Monday, January 30, 2006


I thought I would have a look around at some Web 2.0 tools, Paul had mentioned Writely so trusting his judgement signed up. From what I've seen so far it looks OK. I would really like to play with the Collaboration area as this could be a real alternative to Groove now that they've passed to the dark side.

I'll update as I go.....

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Functional Fiction...Book Readers

Many people are expecting book readers, ebooks, digital books to take off this year.

It's been happening in Japan for more than one year and some of the gadgets being seen in Las Vegas, like the Sony reader, demonstrate a growing awareness of the trend.

This isn't new; some PDA's have been supporting downloadable books for some time. The earliest evolution was the audio book be it a CD or tape for the car or the train commute and then later on MP3 files for your iPod or similar device.

In a recent Wall Street Journal Asian edition there was an article that highlighted a new comer to this arena in Playaway. The main difference is that the playaway device is pre-loaded and is a one book read. You cannot update the media, it literally is an electronic book in the same way that you can't change the print in your Tom Clancy paperback.

Playaway is aimed at people who want the convenience of electronic media but are too scared or simply don't want to know about downloads.

The biggest benefit in this technology to me is that you still get an element of the book experience. You have a spine and cover art that conveys the content, not simply some hardened plastic cover.

Some time ago I posted here about my vision of the evolution of the newspaper. I see that in his 2006 predictions in Bangkok Post's Database James Hein is also thinking about book readers.

Today the Playaway is little more than a familiarly book sized play back device (although I do like the variable playback speed feature) and I think that James' digital book idea will still be a black plastic box with the content on the reading surfaces.

In my mind I see a nice combination of some of the features of both concepts. Book type feel when you would like to read, playback when it's not convenient (driving, walking etc). In addition I would wrap my design in smart paper for additional user experience:

  • Spine for quick reference
  • Cover art to let everyone else know what you're reading
This is an important part of why people still buy books today. Imagine a device that could hold more than one book at a time. Your current fiction of choice, maybe a dictionary or some other frequently accessed reference manual. It would be useful to know how you left your device configured, spine and cover art is just about as quick a way as you're going to get and what's more it's more intuitive.

Enable the device to be WiFi connected (or GPRS) and you have upsell opportunities. Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide could provide you with City Centric downloads. You fly in on holiday or business turn on your device and receive the guide into your reader.

Where did I put that patent application ??

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Let's hope for a Cloudy start to the year

The recent announcement by The Cloud to launch City-wide WiFi will herald a new era in the UK and Europe.

OK so the basic message is pretty much the Muni-Net story widely commented on; no great news there, why the interest?

I think it's pretty smart of them to partner with BT in the early stages as this is where the biggest opponent could come from, although further deregulation in the UK to further increase competition will do that anyway.

The real interest for me is the pressing need for roaming agreements between WiFi partners and in this case the ability to roam from one country (UK) to another (e.g. Sweden).

In most cases this should be a simple fixed fee, unlimited usage deal but nothing I've seen yet determines the pricing model; I wait with anticipation.....

Skype has a long tail....

Over breakfast this morning I overheard two "experienced" (old sounds too rude) gentlemen exchanging the merits of Skype as the newest thing in cheap telephony.

I would not call myself an early adopter of Skype; although I was quick to take up evolutions such as SkypeIn, but I find it amazing that people are still finding out about it.

Many of the early users are already playing with the new kid on the block. For some this is Yahoo with Voice or Google Talk (neither of which are quite there yet) and depending on geography others may have tried products such as Firefly.

I for one have been suffering from increasing frequency of poor quality calls over Skype so I am really looking for something new. Ideally this will be compatible with some of the new handsets that are emerging this quarter with WiFi chips on board, so firmware will be king.

Still I guess EBay were pretty smart after all, as the bubble was seeming to burst there is a new wave of users out there to pump in some more air and keep the Skype-Bay bubble inflated for a bit longer yet.

Shedding some light on Public WiFi

Scotland once again rises as developers of great technology (OK so it's been a while since the TV but what the hey). This article from the BBC highlights the basic idea of using lampposts in Dundee to provide WiFi.

I think there is a gap here in that the system uses solar power. I think it would be a great use of BPL (Broadband over Power Lines) as all of the lampposts are already plugged in to the power grid anyway.

I'm currently in Taiwan where WiFi is prolific, in fact in Hotels it's free. I don't know how sustainable this will be as people like me using Skype over the free WiFi must be starting to eat into the revenue stream of calling out of the hotel, but it's great while it lasts. Especially given Paul Jardine's recent problems in Portugal. Still even here in Taipei there are nowhere near close to getting some sort of public network and like in many major cities around the world space is at a premium.

Something like the Internet Lamppost could really accelerate public WiFi and Muni-Net initiatives as it's already wired into the infrastructure, couple this with BPL and you've got Public WiFi in a box.