Mobile Media

It seems that all the big players are getting ready to launch the next thing for mobile phones. Over the last year everyone grabbed a camera phone. Now, you’ll be getting a media phone, with the early focus being on music. Most players are teaming up with Microsoft and the Windows Media DRM (subscribe to FierceWireless email). Motorola on the other hand has also gone the route of hooking up with Apple?s iTunes. This is a great next step, but as I travel a lot I am often away from my iPod, home computer or stereo system yet seem to always have some form of access to the Internet. I would rather not have to store my music anywhere. I’d rather have access to all of my media (e.g. MP3’s) regardless of device anywhere I can access the Internet. In this model, someone else would store it and my home computer, laptop, mobile phone, living room stereo, alarm clock, etc. would be able to play any song or even any video I own. This would solve the storage problem quite a bit and as data rates increase via cellular and WiFi becomes more prevalent.
Update 3/3/06: With Metro Wi-Fi networks coming available in the next few years and more 3G high bandwidth cellular networks available, this idea becomes more possible. The highest probable entrants would be device manufacturers or the communications carrier (either Wi-Fi, cellular or satellite). A company could build a subscription model where an individual would have access to any song or radio feed at any time on any device. While jogging a user could pull down their favorite radio station or listen to their favorite band. When they get home, they could immediately transfer that experience to the home stereo that would pick up where they left off. After they’ve showered and changed, they head out again to meet up with a friend across town. As they get in their car, the car stereo recognizes them and again picks up where they left off in that album they were listening to.

Next Generation Treo – Smartphone

If you?re goal is to own this smartphone market and you know you have to have the carriers love you, then I?d go for the high revenue generating features. I believe these to be trending toward music, gaming and data communications. Let?s talk convergence. Most folks like having separate products because to this date they?re usually better, but the moment you combine something well you?ve got it.
Music.
First I think you hit ?the? audience if you can combine the iPod and the Treo. Mobile music is going to be huge. Our society has been disconnecting from each other for a long time and the idea to pop some head phones in and essentially hide from people has really caught on. Not to mention you?d finally give those idiots that walk around with their Bluetooth headset always in their ear a decent excuse. The win for the carrier is when you provide over the air downloads of music. (Hell, if you really want to entice them make it possible for Peer-2-Peer software to work and the data traffic will go through the roof. Imagine if everyone had their music on their phone, which is always on and always sharing away their, um? files…)
Next up is gaming.
There is a generation that most product designers don?t even understand. They grew up with a computer, a gameboy and the ability to connect with their friends over email, IM and SMS. This is the generation that actually interacts with each other, albeit not via voice or in person. By providing a gaming platform where folks can play interactive games and communicate with each other such as with services like Xbox Live, you?ve created a product that appeals to an up and coming consumer group and again can drive a tremendous amount of revenue depending on how the carriers charge for that bandwidth.
(Note to carriers: I love unlimited bandwidth. I don?t think the answer here is to try to get back to charging me for every kilobyte used, but if you price it right you?ll still make a profit because everyone will want the data part of the plan. You?re total ARPA should still be able to stay stable or increase depending on how you price the package. For example, most people want voice, but hardly use the minutes. The magic price point is somewhere between $30-$40, and you can then tack on the $20-$50 data package, which puts your ARPA way up. The key is having enough things to use that data package for to warrant it being added on)
Now, Nokia is obviously heading down this path with the ngage, but have you seen that thing? It?s huge. Again, design will rule, just ask Steve. The other key I believe is providing a platform for the major developers to easily port to from their existing Gameboy or upcoming Play Station Player (PSP) games. As for other data communications, simply put, give away IM software and make SMS actually work (this is something the carriers need to fix; i.e., guaranteed delivery of failure notification).
email
Additionally, we need to rethink email on your mobile device. At work (or could be school) and home I may prefer to read my email on the web so that I can type more and read the message easier. However, I also email a lot during the day (revenue driver for carrier) and often get emails out of sync between the server copy and the one on my phone. Meaning, if I pop my email account to my web email client then the message is no longer available for my Treo to pick up, and if I didn?t finish reading everything I popped, then I?m out of luck until I can get back to that website. Now, I realize I could set that pop to ?leave messages on the server,? but I still have the scenario where I may pop the email into my web email, not finish reading it all, then pop it into my Treo (since it?s still on the server) and now have two copies that I have to go and delete. This is a pane. I think Danger?s Hiptop is the closest. On their platform if I delete an email on the website, it?s also deleted from my mobile device and vice a versa. This is cool, but I?m forced into their web application. What if I want to use Thunderbird or Outlook Express? Here I think you?re making progress, but haven?t made the giant leap. Let?s get together with Good Technologies or RIM and make it all happen. As you may note I didn?t say anything about web browsing. Well, this is so screwed up I don?t know where to start. It takes a day to load one web page and for some reason even with cache it takes half a day to go back to a web page I already visited (regardless of carriers). In summary, you?ve got your work cut out for you, but there are some great opportunities out there and you are the leader. I?m looking forward to the Treo 6000. Let me know if you want any help.

  • If you want to be really cutting edge and also have something ahead of the curve release a Treo that only works on WiFi (or have dual radio if carrier allows you). The day I can use my treo on a wifi network and call with Skype is going to change the world

Letter to the Airlines

When I book a ticket on my own dime I usually have a destination in mind and want the cheapest ticket. Why can?t any of the sites just tell me, “hey, the cheapest possible way to get you to Somewhere, State on the third weekend of march is if you fly on our 6pm flight Friday, and are willing to go through Somewhere Else, Other State. Or tell me hey, I understand you want to fly on these specific dates, but if you fly at these times here are the discounts because those planes aren’t very full right now. And speaking of booking tickets do you really need to jack the price up the last minute? Have you ever thought about lowering it to just fill the plane? Note to non-airline websites, if you let me just give you the dates and destination and find me the absolutely lowest possible fare regardless of airline, I?m your customer for life. Note back to airlines, I?ll stick with you if you let me get a discount for turning in a bit of mileage or foregoing earning mileage for the trip.
Ok, so let?s talk about some of the things that I think are either annoying or odd while flying.

  • Interruptions by the captain. I’m watching my movie and all of a sudden he/she is talking. That pause feature never seems to work and the voice usually makes me miss a key scene. Some of them go on forever. Someone needs to tell them that we really don’t care what the weather is like where we are going to land, or the flight speed or how happy they are that we chose to fly with them.
  • And speaking of long winded announcements, flight attendants should also keep it short and sweet. I think some of them feel powerful when talking on that mic and enjoy hearing their voice thunder over the terrible intercom.
  • Does anyone know why I have to put my bag under the seat in front of me? I like keeping it under my legs so I can stretch them out. I asked once and the flight attendant said it was so everyone could get out in an emergency. I guess I can understand this, but why is it only during take-off and landing? Seems to me that you can’t really do much evacuating at those times.
  • Being told that mobile phones may disrupt the navigation devices, then hearing one ring as we’re safely landing.
  • 500 mile upgrades. Just tell me when I’m eligible for first class.
  • Checking in. why does it take me four clicks on a kiosk, but 5 minutes of typing if I go to the checkin counter.
  • Does anyone know the “rules” for using curb side checkin? Why isn’t that used more often? Are we really so stingy that we’d rather wait in long lines then tip the folks outside a couple bucks?
  • Could we please come up with something other then making everyone have to take their shoes off? At least give us some carpet.
  • And how about laptops? I can keep a mobile phone with as much electronic guts as a laptop, my iPod, powered ear phones, AC adapters, my mouse, etc. but the laptop has to be seen outside the bag?
  • Temperature of the cabin. Why does the captain, locked in his little room control the main cabin. Often it’s too hot or too cold. Let the flight attendants manage this
  • Anyone know why the windows have to be open in the main cabin for take off and landing?
  • Answer found:
    DO I really have to keep my window shade open for takeoff? Some of us would prefer not to watch the world whiz by at 150 mph.

    If the shades are open, passengers can keep track of which way is up during an emergency. Windows are also a source of light if the cabin goes dark. The crew dims the lights during takeoff so, if the plane loses power, your eyes won’t have a hard time adjusting to the dark.

  • I believe that a good majority of passengers are business passengers that fly often. Can we get some more updated media for the TVs? If the airports can run CNN, why can’t you? Let’s upgrade those old VHS players, install some TiVos.
  • Stop wining and thanking me profusely for choosing your airline. It’s just weird.
  • Can you figure out something to let me sleep and not have my head falling all over the place? Good attempt on the curve in sides of the headrest, but not quite. Oh, and while you’re at it, any reason why the chair is shaped such that my head is pushed forward rather then preferably allowing me to lean it back so that it rests. Add a neck roll and I think we’re there.
  • Does anyone use those air phones? I’m glad it’s finally getting cheaper, but am I really going to pay $10 a month?
  • When am I going to get internet access. Now that’s something I’ll pay for. Hell, you could put little computers in, offer IM access and probably make a ton of money.
  • Why do they come around to collect trash two minutes after they gave you your drink. Am I supposed to slam my soda?
  • Who the hell decided the middle guy shouldn’t get any elbow room?

back a week

Been back about a week now. Finally feels like I’m back, whereas the last time I knew I had the vacation so I was still mentally in India. It’s nice to be back. It’s a different world here. I’m not sure which is better. On the one hand it’s nice to be around things that are “nicer” and clearner, but it’s much faster here. It’s noisy, in the sense of so much movement around you (cars go faster, TV goes faster, 24×7 news down your throat, stock markets, etc.). I think quality of life is better in India. You give up a lot of things, but I think what you gain is some peace that is harder to find here…well, could always go back to Montana.

Return from India

Well, I’m back awake and much rested after a 20+ hour plane ride back from India. I think I came close to a new record as I slept from Monday at around 3 o’clock till Tuesday morning around 5:30 am, although I went back to bed until around 8ish. 🙂 Now I feel energized to take on all the email and mail I have to deal with, not to mention laundry and cleaning this damn apartment. I’m ready for a new year and what feels like a new beginning. I have experienced so much in the last 9 months and really feel inspired to try to stop talking and start doing new things. My first priority will be to reconnect with my friends and family as I have been physically away for a long time. Second, I really want to focus this year on figuring out what I want to do with the next 5 years of my life. One of my first priorities is to try and break my habit of being so lazy and unproductive on weekends!

Everything is a Dichotomy

I’m still plugging away in India. What originally was assumed to be a short trip to do some coaching and training has become a very long venture of me managing the team out here and providing a lot of executive support to the office here (e.g., recruiting, HR, business development). It has been fun though. I have a really good team and am enjoying myself in Hyderabad. It’s definitely a different world here. I’m treated like a celebrity here and yet there is extreme poverty, ignorance, extreme affluence, and rocket scientists. It’s just a bizarre place. Everything is a dichotomy. The bright billboard advertising Pepsi stands above a slum. The laborers work in mass outside the fancy “hitech city” buildings that stand out like the great pyramids. In part of my day I eat lunch for 35 rupees (about 75 cents), in the evening I may be in one of the clubs sipping 500 rupee martinis (about $11). One moment I’m with someone living in a hostel because they can’t afford an apartment on an IT professionals salary (just out of school) and the next I’m hanging out with models, movie stars and businessmen that can spend half the young IT professionals salary on dinner, drinks and the outfit they came in.
It’s a wonderful place though. It’s got an energy that is contagious. It’s difficult not to smile. While you see struggle, you also see success. You see the middle class being built right before your eyes. There are people upgrading from small motorcycles to cars that will not only give them more protection on these crazy streets but shield them from a tremendous amount of pollution that the folks in the auto-rickshaws and motos endure each day. Globalization is a good idea, and I think it can work without creating crazed capitalists like us Americans. The Indian culture is one of respect for family, community, and overall peaceful living. I don’t see that changing that much. Where an American will have a baby and be back to work in weeks, we’ll loose their Indian counterpart for much longer. Where the man may even miss the birth in the US, the new father here will be side by side days in advance.

Culture Shock

As I meander through daily rituals different then those I am accustom, I sometimes feel distressed and yet other times feel excited. Many times throughout the day I notice subtle differences in non-verbal communication, and I notice that I immediately judge whether I am comfortable with it or not. It?s like a reaction to a ball thrown at you. Some times you decide to catch it, and others you decide it best to dodge it. As I have now been in India for over 6 weeks, I continue to be surprised by small events throughout the day, but for the most part feel fairly comfortable here. With the exception of wishing friends and family were closer or more easily reached, I feel as if I am a part of this environment. The process of acclimating ones self to a new environment can vary greatly from person to person as I have seen with another expat I hang out with. He has been here much longer than I and is in a new stage of his experience, one of aggression and distaste for those things he is not accustom to. Interestingly, this process has been studied quite a bit and there is some interesting information out there talking about the ?culture shock? curve.
General definition:
http://www1.appstate.edu/dept/freshmanseminar/Faculty/Fac_Manual/Transitions/U_Curve.htm
Link that even shows the extended culture shock curve (incl. when going back to your home country)
http://www.ukcosa.org.uk/images/shock.pdf

No more wholesale lease rates for CLECs

The rules are out and no one is fighting to get them back. The baby bells will no longer be required to lease out their local lines to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) at a predetermined ?wholesale? rate. The question now remains whether or not customers will be impacted. However, I don?t think we?ll see a dramatic change. CLECs never really took off. In every major city in the US you still only see one major phone company. The only competition that really developed was around the business customers, and the gov?t wasn?t concerned their. They were trying to decrease costs of ?plain old telephone service?. Survey California and find out how many people have local POTs that is not SBC, and I bet it?s less than 5%. Besides the wave of the future is wireless. It will either be cellular or WiFi or a combination of the two. I think there are enough ways to get communication services these days that it will not negatively impact the typical John Doe, which was all the government was trying to protect earlier anyway. Besides, we?ll all be making free calls to Tibet on our Skype phone anyway.

“Changing the world”

I?m still in India and likely will be for some time. It?s been a wonderful experience so far. I have met some very friendly people. The culture is warm and inviting and interesting to learn. It?s also very exciting to be intimately involved with one of the largest events of our time. Our grandparents and parents went through the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and now we too are seeing the next wave of work being distributed to new places on Earth. It?s fascinating to me. Many years ago the continents began to divide separating its inhabitants into diverse areas of the Earth with various climatic conditions that created very different cultures. Now, through technology we are coming back together. The continents feel like they are being bridged, and people are interacting with each other. Many of us grew up wanting to ?change the world.? We grow up seeing how wonderful the way the world could be but were very ignorant of the realities. We were optimists. Then as we grow up and experienced more of the trials and tribulations all of us face, we grew more pessimistic and it became less desirable to take on the daunting task of influencing change. Some of us continue on that journey, but most of us just find a way to live comfortably and enjoy our lives. This opportunity feels like one where I am able to ?change the world.? I have participated in recruiting events where I am the final interviewer having a large impact on one persons life. I have helped present knowledge on effective software development practices improving the skills of my global team members. And, others have trained me. They have taught me the joys of music in each moment, the passion of love for one another whether they are family, friend or neighbor. I have learned to respect the cows that wander somewhat aimlessly through the streets and even understand the struggles of the farmers with little water. Politicians try to affect change on our communities, our societies and our world, yet the true difference is made when each one of us opens our hearts and minds to one another and spends time to give aid and care for each other. I feel like each day I am here I am able to make a difference. While many back home are concerned about their jobs, I know that most of them find their way back to comfort easily, whereas folks here are struggling to survive and support their families. I can see the benefits to humanity first hand. I can see that world peace doesn?t come from Senators negotiating with heads of states, but with conversations between a programmer and a tester from different countries, on different continents and in different time zones. These conversations build the trust that is essential to all of us feeling safe amongst each other and allowing peace everywhere.

Office in Hyderabad (Cyber Gateway)

Hyderabad is a city that has boomed in the last 5 years due to the support of the technology industry and outside investment. Currently, I am working in the one of the largest offices in India that can support 9000 people (seats). Here are a couple of interesting articles about Hyderabad’s development recently and my current office, Cyber Gateway
The Hindu – India’s National Newspaper
Frontline – India’s National Magazine