» Archive for the 'Mobility' Category

Safe Computing for Travelers – Part II

Friday, September 12th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Recently, we looked at the problem of “evil twins,” hot spots that seem legitimate but are operated by a hacker that are increasingly popping up in public and semi-public spaces including hotels, airports, and conference venues.

This month we look at other risks.

Hotels are a prime target for laptop thieves; look at any unoccupied meeting room, replete with laptops, and you’ll understand why.  But the loss of a $2000 laptop may pale in comparison with the loss of data and the fact that your data may fall into the wrong hands.

To minimize exposure in the event of theft, make sure that your laptop has both a power-on password as well as a hard disk password.  Laptops that use fingerprint readers, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p and X300, only require a fingerprint scan to unlock everything but thieves will be stopped from viewing your data, even if they remove the hard disk and install it in another machine.

Thinking of using your hotel room’s TV for surfing or reading e-mail (via your browser)?  Don’t read any sensitive documents there.  The chances are good that the hotel’s backend systems aren’t secure – and that another guest could read along with you.

Using a hotel’s wired Internet service doesn’t necessarily guarantee security.  Common E-mail protocols such as POP3 and IMAP default to plain text user names and passwords.  Many hotels still use hubs rather than Ethernet switches, and the former are sniffable by those in the know.  If you connect through the hotel’s network, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which can be set up for personal or corporate use.

For greater security and peace of mind, consider using a mobile broadband solution (offered by AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S.).  Data-only plans are available starting at $40 per month and offer greater flexibility plus the chance to pass on the hotel’s $10 or $15 per diem Internet charge.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Cutting the Cord: Can we really work off the grid?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by Cody Burke

In the knowledge economy, the theory is that through the combination of knowledge and cognitive ability, and aided by technological tools such as laptops, mobile devices, and wireless access, we are now free to work from wherever and whenever we want.

For knowledge workers who find themselves in situations without internet access, a mobile device used as an improvised modem can be a lifesaver.  But how well does this backup plan work?  Can a knowledge worker stay connected and work remotely by mobile device alone?

As a test, I set out to work from home, using a Palm Centro running on the Sprint network as my sole point of internet access.  In addition, to further simulate the conditions of a knowledge worker “in the wild”, I would attempt to use it as my only phone line, for everything from internal meetings to external conference calls.

Starting from scratch, I set up Lotus Notes on my laptop.  Frustration set in as I was making local copies of databases, it literally took days to set up the local copies on the computer.  When a database would be downloading to a local copy, the speed of everything else would slow to an agonizing crawl – one misstep, one too many attempts to open even the smallest of e-mails would result in the dreaded white screen of Lotus Notes doom.  I resorted to doing this overnight, one database at a time, so I would still have enough bandwidth for e-mail, IM, and conducting online research.

Perhaps more problematic, the Palm Centro could only be used as a modem or a phone, but not both at the same time.  This led to some interesting situations; I admit that in desperation I used my regular phone to attend conference calls when it would be impossible for me to be off-line.  More than once, I found myself using the Centro for internet access to view a Web demo, my regular phone for the conference call, and so as not to overtax my bandwidth for the demo, my second laptop for IM backchannel communication with co-workers on the call.  Obviously this violated the rule I had set out for myself, but business before pleasure, so to speak.

I finally resorted to using Skype, which proved to be a good solution, despite the slight absurdity of using a phone as a modem for my laptop so I could talk on the phone.

In the coming weeks, I will share more thoughts on working wirelessly and lessons learned from my time on the last frontier of the knowledge economy, where the knowledge worker runs free and the internet access is ubiquitous.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

E-mail Overload: How Our Actions Impact Others

Friday, July 11th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

I send you an e-mail.  You open it, read it, think about it.  No big deal.  It only takes you just a few minutes to get back to where you were.

But magnify that by the size of your team, maybe 20 people, your division, 2000 people, your subsidiary, 20,000 people and so on.

And then consider the number of people whom you cc’d on your last note.  It was 15, wasn’t it?  Or was it, as a recent e-mail I saw, more like 300?  After all, e-mail is a great way to keep people informed – or is it?

It wasn’t even the cc’ing of the 300.  Only 10 people really needed to get that note but the other 290 each lost only maybe five minutes of their day.  That was, until a colleague hit reply to all.

Let’s just stop and recap for a moment.  By including 290 people unnecessarily in the e-mail, the sender was responsible for the loss of a minimum of 24 hours of colleagues’ time.

Now, imagine that, in this 20,000 person organization, 1% of the population sends out e-mails like this once a day.

That’s an immediate loss of 4800 hours a day, or 200 person days.  Just in one day.

Now back to our friend about to hit reply to all, just to say “Great. Thanks.”  300 people will see an e-mail from him and many will open it, let’s say half.  We just lost 12.5 person hours.

Fortunately, not all 20,000 knowledge workers in the company send out such e-mails (if they did, it would result in a loss of 20,000 person days each time it happens).

Most e-mails include far fewer recipients; the average number of people cc’d on e-mails I get is three (I am not including e-mails with zero cc recipients in this tally).  Still, each time we create a new e-mail message, it has the potential to cost our colleagues quite a bit of time.

Why am I telling you this?  I have one goal in mind.  When you feel the urge to send an e-mail, choose your recipients carefully.  Think of the cc field as a “need to know” field.  If the recipient doesn’t fall into the “need to know” category, don’t include him.  When you get an e-mail, even if you feel the need to be polite, try to restrain yourself and don’t select Reply-to-All and write “Great. Thanks.”

That is all. We now return your to your regularly scheduled information overload.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Wi-Fi Alert for Travelers

Friday, June 27th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

The free Wi-Fi hotspot you just logged into in the hotel lobby to read your e-mail, conduct your banking, or read the news wasn’t necessarily a nice amenity provided by the hotel.  In fact, it might have been operated by the well-dressed gentleman sitting beside the potted palm.  While you sent your confidential proposal, he was collecting people’s credit cards numbers, user names, and passwords, all while enjoying the ambiance and a drink from the lobby bar.

Referred to as “evil twins,” hot spots that seem legitimate but are operated by a hacker are increasingly popping up in public and semi-public spaces (that free Wi-Fi hotspot named FREE WIFI you found in your hotel room doesn’t sound so good anymore, does it?).  These evil twins can even have legitimate-sounding names, such as “Hilton Hotspot” and can also be found in cafés, airports, parks, and even office buildings.

Many laptops are set to connect to any open network and that can lead to trouble.  Travelers can protect themselves by knowing the network they are connecting to.

What you can do to protect yourself:

  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), either through your corporate IT department or services such as JiWire’s HotspotHelper.  VPNs encrypt your online session, making it impenetrable to nearby snoops.
  • If in doubt, don’t log into systems requiring a user name and password that could be exposed.
  • Don’t rely on the lock icon on your browser; illegitimate Web sites can obtain digital signatures as easily as legitimate sites.
  • Watch the Web address.  A hacker could intercept your legitimate request for www.citibank.com and change it to something that might look similar, such as www.cittibank.com, where he collects your user name and password.
  • Turn off peer-to-peer networking.
  • Turn off “automatically connect to non-preferred networks.”
  • Think of public hotspots as shared resources.  If you aren’t using a VPN, restrict your surfing to Web sites and pages that you don’t mind sharing with the gentleman sitting nearby.
  • Disable file sharing (in Windows XP, check the Properties tab of your main folders and look for the Sharing tab).
  • Make sure you are using a firewall, a feature that is included in recent Windows and Mac operating systems.

Even known systems run by hotels and conference venues can be insecure.  More on that in coming weeks.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

T-Mobile’s Sprint to First Place

Friday, May 9th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Could T-Mobile USA go from No. 4 to No. 1 in the U.S. mobile phone market?  The same week that T-Mobile announced the launch of 3G service (see MOBILITY), the Wall Street Journal reported that Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s parent, is considering a bid for Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 player.

Telekom is increasingly looking outside Germany to make up for lost ground in its domestic fixed-line business.  The company has seen its greatest revenue growth in the U.S. market; T-Mobile USA added 3.6 million customers last year, boosting revenue to $19.3 billion from $17.1 billion in 2006.  Telekom first entered the U.S. market with its €33 billion acquisition of VoiceStream in 2000.  The acquisition saddled Telekom with €67 billion in debt and caused the company’s stock to lose 90% of its value.  Then-CEO Ron Sumner and his successor Kai-Uwe Ricke were both forced out of the company, in part due to pressure to divest itself of the U.S. unit to reduce debt.

It wasn’t so long ago, less than a year in fact, that rumors were continuing to circulate over the possible sale of T-Mobile USA.  Last June, Deutsche Telekom slowed its overseas expansion and Rene Obermann, the company’s CEO, told the business daily Handelsblatt that Deutsche Telekom had other priorities at the moment.

But T-Mobile USA continued its expansion and, having spent over $4 billion on new spectrum as the top spender in a 2006 Federal Communications Commission auction of new licenses to use the public airwaves for wireless services, commenced significant network upgrades.  Although T-Mobile is arriving late to the 3G party in the U.S., that may be less of a disadvantage than one might presume.  Its competitors have already raised consumer awareness for new and faster data services available with 3G.  T-Mobile, with plans to roll out 3G services across major U.S. markets by year’s end, should be able to benefit from their collective efforts.

T-Mobile also acquired mobile operator SunCom, with 1.1 million subscribers, in September 2007.

Meanwhile, the Sprint-Nextel merger has been a disaster.  Given problems integrating the two companies’ networks and cultures, Sprint has seen its churn rate soar and its stock tank.  Sprint also saw the loss of 800,000 customers as Qwest Communications, a local exchange carrier, switched its customers to Verizon Wireless.

A Telekom takeover of Sprint would be simplified if the company were to shed its Nextel unit (talks to this effect have already been reported in the press) and move ahead with its $12 billion joint venture with Clearwire to provide ultra fast wireless Internet access for mobile phones and laptops.

Unlike T-Mobile USA and T-Mobile in the rest of the world, Sprint’s network, like that of Verizon Wireless, is based on the CDMA standard while T-Mobile and AT&T both use the European-developed GSM standard.  This could be resolved both by gradually migrating Sprint customers over to T-Mobile’s GSM and 3G network in the short term and in the longer term by migrating both to the next generation LTE (3GPP, or 3rd Generation Partnership Program Long Term Evolution) standard.

It’s unlikely that Deutsche Telekom will be satisfied with a No. 4 position (and a distant No. 4 for that matter, as T-Mobile had 28.7 million customers at the end of 2007 compared to Sprint Nextel’s 40 million) in the U.S. for long.  A sprint to first place is not out of the question.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Extreme Road Warrior Part II – Something in the Air

Friday, November 2nd, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

16 days later, I’m back.  (See Part I as well.)   I found a few things rather useful for those traveling on business and wanted to share these with you.

Skype Pro
Skype Pro is a relatively new offering that costs only $3 per month but offers many features particularly useful to the road warrior.  Most notable is the international traveler calling plan.  Users pay no per minute charges for calls to landlines within the same country or region (a connection fee per call, $0.045, may apply).  Coverage includes 28 countries, all of the ones I visited (Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands) with the exception of Denmark.  In some countries, including Argentina and France, only certain major metropolitan areas are included.

With Skype Pro you also get a $30/year discount on a SkypeIn number, a free Skype To Go number (you can make international calls from your mobile phone at SkypeOut rates), and free Skype voicemail.

Research in Motion and Verizon Wireless: BlackBerry 8830 World Edition
I also tested Research in Motion’s BlackBerry 8830 World Edition CDMA/GSM.  Part of RIM’s 8800 series of phones, all of which share a full QWERTY keyboard, the pearl-like trackball for navigation, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and a built-in speakerphone.  The 8830 supports dual-band 800/1900 MHz CDM-2000 1x EV-DO as well as dual-band 900/1800 MHz GSM/GPRS.

For Verizon Wireless customers who travel internationally, this makes it very easy to have a single number that works almost anywhere, something ordinarily not possible with most Verizon Wireless phones, which work only with CDMA networks.  The phone itself, however, was not that easy to use.  I found the keyboard, both for typing and for dialing, not nearly as user-friendly (in terms of not hitting the wrong key) as the smaller format Pearl, which given its quasi-QWERTY keyboard uses RIM’s SureType technology to allow users to compose messages quickly.  The centered dialpad was much easier to use on the Pearl than the 8830′s keyboard, which is not centered.  The 8830 also frequently refused access to the + key, necessary for dialing country codes.  Normally one presses down zero for a few moments and + comes up.  With the 8830, the + only worked occasionally and I had to resort to saving the + and using the paste function in order to dial calls.

These issues not withstanding, Web browsing, BlackBerry e-mail, and placing and receiving phone calls all worked perfectly.

Hotels
I visited multiple hotels and wanted to pass along a few observations important to the business traveler.

1.)    Hilton am Tucherpark, Munich, Germany
Internet worked well.  Rooms were comfortable to work in.  Location was a bit out of the way but on the other hand it was alongside the English Garten.

2.)    Mandarin Oriental, Munich, Germany
Couldn’t ask for a better location, within the heart of the Altstadt and close by to practically everything.  The rooms were recently refurbished and provided a comfortable work environment, although a more appropriate desk chair would have been icing on the cake.  Good Internet service.  Very personalized services, for example check-in formalities are done in the room.  Guests are always addressed by name.  Restaurant Mark’s is one of the top restaurants in the city and deservedly so.  It was too cold to really enjoy the roof-top pool but the views from the pool deck were magnificent.

3.)    Hilton am Stadtpark, Vienna, Austria
Excellent location across the street from the Stadtpark, Executive floor lounge had two free computers but they were always in use.  Internet was slow.  Reading lights for in-bed reading were weak.

4.)    Holiday Inn, Munich – Schwabing, Germany
Recently renovated rooms and lobby, plus a wonderful breakfast buffet.  Not overly luxurious but very comfortable.  New business center is a nice touch with a sufficient number of computers to accommodate most comers.  Internet service through Swisscom offered business-level service with quality-of-service guarantee (no questions asked).  I found the service slow and told them.  I was immediately offered a credit.

5.)    Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten, Hamburg, Germany
Located on the western side of the Binnenalster lake, an impressive location to say the least, the Vier Jahreszeiten is also in the heart of the business district and its cafés, bars, and restaurants attract a local crowd in addition to visitors.  Hamburg, a city of merchants, is a bustling port on the edge of Scandinavia, with never-ending river traffic along the Elbe.  I noticed many Hamburgers came to afternoon tea, which featured live piano music.  Rooms are equipped with antique furniture, Wi-Fi that was usually OK but sometimes slow, comfortable work environment, and incredible views of the Binnenalster (the Alster is divided into the Binnenalster and the Außenalster, inner and outer Alster, respectively).

6.)    Die Swaene, Brugge, Belgium
The first thing I noticed about Brugge were the town’s narrow streets (on which local residents drove very quickly), centuries-old buildings that time had left untouched, and the city’s canal systems.  Brugge was, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a cultural bridge between northern and southern Europe.  It was rediscovered by English tourists in the mid-1800s who had come to see the nearby battlefield of Waterloo.  Today, it is a hideaway for business meetings and romantic journeys.  Die Swaene, a beautiful small luxury hotel run more like an inn, is a wonderful setting to meet but perhaps not to work in if you require Internet access.  Since my stay was largely during a weekend and in addition to my meeting my plans were mostly to see the city, I didn’t live or die by Internet access but it was limited to the lobby and first floor salon and never worked in the salon and worked only part of the time in the lobby.  When asked, one of the managers smiled and said that it must be “something in the air.”

7.)    Park-Hotel Bremen, Germany
Located in the middle of the Bürgerpark, my stay there was brief (arrived Monday at 21.00) in order to be in nearby Bremerhaven for an early morning meeting.  The hotel’s services were exemplary, Internet was lightning fast (although their system required that I connect both the USB cable and the RJ-45 cable to my laptop), and I was sorry to leave only 12 hours after arriving.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

The Industry is Always Looking for the Next «G»

Friday, September 28th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Verizon Wireless and part-owner Vodafone’s recent decision to move in lockstep towards 4G networks may surprise some and move others to believe that this foreshadows a global standard for the telecoms industry, but it’s really just business as usual in an industry that loves having multiple “standards” at the same time.  Many questions remain, namely what, if any, current operability will remain with other “standards,” what will happen to the mobile operators’ core networks, and what technology will consumers feel comfortable with and adopt.

Things in the telecoms industry move far more slowly than most people realize.  Just because new mobile phones are introduced every three months doesn’t mean that there are any new technologies hiding within them.

The industry has been down this road before, moving from analog (1G) to digital (2G), a point upgrade with 2.5G (not a defined standard but a legitimate stepping stone on the path to 3G), and finally to 3G.

We’ve heard the promise of the next generation of mobile services before, although not necessarily from these two players (Verizon Wireless and Vodafone).  2G, no, 2.5G, no, wait, it’s 3G, no, now it’s 4G that will be the great unifier.

What happened to 3G?  We had not one, but two standards, namely W-CDMA and CDMA EV-DO.  Japan’s NTT DoCoMo was the first to launch a 3G network in 2001 (WCDMA), followed later in the year by South Korea (CDMA EV-DO).  3G services in Europe started in 2003 but progress was slowed greatly thanks to the high cost of additional spectrum license fees (3G services in the U.S. use the same spectrum as 2G, so spectrum was not an issue in the U.S.).

One reason 3G caught on in Japan and Korea (both countries built out sufficient network infrastructure at the very beginning) was because there was no need to include roaming capabilities to older networks.  The devices were small and lightweight.  In Europe and the U.S., given limited network infrastructure, multi-mode devices were required, supporting 2G and 3G networks, making the devices themselves larger and heavier, hence less attractive to the consumer.

According to the GSM Association, there are ca. 200 million people using 3G worldwide, mostly in Europe and Asia.  Out of 3 billion subscribers, this is less than 7% of the total.

It makes sense, of course, for companies with as close a corporate relationship as Verizon Wireless and Vodafone to use the same high-speed 4G data network.  They now use the mutually incompatible CDMA (Verizon) and GSM (Vodafone) protocols although there was much speculation that their 4G platforms would also be different.

But 4G will not necessarily bring the industry closer together.  Sprint has already announced plans for its 4G-speed XOHM service, based on WiMAX, and trials are planned for later this year.  Sprint has hinted that this network will be open to any device that supports WiMAX, a wise decision in order to build network revenue.  One thing is certain: 4G will attract many players from outside the traditional mobile telephony industry, such as Google, a company that sees having its own network as a better way of getting new wireless applications to the masses.

As for me, I’m already looking forward to 5G as the platform that will (surely) unify the world.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

The Best Phone in the World?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

The good

  • Stunning display
  • Full technical compatibility with BMW’s in-car Bluetooth telephone interface
  • Uses iTunes to manage music content
  • Thinner than the Motorola Razr
  • Replaces several devices (great for travel)

The jury is out

  • “Innovative” multitouch user interface (slow for typing)
  • Only uses iTunes to manage music content

The bad

  • Wi-Fi from iPhone causes in-car interference
  • No 3G
  • No stereo Bluetooth
  • Limited storage for a music player
  • $399 price with two-year AT&T contract (was originally $599)
  • “Locked” to a single mobile operator (AT&T)
  • No flat rate international data plan
  • No insurance available

What’s missing

  • Cure for in-car interference from Wi-Fi (besides turning off Wi-Fi)
  • Multimedia messaging
  • 3G

Even before the iPhone was introduced at Macworld 2007, the world (not limited to Mac aficionados) couldn’t contain the excitement. What would the iPhone look like? What features would it have? How much storage? What would the interface be like?

One thing was not a secret: the iPhone combines a mobile phone, widescreen iPod with touch control, and a PDA in one lightweight handheld device – and it would be different from anything previously available.

In launching the iPhone this past June, Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, told the world: “iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone. We are all born with the ultimate pointing device — our fingers — and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse.”

BMW: MEET THE IPHONE

BMW quickly got on the iPhone bandwagon, sending out a news release announcing full iPhone compatibility with Bluetooth-equipped BMWs a few days after the iPhone’s launch. BMW promises compatibility on “most” BMW Assist-equipped models with Bluetooth handsfree calling manufactured starting in October 2004 (for the 7er as of March 2005 production). In addition, BMW promised compatibility for the “6FL” factory iPod/USB interface (http://www.bmwcca.org/node/7241) but was silent on the dealer-installed MOST bus interface for the iPod.

BMW was the first auto maker to offer an iPod connection in its cars as well as the first to offer Bluetooth for in-car handsfree calling.

In the car, the phone itself is easy to use, both as a phone and a music player. The driver can make and receive phone calls from the MFL (Multifunktion Lenkrad or steering wheel) as well as from iDrive or the MID (Multi-Information Display), depending on how the car is equipped. If the car has Voice Command functionality, this can be used to place calls as well. The iPhone clearly differentiates between home, work, and mobile numbers by displaying “home,” “work,” and “mobile” on the car’s display. Drivers in BMWs with iDrive and a CCC (Car Communication Computer) can utilize the car’s speech-to-text conversion and specify the location by saying either “Dial Franz Klammer home” or “Dial Franz Klammer mobile.”

To use as a music player, simply use the iPod adapter cable, which provides full integration. The cable has an iPod docking connector on one end and separate cables on the other end for connection to the vehicle’s AUX IN jack and USB connector. This permits full control via the iDrive display or MID. BMW owners will find the iPod experience far more satisfying with iDrive because the Bordmonitor provides full information and makes navigation through the iPod’s music content that much easier. We haven’t tested the iPhone with the MOST bus adapter but we will do so shortly and report.

REVOLUTIONARY?

The iPhone, as revolutionary as it appears, is not the first touchscreen of its kind. LG and HTC beat Apple to the punch with the Prada and Touch respectively (curiously enough, Apple introduced the iPod touch a few weeks ago, no word yet from the trademark attorneys on this). But the iPod wasn’t the first music player either; it just turned out to be the coolest, easiest to use device with better infrastructure (iTunes) behind it. The iPhone ups the ante in the mobile phone multi-function space, with optical-quality glass and a 3.5″ display, and software that allows users to control the iPhone with a tap, flick, or pinch of the fingers. However clever this may be, the lack of a real (thumb-operated) keyboard may be a glaring weakness, as more and more users see such devices as e-mail and SMS appliances. Although some claim lightning speeds, I have found that I can type out a message much faster on a BlackBerry or Palm with full keyboard and that I only make errors when using the iPhone.

Apple isn’t the first to provide visual voicemail, either. A quick search using Google revealed that dozens of companies already offer what Apple calls an “industry first”; in fact, I have been using SimulSays, a free, downloadable visual voicemail application for newer BlackBerry devices, that provides functionality virtually identical to what Apple delivers with the iPhone.

The iPhone, introduced with a choice of four or eight gigabytes of storage (the four gigabyte model was discontinued recently), won’t replace most people’s iPods, since many users have filled their 30- or 80-gigabyte drives with favorite music.

And the corporate world isn’t quite rolling out the welcome mat either. Many companies and government agencies don’t like iPods to begin with, since they see them as just another external storage device that could allow a person to walk out the door with gigabytes of confidential information.

CAVEATS
Many drivers, myself included, experienced significant interference and poor voice quality when using the iPhone in the car. This was largely resolved by turning off the iPhone’s Wi-Fi radio, which apparently causes the interference. However, because Wi-Fi is an essential piece of the puzzle, having to turn it on and off is inconvenient and Apple should come up with a better solution to eliminate such interference.

Many purchasers of the iPhone may not realize the ins and outs of how the phone works, especially when it comes to the data side. The media (for one example, see the New York Times) is full of recent reports that Apple iPhone customers found thousands of dollars of data roaming charges on their bills when they traveled internationally, even though they didn’t use the phone to check mail (it checks mail automatically). BlackBerry users can sign up for a flat monthly rate for international roaming; this is not available to iPhone users. Disable your e-mail feature if you don’t want to see a bill that would eat up half of your European Delivery savings on a new BMW.

The iPhone is only available with a two-year AT&T contract and comes locked to that mobile operator. [There are ways of unlocking it, both via hardware and software , which would allow its use with other mobile operators, but these are not sanctioned by Apple or AT&T and could void the iPhone’s warranty.] If you are not an AT&T customer, you may incur penalties if you terminate the contract with your current mobile operator before it is over.

THE VERDICT

Apple is likely to introduce cheaper, faster, iPhones with more storage in the coming six months. If you love the interface and can’t wait, it will mate with your BMW quite nicely. Just remember to turn the Wi-Fi off.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Whither iPhone? iPod or Newton?

Friday, June 29th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Enterprise market fails to roll out the welcome mat.

Will the iPhone turn out to be the mobile device that rocks the industry?  Apple and AT&T certainly hope so, as do hard-core Apple fans.  The path ahead, however, is far from clear.  Apple, aside from spawning a host of changes in how other makers of mobile devices design their wares, is hoping for a repeat of the iPod’s success and praying that the iPhone will not follow the footsteps of the Lisa and Newton Message Pad, both innovative devices that were somewhat ahead of their time and expensive.

And will Apple become a player in the enterprise space, a lucrative market with the potential for millions of sales in the next few years?

In less than one day, the iPhone will go on sale in the United States with a two-year mobile phone contract from AT&T.  The device is due to appear in Europe later this year and in Asia in 2008.  The market in the U.S. for $500 and higher mobile devices is quite small, perhaps 1% of the total market.  Clearly, with its sales projections of 200,000 sales in the first two days and as many as three million in the second half of 2007, Apple is counting on pent-up demand and hoping that purchasers will overlook the high price and mandatory two-year contract (as well as contract termination fees some customers may pay if they switch to another mobile operator before the end of their contract).

The iPhone, as revolutionary as it appears, is not the first touchscreen of its kind.  LG and HTC beat Apple to the punch with the Prada and Touch respectively.  But the iPod wasn’t the first music player either; it just turned out to be the coolest, easiest to use device with better infrastructure (iTunes) behind it.  The iPhone ups the ante in the mobile phone multi-function space, with optical-quality glass and a 3.5″ display, and software that allows users to control the iPhone with a tap, flick, or pinch of the fingers.  However clever this may be, the lack of a real (thumb-operated) keyboard may be its most glaring weakness, as more and more users see such devices as e-mail and SMS appliances.

Apple isn’t the first to provide visual voicemail, either.  A quick search using Google revealed that dozens of companies already offer what Apple calls an “industry first”; in fact, just today I installed SimulSays, a free, downloadable visual voicemail application for newer BlackBerry devices, that provides functionality virtually identical to what Apple promises.

The iPhone, with a choice of four or eight gigabytes of storage, won’t replace most people’s iPods, since many users have filled their 30- or 80-gigabyte drives with favorite music.

And the corporate world isn’t rolling out the welcome mat either.  Many companies and government agencies don’t like iPods to begin with, since they see them as just another external storage device that could allow a person to walk out the door with gigabytes of confidential information.

The iPhone cannot send or receive e-mail through corporate mobile e-mail systems, a market dominated by three companies, Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, Microsoft, and Good Technology, owned by Motorola.  Still, Apple will most likely want to compete with RIM, Palm, and Nokia on the enterprise device front since that represents the higher-priced segment and companies tend to buy hundreds of devices at once.

Of course, the creative user could forward e-mail messages via a third-party Web mail service (such as from Google or Microsoft) but that would also compromise security and violate myriad rules.  Corporate security departments consider the iPhone too risky at this junction given its lack of the bullet-proof security features that are considered de rigueur today, such as remote wipe.  Thousands of mobile devices are lost each day and most are unlocked, potentially releasing proprietary and valuable information to third parties.

Most CIOs we’ve spoken with in the past few months have indicated that they have no plans to add support for the iPhone but expressed some interest if Apple were to make it simple for them to license software from Microsoft or RIM that would allow the iPhone to act like a virtual BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device.  Just today, Visto announced a version of its Visto Mobile secure mobile e-mail platform for the iPhone that will support Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino and Notes.  I’m sure others will follow suit but few if any companies will switch mobile-mail platforms midstream.

The silver bullet might eventually come from Cisco, owner of the iPhone trademark.  In resolving its trademark dispute with Apple, which came a month after the iPhone was launched, the two companies announced they will “explore opportunities for interoperability in the areas of security, and consumer and enterprise communications.”

In the meantime, the crowds will start lining up outside Apple and AT&T stores by the time you read this.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Palm Introduces Foleo, New Tool for the Knowledge Worker

Friday, June 1st, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

On Wednesday, Palm announced a new type of product, the Palm Foleo.  Palm bills this as a smartphone companion and it fulfills that function admirably.  The Foleo, with a 10.2″ color screen and full-sized keyboard, allows mobile knowledge workers to view and edit e-mail and Microsoft Office documents that reside on a smartphone.  Indeed, eventually, the information could reside on a non-Palm device.  The Foleo and smartphone to which it is paired stay synchronized throughout the day.

This is clearly aimed at those knowledge workers who have more to say than one can easily write on a Palm device and who spend a good deal of time out of the office.  But you don’t really need a Palm device to use the Foleo.  It comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless support.  It can access Web-based e-mail and Web sites without a Palm when you are in range of Wi-Fi – and today that is almost everywhere.  Having recently taken five two-hour flights in relatively small regional jets, my first thought was that this is the perfect form for such cramped working environments.

With a Palm, the Foleo is a complete mobile solution for e-mail (that is, any e-mail that your Palm supports), attachments, and Web access.  For heavy users of e-mail who don’t want to carry a laptop and who find the smartphone form factor insufficient, this is a very promising solution.  It automatically saves your work and starts up and shuts down instantly with no bootup or shutdown sequence.  Many knowledge workers use a smartphone as a key computing device but as workers need to do more and more on the go, the frustration level with a small screen and limited input capability has also grown.

Yesterday, in advance of the announcement, I sat down with Brodie Keast, Palm’s senior vice president of marketing (who joined Palm late last year from Seagate).  Keast told me that the Foleo had been Jeff Hawkins’ “brainchild” for many years. (Hawkins is the founder of Palm Computing and the inventor of the Palm Pilot.)  The Foleo, Keast added, was on the drawing board back when the first Treo was introduced and was in actual development for the past two years.  “The time is right” for this device, Keast told me.  Palm “views this as the first in a line of products” and “a new category for Palm.”

The Linux-based Foleo represents a great opportunity for third party developers.  Palm will release tools for developers when the Foleo hits the stores.  By choosing Linux, it is clear that Palm hopes to get replicate the success it’s had with developers and build a community that will create new applications that will extend the Foleo’s capabilities.  The first such application should be a printing application, since the Foleo does not support printing out of the box.  Palm already has DataViz and Opera software as partners.  In addition, it will not only support Treo smartphones on both the Palm OS and Windows Mobile (from the 680 on, numerically higher) but Palm will also certify non-Palm Windows mobile products.

Let’s look under the hood, or better under the 10.2″ 1024×600 display.  The Foleo comes with 256 Mbytes of storage and can be expanded to 8 Gbytes.   It weighs only 1.3 kg, and runs on Linux (more on that in a moment).  It comes with the Opera browser and sports a scroll wheel, back-and-forth buttons, and a track point that allows for easy navigation without requiring the user’s hands to leave the full sized keyboard.  The battery will last up to five hours.  It has a VGA output connector so you can deliver PowerPoint presentations directly from the Foleo.  It also has slots for SD and compact flash cards for memory expansion, a USB port, and a headphone jack.  The power adapter is a normal sized charger, not a brick.  You can also trickle charge your Palm Treo via the Foleo’s USB port.

It’s a smartphone companion, not a smartphone.  It has no telephony capabilities and as far as I know, no microphone.  It will be available in the U.S. this summer (Palm is not saying exactly when) for $499 (after $100 rebate) during the introductory period.

My take is that this is a very cool, elegant application that I would want to use.  My biggest complaint about smartphones has been that I have too much to say (perhaps no surprise to regular readers here) than can easily be tapped into a smartphone’s e-mail client.   There are many times where the mobile knowledge worker truly needs a full-sized keyboard and display.  To fully appreciate the Palm Foleo, you have to see it and hold it.  It’s very small, very light, can be opened from any one of three sides, has an elegant finish (similar to what Palm uses on the Treo 750), and a nice radius on the outside.  It’s also no more than 2.5 cm thick.   I can’t wait to have one.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


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