» Archive for the 'Product Review' Category

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-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: 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.

In the Briefing Room: SenderOK

Thursday, March 12th, 2009 by Cody Burke

In the Briefing Room: SenderOK

We recently took a look at SenderOK, an e-mail sorting and management system.  SenderOK uses algorithms to sort e-mails according to a variety of criteria including how often the sender’s e-mail messages are answered, if the e-mail originates from a domain that the user has recently been to, and the recipient’s e-mail reading habits (i.e. deleting without reading or manual importance designation).  If a sender’s e-mail is always opened or answered by the recipient or others using SenderOK, then the system will place the e-mail in a folder for important messages.  Conversely, if the sender’s email is answered less frequently or often deleted without being opened, then it will be placed into the routine inbox.  E-business card information is presented as well for each e-mail, in a box located on the upper right of the Outlook inbox, in a style similar to xobni.

SenderOK also allows companies to insert logos onto e-mail that appears in the inbox.  For a monthly fee, a corporate logo will appear as the sender in the inbox, and the e-mail itself will be expedited to the inbox in an attempt to avoid the junk folder.  To qualify for the logo, companies will have to comply with the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), which assure the recipient that the e-mail is from a reputable source.  Simply put, this aspect of the offering is designed to help senders stay out of the junk folder.  SenderOK believes that the presence of a logo will dramatically increase the likelihood that the e-mail will be opened, a premise we sincerely doubt.  In discussing this, my colleague Jonathan Spira suggested that replacing sender names with logos in the inbox may turn out to be as useful as third brake lights, which were found to be effective only when they were found on relatively few cars.  If most e-mail arrives with logos, it will, similar to the third brake light, just become part of the scenery.

SenderOK addresses two different areas: e-mail sorting and management on one hand and adding corporate logos to expedite e-mail delivery on the other.  However, we are a bit confused as to which direction SenderOK is focusing on.  The most important area of opportunity for SenderOK (in our opinion) is the ability to intelligently sort e-mail and reduce information overload in the inbox.  SenderOK shows promise in this respect, analyzing inbox behavior to determine the importance of e-mail and float the most critical to the top is a great idea, and SenderOK’s system seems to work rather well, albeit with limitations (it only analyzes behavior of others using SenderOK for example).  Solving that problem for the end user and bringing discipline to the inbox would address a huge pain point in the enterprise.  Unfortunately, SenderOK seems more focused on creating a corporate branding opportunity for e-mail rather than solving e-mail overload.

SenderOK also bills itself as a spam reduction mechanism, but we feel it falls short of the effectiveness of an appliance sitting on the edge of the network, such as IronPort.  In addition, we think this may be a short lived opportunity, once everyone else figures out how to get their branding onto email, then whatever advantage there was will be rendered moot.  SenderOK promises to keep “good” e-mail from being “spam-filtered” but “good” e-mail turns out to be a message coming from a company that is willing to pay the monthly fee.  The benefit to users in terms of managing one’s e-mail inbox and spam seems specious at best, a real pity because a tool that actually delivers on what SenderOK promises would be of great benefit.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Review: Amazon Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira
The Amazon Kindle for iPhone Reader

The Amazon Kindle for iPhone Reader

On Wednesday, Amazon.com released Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch, a program for reading electronic books on those devices.  The software is available free from Apple’s App Store and allows users to read books purchased on the Web or via a Kindle eBook reader.  I downloaded it to an iPod touch shortly after it became available.

Based on what Amazon has mentioned publicly, the company doesn’t believe that the free application will cannibalize sales of the dedicated Kindle device but sees it as complementary.  After using the app to read several books, I am not sure they are right.

As regular readers know, I was not a fan of the original Kindle and I haven’t yet tested Kindle 2 , although its design does appear to address a few of the shortcomings I noted in the original.

If you already own a compatible Apple device, however, the new Kindle app may be the best eBook reader for you.  Indeed, if you don’t already own one, you still may wish to consider an iPod touch for your eBooks.  Text is clear and navigating from page to page is simply a matter of touching the screen.

The app makes excellent use of the iPod touch’s small screen and I found the books I purchased very easy to read.  You can change the font size to get more text on screen or to make the text easier to read.  To flip pages, swipe the screen with your thumb or other finger.

I found the iPod’s backlit screen to be a vast improvement over the original Kindle’s; the Kindle 2 uses the same E Ink screen technology and is reportedly sharper than the original model.

The app lacks direct access to the Kindle store and does not support newspapers, magazines, and blogs (despite reports in the media to the contrary), however the devices themselves support Web access and thereby provide free access to almost all of the very publications Amazon.com sells, plus many more not available at the Kindle store.

Two major flaws, which one hopes will be remedied in future versions: there is no search from within the book and graphics can’t be resized.  In addition, there is no landscape reading mode and the software does not support annotations.

If you do own a Kindle, Amazon’s Whispersync service will keep track of where you are on either device and synchronize the two.  Books purchased on the Kindle are automatically available on the Apple device as well.

There are other eBook options for the iPhone and iPod touch. Shortcovers allows users to purchase and read books on the iPhone and iPod touch and Google supports eBook reading on a Web site optimized for the iPhone, although the books available from Google are out-of-print.

If you are looking for a good eBook solution, the Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch merits strong consideration.  The reading experience, while not book-like, is pleasant, the software is free, and the books themselves are far less expensive than the original paper versions.

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

FiOS Follies

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

First announced in July 2004, Verizon FiOS couldn’t come to my neighborhood in New York City soon enough. Using fiber-optic connections instead of copper wire to bring telephone service, Internet, and television into the home, FiOS (which stands for Fiber Optic Service) was certainly worth the wait. So was the pain of the installation process and problem solving that followed.

After five hours plus, and a call for a more experienced installer, my FiOS service was up and running – more or less.

The installation consists of bringing the fiber-optic connection into the home and terminating it in an optical network terminal (ONT), which serves as an interface to inside wiring for telephone, television, and Internet access.

The TV service itself is superb, with better picture quality than our cable company (Time-Warner) had ever provided. The multi-room DVR (digital video recorder) system allows streaming of recorded programs (HD and standard) to other TVs in the home. Widgets provide local traffic and weather and local and national news on the top of the screen while programs continue in a slightly smaller size below.

The FiOS Interactive Media Guide has an easy-to-use tabbed interface and allows searching for words that appear anywhere in the description. One can remotely program the DVR via the Web (or using a Verizon mobile phone). The service features over 100 HD channels, 500 all-digital channels, and 14,000 video-on-demand titles (8,500 are free).

The Internet service is lightning fast. It consistently measures close to 20 Mbps, about seven times faster than my DSL service ever was. It’s so fast that my partner and I can each watch a different streaming TV show on our respective computers without any problem (with DSL, one show was frequently more than the service could handle).

It was the plain, old telephone service (known in the industry as “POTS”) that turned out to be the big problem. The day after installation, I noticed that many of my calls were not going through; instead, after dialing, I would hear an ACB recording (“We’re sorry, all circuits are busy…”). After weeks of investigation, this turned out to be a software error; my phone line was coded as an account disconnected for non-payment. I also found that I couldn’t place a call a few times a day; pressing the number pad would simply not break the dial tone. Then a reorder tone (sounds like a fast busy signal) would follow, then a message stating “if you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” I told the repair bureau it was a bad line card but they didn’t seem to believe me. This problem took over two months to resolve and involved dozens of phone calls and the implementation of odd fixes at the phone company’s suggestion (twice they had me unplug all of my phones and they replaced the ONT and also sent a technician to check the inside wiring). Two months later, the problem was determined to be a bad line card in the Nortel softswitch.

A few small glitches remain to date. The remote set-top box loses the connection to the main DVR several times a day and it also has trouble playing recorded programs longer than 30 minutes. In such cases, it loses track of where it is. (Verizon promises a fix for the first problem shortly and advises that the second problem is being worked on.) In addition, the problem in placing a call mysteriously returned for two days recently and then disappeared again.

By this time, you are probably wondering if getting FiOS is worth it – and my answer is a resounding “yes.”

The clear sharp television picture and the lightning fast Internet connectivity are simply head-and-shoulders above any other service I have seen and I saved the best for last. Even with faster speed and sharper picture, I’m saving money. A bundle including TV, Internet plus telephone service is $99.99 per month plus taxes and fees (previously I was paying 60% more for inferior service).

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

Rekindling the Flame – Amazon Introduces Kindle 2

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

When the original Amazon Kindle was introduced, I tried very hard to like it.  While there were many things that it did well (see my original review), the reader experience was ultimately unsatisfying.  At the time of its introduction, however, the Kindle was certainly the latest and probably greatest eBook reader, a concept that goes back to Sony’s introduction of the Bookman in 1991 and the Sony Data Discman in 1990.

The original Bookman weighed two pounds and could play full-length audio CDs.  It was, essentially, an 80286-based, MS DOS-compatible computer with a 4.5″ monochrome display.  Even before the Bookman, Sony had introduced the Data Discman Electronic Book Player.  The Discman weighed only 1.5 pounds and books had to be created using the Sony Electronic Book Authoring System.  Its three-hour battery life, relatively low resolution, and limited content greatly limited its utility and, ultimately, its lack of success.

All of these designs, including the newest Kindle, overlook the rather profound question of what makes for a satisfying book-reading experience.

It all boils down to the fact that reading a book is just that, something one does with paper.  No amount of searchable text, clickable links, and video wizardry will replace that experience, and putting a table of contents, page numbers, and an index around words that come to the reader electronically is a different reading experience.

Books also have other advantages, including a drop-proof, shock-proof chassis, extremely low power consumption, and a bulletproof operating system.

What we read from did migrate once before. By the end of antiquity, the codex had replaced the scroll.  The codex user interface was improved over time with the separation of words, use of capital letters, and the introduction of punctuation, as well as tables of contents and indices.  This worked so well, in fact, that 1500 years later, the format remains largely unchanged.

With the original Kindle, the reader experience, while light-years ahead of reading a book on a laptop, was still greatly lacking compared to the pleasure readers continue to derive from paper books (it appears we are at the cusp of having to create a retronym, “paper books,” to describe the non-eBook variety).  My 1996 “invention” of the Lazerbook , an in-home device that printed books on demand on reusable paper, has still not yet been built but I suspect that, were it to arrive on the scene today,  readers would still prefer paper.

This week Amazon introduced Kindle 2.  Although units are not yet available for purchase (although Amazon is accepting pre-orders now) or for testing, I suspect that I will like this Kindle a whole lot more.  In addition to the new Kindle, Amazon said it would start to sell e-books that can be read on non-Kindle devices including mobile phones.  It also announced an exclusive short story by Stephen King.

Kindle 2, sporting a new design with round keys and a short, joystick-like controller, has seven times the memory of the original version, a sharper display, and it turns pages faster.  Despite these improvements, the price remains the same: $359.  At the launch, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told the audience that “our vision is every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”  Amazon also announced Whispersync, a feature that allows the reader to start a book on one Kindle and continue where he left off on another Kindle or supported mobile device.

Apple and Google, not traditional book publishers, represent the greatest challenge to the Kindle beyond, of course, the codex.  Google has, to date, scanned millions of books, many out of print and hence not easily available in traditional form.  Readers can find several e-book programs online for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

What will the future hold? Check with me in, say, 1500 years.

You can order the new Kindle from Amazon.

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


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