Phones/PDA that comes with a touchscreen usually comes with a stylus. As such, the user interface for such touchscreen devices assume you always work with a stylus. It requires at least two hand to use which means you cannot use it while walking (usually carrying a bag) or driving.
There are devices that does not require a stylus but the user interface for them aren’t much better.
Perhaps because of the past experience with touchscreen PDA, I really don’t like touchscreen devices. This is why I stick to a non-touchscreen phone, because it forces the designer to not assume you will use it with a stylus and therefore, generally more user friendly.
So iPhones comes really as a breath of fresh air when it comes to touchscreen – it is simple and easy to use.
Now the really cool thing is the multi-touch capability which you can *zomg* zoom pictures but I dont think we have fully explore the capability of multi-touch. In the next few years, we will see more ways we will use the technology.
But what I think would be really interesting comes from a friend who complained that it is pretty dangerous to use the iPhone while driving.
I like to see a screen that can form curvature on the surface so you can “feel” the button on the display.
Now, that would be really cool and useful. Anyone knows such technology?
I met up with Dewayne two weeks ago in San Jose. Part of our conversations are (somewhat) confidential so I won’t talk about it here. But two things I like to share here.
1. There is a general mis-perception that broadband is cheaper in Asia than US. ITU recently publishes the cost of broadband on a per 100kbps basis and Wired made a pretty picture.
The picture made by Wired clearly shows that broadband prices in US aren’t as bad as it perceived to be. In fact, it is one of the cheapest broadband, far cheaper than many part of Asia.
US still have one of the cheapest bandwidth wholesale rate (transit cost) in the world, as low as $15/mbps and peering cost is almost negligible. In Asia, you would be lucky to get US$100/mbps transit and local peering is non-existence except a handful of country.
Broadband is cheap in Asia despite these because of a handful of exceptional country, like Japan and Korea and China. Traffic in these country are mostly local since their users consume local content – hence, cheaper to provide high speed Internet access.
2. The debate on 700mhz auction is heating up. GigaOm has a great intro article on 700Mhz. It is extremely attractive because (1) 60Mhz is up for grab and (2) 700Mhz has great propagation property which makes it very good for wide area wireless deployment.
Okay – they are suing FCC for a rule that is so vague that you can drive a van through, for a condition that is not yet enforced, for a spectrum that has not be deployed and for an auction that has not being held. The (economic) liberal in me say “Heck, if you don’t like the rules, don’t bid!”
The question then is WHY did they sue?
The answer become clearer if one assumed that Verizon don’t expect they will win the lawsuit. With an uncertain lawsuit hanging over 700mhz, the auction is going to be difficult to proceed – FCC would hesitate to call for the auction and potential bidders would be concerned over the outcome if the auction would be invalidated by the lawsuit.
By working the legal system, Verizon could drag this lawsuit to go on for years. They already “won” the moment the file the lawsuit.
On the bright side, I rather not see this auction happens under a Republican FCC Chairman so derailing the auction isn’t that bad idea for now.
During coffee last week, Om Malik said to me “You haven’t blog about VoIP for a while…”
We know each another when we were invited to be on the blogger panel at VON several years ago. Om, now has a blogging empire, in all business and tech (not just VoIP).
I replied him “There isn’t any interesting to blog!”
I haven’t see any innovation in VoIP for a while. Sure, there are some new VoIP gadgets, a new Skype phone, some new businesses rehashing a business model with a twist. But there aren’t any ground breaking disruptive technology or business model for the last two years.
Skype has done excellently initially but growth has slowed down since acquired by eBay. Despite doing fantastic well for the founders, I believe the acquisition is bad for the industry. Since then, Skype has not innovate much but has being focus on monetization.
There is nothing wrong with the switch from innovation to monetization – all companies need to do that at some stage – but it swing so far that Skype has stop gaining any new customers in significant numbers. In other words, it grows rapidly through the innovators, early adopters, early majority but never really got to the late majority.
We have Vonage that suppose to bring VoIP to every home. It was exciting as it is a glimpse of what the future might be. But alas, poor execution, lawsuits brings it downs to the knee. Not only the lawsuits brings Vonage down, it also setback the entire VoIP industry for at least a couple of years as investor shy away from VoIP.
Truphone (or the Singapore version Pfingo) provides an interesting twist to Vonage by bringing the concept to the mobile phone. But this won’t fly until you have seamless wifi coverage. That is an heavy investment few willing to take on.
Jajah was one of the more interesting VoIP players. It is growing rapidly but I see this as a niche technology, stuck in the hands of the innovator and early adopters until they figure out a way to make it easy for the mass consumer.
PhoneGnome is an interesting hardware play. It was an idea David and myself talks about several years ago, except he went on doing it and I didn’t. It could potentially reach every household with its simplicity. But as in all hardware play, distribution is the key and until that got sorted out, it wouldn’t move in any significant numbers. OOMA which is a very pretty version of PhoneGnome just launch and it remains to be seen how well they do.
Most of them are old companies which we see several years ago. There is nothing really new and exciting. So what’s there to blog about?
Perhaps the setback from Vonage drys up any investment into VoIP. Perhaps people really stop thinking about VoIP.
But I believe in VoIP. It is the future of voice; I cannot see us going back to SS7 and circuit switching. So I refused to believe this is the end of the VoIP innovation.
I am still eagerly waiting for someone to come along to surprise all of us.
Had a wonderful lunch with Phil Wolff and David Beckemeyer at the Silk. I haven’t have so much fun having conversation talking about voip for a while. The industry landscape has changed a lot bu certainly lots of moving. But one take away from lunch is no one has found the “killer” in VoIP yet.
In case you are thinking of “Skype”, Skype has done excellently well for the founders but we aren’t sure it is doing that great for eBay. eBay and Skype could have being two separate company for all intend and purpose. They have two years to integrate….
After lunch, we adjoint to the lobby to wait for Dewayne Hendricks only to discover my rental car disappeared. I was really in panic since everything I have (luggage, laptop and passport) is in the car. I have a sigh of relief when I discover my car has being towed but it didn’t last long when David tells horror stories of stolen stuff from towed car.
To cut it short, I recovered my car with all my stuff (phew!), paid a US$250 fine (that is more expensive than the rental) and missed my meeting with Dewayne :-( I am really sorry.
After that, I drove down to Palo Alto and catch up with Ross Mayfield. He is one of the few people I wanted to meet (we raided together in WoW) but never got around to so I am glad we catch up. He is one of the few people that really knows the vibes of the valley. I heard many good things about BarcampBlock so I am kind of disappointed I missed the event.
Incidentally, I love Palo Alto. I remember very fondly of University Ave when I was staying here in the valley in the late 90s. Coming back bring back a lot of memories…Also pick up a few iPhones yesterday. By “a few”, I mean a “dozen”.
Techcrunch already has a great coverage of the Techcrunch40 event so it is pointless for me to repeat here. Beside, I was busy running around, speaking to people, catching up with old friends and making a lot of new ones and not really paying attention.
So instead, I will cover a few companies I saw which I really like.
1. First on my list is Cubic Telecom. Okay, I like them (no sorry, I love them) not only because Pat Phelan reads my blog but they have a killer idea. Imagine having a sim card that gives you numbers up to 50 countries; no more carrying multiple sims and phones for different country; Then imagine anyone can call you on any of those numbers (paying local or international calls charges as appropriate) but more important, you, the recipient pays only local charges. NO MORE ROAMING CHARGES!
How many of us who travel around often get hit with a $1,000 roaming bill? Imaging all of that all gone, with all the multiple sim cards! I love them so much that I got 5 simcards from Pat. I can sending this sim to someone :-) And don’t get me started with what they going to do with their own branded phones and wifi.
It is pretty sad that most people in the audience don’t really get them since they aren’t web 2.0. But if there is an billion dollar idea from the event, this is it! Simple technology (little technology risks), high-entry barrier (this cannot by two guys in a garage, not with at least 20 years of telco experience between them), great business proposition and a clear path to profitability.
2. MusicShake has the killer presentation on day one. I was dozing off due to jetlag and their showy presentation puts me off initially. Then I hear the music, I open my eye and my jaw dropped.
When they say that they have a tool that allows anyone, even without music background, to create music, they really meant it. The demo blew the audience totally away.
Nevertheless, I am a bit skeptical that they will be big. Although it does not requires any music background to create music, there is a lot of trial and error so it is extremely time consuming. It is a cool tool of cos, but like Comic Life, I probably use it once or twice and forget about it.
3. XTR3D makes me wonder why they aren’t at Wired Nextfest. Using a camera to capture hand gestures, it translate the hand gestures into inputs. It is difficult to explain it (already failed the elevator pitch) without seeing it in action so here is the demo
I missed a few presentations as I was running around but I was told Powerset and Mint are really good. The feedback is that Powerset seem to have a very smart team of people who knows what they are doing, considering they are taking on Google with a nature language search, sound like a good thing to have. And Mint, well, won the US$50,000 award. Congratulations!
Incidentally, I am crushing in at Andreas Weigend house the last few days. I have a lot of fun with all the conversations we have the last few days. Thank you!
ps: I finally managed to shake hand with Marc Andreessen! After all these years!
Disparity between broadband haves and have-nots limit and focus Skype’s market opportunity.
Frank Bures’ Wired magazine story looks at Internet Telecommunications Union data to compare raw prices of 100 Kbps broadband access by country. In some parts of the world, broadband costs two months’ of a family’s income.
Bures lays most blame on governments for high rates; artificial scarcity, censorship, and economic discrimination through tariffs only the richest afford put money and power in government pockets.
The first time I come across Geni was on Techcrunch when it amazed everyone with a US$100M for a 7-weeks old company. They are founded by a bunch of ex-Paypal and eBay employees.
I finally got around playing with their tool and I have to say I am pretty amazed at what they did. They are quite proud in what they have, and is not shy to say they have a web “a grandmother can use”. And it is probably true.
But of course, the cool AJAX interface/usability is only part of the puzzle. What is more important is whether the social network is actually useful. And they seem to have the answer:
1. Genealogy, according to them, is one of a popular hobby in US. I can imaging that is kind of hobby one would take up when you grow older and from our conversation, thats seem true.
On the other hand, they admitted that most of their family trees are currently started by younger generation. This is going to be challenging to them to market to the right market segment. Read the rest of this entry »