Google could win at least the Mobile Consumer Space

If you look at Microsoft’s Project Natal, you know that Microsoft is trying to go after the rest of the family in the gaming space.  Once those people become comfortable playing games like raggedy dolls 😉 they’ll be comfortable using whatever entertainment or service Microsoft provides on the box.

It goes without saying that Microsoft is big in business and will likely continue to be but that focus may continue to be their undoing in other market segments – just look at Windows Mobile.  Take the consumer who is buying their first or next mobile device and just moving into social networking or electronic communications or those that currently have no brand loyalty.  Here, Google could gradually and quietly take over from Symbian, Apple and Microsoft.

Google Wave + Google Search + other Google applications on an Android-based phone, a mini running Android or even on any other low-cost device with a browser, could be a winning formula and all that any social networking consumer needs.

While Microsoft will dominate business, gaming and home entertainment, Google may well end up dominating most of the mobile consumer space (with a little work on the UI – and imagine if Google and Adobe got together…).

Microsoft needs to come out with a Windows Mobile device and fast – like this year.  It needs to be a .NET-based OS and have a flourishing and up-front application/music market place.  That means dismissing their hardware partners and bring out a cheap Zune phone (while extending Game Studio Express to be App Studio Express) – it’s painful to other but it’s the only real way for Microsoft not to lose this space altogether, and not to Apple, but to Google.

Robotic Love

No, not a false sense of devotion towards one’s community leader…

Interesting robotic technology wrapped up in a little bundle.

Of course it’s British :P.

Watch the video and check out the website.

Some love it and some find it creepy.

Check out the the CB2 robot under “The robots” for a similar dichotomy of reactions.

Windows Mobile 8 = Windows 7 Lite?

 

Mary Jo Foley’s post speculating about Windows Mobile 7 coming in Q1 2009 says:

From recent executive remarks, it sounds like Microsoft is trying to get Windows and Windows Mobile to be more in sync.  Might this mean with Windows Mobile 8 — which Microsoft has told certain folks will be built from scratch — Microsoft might make Windows Mobile a “real” version of Windows, with the same core as Windows client?

I heard from someone at Microsoft probably 5 or 6 years ago that this was the plan.

Windows Mobile currently runs on top of Windows CE which essentially supports a subset of the full Win32, etc. APIs, so doing native (C++) development for Windows Mobile is similar to desktop development (just a little more ‘cramped’).  There is also the .NET Compact Framework, similarly a subset of the full .NET Framework.  There are also Windows Mobile specific APIs at the native and .net level.  Some of the internal sub-systems, for memory, processes, etc. are quite different.

To make Windows Mobile a ‘real’ version of Windows at the core is therefore a lot about how much Windows CE is API-wise (inc. .NET) and sub-system-wise, similar to the Vista kernel.  After that, we have the shell and applications.

The shell clearly cannot be Aero, and the UI experience expectations for mobile has been clearly set by the iPhone with everyone else playing catch-up.  The mobile device really needs a bigger or paper-like-expandable screen at some point – there’s only so far you can go with zooming.

Applications can be split between Office (and other productivity or line-of-business apps) and all the other software+services things that are required activities in this era.  No doubt Windows Live pieces need to be upgraded and combined with great UI.

Why not make Windows Mobile a .NET-only platform with WPF for the shell with add-ins for all MS and 3rd-party applications?  The mobile space is not big enough that breaking compatibility is such a big deal.  It truly can’t be long before Microsoft partners with nVidia and produces a Microsoft ‘mPhone’.  An investment in small WPF mobile versions of Office would be a re-usable investment allowing for web based Office running on Silverlight!

Windows Live Mesh Gives Legs or Wheels to Microsoft Sync and Auto PC

Microsoft Sync has appeared in some Ford vehicles and is apparently coming to at least two other manufacturers soon.

It amazes me how utterly appalling the uptake is of Windows in the car industry.

Microsoft Sync with a Microsoft’s Live Mesh client opens up the ability to take contacts, music, continuous user experiences (such as phone calls, paused music and podcast bookmarks), to your car.

Combine that with a ‘Windows Live PC’ running on an ‘Xbox portable’ or Zune in the mesh as I’ve mentioned in this series of posts on Live Mesh, and you can really see the magic of software plus services coming together for a seamless user experience.

Add a ‘Windows Live PC for Xbox’ to Your Live Mesh

In this series I’ve been talking about the possible strategy that Microsoft could be unleashing with Live Mesh and associated Microsoft technologies.  I’ve framed it as a trojan strategy because it is not the offering being talked about, but just like Silverlight (the trojan RIA platform onto other platforms), Live Mesh could quickly spring into something dramatic – the Microsoft ‘Live PC’ concept that I predict in the last post.

Live Mesh provides a Web-based Live Desktop which is currently just a 5GB file store with a Windows-Explorer styled web interface.  Add Windows Server 2008 Server RemoteApp into the mix, or should I say mesh, and you get the ability to run Windows anywhere you can run Remote Desktop.

Remote Desktop uses the Remote Desktop Protocol.  So for a client device to provide a virtual Windows experience it more or less just needs to support a graphic blitting display, keyboard & mouse (or similar), TCP/IP and some cryptography for security.

So how basic could such a device be?  Well that doesn’t matter because that xbox 360 is more than powerful enough and guess who sells that.  That’s right, you may already have a device in one or more rooms in your house that could be the PC of your future.  Remember that the RD protocol isn’t great for remoting intense A/V or graphics.  That’s OK, because you would play games locally using the full local power of the xbox, and Microsoft has already mastered the Xbox Live multi-player service.

So you could have a Microsoft ‘Live PC’ which you access from any Xbox without any software installation.  Xbox already does this kind of trick and even with HD video when it acts as an extender for a local Windows Media Center (running on XP Media Center or various Vista versions).

WPF makes it easier.  The RD protocol does things to optimise the transfer of the virtual desktop image on the remote physical machine.  When Xbox 360 is used as an extender it talks to the Media Center service on a local PC with a higher-than-pixel-level protocol to optimise the data.  WPF provides a high level of retained descriptive UI too.  I can see the RD protocol optimised (if it hasn’t been already) for remotely WPF applications.  Microsoft would then encourage ISV to create more WPF-based apps that would be inherently optimised for a ‘Live PC’ experience.

Let’s not forget that Windows Home Server that was quietly (relatively) released last year.  That server could start providing a LAN-based RemoteApp service for those things that can’t be run well over an Internet connection.  A virtual ‘Home Office 201x Service’ perhaps?

Apple iPhone and HTC Touch is all fingers and no thumbs

Between Windows Mobile 2003(SE) and Windows Mobile 5.0, Microsoft attempted to make the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms similar.

One way they did this, was to make Pocket PC devices more single-hand friendly.  Their ODM-buddy HTC jumped on by putting more of the important buttons like (Start and OK) at the bottom of the device and a ‘jog-wheel’ where the index finger (for right-handed people at least) goes.  This allows you to do a lot with just your right thumb, and scrolling with your index finger.

Almost everyone using a WM Smart Phone or other ‘Smart Phone’ (e.g. a Nokia running Symbian) is very used to the idea of ‘thumbing’ away of their keyboards.  Even the Pocket PC devices with slide out keyboards, and the UMPCs coming out now with keyboard, really rely on good ‘thumbing’ skills for typing…

Along comes the Apple iPhone and the HTC Touch.  Both of these heavily demonstrate the use of the index finger for controlling the interface, which essentially makes using the device an involved and more distracting experience because it becomes a two-handed (or stable-surface-dependent) experience.  Follow that Apple link – it takes one hand just to hold the thing – great if it’s a Star Trek Tricorder, but not so great if you want to live in the modern world.  Did I mention (as you probably already know) that both of these devices are missing 3G radios?

So forget the wow with these two new devices for a second and consider just how potentially inconvenient they are to use on the go!

Microsoft Surface: Over-Due, Over-Priced, Over-Done, Over-Hyped, Totally Unavailable

It’s this year’s Origami and years from surfacing.

I’m sorry, but I’m simply not going to get on the wow bandwagon.  I’ve even had an IM debate with a friend already this morning.

The fact is that there really isn’t any NEW innovation in this, where NEW means “wow I had absolutely no idea this could be done today” or “this wasn’t available a year ago”.

I’m a Microsoft fanboy most of the time, but the answer to the following questions are all “no” so I’m just going to find myself bored and at the same time amused at all the hype that’s going to come out of this.

  • Can I have one today?
  • Does it cost the same as a computer + projector + sensors + table or even close?
  • Can I get it the way I want it in terms of colour, size, form factor?
  • Can I use my existing computer with it – like dock my tablet into the side and so just purchase the table/projector/sensor combo and install some software?
  • Does it have an intuitive interface?  Easy to learn yes; immediately intuitive, no – completely breaks UI standards with different apps having different drag semantics.
  • Is this the first time Microsoft has shown this technology?
  • Can I get one this time next year for the same price?
  • Can I get the runtime and build my own?
  • Is there an SDK?
  • Does my credit card or other existing devices work with it directly?
  • Is there a consumer-friendly kit for making my existing devices readable for placement on the surface?
  • Can consumers get one at a reasonable price with three years?

Do I want one today as my coffee table?  YES, if there’s an SDK.

Over-Due

I could play space invaders on a coin-op machine in a pub about two decades ago.  Why did this take so long?  Microsoft admits starting on this in 2001 – why did it take until now?  If anyone is thinking “But… <insert whizzing technology> wasn’t available….”, stop right there and think if you are acting on blustering belief or considered application.  Even on the 1990s space invader table, you could have had useful applications with that level of graphics.  Considering Microsoft did Zune and Xbox so fast, and everyone up to Bill Gates authorised a team, what took so long?!  I’m not saying it could have been done back then, though I could have justified US$10K at that point – more like 2000 perhaps.  Actually, those paying attention know that Bill Gates has shown this kind of technology already, and it was a while ago, so why is everyone acting like bread could only be sliced today?  Calm down!

Over-Priced

Apparently these devices will cost $5K to $10K US and the END of 2007?  Why?!  Makes it sound awfully delicate to put one in a restaurant if it costs that much to replace.  Does everything in the furniture market have to be so over-priced and unavailable?

Over-Done

Many people aren’t quite as fixated on technology stuff as some of us, so this all looks so cool, but it has been demo’d prominately by Bill Gates before.  It feels overdone because it has been on the cards for such a long time and this announcement (mostly consisting of consumer experiences) carries zero promise of availability to consumers and an extremely low chance of a consumer getting to interact with one.

It’s not surprising that all the sophisticated demoes are for brands that have the money to invest in these things: casinos and telcos.

Everyone is so into this that they fail to notice that the demos are done by people that have been using it for a long time and have learnt the drag semantics.  The demos are so far baked that they all have their differing ideas for what dragging does and how the UI goes.  WPF can be used to break years of Windows UI consistency, and this new UI is a whole new UI that screaming excitement but hasn’t been given to anyone to really standardise or play with.

Over-Hyped

Oooo, Ahhhh, so when can even a developer get one at a reasonable price?  Is news really that slow, and everyone really that bored that they think this is really that innovative? 

“How can you say… or not be excited by…” – because I already asked myself the questions above, the first time I saw a Microsoft demo of the technology months ago.  Everyone seems to be acting like a kid in a candy store, but they haven’t yet realised that all the candy is made of promotional cut outs, because someone hasn’t yet finished developing the candy and their pocket money wont be able to afford this kind of candy for quite some time.

If it’s that innovative, then why does it take companies with deep pockets to get it rolling and drive the price down?

So why has it been announced today?  Well, I’d guess it’s probably because it has been incubated for 6 years, and it would almost be embarrasing not to announce something, especially after Bill demo’d it a while ago already, plus the reality that if some money isn’t made back on the work, it will just end up getting dropped or developed at a cheaper cost by a start-up or hobbyist somewhere (if there’s isn’t one already doing it?)

Of course, all hype (good or bad) adds to the discussion, so even if you don’t agree with anything I’ve said, it will create the opportunity for more people to talk about Microsoft Surface (which is currently 1000s of fathoms far from surfacing).  I haven’t included a single link in here, because it’s all over the Web today and it certainly doesn’t need any help from me 🙂

Engadget /verbose

In a previous post I discussed how Engadget appears to be getting more verbose with its posts, making it slower to skim through, and less effecient for obtaining useful information.

This was an observational hunch, until now…

Today, Yuvi has posted a detailed analysis of Engadget from the beginning of Engadget’s existance, and guess what I found…

That’s growing as well. The average number of words per post is now 160, up from just a 100 in May 2004. More words, more posts, more people, more news.

Could that be 60% more verbosity?  Along with an increase of about 25% in the average number of posts per day, that’s twice as much information to read through from when they started, with 37.5%+ of post content being potentially redundant.

Bullet points!

Microsoft’s Mobile World Strategy at WinHEC

In his WinHEC keynote (at 07:00), Craig Mundie (Microsoft’s Cheif Research and Strategy Officer) talked about the fact that in ‘ermerging market’ countries, the main computer that millions do have, is a mobile phone.

He showed a video of a Windows Mobile phone playing audio and allowing illiterate individuals to seek services through icon choices, e.g. getting help dealing with a child’s medical symptoms.

Note that he talked about ’emerging market’ countries, rather than ‘developing’ countries, but I still don’t think it’s realistic to think that hoardes of people can afford a Windows Mobile phone but are still illiterate, so goverment or remote funding would likely be required.  In fact, he illustrated (with a pyramid) a view of the richest 1 billion people (that have computers), the 2 billion that has limited disposable incoming, and the 3 billion that do need government or agency sponsored programs, all under the umbrella of something called “Microsoft Unlimited Potential” (complete with local and slogan).

Craig’s keynote was quite dry and there wasn’t really anything too novel or far future-looking from Microsoft Research; in fact the first half of his speech was mostly about application and strategy.

While there was talk about medical assistance for other markets, this keynote really seemed like Microsoft airing it’s idea for how it can get to the 2 billion (who largely have mobile phones that are not Windows-based, but were having an interoperable Windows-based device could bring new activities) and the 3 billion where perhaps medical needs could justify getting a Windows-based phone in were there is still the opportunity to compete from a fresh start.

Remember, while this may sound like a cynical view, Microsoft is a publically traded company looking to increase stock price which often means growing its market reach, and Craig is the Strategy guy.  While it would have made for a cooler keynote, we aren’t ready for Windows SpaceCraft edition yet, especially when it’s proving so hard for Microsoft to penetrate into the automobile market (but I wish they would).