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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Nokia N90 is a great imaging device – An iconic transformer.

N90_2


Today Nokia introduced a new sub-brand Nokia Nseries (See the NSeries website here) for the best in multimedia. The first device in that series the N90, is an imaging phone. It is the first integrating a Tessar lens from Zeiss (More) having autofocus and 2M pixels. It takes amazing pictures. In my mind it is not anymore a Camera phone, but an example of an emering dominant design: a Transformer. A Transformer is a device which through user action can be transformed into three or more optimal shapes for different functions. In the case of N90 there are four key optimized shapes: 1. Close clamshell for carrying. 2. Open clamshell for talking, browsing – big keyboard, big display. 3. Turn and twist for photographs. 4. Open and twist for video or imaging.

The first reaction from people will be: - it is too big. The second reaction will be: - only 2M pixels. I have to admit this was also my initial reactions, but when using it and particularly the camera and the video camera and experiencing the amazing screen (416 x 352 pixels) using Lifeblog in landscape with 9 thumbnails on the screen or the superbly big keys. My worries left me and now I feel this is going to be an icon, a device we will look back at and saying this started something new. So I decided that this is a Nokia device worth blogging about.

I believe these kind of Transformers will become new dominant designs, they are an evolution of clamshells and we have seen preludes of them in Japan and Korea for some time. Dominant designs can be defined as a common way to assemble a product which users accept through their purchace behaviour. There are currently three key dominant design in the mobile phone industry. Monoblocks, Clamshells, Slidephones. What makes Transformers unique are the extremely sophisticated hinges, which have in the past 3 years advanced very rapidly.

Seeing users transforming and hearing “Click-Clack” creates a spontaneous wow and as a demo effect it is great.

I have been using a beta device for some time and it will become my new Liferecorder. Like something really new, it will require some user learning. Figuring out how to grip the device for the most optimal transformation. That in my mind is not an example of bad usability or poor ergonomics. It is a sign of something truly new.

I have shot some stunning pictures for example the picture of the Rembrant picture in my Timeline. The video camera in it takes 30fps video at 352 x 288 pixels, that is rougly the quality of VHS.

01:37 PM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (29)

Speaking at Nokia's Destination Multimedia event in Amsterdam

Destination Multimedia was  a very interesting event for Nokia. Launching the sub-brand Nokia Nseries and its three first products the Nokia N70, N90 and N91 was really cool. I think we have not had that kind of event in many years, where the company took such a big leap in its business. I urge you to go and look at the web casts here. I gave a speech there and it is available as a web casts. 

Unfortunately during my speech the technical devil struck and my speaker notes were only half visible. Hence those of you who know me will notice a bit of nervousness.

I had asked the team to update some graphics so that I could see where I was in my presentation and that was done on a Mac and when putting it back to the PC the column was too narrow and half the notes were not visible. Standing in front of 250 people mentally relaying on my notes for cue...and the notes not being visible makes your pulse go up... I was thinking should I stop and reveal my technical problems, or press on, I decided to press on, and towards the end, I started to wing it and it got better, but the beginning I am really embarresed with.

The key lesson, if you use more technology you need to do more double checking and now I did not run through all parts just before, just some parts which would show to the audience. The good thing about this is one will always remeber this and make much more sure next time...

10:15 AM in Work | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Polar AXN700 is the coolest wrist wearable.

Lores_axn700I have been an enthusiast for wearables for several years. It is an area of electronics I see lots of potential for, but it is still early days.  People are accustomed to wear stuff on the wrist. Secondly acessing information on the wrist is easy. I am referring to the so called ‘glancing-paradigm’ of tasks, like ‘what time is it’. There is a whole plethora of task that fit into this paradigm.

The coolest wrist wearable at the moment is the Polar AXN700 (read more) because it combines great design with state of the art functionality.

I am specifically impressed with the elliptical display, with its lightly rounded mineral glass, protected by a rugged titanium casing with very slick, but aggressive looking buttons. I like how the Titanium wrist band morphs into a rubber giving the wearer flexibility and shock absorsion. The high general profile of the housing. Its weight is valuable and finally the logo is small enough. I am not the only one liking it, its sister, the AXN500 won an IF Design award, which is a recognised international design competition.

I was really shocked looking at the packaging, the manual, the web pages, and nowhere is Polar screaming how great the design is! Shame on you – be bold, you are great!


 

I have been using Suunto’s wearables since they were introduced, lately the M9, their sailing wearable with GPS and the X9 their outdoor wearable with GPS.  Why did I decide to replace them with the AXN700? It is an iconic product, just like the first generation of the Suunto wearbles were four years ago. I got lots more spontaneous comments about the first generation of Suunto than the second; eventhough the technical sophistication was much greater in the second. I guess Amer, their parent company, management agreed, In the winter they fired their CEO and their marketing director got frustrated, I know her well and she would not have left if it wasn’t for the CEO. I am actively following Suunto and waiting for a comeback. I hope a more realistic one with much better design. They are looking for a CEO and a marketing director at the moment.

To me this proves something we know so well from the phone business, people buy form not function. Even I do it and most of my work life has revolved around functionality.

Those of you who never heard about Polar it is a small innovative Finnish company founded in the
Oulu close to the Arctic Circle. The company has made themselves world famous for their accurate wireless heart rate monitors, preferred by top sportsmen around the world, like Lance Armstrong (at least the rumour had it that he is a user, though he has some other sponsor…) The Polar brand is in the sport circles a synonym with quality. A kind of Dolby or Bose. Their sensors are the most sophisticated. Polar has an extremely wide range of utility instruments, but it is only recently that they have started to climb into the Premium Tech segments where form plays greater role than the function. They are entering into some agreements with Adidas…

My view is that the only way to break into bigger segments from the hearth rate monitors is to do it through form, it cannot be done through function. Suunto have tried and failed miserably, by going after every sport known to man. It is crucial to remember that there is a 2% global segment of trendsetters who buy the latest stuff and if the gadget is cool and delivers, a very lucrative 10% follow these. I guess the iPod is just entering into that very lucrative 10%. With form, brand, fine materials and brilliant marketing the sky is the limit in the watch business and that is when watches seize being watches and become jewellery.  The Polar is not jewellery, but it is a statement, a statement of the latest technology, and a very good one.

I deliberately did not want to write too much on the functionality, as it has lots, just check the feaure list.

Their UI paradigm is a rather straight forward paradigm. Up and Down scroll main menu and sub level menus. Start does selection and is placed between up and down. Stop is placed opposite below and will act as a back step. Lights on is opposite top. The top segment of the screen is a matrix display enabling them to display two lines of text, the heading and below current menu you are in. You enter the selected menu with start, scroll other mennues on same level with up and down and back step with the Stop. It is consitent and a good paradigm. 

Where improvement is needed is in the glansing area. I need to be able to glance what is the time zone 2. When my next alarm is, when my next reminder is.

I like having three alarms, when I sail I use one to remind my to listen to the weather at 7PM and one to lower the flag at 9PM and one for waking up. I like the snooze. Here I would improve it so that multiple presses on the snooze adds increment of 10 minutes. I designed that in some early phones, and I loved it, there are lots of people who like to snooze. One could add how much more Snooze time you have after the word Snooze. Generally design more functionality for ordinary life, even the most active hickers do other things more than hike.

Some cool fatures I want to highlight is the ability to download an icon into the display. The compatibility to the Nokia 5140, I really enjoyed taking the fitness test, it felt very scientific and yes, I need more excersise…The fact that they have an API for the data produced by the watch, I looked at the licensing model, it was a joke. Just give it out for free you will never make any money on it anyway, it is more important getting someone innovation on your platform.

 

11:25 PM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Recording lifestyle with the pros.

Shooting slick life style pictures for Lifeblog.
Shooting slick life style pictures for Lifeblog.
Tapani Pelttari in action.
Tapani Pelttari in action.

Instant feedback, is magical.
Instant feedback, is magical.
At home Lifeblogging. Klaus in action.
At home Lifeblogging. Klaus in action.

Doing a day of photoshoots brings me some wonderful teenage memories helping my Father with all kinds of photoshoots during summer breaks. Staging these fantasies require live creativity. It is a fun process much faster than sw creation. Digitalisation has simplified the creation in a dramatic way. The instant gratification, seeing the light, the field depth takes much of the guess work of photography away. Back then Polaroids were the only insurance. But in the end a good shot is as good as the photographer. The resolution that these shots were taken at was 16M pixels, so there is room for lots of cropping and zooming. The pictures I shared were all taken with the Nokia 6680, which has 1.3M, which is plenty, actually too much for mobile web sharing. I shrink them down to VGA before sharing.

04:36 PM in Work | Permalink | Comments (7)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Reflections on Life caching using Lifeblog

The very cool site Trendwatching.com, a place for emerging trends have returned to the the topic of Life caching, a term for a mega trend they 'discovered' in September. I think they are spot on. This is an emerging mega trend, actually one which will shape most people in one way or another. In short it is the future of memories, and as such the future of civilization…Ok it sounds grand..anyway I was really flattered to be used as a good example. Thanks guys, keep on discovering trends! lets meet someday.

At the end of the post I have collected 6 lessons learned and questions I am thinking of.

I have life cached for a year now using Lifeblog. I have a bit over 10000 items in my Lifeblog. I keep a bit over 500 of them in my pocket all the time, perfectly in sync. I have shared on-line around 350 items of which 100 text driven and 250 are image driven. The dominant form of content is images. Around 3000 are text messages. I have written a couple hundred diary notes. Many thousand pictures have been renamed, I have added location info to hundreds of images.

Lifeblog is my diary - Moving Experience is my bulletinboard.
Generally I use Lifeblog as a tool to help me remember anything. People, places, things, moments, passwords. With good search, I find anything quickly, atleast on the PC. Yes, we are working on search on the mobile client ;-)  My Lifeblog is about my kids,  my communication and things I want to remember. It is very private and if I would not do this as my job I would not show it to anyone. My blog Moving Experiences is about stuff I want to share. Public, not very personal. I am happy with the total concept, it fits my ambition level (very busy manager and father of two small children.) Most importantly my family and some friends are regular readers! So what have I learned?

Before I share that I need to go back further into my life to give you a perspective of my whole digital life. I have exclusively used an electronic calendar and notepad since 1992 when the first Powerbooks came out. In 1993 I switched to the Newton, then to the Psion S3a, S3c, the Series 5 on the day it was launched and later to the Psion Revo. Of these I liked the Psion Revo most. After that the Nokia Communicator came into my life and I was first using the 9110 in parallell to my Psion, when the 9210 matured I used it. It was really hard to leave qwerty behind and adopt an imaging phone. Now I am hooked. The key thing I recorded was "Jotter" notes, small snippets of unrelated information of which only I could make sense of. To my own amazement I managed to migrate everything until I started using Nokia products. I was really frustrated and mad that we did not see the value in good migration SW...

My digital imaging experience started in the Spring of 1999, with a SONY, the one with the rotating lens, the first one to have the Zeiss lens on it. I immidiately realised that this is fundmentally changing photography. I had always photographed alot, as a son of a photographer, I had free film...
My digital pictures ended up on my Mac, just in folders. I did not want to start using any album SW until iPhoto came along. When iPhoto was launched I switched to it. I was my preferred choice until I migrated to Lifeblog.

When Karen was born in 2001,  I started recording digital video. I have a bit over 1000 clips imported in iMovie, but like most, I never made the “First year of Karen movie” I realized that the clips alone are great. So my digital life is now around 150 GB including music, most of it is in DV Movie native format. Unfortunately it will not fit on my IBM X40 nor my Nokia 6680 with 256MB, so I have a real asset problem, which still needs to be solved…

So what have I learned?

Lesson 1: We will record more than can fit into a phone or a laptop and these devices are the ones people carry around. - Where is the unlimited storage?

Lesson 2: I have one life, it is seamlessly split between work and leisure. I really want to access it from anywhere. - Can this become the norm or will corporate IT and security personel decide, what I store? They already decide what computer I should use, what apps to use etc. (OK, most people are not working in large organizations.)

Lesson 3: I have one life and hence one asset of memories, it all has to be in sync. - What would be a sync solution robust enough to manage 1 million files that can be anywhere and everywhere in numerous ‘resolutions’?

Lesson 4: Different media has different value to me. - How can we make the system forget, but still be able to retrive if I really ‘think’ hard.

Lesson 5: Having lots of memories in the pocket is fun and useful. – The sync challenge again.

Lesson 6: When I am participating in an ‘event’ I also want to have pictures that I am in. – How can I get other people’s memories in which I appear, with ease?

As conclusions, we have come a bit on the journey to Vannevar Bush’s Memex vision, but there is plenty of work left to do…

10:56 PM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (8)