Monday, January 28, 2008

Whither MotoMAGX?

Motorola's chaotic platform non-plan just took a step backwards as Nokia bought Trolltech, who's Qtopia platform sits under Moto's new MAGX feature phone platform (as seen on the new RAZR2 V8, U9 etc).

I'm sure that's not why Nokia just bought them (others have some better speculation than me there), but it will be interesting to see how sanguine Moto will be about it given how much they've invested into Linux and their precarious position...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

670,000 iPhones Sitting Waiting To Be Bought

Interestingly, some people have done the maths on iPhone sales and suggest there's a rather large gap between the 4m Jobs claims Apple have sold and the number of devices that have actually left the shelves

I think my money is still looking safe...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Yahoo! Soon Come 3.0

As anyone who has ever used a Java app from Yahoo! can tell you, response times are unusable even on the fastest phones, and if they had a QA team they should be shot, but they probably don't. Amid much fanfare at CES, Yahoo! launched Go 3.0 - have they got it right this time? Er, no. Maybe the Yahoo! JavaME development team is based in the Caribbean, working to a different pace of life where 2 seconds to respond to a key is cool, mon. Mi soon come.

How about the exciting widget support? I'm not a massive fan of widgets at the best of times, but it seems excessive to claim that a small piece of wap content magically becomes a widget when it is displayed in sssssslllllllllooooooowwwwwmmmmooooooo through Yahoo!'s UI.

So Yahoo! have actually just launched a very large (and expensive, for most users) download with much the same functionality as they had before. Hmmm.

The other Yahoo! release at CES was a new home page so revolutionary, the PR flak felt compelled to use every superlative in the English language at least once in the release. Some might say that this type of oversell usually appears when trying to sex-up a spectacularly uninteresting piece of non-news. Could this be the case here?

Well, when I first went to the site after reading the release (sneakily using Firefox to spoof a popular phone), I saw a message saying they weren't ready yet, with a nice screenshot of a graphics- and content-heavy homepage. The next morning it was still there, but after about 36 hours they'd got the real site up and suddenly all the graphics and style had been stripped out. I'll assume that if you are one of the lucky few in the US with one of the "iPhone, several Nokia Series 60 devices (or) select Windows Mobile devices" you'll be seeing something akin to that screenshot; this does directly contradict a lot of the amusing superlative in the release about addressing the wider global market with cutting-edge content etc, but I guess they were struggling even to hit the smaller target on time (soon come...).

As they're only targetting US users, who often are lucky enough to enjoy flat rate data, the very pretty graphics only slow the page download down without costing an arm and a leg every time the user visits, as they would in most of the rest of the world. Mobile designers tend to forget that the phone browser's cache tends to have a very limited lifespan (hours not months), but on a hypothetical fast cheap connection that wouldn't be fatal.

Seeing the design, however, the thing thats truck me most was the original Yahoo! portal clutter, which lost out heavily on the desktop web to the stripped down elegance of Google's home page. I'd be interested to see the user research that indicated mobile users want more clutter on their smaller screens - though I will happily admit that done right, a fully customisable portal could be nice (if a user bothered to use the service enough to customise it).

So all in all, lots of noise and not much content from Yahoo!. The only thing they appear to be getting right is the strategy of not creating a mobile OS, instead focussing on getting their core product out to every device possible - as soon as they can make that product worth using they'll be sorted, assuming that content is still relevant of course.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

SE Release First Flip Phone (That Isn't The Same As The Last One)

Quite a few sites seem to be reporting on Sony-Ericsson's brave first foray into the world of flip phones. Even if you don't cound the P800 and successors as flip phones, this would still be curious news for 2003's Z600, and the 20 other flip phones (not counting regional variants) that they have released since then...

So what did SE actually say to confuse some of the less thorough members of the press?

W350 release: "Featuring for the first time from Sony Ericsson a flip phone that allows you to control your music at your fingertips" - presumably 2006's W300 Walkman flip phone required you to press the controls with the pads of your fingers, or possibly your knuckles, instead of fingertips?

OK, I'm being pedantic, but surely someone engaged brain before retyping the press release?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Plus ça change

Not long ago I remember reading that Windows Mobile 6 was going to be a huge radical departure from Windows Mobile 5, that Microsoft really "got mobile" now, and in general the future was looking brighter for WM. Then it was launched, and it became clear it was just the same OS with new graphics and a few rearranged menus.

What was missing, to produce such a lacklustre release? Well, possibly that traditional fount of Microsoft innovation: Apple. Since then we've had the iPhone, and suddenly WM7 is all about touch, gesture recognition... you can guess the rest.

It's really good to see that Microsoft are now fully committed to losing the "Apple rip-off" moniker, able to innovate purely through their in-house R&D. Then again, if they didn't rip off people with ideas, we'd complain that WM7 was just WM6 in different colours and they still didn't get mobile...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

How Wireless Innovation Can Pass Whole Industries By

Scanning through the MobHappy 2008 predictions, I remembered that it has been a long time since I actually managed to post to the blog, something I shall endeavour to fix as my new year's resolution. More specifically, Carlo's point 8 reminded me of the launch of the otherwise rather fine Canon EOS 40D late last year.

Many argue the finer points of whether Nikon or Canon make better lenses, bodies or sensors, but in general as a layman I think they're both pretty damn good and there's nothing I can really suggest to make their optics any better; this is a field where they are the leaders.

However Canon has recently been innovating in the wireless space, something I was very intruiged by when I saw the initial release. Simply plug in the WFT-E3 Wireless File Transmitter, and you can remote control the camera through a browser, auto-upload to remote storage over WiFi as you take a picture and even automatically geotag your photos using a 3rd party GPS device. All pretty cool stuff, and finally accessible to serious amateur photographers (pros with thousands to burn on kit have been able to do the WiFi stuff on the 1D for a while I think).

The WiFi features do seem like they would only be useful to high-end users - I can't see why I'd pay any money to have them personally. Auto-geotagging, however, is potentially a killer feature that would definitely make me go out and buy one - and I suspect many amateur photographers who do some travelling would agree, because geotagging hundreds of photos by hand some weeks after you took them is a serious pain in the arse. So how does it work?

It transpires that to get this feature to work do this:
  1. Buy the WFT-E3 Wireless Grip add-on for about $800 (for context, the camera body only costs $1200)
  2. Plug all 680g of it (that's a lot to carry in one hand all day) into the bottom of the camera as an extra grip (useful for some people, but not something I've ever felt the need for)
  3. Plug your GPS unit's USB CABLE into the unit. That's right, USB. You have to carry the GPS and a wire connecting it to the camera the whole time you're shooting.
An instant cold bucket of water over pretty much everyone who might want this feature, leaving far fewer potential customers for what is basically a very very expensive wireless webcam. Canon think this is breakthrough stuff though.

As someone with some involvement in the wireless industry, my immediate thought was that they should just drop a $1 Bluetooth chip into the camera body itself which supported the GPS profile. This could be a huge commercial advantage against the competition, who are currently selling higher spec cameras at these amateur / serious amateur pricepoints.

It's difficult to say why they didn't do this. Possibly it's on the drawing board, possibly they would rather sell expensive add-ons to a few users, or possibly they just never realised it was an option. I am hoping that Carlo is right, and in 2008 we will start to see this kind of technology become so mainstream it's impossible not to offer it; roll on the 50D.