with a ton of devices flooding the market? Symbian? In North America? Really? Flash. Now Flash is interesting. You get the filesize optimization. You have an army of graphic artist/developer types that many claim number north of 2 million people. Verizon is aggressively rolling out Flash (or is it Flashcast?).

After going through several different product cycles with disparate platforms that require development to the specific device, I long for the "write once run everywhere" that Java and others have promised. The big concern I raised when we were discussing this was Macromedia's acquisition by Adobe. Although I use and love products from both companies, Adobe's generally proprietary approach to things gave me pause. There is very little free in the Adobe world. When you combine that with the potential for disintermediating hardware OEM's and tripping over carrier sensibilities, it makes their presumed success less than a foregone conclusion.

At any rate I hadn't really spent much time with Flash as the current device support back then was limited. Fortunately since then they have rolled out more handsets and are up to version 2.0. I thought that I would try to take a spin with one of my devices. For Flash 2.0, the usable version, they only support Nokia devices. Bummer. I guess I can go grab one from the vault in the office but that kind of ruins the fun. My P910 is one of the supported devices for 1.1 so I went to download it and found my Adobe comments coming back to haunt me. For the low low price of $9.99 I could download the Flash player. Wait a second. I am a developer. I want to use your platform, albeit one that isn't the most current nor one that supports the handsets in my target audience. Grrr. I paid. I checked out some content and found that the Slot machine simulator was the best so far, which isn't saying much.

All my griping aside, Flash looks really cool on a mobile device and I certainly have really high hopes for Flash as a platform. There is no question that for application developers like us, we will be able to do some really cool things as the platform matures and the handset penetration grows. How Adobe chooses to balance widespread adoption versus unit based economics will certainly be one factor in addition to some of the handset and carrier sensitivities mentioned above.

Twofones - Greg Clayman

Greg Clayman from MTV started a blog recently called Twofones. Greg is a hard core early mobile pioneer going back to his work at UPOC. Shawn has known him for a long time and I first met Greg at CTIA several years ago. Greg has amazing perspective on mobile in general, community in specific, and as a digital media head has great curiosity and commentary around a wide ranging set of topics that are very similar to my interests. Greg writes long form and is a must add to your news aggregator.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Proliferation of Connectivity Part 3

My two earlier posts on this subject were about spreading my connectivity to other places in an adjacent area (Skype Phone) and also tapping into my content or programming by using connected devices that are at some distance from that content or programming (Location Free and PSP). Both of these examples are extremely profound to me and have implications that are obvious yet powerful for how they will impact consumer behavior in the future.

A couple of weeks ago I received a phone from Sprint as part of their Ambassador program. The phone is an LG Fusic, which is a really nice device. Most of the service offering is similar to what I had with the last phone they sent me, the Samsung A920. One interesting cosmetic thing that has been included is the inclusion of the Qualcomm UI One functionality that allows you to change the themes on your phone in a pretty profound way. I haven't spent enough time with it to say much other than it holds some really great promise for personalization of the most personal device that many of us have.

The feature that I thought was really interesting is the inclusion of an FM transmitter in the phone. While use of transmitters have been around in a lot of other devices including Ipod peripherals and other related devices, the transmitter on the phone got me to thinking a lot about the evolution of devices and consumer experience. To me some of the most important functions of what we call PMD's or personal media devices (the device formerly known as the phone) include messaging/communication, sharing content and viewing others content.

When we started our company one of the ideas that was core to our vision was that we will come to a time when there are a billion broadcast nodes walking around with production studios in our pockets. Although a small FM transmitter is certainly a far cry from that, when you start looking at the ad hoc gaming networks of the PSP or some of the other ad hoc media sharing networks the frameworks is starting to emerge. I don't have any particular insight into how it will unfold but it will certainly change the world in big ways. Without question to me the biggest change will be the change from big M media as the dominant media type to the emergence of small m media as the dominant media type in the coming years.

Blogging Break

I took an unintended blogging break over the last couple of weeks. Since it wasn't an intended break it wasn't as enjoyable as I would have liked. Frankly, I don't recall a busier time at work. That said I have about 6 posts to put up that I have either done or have been thinking about so hopefully I get back on track. Separately, if you or someone you know wants to help do some really amazing things in the mobile world send me a resume or CV ASAP.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Facebook Open To All

It probably doesn't bear repeating but for those of you who haven't received multiple invitations to Facebook yet, they have opened their site to anyone. I haven't signed up yet. I think I was fascinated by the exclusivity of it all. When I check it out I will post comments if there is anything noteworthy in my opinion.

The Hub is Dead

Walmart shut down their social networking site the hub after about 6 weeks.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Usertainment Blog

Lester Craft formerly Chief Editor of Upside just started a new blog called Usertainment Watch that discusses opportunities for content creators to make money from their content in this growing world of user created media. Add it to your readers.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Proliferation of Connectivity Part 2

In my last post I wrote about how our connectivity that we use can be extended and allow us to free ourselves from the tied to the computer experience. Although my Skype phone gives me the freedom to leave my computer and walk around the room like I am using a normal phone, I am still linked to my device through a USB transmission hub. Hopefully in the next week or two I will pick up the Net Gear Wi Fi phone which disconnects the handset from the device. While I am waiting for this device, I have another device that I have written about that adds a bit more color to this discussion. That device is my PSP.

Several weeks ago our family made the trek out to the desert for a quick get away. On Sunday morning we took all the kids out to the community pool where we were staying. My kids were very hungry right around the time of kick off for football. While the kids were snacking on chicken fingers, I reached into my bag and pulled out my PSP. I fired up the device and started looking for available wifi networks. Immediately, I saw that the bar area had very open, very strong public wifi.

I configured the device to log onto the network and I fired up the Location Free interface. Within a couple of seconds, my PSP was showing the NFL Red Zone Channel from Directv on my device by the side of the pool. Can you beat that?

Conceptually to me this is another example of the intersection of devices and our connectivity and the types of services that become available as more bandwidth surrounds us and our devices can leverage the network. To me it is a very powerful experience when I can take my media experience, that previously has been confined to my house, wherever I go with the aid of a small portable device.

In the last post and this one I have talked a bit about some practical uses and examples of how I can take my connectivity and share it with a detached device ala Skype to a handset, or more broadly how I can take my programming with me anywhere in the world with the use of my PSP and my Location Free server. In the next post I will talk about how the next phase is looking at the device not from a downstream perspective but as an upstream or broadcast style device to extend the experience in the opposite direction.