April 28, 2010
So, it looks as though Lenovo wasn’t the global PC maker that would up with Palm. Instead it was Palm’s Silicon Valley neighbor HP, which has been dipping its toe in WinMo waters for the past few years. WebOS will help diversify mobile offerings from the computing giant, which faced the prospects of facing tough software differentiation under Windows Phone 7 — a dilemma from its PC business that it likely had no desire to repeat in the handset space
Palm gains access to HP’s vast R&D resources, global distribution and corporate clout while HP gains instant entry into the carrier portfolios of three of the four major U.S. carriers as well as an increasing number abroad. In the post-iPhone world, it’s clear that major PC companies need to have a serious play in the handset market. WebOS is an elegant, powerful operating system, but its performance continues to need help and Palm did not have the bandwidth to focus on suddenly hot tweener devices years after the fall of the Foleo and months after the rise of the iPad. WebOS may appear in HP smartbooks such as the Compaq Air’Life and perhaps even down the road as an embedded pre-boot environment. This seems to be a good fit from a technology and product offerings perspective.
There’s more to come on this story, to be sure.
Tags: AirLife, Android, HP, iPhone, Palm, smartbooks, smartphones, Windows Phone 7
August 13, 2009
This week’s Switched On column delves into Apple’s strength in desktop widgets and progressively declining widget strength as one looks across its product line to the iPhone and Apple TV. As I mentioned in the column, no company has implemented widgets effectively across the three platforms, and even gadget-happy Microsoft has encountered the same challenges in the living room with Xbox that Apple has with Apple TV despite the former’s much larger installed base. It’s hard to see anyone but Apple and Microsoft owning widgets on the desktop, but Samsung looks uniquely positioned to offer them across cell phones and televisions, where they are a more strategic play anyway.
In the comments, one person suggested that iPhone widgets could be activated by double-press of the Home button, but I would see it as either an extended button press option or a gesture. (If Apple allowed third parties to modify the iPhone system’s behavior, you can bet that someone would have come up with extended gesture options for the iPhone. Apple has barely scratched their surface. Indeed, the Mac trackpad’s gestures are more developed than the iPhone’s.)
Let me call upon my user interface design expertise, which consists of my having sent an idea via AppleLink to Don Norrman about a way that Automator-style macros could be built in the Finder that wasn’t dismissed as completely nonsensical. Another option would be a mashup of the HTC Sense user interface and Microsoft’s Windows 6.5 lock screen. Enable an app to run active as a lock screen. When you turn on the iPhone, instead of just having the one lock screen, you could swipe to multiple screens that would display Sense-style applications without turning on the device.
This would not be as flexible as Dashboard, but would be better than what we have today, fit well with the phone usage model, and require only minimal, closed Apple-controlled basic multitasking since widgets aren’t much different than Web pages. When you unlock the device, the HTML rendering engine part of mobile Safari quits and you’re presented with the last app you had open or the home screen..
This approach could also maintain Apple’s blurring of apps and widgets, which might be a good distinction to dissolve on the iPhone, at least judging from the confusing way it’s handled in Android’s application market.
Tags: HTC Sense, iPhone, lock screens, widgets
February 19, 2009
It looks like Hulu distribution has been tightened up over the past few days. Maybe NBC and Fox are rethinking the power of the destination now that they have spent big for a SuperBowl ad featuring closeted alien Alec Baldwin.
Dave Zatz adroitly points out that this is likely to have a chilling effect on other solutions that deliver Internet video to the television and I would argue that it may also cause the major TV manufacturers who were all aflutter about Internet video on their wares to temper their embrace.somewhat. However, as seems to be made clear by the apologetic Hulu blog entry regarding the removal from Boxee, Hulu has a limited voice in what their content players do. Have patience, little Hulu. One day you may grow up to be the next Comcast and will get to enjoy the same kind of tortured negotiations as the regulated aggregators sharing the coax ride into the home.
This ties into another theory I have as to part of the motivation behind the Boxee move and it doesn’t have to do with a blind desire to keep broadband TV shows off the television. Unfortunately, I can’t share much about it now but, as they say, stay tuned.
In another example of out-of-the-Boxee thinking, Sling Media is embracing social media in its own way with its recent initiative that lets you share what you’re watching with your Facebook friends, another baby step in the leveraging of personal relationships to drive exposure to TV programming.
Tags: boxee, broadband video, hulu, sling media, tv.com
March 26, 2008
Motorola’s decision to split itself into a wireless handset company and broadband infrastructure company (after being warned) may be the right move for investors looking to tailor their portfolio, but the timing could not be worse in terms of the strategic potential of having home entertainment and mobile lifestyle technology powerhouses under one roof (not that Motorola had executed on that promise particularly well up until now).
Still, the past few years have brought us the Slingbox, which streams home video over a wireless connection, remote TiVo programming, sideloading entertainment content to cell phones, WiMAX, which promises to deliver video to advanced handsets, HotSpot@Home, which uses Wi-Fi networks to provide a fat voice and data pipe in advance of ubiquitous wireless broadband.
Even today, rumors swirled that TimeWarner and Comcast are looking to up their involvement with Sprint to help ensure the success of WiMAX, and I recently posted (and wrote at further length) about further links that Apple is exploring between its portable devices and potential future DVRs. Business models and competitive landscapes are disparate, but Motorola may soon lose a key advantage in delivering consumer’s holistic digital lifestyle solutions. Bats may fly blind, but they still need both wings.
Tags: motorola, split
March 18, 2008
Recent Apple patents showing a flip-design iPhone and a DVR that might be able to exchange guide data with an iPhone (as well as give talk show hosts really bad haircuts) remind us that, while Apple has shared technology (operating systems, video and graphics support, iTunes support) among its entrants in each of the “three-screen” products — Mac, iPhone/iPod, and Apple TV, there really hasn’t been that much active collaboration among them at this point outside of being able to start a TV show or movie on one device and finish it on another (a cool feature, to be sure).
It’s fine for Apple to move slowly here. Consumers don’t buy “synergy”, they buy products. But just as I’ve credited the Apple store with providing an environment for letting consumers experience the iPod and expose the iPhone (particularly during the holiday season), Apple’s retail presence could make some of these difficult home networking concepts more palatable. The living room is definitely the weakest link and while the DVR market has been an extremely tough not to crack, Apple TV remains Apple’s weakest link in the chain.
Tags: Apple TV, DVR, iPhone
September 5, 2007
Engadget has ferreted out the FCC approvals for the Slingbox Catcher and Slingbox SOLO. We’ve already heard a wee bit about the former when it was called the SlingCatcher — it will have Wi-Fi, an optional hard drive, and be able to receive Slingbox broadcasts, closing the loop on the Slingbox’ place-shifting capabilities. But, hmmm, what could this SOLO device be? Well, were I to speculate based slowly on the name, it might be one device that would encompass both transmission and reception capabilities. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.
If so, and Sling has added digital media receiver (aka, Apple TV) capabilities to both devices, it will have effectively conquered a holy grail of being able to send practically any kind of media to practically any kind of TV in the home (and beyond). This is no mean feat. Months ago, I tried a product that attempted this kind of whole-home video bridging and it was one of the worst product experiences I’ve ever had (although in fairness, the product was really aimed more at new construction with high-speed connections and, no, I’m not going to say what it was). But given Sling’s performance over humble 3G cellular networks, I like its chances.
Update: Dave Zatz writes to tell me that it’s still called the SlingCatcher, not the Slingbox Catcher. Actually, though, maybe it should be called the Slingbox Catcher because “Slingbox” has probably attracted more brand recognition than the company brand.
August 24, 2007
I took advantage of a trip down to Atlanta this week to check out the new AT&T Experience store, which promises to bring together all of AT&T’s formidable triple-play assets. In particular, I was interested to check out U-Verse and HomeZone, its home video plays.
I thought I might document the trip with a few pictures, but was accosted by an employee on some kind of cigarette break while I was outside the store, maybe 15 or 20 feet away just taking pictures of the facade. I can — OK, I really can’t — understand companies getting testy about taking pictures inside a store, but outside? Does the store have anti-aircraft artillery on the roof to take down any planes snapping pictures for Google’s or Microsoft’s maps?
April 12, 2007
There was strong reaction today to the news that Apple will delay Leopard by a few months as a result of shifting resources to the iPhone. I’m quoted on Macworld.com speculating that the delay might be due to contractual obligations between AT&T and Apple, but I no longer believe that that could be a factor. In any case, as Tim Bajarin says in the article, four months isn’t a big delay for an operating system cycle.
Elsewhere on the site, Dan Frakes calls for calm among Apple’s frantic fans who think that the Leopard delay is the beginning of the end for the Mac. (Remember when such evangelists would have called for the head of someone who suggested such a thing during Apple’s struggles in the mid-’90s?) Citing the breadth of Apple’s Mac lineup and that the notion of what a “computer” is has changed, he rightly calls such concerns “overwrought and overstated.”
But Dan’s reasoning that Apple has long offered more than just computers, implying that little has changed, is also a bit oversimplified. None of the other Mac peripherals that he cites, such as monitors, printers and PDAs, were as strategic a cash cow as the iPod. And few, other than Newton, were platforms the way the iPhone and arguably AppleTV is. (For the record, Apple never sold the Apple Pippin, except to Bandai.)
Simply put, these are higher-growth opportunities than StyleWriters ever were and allow Apple to reach far beyond the Mac installed base. That said, Apple’s Mac business is not only broad, but it’s very healthy, As today’s iPhone announcement reinforced, Apple’s “three-screen” strategy has Mac OS X at the heart of it, and the Mac is not only the premiere device for that software, but serves as the critical “second screen.”
March 6, 2007
Forbes runs through the usual suspects in terms of which company is best-positioned to snatch up Palm, which has met only with busy signals in its quest to find a permanent owner. Nokia seems to be the mindshare front-runner but I’d be surprised if the global market share leader broke with its strong Symbian support. Besides, like Palm, Nokia has taken heat for the relative girth of its handsets.
In fact, I don’t like the fit for any of the big handset guys. However, HP would be a complementary new owner. HP understands platforms. Unlike Dell with its channel conflict dilemma, HP is already in the smartphone market. And HP has a strong digital lifestyle position from which it could scale down the Treo platform, accelerating the path Palm is already on and must must pursue to compete with inexpensive smartphones from Samsung, RIM and others. Garnet OS and Windows Mobile also still retain strong PC ties — which makes sense for HP. In short, Palm would round out HP’s “three screen” strategy.
January 5, 2007
The media center capabilities of Windows Vista included in Vista Home Premium and Windows Ultimate represent a step-up in high-definition optimization. If Microsoft can live up to its claims of improved system stability, it should improve the appeal of PCs in the living room. However, CableCARD integration is not even necessary for its main competitors — inexpensive (at least to acquire) cable and satellite TV set-top boxes.
Microsoft has thus far focused on content integration, UI quality, consistency and responsiveness, and appeal to a digital generation used to managing content via PCs. However, Microsoft would really give its media center capabilities a boost in the arm if they could provide functionality that overshadows the now commodified DVR that has been its centerpiece.
It’s now offering a TV-based user interface to Windows Live (above) that includes support for voice and text chats and VoIP calls using Verizon Web Calling. But the navigation of Spaces shown above, while certainly visual, seems designed to terrorize the agoraphobic. It reminds me of the intimidating layout of the Grand Convocation Chamber in the Star Wars prequels (left).