Last week, NAVTEQ released survey findings that "illustrate just how impactful GPS-enabled location-based advertising is when it comes to finding consumers at the right time and the right place." The survey (n=757 US GPS device users, 18+) was conducted by Marketing Research Services Inc. Household income of respondents was more than $50K.
Ads in the study fell into the following categories: Convenience, Fuel, Hotel, Pharmacy, and Bank/ATMs.
Ads on maps, if done well, will be very effective. Ad coverage/inventory is also important without creating visual clutter.
Matt Marshall of VentureBeat offers an upbeat assessment of Nokia's strategy and prospects for the US market going forward:
Nokia has finally admitted its mistake, and is now aggressively pursuing deals to attempt to at least double its market share in the U.S. over the next year. “Mea culpa, mea culpa, ” Mary McDowell, Nokia’s executive vice president and chief development officer, told me last week. After years of ignoring U.S. carriers, upset at their insistence to exert control over phones and customers, Nokia is working closely with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile to work with them after all. There was a good story in the New York times about this a few days ago.
The article says there are a variety of improved phones and cool new devices coming to the US including the N900 MID. I remain highly skeptical of Nokia's ability to recover in the US absent a low-cost, low-end strategy:
I remain doubtful that the world's largest handset maker can offer a better user experience at the high end vs. the iPhone or Android devices (especially 2.0 devices). Another approach would be to offer mobile Internet devices (such as it's doing with netbooks) that re-establish a positive view of the Nokia brand and use that as a way back into the handset market.
One of the themes I've written about over the past year is how smartphones will eventually destroy the PND/GPS market. Hence Garmin's move into smartphones and TomTom's iPhone app. But all of that will generally be to no avail. Google's new Navigation layer on Google Maps for mobile, with turn-by-turn directions, is as good or better than any of the GPS devices. It has a voice (search) interface and offers the benefits of Google search and Google PC-Maps integration.
Right now it's only available for Android 2.0 devices (like those coming from Verizon). But it will come to the iPhone and other smartphone platforms.
From the Google Blog post:
Today we're excited to announce the next step for Google Maps for mobile: Google Maps Navigation (Beta) for Android 2.0 devices.
This new feature comes with everything you'd expect to find in a GPS navigation system, like 3D views, turn-by-turn voice guidance and automatic rerouting. But unlike most navigation systems, Google Maps Navigation was built from the ground up to take advantage of your phone's Internet connection . . .
I was at Google yesterday for the briefing and have written up my impressions of the demo at Search Engine Land:
When the main part of the briefing was through I asked the first question about whether Navigation would become available for other platforms such as the iPhone. Gundotra hesitated a bit in his response saying that this was up to the third parties, such as Apple in this case. (My sense is that Google has some ambivalence about making it available on other platforms.) He affirmed that the iPhone was an important platform for Google and that it would be available on the iPhone at some point in the future. And he conceded that the iPhone 3Gs was certainly powerful enough to support the service.
For the time being, until Navigation does get to the iPhone this is a true competitive differentiator for Android 2.0 devices, which is why I think Verizon will promote it. By contrast, TomTom offers turn-by-turn navigation as a $99 iPhone app. Once Google Maps Navigation becomes available on the iPhone the TomTom app is no longer viable. Who will buy it when a comparable and potentially better app is free? Even the possibility that Google Navigation is coming to the iPhone will suppress demand for the TomTom app.
Click on the image below for the video demo:
The PND device companies and their related suppliers are scrambling to reinvent themselves in the wake of better and better smartphone mapping and tools that get people from here to there. TomTom for example launched an expensive app (plus cradle) for the iPhone and the company has also introduced an "infotainment" product:
The all-in-one TomTom GO I-90 solution can be fitted into any car, so even those with older car models can have an integrated navigation experience. It also offers consumers all the advantages of easy-to-use portable navigation, yet fits seamlessly into a vehicle dashboard. The device provides full radio integration with the car speakers for high quality audio when using spoken instructions, or making hands-free phone calls. Although the full solution is integrated, the navigation device is totally portable so it can be removed from where it sits in the audio system to be used in other cars.
Meanwhile Garmin is becoming a handset OEM of sorts to fight back. And the first "connected" PND platform Dash essentially went under (and was acquired by RIM for BlackBerry devices). However I believe most of these adaptation efforts will prove ineffectual. Most people will not have smartphones and PNDs and most people will not pay the $100 for the TomTom app on the iPhone.
This increasingly bleak situation for the PND makers is compounded by the possibility that Google is developing a free navigation app, which may represent a major nail in the coffin of the PND industry. According to Forbes:
Google has a tendency to enter a market, undercut its competitors' prices and put established players out of business. Navigation service providers are wondering if they're next.
The companies, which provide voice-guided, real-time, turn-by-turn driving directions on people's cellphones, have a hunch that Google is developing a mobile navigation application that it plans to give away for free.
Chatter about such a product first surfaced several years ago, when Google introduced a mobile version of its maps program. The proliferation of the search giant's mobile operating system, Android, in recent months has given the rumors new fuel.
Such a turn-by-turn directions app for Android would be a truly differentiated feature from the iPhone, especially if it were an intrinsic part of all Android devices. And, as the article mentions, it would all-but-kill the navigation subscription business (such as VZ Navigator).
Absent some pretty dramatic product enhancements or otherwise radical innovation (such as sub $100 pricing), the PND market will continue to shrink into obscurity.
With Verizon saying that it will be rolling out LTE to 25 to 30 markets in the US next year, and Clearwire and partners pushing to get more WiMax coverage we're entering a new period of coverage and mobile network speed -- a new network arms race of sorts. Earlier this week Clearwire, Comcast and Sprint announced three additional 2009 cities for 4G deployment:
Clearwire Communications [ ] Comcast [ ] and Sprint [ ] today announced plans to launch their respective 4G mobile Internet services in additional cities in the fourth quarter of 2009. Each of the companies will offer 4G under their own 4G brand.
Clearwire, Comcast and Sprint will each launch commercial 4G service in Philadelphia in the next several weeks with official launch events and retail store openings to follow. In November, Clearwire, Comcast and Sprint will begin sales in Chicago. All three providers will begin selling in Seattle/Tacoma area in early December. Consumers and businesses should expect to see additional network expansions throughout these cities, and a wide-range of independent marketing and advertising initiatives.
The full list of cities to be WiMax-enabled by the end of 2009 under one of the Clear-related brands include:
Atlanta and Milledgeville, GA; Baltimore; Boise; Chicago; Las Vegas; Philadelphia; Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro, NC; Honolulu and Maui, HI; Seattle and Bellingham, Wash; Portland and Salem, Ore; and Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Killeen/Temple, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Waco and Wichita Falls, Texas.
It's a strategic and PR blunder not to include the SF Bay Area, where much of the tech coverage originates. But beyond that this "arms race" should be good news for consumers, offering greater speed, the promise of one bill for home and "on the go" access and intensifying competition for consumers.
Available 4G citywide coverage means that, for example, one could use an iPod Touch with a Skype account ($2.95 for unlimited North American calling per month) instead of having a conventional mobile phone plan. It could also mean that all the forthcoming tablets that are compatible with the technology could be potentially be used as access devices (where Web browsing is enabled).
Hotspot networks may be largely marginalized as 4G coverage spreads, unless they're tapping into the same networks and offer competitive plans.
Amazon, which just announced a huge quarter, is seeking to preempt a host of new tablet and eReader rivals by introducing what I'm calling a "Kindle everywhere" strategy. Similar to what it did with an app for the iPhone, Amazon is going to introduce software for the PC that ties into the Kindle "ecosystem" and allows people to read books on a computer without actually buying the hardware device.
By making the Kindle experience ubiquitious Amazon hopes to crowd out other hardware competitors and eventually convince holdouts and skeptics to buy the device. If you're hooked into the software you'll probably eventually buy the device.
The Kindle was partly what powered Amazon's big quarter:
“Kindle has become the #1 bestselling item by both unit sales and dollars – not just in our electronics store but across all product categories on Amazon.com. It’s also the most wished for and the most gifted. We are grateful for and energized by this customer response,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “Earlier this week we began shipping the latest generation Kindle. Its 3G wireless works in the U.S. and 100 countries, and we’ve just lowered its price to $259.”
However in order to have a competitive device longer term Amazon will have to:
In many respects the Barnes & Noble "Nook" has already bested Kindle.
Related: Nook rumored to run Android apps.
I was reading the NY Times on the iPhone last night and saw a display ad for the new Barnes & Noble eReader "Nook." I was immediately struck by this for a couple of reasons:
Amazon just dropped the price of the international version of Kindle to $259 to remain competitive with the Barnes & Noble device, which doesn't offer a non-US version (perhaps yet). In addition LA Times editor Russ Stanton says that the newspaper has 2,700 Kindle subscribers. That's a largish number for a new technology but a tiny contribution (less than $100K) in absolute terms.
There are maybe 10 eReader devices announced or already in the market, with more to come. And while the Kindle offers "limited" Web browsing I believe the Nook does not. The winning device(s) will offer a large or full-size color screen, WiFi and full Web browsing and video capability. Alternatively, a range of devices can co-exist if they're relatively inexpensive and well equipped.
Barnes & Noble formally unveiled "Nook" today, its "dual-screen" eReader. There are lots of images and videos floating around provided by B&N. Here's a video demo (also on the Nook site). It's $260, essentially same price as the Kindle 2 and has more features. Among them it offers WiFi and a touchscreen, with color at the bottom.
This may not be the ultimate expression of the eReader, but it improves upon Kindle and immediately steals the buzz from Amazon's device -- a feat that so far no one has been able to do in the smartphone market vis-a-vis the iPhone. Here's the Nook-Kindle side-by-side comparison:
How will Amazon respond?
See also: eReader Market Kicking into High Gear
As the world anticipates the Apple Tablet (iPad?) and Amazon quickly tries to grab marketshare with its new global Kindle, some new competitors are previewing eReaders that should make 2010 the year of the MID. First, PlasticLogic is teasing people with its new QUE, to be unveiled at CES in January. The Que is positining as an enterprise platform/tool to differentiate from the mass of consumer readers:
QUE is designed to simplify the multi-faceted lifestyle of the modern businessperson, and to quite literally lighten their workload. In addition to connecting its users with their business and professional newspapers, books and periodicals, QUE supports the document formats business users need (including PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents) and features powerful tools for interacting with and managing the content . . .
More than an eReader, QUE means business. Extra thin, lightweight and wireless-enabled, QUE is the size of an 8.5 x 11 inch pad of paper, less than a 1/3 inch thick, and weighs less than many periodicals. The innovative QUE proReader features the largest touchscreen in the industry, an intuitive touch screen user interface, and provides access to a file cabinet’s worth of documents, plus your favorite—and most necessary—publications.
Spring Design announced a novel, dual-screen Android-based reader ("Alex"):
Alex’s revolutionary dual-screen display design brings together the efficiency of reading on a monochrome EPD (electronic paper display) screen while dynamic hyperlinked multimedia information and third party input on its secondary color LCD screen, actually an integrated Android mobile device, opens a rich world of Internet content to support the text on the main screen. Alex, the first Google Android-based e-book device to provide full Internet browsing over Wi-Fi or mobile networks such as 3G, EVDO/CDMA and GSM. With its dual-screen, multi-access capability, it provides the entire Web universe as a handy reference library, prompting users to delve into its vast information base to complement, clarify or enhance what they are reading. Alex is the first truly mobile wireless e-book device that gives users their own personalized library on the go, whenever and wherever they need it.
Alex features a 6" E-Ink EPD display and 3.5" color LCD display, earphones and speakers. A removable SD card will free up library space on the device while letting users archive content for future reference. The enhanced Android OS is optimized to support integration between the color and monochrome displays while preserving battery life. Users can capture and cache web content from their online experience on the LCD screen, and toggle to view it on the EPD screen without taxing the battery life. Browser features such as bookmarking, history, and security settings are built in, and the device with full Android browsing capability, is mobile enabled with smart phones capabilities.
The dual-screen approach solves the problem of Web browsing in color and eBook reading in E-Ink in black and white. The absence of a color screen on the Kindle is a long-term strategic problem for the device. I'm not sure that the dual-screen approach is a winning one however. The Barnes & Noble device is rumored to offer a color screen and appears to have a more "elegant" form factor.
Regardless, it seems as though by this time next year there will be at least 5-10 serious competitors in the space:
Related: PaidContent offers an extensive discussion about the forthcoming 3G iRex Digital Reader 800SG and the strategy being pursued by the company. For example, while there's 3G connectivity, there's no email or Web browsing.
A consortium of companies, called the "Wi-Fi Alliance," is seeking to turn lots of consumer electronics products into micro hotspots to boost available WiFi and make it a more reliable and ubiquitous way to get online. Right now spotty availability holds WiFi back. The alliance is promoting a new spec that offers "direct Wi-Fi connections between devices." The consortium includes small and large tech companies. Here's how the group's release explains the specification:
The specification, previously code-named "Wi-Fi peer-to-peer," can be implemented in any Wi-Fi device, from mobile phones, cameras, printers, and notebook computers, to human interface devices such as keyboards and headphones. Significantly, devices that have been certified to the new specification will also be able to create connections with hundreds of millions of Wi-Fi CERTIFIED legacy devices already in use. Devices will be able to make a one-to-one connection, or a group of several devices can connect simultaneously.
Seen in tandem with the rollout of WiMax (Clearwire) and LTE (Verizon, AT&T) expanded WiFi networks offer the promise of always available connectivity, which is what consumers increasingly want. The forthcoming barrage of eBook readers and tablets will mostly be WiFi enabled (if they don't have a carrier relationship, e.g., Kindle-Sprint). In addition, more non-phone, non-computer devices will emerge and be WiFi enabled (e.g., digital cameras, video camcorders). So there's a virtuous cycle/circle here: the more connected devices that promote WiFi coverage the more people will tend to buy such devices.
The promise of ubiquitous or nearly ubiquitous WiFi also means that consumer-users will be less dependent on mobile carriers. In such a situation someone might choose to buy an iPod Touch or a tablet rather than an iPhone with its expensive data plan for mobile Internet access. They might have a basic mobile phone instead of a smartphone in that case and rely on the other device for Internet access on the go. There are a variety of these scenarios that become possible if WiFi truly becomes an alternative, regular access paradigm in a way that it is not currently today.
Tablets and eReaders are here to stay. Exactly how popular they'll become and how they'll impact publishing and traditional media is another question. So too is the question of where they will "fit" in the computing product line up: will people use them instead of smartphones, along with smartphones, instead of netbooks or laptops? Will they be important Internet access devices?
Electronics shopping site Retrevo recently published the results of a survey (n=771) that asked about eReader buying intentions. Here's what the company found:
Planning to buy an eReader this year:
I'm surprised that this many people said "yes." And 9% of respondents said they were waiting for the rumored Apple Tablet/iPad/iMedia device.
What brand are you going to buy?
There are a range of "others" in the market (Samsung, iRex, etc.), however people have only heard of the Kindle and Sony's eBook Reader. Indeed, the relative percentages above reflect the relative visibility of the devices more than any intrinsic preference or evaluation or relative quality, etc.
As Apple and other OEMs enter the market we'll see those numbers open up to reflect the competition. Price, features and connectivity will be largely determinative of winners and losers. Kindle's usability may factor into its potential ongoing success. But I don't believe that the Kindle will emerge as the "iPod of eReaders."
In terms of potential buyers, the respondents saying yes skewed younger, although not especially young:
As you might expect also, more affluent respondents were more inclined to buy these devices than those with lower incomes.
Putting aside the relatively large (21%) number of people who said they wanted to buy an eReader "this year," this market and consumer feelings about these devices are in early stages of development. Connectivity is a big issue as well (at least built-in WiFi). My belief is that those devices that offer color screens and a range of capabilities -- including Internet access -- beyond simply reading text will win and have a shot at mass-market adoption.
But they also need to be priced right as well. Apple is the lone company that may be able to defy that dictum and get people to buy a device that costs more than $500. Most of these devices will need to come in at or around $200 to be competitive, because they'll also be competing with smartphones.
A story in the NY Times from Friday asks the question: Will Amazon Open the Kindle to Developers? The story concludes that the answer is "probably not":
An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, wouldn’t comment on this. But according to a few analysts and Amazon watchers who are often prescient on these things, it seems the answer is probably not.
The piece discusses the limitations of the device (i.e., black and white screen, connectivity issues) as technical barriers to iPhone like functionality and capabilities. Yet, to succeed long term, opening up and building an ecosystem like what the iPhone has done is precisely what Kindle must do. As beloved as it is it's a non-mainstream device and its cost ($299 for Kindle 2 and almost $500 for the DX) is a barrier for most people. Indeed, Sony and others have already undercut the Kindle with their pricing (there are devices coming as cheap as $99, though $199 is the "sweet spot"). And you can bet that price competition will only get more intense as a kind of land grab sets in.
Apple's forthcoming tablet will likely be compatible with iTunes and iPhone apps and provide most of the eReader functionality that Kindle has. It will be expensive, relatively speaking, but Apple's brand strength can support a higher priced media tablet, provided the functionality is there. Amazon is thus likely to confront a host of competitors with color screens and broader capabilities on the one side and cheaper models on the other.
While it has many devoted fans, it is NOT the iPhone of eBook readers (at this point). And it will not be similarly insulated from competition. Rather it will be seen as a pioneer that opened the door for many others, who eventually "ate its lunch." That is, unless Kindle 3 becomes much more than a simple eBook reader.
Related: Here's a nice tablet roundup at CrunchGear.
Gizmodo has revealed what can only be described as a really impressive "late prototype" tablet from Microsoft that is two sided, like a book. (A laptop opens and closes like a book, but the orientation here is two 7 inch "sheets of paper" side by side.) The post includes a promotional flash video demo that shows the range of capabilities of the device, including Internet access (apparently also a camera).
It's extremely appealing; I got that "I want one" feeling when I saw it.
There are now so many tablet and eReader devices coming, it's clear that the market is "real." The Internet on one of these larger screen devices is going to be more like the Intenet on a netbook than on a smartphone. Beyond this, the questions in my mind are:
In other words, it could be that these tablets are the new smartphones, eventually becoming a preferred mobile Internet access tool for business users and those who can afford them.
On Wednesday, iRex Technologies, a spinoff of Royal Philips Electronics that already makes one of Europe’s best-known e-readers, plans to announce that it is entering the United States market with a $399 touch-screen e-reader.
Owners of the new iRex DR800SG will be able to buy digital books and newspapers wirelessly over the 3G network of Verizon, which is joining AT&T and Sprint in supporting such devices. And by next month, the iRex will be sold at a few hundred Best Buy stores, along with the Sony Reader and similar products.
And a survey of just over 3K consumers in the US reports that 21% are interested in the as-yet-unconfirmed Apple tablet.
Nokia's Navteq is getting (really) serious about mobile advertising. The company has announced the acquition of mobile marketing firm Acuity Mobile. The two firms have been working together since March, 2007, when Acuity's technology was selected to deliver LBS ads via Traffic.com (a Navteq subsidiary). According to the Navteq press release issued this morning:
The acquisition of Acuity Mobile, a US-based company with approximately 18 employees prior to close, underscores NAVTEQ's commitment to and investment in location-based advertising technology and solutions. Earlier this year, NAVTEQ launched NAVTEQ LocationPoint(TM) Advertising which enables advertisers to reach and engage consumers where and when they are making shopping and purchasing decisions. NAVTEQ has been leveraging Acuity Mobile technologies to meet the increasing demand for location-aware advertising services as the volume of location-aware devices and applications has grown . . .
NAVTEQ LocationPoint enables clients to target consumers with geographic precision. In turn, consumers will have advertising move with them, as their mobile mapping applications present ads, offers, coupons, or other promotions, based on their preferences. Advertising capabilities include audio, rich graphics, or calls to action such as routing to the closest advertiser storefront.
Acuity delivers LBS ads but with other targeting layers as well, including time, context and user preference. The acquisition helps stabilize a broader range of mobile advertising capabilities for Navteq, which has seen the PND market (one of its primiary outlets) look less and less viable with the rise of smartphones.
I'm wondering aloud whether Acuity will remain within Navteq or integrated more broadly into Nokia Interactive Advertising. I would also look for more Nokia mobile ad platform/network acquisitions in the near term.
As more and more people buy smartphones with location-enabled maps or use free or low-cost navigation tools available on smartphones the PND market becomes less and less viable as an independent hardware category. We've argued this in the past. The arrival of TomTom, among others, and a slew of car mounts for the iPhone make the smartphone a near-complete replacement for PNDs.
Garmin is making phones (with ASUS) to extend its life, but it's now only a matter of time before the hardware side of the category is swallowed up by smartphones. Dash Navigation, which had intended to revolutionize the PND market by offering two-way connectivity, didn't last a year. In June it was acquired by RIM to support navigation services on the BlackBerry.
The only way that PNDs can survive as a separate hardware category is by either being priced below smartphones or by beefing up available content and functionality, which is at odds with cheaper pricing. The danger if they move to pure software strategy, however, is that free or very low cost apps do a "good enough" job of helping users get from A to B to discourage the majority from buying or subscribing.
Mobile speech specialist Vlingo is making some aggressive moves into Western Europe. Versions of its flagship product are now available in UK English, German, Spanish and Italian - all downloadable from Nokia's OVI Store for selected handset models. The "Basic" version of Vlingo is available as a free download from OVI. It enables mobile subscribers to use their voice to open mobile applications or features, send a limited number of text or email, find contacts and dial numbers, search the web, and create notes.
Following the now-famous "freemium" model (credited in Wikipedia to VC Fred Wilson, but perpetuated by Tom Evslin in his blog and Chis Anderson in his recent book "Free"), the company offers "Vlingo Plus" for a one-time "upgrade" fee of £12.99 or €14.99 (roughly $21 by today's exchange rate) or for a monthly fee of £3.49 / €3.99 (roughly $7.70). In the UK, Germany, Italy & Spain, Vlingo Plus gives users the ability to originate (by speaking) an unlimited number of text and email messages.
Another breakthrough for Vlingo was revealed today when Nokia announced that the basic version of its software will be pre-loaded on two of its smartphones. Both the he Nokia E72 (which vies for the business market with the likes of the Blackberry 9630) and the recently released QWERTY-keyboard-with-slider-and-touchscreen N97 (which is vying for attention versus the iPhone, Android and Pre) will ship with Vlingo on board. Nokia N97 PR 2.0 software users will also be able to update their Facebook status by voice. Dave Grannan, president of Vlingo, pointed out to us that wireless subscribers can upgrade to the Vlingo Plus at the touch of a button thanks to Nokia's deployment of OpenBit licensing management software that supports multinational, multicarrier billing. Once the decision is made to upgrade, the process is essentially frictionless.
It is no surprise that Nokia has opted to pre-package Vlingo on the E72, as well as the N97. The application has had tremendous success among message-hungry users of RIM Blackberry. So much so that a ranking of "bestselling paid apps" that appeared in the August 31st issue of Fortune Magazine placed Vlingo Plus (with its $17.99 price tag) at the top of the list. There is no better testimony to the value of the voice user interface than the way mobile device owners vote with their wallets.
On August 27, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) published a series of patent applications from Apple Computer including this one, #20090216531, for "PROVIDING TEXT INPUT USING SPEECH DATA AND NON-SPEECH DATA." Please note that this is merely a notification concerning the application for a patent that was originally filed in February 2008. Nonetheless - given all of the development that has been done by a multiplicity of companies large and small seeking to define how spoken words will blend with other forms of user input to compose messages, control media players, populate search boxes or simply input and compose messages - this patent, if granted, has the makings of a sweeping power grab by the master of the mobile, multi-application user interface for the industry's dream machines - the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Scrolling down through the USPTO site, you'll see that Apple provides dozens of implementation scenarios (albeit with reference to figures and flow-charts that are not embedded in the page). The descriptions start with simple entry of text for SMS, email or IM. It also discusses how speech input can be used in editing mode along with entry from a physical or virtual keyboard. But text entry is just the beginning. The patent application gets into specific detail about how users of a mobile device with a media player, camera, motion detector, WiFi capabilities (have I described the iPhone yet?) will seamlessly move from inputting text via spoken word or virtual keyboard.
Apple's engineers, specifically the named inventor Kazuhisa Yanagihara, have clearly given a tremendous amount of thought to the challenges of creating a high-quality mobile user interface. The "text input as speech data and non-speech data" is an interesting angle and the level of detail in the application is impressive. Is it wholly original and unobvious? That remains to be seen. Is it wise for Apple to get the application into the U.S. government? No doubt. The most positive thing that can be said about this sort of filing is that it shows directionally where all mobile interface developers must go to support access to the multiplicity of applications that the spirit of Recombinant Telephony makes possible.
[This story is jointly posted on the Opus Research Home Page.]
Wireless access provider Meraki released what it called a "wireless census" this week. The data are based on "activity seen by a single set of randomly selected Meraki wireless access points in North America in 2008 and 2009 in order to understand macro-level traffic and end-user device trends."
The devices observed at these hotspots or access points includes laptops as well as smartphones and other devices (i.e., iPod Touches) that are WiFi capable:
The number of client devices, such as laptops and handheld devices, observed by the same set of Meraki access points grew dramatically by 41% from 149,687 devices in 2008 to 211,190 in 2009. The number of Apple devices observed, including laptops, iPhones and iPods, grew by an impressive 221%. Apple devices now represent 32% of all the devices seen by this set of Meraki networks in North America, compared to just 14% in 2008.
Nokia and RIM represent smaller numbers but saw growth, especially RIM. Tragically the Storm is not WiFi capable but the Storm 2 (coming soon to Verizon in the US) reportedly will rectify that error.
Related: RIM says its new browser will offer full flash support.
France Telecom/Orange in the UK has introduced the LG watchphone. It has a touchscreen and features video calling. According to the release out this morning, it's being positioned as a kind of fashion statement:
Available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and one device per customer to those who arrive in person at the store - the handmade 3G+ watchphone will guarantee those fortunate enough to purchase one that they’ll turn heads on the high street. The device’s slick scratch resistant touch-screen interface makes writing text messages easy, while an in-built speaker and MP3/AAC player lets you listen to the Essential James Bond theme album when you’re imprisoned in a fake volcano or battling with Jaws.
I have to say: c'est cool. But what about background noise? Click the image below to see the phone in action.
While we might label this a novelty device that is not mainstream -- especially not a price point of £500 (just over $800) -- this (hopefully) is just the beginning of creative, connected devices that we'll start to see in the market.
Some time ago I wrote a couple of posts arguing that Microsoft's best way to get back in the game in mobile -- notwithstanding the 30 million installed Windows Mobile phones -- was to buy Palm. Others have also argued this or some version of this as well. Most recently an opinion piece appeared in Business Week contending that Microsoft is falling farther behind with Windows Mobile and characterized WinMo 6.5 as a "minor release" -- a stopgap until WinMo 7 could come out late in 2010.
That was the line I was essentially pushing until I saw the video below demonstrating 6.5, which impressed me with its apparent improvements over 6.1.
There had been rumors of a "Zune-phone" and effectively that's what Microsoft has created. It has taken the Zune interface and moved it onto phones. Meanwhile, Zune HD boasts Internet access via WiFi hotspots.
When you step back and look at all the elements coming together here, along with the Zune HD as a mobile Internet device and the Mobile Marketplace (works I believe on Zune HD) what you have is Microsoft's iPhone, iTunes and iPod Touch equivalent. I'm sure the folks in Redmond would cringe at that characterization but it seems pretty clear. The company has gone from ridiculing the iPhone and its prospects in 2007 to emulating its strategy in 2009.
On a recent call for analysts about the state of Windows Mobile, during the Q&A session, the two repeated themes were: "How was Microsoft going to compete with or beat the iPhone?" and "How would Microsoft compete with or beat RIM in the enterprise?" The answers were flip sides of one another: the new Windows Phones (re-branded) would be offer better consumer experiences than BlackBerry and be a better "business phone" than the iPhone.
If Microsoft were to produce a truly great mobile OS and user experience, combined with great hardware, it could gain consumer attention and adoption. It's not clear that 6.5 will be that experience -- I haven't used 6.5 first hand -- but after seeing the video I no longer think that Windows Mobile is a lost cause. It appears to be downright competitive in fact.
And, finally, in an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" moment, last week Nokia and Microsoft announced an alliance to bring more productivity software to handsets -- to steal business users from RIM. In the US the prospects for Nokia are dim, absents some radical changes and/or innovations (which could include pricing). Nokia is being effectively shut out of the market in the US.