Be on the wave or under it
The News – 10/02/01
User interface guru Jakob Nielsen has
been a curmudgeon about wireless devices ever since they started
sprouting interactive features. He’s an advocate of the plain
and simple, and of intuitive interfaces. So there’s no wonder
he hated the phones that make you press the “7” key four times
to type an “S”. After his visit to the recent DEMOmobile conference in La Jolla, California, however, Nielsen’s changing
his tune, at least somewhat.
First off, he found a number of interesting
wireless developments at the conference:
is now the mobile device of choice
and was the platform for almost all new services. I’ve noted
this trend myself, and that has led to a re-ranking of Personal
Digital Assistant (PDA) technology in the TrendSpot this
month. According to Nielsen, last year, most start-ups based
their systems on Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) phones,
which is now widely viewed as a limited and wounded technology.
At the conference, virtually all presenters now see WAP as doomed.
Nielsen, a strong WAP opponent, agrees: “Think of the hundreds
of millions of dollars that could have been saved last year
if the VCs had bothered running a WAP usability study.”
- Palm is still around, but used by dramatically
fewer services at this year’s conference than last year. Palm’s
inability to capitalize on its command lead in PDA sales by
offering a decent development environment may have led to its
loss of market share. Its primary advantages nowadays are its
ubiquity and its smaller size. Plus, it may have been a blunder
to offer a proprietary device plug in standard, unlike the iPaq
and other Pocket PC PDAs, which use standard PC Cards. Sony
may yet be able to morph the Palm into a consumer device, but
the ease of programming and porting existing applications onto
the Pocket PC platform could well spell the end of Palm’s dominance.
- The PC is emerging as a personal server that supports a user's mobile devices, often
through its wired Internet connection. This is an interesting
new trend, an extension of the PC’s role in synching contact
and calendar information. For example, SimpleDevices downloads music to the PC and
transmits the audio files wirelessly to the user's car when
it is within range. How cool is that? Nielsen notes that although
SimpleDevices can’t support real-time news, it does offer a
virtual broadband connection to the car.
humans add value to the network. (Editorial Aside: One of the problems of this world
is that there are cheap humans, IMHO). “Copytalk and Webhelp both presented ingenious ways of injecting
full intelligence into a mobile system,” Nielsen said. “Users
simply speak their information request; the system then compresses
the audio recording into a data file and transmits it through
the Internet, to locations where highly qualified labor is virtually
free.” This makes possible all kinds of services, such as a
human-powered AskJeeves-like service. According to
Nielsen, a human expert at web searching could research the
user's question and transmit the answer back for less than a
dollar. Once the answer arrives, it can be converted to speech
using text-to-speech synthesis and played for the user.
is now the wireless connectivity of choice and, according to Nielsen, was used
by almost everybody at the conference. This is a big change
from last year, when Bluetooth was on the rise. This year, Bluetoon
was almost gone, Nielsen said. Followers of the TrendSpot know
that I have downgraded Bluetooth consistently over the last
three months, and this month is no different. But now there’s
a growing feeling that 802.11b, the short range wireless network
technology, combined with Voice over IP (VoIP), a technology
that routes phone calls over the Internet, could threaten cell
phone networks as well. This has given 802.11b a boost in the
TrendSpot rankings this month.
Although Nielsen was generally positive about
one new device that debuted at the show, Danger Research’s Hiptop
(OK, that’s a stupid name alert times two!), he had some criticisms
of its user interface. The Hiptop, which people at the show were
calling the Danger Device, is a 6-ounce Personal Digital Assistant
(PDA) and a cell phone device with a a small but readable grayscale
screen. The device has a thumbwheel control and a few visible
buttons, leaving most of the room for the screen. You can browse
the Web (with full graphics), send and receive e-mail and instant
messages, or use it as a phone. The Hiptop also lets you take
pictures, and play video games and other Java programs. What’s
really nice, however, is the teeny thumb keyboard that you can
expose by twisting the device.
The bummer for US wireless users, however,
is that the Hiptop is a GSM phone, which means only Cingular and
Voicestream will be able to sell it here, for about $200. Since
GSM networks in the US are just getting started, that means accepting
less-than-optimal coverage for the privilege of having the coolest
wireless device on the block.
Nielsen is not convinced that tiny keyboards
are the solution for mobile devices, putting his bets on improved
handwriting recognition (it would have to improve a lot to read
mine) and voice recognition. He also doesn’t like trackwheels,
calling them unnatural (but then so was the mouse the first time
you used it, yes?).
Whether the Danger device becomes the next
big thing here will depend a lot on the progress of GSM and its
successor, GPRS, in the US. With the first GPRS networks launched
recently in China, England, and, incredibly, Seattle,
the pervasiveness of this particular device will depend a lot
on how quickly wireless network providers build out their networks.
Self-Promotion Dept.: I’ve added a new directory to the Directories section of the
StratVantage Web site: Email Newsletters. After conducting a
fruitless search for a central place listing interesting email
newsletters, I decided to establish one myself. I’ve seeded
it with newsletters I receive and find useful. If you’ve got
a favorite, send it along and I’ll add it.
Covering Its Bets:
As reported in issues of SNS (here and here), Nokia is very
interested in m-commerce (mobile eCommerce). In addition to
its joint SmartCover effort with Sodexho and its dual chip test
with Visa, Nokia is collaborating with IBM, Luottokunta and
Radiolinja to pilot secure credit card payments using a mobile
phone wallet application. The participants hope to demonstrate
using the wallet for transferring payments and loyalty program
information, and WIM (Wireless Identity Module) for making non-repudiated
transactions. The parties are in the process of choosing suitable
merchants for the pilot, which will start in the fourth quarter
of 2001 in Finland.
on the Phone – Your Desktop Phone: By now my prediction last
spring that it would be a while before we saw Java on mobile
phones seems pretty ludicrous. Not long after I made the prediction,
Korea's LG Telecom introduced a Java-enabled cell phone in July,
Nextel announced a Java cell phone, and Nokia smart phones,
available outside the United States, began using Java applications.
Now Kada™ Systems has announced that Cisco will build their
Java technology into its Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
non-mobile desktop phones. Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes
Sign-On = Liberty? Nokia,
Cisco, Dun & Bradstreet, Sony, Sun and many other companies
have announced that they will co-found the Liberty Alliance
Project “to create an open, standards-based solution for network
identity and authentication to provide single sign-on to the
internet and to the mobile Internet.” They propose to do this
through a technique they’re calling federated identity. “In
a federated view of the world, a person's online identity, their
personal profile, personalized online configurations, buying
habits and history, and shopping preferences are administered
by users, yet securely shared with the organizations of their
choosing. A federated identity model will enable every business
or user to manage their own data, and ensure that the use of
critical personal information is managed and distributed by
the appropriate parties, rather than a central authority.”
Notably missing from the roster of founding members is Microsoft,
which wants the world to adopt its proprietary Passport technology.
About the name Liberty Project, though: I squirm a bit when
I see projects named in this manner. What’s next? The Mom &
Apple Pie Project? Nevertheless, it’s way too early to say whether
this project will enhance our online freedom or detract from
Many Clues: Was I the only one who thought
the abundance of clues left by the terrorist hijackers was a
little fishy? Apparently not, as an article on Stratfor indicates.
The article states that the terrorists, “practiced near-perfect
operational planning, coordination and execution before their
mission but left behind obvious evidence leading to other operatives
who may have supported the hijackings. This begs the question
of whether these evidence trails were intentionally left in
order to distract U.S. law enforcement from other terrorists.”
The article is well worth reading.
Starts First 3G Service:
With no fanfare, Japan’s DoCoMo has started selling 3G phones
that feature video services. The company thus met the timeline
it announced late last year. I was among the skeptics that thought
they’d never make it. Although the rollout is limited to a 30-mile
radius of Tokyo, it soon will spread to other Japanese cities.
The service, dubbed FOMA, (Freedom of Mobile multimedia Access),
offers download speeds as high as 384Kbps. One of the phones
the company is selling has a built-in camera for wireless videoconferencing.
DoCoMo sold 4,000 phones the first day.
Stops Whining; Debuts E911 Phone:
You never heard such a bunch of whining as the din put up by
US wireless carriers about having to meet the FCC’s E911 mandate
by this month. Verizon led the pack with detailed whines about
how it couldn’t comply. VoiceStream got a waiver. But Sprint
has amazed us all by offering an E911-compatible phone right
on time. E911 is an FCC rule requiring cell phone network operators
to be able to locate a phone within 100 meters. Although Sprint
is offering the phone, Samsung's SPH-N300 GPS-enabled phone,
it is not yet supporting it with network services. Nonetheless,
way to go!
to Make a Difference: Karen Holtzblatt, a principal of design
services consultancy InContext, made the following commitment
after the recent tragedy. Many other business people have made
the same pledge:
- When the NYSE re-opened, we bought and
will buy stock in a company we believe in (and which gave
generously to recovery and victim relief).
- We will commit people and money to a development
project that improves people's lives.
- We will fly and attend conferences and
- We will collaborate with colleagues--and
competitors--to improve what we make and how we work.
- We will watch our spending but not make
frivolous cuts that hamper productivity.
- We will invest in helping others secure
- We will affirm our safety, security, and
joy in living by spending on something fun.
- We will work to help the triumph of openness,
tolerance, and understanding over fear, hatred, and violence.
.NET Could Be Virus-Prone: Eric Chien, chief researcher for antivirus firm Symantec, has
identified a number of areas in which .NET, Microsoft’s next
generation Web services platform, could be even more vulnerable
to security threats than existing Microsoft operating systems.
Chien said: “There are a number of new threats here, most of
which are dependent on how users set their permissions and other
security settings.” Another vulnerability is .NET’s ability
to run programs in a variety of different languages, many of
which currently have no antivirus products available. Chien’s
primary worry, though, is that users won’t know how to use the
various security resources within .NET to protect themselves.
Sounds like good news for Chien’s employer, though.
Return to Mike’s
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Also check out the TrendSpot for ranking of
the latest emerging trends.
14, 1928 - July 5, 2003
Jane C. Ellsworth
20, 1928 - July 20, 2003