Monthly Archives: March 2008

The On-line Generation

MO1

In 2006 Imaginarium and Telefonica Moviles launched the MO1, a mobile handset designed for 6 year-old children. It sold at 59 Euros, with a prepaid account. Its features include: two blue buttons for direct call to Mom or Dad, white-list for allowed SMS destinations set-up by parents, hands-free and an emergency locator.

What does not seem as a bad idea has been criticized by many European countries, complaining about marketing and selling targeted to children. But, didn’t ads for kids toys already exist years ago? Why is it now an issue when applied to something as useful as a mobile phone? Just educate children not to abuse it. French Ministry of Health has gone farther, suggesting that since the long-term effects of mobile “radiations” are unknown, children should not use mobiles. But if radiation risks were to exist, shouldn’t the authorities better check all antenna towers located close to schools, in schools or on top of buildings where children live?

Recent surveys among 9 year-old kids in European countries have shown that most of them already have a mobile phone. I am afraid the trend of children with mobiles is unstoppable, even if some politicians insist on alarming the population with the fears of the unknown.

Dealing with email

No doubt email is an extremely useful tool for communication. It has replaced fax and snail mail in enterprises and it is widely used …and abused. Email has made organizations flatter. Any employee can reach anyone in the organization, including the top , with a simple email. Adding people to distribution lists is so “cheap” that long distribution lists become the norm. This is forcing managers to deal with hundreds of emails a day. So huge is the inbox overload, that many are questioning the effectiveness of email and some are even declaring email bankruptcy

Different techniques have emerged to deal with email, and RWW details some of them in Five Methodologies to Deal with Email Overload. The five techniques are:

Getting Things Done (GTD). As you read each item, if it requires action: 1) Do it (if less than 2 minutes), 2) Delegate it, 3)Defer it.
Tim Ferris’s method: check your email only twice per day: once at 12:00 noon and again at 4:00 pm. Never check email first thing in the morning.
– Keep email responses under 5 sentences long.
Folders and Rules. Set automatic filters (MS Outlook) or labels (Gmail) to organize your email.
Email Bankruptcy method. Give up email and let your colleagues know.

The five methods can be used concurrently. I use a GTD-like approach when reviewing email, but following Tim Ferris advice, I only check email during a few slots a day. I do not do the five sentences strictly speaking, but definitively avoid writing any long email. I use filters and labels mainly to deal with newsletters. I have not declared email bankruptcy, but I sometimes fake it, so that people do not expect from me an urgent response if they just send an email. If something is so urgent, it should deserve a call. 

Another email golden rule: “Agreements are written, disagreements spoken“. That is, never try to solve a disagreement by email. You will only get an annoying ping-pong email trail. Pick up the phone or organize a call, get the agreement and distribute by email.

And if we speak of tools to deal with email, Blackberry is the one. It helps do emails in any waiting situation (traffic jam, long lines, while in a taxi, or waiting for boarding…) Just beware it can create addiction..

On blogging

I just read the New York Times article on blogs, So you want to be a blogging star?, with some advice for bloggers. Paul Boutin’s main bullets are:

Don’t expect to get rich
– Write about your passions
– Fit blogging into holes in your schedule
Just post it
– Keep the rhythm
– Join the community
– Plug yourself

No doubt you can not get rich with the $5 per post standard that apparently paid pioneering blog networks like Weblog, according to RWW post Is it Time for a Bloggging Union?.Well, on the other hand the same post mentions $25 million of VC money going into top blogs last year, which clearly confirms the key entrepreneur rule: “Entrepreneurship is about owning a business, not running it

In any case, I quite relate to blogger Luis Villa on why he blogs:

“There are a lot of reasons, some of which are more important than others on any given day. Among them:

* I want to follow the advice that I gave the Wall Street Journal: the best way to control your online identity is to create positive information about yourself. (It works- not only is this blog the top search result for my full name, it was for a long time the first search result for “luis”.)
  * When I started blogging, it was an important part of my job description; it helped me communicate with partners and with the volunteers who I used to coordinate. This is no longer true, of course, but once you’re in the habit it is hard to break.
  * I have lots of friends scattered all over the world who read blogs, and so my blog is an easy way to keep them up to date on my life. (And even my mom reads it now. Dad is still resisting.)
  * I like writing in an informal but coherent manner, and getting a chance to clarify and discipline my thoughts by writing about them. I didn’t get much chance to do that in my prior life as a programmer and manager, and I certainly don’t get much of a chance to do that in law school, so this is an outlet.
  * Frankly, because occasionally other people post things like this. It never hurts to have your ego boosted from time to time, and blogging gives other people the opportunity to do that 😉 ”

Enjoy your Easter break.

Broadcast Mobile TV trials in Spain

Enrique Dans, one of the most influential bloggers in Spain, posted some interesting data about the Broadcast Mobile TV trials run by Abertis in Spain with each of the main mobile operators. Here is the translation:

“There has been three trials in Spain, run by Abertis, using Nokia 7710 handsets:

  1. Telefónica in Madrid and Barcelona from September 2005 to February 2006: 500 users, content from TVE1, TVE2, Teledeporte, 24H, Cuatro, CNN+, Jetix, 40TV, A3, Telecinco, FDF, TV3, Telemadrid, LaOtra and Intereconomia. 55% of the users said they would continue with the service for a price of €5/month, 75% would recommend it. Average usage was 16 minutes per day, with 71% between 15 ans 20 minutes.
  2. Vodafone in Seville and Valencia from December 2005 to March 2006: 300 users, content from Antena 3 TV, Net TV, Sogecable, Telecinco, Canal Sur, RTVE, Canal Nou and Veo TV. 80.08% would recommend the service, 80% considered it was easy to use.  Average usage 35.39 minutes/day on weekdays and 37.90 minutes/day om weekends.
  3. Amena (now Orange) in Zaragoza and Gijón from March to July 2006: 200 users, content from TVE1, Teledeporte, Canal 24h, Tele5 estrellas, Nova, Neox, Cuatro, 40 latino, CNN+, Net TV, Veo TV, Aragón TV and TV Asturiana.”

The results of the trials were quite promising in terms of usage and user experience. Since 2006 there has been serious improvement in the user interface, with the use of more sophisticated Rich Media Clients and a wider variety of handsets available. Rich Media Clients are Software clients installed in the handsets that allow for a more intuitive usage and better interactivity, including Electronic Service Guide. Therefore, expect a better user feed-back than two years ago.

The price model that we can foresee for Mobile TV is based on subscription. Since DVB-H and DVB-SH are broadcast technologies, there is no reason to charge based on usage the way 3G operators do today on unicast model, where the spectrum is occupied by a unicast channel for each user. All-you-can-eat model based on a flat fee is what broadcast Mobile TV technology enables.

Many Mobile operators deploying DBV-H/SH will have a hybrid model with both broadcast (for mass channels) and unicast (for video on demand and catch-up TV). We can foresee pricing models such as :

Basic fee with access to Free-to-air TV broadcast channels (under 5 Euro/month)
Premium broadcast channels to be subscribed individually or in bundles (1-3 Euro per individual Premium channel, and 5-10 Euros for bundles)
Video on demand over unicast channels with pay-per-clip or with subscriptions to Video on demand “channels”

Although there is an investment to build an overlay DVB-H/SH network for broadcast Mobile TV, Mobile Operators are in an unique position to take a share of the entertainment market:

– They own the mobile phone users and have a trusted billing relationship
– Mobile Operators can provide a broadcast and unicast combined package to users 
– 3G Operators can re-use sites and antennas by deploying DVB-SH in a band adjacent to UMTS

Mobile TV is getting closer to our pockets.

DVB-H: Mobile TV Standard in Europe

The European Union has selected DVB-H as the standard for Mobile TV in Europe. Although the decision is not binding for EU countries, it aims at stimulating the technology adoption, by avoiding a standards war where end-user pays the casualties – ask anyone that invested on a HD DVD player. GSM worldwide success came after being backed by European authorities.  DVB-H, and its evolution DVB-SH, are likely to follow a similar route.

See comparison table between Mobile telephony and Mobile TV standards:

Region Mobile Telephony standard Mobile TV standard Comments
Europe, Middle-East, Africa GSM / UMTS DVB-H, DVB-SH Standards driven by international bodies
Americas CDMA, later GSM/UMTS growing MediaFlo and DVB-SH deployments Qualcom proprietary standards initially getting ground and later decreasing
Asia Pacific PHS, CDMA and GSM/UMTS DMB in Korea, ISDB in Japan, DVB-H in rest Japan and Korea pioneer with local standards, later displaced by global standards as UMTS

As can be predicted from the table and in line with GigaOm post, MediaFlo is likely to be relegated to US and DMB to Korea, both sharing market with DVB-SH/H.

iPhone SDK and attacking Blackberry

Apple is reinforcing its iconic iPhone (even more) to grab the business segment, now owned by Blackberry. Apple announced support for Microsoft Exchange, putting iPhone in a position to swap the professional Blackberry handsets with the stylish iPhone for email access.

Even more important was the announcement of the iPhone SDK. Many blogs are writing wonders about the elegance and simplicity of Apple’s SDK, that will enable a foreseen army of developers to build applications for iPhone. ReadWriteWeb’s article Why Apple Will Dominate Next Gen Computing gives a good view of the SDK.

Apple is bringing the Internet model, with intelligence at the network edge end-devices, to the Mobile Internet world, that used to be controlled by telcos. Whether Mobile Operators will benefit from this Internet (free) applications model is to be seen. It seems that user will benefit for sure.

A sample of the powers of the iPhone SDK in the following video. The application game was develop in two weeks!

Vint Cerf: Evangelizing on Internet future

Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of Internet and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, delivered a keynote in San Francisco a few days ago. If you have never heard Mr. Cerf, do not miss this video.

In his keynote Vint Cerf covers a bit of Internet History and some of the evolutions coming:
– IPv6. Need to implement it quick as IPv4 addresses will run out around 2010
– Internationalized top level domain names, not only in Latin characters
– DNSSEC, to add security to the look-ups of domain names
– Progressive download rather than streaming, provided there is enough bandwidth
– Focus on Security