Recap of MWC 2011

I’ve been away for a week or so. I went to Mobile World Congress and I just needed a long weekend after that. There have been a lot of in the press about the event however, it seems like quite a few things got missed.

Nokia adopting Windows Phone 7 pretty much overshadowed everything else. I had the chance to attend the Nokia analyst event on Monday morning so here is what was not covered in the press. Nokia is adopting WP7 because they desperately need to reduce OPEX. Effectively what this means is that Nokia is content with the idea that they are never going to be as big as they were. The gold days are over and now they have to scavenge whatever is left from the wrecked ship. There are no talks about expanding market share. It is all about stopping the decline and maybe retaining the existing market share. Windows is being adopted because it reduces OPEX and because as it is, turning Symbian in to a smart phone OS would take too much money. I personally doubt very much that that is the case but that’s just me. For me, Nokia is chopping off their nose to spice up their face but hey we’ll see how it works out for them.
A lot of people are upset that Nokia did not pick Android but here are the facts about Android. Motorola aside, Android is the OS of the Far East. East Asian OEMs are the ones selling Android phones and Nokia cannot compete with any of them when it gets to OPEX. They desperately had to get out of that market and despite what WSJ says Android was actually never close to adoption. A statement like that seems uneducated and overly enthusiastic.

Here is the ugly side of the deal. Nokia is giving up Ovi maps. Yes Ovi Maps never brought the company any direct sales but it was one of the selling points for Nokia phones for years. Nokia has agreed to give the Ovi maps content to the Bing so now certain, or all Bing content will be powered by Ovi maps. It is not clear at the moment, but the difference might be that Ovi maps run from the phone on Nokia and off the web with other phones, but essentially they are the same maps. However, given the tone of the analyst briefing, Nokia Windows phones will be very very similar to any other WP7 phone and more likely than not, they all will have the same version of Bing Maps. It was not discussed why Nokia chose to give up so much, but there were talks about supposed revenue sharing with MS.

Symbian is not going anywhere. It will stay on smartphones (low end ones) until Nokia and MS figure out a way to put WP7 on them. Symbian will also power all the feature phones for as long as they exist.

RIM was a complete disappointment. No new phones and nothing to show so they rented out their own booth to software providers. Oh and the tablet is an utter disappointment. It has a small screen and apparently the whole interface was written in Flash. Really Flash! It runs OK and they were showing off some games, but the device is strictly consumer oriented. I don’t care what the press says, this is not a corporate device unlike iPad. I was amazed to see so many people at WMC using iPads actually. Looking back, it is a bit like when mobile phones hit the streets. Almost everyone had one and it was the same with iPads.

HP had a very nice demonstration of devices. WebOS is truly great but I am not sure if it can make it. There are simply too many competitors. Oh and HP has skipped NFC … what were you thinking. The touchstone does not use NFC but rather a proprietary standard, as if we needed another.
But to be fare the devices are nice and I hope HP gets to release them soon.

All the new Android devices are absolutely pitiful. The interface is slow and when you consider that they are running crazy fast chips compared to my iPhone 3GS it makes them look even slower. Also the new LG phones kept locking up constantly and there is no way in hell that I am buying a device like that. 3D displays are mostly a gimmick unless you have one of the Sharp phones that Docomo sells. Those actually work well.

Overall there was a bit of a confusion over NFC and we got a lot of conflicting statements. It seems like operators and suppliers of NFC chips cannot make up their mind whether embedded NFC is a good or a bad thing. But this will sort itself out by next year.

What was really amazing is to see small software developers being represented at MWC. You have 5 man outfits churning huge profits and being able to afford the entrance fee and this is simply unheard of in an industry that is basically pinching pennies. That said, Huawai was spending money like it was the end of days. By the looks of it. it was the company with the biggest show budget and this is hardly an exaggeration. But then again when you pay hardly anything to most of your workers and expect then to work well over 12 hours a day you can afford to splurge every once in a while.

Oh yeah Qualcomm had a little show and tell about Mirasol … unfortunately the portable light was dead but that was hardly the only problem. The demo was basically a video running in a loop and was exactly the same as the last one we saw. Yes the device is light and thin but Mirasol displays are like the display on my sister’s truly ancient GBA. Only when Nintendo released GBA, expectations were a lot lower and we both didn’t care that an addon light was needed to play it in the dark. No offence to Qualcomm but the market for a Mirasol display is shrinking very fast. But you never know. Maybe Amazon can make it a success despite the small size.

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Audio tools for Mac/iTunes users

if you have never heard of iTunes FS there is a lot that you are missing. First of all, if you are a Windows user … sorry but this is never coming your way. The effort that is required to port something like this to Windows is huge and if I were you I’d just save up for a Mac.

If you are already a Mac user, good for you and here is what you need to know. You know how you can mount drives and images and such? Well iTunes FS basically creates a virtual drive that has all of your iTunes music sorted in virtual folders in a way that resembles the iTunes organization. On top of that, you can actually use Spotlight to search iTunes FS and since everything looks and feels like folders on an external drive, comping files from your iTunes library to anywhere is a breeze. You can just let iTunes do it’s organizational magic and the fact that it creates a bit of a mess would never bother you again.

There is a small catch though. iTunes FS is kind of a stand alone application so it is not always on. You can set it up to start with the computer ( through System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items ) but you have to manually add a new item. Anyway the application shows up in your Apps so even if you eject the drive it’s easy to start up again. One thing that I have noticed is that iTunes FS does not update the database info always (or maybe ever). So if some information looks wrong you might have to eject the drive and start it up again. But for a free application I can’t really complain. Oh, I almost forgot. iTunes FS is essentially a MacFUSE “plugin” (not the technical term) so you should install MacFUSE first. At the time of the writing, MacFUSE still does not come with a 64 bit preference panel application. You would probably never need to use it, but if you do and it annoys you, then using google you can find one of the unofficial 64 bit builds. Not sure what the address is cause they change from time to time but I can vouch for the fact that one does exist and it does work.

Anyway, once you have MacFUSE installed, you can get iTunes FS from

http://www.mulle-kybernetik.com/znek/public/en/default/software/iTunesFS/index.html

Copy it to Applications, start it up and you are ready to go. I must confess this little tool was the biggest boost of productivity that I have ever gotten from an iTunes plugin. Have been using it for months not and things like moving playlists to an external drive, batch editing tags in Tagr, etc. are simple again.

Oh yeah Tagr is the best ID3 tag editor for Mac that I have found so far. Some of the functionality is a bit hidden, and it seems like it’s a poor substitute for Mp3Tag (windows only) but that is only a first impression. For the last 2 years I have completely switched to Tagr and it does everything I need it to. Oh yeah it’s also free.

http://www.entwicklungsfreu.de/

And last but not least, there is XLD which is by far the best audio converter on any platform. I use it to convert FLAC files to ACC which with XDL is a one step solution. The tool has no graphical interface when you start it up but you can drag the file over to the Dock icon to start the conversion. It comes with support for quite a few encoders, such as the latest version of Lame and you can configure everything through the preference menu (Cmd + , ).
You can get it from

http://tmkk.pv.land.to/xld/index_e.html

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Why Android’s team still doesn’t get it

Ok bare with me here. Android’s market share is growing very fast and yes I know it is quite popular but it is heading for a very rough reality check. The main reason why the market share is growing so fast has nothing to do with superior technology or great ideas. It has only to do with Android being better than the Symbian and Windows phones that it replaced and with the large number of East Asian manufacturers that are involved. For those it is indeed an improvement however, Google seems to believe that they are actually competing with Apple and they most definitely are not. They have never taken any significant number of iPhone users and there is a very good reason why as it stands they can never compete with Apple.

Yes, Android has a great promise and it is a good OS however, they have a huge problem and it comes in the face of Google Checkout. No offence to the Checkout team but it is the stupidest payment system ever. It has no recognition for the fact that you are selling to a global market and you have to use different currencies. If you have to use your bank to pay in a different currency then you will get hit by some massive charges and you cannot sell cheap goods like that. And if Google will be nothing than an advertising agency then why do they take 30% off your profits? Quite frankly Apple gives you a lot more for your money and it is no surprise that developers make more money there. You can release an application and sell it to everyone in their currency and you do not penalise them for living in a different country. Effectively there is no artificial barrier for the customer making the sale very easy.
And while Google might focus on technological improvements, at the end of the day they still make money from something else and since Google is not willing to pick up the slack you can bet that others will. There is an Amazon Market place which most definitely does currency conversion in the countries that Amazon exists and there are other coming out. Google is in fact in danger of being pushed out of their own operating system and that is just sad. I actually amazes me how business inapt the Android team is and how the crazy corporate policy that Google has is eating into their profits. I get it Google never uses services that compete directly with their own but when yours are clearly lacking you have to do something about it. Google needs to recognize that Android is no longer a pet project and is actually the future for Google. If you can’t fix Google Checkout please do everyone a favour and hire some financial gurus and please DO LISTEN to what they say. Otherwise Android is going to hit the glass ceiling a lot sooner. At the current rate I personally think that Android adoption rate will peak in 2012 and I don’t even think that it’ll be a flat line from there on.They will have to deal with disappointed customers and disillusioned developers and that does not equal a flat line.

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Why does iAd matter

Ok this is not going to be a comparison of advertising methods or the offerings out there. This is just my view on the subject and quite frankly I am not expert. But here is the thing, iAd is this Apple product that I never cared about. I am not the type of person that clicks on ads and I tend to avoid them like the plague. But iAds have started popping up in applications all over the iOS place so I must admit it, I clicked on one or two of them. And I must admit, iAds are by far some of the best online advertising that I have ever seen. Sorry Adobe but Flash is dead! I don’t know how hard it is to create an iAd but they are actually apps within apps. You get to watch an ad and most of the time after that you get to interact with the ad elements. Yes you can do that with Flash ads and it has always been the appeal of Flash advertising but get this, there is actually quality control on ads and I am loving it. Clicking on a flash ad actually makes me absolutely livid. Windows start popping up everywhere, the supposed games are designed by complete idiots and the add does not makes me like the product more, it makes me hate the company for using such cheap tactics. Not to mention that even well designed Flash ad campaigns take forever to load and well, do nothing other than make my surfing experience slow as molasses.
iAds are still annoying because they take up like 1/10 of my screen hight, but they actually never run unless you click on them. There is this little bit of added level of control that makes you feel in control of your workflow. And when you do click on an iAd, you are presented with stunning graphics, hardware accelerated transitions and quite a few other cool effects. The few that I have seen included a simple game, and the ability to listen to the music of the ad. Pretty cool actually. Oh and you get a link to iTunes where you can buy the song. Now that is cool if you ask me. There have been a few times when I though an advert song sounds good and finding it in google can be a real challenge and then after than you still need to find a place where you can buy the song. Well iAds seem to understand quite a few predicaments that people have (sometimes) and it’s like the designers actually knew that you had a problem and solved it for you without you even having to request it. Well that is not really the way it works but you get that feeling. And that feeling is exactly what makes a good product great. I actually think that iAds create a connection between the view and the product and they do connect a positive emotion in the user. Next time you see the product you will think of the ad and the positive emotion will surface. And if you have the money you will buy the product. If you ask me, that’s exactly the stuff that great advertising is made of.

I am all for freedom but I think Apple’s curated advertising experience is actually the best web experience that I have ever had which kinda makes me want to stay an iPhone user even if iPhones are not quite the best business tools at times and the plans tend to be more expensive than BB ones (at least where I live). I must say that Apple made an excellent decision with iAds and I have no problem letting them control that bit of my life.

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In search of the perfect project management system (continues)

Ok here is my position of project management software.
Maybe this does not apply to your business but it certainly does to mine so take it with a grain of salt.

GANTT is the biggest piece of crap I have ever seen. No offence to the creator supporters and users alike but you must be insane to use GANTT for small to medium projects. It has not concept of ease of use and minimalistic maintenance. Sorry, but my time costs money and it’s much better spent managing tasks and people than maintaining an insane system of resources, cost for those resources, time lines etc. etc. etc. Yes you need to know how much a certain projects costs and you do that in the feasibility study. Which by the way should never take you more than 1 days for mid size project. You should know how much the whole projects costs you and you should be able to analyse costs and efficiency after the project or a set of actions is completed but doing so should take you very little time. Also tasks have 5 states; planned, in progress, completed, delayed, and cancelled. I couldn’t care less what percentage has been completed and if you’d like to argue I dare you to tell me the difference between a 40% completed task and a 50% completed one.

Anyway so I hate GANTT with a passion. For my daily activities I need a system that is simple to maintain. Is based around talks and not milestones. Allows for changes in the plan, i.e. is flexible. Does not concern me with crap like resource distribution and most of all, does not waste my time. Well I have looked high and low and there is no such system. Yes there are semi academic management techniques that do all that and a bit more but I need a usable software. Well I found one that just might fit the bill. See I don’t need file storage/sharing because that is done on an internal Sharepoint because of security concerns. So all I need to be able to do it to share links. If you don’t have access to the network then the link means nothing to you even if it does get leaked.

Cohuman seems to do everything that I need in a very polished web interface. It’s not perfect and it is not exactly like my idea but it is pretty close. It look intriguing enough so that I would like to give it a shot and that is exactly what I am doing. So stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes. The first thing however, is that unlike Basecamp this thing has unlimited projects and only has a limit on storage for the accounts. It is still a new product by this start up that just got some more VC funding.

Oh and if you want to know more about my project management pet peeves, take a look at my older post.

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Android’s Approach to NFC (part 2)

So a couple of days ago I wrote this post about Android and the crippled NFC support that it has. I just saw this

link to article

So apparently it is just the current iteration of Android that has limited support for NFC and the long term plan is to enable full access to the NFC controller. That is all great news but still I think that Google should have first finished their development and then released the support rather than releasing what I consider an Alpha version. I mean come one this is not even a feature complete implementation and while NFC is still a bit of vaporware Google should know better than this. Beta’s are acceptable for user space applications but you DO NOT release a work in progress SDK. Makes you wonder if this is not even feature complete release how much testing actually went into things like stability and security …

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Apple and the NFC race

There have been rumours about Apple including NFC capability in both iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Just to be clear about this, Apple has no choice in the matter if they are to sell a high end device. This is not at all the same as LTE. LTE is a network with is currently under consideration by most mobile operators and some have started running trials. Coverage is bad, the chips are still in their first generation meaning that if you want backwards compatibility you have to include a 2nd chip, and at the end of the day all you get with LTE currently is faster data speeds. That might be great for iPad but is hardly anything for the iPhone. Considering that the coverage is currently horrible and Apple revises hardware annually it is no wonder that LTE is not being considered for the upcoming iteration. Actually it probably won’t be considered for the next one either.

NFC however, has been around for many years. The problem was that noone seemed to care about NFC and various IC manufacturers had their own implementation. Well the smart card manufacturers (mostly of Europe) have come to an agreement and there is an NFC standard and an organization that does nothing but promotes the technology. Various pilots were completed and the response is overwhelmingly positive. Telcos and financial institutions are all onboard and have mostly come to an agreement as to the revenue split and all is about to explode. Apple has no choice other than to include NFC. The 2nd half of 2011 will be marked by multiple operators around the globe releasing NFC enabled SIM cards and devices simply have to be ready for them. The way NFC will go forward is with a SIM embedded NFC application that uses the antenna provided with your phone. Now that most likely does not mean the same antenna as the one you use to connect to the telco but the phone has to be NFC enable too. Apple sells premium devices and the NFC cards will first go to premium users so there is nothing to think about and Apple simply follows the needs of the market.

There is however one issue about NFC that is important. See you don’t have to use NFC only for payments. Yes it is a painfully slow connection and you will not be transferring files over it any time soon. However, cleverly designed applications can use NFC for some quite innovative and cool things. And if Apple wants to have the competitive advantage over Android, they simply have to allow developers full access to NFC. Unlike what Google would like you to believe, there is no issue with security. Payment applications are stored on the SIM itself. What that means is that the only way you can access that data is with the SDK that was used to program the SIM. Well I don’t know much but I know this, you can write SIM programs in a way that noone has access to their data and not only that but most of them are exactly like that. Also data out of the SIM for the payment applications would be encrypted and you cannot decrypt AES on the fly on any mobile that will be released in the next 10-15 years.

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