Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Interesting Developments in the Cable / Telco world

Now that AT&T acquisition of BellSouth is complete and the dual ownership of Cingular has ended, AT&T has launched the first salvo AT&T Unity leveraging the combined services of the businesses. You can now get free calling from your cell phone to any AT&T land line.

Verizon has promptly responded with new packages:
  • Verizon Double Freedom: Unlimited land line, 3Mbps Internet, DirectTV for about $70 per month
  • Verizon Triple Freedom: Land line+Internet+(Wireless or TV) for about $100
  • Verizon Ultimate Freedom: all 4 for about $140
Cable companies have been talking of delivering quadruple play services (land line phone + Cell phone + tv + internet) for a while:
  • Comcast offers Digital Cable + Internet + phone at $99 per month in some markets
  • Cablevision is pricing it at $90
I do not know of a Cable Company with a wireless offering. I assume T-Mobile and Sprint will be their partners in the endeavor and that things will move quickly.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Google OneBox

I always wondered how Google decides the information to display just before what they term as "natural search results". Came across this article by Steve Rubel announcing the new feature to search Wikipedia from Google. Did a bit more research and come across this excellent blog posting describing the various OneBox features and one with an update on local searches.

Also found an interesting Q & A with Google Product Marketing Director Debbie Jaffe on SearchEngineWatch.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

BlackBerry does not get new Daylight Savings Time schedule
We have been scrambling to patch all our blackberry devices as the older version of the software will not synchronize calendars correctly. RIM's description of the issue:

Appointments and their reminders might appear 1 hour late on a
BlackBerry device if the appointments start in one of the following windows in
any year:

  • Between the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in April (for
    example, 11 March 2007 to 1 April 2007)
  • Between the last Sunday in October and the first Sunday in November (for
    example, 28 October 2007 to 4 November 2007)

After all the money we spent on Y2K, the tech industry continues to demonstrate a complete lack of ability to learn from our mistakes. Very disappointing!

Wikinomics - the art and science of peer production

Don and Anthony have done a great job of describing the enormous change in how people and businesses collaborate on the new Web to inform, to entertain and to create value. A few takeaways:

  • The web is fast becoming a giant computer that everyone can program
  • Public squares are being created on the web where people meet or congregate just to hang out (How about this future business? travel agencies that help you visit interesting web destinations. Wild, eh!)
  • Open source software was just the beginning, people are collaborating across the globe to innovate and create new stuff in all sorts of domains (analyzing geological data to identify gold mines in Canada, produce cheaper motorcycles in china, ...)
  • Marketplaces (Ideagoras) for ideas, innovation and uniquely qualified minds to sell their expertise are sprouting everywhere. Check out: InnoCentive, yourencore, InnvovationExchange (search Google and the list is long), eureka medical, Innovation Relay Center, etc. WOW ... I know what I will be doing when I retire
  • Consumers are actively participating in enhancing existing products and creating new ones

This book is a must read!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cell Phone as the Primary Computing Device:
The Killer Feature is on the horizon!

About 18 months ago, I was chatting with some of my colleagues and concluded that a tiny projector integrated with the cell phone will eliminate the biggest drawback on the device: The Tiny Screen! Well, the future may be here soon. I just saw a WSJ article "The Miniaturization of Projectors" (you might need a subscription to read the article) describing the availability of the first solutions leveraging laser technology in this space.

One of the companies that demonstrated a product at CES was Microvision (I missed seeing it live at the show). Here is an engadget review by someone who saw it live. Seems Microvision is targeting phones integrated with the technology to be available by the end of 2008. Microvision is not the only game in town. Others include, Symbol Technologies (owned by Motorola) and SpatiaLight (a very techie website - here is a press release that provides a more readable explanation of where they are).

Will you be more willing to surf the net, watch a business presentations, see holiday videos and family photos displayed on a wall from a cell phone than on a tiny cell phone screen? The answer depends on the quality of the display. This is one of those things (like a post-it) that, once they succeed, make everyone wonder: How did we ever live without this? Time will tell!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wikinomics - citizens recording history

Just finished reading the book. I was amazed by the story of how quickly wikipedia entries recording key world events are created. A few stats say it all:

  • The first wikipedia entry was created within 18 minutes of the london bombings on July 5, 2005 at 8:50 am
  • By the end of the day 2,500 users had created the most detailed 14 page account of the event

There are numerous recent incidents of incredible news recordings (Saddam hanging video being one) that did not come from the traditional media or even bloggers but from citizens. The media business continues to evolve extremely fast.

I listened to a very interesting panel on technology and politics at a meeting organized by The DC Technology Council:

The Intersection of Politics and Technology
Carol Darr – Director GW's Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet
Jack Kemp - Founder and Chairman, Kemp Partners
Joe Trippi – Veteran campaign consultant and author
Moderator: Mark Walsh - Managing Partner Ruxton Ventures LLC

The challenge of getting your voice heard and dealing with the speed at which negative messages get out is going to be key in 2008. The net result is going to be that the candidates will need to be more transparent as they will be under the microscope all the time. Traditional strategies based on closely controlling the message are bound to fail.

Another Cood Widget
I just built this on yourminis. Blew my mind away on the ease of use and quality of output!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

CES 2007: Future of TV

HDTV took-off in the US in 2006. The momentum will continue in 2007. There were hundreds of HDTVs on display at the show - Plasma, LCD and DLP. Prices are falling and TVs are getting bigger and bigger. Very hard to resist. Sharp had the biggest LCD TV at enormous 108". WOW! Also saw a 120" plasma TV. 1080p is standard. There were DVD players, cameras and projectors to match!

Blu-ray or HD DVD? LG had a player that plays both standards (They were distributing copies of Newsweek wrapped with an ad for the player!). Also, I hear (not confirmed) that studios are getting ready to release disks with movies in both standards, one on each side. The existence of two standards war will not hold HDTV back as we experienced with the competing VCR standards.

Some of the infrastructure enhancements that bring IPTV closer to reality are falling in place. AT&T and Verizon are aggressively deploying fiber-to-the-home. WiMAX will start rolling out in the next 12 to 18 months. Sprint has made a significant commitment on the technology. So, bandwidth will no longer be an issue.

Apple and others have announced products to deliver IPTV on the television sets. SONY launched a service BARAVIA Internet Video Link to deliver IPTV directly to the TV over an ethernet connection. The service, for now, is free. However, I think if they want to deliver real content that users want to watch on a large HDTV, they will have to charge.

Broadcast TV on Mobile devices
Telcos and mobile handset manufacturers are finally looking to deliver live TV on mobile devices. Verizon with Mediaflow and Cingular with MobiTV have launched services that are available now. The feed is delayed by a few seconds. Motorola had demo products using the DVB-H standard. My friend Doug Neal tells me that this service was available in Korea several years ago.

Look into the future
A few interesting next-gen products I saw at the show:
Slingmedia is adding time-shift (TiVo-like) features to it's wildly popular location shift (watch your home TV remotely) product.
3DTV: LG, Hitachi and others had displays that presented picture in 3d without requiring any glasses.
Social TV: Chat with others watching the same TV show
Eyespot: Create and share new videos by mashing up videos and music on the web

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

CES 2007: Cash? Card? or Phone?

One of the coolest products I saw at the show was the contactless payment solution being launched by Visa in collaboration with major cell phone manufacturers (Nokia, Motorola and Sony-Erricson). Here is how visa describes the program in their press release on Jan 8, 2007:
The initial version of the mobile payment platform launched on Monday offers
contactless mobile payment, personalization over mobile telephony networks,
coupons and direct marketing. Subsequent versions of the platform, to be made
available later in the year, will include remote payment -- also using mobile
telephony networks -- and person-to-person payment.

Here is how it will work:

  • Buy an NFC-equipped mobile phone (e.g. Nokia 6131NFC shown at CES)
  • Get an NFC-enabled account from your bank (similar to getting a credit card) - will come with all the outrageous fees and hundreds of complicated plans :-(
  • Install an application from your bank onto your phone and activate the NFC payment mechanism
  • Pay for stuff at any place with a RFID payment device by holding your phone 4 - 5 inches from it

Security is ensured by Mastercard and Visa assuming responsibility for items purchased with a stolen phone as they do for credit cards. Users will password-protect their phone's payment mechanism, and Visa will be able to disable any phone remotely after being notified of a theft. Phones will also not transmit the information all the time.

Other applications:

  • Nokia's demoed reading business cards and grabbing hotel information by touching the phone to print ads with RFID tags at the show.
  • Customers will be able to get barcode coupons on the phones and show them to cashiers to get discounts.
NFC Forum is the organization setting the standards to ensure interoperability. It claims to have over 100 members.

Finally, we will be able to do cool stuff with our phones that Europeans and Asians have been showing off for a while!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Venice Project launches as Joost

This is the new venture from the founders of Kazaa and Skype. They are now launching a new peer-to-peer TV service. The vision (copied from the front page on their site):
"to bring you TV wherever and whenever you want it, free of the restrictions of schedules and subscriptions"
The claim is that Joost will deliver "It's full-screen, broadcast quality TV, with instant channel flipping and interactivity".

If you need more, here are a few links to blogs / new articles:
The web is creeping-up fast to change how we watch TV!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

CES 2007: Location Based Services
Every mobile carrier is looking to provide location based services. It seems that most phones have already been provisioned with GPS capability to fulfill the E911 (Enhanced 911) requirements. Carriers are now beginning to deliver services leveraging this capability: Sprint, Disney and Verizon are offering services to allow parents to locate their kids. MVNOs (Helio, Boost, Amp'd, Disney) are very focused on location based services.

A few interesting applications we saw at the show:

  • loopt (being first released on Boost Mobile) allows friends to locate each other via their mobile devices
  • Wireless Chaperone (from Protection One) is selling a device that parents can install in cars. The device transmits location and speed information to a central service for parents to see. The claim that speeding is significantly down when kids are in a car with the device. Another advantage is that stolen cars can be easily located.
  • from uLocate is offering partners to quickly launch location-based mobile services without needing to port the service on to multiple devices. They also eliminate the need for new service providers to establish relationship with the carriers.

A very large number of portable navigation devices were being demonstrated at the show. Additional services are being added at a furious pace in an effort to differentiate from the crowd:

  • Dash (I have covered this before)
  • Garmin Nuvi (traveler’s reference, and digital entertainment system)
  • HP iPAQ (MP3 Player, Photos, Games for windows)
  • TomTom One (camera alerts)

Unfortunately, the quality of maps were not always good. If you have been resisting (like me) getting a GPS navigation system, the vendors are hoping that one of these features will break your resolve (I am still waiting).

Mapping guts NAVTEQ and TeleAtlas were also there. It was interesting to see the TeleAtlas van that goes millions of miles taking street level photographs with several cameras on the roof. You will soon be able to see street views before you travel to a new town.

Microsoft launched software that allows you to drive a virtual street to familiarize yourself with landmarks and buildings before you make the actual trip. Satellite views are so 2006!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

CES 2007 Highlights

I am on my first trip to the Consumer Electronics Show. It is just amazing! I got a look into the future. A few things that come to mind first:
  • All video is HD (TVs, DVDs, camcorders, projectors, etc.). The market took off in 2006 and will mature in 2007. Competition is fierce and prices are bound to fall.
  • All media available everywhere all the time. We will have access to all our media all the time - in the car, at work, while jogging and even in the shower.
  • All wireless all the time. Multiple products and standards are being launched to eliminate every wire connecting one device to another. It will get more complex before it becomes simple.
  • Location based services are taking off. A very large number of navigation products complemented with several interesting location based services.
  • Live video on mobile devices is here
  • Mobile devices will deliver a very rich multimedia applications
  • Swipe your phone to pay. Visa is launching payments by phone capability in the US. The phone will carry a part of our wallet.
  • Everyone will own a digital picture frame. The number of products at CES in this category easily beat every other category.
  • Vista and Office 2007 are very cool. I did not expect to say that for a Microsoft product for a very long time!
Will write a detailed account later.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Innovating in the 70s

I just finished reading iWoz (the story of the uber geek Steve Wozniak). Steve single-handedly built the first personal computer. I was struck by the number to times Steve and Steve (Jobs) had to go looking for information. Lack of access to information created near insurmountable roadblocks. Access to information helped solve big problems quickly.

It is remarkable how the internet and search have empowered 100s of millions of people to innovate by providing quick and easy access to information. The rate at which new products (especially software) are being delivered is fueled by the ease of access to information. I wonder how things will be 30 years from now. It is very hard to even start imagining. I am sure that a smart mathematician can figure out the law describing how the rate of innovation is dependent on the time to get to the right bits of information.

The book took me back to my early days as a software engineer. I was hooked to computers and software. I could feel what Steve had to go through to enter programs in machine language. The first program I wrote was for a programmable relay that I had built using the Intel 8080 microprocessor for my Engineering Degree Project. I would sit for hours trying to debug problems with my code. Mistyped HEX characters were the most common reason my programs failed.

Once I finished school, I joined my first job and got a chance to work on an Apple IIe computer. I used dbase to write programs. I was hooked - a software engineer was what I wanted to be.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

One Laptop Per Child

I have been tracking this project for about a year. It is one of the most impressive education/technology initiatives that I know of. Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of One Laptop per Child, describes the machine in the answer to the question below:

What is the $100 Laptop, really?
The proposed $100 machine will be a Linux-based, with a dual-mode display—both a full-color, transmissive DVD mode, and a second display option that is black and white reflective and sunlight-readable at 3× the resolution. The laptop will have a 500MHz processor and 128MB of DRAM, with 500MB of Flash memory; it will not have a hard disk, but it will have four USB ports. The laptops will have wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a mesh network; each laptop will be able to talk to its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc, local area network. The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data.
I downloaded the picture from the site.
Dash Navigation & Yahoo Search

I had first written about the always connected (2-way) navigation tool dash in October. They have announced a partnership with Yahoo that should be a major boost to this product. This might be the first navigation tool that I acquire.

Will check it out when it hits the market in DC.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

WOW Widget
Proof that my prediction will come true - 2007 will be the year of the widgets on the web. They will be everywhere!

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