Thursday, October 27, 2005

Just in Time for 99 cents

One wonderful aspect of the internet is that you can think you are predicting the future, and suddenly discover that someone has already invented it.

Want to know how to iron a shirt? Now? And all you have is a cell phone? No problem.

Unfortunately just Windows Mobile can play this stuff back, but if you go to their web site you will discover that Take Five even captions a fair amount of their content -- but again -- you have to use Windows Media player to play it back.

Expect to see much more of this. Readers Digest "Home Repair Series", ESPN "How to play Golf", whatever. Bunch of different business models (integrated advertising, symbiotic advertising, outright purchase, free).


Thursday, October 20, 2005


I have been thinking a lot about the Nokia 770. It is so counter-intuitive. Why would a cell phone manufacturer decide to make a non-cell phone tablet? The PDA market is not that great, and while tablepc sales are holding on, they are very much the minority.

The reason for the Nokia 770 is simple, after all. The idea is that UI can be tied to a device, the way it is to be used. However, with bluetooth, it is possible to build symbiotic relationships between devices that enhance the functionality of each.

The 770 has wifi, but with a Nokia phone, you have networking anywhere you have a signal. The phone does not have to be a "smart phone" design that compromises user experience to jam in a keyboard. It can really just be a phone. With the 770, though, the user has a way to modify information on the phone, make better use of common features such as SMS. I am sure some clever person will have their bluetooth equipped handset making SIP calls via the 770's wifi.

I think it's a great idea.


Just in Time Revisited

Just in time training was the idea that the internet would provide opportunities to learn when the student needed to know. That has turned out to be quite true, but I suggest that we are on the verge of an explosion of ways to make this type of training available.

Tonight while cooking dinner I thought of the process that would be needed to create a enhanced podcast that would show someone how to make a simple dish -- in the case, fried porkchops with milk gravy.

A series of stills would work, combined with a script that would be narrated. This could be adequate to show someone who was not really a cook how to do this, in a way that would be much more immediate than a cookbook.

Okay, this is pretty boring, an enhanced podcast. I guess what I am getting at is the ubuiquitous nature of a video playback device, with a simple way to locate and retrieve content, that is not tied to a single company (or any company). You can take it with you.

So we now have the video iPod. It's not that big a thing, but in a way it is. It supports open file formats, as well as it's own DRM content. It is funny in a way that Apple has kind of beaten Sony to the punch. The PSP has been capable of being used in a similar way, but Sony hasn't taken advantage of that yet. You can put content on your PSP, but Apple has done it right, filling in the holes. It is not a technology thing -- it is an understanding of how people expect devices to work. I have a Sony PSP, and rarely use it.

So -- the resolution is adequate on the video iPod, the specs are nice. It is what it will do to the acceleration of downloadable video content that is important.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Palm introduces new models and no one cares

I will be accused of fixing history, but I have reedited this, because when I first wrote this, I had just come from a meeting with a faculty member that had bought 16 Palms, and was having difficulty with a few of them. One she has sent back twice now -- the problem with it is that it will not power up. Never has.

I am concerned about Palm because I greatly admired the industrial design and ui of the original model. I have continued to find inspiration in the early versions of the Palm interface.

For some time, a bit after the Treo came out, it became clear that this is likely the direction Palm should go in, even to the point of abandoning, or greatly reducing, the number of Palms they sell. In a way, Palm reminds me now of Apple in the years of the Centra. For those that are not Apple followers, the Centra was version of their line designed for low-cost, the education market. They were redundant models of models they sold for "pro" and home use. It was crazy -- the same model under different names. I guess it made sense for cars, but it just confused customers, and cost Apple money.

No one wants a $99.00 pda. Wifi on a handheld, with a digital camera, and video support. Sony had that a couple of years ago, before they abandoned the Palm.

They have broken the elegantly simple palm interface. What is with the damned buttonbar at the bottom? Is it supposed to be a dock or something? It is annoying -- I would guess I can turn it off, but I shouldn't need to, because it really got in the way. I watched new users puzzle with it for a while, and accidentally triggering stuff at times.

I spent some time with a Tungsten T5 recently -- and was offered one to keep for testing. After a week, I gave it back. It is like they threw away their own style guide, plus the wireless operation was unstable -- I don't ever remember having to reset a palm so often. No one wants that.

So - perhaps a nicer ending this time. What I would do to fix palm. Ditch all current palm models except for three, and the lowest would not the the $99.00 palm, but the non-wifi model with a camera. Have a new Treo model that forgoes the keyboard, is a flip phone for $199.00 with a contract. The idea is that this becomes more like Nokia Series 60 models, using a pretty, color version of the old palm interface, only input via keypad, but able to use palm data, play back media, etc. That would put a palm os phone in many more people's hands, and would make many palm developers very happy.



Video iPod

I guess it is mandantory for me to spend a couple of minutes talking about the video ipod. Some quick bulletted points:

1. Follows almost the same model as existing iTunes strategy, with the key difference being that owners of DVD content cannot use iTunes to rip their DVD's to mpeg-4 for playback. There are plenty of solutions for doing this -- but I think it is good for Apple to think of how they can add that capability to iTunes. I could convert audio cd's to mp3 before iTunes, but once I had it, I pretty much abandoned all other methods.

2. The video ipod will not just leverage apple's investment in iTunes and the online store, but the rise of other content distribution systems, most importantly podcasting. The problem with any new device is content, and Apple has plenty available. If I was a traditional broadcaster dabbling in audio podcasting, I would jump to video immediately, even selling advertising time in podcasted video content. You do not have to partner with Apple to do this, which is critical.

3. Content creators will be challenged to create content for small screens. There will folks who actually shoot and construct content specifically for the form factor. Animation will be particularly popular on this device. Flash support (perhaps Flashlite) would be fantastic.

4. The hardware in this device is different that previous iPods. We will know how different in a few days when someone takes one apart. My guess is that true to Apple, there will be features of the hardware that Apple with either choose to not support, or will unlock at a later date.

5. Recording dock for iPod? Video in and out with timer, tuner. Stay tuned.

6. The video ipod is almost a freebie for Apple. The hardware cost is probably about the same, they got a slimmer player with better battery life and a nicer screen. That would have been news enough. The video support comes along for the ride. Apple can guage utility and customer reaction, and depending on that, release a model with better resolution, more storage, 802.11n, whatever depending on what customers say.

7. The video iPod is a way for them to fine-tune their online purchase video standard. It is no accident that the iMac was announced at the same time, and that the iMac has a remote and a 10 foot interface. Expect to see a living room solution soon. My guess a slightly different version of the remote (bluetooth instead of IR) with an upgraded Mac mini more suitable for recording and playing back HDTV content, using iTunes as the content manager and network video player. With bonjour you can buy more of these things, put on in your bedroom, and suddenly it sees the content on other devices in your home -- no necessarily just Macs (think Intel's unpnp initiative).

Ahhh........I have a 20 GB ipod with accessories for sale. I think it is a white 60 gb for me, because while the black is sexy cool, it shows scratches like crazy.