Archive for December, 2010

Observations: Carriers – December 30, 2010

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

Russ’ observation: The world is changing for carriers with M2M, multi-device plans, and 2-sided business models making 4G seem like a minor tweak to the business model.

Enabling Technology: December 29, 2010

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The Law of Mobility talks about value increasing with mobility. The impact of this law is being felt because the barriers to building mobility in are being obliterated week after week. Here are examples of technology advances enabling this to happen:

Russ’ observation: Technology is enabling mobility to be increasingly integrated into the real world and everyday life.

Observations: Uses – December 24, 2010

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

Russ’ Observation: Mobility is undoubtedly changing (and saving) lives.

Observation: Services – December 20, 2010

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.

Observations: Devices – December 19, 2010

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any

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indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

Does Tablet Computing Really Matter?

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

I’m back to writing about topics with mobility interests at Christian Computing Magazine.

I’ve just started a new series called “Tablet Time” and the first column in the series is about the iPad. Future columns will talk about how I use the Hotspot feature of my Samsung Epic 4G phone to keep my iPad connected and about Android tablets, specifically the Samsung Galaxy S Tab.

I recommend you read the entire article at the Christian Computing website, but here are highlights from the article:

The iPad is one of the most disruptive product launches in the history of computing. Analysts believe that the success of the iPad is impacting the entire industry.

The first victim was Netbooks. Netbooks were the hot new category in 2008 and 2009, with monthly year over year growth figures ranging from 179% to 641% throughout the second half of 2009. The iPad was announced in January and launched in April of 2010. By April, Netbook growth had fallen to 5% and has since gone negative. Given Netbook limitations, many people considering buying a Netbook realized that the iPad could do everything they wanted from a Netbook, in a more convenient package, with a simpler user interface, and, to be honest, a “cooler” image.

The next victim was Notebooks. Many people who were considering buying a Notebook were less convinced that the iPad could be a credible replacement. But, as iPads reached the market and users gained experience (“technology lust” took hold), many of those Notebook customers decided that the iPad was the choice for them. For the second half of 2009, Notebook growth had mostly hovered in the 30% range. Between the iPad announcement and its launch, Notebook growth stayed in the 20-35% range, but in April, Notebook growth was cut almost in half, and by August it had gone negative.

Interestingly, unlike the iPhone, competitors have been quick to launch very credible alternatives to the iPad. Apple sold a million iPads in the first month of availability. Samsung announced and launched the Android-based Galaxy S Tab in September. It took Samsung about two months to reach the 1 million sales mark. RIM, the maker of the popular Blackberry smartphone line announced their PlayBook tablet in September, but the product has not yet launched to market. Early reviewers, however, are comparing it very favorably to the iPad, and given the loyalty of Blackberry users, I would expect sales to be brisk following launch.

Despite the sudden success of tablet computers, this is not a new concept.

I bought my first Tablet computer early in 2006. Since I wasn’t convinced that a pen-based interface (state of the art for tablet computers at the time) was going to meet my needs, I went with a convertible model – the Toshiba Portege M405. By flipping the screen around, it could either be used as a tablet or a fairly standard notebook computer. This compromise made it pretty big, bulky, and heavy to use as an actual tablet, and the Windows XP Tablet edition operating system wasn’t overly effective either. I used it almost exclusively in Laptop mode.

Microsoft took another shot at a more effective tablet form factor and operating system with the “Origami” concept, which became the UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer) upon official launch (also in 2006). Unfortunately, the concept never really translated into meaningful sales. I summarized the challenges in a blog post at the end of 2006, which I summarized with this plea: “Will anyone be able to bring a UMPC product to market in the $500 range, with long battery life, the power of ‘real’ Windows (XP or Vista), usability, portability, ubiquitous network connectivity, and contextual relevance? I sure hope so!”

Well, it may have taken Apple 4 years, and of course they didn’t deliver a Windows-based system, but I think the iPad delivered on these criteria – finally resulting in market success for tablet computers.

I’m often asked what devices I’ve been able to replace with my iPad.

For starters, I’ve replaced my iPod with the iPad. You can’t stick the iPad in your pocket, but I’m not the type to go running with an iPod anyway. I mostly used my iPod in my office at work and when traveling (on the plane and in the hotel room). The iPad works perfectly well for those locations. The iPad has all the capability of the iPod interface, but with the feature richness of desktop iTunes.

I’ve also replaced the Kindle with the iPad. The Kindle App for the iPad makes all of my Kindle books available and even synchronizes where I am in each book between my Kindle and my iPad. Since I’m already taking my iPad with me, there’s no longer a need to take the Kindle as well.

For e-mail connectivity when traveling, the iPad has replaced my laptop. While I often would travel with just my smartphone, the e-mail experience on a phone is still a bit limited compared to the laptop. The iPad mail application is a beautiful thing, making it easy to connect to all of my e-mail accounts and to have confidence I’m seeing all of my messages in all their formatted glory. Composing and replying to messages is a step up from most smartphones, but I’m still not a

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total fan of on-screen virtual keyboards. I’ve had my eye on the iPad cases that have a built in Bluetooth keyboard to overcome this limitation, but I’m not sure yet whether that’s going to make the combination bulky enough to be a problem.

The calendar on the iPad is also a beautiful thing, with reliable connectivity to my Exchange calendar for work and Google calendar for personal use.

The iPad has also replaced my notebook – the paper kind. I now take the iPad into meetings where I previously would always take an ink and paper notebook. I use the Notes application and thumb type notes from the meeting. I then can e-mail the notes to myself and others on my team, as appropriate.

So, is the iPad a perfect replacement for notebook computers?

No, it’s not. I’ve already mentioned the lack of a physical keyboard, but probably the biggest challenge for me is the kludginess of doing simple cut-and-paste on the iPad. Yes, you can do it, but the process is much more difficult than it is using the trusty mouse and keyboard shortcuts. This one limitation keeps me from using the iPad for many of my everyday tasks, including serious writing (like this article – written on my laptop), keeping up to date on blogs I read, and updating my own blog (which relies heavily on cutting and pasting headlines and links from other blogs).

The tablet is clearly changing the face of computing, but it’s not yet a perfect replacement.

Observations: Uncategorized – December 15, 2010

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Standard disclaimer: don’t take from my selections, ordering, headlines, etc. any indications of the interests or plans of my employer (if you do, you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed when they don’t play out.)

Glorious Failure

Monday, December 13th, 2010

You may think this post is about the fact that I’ve been ignoring this blog lately. If it were, it wouldn’t be a bad title. I’ve been too busy to blog and Sprint has been busy launching major announcements that are the culmination of lots of good smart work by lots of folks across the company, all of which I can track back to initial analysis done by my strategy team months or years ago. That includes Network Vision, the M2M Collaboration Center, and Sprint ID. Glorious stuff. But the problem is its months or years between the busy-ness that makes me a blogging failure and the glorious stuff that makes Sprint a hero to many. Ah, the challenges of living in the strategy world…

But no, this post is actually about the panel I participated in on Thursday in Seattle. Chetan Sharma invited me to join a handful of other smart folks from across the mobile ecosystem for a discussion about the future at one of his quarterly Mobile Breakfast Series sessions.

The title of this post is a quote by co-panelist Jim Ryan of Motricity, who the other panelists dubbed “the soundbite king.” Jim was adding his comments to a discussion that flowed from my normal “Big Bell Dogma” ramblings. As usual, I had banged the drum about how the typical telco approach tries to control all aspects of the ecosystem, causing innovation to crawl along at “carrier speed”, while Sprint’s approach is “open enablement” which encourages innovation at “silicon valley speed.”

Frank Barbieri challenged my claim by pointing to Isis, the joint venture formed by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to create a mobile payments network. Frank said that Sprint not participating in Isis was an example of how we weren’t enabling innovation.

I responded by explaining that Isis is a perfect example of Big Bell Dogma. Carriers think they can do a better job than Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and others in the payments ecosystem, so they invest billions to try to replicate capabilities and compete with existing players rather than focusing on what carriers actually do well and enabling the existing players and nimble startups to leverage the carrier’s infrastructure to bring real value to consumers. Carriers have been trying to do that for over a hundred years in different industries. Sometimes they get lucky and succeed, but most of the time it’s a miserable failure.

That’s when Jim corrected me and said “it’s not a miserable failure, it’s a glorious failure.” The billions they invest may not actually generate financial returns for the participating carriers, but it will help put in place (either directly or by spurring competition) infrastructure (e.g. near field communications point of sale terminals) and standards (cross-carrier NFC standards) that Sprint and the payments ecosystem will benefit from.

I’ve got to admit – he’s got a point there.

Maybe I shouldn’t be trying so hard to put an end to Big Bell Dogma. Instead, in the short term, Sprint can enjoy the benefits of being the best partner for everyone else in the ecosystem, and in the long term, we all can enjoy the fruits of Big Bell Dogma’s glorious failures.

Big Bell Dogma: November 2010

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Bonus: Brough Turner shares “My Frustration with US Broadband

As we work to build mobility into every product, service, and process, our greatest inhibitor is the mindset represented by those who defend the tethering of products and processes to specific places. This mindset is fueled by the investments that have been made that establish power in the companies, departments, and individuals that stand in the way of mobilizing our lives and our businesses. These investments are not always in hard assets, but often are investments of time and experience to establish intellectual and relational assets. We should expect our assault on these ways to be defended to the death. Here are recent examples:

Beyond the Phone: November 2010

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Converging products into a cellphone is one way that mobility is getting built into every product, but it’s not the only way. Every month, I’ll focus on devices that are integrating the power of mobility into products themselves in ways that create new value for the customer. Power up!