What to do about portable navigation device theft

Biometric protection - GoPal P4425I’ve started to see more stories like this one about the rise in portable navigation device theft. It happened to a co-worker of mine. Unfortunately, we tend to see this happen in a number of high-growth, high-ticket portable and mobile products such as iPods and in-dash stereos that led to the development of removable faceplates.

One local TV segment noted that Long Island police have seen a fivefold increase in theft of the devices, which would be consistent with the overall unit growth we’ve seen in the U.S. This problem will get worse before it gets better although the rapidly declining prices of PNDs may remove some incentive..

Some TV segments advise not only removing the windshield mount when you leave your car, but taking care to wipe away any smudges that the suction cup might leave behind! Fortunately, PNDs are getting thin and small enough so that stuffing them into a handbag or even a jacket pocket is becoming more of an option.

Last December, Sanyo introduced a PND with a fingerprint reader. Given the trend toward voice recognition in these devices, voiceprints may become another verification tool that, if broadly implemented, might discourage thieves,

T-Mobile allegedly wants to “get more” Sprint

imageOm Malik pretty much nails the challenge that such an acquisition would have.  Sprint’s customer base would do wonders for T-Mobile’s ARPU. However, the company would be juggling four wide-area networks (and five altogether if you include Wi-Fi). On one hand, a WiMAX network would be an attractive asset for migrating those T-Mobile Broadband customers forward. On the other hand, T-Mobile could just shut down the expensive Xohm initiative and transition everything to LTE.

More iPhone application questions raised

imageMore favorable response is pouring in on the iPhone SDK, which significant capital will support, but John Gruber, whose Daring Fireball was a key inspiration for my Engadget column Switched On, points out that enforcement will have some challenges.

It leads me to another question. How easy will it be for applications to spread virally for the iPhone? I’d expect the App Store to support links and ratings, much like albums in the iTunes Store. Will iPhone applications, like other mobile ones, have the ability to share a demo or trail version with a friend or colleague? For that matter, will the App Store offer try-before-you-buy versions?

And speaking of the iTunes Store, isn’t it odd that the App Store, launching in June, will be available over EDGE, but the iTunes Music Store is available only over Wi-Fi? I have to think full-fledged games would be bigger than song downloads. That would lend credence to speculation that we can expect a 3G iPhone in June.

Update: Michael Arrington notes that when applications are not active, they quit — shades of early Mac OSes. Will we see a multitouch MultiFinder? And, again, would Apple allow a utility that would juggle multiple applications, the way Switcher did in early versions of Mac OS? He also notes John Gruber’s excellent question regarding whether Amazon would be able to deliver a version of its AmazonMP3 store for the iPhone. However, if it’s true that apps can write only to their own little sandbox, it looks like the answer would be no. Or, in any case, any such purchased tracks would not be synced back to iTunes. There’s no problem if you buy them on the desktop, of course.

Blu-ray on Xbox 360: Why?

image FT.com is reporting that Sony is talking with Microsoft about the possibility of Blu-ray drives on the Xbox 360. This could come in two forms, of course — a new SKU with an integrated Blu-ray drive or an external drive similar to the one Microsoft offered for HD DVD. The case is tough for either one, though.

If Microsoft thought there was value in adding a high-definition or high-capacity disc format to the 360, it had a choice of two during its development before Microsoft had kicked HD DVD evangelism into high-gear. Of course, after Microsoft did that, it still didn’t add an internal HD DVD drive to the 360, citing concern about not forcing such a drive on consumers. Especially now, with a significant title library out there, it doesn’t make any sense to add cost to a home console. The 360 is clearly competitive as is.

Then there’s the external drive scenario. It made more sense for Microsoft to offer an external drive when there wasn’t much choice for HD DVD drives at retail. Microsoft was able to deliver a low-priced option by piggybacking onto the console. While I’m sure an add-on Blu-ray drive for the 360 would cost less than the standalone players out there, there are many more companies offering Blu-ray players, and now that there is no direct format rivalry, the number is bound to increase while the average prices decrease, further removing the incentive. Without an evangelism imperative, Microsoft can now focus on other means of getting high-definition video to its game console.

Are there any Xbox 360 owners out there who want an external Blu-ray drive for their console?

iPhone SDK: a new hope

image If Apple was going to be excessively restrictive with its SDK, there would have been no point in publishing it, Apple noted at the introduction that it was a “platform company” (most of the time anyway). Combined with the $100 million iFund, it appears clear that we are witnessing nothing less than the rebirth of the Macintosh now shrunk to pocket size and inviting a new breed of developers to rethink mobile application development.

Perhaps, contrary to Michael Mace’s post on why smartphone development is dead, the reason is not the “combination of splintering platforms, shrinking distribution channels, and rising costs,” but rather that native applications haven’t been distinguished enough from what you could do in a browser or via platforms such as BREW. Other factors helping development are having the App Store on the device and available over cellular connections and not having to account for countless platform and screen size variations.

Of course, these are all conditions that make it easier to dip the fishing rod. There are still no guarantees that the consumer will bite. But from what we’ve been seeing iPhone users do in terms of accessing the Web and using their music features, they have high potential to create the most successful mobile smartphone application market we have seen.

iPhone enterprise approach is grim for RIM

image Some may gawk that Apple chose to work with Microsoft on a corporate e-mail solution for the iPhone but, really, after Palm did (before it offered Windows Mobile handsets) Nokia licensed ActiveSync (in the days before it was Silverlight-friendly), there wasn’t much doubt that Apple would be amenable to doing so.

Despite now having the Exchange imprimatur, the iPhone probably won’t overtake Blackberry overnight, but its acceptance of Exchange indicates another setback for Blackberry Connect.  Still, even though many enterprises don’t have an up-to-date enough Exchange server to support ActiveSync, more of them will get there at some point. RIM certainly hasn’t helped its cause with recent (albeit brief) outage.

Despite it being positioned as the ideal enterprise mobile device, study after study has shown mobile e-mail as the killer application for these devices and you can effectively do that on a device that is a lot cheaper than an iPhone. Of course, if that’s what businesspeople are buying with their own money anyway, that could become a moot point. In fact, to some extent Apple is betting on that.

I’ve asked Apple representatives if Apple would allow a third-party Blackberry Connect application to be offered in the App Store or whether they might consider that a security risk. I should hear more on that later..

Update: RIM shows they’re down with cool consumer media, too!

Why Flash will come to the iPhone

Over at News.com, Coop joins the reaction to Apple’s “slam” of Flash, throwing in the Adobe reaction that both Flash and Flash Lite have been very successful, thanks so much. I’ve often marveled at how responsive Mac OS X feels on the iPhone. This was a thread that Jeff Atwood referred to in the post about Vista’s perceived performance. Jobs says simply that desktop Flash is too heavy for the iPhone, and that Flash Lite isn’t up to desktop performance. Essentially, he’s asking Apple Adobe to do the same thing Apple has done, which is to optimize desktop software for a mobile platform.

If you are an iPhone user, you have to read between the lines here because Jobs is essentially saying that Apple wants Flash on the iPhone (which is good news considering the scenarios I laid out as to why Apple might not) but just can’t accommodate it. That’s an engineering problem Adobe is motivated to solve given as iPhone sales grow and consumers do more mobile browsing on it.Adobe will get there. And let’s face it, few software companies have as long a history of supporting Apple technologies as Adobe.

We may not see it announced on the 6th, but Flash playback will come to the iPhone.

Toshiba continues as Blu-ray spoiler

HD DVD scores in the format warCould Toshiba become the most progressive consumer electronics company when it comes to digital distribution?

As I and others have noted, HD DVD was never the primary factor in slowing the adoption of Blu-ray. According to NPD’s research, satisfaction with existing DVD players was the most cited reason among those who had no plans to purchase a high-definition disc player when we surveyed consumers last year. Therefore, the end of HD DVD has not meant a free pass for Blu-ray.

In an interview with the WSJ, Toshiba’s Atsutoshi Nishida points out the value of a diversified corporate portfolio, noting that HD DVD was but one of 45 strategic product groups within the electronics conglomerate. He also divulges plans to stay or become relevant in the twin forces squeezing Blu-ray from the past (upconverting DVDs) and the future (digital downloads) to continue to compete indirectly with Blu-ray. Nishida points to wired technologies that are becoming wireless (a reference to HDMI?).

Of course, Toshiba’s PC strength to which Nishida refers is in notebooks, and most of the connectivity scenarios he discusses have been focused on stationery PCs (although that is changing). In any case, it seems clear that Toshiba will have more occasion to work closely with its HD DVD promotion partner Microsoft. The conspiracy theorists may have been wrong, but the format war has brought at least one major electronics company to look beyond the disc.

IOgear Mobile Digital Scribe offers Tablet PC without the PC

image Much has changed in the world of pen computing since I argued three years ago that it should be written off. One source of my dissatisfaction with the whole notion was the awkward usage of a stylus, something that Apple has banished with the iPhone. (It also banished the thumbboard, though, something I remain more keen on).

Now that the stylus is on the run from the mobile device, it’s trying to set out on its own in the guise of the ordinary ballpoint. One of the main approaches toward enabling the digital pen are from Anoto, which requires the use of special dotted paper. It’s been a success for Leapfrog with the FLY anf FLY Fusion, and is now being used in the Tag successor to the hugely successful Leap Pad. It’s been a failure for Logitech with the IO and IO2, but is also the underlying technology behind the imminent LiveScribe Pulse smart pen which slickly marries it with voice recording..

Another approach, such as that from Israeli firm EPOS. tends to cost less and don’t require any special paper. However, it needs some kind of receiver, sometimes enbedded within the top of a clipboard. I’ve tried a few such products through the years and found them to work quite well. The new IOgear product is not based on EPOS technology, but the implementation is more similar to how EPOS works. At $50 less than the entry-level LiveScribe product, it is just ahead of and costs less than its higher-tech competitor. Still, both face a rough terrain in extending computing to the province of pen and ink.

Vista’s file copying not slow, just drawn that way

imageOver at Coding Horror, my  old friend Jeff Atwood has a great post about Vista’s file copying performance and why consumers perceive it to be slower than XP’s despite an improved algorithm and solid benchmarks. It’s yet another chapter for the operating system that is struggling against formidable competition, it’s predecessor, and abetted by a parent doing what it can to make its unaccepted child more popular while still supporting its older brother.

In any case, it’s great reading for user interface developers.