Monday, August 31, 2009

President May Be Given Emergency Power To Control Internet In Crisis

Here you have it. It's in the title. The President of the United States may be given power to grand or deny Internet use if a Senate bill passes through Congress and is signed into law by President Obama.

Now, like anything controversial, there will be a lot of noise. Everything speaking all at once and the message gets lost. It's the case in the blog world and, unfortunately, traditional news sources are coming down to the level of bloggers in general. That's the situation with Internet reporting now.

So, having said that I want mobile users to be aware of this measure but the bill is in its infancy and by the time it gets out of committee and is voted on, it will be drastically different from its current form.

So, take note and we'll try to go to the meat of the matter. I know this for a fact. There is no death panel in this Internet bill that will pull the plug on granny.

More at CNet News

Sunday, August 30, 2009

You Tweet? Well, Twitter Is Going Strong

It looks like Twitter is still going strong. Over a birthday dinner for Dave the Mobile Warrior, Facebook and Twitter occupied more then a few conversations. And it continues to amaze me how people have adopted into their social behaviors to whip out their iPhones and check their Facebook and Twitter updates.

So, who's going stronger? Facebook or Twitter? In the recent Iranian election, both Web properties played a big role in helping the world see what was going on during the post-election protests. And you all may have heard how celebrities tweet to stay in touch with their fans.

Personally, I'm not into those celebrities. My tweets consists of media outlets like CNN, Marketwatch, NPR, and dozens of wireless news sites. And I update readers with new mobile developments and Onxo posts.

More and more, I'm beginning to see issue oriented tweets. Politics is very popular as are medical issues. Also, public updates are beginning to pop up on Twitter. In fact, one of the reasons I decided to write about this is because there is a dangerous wild fire north of LA. Bring in Mount Wilson are towers that are used by law enforcements, television and radio stations, and other communication means. Should those towers get overrun, many of the local news stations are advising their users to follow developments on Twitter.

Perhaps, more and more practical Twitter uses will reveal itself as the needs come. Maybe this is why Facebook bought Friendfeed, a popular Twitter competitor.

As for Facebook, it's a totally different creature. I'm not sure if it'll ever compete in the same arena as Twitter even with Friendfeed. Facebook is a social site. My Facebook use varies in frequency and need. I've noticed that is the same with my friends as well. It's something you check a couple of times a day. Perhaps when the Facebook app for the iPhone has the push notification function, the frequency may change.

For now, there isn't a lot of Twitter versus Facebook talk. They're not competitors and I don't see Facebook becoming a serious microblog competitor to Twitter in the near future either.

Note: Mine is Paul_Onxo

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wireless Providers Shoudn't Fear All-You-Can-Eat Data Plans

For $99 a month, you get only data but unlimited data.  Plus, you can use whatever app you damn-well please.  

And it's isn't "unlimited but".  It's "unlimited".

It's quite pricy but over time competition might drive down the price a bit.  Currently, there are no plans out there like this but this could be where the mobile market is headed.  The wireless providers are moving onto the 4th generation wireless network like LTE.  Though how like this will happen I am not certain but it opens up the opportunity for wireless providers do away with ancient ways of doing business and begin to embrace what the future holds.

I think what many wireless providers are afraid of is that they'll simply become dumb pipes.  With the services they are looking to provide like GPS, mobile television, and app stores, it isn't likely that will happen unless they cannot compete with other services from device makers or other 3rd party services.

What's more, even as LTE and WiMax goes live and become widely available, most of America will still call upon regular cell services or 3G networks for their mobile computing and access.  The slow rollout of 4G access and services, happening now for WiMax and through 2013 for LTE, affords Verizon Wireless and Sprint the plenty of time to get more acclimated to the new reality and explore new business models.

If they fear that everyone will only embrace services and apps provided by the handset makers, they shouldn't so long as they offer compelling products of their own to compete.  Not everyone is going to be slave to Google's webapps or will find Google Voice to be the pinnacle of tomorrow's mobile communication.  And there are plenty of folks who cannot stand Apple's walled garden.  

In fact, going from the current model of charge for voice and data to just data gives the wireless providers the opportunity to follow the current models being used with DSL and cable Internet access.

They can charge or tier access in terms of speed, tethering, or access with a router for use with multiple devices or laptops.  This flexibility is a win-win for the wireless providers as well as customers who can decide for themselves their needs.

For reasons that are important to the global interests, the wireless providers also have a public responsibility in doing what they can for the national interest.  Such a new model can provide new economic as well as educational opportunities.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Positive Attitude About Wireless Providers

I'm not a journalist. I just write whatever comes to mind or what I think is cool about mobility. I've been bitter about the gatekeepers. You know, the wireless providers. ATT. Verizon Wireless. Etc.

So, I'm gonna try to be more positive from now on. Think about it. It's only in the last ten years where such wireless telephony reached mainstream.

It was in around 1999 when I first got my first cell phone. It was a Samsung phone through Sprint PCS. For $75 a month, I got 1,000 minutes. It was unheard of. I had seen it in the Wall Street Journal. It was a crazy cheap deal as far as I knew.

And what ever most other people using? Beepers. That's right. Beep, beep, beep, or vibrate. And texting at the time meant using numerical substitutes. Remember how to spell out "hello"? 07734.

But thinking positively about wireless companies started this weekend while I was jogging and listening to an audiobook. "Children of the Night" by Dan Simmons, published in 1993.

1993. Cell service was in its infancy. Beepers. Yeah, there was a lot of that around. Everyone on the campus of UCLA had one. Some had two. Anyway, there was a scene in the book when the protagonist and her friends were trying to run from danger, the electricity was cut, and, likely the phone line as well.

As it got more exciting, I started to run faster but I also thought "why didn't any of them carried a cell phone". The plot happened around the fall of Communism and the Ceausescu regime in 1989. So, landlines ruled. Ah...I also thought "dude, Hollywood movie makers and suspense writers have been totally screwed by mobile services because bad guys can no longer cut phone lines. The good guys can use their cell phones. And maybe the authorities can even track them through the cell signals like in 24".

I know it's weird to appreciate what ATT, Sprint, and T-Mobile in such a manner but it happens to be true. Even after Katrina when telephone lines were knocked out, mobile cell towers were brought in to quickly restore communication.

So, hurray for the wireless guys.

Monday, August 24, 2009

RIM Adopts Webkit browser - Great News for Mobile, Especially Google

Word on the mean street of the mobile gadet world is that RIM has bought an outfit that makes a Webkit-based browser.

Torch Mobile was acquired by RIM for an undisclosed amount.  For Blackberry folks, this is fantastic news.  Mobile Webkit-browsers, given the ubiquity on the iPhone, Android devices, Palm Pre, and Symbian devices is nearly the default standard for mobile users san Windows Mobile devices. 

This is great news for the Webkit crowd because RIM adding Webkit to the Blackberries means tens of millions of users joining websites that are optimized for Webkit.  This is fantastic news not only for device makers but the site developers as standardization become easier.

And what's not to like about this move?  Webkit is also open-source.  Even Microsoft can adopt it if they chose to.  Okay, I'm just say that is an option for Redmond.  I'm not saying it'll ever happen.

Best of all, things can't be rosier for Google's dream of webapps or a Web OS that dominates the mobile space.  The way I see it, whatever Google develops for the iPhone or Android will also work on other Webkit-enabled browsers.

Perhaps, multi-touch will also be coming to Blackberries as well.  RIM is looking at 2010 when it achieves browser parity with its competitors.  

Source:  CNet News

Mobile Web App and Web OS

In the last few days, there have been a lot of development with the wireless providers, Apple, Apple's app store approval process, and Google.

There's still a lot to digest as information filed with the FCC were only made available on Friday and with these things, it'll take some to examine.  I honestly can't make how ATT isn't involved.  Surprised.  Shocked.  

But there was always something at the back of my mind that said it was possible that Apple acted alone in rejecting the official Google Voice (GV) app.  But it was what Google redacted from the filing for public consumption and what Apple has publicly stated about how it encourage Google to bring the GV app to iPhone users through the Web browser.  

Even Google has said that was going to be the case.  One possible scenario is Google may introduce a push notification app dedicated to serve gmail, GV, and other Google web apps.  

But if Google does go this route, it would need a more robust app on the iPhone and this is there it gets interesting.  Google could be set on a path where the increasingly sophisticated browser becomes not merely as a mean to access information but change in which information is accessed.

Essentially, it becomes a foundation on which various web platforms can be launched. This includes app stores.  For instance, just about anyone can create sophisticated apps that can be accessed through Yahoo's or Google's app store.  They can be free or be accessible after paying for it.  It won't be the same as a standalone app now but in the future, that may not be an issue at all.  

With Android, you can use Google Gears and with more advances in Android and Webkit, we can be looking at webapps that act as standalone apps do today.  

It's difficult o fathom what kind of strategy Apple, RIM, or Microsoft may have to face a browser-only future where the browser not only serves to access the Internet but also act like an OS.

Oh, let's not forget the increasingly complicated pieces of social sites like Facebook and MySpace.  I think they can be big players beyond letting you report on your daily thoughts and activities to your friends or taking someone out on the mafia game.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

LTE Goes Live, For Testing, And A Surprise

In the US, the four major wireless providers are all on 3G.  Sprint "sprinted" ahead with WiMax in about 10 markets now and is continuing to race against time as Verizon Wireless tries to meet its self-imposed 2010 deadline to bring LTE (Long Term Evolution), its own 4G network, to its customers.

So, it was fantastic to hear that VW has successfully tested the LTE network in Seattle and Boston.  Each site has 10 LTE bases online.  The following tests were conducted:
  • clocked in at 60Mbps
  • based on 3GPP Release 8 standard
  • Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson for base stations
  • LG and Samsung offered trial devices, Sony-Ericsson, Motorola, and Qualcomm will eventually join device testing
  • Nokia and Starent Networks offered network equipment
  • Web browsing
  • data calls
  • streaming video
  • file uploads and downloads
  • and a big OMG to a successful VOIP call
VOIP.  That's Voice-over-IP.  Why is this signficant?  Right now, there is a lot of anger and frustration among mobile warriors who have had the wireless providers keep them from using their smartphones and mobile devices like the iPhone using Skype to make calls over their 3G data plan.

The reason is largely because the wireless providers, who also like to be known as benevolent gatekeepers, rely on voice plans for a large portion of their revenues and profits.  Services like Skype and Google Voice will disrupt the wireless market in ways that the wireless providers have no way of cooping.  

In fact, there was great uproar from the pundits and tech bloggers when ATT requested Apple reject Google's Google Voice app (and had existing GV apps pulled from the iTunes app store).  Why did ATT make such an unreasonable request?  First, it is only unreasonable to wireless consumers like you and me but to ATT, it makes a lot of sense.  Second, no one know what direction Google Voice will innovate.  And uncertain future is not something ATT and the other providers like.  Also, in the near term, GV offers user a telephone number and SMS service, texting, for free.  Texting is a multibillion dollar revenue stream for gatekeepers.  So, you get why ATT had Apple reject the official GV app for the iPhone.  

So, VW testing VOIP so early in its testing and making a point to mention it to the media seems very significant.  The exact quote from the press release is "Significantly, Verizon Wireless has successfully made data calls using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to enable voice transmissions over the LTE 4G network".  This is not a case, as I had initially suspected, of the blogworld's irrational exuberance in reporting or reading into something that was not there.

Does this mean that VW is keeping its word about operating an open network?  Does this mean that they are working to incoporate VOIP into its services?  Perhaps but it bears watching.  VW can offer VOIP exclusively and lock out competing services like GV and Skype.  For now, Onxo is content that VW is looking forward instead of backward and hope that an "open" network truly means "open".

Some interesting facts about this development and its WiMax competition:
  • VW hopes to have LTE running on the 700Mhz spectrum they won in last year's action in 30 markets.
  • WiMax will be available in Seattle by the end of 2009.  Seattle is currently one of two markets where VW tested the LTE network.
  • Clearwire, a venture between tech giants like Sprint, Intel, and Google, will have WiMax available to 30 million potential mobile warriors and 120 million (80 markets) by the end of 2010.  
  • VW will have the whole country covered by 2013.  
  • WiMax is available for $20 a month for a home service.  $30 A month for mobile access.
Clearly, this development is exciting.  And more clearly, VW has a lot of work to do while Sprint and Clearwire is using WiMax to take the lead in the next generation of wireless access race.  


Note:  We're a bit late in reporting on this as there have been quite a bit of other wireless news that went on.  But in waiting, we were able to get the bit about the VOIP test.  We'll know in time whether this was a significant development beyond a simple test.

Another Note:  Skype is offered on multiple networks but its VOIP service has been crippled to work only on Wi-Fi networks or not available at all.  Also in the interest of fairness, ATT is saying that it was Apple's decision to reject the GV app.  However, most folks including us believe ATT had a hand in it.  It was at ATT's request that Skype's VOIP function and Slingplayer's streaming work only through Wi-Fi access.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dave the Mobile Warrior: T-Mobile Gives Users Free Wi-Fi Calling Service

Dave the Mobile Warrior just informed me that T-Mobile is enabling Free Wi-Fi calls to all customers with Hotspot Calling phones.

It's not definite but if he's right, I'm gonna have to elevate him to Dave the Mobile King or something.  I'm hoping this is true and will most more info as soon as we get confirmation.

As far as I know, you're suppose to pay an extra $10 a month for this.  Not all phones support this.  For instance, the G1 doesn't and T-Mobile has no plans to support it (though the data plan does include T-Mobile Hotspot access).  

Hopefully, Skype or some other VOIP solution will come to the rescue for G1ers.  For Blackberry and other UMA enabled phone users, you luck folks!


Wireless Access Explosion

Apple is reported going to ship around 50 million i-Devices in 2011 and another 80+ million after the year after that.  I don't know who's right and how far they're going to be.  Okay, I sort of gave myself away.  I'm a bit skeptical about those numbers from Wall Street and market researchers.  

But even if they were off by a quarter or a third, that's a huge increase.  Imagine what the numbers will be like for RIM, WM 7, Android, and possibly even Palm.  We are talking about hundreds of millions of smartphones and mobile devices accessing the Internet, watching video, chatting, push notifications.  All done wirelessly.  

However, as rosy as the picture is, what's painted isn't necessarily bright.  Remember those wireless providers?  Gatekeepers?  Well, ATT and Verizon Wireless are still trying to protect their dated, albeit lucrative, business model of metering wireless usage.  That's isn't the worst part.

The worst part is their gatekeeper roles.  They are holding back innovation and trying to push back against the tide of change in mobile use like VOIP, video, and data.  Folks are increasingly using their devices for living and working and yet, the wireless providers are dead set against it.  

There is hope.  Maybe a slight crack in this great wireless wall the gatekeepers have put up.  VW just tested their LTE network in Seattle and Boston.  By all accounts, things went well.  That's great for everyone.  Even better is that VW tested a VOIP call.  

Yeah, whoa...so, for all the Google Voice app blocks and streaming over Wi-Fi only or other stupid stunts ATT tried with the iPhone app store, the day when unfettered wireless Internet access is coming.  Maybe VW, in trying to get the next and greatest device to work on its network from Apple, finally succumb to Jobs' reality distortion field and realize that instead of fighting the future, it would be wise to facilitate it.

I do have to note that Apple's 2011 and 2012 sale figures hinge on a lot of assumptions.  Most notably, Apple will start selling iPhones on Verizon's LTE network and the crippled Chinese verions will be wildly popular.  Plus, I don't know what the analysts' definition of the iPhone will be 18-24 months from now but I have a feeling the iPhone will evolve quite a bit in that time.  It is possible that Apple's device on the LTE network will exist as a mobile device san telephony functions but will support VOIP apps and still be called the iPhone.  If that's an iPhone too, then I guess this 50 million units figure is plausible.  80 million, though?  We'll see.

Solar Charging For Mobile Devices

A while ago, I bought a solar charger with an USB port, hoping that I would be able use to power my iPods and G1.  Well, it was an idea but it didn't work out quite as I hope.

The problem I experienced was the time it takes to charge the battery and how underpowered it was.  Heck, I even bought some solar lights for my yard and talk about underpowered.  I've decided that the issue is the solar panels and the terrible efficiency.

So, when do we expect things to be better?  To be able to charge our mobile devices in the same amount of time it goes for us to charge our mobile devices solarly as it takes to have them plugged into the wall.

But I was hoping for the day when we don't need an external charger and the devices will come with its own solar panels.

According to CNet, the folks to spoke to believes that isn't going to happen any time soon.  The solar chargers they are talking about are like backpacks, cases, or external batteries.  In the near term, devices that come with solar panels are only good to help extend battery life rather than completely replace the need for plugs.

Right now, it takes a full day of charging for devices like Samsung's Crest Solar.  Trust me on this.  A full day is better than anything I've experienced.  The Crest is a standard phone.  Nothing like the G1, Blackberry, or the iPhone, all of which requires more power.

I don't know when mobile devices will be self-sufficient to the point when solar charging will take only mere hours instead of a full day.  The problem is the sun isn't up 24 hours a day.

Source:  CNet

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wireless Providers May Learn From Health Reform Opponents

Right now, even with Congress in recess, there is a pitch battle going on in town halls and on airwaves over the healthcare reform.

No matter which side you're on, I think a majority of mobile warriors want a free wireless Internet landscape that is entirely unobstructed by self-serving gatekeepers.  One day, that battle will come to Washington as well.

The next battle is likely going to be about immigration after this healthcare debate is over.  We probably won't get our chance at "change" until after the 2010 mid-term elections.  Still, both sides of the wireless battles will be watching how the current political battles are being waged.

The advantage will go to the wireless providers as they've got just as large and army of lobbyists as the insurance companies.  And believe me, if there is a "death board" opportunity, the wireless providers and telecoms will not hesitate to use it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Palm Tracking Pre Users Secretly

Palm appreciates the fact that Pre users allow their privacy to be violated. That's essentially what Palm said it when the Los Anegeles Times found out about this.

Through the GPS, Palm is tracking where its users are and what apps they're using. So, I wonder if Sprint is even aware of this at all? Palm's answer to this was "We appreciate the trust that users give us with their information, and have no intention to violate that trust."

Seriously, they think it's okay to do this without their users knowing about it. Anyway, a programmer interviewed by the LA Times found a way to disable to feature which I'm sure Palm can just turn it back on after the next system update.

But what the hell is Palm thinking?! Anyway, this is a great violation and I hope Pre users are pissed off about this. Palm should have mentioned this from the start and if Sprint is in on this, it can kiss its effort to stay relevant in the wireless world good-bye.

Jim Goldman of CNBC offered Palm a solution: give users the option to turn off the Palm's peeping feature.

At the end of Goldman's piece, he wanted to know if Palm was being a helper or big brother. Dude, you even have to ask? If it was helping, it would have said something about it. And Palm knew this would not have gone down well with Pre users so it specifically failed to inform users.

Now, I wonder if Apple and Google does the same thing as well.

UPDATE: PalmInfoCenter (great site, I've used this since the Palm PDA days) note that turning this off is difficult but the programmer, Joey Hess, who discovered this criminal scheme, is working on it. Plus, PIC noted that user data base is back-uped to a Palm server is a normal operation that can be turned off through the Backup application.

So, Palm obviously knew what they're doing here is wrong with the police-state like GPS tracking. Plus, Palm reserve the rights to share information it collects. Read their terms and conditions.

Links: LA Times, CNBC

MIcrosoft Next Step After Nokia Deal

I was quite disappointed that the mobile Office deal between Microsoft and Nokia did not involve Bing. That would have been a great coup for Redmond. And these days, Microsoft can use all the good news and victory in the mobile market.

So, what ought to be Microsoft's next move? It has neither momentum (Android and Blackberry) in the market or it is perceived as an innovator and has something the market wants (iPhone).

Here are a few things I like to see:
  • Buyouts - a delicious target is Palm. Don't be surprise if this sneaks up on you. While Apple fans like to call the current crop of former Apple execs and engineers as castaways, they were there when the iMac, iPod, and OS X were built. At worst, some of that Apple energy should have rubbed off. At best, you're talking about a team that has the potential of building the next greatest thing.
  • More synergy between Zune, Xbox, and Windows.
  • Zune HD with wireless (zune phone for some). It's coming. You know it. I know it. But it might not be many think it is. It certainly won't be called a Zune Phone. I think of the Zune HD with 3G or LTE. MS can reach deals with wireless carriers for this purpose. VOIP will be allowed. Apple is said to be working on a similar deal with Verizon Wireless.
More on Zune phone. It will have to be a Microsoft designed device. At least with the first device, it will need tight control over quality and design. I've got the G1 and while it's mildly success for a generation one phone, it should have been better. Android devices won't really show the potential of Google's OS until next year when it can support better and faster chips.

Microsoft is racing against the clock and it doesn't have the luxury of two to three years to get it right.

As for the buyout. It might not seem make sense on the surface. It's not really about WebOS either though Microsoft should take a look at it and incorporate key features into Zune and Windows Mobile. It is about the energy and culture that Palm brings. It has a lot of fans who still remember it's glory days.

Palm brings a lot of talents and technology. It also give Microsoft the excuse to reinvent itself. And it'll give me hope that the wireless market won't be a iPhone-versus-Google-versus-RIM world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Should RIM Worry About Microsoft-Nokia Alliance?

I don't think Blackberry folks will give up their addictive devices just because Nokia suddenly has Office on their phones.  Okay, some might.

But RIM is clearly more worried about the iPhone since it has been more disruptive to its business and interests than anything else on the market.  

At the same time, I don't expect RIM to be standing still.  If it has to ally itself with someone else to beef up its smartphones, I'm sure it will.  And Microsoft's app won't be on Nokia devices until some time next year.

Who will win at the end of the day?  I doubt any of us care so long as the folks who use these devices get more choice and innovative features and apps.  So, we mobile warriors win.  

Still the mobile war did get more interesting.  One area where RIM doesn't seem to have an answer for is search.  It's only choice really is Google, and RIM is fight Android for the consumer market.  

Lots of strange bedfellows and frienemies too.

Mentioned Link:  Reuters

Microsft's Mobile Strategy, Nokia Deal

In light of smaller and more innovative competitors, Redmond has been made looking like it's not merely standing still, but taking steps backward.  That's how fast the market has been moving.

Still, it looks like MS is trying a different route here.  Just today, it signed an Office deal with Nokia. But what's interesting is that at the press conference, the first question was about Apple.  

However, the threat to Microsoft, at least in the context of the press conference with Nokia, is RIM and it was encouraging that the answer acknowledged that.  

Still, I was hoping Bing would be part of that deal for Microsoft.  I am sure in the coming weeks with the release of Zune HD, we might see some more concrete fight from Microsoft and a mobile road map.

Source:  CNet (live blog going on).

Note:  I'll post more on that later.  


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Microsoft: If You Can't Beat Them, Then...You Know

Looks like Microsoft is enlisting help in the mobile war.  This time, it is working with mobile leader (in terms of marketshare) Nokia by adding Microsoft's office suite on its smartphones.

Does the deal make sense?  According to WSJ's reasoning, it does since both companies, with plenty in their mobile arsenal but aren't really doing to well with smaller and more agile competitors like Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, can look to combine their forces and muster up some kind of response.

Nokia with its marketshare and armed with Microsoft's mobile Office suite could be just the thing.  If not in the minds of the consumers, it should make CIOs in the corporate world take another look at Symbian devices.

Will this work?  Only time will tell.  It is perfect timing as Apple and Google seems to be going their separate ways.  This, at the very least, is welcoming news to Nokia and Microsoft.  They'll use each other to beef up their positions (Symbian devices and WM 7).

I wonder if there could be more.  It would be completely find for Nokia to use Windows Mobile in a phone or two.  But more than that, Microsoft can really do Google some damage if Nokia will use Bing as the default search engine on its phones.

We'll know soon enough tomorrow.  I'm hoping Bing will be a big part of tomorrow's announcement.

Source:  CBS Marketwatch, WSJ

Mobile Platform: Who Will Stay Relevant?

By now, we're accustomed to a lot of talk about the iPhone.  And why not?  It is a great mobile device.

But the smartphone to beat is still RIM's line of Blackberries and Nokia's 45% smartphone marketshare but you really wouldn't be able to tell that's the case from the bloggers or the media.

So, it's iPhone versus Blackberry.  But that's today.  Tomorrow, who will be participating in the main event?

I am here to tell you that it'll looking more and more to be iPhone versus Android (but that doesn't necessarily mean it is Apple versus Google).  At least that's going to be the case for the rest of 2009 and at least through the first quarter of 2010.

That is what RIM, Microsoft, and Palm should be worried about.  Staying relevant.  Microsoft is not going to make any kind of a major splash despite all the band-aids they're using on Windows Mobile 6.5.  And they're confusing the situation by relabeling it "Windows Phone".  Believe me, Unless WM 7 blows us away, Windows Phone will be a huge mistake.

RIM will take a stab at the touch market with Storm 2 but many folks think any kind of push by the touch-based Blackberry will be short-lived should Apple really make some sort of deal with Verizon in 2010 when the LTE network goes online.  I'm still skeptical that Verizon can pull it off.  RIM has to "think different" in their approach to the hearts and minds of mobile users.

Palm.  Boy, I don't know.  Let's just leave it at there for now.  I'm already set for Pre 2 or the next WebOS device.  Pre certainly made a big splash in the mobile market but unfortunately, it cause very little ripples if any at all.

So that leaves Android.  G1 was the only one carry the platform and while it was a great first attempt, it felt like a beta device.  Now, there are three other devices on the market and much more to come in the second half of 2009.  It's a platform that has developers, hardware makers, and Google very excited.  HTC has even gone ahead to craft it own skin on top of Android that look absolutely brilliant. Motorola is even said be be developing its own social skin as well.

The second half of 2009 will be very exciting for mobile warriors looking to get a new smartphone or mobile device.  The iPhone 3GS is absolute the device to consider unless you, like me, have a deep hatred for ATT.  Otherwise, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and even Sprint are said to be adding Android phones into their lineup.

Yeah, I've conspicuously left out Nokia.  They sell great phones.  But have no answer for the smartphone market.

The market is huge.  The US economy should stabilize next quarter and start growing in 2010.  And the market will grow fast enough to support multiple platforms.  But just because you're growing doesn't mean you're relevant.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wireless Check Deposit Comes To Wireless (iPhone For Now)

Wireless banking has taken on a new twist.  A welcoming one as one bank now offers wireless checking deposit.

USAA, a bank that counts military personnel as a large portion of its customer base, will allow customers to use their iPhone to photograph the check and send the images to the bank via USAA's own app.  And get this, there is no need to send in the check either.

I experienced something similar, not quite wirelessly, through Bank of America's ATM machine.  So, I think it is potentially like we will see this new feature added through the rest of the banking industry.

However, for now, only certain customers of USAA, those with credit, are allowed to use this function to clamp down on potential fraud.  Just imagine.  No need to make a special trip to the bank or ATM just to deposit a check anymore.  

NY Times article also provided additional information and stats on mobile banking:
  • USAA has about 1 million of its 7.2 million who bank wirelessly.  Almost 14%.  The iPhone app was only introduced in May.
  • 15 Million in the US bank wirelessly each month.
  • Banks stand to save $14 per customer if they can train customers to send text instead of calling for help and services.
  • iPhone pushing way for innovation in banking.  BOFA has 3 million mobile banking customers and iPhone use accounts for 43%.
Of course, banking is only one, albeit increasingly important, aspect of mobile life and computing.  Now, supermarkets, restaurants, and online stores are also offering apps, mostly on the iPhone (for now), that is paving way for how we conduct our lives.  Order pizza wirelessly, grocery shopping for important recipe ingredients, and buying movie tickets are only the beginning.

Business really cannot afford not to have an online component any longer, least of all, wireless functionalities.  Imagine making reservations, seeing the day's special, and order your food before your party gets to that special restaurant will radically change what it's like to eat out.  

Mentioned Link:  NY Times

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What's Going To Happen This Week? Some Random Thoughts

The last week, we were possessed by the Apple debacle with its app store.  I wonder what's up for the coming week.

I would have though by now, we would be hearing a lot of more about the Blackberry Storm 2 and what Microsoft may be coming up for its Windows Phone platform.  I think the sleeper here will be Microsoft.

If you recall last week (though Onxo didn't talk about it), Microsoft was attempting to recruit iPhone developers and showing them how to port their apps over to its new app store.  It'll be truly interesting to see how this all translates.  However, we are a 4 to 6 weeks from Microsoft unveiling its Zune HD.  Though I wouldn't have though it a year ago, but Microsoft better have some huge developer supporting it from the beginning or else, Zune isn't going to any further.  Right now, Zune sales and support has been a huge drain on Redmond's resources.  But I still believe...

At the same time, be prepared for more Apple tablet rumors.  Man, it's just not going to go away until the device is unveiled by Apple.  There are two schools of thoughts on this.  Some believe it will be coming, only the when is in dispute.  I'm in that camp.  Less probably are those who also believe these tablet rumors are mere Apple's insidious rumor-mill going into high gear to get competitors to waste millions on deverloping their own tablets that Apple already know will have no takers.  We'll see who's right in 2010 (that's when I believe it'll come out - though I'll gladly be wrong should it ship this fall instead).

The long-term view is, I believe, going to be on Android.  I think the second half will make or break Android as a viable mobile platform.  Though I'm not sure the iPhone has anything to worry about from Android, others will.  The iPhone's worst enemy will be Apple itself and it'll always have a core of supporters around the world.  However, Symbian, Blackberry, and Windows Phone will need to make great charges to stay viable.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What is Apple Cooking Up? iChat with VOIP and Ereading For The New iDevice

Normally, I like to talk about wireless issues and sometimes hardwares and leave Apple stuff at On Apple and Android stuff at On Android.  But in light of the FCC investigation and the continue debacles with the app store approval, lack of in some cases like Google's Latititude and Google Voice apps, I want to put this to a wider audience of mobile warriors.  Is Apple up to something huge here?  Or just being a jerk because it can?

For a company like Apple who likes to keep its cards very close to its vest, and, at times, denying it even has any cards, it is also very smart.  The fact that Apple is an arrogant is a given.  Maybe arrogant is too strong a word.  Regardless of how folks feel about Apple, it is smart, it makes great mobile devices, and is always looking down the field.

So, I wonder if it's behavior stem more from its future plans and unwillingness to divulge them until they feel the time is right.  And though Sherlock Holmes would not approve of my methods, I've nonetheless come to the following likely explanations for Apple's seemingly erratic behaviors.  

An unannounced product with certain new features.  These new features are : iChat feature with VOIP much like Google Voice and ebook reading capability.  

It's explanation that GV app would confuse iPhone users just doesn't play well.  But think back when Podcaster was rejected.  Then months later, a new iPhone OS update includes a new feature for users to download podcasts.  So, there is precedence where Apple reject a current app that serves to duplicate a future feature it has yet to unveil.  And all this time, people have been asking for iChat to be included on the iPhone.  Apple may be very close to unveiling a similar app that works similar to what Google Voice can do and, perhaps, even VOIP.

One thing I have to mention about particular iChat speculation.  I don't see video chat anywhere.  As much as everyone hopes to see it on the next i-device, I just don't see it happen or the need for Apple to unveil it now.  

Also, TUAW is reporting that Apple is rejecting ebooks and ereaders on a wholesale scale.  My first thought was to attribute it to the Kindle debacle and that Apple doesn't want to have to go into iPhones and iPod Touches to steal back apps it had already sold the way Amazon did.  I'm no longer certain about that.  Call it a hunch.  But I believe it may be Apple's effort to drive reading materials through the iTunes store.  Amazon simply gave Apple a wider latitude to reject reading and book apps.

Not convinced?  Okay.  More than a year ago, Steve Jobs did declare that no one reads anymore and went as far as to predict that Kindle will fail.  However, Jobs also once said no one will want to watch video on a small screen only to release the iPod Video later on.

To avoid contradicting himself, Steve Jobs will use his reality distortion field to convince us that  reading is okay again and fun because the mystery device he'd be holding in his hands will make all that possible and more. Suddenly, we reading, especially on Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

Also today, Apple's Phil Schiller released an explanation for the mismanaged situation of a dictionary app called Ninjawords.  I mean if anything, Apple ought to explain about the GV app rejection and other matters like crippling Skype and Slingplayer.  Not about some ninja dictionary.  But talking about the dictionary app doesn't hurt Apple.  It helps Apple look more open.  Suddenly blogs are now talking about a "more open" Apple and less so about the GV rejection.  And if my assertions above are correct, Apple avoids having to include notions of future products and features.

So you see. Apple is willing to talk.  Just not about unreleased products and features.

Note:  When Apple releases its Macbook touch, iPad, or iTablet (which ever name you prefere) with ereading capability, Amazon and Sony will publicly declare how it validates their Kindle and eReader efforts all these years but, inwardly, they may be saying "there goes the f@#$% ebooks market!".

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SMS and Voice Doesn't Work On LTE?

Maybe this is why Apple is waiting for Verizon Wireless (as some have speculated) to get their network up and running before porting the iPhone over to VW's 80+ million subscribers and really put a hurt on ATT for the torturous relationship it has had with it over the last three years.

Oh, yeah.  Apparently, SMS (texting) and traditional voice doesn't work over LTE.  Ha.  I didn't know that.  I thought 4G was like 3G but only faster.

Wireless Week delivered this eye-opening piece of information for me, and, likely, for some of my fellow mobile warriors as well.  

With that said, feel free to sort through the rest of the article at WW for yourself.  I'll revisit it later as soon as I figure out what all those acronyms stand for and and mean.  

It initially excited me because we might finally be rid of these stupid voice plans that limit true communication and allow folks to simply use a form of VOIP over 4G networks.  I don't know that will happen in the next few years.  Even if Apple and others start shipping LTE devices, I'm sure the wireless providers will retain their self-appointed roles as gatekeepers and limit what we can do.

Anyway, the more I read the article, the more I think LTE should be about data and whatever means to implement voice and texting is secondary.  There is still the legacy networks that gatekeepers can rely on to deliver for those needs.  

Personally, I'm ready for the white spaces network or something that allows for pure data only network, and VOIP implemented only as needed.  

Mentioned Link:  Wireless Week

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mobile War: Google Versus Bing, Everyone Versus Apple, And Big G Stepping In

Everyone saw what happened to Microsoft.  Billions lost due to lawsuits and government crackdowns over the years.  Somebody want to add that up for us?  Despite that, billions more were made as a result of that.  

And still today, Redmond is still top dog.  In a lot of things, but not where I'm concerned. Not on the mobile landscape.  In fact there really is no clear winner or leader.  Like the Wild West or in ancient times when there was plenty of land to explore, it is like that in the smartphone-mobile device market.

Nokia and RIM are at the top in units sold while Apple is kicking up a storm in the app store.  WM is making a surge, or will be soon enough with Zune functions.  Palm with its new Pre is still kicking around but we don't know if it'll get gobbled up by Dell.  Android is really made a huge wave after the anemic G1 launch.  

And add to top, government oversight.  Yeah, this is the wild card that we hoped to come up but ever really expect to be played.  I'm not a big guy on government intervention but when markets are locked are they are now by our wireless "gatekeepers" and we mobile warriors prevented from using the devices in ways that make sense, it just bugs the heck out of me.  It bugs the hell out of me.  Yeah, I use "hell".  

Some folks are smiling but some aren't.  All for different reasons.  And it all started with ATT and Apple.  The tipping point is ATT's rejection (or maybe Apple) of Google Voice app and pulling out other apps that provides iPhone users access to Google Voice.

It'll be interest to see how this all plays out.  We'll look at the players separately and see who may potentially come out on top here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Eric, FCC, Apple, And Rejections

Eric Schmidt has resigned as a member of Apple' board of directors.  Done.

Whilte many folks have moved on from the storry about FCC's looking into Apple's Google Voice rejection involving ATT and Google, I  want to bring it back to the forefront of the mobile market's attention.

I'll probably be posting and speculating on this for days.  Basically, Apple rejected Google Voice app from Google and then went ahead and pulled two other apps already in the app store.  Many people are upset.  Google though they don't publicly say it.  The app developers.  The bloggers.  And some iPhone users.  So the FCC wants to know who was involved in the rejection.  What was communicated between the companies:  Apple, Google, and ATT.

But the biggest question in my mind is what's next for the parties involved and how they're going to justify their actions.  ATT has already said they have no say in Apple's app decisions but they failed to mention that pre-existing agreements between the two buddies hamper what Apple can or cannot do.

On the other hand, if it so happens that ATT really didn't have anything to do with the app rejections, though it's highly unlikely, Apple will have lots and lots of explaining to do.  For the sake of drama, this would be the best scenario.

For mobile warriors, I'm waiting to see just how far FCC will push to get the answers. It can  cause huge waves in the wireless market.