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OpenMoko July 9, 2007

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Today saw a publicity launch for the first device from the open source mobile handset project, OpenMoko. It’ll first be targeted at developers, with a mass market version (including Wifi and 3D accelerometers) planned at the end of the year.

Slim(ish), flat and sans-keyboard, the Neo1973 shares a few design cues with the Apple iPhone, but isn’t as pretty to look at. Crucially, though, it’s open to developers and not tied to a specific cellular operator.

After Palm (yet again) delayed the launch of its Linux-based Treo, it’s good to see some progress being made here. Another hackable Linux-based phone is already available in France (from Wistron, another Taiwanese ODM), but this looks much more interesting.

Links 2007-04-26 April 26, 2007

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Nokia N95 – some issues April 25, 2007

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Last year, I mentioned that I’d be looking for a new phone, and listed some desirable features. Nokia’s N95 looks and feels less attractive than I’d expected, but is novel at the moment in being GPS-enabled (and has a lot of other features).

GPS is a feature I’d particularly like to try, as well as some VoIP and photo applications I’ve read about over the last couple of years …to better understand the user experience, issues and other possible services and business cases. I don’t like ‘walled gardens’. (Mapperz has listed some free applications.)

Dean Bubley reports that handsets with built-in GPS were “flavour of the month” at 3GSM. Mobile Weblog reports that GPS device makers are developing mobile handsets, and a WSJ article that Nokia will use GPS (and LBS services) as a strategy to maintain its handset prices.

Issues :

Links 2007-04-24 April 24, 2007

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Links 2007-04-22 April 22, 2007

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Twitter April 1, 2007

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I’m still undecided about Twitter [blog][forums], the simple moblogging site to update friends on your current activity (or “public IM” etc, if you prefer). Its flexibility offers a ‘one size fits all’ platform for a lot of peoples’ requirements, but will the value of a larger ‘crowd’ outweigh personal compromises in other areas? It feels more like a clever hack, in the right place at the right time, than a preferred long-term solution.

In Sep?-06 I read a launch advert on Odeo, another Obvious Corp property, but didn’t ‘get’ how it differed from other group-SMS applications. Still, the buzz gradually grew, and since SXSW (Mar-07) articles are everywhere.

My page hasn’t been used since Jan-07, as friends remain disinterested after I ‘explain’ it. And I’m tired of the hype. Twitter has interesting possibilities. I don’t agree that it’s pointless or (simply) intrusive. I’ll probably find a reason to use it. But right now I’ll capture these few thoughts and links, and move on.

So why is it Twitter that captured the buzz, and became successful social software? Is it the open access – SMS, webpage and IM (though apparently not Trillian)? Is it the simple, open API for 3rd party developers? Is it the persuasive personalities of early adopters? (Is it just a niche success, talked up by a lot of US tech bloggers?) Probably all of those, at the moment.

Unlike other broadcast-SMS apps, Twitter is lightweight and already supported, so doesn’t need a (proprietary) mobile Java app. Also, PersonX on Twitter doesn’t broadcast directly to a group : she sends to a PersonX node on the Twitter server. The significance is (1) A node could represent an event or service (for breaking news), instead of just a person, which adds functionality; (2) in the UK (etc, where sender pays), a group only pays for one SMS per broadcast (…It’s less of an issue in receiver-pays USA, where monthly cellular plans have huge SMS bundles); (3) losing a mobile doesn’t lose a person’s groups; and (4) all of the data is captured by the Twitter servers.

PersonX is also able to send a message directly to PersonY=webservice node and receive a direct reply, which adds ‘mobile’ to an existing web service, and makes Twitter more of a platform than (just) a social software app …at least until mobile web browsing is a preferred alternative.

My first (and still clearest) thought was that Twitter acts as a ‘presence’ indicator like IM does, but SMS doesn’t, and gives the security of knowing what your group/ tribe is doing by continuous partial attention …and Liz Lawley [Many2Many] seems to agree. The convention of short (up to 140 characters), occasional, messages allows mobile users to participate more equally, because it doesn’t try to replace IM conversations, where mobile (SMS) users are disadvantaged by connectivity, typing speed, expense, etc. [Around the time that Twitter launched, there was discussion about whether mobile IM app's would succeed SMS, and a planned telco IM platform (to compete with Y!M, MSN, AOL, etc).]

Displaying public conversations on a webpage attracts people (see: Jakob Nielsen’s 90-9-1 rule), even if they don’t post, or belong to groups; and it keeps a history (public or private). The website is the heart of the application. But posting is shown to be easy, because it’s short and doesn’t NEED to say anything clever, and so the initial hurdle is low (but the reason to continue is usually your group). Group-forming is easy and Reed’s Law says it has the potential to add huge value to a network (so should Twitter encourage it more, by adding an option to post to sub-groups of your contacts?); and a reluctance to allow it is one of many reasons given for Friendster surrendering its lead.

Lots of users, groups and posts means a lot of metadata, and the open API allows 3rd parties to repackage it …to add value, to offer different data visualisation tools, or simply to display interesting usage patterns.

Twitter [Jason Kottke]
Newbie’s guide to Twitter” [Webware]
A Twitter primer [theory.isthereason]
Dodgeball vs. Twitter” [TechCrunch]
Twitter commands [Twitter.com]
Six ways to improve Twitter” [Webware]
Twittering your home” [O'Reilly]
Twitter Fan Wiki …for widgets, etc
twittervision [via O'Reilly and Google Maps Mania]
Twitterbar extension [Flock]
Twapper [via Lifehacker]

Update: Origin of the Twitter idea [via Jason Kottke]

“Ease of use and simplicity for the user” February 15, 2007

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(Alcatel-Lucent CEO) Pat Russo’s recent interview with the FT struck a chord :

What would you most love to see?

I’d love to see the communications industry tackle ease of use and simplicity for the user. Phones are actually getting more complex.

It’s been said many times before, and reminded me of a quote on Dave Farber’s IP list :

I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone. My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone — Bjarne Stronstrup (originator of C++ programming language)

Long live the real Internet on mobiles February 13, 2007

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Word from Dean Bubley at 3GSM, that mobile operators as a whole are finally embracing the ‘real’ Internet…

…Everything else is about taking the real Internet onto mobile (there isn’t, nor ever has been, nor ever will be, a “mobile Internet”).

…is good news for those who support standards-based website design and dislike walled gardens.

3GSM preview from Dean Bubley February 9, 2007

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Next week is the 3GSM ‘World Congress’ (ie. mobile phone show), and Dean Bubley has a prediction of the hot topics.

Several are familiar from his blog (and others). Rollout of HSUPA sounds like it would (better) enable some interesting services, so I’ll keep an eye out for analysis of that.

Phone thoughts January 9, 2007

Posted by mark in : Design, Device, Personal, Wireless , 2comments

Desirable features for my next mobile handset (without wanting it to $satisfy all). Currently use a Palm Treo 650 (which doesn’t have 3G/ wifi/ gps/ multitasking OS), and not a landline. Grouped, but no particular order :

Things that I don’t really care about :

Gizmo VoIP on mobile November 29, 2006

Posted by mark in : Telecoms, VoIP, Wireless , 1 comment so far

Nokia announced today that their N80i dual mode phone will have Gizmo software installed. With a Wifi connection, you’ll have free calls to any SIP-compliant VoIP phone (eg. Gizmo Project softphone or AuPix AP-100! …but not the proprietary Skype), and cheap calls to other landlines and mobiles. When there’s no Wifi, you can still make ‘normal’ calls, over the cellular network.

The review at O’Reilly tells of a good user experience, and a nice integration. So, next year I may get a new Nokia (N80i or N95), because the new Treo’s haven’t excited me.

Friends & Family 2.0 October 14, 2006

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Interesting suggestion at Telco 2.0 : To have a far greater effect on churn, the Orange “Magic Number” offer (…$Free to call a friend that you choose) should automatically make it free for that friend to call you (as well), if you’re both Orange customers.

As it says there :

Would I dare leave Orange myself if the result was an increase in expense for many of my friends? The social pressure would greatly outweigh the financial considerations.

The cost to Orange is limited, because those on a monthly plan have largely ‘free’ voice calls anyway. (Pre-paid customers have a limited version of the offer. Can you switch?) In a couple of years, the ‘network effect‘ could mean all your calls are free, and you’d resent the fixed cost of a monthly plan for voice; but the Orange business/pricing model will have changed by then, anyway.

Mobile IM October 9, 2006

Posted by mark in : General, Telecoms, Wireless , 2comments

Martin Geddes (-ve) and Paul Golding (+ve) have a couple of good and contrasting posts about mobile instant messaging, compared with texting (SMS)

My Treo smartphone and multiprotocol IM application give me an atypical experience …eg. My SMS conversations do have a visible chat session (and are threaded by person); and a PC client doesn’t flag up that I’m a “mobile” IM user

I hardly ever use mobile IM. My current situation seems to be :

I tried to check some of these things over the weekend, but couldn’t get my IM application to connect

European v’s American mobile phone use September 12, 2006

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Michael Mace at Mobile Opportunity compares European and American attitudes towards mobile phones

…[via Communities Dominate Brands]

ROK? – Not so much September 11, 2006

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The ROK Viper application was the 3rd UK Mobile VoIP story on 4 Sep, which I chose not to mention at the time

I’ve since seen a few critical comments, as people point out that it’s not really Mobile VoIP and it’s not compelling, and those are interesting

UK Mobile VoIP stories September 4, 2006

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Andy Abramson and TechCrunch UK both report the news that Mobiboo (London) has begun to offer a Mobile VoIP service, over Wi-fi, as an alternative to cellular

Andy also points to a story on newswireless.net that AQL (Leeds) is inviting Nokia E series users to sample free peer-to-peer Wi-fi calling over its mobile VoIP network

(They explain these better than I can. I need to think it through, later this week)

Flickr Photo Compass September 3, 2006

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The Greasemonkey scripts for Flickr Photo Compass [via Lifehacker] and GeoRadar reminded me of some of the elements in Ajit Jaokar’s example of a Mobile Web 2.0 service, at Open Gardens

Will MK be the first UK city with WiMax? August 27, 2006

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Reuters [via Andy Abramson] reports that Milton Keynes will be the first UK city to deploy WiMax

Doesn’t Brighton already have it? Am I missing something?

Wireless – my thoughts from 2003 August 23, 2006

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(Some stuff that interests me at the moment.) The Internet has been a sandbox for innovative applications. Will mobile communications have the same opportunity, or will commercial self-interest (‘walled gardens’, spectrum limits, DRM, etc) prevent it? :

Open spectrum, and the wireless commons : After reading David Weinberger’s FAQ, the best site to visit for original resources is Dave Reed’s. The manifesto is at wirelesscommons.org. [Books : I recommend "Smart Mobs" by Howard Rheingold, which covers several themes on this page. And "The Future of Ideas" by Lawrence Lessig]

“Stupid” networks and the end-to-end argument : The network should not choose how it is used. Control (or intelligence) is placed at the “end” (with the user), rather than in the centre, and this enables more innovation. The Internet was designed this way, before “Quality of Service” (QoS)

First described by Dave Reed et al, there are some interesting Papers and Thoughts on his site, including “The end of end-to-end?“. The famous “Rise of the Stupid Network” article was written by David Isenberg, and the proposed impact on telco business is laid out in netparadox.com

Software Defined Radio [SDR] : is an example of an intelligent end user device. [SDR Forum, and Vanu Inc]

Wireless Networking : “Disruptive” wireless technologies got a lot of press in 2003 (v’s cellular radio) because of price, performance and flexibility; but the first “Next Big Thing” article for Wi-Fi was back in Mar-01

[NEWS : "Wi-Fi Networking News"; "802.11 Planet"; wireless.com. RESOURCES : Wi-Fi Alliance; IEEE 802; Radiocommunications Agency]. FAQ for setting up a network at consume.net and some tools at landmap.co.uk]

Wi-Fi networks in Bristol, UK : Node locations at Intel, Wi-FiHotSpotList.com and WiFinder.com. Also bristolwireless.net and Node DB for local projects