iPhone … is theirPhone …

Well, it’s already turning into a bummer.  It appears that the iPhone is going to be locked down against 3rd party applications.  What a loss.  I was really looking forward to some sort of developer angle here … but it seems that Apple is going to lock things up tightly when it comes to applications for the iPhone.  From this article:

But it’s not like the walled garden has gone away. “You don’t want your
phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write
applications for it and potentially gum up the provider’s network, says
Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t
want to see their West Coast network go down because some application
messed up.”

In addition, I’m hearing more and more that they are locking the phone tight to the Cingular network … not allowing you to change to alternate networks.  David Isenberg comments on the same issues in his blog post: Apple blows it.  I agree with him completely … I’m shocked at the complete lock-in that Apple is creating around the iPhone.  Bummer.

My $0.02 about the iPhone

Ok … it’s cool. So far I like what I have read, except for a couple of things … which I expected.

  1. The price. Wow … that is a lot of money for a phone. I know that it is more than a phone, but ouch. I’m also a little cautious about the cost of the cellular plans also. I already use Cingular and the data plans are not the most aggressive.  The interesting part is that I already know they are going to sell as many as they can make.  Steve Jobs knows how to market.
  2. The storage.  This really caught me off-guard.  Only a 4GB and 8GB version?  I have become so used to my 80GB Video iPod that I can’t even imagine going back to only 8GB.  I really enjoy taking such a huge portion of my music collection – along with several videos and numerous podcasts – everywhere that I go.  I would really have to reset how I use my iPod if I was going to drop back to only 8GB.  Maybe I shift to using my phone … oops, I mean iPhone (trademark Cisco Systems) … for all of the podcasts, but still keep my Video iPod for my music, etc.
  3. Touch Screen.  As usual, Steve has outdone himself as the iPhone appears to have even further enhanced the user interface.  I have always liked touch-pads and touch interfaces, and hearing about some of the new multi-finger aspects really impressed me.  It has me thinking about how natural some of this is going to become.
  4. Application Support.  I’m also impressed with this aspect … it appears that this is OS-X and has support for the Apple Widgets.  If there is truly compatibility with the standard development environment for Widgets this is going to really open up development for the phones.  In addition, if Apple has truly opened up the iPhone and it’s APIs, then things are going to get fun.  When I last looked at some of the API limitations, I was unable to write an application that could access the camera, and even the text/SMS interfaces.  I’m hoping that Apple will break through these barriers.
  5. Battery Design.  I had heard about the two-battery design, and it makes complete sense.  Cool idea.  Now if I use my iPhone for music too much … I don’t kill the battery for my phone.  Nice.

I stopped by the Apple store here in Salt Lake City today.  They said they have no idea when they will see one.  It’ll be interesting to see when the iPhone begins to show up everywhere.  I’m sure that it won’t be too long.  It’s already the thing to be seen using …

Second Life … still controlling the (virtual) world!

Wow … what a quick reaction … but not quite enough, in my opinion. Linden Research quickly announced the release of the Second Life client into Open Source. I actually love the name of this blog post by phoenix linden … Embracing the Inevitable.  It announces the release of their client software into Open Source, and where to go and get it.  There is an issue though … they are still holding onto the control of the virtual world by not releasing the server software … yet. As David Kirkpatrick at Fortune reports:

While this initial step will open up what is essentially the user’s
window into Second Life for modification, it will leave Linden Lab in
control of the proprietary software code for all Second Life’s backend
services – the server software that makes the world exist. However,
executives say that the company’s eventual intention is to release an
open source version of that software as well, once it has improved
security and other core functions. They say they have been preparing
for the open source move for about three years.

Yes … this is not enough to provide a free and open platform for virtual existence. I do see where this is a prudent business move to create even more of a lock on the entire market though. Linden seems to now be pushing to create de-facto standards of their client APIs and protocols by creating a group of developers who write to this environment.

My worry is if it took them three years to get the client out to Open Source, how long will it take them to get the server software out?

I believe that the pressure is mounting as other well-funded companies continue to explore the space … as this quote from IBM demonstrates:

IBM Vice President for Technical Strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a
close student of Second Life, heard about the impending move toward
open source from a Linden employee. “They have the right thought,” he
says, “which is that open source things work with the marketplace. But
this is a field in its infancy that will be very competitive. Linden
Lab might end up with a huge leadership position in a certain class of
tools for virtual worlds, but those might not be the right tools for,
let’s say, a surgeon learning a new procedure in an immersive online
environment. Second Life can be wildly successful, but so can others.”

I do not think that IBM and others are sitting still. Neither am I. I’m heading over to download the APIs reference materials now … 🙂

P.S. I just thought of an interesting “client” to create for Second Life. What if there was an “augmented reality” client that was created that would overlay the Second Life world onto the real world? Maybe create someplace in the desert – like at Burning Man – that would allow you to have GPS tracking on yourself, and then wearing augmented reality goggles you would be seeing some portion of the Second Life world? As you wandered around the desert, your view would be augmented with the terrian of Second Life, and the other people wandering around in reality would be overlayed with their graphical avatar. Hmmmm …

Head-worn displays still being worked on …

During the Tech Boom there were numerous companies and people working on Head-Mounted displays.  As a dealer for Xybernaut, one of the only dedicated wearable computer vendors at the time, I bought a nice unit from Olympus.  It was one of a very small lot of units, and was built to integrate into the Xybernaut units.  I used it for a lot of my WarBlading efforts … our “war driving” on roller blades.  🙂

Shimadzu is one of the vendors who has persisted in this space … they have always had an impressive (yet costly) solution.  Their Data Glass 2/A has some impressive specs, and I can’t wait to see exactly what the Data Glass 3 will be!

What got my started looking at this again was a post I read that lead me to some more current research.  I came across this web page by Ozan Cakmakci who designed a new head-worn display, and wrote some papers about them.  It’s cool to see that people are still looking at this.

New Nokia E70

I’ve had my Nokia E70 for about a month now.  Here are some thoughts on the phone …

  • It is slow.  Period.  This phone has now taught me that hardware vendors are trying to push far too much software and functionality at the limited processors in these devices.  I find myself constantly waiting for the phone … waiting for menus … waiting for the applications to load and be usable.  This phone is noticeably impacting my productivity in a negative way.
  • The phone is not reliable.  Right now, my key problem is around the bluetooth connection to my Jabra BT250v headset.  Once or twice a day now my headset connectivity stops working.  I go through the menus on my E70, turn off the bluetooth, then turn it back on, and re-connect my BT250v and it’s back working.  But this is like having to re-boot my phone once or twice a day.  C’mon Nokia … can’t you create a reliable product?
  • The task list is too limited.  I had bought the phone hoping that I could replace my Palm Tungsten E2 … and it’s close … but the Task/ToDo list application on the E70 is just too limited.  I use 15 different ToDo lists on my Palm to organize my life.  The E70 doesn’t include the ability to create multiple lists … it’s all dropped into one big list.  Bummer.
  • I do like the browser.  I have to admit that it has been fun just opening up my phone, and cruising the Internet every now and then.  The browser is small, but well designed, and very usable.  I’m able to read the news and do searches, etc.

These are just a few quick thoughts off the top of my head … I’m still glad I bought it … maybe I’ll have to keep checking for firmware updates to see if anything gets fixed.  I am impressed at where these devices have got to … I can only imagine what the next generation of phones will be like next year …

Where is the Ultra Mobile PC?

With all of my disappointment with cell phones lately, I started to wonder where is the Microsoft Ultra Mobile PC?  I saw the one Samsung Q1 unit … but are there others that are shipping?  I see the Asus unit on the web site … but is it out there?

I still have to say that I was left slightly disappointed by the current generations of Tablet PCs … I really like the concept, but the hardware specs of the available Tablet PCs are just too far behind my current Dell Laptop.  The one key feature for me was the screen resolution … I must have more than 1024×768 pixels to view!

I’m now in the market for a new laptop … I’m having a hard time nailing down what I want to buy … a new Dell, a MacBook Pro, or a new Tablet PC.

Oh, and the Ultra Mobile PC?  I’m looking at that for my son.  He’s four years old now and I’m thinking that might be a good Christmas present for him …  🙂

Telcos and Cellcos continue to lag …

While down at the Adobe MAX conference in Las Vegas, I saw some very nice demos of Flash Lite v2.1 … a version of Flash for mobile devices and cell phones.  It was interesting to see that both Verizon and Qualcomm were on hand to talk about the immediate availability for developers.  As I just bought my new Nokia E70 phone (which I’m slowly getting used to!) I thought this would be great!  I’m doing some Flash development … and now I can write apps for my phone with it!

Well … then reality set in.  I went to the Adobe Flash Lite booth, where I was told that my phone ships with Flash Lite v1.1 … an archaic version with severe limitations.  Ok … so when can I get the upgrade?  Well, go ask the Nokia folks.  It was nice that Nokia had a booth at the show … I simply strolled across the room to ask!  When I got to the booth, one of the Nokia reps even had a E70 in his hand!  Woohoo!

As we discussed the wonders of Flash Lite v2.1, I finally asked “When will I get my update?”  Long silent pause.  “Well, at this time I don’t know if we’ll support Flash Lite v2.1 on our 3rd Edition Phones.” was the answer.  Uh … I just bought this thing … I asked “What is a 3rd Edition Phone?”  The response was something like “Everything on the market is 3rd Edition or less.  The 4th Edition Phones are already being developed.”  So the bottom line that I learned is that Nokia probably will never support Flash Lite v2.1 on any phone in the market.  Yes … there is a possibility asa a developer you can get your hands on a version that will work on your phone … but the end-user community will not get it.  What the heck are they thinking?  The answer seemed to be that they did not want to go back and test and recertify the phones in the market.  Bummer.  Strike One for the Telcos and Cellcos.

The next step was to ask Adobe for the latest development tool that would allow me to create Flash Lite v1.1 applications!  The answer was Flash Professional 8 … a $700 tool.  On top of this, the development paradigm used by this tool was completely foreign to me … although I had been warned about the “timeline” model.  When I got the developer demo, I quickly realized that this was not going to work for me.  Bummer.  Strike Two for the Telcos and Cellcos.

Before giving up completely, I then began to explore a conversation about some possible applications that I had thought of.  Things got even worse.  I really wanted to have some applications do some cool things with the camera, and SMS services.  It turns out that the Telcos and Cellcos have prevented the Flash Lite applications from directly working with the Camera or SMS capabilities of the phones.  So I can’t have my application take photos, or send photos, or send/receive SMS text messages.  Bummer.  Strike Three for the Telcos and Cellcos.

It was amazing to me that after years of waiting for the cell phone to catch up and be a real player in the Internet age, it’s still handcuffed and locked up by the Telcos and Cellcos.  Yes … I know that you can still do *some* things with these devices … but they are far from being free, and a truly open and mobile platform for applications.

RFID Implants … do it yourself?

When I read this article I immediately began to think about all of the
science fiction movies where the various characters are always trying
to REMOVE tracking devices from themselves.  I can remember the image of Arnold pulling the giant round tracking module from his nasal cavity in Total Recall.

This article, however, is about a growing number of people who are now
inserting RFID tags into themselves!  Well … in some cases they
are having doctors do it … but the one web page referenced includes
the list of items to do it at home!

Of course this links me back to Pete Ashdown‘s comments last night about integrity
… we spoke about this breifly after the Utah Bloggers conference had
ended.  It’s cool to see people who are ok with being tracked …
and aren’t afraid of anything that might be gathered about them. 
They are ok with where they go, and what they do.

I’m going to keep thinking about this one.  I have been thinking
that with the younger generations adopting lifestyles where ‘body
modification’ is becoming the norm, they will be more and more open to
technological implants.  If you are willing to get tattoos, and
have piercings, then when might you go for subdermal animated LED
impants, or RFID tags?

Social Consequences and Effects of RFID Implants?.


Microsoft Origami – first thoughts

Well … it’s been fun watching the media uproar, and the debates over
the hype about the Microsoft Origami device. I has also been fun
to see the product announced and in the press.
It was fun since we at Agilix Labs had one here at our facility for quite
some time prior to the leaks. We’ve been tweaking our GoBinder
code to ensure that our Tablet PC applications work on this new device.

So what do I think about the UMPC/Origami device? I actually like
it! Yes, like many people are saying, this is a mini-Tablet PC
type of device. There is nothing earth shattering about it that I
know of right now, but I do want to buy one for my three year old
son. He has been using my HP Tablet PC for quite a while now, and
is becoming very adept at navigating the user interface, and easily
switching from mouse to stylus. I have really been thinking about
what I buy him to use … or do I give him my old laptop as I
upgrade? What about a PlayStation Portable? Oh … what about the $100 Laptop Project?

My laptop is too large for my son. The PSP? It’s still
$250.00 and doesn’t have half of the capabilities nor features.
The $100 Laptop? Way too limited in my opinion in that it lacks
the breadth of application support … and isn’t yet available. A Tablet PC? No … too expensive today.

In my opinion the key is going to be the price point of these new
Origami devices. When I can buy a device like this for the ~$600+
I have a hard time considering anything else. It runs a standard
operating system (and might even support Linux!) and brings the full
breadth of application support. It’ll run games, and provide
Internet connectivity. It’ll have Bluetooth and integrate with
cell phones.

I’m not saying that this product is going to kill the $100 Laptop
Project … that will always have it’s place. But in more
affluent societies where some extra money can be spent it seems to me
that the Origami is addressing a real market. This is the place
between the PDA/PSP types of devices, and the laptop/Tablet PCs.

So I’ll probably buy one for my son. Will I buy one? I
think that I might buy one for myself … just to experiment as a
platform for new applications. Religion aside, when Microsoft and
Intel (and Samsung, and ASUS, and …) get behind something they are
going to create a new market. I do believe that for software
developers, there is going to be a whole new generation of applications
for this platform.

Human Extensions

This is a great article, however I don’t know that it goes far
enough!  Seldom do we really think about the wide range of “tools”
that we depend on … that have become an extension of our own
humanity.  In this day and age, an automobile is now a necessary
extension … enabling us to collaborate with others.  And even wired
telephones … this form of communications is what allowed for the
creation of global virtual communities in the first place.  Well
… after the telegraph.  And smoke signals.  It is not only
here in America, but all over the globe that humans are developing
whole new capabilities based on these “gadgets” … these Human
Extensions …

Americans ‘Need’ Their Gadgets.
Whether it’s a personal computer, an iPod or TiVo, Americans are
growing increasingly dependent on personal technology. Not everyone
thinks this is healthy. [Wired News]