apple tv · editorial · google chromecast · streaming

On Apple TV Losing Ground to Other Media "Pucks"

Analyst firm Parks Associates has released a new report (available for purchase) titled “The Streaming Media Device Landscape”.  According to the paper’s abstract, the Apple TV has now slipped down to 17% behind the Roku, and Google’s Chromcast.

This really shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone.  The Apple TV 3 was introduced in March 2012 and has remained essentially unchanged aside from a minor specs bump to add support for 1080p video in March 2013.

Since then, there really hasn’t been a compelling reasons to purchase one over the Ruko or the wickedly inexpensive Google Chromecast stick.  To be honest, I really like the Ruko feature that allows you to listen to your video over the wireless remote with a pair of headphones.  I almost purchased one for my bedroom over the Apple TV just so I don’t wake my sleeping wife.  In the end, the stickiness of Apple’s ecosystem won out as I have tons of content that I’ve purchased from the iTunes Store since it’s launch back in the early 2000’s.

Home automation with HomeKit, apps, games, or whatever Apple has planned for the rumored refresh coming this fall will be a welcomed update by many Apple fans.  My kids can’t wait for the new Apple TV to drop just so they can get my two Apple TV 3 boxes.  For me, I’d just love to have the ability to stream the audio over Bluetooth to my wireless Beats earbuds.

You can read the full Parks Associates abstract on their website.

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apple · editorial · iphone · rumors · scuffgate

Editorial: iPhone 5 "Scuffgate", Really?

Via BGR.com
Ok, I think that this is a bit much.  The iPhone 5 was released this past Friday and customers are already getting their pitchforks out for “Scuffgate”.
What is scuffgate?  That is this year’s “major design flaw” after the iPhone 4’s “antennagate.”
Oh my God!  Yes, if you take a sharp object and start scraping it on the back of your iPhone 5, yes, it’s going to get scratched!  Duh!
Yes, the anodized aluminum coating is going to wear off over the normal use life of the iPhone 5 if you chose to use it without a case.  That’s to be expected.  Don’t like your gear getting banged up, knocked around, or nicked?  Put it in a case.
Shove your caseless iPhone in your jeans pocket with your lose change, rings, or car keys? Yup, it’ll get scratched up.
You took a sharp metal object, say a Liquidmetal SIM card tray pin, and rubbed the sharp end on the back of your new black iPhone 5 you say?  Yup, it’s going to get scratched up!  What were you expecting would happen?
Come on people, the iPad is “magical,” not the iPhone.  The iPhone 5 also doesn’t have a “molecular bonded shell” like KITT had in the 1980’s TV show, “Knight Rider.”
People who are opening up the box an taking their iPhone out for the first time and finding scratches and nicks in the metal casing, yes, those people have legitimate complaints.  People taking sharp objects to the unprotected metal plating don’t.
Via AppleInsider.com
Ok, lets try to put this in perspective.  You go out and buy a new car.  Are you going to take the keys and rub them, sharp side to the paint, down the side of your new car?  No!  Why not? Because it will scratch the paint! So, no, of course you’re not going to do that.  And if you did, you can’t go running back to the deal and demand a refund.  They know you did it.  Same thing applies here.
To be fair, I’m not defending Apple.  If they are shipping out iPhone 5 handsets that have paint chips, nicks, or other types of scratches or defects in the paint or metal band around the phone, they should be fixing it.  Me?  I’m a use it in a case kind of guy, because, honestly, I don’t like my gear getting all scratched up.  To get the iPhone 5 you had to either sign a 2-year contract with your wireless provider or shelled out $300+ to get the phone off contract so you really need to take care of the hardware.
Let’s lighten up on the gear, ok, folks?  This stuff isn’t indestructible.
android · editorial · google · hp · smartphones · web os

HP’s "Bender" Smartphone Prototype

Last Friday many mobile new websites, including BGR.com, reported that HP has aspirations to build another line of smartphones.

Today, BGR ran another story indicating that not only are plans underway to develop a new line of smartphones, that a test device, code named “Bender”, has already been created and is being tested.  The kicker?  The prototype device is said to be running Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) operating system.

Huh?  After HP ingloriously put Palm webOS, Palm’s hardware, and people out to pasture HP is trying to jump start things again with an Android phone?  I’m sure this is very frustrating for WebOS’s fans.  HP said that they wanted to get out of the smartphone business when they shutdown production of the Pre3, Veer, and TouchPad – the last three webOS devices – and then making webOS open source.

Then a year later, things are going gang busters again?  This seems totally inefficient to have a smartphone and mobile OS division up and running, shuttering things, and then rebuilding a hardware and software team to, essentially, re-inventing the wheel with a new hardware platform and Android ICS.

To be fair, I can see why HP decided to go with Android over their in-house webOS hardware and software software assets.  Android, and Apple’s iOS, have gobbled up an insane amount of marketshare in the mobile space.  webOS, even in it’s hay day, back in 2009 when the original Palm Pre launched on Sprint, never achieved a significant foothold.  When I chose to switch from the Sprint Palm Pre to the iPhone 4S in 2011, webOS was below 2% marketshare.  If you are trying to become relevant in the smartphone space, you need an option that will draw customers, developers, and carriers to your platform.  webOS isn’t that platform.  Just ask Nokia, Research in Motion (RIM), and Microsoft about their efforts to increase their smartphone marketshare.

But, seriously? This seems like a gigantic waste of time, money, staff resources, and momentum.  Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM have all realized that they need to control the customer experience “end-to-end” from the hardware and software, to the online software store, and ultimately, the customer experience.  This tight integration has propelled Apple and Google to amazing heights and others are trying to replicate it.  Palm, with webOS and their webOS device line up, offered the kind of solution that HP is trying to fabricate with Android and new hardware.

If I was an HP shareholder, I would be furious at the opportunity costs associated with tearing everything down, and then, essentially, outsourcing the software development to Google, and ultimately, putting Google in the driver’s seat for the software development of HP’s new ‘gotta do it’ smartphone strategy.

At the end of the day, the only thing that is clear for me, is that I won’t be replacing my iPhone 4S with a new HP smartphone.  I’ve made my peace with webOS and will remember Palm fondly.

apple · editorial

iPod touch: What Are You Going to Do?

I was looking forward to Apple’s iPod event last week with the hopes that there would be some cool new features added to the iPod touch. I was looking for an excuse to upgrade from my G1 touch since my headphone jack is acting flaky and I was hoping to get more storage space for the same price, or less, than I had paid for my 16GB unit. Plus the Internet was abuzz with rumors that there would be a digital camera in the new unit. And let’s not forget that newer versions of the touch also have the hardware buttons for volume control – something I miss from my 5th Gen iPod.

The Apple event came and went with little more than a memory upgrade for the mid-tier iPod touch. Should I stick with what I’ve got? Should I buy a refurbished 16 or 32GB 2G iPod touch? Should I pick up a 32GB 3G iPod touch? Or should I keep waiting for the camera I was hoping would have been in the new iPod later down the road?

The day before the Apple event, there was a rumor on the Internet that stated that a run of bad parts (the cameras) would delay the launch of the new 3G iPod touch. Turns out that Apple wasn’t going to hold up the new features that they could deliver.

iFixit.com recently posted take apart directions for the 3G iPod touch that reveals that the motherboard does in fact have space for a 5th Gen iPod Nano style camera in it. iFitix also revealed that the Wi-Fi chip inside the new touch is capable of 802.11n, provided that Apple release the driver to take full advantage of the chip.

So, iPod fans, what are we going to do? Since the 32 and 64GB iPod touch models are exactly “cheap”, I think I’ll be sticking with my 1G iPod touch until my headphone jack stops working or Apple finally gives the iPod touch the features it’s price tag demands.

Click the Comments link below and let us know what you are planning to do.

editorial · web os

Editorial: The Evolution of Palm OS

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day about Palm OS and her Centro. She was surprised to see that my email signature read, “Sent from my BlackBerry Curve” and not “Sent from my Palm Treo 755p.”

The conversation continued a few hours later when Geri and I met face to face. The problem wasn’t that I was using a BlackBerry. My friends are used to seeing me with some new gadget every few months. In fact they expect it, demanding to see my new “toy” when we get together. Geri has never been one to pull her punches and asked, “Is the Palm OS dead?” She was questioning her recent decision to buy a Centro that I recommended when I was still using my Treo 755p and she a Z22. My response was that Palm OS had evolved into something completely new.

When Palm launches their new Pre smartphone, likely to be sometime in the next 90 days, it will mark the ending of the Palm OS era and the beginning of the new Palm webOS platform. Yes, webOS will be virtually indistinguishable from the Palm OS. webOS will be controlled by your finger – not a stylus or navigation ring. Applications will be written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript rather than C/C++. And our old applications will not run on the new platform.

webOS, and the Pre, is all about simplicity. The user interface of webOS will be clean and functional. Palm developed webOS to be intuitive, so you will be able to learn it’s gestures quickly without having to flip through a thick manual with small print. Most importantly, webOS will be able to multitask so it can switch from task to task as quickly as you do. In short, Palm took their Zen of Palm design philosophy from Palm OS and transplanted it into the DNA of webOS.

Yes, the software is all-new, but the legendary Palm ease of use and attention to the customer’s needs is still there, at the heart of the new OS.

“Ok, so that sounds nice. But will my data transfer?,” was the next question. For the legions of Palm OS users who nervously await the arrival of the Pre, this is the $64,000 question. Without knowing the specific details, we all know, deep down, that the answer will be “Yes.” Why am I so sure? Palm wants their Palm OS customers to upgrade someday.

When Palm announced webOS and the Pre last month at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), they focused on the built-in applications and the new hardware. They did talk about a new synchronization engine called “Synergy” in conjunction with Outlook, the cloud (read: Internet), Gmail, and Yahoo. But there was no mention of Palm Desktop or the PIM application data that is currently stored in our Palm Centro and Treo smartphones today.

Let’s set aside my theory about Palm’s own web portal solution, that will link your Mac OS X or Windows PC to a Palm server which in turn links to your Pre or other future webOS device for a minute. During the CES presentation, Palm displayed a slide that listed a number of companies that they were working with to develop software for the new platform. One of those companies was Chapura, a company that has had a long relationship with Palm. Chapura was there when I started using a Palm back in 1999. Ten years later, Chapura is still developing great software that unlocks the data in your computer and puts it at your fingertips wherever you are. Even if Palm choses to get out of the desktop software business entirely, I am confident that Chapura, DataViz, or SplashData will develop a tool for migrating your data either from your computer to your new phone or from your old Palm OS Centro or Treo to your new Pre or a cloud portal (read: Google or Yahoo). The thing to take away is that even though Palm isn’t talking about data migration right now, rest assured, there will be multiple ways to move your data over. You won’t be left to retype your contacts list into your new Pre.

To summarize, Palm OS will not be used in any more devices from Palm. Palm officials have been crystal clear on that point. Devices that use Palm OS today will not stop working when the Pre begins to ship with webOS. Palm’s webOS is all together different than Palm OS, however, Palm’s special “secret sauce” will ensure that webOS will be just as easy to use as Palm OS is today. And Palm has a plan for migrating your data to a new device.

So how about it Palm? Can we start talking about the specifics around webOS, Synergy, and the migration path from Palm OS?

Oh, and about the BlackBerry being my everyday device? I’ve already migrated all of my contacts from Palm Desktop into my Google Gmail account and I’m wirelessly synchronizing data between the two. Just think of the BlackBerry as a place holder until I buy my new Palm Pre smart(er)phone.

editorial · web os

webOS is the New Palm OS

With today’s exciting announcement of the Palm Pre, we have to say goodbye to our old friends, “Palm OS II” and “Nova.” The next generation Palm device will be powered by the successor to Palm OS 5, a new operating system called Palm webOS.

Palm webOS, or just “webOS”, is a completely new direction for Palm. The first thing that strikes you about webOS is that it has a clean multi-touch based user interface (UI). There are only minimal on screen buttons when you are in an application and you can forget about the cheap feeling plastic stylus than comes with the Centro. Pre, the first device powered by webOS, uses your finger for navigation and control of the device. If you are a complusive texter or send a lot of email, webOS also supports the slide out keyboard found on the Pre.

I’m also excited to report that many of the long standing issues with Palm OS have been addressed in webOS. webOS brings multitasking to the table along with things like support for multiple radios. In the past, it was impossible to have a Palm OS device that had Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a cellular radio. webOS not only makes it possible to have all three radios active, Palm’s Pre will have all three wireless technologies and GPS built-in.

For all of the “new-ness” that is webOS, there are still some questions that I would like to see answered. I did no read about a Palm OS emulation (POSE) mode in webOS. Without a POSE layer in webOS, it will be impossible to run applications from the vast Palm OS library on the Pre. webOS also brings back “drive mode” which allows you to connect a device, like the Pre, to your computer and use it like a USB mass storage device. Many people, myself included, think that is great, but where is the microUSB card slot?

During their product demonstration for the Pre, Palm talked about Synergy, a new data colleciton engine that brings all of your separate bits of information into a single location; a webOS powered device. The quesions I have are: Will Synergy replace the HotSync Manager? And if so, how does data from Palm Desktop get into your webOS powered device? Will there be a replacement application for Palm Desktop? Will Palm serve up their own cloud solution or will customers be forced to migrate their PIM data from Palm Desktop and move into web portables from Google, Yahoo, and America Online? Inquiring minds want to know. Questions like these aside, webOS is a powerful mobile OS that allows you to focus on what is important to you.

webOS is such a breath of fresh air, it is incredible. I have waited a long time for this day to come. Palm has packed so many new things into webOS that it is a radical departure from what we knew this morning; and yet, there is still enough of Palm OS’ heritage in webOS that it somehow still seems familiar. After having used Palm OS devices everyday now for over nine years, not much has changed with how people interact with Palm OS. Someone who has used the original Palm Pilot with Palm OS 1.0 can pickup a Centro with Palm OS 5.4.9 and get back to work in just a few minutes.

webOS is the shot in the arm that Palm really needed to help drive new hardware designs with an intuitive way to work. webOS captures the essance of “The Zen of Palm” and brings it to a whole new level. I am really looking forward to taking the new Palm Pre and webOS out for a test drive. It is going to blow you away.

Photo courtesy of TreoCentral.

editorial

Editorial: Palm’s At Bat

This week, contributing writer, Richard Cartwright shares with us some of his thoughts about Palm as we get ready for their CES press event on Thursday.

Palm’s At Bat

The blogosphere is buzzing with Palm’s upcoming CES announcement regarding the new Nova OS and new hardware. I for one am just glad that Palm bit the bullet and is announcing at CES. The timing could not have been much better as it was during a slow tech news time and has generated a lot of buzz for Palm. Most of it is of the “last chance” sports metaphor variety but buzz is buzz and frankly, it’s the truth. This is Palm’s last chance to get back into the mobile smart phone game. The bases are loaded, bottom of the 9th, two outs and Palm is three runs behind, the “runs” being iPhone, RIM and Android.

Palm, like a lot of other vendors, never saw the iPhone coming, as evidenced by Collagen’s infamous quote about how hard it is to put a smart phone together. I strongly suspect that a large part of the Nova OS delay was based on a realization that the bar had been raised by the iPhone and Nova had to clear the higher bar. Nova has to have a better ease of use than the iPhone. Nova has to have a full set of apps working out of the box, especially PIM apps, multimedia and a browser. Nova also has to be open to third party developers with a clear process as to what it takes to get to play on Nova and a willingness to allow those apps to directly compete with the Palm produced apps. Finally, Nova has to have cut and paste. If Palm does this, they will address both many of the sore points iPhone users have and the things people like about the iPhone.

Palm has to provide a rich multimedia experience that is not tied to a proprietary standard. I am betting that Palm is going to use Active Sync in a big way for the Windows side and probably Missing Sync on the Mac side. This would let Palm tie into existing Windows and Mac programs such as Media Player or third party solutions using existing standards rather than shoehorning into a proprietary solution. If Palm felt the need to partner with somebody, Amazon is sitting out there with its cheap DRM -free music and videos. At this stage, I frankly doubt it, given the Amazon/Android relationship, but one never knows. Supporting the experience needs to be a iphone-sized touch screen, removable storage, and A2DP Bluetooth support, along with a standard headphone jack that does not take a dongle to use.

Palm could also turn Apple’s PIMphobia to its advantage by offering a strong PIM solution out of the box, another source of discomfort with the iPhone. The solution needs to be fully Outlook and Google compatible and fully capable of importing legacy data from prior versions of the Palm OS. Additionally there needs to be a strong email program. Visual voice mail and the dedicated ringer switch would be winners as well. The browser experience has to be at least equal to the iPhone with flash support. The new phone must support GPS and a Bluetooth wireless keyboard. Speaking of keyboards, Palm could go far with the idea of a swivel touch screen that exposes a Treo standard keypad that would both allow for screen real estate and capitalize on the one handed ease of use and two thumb typing that many Treo and RIM users are comfortable with.

A lot of the issues Palm needs to address with the iPhone users will also seduce at least a few Blackberry users. Decent push email, multimedia and a browser worth having should lure those who went to RIM because they needed good email and a keyboard and were willing to overlook the abysmal browser experience and lack of third party apps. It goes without saying that the Nova hardware will have to have Wi-Fi and a 3-5 megapixel camera along with this usual 3g phone suspects. WiMax and LTE support would be nice, but I do not see it in the product yet, particularly as I suspect the hardware spec was frozen before the WiMax deal was firmed up. However, I am almost certain that Nova will be able to support multiple radio standards or Palm learned nothing from Garnet and its inability to support 3g GSM standards. Palm is also positioned to capitalize on the RIM problems with the Storm and the lack of Wi-Fi.

Android is the current darling of the mobile technoratti but even its strongest supporters freely admit that it’s not ready for prime time. In addition to being open source, Android has the backing of Goggle, a somewhat larger company than Palm. That said, if Palm can deliver a rock solid program with a good out of box experience, Android could become the victim of its own flexibility. Why? To paraphrase a Nokia corporate leader, Palm in the end has four customers in the US: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. For better or worse, the North American mobile phone market runs on subsidized contracts. For Palm to make the revenue it needs, it has to get love from at least two and ideally all four carriers. The iPhone has plowed the field for Wi-Fi and some openness. While the carriers are not fans of third-party applications, I suspect that if Nova is a hit, the carriers might well prefer it to the open and easily hacked Android system. Embracing Palm would give the carriers a closed OS in the sense it could not be easily hacked for VoIP, for example, but open to useful programs. Further, it would give the carriers something to counterbalance Apple on one end and RIM on the other.

Palm needs to have outstanding syncing capability both to the cloud and the desktop. As stated before, I suspect Palm will use existing Windows and Apple systems as much as possible both to minimize conflicts and to stick with standards. Finally, the question everyone probably has: how do you power this prodigy? I predict a removable battery for starters coupled with some outstanding power management. Again, as long as Palm battery life is at least as good as the current iPhone, that should be enough, particularly since the Android phone by all reports can’t get through a single day without recharging. I would say an OLED screen could address power consumption, but that brings us to cost. Palm has to undercut the iPhone cost yet still have decent profit margins. I would do this via removable storage. The Palm phone could have 4 or even 8GB on board and removable storage to the user’s content. This not only reduces cost but gives the user the freedom to increase storage as much as the media allows.

As Palm goes to bat, it has to have rock steady useful software and hardware that addresses the dissatisfaction of iPhone, Blackberry and Android users if it’s going to hit to the “fat middle”. Here is hoping the users in Palm’s outfield stands get a chance to catch the home run ball.