Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘android

Spaceships, Aliens, And Androids: The Scott & Todd SXSW 2013 Podcast Debrief

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Scott Laningham and I first met around six years ago at SXSW Interactive.  Scott was already well known for his developerWorks podcast series and blog, and he was walking around the conference talking to people, so we decided to sit down and do a podcast discussing all the cool things we’d seen and learned about during the conference.

It was the beginning of a wonderful and still ongoing collaboration, and since that time, Scott and I have shared the stage at numerous IBM conferences, interviewing industry luminaries, IBM executives and business partners, and other thought leaders.

But we always come back to SXSW Interactive. And so it was with 2013.

Scott and I sat down on Friday via Skype and chatted for nearly 30 minutes about all the interesting things we heard and learned about at this year’s event, the first time it reached over 30,000 attendees.

Some would say SouthBy has jumped the shark. I’m not so sure. I joked early on in the event last week that perhaps it had jumped a few dolphins.

Has it gotten a lot more crowded?  Absolutely.

Has it stretched the outer limits of Austin’s hotel and transportation capacity?  Without question.

Do you have to wait in long lines stretching halfway around the Austin Convention Center just to see a keynote?  Yes yes yes.

And to my mind, it’s still worth every minute.

P.S. Scott has also established a new blog, which you can find right here on WordPress.

Written by turbotodd

March 18, 2013 at 9:35 am

BlackBerry’s Uphill Battle

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So, tomorrow’s the big day.

Research In Motion is formally introducing its BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Will the industry yawn and wonder what part of the mobile wilderness that RIM the BlackBerry has been wandering, or will it welcome the potential for new innovation with open arms?

We shall see, but there’s been no end of speculation and expectation appearing in the blogosphere.

For IT professionals, The Wall Street Journal’s Clint Boulton indicated CIOs should be prepared to ask (and get answered) a few key questions.

They center around pricing, upgradability of BlackBerry’s Enterprise Server, interoperability with iPhone and Android, and the like.

The broader question is what will drive demand? Will the market be receptive to the new phones and software behind BlackBerry 10, or are iPhones and Androids “good enough?”

Plenty of tech and mobile companies have had their time “in the wilderness,” and there’s nothing to focus innovation and R&D like dwindling market share.

I was a faithful BlackBerry subscriber for several years, before the lure of the more user-friendly environment of the iOS operating system drew me away from my last RIM device, the BlackBerry Bold.

Looking back, there were a few things I especially liked about RIM’s earlier offerings.

Most notably, the real-time, secure email capability. At a time when I was traveling extensively, there was nothing like being able to walk off the plane and crank up my Bold to find out what had happened in my world the prior 10 hours I was in the air.

I also liked the ability to synchronize with my work calendar — nothing like missing a meeting because you didn’t know it was even happening.

What I didn’t like? The inability to easily introduce new applications and content, most notably music and video (vis a vis iTunes), and yes, that all important road warrior time killer, games. I could only take so many bouts of “Bricks” or “Breakout” (It’s been so long, I forgot what the game was called!)

The application universe also always seemed so limited with RIM, so if they are going to “break out” of the wilderness, that app ecosystem is going to be key.

But only if the OS is up to the task.

CNET’s Roger Cheng explains we can expect two new devices at least, the Z10 and X10, a touchscreen and keyboard version, respectively, and that they’ll be available in February.

As far as apps are concerned, Cheng indicates BB 10 will launch with 70,000 apps.

Though that pales compared to the number of iOS and Android apps currently available, it’s a start, and the real key will be are they the RIGHT apps (the ones that help the mobile warrior stay productive, informed, entertained, and sane on the road, and yet have enough attraction to pull in other demographics).

Creating awareness through marketing will also be key to RIM’s renaissance. The “mindspace” for mobile has been increasingly dominated by the Apple and Google juggernauts over these past few years, and we can hardly turn our heads without seeing Samsung’s TV spots suggesting the iPhone is your our parent’s geriatric mobile device.

RIM hasn’t been part of the conversation for…well, years.

But I think RIM’s challenges are much bigger than awareness. The proof is going to be in the pudding, or in their case, in the user experience.

Design of a useful, attractive and compelling user experience may not have been MORE important in a new product launch in eons, because despite having the early advantage in the mobile smartphone space, now every new experience (including the BB 10 is) going to inevitably be compared to another, existing experience like iOS and Android.

Between that, the desire for a rich apps ecosystem, and getting the word out to a skeptical public — well, over the next few months, let’s just say we’re going to find out how much Motion their Research has as they try to convince loyal, “pry this mobile device out of my cold, dead hands” users out of their comfort zone and into the land of the unknown BlackBerry.

Written by turbotodd

January 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm

In Search Of The Mobile Enterprise

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The new mobile business model — with anytime, anywhere transactions and a blurring of lines between corporate and individual — can make your IT organization feel like it has lost control. For all the good that comes with mobilizing your workforce, there are challenges: maintaining security and compliance, managing multiple device platforms and addressing complex mobile requirements.

You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting a new smartphone or tablet device.

Last week, it was the iPhone 5 and the new Kindle Fire HD. Tomorrow, HTC’s expected to introduce some new mobile products.

And Apple still has yet to introduce the Apple “mini” iPad, currently expected in October.

The move to mobile computing raises some intriguing questions about the nature of work. What is it? Where does it take place?

As someone who’s worked their entire career at IBM, I can certainly attest to the idea that here, increasingly, work is not a place you go but what you do.

I’ve spent nearly nine full years working from my home, and several of those years, spent at least a week a month living (and working) in airplanes.

As the IBM “Services for the Mobile Enterprise” team recently observed, the new workplace is now undeniably a mobile enterprise.

CIOs On Mobile: 66% Plan To Increase Mobile Investments in 2012

Which makes it no big surprise that 66 percent of CIOs plan to increase investments in mobile services in the next year.

And of course, there’s the “BYOD” movement to contend with (“Bring Your Own Device”), with employees expecting whatever device they have to fit into their corporate environment.

This new mobile business model, with anytime, anywhere transactions and a blurring of lines between corporations and individuals, can send IT folks into a conniption fit.

Despite all the goodness — for employees, management, and most importantly, the bottom line — there are challenges that accompany this mobilization of the workforce.

Issues such as maintaining security and compliance.  Managing multiple device platforms.  Addressing complex mobile requirements.

IBM recently released this interactive infographic that has some interesting statistics I thought worthwhile sharing here.

To start, 35 percent of the world’s total workforce is expected to be mobile by 2013.

Here in the U.S., up to 72.2 percent of workers are already plugged in remotely.

This year, some 43 billion mobile applications are expected to be downloaded.

And yet on average, mobile workers spend only a total of 28 minutes a day on technology distractions…there’s too much work to do, otherwise!

The Mobile Upside: 240 Extra Hours Worked Per Worker Per Year

And here’s the upside bonus for you managers: Such mobile workers work an average of 240 extra hours per year.

But as the infographic observes, with those benefits come expectations.

This new mobile generation of workers demands flexibility. Today’s employees expect to use their own devices and applications at work to access information and social networks at will. They even value this flexibility more than a higher-paying salary (Can you say “Mobile enables work/life balance?”).

Cisco’s Connected World Technology Report in 2011 found that 66 percent of workers said they would take a job with less pay and more flexibility in device usage, access to social media, and mobility than a higher-paying job without such flexibility.

Mobile Presents New Challenges

So, as businesses work to embrace these new productive mobile work habits, they must also face the requisite challenges asscoated with the growing number of devices, networks, and applications. Enterprises need a solution that intertwines cross-platform compatibility, security, cost management, compliance, and the inevitable complexity.

By way of example, 21 percent of mobile workers say they have experienced a security issue related to their smartphone (lost, stolen, hacked, virus) in the last year alone.

Fifty-four percent of enterprises rate security and authentication as one of the two top concerns for their mobile environments.

Seventeen percent say they need to meet compliance/regulatory requirements in mobile environments.

And yet 45 percent of IT departments say they aren’t prepared policy- and technology-wise to handle this more borderless, mobile workforce.

Bridging Your Mobile Gap

To overcome those challenges, enterprises need an experienced partner with a strategy capable of spanning the distance between mobile advances and existing infrastructures.

Those early adopters are leaping ahead: They’re already experiencing 20 percent cost savings and productivity improvements.

And 75 percent of CIOs say mobility solutions are a top priority of theirs for 2012.

On the mobile front, IBM workers are walking their own mobile talk, connecting to 10 different networks located around the world, and with 100K+ of them connecting using their own handheld devices (using at least five supported device platforms).

IBM’s own app store, Whirlwind, offers over 500 applications and was recognized by CIO Magazine with the “CIO 100 Top Innovation Award.”

All of that experience IBM has had with its own mobile enablement has informed and shaped the company’s customer-facing mobile initiatives, both through product development and through the introduction of its mobile services offerings.

IBM can help your staff develop the right strategy and governance and deliver a wide range of mobile enterprise services to create a more productive, connected workplace.

You can read about some of those offerings here.

iPhone 5 Highway Robbery

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So I followed some of the liveblogging for the Apple announcements earlier today, with the Apple iPhone 5 being the headline announcement.

I hope to later go back and watch the video webcast, as much interested in the theater of it as the details.

Overall, I walked away with the impression that it was a relatively impressive update from the iPhone 4, but I wasn’t convinced it was enough to compel people to upgrade.

I mentioned in a post a while back I’ve gone native, now using a “dumb phone” (an LG), because I had left AT&T, toyed with an Android on Virgin Mobile, before deciding on the LG dumb phone primarily for phone usage.

I still have my iPhone 4, which I use sometime for checking email and calendar, and reading or watching a movie on plane rides, but because I’m not as mobile as I used to be (not traveling as much), I didn’t feel compelled to need a smartphone.

Back to the 5. I didn’t see a compelling reason to upgrade with the new features — the bigger 4″ screen, the thinner form factor, LTE support, the new camera (including the admittedly cool panorama mode).

But just for grins, I clicked on the Apple application that let me checked what it would cost to go ahead and upgrade ahead of my current pre-rebate date (the date for which I could upgrade with the device actually being subsidized by Verizon).

Here’s what I found in the graphic you see here…hold on for the sticker shock:

I couldn’t get into a 5 for less than $649 until December 9, 2013…by that time, I suspect there will be an iPhone 6.

Even jumping back to the 4 would cost me $375!!!

And therein lies my distaste with the current mobile phone economics in these United States.

Hey, if I was traveling all the time and depending on those services the iPhone could offer remotely, I would consider it.

But recognizing I have other devices (the iPhone 4 using wi-fi, an Android tablet AND an iPad), no way, no how.

I suspect many Apple fan boys and girls will pay the pre-rebate price, and more power to them.

But my money would be better invested in a new mini iPad (apparently coming in October) or even the new iPod Touches also announced today.

But if you get an iPhone 5, be sure to give me a demo the next time you see me.

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Waiting For The New iPhone 5?

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So tomorrow’s the day.

We find out what the Apple iPhone 5 is all about.

Before we discover what the details behind the new Apple smartphone are, I thought it might be interesting to provide a quick glimpse at the state of the mobile marketplace here in the U.S.

I unearthed a blog post from TechCrunch from September 4th, citing the “latest data” from comScore that suggests Apple’s smartphone market share has grown to just over 33 percent, up 2 percent since April of this year.

That study surveyed over 30,000 U.S. mobile phone subscribers, which revealed that Google’s Android continues to keep the pace, holding 52 percent share, a 1.4 percent increase since April.

RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry, decline some 2.1 percent, down from 11.6 percent to 9.5 percent.

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform also saw a 0.4 percent decline in the same data, dropping from 4.0 percent to 3.6 percent.

And Symbian brings up the rear, down 0.5 percent, from 1.3 percent to 0.8 percent.

Despite the recent patent verdict, device maker Samsung is holding steady for smartphone device share at 25.6 percent in the latest period while Apple stood at 16.3 percent.

So what does Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 5 portend for the device market?

AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes wrote earlier today that the new iPhone will have “major implications throughout the personal electronics markets,” suggesting that existing LTE smartphones will come to be seen as “bulky and subpar” while stealing share not only from other smartphone makers, but also from PC makers like Dell and HP.

Hughes also cites J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskovitz in suggesting that the iPhone 5 “will offer better battery performance in a smaller form factor.”

In finding its way to new customers, Apple is also moving away from existing GPS service providers, and will instead transition to the new Maps application for iOS 6.

But will extended battery life and an Apple-owned GPS service be enough to lure loyal iPhone users to the new device, never mind Android loyalists happy with their current devices?

The answer to that question probably lies more in the emergence of new cloud and application offerings than the device characteristics themselves.

More interesting to me this past week, for example, was the report from The Wall Street Journal that Apple was looking to build its own streaming radio service, a move that seems to have helped drive Pandora’s share price down from a recent $12 high to just under $10.

Or consider the expectation Apple will introduce further synchronization between its iCloud offerings into the iOS mobile sphere, apps like Reminders, Notes, Mail, Calendar, and a new “Lost Mode,” which helps itinerant iPhone users find their lost phones.

I know I’ve found that Web-based services like Evernote and Remember the Milk, which synch across multiple devices and/or computers, provide much more utility than those dependent upon a single platform or device.

Whatever the details of the iPhone 5, the world will be watching closely, but my recommendation as one who’s used smartphones across the range of top competitors, including Apple, Android, and RIM, is to look beyond the device and underneath that larger intersection of IP-based services which transcend platform and help unearth the riches of true and unbound universal computing.

Pay As You Go

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Thus far, this has been a pretty “mobilized” summer, with news breaking every day about the increasingly important role mobile computing is playing in our business and personal lives.

Today, we heard about the new Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet (even Walt Mossberg kinda likes it!), and TechMeme has early screenshots and guestimates about what the newer, smaller iPad’s going to look like.

But devices aren’t the whole picture. Infrastructure, application lifecycle management, security and privacy, and other related issues are key to mobile success. And, until these devices are enabled with an easier payment capability, money will be left on the table.

Lots of it.

Ironically, it’s been Apple that has been the closest to providing such a system thus far, with their Apple ID linkage to our credit cards.  But that’s just for the stuff I buy from Apple…what about everybody else?

So today, the Wall Street Journal’s Robin Sidel explained that more than a dozen big merchants are expecting to announce their plans to develop a mobile-payments network that would go up against the likes of Google.

Called the “Merchant Customer Exchange,” the new venture is being led by Wal-Mart, Target, 7-Eleven Inc., and Sunoco, and will attempt to find its way to a more standarized mobile payment system.

Though this may move may be an intended counter to Google’s Wallet capability on the Android platform, Sidel’s story reminds us we also have another joint venture called Isis, led by a number of telcos, as well as the recent $25 million investment by Starbucks in mobile payment start-up Square, also in the running.

And of course, let’s not forget some of those other existing systems which have millions of credit card accounts, including Amazon, whose 1-Click payment capability stands apart, and PayPal, with their unique person-to-person payments capability.

In this emerging roulette wheel of mobile payments, I’m not quite sure where I’d place my bets just yet, as the wheel’s just getting going.

But there’s a lot at stake.

I just attended comScore’s quarterly webcast on the “State of the U.S. Online Retail Economy.” For the second quarter of this year, nearly one in ten of all e-commerce dollars spent were done so via a mobile or tablet device.

Moreover, nearly two in five tablet owners have purchased something online via their device in the past month (a number more than double of that of smartphone owners).

One wonders if that smartphone purchasing number might not be a few percentage points higher were it easier to hand over one’s payment information via smartphone handsets.

Looking at the bigger picture for a moment, comScore also reported in the webcast that the channel shift to online appears to be accelerating, with online sales overall up 15 percent for the quarter, while on a comparable category basis, offline sales only increased two percent.

At the forthcoming IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Orlando (see this post for more details), IBM has some 20+ sessions that contain a mobile component, including one entitled “Mobile Payments, An IBM POV” (IB-3440).

That event will be held September 5-7 at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida, and you can learn more about it here.

Google’s New “Jelly Bean”

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So did anybody else watch that Google I/O keynote earlier today from the Moscone Center in San Francisco?

Apparently, so, because at one point there were nearly 100,000 concurrent viewings on YouTube.

Yes, I said, 100,000.  Pretty impressive for a developer’s conference.

I’ll get to some of the key Android announcements momentarily…first, the show stealer, which for my money (and of which there’s not a whole lot), one-upped Apple’s keynotes in a way they’ll likely never be able to match.

As the team was preparing to introduce the much-discussed Google Glasses (which I hope, one day, I’ll be able to wear on the golf course and announce to my technophobe father exactly how many yards his shot is to the pin without missing a beat), Sergey Brin cut away to an airplane flying high over the skies of San Francisco, all featured in a Google Events Hangout.

I presumed the cutaway was Memorex, but soon found out differently.

The skydivers jumped from the plane, flew in their birdsuits a little ways, then opened their chutes and landed safely on a roof by or at the Moscone Center.

They delivered the Google Glasses to some manic BMX mountain bikers, who jumped a couple of roofs before handing them over to some dudes who were hanging by some ropes.

Before too long, they all came busting into the live keynote and up on the stage to deliver the glasses.

I’ll never think of my FedEx delivery guy the same again.

I guess everyone at Google Marketing and PR was pretty confident all their skydivers’ chutes would open and no Google Glasses were going to go splat along with their mules.  That, or they had a contingency plan to cutaway to poor voice-challenged CEO Larry Page trying to pick up the slack via ASL.

Like I said, the whole stunt got my attention.

There were a range of interesting announcements, including the Glasses (available to developers attending I/O sometime next year), the new Google streaming media player (Yawn), and Google’s own Nexus 7 (is that one step behind Windows8?) tablet.

But the new Android, 4.1, AKA “Jelly Bean,” was the storyline I found most interesting.

Google announced “Project Butter” as the new innovation in 4.1, which helps make transitions and animations in the Android OS run more smoothly (at a cool 60 frames per second).

Googlers also demonstrated more responsive widgets (I hate to wait on any mobile device app!), which users can drag and drop and move around on their home screen.

Android Heavens, open up and save me from thith mobile lag!

The Google voice recognition engine is now going offline, which means you can transcribe to your heart’s content without being connected to the Interwebs.

“Android, go beat up Siri and then send me some funny pics of such that I can view on my newfangled Android 4.1 home screen and share them via my non-lagging new Facebook app on Jelly Bean!”

The new “Google Now” was also a cool new feature, which allows you tor bring up new “cards” that contain relevant and timely information (“How tall is the Empire State Building?”).

If Trivial Pursuit ever makes a comeback, I want to play the Google Now-assisted edition!

Google Now also takes advantage of temporal and physical data it knows to make friendly suggestions to you.  For example, when it’s lunchtime, Google Now could suggest some local restaurants nearby and let you easily make reservations to go there.

I’d suggest you view the video below to learn more about Google Now, but despite my preference to stick with the Apple iPlatforms, me likey the new “Jelly Bean” and hope Apple responds with some similar features in a future iOS release.

Get Real With Your Mobile Strategy

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As someone who regularly monitors and communicates key trends in the digital marketing environment with IBM, I obviously have to keep pace (as best I can!) with those emerging arenas that I think are going to have an impact in our (IBM’s), and the industry’s, ability to communicate effectively, efficiently, and to the right audience.

The emerging mobile space is a good example of one of those trends.  With the advent of the iPhone in 2007, and later the Android platform and, more recently, the rapid adoption of tablet computers like the iPad and now Microsoft’s “Surface,” the opportunity to market and communicate through these devices is enormous.

But the opportunity doesn’t just end with marketing. Companies around the globe are also realizing mobile computing can change business in fundamental ways.

Enterprise Mobility: A Top Strategic Priority

In our recent CIO study of more than 3,000 CIOs, IBM discovered that 75 percent of respondents asserted that mobility is a top priority in their business strategy.

But, there are significant challenges.  New platforms and operating systems are emerging all the time, security and privacy are critical issues of concern to business leaders, and there’s a need to maximize development investments for the mobile platform.

IBM has been communicating more aggressively about this opportunity, and our own Bob Sutor has been a critical thought leader for IBM in this space.

As some of you may remember, Scott Laningham and I interviewed Bob recently about IBM’s mobile strategy at the Impact 2012 event back in May.  You can find that interview below:

Bob’s blog is a must read for you mobile adherents, and you may also be interested in a specific post in which Bob articulated IBM’s mobile strategy.

Continuing IBM’s mobile drumbeat, we most recently partnered with eWeek to produce a short slide show that articulates some best practices in mobile deployment that Bob and his team developed, best practices based on extensive experience with real (and recent) customer engagements.

I’ll hit the wave tops for you below, but to read all the details, you’ll need to visit the full slideshow over at eWeek.

  1. Don’t Compromise on User Experience. Good apps are engaging. They are designed for performance and customized to deliver the functionality your users need in a simple and easy-to-use manner.
  2. Support Different Development Approaches. Mobile apps are no longer an experiment. Companies are quickly realizing their value to different lines of business, both as productivity tools for employees and engagement channels facing customers.  Choosing a development approach for these apps entails many parameters such as budget, project timeframe, target audience and application functionality.
  3. Build for Performance. Recent reports show that already today, mobile users are spending more time using apps than mobile browsers. Combined with projections that more than 50 percent of users will access the Web through mobile devices by the end of 2013, application performance has never been more crucial for your mobile initiative.
  4. Enable Collaboration, Efficiency. Modern business applications are constantly changing, and they are rarely developed by a single person anymore.
  5. Ensure Proper Authentication and Address Security Concerns. Whether employee- or customer-facing, mobile applications are quickly assuming the roles of many mission-critical systems in the enterprise. It is no wonder that authentication and security have become the top concerns of the mobile enterprise.
  6. Close the HTML5 Gap. Commitment from all major mobile vendors, active standardization efforts and a growing ecosystem of third-party tools has been fueling recent success and adoption of HTML5.
  7. Connect With Back-End and Cloud-Based Systems. Mobile business apps are not independent entities. They should be tightly connected to a variety of existing back-end and cloud-based systems.
  8. Manage Mobile Apps, Devices, Data. Managing applications after they are downloaded and installed on devices has become critical, with the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend specifically challenging IT departments. A growing number of organizations are starting to adopt a combination of management approaches, both on the application level and the device level.
  9. Evaluate Supporting Services. The mobile channel is transforming the way companies are doing business, and with that transformation, new challenges arise on both the business and the IT levels.
  10. Protect Your Investment. As the mobile landscape develops, success lies in the ability to adapt to change.

IBM: Goin’ Mobile…and Then Some

IBM has been steadily investing in the mobile space over the past decade — not as a device manufacturer, but as a provider of mobile enterprise application and platform technologies, including tools for developing software in the mobile realm, and also to provide endpoint management (management of all those various and sundry devices your employees are now bringing to the office and expecting you in IT to support!).

We acquired Worklight in February to help more quickly deliver mobile application management capabilities across a range of industries, and as eWeek observes, Worklight’s software “enables organizations to efficiently create and run HTML5, hybrid and native applications for smartphones and tablets with industry-standard technologies and tools.”

If you’re looking to get into the mobile game, a good place to start is our webcast, “Harnessing the Power of Mobile in the Enterprise.” (Registration required)

Live @ Pulse 2012: IBM VP Bob Sutor On The Mobile Lifecycle

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Earlier today at IBM Pulse 2012, Scott and I had a far-ranging interview on the mobile ecosystem with IBM Mobile Platform vice president, Bob Sutor.

Our discussion ranged from the mobile “lifecycle,” which Bob recently presented to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, to privacy and security in the mobile realm, to Android v. iOS v. some stalking horse mobile OS being written in some kid’s garage nobody yet knows about.

It was one of our favorites of the event, and we hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed doing the interview. We could have spoken with Bob for another half hour and not covered everything we would have liked.

Check it out here.

Written by turbotodd

March 6, 2012 at 5:23 am

The Turbo Android

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A few weeks ago I blogged about breaking up with AT&T, which meant my iPhone would become an expensive and glorified iPod.

Turbo debriefs on his recent transition from iPhone to Android...and buys the most expensive product he's ever acquired from a vending machine.

That’s okay, you can never have too many iPods lying around.

But, I also promised to come back and tell, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.”

So after AT&T couldn’t or wouldn’t offer me any relief for my cracked iPhone (which also froze for a full 24 hours), I broke up and decided to try something new.

Not because I didn’t like my iPhone…there were lots of things to like about it…except for the bill I got every month, one at an average of $90/month that yet had a cap for both phone and data usage.

I ended up heading out to Best Buy after first doing a little online research, and I decided that a no-contract phone was my best option, but there were several providers. At the Best Buy, a sales associate explained that he thought Virgin Mobile had the best deal, because for only $35 a month, I could get unlimited data (and 300 voice minutes), and if I so desired, could upgrade to $45/month with 1200 minutes and unlimited data, and $55/month for unlimited of both.

Where do I sign?

My fatal mistake, however, was to accept his first recommendation on the device, a Samsung Intercept that looked great, but was not less filling.  It was an early Android release, it seemed to have the RAM of a 1986 386 box, and I couldn’t even take phone calls on it reliably.

After two weeks of trial usage, I went back to the same Best Buy and explained what a piece of junk phone they had sold me, and that I wanted something better.  A new clerk helped me settle on a Motorola Triumph, which I’ve been very happy with (save for the anemic battery life — I have to charge it twice a day if I talk on it with any frequency).

No doubt, I was an irresponsible consumer when I decided so quickly and without much research on the new phone.  However, the shift to Android has been a blessing in disguise.

Let me explain: As much as I liked the tightness of the iPhone/iTunes platform, and the quality of the apps, I could feel myself becoming more and more confined. This isn’t about the device anymore: It’s about access to information and services in the cloud.

For as long as I can remember, mobile phones, smart or otherwise, have become a real pain when it comes to contact management.  With both Androids, that problem was solved on setup: I simply synched with my Gmail contacts, and I was done.  Now, I can add a contact to my phone and have it synched up with the Google cloud and not worry about where I’m going to enter the information.

Similarly, my Google calendar is now pervasive across all my computers, tablets, and, now, my phone.  Why? Simple, because of that cloud connection.  Yes, iCloud may NOW be providing some of these capabilities, but at the price, and with the promise of being in a more open operating ecosystem, I would argue I’ve become much more productive because these simple but often confounding necessities like contact management have become so much easier via Android.

Of course, that includes the synergy I have between my MacBook Air and the Google cloud as well.

As for Virgin Mobile, so far, I don’t have enough good things to say.  I’m able to “top off” my service using a credit card on a monthly basis, and, depending on my schedule, decide whether or not I want to spend $35, $45, or $55 for a month’s worth of service, as opposed to the $90+ my AT&T service was costing.

Furthermore, the Virgin Mobile web site makes it easy for self-service provisioning and account management.  I always liked the way Richard Branson did business — now I have proof why. From his airlines to his mobile phone service, he focuses on the consumers’ needs.

I was so pleased with Android, I stopped and purchased the single most expensive item I’ve ever acquired from a vending machine (this one from Best Buy), an HTC Flyer tablet.  Though it, too, has some battery issues, I’m finding it to be an also very useful and productivity-enhancing tablet experience. Not necessarily as “clean” as the iPad experience, but easy enough to master and use for everything from my corporate email to blogging to reading books to watching Netflix…And it’s only 7″, as opposed to my original iPad.

Geek that I am, I will likely continue using devices across both platforms — you’ll pry my MacBook Air out of my cold, dead hands.  But the Android smartphone experience is proving quite useful, and in the process I’m becoming more familiar with an increasingly relevant platform that, until a month ago, I was only vaguely familiar with.

And did I mention Madden NFL 2011 plays beautifully on the HTC Flyer???

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