Podcast player padding

In enumerating his latest ideal features for a podcast player, Dave Winer illustrates a dilemma that convergence poses. Dave wants Blackberry-like synchronization, which I agree would be a nice feature, but one that would probably translate into carrier support and distribution. It would be a tough sell to get carriers to offer such a product as it would be deemed too niche. This is partly why cheaper. more accessible wireless broadband, via WiMax or some other source, can’t come soon enough to reinvigorate the consumer electronics market.

Dave also wants the product to be a platform of sorts. I’d support plug-in functionality, but would oppose making the thing completely open as Mike Elgan has argued the Zune should be. As Michael Gartenberg notes before tempting me to buy niche coffee-making products, there are already several multifunction products that could easily meet Dave’s requirements, yet they are not considered for the task because of their loosely defined functionality.

Jenda bias

Jenda Lifetime Voice Calendar - Click Image to Close

When I last blogged about Cozi, I mentioned a hardware-based family organizer that had a short lifespan. Organization products are hard to get right even when you have the flexibility of software at your disposal, and designing them for the nontechnical raises the bar tremendously.

Now a small Midwestern startup is taking its stab with Jenda, a voice-driven standalone electronic calendar that’s the ultimate conceptual evolution of those little four-button IC-based family “message centers” that they used to sell specialty electronics retailers. They seemed like good ideas, but were probably just too much tech applied for too much money for too simple a problem — a scaled-down version of the PDA dilemma.

Jenda is a third of the price of the last hardware-based home organizer. In fact, at $50 online it’s probably only about 20 or 30 dollars more than those simple message recorders used to cost. The product is small and slim and can be attached to a refrigerator or used with an integrated stand.

Jenda appears to have a pretty well-thought out feature set and user interface and may be enough for casual event reminders such as birthdays, but ultimately the lack of visual preview makes it nearly impossible to prepare for upcoming events. Voice notes are a breeze to enter, but difficult to edit or manipulate. Some Web-based service will likely ultimately prevail as the best family organizational tool, preferably one that remains automatically synchronized to other calendars such as the nearly unavoidable Outlook. In the meantime, consider Jenda for grandma.

iPhone, you phone…

So Cisco and Apple have agreed to share the name “iPhone” between Apple’s sleek, big-screened beauty and the ugly one. The vague-sounding terms cast doubt that Cisco has followed the long imbroglio between Apple and a certain record company. Apple plays the name game for keeps.

Shortage hype conspiracy theories

This week’s Switched On takes Nintendo to task for the “Wii supply” of its popular game console, particularly given that the company has commended itself on the launch. I suspect that some will counter that Nintendo executed perfectly well and the “problem” that no company could anticipate is overwhelming demand. (This is in contrast to Sony, which encountered blue diode manufacturing issues. I also recall that Microsoft encountered some manufacturing issues at the launch of the Xbox 360, perhaps around heat dissipation, but that Peter Moore announced at CES 2006 that it had brought on a third manufacturing partner to finally resolve supply constraints. Now that’s transparency.) Either way, supply and demand are just two sides of the same shortage problem. Certainly the impact to the consumer is the same.

A close friend once asked me whether I thought that companies “manufacture” manufacturing shortages for PR hype. I don’t think so for a few reasons. First, shortage PR is, at best, two-sided. Second, it would be outweighed by the positive word-of-mouth from actual customers (assuming a product is genuinely good). Third, the value of such PR would be outweighed by PR resulting from higher adoption numbers. And finally, it’s hard to conceive of any PR outweighing the top-line value of incremental sales. This advantage is magnified when the product is in an extremely competitive segment and especially so when that segment is a new platform vying for developer support.

One could argue that Microsoft and Sony have some interest in selling consoles later in the cycle when they can reduce costs and subsidization, but Nintendo makes money on its hardware.

Mightier than the disc

I never quite understood why “you’re not supposed to” use standard markers on a CD or DVD (perhaps the tip can scratch the surface?), but I remember I had at one time bought a “special” marker for such a purpose. Yet, today I went to two Staples looking for such an approved writing device. You can find them online but, according to the helpful sales clerk, they no longer brand markers for such a task and he recommended a fine-tip Sharpie. I wonder why. Was this just marketing hype to begin with?

Well, what did catch my eye was the $80 Casio disc printer situated by the shelves of optical media. Yeah, who needs a Sharpie?

The iPhone and Mobile Web 2.0

I was intrigued and then a bit confused by this iPhone column written last month by my friend and former colleague Noah Elkin. The intrigue came from considering the iPhone as bringing the dawn of mobile “Web 2.0” and then the confusion came when I realized that Noah was not talking about mobile “Web 2.0” but “Mobile Web” 2.0 — the tyranny of punctuation-specific jargon.

In any case, it’s one of the first pieces I’ve read to discuss the Web content implications of the iPhone. Noah’s raises valid points about the iPhone’s slow 2.5G radio and limited installed base for the foreseeable future. He also anticipates a backlash against mobile marketing. Apple is promising a “desktop-like” browsing experience courtesy Safari. Java won’t be supported but I believe that Flash will. If not, it should be.

The better Apple executes on that desktop experience (and the browsing UI is definitely one of the most promising features shown to date), the less distinction there will be between the next generation of the “mobile Web” and the one we access from our PCs in terms of information access (Web 1.0). We’ve also yet to see if the iPhone’s version of Safari will support RSS as the Mac’s does. However, there’s even greater potential if Web developers target the iPhone for the application-like features commonly associated with Web 2.0.

Certainly in the short-term, it could provide some relief for Apple’s third-party lock-out, but many Web 2.0 interfaces would have to be recreated to be optimized for the lower resolution and finger-driven interfaces of the iPhone. Apple should also open up widgets to third parties. It’s a limited access environment, after all, and third-party adoption was key to widgets’ success on Tiger.

Radar Love: Behind the Music

Back when I wrote a twice-weekly column for Ziff Davis in 2003, the name of the game was to try and get Slashdotted. Nowadays, though, the king of traffic referral (outside of Google, of course) is Digg. By that measure, Radar Love (runner-up title “Love is in The Air”), this week’s Switched On column, was my most popular ever with over 470 diggs, and the second to reach Digg’s front page.

One of the complimentary e-mails I received from a reader called Radar Love the second-best thing he’d ever read on the site after The Maven. Well, Radar Love didn’t take nearly as long to write, but frankly I was less sure I could pull it off whereas I’d written many long verse pieces and parodies before.

Things became easier when I grouped multiple songs in a row and they really came together just a few hours before completion when I stumbled upon the gem title “Chewbacca’s on my Underwear.” Then it was a relatively simple matter of building the story about an “ex” who was lost to sci-fi infatuation and filling in the path to that punch line.

One thing I’m a bit surprised that nobody called me on is that i actually wrote almost nothing original for the piece. It’s all, in a sense, plagiarized, but I’m grateful for the kudos on what is essentially an ordered playlist. Oh, and for the record, I didn’t know about all those songs before writing the column. The iTunes store search box was my research tool.

“I’d like to have an argument please.”

Does this remind anyone else of the Monty Python argument sketch?

From TechCrunch

DEMO ’07 debutantes

The venerable startupfest began anew yesterday. Some of the early highlights for me are Zink, although I question the potential for embedded printers, SplashCast, which seems like a Web 2.0 version of Orb, and Mobio, which competes with Action Engine. I’ll update this post if other companies of interest emerge.

End-of-LifeDrive

Palm appears to be set to discontinue the LifeDrive. Even at launch, I thought the category of “Mobile Manager” was a bit too murky to stand apart in the shrinking PDA market. Really, the LifeDrive was a hardware-driven product (just look at the name) and, just as we saw in the DAP market, it’s difficult for hard drives to compete in the under-8 GB segment. The LifeDrive had too much capacity to manage phone numbers and not enough for video. It also was an unfortunate omission that it lacked a kickstand for video viewing. Still, not only does Palm lose its top of the line, but its PDA offerings are now winnowed to three models — the TX, “classic” E2 and the compact if long-in-the-tooth Z22 with its grainy screen.

I’m a bit surprised that Palm hasn’t jumped onto the Internet Tablet bandwagon. It’s probably reluctant to bring another screen resolution into the market even though developer support is not the factor it once was in the PDA market. But now that the iPhone has raised the resolution bar, Palm may rethink the Treo’s screen size. The Treo packages everything well and is nothing if not practically-minded, but a less demanding user or certainly consumer has to be lured by the svelte profiles and lower complexity of a Motorola Q, Samsung BlackJack or T-Mobile Dash. Of course, this should be the year that we see Next Big Thing from Palm.

From PC Pro via Engadget