HTC Hero – Quick Hands on/First Thoughts

July 31, 2009

hero1It’s was the mobile platform with the might of Google behind it, but there was a lot missing. The Android native UI wasn’t overly interesting and the first devices were missing basic features like a standard audio jack. With the introduction of the HTC Hero this morning, HTC offers the first Android device that feels like it’s actually finished and it’s the first Android device I’d pay for.

I’ve just been using mine for a few hours but it’s been love at first sight. Mine’s a white unit with the Teflon coating and it feels great in the hand and looks like prop off the set of the moview 2001. Quick review of specs, GPS, digital compass, a gravity-sensor, 3.5mm stereo headset jack, a 5 mega-pixel autofocus camera and expandable MicroSD memory. The Hero also has a dedicated search button that allows search through Twitter, locating contacts, find emails or search for any data that’s on Hero. In practice it works well, when I remember that it’s there.

What sets Hero apart is HTC’s UI for Android called HTC Sense. The Ui is fluid and works great and feels modern. I love the multiple screens with glanceable information. I’ve got my calendar, Twitter, Weather etc all set up and customized they way I want it. As I’ve pointed out before, it’s the home screen concept for information done right. HTC includes a boatload of widgets that totally transform the device into a custom user experience. Even better, I can save multiple profiles or scenes as HTC calls them and switch based on context. Excellent.

Downside? The device has got a lot going on and is nowhere near as fast the iPhone 3Gs in terms of performance but it’s not nearly as slow or sluggish as some of the early reviews have made it out to be. It’s also too early for me asses battery life which was a nightmare on the G1. More over the next few days as I spend some more with the device.

This is clearly what T-Mobile should have brought to market. The MyTouch feels totally dated by comparison.


Illegal Downloaders *Can* Drive Music Sales

July 28, 2009

A guest post by my Interpret colleague, Josh Bell who leads our music research on how illegal downloaders can actually drive music sales. Great stuff.

Interpret’s Syndicated Research Service recently released an interesting report about illegally downloading music. Rather than focusing on the illegal activity, we took a closer look at how else downloaders get their music. This isn’t the typical “let’s vilify the illegal downloaders and get them to switch to iTunes” strategy – it’s been tried with little success. Nor are we suggesting more lawsuits, though I’m sure that would be a fascinating and controversial read. Instead, we took a look at overall music consumption – what else are these “pirates” doing to find music? Are they paying for music at all? How can we reach them and squeeze some additional revenue out of them?

TorrentFreak.com recently posted a thoughtful article about our report, but there are two points to clear up – first, we surveyed a nationally representative sample of over 9,000 respondents, then weighted the data to the US Census to project to millions. Second, the finding that “51% [of music pirates] are fine with the current price point of legal downloads” is misleading. What we state is that on an 11-point scale where 0 = completely disagree and 10 = completely agree, 49% of illegal downloaders completely agree that downloading should be cheaper than buying a CD. This doesn’t mean the rest don’t agree – in fact, 85% agree with the statement (rated it a 6 or higher).

And one tidbit from our report not mentioned in the TorrentFreak.com article – music pirates are consuming music in a multitude of ways – video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, streaming on social networking sites, etc. So even if they’re not buying CDs or paying for downloads, there are other ways to reach them that the music industry is not exploiting.

Want to read more? Let me know and for a limited time we’ll send you the report free!


Twitter fizzles at Comic-Con

July 28, 2009

Variety reports on the Social Media research we’ve done at Interpret on the effectiveness of Twitter at Comic-Con. My colleague Zack Kirchner guest blogs and has some more details on what we learned.

Despite efforts to generate interest in over 30 different movies that were featured in studio’s booths, the majority of movies featured at Comic-Con did not generate significant enough buzz on Twitter to break the barrier of .01% of total tweets. The movies that did generate significant buzz (Summit’s New Moon, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland & Tron: Legacy, Paramount’s Iron Man 2 and Sony Picture’s District 9) were central to the comic fan’s ancillary interests in fantasy and science fiction. More importantly, the movies that generated the most significant Twitter buzz had established fan bases who re-tweeted the tweets coming directly from Comic-Con attendees, allowing those movies to expand their reach virally. New trailer releases also made it easier for people on Twitter to share links online, which certainly helped Alice in Wonderland, New Moon and Tron: Legacy rise to the top.

One factor limiting the effectiveness of studio’s efforts to promote their movies was the sheer number of movies featured at Comic-Con. Comic-Con attendees were inundated with flyers, posters, buttons and other promotional efforts even before entering the convention. It’s hard for a movie to stand out in the crowd, even when that crowd is made up of rabid costumed fans who live for Comic-Con weekend.

Summit and Disney were the most effective studios at generating Twitter buzz overall. Summit’s booth was constantly surrounded with people hoping to get a glimpse of video clips released at Comic-Con, generating a large amount of buzz for both the original Twilight movie and its sequel, New Moon. Even though Disney didn’t have a large booth to showcase their movies, they gave their fan bases what they wanted with the debut of both the Alice in Wonderland and Tron: Legacy trailers.

Overall, Twitter buzz for Comic-Con is very low with no movie generating enough tweets to even account for 1% of the total tweets during a given hour of the convention. To put these numbers in perspective though, Harry Potter, another movie with an established, active fan base, generated 4X as much buzz as the #1 movie in the box office this weekend, G-Force.


Some Google Voice Tips

July 22, 2009

I’ve been using Google Voice for sometime, as I was former Grand Central user that migrated early. As more folks are getting on board, here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve learned to make it more useful right off the bat. If you have a Google Voice tip or trick, just add it in the comments below. I’ll also update this more over the next few days as time permits.

Keep your existing phone # with GV. In order to do this, you’ll need to have at least one other phone # you can use to forward calls to. I forward my old number to GV and then let GV direct that number to wherever I am on whatever phone I’ll be near. I use the present caller option to make sure that the only VM that gets used is GVs

If you’re in the car, answering can be hassle if you need to pick up the phone and press 1. Turn off call presentation before getting in the car and if you’re forwarding your number elsewhere, only forward to the one phone in the car you are using. Using only one phone will present GV from sending VM to the wrong phone.

If you have a GV number and want a new personalized one. You can change it under settings for a one time fee of $10.

The mobile web UI for GV leaves a lot to be desired. Google offers native clients for some platforms but not the iPhone. On the iPhone, the best app I’ve ffound so far is GV Mobile. It’s reasonably priced and makes GV a lot more useful on the iPhone.

If you set caller presentation to on, you can not only find out who’s calling but also send callers to voice mail directly and listen in on the voice mail as it’s recording. Yep, it’s like answering machine screening at home as you can pick up at any time if you choose.

Calls from a corp number seemed to get assigned an ID based on who makes the first call. That means just because GV says someone is calling from a particular place, it might not actually be them.

How do you use Google Voice? Add your tip or trick in the comments please.


Loving the Loop

July 22, 2009

loopWith more folks using their PCs and Game Consoles as media and entertainment devices the questions becomes, how do you best control them. The PC in particular was designed to be used with a mouse but newer UI elements such as Front Row and Media Center work best with a remote control. I’ve tried a variety of Bluetooth Mice, 3D wireless controllers and the like and none have worked well for me until now. So when I first heard about the Loop, it was hard for me to get to excited. What’s the Lopp? A new device from Hillcrest Labs that turns out to be a killer gadget for controlling your PC, Mac and even the PS3. The Loop itself looks like… a loop and while it feels a little strange at first, after a few minutes of use, it becomes a totally natural extension of the media experience. Using RF technology, you just plug a small dongle into your PC/Mac/PS3 and pretty much you’re up and running. Hillcrest Labs offers some usage scenarios and adjustment tips on their website in case you run into issues.

It’s great for PowerPoint presentations as well but the Loop really shines as media controller. It’s the perfect complement for using a Mac-Mini as a media center device with the ability to use and navigate things like the native Hulu app as well as launch and use Front Row. For the PC, it’s a great alternative to using the controller to navigate and control. At $99, it’s a little pricey but no more so than a high end mouse would cost and Loop does much more. It’s not for everyone but if you’ve got a home theater PC, looking for a new way to control presentations or just use your PC from across the room, this is one of the most innovative gadgets I’ve seen for that purpose since Apple put a mouse on a mainstream computer in 1984. This one’s highly recommended.


“The Internet is everything” Deja Vu all over again

July 9, 2009

There was an interesting article in the Register by Ted Dziuba (who has a pretty good take on Chrome OS). What struck me, however, was this quote form Mike Arrington of TechCrunch.

As Mike Arrington says: “The Internet Is Everything. All the OS has to do is boot the damn computer, get me to a browser as fast as possible and then stay the hell out of the way.”

I found it amusing because it’s almost the same thing Marc Andreeson said to me on a conference call more than a decade ago about Netscape. At the time he said Windows was just a collection of device drivers whose sole purpose was to run a Netscape browser. (I’m paraphrasing from memory and not quoting directly. Any of former Gartner colleagues who were on that call, please let me know if I’ve erred in my recollection).

Yep. as the great man said, it’s Deja Vu, all over again. I don’t know Mike and I’ve never discussed his position with him. And perhaps to Mike, the Internet is *everything* and he can do all his work, communication and entertainment in a browser. I know for sure I can’t, even though connectivity is important to many applications I use, the browser itself leaves a lot to be desired. Even web based services like Twitter work better for me through an application like Tweetie as opposed to the the Twitter site (and a lot of user data suggests I’m not alone in this thinking).

People have been predicting the death of the PC along with Windows and Mac OS for more than a decade. Like the news of Mark Twain’s death, the reports of the demise of the PC applications architecture are greatly exaggerated. Sure the web is great, browsers are important and there’s more functionality than ever before delivered through this medium. But that’s doesn’t mean that the web and the PC are mutually exclusive. One of the great ironies of the whole network computing paradigm of a decade ago (which Mike Arrington restates) was that the best vehicle for network computing and the Internet turned out to be the personal computer. That’s something that hasn’t changed and I expect most users enjoy the best of both world. The richness and diversity of PC applications combined with the best of what the Internet has to offer. It’s not one or the other but both together that create the optimum user experience.


Chrome is to desktop Linux what Android is to mobile Linux

July 8, 2009

Or to put it differently. What’s different about Chrome as opposed to all of the other Linux distros out there? Consumers totally not interested in Linux netbooks at the moment as the return rate of those devices confirms. What I can see is Chrome becomes the most important Linux platform at the expense of the others much as Android has become the most important mobile linux platform. Is that something the Linux community wants to see happen? I wonder.


Chrome OS is not a threat to Windows

July 8, 2009

It’s been a busy morning as the blogosphere and Twitter world respond to Google’s “bombshell” announcement that they’re launching Chrome OS sometime in the 2nd half of 2010. (that’s a long way from now). Already, folks who have never seen it, used it or spent five minutes with it are claiming it’s huge threat to Windows. (oddly, if that’s the case, wouldn’t it also be a threat to Apple and Mac OS, an argument I’ve not seen this morning.).

While it’s early to be dismissive, this is by far a slam dunk success. It feels more like another way Google is attempting to provoke Microsoft. Michael Mace says it well.

“We want to bleed Microsoft to death, and we’ve decided that the best way to do that is give away equivalents to their products. By creating a free OS for netbooks (the only part of the PC market that’s really growing) we hope to force Microsoft into a Clayton Christensen-style dilemma. It can either cut the price of Windows in order to compete with us, or it can gradually surrender OS share.”

Or to put it in simpler terms. Let’s once again poke Microsoft in the head with a really sharp stick.

Launching a new PC OS is not easy even if your target is a cloud. Targeting netbooks in 2010 isn’t the answer either. As I’ve pointed out, netbook are laptops with a pivotal axis of price. We’re seeing netbooks with 12″ screens, full sized keyboards and 300gb of storage. Does anyone think that netbooks aren’t going to evolve further? Consumers have overwhelmingly rejected Linux flavored netbooks for Windows capable machines that they could actually accomplish things on, such as run PC applications. What this clearly does do in my opinion is kill the idea of Android on netbooks (which never really had much of a reason to exist there). This will allow vendors to focus on where it needs to keep focus, as an alternative smartphone platform.

Right now, this all about Google putting pressure on Microsoft at a time when MSFT would rather keep the market focus on Windows 7, not some upstart Linux platform. By creating of lot of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt this morning (after all, every PC runs web-apps really well and no one is looking for devices that web based only for the most pat). they hope to take the attention and luster off of Windows 7 and that’s exactly what they’re doing. In the meantime. Show me the OS. Show me the apps. Show me the devices. In the meantime, there’s a lot of interesting stuff between now and the 2h of 2010 to write about it.


No Nokia on Android. Not Now, Not Ever.

July 6, 2009

It was a silly rumor for most of the weekend, that somehow Nokia was going to do a touch friendly Android handset this year. Not happening, not now and not ever. The rumors were so persistent, (thanks to the echo chamber that we actually got a flat denial from Nokia this morning). No surprise. For better or for worse (and mostly for worst) Nokia is heavily tied to S60 and the underlying Symbian platform. That’s not something that’s likely to change but it also doesn’t bode very well for Nokia in the future.


gdgt launches

July 1, 2009

gdgt-logo-redCongratulations to Peter Rojas and Ryan Block on the launch of gdgt. (disclosure, I’m an investor). What’s gdgt? (which is pronounced either gee-dee-gee-tee, or just “gadget”)

From the about page. “gdgt is a new kind of gadget site — a social gadget platform, really, enabling you to connect with the community through your gadgets, and connect with your gadgets through the community. It’s a place for you to engage with your devices and hang out with people who are as passionate about their gadgets as you are”

Quite simply it’s social network meets the gadget world. There’s a great camaraderie that I have with a group of analysts, bloggers and journalists. Whenever there’s a vendor event or conference, it’s a chance for us to sit down, show off the latest stuff we’re playing with and riff on ideas about what’s next in the industry, our favorite devices and what’s hot and what’s not. gdgt is designed with that same type of discourse in mind except that no one needs to be in the same room and everyone can join in the conversation. Love of gadgets is all that’s needed.

I’m looking forward to seeing and schmoozing with you over there. Don’t forget to bring what’s newest and coolest.


Is that a recording studio in your pocket?

July 1, 2009

Pretty amazing story of how The 88 recorded “”Love is the Thing” using an app called Four Track directly on an iPhone. The song’s now available in the iTunes store as well.

With stories like this, it becomes harder and harder to call these things phones. Even more importantly, it shows how 3rd party applications are going to differentiate and drive the success of mobile platforms going forward. Not everyone needs a recording studio in their pocket, but if you do, it’s good to know there’s an app for that.


T-Mobile Dash 3G – Hands On

July 1, 2009

One of my favorite smartphones of all time was T-Mobile Dash. Based on Based on HTC’s Excaliber design, at the time, the Dash managed to make the Moto Q feel clunky in contrast. The Dash wasn’t just pocket size, it was shirt pocket size. Even the finish broke new ground with a finish a soft matte texture that gave it a great feeling of carresability. As great as the Dash was, it was aging as a device. Even though many smartphone enthusiasts loved it, there was no support for 3G and even though it remained a solid smartphone choice, it was clearly time for an update and finally HTC came through. Earlier this year, HTC showed off what was clearly the heir to the Dash, the Snap. T-Mobile has picked that device up and it’s called appropriately enough, the Dash 3G.

At a time when most devices are attempting to mimic the iPhone with touch screens, the Dash is based on the Windows Mobile smartphone platform. There’s no touch screen, all navigation is done with the new trackball and there’s a real physical keyboard. All in a super slim package that’s still shirt pocket size.

I’ve been carrying a unit for a few weeks now and it’s a great mobile email client. The keys have been improved and there’s great tactile feel, the backlight and screen are top notch. This build of Windows Mobile includes the new version of IE and T-Mobile also adds in IM support for AIM, Yahoo and ICQ in addition to MSN mobile. Of course, there’s 3G support in addition to WiFi along with integrated GPS. There’s also HTC software that replaces the stock WinMo apps for camera and photo album. Both work much better than.

Battery life is superb, this is one of the few WM devices that I can leave push email on and and last through a heavy day of use and still be small enough to go in my shirt pocket. Most folks will easily get through two normal days. Dash 3G is also wicked fast and responsive thanks to a new processor.

The Dash 3G skips the trend of micro USB connectors and retains a standard mini usb jack which supports charging. Alas, there’s no standard audio headphone jack. Oddly, there’s no support for T-Mobile’s Hotspot@home services (although there’s mention of it in the help file, T-Mobile’s Shadow II supports the service on the same Windows Mobile Platform)

Lastly, in a world that’s now very focused on mobile apps as an out of box experience, devices like the Dash 3G underscore the issues that MSFT has had in showcasing available apps for the platform. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff out there if you know where to find and purchase them but this device really needs access to the apps store.

Bottom line? The Dash 3G is a great unit and it has the chance to really take Windows Mobile to a greater mass market if it’s marketed properly. More than a few fellow travelers in recent weeks have asked what device I was using and the cool 20 something waiter in the coffee shop told me it was the coolest phone he’d ever seen, iPhone included. For those who don’t want a touch screen, are looking for a physical keyboard and don’t mind having to hunt down third party apps, the 3G is highly recommended. Nicely done HTC. Nicely done.


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