New Devices and Desktop Access to ThemSaturday, August 04, 2007
The folks at RIM are amazing―it seems as though they announce a new BlackBerry every few weeks. First the 8800, slim and trim, then the Curve (8300), the 8830, a combination CDMA and GSM world BlackBerry and now the 8820, the first BlackBerry with both wide-area (GSM/GPRS/EDGE) and Wi-Fi, which appears to already be available in Europe and will probably come to the United States shortly.
They keep pushing devices out the door and you have to wonder what is next. I will be attending RIM’s analysts meeting the first week in September and look forward to seeing what is coming to its line-up. RIM is calling these new BlackBerrys smartphones and I guess they fit that description although most people I know who use BlackBerrys also have a small flip phone they use for their voice calls. I do see a number of people holding their BlackBerry to their ear, but my guess is most of them are used for email and other data functions while a small phone is also being carried. I think I saw some statistics on this, but cannot find them using Google.
The other device that has caught my attention in recent weeks is the Samsung SCH-u740, which is available at Verizon Wireless. It is a flip phone that it flips open from the bottom to expose the phone keypad and also opens from the side showing a QWERTY keyboard useful for short messaging, entering appointments and other data without having to triple tap or use predictive software. I like the concept and while I only had a chance to use if for a few minutes, if appears to be a great phone and the dual flip makes it really useful for those who don’t want to carry a BlackBerry but don't like using a phone keypad for typing.
I have now spent more time with the iPhone and, as before, I am really impressed with the functionality of the device but disappointed with the keyboard, Web surfing and the fact that the iPhone Website does not permit me to do more phone configuration nor does there seem to be a way to really manage my contact and address book. But it is sleek and fun to use, the graphics are great and as a first offering I give it high marks overall.
Google’s upcoming (maybe?) gPhone is also getting a lot of press. Fierce Wireless ran a story about it based on a Wall Street Journal article. Supposedly, the phone will be available next year, having been developed at considerable expense, and it is reported that it will be available from multiple handset vendors and will run on several different networks. According to the articles, Google believes mobile ads, which are more targeted to specific people, are more valuable to its advertisers than their standard ads. I guess we will find out next year. Google certainly has discovered wireless in a big way, making a lot of noise about the 700-MHz auctions, making deals with Sprint for WiMAX and KDDI for gMail services and their people are smart and have lots of money. I wonder if they have taken the time to understand what network operators want and will accept in the way of partnering agreements. It will be fun to watch in any event.
Most Still Don’t Get It!
I have been talking about being able to access my phone from my desktop for a long time now. After one such spouting, I talked to a company that promised exactly what I was looking for. We had a great conversation, they got it, understood why I believe being able to access my phone from my desktop is important and why it will encourage me to make more use of the phone’s data services (thus driving up data usage). They were in stealth mode when I talked to them under NDA and perhaps they still are, but I hope they burst upon the industry soon. As I mentioned earlier, I was really disappointed in that aspect of the iPhone.
With Apple’s attention to user interface issues, its groundbreaking operating systems and the iPhone user interface, you might figure it would do some really great things with the Website for the iPhone, but I guess the truth is that the iTunes site is designed for the iPod, which doesn’t have much of a user interface, so why empower the site to enable us to make changes to the way the phone is set up, what is available to us and even what favorite Websites we want to store on the phone. All I can do today is transfer a copy of my Internet explorer favorites to the phone. I don’t know about you, but when I am doing research I use my favorites to mark something I found of interest and may want to go back to once as well as my bank and other sites I visit on a regular basis.
Let’s see if Google gets it. I bet they won’t—they are one of those companies that still believe the desktop Internet is what we want on our phones, and I guess these people believe we will sit around typing in Google searches and then scrolling through dozens, if not more, entries until we find the one that might be right. I still like the Yahoo! Go browser better, but even it doesn’t go far enough. My bet is that if there is a Google phone it won’t be able to be programmed or set up from the Web and you will have to do it all from the phone. Am I the only one who thinks using a combination of desktop access and a wireless device makes sense? I guess I am, and I guess I am also one of the few who don’t believe delivering the desktop Internet to a wireless device (except for a notebook) is what customers will want or respond to.
Wireless broadband is still shared bandwidth, and the smarter the wireless Internet is, the better the experience will be for customers, or those whose eyeballs are being sought to pay for the ads. My prediction is that the wireless Internet, as it is being envisioned by the WiMAX community, Google and others, is going to have a very tough time of it and will disappoint all of those who have spent $billions betting on it. Meanwhile, someone will get it right, just as NTT DoCoMo did in the early days of i-mode.
In the meantime, we will be swamped with new devices between now and Christmas and the fall CTIA show should be the coming out party for a lot of them. See you there!