Archive for March, 2012

The Mobility World Goes On and On…

I have been remiss in my blogging this year year. Those of us with limited creativity tend to run out of ideas fast and have to recharge our batteries once in a while. Ok, I’ll admit it. I was slacking off. There. I said it out loud. Are you happy?

Meanwhile… Mobility has trudged on with or without me. I finally made the big switch from a Windows Mobile 6.x device to an Android device and have been very happy. But of course, after owning my Motorola Droid RAZR for a few months they now offer one with a battery that will last a full day. I should have waited longer. Or should I?

Each day, week or month that goes by affords more innovation and more new gizmos that can help us in our daily lives. We seem to be losing track of the things we couldn’t do from our phones only yesterday and now they are the minimum stakes to get into the game. I had an interesting conversation with my daughter the other day about cars that mirrors what we see in the mobile market.

The first car I ever owned was a very used 1978 Chevy Nova. I loved that car. It had serious issues but it was my first car so I

Ain't she a beauty?

overlooked all of them (a non-functioning heater/air-conditioner was the biggest issue). That car had nothing special. I had to install my own AM/FM Cassette player (the stock AM radio was not cutting it). It had manual crank down windows, manual locks, no trunk release (without getting out and using the key), manual mirrors (requiring you to slide across the bench seat to adjust the passenger side mirror) and almost nothing you would recognize in a typical car of today. In my first car, cruise control involved wedging your foot just right between the gas pedal and the transmission hump. In short, it was awesome.

This all seems foreign to my daughter’s generation where automatic everything is included or available for even the lowest-end cars. Most people wouldn’t buy a car without air-conditioning let alone a decent stereo and automatic locks and power windows. And even heated seats are now standard on many vehicles, a luxury that would have been very handy back in the days when my heater didn’t work.

The point of this trip down memory lane is simple: we use our mobile phones for things that never dawned on us only a few months or years ago. And more importantly, much like with our car’s features, we cannot remember how we lived without these capabilities in the past. As the available horsepower in these little devices ramps up we see more capability that we just can’t live without. But there is a dark and sinister side to this progress.

I’ve whined in previous blogs that I was promised a flying car by the year 2000. That milestone year occurred more than a decade ago and I still don’t fly to work each day (at least not in a car). The line between work and non-work life has now been blurred by the encroachment of mobility into our DNA. It was easy in the old days (ok, maybe even 3 or 4 years ago) to have a BlackBerry device that was issued by your work but still maintain your own cell phone for personal use. You could easily (don’t tell my boss this) turn the BlackBerry off at night or on weekends to get some time off. That process is completely gone for most people now. You have a single device. It’s your work/life/home/friends/coworkers/family phone. One number, one device and only one way to get in touch with you either via voice or any number of electronic options.

So now my phone, like everybody else’s, is on 24×7. I was used to being on call in a former life. I had a work phone and pager and got called out to find criminals at all hours of the day and night. That was “normal” for me. But when I went on vacation, I transferred the duty to my pal and never looked back. I’m not sure how that works now in the world of constant communications. I guess you never really go “off the clock” these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. This is just an observation. After all, I make a living in the mobility market and see the value it can bring, so it’s all good as far as I’m concerned. However, it does make me wonder if when my daughter is my age she will be looking back and longing for the old days. The days where you could get away and not communicate and nobody thought you were odd if you did. Who knows? By that time she’ll probably have a surgical implant for her phone and I’ll bet she’ll have that flying car too.

You never know what heights we'll soar to, with cars or mobile devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new iPad; ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’…

By JG Silva

The new iPad introduces you to a post-glasses era of screens.

What do I mean by this?

Remember when you go to the optician for an eye exam?  They ask you to read a combination of numbers and letters on the wall – then using a phoropter they determine a prescription for your glasses, and all of a sudden the combination of numbers and letters come into focus and the ones you could read just become a lot clearer.

Well, this is the exact same feeling you get when you stare at the screen of the new iPad, in comparison to previous models. Do not get me wrong, the screen on the iPad2 is fantastic, brilliant – and definitely not blurry, but the new iPad just takes it to a new level.

Welcome to the post-glasses world — you never realise how blurry things are because that’s just how you’ve always seen everything, but then you put the glasses on and you are amazed at how you ever managed without them.

What we are now blessed with, thanks to Apple is a 9.7-inch slab of aluminum and glass that when illuminated,  a stunning display of light and colour. Do not concentrate on the similarities between the iPad2 and this new iPad because what really matters with this tablet is what you are looking at.

Web pages read as if they were on a high-quality glossy magazine; photos look like the printed out kind and text is, just like print.

What does this mean for the enterprise – as this is my market after all.

Well, the screen and its beautiful pixels will add to the consumer side of apps; allowing for more detail, more colour and more style, however back in the rough and dirty side of employee facing apps – the new iPad is still in the same league as its predecessor – the iPad2. The typing difficulty and inability to use several apps at once can be very debilitating, especially when employees are expected to work their hardest throughout the day. While the battery life and versatility is definitely a yay, most enterprises will probably find it difficult to seriously convert the non believers from moving onto this new device – but for us consumers, the big question is;

Do you upgrade if you have a previous iPad model?

If you have the original iPad, then the answer is DUH. Of. Course! If you have an iPad 2, the decision is a little more difficult as its almost as fast as the new iPad. However, if you choose not to upgrade, then when next in the Apple Store – treat it as if it was Medusa.

Do. Not. Look. At. It.

The BYOD Battle – Who’s Really in Control?

By Ken Parmelee

There is a tempest brewing. If you haven’t noticed there is a full scale battle arising in Mobile Device Management. The issue is the balance of companies that need to control their data and applications and the consumers desire for their own data privacy. As the field of MDM has become saturated, the MDM vendors are differentiating on deeper control of the devices and monitoring.

While great from a corporate perspective, what employee wants text-monitoring abilities to be applied to their device? The essence of BYOD is that it is my device. If the device is corporate issued, the company can/should have ultimate control. With BYOD companies have moved to an opt-in agreement that few non-techies actually understand. Another option in the space is that of a managed, secured container. This allows for the “corporate sandbox” on the device where a company can fully control that space on the device. But in some industries that are more highly regulated, this is not enough.

The newer area for control is virtualization. This can take different forms but most interesting is the concept of separate environments. It has not been demonstrated that this works effectively across a wide array of devices. Ultimately a separation that does not impact personal use of the device is what is needed. IT departments need to be more transparent on what they are tracking and controlling so there is a comfort level with that agreement to allow corporate control.

The one burning question I have is: why aren’t the device manufacturers really jumping on this? Having business and personal profiles could really change the dynamics of the issue if architected well. As little is being done there, what is the everyday user to do? Understand what you are agreeing to when you put your device under corporate control and use common sense with a device you bring to work.

 

Ken Parmelee is the former director of product management for Antenna, and currently a notable analyst at Gartner, Inc. 

King Kong vs. Mozilla

By Mark Watson

I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft’s stand at Mobile World Congress 2012 did not reflect their mobile ambitions. For the benefit of those of you who weren’t there or couldn’t be bothered looking for it (or were distracted by the dancing girls nearby), I can tell you that it was small relative to those of the other mobile OS players, sparsely furnished, and very, very blue. There were a few handsets—running the low-spec-friendly Tango version of Windows Phone—on display, but most of the stand was given over to a kind of stage. Microsoft’s Barnum, Balmer and Bailey-esque strategy for drawing a crowd and getting some good PR for Windows Phone at the show was to challenge delegates to see if they could perform certain tasks on their handsets faster than a Microsoft representative could perform the equivalent tasks on a handset running Windows Phone. Microsoft have given the challenge, which they also ran at CES in January, a Twitter hashtag inspired title: #SmokedByWindowsPhone (I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the phrasing could, with a little effort from determined campaigners, be made to backfire on them). Users able to outpace Windows Phone in front of the small-ish crowds at the MWC stand were rewarded with €100 for their skills/hardware.

While Microsoft was busy smoking most (but not all) comers with its about-to-be-abandoned OS of fury down in Hall 1, Mozilla—they of Firefox fame—were demonstrating their own mobile operating system in Hall 7 (aka the ‘App Planet’). The interesting thing about Mozilla’s Gecko OS is that it is built in a way that makes it odds-on favourite to smoke Windows Phone in every single department. Here’s why (this is the science bit):

Traditionally, operating systems have been founded on a layer of code which maps software to hardware; this layer is made up of a core (or ‘kernel’) and a bank of APIs. On top of this layer of code is another layer which generates the user interface – any applications run on top of this graphical layer. Both Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, and the Mac’s OSX are based around a UNIX kernel called Mach, which came out of Carnegie Mellon in the ‘80s and which was previously used by NeXT (ironically, the primary designer of MACH, Rick Rashid, ended up in charge of research  at Microsoft). Google’s Android OS has a Linux kernel. iOS is essentially a bunch of APIs on top of a proprietary version of UNIX, an operating system which dates back to the ‘70s. Android is essentially a bunch of fairly sparse/joyless UI capabilities on top of Linux (itself a ‘reinterpretation’ of UNIX).

Click on the image to see a demo of Mozilla's Boot To Gecko Complete Demo

Gecko also has a Linux kernel, but Mozilla have made the user interface layer out of Firefox, the standards-based web browser which brought them to prominence in 2004 (and which would itself usually live in the app layer). The Firefox-based environment has been created using HTML5, Javascript and CSS and supports apps also written in these popular programming languages. That makes for a Windows Phone-smokingly fast OS experience (Engadget’s reporter saw the device boot in 2 seconds) as there’s no bloated UI layer arbitrating every process. In terms of looks, the video at the end of this link suggests that the visuals are a lot better than those offered by Android and on a par with those offered by Windows Phone and iOS. More importantly, the fact that Mozilla has managed to create an entire user interface replete with high-functioning app and media capabilities in HTML5 suggests that ‘web’ and ‘native’ implementations are closer in terms of benefits and functionality than has ever been apparent before.

HTML5 is being engineered with a view to retaining the ease-of-implementation and relatively low costs associated with web development while increasing the potential functionality/capabilities of apps delivered via the language. The launch of Gecko shows that this is a viable ambition. Mozilla’s OS has a long way to go if it wants to grab market-share, nurture a vibrant content ecosystem, and do all those things which grown-up platforms do, but its appearance at MWC 2012 is an ominous sign for the enterprise app providers out there who have put all of their eggs into the ‘native’ basket.

N.B. The Linux ancestry which Gecko shares with Android means that tech-savvy, devil-may-care Android users “with unlocked bootloaders” are already able to install it on their handsets; the rest of us will have to wait for Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom to release their phones based on the new OS later this year/in Q1 2013.

 

 

Mark Watson the former EVP of Technology & Engineering at Antenna and former CEO of Volantis Systems, during which time he blogged frequently for Mobile Masters. 

More Than Just a Pretty Face: Women in the Mobile Industry

By Clare Grant

Each year there is an entire day dedicated to women, International Women’s Day, which falls annually on March 8th. The occasion earlier this month was marked by events—and demonstrations—across the world, with a view to raising awareness of the issues facing women today. These issues include domestic violence, pay and job role inequality, and the denial of abortion rights, and vary in terms of their relevance and seriousness from country to country.

Readers will also be aware that International Women’s Day followed hot on the heels of Mobile World Congress 2012 (Feb 28 – Mar 1), one of the biggest and most important industry gathering of the year. This year, as in past years, the tactics of certain exhibitors suggested that the industry has much more use for cutting edge technology than cutting edge attitudes toward gender equality. This year, as in past years, a small but significant number of companies felt it was appropriate to bring in young women wearing attention-grabbing outfits to ‘adorn’ their stands and secure the interest of male delegates.

The worst offender, and somewhat notorious for it, was Russian IT and telecoms business, CBOSS. CBOSS’s team of girls, imported from Eastern Europe, danced for delegates every hour, on the hour, in an eye-catching range of outfits. When they weren’t dancing, the CBOSS girls spent their time handing out leaflets around the stand. Unfortunately they were unable to describe their employer or their employer’s services in any depth. Worse still, it has since emerged that CBOSS also offered executives ‘romantic dinners’ with the dancers; The Telegraph quotes CBOSS as saying “We have no doubt that the champagne, caviar and a beautiful girl conducting a vis-à-vis interview are sure to raise the most correct wording of your thoughts from the depths of the subconscious.” The strangeness/awkwardness of that wording aside, this is compelling evidence that there are strong anti-progressive forces at work in the mobile industry.

This shouldn't be the only face for women in mobile technology

Before we flatter ourselves that these forces are only made up of companies based in countries with anti-progressive attitudes to women I should also point out that Microsoft was one of the companies guilty of bolstering out-of-date industry attitudes at this year’s show: they held their MWC party at a burlesque club (check out the photo at the bottom of this article) – a decision for which they were rightly criticised by CNET’s Natasha Lomas. Furthermore, the GSMA – the organisation responsible for the show – once again did nothing to curb the antics of CBOSS and its ilk, despite criticism from Vodafone and many women’s groups. And I haven’t even pointed out yet that the problem goes much, much further than MWC – check out this piece on the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; the picture alone is quite unbelievable.

Some people, when confronted with this issue, don’t think it’s that important – after all, ‘sex sells’ is both a seasoned adage and a tried and tested tactic. Who’s being hurt by the ‘booth babes’? One answer is – female technology professionals. We are already hugely under-represented in the industry – figures for mobile are hard to come by, but a 2008 Guardian piece put the proportion of female IT and electronics workers at only 16% – and there doesn’t seem to have been much change since then. The same piece attributes the shortfall to a ‘lack of female role models’ in the technology sphere, and that’s a problem which the ‘booth babes’ are making worse – their existence implies, however subtly, that a woman’s place is not in the boardroom or the lab, and that’s an implication that has the potential to effect the thinking of both women and men. And it’s not just bad PR for the industry, it’s bad for the industry – as this article on the female contribution to creativity in technology suggests.

Happily, a number of organisations have been set up to advance the cause of women in technology industries. One such organisation working specifically within the mobile space is Women in Mobile Data. WiMD is a community-led network aimed at enhancing representation and career prospects for women in the mobile sector. It supports and engages women working across the mobile telecoms, media and technology value chain. Another, less active, women’s group which exists in the industry is Women in Mobile – this one’s actually part of the GSMA, the same organisation which tolerates chauvinist tactics on the part of its members, so it’s fair to say it hasn’t yet acquired much clout.

Although technology trade shows and sex are an incongruous combination, it’s obvious to anyone who witnessed CBOSS’s recent efforts that hiring women and dressing them up (or down) to attract men to a stand does work, especially if your objective is to create the impression that your stand is a busy, buzzing place. However many women we inspire with the confidence to get involved in the mobile  tech industry and however many men object to being demeaned by cheap and degrading  sales tactics, booth babes will always find an audience. That’s why we all need to call on the GSMA to show some leadership and effectively regulate its members’ activities. Everyone stands to benefit.

 

 Clare Grant served as Antenna’s VP of Marketing and Communications and as a noted Mobile Masters blogger. 

Mobility Should be Fun!

March 2 was Dr. Seuess’s birthday. Well, actually it’s the birthday of Ted Geisel who wrote children’s books under the famous pen name. The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, Horton Hears a Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas… you could go on and on with the familiar writings from his career. His writings were fanciful, fun and as kids taught many of us that reading can be really fun. My 7-year-old daughter Anna dressed up as the famous Cat to celebrate in school that day. She was so excited – the kind of excitement and joy that we all wish we could take to every corner of our lives.

When we look at our businesses and how to make improvements we so often get bogged down in spreadsheets, best practice analysis, ideation sessions (a term that particularly gets under my skin), procedural analysis, meta processes, etc. We go on and on with the analytic jargon of an MBA class. So often we try to analyze each and every aspect of a decision. I recently heard a speaker dissecting how mobile can positively impact an organization. It was a cold analysis of organizational process, resource allocation, and effectiveness measurement.

I’m not discounting the harsh realities that drive business. I was an accountant in my former life, so I understand the ultimate importance of revenue/expense and all the financial considerations of how the resources are allocated.

But determining how mobile can impact your business should be a ‘Cat in the Hat’ process. The Cat in the Hat was all about fun, excitement, and ultimately effectiveness. He came into the house to entertain the kids, had what seemed to be a totally out of control, impetuous approach to fun, and a cast of characters (remember Thing 1 and Thing 2) and tools which aided in this fun. But he had a plan – after all the fun was done he came in with his clean up machine to put the house back in order before mother arrived home.

The Cat’s approach is fun, memorable, engaging, entertaining – and in the end – effective. These are some of the key characteristics that you want from a mobile strategy. The app world is crowded these days, what will you do with mobile to stand out? How will your app be more than a data driven business process? Do you want your app to look like it’s driven by ROI analysis or a completely end-user focused approach?

As the Cat in the Hat famously stated – “It’s fun to have fun…but you have to know how.” Keep that in mind as you’re reviewing your next strategic mobile initiative.

Apple – Think Normal

By Mark Watson

Over the last few weeks the rumour mill has been in a fast spin cycle with speculation on what the Apple’s grand iPad announcement would bring; yesterday we got our answer. For many, it was a bit underwhelming, especially the lack of surprise at the end of the presentation – a staple in the Steve Jobs’ days of Apple.   

The features that Apple has chosen to install on the new iPad (as well as the decision to stop enumerating the device versions – this is the new iPad, not the iPad 3) indicate to me that the platform has ‘normalised’ and suggests that future iPad releases will be continue to be iterative rather than revolutionary. The fact that Tim Cook didn’t seem to feel obliged to save any really big surprises for the end of the presentation (and maybe in the processed annoyed some of the global audience, willing to forgive any overrun in the hope of a grand finale) may mean that, under Cook, Apple itself has finally normalised as a company – albeit into an industry behemoth (think IBM in the 70s or Microsoft in the 90s) rather than a game changer.

Stocks fell just slightly after the announcement, indicating that a slightly better announcement was priced in, but nothing major to shock the company or to put Cook in fear for his job. But something has definitely changed. With Steve, Apple had magic, and the magic brought in the business. Now it’s just about the business (which brings extraordinary pressure). It’s not just a question of presentation (and the evidence is that Cook is no showman) but of Jobs’ focus on producing products he could effectively present.

Apple at this point doesn’t have to change the game; the rules of the tablet game are already stacked in its favour: keep several steps ahead of the competition on hardware and user experience, and keep the price point compelling. There’s not much else to do. The iPad iOS user experience is still well ahead of that on Android (and hasn’t changed much since the iPad 1); Apple moved the hardware forward a couple of notches with its screen announcements and kept the pricing the same as the previous generation. Job done. The 4G/LTE thing is a bit of a distraction: it’s significant for Apple’s U.S. carrier relationships, which are important to device market economics (the carriers continue to subsidise the devices). Where I live, in the UK, we don’t have 4G and won’t have it for a while.

The only enumerated product that Apple still has is the iPhone. Everything else has been, to use my term, normalised. If the next iPhone is the iPhone 5, maybe we can hope for a little magic there (and surely some hardware innovation, and some software update, in a far more competitive market than that for tablets). If it’s just “the new iPhone,” then it may be that Apple is heading for a more difficult phase, as Cook struggles with meeting the market expectations and pressures for ultra high growth.

 

Mark Watson the former EVP of Technology & Engineering at Antenna and former CEO of Volantis Systems, during which time he blogged frequently for Mobile Masters. 

Guest Post: Mobile World Congress 2012 Wrap Report – Where was the creativity?

Clare Grant, VP of Marketing Communications, Antenna Clare Grant

The pre-fabricated buildings are being dismantled, the Huawei Pegasus has been led back into its stable, and the pretty, largely Eastern European females that are used shamelessly by certain exhibitors have gone back to their day jobs and universities. Yes, Mobile World Congress 2012 has come to an end.

This year, as in two previous years, there was a question-mark over the industry’s ability to demonstrate buoyancy in the face of the troubled economic situation in countries across the globe. However, apart from the protests outside the front gate on day 3, the show projected a form of technological and financial confidence that political leaders will want to encourage (and claim credit for) with all their might.

The Samsung Galaxy Note

Nokia unveiled the 808 PureView, a smartphone with a 41 megapixel camera, the Google Android pod (you couldn’t really call it a stand) was constantly buzzing as punters queued to grab free smoothies and ice cream sandwiches and watch a clever robot make bling phone covers by punching gems into metal, while Samsung unveiled a device which doubles as a pocket projector, and had a team of artists drawing portraits on the new Galaxy Note 10.1 to show off its capabilities.

At the end of each of the first three days, attendees gathered for private parties—with Cava-flute-clutching crowds spilling out of the major booths—or clustered around the fountains at the head of the Fira to watch jets and walls of water fly in every direction accompanied by music composed by the likes of Vangelis and Howard Shore. In other words, far from being austere, MWC 2012 was actually pretending towards excess. And it’s just possible that that excess was meant to cover the dearth of something other than money – namely: creativity.

Phones which can project and take hi-res photos are nothing new – nor are they ‘game-changing’; Android is proliferating like mad but the devices all look the same (regardless of who manufactures them) and they’re still not that much fun to play with. BlackBerry presented nothing which suggested they can turn around their current fortunes (there was a consensus amongst attendees that their stand was ‘quiet’ for most of the show) and Microsoft’s Windows 8 showcase was notable for the lack of love and attention they showed Nokia hardware, rather than the reverse.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that MWC 2012 revealed that the industry as a whole is desperate to hide the fact that it hasn’t had any big ideas for a while and doesn’t have any brewing. In the past, all eyes would now have been on Apple to take advantage of the situation by announcing a few big ideas of its own, but there is increasing scepticism that it will be able to continue innovating as effectively without the help of the late Steve Jobs. Apple’s new tablet device is due to be announced this week and the word on the mobile street is that it’s going to be more of an iPad 2.5 than an iPad 3. The next Steve is surely out there somewhere – but no-one’s found him yet.

 

Mobile Worker – It’s not the definition that matters…

If you’re reading this post – thank you. I struggled with the title, as I feel that I can’t look at email or some tech sites without reading some glaring headline about ‘the mobile worker.’ The reality for those who followed mobile in the pre iPhone world is that mobile worker is not new to business. Let’s look at the business perspective on what really matters.

There are a confluence of points which have raised the profile of the mobile worker, making this a trendy topic.

First is the sheer numbers. According to a recent survey by IDC, by 2015 it’s estimated that there will be 1.3 billion mobile workers globally. Now that’s a headline. Reading further into the details, they define mobile worker as “covering those who work 100 percent remotely and those who use mobile technologies on a part time basis.” This is the challenge – defining the mobile worker. No offense to IDC, but I would venture to guess that using that definition the number could be even higher – how many of us may be sitting at a desk, but still using smartphone or a tablet to do our jobs? Does that count?

Take those impressive numbers of mobile workers and combine it with the explosion of consumer interest in mobile devices and you have all the makings for endless hours of headline-grabbing stories. We all know that we’re more interested in reading about something that involves us personally, and anyone carrying an iPhone and accessing email, apps and/or enterprise systems feel that we are the mobile workforce.

There is no question that more workers are becoming more mobile than ever before. It’s a cultural phenomenon – we are all more connected by technology than we have ever been. It wasn’t that long ago, that ‘mobility’ meant a pager. While pagers or beepers enjoyed a high profile as the device of choice for physicians – I would venture an opinion that even more were carried by field service workers. These were the workers who were dispatched to execute maintenance and repairs on everything from copiers to elevators and medical equipment. At the time, these were the mobile workers – it was easy for companies to identify them.

In today’s world the mobile worker does not fit so neatly into an easily defined category. Many companies may not even be able to define a mobile worker. Sales teams are doing product demonstrations on tablets, accessing email and CRM systems on smartphones and tapping into other business services emanating from the cloud. Executives, finance, product, customer care, design… all these areas of your organization are likely have employees on the move.

What does this mean to the pragmatic business leader?  You must ensure that you’re prepared to support the mobile worker, on virtually any device, from anywhere they may be at the moment. Access to enterprise systems, cloud service and corporate data sources from mobile devices make workers more productive, responsive and agile. And after all, those are core drives to your organizations competitiveness.

While the definition of mobile workers might be evolving, the need to properly support and enable them is as important as ever.