Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cell Phone News Galore

Mobile News Overload

Last week was kind of slow (news wise at least, busy for me), except for several stories about cell phones - so let's dig into those.

Verizon has started an odd ad campaign for a new cell phone. They gave Apple a backhanded slap a couple of weeks ago by kicking off a cell phone ad (that I see all the time now - see last week's post) mocking the terrible 3G coverage you can expect in a lot of places if you're on AT&T with an iPhone. Now, they have an ad that even more clearly mocks the iPhone ads by copying Apple's style in order to call out the iPhone's foibles as features for what "Droid does". Normally, I'd be in support of this, but it seems a little silly. This is something the Palm Pre does and didn't have to advertise with such secrecy. It's surprising how many people notice that I have a Pre (then again, I live in Seattle), so I think the message is pretty clear that the Pre has a physical keyboard and supports background processes. This ad does nothing but attempt to drum up hype for a phone that doesn't exist yet (but, by some people's count could be here by the end of the month). I love cell phone competition, I just hate it when marketing overtakes selling the features of a product. I can understand the importance of brand image, but ads like this make me feel like I'm being tricked into caring about a product. Anyway, I really hope this ends up being a good phone, but it's risky to talk smack like this because people (like Apple and their cult of followers) will call out Verizon if they don't deliver.

Speaking of Apple, they're continuing to fight jailbreaking by quietly selling 3GS devices with a fix that kills the latest jailbreaking hack. This isn't going to stop jailbreaking, but it's probably going to hit it harder than previous updates. I really don't get this. I can understand vocally standing against jailbreaking an iPhone, but if they believe it's so widespread that they have to work this hard against it, why don't they take a step back and understand why people want to jailbreak their iPhone? I'm just surprised by how customer-unfriendly a company is being that owes its success in part to a strategy of trying to give consumers what they want. Yes, part of what consumers want is what Apple tells them they want (I'm not being caustic, it's true), but it's clear that a lot of people have fallen in love with Apple products for good reason despite the bad stuff - why not work more towards that strategy?

One thing Apple did do right last week was to allow in-app purchases in free applications. This means you could be playing a free game and then purchase level packs in game. I really hope other platforms follow from this model, because I think it's hard to buy mobile applications, as cheap as they may be, compulsively without taking a few minutes to give them a test run. Their benefits aren't as long-term as computer software normally is, so they're harder to justify without a test run, in my opinion. Obviously, there are other uses for this than shareware, I just like that use case best.

Boy Genius got their grubby paws on screens of Android 2.0, which seems soon to some folks but apparently is coming with some really cool features for Android users including the highly-awaited Microsoft Exchange support, more voice control integration, double-tap in the browser (which is now becoming as common as middle-clicking on computer browsers), Facebook support in the contacts list (likely taking a page from Palm webOS), and is apparently snappier all around. Android phones may become hot in the next couple of years if hardware manufacturers can wake up and put together a solid phone for Android.

Lastly, PC Magazine posted their review of the Blackberry Storm 2 (the first review of it that I've seen) and they seem to have confirmed what people were saying about it a couple of months ago: it improves on a lot of the original Storm's downfalls. Apparently, the haptic feedback promised in the original actually shines here. Apparently, the web browsing isn't as strong as some other smartphones, but it does have the text messaging features that Blackberry owners cling to.

Security Brief

I have a couple of security stories that I don't have a lot to say about but I think are still worth bringing up.

IT Security put up a really fun read: 10 very short stories about teenage hackers. The most infamous story is probably Mafiaboy's Denial of Service attack that took down some of the biggest websites on the Internet in 2000.

It's a bit technical, but I liked Dark Reading's explanation of how to defend against a Distributed Denial of Sevice (DDoS) attack. When a lot of computers from entirely different places are hammering your servers, there's a way to tell them you're so backed up that you can only accept a byte of data at a time, effectively overloading the attacking machines in their attempts to flood you with requests. It's called tarpitting and it's a fascinating idea that probably won't become popular in the industry for a while, but I hope it does.

Gadgets Galore

There were a few stories about gadgets (other than cell phones) that caught my eye.

Gizmodo got exclusive first shots of Barnes and Noble's forthcoming e-Reader. It has an e-Ink screen and a multitouch LCD screen (for navigation), but I'm not sold on it being better than the Kindle. I know that I'm a little biased, but B&N is a little late to the game and I don't know that I'm a fan of navigating a book without buttons. Even on iPhone and Pre screens, which are excellent, I get misfires. I've come to accept that because it's worth the tradeoff for the improved interface, but I don't think I'd be so forgiving with a book reader.

I kind of wish I was kidding about this next story: Nintendo is going to sell a Wii Exercise Bike. It looks exactly as you'd think it would: a minimalistic, white electronic exercise bike. This really shouldn't be a huge surprise given that Wii Fit did so well, and Nintendo has done crazier things (remember Virtual Boy or, better yet, the Power Glove?), but I was hoping they were beyond stuff like this. Why someone would want to buy this instead of an exercise bike you don't need a game console for is beyond me.

And finally, Maximum PC got their hands on the Western Digital TV Live digital media player and seemed to like it. It aims to integrate your media library with online video offerings, and is probably worth the $150 instead of a new computer if that's all you use your home computer for.

Final Notes

Ok, I'm fading fast here so time to run through the remaining stories.

This video
of a possible next-generation Human Computer Interface (HCI) is pretty awesome - it replaces the mouse with a multitoch pad. Unlike the new MacBook trackpads, this maps directly to your screen so it can be used all around instead of just pictures. Definitely worth a watch - hope it actually gets implemented!

Wonder what Google Wave is for? Lifehacker has a pretty nice list of possible use cases.

Six Revisions has a good roundup of performance benchmarks for the latest round of the biggest web browsers since they all have claimed performance improvements recently. Not surprisingly, Chrome dominates while Internet Explorer was exposed to run like a cow.

Acer is selling more PCs than Dell. That's kind of crazy - I guess Dell's brand has weakened, but when did people start having more faith in Acers?

Blockbuster Video on Demand is now on TiVo! Yay!

I don't typically plug Google Office tours because I feel that they make Google look like a wonderland while making people forget the cons of working there, but I have to say that the Chicago office does look pretty cool.

Have a good week everyone!


Matt Loar said...

When I first bought an Acer back in 1996, the salesman pointed out that they seemed to have fewer issues than other brands. That machine went far beyond obsolescence (i.e. past 2000) without any issues. Contrast that with the Dell I got in 2004, which had to have the motherboard replaced about 3 months after I bought it, only to blow out the onboard networking on the new motherboard about 6 months later.

Elton said...

Oh I didn't mean that Acers weren't good, I meant that I never had a great perception of them and didn't know when their brand strengthened.