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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPad - I am torn - too big for mobile casual usage.

Now it is out. We have been waiting and we have seen the keynote, read the specs, watched the videos and seen the tweets.

I am a torn about it. I think it is too big to fit nicely into the middle between a computer and phone. At that size it is too much computer and too little pad. A pad for me is a casual computer for short usage, lean back, reading in short relaxing.

The computer, a Macbook Air, for me is a doing device, lots of work, but also some casual surfing and communicate. The iphone and my iPhone Touch (Spare memory and battery for the iPhone) is for me, my communication device and my entertainment device.

So where does the iPad fit in. It would be my casual computer, but now most of my thoughts right now are around how it would fit into work. Could I replace my Macbook Air and just use the iPad. I guess I could, will I? Probably not. I do have to write a fair amount. Well I could bring along the keyboard for that. Nix, too geeky. The reason is I struggle with iPad is that I struggle to separate work and life. Intertwined e-mails, intertwined Facebook, Intertwined blog, Intertwined phonebook, Intertwined Calendar. I do not think I am the only one. Increasingly we will struggle to separate work and life.

I am worried about its large size, it weighs more than twice the Kindle2 and that might be too much for comfortable one-hand reading. It is also significantly larger. I totally get why it is larger,  it would not be a good browsing experience otherwise. The Web requires about 10" screen.

My biggest issue with the iPad is lack of camera on the front. This is fundamental for my casual comms experience. I use Skype video everyday. I am also worried about lack of multi-tasking.

So do I think this device will shape my usage, yes it will. It will be the leisure device. It is the device I take out when I am not using the web for work, or going to work on e-mails. It is the device that goes into bed with me.

This will be a msssive hit with young people, who are at universities and schools. For them it is the new computer. Once hooked on this paradigm they will look at us the 'lappies' (=laptop user) and think luddite, who needs a keyboard. The only problem, - it is not a computer, as it is a pad to a computer, so you need a computer to run it properly.

So next we wait to the Pads and the Pods liberated from the 32-pin wire and connected to the cloud.

Time for bed...but I wanted to jot down first impressions.

11:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Taking the Apple Experience to the next level – Give me iTunes Central

Everyone is enamoured with Apple in the tech space and trying to copy them. There is a general app store frenzy, there is a mobile touch UI frenzy everyone is trying to find their little Steve Jobs to make awesome products. Companies are trying to add innovative gestures, clever new menu structures solutions for idle widgets. All important, but marginal.

I thought of looking at the Apple experience as the provider of a digital life style. First of all in that section they are roughly competing with Bang & Olufsen, Samsung, LG and Sony but having far superior solutions, yet the uniquely best can greatly improve. Give me iTune Central

The key problem Apple has created with its digital lifestyle is a massive media fragmentation. Photos are in one silo, music in another, videos chucked into music and then sync chucked on top.Then these silos are fragmented in a range of Apple devices. In the end a real mess.

What has happened over the past few years is that Apple has proliferated my life deeper and wider. I have Apple in my living room in London, an iMac 24”, it is in my bag, an Macbook Air, in my bag is also, an iPod touch 32GB. In my pocket is a 32GB iPhone 3GS. Finally in my library in Helsinki is a MacMini, + a 40” Samsung 7-Series LED TV and an Apple TV. On top of that I have a two time Capsules, one 1TB and one 2TB and an Airport Express, finally I have an Apple TV also in the library in Helsinki.

All the devices work well except I cannot get the Airport Express to set up as a control unit for some speakers in the living room speakers.

So what is wrong and what does Apple need to do for me next. I need iTunes Central. iTunes Central defragments my media in my Apples. It consolidates my 3 iTunes libraries, with slightly different music. It joins two iTunes with different bought media, the main library is in London and the secondary is in Helsinki. When I buy media I buy HD content on my AppleTV. I have decided not to go down the BlueRay player route, another physical media format is really old school. My pictures are a mess, I have some pictures on my Macbook, I am building a family collection in the library on the iMac and I have my main library in London on the iMac. These needs to be consolidated. Pictures needs to be synced and connected and duplicates deleted. The media needs to be consolidated and be clonable to more machines, or I need to have the movie library in one place. Finally I need a one click Rip my DVDs into iTunes Central and then be able to cache them to where I happen to be.  In other words, my iTunes world needs to anticipate with a media mover genius where I am and what devices I am using. This media genius should know that I am not in London today, so it should move the media to me. So if I am moving about and there is a new episode of TopGear bring it to the device that was last used, or ask me where I want it. Automatically put it into iTunes Central.

For this to work I think one needs some type of TimeCapsule iTunes Central device which exists at home and is cloned in the cloud, for transcoding and mobile dynamic delivery.

I would probably rush to the shop and buy a €600 Euro Time Capsule iTunes Central, with 4 Gigs of storage, two at home and two in the cloud.

Then with iTunes Central I just press a button and it sucks all my media into it and then distributes synced clones into all my Apples. Then each Apple evolves so that I can edit it on any one of them.

This is really hard to build, the edge cases are numerous and hard to debug. In Nokia Lifeblog and Yahoo Connected Life we had rich media syncing and the problem is really hard to manage, but then hard problems are to be solved and this is a problem Apple has created for me, so I need them to solve it.

If they do it in the next 12 months, then that time can be immidiately doubled as a competitive advantage as others are still busy building a better Twitter widget for their dynamic home screen.





01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Linearity – A new media user experience

The Kindle gave me an idea for a new user experience for media. I call it  Linearity. The concept is dead simple: The user experience is rendered into pages and the user only clicks next page. This is just like reading on a Kindle or on a e-book.

I think Linearity  works for all kind of media. Imagine if one has a powerful contextual engine that learns your interests, and assembles optimised media pages that is serves proactively in the background and is ready when user clicks next. If the next page is not interesting one just shakes the device and a new page is rendered. Mood signalling, and monetisation needs to be integrated.

If the contextual engine is influenced by what your friends are reading in real-time, what people locally are reading and what is relevant and interesting for me then it should be ‘Water Cooler moment safe’ meaning that one should be able to participate in conversations taking place where people congragate to chat about what is going on in their worlds.
If the Linearity concept is enhanced with a voice search and command interface it should be able to build even better pages.
The benefits with Linearity is that it is highly scalable for different physical formats, something that will be reality in mobility also going forward.
Lineraity would not replace the browsable web, just complement it. I am convinced that the Web we have now is not good for mobility. It has two problems : Layout, optimised for 13” and above it has structure encouraging hyperlinking and free-form browsing. It has been designed for maximum flexibility and thus by nature it requires involvement, which is cumbersome when being mobile. There are only three ways to mobilize the current Internet: First is to enable the devices to run it, this requires powerful devices, great user interfaces and fast networks. The end result is compromised as long as the PC screen is bigger than the phone screen and I think that is forever as mobile devices needs to be one-hand operated. This method I call keyhole browsing. The other way is transcoding. Here the machine(server) reformats the content for mobility. This generates a significant compromise. The last alternative is optimisation and that is what the Apps in the end are. They are optimised mobile pages.
Linearity is different, though it has similarities to transcoding until material is published for Linearity according to some Linearity conventions. It is a low-involvement user experience from interaction point of view, which thus would work great for mobiles. It does not try to retain the hyperlinking nature of the pages, they are simply stripped into media rather than webpages. The user could pick it up and read, press next page and loads instantly as it has been generated before, compressed on the server and is loaded as needed. It is thus very transient and easy to dive into and out of.
Once we have a system like Linearity in place then magazines can publish to it using some standards of metadata,. Media can be free other can cost.
If anyone writing iPhone apps is reading this, I challenge you to build a little app to test this concept. I am happy to be involved. It would require a server component that would build the pages and track users preferences. This might exist, if it does do tip me and I will check it out.
I think this would be a wonderful way to read on a device like an iPod touch or an iPhone.

01:23 PM in Technology | Permalink | Comments (2)

Kindle and e-books

Just before Christmas I got my Kindle, a device I was really looking forward to using. I wanted to wait for the international edition arriving in UK. I wanted the full experience.

Having read electronic books on my Newton in mid-nineties, I knew the benefit of one-hand operation. I love books and buy a fair amount of books, always visit book stores on my travels. I would not consider myself a book luddite. For me books are about the content primarily, and secondarily they are nice decoration assets. There are few rooms I like more than a library. I love the library I have in our new home with Lu.

Unfortunately books are only fairly good user interfaces. Their benefits are long battery life, good screen contrast, fabulous browsing, visually glanceable bookmarking. Drawbacks are two-hand operated, heavy, big, un-ecological. This point can be debated I am sure.

I had the same experience reading on the kindle as many others had. You forget about the device and the content takes your imagination away. Eventhough Sofia, my 12 year old bonus daughter says she hates books, and reading for that matter, I do think that reading is something fundamental to us. Be it fiction or fact it does stretch the mind as it forces out visualisations in the mind. It is still one of the best ways to learn.

The Kindle and other e-books have some powerful benefits: they are small, light. A dictionary is few clicks away. You can have lots of different books with you, in fact you can have your whole library in your bag. If that is not big enough you can have the whole Amazon store at your fingertips. What I did enjoy most was the one-handed effortless usage of reading and clicking next page. I think this benefit is of similar value as cutting the wire of the telephone, when phones got mobilised, first into cordless and later into cellular. In my mind these are the transformation benefits, when one user experience paradigm renders the older user experience into history. I think we will see the same transformation of media in the next ten years as we saw when the CD became MP3’s. As books have far greater decoration value than CD’s I think the transformation will be slower and books will evolve.

01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Free your mind by breaking a foot

The headline is a bit extreme, but it seems to be what is happening to me. While I was on holiday I managed to brake my foot while biking. Nothing very serious, but enough to keep from moving about, flying doing things I normally do in my work. I live a quiet life on the sofa.

I recently noticed that this slower life pace sets my brain in motion.  New interesting ideas have popped into my mind. I have to say I cherish it, but breaking a leg for it is an expensive price to pay.
2009 was in many ways extreme. What seemed to be the recession of my life seemed to have spread over to the user experience business. The first quarter was very quiet. We had to work really hard to win new business. This continued in the second quarter. In July it swung around and since then we were extremely busy. This hecticness had taken its toll on my public writing. I felt I had no time to think and hence I had nothing new to say. The good news is that 2009 was a very good year for Fjord. Despite the though climate we had loyal customers, a fantastic team and managed to open two new offices, one in New York and one in Madrid. We also managed to become the top digital agency in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 - the list of the fastest growing companies in the UK, our overall rank was 47.

Time is the most democratic asset in the world. We all have the same amount of it. The lesson here is that if one does not take time to recharge the brain in a knowledge business you cannot provide the best of value. I need to help my customers solve user experience and service design challenges and I need to help my designers push the envelope, for that the brain needs to be in good shape. This January leg break should be great for both.

11:52 AM in Play sidebar | Permalink | Comments (25)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Google underwrites the mega trend of "HW is the Service"

One of the massive mega trends in technology is 'HW is the Service'. This sentence was first coined couple years ago by my colleague Chris Liu, when we were discussing the transformations in digital, with design, production of HW being in a way commoditized by the Asians and particularely by the Foxconns of the world and free services notoriously hard to monetize. The trend at hearth is that more and more service companies get into the HW business and monetize their services with HW. Any little start up can design and specify a piece of HW around a service take for example the Peek Twitter device. Heralded by Wired Magazine for a Gear of the year award. They can probably  sell a couple hundred-thousand devices.

A service business selling one million devices at the magical USD299 price point, seen as top of gifting range, is a nice USD300M business, far more than most services generate in revenue.

The iPod is the iconic HW is the service example, followed by the Kindle and now the Google Nexus One.

When players like Google enters the business in the physical world everything will change. High street advertising will change. Content on retail store shelves will change. The street scene will change. For me Googles foray into the HW business is a logical step, as controlling the whole end to end experience from customer care to silicon is what lies as a fundament for the experience economy in my mind.

In the short and medium term the players who play strong vertical games will get a huge pay off. Imagine if Google would sell 10M Google phones at 500, that is a 5BN business, building that in the service business has not been done too often.

There are several HW is a service opportunities around.

1.) Content & Media Pads. Essentially mobilizing, digitalizing the task of reading with an optimised solution. This is a super hot topic with the Kindle being taken on the by the Nook, and potentially Apples iPad or whatever they call it.

2.) Netbooks, netbooks to me are cheap, small fully connected laptops. Optimising both input and output. This a tool for education, work and play.

3.) Photo frames and ambient computers. These are connected devices that primarely show family pictures, but when approached can turn into personalized widget platforms.

4.) Connceted webcams, the webcams of the future which connects to the Internet and uses the TV as a screen. For rich virtual precense

5. Connected Cameras and video cameras. I do think that optics merit a unique object, I still love my Ricoh GX200, but a connected one would be better. Or a connected Flip.

Lat but not least one can think of mobile phones bing HW is the service with the subsidiesed phones. Interestingly now operators are painting themselves in a corner with lots of SIM only contracts, which is cheaper but carries no object to which one can have a relationship. 

Time to think differently!

03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)