Archive for the 'Pocket PC' Category

The iPhone Takeover Begins

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

iPhone 3GToday Apple officially released the iPhone 3G – the next generation of the iPhone. Adding 3G speeds, support for 3rd party software, Assisted GPS, combined with a major drop in the pricing takes the iPhone to the next level – and it was already a pretty convincing package to begin with.

Vodafone New Zealand will be selling the iPhone in-store on July 11th. There will be two devices available: the iPhone 3G 8Gb for USD$199 and the 16Gb model for USD$299. This pricing is for an iPhone on a 24 month contract. It sounds like you can still purchase an iPhone without a contract (i.e. for prepay use) for somewhere between NZD$800-$1,000. There is no news from Vodafone NZ on the plans being offered.

So – July 11th it begins.

Why all the hype? Has Apple's marketing got to me? Well, yes it has. But it is not just hype, it is based on some pretty convincing facts. The iPhone package has already redefined the mobile phone – it is now redefining our expectations of mobile computing full-stop. Let me explain…

The Hardware
The iPhone hardware gives the average person unprecedented power in their pocket, and now for a pretty impressive priceiPhone 3G:

  • The large Multi-Touch screen
  • The Accelerometer that detects device movement and rotation
  • The large storage space – up to 16Gb
  • Assisted GPS
  • 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Unprecendented battery life for such hardware: 300 hours standby, 10 hours talk time, 7 hours video, 24 hours audio

All of these hardware features are packed into the slickest phone design ever. As the Senior Vice President of Walt Disney stated: "It really has the ability to pack the power of a laptop into the size of a smartphone." The hardware features combined with the OS X operating system means that Apple potentially fill more than the mobile phone space, but also move into the ultra-mobile computing space. With rumored 7 inch devices running the same multi-touch interface it will be interesting to see what comes next from Apple in this area.

The Software
It is not just about hardware with Apple – their software is consistently beautiful and simple. It is intuitive and appealing. The software on the iPhone covers off the needs of 80% of the market:

  • iPhone 3GPIM software to manage Contacts, Calendar, Email and Notes
  • Full over-the-air push support for PIM info with Microsoft Exchange and MobileMe (Apple's new dotMac replacement)
  • Desktop data sync with Microsoft Outlook and Apple software
  • SMS and Voice Calls using the slickest interface I have ever seen for basic Phone features
  • Safari browser offering desktop browser support on a mobile device. The webpages scales and zooms/pans providing a truly intuitive way to surf on a small screen. This feature alone has already redefined browsing from a mobile device, making it a realistic option for the first time.
  • iTunes software allowing the full iPod functionality with an advanced interface.
  • iPhoto support for viewing or managing your photos on the run. Combined with the inbuilt camera this is a slick combination.
  • Maps with GPS – view an address on a map, plot and navigate your course. View your current location at any time. Full Google Maps support.
  • A dedicated YouTube program optimises your YouTube experience allowing you to easily locate, view and bookmark your favorite movies.
  • Office file viewers are included for Word, Excel and Powerpoint as well as Apple iWorks files.

And that just scratches the surface. These tools are not new in themselves – but as usual Apple takes them to the next level. It is a pretty convincing toolkit in your pocket, covering off most of the features the average user will ever need in a mobile device. And that is before 3rd party apps enter the picture.

Market Dominance

It is pretty clear that the Apple is now aggressively going after market share. Within the first 8 months of its launch the iPhone had already claimed over 28% of the smartphone market in the US, second only to RIM (Blackberry). At that point it was not available in other countries. As of today the iPhone is available in 6 countries, on July the 11th it will be launched in another 14 countries, and within a few months it will available in 70 countries worldwide. Combined with the significant price drops and locked ceiling for pricing worldwide we can see the picture.

Will Apple really start to dominate the mobile phone market? Yes I believe it will. The rapid adoption of the initial iPhone already paints the picture. More than that however, we can see that the iPhone lives up to the hype, receiving rave reviews from satisfied owners and critics alike. I have never seen a single device get so much attention from the media or the average person down the street – not even from Apple, who seem to be at the forefront of marketing the launch of such devices (eg the iMac and iPod).

Let's have a look at some of the target audiences Apple is obviously going after…

Children/Students
iPhone 3GLet's be honest – Apple already had most kids with the iPod, and the iPhone is an even more compelling music experience. Now add the coolest phone with SMS and email. Now add the slick games powered by the accelerometer. What about the inbuilt YouTube support and the best mobile browsing experience? Now add the 3rd party software that has been launched – student learning tools, social networking software, sound mixers and much more. Do I need to say any more?

SME/Enterprise
Sharp pricing. "Push" email, contacts and calendar. Microsoft Exchange support. 3G data transfer speeds. Multiple secure networking options and Cisco VPN support. Remote device wipe. Support for Microsoft Office documents. MobileMe for remote sync, backups and anywhere/anytime access to data using the slickest browser-based toolset. Apple has ticked off the list of most business and corporate requirements. The overall packaged software combined with the slick hardware and pricing model is sure to be appealing to business users.

iPhone 3G

Developers
It is obvious that developers are a key target with this launch of the iPhone. The SDK (Software Development Kit) has been well publicized and marketediPhone SDK. The Apple WWDC was sold out for the first time ever and Apple has made no secret of this. The App Store joins the gap between the developers and the end users. And Apple is definitely showing off the 3rd party apps that have been developed, and emphasizing over and over again the short amount of time developers had to work on their application and how easy they found it. We can see that Apple are trying to get a singular message across to developers – developing for the iPhone is quick and it is easy. Whether that is true or not, developers are definitely listening and are more interested in Apple now than ever before. But again, this is based on more than just Apple's marketing hype.

The iPhone offers a pretty compelling picture to developers. The hardware is very powerful for a mobile device, and gives developers the ability to tap into features they have not had access to before – such as multi-touch, the accelerometer, and location awareness. Apple is making it easy for developers to work with this type of hardware – and as a result we are seeing some impressive and innovative software coming to the iPhone that we have never seen on any other platform. Apple helped by getting the hardware form-factor right in many respects as well – for example the screen resolution is large enough to create compelling and usable software that can be navigated with a finger, while still small enough to fit into a pocketable device. It is also powerful enough in terms of processing and graphics to remove limitations that developers were previously hindered by in the mobile space.

iPhone with OS XApple has also cleverly architectured the iPhone operating system. It is not just a cut-down and limited version of their desktop OS – the core layers are exactly the same. It will be easy for developers to migrate from the iPhone to full OS X desktop development – a very clever strategy from Apple that they will move on more in the future I am sure. Apple is also clearly documenting and communicating their API, their conventions, and placing and enormous emphasis on best practice which will standardise the development efforts and the resulting software. I like the way that Apple brings their simplicity and clarity to the development community – it is a much clearer picture to navigate than trying to learn to develop for other mobile platforms from scratch.

Combine the above facts with the potential market share that the iPhone will pick up over the coming months. For a developer choosing a target platform for their software the choice is becoming pretty obvious. While the iPhone may not be their only target platform it will likely need to be at the top of their list.

During Bill Gate's final publicly scheduled speech as a full-time Microsoft employee, he acknowledged that Microsoft's success is 'due to our relationship with developers.' Apple may well be saying the same thing in a few years time.

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Apple has been consistently wowing us for the past few years – OS X, then the iMac, the iPod, and now the iPhone.

It has been clear for a while that mobility is the future of computing. And the iPhone is emerging as the King of mobility. This device is indeed a game changer. It is more than a mobile phone – it is a new platform.

The iPhone takeover begins.

From Pocket PC to Ultra-Mobile PC

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

As a heavy Pocket PC user I have been evaluating UMPC's as my next portable device. Why? Here is a list of the main reasons:

  • Full desktop OS (Vista or XP), thus desktop applications

  • Decent resolution (800×480 minimum)
  • Decent screen size (physical dimensions)
  • Decent storage on SSD, HDD

What will I lose by moving away from my Pocket PC? My built-in phone and some portability as UMPC's are obviously larger. Is this a big deal? Not as much as it used to be – read on…

I am using my PDA more and more and the small screen of my device is bugging me a lot – and hurting my eyes. Pocket PC's only seem to be getting smaller and smaller screens however, and any of the newer devices with larger screens have major drawbacks – the HTC Advantage with it's lack of phone support and it's stupid magnet (why have a portable device that cannot sit next to a wallet or another device with a HDD? duh), and the HP IPAQ 200 with it's nice 4inch screen but no phone. If a Pocket PC has no phone and a small screen then I am looking elsewhere – and the only elsewhere is towards the new generation of Ultra-Mobile PC's.

The concept of carrying around a full computer running the same applications as my everyday PC is very appealing. No more syncing of data, no more shelling over cash for Pocket PC software that is a cut-down imitation of the real thing. As I am a IT Manager/Developer it also means I will have access to tools that are required for my job at hand 24/7 – there will be no requirement for me to lug my laptop around when on the go. Sure I will have to carry a small phone plus a UMPC as opposed to a single device, but there are some advantages in that as well such as each device being optimised for its purpose.

To move away from a Pocket PC however there are a few requirements that a UMPC must meet to cover my everyday usage. It must be able to support at least 4 hours battery life. It must still be very portable in terms of overall dimensions. I also want to be able to use it in situations where it must be quiet and discreet. For example I use it a lot in places like my church to take notes and have study/reference material at hand – I don't want the device to be too obvious and distracting to others. For a UMPC to run desktop software it must also be reasonably fast and have decent storage capacity. A keyboard is not a huge requirement for me – I am very capable with a touchscreen combined with a Fitaly onscreen keyboard for data entry, but if a keyboard present and it does not add too much real-estate to the device then that is fine.

So that gives a bit of background on my usage and feature requirements.

There are two UMPC devices that interest me the most at this point. The RAON Digital Everun and the OQO 02. Until a few days ago the HTC Shift was also on the list, but definitely not now – the limited battery life and limited Windows Mobile took care of that.

To decide between the two devices I asked for feedback from the community. The feedback I received was mainly sweeping comments that the OQO was the better device in nearly all areas except battery life and was by far the more "productive" office machine. I kept feeling like there was more to the Everun than that – so I made the following chart to compare the two devices feature for feature. The end result? It's a tough call but I think in terms of value for money and overall usage the Everun is going to be hard to beat… especially when thinking in terms of moving away from a Pocket PC rather than as a desktop replacement.

RAON Digital Everun vs OQO 02

Key:
No Real Advantage/Disadvantage Winner Loser

 

Spec. Everun OQO Thoughts
CPU 600MHz AMD Geode LX 900 1.6 Ghz VIA C7M ULV
RAM 512Mb 1Gb If using Vista on OQO not sure 1Gb offers any real advantage
Operating System XP Home or Pro XP Pro or Vista Business/Ultimate Either XP or Vista is fine for my requirements. Both have advantages/disadvantages – XP is perhaps more stable and in theory will run faster on lower spec hardware than Vista.
Standard Battery Life 7 hours 3 hours
Extended Battery Life 12 hours 6 hours
Dimensions 83x170x25mm 83x142x25.4mm The OQO is shorter but slightly thicker.
Weight 460g (with SSD) / 490g (with HDD) 454g with standard battery
Design Practical/Nerdy Sleek/Professional Shouldn't affect my decision, but worthy of note!
Screen 4.8 inches 5 inches The OQO will be slightly more readable due to larger pixel size
Screen Type Touch Screen Active Digitizer After using a Pocket PC for years either type offers advantages that balance each other out
Native Resolution 800 x 480 800 x 480 The OQO has interpolated zoom up to 1000 x 600 still readable
External Resolution Up to 1920 x 1200 Up to 1920 x 1200 The OQO offers DVI support as well.
Zoom Up to 1680 x 1050 Up to 1200 x 720
Docking Station Coming Yes The OQO docking station is very slick – let's see what RAON bring to the table
Camera Coming No The Everun will have the option of a 2.0 Megapixel camera
HDD/SSD 30/60Gb HDD and/or 6Gb SSD 60/80/120Gb HDD or 32Gb SSD In my opinion the Everun wins because of the fact is allows both SSD and HDD or CF in the same device – so you can have a 6Gb SSD and a 60 Gb HDD or SSD and CF in the same device. CF cards now go up to 64Gb and can be swapped. Due to my emphasis on ruggedness and the device running queitly the extra Flash options are a bonus.
Compact Flash Yes, hybrid with SSD only No
Noise Silent Noisy Users are reporting that the Everun can only just be heard when holding it up to the ear.
Heat Cool Hot Speaks for itself.
WWAN HSDPA None I live in New Zealand, so the OQO's EVDO support is no good to me. The Everun however has the option of HSDPA which can optionally support voice.
Microphone Yes Yes
Wifi b/g a/b/g
Bluetooth Yes Yes
USB HDD Yes No This indicates if the device can be used as an external USB HDD or not.
Auto-Rotation Yes No There is a 3rd party solution to enable this on the OQO
Auto-Brightness Yes Yes
Keyboard Yes Yes Both have keyboards but it is obvious that the OQO's is very usable over the unusual thumbboard of the Everun. However for me this is a moot point – I will use the Fitaly onscreen keyboard anyway.
Integrated Pen Yes No The OQO pen cannot be stored in the device
Base Model Price USD 799 USD 1,299 The cheapest entry point – pricing from Dynamism.
Preferred Model Price USD 899 (SSD, CF adapter) USD 2,349 (Vista Business, SSD) If I was purchasing this device, the model I would select