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Archive for December, 2010

Bing focuses on image with iPhone app update

December 16th, 2010

We’ve seen more evidence this week that Bing is focussing on image as a unique proposition that could give it an edge, particularly in mobile search. Google’s image search and utility is not the greatest, so Bing could have a serious proposition here.

CNET news gave us the insights from discussions with Bing mobile developers around updates on the search engine’s iPhone app that include a Panorama maker, Streetside and Bing Vision.

The Bing Vision update is particularly interesting as it marries image with text mobile search, while the new Streetside element allows users to orientate themselves through local maps by swiping – or “strafing”, as Bing puts it – through a panorama view.

Urban war metaphors aside, the updates look very impressive and should re-position Bing as a clear leader in mobile visual/text search. Bing promises to extend these enhancements to other smartphones soon.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Microsoft’s architect of Bing Maps and Bing Mobile explains in more detail on this CNET video. Definitely worth a look:

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Retro Amiga Gaming for the iPhone

December 14th, 2010

Manomio the games developer with the motto “in retro we trust,” has just previewed something that has made my  Christmas! They have come up with iAmiga  – an Amiga emulate for the iPhone, my number one favourite computer of all time, a computer I spent many joyous hours on throughout my childhood.

Touch Arcade has previewed it, “After spending some serious time with the iAmiga system, I can tell you that, for an early build, it is truly impressive. While it’s true that a few of the games that I tried glitched at some point, the vast majority ran perfectly and buttery smoothly on my iPhone 4. I’m talking about totally accurate sound, flawless graphics, glass smooth animation — just as if the games were being played on the standard config Amiga 500 that iAmiga emulates.”

With this and Speed Ball Two coming to the iPhone early next year,  gaming on the iPhone just got a whole load more interesting.

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2011: The year of HTML 5 on mobile

December 13th, 2010

Workarounds only work for a short time, until we find a more elegant and cohesive way of doing things online. In this case, it’s the way we engage with web users through mobile devices.

We’ve had to work with a host of dodges, good-enoughs and missed opportunities over the past three years (and more). It’s been exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure.

Now, we have the structurally coherent means to engage on mobile, in a way that should address every mobile device – and so help us to engage more effectively with customers, partners and clients.

HTML 5 will deliver its promise in 2011. The coding is a no-brainer but the execution needs careful, strategically-focused thought.

I’ve been waiting for this moment since the HTML 5 specifications were first announced. HTML 5 will fundamentally change the ways in which we communicate, share, buy and sell on mobile.

Mobile apps will have a share of this engagement market but there is no real reason to use them when HTML 5 mobile sites are ubiquitous. The only reason we use them, is that most websites are not mobile enabled, do not have mobile specific portals and are generally beyond awful at engaging with mobile users.

Giselle Tsirulnik, Mobile Marketer Senior Editor explains this future well in her video:

Imagine a lean, rich-media enabled website that delivers well-designed content to all mobile devices. That’s HTML 5. How many client, customers, purchases, and partners could you engage with?

While we wait for our HTML 5 Christmas gifts, enjoy this utterly brilliant video from Mobile Future – I’ve yet to see a better explanation of why this year was “The Year of Mobile”.

2011 promises so much more but what do you think?

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Cyber wars, Geo Groups and the future of social media

December 12th, 2010

This week we’ve seen the next step in the re-personalisation of social media and the first public salvoes in the incoming cyber wars – both have profound consequences for the way we communicate online.

On the one hand, we have the launch of GeoGroups, an iPad app that offers a level of control over social media engagement not seen since the early days of Facebook.

On the other hand, we have witnessed the launch of, admittedly quite crude and functional, attacks on the commercial online assets of companies that bowed to US pressure and so damaged the commercial interests of WikiLeaks.

Good guys always finish, in my experience. We will have to watch the WikiLeaks story being played out and engage where needed, in the right way – and hope that the Internet can develop in the form that we want.

So, first, Geo Groups. Possibly the finest app for iPhone to be released this year, full of promise and with the initial infrastructure to make sure it flies. We’re testing in depth now but first feedback suggests that this is a new way of negotiating the social web, and one with a sure market.

For me, it represents the re-personalisation of online social culture. Geo Groups allows you to create a social group around anything that has a location but also contain and control, in a positive way, the ebb and flow of information in that group.

It’s a response to the atavistic emotions that all social media interaction currently provokes, the feeling that there is too much, too diffuse and too uncontrolled information in the daily online engagements we make.

Geo Groups has an open API and third-party developers can make full use of the platform. Check out the developer page for more info. Geo Groups is my kind of company for that offering alone.

Little grouse, though. Did you guys check out the name online before you chose it? You’re competing in search terms with one of the biggest companies in the world that offers “private correctional and detention management, community re-entry services as well as behavioural and mental health services to government agencies around the globe.”

Best of luck with the Search terms battle.

Talking of battles, apart from a very brief period in the mid-1990s, I’ve always seen the Internet as a conditional space, governed and given by global power brokers as a gesture, not a right. We, in the sense of ordinary people, do not control this space. In the same way that states can shut down the traditional information spaces – TV, radio, telecommunications, press – so in the same way can they disable the Internet.

The price they pay for this action, for blocking the “self-healing” network temporarily, is that it will have a destructive and perhaps terminal impact on trade, exchange and development.

But if a body of citizens decides to wage war on states and commercial interests by using electronic weapons (and, let’s face it, the Denial of Service is a very crude stick), states and their agents will respond with full force.

Any idea of “being beyond control” is clearly irrational. We need now to clarify in our minds what we want to achieve and to fully assess the conditions in which protest, discussion, argument and development can proceed.

If we don’t do that, we risk the end of the Internet as we have known and loved it. If you don’t believe that look at China, Burma, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and, shortly, London. Tell me it’s not relatively easy to block networks and global communication.

Hilary Clinton signalled in February this year that the US Government views cyber wars as the defining terrain for hostile engagement in the next ten years. The US might be an ailing power but it is still top Rottweiler globally and can do an enormous amount of “restructuring” to the Internet in the time it has left as the uber-state.

We engage aggressively at our peril but we do need to engage intelligently, now more than ever.

Talking of intelligence, here’s what the founder of the World Wide Web has to say about our online futures. I interviewed Tim Berners when I was working at The Times – his semantic knowledge, quiet passion and belief in the absolute benefit of an open web still resonate now.

Utterly brilliant.

Spend a few precious minutes hearing what Tim says about the future of the web; you will be rewarded:

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Orange mobile app scheme, Slates with Intel and the threat of rising content costs

December 10th, 2010

Ronan Shields has posted a strong opinion article on New Media Age around the challenges and opportunities offered by the new Orange Partner Connect Scheme, which point the way for mobile operators to insert themselves into, and own, the mobile app buyer chain.

The scheme is fuelled by Orange embedding its app shop on the Android devices it sells to subscribers. Brands can also harness the Orange reach into 32 markets and it will enable brands to charge for downloads through the phone bill.

The Orange billing USP is clearly a winner. Who wants to key in their card details on mobile?

Does it also offer network operators a wider opportunity of providing mobile payment systems for consumer shopping through a single monthly bill? The logistics would be a challenge but nothing is impossible.

That also points to wider questions about mobile consumer and usability/confidence.
Brands will need to engage much more closely next year with their customers to convince them that mobile shopping is secure. The just-announced OFT initiative reflects that, as does recent mobile research by client Tamar.

Meanwhile, at the developer layer, the Wholesale Applications Community is gearing up to provide members with new specifications that will enable them to write applications that can be deployed across multiple platforms and operators.

WAC believes that this will help to reach a potential global market of 3.5 billion customers. It expects to release version 2 of its spec early next year while continuing its aim to sign up all the industry’s major device vendors as members.

At the same time, this week, Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced that manufacturers such as Dell, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba have agreed to use Intel chips in 35 Tablet models, including a few already on the market. Caveat here – as in my previous post, the term Tablet can refer to a wide range of devices, not simply the Slates we know as iPad and Samsung Galaxy.

Paul called Intel’s pursuit of the smartphone market “a marathon, not a sprint,” and said that the company’s second-generation Medfield smartphone chip is now being sampled by customers and should ship next year.

He said: “You will see smartphones from premier branded vendors in the second half of 2011 with Intel silicon inside them …The consumer [tablet] products will roll out over the first half of next year,”
That’s very good news for the expanding Smartphone market and the nascent Slate sector.

On the other side of the mobile universe, European mobile network operators have demanded this week that companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook should pay to help them keep up with growing demand for data on their networks.

Bloomberg News reported that France Telecom-Orange, Telecom Italia, and Vodafone Group would like to charge content providers fees linked to usage to help cover the cost of upgrading wireless broadband networks.

France Telecom-Orange Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard discussed the issue at the “Le Web” conference in Paris on Wednesday. Stephane said the current mismatch between revenue and investment for Internet infrastructure providers is not sustainable.

All network operators are facing the same challenge – falling revenues and rising costs.

IDC estimates that the number of mobile data connections in Western Europe is expected to grow 15 per cent a year to 270 million in 2014. By then revenue is expected to fall 1 per cent. Meanwhile, carriers are expected to increase capital spending by 28 per cent to $3.7 billion, according to Canalys.

Does this signal the end of the “free ride” for content providers, and if so, how will the increased delivery costs distort the content market over the next 2-3 years? The network operators are also losing patience with the flat-fee model and are discussing ways to implement the more flexible, “pay-per-use” model.

It seems that the people who own the mobile highways are about to place a range of toll booths along the network, which means that the commodity of information is about to become much more expensive in 2011.

I’ll leave you with this rather splendid, and relevant track from Elastica. Have a good weekend, all.

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2010 a year in searches by Google

December 10th, 2010

It’s coming to that time of the year when reviews of the year are in abundance and 2011 predictions start wowing us, or otherwise, with tales of evolution for the year ahead.

Don’t worry, this post isn’t a personal addition to either of those annual happenings, instead i’ll leave it to Google to round up exactly what has happened over the last year with its annual Google Zeitgeist report showing the most popular search terms of 2010.

The video below is a fascinating and often depressing review of the year. Fascinating to remember all that’s happened and how it is reflected by how we search, and depressing to see some of the rubbish that dominates searches. However, that’s just my personal opinion, and although some of the top searches such as ‘Justin Bieber,’ and ‘Susan Boyle’ fill me with dread, the facts don’t lie, and i am in the minority.

So, for 2 minutes and 53 seconds, sit back and enjoy a vision of 2010 through our searches, and you can get a regional and vertical breakdown via this link.

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Nokia N8 global launch, Smartphone futures and rise of the Slates

December 9th, 2010

Tomorrow (December 10th 2010), Nokia is launching a global campaign to promote its N8 smartphone. The dominant mobile manufacturer is fighting back strongly against the Apple and Android assaults on a market that it once considered its own.

Nokia’s promotion is most welcome. It’s about time that the market had some strong input from the company that defined mobile for more than two decades, along with its competitor cousin, Ericsson. These two companies led the way in mobile innovation and the delivery of handsets that were the first choice for professionals globally.

Both worked hard to develop the one thing that, I think, helped to redefine the mobile market – the ability to write on screen. I still miss my Sony Ericsson P910 for that reason. I could write an email, an instant message, a blog post on the P910 with an ease that I do not have with my Blackberry. And I’m a veteran keyboarder.

The N8 does not have stylus text input. It’s out of fashion.

Nokia is not alone. Find me a Smartphone or Slate that gives users this facility and I need will wake you up rudely. None exist – and that’s a commercial crime.

If I was a Smartphone/Slate producer, I would be refining the onscreen stylus text input function. Why? Well, I’ve used keyboards all my life but I know many people who have not touched a keyboard. The keyboard is a design disaster – we use a form that was designed to slow down the application of keystrokes. It makes no logical or aesthetic sense. Worse still, it’s an obstacle to communication.

So, if you are a neophyte and are being told that Slates (or Smartphones) make everything easy – you will come up against the big challenge of trying to talk to family, friends and contacts through the most idiotic communications tool ever developed – the QWERTY keyboard. Hours of fun.

Instead, imagine if you picked up your Slate (or Smartphone) and just started writing on the screen. Even with the need for corrections, it would be intuitive, tactile and rewarding. I will wager a £100 bet with anyone who can show that a beginner can learn to type faster than they can write and communicate on screen using a stylus.

But there’s a problem with onscreen stylus communication. It is often called Steve Jobs.

Steve, bruised, battered and bewildered by the failure of the Newton, has decided that styluses suck, big-time. Never mind that the Newton introduced more complexity by requiring users to learn a new alphabet.

This is what Steve has to say about stylus screen input:
“Oh, a stylus, right? We’re going to use a stylus. No. Who wants a stylus? You have to get ‘em and put ‘em away, and you lose ‘em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus. We’re going to use the best pointing device in the world. We’re going to use a pointing device that we’re all born with – born with ten of them. We’re going to use our fingers. We’re going to touch this with our fingers.” [source]

I’ve just measured my fingers against my old Sony Ericsson P910 stylus – and the difference is frightening. The point of the stylus (the business end) is roughly 500 times smaller than the point of my digits. Steve, there is no way that my fingers are going to do the talking.

More than that, the stylus replicates the way we have learned to write. Only a numpty would consider the finger as the primary communications device of the future.

And so, while we await the roll out of an amazing array of Smartphones and Slate in 2011, here’s my Christmas wish-list for my ideal Slate and Smartphone:

  1. Stylus text input
  2. Voice input
  3. Social media apps onboard
  4. Open apps market
  5. Camera to match the N8
  6. Touchscreen to match the iPad
  7. Easy purchase process
  8. Film studio network
  9. Image studio network
  10. Smaller, more precise social network app

As for the N8, whether it will gatecrash the iPhone and Android party is moot. TechRadar will give you a full briefing with its fearsome and quite brilliant review but there is a significant point in its narrative when it says: “Nokia is all about connecting people”. That is, surely, the point of mobile – and Nokia has the experience, knowledge and expertise to deliver that.

At Liberate Media mobile HQ, we have to work with many handsets because the delivery and display of web, mobile web – and mobile apps – varies so greatly. Our clients need to know the details of how their messages are being seen.

The N8 looks beautiful – and matches iPhone on design. That’s to be expected. Apart from a few design Fails, Nokia has consistently delivered desirable, usable devices.

If Nokia, or Ericsson, revisits the stylus-input function with the Slates that they are planning, and deliver the joy of onscreen writing, I will be the first to buy and evangelise. This is much needed and, I think, would be a definitive USP for players in the Slate and Smartphone markets. But let me know what you think.

And if you believe that Nokia is a crusty old has-been, just enjoy this video, showing what you can do with the N8. Pure class:

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A “big explosion” gets you trending on Twitter

December 9th, 2010

There has been a bit of a back lash in the last few day, as to why Twitter supposedly blocked WikiLeaks as a trending topic.

First of all it’s worth looking at this infographic by BuzzFeed to get a feel for the amount of conversation on Twitter about Wikileaks.

In a response to the claims, Twitter released this blog post explaining how trending topics on Twitter are determined.

The twitter post explains: “Sometimes a topic doesn’t break into the Trends list because its popularity isn’t as widespread as people believe. And, sometimes, popular terms don’t make the Trends list because the velocity of conversation isn’t increasing quickly enough, relative to the baseline level of conversation happening on an average day; this is what happened with #wikileaks this week”

Venturebeat provides a good summary, “It doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail, but there seems to be one big takeaway for companies hoping to make a splash (and who aren’t going to pay for a Promoted Trend): Go for a big explosion of tweets rather than a constant flow of interest over time”

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Do you read

December 7th, 2010

Today announced that it has added Facebook status updates alongside its popular Twitter application.

Co-founder Iskander Pols says “It is a bit like our Twitter tag papers, but for Facebook…” Facebook currently supports very basic keyword searches on public posts – so a paper based on the search ‘climate energy’ will find all posts containing both words – then extracts all links, videos and photos, analyses them, ranks them and creates the paper in a similar fashion to Twitter papers.

Personally I have used in the past, but there are now so many other faster ways to consume media, and these papers are often out of date before they are published.

I’d like to know your thoughts?

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iPad, Samsung Galaxy and why we should call them Slates

December 3rd, 2010

This is a brief rant, because it’s Friday evening and the weekend beckons. I spent last year (2009) talking about the incoming anywhere, anytime devices being championed by HP. We called them Slates then. What a brilliant brand concept name! Come the iPad and suddenly we were talking about Tablets. How did that happen?

Just search for Tablet online. Hours of fun guaranteed. I think this is what marketers call ‘creative confusion’. The name Tablet now covers a multitude of devices and pills, as well as a highly-respected religious publication. I’m certainly confused, creatively.

Is it too late to start describing the wonderful Apple iPad (version 2 coming to an online store near you very soon) and the equally spellbinding Samsung Galaxy as Slates? It would only take some hard SEO graft and social media engagement to win a new online market space for these types of devices.

And then we could really begin to understand the unique qualities of a portable Slate. We’ve got the Blackberry Playbook (that’s a Slate, not a Tablet), Motorola Droid (well, not really Slate), the HP Slate (ah – with added Tablet), the Fujitsu (Slate Tablet PC, apparently) and, I can guarantee, many more coming in 2011.

So, from now, I’m going to call them Slates – because that is what they are. They’re not Tablets. Tablets are funky laptop PCs with detachable bits. They’re pills that can make you feel better.

I admit that I dropped into the Tablet trap this year but I crawled slowly back out of that dark pit – and it feels good.

Instant poll: Slate or Tablet?

Have a great weekend.

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