Stop trying to make an iPhone killer. Srsly.

Corvida from ReadWriteWeb writes:

The launch of the 3G iPhone is a little over a week away. With all the promotion that Apple and AT&T are getting, other carriers and mobile handset developers have been releasing touchscreen phones like crazy. From Blackberry to LG, there are tons of touchscreen handsets that will hit the market this year in order to take ground from the iPhone. However, they’re missing something very important. It’s not about the touchscreen guys, it’s mainly about the mobile apps.

When the App Store launches, there will be a huge number of available applications and the rumour goes that more and more will be accepted over the next 6 months, due to an alleged backlog in processing of accounts which means there will be more and more new applications as time goes by.

Competitors are scrabbling to release ‘iPhone killers’ which is affording the iPhone a position of ascendancy already, despite having less than 10% of the smartphone market and a miniscule percentage of the mobile phone market as a whole. The lack of wisdom and foresight in the mobile manufacturer markets is turning to Apple’s favour just like the MP3 market did before them – competing on paper, in terms of technical specifications and not bringing anything new to the table is just foolish.

In terms of real competitors we have Windows Mobile and RIM’s BlackBerry. Both of them have a unified platform for application distribution and an installed base. Symbian, while having a massive installed base is somewhat hobbled by their manufacturers who have fragmented the code base by diverging into their own proprietary versions. Nokia’s recent acquisition of Symbian and creation of the Symbian Foundation highlight that Nokia and SonyEricsson are obviously aware of the issue there. Add Android into the mix (and possibly the obscure LiMo) and you’ve got a whole smorgasbord of activity happening in this space.

In recent experience with ‘new’ phones, the interface is still where they need to work the most. Working with the Nokia N95 8 GB and the SonyEricsson K960i – the UI is sluggish, the browser isn’t bad but it’s centuries behind the iPhone. And Samsung’s Instinct? Watch the videos – while it may be able to download the pages quickly enough, the responsiveness of the UI is just woeful. There’s a pregnant pause every time you launch an application which contrasts most roughly with the iPhone. And everything they’ve done to beat the iPhone will likely be defeated in 10 days time. Fantastic guys, way to move the industry forward!

This sluggishness is important. A phone is not like a desktop computer. It’s limited in resources in ways the desktop never is. Applications are not launched and left to run for days on end. Every application is started and quit several times a day in the life of a smartphone. And of course, during the 2008 WWDC Keynote a lot was made of the Windows method of managing performance.

Ridiculous no matter what way you look at it. And this is a third party application that costs $7.95. How’s that for value?

Stop trying to create an iPhone killer. Just try to make an insanely great phone. Seriously.

What does your (ideal) co-working office look like?

The look and feel of a co-working space is going to make or break it. Does it have a clean, sterile aesthetic? Or does it feel like you’re in a house, natty carpet, curtains, sofas with patterned throws? Or does it look like a busy office with multiple low level cubicles? What I may see as my perfect co-working space may not be ideal for others. Some people need space, others enjoy being crowded, some prefer the noise of a coffee shop, others want something more private.

This is a nice co-working space – copied from the NotAnMBA blog – showing a cool concept for Co-Working. Of course, this is absolutely form over function, style over utility. The office layout is originally designed by Adam Kalkin, pictured at http://www.thecoolhunter.net/design/ (site very slow):

It’s clinical, it’s striking, it would cost a fortune. The costs of desks and office chairs has to be considered (never mind the lorry crates used to make offices in the picture above.

What do people expect from a Co-Working site?

This? An image taken from Wired of the Jelly Co-Working:


It just seems untidy and maybe not the best work environment – not to mention what it would do for your posture.

Personally I want something in the middle. I would prefer a sofa there for conversations but there need to be several workstations, places for people to work. Would there need to be a ‘do not disturb’ sign so that if you’re in the zone the guy next to you doesn’t keep talking about his weekend. I think a blog posts covering ‘co-working manners’ would be pencilled in for next week!

Something like this interests me.

The reality we have to remember is that in any new co-working space, unless there’s some external funding, you’re going to want to pack them in. You’re not going to have the luxury of large rooms and extravagant space between desks.

Digital Hub companies growing 30x average in RoI

ENN writes:

Companies located in The Digital Hub will grow at a rate 30 times greater than the national average during 2008. That’s according to the Digital Hub Enterprise Survey, which also revealed that 43 percent of Digital Hub companies have a product that is completely new to the market, while 25 percent have developed unique business practices, and 24 percent use a business model that is unique to their particular market. “Approximately one in six of the digital media companies currently operating in Ireland are located in The Digital Hub,” said Philip Flynn, CEO of the Digital Hub Development Agency. “So this survey not only gives us an insight into how Hub companies are getting on, it also gives key indicators about the health of Ireland’s digital media industry overall.”

While it’s possible to look at this success from an all-Ireland point of view, we have to remember that in the Black North we have our own economy and our own companies to support. We don’t (yet) have an equivalent of the Digital Hub Development Agency, though I’m presuming this is what Digital Circle is meant to grow into. The DHDA works to promote companies within the borders of Ireland and not the UK – we have our own development agency for this.

In the sense that all ‘digital hub’ companies are competing, we must be ready to compete with each other as well as with our peers in the Republic of Ireland. But friendly competition as opposed to the sort which is all too common in Northern Ireland (where a competitor tells customers that you’ve gone out of business because, you know, that’s a fair tactic).

I’d need to read a lot more about the criteria for unique business models, unique business practices and completely new products on the market[1], but it’s encouraging statistics. It goes to show that having a government agency-supported focus group for an industry is a very good way to grow the industry. Having a facility like The Digital Hub is a great step for companies which are pre-Bubble in their work ethic (while hopefully being post-Bubble in their business plan).

The closest we really have for this is the Northern Ireland Science Park which, to be honest, looks antediluvian compared to The Digital Hub – it has a lot of potential and just needs a little more energy and a little less process.

We’ve got more happening than just the InvestNI/Momentum events. Look at BarCamp, look at Belfast OpenCoffee Club (meeting Thursday 3rd July). Look at the as-yet-unnamed event happening in six months! Northern Ireland is buzzing.

Where we need the government to assist is in reducing the centralisation of all digital content companies in Belfast. There’s no reason for it considering the resources available in Omagh, Derry, Newry and Armagh. I’ve personal experience with some of the local colleges in these regions and they’re doing a lot more than people give credit for. They’re pushing ‘digital/technology’ education forward and this matters because in a broadband world it doesn’t matter where in the province you are from.

[1] something that is completely new to the market is not usually a good thing.

Mobile Me ‘me.com’ addresses working for some…

Return-path: (mattj@quayperformance.com)
Received: from smtpin138.mac.com ([10.150.68.138])
by ms233.mac.com (Sun Java(tm) System Messaging Server 6.3-6.03 (built Mar 14
2008; 64bit)) with ESMTP id <0K3A00HX8BYG9BH0@ms233.mac.com> for
pelorus@me.com; Mon, 30 Jun 2008 09:47:04 -0700 (PDT)
Original-recipient: rfc822;pelorus@me.com
..
Received: from unknown (HELO ?192.168.1.4?) (unknown)
by unknown with SMTP; Mon, 30 Jun 2008 16:47:03 +0000
X-pair-Authenticated: 90.211.129.23
Message-id:<30A4E3D8-341E-430F-86B0-F32D43BA095B@quayperformance.com>
From: Matt Johnston (mattj@quayperformance.com)
To: pelorus@me.com
Content-type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; format=flowed
Content-transfer-encoding: 7bit
MIME-version: 1.0 (Apple Message framework v924)
Subject: Test message
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2008 17:47:03 +0100
X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.924)

Mine works. 🙂 So long suckers! Note that the servers are still called mac.com servers in the email headers…

Apple’s me.com service does make a lot of sense considering that it’s aimed at iPhone users. Think about that – they just took Mac.com (previously iTools) which was a completely Mac centric subscription service providing email, web galleries and online storage…

…and turned it into a iPhone-centric tool.

Previously everything like Web galleries were only accessible via iPhoto and iWeb and that left a lot of people out in the cold (you know, everyone still on Windows). By doing this they’ve vastly increased the potential for customers for their subscription services perhaps even by an order of magnitude.

It looks kick-ass in the browser (except in Internet Explorer, but then pretty much everything looks awful in IE6) and should provide all sorts of neat improvements. My interest in it really is in how the iDisk part of it ties into the iPhone – it seems like the only parts which really apply to the iPhone are photo galleries and the groupware (email/address book/calendar) integration.

And isn’t that an interesting question. Is there groupware built into this? The only person who can update my mac.com calendar is me. Therefore over the air updates are pretty much worthless to me. This feature only makes sense if you can delegate someone else control over your calendar or address book. That necessary step doesn’t seem to be part of the MobileMe suite however. I’d like to have read and write access to other calendars on a permission basis but there’s no UI visible in Apple’s MobileMe pages.

Now…you could get everyone in an organisation to use the same MobileMe account but this has two issues.

  1. They can’t use their own MobileMe account. Pretty much a non-starter for Mac diehards.
  2. There’s no granular permissions. Anyone can see and change everything.

Those of you with good memories will remember this is why Infurious started working on SyncBridge. It wasn’t to make it so that Google Calendar would work with the Mac properly, it was designed to help you share calendars and also allow or deny permissions to those calendars to other people. Apple subsequently changed how they did everything with calendaring which pretty much killed SyncBridge. There was no way SyncBridge could compete directly with Apple. The best solution for workgroups will still be Leopard Server with the tight integration with authentication and use of the CalDAV standard.

It may return, but there’s a few wounds to lick first.

SpiceWorks. Shame.

Spiceworks combines everything you need to manage IT in one easy-to-use application:

  • Software inventory, network inventory, PC inventory. Inventory every IT thing you manage.
  • Network monitoring, Exchange monitoring, license monitoring and more. Stay alert!
  • Asset reporting, inventory reporting… share a report. Report to your heart’s content!
  • Helpdesk & IT Portal. Let ’em submit a ticket! Now you can track every IT task and project.

Looks great. Windows only. Shame.

Poor customer service from phone carriers?

Unpossible eh? It’s not as if this sort of thing is the exception.

A tale of woe in dealing with the carrier network providers and their stores.

This note goes out to all service providers, not just Three. What makes you think the Sale of Goods Act doesn’t apply to you? Under what circumstance is a three month old phone refusing to make calls fit for purpose? And if your customer is willing to accept a repair, what makes you think that depriving him of service for five days is a good move? How hard is it to provide a loan handset? What other piece of consumer electronics would I not get a replacement for if it failed after three months?

So, no joy at all. I leave the Three shop a very unhappy camper. At this point, I’m seething, and prepared to cancel my contract and go with someone else. I walk past CPW and into the Vodafone store. Astonishingly, they don’t seem to want my business. Some free advice for Vodafone retail employee trainers: smugness is not an attractive quality in in-store staff.

This isn’t just limited to Three or Vodafone. In fact, it seems to be a job requirement to be an insufferable prick. Which is why it’s so refreshing to find people who are nice, enthused and generally helpful (Colin and Christina from O2 in Ards, Shona and ‘Trainee’ from O2 on Main street, Bangor).

My experiences with Three and Orange have been less than stellar when asking about their 3G USB dongles. They just have no clue. I have come in just waiting to be sold something. Tell me why your product is better than the competition – don’t just pick up a datasheet and start reading because, you know what, I already read it. And the Wikipedia pages on your coverage which I’ve already checked out for my area. Know your product for God’s sake.

That’s why my visit to O2 in Bangor was pretty good. The two people there were enthused about their phones, had recent phones on them and took the time to demo cool features. They also didn’t lie to me when I asked questions about them or try to gloss over things. We did speed tests on the applications, especially the browser which helped me help my partner make educated decisions about future handsets.

Milestone…

This month has been productive for me in terms of blogging. I’ve never had reason to blog so much in a month and it’s quite inspiring that I still have half a dozen unfinished drafts which I can roll out over the next few days. I thought I might beat my previous monthly record but really, this has blown it out of the water. I am tempted to aim for 100 posts for the month of June but would I be putting together posts that were killer or filler? I’d never resort to the latter but I have posted over 100 posts when you take into account the other blogs that I write for.

I’d blame Twitter, BarCamp, OpenCoffee and Digital Circle for my increase in output. I’m a lot more inspired these days and can usually find myself with something to write. Saving drafts is the only way to actually keep a record of the things I want to write about even though, due to the ephemeral nature of things, they often expire in terms of relevancy before I get anywhere near them.

I also wonder how much I’d blog or tweet if I was being paid to do it. Hopefully more.

For now, this remains a labour of love – covering the subjects that I am passionate about: inspiring software, mobile content, location services, bedouin strategies, co-working facilities, Cocoa, enterpreneurship, social networking, internet everywhere and everything else that appears in my tag cloud.

Enough ruminating, I have content to write!

Give Microsoft Credit

Gizmodo writes on why we should give credit to Microsoft for some things:

1. Windows is on the vast majority of the world’s computers, creating a virtually ubiquitous platform that anyone can develop for.

Ummm, okay, but this was a ‘business’ thing and not a ‘technology’ thing. The hard work was done by other people like PARC, Apple, Spyglass, Digital Research.

2. Microsoft is basically responsible for the two-button mouse.

Well, the Unixen had the three button mouse and the Mac had the one button mouse. Well done Microsoft for finding the middle ground and putting on the mouse a second button that still inspires fear in novice computer users.

3. Microsoft popularized the concept that software has value and is worth paying for it.

You’d think that no-one bought software before Microsoft. Nonsense.

4. Microsoft’s intimidation leads to innovation

The theory that their failure to provide anything other than shareholder value contributed to innovation is an interesting stance. I’m sure the top men at Microsoft are happy enough but I think that when your contribution to innovation comes from uninspiring software foisted on millions of the ignorant unwashed which forces innovators to work around you or replace you – then that’s not a lot to be proud of.

And with all the Microsoft coverage recently, undoubtedly spurred on by BillG’s departure, does anyone else think it sounds like a series of Obits?