Musings on personal and enterprise technology (of potential interest to professional technoids and others)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why BlackBerry users will love the Storm (and iPhone users won't) - DVICE

A common-sense and informative summary of what to expect (and not to expect) from RIM's new Storm blackberry device [available in US, but still a ways off in Canada].

DVICE: Why BlackBerry users will love the Storm (and iPhone users won't)

"We've had a couple of days to play with the BlackBerry Storm, Research in Motion's answer to the iPhone. It's the first all-touchscreen, no-keyboard BlackBerry. And let's be clear: It's no iPhone. Its web browser is slow, and you can't pinch to zoom (as with the T-Mobile G1, the Storm doesn't have multi-touch). It doesn't work with Macs (though it does have an application that lets it talk to iTunes for non-DRM songs on PCs). And though it may have some great games to download when its app store opens sometime in the future, it doesn't strike us as the kind of device that you'll use to drink an iBeer.

But that doesn't mean this phone won't be a huge success. The now-cliched term "crackberry" got coined for a reason, and we've found the BlackBerry Storm to be just as addictive as RIM intended. <...> within months, this phone will be in the pocket of every lawyer in the country.

It's All About Typing

iPhones are hard to type on. They just are. That's why the first Android phone has a slide-out, Sidekick-style keypad. Instead imitating a Sidekick or having a haptic feedback (that's when a touchscreen vibrates back at you when you press it), RIM has done one better: The BlackBerry Storm's entire touch screen is a button. It feels just like the mouse button on any laptop

If you're used to a BlackBerry already, the typing experience on the Storm is the closeSt you'll get to having a keypad with real buttons on a touchscreen phone.

Why would BlackBerry addicts want to give up buttons for a touchscreen typing system that is almost, but not quite as good? The trade-off is for the big, beautiful screen that you get when you're not using the keypad. It's far better for reading emails, using GPS or playing BrickBreaker than any BlackBerry that's come before

If you've used a BlackBerry before, you'll get the Storm's menus, symbols and buttons immediately.

Instead of comparing the Storm to the iPhone and whining grumpilly about the Storm's lack of multi-touch, consumers will compare it to other BlackBerries. And when they do, they may find that they like what they see: A big, fun to use touchscreen, a 3.2MP camera that takes video and has a bright flash, a respectable Web browser and a typing system that really works."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Numerati by Stephen Baker + Google Tracking flu trends etc.

Interesting timing... The ambitious (and potentially life-saving) new initiative to help track flu as per Official Google Blog: Tracking flu trends has been announced within all of about 9 days after the New York Times Book Review covered The Numerati by Stephen Baker .

Seems the google Flu Tracking project fits right in to The Numerati's concepts, but in a much more altruistic way... Here is an excerpt from the aforementioned NYT review by Rob Walker:

'...the most interesting information comes from us, particularly by way of our online activities. Baker’s savants monitor our collective (if anonymous) Web surfing patterns for “behavioral clues” that, for example, help advertisers decide when to hit us with what pitch.

You probably already have a sense that this sort of thing is going on, but Baker uncovers some surprising details. A chapter on efforts to convert the information disclosed by bloggers and users of social networks is among the most interesting. Baker offers an anecdote about a firm called Umbria helping a cellphone company that’s decided to charge more for Bluetooth data connections, a move that “sent bloggers into a fury.” Umbria, which studies bloggers and divides them into tribes, concluded that all the spleen-venting was coming from the “power users,” whereas “the fashionistas, the music lovers, the cheapskates” did not care. “With this intelligence,” Baker writes, the company could placate the power users by offering them “free” service (while raising the prices on headsets) and “continue charging everyone else.” He goes on to describe Umbria’s efforts to teach its computers to interpret blogs and draw conclusions from different phrases, font choices, background colors and even emoticons.

On one level, this is just the low comedy of the profit motive: our finest techno-­wizards and their beautiful machines wrestling with the meaning of “:)” so that some cellphone company can micro-target its fee increases. But Baker also, in effect, offers a counternarrative to the usual story about the digital revolution. While millions of ordinary citizens have been em­powered to express their individuality with a panoply of new tools, a smaller number of people have been working out the most efficient ways to convert those individuals into numbers on a spreadsheet.

We used to go about our business and let marketers try to catch up with us. “Today,” he writes, “we spy on ourselves and send electronic updates minute by minute.” '