Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Palm Pre's address book criticisms

No review of the Palm webOS is without a mention of how the address book is very hard to navigate. True to form (and thoroughness), Ars' review of the webOS has this to say:
"Good luck browsing the Pre's address book—as most reviewers have pointed out, it's a mess. The webOS expects contacts to exist as a collection of federated services that you query, not as a structured, browsable repository. So when you add contact services—Google, Exchange, Facebook, AIM—to the Pre, it dumps all of the contacts that it pulls from these services into one impossibly long alphabetical list (mine is about 450 entries)."
In the last year since I have had a Windows mobile phone, I have never once browsed through my Contacts/Address Book. If I want to call or text someone, I start typing their name or number using the keypad - if they are in my address book, their name shows up; if they aren't, o well! What I'm trying to say is "Navigating the Address Book" is a function that was absolutely necessary circa 1999 when phones didn't have an awesome search feature. We're in the 21st century guys - stop mentioning moot points in your reviews.

For my money, the fact that navigating the Pre's address book is so difficult is a definite step forward. Like all new paradigms, this one will take some adjustment but eventually, it is for the best. There are better things to do than navigate a list of 100+ entries... When you launch the Pre's address book, you're supposed to just start typing the name of the contact that you're looking for on the built-in keyboard, and let webOS zero in on the desired record. If you try browsing for the desired contact, then you're wasting your time, because the data is just not structured for this kind of discovery. Pre wants you to query a service, not browse a repository."

Ars reviews the Palm Pre, part 2: the webOS experience - Ars Technica

"One of the established truths of the past 50 years of computing is that the same basic problems crop up over and over again in different forms, so that technological advances are less of a linear march forward than they are a sort of spiral that turns the same corners again and again, but on a different level with each rotation."

Coming Soon: Adobe Flash on Android, WinMo, and WebOS

"Coming Soon: Adobe Flash on Android, WinMo, and WebOS"

<gazes into his crystal-ball>
December 10, 2009

From the Light into the Darkness - The Dark Age of Mobile Web Browsing

It wasn't too long ago that my Palm Pre's browser nimbly navigated the web without draining my battery, over-heating my phone or playing sounds and videos I didn't authorize it to play. No annoying pop-ups, no flash advert telling me that I should call SINGLES-NET today! The downhill ride began right after Adobe's CEO, Shantanu Narayen, announced the general availability of Flash 10 for Palm, Android and Windows Mobile. The only platform that avoided flash, I dare say like the plague, was the iPhone. How I wish I had an iPhone...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Palm Pre Review Roundup

What's missing:

- App Store
- Some software nitpicks like a button missing here or the address book scrolling being onerous, but nothing that a 1.01 update can't fix
- Minor hardware issues that aren't so much design flaws as they are acclimatizing oneself to a new device after using an iPhone

Bottom Line:
Overall, the UI of the Pre is beautiful and quite functional, although I have my doubts about the wisdom of keeping the vestigial menu bar from classic Palm OS, which is both cumbersome to use and a very small fingertip target to open.

I much prefer the way the Pre (and Android, for that matter) handle out-of-band notifications, such as new email arrival, compared to the iPhone.for a 1.0, they’ve performed a minor miracle. It is a highly respectable competitor to the iPhone and other smartphones. I would rank it above Android, and miles above Windows Mobile.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Browser Installations mandating a reboot!

In complete violation of the "No Reboot" policy of Unix and Windows, installing Safari on the Mac mandates a reboot. Quicktime requires one as well, but that's fodder for another post. I have come to terms with Apple not having the time to build incremental App-update technology into their products, even though other s/w vendors have figured out how to do this 5 years ago. But this reboot requirement adds insult to injury, big time!

As time goes by, I am seriously contemplating replacing Mac OS with the Windows 7 RC on my Mac Book Pro. Unless of course 10.6 is a total breath of fresh air. Mac, you're on life support until you redeem yourself.

The Long Tail Principle and Monopolies

To continue a thought that I conveyed in my previous post - we are slowly arriving at the point, if we aren’t there already, where the iPhone is the de facto mobile development platform, in the same way that Windows is the development platform for desktop apps. So what should Android, Palm's webOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian do?

In any space, the established leaders maintain their position because of the “Long Tail principle” - they become something for everyone. The rest of the competition, though pushed to the fringes, can capitalize on 1 or more seams in the leader's coverage, deliver a compelling experience and maintain its relevance. The conventional wisdom is that it’s better to be everything to someone than something to everyone. This is what Bing needs to do if it is to compete with Google, how Apple has carved a niche for itself and stayed relevant despite the Microsoft juggernaut, how competes with Amazon, etc. So the answer is simple - instead of colliding head-on with Apple, the competitor that will truly succeed will be the one that carves a unique niche for itself and becomes everything for a small subset of the population.

Maybe Apple is right in focusing on the iPhone instead of the desktop

"Smartphone Rises Fast From Gadget to Necessity"

The iPhone OS has become the de facto platform for mobile application development, making it the Windows of the mobile world. My earlier post about Apple losing the script still stands, but for the moment, the iPhone is selling in droves. In this downturn, the key is to ride the cash cow to profit. Maybe iPhone OS 4.0 will be installed on Apple's version of a Netbook.

Excerpts from this article substantiate what is already known in Technology circles - the smartphone market is growing while the overall cell phone market is shrinking. The reason - social expectations, great features, an always-on Internet connection, social cachet, etc.
The smartphone surge, it seems, is a case of a trading-up trend in technology that is running strong enough to weather the downturn. And as is so often true when it comes to adoption of new technology, the smartphone story is as much about consumer sociology and psychology asit is about chips, bytes and bandwidth.

For a growing swath of the population, the social expectation is that one is nearly always connected and reachable almost instantly via e-mail.
And the devices are not cheap. The upfront payment looks small, less than $200. But over the life of the contract, usually two years, the cost of data services adds up to a sizable amount.
Smartphones are not cheap, particularly in tough economic times. The phones, even with routine discounts from wireless carriers, usually cost $100 to $300, while the data and calling service plans are typically $80 to $100 a month.

But recent smartphone converts are often people who count pennies, including many from the growing ranks of job seekers. Helene Rude of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., was laid off from her job as a business development manager at I.B.M. this year, when her unit, among others, was the target of cuts. When she left, Ms. Rude had to turn in her company notebook computer with its constant wireless connection.

So she got an iPhone instead, allowing her to be online no matter where she was, without having to lug a computer around.
All of this is making the cellular providers salivate.
“Smartphones are seen as essential to be productive in a mobile society,”...

The smartphone wave, industry analysts say, should continue to build. The room for gains is ample because, though rising, smartphone sales will still account for only a quarter of total cellphone shipments in the United States this year. And along with the Palm Pre, a host of new smartphone handset and software offerings are coming this year, from Apple, R.I.M., Nokia, Microsoft, Google and others.

The industry’s goal is to win over more rank-and-file converts
As always, such devices are a mixed bag.
... the key is to make sure this technology helps you carry out the tasks of daily life instead of interfering with them. It’s about balance and managing things.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Has Apple lost the script?

Here is a contrarian view to Apple's recent announcements. These views are my own, and in no way endorsed by Apple.

I think Apple is losing its way. Here are my reasons why:

  1. Mac OS is stagnant, and now even Apple knows this to be a fact. There is no way they would drop the upgrade price to $29 if they felt that they were delivering value to the customer via this upgrade. All prior upgrades to the OS have been at $129. Unless Apple comes out with 10.7 within a year, both consumers and the Enterprise will not lap this new OS up.

  2. iPhone S/W 3.0 could only be an awesome release if it overhauled a crappy OS into a whiz-bang darling. The iPhone OS is slowly becoming a victim of its own success/feature-richness. It’s hard to wow an audience once they are used to the spectacular.

  3. Barring minor tweaks, the iPhone design is now almost 2 years old. In light of what the competition has slated for release in the coming year, the form-factor is beginning to show its gray hair. I touched a Palm Pre today, and I let out a quiet yelp of excitement like I did the first time I held my iPhone or the new Zune HD. No such wow-factor associated with the iPhone 3G’S’.

  4. Apple, in its infinite arrogance (and I dare say, ignorance), is not revealing any plans for a Netbook. Call me whatever you want, but the tiny Toshiba tablet I got many years ago is still my favorite machine to browse the web on while traveling. The thing is maybe 3 pounds, runs Windows XP, and let’s me do email, blog, twitter and youtube. What is Apple doing with the PA Semiconductor acquisition if they haven’t been put to work on an iPhone CPU or a Netbook CPU? NetBooks are the way of the future because our expectations from the compute power they provide are almost minimal. Also, with Cloud Computing gaining mainstream traction, my Netbook can become my gateway to my compute resources in the cloud. All cloud computing infrastructure builders are hard at work on creating expressive management interfaces for resources in the cloud. I don’t see why Office 2012 can’t be hosted in the cloud and accessed via a super thin shim/client/browser-plugin; the heavy lifting needed to render objects, etc is done in the cloud while the client does the task of rendering the items for the user.
Video features are big for the current generation of phone adopters and youtube junkies. Did you ever think unlimited texting would become du jour? I didn’t either. With this being said, let’s think about a 1st time iPhone buyer. The baseline is the iPhone 3G that will retail for $99. Is a slight CPU bump - which can’t be considered a feature since all of us know Moore’s Law – a compass, and a new yet ancient 3MP camera with video support enough of a reason to fork out a $100 more for the 3GS? In this economy, I’d be hard pressed to believe the answer to that question is YES. I’d like to see the sales figures for the entry-level 8GB iPhone 3G vs the 16GB model before that belief becomes fact, but I don’t have access to that granular sales data. As hunches go though, the entire world has been wrong with predicting sales of Apple products (and/or the demise of the company for that matter). If cost was the only driver for tech adoption, Apple’s laptops would never be adopted over their PC counterparts, and the top of the line Mac Book Pros would have to be discontinued because of cannibalization by the cheaper Mac Books.

What do I think of

In the days since Bing launched, I have been asked, on multiple occasions, what I think about Bing? At first, I ventured a guess at my answer, but not content with conjecture, I have spent the last few days using Bing as my primary search engine. Here are my findings:

- Google is still King when it comes to specific searches. If you know exactly what you are looking for, you might find the most relevant result on Bing or Yahoo! On Google, the success rate is very close to 100%.

- Google suggest is superior to Yahoo! suggest, if only marginally, because of their lead in Search relevance.

- The spelling suggestions provided by all 3 search engines are equally good.

- Bing and Yahoo! trounce Google in *vertical* searches like Travel. Actually, if the search query wasn't specific, Google's results were all over the map. In my opinion, this is uncharted territory in the online Search market. By nailing searches for common verticals like Travel, Shopping, Entertainment (movies, restaurants), and Answers, Bing and Yahoo! can really make a dent in Google's lead. Yahoo! Answers is a perfect example of the validity of this theory - too bad Google indexes Yahoo! Answers better than Yahoo! does.

The initial numbers are out; a combination of Microsoft's ad campaign and a better search experience, Bing has leapfrogged Yahoo to become the #2 search engine in the US. These are early days though, so let's wait and watch this unfold.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Bing vs Yahoo vs Google

Bing is all the news these days. I did an unscientific test today on a topic Bing suggested was its most popular search of the day - Roger Federer. Here are the results I got from the top 3 search engines:

Bing - Roger Federer
Yahoo - Roger Federer
Google - Roger Federer

I think both Yahoo and Google's results are more tailored to my tastes, but that might be because I use the 2 search engines more than I have Bing! Honestly though, for a sports fan like me, Bing still has a ways to go.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Seattle Summer is here

My Seattle compatriots and I are finally being treated to a long spell of warm weather; it was over 80 degrees all day today, and the night is warm as well. The story has been the same all over the US this year - the winter has been cold, dreary and long. Unlike the rest of the US though, the winters in Seattle seem unbearable because the Sun rarely rears its head.

Winter in Seattle brings with it many changes. The incessant drizzle and my burgeoning gas bill I can deal with; the sullen atmosphere, the general dourness around me, and my own dramatic mood-swings - those I have a harder time with. Yes, it has been clinically proven that sunlight deprivation has a severe effect on mood, appetite and enthusiasm. It's no surprise then that the Sun's return has brought back the smile on people's faces. The birds are chirping, the grills are cooking, the flowers are blossoming, and strangers are exchanging pleasantries again! Boy O Boy...

A clear blue sky and the balmy seaward breeze greeted me as I walked out of the doors of the Seattle Athletic Club this evening. Instead of walking to my car to head home for dinner, I sat on a park bench overlooking the horizon and watched the drama unfold in the distant horizon. The setting Sun imbued the evening sky with myriad hues of orange, my spirit soaring like the orange rising from the horizon upward into the sky. Mount Rainier to my left, the setting Sun to my right and the Puget Sound right in front of me - I sat around and soaked in the imagery until the lights went out.

Walking back to my car, I overheard a group of people talking about their woes with email organization. Only a few days ago, I stumbled upon the book "Getting Things Done", and some of the ideas I overheard seemed to come directly from it. When I eventually caught up with the girls sharing their thoughts, they noticed the wry smile on my face. What ensued actually took me by surprise - I had a conversation with complete strangers about organizing email. We joked with one another, exchanged stories, talked about the sunshine and a few minutes later said goodbye. The Sun does make us all social, and for that reason, the smile they noticed earlier is still plastered to my face. What can I say, I can't find a reason to frown!

P.S. I think it is pretty dumb that doesn't automatically get redirected to the page that I have linked to with Seattle's weather forecast.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Whither GM and Chrysler

Where are GM and Chrysler headed to, and what will they wither into?
"Car giant General Motors is expected to file for bankruptcy protection later on Monday, marking the biggest failure of an industrial company in US history."

"Our correspondent says long-established subsidiaries Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer, as well as Saab, the remaining GM brand in Europe, are under threat as production plants are expected to close across the country."

"Meanwhile, a US bankruptcy court judge in New York has approved the sale of fellow US carmaker Chrysler to a consortium including Italy's Fiat.

The move, which is backed by both the US and Canadian governments, should enable the carmaker to exit bankruptcy protection in the near future."
I wonder when Ford will bite the dust and follow the other Detroit denizens into the arms of bankruptcy protection. It's a great time to be a taxpayer right now! (that was sarcasm)

Why did Nadal lose?

#1. He hit a lot of extremely short balls
#2. His service returns didn't have bite
#3. He was tired, and tentative on his strokes.

I wrote about Nadal's weaknesses immediately after the Australian Open 2009 semi-finals. That was then and this is now - to say I am shocked wouldn't cover it. I am saddened...