WinMo’ Better

My recent column on Windows Mobile spurred a great e-mail exchange with a member of the WinMo team. In response to my raising the anti-trust spectre, he noted that carriers can and in some cases will easily turn off Windows Live Messenger and Live Search. Fair enough, but the abysmal state of most third-party multi-network IM implementations combined with WinMo’s general awkwardness makes alternatives unappealing to the consumer while the price of third-party offerings probably reduce their appeal to carriers.

Sharing that I believe basic, text-based IM to be as much of a utility as SMS, I suggested that Microsoft create an extensible IM architecture similar to that of Trillian and pre-load it with Live Messenger. Assuming the other IM providers or third parties supported that, you’d have the prospect of better OS integration that could be pursued by carriers or consumers. Search choice is even easier. Microsoft could simply provide a way to change the default search provider (probably no more than rewriting a URL) as it does in IE7.

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Who will do Vudu?

When I first met with LaLa.com, CEO Bill Nguyen spoke about the importance of selection at online CD stores such as Amazon.com (which Apple had claimed during last September that the iTunes store was on the verge of passing). A recent meeting with LaLa’s John Kuch again touched on that theme. Apple’s selection in music, however, is not as rich as its selection in movies, and that’s the target of suddenly high-profile Vudu. After all, if instant access to a limited selection of movies had been so compelling, MovieBeam would have likely found a greater audience, and it was cheaper than the $300 being bandied about for its box, particularly after discounts. (I “overpaid” for mine at about $60 as I recall.)

So, armed with content from all of the majors save for Sony Pictures Entertainment, which may be facing corporate pressure to distribute to the PS3 (or not to further other strategic corporate interests), selection will likely be the trump card that Vudu plays as other solutions seem like they could probably circumvent any IP that the company may have with its in-house peer-to-peer content delivery network. Interestingly enough, the Times’ story quotes Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, the nearly 7 million members of which have to be considered low-hanging fruit for Vudu.

When I wrote about Apple TV versus TiVo and versus cable/satellite, I pegged programming depth and value as two areas where the digital media adapter was far behind. Vudu probably falls short too for now, but that could change fast if the company is really serious about competing with DVD and goes after the already aired TV show market. I’ll definitely have more to say about Vudu soon.

The how of now

I agree with Rhonda Wickman of Wireless Week insofar as SMS would have been a better — or at least complementary — way of warning students during the nightmarish Virginia Tech massacre. However, she is wrong to characterize e-mail as “far better than systems used when I was in college – a public safety siren.” Sirens may not be very high-tech but they are real-time and even harder to ignore than an SMS delivered to what could be a handset that is silenced or turned off. You don’t see ambulance drivers sending text messages to the cars in front of them. The clear danger at the university more than warranted similarly intrusive notification. 

Vocal Ostentatious Concierge Experiment

To all the not-rich-enough-to-have-a-personal-assistant spendthrifts, I ask this: are personal concierge services a bad idea or is just trying to scale them a bad idea? I remember when a previous incarnation of Root.net tried creating one online and now VOCE is asking $500 up front to participate in a wireless one.

It’s one thing if, say, you’re a Centurion card holder and want to use AmEx’s muscle to help you track down a Wii. But, it seems to me that as Internet access on phones gets better, most of the reference end of this kind of service won’t be as important. What would have value to me would be someone trustworthy to help with errands (a higher end version of the concept behind the possibly returning MyLackey.com) or someone to whom I could delegate complex tasks like, oh, a personal assistant.

VOCE’s home page shows a pearl in a PEBL. Can I also order a pebble in a Pearl?

From BoingBoing via Gizmodo.

Alpine climbs the iPod integration mountain

So far Apple has taken a two-pronged approach to the automotive market, doing high-profile direct deals with manufacturers such as Ford, GM and BMW while leaving the aftermarket integration to the dominant players there. With awkward user interfaces and limited playlist access, early attempts were crude (as my former barbershop chorus director is fond of saying).

Aftermarket head units have come a long way, though. CrunchGear has a nice rundown of the Alpine IDA-X001 with its miniature iPod-like graphical display, which makes it appear as if the iPod has conquered car audio almost as handily as its destroyed the boombox market with the bazillion speaker docks available for it (OK, just a few zillion, but really who’s counting?). At $450, it’s a big step up from your average dashboard light show, but it also supports HDRadio, so buy it and do your part to help XM and Sirius show that the satellite radio industry has some formidable competition.

How the dodgeball bounces

My fellow Jupiter Research alumni and I were excited for Dennis Crowley when Google acquired dodgeball, but it seems that it wasn’t a happy marriage as Dens (as his hipper friends call him) and his co-founder Alex Rainert (whom I met briefly at some Motorola party for the original ROKR, the product of another unhappy collaboration) have parted ways with Google and, for now, each other. Dennis becomes my second former Jupiter colleague to leave Google in the past few months with Pat Keane heading to the interactive division at of a three-letter network and picking up some three-letter titles in the process.

Dennis has joined the dungeon masters at area/code which, like former Jupiter CEO Gene DeRose’s company House Party (now being led by former Jupiter EVP of sales and marketing Kitty Kolding), brings people together in the world of atoms. Both companies seem to be leaning on promotional sponsorship opportunities as well. Whereas House Party focuses on the intimate setting of a host’s home, area/code games can envelop a whole city or even larger area. It sounds like a creative, exciting endeavor that should hopefully give Dennis more excuses to wear ’80s arcade character costumes.

Of course, I wish Dennis and (belatedly) Patrick great success in their new gigs, and continued success to Gene, Kitty and their partner Parker Reilly at House Party.

Hulk say, “Next Hulk movie will be smash!”

Sega sent out a release today that it will be creating video games featuring Marvel characters Captain America, The Incredible Hulk and Thor. These will be released in coordination with new movies starring the superheroes. At least the first two have some strong potential. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Captain America movie does boffo bucks as Variety would say. But hearing about a new Hulk movie reminded me of my favorite Onion article ever. Congratulations, big guy!

WiMAX crop getting ready to drop

Katie Fehrenbacher lists some WiMAX devices that will soon be coming stateside as Sprint rolls out its third national network and I can’t say there’s a real compelling consumer electronics product in the batch. Assuming the price-performance advantage is there, PC Cards and EpressCards should be popular but low-volume products like Nokia’s N800 and Samsung’s Q1 aren’t going to drive network usage. When Sprint announced its plans for its 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings, it dangled visions of connected cameras, camcorders and portable video games, but it will take some time to make the case to major hardware companies to integrate WiMAX. Also, the cost and chip size will have to be right as space and battery life are always at a premium on portable products.

Radeoff

I spent most of Sunday troubleshooting and replacing an ATI Radeon 9800. (I know, not very 1337, this is an older PC.) My nearly superhuman intuition regarding computers was invoked as a burning smell emanated from the PC. Of course, I was glad to see it was the video card and not the motherboard. I touched the non-functional fan and it fell off the card — not a good sign. I downgraded to a 9250 from VisionTek with a nice, stationary heat sink. Hopefully this should last me until I’m ready to upgrade my rig.

I’ve long had both Macs and PCs at home, but after using a Dell as my primary desktop since about 1998 (moving from a Power Computing PowerWave), I’m seriously considering moving back to the Mac, although probably not until next year. I’m not yet sure whether I would want to run Windows in dual-boot mode or virtualized.

emoze woes

I’ve seen a couple of products in the past couple of years that let you sync your non-Blackberry to a Microsoft Exchange server that didn’t yet support ActiveSync, but they required client software with a local connection to the server. The paradox is that mobile users tend to have laptop, so these users don’t have a PC sitting connected to the server all day, and hanging on a VPN all day also isn’t generally considered a best practice.

At CTIA, I was excited to hear that Israeli company emoze, which is delivering free push e-mail, had implemented screen-scraping as RIM did for Outlook Web Access users. At first the product worked great, but then it stopped receiving updates. I’ve reinstalled it several times and then spoke with their tech folks today, who say there is a known issue with the T-Mobile Dash that causes emoze to disconnect from the server. The recommended fix is to leave the backlight on. I reinstalled emoze again and it again grabbed a bunch of email but it’s still not in sync, now dropping out around March 27th.