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Traveler Alert – Data Roaming and the T-Mobile G1

Thursday, June 11th, 2009 by David Goldes

We’ve recently heard from multiple knowledge workers who used their T-Mobile G1 smartphones on overseas trips.   All had a common complaint: they followed T-Mobile’s recommended guidelines to turn data roaming off yet they still received a bill for hundreds of dollars of data usage during the trip.

A report from our client RJ, a road warrior who flies to Europe several times per month, was typical.  After purchasing his new G1 and turning data roaming and data synchronization off, his bill for data roaming was $319.55.  T-Mobile customer service did agree to credit him for the charges without arguing the point – but the customer service representative also said that the G1 will turn data roaming back on regardless of what he does and that “you have to either keep the phone home or keep it off during your trip.”   “It’s sophisticated,” the representative added.  The rep suggested renting a phone from T-Mobile for future trips or unlocking the G1 so RJ could purchase and use a local SIM.

We spoke with T-Mobile to better understand the issue at hand.  A spokesman confirmed that data roaming can be turned off and supplied a written statement issued by the company in December 2008.

It reads:
If a T-Mobile customer would like to use their T-Mobile G1 while outside the country, they should contact Customer Care before they leave to ask that the WorldClass feature be added to their service at no additional charge.  If they choose, customers can also disable data roaming on the G1.  This can be done by going through the following steps: Home Screen > Menu > Settings > Wireless Controls > Mobile Networks > Data Roaming.

There is, however, a caveat:
Some third party applications available for download on Android Market require access to the Internet and have the ability to turn on data roaming when in use. Customers are informed whether an application will use this feature prior to downloading, but should also be aware when traveling outside the country.

As RJ’s customer service rep put it, “It wasn’t your fault.”

David M. Goldes is President and Senior Analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Nordic River TextFlow

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Collaboration on documents is a given in knowledge work.  Seldom will one author be the sole contributor to a document; rather, two or more knowledge workers typically come together to create the content, make edits, fact check, and finalize.

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

There are myriad pitfalls in this process ranging from lost efficiency as a document is e-mailed around for review, requiring those involved to wait their turn to edit, and to version and save conflicts when different versions of the document are inadvertently created.  Manually combining the work of multiple authors and editors into one document is a time consuming process – and definitely not a pleasant one.

To date, the greatest advancements in document collaboration have been the simple track changes and commenting functions found in most word processors.  Being able to insert comments, make edits with the original text preserved, and, through the sometimes dizzying color coding, keep track of who did what and when, makes it possible to pass documents through a workflow process and arrive at a consensus without manually comparing multiple documents and manually merging them.

However, the track changes method is far from perfect.  Its use is premised upon there being a single master copy of a document that is circulated to colleagues and editors, either as a file or via a document repository.  In either case, there is one master copy and knowledge workers take turns writing and editing in a serial fashion.

Nordic River is a Swedish company trying to change that dynamic through TextFlow, an online document collaboration tool that takes a decentralized approach to collaborative document creation.  TextFlow is browser-based, but also can be run as an Adobe AIR desktop application.

The Flash-based system lets the user drag-and-drop documents into the browser window where they are automatically merged with changes shown for approval or rejection.  The suggested changes show up inline in the document (similar to the way a traditional word processor would display tracked changes) unless they are of a larger size, in which case the changes are presented in a color coded box with options to accept, move to scrapbook, hide, and reject.

All changes are also indicated by tabs on the left side of the page that are clickable to hide or show the changes.  A box in the window shows whose documents are being merged, and this can be changed at anytime to adjust which documents are being merged.  For example, it is possible for two colleagues who are subject matter experts to have their documents merged first, and then incorporate the changes of other authors.

TextFlow also serves as a repository by hosting documents on its server that also maintains an archive and history of each document.  Documents that are created in or added to TextFlow can be put into a workflow via e-mail to colleagues and split and merged as many times as necessary.  It is not necessary to be a user of TextFlow to participate in the workflow process.  Because there is no master copy, every collaborator has a copy and can work concurrently without fear of creating version conflicts.

For companies that find themselves struggling to manage the document lifecycle, TextFlow may provide a very simple yet elegant solution that simplifies the authoring process.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Information Overload – The Movie

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

“How does Information Overload impact you?” is a question I’ve been asking knowledge workers for quite some time.  In the past six months, I began to capture their answers with a high-definition video camera.  If you think Information Overload isn’t really a big deal, see what the people I interviewed, including senior executives from IBM, NBC, RIM, and Siemens, have to say.  The answers may surprise you.

Information overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.  Organizations of all shapes and sizes have already been significantly impacted by information overload: the problem costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lower productivity and throttled innovation according to Basex.

Basex produced Information Overload – The Movie to illustrate the impact that the problem has on knowledge workers of all levels.  From top managers to administrative assistants, to knowledge workers in the trenches, information overload has a detrimental effect on our ability to perform at our best, leading to poor decision-making, slow project completion and stifled idea generation.  By 2010, the average number of corporate e-mail messages received per person per day is expected to reach 93.  Meanwhile, individual knowledge workers lose as much as 28 percent of the day due to unnecessary interruptions.

Information Overload – The Movie is immediately available in high-definition on YouTube, Blip TV, the Basex Web site, and  the Apple iTunes store.

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

In-flight Internet Access: The Return Flight

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

After a pleasant drive from the Bay Area to Los Angeles and a few days of meetings there, I returned to New York via American Airlines Flight 22.  Similar to the outbound flight to San Francisco, once we hit 10,000 feet, I was able to turn on my Lenovo ThinkPad X300 and find several Gogo hotspots.

Gogo became inaccessible 75 minutes prior to landing

Gogo became inaccessible 75 minutes prior to landing

For most of the flight, I was able to surf the Web, watch videos, read news, send and receive e-mail, and even check the flight’s exact position.  I was also able to use my BlackBerry Bold smartphone, including the BlackBerry Instant Messenger (BBM) feature.  Everything worked until 75 minutes prior to landing.  At that moment, the Internet became inaccessible.  The Gogo hotspots were replaced by locked access points labeled “Unknown.”  The purser on the flight said that the service goes down from time to time but it usually comes back on its own.  This time it didn’t.  Aircell, which runs the Gogo network, was unable as of the time of publication to advise what had gone wrong.

American was the first airline to install Aircell’s Gogo in-flight access on its aircraft and it reportedly costs $100,000 per plane to deploy the system.  The airlines clearly see this as an investment in both attracting and maintaining business customers and garnering incremental revenue.  Other airlines offering the service include Alaska Air, Delta, Southwest, and Virgin America. The rollout is in its early stages so, with the exception of cases such as American’s 767-200 fleet, where all of this type aircraft have the service installed and the routes (e.g. JFK-SFO and JFK-LAX) are predictable, it is difficult to predict on which flights the service will be available.

Despite the hiccup, in-flight Net access is useful to business and leisure traveler alike.  If only a tech support plane could have flown over to help us out….

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

Amazon Kindle DX: Is Bigger Really Better?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Bucking the trend for smaller footprint devices, Amazon announced a significantly larger Kindle eBook reader.  The electronic paper display is 2.5 times the size of the current Kindle model and, at 535 g, the weight is double the current model.  It will store 3,500 books compared to 1,500.

The new device, dubbed Kindle DX (for deluxe), costs $489, or $130 more than the current and smaller model. Amazon.com is positioning it as a new way for users ranging from students to knowledge workers to read documents, newspapers, and textbooks. It will be available for purchase this summer.

Amazon Kindle DX

Amazon Kindle DX

The Kindle costs as much as an inexpensive laptop and more than an inexpensive netbook.  Neither of these devices is ideal for reading books, of course, yet they are far more versatile in many other areas.
Amazon.com is trying a different business model to sell Kindle DXs: three newspapers, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post, will offer it at a reduced price (not yet announced) to readers who live in areas where their newspapers are not available for home delivery (subscribers must sign up for a long-term subscription to the Kindle edition of the paper, making this similar to the subsidized purchase of a new mobile phone with a multi-year contract).  Articles displayed in the newspaper’s Kindle edition do not have advertisements and Amazon keeps 70% of the subscription revenue, an arrangement newspaper publishers are reportedly trying to renegotiate.

Amazon launched the device at Pace University and announced agreements with three major textbook publishers, Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, and Wiley Higher Education, to make their books available in the Kindle store.  Six universities including Pace, Arizona State, Case Western Reserve, Princeton, Reed College, and the University of Virginia, are slated to test the device with students in the fall.

So what does all of the extra size, weight, and storage get you besides strength training for your wrist?  To start with, the display size is much more suitable for reading newspapers and books with complex illustrations.  The auto-rotate feature turns pages from portrait to landscape, something that will be particularly useful for maps, graphs, tables, and even Web pages.  The Kindle DX supports PDF files natively, so, unlike with the current Kindle, files do not have to go through a converter.   I’ll reserve judgement at this point but since I most recently favored the Kindle for iPhone over the Kindle device, I’m not sure which way this will go.

You can pre-order a Kindle DX at Amazon.com.

Jonathan B. Spira is the chief analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Oracle Beehive

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

We recently had our first look at the new version of Beehive, Oracle’s collaboration solution and replacement for the Oracle Collaboration Suite.  Beehive is available both as an on-demand application or on-premises deployment and it goes up against two heavyweights. One is IBM, which created the groupware market with Lotus Notes and also offers Lotus Connections, Quickr and Domino (the Notes server). The other is Microsoft, which offers customers Exchange and SharePoint.

The effort behind Beehive is in part the handiwork of newly-arrived chief beekeeper and senior vice president of collaboration, David Gilmour, formerly CEO of Tacit Software, a provider of collaborative tools that Oracle acquired last year.

Beehive looks to have the makings of a Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), a workspace designed for the knowledge worker that incorporates all tools and resources in one overarching environment, which is starting to supersede the traditional desktop metaphor of separate and distinct tools.

Beehive 1.5 adds Web-based team work spaces along with wikis, team calendaring, RSS support, contextual search, and advanced file sharing.  Other changes in Beehive 1.5 include enhanced Web and voice conferencing including on-demand recording and retrieval and the ability for a presenter to see the delay between the screen they are sharing and what the audience is seeing.  Also included is integration with standard desktop tools that allows users to stay with e-mail clients that they already use, such as Microsoft Outlook, AppleMail, and Thunderbird (but not Lotus Notes) and instant messaging clients that adhere to open standards.

For tighter integration, Beehive has an Outlook extension that mimics the familiar interface of Outlook with Exchange when connecting Outlook to  Beehive.  It also has an extension for Windows Explorer that provides a folder level view as well as the option of using the included Zimbra open source e-mail software.  Behind the scenes, all data is stored in an Oracle database.

Right now, we’re only scratching the surface.  We will be looking at Beehive in greater depth in an upcoming report.

Jonathan B. Spira is the chief analyst at Basex. Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Kosmix

Thursday, April 30th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Knowledge workers have traditionally had a love/hate relationship with search technologies.  The vast amounts of information that we must shift through to find data that is relevant to us in a given situation make search tools a necessity.  We love being able to quickly find the current price of a product and the location of stores selling it or the most recent article on a key competitor.  The flip side is that our search tools actually fail us most of the time; 50 percent of search queries fail outright (these we are aware of), and of the 50 percent that we believe succeed, a further 50 percent of those fail us in some way that we may not even realize.

Although we have largely resigned ourselves to a world of Google searches that return results instead of answers, there is no shortage of those who are laboring to reimage search and attempt to address some of its fundamental flaws.

One such company, Kosmix, is taking a slightly unorthodox approach: they are not even attempting to fix search.  Instead, Kosmix is targeting the way in which we browse topics, and leaving the navigation aspect of search (finding a specific Web site) to Google and its ilk.  By separating discovery and research from traditional search, Kosmix is attempting to divide and conquer the search problem by zeroing in on a key weakness of results-based searching, namely the presentation of the contextual information that surrounds a topic.

Kosmix’ core product is its eponymously-named Web site, currently in beta, which allows users to browse content by topic.  The content is pulled from around the Web and presented in modules; a search for netbooks, for example, yields a definition from Wikipedia, images from Google and Flickr, related question and answer threads from Yahoo Answers, reviews and guides from EHow, video content from Truveo and Blinkx, Google blog search results, content from tech-related Web sites, relevant Facebook groups, shopping options from EBay and Amazon, and a summary of related items such as specific brands of netbooks and related topics that can be drilled down.

For comparison, a Google search for netbooks resulted in 35,700,000 results, with the only organization of the links being small subsets for news and shopping.

The content that Kosmix presents may not please everyone; automated editorial choices are made as to where to pull content from on a query-by-query basis based on what is available, the value of a site, and the relevance of articles.  For example, the system takes a query then determines what video site’s content is best suited, based on relevancy and ratings on the site.  Kosmix acknowledges that the aggregated content is not always a perfect fit but is working to improve the system in order to deliver better results as it moves forward with the product.

Kosmix is a useful tool for research and discovery around a specific topic, and does a good job of presenting content in a manageable manner, from a broad variety of sources.  Leaving navigation to the established search companies is a wise move for Kosmix, as is demonstrating that there is a better way to find content online than Google searches that return results lacking in context, and more often than not, lacking the information we were looking for in the first place.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

The Last Frontier: In-flight Internet Access, Take 2

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

ON BOARD AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 15, 11:45 A.M. EDT

American Airlines was the first U.S. airline to announce in-flight IntLogging in to American Airlines Gogoernet service for domestic flights.  The first (test) phase of the American Airlines Gogo Internet service started in the middle of last year on the company’s fleet of 15 767-200 aircraft, which fly its transcontinental routes.

Recently, the company announced it will expand the service to over 300 domestic aircraft (the service doesn’t work over the Atlantic or Pacific oceans).

I am writing this from American Airlines Flight 15, New York (JFK) to San Francisco (SFO).  Until today, I hadn’t had to take a transcon flight since Gogo was launched so I was excited to try out the new service (most of my flying in the past nine months was transatlantic).

The last flight I took with Internet service was back in 2005, when Lufthansa and several other airlines still offered the Boeing Connexion service.

Once we hit 10,000 feet (we’re now at our cruising altitude of 32,000 feet), I turned on my trusty Lenovo ThinkPad X300 and it immediately found several Gogo hotspots.  It took just a few minutes to log in and and purchase service for today’s flight (a Gogo representative was handing out 25% discount coupons during boarding, I should mention) and I chatted with customer service about how to use my BlackBerry Bold smartphone on the same account (all I have to do is log off from the laptop and then log in from the Bold).

Gogo really goes

Gogo really goes

So far I’ve done a speedtest, which showed a download speed of 1.55 Mbps (double what the Boeing Connexion service was able to offer) and checked e-mail,  and read news from several Web sites including  the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  The flight attendant has already served warm nuts and drinks so I’m going to relax and enjoy the flight for a little bit and then report again.

ON BOARD AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 15, 1:32 P.M. EDT

We’re still at 32,000 feet, just crossing over Minneapolis.

Purchasing Internet access for one’s laptop entitles you to log into the Gogo system from your smartphone at no additional charge.  Smartphone support was recently introduced by Aircell, the company that runs the Gogo network and it only took a few moments to point the BlackBerry Bold to the Gogo hotspot and log in.  I was surprised – but pleased – to find out that I was able to use BlackBerry Messenger from the Bold although I could not place or receive phone calls or send text messages.  BlackBerry mail worked as well as did multiple applications I use regularly on the device.

Current position at 13:32 EDT

Current position at 13:32 EDT

By the time I had interupted multiple people via BlackBerry messenger, the flight attendants were handing out hot towels and tablecloths and starting to serve lunch (I had the herbed shrimp with couscous).   During lunch, I reconnected to the Net via the ThinkPad and, using Slingbox, watched CNN and channel surfed.  The picture quality was surprising good and audio quality was perfect.

After lunch, I checked in with a few colleagues via Lotus Sametime and read a few e-mail messages.

This is a working flight so I need to prepare a talk I’m giving tomorrow but I will continue this post later.

ON BOARD AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 15, 16:38 P.M. EDT/13:38 P.M. PDT

We just crossed the border from Nevada to California and I have been able to spend most of my time working, although connectivity was really only “required” sporadically.  I did get to finish an important document and e-mail it to where it was needed.  Absent Gogo, I could not have done that until we landed.  I know the recipient was waiting for it so having connectivity proved very beneficial.

In sum: is it an absolute requirement? Of course not, we’ve gotten along without in-flight Internet access since the Wright brothers. It was fun, however.

Test Drive: BlackBerry App World

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira
BlackBerry App World Categories

BlackBerry App World Categories

BlackBerry App World is now open for business.  The new application store is available from BlackBerry smartphones with a trackball or touchscreen such as the Pearl, Bold, Curve, and Storm; it does not support older BlackBerry devices with side wheels, which means that millions of knowledge workers with these models cannot benefit from what the store has to offer without replacing their hardware.

I only had an hour or so to explore the store; for this I used a BlackBerry Bold and AT&T’s 3G network, later switching to Wi-Fi to see if downloads were significantly faster (they weren’t).  To install, I had to first go to a Web page and initiate the installation process.  That put the App World icon in my download folder (incidentally, if you don’t know to look there, you won’t find it) and I moved it to the top-level menu.  Once in App World, I found hundreds of applications in categories such as News, Weather, Finance, Games, Productivity, Social Networking, and Health.  Many are free but some were relatively pricey ($59.99).

Installing a free app was simple and easy.  I downloaded multiple apps, including Viigo and Slacker Radio, and was soon listening to the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Sabre Dance. I was able to also check the weather and news reports in Viigo while the radio continued to play.  I then added the Nobex Radio Companion and was able to choose from thousands of radio stations in the U.S.  Nobex will also e-mail you song details with links that support Apple iTunes and Amazon.com, although you can’t purchase music directly from the BlackBerry at this time (but you can forward the e-mail to your computer to make the purchase).  I didn’t download the App World’s Facebook app; it’s the same one that’s been available for the BlackBerry for quite a while.  I couldn’t find a Twitter client although CellSpin and Viigo promise to support Twitter.

Purchasing applications was far clumsier than what Apple offers in its App Store: the first time I selected an application I wanted to purchase, AP News for $2.99, instead of offering to charge it to my mobile phone number, it offered me one payment choice: PayPal.  For those users who either don’t have PayPal or don’t wish to open a PayPal account, this seems a bit limiting.  Even when I tried to make the purchase through PayPal, it didn’t go through: “There was a problem connecting to the payment system. Your transaction may not have been processed…”  The best it could then offer me was an “attempt to retrieve the application purchase.”  It turned out that the charge had gone through and I was later able to install the AP app.  After testing it, I liked the free Viigo app better for news and information.

A few naming conventions were a bit odd (of what benefit is a “Boston News Web Shortcut” or “Fox News Bookmark”?) but in general, it was easy to find and learn about new applications.  Most have screen shots and product summaries and many have reviews.  I found that e-mailing a link from App World (so I could read more about the application on my laptop) did little good as the link was only accessible from the device.

Features include keyword search, reviews, recommendations, and a folder called My World, which keeps track of downloaded applications and facilitates reinstallation and transfer of applications to a device.

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

Test Drive: Skype for iPhone

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 by Jonathan Spira
Skype for iPhone Account Screen

Skype for iPhone Account Screen

Skype is a popular communications tool for many knowledge workers, especially those on the go.  Released on Tuesday, Skype for iPhone, which also works on the second generation iPod touch, adds Skype calling and instant messaging to both devices and is available from Apple’s App Store, free of charge.

I installed it on the iPod touch as soon as it was available and, while there have been a few glitches, my experience has been pretty much stellar.  The application opens up myriad communications possibilities for the business traveler, including the ability to assign multiple “local” numbers to an iPhone or iPod touch at very low cost.

Skype for iPhone allows users to place free Skype-to-Skype calls when connected to Wi-Fi anywhere in the world.  To reach non-Skype users at rates that are typically a few cents per minute is just as easy.  The sound quality of the call was crystal clear for me but those I was speaking to reported that I sounded a bit distant.

Skype instant messaging is available on all supported connections (Wi-Fi, 3G, GPRS, or EDGE) to both individuals and groups. Users can also edit contacts and set their presence status.

Try it from any supported device from the Apple App Store.

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


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