Gartner Briefing: The Personal Cloud, Devices, and Social Media

January 4, 2012

Please join leading Gartner Analysts from our Consumer and Electronics Research Teams for a briefing on The Personal Cloud, Consumer Devices, and Social Media. The sessions will focus on those markets Gartner believes can have the biggest impact on your revenues in the near, mid and long-term and what we believe you need to do now to plan to maximize your success. Join us for a morning of interactive presentations and learn how Gartner insight can help you innovate and grow your business.

8:00 a.m. – 8:45 a.m.
Registration and Breakfast

8:45 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Martin Reynolds, Managing VP, Consumer Tech & Markets
Welcome & Introduction

9:00 a.m. – 9:35 a.m.
Michael Gartenberg, Research Director, Consumer Tech & Markets
Consumer Personal Cloud, Ready to Eclipse the Personal Computer for Consumers

The Personal Cloud is the next gestation of the personal computing revolution. The personal cloud over time will displace the PC as the location where users keep their personal content, access their services, and personal preferences and center their digital lives. Consumer’s data will be available on a contextual basis flowing from device to device, screen to screen and location to location. We explore this sea change in the consumer digital experience and what it means for technology and content service providers.

9:35 a.m. – 10:10 a.m.
Carolina Milanesi, Research VP, Consumer Tech & Markets
From PCs to the Personal Cloud: Device Impact

The personal cloud era will mark a power shift from devices toward services. In this new world, the specifics of devices will become less important. Consumers and professional users will use a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub. Rather, the personal cloud will take on that role. Access to the cloud and the content stored or shared from the cloud will be managed and secured, rather than focusing solely on the device. In this new era device manufacturers will have to focus on software rather than hardware with ease of use as the ultimate goal of the experience they are delivering. The intuitiveness and richness of the device user interface, the ease of sharing content between devices and to and from the cloud will be paramount in guiding the consumers into this new era.

10:10 a.m. – 10:35 a.m.
Hugues De La Vergne, Principal Research Analyst, Consumer Tech & Markets
North American Mobile Devices Outlook

Smartphone volume continues to beat records, tablets sales are exploding, E-readers are doubling YoY. How will these devices co-exist or cannibalize one another and who will be the winners? How does the all powerful operator fit into this?

10:35 a.m. – 10:50 a.m.

10:50 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Mark Hung, Research Director, Semiconductors and Electronics
The Personal Cloud: How Do You Hook It Up?

Connected devices are proliferating throughout the home, and the volume of personal data is growing by leaps and bounds in the public network, accessed through personal cloud services. We will examine the connectivity technologies that underlie this phenomenon, explore the new growth opportunities in the major platforms, and discuss which industry players stand to benefit from this emerging trend.

11:15 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
Brian Blau, Research Director, Consumer Tech & Markets
Consumer Apps Drive Social, Game and Cloud Ecosystems

Smartphone and tablet experiences continues to captivate consumers by delivering compelling features such as social networking, television and movies, video games and entertainment as well as many other useful and fun services all through the convenience of a mobile device. Brands who have or are considering deploying mobile apps need to understand the mobile app economy, how it’s being personalized, its inclusion of core social functionality, and how app design and easy access to syncing and storing your data are key components.

Wednesday, January 18 2012
8:00 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
Sofitel Hotel
223 Twin Dolphin Drive
Redwood City, California 94065
Phone: 650-598-9000

Thursday, January 19 2012
8:00 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
Hilton San Diego Mission Valley
901 Camino del Rio South
San Diego, California 92108
Phone: 619-543-9000

Register with

New GartenBlog goes Tumblr

April 27, 2011

I’ve recently started posting more short form comments and pictures to GartenBlog Tumblr. You can check it out here.

iPod Refresh 2010 – My Hands On

September 7, 2010

It’s become an fall ritual as surely as the leaves changing color on trees. Apple’s refresh of the iPod line at their fall music event. I’ve spent some time using the latest models. Here’s what i think. Some wonder whether a refresh is needed. To me that’s a non question. It’s like asking car companies why they introduce new models every few years. This years lineup makes a lot of sense, features are segmented more clearly and there’s some new innovation in style And form.

iPod shuffle. This years shuffle takes design cues from the last two generations. The control buttons from two generations ago and the voice over from lasted generation. While the new form factor is evocative of the older one, it’s actually somewhat smaller. With a price of $49 for 2gb this is the value model. While the price is cheap, there’s nothing cheap about the device. The colors this year are a bit more pastel than we’ve seen in the past and the build quality is excellent with no visible seams. The shuffle makes for a nice entry level device with basic features.

iPod nano. This years nano takes a few steps forward and a half step back. What’s missing? There’s no camera for video recording, no games, no video playback. What you do get is a small multi-touch screen with iOS like icons (although it’s not an iOS device). It’s small enough to be wearable, clip included and paired with a wristband it’s even a watch replacement. (there’s a cool watch app built in). The touch features are a little different than we’ve seen before but take only a moment to learn. While I normally don’t like to see devices lose features in the case of the nano I’ll make an exception. My old nano has some games as well as videos on it ms I’ve never used either. Likewise, the camera on last years model has rarely been used. By keeping the focus on music features first and foremost and driving the design forward Apple likely has another hit on it’s hands.

iPod Touch. The iPod touch adds the most features and it’s now the flagship of the line. Think all the great stuff Apple added to iPhone 4 minus the phone. It’s almost all here. Retina display, FaceTime, A4 processor and gyro. Plus it comes in capacities up tp 64gb. The secondary camera takes 720p video but only sub megapixel images. Good enough for facebook as snapshots not photographs. As expected you’ve got the full catalog of iOS apps. Games in particular are excellent. With WiFi and Skype you can actually use the iPod touch as a great IP phone. In short, this is Apple’s best iPod. Ever.

It’s been nine years since Apple introduced iPod and a lot has changed over the years. While many consumers have supplanted a media player with a smartphone, for many users iPod os the way to go. With a lineup from $49 to $399 Apple has the most diverse product line that scales well. (for those with large media collections, Apple’s kept the iPod classic around with 120gb and last years price). The new models represent a decade of learning, technology advances and design expertise. For those looking for the gold standard in portable media or want to join on the iPhone app revolution without the phone, Apple has a device that just might be right for you.

A tale of two TVs from Apple and Google

September 6, 2010

Last week, Apple unveiled the newest version of Apple TV. It’s a stark contrast to what Google’s attempting to create. That’s the topic of this week’s Engadget column.

Apple’s shown the ability to do the two things that will make Apple TV a success over time: engineer content deals once thought impossible and evangelize developers. What we saw this week is likely just the next step in the larger iOS platform play — although the TV is the next battleground for connected screens and applications, the platform is what matters in the long term, and Apple should treat the battle for the living room as a marathon, not a sprint.

When less beats Moore

September 6, 2010

One of the more fun parts of my job is that I get to look at a lot of different devices. Recently, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X-10 Mini-Pro (which is quite a name) captured my attention. It isn’t the largest screen or fastest phone you can buy but it may mark the beginning of a trend of a new breen of devices. That’s the subject of my latest Engadget column.

As platforms mature, they tend to fragment into products that can meet specific needs. That’s true of everything from cars to toothpaste. It’s going to be true of smartphones as well. The X10 Mini Pro shows what the future of feature phones will look like. A device like this, optimized for communication, loaded with social media applications and running with a $15 dollar date plan would have tremendous appeal to younger audiences. In many ways, it may be devices like this that deliver on the vision Microsoft tried to establish with Kin — but with the platform flexibility and data pricing that Kin lacked. Long term, the X10 Mini Pro isn’t the phone for me, but I suspect it and devices like it could very well be in the sweet spot for some segments of the market. It’s nice to see that when it comes to phones at least, less can beat Moore.

One device to rule them all?

September 6, 2010

I think not. That’s the topic of the latest Engadget column.

This is the age of multiple device with overlapping functions. While some devices such as smartphones will continue to grow in importance and ubiquity, one device will not rule them all anytime soon.

Apple’s Fall Music Event – FIRST TAKE

September 1, 2010

It’s been a busy morning for Apple with lots of interesting news, a few surprises and some very important and solid products. Let’s get started and I’ll break it all down for you.

Apple introduces iOS 4.1
First up, Apple started with the formal announcement of the first major iOS 4 update, iOS 4.1. What’s new? Quite a lot actually. First there are bug fixes for some of the user reported problems related to the proximity sensor, Bluetooth and iPhone 3G users upgrading to iOs 4. There’s also support for Gamecenter, announced at the WWDC and a cool new feature called HDR for the iPhone 4 camera. HDR essentially takes three pictures, an overexposed an underexposed and mid range and combines them so that highlights are captured properly. There’s a few apps out there that do this now but it’s great to see this integrated into the iPhone experience directly. It will be available next week and the price is free for all supported devices. In a slightly unusual move also announced iOS 4.2 that will bring iOS to the iPad in November along with new features for printing as well as a new media sharing feature called AirPlay. That release will also be available for the iPhone and iPod touch thus unifying the platform.

Apple Refreshes iPod Line
Fall is when Apple typically refreshes the iPod line and this year is no exception with the first time for new designs in the entire line in Sept. The lineup has been changed up and down and it’s a pretty impressive array of products. For those thinking that the iPod has neared and end of life, they couldn’t be more wrong.

iPod shuffle – The shuffle lives in a new design that combines some of the best features of the last two generations. Back are the buttons from the second generation along with the VoiceOver and playlist features from the most recent design. It’s basic but with a price of $49 for 2gb it’s the most affordable iPod yet and still packs an impressive 15 hours of battery life. This years models come in five colors and they’re amazing, the orange is especially nice IMHO. Slightly more pastel in nature they show and attention to detail. This might be Apple’s cheapest iPod but there is nothing cheap about it.

iPod nano – The first time I saw an iPod nano live I recall laughing at how small it was and I couldn’t believe what was holding was a real product. What a difference a few years make. The iPod Nano, now in generation six is amazing. Apple’s made a tiny Multi-Touch screen so there’s no click wheel, just tiny Multi-Touch goodness. There’s no video, camera or games this time around and that makes sense. The screen is just too small to deliver on that experience. This is about music and photos and it has to be seen to be believed. It’s also got 24 hours of battery life and comes in 8gb for $149 and 16gb for $179. I think this one’s going to be a big hit for those looking for the state of the art music device.

iPod touch – According to Apple the touch is now the most popular iPod and it gets even better in this generation. First, as hard as this to imagine, it’s now actually thinner. I mean crazy super model thin. Of course, that’s not all. Ipod touch now has a retina display like the iPhone 4 along with the Gyroscope, the A4 and two cameras front and back. Yep, there’s FaceTime support. The rear camera will do 720p HD video but it’s not a multi-mega pixel for stills. More for casual snapshots appropriate for Facebook and the like. Apple now leads the market in mobile gaming and this new generation will push that lead further. There are three models 8gb for $229, 16gb for $299 and 64gb for $399. Considering the technology that’s in there, that’s very aggressive pricing.

iTunes 10 – Of course it’s not an iPod update without a new version of iTunes. iTunes 10 looks a lot like the prior generation with some more refined views, especially with list view. What’s really new is Apple has built a social networking service called Ping as part of the iTunes experience, centered around music. Users can follow other users and as well as artists. Apple’s starting with about a dozen artists who can post a variety of content. I can see what others are listening, share my music, find out what concerts are happening and let others know they will be there. I can invite others via email or connect to Facebook. There’s also a new Ping button that is activated in iOS so I can also get the whole Ping experience out and about. It’s an important direction for Apple and it sets the stage for a whole new set of services and functions down the road. This might be one of the most important pieces of news longterm from today’s announcements.

Apple Refreshes Apple TV in a BIG way
It’s been around for awhile but Apple TV has never been a runaway hit. Apple’s CEO calls it a “hobby” but the TV is too important for Apple to ignore. The latest version of Apple TV is about a quarter of the size of previous models and it works in a totally different way. It’s designed to deliver and optimized streaming experience to users. It’s totally built around a rental model, not a purchase model although you can still connect to your computer and your iTunes library and stream any content that’s there. Movies rent for $4.99 for first run HiDef and there’s now a TV rental option for $0.99 a show. First networks to join in are ABC and FOX, with the usual suspects expected to join in over time. In addition to YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe there’s also a Netflix client built in. Frankly, it’s the best and nicest implementation I’ve ever seen and that feature alone is worth the price of admission. The price of the new box is $99 making it affordable. Ports include Ethernet, HDMI, USB, optical audio and no power brick. of course there’s also WiFi and it’s powered by an A4. Overall, I like Apple’s approach. By not attempting to include DVR functionality Apple sidesteps the battle for input one on the TV set. It’s a very different approach that Google is taking and I suspect Apple’s approach will likely have more appeal to mainstream consumers. I also expect there’s going to be some questions of a TV device with no apps. While I think an app eco system for TVs can make sense, like the iPhone before it, Apple needs to educate the market on on a paradigm shift. This Apple TV is a reset in many ways and the TV a device with very entrenched habits and behaviors. Before consumers can make a shift to that model, Apple needs to establish a position in the living room. There’s also a lot of issues in terms of user experience, command and control and content rights that need to be figured out. I expect over time we’ll see more here as this product evolves.

Bottom line? This is Apple’s most impressive fall lineup that I’ve seen. Apple’s reset the iPod line making the different products scale well both in terms of features and price. With the addition to the new social network Ping, Apple further reinforces their position as the leaders in digital music and drives the eco system forward. With the new Apple TV, Apple’s managed to keep the best features of the last generation of devices that should keep existing users happy while driving the product forward with more appeal for the mass market. Overall, it’s an important refresh to the lineup and at the same time sets the stage for a number of interesting directions for the future.

Facebook introduces Places location service – First Take

August 18, 2010

This afternoon, after much speculation, Facebook introduced their location based service called “places”. Launching tomorrow as part of the Facebook iPhone app (and also available on the site for mobile devices that can support HTML 5). Facebook now lets users check into locations and share that information with their friends. Extensive details for privacy control show that Facebook spent a lot of time doing their homework on this effort that will likely allow them to avoid the negative repurcusisons that affected Google with their launch of Buzz.

This is an important announcement as it establishes Facebook immediately as not only a credible player in this space but arguably the most important player. I’ve argued in the past the features such as “check in” are more of a feature than a standalone service and therefore the idea of integrating this directly into Facebook, already a key hub of social activity makes sense. The fact that Facebook is also offering an API for others to tap into means that there’s now a good foundation and framework in place that sets the stage for Facebook to bring both brands and local retailers in very quickly.

While the meme of “_____ is dead” has become popular in recent days on the internet, Facebook’s entry doesn’t mean the immediate death of other location based services. It will, however, put much more pressure on them to evolve, differentiate in meaningful ways to offer value to users. Even with that, it’s likely we’re going to see some consolidation in this space over the next 12 months.

The intersection of mobile and social networks is having a transformative effect in a year where almost everything is in the process of evolving in the mobile space. It’s therefore no surprise to see Facebook making the necessary investments needed to stay at the center of users social network experiences. With the ability to leverage their 500 million plus user base, Facebook has gained instant credibility in what was becoming a crowded market and reinforcing their leadership position as the core social network for users.

Ten technologies that shaped a decade

August 18, 2010

It’s hard to imagine that ten years ago there were no iPods, social networks or fast wireless networks. It’s been a pretty amazing decade for technology and that’s the subject of this week’s SlashGear column.

The last ten years have been a decade of innovation and change. Unlike in the past, so many of the products and technologies introduced have become a core part of the way we live, work and play. It’s almost hard to imagine that we lived without some of this stuff just a short time ago. What are the emerging technologies you see today that will become the next mass market, life changing ones of tomorrow?

Schadenfreude and Apple

August 16, 2010

I’ve hesitated to write something in depth on the so-called “antennagate”. My experience are pretty clear. Like many others, I have had no issues with my phone affecting normal use. The way some of Apple’s competitors have responded to Apple’s issue is something that I think is noteworthy and is the subject of this month’s Macworld column.

Rather than focus on Apple, antenna design, and attenuation, Apple’s competitors in the smartphone business should be telling more compelling stories about why their devices and platforms are best-of-breed. That’s the only argument that will ultimately win the hearts and minds of users, period. Bashing Apple’s devices simply won’t work. If Greek mythology has taught us anything, it’s just how dangerous hubris can be. I’d argue schadenfreude is right up on the list of traits to be avoided at all cost. The market is not a zero-sum game. Apple need not fail for others to succeed and compete effectively.

RIM needs to make the BlackBerry business-sexy

August 16, 2010

I’ve been spending some time with the new Blackberry Torch post RIM’s event a few weeks back. It’s been a mixed experience (more on that in the future) but it’s also been very revealing in how it relates to RIM’s business market. That’s the topic of this month’s Computerworld column.

When the iPhone was introduced in 2007, RIM refocused efforts on the business user while Apple targeted the mass market. The first iPhone clearly could not meet business needs. Over time, however, both Apple and Google, while wooing the mass market, have made huge strides in adding more business-required support, positioning themselves to capture the hearts and minds of both the business user and the consumer, who in many cases are one and the same. RIM’s challenge now is to keep delivering on the needs of the enterprise while at the same time packing the BlackBerry with the sexiest features that will truly drive end-user interest. If it doesn’t do this well, RIM is likely to lose share and ultimately become no more than a footnote in the mobile market that it helped create and define a decade ago.

Calling Oliver Stone

August 16, 2010

Sure, there are those who think the moon landing is a hoax. There are those who insist that the US was behind the 9/11 attacks. Let’s not forget the second shooter on the grassy knoll. The tech industry isn’t immune either. If there’s a crazy explanation for something, someone’s been sure to offer it as fact. This week’s Engadget column talks about some of my favorite tech conspiracy theories.

‘m not sure where the conspiracy theories come from but we know their subjects aren’t limited to technology companies and industry figures. Whether it’s an alleged secret iPhone recall or two competitors releasing new products at the same time to ruin the other’s plans, there are always people who seem to expect the worst in human behavior. Some of it is probably post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking — people often imagine if one thing follows another, one thing caused the other — and sometimes it’s just imagination run amok. Of course, it’s hard to prove a negative, so the stories keep churning. Perhaps one day Jamie and Adam will tackle tech industry myths and put some of these to bed on Mythbusters. In the meantime, what’s your favorite urban technology myth or conspiracy theory?

Blackberry 6 and Torch – Hands on and First Take

August 3, 2010

RIM announced the new Blackberry 6 platform and new Torch handheld today at a press conference in NY. My hands on and first take are the subject this week’s Slash Gear column. While I think RIM did a good job and will likely keep the Blackberry diehards, it’s not clear that there’s enough here that we haven’t seen before to be attractive to iPhone or Android users using the latest of those devices. Are you thinking of a new smartphone? Does the Torch move the dial for you as a possible contender?

According to RIM, this is the best BlackBerry ever and I don’t dispute that. Users who require a Blackberry for work standards will find the Torch the object of their desire. The question is, will the Torch be bright enough to lure users away from the latest and greatest Android devices, iPhone 4 and a newly re-invigorated Microsoft Windows Phone 7? At the moment, if you’re a diehard BlackBerry user, there’s a lot to love but in terms of the state of the art, RIM hasn’t quite caught up to the leaders of the pack in terms of either device or platform. Was this the right move for RIM? I think it was the move RIM needed to make to at least be on par with most of the features we’ve seen in modern mobile platforms, even if they weren’t the first ones there. With the foundations in place, what RIM needs to do now is move quickly to raise the bar even further with more compelling hardware and software features; not merely be satisfied following the leaders but once again taking the pole position.

Let digital be digital

August 1, 2010

This week’s Engadget column explores the trend in user interface design to make the digital more analog in nature. I’m personally not a fan and would rather seem more examples of digital experiences being true to themselves and not mimicking the analog world.

While the analog look is both welcoming and familiar, it’s a trend I hope doesn’t continue. If I want to use a moleskine notebook, a yellow legal pad or an ornate wooden compass, I will. Let’s let digital be digital and keep the analog stuff where it belongs — outside in the physical world.

3D TV Falls Flat

July 25, 2010

This week’s Engadget column is all about 3D TV. I first saw the new generation of 3D TVs last summer in Berlin at IFA. I was skeptical at that time but am even more so more so now. If for no reason, it fails my second law of consumer electronics. At the moment, there’s not a chance i’d replace an existing TV for a 3D set and if I did need to replace a TV, I wouldn’t pay the premium for 3D, at least not anytime soon.

Someday technology will advance and 3D will be integrated into every screen. Standards will be deployed and the bulky and costly glasses will disappear. Content providers will figure out how to tell better stories with 3D that wouldn’t have been possible before. And if that happens before I do my holiday shopping this year, I’ll be on board. Given the low probability of that scenario, I’m going to pass for now. I expect many other consumers will as well.

Five gadgets that changed the world for me

July 20, 2010

This week’s SlashGear column talks about the 5 most important gadgets that have affected my life and how I do things. What are the five gadgets that matter most to you, whose modern equivalents you’d be loath to give up?

From time to time I like to think about the idea of disconnecting from the digital world for an extended period and what I’d miss as a result. In the end, I came up with five gadgets that changed the world for me, products the descendents of which I’d rather not be without on a regular basis. What’s interesting is that for me, the PC didn’t make the list. Perhaps it’s an uber-gadget that just goes without saying or it’s just not that important to me personally anymore.

Is it time for Androids in the Enterprise?

July 20, 2010

In this month’s Computerworld column I take another look at Android for enterprise and business use. I come to some different conclusions than I have in the past, with regard to 2.2, AKA FroYo but there’s still some issues.

A lot of end users are finding Android devices such as the HTC Incredible and EVO 4G captivating, but the only device out there right now that’s running 2.2 is the Nexus One. IT departments need to get the word out to users that their Android devices won’t be considered for enterprise support until they are upgraded to 2.2. Unfortunately, for most devices, that won’t happen until much later this year. To make matters more complicated, Google promises at least one more operating system release (known as Gingerbread) before the end of the year. There are likely to be further enterprise enhancements in that release. Another re-evaluation may be warranted then.

First Hands On With Windows Phone 7

July 19, 2010

It’s been a tough year for Microsoft in mobile. Despite the launch of some impressive products with partners, the company has faced some harsh criticism but as I’ve said before no platform from 2009 is good enough for 2010 and beyond, and every mobile platform needs to evolve this year.

Microsoft’s efforts have been re-boot of the mobile platform, called Windows Phone 7 and it’s due later this year. There’s already been some criticism of the phone over the last week (from folks who haven’t actually used the OS hands on). I’ve held back responding as for the last week or so, I’ve been testing a pre-release build of Windows Phone 7. My embargo lifts this morning so here’s my thoughts.

First the hardware. Usually, when I talk about a phone, the combination of hardware and software is important. In this case, I’m not going to go into the hardware at all. The reason is Microsoft’s provided Samsung devices that I’ve been assured are hardware test designs that will never come to market. I can say they run Snapdragon processors and appear to have AMOLED screens. Most importantly, the OS ran well even in pre-release form with excellent fluidity and no slowdowns or lags. That’s a pretty good sign. There’s dedicated home, search and back buttons which make navigation easy and are likely to part of final hardware designs.

What I can discuss is the overall experience of the OS. Microsoft’s done a very good job with a revamped user experience that’s not like anything on the market. Taking a lot of UI cues from Zune HD, the OS is heavy on the visual, using fonts, color and an interesting use of space to make for a solid experience that’s both easy to learn and pleasing to look at. The UI can be customized with light or dark backgrounds (dark is the default with white on black text). Certain apps change though no matter what setting is picked. For example, the inbox always shows black text on white. The home screen can be customized with different applications or hubs, some of which are semi animated and updated live and others which are static. Swiping to the right shows a list of all apps. At the moment, there’s no way to configure this list and I can imagine it might get unwieldy with a large number of apps installed.

Some of the more important differentiated services such as Xbox Live integration and a new set of online services are not finished so they couldn’t be tested. (I had no problem integrating with Xbox gamer tags but other than displaying my avatar, there’s not a lot that’s hardwired just yet). That said, most of the core services are in place and work well. I had no problem setting up several Google accounts (which were automatically recognized to be able to sync not only email but calendars and contacts as well) and Live services. On the social side there’s currently support for Facebook (but not Twitter). One of the key UI elements of WP7 is the concept of hubs for things such as people and pictures. People for example presents not only a contact list sync but also social media updates for supported services. (one downside was all my contacts both from Googe and Facebook were now part of one large contact list, I’d like see better ways of segregating my views of people). Pictures likewise not only presents photos on the devices but photos shared by friends (in this case Facebook). I like the integrated experiences and the different views of information. It works well in practice and it will be interesting to see other apps and services that plug into the core hubs.

Table stakes features such as personal information management worked as expected with no surprises. Unfortunately, there’s no universal inbox nor are there threaded message views, something I’ve gotten accustomed to on other platforms. Microsoft’s updated the web browser and I found it both fast and functional. As expected, there’s no support for Flash. The application marketplace works but there’s only a few simple test apps available for things such as stocks and weather. Long term, how well that space gets filled in will determine success or failure. WP7 does have an important set of apps, namely mobile version of Office that work quite well. One Note in particular is quite cool and syncs online to Live services as well. It’s a key feature that’s nicely differentiated.

On the media side, there’s a full Zune client onboard that gives you full access to your Zune pass account. In addition to syncing over USB, it can also sync over WiFi to your PC. It’s very similar in function to the Zune HD experience and that’s a good thing IMHO.

Summing up, Microsoft’s doing the right things here with Windows Phone 7. It’s visibly differentiated from the competition but the challenge that comes with that will be explaining to the market why that difference is better than what we’ve seen before.

I like the concept of hubs a lot moving beyond silo apps into integrated services. A key here will be teaching users the new UI and getting app developers to buy into the eco system. Xbox Live and and Zune are also important and respectively drive greater use of Zune as well as give Microsoft instant credibility in mobile gaming out of the gate.

There’s a lot of questions that still need to be answered about Windows Phone 7. What will application support look like? Lack of apps for things such as Twitter or RSS reading make it hard to fairly judge the OS at this point. Likewise, final hardware and carrier partners, marketing and messaging all will help decide just how well Microsoft has done here with their efforts. That said, I like what I see so far and it looks like Windows Phone 7 has what it takes to silence many of Microsoft’s mobile critics. Windows Phone 7 has the potential to keep Microsoft in the race for relevance in the mobile platform space and drive other services and initiatives forward as well. As more services, features and apps come online, I’ll continue to update progress as we move closer to final code and launch.

Five gadgets that could have and should have done better

July 18, 2010

This week’s Engadget column is all about gadgets that could and should have done better? What would you add to the list?

For every VHS, it seems there’s also a Betamax — a gadgets or standard that just didn’t live up to the expectations of the mass market at the time. Despite being loved by niche audiences, these folks just didn’t have what it took to make it to the big time. Here I celebrate some of my favorite gadgets and technologies that just couldn’t catch on with the populace at large.

Two Galaxies and an Android

July 17, 2010

I’ve been testing two versions of Samsung Galaxy S phone. The Captivate that’s AT&T’s version and the Vibrant which is going to T-Mobile. It’s interesting to see how both carriers have approached the handset which offers a standard core experience. The phone hardware is excellent, and I’ll write that up in greater detail later in the week. What’s interesting is how the carrier customizations define the experience. The hardware is similar but overall, I prefer the Vibrant’s design over the Captivate. It’s somewhat sleeker and feels better in my hand.

Both carriers also load the phone with a lot of extra stuff. It’s a matter of taste but I think T-Mobile’s choices for Slacker and Kindle are better and more useful than the stuff ATT loads. (T-Mobile also tosses in the full version of Avatar on micro-SD. I hate the movie but it looks gorgeous on the Samsung screen). The phone has been described as the PC in your pocket and it looks like that analogy is correct. The phone’s now also getting loaded with a lot of crapware. Worse, unlike a PC, there’s no easy way to flatten the phone or remove the carrier added services. In this case, the T-Mobile additions, while not overly welcome, add more value that I’m likely to use and therefore not find offensive. For that reason alone, I’d pick the Vibrant over the Captivate. Worse ATT continues to lock down their handsets so they can’t use apps that don’t come through marketplace. That alone is a deal breaker for me.

For GSM Android use though, my device of preference would still be the soon to be discontinued Nexus One. First of all, it’s unlocked so it will work on any GSM network (although in the US you’ll need to pick your carrier version for proper 3G support). It’s also not loaded with anything but stock Android. No crap applications, full Google widgets and best of all, it’s the first device that’s capable of running FroYo today officially. That’s important to me. While almost all handset vendors have said that FroYo updates are coming, I personally don’t want to wait. I suspect that before some of those devices get FroYo updates, Gingerbread will already be on the market.

There’s a lot to like about the Galaxy S series (I’d love to see a stock device at some point with no carrier mods to compare.) for ATT, it’s probably the best Android device they offer but unless carrier branding was important, I’d go with the Nexus One on ATT or the Vibrant or Nexus One on T-Mobile.

Last words on the iPhone 4 antenna issue

July 17, 2010

It’s been a long week of iPhone 4 Antenna coverage. Here’s my final words on the subject from my appearances on the Clayton Morris Gadgets and Games show on Fox and The Pimm Fox Taking Stock show on Bloomberg.

Is it time for Microsoft to begin porting some services and applications to other platforms?

July 11, 2010

It’s been a tough year for Microsoft’s mobile efforts. Perception of the current platform is weak, the Kin project was killed after just 48 days in the market and now Microsoft is planning a major relaunch of Windows Phone 7 later this year. In this week’s Engadget column I take a look at several applications and services that could potentially be potted to other platforms and devices. It would be a risky move, much as when Apple opened iTunes up to Windows users. Is it time for Microsoft to once again embrace and extend or risk the fate of engulf and devour? What do you think?

“It’s not likely that Microsoft (or any other vendor) will dominate the mobile platform space they way that Windows dominated the PC industry. While Windows Phone 7 may allow Microsoft to become a strong mobile platform provider, porting applications and services to other platforms can help Redmond become the key provider for core functionality across multiple platforms and devices. As non-PC devices become more important to consumers, this is a perfect opportunity for Microsoft to set the standard for core functionality on every platform and further drive the Microsoft brand into the consumer world. The alternative is to allow others to drive those standards — and rather than embrace and extend, Microsoft’s efforts could be engulfed and devoured.”

Will the TV and the Internet Ever Meet?

July 7, 2010

This week’s Engadget column discusses how the TV has evolved over time and where it might be heading. TV is a clever euphemism for the device, certainly what i call a TV is not what my Dad would have referred to. It’s taking time and there are obstacles but the TV will join other devices and become connected. It’s just taking a bit longer than many expected.

“The irony, of course, is that the TV viewer has evolved independently of the TV. While users may not want online content on their TVs, they do seem to embrace TV content on their PCs. Ask a certain demographic to point to their TV consumption device and it will likely have a mouse and keyboard. Services like Netflix tied to devices such as the Xbox 360, Roku and TiVo mean there’s alternatives to what’s being served by cable and satellite companies. Over time, these options will expand and the TV itself will evolve — it’s just a matter of time before the TV and internet finally, finally get together.”

Making the case for EVO vs. iPhone

July 4, 2010

It’s been one of the hottest debates over the last few weeks, the HTC EVO 4G vs the iPhone 4. (or substitute HTC Droid Incredible of Nexus One) It’s a debate that’s raged in chatrooms, Twitter and even on YouTube where a Best Buy employee (who has a job now at risk over it) created this humorous gem.

In my opinion, it’s not a question of which is the better phone, but rather, which is the best phone for you. Unlike many opining, i’ve been fortunate to have spent some quality time with both. After carrying both devices simultaneously for a few weeks I came up with a guide to help make the decision. That’s the topic for this week’s SlashGear column. So which (or neither?) do you think might be the best phone for you?

Bottom line? Both phones are state of the art and redefine the top end of the smartphone line. Both phones, though, carry a different design philosophy and where you stand on some of the issues I’ve outlined will lead you down one path or the other. The really fun part? Neither company was a major player in the mobile space just a short time ago. If we were chatting about the mobile market just three years ago, neither Apple nor Google would have been an integral part of the discussion. That velocity of mobile just means we’ll no doubt be having this type of conversation over and over again in the weeks and months ahead, and that’s just fine for me.

App stores are not enough for mobile platform providers

June 27, 2010

This week’s Engadget column look at the efforts mobile platform providers have put into creating app stores for their eco-system. That’s a good thing but ti’s going to take more than an app store to be competitive going forward.

There’s a battle going on for mobile platform supremacy, and right now there are simply too many platforms to succeed long term. And the old rules simply don’t apply any more, as the criteria for mobile platform success in mobile reaches beyond simply having a well-stocked app store. It will take much more than an app store to drive success — the key factor between success and irrelevance will increasingly be the cohesive application story each platform provider can tell. Look for the platforms with the out of-the-box and core experiences that also allow developers to best leverage and monetize their apps to make the cut long term. The wise vendors will figure this out sooner, while the others will begin a long slide into irrelevance.


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