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Seismic Shifts in the Computer Industry February 16, 2009

Posted by fredillies in Gadgets n Gizmos.
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picture-11Great article on Apple Insider about the impact that Netbooks are having, and will continue to have on Microsoft’s business… and how Apple’s strategy of “iPhone vs. Netbook” to provide value in the ultra-portable computing space is paying off in profits and market share.

Netbooks killing off sickly Windows PC sales

Granted, the article was published on an Apple news blog, so I’m sure Microsoft fans will have lots of different opinions about what’s happening.  That said, to me it still feels like this is part of a seismic shift in the industry.

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Google Mobile App Voice Search November 19, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Society & Culture.
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googleIt seems like not a week goes by without a new iPhone app being released that fits my definition of MAGIC.  There’s the app that listens to any song on the radio and tells you the name of song, artist and shows you the album art (Shazam). There’s Ocarina (Smule) that turns the iPhone into a wind instrument and shows the coolest location-based animation of the music floating up from planet earth while it’s playing the music that other people played on their iPhone.  And now…..drum roll please….  The Google iPhone App updated to include VOICE search!  Magic indeed.  I read somewhere that Google said it’s not that they have better algorithms than they used to… they just have so much more data to go against.  Just wait till Google starts selling this technology to online retailers!

Getting Mobile Right – Guiding Principles November 6, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Uncategorized.
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nytI’ve been thinking a lot about mobile apps lately. As many of you know I’m a huge fan of the iPhone… and from the day the iPhone SDK (software developers kit) and App Store were launched, I’ve been convinced that most people had no IDEA how much this was going to change the game in the mobile arena.  I sat through a session on Mobile Commerce at the Internet Retailer conference in Chicago this past summer, and the pundits from the research companies put up countless boring slides about what % of the mobile market Nokia had, and the infinitesimal % of online sales that were coming from mobile.

When it came time for audience questions, by FAR the majority of them were retailers (large & small) wanting to know about what impact they expected from the iPhone now that native apps were possible.  The “experts” on stage looked like  deer in the headlights… mumbling about “it’s still too early to tell”.  The thing was, all there presentations were about what happened in the past… not what was going to happen in the future as a result of the METEORIC adoption of this powerful and elegant device (and IMHO the first usable mobile interface).

Fast forward to today.  The number of iPhone apps is growing fast (and we can’t even SEE the real numbers because corporate apps for small numbers of users don’t need to be distributed through the App Store).  We do know that as of this summer, 35% of Fortune 500 companies are developing internal apps for iPhone (and that % has surely grown since then).  The opportunities are enormous. Which leads me the point of this post: what makes a great mobile app? What guiding principles can you follow that will guide you as you dip your toe in this raging river? (BTW, iPhone is not the only platform that will drive the growth of great mobile apps… Android promises to grow the pie even more)

1.  Its all about UTILITY.  I’m on the go, and I want specific information quickly. Although the iPhone offers the best mobile browsing experience, having your customers visit your regular website from a mobile device is not what gives utility to mobile users… that will just frustrate them.  What you need to do is think about what types of information would be most useful to your customers/consumers while they are mobile and build what amounts to small “Applets” that deliver a very small feature set very well and very quickly.

2. Once you’ve got #1 right, the next thing its about is having the DEPTH AND RELEVANCE OF DATA. This is what is useful to the mobile consumer. Being able to tap into useful data (from your systems and other public data) and create a “mash-up” is how you can really differentiate.  The ability to integrate all this on the back end is critical of course.

3. Finally, it’s about THE USER EXPERIENCE. It’s about having a simple interface (the more it can look like the elegant Apple iPhone apps the better… because the UI seems transparent to the user).  #1 above is about figuring out what small window into your massive data that you’ll expose for optimal utility. It’s the user experience that will determine what that window looks like and how easy it is for your mobile consumer to interact with all that useful data.  If you get this one wrong…. you’ll lose because you could have well-defined and focused functionality, but if it’s cumbersome for the user, they’ll move on to a competitor as fast as you can say “delete”.

Good luck with your mobile apps!

High Anxiety…and some relief November 1, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Society & Culture.
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It’s early Saturday afternoon and I just realized how much anxiety I’m feeling right now.  Reading the Globe & Mail this morning, there was an article about how much anxiety American liberals are feeling…fearing that the polls are lulling Obamacrats into a false sense of security. There was reference to someone who was sweating about Minnesota.

“Minnesota?” Mr. Schrader told his friend. “What, are you kidding me? Obama’s up 14 points there.” The friend shook his head sadly. Take off seven points for hidden racial animus. Subtract another five for polling error. It’s down to two points, which is within margin of error for sampling… and that could mean Obama could be behind.

As much as I like to think of my hometown of Minneapolis as a liberal city, once you get outside the downtown core, you’d be surprised at what you might hear.  This is an actual quote from the friend of one of my relatives (prior to the re-election of ‘Dubya’):  “Nope… I won’t go and see Fahrenheit 911 cause it’s un-American!  Jesus Christ put George W. Bush in the White House!”  All I can say is I’m glad I mailed my absentee ballot in plenty of time to be help make sure that Obama wins Minnesota.

Layered onto election anxiety, this week marks a meeting with a foot surgeon to see if I’m going to be able to have an operation that will help me play another 20 years of competitive basketball.  AND I’m working on a major proposal for very big contract. I’m both excited and anxious about the election, my surgery and the proposal.

So it was with a big smile that I read this small story:

LONDON – In English, the road sign was just fine, warning drivers that the route ahead is not suitable for heavy trucks.  But the TRANSLATION INTO WELSH didn’t work so well. “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work that needs to be translated,” it said. Swansea Council said the embarrassing error occurred when officials didn’t realize that it was an auto-reply from the translator, and NOT the wording to be used on the sign. >AP

“We’ll see” September 8, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Life Balance, Travel.
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The other day I was so excited that I was going to be able to actually USE one of the upgrade certificates that Air Canada sends to frequent flyers (they call it Elite Status, but I’m not sure what’s so elite about it). Anyway, I was booked on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, and knowing that I had booked on one of the new Air Canada planes, I was thrilled at the idea of sitting in one of those futuristic looking bed seats.  I was feeling so happy about my good fortune and SOOO looking forward to the flight.  Boy was I disappointed when I got on the plane only to find they had switched the plane to one of their antique broken down planes that sound like they’re going to fall apart every time they take-off or land.

I was so mad that I wasted the upgrade certificate on a broken seat that also had next to no legroom (first seat by the broken movie screen).  While I was busy being mad at Air Canada, suddenly I recalled a scene from the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” where Gus Avacados tells the story of a Zen master… and I had to laugh at myself.  (this looks to be the origin of the version of the story told in that movie):

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“We’ll see,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“We’ll see” said the farmer.

This is good therapy for me, I think…. to be help me become less attached to a particular outcome.  As it turns out it was a pleasant flight, and I had a great conversation with the flight crew.

Where’s FileMaker? September 4, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Gadgets n Gizmos, Simplifying your life.
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As a long-time fan of both FileMaker & Apple, I’m amazed at the absence of some form of FileMaker for the iPhone.  Some time ago FM discontinued their lame FM Mobile product, but have yet to come out with a replacement.  Considering the relationship with Apple and FileMaker, I would have thought it would be a natural fit…. an elegant database “of the people” on the ultimate “smartphone of the people”. But no such luck.  I’d love to hear from anyone in the know of FileMaker’s plans in this area (maybe a super-secret project underway)?

For years I’ve created my own database solutions to make my work or life easier, and now that I have an iPhone I really want to create a version of my solutions that would work on iPhone.  Tough luck for me.  There is some good news… I’ve been folowing the development of an iPhone application called FMTouch.  It lets you sync your FM DB onto the iPhone and interact with records.  Although this is being rapidly developed with superb support from the developer, it’s still a really early stage product, and (for me anyway) has some deal-breaker limitations.

I’m not a cocoa or Objective C developer, so no matter how user-friendly the iPhone SDK may be (read “developer-friendly”) it’s not for the average (or even advanced) FM developer or hobbyist.  So the choices I’m left with are make due with an FMTouch solution, or enlist the help of an iPhone developer. Stay tuned.

On again… August 29, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Simplifying your life.
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Now Pageflakes is back up again…guess I better record what I have there just in case!

PagesFlakes…Yikes! August 27, 2008

Posted by fredillies in eBusiness, Simplifying your life.
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For quite a while now I’ve used PageFlakes as my homepage.  This Ajax-based site is similar to NetVibes and Google Home Page.  I had it tweaked perfectly… with tabs that held instant access to work related, financial related, social related, blogs I follow, news feeds.. the works.  

Since yesterday I haven’t been able to access my page cause their site is down.  Are they out of business? who knows.  I had read that they were not doing very well compared to Netvibes.  I picked Pageflakes originally cause I liked their templates better.  The thing about these homepage sites is once you make the investment of time in one, there’s no way you’re gonna want to switch… it’s just too much work.  I only wish I had taken a snapshot of what my pages looked like so I could replicate them in Netvibes more quickly.  Hmmm…maybe I’ll check the wayback machine…

Floodstock 08 August 15, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Music.
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This has been a busy summer, and now Ali & I have been to two music festivals… one one each coast.  The Pemberton Festival in BC was a huge event: 40,000 people (including the other 19, 998 that were camping)  Last weekend we attended Floodstock in Saint John New Brunswick.  Floodstock is a charity event put on by my boss’ family to raise money for a children’s charity. (it was just a tad smaller than the Pemberton Festival 😉  Oh.. and the other difference was that I performed at Floodstock… as did with the T4G house band, Her Majesty’s Royal Morris.  Here’s some video (tip: click “watch in high quality” underneath the video)

 

“I’ve Just Seen a Face”

 

“Folsom Prison Blues”

 

“Fixin To Die Rag”

 

“The Drugs Don’t Work”

iHappy August 1, 2008

Posted by fredillies in Gadgets n Gizmos.
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Ali & I just bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner.  There is a little book that comes with it called “Our Story”. Here’s the first paragraph:

James Dyson

You know the feeling when an everyday product lets you down? “I could have designed this better myself”, you think.  But how many of us do something about it?  James Dyson does. He’s a man who likes to make things that work better.

In this regard I consider Dyson to be like Steve Jobs (and his design chief Jonathan Ive). Jobs is my hero for creating not just elegant products, but joyful user experiences.  “User Experience” is a very overused term these days, and some only pay lip service to the concept.  “You know the feeling when an everyday product delights you?”  That’s the magic that Steve Jobs performs.  I just got my first iPhone this week after a very long wait (I live in Canada and it was just released here this month).  After 3 days with it I can say that I’ve experienced delight, joy and gratitude… no matter what task I’m attempting.  The stunning graphical UI could best be described as luscious. I’ve suffered with a Windows Mobile phone for the past 2 years, and at least 5 times a day I wanted to throw it off a building or drive over it with a steamroller.

I’m constantly hearing from all kinds of pundits that Apple is just a small fractional player compared to Nokia and RIM and Microsoft, and that these guys are going to strike back with their own “iPhone killer” (a new one seems to be announced every week).  I may not be an expert in the mobile telco space, but I’m a human being who loves using products that work and exceed my expectations… AND I can recognize a Tsunami when I see one.  Nobody is going to catch Apple.  They tried and failed to combat the iPod, and I believe the same thing will happen here.  You want to know why?  Lots of reasons: the App Store… The SDK… and the fact that the iPhone platform ecosystem is a closed loop. But the fundamental reason is that Steve Jobs understands people better than any of his competitors.