Archive for ‘Opinion’

December 30, 2011

Back to the Future–Predictions for 2012 in Tech

by Auri Rahimzadeh

A couple more days and it’ll be 2012. What a year! Let’s take a look at some new tech happenings from this year that got us pretty excited, and bummed, too:

  • Microsoft’s overall software reputation appears to be a lot better this year, with huge adoptions numbers for Windows 7… congrats on a great product, guys!
  • Windows Phone Mango (hey-oh! they shipped a great product, but it needs some company love!)
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich (and the laughs that it was [legitimately] only on one phone!)
  • Plasma finally went on clearance, and good riddance (Sasha’s gonna kill for me this one)
  • iPads as laptop replacements (only to be carried around with keyboard cases)
  • AMD Fusion APUs (finally, low power processors that don’t suck)
  • *Still* no good office applications for Android
  • Large HDTVs are finally affordable *and* green
  • R.I.P. Steve Jobs – we will miss you

And here’s what will probably be declared dead in 2012, or so I hope:

  • Standalone portable game systems – who needs ‘em now that even media players run Android, have dual core processors, and play games from the Market?
  • Blu-ray 3D
  • Non-glasses-less 3D in the home
  • Non-LED backlit displays
  • Windows XP
  • IE 6, finally (although they’ll probably stick with IE8 and up)
  • Windows CE-based handhelds
  • ThunderBolt®/LightSpeed® ports on average consumer computers, with USB 3.0 being used instead
  • Google+ – does anybody use it?
  • Any iPod with a capacity under 32 GB

Things I’m looking forward to, or hoping are created this year:

  • Our 10th year in business – YES!
  • Windows 8, especially how it will run on ARM
  • Better Windows Phone advertising by Microsoft
  • Lots of interesting new things out of MS, now that their DOJ shackles are off
  • Windows Live Mesh integration in Windows 8, and a backup plan for using Live Mesh to auto-backup important files to the cloud, for free
  • CES 2012 (Vegas)
  • CEATEC 2012 (Japan)
  • Sprint’s Wi-Max based 4G, and a class action lawsuit for all those who paid the $10/month surcharge for a service Sprint didn’t offer in their area (ahem)
  • An Android interface building kit from Google that doesn’t’ stink, and helps you create great looking apps
  • A web service connectivity API for Android that doesn’t stink, either
  • A free utility to convert Flash to Android / iOS / Windows Phone apps, or at least get you a good way there
  • A free utility to convert Silverlight or Flash to HTML 5-based apps (I think Adobe’s working on this already, and Microsoft might beat them to it)
  • XCode for Windows (and I wonder if it won’t work on Windows8 when that’s released)
  • Superbowl 2012 in Indianapolis! w00t!

If I’m wrong about any of this, we may not be around to complain, since the world is apparently going to end before Christmas next year. Get your complaints in now!

My friend Andy Marken also has a great write-up about 2011 and 2012, which you can read here

December 5, 2011

Why Aren’t You Syncing Your Stuff through the Cloud?

This weekend I had a rude awakening about backups. You see, I’m one of the rare folks who backs up every single night. My favorite laptop, an HP DM1Z, had a nice, pricey 240 GB SSD in it. The SSD took a dive. No worries, thought I – I have a backup! I use a Microsoft Windows Home Server from HP, and dutifully boot up my restore CD, only to find… I had only backed up the recovery partition. “***t,” thought I! Talk about a bonehead mistake – I never actually verified the stuff I wanted backed up was actually being backed up… I just assumed as much. So all was lost, and you feel really bad for me now, right?

Well, you shouldn’t. Yes, I lost all my original Israel photos and those I took in Japan this year. Yes, I lost my Kindle Fire review notes, and a few serial numbers. But you know what? That cloud thing is awesome. Here’s what I have:

· Microsoft Windows Live Mesh – All my music, important files, and so forth – even my Outlook signatures! – are automatically synced between all my PCs. All I did was sign on and all my files started rushing back to my laptop, ready to use. Note there are no storage limits as long as you’re syncing between PCs. Note that Live Mesh is only one of many great components of Windows Live Essentials.

· Firefox Sync – All my bookmarks, passwords, browsing history, were back on my machine in under an hour. Sync was included in FireFox starting at version 6.

· Windows Live SkyDrive – All the photos I had uploaded were all stored safely online. Yes, I lost the ones I didn’t send, and the online versions aren’t as high resolution, but hey, at least they’re not gone forever. Anyway, I can add my Photos to Live Mesh and not worry again!

· Facebook – Same thing for my photos again, cool. Still crappy Facebook quality, but then again, at least they’re there.

· Google Plus Instant Upload for Android – I may not use the service, but I sure do like the Android app’s feature where all phone images are automatically uploaded to a private album online. Sure, it doesn’t directly relate to this story, but should I lose my phone, I’ll be glad.

So, other than keeping my password as secure as possible, and hoping there’s no big breach of all those services (ahem, DropBox?), all my data is safely backed up in the cloud and on my other computers, automatically, for free. Talk about peace of mind. Can you imagine how this would have turned out ten years ago? You now have no excuse not to be backing up.

Thank you, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, for giving us all free software and services that make our lives easier. I may even click an ad today.

P.S. I still love my Windows Home Server, and you should, too. It’s awesome how it backs up every one of my computers automatically every night. Just make sure you select the right drives to back up Smile

October 4, 2011

Reporter’s Notebook: CEATEC 2011, Day 1

As part of the CEATEC Innovation Awards panel, we were treated to an advance tour of the show’s exhibits. Below are photos and descriptions of what awaits us on the show floor, a small fraction of which is shown in the following photo.

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This year, the Innovation Awards are even more prominent. Pretty cool being with so many cool folks and reviewing and judging tech together.

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MeoTune

Taxan was showing the MeoTune, a terrestrial (over-the-air) television re-transmitter. The device takes a television signal and re-broadcasts it over WiFi so one can watch TV on any Android or iOS device via the MeoTV app. Oddly enough, the MeoTune only transmits via 802.11b/g, not 802.11n. Of course, only 1SEG television is supported at this time, so US consumers are out of luck at this time. They plan on bringing an ATSC (US of A) version to market, but I haven’t yet received the timeline. The device requires no batteries and charges via USB.

The beauty of this device is you can put it anywhere in your home – in ideal areas for television reception – and then watch your television anywhere. This is a boon for those who don’t have their television in the most “reception-friendly” area of the home.

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Alps – Touchpads Everywhere!

Alps was displaying two-point multi-touch capacitive drawing pads for the XBox 360 and Playstation 3, as well as touchpads for car steering wheels. They suggest touchpads are safer and more convenient than separate buttons on the car steering wheel, using the technology to swipe around to change radio channels, volume, navigation controls, and so forth. If you don’t know who Alps is, or their Cirque division, chances are you use their product in your laptop – they practically own the touchpad market.

P.S. It will be interesting to see how the XBox 360 + Windows Phone + Windows 8 products use multitouch, such as common gestures across the Windows platform.

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NTT DoCoMo & KDDI – Keeping You Healthy

NTT DoCoMo had a number of projects still in research mode, teaming sensors with Android apps, sensing everything from halitosis (bad breath) to handheld radiation detectors to measuring a person’s fat burning status just by measuring breath acetone levels.

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P.S. There are a lot of Android apps in the booths and I’m not seeing an iOS push. Of course, it’s only Day 1, and I haven’t toured the entire floor. I wonder if that’s really the case…

KDDI showcased a new method of audio transmission in a phone. No speaker is apparent. Instead, similar to how the JawBone headset works, vibrations are sent through the phone which vibrate your ear canal. Nobody can hear your conversation except you – a blessing for privacy, and peace of mind for those around “that guy with the loud phone”. KDDI pinky swears it’s safe.

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An NTT DoCoMo research project on display ran an Android app with image recognition (care of the Intel Open Vision library) for food health analysis. Take a photo of a dish and the app will [attempt to] determine the total number of calories in the meal you are about to [hopefully] enjoy.

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, many Japanese phone manufacturers are working to provide health management solutions in handsets. This has not quite made its way to our shores, although Lord knows it should.

In a foreign country and can’t read the menu? Just take out your [NTT DoCoMo] phone, hold it over the menu, and voila!

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None of these Android apps or their associated attachments are shipping as of yet. Bumr!

Also on display was a slick battery system that charges up an auxiliary battery case in 10 minutes, which the phone can comfortably slide into and charge from post-case-charge. NTT wouldn’t confirm the battery manufacturer, but my guess is Toshiba, who has shown similar tech in the past, yet none that had been integrated into an actual product.

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And of course there were all matter of quirky things, as always:

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Nobody knew what these little critters were, but everyone for sure wanted a New York Salad!

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What?!!!???!

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This way cool shirt could hold a 7” tablet with no problems. Nice!

Oh, and if you never thought omelets were beautiful:

Omelet Chef at the Hotel New Otani Makuhari, Chiba, Japan
August 20, 2011

Tech Wars: The Battle for Smartphone OS Dominance

By Matt Fleischauer, The Auri Group

It was recently decided that the new team members here at The Auri Group would each contribute to the Auri Group Blog.  Being the newest and least experienced person on the team, Naturally, I was chosen to be the first person to contribute.  I gratefully accepted the challenge with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye. Fear sets in. What am I going to write about? I know! Google just announced that it is buying Motorola Mobility. I can write about that! Relief, a topic has been chosen.

Cool. I recently installed the Eclipse IDE, the ADT plug-in and created my first “Hello World” Android App.  I’m excited about learning to develop Android apps with all the possibilities that this open source OS has to offer. This acquisition of Motorola Mobility will be good for Android for sure, right? It’s already a wildly popular OS and with their own handset company they’ll be better able to compete against the likes of Windows Mobile and iOS, right? I decided that I had better learn a bit more about this so I hit the Web.

Woa! Ok, there’s a lot of discussion on this. Google is buying Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion dollars. Cool. That’s a lot of money! But wait, what’s all this discussion about patent infringement lawsuits filed against Google? Ok, so Google may have been remiss in acquiring patents for its new technology. Hmm. Google puts in a bid at an auction to purchase Nortel patents. That’s interesting. Hold the phone. Microsoft and Apple are teaming up, together, as in working together? They are teaming up along with other companies to outbid Google on these Nortel patents?  Wow, they really don’t want Google to get these patents! Ok, proprietary vendors win that one. Hmm. I wonder if that is why Google is buying Motorola Mobility. I bet they have a lot of patents. Ok, yep, they do have a lot of patents. Well, that will probably help with the patent issues. I’m confused though. If Google can afford to buy Motorola Mobility for 12.5 billion dollars then why were they out bid for the Nortel patents for 4.5 billion? They could have outbid them, right? I don’t get it.

Wait a minute! What will the Android handset manufacturers think about this move to buy Motorola? What a can of worms. Hmm, it appears that they are OK with it. What? Now there is speculation that Microsoft could buy Nokia? Now that’s what I call keeping up with the Jones’s. This could get interesting.

The more I learn about this the more my head hurts. Companies file patent lawsuits.  Companies buy patents from other companies or buy companies with patents in defense of patent lawsuits. It seems that these companies should spend more time in innovation and less time in litigation. Oh, maybe it’s not all their fault. The patent system in the United States is being questioned by some as broken and creating favorable conditions for frivolous patent lawsuits. It sounds like there are a lot of lawyers making serious money with all this patent litigation going on. I should have been a lawyer. No, I couldn’t do that. I would hate it.

The pending purchase of Motorola Mobility by Google is like anything else in life, the details and reasons for things are often far more complicated than you first realize. The consequences of our actions can be equally complicated and difficult to predict. The technology business, smart phone OS and device development in this case, employ heavily the use of patent litigation offensively to stifle advancement and innovation by their competition. Of course, companies have every right to protect their proprietary IP. However, it appears that the patent system is being exploited beyond its original intent. The way the patent law in the US allows for the patent of an idea rather than the implementation of that idea seems to be a major enabler of this type of behavior by companies.

It remains to be seen who will prevail in this Battle for Smartphone OS dominance. This move could help Google increase the rate of Android adoption in the market or it could backfire. Many factors will need to play out before the dust settles.

February 26, 2011

Striking a Balance: The Case for Windows Phone 7

I am a firm believer in balance. Balance is the key to creating a product that is to be successful in the long run. Striking a balance in the many aspects of a smartphone is a rather daunting task. However, the various teams behind Windows Phone 7 (or WP7) have risen up and delivered a very promising family of devices. Consequently, I have come to believe that WP7 will be a success in the booming smartphone market. In this article, I will compare WP7 with two of the most prominent smartphone ecosystems today – iPhone and Android.

A Balance in Hardware Choices

Let’s begin with hardware. The Apple iPhone is a single device, with a single set of specifications (ignoring radio hardware differences between GSM and CDMA networks), running iOS. It has a set screen size, display resolution, CMOS camera with an LED flash, the iconic single front button, and various other characteristics. But the key point is the fact that, if a consumer wants a current generation iPhone, there are only two choices to make – the network and the amount of internal storage.

Now consider Android. It is an open source operating system from Google. There are dozens of current generation devices from different manufacturers out on the market, with widely varying hardware specifications for screen size, display resolution, camera, internal and external storage, the presence of a hardware keyboard, processing and graphics capabilities, battery life, and even different versions of the Android operating system and its interface. The plethora of options can easily overwhelm even tech-savvy consumers into analysis paralysis, until they decide that it’s just easier to get an iPhone.

Finally, let’s look at Windows Phone 7. It is an operating system from Microsoft. There are currently nine available devices worldwide from different manufacturers. Many of the hardware specifications are identical, such as display resolution, processing and graphics capabilities, the presence of a GPS, and a standard front button layout. Other hardware specifications differ between devices – physical screen size and technology, the presence of a hardware keyboard, amount of internal storage and a few others. WP7 strikes a balance between the monotony of an iPhone and the confusion of Android.

A Balance in Software Development

Apps can be developed for the iPhone only on an Apple operating system, which generally means that Apple hardware must be purchased. There is a large community of third party app developers, to whom Apple rarely pays attention. All apps that developers submit to the App Store must be approved by Apple, in a process that can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. Apps may be rejected for confusing and even plain inaccurate reasons. Apple reserves the right to reject any app that it finds objectionable in its view.

Android apps can be developed on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux. There is a community of third party app developers, who are often assisted by Google engineers. The Android Market does not have an app approval process, so any submitted app is approved by default. Google does, however, reserve the right to remove apps if they violate the terms of the Market agreement. Due to the nature of this process, numerous malicious apps have been released and downloaded by unsuspecting users. However, there has been recent news coverage that Google is improving their app policing efforts.

WP7 apps can be developed only on Windows, which most modern Apple computers can run perfectly. There is a community of third party app developers, who are often assisted by Microsoft engineers. The Marketplace has an app approval process similar to that of Apple, save a couple of exceptions: Marketplace apps tend to be approved or rejected in a matter of days to weeks, and the process is more transparent. Again, Windows Phone 7 strikes a balance by rejecting unstable and malicious apps on one hand, and being more open about the process on the other.

Bringing It All Together

As I have been praising the virtues of balance, I must point out that I am biased toward Windows Phone 7. I have been developing apps for it more than for iPhone or Android, although I have worked with all three. Additionally, I enjoy the both the development experience of Visual Studio and the user experience of Metro on WP7 more than the iPhone and Android experiences. Having said that, I still believe that the balance struck by Microsoft with the Windows Phone 7 product will benefit them, as well as the entire WP7 ecosystem, in the long run.