Watch out, SMS!

There is an alternative way to send short bits of text between mobile phones! Oh, technology, thou art a fickle muse. I think I will start one of these companies and create a product called, “I Seek You.” Yes, something like that, but catchier. Maybe there’s some way to shorten it.

Actually, this article doesn’t even come close to describing the real threat du jour. As Facebook becomes the growing Web within a Web, this community is going to hit the mobile world like a freight train with more people on it than the carriers themselves have. It is developing more leverage than AOL ever had during its heyday. AOL was a jail; Facebook is the Hotel California.

Out of the Box named a Top 100 Analyst Blog

Many thanks to Technobabble 2.0 for naming Out of the Box a global Top 100 Analyst Blog! The ranking is a mix of Google PageRank, Bloglines subscriptions, Diggs, Technorati ranking and a Technobabble subjective assessment based on post quality and quanitity.

Out of the Box debuted at #75. Many of the others so ranked have been around quite a bit longer, are team efforts or can take advantage of several colleagues cross-linking to each other, so I am truly honored.

Geek TV: Chuck vs. The Big Bang Theory

I’m going a bit off-topic here; file it under geek culture. The two “beauty and the geek” premieres this fall were Chuck and The Big Bang Theory (TBBT). The former is about an underachieving Geek Squad-equivalent employee who, under a pretty ridiculous premise, becomes a human repository for the government’s biggest secrets and enters into a staged romantic relationship with a CIA agent. The latter is a traditional sitcom about an attractive Cheesecake Factory waitress who moves in next door to two physicist roommates who frequently have their equally geeky friends over for company.

After two episodes of each, Chuck is emerging as the far better show. About the best thing TBBT has going for it is the opening theme song by Barenaked Ladies. TBBT’s main geeks’ buddies are somewhat entertaining, but the “odd couple” scenario has been bludgeoned to death, the writing is often stale and the Sheldon character’s punch line delivery is simply too deadpan; the laugh track is unbearable. Chuck, on the other hand, seems to be effedctively melding elements of a comedy, action and mytharc series, and the triangle among Chuck, the CIA agent, and the NSA agent is dynamic and entertaining. I’m eager to see where this one goes

Incidentally, the blonde “hotties” in each show could not be more different. Chuck’s “Sarah” is strong and resourceful while TBBT’s Penny has been nothing but helpless so far.

Coming up next: pictures of my cat.

Gateway One and Palm Centro hands-on

I swung by DigitalLife this afternoon and checked out the two big hardware introductions at the show, the Gateway One and the Palm Centro and came away with more favorable impressions. The Gateway One looks a bit like the iMac might have if Apple had continued with the polycarbonate gloss but made it black. It’s more wedge-like than the iMac’s thin “where’s the computer?” look, but may just be the best-looking desktop PC in the market. The multifunction power brick, by the way, is massive but, hey, so is the Xbox 360’s and you can’t plug a tanning lamp into it.

The Palm Centro looks better in black than red and the keyboard, while small, wasn’t that bad even under my large fingers, although part of that may be my greater experience with inferior keyboards in the past few years. I still don’t think the sub-$100 crowd will see a lot of the remaining value left in Palm OS as the consider the Centro versus Sidekicks, EnVs and slim Windows Mobile smartphones with QWERTY keyboards, but EV-DO is a nice plus and the integrated instant messaging looked nice from a cursory glance.

iMac: a value leader?

In looking at the Gateway One, CNet comes away saying the iMac is a better value based on the specs. For $150 less, you get a a faster Core 2 Duo processor (2.4 GHz vs. 2 GHz), higher resolution screen and Bluetooth as well as an integrated Webcam (although I don’t think it’s too fair to ding the Gateway One for its “easily lost” removable one). Gateway, however, ships with 50 percent more RAM (although the iMac RAM has a faster clock speed), a bigger hard drive, and comes bundled with an external ATSC/NTSC tuner. Then there are the other variables. For example, if you really want to run Vista on an iMac, that will cost you.

On the hardware side, though, Gateway has done an impressive job with the power brick for minimizing desktop clutter. I expect to see a lot of these boxes on reception desks. And, simply from the pictures, I think I like the look of the One better than the new iMac, but I hope to get a better look at it today at DigitalLife.

Mojo for no dough

Last year one of the more interesting companies to come out of DEMO was RingCube Technologies and its product MojoPac, which creates a virtual user session on a guest PC and lets you use many popular Windows applications from a portable hard drive or iPod, sort of an industrial-strength version of Ceedo or U3. I wrote about MojoPac a bit in a post back in March. It is a very nice solution to a problem that few people have:

The promise is you can take your digital life with you, leeching off host PCs wherever they may be available. The challenge is that they’re often not. Many public PCs, for example, are secured (like business PCs) so as not to allow MojoPac to run, but the software could be useful if you have regular access to a semi-secure environment and want to easily switch between digital work and digital life without jeopardizing the configuration for the former.

 In fairness, there are a number of other applications for the software other than the context I presented. In any case, the barriers to adoption have been been significantly lowered as RingCube has anounced MojoPac Freedom, a free version of the program supported by opt-in e-mail. RingCube says that, as for now, MojoPac Freedom and the $50 version of the software will have the same features, although some future enhancements may be reserved for the version that costs money rather than attention.

This move may serve as a proactive tactic against the U3 successor coming from SanDisk and Microsoft.

Palm Centro haiku

With aging OS
And your keyboard so tiny
Will you seek low price

iPhone introspection

Gizmodo has a lengthy post about Apple’s new iPhone update and its impact on unlocked phones. Apple gave advance notice that the update might render such phones useless. The whole iPhone unlocking phenomenon has touched on a lot of complex issues regarding intellectual property, consumer rights, the DMCA and so forth, but are there really that many consumers out there who so lust for an iPhone but have such an aversion to AT&T? Why don’t these people just get an iPod touch and another sleek (smart)phone? It seems like this would save them a lot of trouble.

Since my two-part column on Xohm, I’ve been accused of drinking the WiMax Kool-Aid, but I have to think that some kind of open access (or at least more open access) network would be cheered by consumers looking for most of the iPhone’s data features without being tied to AT&T. Apple’s multiyear exclusive may forbid such fraternizing with Sprint, but at least some fans of Apple’s portable wireless devices are clearly willing to go to extraordinary measures to avoid Apple’s current wireless partner.

OLPC: One for them and one for me

One Laptop Per Child will finally allow those in more affluent nations (or at least here in the U.S.) to get their hands on the XO laptop. I’m glad that the initiative has reconsidered selling to individuals as I wrote way back in October 2005:

 The One Laptop Per Child initiative has no plans to sell its brainchild to individuals; indeed, its minimum order is a million units. But why not? Even at $200 or $300 per laptop, it would likely meet a large enough market of curiosity-seekers, second or third PC tire-kickers, hackers and disadvantaged youth in richer nations to raise funds to help subsidize distribution around the globe. And if, as co-founder Nicholas Negroponte claims, one of the organization’s largest challenges will be scaling up to hundreds of millions of units, would it not make sense to start with a smaller and familiar test market?

There may be other ways to help proliferate the devices as well. In any case, while I once thought I would jump on the chance to get the XO as a lightweight word processing and Internet access device, I will be passing, humanitarian incentives aside. I got to try the keyboard at a trade show and it was quite mushy. To OLPC’s credit, they position the offer as a chance to get an XO for a child in the U.S..

Slinging toward a holy grail

Engadget has ferreted out the FCC approvals for the Slingbox Catcher and Slingbox SOLO. We’ve already heard a wee bit about the former when it was called the SlingCatcher — it will have Wi-Fi, an optional hard drive, and be able to receive Slingbox broadcasts, closing the loop on the Slingbox’ place-shifting capabilities. But, hmmm, what could this SOLO device be? Well, were I to speculate based slowly on the name, it might be one device that would encompass both transmission and reception capabilities. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

If so, and Sling has added digital media receiver (aka, Apple TV) capabilities to both devices, it will have effectively conquered a holy grail of being able to send practically any kind of media to practically any kind of TV in the home (and beyond). This is no mean feat. Months ago, I tried a product that attempted this kind of whole-home video bridging and it was one of the worst product experiences I’ve ever had (although in fairness, the product was really aimed more at new construction with high-speed connections and, no, I’m not going to say what it was). But given Sling’s performance over humble 3G cellular networks, I like its chances.

Update: Dave Zatz writes to tell me that it’s still called the SlingCatcher, not the Slingbox Catcher. Actually, though, maybe it should be called the Slingbox Catcher because “Slingbox” has probably attracted more brand recognition than the company brand.