featured, Mobility

Android Nexus S is Here

19 Dec , 2010  

How will Google’s Android Nexus S smartphone fair? Phones bearing Google’s Android OS continue to gain steam in the marketplace. I see lots of users who probably would have liked an iPhone but have Android phones instead, and seem just as happy with them. A Best Buy email ad just popped into my inbox promoting Google’s own smartphone, the Android Nexus S on T-Mobile. Sales began last Thursday, December 16, and the phone is selling for $199 with a 2 year plan (or $529 with no plan) and is running the latest Android OS 2.3 Gingerbread version. Sales in the UK begin tomorrow.

I don’t own any Android devices…yet…and I haven’t really spent much time on an Android device to really know how well it stacks up to Apple’s IOS 4. But I do have a Samsung Galaxy table coming soon which will close my Android OS experience gap rather quickly. I don’t have plans to move off my iPad anytime soon but if Android proves to be more effective in a business and IT setting, that would be pretty compelling.

Time will tell whether the Nexus S is a better phone than HTC, Motorola and others make. If there’s one potential advantage it’s that the Nexus S may have less (or next to none) bloatware vs. what other manufactures load on. We’ll see on all counts.

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featured, Microsoft, Mobility, Network, Podcasts

Podcast: Windows Azure, Windows 7 zero day and 2nd iPhone worm

24 Nov , 2009  

Welcome again to the Alan and Mitchell Podcast. We're still working on a new podcast name so hang in there until we have something better.

During the podcast, Alan and I talk about:

1. New security features in Windows Azure
2. The first zero day for Windows 7
3. 2nd iPhone worm
4. HP/3Com
5. Why is security so hard
6. Fortinet's IPO
7. Cloud Computing becoming part of the pop culture

Thanks for joining us and enjoy the podcast!

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Cloud, featured, Microsoft, Mobility, Product Mgmt

Product Bistro: A Product Manager’s Dream and Nightmare (cont’d)

15 Jan , 2009  

Continued from a previous blog postThe Digital Age Will Save Us… Uh HuhIf you haven’t noticed our world of software is changing right from under us. We rarely receive CDs or DVDs when you buy software. All the Microsoft products I use in my business all come direct via the web, downloading an installer or the ISO image of the DVD to my computer. We buy and download our music through Amazon and iTunes. Now customers have much greater access to products, and we have instant delivery of online services and software products to our customers.Fall 2008 at the Microsoft developer’s conference, Microsoft announced Windows Azure, their strategy for bringing applications and infrastructure services into the cloud. It’s a bold step but nothing short of bold will do to be able to compete against the lead created by Google and Amazon. We’re entering an age where computing power, storage and network bandwidth are services we can spin up or wind down as needed. That’s a product manager’s digital dream, right? Well, it’s never that easy.Yes there are automated processes for provisioning services and bringing new servers online, and they work, but not always in peak situations. There’s always more to it than standing up a dozen or more servers and “bring them online”. Databases, load balancers, firewalls, application software, backup/recovery, bandwidth, failover schemes… it all plays into the equation.Microsoft was down for nearly a full day reconfiguring their service to be able to handle the huge demand for the Windows 7 beta. We don’t yet think of Microsoft as hosting thousands of computers like a Google or Amazon EC2 and S3 (Amazon’s hosting and storage services). But Microsoft runs a huge infrastructure that delivers MSN Messenger, MSN email, MSNBC site content, Windows Update service (all those patches you keep receiving), automated anti-virus updates for OneCare…. see there’s a lot. So, Microsoft’s no newb at the online services hosting game and it still took them a day to get back on their feet delivering Windows 7 downloads on the Internet.It’s Not A Successful Launch Unless The Order System Gets HurtI see a trend happening. It’s obviously not intentional but it may become one of the criteria for any mind blowing, gang buster style product launch. The trend: crashing the servers.Apple’s iPhone 3G was plagued with enormous problems which revealed a single point of failure in their online and SmartPhone strategy – the iTunes service. Yes, that nice little program you have on your Mac or PC to play songs, sync up you iPod and iPhone, and buy digital songs and movies. Behind your desktop app are the iTunes service which not only provide the online store for buying digital content, it also is crucial to provisioning iPhones and delivering software upgrades. Apple unwisely chose to bring out a new iTunes and iPhone software upgrades, and convert the .MAC service to MobileMe… all within a few days of each other. Busted. When demand peaked, the iTunes servers couldn’t handle the demands and customers were impacted on all fronts.Verizon’s Blackberry Storm was plagued with similar issues when their ordering system overloaded during the first day of product launch. Call me silly but I’m pretty sure they knew the demand was coming following several very public product launch date delays, tons of attention from online on technology sites and blogs (like mine) and Verizon’s own billboards plastered around town more than a month before launch. (A consequence of moving the launch date once too often.)Don’t Do It To Yourself… or Your CustomersWhat’s the second most under appreciated component of any piece of software? Answer: The installer. And what’s the number one under appreciated component of any software product? Answer: The upgrade.My mom used to say that you don’t get to go to kindergarten until you can remember three things. (I forget what the other two things she says are, but I digress.) My adage is a product team doesn’t really know how to ship a successful software product until they can reliably do software upgrades successfully at least three times consecutively. (And not just minor upgrades.)Apple is notorious for really bad upgrades, the consequences of which are bricked iPhone, wiped out data and pissed off customers. It’s not happened with just one software release, but occurs time and again. I’ve personally had two iPods blanked from Apple’s software updates, one of them was totally DOA and not recoverable without sending it to Apple. The most recent episode smacked down my buddy Alan’s iPhone, wiping it and causing him to wait while fix was tested and posted. That one experience moved him from being an iPhone advocate to an iPhone protagonist.In IT shops software upgrades might be something we do once or twice a year. They are well planned (or should be) and timed, and include a recovery strategy should something go afoul. But that’s become much different for consumers and PCs in small and medium businesses. An upgrade or patch to Windows or Mac OS X could happen at any time, resulting in our PCs being reboot overnight or creating a capability problem you didn’t have the day before.Upgrades are crucial to a positive customer experience. Their importance is drastically increasing. In my opinion, we’re not far from the day where every company needs to learn to do upgrades flawlessly or they get to go away.The Fundamentals & Learning FasterShifting to the age of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), online hosting, services on demand, and digitally delivered products are launch and delivery strategies we all are likely to consider and use at sometime. It opens up new possibilities, gives us access to new customers and markets, and drastically decreases the time to reach customers before, during and after the sale. It also means we need to be smart about learning from our experiences and the experiences of others in market.Jumping onto some new technology often means we forget or ignore the fundamentals. Who’s the customer, what really are their needs, what will create a satisfying experience for them, positioning, messaging, the 5 P’s, etc. If anything technology accelerates and shortens the window between a buying a experience and a satisfying product experience. That means we have to learn faster, plan better and be prepared for more contingencies. We have to be open and transparent with our customers because they see the magnitude of product issues we experience and the age of whitewashing problems through some fancy PR campaign of CEO slight of hand are gone. Ask Jet Blue’s former CEO who is Passenger Bill Of Rights won over unhappy customers who sat in the plane grounded for hours.Transparency. Something I’ll talk about at another time.

Apple, Mobility, Product Mgmt

Product Bistro: Can Apple sustain and dominate, or only innovate?

5 Nov , 2007  

Product_bistro_martiniFrom that title you might think I don’t like Apple. Wrong, I was an Apple advocate for many, many years, and I still love the innovation Apple brings to market. My first computer was the Apple II Plus which I still think was one of the most fun computers ever. Fun because it was new, exciting and it was in my apartment in college instead of only at the CompSci computer lab. I started my first business writing software for the Apple II. I remained an Apple advocate, through thick and thin, up until Windows 95 came close enough to show that Microsoft would soon catch up and surpass the Macintosh.

I got tired of telling everyone they should switch to Macs because they were more stable and less complicated. It just wasn’t true anymore, despite Win95’s window dressing on top of DOS. I bifurcated into Linux and Microsoft Windows platforms and also began my career move into networking and security. Since that time I’ve been tempted by the Mac platform for music studio recording and the BSD/Mac OSX of the Mac Book Pro laptops, but paying $1000 more for the equivalent Apple laptop isn’t worth it, just to have an Apple. Now I go for things that are cool because I think they are cool, not because everyone else does.

What Apple is great at as a company is changing the game through innovation. The Apple II started and commercialized the personal computer revolution. The Lisa and Macintosh changed the user experience from ice fishing at the command prompt to visualizing the computer as a desktop workspace. And, Apple continues to innovate the user experience through successive versions of OSX and new products like the iPod and iPhone. The iPhone ushered in user interface gestures (something Apple came up with in the late 80’s) and new graphic UI applications like video voicemail. And iPods have changed the way we listen to music and the music business itself forever. All of these Apple initiatives were groundbreaking.

But while Apple is a truly innovative company, very few of these landmark, industry changing products have remained dominant in their respective markets. All, with one exception, have been surpassed by other companies (chiefly Microsoft), leaving Apple with a smaller part of a market that Apple created or reinvented. The exception to date is the iPod.

The iPod created a product category, the mp3 player, where one didn’t exist. Unlike the personal computer category, Apple has continued to dominate with the iPod. They’ve continuously innovated by making iPods smaller, adding video, and most importantly created an online service that makes acquiring and managing music and video content easy. While others, Microsoft included, work to play catch up, Apple changes the game before they get there. In mp3 players and music services, Apple dominates. But that’s the only category so far.

Will Apple be able become dominant in the cell phone market? No. Not just because existing cell phone manufacturers are rushing copycat devices to market. Other innovators – Google and Skype for starters – are changing the cell phone industry as we speak, right along with Apple. Cell phones, PDAs and mobile computing isn’t just about a better interface, it’s about applications that change the way we work and communicate. It’s about changing the way we think about and use mobility and communications.

While I expect Apple to continue innovating with the iPhone and bring new applications to their platform, others will too. Apple, Google, Skype, Microsoft all will change the way we use and think about mobility and communications. Here again, Apple brought innovation to mobile communications but this isn’t a market they will dominate.

Microsoft, Mobility, Product Mgmt

Free Customer Research for Business Cell Phone Designers

8 Oct , 2007  

Product_bistro_menu_2My Criteria for the Killer Business Phone I’d like today:

  1. A great phone – If the phone quality and usabilityisn’t there, then it’s just a PDA. No memory-wiped soft keys or speed dialsettings that lose their brain in the middle of using your phone, like WindowsMobile Smartphone does on my Motorola Q. The number one bread-and-butterapplication on any multi-function phone is it must be a superior phone.
  2. Broadband wireless network and WiFi network access.
  3. Encrypted Microsoft Exchange Integration – Email,calendaring and contacts tied into Exchange, synchronizing over the datanetwork, is still the killer crack-app on business phones. That’s what stillfits the bill when it comes to business. Without it, all other phones are justconsumer electronics devices.
  4. Bright light and “Eyes over 40” large display –read the display outdoors, while driving and no micro-fonts so folks over 40don’t have to hand the phone over to a younger passenger to read the displayfor them. Big enough to read emails or watch a movie. Oh ya, touch screen with gesturesinterface like the iPhone.
  5. About the size of a deck of cards. Slightlybigger if needed for a larger screen. The display should be sharp, crisp, incolor and very easy to read. Can carry in your front pants pocket without looking like you are sporting a chained biker wallet. Light enough not to show pocket sag.
  6. Hidden/sliding keyboard for easy typing and scrollwheel, like on the Blackberry or Motorola Q, for fast email scrolling. Keyboard can’tfeel like you are trying to punch out the chads on a Florida voting card.
  7. Great extended length battery.  It would be nice to be able to go more thantwo days before charging when using email ActiveSync and a moderate amount of phonecalls.
  8. GPS Street Navigator with Turn-by-Turndirections. External Bluetooth antennae for the car and enough storage for allthe NFL cities (without eating into storage for other goodies). Automatic mapupdates.
  9. Wireless Bluetooth headset that works duringairplane announcements. It would be nice to talk to someone on their Bluetooth noise canceling headset that actually canceled the background noise instead of the caller’s voice. The Bluetooth headset should also be able to tell when it’s sitting on someone’s ear instead of on the desk so you can answer the phone without saying, "Hello… hello… just a sec while I get my headset on!" The headset should be placeable into the phone, like stylus pens are today, and charged along with the phone.
  10. Fingerprint scanner, so only I can use myphone. Automatic timed screen lock. Upon N unsuccessful fingerprint attempts, the device wipes any data clean. It canalso be wiped by sending a signal to the device. If the phone is recovered, it easily resync’s and reloads the wiped data.
  11. Full data encryption for essential data. Exclude videos, mp3s and other data not requiring encryption.
  12. Built to last for 2 or more years under daily,heavy business use. Loss protection included with purchase.
  13. Can’t run Windows Mobile or Palm OS. I’m tired of Windows Mobile Smartphone 5 crashing and rebooting my Q, and Palm OS was built for a different era of phones and PDAs.
  14. A “cool” factor. Lets face it, all of us wantother people to notice our phone gadgets and say to us, “Cool, you have the newiPearlRazrBerryQ? How do you like it?I hear those are great! Can I see it? Do you recommend it?”
  15. Price under $300.

Future_cell_phone_userNice to have extras, but don’t count if the above aren’tdone well.

  • 2 megapixel (or more) camera. Great for takingpictures of the whiteboard after a meeting is over, or capture an idea ormoment to share with others.
  • iPod features + iTunes. No other MP3 player hasbeen able to match the iPod. While iTunes can misbehave on occasion, it isstill the best online music service.
  • Visual Voicemail. iPhone users seem crazy aboutit so it must be worth including.
  • Built in solar charger to keep the battery going between full charges.
  • HUD sun glasses with wireless video transmission of Google Maps and turn-by-turn directions.
  • Remote desktop control of you laptop of desktop computer. Secured of course.

Did I cover it all? What would you add or change?

Mobility

Verizon LG Voyager. Apple iPhone/ATT Killer?

8 Oct , 2007  

Voyager_phoneVerizon is hoping they can take some luster off of the AppleiPhone this holiday season with their new LG Voyager multimedia phone. It’s notan iPod in a cell phone package, but it does have some nice features.

The Voyager will be offered exclusively through Verizon. Slideout keyboard, SD memory card slot, and Verizon 3G data network are some of theVoyager’s differentiators (slow ATT Edge network, expandable memory and keyboardare three of the biggest complaints of the iPhone). It also has multimedia,mp3/video capabilities and web browsing of course. Two things I haven’t heard aboutyet are the mobile OS the Voyager will run and any Microsoft Outlook/Exchangeintegration support. That would at least make the Voyager a potential for manyof us who don’t want to take a step down to ATT’s slower Edge network.

One thing the Voyager very likely won’t have is the samelevel of “cool” factor. A big plus for the iPhone is iTunes and the onlineiTunes store. I’ve never found any of the other online music services/sites asinteresting. We’ll just have to see if the LG Voyager can make up for it inother departments. It is a contender but it’s far from clear that the Voyagerwill knock the iPhone off the nuevo electronic gadget pedestal.  Maybe it will be an adequate substitute.

Then again, maybe Apple will bring the iPhone to Verizon or another cell phone network. I don’t know the length of their exclusive contract with ATT but it doesn’t sound like that ends anytime soon.

Apple, Mobility

What’s your opinion about the Apple iBrick?

5 Oct , 2007  

InformationWeek sent me a survey (I’m sure they won’t mind me passing along the link here) about the Apple iBrick situation. I don’t normally do many surveys but I did fill this one out, mainly because there’s a lot of uproar about the situation. Many are clambering Apple can’t do this, it’s illegal and we should sue. From my viewpoint, I doubt it’s illegal especially if Apple was very clear you couldn’t unlock the phone or run it on unauthorized networks, and doing so might cause the device to malfunction. I HAVE NOT read Apple’s license or user agreement, or Cingular’s service agreement so you’d have to determine whether Apple adequately spelled things out or not.

Move_alongIf Apple did, I think they are within their rights to do this. That DOES NOT mean it’s a good business decision. Apple made three strategic errors with the iPhone; limiting availability through Cingular and their slower EDGE network, how they handled the price drop (a sign of the first problem), and how they handled the unlock/bricking situation. I feel they were poor basic business decisions. And… neither are they unrecoverable from.

Apple will be fine, the iPhone will live on. Even if a suit does happen in the end it will just be a blip on the radar. iPhones will continue to fly off the shelves, Verizion will come out with their Voyager iPhone competitor and bring some competition, and Apple faithful will live on it utter bliss.

In the end, there’s nothing here to look at… so move along please, move along.

Microsoft, Mobility

You can run but you can’t hide, from Nokia

2 Oct , 2007  

Nokia’s made a very strategic move by announcing their acquisition of Navteq, supplier to over half the markets street and satellite mapping information. Rand McNally, GPSs (personal and automobiles), online mapping services like Google Maps and Yahoo Maps, personal computers, PDAs, and phone manufactures are just a few of their customers. Navteq owns more market share and is considered to have a duopoly with TeleAtlas, their nearest competitor.

As both a competitor to other phone manufactures and keeper of key mapping data, Nokia is holding onto some very valuable information and could also move into markets to compete with Garmin and other GPS products. It’s a surprise Google, Microsoft of some other cash-rich tech-savvy company didn’t buy them up before this, though $8.1B is nothing to sneeze at. Sramana Mitra called attention to this one earlier (here and here). Navteq’s been around for a while (since 1985) and became much more visible when the went public. You didn’t have to re-read Megatrends to figure out the GPS and map information is the current and future currency of mobile computing, especially as hardware, software and services become geo-aware.

Looks like Nokia played this one right and snatched Navteq up before someone else did. There has to be a lot of eyes on TeleAtlas now.

Microsoft, Mobility

Microsoft, Palm, Crackberry, iPhone – Gogglephone calling. It’s for you!

29 Aug , 2007  

It’s rumored that Goggle may announce a new Linux-based phone operating system after Labor Day. As a web 2.0 user and enthusiast I say "wonderful" on several accounts. First, any opportunity for someone to enter the scene and put Windows Mobile Smartphone (what runs on my Motorola Q) to a quick death would get my vote. Even a swift kick might be helpful.

I’ve had Windows Mobile on two phone platforms and nothing could be more painful to endure; the phone reboots itself several times a week, hot keys suddenly go on a Microsoft veteran sabbatical, and I still haven’t figured out how to do a simple 3-way call. I live for the day Verizon carries a viable alternative, like the current Blackberry Pearl. Could a Googlephone be in Verizon’s future? That would be a blessing.

What’s even more exciting about a possible Googlephone is having an open mobile platform in which applications can truly be integrated and interoperate with network web 2.0 apps. Maybe then I could do a 3-way call too. I know, I know – all the iPhone-ers will say get an iPhone but compromising on call quality with Cingular/ATT’s network, and paying the $200 drop charge plus $600 for the phone doesn’t exactly fit into the empty-nester / 2 kids in college gadget budget.

Go Googlephone. I’m excited to see what they have.

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Mobility

iWon’t iPhone

25 Jun , 2007  

I’ve heard it come up several times in the last week or so; should i get an Apple iPhone? Many are at least giving it some thought. Now, I’m as big a gadget guy as the next person, just ask my family and friends. And while the iPhone is cool (i blogged about it when it came out), I just can’t see giving up something that works (my Motorola Q) for something with less capabilities, and pay $599 to boot.

So as I usually do with brand new Apple products, i’ll sit this one out until Apple takes the time to get the product right and then I’ll consider it.