Technology


The tablet war, as some has called it, is heating up as a slew of tablets are getting ready to hit the store shelves including the Blackberry’s Playbook, HP’s Slate, the iPad 2 and countless Android based tablets. With so many choices it can be quite confusing.

The latest from Apple is industry darling and will dominate sales for some time to come. Towards the end of this year that very well could change as price sensitive consumers see many less expensive tablets flood the market and early adopters feel buyer’s remorse (what, you mean I can’t take a decent picture with this thing?). The other day I took the plunge and went into a Verizon store. Clearly Verizon is smitten with its new relationship with Apple and the iPad was quite prominent (same with Best Buy) but I went straight to the Android section where the 7 inch Galaxy Tab and 10 inch Motorola Xoom were on display. Within 20 minutes I was walking out of the store with the Xoom. The following is (to me) an objective look at the Xoom and comparing it to its main rival for now, the iPad2.  Note, this is based on my, albeit limited, experience with the iPad as well as conversations with current iPad owners. Without making you wait until the end to read my verdict I’ll give it up here. They are both amazing pieces of technology and there really is no winner. Instead the solution that is best depends completely on how you plan to use it.

Hardware

The Xoom and iPad2 are fairly equally matched. However, the edge here does go to the Xoom (see chart below). This actually surprises me because I truly expected Apple to wow us with the iPad2 but instead the evolution was fairly mundane. Take for example the camera. The rear camera is .97 megapixels, about the quality of an early 90’s digital camera. The front camera is only .3 megapixels. Why did Apple hold back when the iPhone 4 has such an amazing camera? Tablets coming in the next month will make these specs look pathetic in reality and we can expect the iPad3 to improve quite a bit but that is 12 months from now. So, before you go stand in line, you may want to wait another month because there will be some pretty cool innovations coming (like 3D viewing and 3D HD recording along with more 4G compatible devices).

Spec iPad2 Xoom
Screen 9.7 inch  1024 x 768 10.1 inch  1280 x 800
Camera .3 MP front, .9 rear  Yes, those are decimels 2 MP front, 5 MP rear
Processor dual core 1ghz dual core 1ghz
Weight 1.35 lbs 1.5 lbs
Wireless WiFi, 3g, Bluetooth WiFi, 3g, 4g, Bluetooth
Connections standard Apple connection to PC / Mac USB, HDMI, Bluetooth transfer
Expansion None Up to 32 Gb SD card
Memory (storage) 

Memory (RAM)

16, 32, 64 Gb 

256 Mb

32 Gb  

1 Gb

Sound Mono Stereo
Thickness .34 inches .5 inch


Winner: Android

The Environment

Apple’s iOS is considered the simplest of the OSes available. It is icon based and has been referred to as a simplistic, yet elegant launcher. You find the app you want and open it. The OS is really just a layer for the apps to reside. You don’t interact with it. The one area I have heard complained about is the notification system which, when compared to Android devices, is pretty bad.

Android is a different experience with widgets and customization based on how the user wants to interact with the device. Does that mean it is more complicated? I think that is a baseless argument. For example, my 5 year old son figured it out in the time it took me to turn around to see he had the device in hand. It was on, the lockscreen bypassed and he was reading Pulse, shortly followed by, “where is Angry Birds?” A little while later he was on YouTube watching volcano movies. To me, it has to be pretty easy for a 5 year old to pick it up and figure it out in less than a minute.

Multitasking is something Android has been able to play up since the beginning and the enhancements in Honeycomb (Android’s first tablet OS) are amazing. When you switch applications the previous remains on task. For example, I am writing this in Documents to Go and need to double check my facts so I switch to the browser. When I find the information I sometimes go back to Word to paste it and when I go back, the next website I clicked on before switching is loaded. That is a great timesaver. Also the browser’s multiple tabs can keep loading, etc. while I work in another tab. In iOS each tab has to refresh, slowing progress.

If you are at a PC / Mac the iTunes integration is fantastic but you have to be there. For as innovative as Apple is I would expect more cloud-based integration such as updates, etc. For media, apps like DoubleTwist have tried to replicate the iTunes experience on Android but significantly fall short.

Speaking of media, this is another place Apple wins. The media look and feel is close to flawless. Honeycomb improves the experience a lot but still has room for improvement. I think once Google launches its music and movie service this will change. One thing I do like about media on Android is Amazon. From within the app you can browse and purchase songs (50 cents cheaper than iTunes per song and up to $4 cheaper for albums) and they are right on your phone or tablet. No synching required. Same with books.

Winner: Tie – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Flash

This one I am going to give its own section, though it could be a part of the environment. Personally, I despise Flash and can’t wait for the world to move on to HTML 5. The problem…that move will be quite some time away. There are so many sites that require Flash it is incredible. Flash support in Android is huge because the entire web is available to you, not just the mobile versions of sites, for those that have them. Unfortunately, we are stuck with Flash for the foreseeable future so we might as well embrace it.

Winner: Android

Applications

Here the iOS wins hands down. There are 350k apps versus Android’s 150k but that is expected. This will change though as I believe there is a ceiling to how many apps any one ecosystem requires/can support. In addition, several surveys have shown app developers are more/equally interested in and investing in Android application development. On top of this, RIM just announced that the Blackberry Playbook will run Android apps. That only increases the available audience which will drive further developer interest. Still, iOS has a ton more apps available right now. I’m sure there are apps I would like to have on Android that are only on iOS but just don’t know what they might be…even though my friend James is always mentioning an app he has, each one of interest is available on Android.

Winner: iOS

As I started this post with, it depends on how you plan to use your device. Do you want to surf the web, play games and listen to music? Get the iPad2. If you, like me, want something that can almost replace a laptop without the annoyances of Windows or the premium price of a MacBook, the Xoom (and future tablets based on Android and likely WebOS and Blackberry) is the way to go. I have written this entirely on my tablet and for once, this past weekend, I didn’t have to turn on my laptop to work editing a whitepaper, emails and drafting press releases.

I would like to see more tablet specific apps but Honeycomb has only been available for 2 weeks. Luckily the phone apps scale really well. I’ve also found myself using the browser for apps like Facebook instead of the dedicated app. The full web interface is just better than what an app can provide, regardless of the platform.

The Verdict

I am sure some of you reading this fully expect me to say the Xoom/Android is the way to go but I am not. Yes I like to promote Android. Yes I can’t stand the Apple ecosystem in that you are forced to work through iTunes, there are no in app purchases, they price set vendors meaning a developer cannot offer a product or service at a discount elsewhere (many content owners such as Sony Music, Amazon and Real Networks are threatening to pull their content and anti-trust suits are in the works), and developers / content owners must fork over 30% of revenue to Apple (Google, by comparison, takes 10%). Even with all of that said, I want to be as objective as my mind will allow.

The Xoom has its issues. For one the software needs a little refinement. I stress a little. When I bought the T-Mobile G1, the first Android phone, it had issues and should not have been released when it was. After the first software update was pushed by Google and T-Mobile over the air, the phone greatly improved. Honeycomb is nothing like that. This is a beautiful piece of software and the responsiveness is amazing. When the first updates flow out for this, it will be truly amazing. Will a typical consumer notice the issues I’ve found? No, likely not. I’ve rooted my phone and run custom software on it so I am always looking out for bugs. That’s the techie in me…

The battle this year is also about the enterprise and based on what I’ve experienced so far, the Xoom is more capable. As I mentioned above, I have started to use the laptop my company provides much less. Kathy probably thinks I got this just as a new toy and she is partly right but I have used this a lot for work and as the application library grows, I know I will use it even more.

In the end, it is all about you and what you want technology to do for you and what you want to do with it. There are subtle differences there but they make a huge difference. The advancements we’ve seen in technology only means we get to enjoy the fruits of some damn smart engineer’s labor, so go out and enjoy it.

The other day I received a marketing email from a well respected analyst firm which I consider to be quite ahead in the area of social media. The firm was promoting its upcoming social commerce event. My area of focus now is the supply chain so the event doesn’t have direct relevance to me but nonetheless it is quite interesting–how will/should retailers and manufacturers respond to the shopper’s desire to have a personalized experience and what role will mobile technologies play. One item stood out to me and its not just this email that falls victim to focusing on one particular mobile platform.

The iPhone is without doubt an amazing device built on a solid, user-friendly platform (though you may need to stand on your head with only 2 fingers holding the phone to stay connected). It receives the most hype. As Dana Blankenhorn highlights in “Android Froyo and Why it Matters“, traditional media and bloggers jump hoops to cover any Apple announcement but seem to ignore the the developments of other platforms such as Android, Blackberry, WebOs, WinMo, and the number one OS on mobile phone, Symbian.

In no way do I discredit the importance of iOS4 and the opportunities it presents to retailers, manufactuers, service providers, etc. If you look at the combination of these operating systems, the total potential for mobile social commerce is amazing. In the U.S. alone, more than 41 million people use a smartphone (RIM still holds a commanding lead with 41.7 percent of the market). In the first quarter of 2010, more than 54 million smartphones were shipped worldwide, according to research firm IDC. From the chart below, it is clear there is more than one player.

Is the media creating an unnecessary hype that is detracting from the greater market potential or will developers overlook the hype and see the potential in the other platforms? My guess is the developer community looks beyond the hype to see the actual revenue potential available to them. In the end, this could be a three-legged race between RIM, Apple and Android. WinMo 7 definitely looks impressive but I don’t know if it really has the legs to compete, especially if what I have read about BlackBerry 6 and the shift to appease the consumer market is true.

How does this relate to PR you ask? Well, I have seen many fancy proposals and ideas surrounding campaigns and app development focused on one platform. Be aware fellow PR folks, a multi-platform/channel strategy is what you need to truly reach the mass market.

Full disclosure: I own an HTC Droid Incredible and love the device. Personally, I am all about Android but professionally I see there is a need to target multiple audiences to gain the maximum impact.

Technology is in a state of constant change. Always advancing. Simplifying yet complicating our lives at the same time. Predicting what will happen in the tech industry is next to impossible. Heck, by Hollywood standards we should all be conversing with HAL (for almost 10 years). Clearly, HAL is quite a ways off and I certainly do not see us flying around on interstellar missions anytime soon.

So, what does technology hold for us in 2010? Well, I’ve scoured the net looking for some of the predictions I find the most fascinating, off the wall or that just plain make sense. Anyone who knows me knows that I just can’t talk about technology (or really anything) without putting forth my own opinion. So, here are 5 thoughts from me. I then provide several links to stories and reports that cover more predictions and probably have more data than I to back them up.

In the meantime, if you have some of your own predictions, we would love to hear about them.

Cloud Computing, SaaS, Hosted Services, pick your name. SaaS is everywhere, and while the hype has been around for a really long time, it looks as though SaaS gained more than just air time in 2009. 2010 could be the year it becomes legit. I remember when I first got into telecom and there were ASPs popping up left and right touting the benefits of the hosted application model. Unfortunately for them, the market wasn’t ready. It appears now, more than a decade later, companies are willing to hand over control and procure software and services off-premise.

Green/Sustainability. Regardless of your views on the global warming debate, the movement to develop and implement green technology is about more than just saving our planet, it’s about the money that can be saved and made. This is why I see the green topic keeping its momentum. Companies who are going green are saving a lot of money in reduced energy consumption. They are making money as consumers are lured by the idea of green products. Investments in green tech start ups will continue as the market asks for more ways to reduce energy consumption and stay ahead of government regulations.

Mobile Wars Heat Up. As the launch of the unlocked Google phone nears, AT&T and Verizon continue to argue about which is better–3G coverage or 3G experience, and Sprint decides what to do with itself (hopefully not merge with T-Mobile), the wireless industry is going to become even more competitive with even greater focus on devices, applications and the almighty enterprise dollar. Will Android or iPhone make significant inroads on Blackberry in the enterprise? It is hard to think this industry can become more cut-throat but I think they have quite a bit more in them, especially when you throw in WiMax and providers touting alternative high-speed wireless services.

Online Content Remains Free. Against the best efforts by several publishers, consumers will reject the notion that one has to pay for online content. It has happened before and it will happen again. The idea the Internet is free is one that will not be easily broken, especially in a down economy.

Social Media. The social media scene will continue to grow as more people discover its abilities. This will lead to the need for even more powerful (and paid for) tools that help us manage the vast amount of information streaming from multiple networks. Some will get completely lost in the noise while others identify how to build awareness and develop a conversation through social media.

Crystal Ball Resource Center

Not the First, Not the Last, Technology Predictions for 2010 – Carmi Levy’s smirky (which is probably why I liked reading the story) look at 2010

Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2010

IDC’s Top 10 Predictions

5 Predictions for Enterprise Technology in 2010 – Miko Matsumura’s SOA Center

Lundquist’s 10 Tech Strategies for Building a Successful Business in 2010

Will 2010 bring a wake-up call for cybersecurity? – Federal Computer Week’s Rutrell Yasin’s look at security and the government

2010 Technology Preview – A look at the upcoming developments in the mainstream PC market

Have links you would like to add? Let me know and I can add them to the list.

chrome os

Google announced plans Wednesday to enter the operating system business with a new product called Google Chrome OS, an open source project intended for netbook PCs. Details are sketchy, but it appears that a windowing system based on the Google Chrome Web browser will run on top of a Linux kernel and function as the user interface and application loader.

Like many others, I was excited at first. For one, my phone has Android, Google’s mobile OS, which I find more user friendly and capable than Windows Mobile or Blackberry OS. But, after the initial buzz wore off, I was left with a few unanswered questions, the biggest of which was “Why?”

Due to its open source status, the cost of Google Chrome OS would be quite low, even for large scale enterprise implementations. So, given Google’s array of consumer web applications aimed at businesses as well as individuals, the Chrome OS could be designed to encourage a massive shift toward cloud computing, thereby increasing Google’s revenues. But what if that’s not the only reason?

The Wall Street Journal points out that Google now challenges Microsoft in virtually all of its core businesses. With an impressive roster of hardware partners for Chrome OS announced Thursday, is it possible Google thinks their new operating system can win a fight with the Windows giant on its home turf?

Maybe they do. Maybe they can. But, it’s unlikely to happen. With Windows 7 available in stores on October 22featuring good-old Windows familiarity and some sleek new features like advanced touchscreen support, Microsoft will continue to dominate the netbook OS market.

There is also reason to be cautious about the impact Google Chrome OS will have on Google’s bottom line.On Monday, Microsoft is expected to announce the release of Office Web, the long-awaited and much-anticipated cloud-based companion to the tremendously popular MS Office suite. According to Gartner research published by The Wall Street JournalMicrosoft already owns 94 percent of the office suite market. When you take into account the lack of features available in Google Docs and its general lack of compatibility with other office suites, Office Web’s promise of a seamless transition between cloud and PC is sure to take some wind out of Google’s sales.

There seem to be quite a few hurdles stacking up against Google. But they have to know and understand the challenge ahead of them and have an answer. Will it change computing as we know it? I don’t think it will happen overnight, but if Google presses forward with a cloud OS, you can bet others will follow and the landscape will change forever.

Do you or your company use Google Apps? If so, what do you like about them? In light of the impending Office Web Beta, will you be staying with Google?

UPDATE 7/13/2009: As predicted, Microsoft unveiled Office 2010 BETA at its Worldwide Partner Conference this morning. This updated version of the immensely popular office suite comes with a slew of new features, including free Web-based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote. For screenshots and additional information, check out The Complete Guide to Microsoft Office 2010 at TechCrunch.

wind power

The 38th Earth Day (4.54 billionth if you really want to get technical) has come and gone. Have we learned anything new? In the past few years, you could not open a newspaper, magazine, trade publication, or flip the channel without someone talking about how they were greening it up. Unfortunately, 2009 has not seen nearly as much interest, thanks in most part to the economic mess we are stuck in. On the bright side, a lot of momentum has begun in the past couple of years that has carried through into 2009, and with stimulus funding directed at green projects, one can only hope more is to come.

Here are some of the technologies I find most interesting. Please leave a comment and let us know what technologies you find most interesting that could really help our environment.

Smart Grid
smartgridthinkingOur current electrical grid is 112 years old. This century-old technology is now giving way to the digital era as cities such as Boulder, CO and Austin, TX, flip a new kind of switch. Most recently, the Miami Smart Grid Initiative, a partnership between Cisco, GE and Florida Power & Light, has gained a lot of media attention. The debate is quite interesting on the effectiveness of the Smart Grid, but with stimulus money set aside, this area of technology is likely to see quite a of investment and hopefully, more deployment.  Maybe it’s my inner geek coming out, but I want to have more control over my energy usage, see how my family can cut back and save some money. Want to learn more? Check out the Department of Energy’s Smart Grid resource site at http://www.oe.energy.gov/smartgrid.htm.

L.E.D.
blue-ledThe incandescent bulb is fading fast and many countries have proposed outlawing bulbs of certain wattages, further speeding the 130 year old light bulb’s demise. In the past few years, CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) have become the rage. I’ve even changed every bulb in our house to CFLs in hopes of saving some money. While CFLs do use less money and last longer (be careful of the cheapy ones that burn out quickly), they also contain a lot of mercury and the environmental groups have pounced on this. In comes L.E.D., or Light Emitting Diode. These contain no mercury, use even less power (as little as 7.5 watts) and last upwards of 10 years. So where are they? Not in too many places yet (traffic lights and the super bright flashlights and headlights are good examples of their power) because the costs are so high. A traditional residential replacement bulb currently sells for $120 and there are some teething problems. However, the potential this technology has and the fact prices should come down in the next few years has me really excited this could be a truly eco-friendly lighting solution.

Renewable Power
underwater-powerI recently saw a program highlighting three groups around the world and their quests to harness the power of the oceans. From turbines in the Hudson River tolong cylinders that float a few miles off the coast, there are many creative technologies to better utilize the Earth’s largest natural resource. In my opinion, this has to be one of the most exciting and innovative areas in eco-tech. Wind power, solar, algae as a fuel, hydrogen – there are limitless possibilities.

Cell phones, iPods, computers, gaming systems, you name it. Technology is all around us. Think about the last time you forgot your cell phone and how you felt the moment you realized your lifeline was not in your pocket or attached to your hip (by the way, cell phones are not a status symbol anymore so get the damn thing off your belt-unless you are addicted to online games and have a case of Mountain Dew next to your PC).

Immediately, your mind goes into overdrive. Do I drive back home and get it? If I don’t, what calls or texts will I miss? Crap. What do I do!? For me, I have to have my phone with me. If there is a problem with Kai or Ella, that is the number everyone has to call me. Email for work is important too, but let’s face it, the children always come first!

Last Saturday, Kathy and I were getting away for the evening to celebrate our sixth anniversary. A nice evening in Midtown Atlanta at Ecco. We both pretty much new where the restaurant was but decided to pop the address in TomTom and let it guide us through the one-way streets.

“10 miles?” Kathy new something was wrong. We were on 85 South (maybe 5 miles north of Midtown). Maybe it is saying 10 more miles because of all the curvey roads and one-way streets…

Hmmm…now we are passing downtown Atlanta. Something is definitely wrong. Call the restaurant and confirm the street. We used the right 7th Street NE. Next thing you know we literally crossed the proverbial tracks. 15 minutes of surface streets later we hit a dead end. TomTom didn’t know the street was gone. You could see where there was once a road but it has long since been gone. Trees were growing for Pete’s sake.

An already long story short, Kathy called them back, we turned TomTom off and made it there on our own.

Do we rely too much on technology? I definitely think so. I am a tech freak and my confidence in TomTom (never steered me wrong before) was way too high and it cost us.

What do you think? What tech gadget do you rely on most? Do you think you could live one day or week without it?

Customer service is a topic that gets me fired up. Poor service just irritates me. I cannot remember the exact statistic, but it is said that someone who experiences poor service is likely to share that with 5 (maybe more) people while someone who experience great service might share it with 1. This highlights how much we like to share negativity. Its a shame because it makes us all cynics. On this note…let me jump on the bandwagon.

The other weekend we decided to get shoes for Kai and we knew what Target had (we are always there), so we decided to go to Wal*mart.  While in line, a couple in front of uswas about to pay when they noticed the price of some napkins they purchased was more than the price in the sale box where they picked them up. The lady at the register shrugged her shoulders and, annoyed, asked, “do you still want them?”

I couldn’t bite my tongue and had to ask if she was serious.

“Are you kidding me? Can you at least call and find out what the price should be for them?”

She shrugged again.

“It amazes me that for a place that advertises happy and customer service, you are going to take the lazy route and do nothing for these people,” I continued.

While Kathy would have pinched me in my side and told me to stop (she’s always looking out for my safety), the couple in front actually thanked me and said it was no big deal.

Now, my turn.

“How are you today sir? Did you find everything OK?”

Huh, who is this woman. She goes from a snot to a well-mannered associate. The answer was right below my nose. I looked down at the pin pad as I swiped my debit card only to find this question…were you greeted by the cashier? ughh They are benchmarked on greetings. That benchmark does not mean a thing and just means your employees will do the minimum to get by.

On the flip side is a recent dealing with Logitech – they make computer mice, keyboards and lots of other gadgets. My absolute favorite mouse started to go on the fritz. I did a few searches to see if I could troubleshoot it myself. No dice. I emailed their support and expected to wait a few days for a response as this has been my experience with most support departments. Two hours later I had an email asking me to do a few things. By the time I responded it was the end of the day. The very next morning, another response this time saying they would replace the mouse free of charge. No hassles, no ridiculous hoops to jump through – just good customer service. They now have a customer that will return and continue to buy Logitech products (when the economy improves).

Till next time…