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Archive for the ‘wireless’ Category

HP’s Pad UI Printer: We Need More Thinking Like This!

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 20, 2010

What a fabulous idea:  spend $399 for a pad and get a free printer!

That’s the idea behind HP’s Photosmart eStation printer, and I love it.  In fact, we need more thinking like this.

Why continue to offer difficult hardware pushbutton UI on so many devices when a pad interface lets you offer a much richer User Experience?  Can you imagine if every hard push button UI were replaced by a really slick webby UI accessed via one of these pads?  Forget the microwave, which suddenly won’t need to blink its clock, what about the really hard stuff like:

–  Programming a very complex DSLR camera.

–  Heck programming a printer.  I still remember the horror of getting our Helpstream office laser printer to scan and send a Fax.  Brutal!

–  Programming a complete home entertainment system so it really all works together well as an integrated system.

There are only two things not to like, and they point to the same conclusion.  First the two things:

1.  I don’t need a new pad with every device.  That’s a lot of pads!  Imagine how cheap that HP printer would be without a pad.

2.  I want my pads to talk to every device.  Ideally, I want to be able to drop a pad into any device’s cradle for charging too.  No more nest of wall warts!

That conclusion I mentioned is that we could use some standards.  There needs to be a “pad UI RESTful interface API” that works for any pad-loving device.  Probably a chip or two that makes it all easy and automatic.  Memo to chip guys, can we have every pad supporting device be a WiFi hotspot while we’re at it?  Can they relay to each other to extend coverage or what?

Want to control that HP printer with your iPad?  No worries.  Want to control your microwave oven with the printer’s pad?  No worries.  How about your home?  Can I get on my pad after I leave for vacation and turn down my AC, heating and water heater after the fact?  Good and green idea!

I tell you, as I tote my iPad and iPhone around, it would be so cool if they could interact more with the fabric of my existence.  Sure it gets a little creepy sometimes, but I can get over that.  Wouldn’t it be great to have maybe one pad per room, and the ability to control any appliance in the room, plus the room’s lighting from any pad in the house? 

Whoa.  That would be a very cool idea.  Who will Open Source the first version?  Google, you wanna sell ads on my washing machine?  Build this pad stuff and get it out as Open Source.  I’m all for it.  You know you want to!

Related Articles

HP just blew up Android tablet pricing (with a printer):  Competition works, consumers look on and cheer!

And why not a Pad UI for my car?  My kids are old enough those stupid baby locks are a real nuisance.

Posted in mobile, user interface, wireless | Leave a Comment »

iPad to Get Camera?

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 1, 2010

Wow.  An iPad with a camera would make a sweet augmented reality device.  Hold that bad boy up and pan it around so you can really see the AR display on a big screen.

Apparently Jobs slipped today and may have inadvertently preannounced this feature.

Lately, I’ve been looking at various jobs and asking myself, “How would this job be made dramatically better if it had an iPod and the right software?” 

The idea is a job where you’re not sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day.  For example, I recently visited a specialist Dr’s office for some routine tests and everyone had a tablet (not iPads though) instead of a clipboard.  All my medical records were online with the tablets, and all the poking and prodding resulted in data going into a tablet.  It was very cool.  This was a proprietary system the docs could afford, but an iPad based system accessing WiFi and servers in the SaaS Cloud or on site could do a lot for less money.

Augmented Reality would significantly extend the possibilities.  Some sort of API for sensors that works over WiFi would add even more possibilities.

Consider a warehouse guy.  He has an iPad with Augmented Reality and built-in camera.  They want him to go get something, so he holds it up and pans it around until the AR display on the screen tells him where to head.  Eventually it guides him to the exact spot in the warehouse.  Same device can be used to do spot inventory checks.  Got a shrinkage problem?  Correlate the spot inventory checks with who is on the schedule to see if there is an employee theft problem.

Or, picture an auto mechanic.  He plugs his OBD (on-board diagnostics) computer into the car and picks up the iPad.  As he pans it over the car various hot spots light up telling him what the OBD is detecting in terms of trouble spots.  He has it integrated with the ticket where the customer reported what they were experiencing with the car as well.  He can make notations on an actual photo of the car that tell what he did and why to fix it.  When you come to pick up the car, he walks you through the whole thing using the iPad to illustrate via AR scanning your car what went on and why.  When you’ve signed off, touch a button on the screen and your invoice will be printed or mailed to you.

Give one to a surveyor.  It’s got a super high-res camera clipped on that is sensitive both to visible light and infrared laser.  Set up your laser transits, connect it via Internet to cartographical databases, bring on the GPS, and let our surveyor interact with the environment using augmented reality.  The lasers provide baselines so the AR can use the beams coupled with the hi-res and GPS to precisely correlate whatever its looking at.  Once the device is dialed in to what it is seeing, the surveyor can precisely locate whatever landmarks they’re looking for, right up to the point of seeing a virtual “X” marking where to place the stakes and markers.  These updates go into a DB, and when the construction crew shows up, their iPads are already dialed in to all this as well.  Meanwhile, the planning commission and neighbors can look at the architect’s rendering superimposed over the photos AR-style in order to get a sense of how the structure will fit in with the environment.

If you’re wondering what these apps would be like, get your iPad, and grab an app called “Star3map“.  There’s no camera, but it’s still very cool.  You can hold up your iPad and point in any direction and see what stars and planets would be visible there.  Works day or night, and even pointing through the floor at some other part of the earth.

Love the AR stuff!

Posted in business, cloud, Web 2.0, wireless | Leave a Comment »

Microsoft Thumbs Nose at Apple With Flash Lite

Posted by Bob Warfield on March 17, 2008

I love it.  Microsoft is adopting Flash Lite for its mobile phone work after Steve Jobs said it wasn’t good enough for the iPhone.

As Techcrunch points out, Flash is ubiquitous on the web.  Apple should adopt it, iPhone users (including me) desperately want it, but Jobs is Jobs.

OTOH, Adobe won’t wait forever.  They know Microsoft will eventually replace Flash Lite with Silverlight.  Maybe they should do their own mobile phone software?

Which brings me to another question I ponder from time to time while commuting.  Why doesn’t somebody clone the iPhone?  Not just a little bit, but perfectly.  Now is the time.  There is no ecosystem to speak of despite the new SDK and big fat VC funds for iPhone deals.  Jobs saw to that by waiting so long to introduce said SDK.

It’s odd, but given how Apple has gone to market with this phone by locking a lot of folks out, it seems like there’s an opportunity to clone it and sell some phones.  Usually one has to look for the Next Big Advantage and not just clone, but I think here a clone would be fine. 

What better company to build one than Adobe partnered with Nokia or one of the other handset makers?

Posted in wireless | Leave a Comment »

A Kindle User After My Own Heart

Posted by Bob Warfield on November 29, 2007

Go read Josh Taylor’s post on how he took a Kindle to the Carribean and why he has fallen into “deep like” for the device after that.  Being able to travel without a suitcase full of books was the first lightbulb that lit for me when I heard about Kindle.  The truth is, I’d seen an eBook a long long time before Kindle.  I can’t even remember whose it was, but we’re talking before Blackberry even existed.  It was a lame device back then, but I would still have bought one but for lack of decent book selection.  Despite O’Reilly not being there yet, I think Amazon has the means to fix the selection problem, and the device is certainly light years ahead of most of what we’ve seen even if many are still unconvinced.

Tidbits from Taylor’s post:

  • Taylor loved the Kindle’s screen for reading text, but says graphics, even black and white pictures, are almost hopeless.  I still haven’t personally seen a Kindle, but my friend Song Huang was recently telling me how impressive the eInk display is.  He saw one at a conference somewhere and was convinced they had just stuck a piece of paper behind glass as a mockup.  When the thing updated and showed it wasn’t paper, he was blown away.  I’d love to hear whether line art looks good on a Kindle.  That’s the sort of thing I’d want if reading a technical book, although it’s a shame actual pictures are so poor–it’ll make it hard to see screen shots.
  • As to the UI, Taylor loves the navigation but laments you can’t put Kindle away without accidentally flipping a page.  Has no one ever been reading their paperback, nodding off, dropped the book and lost their place entirely?  Must be my age if I’m the only one.  He also had an incident where his wife went to the beach without a proper charge and the Kindle died.  Doh!  Hate when that happens!

I also liked learning that Amazon will let you grab the first chapter of any book free to see if you like it before purchasing.  As I wrote in my original Kindle post, there are lots of ways the buying experience can be enhanced by Kindle.  One of my minor book purchasing peccadilos is an inability to keep track of all the authors and which of their novels I already have.  Every now and then I wind up with two copies of something.  Nothing worse than diving into what you think is a new offering from a favorite author only to discover you’ve already read the book!  I want to be able to get into a book club for my faves whereby I get notified as soon as something new is available and I can get the book with one click.  BTW, Amazon is famous for patenting the one click (I believe the recently lost that patent too).  I would expect them to try to patent a lot of the new stuff behind Kindle.  Patents are not my favorite thing, but they are a fact of life.

Scoble ran an interview on the street with a woman who wanted to see his Kindle while he was giving a talk at Stanford.  I came away from the interview with a slightly different reaction than I think Scoble and others may have.  There is a view that Kindle’s foibles are disasterous, but I’m not at all convinced.  Scoble points out that this woman hit many of his complaints almost immediately:

Notice that she accidentally hits the “next” button. That she tries to use it as a touch screen. That she is bugged by the refresh rate. But, she, like me, is interested enough to want to buy one (she’s the first that I’ve shown it to that has that reaction). Imagine if Amazon had designed it better? Imagine how many more people would want it.

The thing is, if you watch the video, none of that bothered her.  She made an assumption that is common outside Silicon Valley: if the thing didn’t work as she expected it to, it was not a problem, it just meant she needed to learn.  Sometimes I think we get too focused on a particular view of how things have to work in the Valley, and we’re way over the top critical when they don’t.  Many successful products are riddled with inconsistencies, but work so well compared to the alternatives that we ignore them.  I’m typing this in WordPress and let me tell you, it has at least as many UI foibles as Kindle, but it doesn’t matter, and it’s wildly successful.

I do agree with Scoble that if Kindle had been as perfect as iPhone or iPod from the get go, if it had been just as sexy, and just as “right”, Kindle would be a much bigger success.  However, let’s reflect on two thoughts.  First, Josh Taylor remarks that the Kindle must be popular because you can’t get one.  Note that this may not be the whole story.  Amazon may be limiting supply for a variety of reasons.  They want to understand usage patterns better to see if they can make money, or they want to respond to user criticisms without having a ton of inventory, or even they want to make sure it doesn’t damage their lucrative Christmas season.  Second, iPhone and iPod were not first generation devices in their categories.  I suppose we can argue that Kindle isn’t either, but it seems to me the precursors of the Apple products were much closer to success than Kindle’s precursors are.

All this has, um, kindled my desire to have a Kindle.  Still not sure I’ll put it on the Christmas list (you can’t seem to get one anyway), but my birthday is early in the year.  I just hope to see the rumored Apple Tablet device before I have to pull the trigger.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if Amazon takes the Open Road and has an OEM offering for other eBook builders?  Wouldn’t it be even more awesome if the Apple Tablet picked up the backend of the Kindle service and accessed it from their own UI?  Whoa!  Stranger things have happened, but not often…

Posted in amazon, platforms, user interface, Web 2.0, wireless | 3 Comments »

Verizon Drops the Open Bomb: Maybe The Old School Is Starting To Get It

Posted by Bob Warfield on November 27, 2007

My hat is off to whomever at Verizon decided to open up their network for “any app any device.”  To date, the industry has had a strangehold on which handsets each carrier offers and which apps are on the handsets.  Tampering with the standard offered by your carrier has been difficult and extremely risky.  The Apple iPhone triggered a storm of controversy when they started “bricking” phones that users tampered with to unlock.  Verizon has done a complete about face relative to the rest of the industry in announcing their new open approach.  Opinions vary on what it means, but it certainly is dramatic.  There is a short list of standards the devices must adhere to, some a little odd (CDMA versus GSM), and phones must be certified in a new lab facility Verizon is building. 

Ben Worthen at the WSJ says it means Verizon’s mobile devices are on their way to becoming as useful as PCs are today.  I don’t know about them being as useful, but an open device with a vibrant ecosystem of apps to choose from can’t help but make mobile devices a whale of a lot more useful.  Various friends in the wireless industry have lamented since they started that the biggest challenge is distribution.  You can build the software, but you can’t get it onto the device without elaborate negotiations with Luddite Carriers.  These are huge Enterprise-class deals with similarly huge and lengthy sales cycles.  One friend had a huge deal fall through with a major carrier simply because they did a reorg just before the deal was about to close.  I’ve seen that happen selling Enterprise software and it is one of the most frustrating things imaginable because you get to start the sales cycle all over again.  Quite simply these carriers were the bottleneck to innovation, and given how monolithic carriers in the US are, we had lagged the rest of the world considerable in mobile infrastructure and innovation.

There is considerable speculation over whether this was all triggered by Google’s Android announcements.  It hardly matters whether it was or it wasn’t, but it’s the sort of thing the blogosphere likes to gossip about.  After watching the round and round between Google, it’s OpenSocial partners, and Facebook, I have to say that Verizon looks brilliant from a PR perspective compared to Facebook.  ZDNet’s Larry Dignan suspects Verizon will have a fair portfolio of 3rd parties apps up in 2008 well before Google even gets their initiative off the ground.  That’s certainly what Verizon has to be aiming for, and given the pent up demand for distribution among wireless startups, there is likely no shortage of such apps ready to go today.

The point is that an open ecosystem can drive growth and opportunity far beyond what a walled garden can in today’s edge economics.  The world has been exploited by too many walled gardens and so it’s leery of granting to much power to perceived gardens, particularly when credible open alternatives are available.  This trend has moved in fits and starts.  The recent web world would like to think they invented the idea, but the truth is that it’s been going on a long time where those later to the party are dropping the Open Bomb to trump earlier arrivals.  It sure worked great for Sun against Apollo, for example in the 80’s and 90’s.  Unix crunched Apollo’s Domain, but has itself been overshadowed by Linux in recent years.

The question now is, when will the next carrier sign up?  There must be considerable gnashing and moaning about the risks.  Most people don’t understand the warped economics of most of these telcos.  In many cases, they offer services to get attention, but they hope against hope that the service won’t be popular because it chews up too many costs to support it.  Some of my in-the-know friends indicate video on phones is more or less in this category for many vendors.  There is some thought that these offerings were intentionally crippled to keep the cost down.  At the same time, text messaging is something of a cash cow, while other areas have been commoditized.  None of this is common across countries, or necessarily even across carriers, and it’s all a moving target.  Opening up to run any device any app is a gutsy play.  What if the devices and apps that turn out to be popular tank profitability?  In fact, there are a lot of unknowns and risks.  It seems likely Verizon is going to pass a lot of costs it used to eat back to customers, for example.  This is all part of the unbundling, but if the economics don’t work out well, it will severely limit the value of the open capability.  Hopefully we can count on competitive dynamics to make such pricing issues short lived.  Om Malik predicts it will open the market up to cheap Chinese handsets, for example.  Details of the exact business model are hazy.  There may be surcharges for apps or bandwidth may be limited or too expensive.

And what other ripples does this create in the pond?  What does it do for Apple, whose iPhone is pretty darned closed, thank you very much?  What of the Google Open Handset (aka Android) initiative?  Will Verizon join up?  Some say it was already rumored before this latest.  Beyond all that, what if everyone’s playbacks are finally updated with the conclusion that it’s good to drop the Open Bomb early in this much more connected world of New Millenium?  Wouldn’t that be a gas.  Much more disruption in many industries followed by new bursts of innovation and lots of entrepreneurial opportunity.  Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Related Articles

Erik Schonfeld discusses Verizon’s “Two Tiered” strategy, which he characterizes as one tier for Verizon’s valued installed base (you can’t sell them your apps) and the new customers who pay for an “open” phone.  I’m not surprised.  This is all part and parcel of the business model issues that surround these devices, as I discuss above.  Verizon can’t very well offer everyone the capability who has an existing contract because they might select an app that causes Verizon to start losing money under that contract.  I still think Verizon has made a positive move and more should follow.

So many see Verizon’s move as being a result of some other company’s strategic genius.  Scott Karp says it’s all a result of a brilliant Apple conspiracy plan.  Every big company I’ve ever seen is the world’s worst conspirator, but maybe.  Just because I’m paranoid does not mean the whole world isn’t out to get me.

Woodrow gets it right by saying:

Whether you question VZ’s motives or not is largely irrelevant. This IS a revolutionary move. And, while I think Verizon is reacting to market conditions; they are doing so far more aggressively and proactively than most have come to expect of BIG TELCO.

Precisely my point.

Daniel Berninger over on GigaOm muses about the impacts on Verizon’s business model of “any app, any device.”  For example, he says that SMS messaging is hugely profitable, but doesn’t that go away in an open world?  Yes it does, and Verizon or others will have to rethink their pricing.  This is precisely why they can’t offer it to existing contracts as I explain above.

Posted in business, strategy, wireless | 7 Comments »

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