Friday, September 28, 2007

Fixed my voicemail

I hate voicemail. Actually, I hate interfacing with it. Unlike email, sms and IM which chase me, I have to chase voicemail. I have to check to see if I have the little voicemail icon, call in, and go through my messages one by one, slowly and painfully. Acting on a voicemail is limited at best and the legacy inherent in the system is frustrating at best.

This morning I fixed my voicemail.

Let me introduce you to SimulScribe. In a nutshell, this service acts like voicemail to the caller, but after they leave the message, SimulScribe takes the audio file, converts it to text with voice recognition and emails it to you. (along with an MP3 file of the actual message).

Sounds so simple. And it is. Better yet, its simply effective by turning voicemail into a random access communications platform. That's the difference. All they did was change how I interfaced with voicemail and poof! I'm happy. ;-)

Now, its not perfect, but its good enough. They have transcribing errors, but its pretty good considering the quality of today's cell calls, etc.

I liked visual voicemail on the iPhone while I had it. While it was still plain old voicemail, the ability to randomly access messages at will made it worthwhile. SimulScribe takes it to the next level and for me, voicemail is a tool again. The service is pretty pain jane and I've already got a list of enhancements for them that are easy to do, and improve the usability another order of magnitude.

You can try it free for 7 days. As I write this I'm still in my first day of service and I'm sold.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Crossing the bridge

Time is running out on Rocketplane Kistler as they head towards the 30 day deadline for coming up with the $500 million needed to keep their COTS dreams alive after NASA served them with their notification two weeks ago.

George's son, George junior, commented today that they have commitments for $300 million of the total needed. I'm sure they are burning the phone lines, airlines, etc. in order to get the remaining dollars locked up to save the day in what could possibly end the company in its entirety.

Don't discount George Senior - he's a scrappy guy when pushed against the ropes. He's the kind of guy you don't want to underestimate. (his wife Bev, is sharper than he is - and he knows it. I'd recruit her to run ops if I were him)

Still, they have to raise $200 million in just under two weeks. No easy task and they need to have all $500m in order to satisfy the COTS requirements.

One thing the naysayers also don't factor into the mix : George has a decent back pocket of IOU's in the political arena and if they are short on the money on D-Day, you can be certain that he'll pull those out to cross the bridge without getting wet.

Startup Idol

Want to get your company funded?

1. Submit your idea

2. Get people to vote for it.

3. Three winners get their idea funded

This is like other incubators, but the public vote is an interesting twist. Check it out. Its a weird cross between VC incubator contests and American Idol.

Just doesn't make sense

With Palm's launch of the $99 Centro today, I got to thinking about Helio and how phones like this are impacting their business.

Looking at the Helio lineup, their Ocean phone (but don't call it a phone, you'll upset Sky) is $295, and their low end phone is $99 (with all discounts applied). The service starts at $65/month, but that only nets you 500 minutes though you get unlimited SMS, data, etc. An actual useful 1500 minute plan is $100 a month.

If Helio is targeting young, wired consumers, then I think they need to have pricing that reflects what that target market can bear. When a 20 something can get an iPhone for $399 or a Centro for $99 with a monthly service around $39 a month, why would they bother with Helio's offerings?

I don't know how much longer they can continue to toss money into the Helio fire and watch it go up in smoke, but I'm glad they're not burning MY money.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Its coming. Really, it is.

I've blogged about it before, and now Appleinsider is talking about it as well. While they harken back to the Newton - this is a whole new beast. Don't think looser handheld. Think handheld OSX.

The before mentioned product between the iPhone and the MacBook is now hitting the rumor mills and I can't confirm or deny what I might have seen, or not seen. Know or not know, I can say this : there is a really cool product (or two!) coming down the pipe from the angels at Apple. Best money says we'll see at least one of them at Steve's keynote in January. If you happen to be at the show, drop me an email and we'll catch a drink and some sushi!

(image on the post was taken from

UPDATE - Its Saturday (9/29) and now I'm seeing increased mumblings about this across the blogesphere. Folks are starting to get it. cool.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The day the world changed

Next week on Oct 4 will be the 50th year anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite.

We've come a long way in 50 years, but compared to other technological history, space flight hasn't progressed as fast as say, computer technology. For all intense purposes, we're flying with the same technology, slightly refined. All the promised advances of the past 30 years never really panned out, and that's a real shame.

Aviation is kinda the same way - if you look at piston engine technology that powers most of the private aircraft fleets, those engines are just refined versions of the engine that powered the Wright Flyer in its first flight at Kitty Hawk back in December of 1903.

When Sputnik blasted off, the world entered a new age of space flight, but where have we really gone? Man hasn't gone any further than the moon, and we haven't done that since the early 70's. We've sent a few probes way out there - and I mean WAY out there, and we've learned a lot along the way. But mankind is still locked to the surface of this planet.

We need some breakout technologies to transform our flight and spaceflight industries.

Where will the next breakthrough in propulsion come from? Area 51? ;-)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Time to sprout!

Open your mind, cultivate and grow at this interesting conference.

Put on by the amazingly minded Jason, Carlos and Jim. (don't know who they are? Tisk tisk - you better catch up! - Start here but don't stop there)

Attendance it limited to just 135 folks at $399 each.

Grab your brain, soil, watering can and jump in!

Unlockers panic!

Now folks, you KNEW this was going to happen. Unlocking your favorite iToy was going to have some fallout sooner or later. Apple has an update coming down the pipe (I told you so!) that has all the iUnlocker's freaking out that they might be owners of an expensive iBrick. ;-)

Check out the post here at TUAW. But they also have another post as well.

And Engaget is also reporting Apple's reaction here.

What amazes me is how they all act so surprised about this. Duh!

Today's lesson

When I turn in for the evening, I always reflect on what lesson(s) I might have learned from that days activity. I go through all the people I conversed with, emailed, called - heck, even the guy I talked to through the drive through at Taco Bell (yes, I have a soft spot for Taco Bell)

If I can't think of a lesson that I learned, or find any sort of cognitive treasure from the day's activity, then there's only one conclusion :


Since the mid 90's, this has been a daily ritual for me. When I fail, I focus doubly hard the following day to ensure that I'm attentive to what's going on around me, how I'm interacting and what the reactions are to my words, posture and overall just being there.

So, what lesson did you learn today?

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Whenever someone who you think is on the up-and-up throws in some kinky, albeit small change into a pretty easy deal, stop! Don't proceed any further. Look at their weird request and work on figuring out what their REAL motivation in behind the request. Inquire around the request, effectively negating it by relegating it to a trivial matter and see if they come back to you requesting again their need on the matter. By bringing back into the conversation, they're reinforcing their real interest in the issue.

Call it out - kill the deal and let them know the issue is on the table and see where things go.

Keep it real and always try to stay in the driver's seat. ;-)

Ideas to grow on

Interesting article over at Business Week about the growth of firms that are working on multiple ideas/projects versus those that don't. I get a fair amount of comments from people who think I'm stretched too thin, or that working on alpha project ideas is not only a waste of time, but also distracts us from our primary focus such that business suffers.

The skinny of the article : "Want to grow faster? Then give yourself some choices. A new stufy by the team at Eureka! Ranch found that companies with more choices for growth made smarter decisions - and ultimately grew 5.8 times faster than those with fewer options."

Read the whole article here.

The Art Of Evangelism

On Tuesday, Sept 25 (11am PST) might I suggest that you take some time out of your day to join Guy Kawasaki in a free web seminar on the Art of Evangelism. Guy's written the book (literally) on the subject and I've been a fan of his since his days at Apple. (I've even had the 'fun' of doing a pitch to him years ago at

If you've not read his books, check them out on Amazon. The Art of the Start is great for startups, and Rules for Revolutionaries is a must read. But all of his books are worth reading IMHO.

Dare I say that Guy is a better author than he is investor? Oh, there I said it. ;-)


I wanted to attend, but the schedule just wouldn't permit it. Take a look at the companies that launched at the TechCrunch40 here. Also - peek at the demo pit here.

There's some promising companies/technologies in there.

Next up, DEMO. Again I can't make it. I'm headed back to New York this week. Not to NYC this time, but to Albany for the GTC East show.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Should I stay or should I go?

Today's the day. Two Saturday's ago I got an iPhone and as I said, I gave it a 14 day trial and now I'm to the conclusion of the trial and I need to decide if I'm going to keep it, or return it and pay the restocking fee.

For all of my criticism, I'll say that its a very cool device. VERY cool.

But I'm all about functionality, and the iPhone comes up short. I don't have much need for the iPod part of it, the touch keyboard still annoys me to no end, but there's this little part of me that really likes the device and its uber coolness.

I can't get over the fact that mail does NOT sync. What an easy thing to do that would be such a big thing for Mac Mail users.

On the plus side - my gripes are all software related, and Apple can fix these. I suppose I could just keep it and wait for the firmware updates to roll out...

But no, it just doesn't offer any increased functionality over my Treo 700p. So I'm going to return it today and wait for the second generation iPhone.

Don't get me wrong - I like it. I WANT to like it even more! And I know the iPhone can be way more than what it is in its current form. I think Apple did a heck of a job on the first version of the iPhone, but its not enough to get me to switch off of my Treo.

I was looking for the iPhone to be an extension of my MacBookPro. It has all the makings to be just that, but the software comes up short. It's almost if Apple assumes that iPhone customers are NOT going to be Mac users. Yeah, I know that sounds strange, and we all believe that the majority of the iPhone owners ARE mac users (and I think that's a safe bet) but wouldn't you think that the umbilical cord between the iPhone and Mac would be better? More mature? And, dare I say, actually useful?

So, back in the box it goes.

UPDATE : The return process was easier than buying the iPhone in the first place! I was expecting this to be a drawn out affair, but all told, it took about two minutes. I was impressed! I also had to call AT&T to cancel the service, and the guy on the phone was super nice, and genuinely interested in why I brought the iPhone back (they don't have a lot of that going on). Kudos to AT&T on this experience. ;-)

Burning cash

With the demise of AMP'd mobile earlier this summer, the news that Helio isn't getting any more money from its partner, Earthlink and continues to loose around $350 million a year doesn't look like a good indicator for its future. That said, SK Telecom has committed another $270 million in investment for Helio.

I've been in their retail stores - and I have to say, they aren't exactly busy. Combine that with their aggressive advertising in print, etc. and its easy to see how they're burning cash at an incredible rate.

But is anyone buying?

Techcrunch reports that Helio ended August with 130k subscribers, and expects to finish the year with 200k to 250k subs. I bet they'll miss the mark. The growth charts don't make sense to their subscription acquisition claims - to hit the proposed numbers they'll need a decent increase in their sign up rates, and I just don't see the event that's going to spur that growth. Especially with the iPhone in the market.

Don't get me wrong on this - I don't blame Helio's sullen growth numbers on the iPhone. Trust me, they wre doing poorly just fine all by themselves. But with the iPhone on the market, things are even worse for Sky's company.

Lets take the iPhone out of the equation for a second and look at why Helio is headed to the deadpool in the long run.

Helio has cool handsets - really they do. Granted they just got the full keyboard smartphone this summer, but thats ok since they're target market is the XYZ generation(s), not the mobile professional who's buying crackberry's and Treo's. But they also have content, and they're playing up on the whole social aspect to your mobile (young) lifestyle. In Asia, this is huge. This is where they got their business model idea from. When Helio started, Sky was out there pushing that Asia had all these cool phones and the kids were HUGE on them, and indeed they are. There's one major difference between the US market at Asia :

People own computers here, in Asia they don't. Thus, their phones ARE they're computers and things like internet cafe's where you rent time on a computer to go online are still popular. I'm amazed that investors didn't see this glaring problem with Helio. It wasn't a business plan problem, it was an assumption and social difference problem. Let alone that folks are going to buy a phone/plan for online content. You don't see computers being sold for specific online content that you can't get anywhere else, so why would it work on a phone? Same for those premium content plans that most mobile carriers provide.

Computers, phones, handhelds like the iPod Touch are just ways to access the online world. Trying to pair them with specific content doesn't work. Period. No matter what device people buy, their online world is the same, regardless. Devices will become transparent and commodities in the long run. This is where the idea of ubiquitous computing comes into play, but that's a whole 'nother post.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

WiFi on the rocks

All around the country, metro WiFi projects are stalling, being put on hold or just being abandoned.

This story illustrates the problem out there. Big claims from politicians and companies bailing on plans as economics force them to go elsewhere as the business model isn't working for them.

San Francisco officially killed the project.

Colorado Springs is going to hold out for WiMax - and can you blame them?

Chicago dumped their plan.

Philly is on hold as well as Cincinnati's network plans.

Milwaukee faces rising costs and partners are backing out.

Houston? We have a problem with our WiFi!

I guess folks are figuring out that investing in old technology isn't a smart move when you have Sprint and other major players spending billions on their WiMax plans that will essentially negate all those expensive WiFi projects.

Ask Google - rolling out metro WiFi is expensive and difficult with terrain issues and all those pesky trees. In our neck of the woods, anything you install in winter will most likely be in serious trouble once spring hits and leaves start forming back on all the trees. I bailed on WiFi back around 2000 for my ISP. We had a bunch of point to point customers up and running, but issues with interference and overall quality of service made it a no-go.

Sure, WiFi will have its place in small areas where there aren't other options and the terrain favors it (Hood River, marinas, etc.), but in most areas, WiMax will rule the roost.

I'm not sayin' I told you so ... but .....

Cow pie?

Seems that Gateway is going to announce a new all-in-one computer next week that they claim will look so good that it belongs in an art exhibit. Dare I say I'm not impressed?

If they think this will sell computers, more power to 'em. Its just further clarification that they just don't get it. Its not the design that sells an iMac, its the whole package. It just happens that Apple puts their computers in amazing looking cases that reflect well on the elegance of the operations of the computer.

No matter what case Gateway rolls out - its still a Vista machine. Sure, you can polish poo, but in the end, its still poo. ;-)

On the design side, has Gateway ever designed anything that wasn't fugly?

Nothing like designing something cool and then shipping it in a cow inspired box. Mooooo!

Dang, that's slick!

Hit the installer in AppTapp, fired up the Navizon app, registered and BOOM! It nailed my location first time out.

This is going to serve me well on the road and until Google gets bluetooth GSP integration working for Maps, I'll be a Navizon customer.

Give it a try!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Too good to be true?

As I find myself in NYC for a second week in a row, I'm delighted to see that Navizon has made a trial release of its Virtual GPS system for the iPhone.

I've been asking for a bluetooth GPS integration into Google Maps and while this isn't as accurate as GPS, its a heck of a lot better than nothing.

I'll give it a go tomorrow and let you know how well it works.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

iPhone sloooooowness

It started last weekend. I'd tap, the button would dim and then the iPhone would hesitate. This hesitation turned into longer and longer hangs, sometimes resulting in a reboot. Emails delay before being deleted and the phone lags when being woken up.

This behavior seems to be connected to the iPhone's use of AT&T craptastic Edge data network. Then again, I *think* it is, but this is hard to determine since the iPhone doesn't really give you feedback on what its doing on the data side of things.

Speaking of data access, there's another issue where you fire up the iPhone, and go into Safari and the web access is super slow. I mean slow - slower than Edge usually is. The culprit? Mail is pulling down some messages. Ok, I'm using the slowest data network the phone has to browse the web - the iPhone then goes to check mail while I'm in Safari, thus slowing my web surfing. This makes no sense at all and harbors back to the problem with Mail that they have it run in the background, even in manual mode. They need to give data priority to the app that's currently in use for obvious reasons.

And as for network preferences - the iPhone doesn't like to stay connected to WiFi access points when you wake it. Another reason to use Devicescape's app. Make a note of it.

Come on Apple - fix the turtle that is my iPhone!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wardriving with my iPhone

As I drive around with my iPhone, I'm bombarded by prompts from the iPhone for WiFi networks that it sees. Now, as a hacker, I can appreciate this, but since I'm trying to get work done, this is REALLY annoying. Especially since the iPhone's WiFi has really crappy range. (external antenna hacks anyone.... anyone?!)

If you download and install Devicescape's app to manage WiFi network access, you can control these annoying intrusions into your iPhone usage. On the plus side, Devicescape's app will also enable you to store WiFi access usernames/password/keys, etc. and only connect to approved wireless networks.

Check out this great write up here. I saw Devicescape at DEMO last January and I was impressed with what they're doing to make WiFi use on devices like phones, cameras, etc. easier. My only concern is that there's no barrier to entry for the manufacturers to do what they do - and there's no secret sauce to it. (do they have any IP or patents?? I don't know - Anyone want to comment on that?)

Devicescape has some exposure in that OSX does this already, and I'd guess that its a matter of time before the iPhone can do this as well. Sources tell me that Devicescape has been in talks with Apple to include their app on the iPhone. While their app has more bells and whistles than what Apple has already, I doubt they'll license it. 1) you can already get it for free and 2) Apple can add that functionality easily without licensing it.

In the meantime, give it a try. It can only improve your iPhone WiFi experience. I don't really use the WiFi on my iPhone the way it CAN be used, because as you all know, I'm a 3G (EVDO) bigot. But you already knew that. ;-)

Providing Solutions Globally

One of the comments we always get at trade shows is, "Great booth! When I walk by I can tell who you are and what you do!" Our booth messaging is a pure play in brand awareness. We want them to know WHO we are, WHAT we do and HOW to reach us. Its the same mentality for outdoor advertising : You have mere seconds to get that information across to the audience as they drive by.

Driving to work one day, I saw a tanker truck with some short named company on the side. You know - the kind of name that an ad firm would create by throwing words against the wall that end up saying (and meaning) nothing. The kicker was the slogan on the side of the tanker, "Providing Solutions Globally". They went through the trouble to put all this on their vehicle(s), and I'm sure its on all their business cards, fax letterhead, etc. and what does it say?


Every time you put your name out there (and your tagline/slogan) you have an opportunity to create awareness for your company to those that don't otherwise know you. Make the most of it - you never know what will trigger someone to call or visit your website. Remember - phone numbers are NEVER remembered, but a memorable URL will be.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Why no WiFi?

Ok, some folks emailed in asking why I didn't comment on how the iPhone has WiFi and my Treo doesn't and that kicks ass over the Treo.

I didn't comment on it because my Treo has EVDO and doesn't need WiFi as a backup network to its carrier service.

Listen, I covered this before. Let's review, shall we?

1) Edge sucks. Edge is slow. But Edge is mobile. (lose/win)

2) EVDO is fast. EVDO is mobile. (win/win)

3) WiFi is fast, but WiFi is fixed. (win/lose)

We're talking about a MOBILE phone. Slaving to a short range, fixed high speed network makes no sense at all.

Sure, in my house and at my office my iPhone has access to WiFi, but in those spots my MacbookPro is handy, so why would I bother with the iPhone? On the road, I'm not going around looking for WiFi hotspots. Life is too short to go on a scavenger hunt for high speed data when networks exist already that are high speed and mobile.

Got it? Good. I don't want to hear about this again. ;-)

Cage Match!

Head to head. Mano e mano. Winner take all. That's what my two week test of the iPhone is all about. I'm a Treo user who's also a die hard Mac user and my mobile usability requirements are pretty tough as I travel a ton.

Here are the categories I've been evaluating on :

Mobile Network, phone / contacts, email, calendar, web, google maps, single hand operations and overall ease of use/GUI.

Mobile Network : Winner : Sprint Treo. Sorry Apple, EVDO and excellent coverage for the past 8 days even in NYC beat out AT&T.

Phone/Contacts : Winner : Treo. I can locate and dial contacts faster with the Treo and get into the phone app without having to go through the main menu. Hey Apple - give up some better options to quick dial contacts and get into the phone app quicker (ie. perhaps have a default app option?). Call quality? iPhone. When I can get a decent signal, the calls sound awesome. But those silly bars. All over? Yeah, riiiiiight. I'm all over and they ain't. Trust me.

Email : Tie? While the iPhone imported all my settings, after that the "sync" option was a misleading feature as aside from the initial setup, there's no syncing of sent mail, received mail, etc. Tisk tisk! If the iPhone would actually SYNC with the, that would be a kick butt capability that would win the hearts of many Mac business users. The email app on the iPhone is a little weird in that when you select manual mode for fetching mail, you'll note that there's no "get mail" button ... the manual part assumes that when you go into email that you want to check mail. No, this is a terrible UI mistake. Guys - manual mode should have a 'fetch mail' button, no assumptions. As for composing email? This (again) goes to the Treo. Sorry Steve, no matter how your tout the touch screen, the physical keyboard rocks. Riddle me this - do you use a period (.) in your emails? Yeah, I thought you did. So do I. WHY DOESN'T THE PERIOD EXIST ON THE KEYBOARD WHEN COMPOSING AN EMAIL?? Using two taps to get punctuation is just insane. Really insane. Not insanely great mind you, that's something entirely different! ;-) And deleting mail? Yeah, that's a joke. tap tap tap tap tap .... someone save me! On the plus side, this is a software issue that is fixable. So, Apple can win this one back. (that's why its a tie - I think Apple will fix this so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt)

Calendar : Tie. The Treo is nice, but the Palm desktop app was built back in the stone age when Palm thought PDA's were cool. Hey guys, you make phones now - time to get some new desktop software to keep up with the actual product. Apple needs to add more options in iCal.

Google maps : Readers and friends know I live (and die) on this app. Again we have a tie. While the iPhone's larger resolution is excellent, the app is missing some decent options that the Palm version has. I thought the touch screen would be an issue for scrolling since I really think the jog on the Treo is the best UI for this, but it works well either way. The iPhone zooms in and out way faster than the Treo. But the Treo has EVDO and can crank through maps a light speed compared to AT&T's (dead) Edge network. Both apps need to have bluetooth GPS integration!!

Single hand operation (easy on the jokes here folks!) : Treo wins. There are UI issues in the iPhone (especially in email) where single handed operations are difficult and require some serious thumb capabilities to reach the nav buttons. The Apple UI team needs to make note that all smartphones kinda look the same in terms of UI layout because single handed operations push all nav to the bottom half of the phone. Again, Apple can fix this and should gain points back.

Overall use? iPhone. Dude, its sooooo sexy and fun to use. (but a pain to keep clean). My Treo works like a tool, the iPhone feels like a toy. You'll notice that I didn't comment on the whole iPod capabilities for one major reason. I don't need or care for it. Sure, its cool, but kinda useless (for me). I won't use it on a plane for two major reasons - 1) when I land I want all the battery juice I can have since I don't know when I'll see a power port again and 2) the iPhone's headphone jack is recessed and my Bose headset jack can't get in there. Ever try to use those crappy earbuds that Apple gives you on an airplane? No thanks. I like to actually hear my music or video (or Diggnation podcast) without having to have the volume cranked all the way up.

But the real question is : will I keep it?

iPhone's phone

Eight days and I've been trying to ignore the problems with AT&T's network, but I just can't. I thought Sprint had poor areas of reception but AT&T is light years worse and my iPhone experience is degraded as a result. (sigh)

Unlocking is an option some say, but there's no guarantee of service with that route and communications is mission critical for me, so that really is not an option. I can't have my phone (and data) stop working when I'm on the road.

On the plus side, the type of network AT&T runs seems to provide better sounding calls than my Sprint based Treo. Most times it sounds as good as an analog call, and that impressed me from the first call. Of course, when you have no bars, you can't make those crystal clear calls.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

First week

While the iPhone still has issues that I don't care for, I've decided to take one for a two week test drive to see how well it works for me and get some real hands on use in my day to day activities to give it a fair shake. I will NOT use my Treo during the test, except only to check the signal strength of Sprint v. AT&T.

I'll be doing a series of posts each about a specific app or usability issue over the next few days.

First, I have to comment on setting it up. Easy. No bones about it, it was simple and quick. Of course I gave them my SS# even though I agree with Fred that this is completely lame. The provisioning was speedy and in a few minutes I was up and running. I didn't port my number off of my Treo as this is only a test, but if I decide to keep it, I'm curious if I can do the portability after the provisioning.?

For my test drive, I've forwarded my Treo number to the iPhone, though SMS's can't be forwarded. I had to hit a few folks that I text with to let them know about the new (and lame) iPhone number. With Sprint, I was able to pick my number - not so with the AT&T iPhone provisioning. Bummer.

So, that's the set up. I'll be posting more soon, so stay tuned!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Like a thief in the night....

EWeek is reporting that Microsoft is going into Window's owners machines at night and installing software patches without the owner's consent. Seriously, what the heck are they thinking?!

At least the behavior is consistent in that not only are they not telling you they're doing this, they'll not tell you WHAT the patches actually do.


Fred's got a point

Fred Wilson (famed blogger, savvy investor and a guy with damn good insight) has a very good observation regarding his iPhone. In Fred's case, his was a gift (lucky dad!) and Fred wants to register his iPhone his own way. Nothing wrong with that, but AT&T doesn't work that way and Fred is up in arms and I don't blame him.

iPhone unlockers beware

I know some folks hate the idea of being tied to AT&T for voice and mobile data service and several companies have sprung up that will unlock your iPhone SIM via software. However, even though you have unlocked your iPhone and gotten a contract with a different mobile carrier than AT&T, Apple can (and will) release software updates that will break the unlock and render your iPhone useless. Of course, you still need to pay for that 'other' mobile carrier service even though your beloved iPhone can't use the service.

So, buyer beware in this case and be prepared to what might (will) happen to you if you choose this route for your iPhone.

Just sayin' I told you so. ;-)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

gPhone part II

My Treo 700p has an unlimited EVDO data plan for $15 a month. With EVDO on my Mac I can video conference, skype, stream audio content, Joost, etc. etc.

Why am I paying for a voice plan when I could just VOIP with the data?

If someone rolled out an EVDO handset that didn't use the mobile carriers's voice capability but was a real 'internet' handset, would Sprint offer a $15 data only plan, without voice or sms?

Probably not.

Of course, what I just described is what the gPhone (if its real) would be. But since the current mobile carriers could effectively already do what Google wants to do, shouldn't they take the initiative and beat Google to the punch?

Sprint could do it even better with their WiMAX powered Xohm network.

Why not?


There's been a lot of speculation on the possibility of Google rolling out their own mobile handset and upsetting the mobile phone market.


If I was Google - I'm make my own rules. What if the phone was free? Ok, nothing new there, as carriers have given away phones before. But what if the service was free? That would be disruptive. Of course, it wouldn't be free - it would be ad supported. The the best way to serve up those ads would be to have access to all the data on your phone. Much like gmail scans your email content to serve up relevant ads.

Hmm, would Americans go for this? Some folks don't care for the government to have access to their phone records to help fight the war on terror, how would they feel to Google having even more access that's been clearly outlined in their EULA (End User License Agreement)?

Of course, this would only happen if Google were to purchase a FCC license to operate their own mobile phone network, but if they got it...??

To Google, they've got the cash and it would be an interesting bet for them to see if it would work. If not, they could always be a plain jane mobile carrier with a few extra bells and whistles.

The real problem with Google doing this?


Everything that Google does is Beta. Beta this, beta that. Beta here, beta there. If Google is going to make it in these new endeavors then they need to get the mindset to execute in a manner befitting a Nokia, Sprint or Apple.

Look around Google. Lots of projects. Lots of Beta. What they don't create they buy and they've not really demonstrated good executions of acquisitions in terms of taking it to the next level.

Then again for a company that only seems to turn out beta products and services they got a heck of a market cap. ;-)

Fly me to the moon

The XPrize folks, together with Google announced today a $20 million prize for the first team to send a rover to the moon, send back a gigabyte of data and traverse about 1,400 feet across the lunar surface. There is another $10 million (2 x $5m) for teams that either come in second place or complete minimum requirements.

This announcement comes the same week that NASA put Rocketplane Kistler on written notice that if they don't fix their program milestone issues, NASA will declare the $250 million COTS contract void and move on. To date, RpK has been awarded around $20 million and financing problems are what has forced NASA to do this under the agreement.

While I don't know what's going on inside RpK, I'd hate to seem them loose both projects - Rocketplace and the COTS launch program because management bit off more than they could chew.

Back to the XPrize lunar challenge - I think we'll see some interesting teams pairing together to go after the $20 million purse. This is two steps beyond the previous challenge in that not only do you need to get into orbit (17,000+ mph) you need to also have the energy to boost out of earth's gravity well to get into lunar orbit. All told, there's a lot of energy needed to do this, but small is good and I think we'll see some KISS programs that are very innovative.

East coast v. west coast

Just got back from a security show in New York. These New York shows are completely different than other shows that we do in terms of the attendee draw. West coast (including Vegas) shows draw from all over the country and also pull pretty good internationally. New York shows really only draw locally. I think this has a lot to do with 1) hotel costs in NYC are expensive, 2) traffic is a pain to deal with - even for locals. Show organizers don't seem to get it in terms of marketing, but they're trying.

The show organizers for the Infosec show this week didn't plan well - The first day of the event was on 9/11 and the second day was the start of Rosh Hashanah. Very poor planning. Sure, having a "security show" on 9/11 might sound compelling, but its bad for attendees to travel with the events going on in the city to honor the fallen. The cultural differences between both coasts and especially for the NYC area is one that organizers need to be aware of.

I'm back again next week in the Big Apple for a small, targeted security/tech event that I'll bet will outperform the one we just left. We also have Interop in NYC in October and it will be interesting to see how each of the three events compare for NYC shows.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

New Google maps for Treo

Google quietly released a new version of its wildly popular Maps program. Go get it. As I said before, I can't live without it and again it saved my bacon in Los Angeles last week as I had to deal with traffic to and from LAX. There's nothing more satisfying to dodge traffic and glance over to see 5 lanes of parking lot as you cruise to your destination at highway speeds.

Now, we just need to have the holy grail modification to tie in Google Maps to a bluetooth GPS.

Heck of an opener!

The season opener is always a great time. The two previous home openers were real bummers as the Bears had their way with the Pack in a big way. Today's game was a surprise for many as we came out swinging with defensive and special teams plays that netted 10 points in the first few minutes. Of course the Eagles settled down and slowly came back, and tied up the score at 10 apiece. Again special teams pulled out a botched punt return into a possession and kicked a field goal to win with 5 seconds left. It wasn't pretty, but it was a heck of a game.

Its still going to be a long season, and if the games are anything like this, the guy who sits in front of me won't have ANY fingernails left!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

More than meets the eye

Apple's announcement(s) today of the iTouch/iPhone and wireless iTunes store has some far reaching ramifications for the future of computing as we know it. As I said in my previous post, Apple would announce innovation, not imitation, and we got more than we fully realize.

First - The iTouch. Ok, the name sucks, but once we get past that what we have is essentially an iPhone without the phone. No biggie. What we really have is a handheld OSX based computer that doesn't suffer from the restrictions of the AT&T/Apple contract. Why bring in AT&T to this? Just because the iTouch isn't a "phone" doesn't mean its not a phone. Sure you don't have a 2G radio to access AT&T glorious network to place a voice call and get crappy data services, but you DO have a 802.11x network that can do a heck of a lot more than just surf the web and access the wireless iTunes store. Get it? And while Steve made no mention of it running OSX - he didn't say the AppleTV could run it either. UPDATE - Yes I know it has no mic - but some marketing shots had a bluetooth logo in the upper right of the display. If there's no bluetooth then VOIP is toast unless you could do some sort of freaky aftermarket accessory that uses the dock connector for sound in/out.

Second - The price drop. The Apple fanboys are all agog with the price drop with the iPhone. They're pissed about the $200 and making motions to call the FTC, etc. to cry their little hearts out. Hey guys - get over it. You PAID to be an early adopter. The only difference is that the time it has taken for a price drop to go into effect is a heck of a lot shorter than with previous products. (UPDATE - Apple is giving these early adopters a $100 Apple gift certificate. ) The REAL importance here is that the price drop does two things. 1) The iPhone now has access to a larger market and 2) the price drop creates room for the next product to be announced by Steve at MacWorld in Janaury. (go through my archived posts for more about this). Remember - this "one more thing" product probably is NOT governed by the five year AT&T deal. This deal bothered me for a long time - seriously, a FIVE YEAR DEAL? I couldn't fathom why Steve would agree to that until I realized that he's not concerned about it because its just the beginning of the future. Not the future itself. Steve doesn't give up the high ground and he didn't with the AT&T deal.

Third - The wireless itunes store makes iPhone's and iTouch units able to function WITHOUT being tied to a master computer. Sure there are still some issues with setting up your iPhone with iTunes, but what we're seeing is a clear departure from these units being tethered to your desktop or laptop to function. This is important.

Fourth - I consider the Starbucks announcement to be purely an experiment. Its a social and psychological experiment into how your interact with entertainment and how to deal with the physical and networked world. There was no mention of TMobile because when your iTouch or iPhone interacts with the hotspot at Starbucks, you will NOT be on a TMobile hotspot. Well, I don't think you will be. I could be wrong here, but I think that the rollout slowness was due to Apple and Starbucks having to built out new wireless access points at Starbucks locations that are essentially a VPN network to Apple's various data centers. This isn't about internet access, this is about iTunes access. They're starting with music, but its not going to stop there.

Fifth - Steve's reference to 1/3 of all music this year being released ONLY in a digital format was very important. It was a DIRECT message to the music industry. Actually, it was a warning and a threat, all in one. And those music cronies STILL don't get it. Oh well.

Ok - that's all I'm going to post for now. I gotta run and catch a flight to LAX.

(the image is from Check them out. Their coverage of the announcement was most excellent)

UPDATE - Yes, I KNOW its not called the iTouch. ;-p

Do you lead or follow?

Microsoft is making rumblings about a possible purchase of RIM (makers of the Blackberry) and they've also made comments of, "Windows Mobile being more integrated with photos and music."

How typical.

I don't know why Microsoft just doesn't come out and say, "Ok folks, we don't really have a clue about this whole music, mobile, entertainment thing, so we're just going to try to emulate Apple when we can."

In technology, either you lead or you follow. Microsoft SHOULD be in a position to lead, but lately they seem to think that sitting in the back seat while companies like Apple drive them around, is a good place to be.

Sooner or later this is going to catch up to them. And I mean In A Big Way.

Apple is making huge inroads into increased marketshare with their OSX based computers, the iPod rules the personal music/entertainment player world and the iPhone jumped out with a record launch and continues to sell well. Apple isn't seeing success because they're following the rest of the industry. They're successful because they are being a market leader. Creating entirely new markets if they have to. They are masters of their destiny and its paying off handsomely.

Today Apple has another announcement/press event at Moscone West. I think its a safe bet that we're going to see innovation instead of imitation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Robotics? Art? Both!

Ok, this makes me smile. Some of you might know that my undergraduate B.S. is in artificial intelligence - namely autonomous robotics. So, when I saw this project I just had to post about it. Its almost, maybe, could be, well, ok, its kinda cooler than the autonomous blimps that roamed the atrium at the MIT Media Lab in the 80's. (still have the video from that trip around here somewhere...)

These guys created some really beautiful looking spherical autonomous vehicles that interact with their environment. What better place to turn them loose but at the recent Burning Man event in Black Rock City!? I can only imagine how the burners interacted with these vehicles while in their various states of, well, lets just leave it at that. You folks know what I mean. Dude, talk about trippy!

Still, R.U.S.H. was cooler. I think its still around somewhere... locked in a closet looking for a power plug... Hmmmm, 8088 assembler coding on the main chasis for motor control, navigation and sonar array with an 68HC11 miniboard controller for ring sensor management... those were the days. (sigh)

Tier 2

The XPrize folks are going to make an announcement next week that is going to make the suborbital flights made by SpaceShip One look like child's play. The goal will the lofty (literally), the risks will be high and the reward will be, well, it will be more than you can imagine. Ok, perhaps not, but that worked for Luke when he had to convince Han to help him save the princess from the clutches of Darth Vader. ;-)

They'll be announcing the new prize at the upcoming Wired NEXTFest on Sept 13 and have released a teaser video as well.

Going to orbit seems to be the next obvious prize beyond the last suborbital X Prize contest and this fits right into Burt Rutan's "Tier 2" program. (Tier 1 was SpaceShip One, Tier 2 is orbital and Tier 3 is beyond orbit) Burt was quick to comment a few years ago that, "we're heading for orbit sooner than you think."

Kick the tires and light the fires!

UPDATE - Some of the XPrize document names reference "lunar" ... so, this prize might go past Tier 2. Interesting!

Kinda cool

If you happen to be attending the Office 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this week (I'm not), you're $1,500 conference fee includes a interesting little perk. A free 4GB iPhone. (!)

Seems the conference folks have a desire to learn more about user interfaces, work flow, usage patters and the best way they figure to do this is to plant an iPhone in the hands of all the attendees.

I sure hope they have a robust WIFI network for the conference. iPhone or laptop, WIFI at events like these tend to fall to their knees (Hmmm, last spring's Web 2.0 conference anyone??) and using the 2.5G mobile network for access will suck for the attendees. Still, its a pretty interesting idea and it will be intriguing to see what (if anything) comes of this little experiment.

All aside, its a killer marketing ploy to boot. ;-)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

End of summer

Another summer draws to a close with a spectacular weekend forecast for us here. Its a win-win for everyone as we'll have excellent sunshine and high temps in the 80's to get us all outside during the day and calm cool evenings for those dinners on the deck and late night camradirie around the fire pit. Of course I'm smiling because we have some wind in our forecast as well with south winds 20-25 mph on Sunday. Fall is the best time for sailing here in the midwest as the weather systems fight for control bringing us warm southerly winds followed by northerly blasts that make the lake come alive.