The Androids are coming!

If you search for Android in Google there no surprise that the first hit will take you to Google’s Open Handset Alliance page with tons of information and help on Android, and in fact 90% of the first page results are all about Google’s Android. There is one hit that points to the wikipedia page describing a more familiar definition of an Android.

Now if you look at that page, the results from Google are predictive to say the least, but one surprising fact about the page is that there is no sponsored links! Well there is one, sometimes, but there is no one making money from that page.

Now if your business model is based on advertising revenue and you are the number one search engine in the world with millions of hits per second, there’s no wonder you are a leading success and a global brand. Your revenue is based on selling advertising space, your clients pay for the benefit of reaching your vast audience and rely on you placing there ads on the first page in the right place. Of course you have competition, but being number one and staying at number means that you are smart, competitive and understand what the consumers want better than your rivals.

Staying two steps (or more) ahead of the rest means that they are all competing with each other whilst you are defining the next steps and not just waiting for it to arrive.

So who or what will threaten Google? This recent article in Business Week raises an interesting point.

You see according to the article, over two thirds of Americans have experienced Mobile Internet Services and of course this figure is growing. In Europe and in Asia we’ve been doing it for years and faster, but with wireless cities appearing, WiMax on the way, China and India exploding onto the scene and more recently, Cuba, there will be a shift from the traditional PC to the Mobile device. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t likely to be an overnight shift nor will it be a migration from PC to Mobile. What is happening is that more and more of us are experiencing better quality browsers and applications on the mobile platforms and we are embracing it.

According to Gartner, in 2006 there were just under 1 billion mobile phone units shipped worldwide and in 2007 this was around 1.13 billion. With Apple and RIM entering the market the devices are more attractive and functionally stable compared to the browsing experience on early Nokia and Motorola devices. These new devices really are becoming usable and I can at last see the day where I carry a single device.

With the increase in mobility the target audience for the ad execs is now mouth wateringly vast, BUT, the traditional banner ad and sponsored search ad will not do. The billions of mobile and wireless consumers will not accept the same content squeezed into a mobile device display. So, what’s the plan?

Enter Android. Develop a new mobile operating system that will allow your winning business model to thrive. So far, the advertising on Android is anyone’s guess, but personalisation and profiling seems to be the way forward. The recent launch of Blyk from Orange is a good example of how Google’s business model will continue to thrive on the mobile platform and some are predicting a coverflow type of interface that will contain target advertising as well as the content you request.

Tell me

Microsoft, yes Microsoft have launched a voice activated search application for the Blackberry, even before a Windows mobile version! Brushing over that fact, I have to say that I’d love to try it out, but being in the UK it seems I’ll have to wait.

Whilst in the US a couple of weeks ago, I played a lot of golf. Every [other] day we searched local golf courses for times and fees to get the best all round locations. Usually using a desktop/laptop, Google maps and a phone we canvassed local golf courses that met our criteria. As you can imagine, local in Florida is a 30 mile radius and golf courses in a 30 miles radius are plentiful. I’m not going to count.

I can really see how usefull this application can be especially when GPS is stable, fast and effective as it was in Florida.

In the meantime, I’ll be testing Yahoo oneSearch with voice support for Blackbery.

Visual Radio

Digital radio stations are testing the transmission of pictures alongside the sound according to a recent BBC article. In fact this has been discussed for years. Nokia also has been working on ‘visual radio’ across the cellular networks and have indeed released the service.

The first thing that came to mind as I read the BBC article is.. well.. Television? The next thing that comes to mind is that watching a radio show has to be in the top five of the most boring things in the world alongside watching paint dry or having a drink with an accountant, a chemist, programmer and an estate agent.

Invest more time into this and you’ll soon realise that it is something that works.

First of all, what sort of visual content will a radio station feel compelled to broadcast? Whatever they choose one thing for sure is it’s another piece of real estate for advertising. A term used in the article is ‘glanceability’. This is very important and differentiates visual radio from television or video transmission, , broadcasting the video of a song with sound is not very innovative. Maybe track information, trivia about the artist, some advertising or even current news or traffic news in ticker form. whatever it is, the content must be glance-able.

Glanceability is 1-2 seconds of opportunity to get your message across to a potential audience. On a device that can receives digital radio (or in Nokia’s case FM radio and cellular picture synchronised), broadcasters must ensure that the device itself is visible. Let’s face it, with radio, the receiver is usually hidden, so with visual radio, broadcasters must ensure that the devices are visible. Mobile phones are certainly a target, except of course when driving or in use with a bluetooth ear-piece as many governments are now demanding, but in car entertainment systems certainly.

Right now there is a differentiation, but soon we will be watching content, content that we choose to watch anywhere anytime on any device and the glance-able content will be relevant advertisement.

Blackberry and Apple pie

I’ve recently taken delivery of a brand spanking new Blackberry 8310, the Curve with GPS. I have to say that for the first time in my search for the perfect device I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I would certainly loose my Razr and not be embarrassed to hold the Curve to the side of my head and finally consolidate into a single device.

Unfortunately I am easily distracted. We are told that the iPhone is coming to the UK on November 9th, and maybe this is the baby that will solve my problems? Well no, I know this and you all know this. We all know what the shortfalls are and strategically why. I will wait for a 3rd or maybe 4th generation iPhone to be released before I hand Steve my hard earned cash.

Then I had a thought… maybe Steve could have my cash a little earlier than that. What if I bought myself that most beautiful of devices; the iPod Touch? Fitted with a Wi-Fi radio, surely I’ll be able to install a soft-phone client like Skype and voila! an “IP-od-Touch-iPhone”? My sources tell me that is unlikely what with the closed architecture and nature of the beast, Steve will only allow me to do what he wants me to and when he wants me to do it.

I want one, I don’t need one, I simply want one.

On the road again…

It’s that time of year again, when the kids break up from school and the airlines hike up the prices and the threat of airport and airline strikes add to the joy stress of seeking out that anticipated annual search for fun, rest and of course a little education.

We are not unique.  A few million will be heading off to far and wide destinations in search of much the same.

One thing we will all have in common of course is that fact that we will all be connected in some way or another.  The ability to have mobile access to voice and data is great and extremely seamless.  The only downside is of course the cost of roaming outside your home territory. My wife has suggested that we buy local SIM cards whilst abroad.  Can anyone suggest the best and most economical way of doing this in the US?

We have IP devices that offer the attraction of cost effective VoIP, but there will still be a need to call each other across a cell network.

Great Technology.. what’s next?

In my job I constantly look at how technology can help the business compete.  Innovative technologies that help to automate a process or can replace 3 or 4 existing technologies at a fraction of the cost or technology that can help us jump to the next curve.  I don’t think this is unique, I’m sure every organisation has this role or culture. 

I remember early on in my career, I discovered PCs on cards from Cubix and Chatterbox.  These were basically a chassis that could be rackmounted around 12U and contained PCs on cards in each slot with a single screen and keyboard/mouse input.  The target market for these were for remote access, email MTAs, dedicated PCs that ran a single process.  They were a good idea at the time, but as technology evolved, the need for such a product ceased.  The concept and design however lives on in many data centers today in the form of blade servers.  That to me, was a good example of how seeing what’s next by examining the past.  There’s no secret in that.

At the current rate of change the window between the past and the future is certainly getting smaller.  Early in this century, I took at risk and introduced the Blackberry device into the company, I believed in it and put my job on the line trying to get this little gem of a device into the hands of the people I believed would benefit from it.  Those who doubted and rejected my claims were not my target market, but were my senior management at the time! 

The same happened when I proposed we adopted an E-Mail Archiving product from KVS.  “Email is not growing and we can delete the old stuff, so why archiving?” was a comment from senior managment at the time. 

Two good examples of how I recognised the need for a technology in the business, before the need turned to a want.  Needless to say both these products became mission critical for us and are now an integral part of the infrastructure. 

Sometimes that can swing the other way, we looked at RFID about two years ago, and ended up scratching our heads wondering where and how to use this within the organisation.  Certainly RFID is perfect in some sectors such as retail, but not for us… right now.  I’m sure RFID will have a place in the future, but right now, it’s a struggle to embrace it within the Enterprise.

Moving on and outside the enterprise, I was facinated to see how Ninetendo jumped to the next curve.  This is a move that an existing incumbant has never achieved.  Sony and Ninetendo competed in the gaming sector for years.  Sony was dominant and against all the odds, Microsoft entered the market.  Ninetendo was squeezed out … or at least that what I thought, and all of a sudden they wiiturned bigger and better with a games console that was distruptive. 

So what’s next?  That’s a questions that has many varied answers.  What’s next for:

– Mobile Phones

Television

Automotive industry

Financial industry

Shoes and Footwear

Finally a light hearted look at how we sometimes invent a use for a technoogy, Microsoft’s Surface…roll VT!

Go Global not regional.

Whilst many organisations have accepted globalisation and embraced it to create many more opportunities, it seems Apple are trying to do things differently.

Region encoding DVDs piss me off.  There is very little justification for it.  It’s another obstacle that is overcome with simply technology hacks.

To my point…Apple have announced they are launching the iPhone in the US ONLY on AT&T and it will not be able to be unlocked or switched to other providers.  So Europeans and Asians wanting to be one of the first to own one will either have to wait until local providers take it on OR put up with a over priced roaming device (unlikely).

Why?  Why are you doing this Apple?  I’m sure there is a business strategy that will provide Apple with the target market and the financial rewards, BUT it can work to their advantage if they launched worldwide at the same time, surely. 

I realise that some of the delay is caused by the telco providers, especially due to the fact that the device is a Wi-fi device capable of destroying their business model with VoIP, but that’s a threat they need to overcome and turn into an opportunity.

Very soon, I’m sure, there will be a method of unlocking a US iPhone very soon.  So why not avoid this and go global at day one?