Archive for the ‘Mobility’ Category

Earlier TechCrunch reported of Google registering a slew of .com domain names related to music and clouds.  These domain names included GoogleBass.com, GoogleAlto.com, GoogleSoprano and GoogleTenor.com along with GoogleNebula.com, GoogleThunder.com and GoogleLightning.com. These domains were registered around the 1st week of April.

In another more recent development, Google has acquired PushLife a Toronto based mobile startup company for $25 M. The PushLife platform enables you to port your iTunes and Windows Media player libraries to non-Apple phones like Android and Blackberryand also lets you manage wallpapers, music, videos, ringtones and other media on your cell phone.

Clearly Google has made up its mind to move beyond search. In another development; YouTube, Google’s popular video platform announced on Friday that it is getting in live stream services (something similar to UStream). This will be available via YouTube.com/live.

So is Google ready to barge in to the media world with full force? I think yes with

  1. A popular video platform supporting live events.
  2. A Google TV appliance
  3. An extremely successful advertisement business
  4. A successful mobile OS

With just a music service to fill in the void, Google would have all that one would need to dominate the media over the Internet.

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When Apple announces launch of any iPhone related stuff be it the OS or device itself, the entire web goes crazy. Perhaps nothing else on the Internet other than those trojans, can generate such a traffic on the Internet. So like others I also joined the craziness bandwagon and tried to find out what Apple has packed for us in the new iPhone 4.0

A new name
Since iPhone OS is being used in iPhone, iTouch and iPad it will no longer be known as iPhone OS, from now it on it would be rather iOS 4. Fair enough!

Multitasking
After a long time iPhone will finally have the multi-tasking capabilities, might sound lame to a few people from the multi-tasking world, but Apple had it’s own reason to avoid multi-tasking till now. As always they managed me amuse me. If you are an entrepreneur  it’s always a good idea to challenge your people when it comes to creativity. That’s what apple does the best. Challenged it’s developers to add multi-tasking and still maintain battery life, viola we have selective multi-tasking. What Apple really did is went over all the applications it has in the app store and determined the kind of applications and the kind of multi-tasking they would need and from this pool selected the services and exposed them as kernel APIs. Neat way huh.

Unified E-mail
iOS 4 gets a unified in-box for multiple e-mail accounts. It includes threaded e-mail conversations and the ability to delete all conversations at once. As of in the older generations of iPhone, if you have setup multiple mail boxes you have to switch between mailboxes to read mails. The new OS now allows you to read them in a single view. It would be interesting tough to see how they are going to manage multiple folders in the mailboxes. I’ll wait to see that.

Folders
If you always thought that your applications are kind of unorganized on your iDevice (that’s a generic term I like to use for either iTouch, iPhone or iPad) and that dragging applications between pages can be boring, well now Apple has folders just for you. You can now create folders by dragging one app on top of another, a good way to create a sort-of application launcher. You can rename folders and drag on more apps at any time.

Camera software
The new iPhone camera has a lot of wow factor for me, the camera hardware is bumped up from 3 megapixels to 5, the onboard software gets 5x digital zoom and tap to focus. I wish I had that feature on my iPhone.

Video conferencing
Taking advantage of the front-facing camera is support for video conferencing. FaceTime, as it’s called, works over Wi-Fi in landscape or portrait mode for any iOS 4 device with a front-facing camera. Wi-Fi only for now, but 3G support may be soon on it’s way.

HD video recording
Ok movie makers this is potentially for you, one of the new features that iOS 4 adds  is a high-def recording rate of 720p at 30 frames per second and allows you to share the video in a single click. Mind the battery as the LED flash is always on during the recording. I won’t be surprised if Apple launches its own Mobile Movie Competition after this to beat Nokia Mobile Movie Competition.

iMovie for iPhone
Apple did provide you with a HD camera and it also provided you with the iMovies app using which you can edit HD videos from the phone. From there, you’ll be able to MMS, share videos via MobileMe, YouTube, and e-mail–but notably not through Facebook. iMovie will be able to pan and zoom and add effects, transitions, and themes. It will also tack geolocation into the movie titles. You can record videos directly into a video timeline and pinch to change the scale or drag to trim or edit the video. You’ll also be able to choose your export size. iMovie will cost $4.99 in the App Store. Looks like you can setup your own movie studio on your iPhone.

iBooks
The e-book reader war is heating and that is what Apple has brought to your cellphone if you don’t want to put your money behind Kindle, Nook or even iPad, Apple does make sure that they have the share of your money they are eyeing on. Later this month, you’ll be able to annotate, tap to bookmark a page, view and read PDFs, and select between books or PDFs within your iBooks shelves. The table of contents will display all your bookmarks and notes.

There are still other many features like iAd and others which i took the liberty to skip out in my post as I also wanted to talk a little bit about what iOS 4 missed.

The Misses

  1. The Apple vs Adobe war is no secret and so as expected, Flash support is still not it. Apple thinks of Flash as a battery hogging proprietary platform. But well in my opinion, look at any iDevice you won’t even miss Flash. Why the fuss, I don’t need Flash on my iPhone.
  2. FM Radio is a basic feature for most of the phone makers like Nokia, Sony Ericsson etc but Apple decided to give it a miss this time too. I would say why I would need FM radio when I have my own iPod packed in my phone. I would any time prefer to listen my own collection of songs rather than some DJ’s collection.
  3. The File Manager, a central app to manage all your documents, songs and photos on the device, is still not in. I wish this was included in iOS 4.

Availability
Developers get iOS 4 on Monday (i.e. today), which means that the general public won’t. iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch (except the first generation) will get a free upgrade on their existing iPhones on June 21, though not all features will be supported off the bat–for example, FaceCall, which requires a front-facing camera that those devices don’t have.

E-mail: iOS 4 gets a unified in-box for multiple e-mail accounts. It includes threaded e-mail conversations and the ability to delete all conversations at once.

Folders: Create folders by dragging one app on top of another, a good way to create a sort-of application launcher. You can rename folders and drag on more apps at any time.

Camera software: As camera hardware jumps from 3 megapixels to 5, the onboard software gets 5x digital zoom and tap to focus.

HD video recording: New to iOS 4 is a high-def recording rate of 720p at 30 frames per second (and keeps the LED flash on for HD recordings). One-click sharing from the phone.

iMovie for iPhone: The iMovies app can edit HD videos from the phone. From there, you’ll be able to MMS, share videos via MobileMe, YouTube, and e-mail–but notably not through Facebook. iMovie will be able to pan and zoom and add effects, transitions, and themes. It will also tack geolocation into the movie titles. You can record videos directly into a video timeline and pinch to change the scale or drag to trim or edit the video. You’ll also be able to choose your export size. iMovie will cost $4.99 in the App Store.

Video conferencing: Taking advantage of the front-facing camera is support for video conferencing. FaceTime, as it’s called, works over Wi-Fi in landscape or portrait mode for any iOS 4 device with a front-facing camera. Wi-Fi only for now, but Jobs hinted that 3G is coming.

iBooks: Later this month, you’ll be able to annotate, tap to bookmark a page, view and read PDFs, and select between books or PDFs within your iBooks shelves. The table of contents will display all your bookmarks and notes.

Bing: Apple is adding Bing to iPhone’s search. You’ll be able to choose Google, Yahoo, or Bing for your search engine.

Enterprise integration: Data protection, device management, wireless app distribution, deeper VPN support, and support for multiple Exchange accounts (and Exchange Server 2010) are coming to iOS 4.

iAds: A new ad platform builds ads into apps, and keeps the app experience bound within the app. Translation: You won’t get kicked out of the app if you click an ad.

Miscellaneous additions: Half curl page transitions and draggable map annotations all for app developers.

Availability: Developers get iOS 4 on Monday, which means that the general public won’t. iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch (except the first generation) will get a free upgrade on their existing iPhones on June 21, though not all features will be supported off the bat–for example, FaceCall, which requires a front-facing camera that those devices don’t have.

A few days back, Rajesh Jain, MD, Netcore Solutions Pvt. Ltd. based in Mumbai, started a discussion on Facebook on “Mass Market Internet” talking about on the options we have for getting the millions of potential users on Internet who today either don’t have a medium to access Internet or a promising application to attract their loyalty. I wrote to him about my thoughts and below is the portion of email that I wrote to him:-

Internet Users:
Talking about Internet users, from my perspective there can be two broad category of Internet users.
 
The first ones are those people who make a consicous effort to connect themselves to the Internet and use applications delivered via the web. These are the users who are the only types of Internet users existing in India today. However the second category, which form the majority, will be those users who will be consumers of applications delivered via the web, but they may or may not realize about their connectivity to the web. From my perspective they are still Internet users as they still consume applications via the web. For them its like a service through cellphone, if you have the network you can make a call, if you have the connection you can access the application. The second category of users are the users who are illiterate or lack computer knowledge. But from this vast majority a sizeable number of them do use cellphones. For these users educating them of computers is a lengthy and expensive process, probably more expensive than setting up the Internet access infrastructure in place. For these users, a computer keyboard is more complicated to use rather than the keyboard of a cellphone or the remote control of a TV.
To get the numbers of Internet users in India to a higher point, it is important that the second category of users come online and start consuming applications regardless they know about it or not.

Medium of access:
Internet penetration not only in remote places or villages, but in small and medium towns in India is still a bottle neck. In these places, the dial-up is still the primary medium of access. Also in some of the places, the telephone exchanges have very limited capacity and the lines are prone to noise and interference. In such places, better Internet experience can be achieved through satellite Internet. At least better than dial up.

Access Device:
Television and the cellphones are the devices which have the most penetration in our country and these two are the devices, which are capable of delivering applications via Internet.
 
 
Type of Application:
From my perspective, interactive and entertainment applications will be the primary driving factor for Internet usage. Today, social networking sites are the most visited websites as they let you interact with other users in a variety of way. Even though video hosting is expensive, there are many sites which provide access to entertainment videos as there is a tremendous demand for it.
 
So what would be the type of applications.

Example 1. Consider a house or community which has a satellite television and Internet delivered via satellite (the connection can be a DTH connection). Apart from the standard channels, the user can tune into Netflix Internet TV by just click of a remote.
 
Example 2. Emails has been used via Internet since a long time now, consider a service which lets users send small emails as text messages to cellphone. So I can send an email to <mydadnumber>@provider.com which actually goes to an application on the email server which in turn splits the email (if needed) and sends it as an SMS to the end user, when the end user replies (keeping the subject intact) his reply is converted back in to an email and delivered in to the inbox of the original sender.

After a really long break from blogging, I am back with a good news for all the mobile gurus in India. India, the global IT center and the hub of innovative ideas has a reason to be proud of. We have a first Indian company to be recognized in GSMA mobile innovation awards and its none other than my previous company Netcore Solutions Pvt. Ltd. where I had a fabulous 3 and half years of my career. All credit goes to the mentor, founder and MD of Netcore Mr. Rajesh Jain, who always trusted his vision and never gave up in spite of number of challenges and problems.

A complete coverage on this story is available here.

This achievement for Netcore was not at all a cake walk for Netcore. Given the numerous unpredictable problems, especially the one created by mobile operators trying to block mytoday.mobi and forced Netcore’s service provider to shutdown the 676787 short code through which Netcore used to provide SMS services. The operators were threatened the rate at which Netcore’s services were becoming popular and tried to impose an unfair business act. They couldn’t tolerate some one offering information to users at very low rates and wanted to keep the whole pie for themselves. Still today the operators charge you as much as 6 Rs. for a piece of information, which is your right to have it. This monopolistic strategy of the operators didn’t work, Netcore came back online pretty soon and after that there was no way any one could stop it. The result … its in front of you.

Even today, my operators block http://www.mytoday.mobi on their GPRS services. If you didn’t knew about mytoday.mobi till now, then try it on your GPRS enabled handset and if its blocked, then ask your operator to unblock it. Trust me there are loads of content and services which you always wanted to keep handy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely my views and are not that of Netcore. I don’t represent the company. Any news or information about the company are available through company press release. 

I just came across a post that talks about the launch of a new version of Gmail in U.S. Well this version almost has some of the features that I had envisioned in my mind when I made a mobile mail service for my previous company. However the version that I wrote was a browser based service that works with any POP3 or IMAP4 server available on Internet. The interface is XHTML based interface and shows inline preview of mail body in the Inbox listing, shows compressed previews of image attachment with option to download it on your cellphone and converts PDF attachments to XHTML for online reading.

However this mobile mail was far from being my ideal mobile mail application. It was more of prototype in my venture  to the mobile world. In my perspective an ideal mobile mail will have

1) Mobile server.
2) Mobile application.

The Mobile server would be heart of this mobile application and would be the one that can integrate to multiple mail servers (even to the free email service providers) and would run a service that integrates multi-network chat protocols including support of the enterprise chat server. It would be running a SyncML service to keep your addressbook and calendar in sync between your desktop, mail server and mobile device. If this kind of server is being deployed in a corporate environment, then it can also have a page adapter for mobile devices so that the users can browse the intranet applications easily on their mobile device.

The mobile application would be like one of the free mobile apps like Movamail or Whoosh but with SyncML support and multiple reply options. The SyncML support in the application would help the users with devices without SyncML support to be in sync. The multiple reply options to a mail can be

  1. Reply via mail.
  2. Reply via Chat.
  3. Reply via Call.
  4. Reply via SMS.

On selection of Call or SMS option the application would pickup the number from the mobile addressbook and invoke the corresponding handler APIs.  On selection of Chat option the application would initiate a chat session via the mobile server if the user is online or will leave an offline message or mail in case the user is not available.

An application like this powered by an intelligent server would give  complete control of communication to the user while he is on move. Today we have alternatives from different vendors that lets you chat, make VoIP phone calls, check email, Sync address and calendars, but what lacks is a single application that integrates all the multi-protocol chat and email network.

Revolving around presence

Posted: July 15, 2007 in Mobility

Mobile devices has became an integral part of our lives and today they have became small computers which touches every aspect of our life. Today’s mobile devices lets you do a lot of things right from making voice calls and sending text messages to checking emails, instant messaging and listening to streaming radios over the Internet. However I feel that this is not the end or saturation of services that can offered over mobile devices. The best services that can be offered over mobile devices are yet to come and I believe that those services would essentially revolve around a combination of services of user personalization and automation.

Take “Presence Technology” for example, this technology enables you to figure out if a user is available even before placing a call to him. There are a lot of personalization services that can be built around using this technology as the base. However privacy is one issue which makes user uncomfortable to enable himself with this concept. I mean, how uncomfortable would it be, if you have a feeling that some body is watching you all the time, someone knows, exactly where are you and what you might be doing. This uncomfortable feeling is a result of the idea, that your location coordinates is being continuously broad casted over the network.

However I still believe that most of the future mobile centric services would be based on presence. Not the current Presence Technology, I am talking about and technology that works just for you and not for others. A technology that doesn’t push out the coordinates of your device, but rather uses the coordinates of your nearest tower to offer you a variety of personalization and automation services.

Now what exactly do I mean when I say personalization and automation service ? Don’t confuse yourself with personalization of your device, when I say personalization. Here with personalization, I mean personalizing, not your device, but the information on your device to automate certain services for you.

So exactly what kind of information can be personalized ? I see the “Cell Info display” as one such service that can personalized. “Cell Info display” is available on almost all the devices today and almost all the users, happily keep it switched on, just to get an idea where they are. My idea of personalizing “Cell Info display” involves a small software that needs to be installed in your device. This software is a passive agent which does nothing unless you plan to use it.

Now the step 2 is, the user needs to define, just as one time activity, how a cell information relates to him. So say when my cell info display is showing “Accenture”, I would open up the software and map “Accenture” as “Office”. Similarly when my cell info display shows “Kumaraswamy”, I would map that info as “Home”. So now with this personalization of information, my cellphone knows my location. Here I am not broadcasting or requesting for any additional information. I am just personalizing those which are already there in every cellphone.

Ok now that I have personalized an information, how can I have automated services on this. The first service, that I see can be built over this is a “Reminder” kind of service. This service, unlike the current reminder service which works on the base of time, works on the base of location. Say for example, I need to return a book I borrowed from my office library, so I setup a reminder on a time based reminder service for next day at 10:00 AM. Now there is an unforeseen activity that I need to take care of in office at 10:00 AM (I came in at 9:00 AM, but had completely forgot that I have to return the book), the reminder service prompts me of my task, at 10:00 AM, but I am too busy to take care of it, so I ignore it and later I again forget about it. Or there might be a scenario, in which I have setup the reminder, but I didn’t go to office. The reminder goes waste and I have to setup a new one.

The reminder service could have been improved, if your cellphone had some personal information about you. This reminder service is based on the location, not on time. The location that you personalized from your cell info display. This is how the location based reminder service would work. I setup my reminder for the activity which I need to take care at office. So the next day, the moment I enter my office at 9:00 AM, the reminder service would immediately prompt me to return the book, I still have that unforeseen activity at 10:00 AM. Now further on, if I couldn’t go to office that day, my reminder would be quite as it knows that this activity cannot be completed as I am not in office. Later whenever, say after a week I enter the office campus, my reminder would remind me of the activity.

A combination of time element and location element can provide a lot of automated services, like send a text message to a local pizza store near my office, ordering for a pizza at 1:00 PM. So that at 3:00 PM, when my wife calls up, I don’t realize that I forgot to order for my food. A combination location + GPRS can help users dynamically update their address book when on the move. So when I am back to Mumbai, my cellphone will update itself the phone number of a Mumbai based Pizza Hut, rather than having one of Bangalore.

In summary, your cellphone can become more powerful, only if it knew where are you and you can sleep in peace, only if you are assured that no body is keeping an eye on you.

Getting personal with mobile

Posted: July 14, 2007 in Mobility

The Times of India print edition, carries a story today, which talks about the impact mobile phones and electronic organizers are having in everyone’s life:

Can’t remember life before mobile phones? Chances are you’ll also struggle to recall your home phone number and family birthdays.
According to a survey released on Friday, the boom in what Britons call simply “mobiles” and other portable devices that store reams of personal information has created a generation incapable of memorising simple things.
A quarter of those polled said they couldn’t remember their landline number, while two-thirds couldn’t recall the birthdays of more than three friends or family members.
The tech-savvy young fared
worse than older people. The under-30s remembered fewer birthdays and numbers than the over-50s, according to the survey. Two-thirds said they relied on their phone or electronic organiser to remember key dates.

It’s a fact. Today life without a mobile device is unimaginable.