Need for Mobile Multi-Tasking Mostly a Myth

March 26, 2010

One of the most controversial aspects of some mobile platforms is their lack of multi-tasking, or the ability to have multiple applications run in the background. Windows Phone 7 Series, iPhone and iPad have all been criticized over this issue. My latest Engadget column takes on the myth of mobile multi tasking.

“The irony here is that one of the biggest criticisms for years was Windows Mobile’s lack of a task manager and the ability to kill applications that were running. Complaints were so high about multitasking that almost every phone shipped with some sort of third-party task manager. Likewise, the first software I download for any Android device is a task manager to kill background tasks and apps The reason is simple. Running in the background, too many third-party apps overuse system resources, memory, and network to the point where almost any machine with multitasking capability ends up running slowly and killing battery life.”

Androids doing battle for both consumers and brand presence

March 25, 2010

There wasn’t a whole lot of revolutionary news out of CTIA this week, it was mostly evolutionary stuff although the pace of evolution is getting scary. The biggest news were two Android handsets.

The Galaxy S from Samsung on an un-named US carrier was clearly the Android phone to beat with a 1ghz processor and a very nice Super AMOLED screen. And an hour later the HTC 4G did indeed beat it. It may have been the fastest I’ve seen a platform defining device dethroned. (which is not to say the Galaxy is shabby in any way, it’s just the combination of HTC hardware, screen size and resolution, performance, Sense UI and 4G speed make it VERY compelling).

If Sprint can bring the EVO to market at the right price with a matching service plan, this thing could literally fly of the shelves. The fluidity of functions combined with the performance of 4G made the demo experience I had quite breathtaking. Things just happen. Fast.

Both devices confirm my view that no one’s technology, platform or device from last year is going to be good enough for next year. It’s also going to be harder and harder for players to separate themselves from the pack. Kyocera introduced some Android devices this week. Hardly anyone noticed.

Raising the bar for the device is going to not only affect consumer buy decisions but impact which platforms and devices that brands are going to align themselves with. The velocity of mobile means you simply can’t bet on the wrong horse. Even signature devices have a much shorter life span. Droid vs. Evo comparison made the Droid look very much like “day old bread” (in the words of my friend Harry McCracken). The velocity of mobile makes this simple. You simply can’t bet on the wrong horse and if you do, you’re going to have big problems. As mobile and social networks collides with disruptive force, being on the right device and proper platform can make all the difference for brand presence. Anyone doubt that 2010 is an inflection point?

Interesting observation. No one from Google was at either product launch.

Nokia at the crossroads

March 25, 2010

Back in December, I took a look at the future of Nokia and wondered about their relevance in the mobile space. I spent several hours with them this past week in Las Vegas, here’s some thoughts.

Nokia was pretty candid about where they are in the marketplace and Sr. executives acknowledged their issues, especially in the US market. It appears they get it, which is important. It’s the first step. The question is can they execute in a timely manner. Executing against one platform strategy is hard enough. Executing against S40, Symbian and MeeGo is even harder. Harder still are three variants of Symbian. Nokia does point out that their development efforts are based on QT which means they can leverage across three platforms but that’s still a tough challenge. As it is, Symbian 3 at best brings Nokia on par with other modern platforms. Parity alone is not good enough.

The speed at which the mobile market is moving means it’s hardly game over for Nokia. Especially in light of the fact that no one platform will rule the space as Windows did on the PC. At this velocity, if the lead runners stumble it’s easy to gain ground in a short period of time. I’m not ready to change my view but I do thing with a proper strategy and execution plan Nokia can turn some of the negative inertia against them.

An update on my Nexus One/Android Experience

March 25, 2010

I first wrote about the Nexus One when it first came out, I’ve been carrying it as one of my daily devices for awhile now. Here’s some updated thoughts on the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good –
It’s fast. It’s hard to use devices that can’t match a certain fluidity of use and the N1 delivers on that. Both in terms of overall device speed and T-Mobile’s rather speedy 3G network (when I’m in coverage) make it a delight to use.

Google Integration. If you use Google services, nothing delivers at the moment like Android. Gmail, Google Cal, Google Voice, etc are all tightly integrated into the platform.
Hardware. HTC is delivering killer hardware these days. N1 is an example of state of the art.

The Bad –
Battery life. This one’s sort of mixed. At first, I had a hard time getting through a work day. After lots of tweaking of settings, sync services and other stuff, I can now easily get through a full day but it took literally weeks of tweaks for me to get there. The average user wouldn’t have a chance.

Games. Or lack thereof. I don’t have to worry about running down my battery by playing games as I have none installed. Zero. I just can’t find a good Android game. Maybe I’m missing something but I do a lot of gaming on my iPhone. A lot.

The UI. Sorry, I don’t like it. One of these days I really need to get Sense on this device. Too much time on silly things like animated wallpaper, not enough on things people use.

The Ugly –
Keyboard. It’s awful. Google I can’t believe you shipped this thing. Fortunately it’s relatively easy to hack HTC’s rather EXCELLENT keyboard on the device. Sadly, there’s no real version of Swype available for the N1. Swype should just be the default for every Android device.

Anything Non Google. As great as Google services integration is, anything not Google is well, mediocre. Two email clients? Sheesh, why do I want that? Exchange integration is about the worst I’ve ever seen with limited support for email and contacts and no calendar support at all. Media sync? It’s non existent. Too many table stakes features missing.

Overall? The N1 is a great device if you use Google services (at the moment, I depend on them). For my critical mobile functions of email, PIM, RSS and Twitter the N1 delivers well. For my secondary app level functions including media, gaming and long tail apps, the N1 still falls short. The velocity of mobile we saw this week does show what happens when Android is in the right hands. Both the Samsung Galaxy S and in particular the HTC EVO 4G show what state of the art mobility look like. Both are built on Android 2.1, although you’d never know it. Perhaps, that’s as it should be.

When you leave your laptop behind

March 25, 2010

Last week I tried an experiment to see if I could do a week of heavy business travel without a laptop. In lieu of my laptop, I travelled with an HTC HD2, Palm Pre and iPhone with Mophie Juice Pack.

What I learned is the topic of my latest SlashGear column. Read it here.

Bottom line? Leaving your laptop is fine for short trips, where the focus will be email, light content viewing and very minor editing. For now, the phone, no matter how good simply can’t supplant a real personal computer when it comes to getting work done. For those that suggested a netbook, to me that’s the same as a PC for all intents and purposes. Now, if only there were some device that lived between the PC and Phone that could replace the PC for heavy business travel. But that’s a topic for another column, after April 3rd…

The Velocity of Mobile is Unparalleled

March 24, 2010

One thing that’s clear here at CTIA is the velocity of mobile technology is something we’ve never seen before. The speed at which something goes from being cutting edge to stale bread is staggering.

I’ve talked in the past about how the diversity of platforms in the mobile eco-system is not sustainable.

What’s rapidly emerging are four trends.

1. There isn’t room for ten mobile platforms (at my last count) to survive long term. Consolidation is happening now.
2. One platform will not dominate the mobile space as WIndows did on the PC
3. The market will shake out to three strong players sooner than people expect
4. The rate and pace of the market means it’s too early to call the three that survive (although that’s becoming clearer to me). A runner that stumbles can change the game overnight.

Breaking Windows is a good idea for Microsoft’s Mobile Efforts

March 23, 2010

Latest SlashGear column can be found here

Among the most glaring things missing from Microsoft’s consumer strategy was a cohesive message between diverse business units. There needed to be a clearly articulated message that recognizes that mobility features among products are interrelated. That means that Windows 7, Windows Phone, XBox, Xune etc all have to work together. It looks like Microsoft is finally getting that message and taking users to that place. Breaking compatibility with older Windows Mobile devices was a hard decision, but it was the right way how to get where they need to be. Sure, it means older stuff takes a hit but more importantly it means there will much more evangelism and excitement for developers who will be able to leverage Microsoft technologies such as Silverlight and XNA to develop across platforms.

Linux on the desktop: Still not happening

March 23, 2010

Latest Computerworld column can be found here.

“we could use a revolutionary change in the PC market, and certainly the latest versions of Windows and Mac OS were far more evolutionary than revolutionary. Nonetheless, business customers are wise to heed the words of Damon Runyon when it comes to making their choice of an operating platform: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”

Will Surface ever surface?

March 23, 2010

My latest Engadget column can be found here.

“Surface could have been an extremely important product for Microsoft. First, it showed innovation was alive and well in Redmond. Second, it showed the market in a clear and concrete way that Microsoft can still take conceptual ideas and turn them into products. Sadly, Surface ultimately showed that Microsoft still can’t figure out markets and how to get products into the hands of real users.

Time to cut the cable once and for all?

March 7, 2010

On the eve of the Oscars, I got this lovely note from Cablevision telling me they’ve yanked WABC programming from my service over their pricing dispute. Lovely. I wish I could feel any sympathy for Cablevision at all. But I don’t. Over the years, my bill has gone up even as I’m bombarded with more crappy programming and attempted upsells. Most of my TVs are analog cable connected through TiVo (with one HD set connected via Cable Card and a TiVo Series 3). Each quarter, more of the analog channel get cut to the point where most of the TVs in the house barely get any programming. A good deal of the HD programming won’t work because they say my TiVo isn’t fully compatible with their signal. The solution to all of this of course is for me to replace all my TiVo boxes with Cablevision boxes and of course, pay even more money to them each month. This morning’s email may really be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Cablevision politely suggested

“While we work to return WABC-7 to the lineup, you can watch WABC-7 free over the air by obtaining a digital TV antenna from your local consumer electronics store. Or, you can watch almost all of ABC’s prime time programming free on the Internet at or”

Perhaps that’s a good idea. I could still keep my Series 3 for OTA HD, including WABC and as for the few cable shows I watch supplement that TiVo with a MacMini running Boxee and Hulu along with a Loop controller. Add in a Netflx streaming subscription and I probably have more content than I possibly could watch and I’ll save a good deal of money as well.

It’s not a perfect setup but it’s something I’m going to start to put together in my spare time and see how well it works. Perhaps it’s time to cut the cable once and for all. Of course, since i’m not getting TV programming from Cablevision anymore, perhaps it’s also time to look to FIOS for Internet access…

Capturing Caressability

March 7, 2010

One of the things I’ve been working on for years is how to properly quantify a term I’ve used to describe a certain attribute of some devices. I call it “caressability”, the immediate desire to grab an hold a new device when you see it for the first time. It’s a term where it’s easier to show examples than to explain. For example, iPhones have caressability, Droid’s don’t. The RAZR had it, LG phones didn’t. It’s not something that’s limited to portable electronics either. As was pointed out to me by a friend, Ferrari’s have this attribute as well, Oldsmobiles do not. Breitling watches have it, Seiko watches do not.

It’s an important attribute to understand as it clearly resonates with consumers and can help elevate a product out of ordinary status (even if it only has ordinary features). As i still work to wrap my head around this, I’d love to hear what you think gives a product caressability.

Altimeter Report: The 18 Use Cases of Social CRM, The New Rules of Relationship Management

March 5, 2010

I’m taking a quick break to share some news about a report that my colleagues here at Altimeter Group have been working on. It’s a little out of my usual tech space but it’s something I’m really excited about because I think it’s one of those big game changing ideas.

My colleagues Jeremiah Owyang and Ray Wang have done an amazing job creating the concept of Social CRM and have released a report with eighteen cases that define the new rules of customer engagement. See Jeremiah’s overview here and Ray’s here.

Here’s two important action items.

1. Sign up for the webinar series. This is a deep topic, and the report is only the tip of the iceberg. As we’ve done in the past, we’re going to offer a series of free webinars on this topic to explore each of the use cases in gritty details. Sign up for the webinar now, as we can only have 1000 attendees per webinar, as our last webinar had over 1100 registrants.

2. Read then spread this report. Like open source, the Altimeter Group believes in open research, we want our ideas to grow, and others to take advantage of it. It’s free. No strings attached. No salesperson will call. Use it in your own work and have fun with it.

Most importantly please give us feedback.

Congratulations to Jeremiah, Ray and the rest of the Altimeter team that pulled this amazing piece of research together.

Enjoy, share, discuss.

Welcome TiVo Premiere – First Take

March 2, 2010

It’s been a while since we’ve seen some evolution from the folks at TiVo. I had the chance to see the new units up close and personal a few weeks ago and tonight in NY, TiVo formally announced their new box, the TiVo Premiere. The Preiniere (AKA, Series 4) will ship in two SKUs, $299 good for 45 hours of HD and $499 with a 150 hours (TiVo doesn’t like to talk much about the specific sizes of the hard drives). The cost of service remains the same but there’s a whole new UI here that’s been re-designed and optimized for HD TVs. The new UI is beautiful, somewhat reminiscent of the HD search guide that was in beta for Series 3 devices. There’s a lot more information to be seen on screen as well as the ability to go back to the home screen and still have a small picture window active. Across the top is a “discovery bar” that lets you see recommendations from across your content lineup and you can customize what goes there as well. The UI is flash based and that means there’s a lot of opportunity for TiVo to further customize the UI and add new features. That’s good because at times the UI will drop back to the older UI when an older feature has been called at that isn’t quite there.

The bad news is that the new UI is for Premier owners only, no retrofit is planned for Series 3 or earlier. When I asked TiVo about this they said the flash platform they were building on just couldn’t deliver the performance they needed to make the older units viable. Older TiVo units will still be supported, all the way back to series one devices. Expect to see more than a few promotions along the way to get users on board with the new boxes.

There’s one cable card on the back (which will support two tuners) as well as a USB port to allow for a wireless dongle to connect. The wireless unit is actually an 802.11N Bridge device and that should help with range in flaky connection spots at home. Even more intriguing as a new optional remote that slides open to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. TiVo says they have plans for that remote beyond just searching channel guides. Look for more later in the year.

Bottom line? It’s a nice upgrade to an already premium product and one that still leaves generic DVRs from other player way behind. It’s still missing some key features I’m looking for. but there’s more than enough here to justify upgrading. The Best Buy partnership makes sense but it’s the deal with RCN that gets this more interesting as TiVo makes further inroads directly with Cable companies to provide services. For a company that’s been on a “death lists” for years. This was a nice showing for what looks like to be the next big evolution point for the DVR.


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