iPad – iOS + (HTML5 + Safari) x Facebook =

Developer opportunity!

Hmm .. someone should check my Algebra. Moving on.

In light of Android’s sales figures outpacing the iPhone (ZDNet), it’s no surprise that “iPhone Developers start to work on Android” (Mobile Dev Pro Online). Advanced skills may be necessary to put your apps on the map.

It’s not the first time developers have looked at other platforms. In the past few years, they chased iPhone projects to ride the consumer wave. Prior to that, they moved enterprises to the Windows platform (see “How to store and access (a lot) of protected content” for my thoughts). Developers have gone from moving the enterprise market to chasing the consumer .. with that kind of motivation and a decent universe of reasonably-priced devices, an Android option could really move the needle.

Other motivators? Well, Facebook, Planning an iPad App, Looks to Work around Apple. Their 700 million users (aka, consumers) could establish a significant beachhead on the iPad device. Rather than coding in iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system), Facebook is encouraging developers to write HTML5 code that will run in the Safari browser .. a nifty way to get dynamic code onto the device. When you leverage HTML5 and the Facebook platform, you have a ‘runs-on-PC and runs-on-Apple’ code line for the target market.

The target market? In a word: Huge.

Note that the lack of Flash support on earlier iPad devices may have impacted sales .. without Flash, the iPad could not run FarmVille (or my favorite, Mafia Wars). In the news: iTunes now offers a version of FarmVille by Zygna (the release date was June 2011) for the iOS devices. Somebody got wise.

In the realm of “follow the money”, HTML5-plus-Safari may pilfer sales and the margin Apple collects from the AppStore.

In the realm of breaking chokeholds, leveraging the popularity of the device and combining it with the reach of Facebook gives game and application developers a whole new playground in which to play.

Facebook of the Future?

Well, not just yet. Extrapolating here. Online PhD has information about advanced programs that could provide you with the info you need to compete in today’s Internet market. People who think they could be person to develop the software or site that would bump Facebook out of its top slot may be interested in increasing their skills.

I just read “Using Facebook: One Teenager’s Story” on ExtremeTech and arrived a few interesting thoughts:

  • The student generation is beyond connected .. they’re embedded.
  • Facebook and the social lives / networks of students are so intertwined, those who choose not to participate “fall off the grid” in social interaction.
  • It’s not just just social: Facebook represents the conduit for a wide variety of student activities .. from Senior Skip Day (I remember mine .. there was beer) to school-sanctioned events, oh, like graduation.
  • As to graduation, some schools are distributing information to their students solely via Facebook.
  • It’s not just school activities: students are learning about current events at a pace and participation level not before seen .. students who cannot vote are getting involved. Remember Rock the Vote? This generation wields boulders.

While some of this may sound frivolous to an adult reader, there are some very interesting use cases and situations to consider .. things that didn’t exist when today’s adults were in their teens:

  • We passed notes, met in the cafeteria and made phone calls from our homes.
  • We heard about things from flyers, bulletins and garish signs in the cafeteria (well, it was the 70s).
  • We avoided the table with campaign signs and student volunteers (well, it was the 70s).

So .. what does Facebook (or, insert social network name here) look like in the future? I’m guessing:

  • Always connected, perhaps with surgically-implanted connectivity chips (okay, I’m kidding). Suffice to say that I don’t think the future will suffer a disconnected (or at least, a de-synchronized) user for long.
  • Always relevant to the user. This plays into my “Information Snacking” paradigm, where tomorrow’s home and personalized pages will truly be their own, containing information that is relevant to the page’s owner.
  • Insanely simplified interactive-ness .. the ability to “poke”, alert and engage with other users as a matter of course.

Functional expectations (read: demands) of the embedded generation will drive application development to include services from a variety of sources. if Facebook provides all the content and functionality to meet these demands, then Facebook wins. If they don’t, someone else will.

Original Post: August 20, 2008

Memo to @Clear: 4G Mobile USB Product Review .. wow!

Where Clear is good, they are very, very good. In my region, this includes:

  • Metropolitan Seattle (all over Seattle, actually)
  • Downtown Bellevue, lots of points around Bellevue
  • Downtown Kirkland, lots of points around Kirkland

.. and many points in-between. I think these guys are ahead of the game .. I hope they can get it together and make an impact.

I’m working with the the Clear 4G Mobile USB pretty much wherever I find myself these daze. My office travels with me: where my bag, is my office  .. etc., etc. .. you know the whole ‘hired gun’ deal.

However, this post is not about me: it’s about this spiffy device that I secured on the cheap from Clear. Yes: I’ve had my issues with Clear at my home, and have, in fact abandoned the service there, but I’m keeping this device. I come here to praise Clear, not to bury them.

I’m going to gush about the device and the service .. listing caveats first, praises second:

They call it a ‘mobile’ device: I would call it a ‘portable’ device:
While it is possible a 4G-to-4G handoff works, it is not my experience that the device works worth a darn while moving, say on a bus (I spend a lot of time on buses). From my home experience, I know the device can read a tower over a mile away (as the crow flies), so I’m always surprised at failed hand-offs between towers on short hops. That said, the device reconnects as soon as it can .. no muss, no fuss. It just works. It’s great for sync and Outlook (both of which have offline support). Not so good for online gaming while on the move (but who has time for games besides Angry Birds anyway?)

It is 4G only:
From the above-mentioned bit, I can surmise that the ‘glue’ between the 4G coverage is 3G. My real experience (with a similar Sprint USB device I used last year) supports this. I always had connection whilst in motion. The Clear device doesn’t recognize 3G, so unless you’re in a dense 4G area (see the Clear coverage map .. click ‘check coverage’), there is no glue. As above, the device reconnects seamlessly when it recognizes the strongest tower, which for everything besides streaming just works.

It is reasonably-priced:
The bang: $25 / month. That’s the sweet spot. Hold out for that price. Buy the service and return it within 30 days if you’re not satisfied (hint: be unsatisfied .. they might cut you a deal). Note: AT&T charges $60 per month for wireless USB, last I checked .. memo to AT&T: I cannot direct link to this content. While the AT&T device is truly mobile (unless you’re in an iPhone-infested area; YMMV), examine your own use case to see if you can justify the constantly-connected (to your wallet) lifestyle.

Got Sprint? Get Clear:
Clear IS the Sprint 4G network. Period. If you have a Sprint device and are enjoying 4G, you’re enjoying the Clear network. Check out how Sprint publishes their 3G and 4G speeds comparison, reach and area.

So, from Downtown Kirkland (from where I find myself tonight), during prime time:

The Clear 4G Mobile USB.

It doesn’t suck.

Want cheap and fast, but don’t care much about moving while connected? Call these guys.

A Kudos to Amazon Mobile

.. wonderful to see this implemented so well.

Imagine yourself in the treasure aisle at CostCo.  You’ve spotted a gem you’re certain you simply must have .. but you wonder about the price.

You’re torn .. as it is with many treasures at CostCo, you’re worried that the next time you visit, the elves will have moved this treasure, or worse .. they will run out of stock.

What to do, what to do?

Amazing Amazon has solved this problem for you. Simply download the Amazon App for Android (besides Android, there are versions for the Blackberry and iPhone as well) and you’re good to go.

How good, you might ask?

Start by launching the app and pressing the search button .. you’re presented with a joyous “Scan a barcode” image ..
.. upon scanning with the phone’s camera ..
.. you get delightful search results for your item.

A few more presses (assuming you have an Amazon account and your shipping and credit card information is stored), and your product is on the way to you.

I just love it when software works like it should. Nicely played.

Do you have a home page?

Funny I would ask .. you’re safe: I’m not stalking you @home. Winking smile 

The question still stands .. do you have a home page URL, or better still, at what point does a URL become unimportant?

Note that in the early 00s, URLs started showing up on TV advertising and on billboards .. the coming thing; the way to recognize if a company was with ‘it’. Nowadays, we know that companies own their web URLs as a part of their overall identity.

Answering the ‘unimportant’ question: it’s now. URLs are unimportant. These days, it’s all about browser-enabled search. The best part: we’re doing it without even realizing it.

My evidence? I know people (a lot of people .. many in the ‘John Q. Public’ realm) who do not have a home page set on their browser. This is interesting because any company that introduces you to a toolbar (or other related nonsense) tries to set your home page and search engine to their choice, instead of yours. Security note: Always be wary when clicking ‘next’ .. watch for any little checkboxes with logos or names you do not recognize.

Back to John (and Jane) Q. They’re pretty happy with no home page .. many pursue a ‘clean’ browser environment: one where the home page is set to ‘about:blank”, or they may simple erase whatever home page that opens when they open their browser. Either way, they still do a lot of work on the Web .. but unlike those with iPhones and thick clients, they are “app”-less, yet still getting done what needs to be done.

Here’s how: with modern browsers, the cursor is set to light up in the address bar by default. You can type anything you like there, not necessarily preceded by ‘http’, or ‘www’. Do you want to book a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles on Expedia? In the address bar, type ‘expedia’ (and not http://www.expedia.com). Better still: type “flights from seattle to los angeles” and press enter. If you do this, you’ll be presented with options. If the Expedia search engine optimizers have done their job, one of the links you can select is theirs.

Given this, why remember a URL at all? I’m sure you’ve heard that whitehouse.com is not the place where the President lives, nor will you find what you seek if you navigate to wikipedia.com (update: wikipedia.com now redirects properly to wikipedia.org; the linkbait site has been closed). Why not simply type the company name and look at the results? All the major search engines post ‘best bet’ (and sometimes, paid) results based on perceived intent:

  • Want Wal-Mart? Type “walmart”. Would you normally remember the hyphen? Returns http://www.walmart.com.
  • Want KMart? Type “kmart”. Was there, or wasn’t there a hyphen? Returns http://www.kmart.com.
  • Want Alaska Airlines? Type “alaska airlines”. Returns http://www.alaskaair.com. No hyphen and the delight of ‘air’ appended to Alaska.
    You get the drift .. type the company name into the address bar, and you’re golden. Many companies now sponsor their URLs on the search engines to ensure that entries that are ‘close enough’ will find them. Ditto for common words associated with their products.
    More aggressive companies will also attempt to sponsor the names of their competitors or competitors’ products in an effort to redirect search results to their own benefit. More on that in a future post, but suffice to say: it’s a naughty, competitive, webby world.
    All this said: do you have a home page? Do you need one?

Leap Frogs: Mobile Infrastructure

This one is obvious.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but the facts have been out there for some time, for those who wanted to look.

In some countries (and some areas in the United States .. have you ever read the details on the Universal Service Charge / Universal Connectivity Fee?), getting a telephone land line can be a challenge. It can take YEARS (and political connections) to get.

There is a technology that makes this a totally irrelevant discussion, and it’s right in the palm of your hand: your mobile phone. Wireless infrastructure can be built out at a tiny fraction of the cost of dragging cable. This technology creates market opportunities .. for the cost of a “few” antennas and repeaters (instead of miles and miles of wire), entire markets can be opened.

Costs can be defrayed too: a Washington Times editorial (from 02/2010) argues to “Kill the Universal Service Fund” as it tends to provide too much money to too few (and potentially inappropriate) recipients. From the editorial:

Rural phone companies see the greatest benefit. In 2008, the USF gave the Oregon Telephone Corporation $16,834 federal subsidy for each of the company’s subscribers in Beaver Creek, Wash. Such largess is especially absurd now that satellite phones can provide service anywhere in the country where one has a clear view of the sky at a fraction of the cost.

The evidence is clear: consider India, where pay-as-you-go mobile phone providers emerge on a moments’ notice .. but with the creative use of SIM cards, you can acquire PAYG coverage wherever you find yourself. If you found that sentence confusing, drop me a line and I’ll point you to resources that will help.

Let’s extend to broadband. There are unlimited providers who offer pay-as-you-go service in a number of countries. Take care with your credit card, though: there are a number of shady folks keen to balance their checkbooks with your cash.

There are heroes too: this chap keeps an eye out for potential villains: suggest you consult him before you consider an provider outside your country.

Leap Frogs: Wi-Fi Detector

Kind of a funny story.
Kensington Wi-Fi Finder Plus
I found this item the other day whilst tidying up a drawer in my home office. It’s a Kensington Wi-Fi Detector, designed to detect wireless signals.

You’ll note the package has never been opened.

Why you might ask? I’m not sure I recall. I bought it a few years ago from Amazon, and I just never needed it.

It may have been the ubiquity of Wi-Fi, the speed at which my laptop awakens from sleep (making it easy to check), or being in too many known Wi-Fi environments.

It seemed a good idea at the time, however the speed of technology leapt over it’s practical use case.

The speed of technology must be considered. By the time you’ve finished a drawing, your business opportunity may have passed you by.

How to NOT spend $2.5 MILLION on a Super Bowl Ad ..

.. and get lots of exposure anyway. Here’s how ManCrunch (a gay men’s dating site) did it:

Just look at all the money they saved. But what did they get?

  • Publicity. Lots of it. Cannot swing a dead cat on the video sites without running across this. Note that we’ve seen guys kiss on super bowl commercials before .. remember the Snickers ad from 2007?
  • Impressions. Lots of them, and well before the game. 207,000 on YouTube so far and thousands more scattered around the video sites.
  • News. Bing gives us these answers to the search.

Folks get nuts about these commercials. They talk about them for weeks prior, ensure they’re in their seats at the appropriate (and publicized time) to see them during the game and then go to aggregation sites to watch the line-up of what they’ve missed. That rate them, trash them, discuss them at the water cooler and espresso bars for days.

It’s bigger than this though. Is this a hoax, or very clever marketing? I’m guessing the latter, and I applaud the chaps who put it together.

We’ve seen eHarmony and Match.com ads on the television .. these sites position themselves more as ‘relationship’ (versus ‘hookup’) sites. I cannot tell from the limited information thus far, where ManCrunch site on that scale.

I suspect we’ll all know more in the coming weeks. Will be fun to watch. Thanks to Jessi for the referral.

The Internet at 40

From an article on Physorg.com from AP: “Key milestones in the development of Internet” .. some highlights (commentary in italics):

  • 1969: On Sept. 2, two computers at University of California, Los Angeles, exchange meaningless data in first test of ARPANet, an experimental military network. One could argue that this exchange is now performed billions of times daily on sites like Facebook, MySpace, and others .. the meaningless part, at least.
  • 1972: Ray Tomlinson brings e-mail to the network, choosing "at" symbol as way to specify e-mail addresses belonging to other systems. And to suggest that I only respect the “@” symbol as a means to represent the letter “A” when concocting a strong password. Or as a pair of surprised eyes: @@ .. who knew it could be so useful?
  • 1983: Domain name system is proposed. Creation of suffixes such as ".com," ".gov" and ".edu" comes a year later. While a noble effort, .com (for companies) rapidly fell to porn sites .. promise me you’ll NEVER visit ‘whitehouse.com’ on one of my systems. While on the subject, we need the “.xxx” TLD for ‘that’ stuff.
  • 1989: Quantum Computer Services, now AOL, introduces America Online service .. introducing 22 million users to a walled garden .. but a reasonable place to find dial-up in a pinch.
  • 1995: Amazon.com Inc. opens its virtual doors. And promptly starts sucking cash from everyone’s wallet for stuff we simply cannot live without.
  • 1999: World Internet population surpasses 250 million. If I had a dollar for every Internet user in 1999 ..
  • 2002: World Internet population surpasses 500 million. If I had a dollar for every Internet user in 2002 ..
  • 2006: World Internet population surpasses 1 billion. If I had a fifty cents for every Internet user in 2006 ..

Sadly, the article doesn’t include milestones for HTML versions, Flash, CSS, SSL or a variety of supporting technologies that make the Web what it is today. I think there’s a timeline project in there for me.

My Live Mesh Use Cases

I’ve been talking about this with colleagues of late, and realized that beyond repeating myself .. there’s more than enough goo here for a few blog posts.

Bear in mind, my Live Mesh usage is not fancy; in fact, it’s quite rudimentary. I am not running any Mesh applications on my Live Desktop, nor have I written any code. I am using only the folder synchronization and remote access features of the platform at the moment.

That said, once I see all the cool things these guys are doing .. I get the itch to write code. Some talcum powder, and it (almost) goes away. 😛

Okay. On that, here’s how I use Live Mesh today:

  • Mobile Phone Camera DCIM Folder Synchronization: You take a picture with your mobile device and then what? You can upload to a variety of services (I’m guilty of publishing the “Pancake Shape of the Day” (among other things) on TwitPic). That said, a good amount of the time, I’d like to work on the image before I toss it to the cloud. Thanks to Live Mesh, I have my DCIM folder synchronized to a folder beneath my “Pictures” folder on my laptop. I capture images, synchronize and the files are available to me when / where my image editor is available to tweak it. The end result? The ability to generate a higher-quality image and push it out to the appropriate places for my audiences to access. The best part: Live Mesh synchronizes your My Pictures folder on your phone when you first install it. It’s a simple matter to synch the DCIM folder from here (this is an annoyance for me .. I store my DCIM folder on my storage card, but: write me if I may assist).
  • Windows Live Writer Drafts Synchronization: I use Windows Live Writer for the posts on my blog. I work on multiple PCs .. the most common scenario for me is riding my bicycle to work and leaving my main laptop at home. I may find myself having time to finish a post I started the night before. Before Mesh, I’d have to push files to SkyDrive or onto a USB key. As you can guess, the latter options create a synchronization / version nightmare. Thanks to Live Mesh, I can “Sync Your Live Writer Drafts With Mesh”, ensuring the multiple PCs on which I work have my draft blog posts in sync.
  • Microsoft Office OneNote Synchronization: As with Live Writer above, I keep my OneNote notebook in sync across multiple PCs. I posted “Use Live Mesh to Synchronize OneNote to Multiple PCs”(hyperlink removed: OneNote 2011 supports cloud synch) with step-by-step operations on how to set this up. I am deliriously happy about this one, btw. Makes my life so much simpler, as I’ve a plethora of content in OneNote.
  • Offline Consumption: I have been known to be offline (bus, train and plane) now and again (and again and again). I receive email and content of interest constantly. Thanks to Live Mesh, I have a folder on my PCs and my phone into which I can drop the files. After sync, they’re available from wherever I find myself with spare time to catch up.
  • Offline Printing: I’ll am constantly away from a printer and having the need to print a receipt for an event, a boarding pass, my cell bill .. or something. I print to an .XPS file into a folder called “print” in my Mesh, and it’s waiting for me when get to a machine with a printer.

Some random thoughts about synchronization:

  • Outlook has an amazing set of synchronization features built in. My mail is available to me on a laptop client, over the web and on my mobile device. Anything I read on one device shows up as read on another. If Live Mesh had existed when Outlook was building out their synchronization features, the team could have offloaded these functions to the Mesh.
  • Ditto for FeedDemon and the NewsGator services. My feeds are available across multiple PCs and on my mobile phone. Their teams went to great effort to synchronize reliably across platforms .. with Live Mesh, they could also have avoided building their synchronization framework.

While not the end-all-be-all, the concept of synchronization has come a long way. The convergence of bandwidth, hardware and capable devices has created the opportunity for some powerful on-line / off-line / “Cloud-Line” experiences using the synch framework to improve the user experience.

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