Netflix Price Increase - It is good for Netflix, but is it good for you?#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

Well I am sure you all heard by now that Netflix is raising their rates in order to cover the expense of sending and receiving DVDs to increase their profit margin. Hopefully with this money increase they can use it to shore up more lucrative contracts with streaming providers to provide possibly original content and more content customers desire and is offered on cable and satellite, which can cost up to 10 times more for the same services. Netflix has heard from 5000 customers(the maximum amount available on their blog)  stating their disgust with the price increase so Netflix is getting feedback from their customers, if they choose to listen to it and react to it that is another matter entirely. Here is what Netflix has stated:

First, we are launching new DVD only plans. These plans offer our lowest prices ever for unlimited DVDs – only $7.99 a month for our 1 DVD out at-a-time plan and $11.99 a month for our 2 DVDs out at-a-time plan. By offering our lowest prices ever, we hope to provide great value to our current and future DVDs by mail members. New members can sign up for these plans by going to DVD.netflix.com.

Second, we are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into separate plans to better reflect the costs of each and to give our members a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan or the option to subscribe to both. With this change, we will no longer offer a plan that includes both unlimited streaming and DVDs by mail.
So for instance, our current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:
Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month

Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming), for $7.99 a month.
The price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). For new members, these changes are effective immediately; for existing members, the new pricing will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

As always, our members can easily choose to change or cancel their unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both by visiting Your Account.

I received the following email from Netflix a few days after the announcement

ScreenClip

Currently my dilemma lies in that I am not a huge streamer, but my family shares my Netflix account and use it exclusively for that. I prefer the DVD service for new titles, more exact I have paid the extra $2 for the Blu-ray Disc option and like the quality to view the maximum what my television can produce. I have been a Netflix subscriber for years and their turn around time has never failed to impress me on sending out movies in disc format. Occasionally, I will stream a movie via my phone, tablet, game console, or laptop when traveling, but that hasn’t been as often as it was in the past, but I have loved the ability to do so, when needed. Last year I rolled back my 2 discs out at a time to just 1 because there was just nothing to ship in my queue. As of late over the past few months it has gotten even worse, Netflix has unfortunately at the request of many movie companies particularly Warner Bros, to have a moratorium on offering new titles so the company can increase the small window of DVD/Blu-ray sales that Netflix great renting service has put a serious dent in their sales. Have the movie studios actually seen this be effective? We don’t know, since there are several other options for consumers to get that next day content RedBox, Pay Per View, Amazon Video On Demand, Blockbuster, Apple iTunes, Zune and my personal favorite as of late VUDU, which offers Blu-Ray quality streaming rentals the same day of disc release titles for a mere $2 for a 48 hour rental, much better than the competition as of now for me with no wait time. I used to be a huge consumer of DVDs and have a collection 3 shy of 900 titles not including the few Blu-Ray titles that I got to have. I am a huge fan of DVD extras and can watch movies over again when the mood fits.

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Currently my Netflix queue has been in a stall with the turn around time being delayed not only by release date delays imparted by the studios, but also due to the shear volume of requests for titles and the availability of those limited discs in my local Netflix distribution center, where the status says short wait, long wait, and the dreaded very long wait(which many titles as of this week were glaring back at red at me) until a few just became available. My Queue hasn’t really moved in the past few months and my family and myself will just throw a title in there just because the delay and activity of turn around time has been, well slow compared to other options available. Due to the quality of the turn around time of newer releases, I have been contemplating just cancelling my Netflix subscription, first it was just going to be the DVD/Blu-Ray portion only and now that the content of titles in Netflix’s streaming library has really “stunk” as of late and with the current price increase this may be the reason to finally push me over the edge and cancel it entirely. I have until September to make this decision, so I am hoping the folks at Netflix will be offering more streaming content to make it worth while to keep and improve the DVD release dates with the studios to make it worth having rather than going to a more instant option. I understand that this all requires money to make this happen and that may be the reason why Netflix is going this route to add more value for its customers and hopefully improve, but they are at the mercy of movie studios, who also want to increase their coffers so they can make the movies and content we all love as well as a profit.

It is a tough quandary to be in as a consumer who loves the service, but it doesn’t seem the service has been returning the same love to the consumer as of late. I hope we all see a turn around or we may see Netflix’s great model and customer service be replaced by another who does and go away like the brick and mortar stores they slowly closed over a period of a few years.

07/18/2011 05:12:25 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone 7 Apps I Would Be Thankful For#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. It’s a time for family and friends, football (the American kind) and most importantly – giving thanks. On my list this year (albeit down the list behind love, health and other significant items) is giving thanks to Microsoft for finally bringing Windows Phone 7 to the market. Long story short – while I still have Windows Mobile and Android devices available to me at a moment’s notice, every attempt to try to move back to those platforms for perspective ends up being short-lived. I end up right back on my T-Mobile HTC HD7, enjoying the ease of use and “glance and go” functionality Windows Phone 7 provides.

While I am thankful for Windows Phone 7 and the plethora of applications that have already reached the Windows Phone Marketplace (3,000+ and growing as I write this), there are a few applications I am longing for. That said, I thought I would write on some of these applications. Seeing as I am in the holiday spirit of things, I also thought I would write a brief “Dear Santa” letter to each vendor in the hopes that my wishes would be answered and I would have even more to be thankful for this holiday season Smile So without further delay, here is my “Windows Phone 7 Applications I Would Be Thankful For” list…

Hootsuite

“Dear Hootsuite,

Your platform has become an invaluable means in managing and monitoring my social media interactions. Your analysis tools are great, and your mobile applications for iPhone and Android have been mainstays on my devices.

I am now using a Windows Phone 7 device and sorely miss your mobile application functionality. Please, oh please, bring your platform to my phone this holiday season and make my social media experience pleasant once again.”

Waze

“Dear Waze,

I have watched your crowdsourced traffic application evolve from a fun game-type platform into a full-featured turn-by-turn navigation tool that still provides the real-time data and fun aspects so many have come to love.

Having moved to Windows Phone 7, I sorely miss the companionship of your application and invaluable guidance during my morning and evening commutes. Please, Waze – bring your application to Windows Phone 7 and make my commute fun (and faster) once again.”

XM/Sirius

“Dear XM/Sirius,

As a loyal XM subscriber for many years with many devices and an XM Premium subscription, you have managed to keep my sanity during commutes as well as providing me information and entertainment in places that are neither informative nor entertaining. Your iPhone and Android applications have kept me in-the-know when a radio is unavailable.

As the owner of a Windows Phone 7 device, I implore you XM/Sirius to bring your wonderful content to my new phone. Weekend yard work and waiting for the kids will never be quite as bright without you (or the NFL Radio Channel).”

ESPN ScoreCenter/ESPN Radio

“Dear ESPN,

Words cannot express my devotion to your family of networks and the hours of sporting fulfillment they bring to my sports-loving life. Your embracing of mobile technology with the ScoreCenter and ESPN Radio applications for phones has kept me knowledgeable in all things sport when a television was unavailable, making my technology addiction less geeky to those around me craving the latest sports news and scores.

As a user of a Windows Phone 7 device, I long once again to have the latest scores, stats and news available to me wherever I go. Please, ESPN – bring your wealth of all things sport to my new phone, making me happy and less nerdly to others around me.

P.S. – You think you could throw in an ESPN3 app for Windows Phone while you’re at it?”

TripIt

“Dear TripIt,

As a TripIt Pro subscriber, your iPhone and Android applications have often proved to be my best travel companion while on the road for both business and pleasure. With my complete itineraries and reservation details (as well as flight monitoring), you are the know-it-all obsessive-compulsive travel planning family member I never had.

Now owning a Windows Phone 7 device, I feel as though my family has grown apart, as the web-based version of your platform simply does not compare to your native applications. Please TripIt – bring back my OCD virtual family member to my fold by creating a Windows Phone 7 application. By the way – preferably do this before the upcoming holiday travel season, when I will so miss you.”

I am sure I will find more applications I miss as time goes on, of course. Looking on the bright side, this will give me more items on my wish list and (hopefully) more applications to be thankful for Open-mouthed smile

Happy Thanksgiving to all! May you have much to be thankful, both today and in the future!

11/25/2010 11:50:11 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

My Windows Phone 7 Enterprise Wish List#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

The holidays are fast approaching, and thoughts turn to children writing (and some adults) making their holiday “wish lists”. With Windows Phone 7 having been launched, I’ve been pondering a bit of a Wish List myself. While Microsoft clearly put the consumer “front and center” in the initial release of Windows Phone 7, they clearly realized that “managing your life” includes work as well as home. This being the case, many users purchasing Windows Phone 7 devices fully intend to use their new phones in their enterprise environments. The question, however, is whether they really can or be allowed to.

The enterprise is evolving with regards to phones. More and more companies are allowing employees to select and even purchase their own devices and connect to corporate infrastructure. Most commonly, there is at the least the allowance of connecting to Microsoft Exchange for email, contact and calendar information. While easing up on some restrictions, there is often a baseline of security that must be adhered to in order for any phone to be considered “safe” for corporate use. In addition, the value of any phone is often attached to its additional potential and uses. If a phone cannot be used for certain productivity scenarios, it is not considered to be “qualified” for the enterprise environment.

With all of these considerations laid out, I now present to you my personal “Top 5 Windows Phone 7 Enterprise Wish List”. While I have placed these items in order of my preference, the realization is that for each individual or business, these needs may vary. Generally speaking, though, I believe that these 5 items are essential to Microsoft gaining greater user acceptance in providing a reason for an individual purchasing the device for both work and personal use.

#5 – Application Blacklist/Whitelist Functionality

While enterprise control over what a user can or cannot install on a phone has been trending downward, the fact still remains that some companies require the ability to restrict what applications can be run on a device. Most commonly today, the use for this is for blocking specific applications (blacklisting) and is usually very tightly scoped (the days of “blocking everything but…” known as “whitelisting” has diminished with increased use of personal phones). When the need for blacklisting does arise for a company, though, the result is typically a “go/no-go” for devices where this cannot be done.

Microsoft had this functionality in Windows Mobile, and it made that platform (along with RIM and the Blackberry) the preferred device on some enterprise networks for a long time. Without this functionality, some users simply will not be able to access work-related information on their Windows Phone.

#4 – Manual WiFi Configuration

In case you were unaware, Windows Phone 7 WiFi network discovery is very restrictive. Simply put – if the SSID of network is not broadcast, it is not available for configuration. In environments where the WiFi network’s SSID is not broadcast, there is no easy way to connect to the network. Now, we can have a long discussion around the security (or lack thereof) that hiding an SSID provides. The fact of the matter, however, is that certain enterprise environments are configured in this way and changing to a broadcast SSID is simply not going to happen any time in the future. If this access is required for work-related activities (Exchange access from within the firewall and Sharepoint access without Forefront UAG installed are examples), we have another “no-go” situation for the user.

Microsoft has provided manual WiFi configuration in the past with Windows Mobile. While the “old” methods may not be conducive to the new Windows Phone 7 UI, it should not be all that difficult to create an option that allows a user to simply enter an SSID for discovery. Such a feature could go a long way in supporting users with business WiFi needs.

#3 – Enterprise Line Of Business Application Deployment

For those organizations building client applications for their business users, providing a controlled method for deploying these applications to only those should have it. In the current Windows Phone 7 world, deployment is – well, “controlled”. There is one way to deploy any Windows Phone 7 application – The Windows Phone Marketplace. Unfortunately, any application that is deployed through that channel is open to the world. There is no way to say “only display this application to these users”. For custom line of business applications accessing sensitive information, this type of exposure is simply unacceptable.

Windows Mobile was the other end of the application deployment spectrum, with complete flexibility in deployment options and a certificate signing process and trust model that still ensured safety. Every phone platform today now supports multiple application deployment options (this includes Apple now) – except Windows Phone. In enterprise environments where these sorts of applications make or break the value proposition of one phone over the other, Windows Phone 7 will be excluded.

#2 – Data Encryption

The pros and cons of the value of device data encryption can be argued for days on end, but one fact remains – in some enterprises encryption is not just an IT policy; it is a legal compliance issue. In the case of all businesses with resident information in Massachusetts, it is the law (see here for more information). If data on a phone cannot be securely encrypted, using that device to store information may very well be in violation of statutes resulting in fines and other penalties. Regardless of the reasons, however, some enterprise environments simply cannot or will not afford the risk of unencrypted data.

Encryption functionality was another strong point for Microsoft and Windows Mobile in the enterprise environment. In addition to solid encryption capabilities, the ability to enforce encryption rules through policies was a key to enterprise acceptance. Microsoft needs to find a way to bring encryption back into the fold with Windows Phone 7. The legislative push for greater data security and privacy is likely to gain momentum and devices (phones or otherwise) that cannot meet the legal and technical criteria simply will not be tolerated.

#1 – Alphanumeric Password

Some may wonder why I have this rated #1 on my list. The reason is quite simple. Even in an enterprise environment where items 2 through 5 on my list are unimportant, the protection of device data through a device password is considered a minimum threshold for security. While Windows Phone 7 supports password security, it currently only supports simple (numeric) passwords. For most enterprise organizations I have worked with, the term “Basic Mailbox Policy” (the minimum security threshold for allowing a user to simply connect to corporate mail) includes the presumption of being able to mandate a more complex password. In many of these environments, not being able to even set an alphanumeric password means no Exchange Server access.

The lack of alphanumeric support and policy enforcement in Windows Phone 7 is one case where I was left nothing short of dumbfounded. While I don’t want to trivialize anything regarding the implementation of a feature, how this was not included for the V1 launch of Windows Phone 7 is out of the realm of my comprehension. I have already encountered people who work for smaller businesses with little to no security policies… EXCEPT for the requirement of an alphanumeric password for corporate accounts. I truly hope this is addressed soon.

There were a couple of items that missed the “Top 5” on my enterprise wish list that should still get some mention -

  • Custom APN configuration. For those enterprises that have agreements with carriers to have dedicated APNs.
  • Office Communicator. For so many enterprises, the expectation of a Microsoft platform includes a Communicator client, especially when the platform itself revolves around communication.

I am certain there are other items on people’s lists that I haven’t covered here as well (I did say this was my wish list, you know Winking smile). I do believe that none of these items are beyond the realm of possibility. While some are far more complex to implement than others, all can be achieved. The result of including these items as part of the value proposition for Windows Phone 7 would all equate to one message – Windows Phone 7 helps you manage your personal and professional life; and your company like it too

11/24/2010 11:54:27 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Understanding “Customization” and “Personalization” and The Differences Between The Two#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

With the Windows Phone 7 launch now behind us and the arrival of devices either days (Europe) of weeks (North America) ahead, there is a lot of discussion around the new platform and the mobile phone space in general. One area of both discussion and debate that seems to be popping up quite frequently, both in personal discussions and on the Internet, concerns me a bit. It’s not the discussion per se that concerns me; it’s the use (and often time misuse) of two words that play an important factor in user satisfaction around mobile devices (and technology in general) – customization and personalization. Understanding what these concepts really mean and how mobile devices are designed with regards to the two concepts may make all the difference in determining which platform and specific device best fits your need. As a result, I thought it might be good time to talk to these two concepts in a bit more detail and try to eliminate some of the misrepresentation via interchangeability some have used.

Customization
Let’s start with the the concept of customization. At its core, customization deals with the look and feel of the device. Not necessarily the hardware, mind you, although you can customize what hardware buttons do when pressed. Customization is largely about the aesthetics of the device. It’s changing the layout of screens, the colors of screens, the sounds the device makes. It’s what appears or doesn’t appear on screens and how it appears. Customization is something that, first and foremost, needs to be enabled by the operating system. Those capabilities, in turn, have to be allowed by both the the hardware manufacturer and the mobile operator. Third party software vendors can also potentially play a part in customization, depending on how much access to customization is provided to the developer.

Customization has been either a strong point point or a weak point for mobile platform providers. The Windows Mobile operating system has had a long history of being a very customizable platform. Android has quickly developed this reputation as well. Apple, on the other hand, has taken its proverbial lumps on this front. Customization is, of course, a user preference. For many people, it is simply not that big a deal. Those who desire customization typically are considered to be more of the “power user” of mobile devices. In addition to desiring customization, they often tend to desire more out of their device in terms of ability and functionality.

Customization by and large affects how the device looks and sounds, and to some extent may affect the way the user interacts with the device. There is another level of interaction, however. This leads us to the concept of personalization.

Personalization
It can rightfully be argued that personalization is a form of customization, to stop there would be quite wrong. Personalization goes far deeper into the user experience with the device than customization. If we were to look at the depth of user experiences as an onion, customization largely makes up the outer layers by focusing on sight, sound and basic device navigation. The concept of personalization goes to the next level – it focuses on trying to answer the question how do I make the user experience throughout device usage truly my own.

Like customization, personalization that has to start with the mobile device operating system. Unlike customization, however, the effort involved in enabling personalization is far more complicated. To be successful in this area, in-depth research and knowledge of understanding how a user may work with a device is required. Actually developing a user experience is often the final step in a more time-consuming process of identifying target users and (for lack of a better term) “getting inside their heads”. It is about understanding how people think and behave when interacting with a technology and providing the tools to mimic most closely those behavioral patterns. Finally, it is about enabling the user to tailor those core experiences in ways to make the device more like the user in the way that they think – in this way the device is an extension of the user, a facilitator and truly personal. Perhaps the best way to think of this is through an example.

Suppose I want to get together with a couple of friends before a user group meeting for a bite to eat. From a human thought process, I would probably want to -

  1. Decide on a place to get together;
  2. Determine the appropriate time;
  3. Let just those friends know about the get together.

Seems simple enough, right? Now, try to map those steps to interactions on a mobile device. You likely will end up with something like -

  1. Navigate to a browser or application that allows me to find a proper meeting place. Depending on the application and its ability to recognize and remember your preferences, searching could be either easy or difficult.
  2. Once selected, either remember the location or use some sort of cut and paste mechanism to save the details in memory.
  3. Navigate out of the previous application and into a calendar application to pick an appropriate time. If you don’t share calendars, by the way, the time may just be an educated guess.
  4. Once a time is selected, you will need to paste the location information into a meeting invitation.
  5. Now you will need to find your friends in the contact management application. Depending upon the abilities of the application and search capabilities, this could be difficult (if not impossible). What if your friends aren’t in the default contacts application? What if they are not in any contact application, but are stored in a location on the Internet (Facebook, for example)?
  6. After the searching, you send off the invite.

Even in a simple example, you can see how human thought may not map quite well to device interaction. Most who respond to this example with “well, that isn’t so hard” are people who are very comfortable with technology in general and (through experience) are comfortable in performing this task. They are the “power user”. Mobile phones, however, need to address the more casual user much like other technologies have had to adjust. Think of the our evolution with something as commonplace as the VCR (and subsequent DVD and BluRay). Early user experiences were difficult for all but the most tech-savvy. They evolved, however, to make using the technology easier for the average consumer. Mobile devices are now moving into this same realm. More people then ever are purchasing sophisticated mobile phones, and most are not power users. As a result, the user experiences need to evolve as well.

Moving back to our example, personalization would need to focus on a few areas in order to create a more human, or “natural” experience -

  • The device/application would know and/or learn more about your preferences for things like food and use them to help with searching.
  • The device/application would be aware of location in aiding with search selection. Not only your current location, but perhaps the location of your friends.
  • The device would allow you to know more about your friends – where their information can be found and how that information (back to location, for example) will be used.
  • The experience of selecting a location and inviting friends would be more integrated, requiring less navigation and behaving more like the user thinks.

As a wrinkle on the last (and perhaps most important) point listed above, the order in which I perform the task may be different. I may wish to identify people first and then pick a location. Ideally, the device should support that order of interaction in a seamless fashion as well. This level of interaction is what personalization is really all about.

Historically, mobile devices have not been successful when it comes to personalization. The disjointed user experiences contained within Windows Mobile made for a constant sore point for new and less experienced users. Ironically, I am hearing some complaints from new and less sophisticated users of Android devices as well. They are not as bad as Windows Mobile complaints (things like Google integration help in some respects), but they are still there. A couple of years back, the iPhone took the first steps towards improving the user experience and personalization (this has always been an Apple strong point). However, little has evolved from Apple in this are in the last couple of iterations of iOS. Then there is Windows Phone 7.

For those that watched the Microsoft press event on October 11th (if you have not seen it, it is available on demand from the Microsoft PressPass site), a lot of the feedback I have received relates to the integration of applications and the seamless flow of some of the common tasks for a phone user. Ladies and gentlemen, I propose to you that -I wondered if I would ever be able to say this – Microsoft is starting to get user experiences and personalization on a mobile device. While I am a stereotypical power user, I now crave a Windows Phone 7 device. Why? – because customization is superficial; personalization, however, makes things easier. Customization may fulfill an impulse, but personalization males a difference for me in the long run. Honestly, Microsoft has not achieved “personalization nirvana” with Windows Phone 7. They have, however, taken a huge first step in this first release. When you see how fundamentally different the personalization aspect of Windows Phone 7 is, you can better understand why this operating system was a complete departure from Windows Mobile down to the very core of the operating system.

There is nothing wrong with making customization a priority over personalization, or vice-versa. It is, of course, a personal preference. It is a mistake, however, to say (accidentally or intentionally) that customization and personalization are one in the same. These two distinctly different concepts can make all of the difference between satisfaction and success when selecting a mobile device. Just remember to ask yourself what really matters the most.

10/16/2010 10:58:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone 7 and “The Hundred Years War”#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

Well, I sit at my keyboard typing on the eve of Microsoft’s “Big Event”. Tomorrow at 9:30am EDT in New York City, Steve Ballmer will unveil the long-awaited Windows Phone 7 platform (for those interested, the press conference will be live streaming here). For those who are involved with or follow the smartphone market closely, October 11th 2010 marks a day a long time in the making. I have had the great fortune to be quite close to all of the events of the last several years leading up to tomorrow, be they good or bad. There is a lot I would love to write about here, but cannot. Some things I will be able to write about in due time, while other things may never see the light of day. However, I thought I would take a few minutes to jot down some “safe” thoughts and observations this “Windows Phone 7 Launch Eve”.

startscreen_web

  • Whether you individually like it not, Windows Phone 7 marks a “company reset” for Microsoft when it comes to the role of a smartphone for the consumer market at large. Anyone who follows the industry (even casually) has read or heard from Microsoft executives about what Windows Phone 7 is all about and who the intended audience for Windows Phone 7 devices are intended. For diehard Windows Mobile users, this move will likely cause some pain; Windows Phone 7 introduces a number of new features and functionalities that are often at the expense of what Windows Mobile was or could do. Putting personal thoughts aside, I can only say one thing to those those who are upset by this change – Windows Mobile just wasn’t working.

    As much as there was (and likely will be) a very passionate and loyal Windows Mobile following, it was a VERY small passionate and loyal following. Such user segments are nice to have when market share is great, but when market share falls to single digits, it just isn’t enough. Even in the smartphone segment, there is history that backs this up. Simply look at failed attempts by Symbian/UIQ and the old Palm OS to build upon that small core of loyalty and the end result. In the end, it’s all about business folks – business was not good for the old Windows Mobile brand and change had to happen. For those upset by this change, the options *do* exist, but may not be what you want. Stick with what you have until you cannot any longer, or move on to another platform. For many Windows Mobile users, Android holds the greatest promise for now – Android frequently reminds me of Windows Mobile at its peak in both good ways and bad (good = control and customization, bad = platform fragmentation). I know this may all sound a bit harsh, but like I said – it’s just business and the reality we live with.
  • Speaking of “company resets” in philosophy, for those that think that the moves made with regards to Windows Phone 7 are solely out of desperation and cannot succeed, a little historical “reality check” is in order. This is far from the first time Microsoft has had such a significant change of heart. Remember the Microsoft of the ‘90s, that didn’t think this “Internet-thingy” was worthy of much attention. How about more recently, when the company realized that companies *didn’t* all want everything contained within their corporate firewall and cloud computing was something that had to addressed?

    Microsoft has tackled company shifts that in many ways dwarf the shift being made in the mobile space and has been reasonably successful in doing so. Does this guarantee success with Windows Phone 7? – absolutely not. But to simply dismiss any chance of success because of the shift is foolish, to say the least. Microsoft has too many people, too much talent and too much money to ever be dismissed. The key will be to see how these resources have been and will continue to be utilized to increase the chances for success.
     
  • While there are some things that have surfaced regarding Windows Phone 7 in the media that might sour some potential users (absence of “cut and paste” comes to mind Smile), there is something important to remember with regards to this technology segment – no one has ever gotten it all right in “Version 1”. Not Palm, not Microsoft, not Apple and not Google. The keys to success here (I believe both Apple and Google are doing this) are to “make a splash” up front and, more importantly, quickly evolve to meet demands of users and the industry at large. As someone who makes his livelihood working in this technology sector by dealing with potentially thousands of users and dozens (if not hundreds) of enterprises using all of these platforms, I can safely say that mobile platforms that evolve quickly to meet the demands and requirements of their target audience do gain acceptance.

    Windows Phone 7 will, by and large, will be found to have flaws in the minds of some users and businesses. However, there are enough compelling features at launch to get some to jump on board and others to pay close attention as Microsoft moves to meet their needs. Folks – most business users didn’t go within 10 feet of the iPhone in versions 1 and 2 of the OS. The same can be said for many in the early 1.x (and even early 2.x) features and limitations of Android. I can tell you from firsthand experience, however, that these platforms were never completely dismissed. Instead, the prevailing attitude was “let’s see what comes next.” Microsoft can put themselves in a good position to do the same with Windows Phone 7; personally, I believe they have done this based upon what I have seen. The key will be to adapt and evolve after October 11th, 2010. I also believe they will.
  • I find it amusing when I hear commentary in the mobile segment about “[Fill in the blank] has won the smartphone wars”. Folks – there is no such thing as a “war” here; only an ongoing set of “battles” that will constantly change and evolve over time. If anything, the “war” is more like The Hundred Years War when it comes to mobile technology. If it were truly a war, Palm would have won in the early 2000’s, Microsoft would have won in 2005 and Apple would have won in 2008. Last time I checked, none of those platforms owned a monopoly on the smartphone space.

    In this battle for market share, the companies involved have to be willing to commit to being in the arena for at least a couple of years in order to see any true results. If Google had only committed to 12 months, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Same goes for Apple. This simple fact is important to remember when it comes to Windows Phone 7. If unit sales aren’t astronomical for the first three months and market share has not shot through the roof, this is by know means a sign of failure. If only a few hundred units move in that timeframe, then – well, you’ve got the KIN Winking smile (BTW – The KIN is an entirely different story altogether; I believe we may never know all the details behind this failure unless someone writes a tell-all book).

In the end, I am extremely excited about what Windows Phone 7 brings to the mobile market and sincerely believe it will have an impact on the segment as a whole. I won’t be audacious or arrogant and try to predict the future here – I’ll leave that to the analysts Winking smile I do believe, however, that Windows Phone 7 will “bring enough to the table” tomorrow to at least become a player in this technology-based Hundred Years War. It sure will be fun to watch it all play out, too.

10/10/2010 10:23:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Rethinking Device Convergence–The Video Experience#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

If one is to consider using a single mobile device for all their multimedia needs, serious consideration has to be paid to the capabilities of the device for video purposes. In my first article on my decision to give mobile device convergence a serious try for the first time in many years, I listed video viewing as a key reason for carrying and using a dedicated portable media player (a Zune HD). In all honesty, video viewing takes up a small portion of my usage on a mobile device, especially when compared to listening to audio (described in my last article on this topic).  When the desire arises, though, I have always been a bit picky when it comes to the viewing experience.

From a video perspective, there are basically two major usage scenarios for me -

  • Viewing video stored on the device.
    Whether it is recorded TV, movies or home video, I like having the ability to store video on the device for watching “on demand”. While I don’t expect “theatre-quality”, I do expect a pleasurable viewing experience. The video should not be constantly subjected to stutter and buffering (this is as annoying to me as pixilation when watching live TV), and the audio quality should be at least acceptable stereo quality.
  • Viewing video streamed through the Internet.
    While the first thought that comes to most people’s minds when viewing Internet video is YouTube. For me, this is actually a rarity. I have a slightly more unique requirement in mind, and it is something I could not do with a dedicated media device. More on this in a moment…
    As with local video, I do have some expectation of quality of the video. I am a realist and understand that streaming video (especially when using a cellular connection as opposed to a WiFi connection) can suffer due to bandwidth. That doesn’t translate to blind acceptance, however.

In my previous attempts at device convergence and video usage, I seemly always came upon the following limitations -

  • Inadequate hardware.
    Limited CPUs and memory often meant stutter, buffering and occasional device freezes. I also include the limits of storage in this category. While storage cards did exist “in the day”, they were very limited in capacity and very expense. As a result of hardware and storage limitations, I found myself encoding video to compensate for the limitations. The result – grainy video and diminished experience.
    I should also note that displays on phones have often left a bit to be desired with regards to video. Small screens, lower resolutions and restricted display technologies did not help in making video viewing a pleasant experience.
  • Inadequate software.
    While hardware was a primary culprit in the mobile phone video experience, it was not entirely to blame. Native applications were limited in video codec support, and third-party applications often complicated matters by requiring extra hardware and memory usage on top of the video requirements.
  • Inadequate bandwidth.
    This was far and away the greatest constraint when it came to streaming video through the Internet. While many devices had WiFi capabilities, I rarely found myself in a location where WiFi was available when I wanted to view video. And cellular networks were nothing like they are today. For those that complain about network speeds and quality, think back 5 years ago. 3G networks were barely in existence. EDGE and 1XRTT were the norm, with sub-100Kbps speeds and unstable connectivity a way of life. Trying to watch video through the Internet was often painful at best.

With the painful memories of the converged device video experience still fresh in my mind, I was prepared to give this experience another try in 2010. A lot has changed over the past 5 years. I still could not help going in to my experiment that this would be the greatest challenge for a mobile device convergence test.

Gather Up Requirements

The requirements for a positive video experience on a mobile phone basically boiled down to the goal of overcoming past limitations. That meant -

  • Appropriate device hardware.
    Big screen, fast processor and lots of storage capacity. For me, the device is my T-Mobile USA HTC HD2. With a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor and a large WVGA screen, the basic needs appeared to be met. From a storage capacity, the T-Mobile USA variant of the HD2 came with a 16GB microSD card. Remembering the days when a 256MB Compact Flash card was considered a luxury, the 16GB total seemed like it should suit my needs Winking smile
  • Appropriate software.
    Be it native to the device or via third-party, I would need software that made it easy and enjoyable to view video on the device. There were 3 pieces of software I would try -
    • Windows Media Player for Mobile
      Standard on Windows Phone devices, it would be interesting to try the “out-of-the-box” video solution to see how it would fare.

      WMPMobile
    • Kinoma Play
      In my previous article covering the audio experience, I discussed Kinoma Play as an audio solution. Well, from a video perspective, Kinoma Play works as well.

      KinomaPlayVideo01
    • Sling Media Sling Player for Mobile
      Here at BostonPocketPC.com, we have talked about Sling Media’s fantastic Slingbox solution many times in the past. Providing a hardware solution that allows you to “placeshift” (watch and control a home system while outside the home), the Slingbox and associated Sling Player software allow you to access your home TV no matter where you are. Slingbox is flexible; it allows you to connect in to any number of home entertainment configurations.

      SlingPlayer01
      For me, a Slingbox is connected to and controls a Comcast cable receiver. While this box is not a DVR (if you hook into that, you could watch your recorded shows remotely), it does provide me access to all of my Comcast channels as well as Comcast On Demand.  

      SlingPlayer02
  • Appropriate bandwidth.
    I would need a device and carrier that could provide acceptable speeds, coverage and reliability to allow me to watch video through the Internet when I wanted. As a longtime T-Mobile USA customer, the issues of bandwidth and coverage were rather numerous over the years. From a bandwidth perspective, even as T-Mobile rolled out 3G coverage they did so on the 1700Mhz spectrum. My problem? – most of my devices (unlocked) did not use this frequency, leaving me on EDGE data speeds. My first T-Mobile 3G device was the MyTouch 3G. While it gave me the bandwidth I desired, it lacked in other performance areas.
    With the HD2 I get 3G capabilities and 3G performance. While the Greater Boston area has yet to receive the nationwide HSPA+ upgrade (which will also increase performance for 3G devices), I still am receiving data throughput rates worthy of effective streaming.

With my tools now in hand, it was time to try to live the converged device experience with video.

Evaluating The Video Experience

When you consider the fact that I consider video to be the toughest challenge for a converged mobile device experience, I will say that the HD2 exceeded most of my expectations.

When it came to local video viewing, the HD2 provided a wonderful experience. T-Mobile USA and HTC knew this would be the case, including copies of both the first and second Transformers movies on the included microSD card. Something I did notice – the video quality in terms of framerate and lack of stutter was far better using the native Windows Media Player than the third-party Kinoma Play. I suspect the combination of the higher encoding rate for the movie, combined with the age-old issue of third-party software running on top of the OS and the CPU/memory requirements made for a bit of degradation of performance. I used my Motorola HT820 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones (discussed in my previous article) for the audio, and the quality was very good.

From a streaming video experience, it was – well, spectacular! I had become accustomed to a low-bandwidth experience with past devices. Slingbox and the SlingPlayer for Mobile do a wonderful job of adjusting and optimizing to bandwidth, but the result was typically grainier and often required pauses for buffering. On the HD2, however, I rarely (if ever) had issues. This is as much a credit to the T-Mobile network as it is to the hardware and software. In addition, the higher speeds of the network allowed the SlingPlayer to stream higher quality video. The SlingPlayer is one area in a converged device scenario that really can’t be duplicated with dedicated media players. While there are newer solutions on the market (FloTV, for example), they are highly specialized and limit you to the content they provide. The SlingPlayer lets me watch whatever I have access to via my Comcast cable subscription (I am a bit embarrassed to say that means quite a lot Smile).

While a wonderful experience, only longtime issue around using a phone as a converged device still exists – battery life. While things have improved on this front, I will say that the video experience makes the battery issue most obvious. I could get about one two-hour movie in on my HD2 before becoming concerned about battery life. By comparison, I could watch at least twice as much video on my Zune HD. Being the realist, I understand why this is the case as the phone is doing so much more behind the scenes than a dedicated media player. Still, my feeling is that planning on using the HD2 regularly for video would require either a second battery or a portable charging solution.

The Final Verdict

Honestly – the jury is still out Winking smile There is no doubt that the HD2 is more than capable of handling my video needs. While I believe I lean towards using it on a regular basis, I will remain cautious in situations where battery life is important. Aside from that, I believe the score is now 2 – 0 in favor of going with a single device.

Next up (in my next article) – GPS navigation and trying to eliminate the need to carry a dedicated GPS device.  

08/07/2010 11:51:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Rethinking Device Convergence–The Audio Experience#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

In my quest to try once again to use a single device for all my needs, I decided that the first real test for my T-Mobile USA HTC HD2 would be with regards to the audio experience. In my previous article on the subject, I laid out what I thought were the needs, criteria and requirements for what would be deemed an acceptable experience. With all of this in hand, I set forth to put everything in motion.

Gathering Up Requirements

There were a few criteria for the audio experience that needed to be addressed from a hardware and software experience. They were -

  • Vehicle mounting.
    I wanted to be able to have a device mounting solution that allowed me to easily put the device in place where it was accessible when in my car. In all honesty, the greatest amount of audio usage for me has been while driving, be it during commutes or on business-related trips in the New England region. Fortunately, I have had the solution to this requirement in hand for quite some time – the ProClip Vehicle Mounting Solution.

    Longtime readers of this website have seen past reviews regarding ProClip solutions. I won’t rehash that all here, but I will restate what I have said to many time and time again – ProClip provides some of the most professional and easy-to-install solutions for vehicles you will ever find. I have used ProClip with a countless number of devices over the past several years and have never been short of completely satisfied with the results. The two-part aspect of the solution (one mounting bracket and device-specific holders) combined with their Move Clip enhancement have made switching between devices an absolute pleasure. My wife, who at one time used ProClip with her vehicle with an older phone, quickly remembered the convenience of the solution herself recently. When she asked me about using ProClip with her new T-Mobile USA Touch Pro 2, my answer was simple – “Your mounting bracket is still there. It’s just a device holder away, honey.” Smile

    For my vehicle needs, the ProClip HD2 holder was the obvious answer. ProClip provides variations of holders for some devices, and the HD2 was no exception. In addition to a basic holder, ProClip also provides a holder with a built-in DC cigarette lighter adapter. This is perfect for the user who intends to use the device heavily in scenarios that increase battery drain.

    IMG_2782
    ProClip HD2 Holder with built-in charger.

    The holder also includes a swivel mount, allowing for adjustment to meet viewing needs.

    IMG_2783
    ProClip HD2 holder attached to bracket with swivel mount.

    The end result – the HD2 is in a position for easy access and “at-a-glance” readability.

    IMG_2784
    ProClip HD2 Holder with device (driver perspective).

    This is not as important for audio experiences as it is for GPS navigation and incoming call perspectives, but is important nonetheless from an overall driving perspective.

    All in all, ProClip once again proved to be an invaluable component for using a device while driving. If you are interested in ProClip for your vehicle and device, check out all of the information at the ProClip website.
  • Device-Friendly Car Stereo. 
    For any driving scenario, a device-friendly car stereo is always a big plus. Such solutions come in many forms today, from Bluetooth integration to device-specific solutions. I’ve long had a flexible solution – a car stereo with a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack in the stereo faceplate. When combined with the 3.5mm output on the HD2, I can have full stereo sound with a minimum of difficulty.
  • Audio software.
    While there are a number of pre-installed and third-party audio solutions for Windows Mobile devices, I have some rather unique requirements. My audio comes in multiple “flavors” -
    • Music. This comes is a variety of formats, including WMA and MP3.
    • Podcasts. Usually, this comes in MP3 format, but there is the occasional WMA file thrown in.
    • Audible audio books. This is the really tricky part. Audible books come in a proprietary format and require authentication. Usually, this means installing Audible’s Audible Player software. While this works, Audible Player has not always been my favorite software.

Ironically, it was my audio book requirement that led me to look into a third-party solution that helped me to deal with Audible – and provide me with so much more. The solution – Kinoma’s Kinoma Play

KP01

Kinoma Play is a virtual “Swiss Army Knife” solution for media on your Windows Mobile device. A complete review of all of Kinoma Play’s features would probably be worthy of a book Smile. There were several features which did catch my eye.

  • Audible support. Kinoma Play supports Audible audio content without the need for the Audible Player. You can authenticate with your Audible credentials from within in the interface. That’s not all, however.
    Kinoma Play allows you to download and listen to your content, but also allows you to stream your audio books and subscriptions!

    KP02
    Audible support in Kinoma Play.

    My Audible plan includes a daily subscription to the Wall Street Journal Daily Edition. While I could download it (the Audible Player includes Audible Air, allowing you to schedule downloads over-the-air), it is often simpler to just stream it while driving during the morning commute.

    Kinoma Play also allows you to sbuscribe to podcasts. Similar to Audible support, Kinoma Play allows you to either download or stream podcasts as well.

    From an music perspective, Kinoma Play provides you with everything you would expect from a music player. Sorting by song, artist, album or genre, album art – you name it, it’s there.

    KP03
    Song view in Kinoma Play (with album art).

    While a full-blown equalizer isn’t present in Kinoma Play, there are audio settings available.

    KP04
    Audio settings in Kinoma Play.

    All in all, Kinoma Play exceeded all my needs and expectations. I will say that this does come at a rather hefty price – Kinoma Play retails for $29.99 USD. For all that it provides me, the cost was well worth the investment. If you are interested in finding out more, be sure to visit the Kinoma Play website.
  • Bluetooth stereo headphones.
    I admit it – when it comes to my devices, I hate wires. I avoid them wherever and whenever possible. As a result, a good set of Bluetooth stereo headphones are a must for me. I have been a longtime user of Motorola’s HT820 headset and have been reasonably satisfied.

    MotoHT820

    My only complaint has been not with sound quality and performance, but with comfort. The headset’s “around the ear” design without passing can get a bit uncomfortable over time. From a technical perspective, however, the sound quality is good and the fact that the HT820 also serves as a hands-free headset, allowing me to answer phone calls, makes for a big plus.

Evaluating the Audio Experience

In short, I can say that the audio experience using my combination of device, hardware and software has met or exceeded my expectations. The only complication I have experienced thus far is the in-car experience. using the 3.5mm auxiliary jack works great for music, but answering a call has complications. As it turns out, the speaker phone on the HD2 works rather well, so I can leave the device in the cradle. I will say that, ideally, a complete integrated Bluetooth car kit would be perfect.

My audio experiences have also worked well when dealing with incoming phone calls. Software has recognized the incoming call and responded accordingly. Phone functionality has not suffered as a result of my device convergence.

The bottom line – I am now using my T-Mobile USA HD2 as my primary audio device Smile My Zune HD has not been entirely abandoned; there are still times when I prefer to save my HD2’s battery life (this is still a major inconvenience with convergence, especially when using Bluetooth and streaming from the Internet at the same time). However, the first device I reach for now is my HD2 when I want to listen to music, podcasts or audio books.

Next up (in my next article) – device convergence and video. Stay tuned… 

08/01/2010 12:42:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Revisiting the Idea of Device Convergence#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

Way back in 2003, I wrote some articles that discussed my case for resisting device convergence (that is, trying to do everything with one device). At the time, it seemed that everyone was trying to use their Pocket PCs (yep – we still called them that back then) and Smartphones (yep – that was a Microsoft branding) to be the one device for all of their needs. At the time, I gave several reasons for my thinking -

  1. The devices just were not powerful enough.
    Sure, Pocket PCs and Smartphones could multitask – in theory. But with limited CPUs, limited memory and no real hardware assistance for graphics, more than one resource-intensive application at a time meant sluggish performance and a degraded user experience.
  2. “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” Syndrome.
    In 2003, a Pocket PC could play movies, but not as well as a dedicated device. It could play music, but not as well as a dedicated device. It could perform GPS navigation, but not as well as a dedicated device. The result was a lot of sacrifice in quality for the luxury of less devices.
  3. The need for “accessories”.
    Many functionalities around device convergence often needed a bit of assistance a few years back. Sometimes, the assistance came in the form of software designed to overcome the limitations of Pocket PC default software. One example – I was an avid user of Conduits’ Pocket Player for its robust equalizer. Other times, the accessory came in the form of additional hardware. Most notable here was GPS adapters for navigation (that’s right – GPS chips didn’t always exist on phones, kids Winking smile).

In the end, the amount of effort required for device convergence combined with the often mediocre results drove me to the conclusion that specialized hardware was the way to go. The result -

  • A smartphone for “smartphone things” – Phone, email, Internet applications.
  • A GPS device for navigation.
  • A dedicated media player – in my case, Zune/Zune HD.

A lot has happened since those days of old, but for the most part I have continued with the 3-device solution – until now. I came close a couple of times…

  • The iPhone 3/3GS had me seriously thinking about convergence. However, iTunes has never been my cup of tea and managing multiple formats for media just didn’t seem to be worth it.
  • Several Windows Mobile and Android devices caught my attention. In the end, though, the devices that met most needs didn’t meet all and that wasn’t enough.

So, what changed my mind, you might ask? Ironically, in an age where Windows Mobile is typically a “whipping boy” in the mobile device space, it was a Windows Mobile 6.5 device that did the trick – the T-Mobile USA HTC HD2. Back in June, T-Mobile USA had their one-day Fathers Day promotion going. My wife and I, both longtime T-Mobile customers (going back to the days of Voicestream) realized that 1) we were off-contract and 2) T-Mobile’s “Even More” plans would give us more than our current plan and cost us less (including finally getting an Internet data plan for my wife, something we had discussed for quite some time). While we didn’t qualify for free phones (that was only for new customers), the combination of a “Buy One Get One Free” phone offer and other rebates was just too good to pass up. My wife decided on the HTC Touch Pro 2 (she really wanted a physical keyboard and the slide out functionality of the TP2 was just what she wanted). I, on the other hand, looked at all the specs and potential of the HD2 and decided that this was my choice.

When I first fired up the HD2, my intention was not to go “all-in-one”. I still was using my dedicated Navigon GPS unit for navigation and my Zune HD for videos and music. Late in the first day of usage, though, a casual try of a feature that came with the T-Mobile USA version of the HD2 lit the proverbial lightbulb over my head. The HD2 came with a 16GB microSD card. Included on that card – the movies Transformers and Transformers 2. I decided to try out the movies on the device. To my amazement, the quality and clarity of the videos were on a par with my Zune HD, and with a bigger screen to boot. Of course, battery life on a Zune HD (or any dedicated media player for that matter) would be superior to a multi-purpose device, but still – this was intriguing. Could I possibly go one-device after all of these years? Had the time come and the hardware progressed to the point where I could change my mind?

In order to fully evaluate the possibility of device convergence on a regular basis, I decided to break down what my requirements would be. I took the approach of defining desired experiences first, then looked at more tangible requirements. The results -

  • Experiences
    • Audio on-the-go.
      This would include music, podcasts and audio books. I want to use the headphones of my choice when needed, and have a positive experience when in my car as well.
    • Video on-the-go.
      Similar to audio, except drop the “car” part. No watching video when driving, you know Winking smile. I also including streaming media into this equation, whether it is from the Internet or through it (as in “from my home”).
    • GPS navigation.
      I desire a quality and accurate experience here, on a par with dedicated GPS units. I expect audio (turn-by-turn directions) and video (accurate and readable visuals).
    • Phone usage.
      While this is considered a given at face value, the experience here relates to phone experiences while involved with other experiences. This is a huge consideration for for converged scenarios. What happens when a call comes in while listening to music or using the GPS? How easy is it to answer a call? What happens when the call ends. From my perspective, this is still often the greatest point of failure for many phone today.
  • Requirements
    • Big screen.
      Needed for an enjoyable video experience and effective GPS presentation.
    • Powerful CPU/GPU.
      A big screen is worthless without the processing power to provide the required frame rates and updates needed for video, audio and GPS.
    • Well-supported Bluetooth.
      I add “well-supported” for a couple of reasons. First – without the proper Bluetooth profile support, using a Bluetooth stereo headset or car kit is impossible or unlikely. Second – profiles without the hardware support for performance results in quantity but not quality. This was a major failing for earlier Bluetooth implementations; I could use a Bluetooth stereo but the quality was horrible or the there was a tremendous amount of buffer/stutter with the hardware trying to keep up.
    • Supporting hardware.
      This includes things like headsets for audio and car accessories for when driving. I can’t put all of the burden on the device now, can I? Winking smile
    • Supporting software.
      While there are onboard solutions for many of the experiences I desire, that’s not to say that third-party solutions cannot enhance the experience even more.

With my requirements and experiences now in hand, the grand convergence experience could commence. It is currently in process, but so far so good. The details? I will be writing them up in more focused articles shortly. The articles will include what I included from the Requirements perspective and will discuss the pros and cons of the experience. Stay tuned…

08/01/2010 10:31:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

CES Predictions for 2009#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

Each year we try and make some predictions on what will be the hottest technology at CES. There are a lot of electronics introduced each year that don’t make it to the store shelves until around the September time, others are soon right after CES, and others fail to make it out of the gate. Most technology has been around for a while, but it takes a while for it to gain market acceptance and become a consumer electronic staple. Last year it was the year of the GPS. For the year 2009 I think this will be the year of the mini-notebook.

 2009_international_ces

Mini Notebook

Many of us have been using them for years, but now consumers have found their value as well as price range very acceptable for a portable machine on the go that allows for email, web browsing and occasional document creation and viewing via presentation. This what most consumers want and have been desiring for a while and manufacturers are now starting to listen like Acer,Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo. Other manufacturers like Fujitsu and Toshiba have been doing this for years, but they weren’t affordable(under $500) and came a high cost premium for miniature computing. People will see these not as main PCs, but more like companion PCs for travel and occasional computing that they can’t do on handheld devices and smartphones. Small screen-size is what people desiring portability want. The sweetspot of screen size varies from user to user some like 9-inch display for ultra-portability and others like a 12-inch screen for portability and a comfortable viewing size for extended periods.

Other innovations will be in the computing space that we will see more on both the desktop and notebook computers.

USB 3.0

It has been a while since this technology was mentioned and USB 2.0 just seems to have taken hold as the standard interface for data with devices leaving IEEE 1394 aka Firewire on only a few video cameras, which are a rare find even today. USB 3.0 is set to multiple the 480Mb/s (peak) of USB 2.0 a tenfold.It does this by adding 5 new lines (two for receiving data, two for sending data and an additional ground) on a new plane to USB 2.0’s existing 4 lines so it will still be backwards compatible. Hopefully we will see more support for devices and computers this year, but I wouldn’t hold my breath until late 2009.

Display Port

Some newer laptops are shipping with this new connector that is smaller than your standard 15-pin VGA connector and beefier DVI connector making for a smaller footprint in laptops, video cards and built-in video display. However, monitors will also need to accept that connector, which are currently rare and in-between. If anything people will be purchasing adapters to go with their Display Port enabled computers.

OLED

Hopefully this will be the year that we will be seeing the long-waited clearer image and energy savings of OLED displays will hopefully hit mass production in laptop and desktop displays. We are still waiting for OLED to hit televisions as well that are larger than a total foot diagonally.

802.11n

Will this version of WiFi ever settle on their standards. Hopefully the draft standards will become standard. Personally it works well with what devices I have that utilize the n standard and it would be nice to see it become standard will all new computers.

WiMAX

WiMAX is finally coming and some people have been using it small areas with companies like Clearwire delivering it into select markets in the country. This technology has been around quite a few years and I think it will start to reach consumer acceptance, much like 3G has with phone and cellular data modems with the help from Intel and Sprint with their new Sprint 4G network.

Blu Ray Disc

Well the format war is over, but Blu Ray still hasn’t won the hearts of the consumer’s wallet, DVD sales are still strong and many people are waiting for player prices to drop as well as the Blu Ray Media Price like DVDs did, which I have noticed is happening – DVD prices are going up and BRD prices are dropping. BD Live is some cool technology and we are seeing players coming equipped with a network connection to get you a little more out of your HD media with new content updated frequently. LG even released a player that supports NetFlix HD streaming, like TiVo and Xbox 360’s. Currently BRD should be making moves a bit faster than DVD did with online distribution services of HD content winning consumer’s dollars faster due to ease of use and price point. Digital copies does help, but for Home Theater enthusiasts storing and distributing it is still a huge hurdle. Also its about time they now have BRD with THX certification, well one Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls. Hopefully we will also see more titles that move beyond the aged 5.1 surround sound and move to at least 7.1 or heaven forbid 9.1 and TrueHD for sound that is normalized and is heard like it should be heard as the director intended it to be.

Green and Energy Star

I have been asking many manufacturers about this for years and it looks like last year it started to become a great marketing and good for the environment move by many companies as well as many new laws and regulations setup by other parts of the world. More electronics will be green and Energy Star compliant, but I would like to see some products own up to the actual carbon footprint left behind in the manufacturing process and disposal of the device. Its crazy to think that the carbon foot print of a Toyota Prius battery tray which is made from material in Canada, that is shipped for processing in Europe, then shipped to China for final product manufacture of the batteries and then shipped to Japan is larger than two Land Rover Discoveries. People looking to be energy conscious isn’t just at the plug-end, but also the whole cradle to grave existence of the device. It would be nice if a new standard was developed to show this. At least more manufacturers are moving toward this.

LED Lights

Well this isn’t big on the tech side of things, but reinventing the light bulb has been a topic of conversation for many years since Edison. Newer replacement LED bulbs yet have to reach the same lumens output as current Halogens, but they don’t cost as much to operate as well and don’t waste energy in the form of heat. I am hoping this year more LED based lighting options are available in 2009 from leaders like Philips, Sylvania, and GE that are also affordable for the average consumer that will reach the similar light output of current bulbs they are replacing.

Software

How come no one really talks about this at CES? In the current economic client we will see companies and VC cutting back funding for new hardware and focusing on software and services for their new products. More products are now interfacing with existing online services making devices more connected. Microsoft and Google should be meeting with partners and resellers and selling and informing resellers what to expect in the coming months.

Again this year I don’t think any huge announcements made in the CE space, but many soft launches of some newer technology as evolutionary, not revolutionary from current electronics, still its enough to make me say “Gimme” and feed my Technolust. Still I can’t wait for CES to begin, I am as giddy as a child during the holidays. I can’t wait…

01/07/2009 18:29:26 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

iPhone 2.0 and MobileMe - Very "UnApple-Like"#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

On the heels of friend Chris Leckness' post at MobilitySite regarding recent iPhone issues (Chris, BTW, references another great article by Matt Miller on the same subject), I thought I might chime in with some observations made through all of the recent events.

What has transpired with regards to the iPhone, and MobileMe over the past weeks has, in my opinion, been very uncharacteristic for Apple as an organization. Let's face it - like it or not, Apple may understand the concept of "user experience" better than any software or hardware vendor in history. I regularly reference Apple as the standard-bearer for insuring that any given user experience is complete, well-defined and thoroughly tested before public consumption. It is this mindset that plays a large part in Apple's brand loyalty. The iPhone 2.0/MobileMe issues seem to fly directly in the face of these very principles.

I sincerely believe many of the issues related to the iPhone were avoidable if not for another aspect of Apple corporate culture; unbridled secrecy. Most are familiar with Apple's zealous approach to "keeping things under wraps" until product launch. Few are ever given access to Apple development in its earlier stages, and are sworn to eternal secrecy if they are. While this approach works well in scenarios where the number and diversity of testers are not critical to true validation of the product, it can be the "kiss of death" in scenarios where diversity and number of testers makes all the difference in the world. Keeping that in mind, let's look at some of the issues and how a limited testing group can be a major factor -

  • Cellular signal strength/quality issues. While we all often laugh at the Verizon "Can you hear me now?" guy, there is an important principle here. Anyone who works in or around the cellular industry or is tied to a mobile phone while traveling extensively can tell you - what works in one area doesn't necessarily work in another area. The more geographically diverse a testing base, the better the gauging of a cellular radio stack. And no, you can't cover every square foot of North America, Europe and all of the places which have access to the iPhone, but a large testing group is statistically going to be better than a small one. Remember also that with varying geography comes varying carriers and varying cellular networks. Again - the more diversity, the better.

    Some recent finger-pointing in all of this is now blaming the radio chipset as the culprit. Even if so, more extensive testing results in more reported issues which results in identifying the culprit - before product launch. Whatever or whomever the final cause is regarding this issue, the bottom line is that a primary user experience with a cellular phone - using the cellular radio - has been far from desirable for many users.
  • Third-Party application issues. there have been any number of issues reported with the running of third-party applications on the new iPhone. As Chris L. pointed out, many quickly blame the developers. If "bad code" is truly to blame, then so be it. However, with all of the restrictions placed by Apple in relation to third-party developers and the AppStore, a testing/certification process should catch the most flagrant issues. I cannot help but believe that Apple was either unprepared for a large number of applications being submitted or simply did not test the applications as thoroughly as they should have (if at all). What strikes me as most surprising in all of this is the fact that Apple gave a strong impression that a primary reason for the AppStore approval process was to ensure quality control was in place. That being said, a larger testing base may once again have facilitated any QA process.
  • MobileMe. Honestly, I believe many of the issues here exemplify how any company can struggle when leaving their "comfort zone". While iTunes shows that Apple can managed large-scale connectivity and distribution models over the Internet, synchronization of thousands (if not millions) of computing devices is a far different beast (remember - MobileMe is not an iPhone or even Apple-exclusive technology). MobileMe likely should never have been launched until after the iPhone was launched, and then only in controlled testing modes to ensure reliability and scalability.

There have been other issues surrounding the iPhone floating around the Internet, but I think I'll stop here. The point that I am trying to make is that Apple appears to me to have drifted from what has always made it such a vastly popular company -

User experience took a back seat to a product launch date.

As someone who has worked with and for companies that take this approach to doing business on a regular basis, brand loyalty will only last as long as a new or cheaper competitor doesn't arrive on the scene. In Apple's case, recent events are an exception, not the rule. Moving forward, Apple can (and likely will) return to its tried and true ways. If not, "unApple-like" practices will really test the patience of what is arguably the most loyal customer base in technology history. In addition, people and companies new to Apple (iPhone and the enterprise, for example) are definitely being given an initially unfavorable impression of Apple. To these folks, there is no "unApple-like" thought process; there is only a "bad product launch" thought. Gaining trust with this market is probably going to be even rougher than first thought.

I believe that Apple will correct many of the issues around the iPhone and MobileMe. History proves they are responsive. What will be interesting to see, however, is whether or not Apple is willing to accept the fact that venturing into new businesses and technologies may require a change in corporate culture. In the case of the iPhone, third-party applications and MobileMe, that change may require steeping away from the isolated and limited world of product testing and moving towards more open and expansive testing programs. This would definitely be the most "unApple-like" thing that Apple could do, but likely would allow them to be most "Apple-like" in terms of customer satisfaction.

08/14/2008 12:29:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Review: The Mugen Power battery for the HTC Kaiser aka TyTN II ,AT&T Tilt & P4550#
Post By Johan van Mierlo

Last Month I received an extended battery from Mugen Power . This extended battery is 3000mAh compared to the standard 1350mAH that comes with the HTC Kaiser.

Top view comaprison battery and cover

What attracted me to this battery was not only to have more juice available to me, but also the nice looking battery cover that comes with it. The battery cover is not like any others where you have a bulging top or bottom on the device. No, this cover was straight from top to bottom. The cover has many features as the original cover has as well. The opening for the camera is in a chrome finish with an opening for the lens and a speaker like shield for the speaker.  The only thing I am missing is a clear lens cap that covers the hole for the camera. Now dust can get on my original lens easily and also into my device. The cover has a nice shiny black finish to it and also a WiFi and Bluetooth logo printed on it. If you use an external GPS antenna, you still can with removing the rubber cap also in this cover. Since that the cover is straight al over the device you will have some empty space under the cover where the battery is not located.

Original battery and cover compared with Mugen Power solution

Now the performance! They clearly make a statement that you have to use it to drain the battery as much as possible before recharging. You have to do this a couple of time to reach the maximum capacity.

In the first couple of days of using this battery it indeed didn’t give me the 3x more power as I had hoped for. However this started to increase dramatically after a couple of days. I have Emoze (Push E-mail) constantly running on my device and I use my phone heavenly many other ways in receiving data. Now instead of really only 8 hours of use, I can go to a trade show early in the morning and continue on to late in the evening without any worries.

Extended battery placed in device


This extended battery makes your device a little heavier and clunky, but for those long days I really need it. The unit still fits in the original holster but unfortunate it does not fit in my custom car holder due to the extra thickness all over the length of the device.

Device with the cover of the extended battery

Original height of the device

Recently I have upgraded my device with a new radio and the drain of my battery has dramatically been reduced. I am now able to go 2 full days with my original battery and almost a week with this extended battery from Mugen Power Batteries.

Mugen Power Batteries is your source for the extended battery of your device. Please check out their website and see their whole line up of extended batteries for most mobile devices.

06/17/2008 10:03:43 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Review: Jabra BT8040#
Post By Johan van Mierlo

Review: Jabra  BT8040

In the last of couple of years I have been trying many Bluetooth headsets. But my main problems with them are that they are clunky and uncomfortable.  During the 2008 CES Jabra Launched their new BT8040 which is small and has an in ear comfortable fit using, according to the size of your ear, flexible loops/rings.

Many in ear headsets never worked for me since I have smaller ears and always had to use the extra provided around the ear loop. Even though I had a good fit they were still very uncomfortable.

Last week during the CTIA I met with the people from Jabra and had the opportunity to take a closer look at the BT 8040 headset and try it on my impossible ears.  Instantly I had a very comfortable feeling of this very light weight headset. They were kind enough to provide me a sample for use with a longer period.

I have been wearing and using this headset for a week now and I clearly have to say that it is very comfortable small and light without losing the quality of sound and the ease of use.  The small round button is easy to find and feel to answer a call or to start the voice command for starting a call. Two smaller buttons on the top and bottom have different tones indicating the volume. The lower tone is volume down and higher tone is volume up. Even thought the microphone is further away my callers didn’t notice any of this and the noise reduction did eliminate many background noises on the streets of Las Vegas.

The Jabra BT8040 also is great for listing to your music on your phone via A2DP and has great quality. The transfer from listening to music to an incoming call is great and is no hassle at all. After the call is finished it continues with the music where it left off.

In the short time I have been using this great headset. I can’t compare the ease of use, comfort, quality and design to any other headset out there.

The box includes:

  • Jabra BT8040 with internal rechargeable battery
  • 6 Jabra ear gel (2 small, 2 medium, 2 large)
  • Illustrated user
  • Quick start Guide
  • AC power supply
  • USB charging cable

The Jabra BT8040 retails for $ 99.99 but many lower prices can be found online

The specifications are:

Microphone
Sensitivity –44 dB ± 3 dB (1kHz, 0db=1V/Pa)
Omni-directional 4 mm Omni-directional microphone

Speaker
Type 11 mm electro-dynamic receiver
Sensitivity 110 dB ± 3dB rel. to 1 mW at 1.0 KHz
Impedance 16 Ω ± 2.4 Ω at 1.0 KHz 0.2 V

Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
Noise reduction on transmitted and received audio, Noise dependent volume control, Automatic volume adjustment on received audio, Acoustic shock protection

Operating temperature
-20° C to 60° C

Storage temperature
-20° C to 45° C

Waterproof
No

AC power supply
5VDC, 0.25A output, 100-240VAC, 50-60Hz input

Charging plug
Micro USB B – 7.4 x 2,7 mm

BT8040 materials
Polycarbonate (PC), Polycarbonate/Acryl Butadien Styren (PC/ABS), TPE, Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC)

Pairing code or PIN
0000 ( 4 Zeros )

Features
Auto pairing, Answer/end call, Voice dial*, Last-number redial*, Reject call*, Call hold/ call wait*, Mute, Multipoint, Play music, Quiet mode (turns light off after 1 minute)

Bluetooth compliance
Qualified for Bluetooth Specification version 2.0 + EDR (enhanced data rate)

Supported Bluetooth profiles
Headset and Hands-free Profiles for phone conversations and Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) for streaming music

Compatibility
Jabra BT8040 is compatible with other Bluetooth devices with Bluetooth 1.1 (or higher) specifications and supports the Bluetooth headset, hands-free audio and / or advanced audio distribution profiles

Security
128 bit encryption

Operating range
Up to 33 feet 

Paired devices
Up to 8 devices - connected to 2 at the same time (multi point)

Talk time
Up to 6 hours

Standby time
Up to 200 hours

Charging time
Approximately 2 hours

Weight
Less than 10 g (approximately 1/3 oz)

Dimensions
L1.54 x W.71 x D.47 inches

 

04/07/2008 20:46:29 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

CES 2008 Slogan should be...#
Post By Johan van Mierlo

Many thoughts are going through my mind after returning from the CES in Las Vegas. But as Steven Hughes here at BostonPocketPC is recapping the show in a few words that says it all.

"Evolutionary but not Revolutionary"

With many things to see nothing was that exciting that would give the vibes. A Lot of the technology out there was put towards new and good uses.

For example:
- Live HD radio captioned for the hearing impaired.
- Live video conferencing for the hearing impaired. Maybe next year they will probably be joining together and the hearing impaired will be able to conference with anyone in any way and it won't be a handicap anymore.

With the technology out there that we always wanted, this was the show where the applications using these technologies were able to catch up before a new technology will replace it and everyone can go back to the drawing board

01/11/2008 19:40:13 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Initial Thoughts on the Apple iPhone#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

The talk of the Internet yesterday was Apple's announcement of the new iPhone. I will leave the buzz to the rest of the Internet at this point (Gizmodo does have the official specs and press announcement in one place, if you're interested).

What amazed me out of all of the news and discussions regarding this new device was the "coronation" of the device as a complete success. It reminds me of a recent event...

For the past month and a half, I have followed the sports media and pundits here in the US as they essentially "crowned" a national champion in college football. Funny thing - the fact that a winner would be determined in an actual game on an actual football field on an actual game never seemed to get in the way of this coronation. By January 8th (the date of the actual game), many made it sound like the game was more of a nuisance and waste of time.

On Monday, January 8th, 2007, the Ohio State University Buckeyes actually played the University of Florida Gators for the national championship. Final score - Florida 41, OSU 14. By the way - OSU was the team that had been handed the championship by the press. The moral of the story - don't predict a winner until the game is played.

The iPhone has the potential to be a runaway hit. Notice the word potential here. I don't consider raw number of gross units sold to be the ultimate determination of success, either (more on why in a minute). To get there, however, the iPhone actually has to "play the game", and with it prove some things to me -

  • From Apple's perspective, the iPhone is very new to them in a number of areas. Moving into new markets, using new technologies, targeting both new and old users. Apple is very good at overcoming all of these obstacles when everything else goes well. There is a lot in play, though, which leads to...
  • The iPhone has a lot of "moving parts". New touch-screen technologies, accelerometer, cellular radio stacks, etc. Bringing this all together and making it work in mass-produced, heavily-used, real-world situations without failure is going to be a huge challenge. For those who think this is a "no-brainer" for Apple, simply look to all of the issues with the MacBook/MacBook Pro as proof of "nothing is full-proof".
    While sales of the Apple hardware have been good, customer dissatisfaction with issues and lack of response are way up. I do not ever recall a time when I have heard so many friends who are Apple loyalists frustrated and upset. If this starts to happen in the cellular space where the carriers are the front-line tech support, trust me - the carriers are going to get nasty pretty fast (anyone remember the T-Mobile/HP row with the 6300 series).
  • Apple gets to play in the cellular space. Long-time Windows Mobile developers, enthusiasts and partners all know how challenging the cellular marketplace can be, especially here in the US. While being both the OS and device manufacturer (unlike Microsoft's model) can have some advantages for Apple, it can also prove to be a challenge for cellular providers who are keen on being in control. Success in the cellular space is not a given, nor is it instant. Apple needs to be prepared to not be the one running the show here. This is something that they have not had a good track record with recently, with iTunes and the various industries (music, TV, movie).
  • The iPhone and price points for a phone. While this is not a major issue, Apple (and the public and press, for that matter) cannot compare sales of the iPhone to the iPod as a measure of success or failure. As far as phones are concerned, comparing these two is like comparing apples to oranges (I just *couldn't resist ;-) ). Nokia, SonyEricsson, Motorola and Microsoft have proven time and time again that making a phone "feature-rich" is not enough to justify high price-points. The true success of such devices has been the combination of manufacturers and cellular carriers subsidizing the cost of the device enough to make it reasonable. This means Apple working closely with the carriers (see point above). I do not see every iPod owner buying an iPhone, if for no other reason than the ability to actually pay for it at the current starting MSRP of $499. This is what hurt the SE P800 and early Pocket PC Phone Edition devices.

None of this means that Apple cannot be successful with the iPhone, folks. If one company has a track record for brand loyalty and making things happen, it's Apple. However, walking around telling the world that this is already a smash success without a unit hitting the streets is a bit premature. Just think about all of those sports journalists waking up on Tuesday, January 12, 2007 and thinking "How do I explain this?" ;-) 

01/10/2007 10:27:03 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Happy Birthday, BostonPocketPC.com!#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

Light the candles and sing the songs - BostonPocketPC.com turns 5 years old today! Our official launch was January 1, 2002. Where does the time go?

It really does not seem like it is 5 years already. In that time, we've seen so much happen in the world of mobility that I really cannot believe the timespans are so short. This really hit home for me earlier this year during a business trip. I went on a trip to Chicago for the first time in over 6 years. All of the "routines" regarding the trip (travel, hotel, office) were the same, but the use of mobile technology 0 totally different. Some examples -

  • We used notebook computers, but connecting to the Internet was via dialup from a hotel or business. WiFi was still an "emerging technology".
  • Hotspots? What are those?
  • I had a cell phone, but it was used for - calling people. No e-mail, no Internet browsing.
  • I had a PDA (a Palm V, to be more precise), but "content" was entirely via sync (unless you had high-end modems designed for the platform).

I found myself feeling strange doing "routine" things in an entirely different way. The trip did give me some perspective as to how far we've come, as well as where we continue to go.

When we started BostonPocketPC.com, there was so much of a world still in front of us. More manufacturers, more hardware types, more underlying technologies. We watched as Windows Mobile played "catch up" with Palm, then watched as Palm changed (time and Time again), and then watched as Palm and Microsoft became partners. We watched the introduction of the Smartphone platform, it's slow initial adoption, and it's rise to prominence and a mainstream staple in our lives.

"Mainstream" - maybe that is the greatest change we have watched unfold over these 5 years. I still remember the constant need to explain a Pocket PC device, and how it was *not* a Palm PDA. Now, it seems as though people tend to look at the hardware branding and are not as surprised when it is Windows Mobile "under the hood". With all this said, where do we go from here?

I see 2007 as another year of evolution for the Windows Mobile platform. For all of the complaining I hear from people at times about how the Windows Mobile platform "never changes or revolutionizes", I respond with "evolution eventually results in revolution". You have to take things into perspective and realize that change does not have to be massive and instantaneous to be effective. I think we will continue to see device manufacturers try to "think outside the box" in terms of industrial design. Some will be successful, while others will not. That is what happens when you experiment, right? I think we will continue to see improvements in performance (thanks to a new generation of Xscale processors and increases in onboard storage). In the end, all of this will lead to more consumer choice.

Consumers will also play a role in 2007, as I expect to see a continual increase in platform adoption. This will happen in two areas. As wireless carriers provide more and more choices for Windows Mobile devices, standard consumer purchases will continue to grow. Do not expect huge percentage increases, however, as price and complexity still keeps Smartphone adoption confined to a more "tech-savvy" demographic. The second area of adoption which may be more significant is in the enterprise. More and more Exchange Server-based organizations are discovering that the total cost of ownership for mobile messaging can be reduced by deploying Windows Mobile devices. Interestingly enough, the enterprise adoption curve may in the long term fuel overall adoption. Anyone remember why they started using Microsoft Office at home? For many, it was because it was their workplace standard.

In the more generalized world of mobility, 2007 will be yet another year of new products, platforms and technologies. The public launch of Microsoft Windows Vista is only days away, and Vista provides functionality oriented towards the mobile user. We will continue to see new products oriented towards mobility and travel - the Sling Media Slingbox's success in 2006 was (I believe) just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The use of the Internet as a content-distribution medium exploded this year, with major US and worldwide media organizations bringing programming to the Internet. Expect more of this in 2007, although the continual thorns-in-the-side that are DRM and IP debates will likely still affect the general public.

What about us at BostonPocketPC.com in 2007? Well, there will definitely be plenty to keep us busy in the coming year :) One of the things that has changed for us over time is that we have evolved much in the same way that the technology we cover has. Expect us to still be "up to our neck" in coverage of Windows Mobile-related topics. Also continue to expect us to cover the issues and technology around mobility that affect us all. I also hope that this year I can provide more coverage and exposure to those companies in the New England area that are using and/or producing solutions in the mobile arena. We have always tried to be close to our home community here at BostonPocketPC.com, and I am putting the call out to our local community - contact me if you have a story to tell the world.

I am still amazed at the diversity of readers to our site. We still receive visits from all around the globe, and I have received e-mails from citizens of countless countries over the years. I hope that 2007 keeps that history in place. Of course, none of this would be possible without the people that make up the BostonPocketPC.com team. It goes without saying that the dynamo that is Steve "fyiguy" Hughes has been the lifeblood here over the years. His knowledge, passion and willingness to share make him an invaluable asset to any community. There have also been so many others over the years who have helped make this a wonderful site. Here's to their continued involvement in 2007, as well as (hopefully) the addition of some new faces in the coming year.

I am looking forward to the coming year. I find myself with a renewed excitement and commitment to the Windows Mobile and mobility communities. I hope that you feel the same way, and that we will see much more of each other in the months to come. 

01/01/2007 12:49:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

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