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Saturday, June 30, 2007

I got the iPhone, but it is still in California...

IphonesI managed to get the iPhone on day of launch, my good friend (Thanks S.), did some queuing and managed to get one of the first. I wish I would have been on site to see the frenzy myself, looking at it through the Internet gives some sense.

My thoughts go back to September 1993 when I managed to get one of the first 60k Apple Newtons, a device that became very dear to me, and the first hand-held that got me going with mobile products. The loop is now closed.

From what I judge from the first reports the device is worth its hype, we have to remember that 1.0 devices are just the first attempt. The first iPod, which I also bought on the day of launch was far inferior to generation 3 and yet it was remarkable.

Cannot wait to get my hands on it, but it is no longer a question of if I get one, but when it arrives. (Image original by Ken Coley, I remixed it a bit.)

12:50 PM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (7)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Restaurant Loft is a urban oasis in the centre of Helsinki

The entry to Loft on Yrjönkatu off Bulevardi.
The entry to Loft on Yrjönkatu off Bulevardi.
The clean dining room is modern.
The clean dining room is modern.

The Toast Skagen looked great and is a classic Scandinavian dish perfect for summer lunch.
The Toast Skagen looked great and is a classic Scandinavian dish perfect for summer lunch.
smoked Salmon on a sauce of Morel mushrooms is one of my favorites. Tour of contrasting tastes.
Smoked Salmon on a sauce of Morel mushrooms is one of my favorites. Tour of contrasting tastes.

Restaurant Loft opened in February and is carving out a place in the trendy food segment in Helsinki. They serve Scandinavian classics. The place is new and clean and long curtains create a feel of softness. Their winebar seemed well equiped ready for thirsty wine buffs. Well worth a visit. I am eager to hear from readers who have dinners and wine evenings. The chef is Sebastian Nordberg, a guy I could find nothing about on Internet, seems too busy in the kitchen, but if you read this Sebastian write a little blurb about Loft.

11:01 AM in Restaurants | Permalink | Comments (8)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Five Enemies of Convergence

Convergence is a general trend, but I think product makers are getting smarter about what works and what doesn’t. I see 5 real enemies of mobile (the device in the pocket) convergence, all needing extra ordinary attention.

1. Marketing - the hazy cloud
It is hard to highlight the superiority of a balanced multi purpose product. The consumer has such a strong view that it has to be a lowest common denominator, or just pure feature creep. A good example of this schizophrenia is the N95 which is camera, music player and phone, of which no feature is overly dominant in the visual design language of the product, it is sold as what computers have become, I don’t get it. A N95 really from design point of view communicates phone in my opinion. Here I like SonyEricssons approach of leveraging their Walkman and Cybershot sub-brands, they still have the Playstation brand unexplored. Nokia Nseries is a good idea, but a bit watered down, something that can be fixed with the new org. I think there should not be more than one Nseries in each main product category. Still it is not as clear as the assets SonyEricsson has, through the Sony heritage.

2. Battery life - the dissapointing reality
Battery adds bulk and is one of the key parameters of trade-off in design, so product makers typically select one that is smaller than needed, hoping that the energy management engineers working far from decision makers early on in the life cycle of the product would pull a miracle. I can easily perform way more task during a day than I have battery life for. The N95, which is my favourite phone, is short on battery life. It is just a nudge better than annoying. I think one would need about 50% more to be adequate for proper convergence use.

3. Physical Usability/Ergonomics - Expensive solutions exist
Usability broadly interpreted is a real challenge for convergence as product creators (Product managers, Industrial Designers and UI designers) tend to solve convergence by adding keys. The N95 is a hedgehog of keys and most of the convergence keys take the user into a menu, rather than to content. I have written about physical device transformation and that is a great solution, albeit expensive and complicated to make.

4. Text Input - Basic research needed
Text input is one of the biggest challenges. There has been little advancement in the past decade. T9 and Zi Easy text is now 10 years old. The RIM debuted small thumbable QWERTY is approaching same age. Predictive touch keyboard have been around since the PalmPilot days. SMS and E-mail are the most sticky of the non voice services on a mobile, so solving this is crucial. There is in my mind way too little basic research in this domain. Miika Silfverberg from Nokia and Scott Mackenzie has done some work, but I have not come across anything I really like. touch qwerty on the iPhone will be the real acid test.

5. Memory - More is better
I ran out of memory on my N95, I have the 2GB MicroSD card in it and it is full. What made it full was music, I got a new pair of headsets, a super compact high end Sony, they are so flexible, compact and comfortable that I started using the phone as a music player. The N95 headset is too clumsy. I put some albums on it and started to download podcasts, I also shoot more video, now that the resolution crossed the magical VGA and all of a sudden it was full. (Update 27/7: David from Nokia mailed me and said 4GB cards are now available here. The folks from mobilememory were fast, I got it the following day, well done, thanks!. It will keep me going for a while, I ofcourse just added a gig of music, now some 22h of music to dig to.)

Potential solutions
Battery life and Memory can partly be solved by making the PC connection better. By designing the phone to be a natural extension of the PC, where the PCs storage capacity and USB is used for charing one can create a type of intelligent cache, where content is rotated for freshness and frequency of use. This I believe will become one of iPhones real USPs as 100M users know that they should connect their iPods to the PC for transferring songs or charging it.

Bigger screens will prevail and hence one either needs to master mechanics, through sliders or do major advancements in touch screen technology. I like the concept of the double slider in Helio Ocean, it just makes sense and could become a dominant design. At some point thin is thin enough.

09:47 AM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tuscany is timeless beauty

Dawn in Castellina
Dawn in Castellina

Having grown up in Finland and having a Danish heritage the scenes of Tuscany seem very exotic. The very wide and deep vista, small winding roads everywhere, not built for cars. Ancient villages where one can sense the long heritage. This region has enjoyed an amazing surge, the property prices for Tuscan farmhouses are surreal. One of the best things with Tuscany is food. The kids simply loved the pasta, Gnocchi with Gorgonzola was a real hit.

This view from the house we had rented in the beginning of June is was simply amazing. This picture is taken 5.22 with a Nikon D40. I think the view was 40km deep and 50km wide. It was like a live movie in fron of the eyes, everyday was different, fog, dark clouds, bright clear light, plain sunshine. This kind of views does not exist in Scandinavia.

09:58 AM in Play | Permalink | Comments (1)