Tuesday, February 28, 2006

First Look: Garmin Forerunner 205

As many of you know, I've been talking for some time about upgrading my favorite mobile device, the Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS running watch and replacing it with one of Garmin's Next Generation Forerunners.

The Garmin Forerunner 205, pictured to the left, just started shipping. Originally, due to my procrastination over which model to purchase, the 205 or the 305 with a heart rate monitor, I ended up waiting too long. When I finally ordered the 205 via REI.com, it was on backorder until mid-March.

However as luck would have it, I'm an impatient gadget geek, and while calling REI to check on the status of the order last Thursday night, I was told by the customer service rep that the Seattle retail store actually just got in a couple of units.

I quickly called the Seattle store and ordered the 205, paying $20 extra to have it shipped 2nd day air. Usually I go all out to pay as little as possible for shipping, but I figured I already had gone this far so it made little sense to torture myself even longer to get my hands on the product.

The Forerunner 205 arrived this afternoon and I had a chance to play around with it. I didn't get to take it for a run, but will compare it to the 201 on my run tomorrow morning. Here are my initial thoughts on the Garmin Forerunner 205:

  1. It's bigger than I thought it would be. The picture on the right is a side by side comparison (201 is on the left and 205 on the right). A lot of the size of the 205 is taken up by the antenna, which is built into the bottom of the display. It still feels a bit smaller because it's not as wide as the 201.
  2. The display of the 205 is a little smaller and for some reason doesn't seem as bright or sharp as the 201.
  3. While the 201 had 3 set screens and one customizable with 3 data fields, the 205 allows you to customize 2 main screens and a third activity specific (i.e. run, bike or other) one with 1 to 4 data fields per screen. For example, on my main screen I have 4 fields - total time, total distance, average pace and time of day. On other screens, I have lap time, lap distance, lap pace, elevation, GPS accuracy, etc. This is very cool, especially for data-driven geeks like myself.
  4. I like the 205's plastic strap much better. I was never a fan of the 201's velcro strap.
  5. The side buttons seems a bit hard to push. I hope they loosen up. The Lap and Start/Stop buttons on the face are nice and large so that's another plus.
  6. The GPS receiver seems much stronger. I can lock onto a signal inside my house next to a window. This never happened with the 201.
  7. like the fact I can connect the 205 to my PC via a USB cable and the charging cradle (see pictures below). Charging via USB is a nice bonus. For some reason, the watch doesn't feel that secure in the cradle. It's not a tight fit.
That's all I can think of right now and I need to get to sleep so I can wake up early for my run (I hope it doesn't rain). If you're in my neighborhood tomorrow morning around 6 a.m. make sure to say hello. I'll be the running dork with the big devices on both wrists.....

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In-Stat: Wi-Fi Chipset Market Continues Impressive Growth

In-Stat has issued a new report that finds "the Wireless LAN (WLAN) chipset market is on a phenomenal growth pace that is projected to continue over the next few years." In-stat forecasts that "the market will soar from just over 140 million annual chipset unit shipments in 2005 to 430 million in 2009." Gemma Tedesco at In-Stat said, "The market has been driven primarily by traditional networking devices over the last five years, as well as embedded Wi-Fi in mobile PCs. But the market is shifting, as it will be increasingly buoyed by new categories of devices such as handheld games, gaming consoles, cell phones and printers."

Key findings include:

  • Broadcom, Atheros, and Intel were the market leaders in 2005, each ruling specific market segments.
  • In 2007 and 2008, the phone segment will noticeably emerge, driven by embedded Wi-Fi in cellular phones.
  • In 2005, overall chipset revenues were expected to reach almost $1 billion.

Ovum: 3G on a roll: more 3G licences in Eastern Europe and Russia

Martin Venzky-Stalling at Ovum writes that "a spate of new 3G licences is to be issued through a combination of auctions, beauty contests and hybrids. The countries that have announced they will be awarding new 3G licences are Russia, Romania, Georgia and Slovakia. Lithuania kicked the process off on 13 February 2006, when the National Regulatory Association (NRA) awarded 3G licences to Omnitel (TeliaSonera), Bite and Tele2."

Venzky-Stalling beleives that "some of these countries represent significant growth opportunities; penetration in Georgia, for example, stands at 20%. Penetration in Lithuania is already high, but it can still present a good opportunity for growth."

Ovum advises regulators "to carefully evaluate the feasibility of some licences, particularly third and forth licences, and to be clear about the policy objectives. These should, in turn, determine the licence award process and criteria. Moreover, regulators should set clear guidelines and award criteria, in order to avoid disputes similar to those that have arisen in Bosnia and Kosovo."

For bidders, Venzky-Stalling says to "carefully evaluate this opportunity, create an internal business case and develop a very clear bid strategy. The auction route can lead to overpaying if you do not have a clear bid strategy. The stakes are arguably even higher in beauty contests and hybrids. Losing could be an embarrassment and, of course, a business problem - particularly if the'expected winner' loses to a better-prepared bidder."

Mobile Service Prices Trending Downward

Unstrung covers a couple of recent reports that predicts a "downward trend in prices for wireless services -- including voice, data, and email -- accelerating over the next 12 to 18 months." One of the reports covered is a market study from In-Stat that "finds that small and medium-sized business, in particular, are seeing prices for wireless services fall."

Charles Gerlach at In-Stat noted larger enterprises are "often locked into long-term contracts, and unable to track usage as precisely as smaller businesses, large enterprises so far have been unable to take advantage of falling prices and new, more flexible payment plans."

He said, "Many large organizations are paying monthly charges for at least some employees who don’t use their phones or are not even employed there anymore."

The article states that "while revenue per user (RPU) has been falling for sometime for cellular voice service on the consumer side, carriers have been able to keep prices relatively flat on the enterprise side. That is no longer the case, particularly as enterprises shift to voice-over-IP and data services become more important and widespread."

Tole Hart at Gartner said, "Voice RPUs are going down so [carriers] have to find additional data revenue. They're trying to figure out a way to do that, and that's really the challenge."

However average revenues for data services is also falling. Craig Mathias at the Farpoint Group said, "The data pricing trend is downward. We're expecting unlimited wireless broadband services in the $35-$45 range in the next year or so. There will always be a premium for wireless, but the objective is to get to the same price point as wired."

In-Stat's Gerlach added, "We see evidence that large organizations are becoming more aggressive at seeking to understand and control their spending on wireless services, and we believe that this is likely to lead to some pressure to reduce the rates that they are paying."

Dualmode WiFi/cellular handsets with seamless handoff between Wi-Fi and cellular networks will also be a factor. FarPoint's Mathias said, "WiFi, of course, is terribly inexpensive to deploy, so that will have a downward effect as well."

Apple introduces Intel-based Mac Mini, IPod stereo

Here are a number of articles and posts with analyst quotes after Apple made its product announcements this morning. Apple announced the new iPod Hi-Fi, a home stereo compatible with every model of iPod that will sell for $349, leather iPod cases and Intel-based Mac Minis, selling for $599 and $799 and includes wireless connectivity to Apple's Front Row software so one iTunes-equipped computer can access media files of another iTunes-equipped computer wirelessly.

In a United Press International article, Michael Gartenberg at JupiterResearchsaid, "The announcement confirmed that the iPod is a platform itself. Many customers are already willing to pay a premium for a premium experience. People are looking for the Apple brand."

He also noted that the "the wireless connectivity of Front Row software in Mac Minis is a step toward creating an interconnected home theatre with Apple technology." He said, "The evolution begins as Apple begins to integrate the TV and the PC experience."

The The Consumer Electronics Stock Blog picks up a research note that Bear Stearns analysts Andrew J. Neff, Bill Hand and Ted Chung sent out today. They wrote that "while some investors may be disappointed with a lack of a revolutionary product launch (e.g., true video iPod/tablet iPod), we see today’s announcement as signs of AAPL’s expanding entry into consumer electronics and see more products to come."

  • Mac mini with Bonjour software — stream content wirelessly. Keeping with AAPL’s theme of simplifying technology adoption, Mac mini incorporates revolutionary software called Bonjour that positions the device as a true media center for home. Mac mini directly hooks up to TVs and Bonjour enable it to automatically find any other PCs or Macs over a wireless network and share content (music, photo, video). Mac mini is priced starting at $599/$799.
  • “Hi-Fi” stereo. iPod Hi-Fi system with a native iPod docking station , priced at $349
The Sun-Sentinel picks up a Bloomberg piece.Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray said, "This is their move into the living room. The Mac Mini will be the first media center that will work. The remote control is the key, bridging the gap between the technical and non-technical user."

Robert van Batenburg at Louis Capital Markets added, "For underlying sales and fundamentals, the Mac Mini is the most important, but from a strategic point the iPod boom box is interesting because it signifies they want to move more into the living room."

Before the announcement Ken Smith at Munder Capital Management said, "They are doing reasonably well on the Intel transition, and the strength of iPod has provided a window of opportunity" to sell more Macs.

Lastly Michael Gartenberg at JupiterResearch posts that although it "seems like pretty evolutionary stuff from Apple today but I think there's more at stake." He writes that "it does seem Apple has listened and integrated Front Row to the Mini and that's good news. Apple is really moving in steps to capture another endpoint in the digital home and that's the importance of this news. Notice there's still no TV tuner support, but the infrastructure for media sharing is now in place beyond music and Apple as the provider of an end to end networking experience can deliver on what they promise. This is the next move in what is still an early game."

Gartenberg concludes that "likewise, look at the new iPod accessories as further validation that Apple considers this device a platform. Aside from making sure that they capture their share of what is a lucrative accessory market, this move also validates the vision of the iPod as a hub in the digital home for music. Think it's expensive? Perhaps, but it's cheaper than a Sonos system and you don't need to do any networking. Expect to see more moves like this in the short term that add up to a much larger end game."

ABI Research: Smartphone Forecast: Shipments to More Than Double in 2006

According to a new report from ABI Research, "2006 will bring a growth spurt in the smartphone market that will see worldwide shipments more than double. The 123 million units that ABI Research forecasts will be shipped this year will give smartphones nearly a 15% share of the mobile phone market."

Philip Solis at ABI Research said, "Increasing demand for robust data communications applications — especially mobile email and instant messaging — will play a role, particularly as 3G speeds improve the appeal of mobile data services. With increasing sales volumes, prices are falling fast, while the choice of models on offer is growing rapidly (39% more models were available in 2005 than in 2004). Even as their functionality expands, smartphones are shrinking in size, offering lower power consumption and longer battery life. Finally, Wi-Fi is reaching into the smartphone, and we expect to see fully a quarter of all models offering embedded Wi-Fi by 2010."

On the OS front, Solis noted that while the Palm OS was "moribund, Linux is finding increasing favor, with industry heavyweights such as Motorola, Samsung, NEC and Panasonic among its backers." He added that "The Windows Mobile OS is gaining ground too, while Symbian, whose OS is currently the hands-down market share winner, is attempting to stave off competitors by halving its license fees for volume deals."

JupiterResearch: Unfolding Origami - it might not un-wrap the way you think it will

Michael Gartenberg at JupiterResearch adds his two cents about the hyped up Microsoft Origami Project. Garterberg posts while in Tel Aviv and notes "Todd Bishop of the Seattle PI correctly points out, no one said Microsoft was announcing anything this week. In fact, the site seem to make it pretty clear that there's more to be revealed over the weeks ahead." He writes:

Scoble talks about the danger of not letting your internal bloggers know what's going on and the fear of getting "origami-ized". Robert, is something bad happening here? After all, there's a little company in Cupertino that never talks about what it's doing in advance, let's the web run wild with rampant rumor and speculation and then introduces products, that would never SEEM to match the expectation but does anyhow.
He then remembers "last fall, when the web was buzzing about Apple introducing a new flash based iPod. No one predicted that product was the Nano or the impact it would have. It's being correct but totally wrong. That's about the same level of information that we seem to know about Origami at the moment."

Gartenberg goes on to point out that "given Microsoft's usual habit of announcing stuff that's half baked at CES, waving around a mock up and announcing partners for stuff that won't ship for months, years or in some cases ever, what's different about this launch? Why is Microsoft being so tight lipped about this? How did they pull this off?" He concludes with:
Think there might be some lessons here? Might there be other "Origamis" out there lurking in some dark corner of Redmond? Is Microsoft changing the playbook? Those are the real questions to ask over the next few weeks.

Gartner: Top six vendors drive world-wide mobile phone sales to 21 per cent growth in 2005

domain-B reports that according to new research from Gartner, "World-wide mobile phone sales totalled 816.6 million units in 2005, a 21 per cent increase from 2004, as the leading six vendors increased their share of the market at the detriment of smaller vendors. The top six vendors accounted for 79.4 per cent of world-wide mobile phone sales in 2005. These leaders experienced a steady increase in market share throughout the year, as their market share increased from 78 per cent in the first quarter to 84 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2005."

Carolina Milanesi at Gartner said, "As competition continues to drive price pressure in the low-end, and a design and technology 'arms race' in the high-end, the survival of the fittest depends more and more on economies of scales, or very carefully cut out niche markets. The industry experienced record sales due to continued strong growth in emerging markets, where falling prices for cellular connectivity (phones and subscriptions) resulted in higher-than-expected sales. In more mature markets, such as Western Europe and North America, replacement sales were driven by users that gave into the charm of highly fashionable devices."

World-wide mobile terminal sales to end-users in 4Q05 (thousands of units)


4Q05 Sales

4Q05 Market Share (%)

4Q04 Sales

4Q04 Market Share (%)





















Sony Ericsson




















Note: This table includes integrated digital enhanced network (iDEN) terminals. It excludes original design manufacturers to original equipment manufacturer shipments and .Code Division Multiple Access Wireless Local Loop (CDMA WLL)
Source: Gartner Dataquest (February 20060

Remarking on Nokia's market leadership, Milanesi said, "To illustrate Nokia's performance, more than one third of the world's phone users bought a Nokia phone in the fourth quarter of 2005."

Table 2
World-wide mobile terminal sales to end-users in 2005 (thousands of units)


2005 Sales

2005 Market Share (%)

2004 Sales

Market Share (%)





















Sony Ericsson




















Note* This table includes integrated digital enhanced network (iDEN) terminals. It excludes original design manufacturers to original equipment manufacturer shipments and .Code Division Multiple Access Wireless Local Loop (CDMA WLL)

Gartner also took a look at the market in each region:
  • In Western Europe, sales of mobile phones totaled 49.1 million units in the fourth quarter of 2005 and 164 million units in 2005. Milanesi said, "The trend in the fourth quarter was all about fashion, with phones such as the Motorola pink razr v3 and the Siemens CL75 Poppy capturing consumers' interest. In countries such as the UK, people were even prepared to subscribe to a new contract before their existing contract ended in order to acquire the pink razr phone."
  • The same trend of upgrading to trendier phones occurred in the more mature markets in Central Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA), as first time subscribers continued to join networks and mobile phone sales for the year reached 153.5 million units.
  • In North America, the fourth quarter was a record quarter with mobile phone sales reaching 41.3 million units. In 2005, sales reached 148.4 million units. Hugues De La Vergne at Gartner said, "Consumers continued to upgrade their phones with camera devices and unique form factors such as the Motorola razr V3. The region also experienced strong growth in the prepaid phone segment."
  • Sales of mobile phones in Latin America reached nearly 102 million units in 2005, a 40 per cent increase from 2004. Tuong Nguyen at Gartner said, "However, the explosive growth experienced over the past few quarters is slowing. We expect year on year growth in the region in 2006 to be in the high single-digits."
  • In Asia / Pacific, mobile phone sales reached 56.4-million units in the fourth quarter of 2005 and 204 million units in 2005. Sales in the region were fuelled by key markets such as China and India. Ann Liang at Gartner said, "In China, sales were driven by strong growth in Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), while in India, subscriber additions in November and December exceeded all previous performances."
  • Mobile phone sales in Japan totalled 11.7 million units in the fourth quarter of 2005, and totalled 45 million units for the year. Music player functionality fuelled replacement sales especially by young users.
Commenting on the prospects for the first quarter of 2006, Milanesi said, "Chinese New Year, prolonged Christmas and New Year sales promotions in Western Europe and North America, as well as continued growth in emerging markets, will all contribute to strong sales in the first quarter of 2006. Based on preliminarydata for the first two months we expect to see a similar trend as in the first quarter of 2005 with a drop over the previous quarter in the region of five to eight percent."

Mobile Enterprise Weblog: Something more important than BlackBerry

Last Friday I got bent out of shape over some sensationalistic comment Carmi Levy at Info-Tech Research Group said in a TechNewsWorld. Levy remarked that the drawn-out NTP/RIM court battle could "drag down mobile e-commerce adoption rates and serve as a disincentive for innovative vendors to enter the space. The United States and Canada are already losing their competitive edge on the global stage, and an injunction won't help matters."

Ex-Aberdeen analyst Daniel Taylor at the Mobile Enterprise Weblog posts about an entirely totally different, yet completely related matter. Innovation and technology are only one piece of the puzzle. If it dosn't make your life easier, better and/or more productive is it truly innovative? Taylor leads with:

Hundreds of millions of people survive today without mobile e-mail. Contrary to what you see and hear in the news, technology does not always lead to productivity. I can give a dozen examples where face-to-face communications are better than the telephone, and I can give another dozen examples where the telephone is better and faster than e-mail.

The problem isn't the technology. It's the fact that the technology is poorly implemented and that users select technologies that continue to distract them without making them more effective. For example, the mobility industry vilifies the "top down" approach of IT management, instead talking about user choice and device selection. Many industry insiders continue to evangelize the leadership of the "power user."
Taylor goes on to write about some of things that are holding back business productivity and effectiveness. He cites some good examples and states "don't me wrong, I believe in information technology and have a hundred case studies to prove it. But what I see in the industry is a group of vendors who want it both ways -- they want to tell us that mobile technologies will make us more effective and they also want to blur the lines between work and play. The problem lies in the latter. By blurring the lines between work and play, we become less effective." He concludes with:
Perhaps IT should build a new type of training into their budgets -- training about e-mail, mobility and recommended ways to work. The current generation of workers should be learning effective ways to separate work from play. It'll only make us more productive.

Carriers Don't Like SlingBox

Forbes.com reports that network operators aren't taking too kindly to the prospects that SlingBox will "let consumers watch their home TV on handheld devices." According to the article, "none of the three big carriers with high-speed networks capable of carrying the service--Verizon, Cingular and Sprint have publicly agreed to sign on so far" to Sling Media mobile service expected to launch in March.

All the carriers are trying to push their own mobile video efforts and don't want a third party to steal their customers as well as "snarfing up lots of their bandwith." However some analysts think that "the carrier will have to let them on their networks purely for public-relations reasons."

Ovum analyst Roger Entner said, "The moment they block the Slingbox service or throttle it down to make it unviewable, they put themselves in the position of companies and organizations that block or impede consumer choice."

Imagine paying $40+ for unlimited usage of a 3G data network and then not being able to go outside the walled garden? I wouldn't be a customer very long if that was the case...

Mobile Mega Trends

Unstrung works with Strand Consult to identify and analyze "10 Mega-trends in the mobile industry, that are so comprehensive that they will without a doubt permanently change the mobile industry." Here are the Mega-trends in random order:

  1. The threat and possibilities of the Discount Mobile Service Providers,
  2. Falling profit margins on basic mobile services (voice, SMS) as a result of competition,
  3. The use of outsourcing - to minimize OPEX,
  4. Controlled investment in infrastructure - to reduce CAPEX,
  5. The use of micro-segmentation (Mobile operators will use sub-brands and producers of mobile terminals will introduce a wide range of different terminal models),
  6. Higher marketing expenses – partly because of the use of micro-segmentation,
  7. Stock Rotation Risk – the result of the terminal producers larger product portfolio,
  8. New business models in the mobile value chain – the existing business models are an impediment on economic growth,
  9. A more complex value chain – a growing number of different players seek the place in the mobile value chain,
  10. Mobile penetration vs. SIM-penetration – there is an important difference.
According to the article and a recent Strand Consult report on the very topic, "there is absolutely no doubt that all the market players in the value chain, due to these 10 Mega-trends, will be forced to totally re-evaluate and adapt their business if they want to remain in business in the future." It aslo writes that "The 10 Mega-trends will of course not just be a threat for the mobile players - these new tendencies will also open considerable possibilities. However it is extremely important to emphasise that these new business models will not establish and materialise by themselves ...To realise the revenue potential requires that the players take the correct initiatives to create the market themselves. Most players will have to redefine their own roles in the value chain and especially redefine the way that they co-operate with the other market players. "

Monday, February 27, 2006

JupiterResearch: Sony's Beans Not Magical

Nate Elliott posts at the Jupiter Analyst Weblogs about the demise of the Sony Bean. He mentions he wrote last summer that the Bean and Samsung's YP-U1 might give the Apple iPod Shuffle "a run for its money." He notes that "neither has really made waves, and now Sony has decided to pull the Bean." Regarding the Sony bean, Elliott writes:

I remembered my one chance to actually see the Bean up close, in the Sony both at Apple Expo in Paris in September. The screen, tiny and precariously perched on the side of the device, was very difficult to read, and the relationship between the screen and buttons seemed off. I flipped through my notes from that show, and sure enough found my one-line take on the device: "I don't love the Sony Bean, but the Network Walkman is nice."
Elliott still holds out some hope for the YP-U1. He concludes that the "YP-U1 form factor is good, nav not perfect but still nice to have. So, in the unlikely event that my opinion represents the mass market, maybe the YP-U1 has still got a chance."

In-Stat: Corporate Buying of Wireless Services and Equipment in 2005

New In-Stat has issued a new report that focuses on how network operators can better understand business customer, "because of their ability to generate higher average revenues per user (ARPU)." In-Stat surveyed more than 600 wireless decision-makers in the US of which more than 40% were senior executives (e.g., president, owner, c-level executive) and more than 30% were IT or department managers. Key findings include:

  • Overall, the average monthly bill for voice services was $87.74, with respondents reporting that average monthly bills had fallen significantly for small- and medium-sized businesses while rising somewhat for larger businesses.
  • While businesses still spend on average about two-thirds of their monthly budgets on wireless voice and one-third on wireless data, the split in very large organizations has narrowed to only 56% voice versus 44% for data.
  • Besides service quality, price, and coverage, availability of flexible billing options is the most important factor influencing wireless provider selection, with the availability of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) growing in importance among large enterprise customers..
  • The survey found that Verizon Wireless's business customers are most satisfied with it as a primary provider; Sprint and T-Mobile’s customers are least satisfied, with organizations that listed them as primary wireless providers most likely to switch carriers.
  • Wireless data usage is increasing, with the vast majority (93.5%) of responding companies using wireless data somewhere in their organizations, either on a limited or a widespread basis. Within those organizations using wireless data, on average, 48% of employees have access to the technology.
  • Respondents reported a strong overlap between use of wireless providers and related wireline providers, and 31% reported they receive integrated bills.

Is Apple’s Next Act VoIP iPod and other rumors

A couple of more articles in advance of Apple's "fun" announcement tomorrow. In the RED HERRING, rumor has it that Apple will announce a VoIP-enabled iPod. According to the article, invitations for tomorrow's event "were issued by the iPod and iTunes media department, suggesting that the announcement is likely related to those two."

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said, "I don’t think Disney content would move as fast as feature-length movies. It seems like the right time to start offering movies." Munster also guessed that a new Shuffle with a screen and "other hardware might debut, specifically computers, like a new Mac Mini or a notebook line to replace the current iBooks."

A lot of the article specualtes about a Wi-Fi enabled iPod.
Chris Crotty at iSuppli said, "Instead of a phone, maybe in a year Apple could have a VoIP-enabled iPod."

Munster countered, "We still believe there will be a phone from Apple by holiday of 2006." And with "Apple’s 30th anniversary is April, its software developer’s conference is every June," and a Paris event every September, Munster added, "The big picture is about the window for the next six months."

Over at InternetNews.com, Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies Associates said, "An iPod announcement or announcements seems likely. And Apple moving in against their partners (selling iPod peripherals) wouldn't surprise me at all.'Fun' sounds like crypto for consumer to me."

Forrester: One billion iTunes downloads: What It Means

Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research posts at the Devices, Media, And The Future Of Everything blog about his thoughts on Apple announcing the billionth iTunes download. here are some of his thoughts:

  • This is huge -- but it isn't as big as it looks. While Apple has sold over 30 million iPods, the vast majority of America does not use an iPod, and even fewer are buying significant music. Only a few million American consumers are regular iTunes buyers -- they're just buying a whole lotta downloads. The same is almost certainly true globally. Apple's real challenge is to expand the music buying experience to a much larger slice of the online population.
  • That's over $900 million in revenues. (Since many songs are downloaded in whole albums for $9.99, not every track costs $0.99). By itself, Apple now represents more than 3% of the US music business. The music industry has successfully escaped the monoculture rut (nearly all money from CDs). In the process, it created an incredibly powerful partner who calls the shots. As other industries -- especially TV -- embrace alternate distribution, you'll see them spread their bets around so no one company has them by the you-know-whats.
  • The device makes the experience. There's no reason that other music stores shouldn't be as successful as iTunes -- except that the iPod is so much better, and continues to remain so much better, than other music devices. iPod has transcended product status and is now a part of the culture.
  • Piracy's main strength is that it's free. Its main weakness is not that it's illegal -- it's that pirate software can't easily generate revenue without becoming a target of lawsuits. Legal experiences, like iTunes, can plow revenues into R&D and improvements. As you look at Blu-Ray or HD-DVD, satellite and cable, and online video streaming, the key question becomes -- how good is the experience? Great experiences generate fortunes, even in the face of piracy.

In-Stat: New ARC™ Video Subsystem Delivers Complete Solution for Portable Multimedia Devices

For the chipheads in the audience, the latest issue of In-Stat's Information Alert writes about ARC International's newly launched "family of multimedia subsystems for embedded system-on-chip (SoC) design. ARC™ Video is a complete pre-verified solution that incorporates H.264, VC-1, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 decoders and industry standard imaging codecs. It is highly efficient for low power applications, and processes any of these decoders at less than 44mW1 for D1 resolutions. Early adopter customers already have licensed the ARC Video Subsystem and are designing it into a range of devices targeting multimedia intensive, portable applications."

There is a quick rundown of product details and In-Stat's closes with:

As the cost of technology continues to increase, approaching an exponential rate, the more that one can get from a single core, in terms of applications, the more valuable the core. Thus the value of configurable or reconfigurable cores (or Intellectual Property (IP)) continues to escalate. This product with its reduced bandwidth liability and enhanced efficiency will find applications in a wide range of mobile products. This trend in configurable products, be they processor, DSP, or other functions, will continue to rapidly grow in the future, as a way of optimizing the cost of investment.

Is Microsoft Dropping Cryptic Hints About a New Gadget?

The New York Times writes about all the buzz surrounding Microsoft's Origami Project, which might or might not be a new mobile device. Rumors, photos and videos show that it might be a hand-held, wireless touch-screen computer. Richard Doherty at Envisioneering Group mentioned he "had received an invitation to a briefing for analysts at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., on Thursday."

He said, "It's a 'technology' we've been invited to see. That could be all kinds of things. But a device that is near to shipping would be surprising. If Microsoft was working with any of the major chip makers on a new device, it would be a long shot that that piece of information would not slip out until the product was almost ready."

CBS Intends to Ring In With Breaking News for a Subscription Fee

The New York Times reports that CBS "is expected to announce today the first subscription services that send news and entertainment alerts that include video clips to mobile phones." According to the article, "CBS News to Go service will be sold for 99 cents a month, while a service called E.T. to Go, focusing on entertainment news built off the show "Entertainment Tonight," will initially be offered for $3.99 a month. At first, each service will send subscribers up to five alerts a day, but the plan is to allow people to customize the alerts to their interests — for instance, the war in Iraq or the pregnancies of various celebrities. An alert service tied to CBS Sports is also in the works."

CBS also plans to "introduce several other mobile ventures. Some, including a soap opera in three- to five-minute episodes meant only for mobile phones, hew closely to the company's existing businesses. Others do not, including a subscription service offering images, games, ring tones and sound effects, and a product that will let people create animated images of themselves that they can send as messages to friends."

Charles S. Golvin at Forrester Research said, "The big question here is what people want to do with these things. There's a lot of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks."

Dean Bubley: More NetEvents musings

Dean Bubley muses some more at the Disruptive Wireless blog about his time at NetEvent. Here are some of his observations:

  • a lot of enterprise technology vendors are assuming that dual-mode cellular/WLAN handsets are going to be more prevalent than I believe. As usual, there is not enough focus on the complexities of getting the software and user experience "right".
  • hardly any mention of 3G, HSDPA, picocells or other cellular bits & pieces (apart from my own questions to confused vendors). The assumption is that enterprises will just use WLAN, fixed LAN, metro ethernet or maybe WiMAX at some point in the future. No mention of Flarion, IPWireless or the other niche wireless broadband suppliers.
  • a lot more talk about WiFi mesh and municipal networks than I expected. I have to confess I'd always though meshes were sort-of-cool-but-ultimately-niche. I might have to rethink that one, both for urban areas and emerging markets.
  • enterprise network security is light years ahead of anything that carriers tend to think about, especially with regard to WLAN-equipped cellphones, but also any devices linking in via cellular to the corporate network. Forget about operators/SIMs as the most important authentication tools this stuff is going to be tightly controlled by the IT department, with centralised security management covering PCs, servers, laptops, phones & anything else that hooks into the network. Not got the latest virus updates? Your device isn't getting on to the network. Put your SIM in a WLAN-phone that's not registered with a central directory as a "friendly" device? Forget it. Think your picocell is going to sit on the LAN & be remotely managed by a carrier through the firewall? As if.
Bubley concludes with:
I'm now even more convinced that the chance of ISPs or carriers blocking or degrading apps they don't like is very low indeed. The risk of "false positives" is huge. Wait till Microsoft starts using P2P to distribute Service Pack Whatever, and half the networks stop users from getting it. And if you open a VPN tunnel to Google Central, you can forget about peering into it to separate search from VoIP. And the hesitation I got when I brought up the subject of applications using XML, .NET and Web Services was very telling. How do you know if an XML object is for VoIP, SAP or both? Maybe SAP uses a VoIP Web Service component? Are you going to block that, Mr Carrier? Right. A panel session is just about to start about IMS. Let's see if it changes my emerging view, which is that IMS, and especially interoperable IMS networks like the GSMA's IPX, only changes the cellular application environment from a Walled Garden, to an Open Prison.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Orange UK Goes Landline

Usually it's the other way around but mobile network operator Orange plans to offer landline service with a single bill for both mobile and fixed services to small and medium-sized enterprises in the U.K. Jeremy Green at Ovum notes that this "service has become possible as a result of UK regulator Ofcom's Wholesale Line Rental programme, which obliges BT to offer line rental to other operators. Curiously, the offer is not available to sole traders or partnerships, who might be expected to be among its most enthusiastic recipients."

Green thinks "Orange's move is smart and sensible. It represents a welcome transition from earlier delusions of grandeur, when mobile operators thought that the future of voice telecoms would be purely mobile, and a recognition that many SMEs will not be giving up their landlines any time soon."

He writes that "Ovum's research shows a strong desire among SMEs throughout developed markets to buy both fixed and mobile services from a single supplier. Orange has already begun emphasising its ability to be a one-stop-shop in its home market, where it can draw on the resources and brand strength of owner France Telecom. In the UK, wholesale line rental is the missing piece that will allow it to move towards a similar strategy."

Green concludes that while "Orange is also claiming a 20% saving on BT tariffs for SME customers," Ovum is "less convinced by this, because customers who are driven primarily by price considerations can probably get a better deal elsewhere. The real attraction of the Orange proposition is reduced complexity and improved account management."

Over at vnunet.com, Rachel Lashford at Canalys said, "I think this is all about Orange marking its territory as a full service provider." Mark Blowers at Butler Group added, "The mobile market is pretty saturated and Orange is looking around for new revenue opportunities. Smaller organisation are looking for a one-stop shop, and the last thing they want is contracts with BT for fixed-line, Orange for mobile etc. Orange has recognised this and needs to provide this kind of service."

Gerry Purdy: Review of Treo 700w

Gerry Purdy at MobileTrax posts his thoughts of the Palm Treo 700w. Purdy writes that "overall, it’s a very well developed product,...but, the product is designed for the enterprise market, and there are a lot of features that enterprises will like. There are also some very strange (and different) things compared to the Treo 650 that will drive many Treo users batty." These are some of the things Purdy liked:

  • Google for search – with their number one position in search, this is a coup for Google but a good decision by Palm.
  • Standard file and folder system – the one PC feature that makes referencing files and folders better than what’s on the PalmSource based devices. [We hope to see files and folders return to Palm when they convert to Linux.]
  • Office compatibility and UI – seeing Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Office on the Windows Mobile desktop is pleasing and supportive. [Microsoft should license this to PalmSource.]
  • Palm software enhancements – improved today view, Google Web search, photo dialing, improved voice mail and others. We commend Palm for making improvements over and above Windows Mobile.
  • Verizon EV-DO – this makes Web page access at least 2x-3x faster than older generation wireless data communications.
  • Outlook Mobile – While it isn’t the same UI as the desktop Outlook, it does work in a similar way as well as allowing you to access up to five POP3 or IMAP email accounts. Exchange ActiveSync provides direct access to Exchange Server 2003.
  • Look ahead completion of typing – pop up gives you most likely word which is (typically) a positive experience. [When typing an email address and you want to add “xxx@yyy.com” the system presents “Complete” as the suggested word to substitute when you type “com”. If you make a mistake as I did and think that the word is a command, you get xxx@yyy.complete].
Here are some things Purdy did not like:
  • Computer UI – the Treo 700w looks and feels more like a PDA (computer) than a cell phone. For example (there are more) –
  • Palm is more natural & intuitive vs. having to think what you should do more in Windows Mobile.
  • Turn on – there’s no numeric keypad. [They should have added that as an alternate start up to the Today screen.]
  • Contact look up not obvious – Although all you have to do is start spelling the first name, last name or the initials of the contact you want to look up the Today Screen, it’s simply not intuitive. Since you can’t see it or have a button for it like on the Treo 650, the more natural inclination is to go to the Contacts program through the Menu.
  • Although the Calendar can be accessed directly from the Today Screen, it’s again not intuitively obvious. I found myself going to the Menu and then Calendar. This might be a case of “Palm UI preference” as some who haven’t used the Treo before might find it natural to go to Contacts and Calendar offer the Today Screen.
  • Can’t use phone as a data modem for your notebook PC – this was a surprise as you’d think this would be an added benefit. We’ve heard that it will work even though they tell you it won’t. Verizon says they are going to review the policy around this issue. We expect to see them promote the use of the phone’s EV-DO modem with your notebook rather than deter it.
  • No built-in Wi-Fi –Wi-Fi is available via a Wi-Fi card for the SD slot, but then the SD slot is taken up for communications and you can’t add storage to the system. Eventually, all phone are going to be dual mode.
  • No native built-in support for Lotus Notes or Novell GroupWise nor for third parties like Good Technology. Yes, there are third party solutions, and some enterprises will load Good Technology which has a very good user experience. It’s just that you have to wipe out what’s built-in to get the alternate solution.
  • 240x240 display – this is just plain inexcusable. The Treo 650 has a 320x320 display. Why didn’t they change the form factor just slightly to provide a one half VGA display of 320x480? We understand that Palm had to go with a 240x240 display due to the constraints of the Windows Mobile operating system. Instead of Palm having to accommodate, we would have preferred that Windows Mobile supported higher resolution displays and they did a breakthrough high resolution display, even if it changed the form factor a small amount.
  • OK is not OK – the purpose of OK is not to confirm anything but, rather to act like Esc does on the PC – mostly to jump back to the previous menu. Why did they “hard wire” the Windows Mobile menu key and the OK key on the keypad? Palm has it right on the 650: Phone, Calendar and Contacts are the three most often used applications with “Fn+” overlay with the user’s ability to redefine any command key.
Purdy makes the following suggestions for Microsoft to make Windows Mobile be more natural and easier to use:
  • Show a 10-key numeric dial pad when you turn it on.
  • Allow users to easily designate the function of the main keys. Do not put the Windows logo on a key. Make the keys pre-defined for Phone, Contacts and Calendar.
  • Overall, make it operate more like a phone than a computer.
Purdy concludes with:
If Palm had introduced the Treo 700w first and then introduced the Treo 650 later, most people would conclude that the Treo 650 was a significant improvement over the 700w. The Treo 700w simply feels more like a computer than a phone. Perhaps that’s not all bad for some enterprises, but Windows Mobile – even incorporated into a Treo package – simply isn’t as easy to use as a Palm-based product. But, for some enterprises, that may not make any difference. Can Microsoft ever make a phone product that’s better than what others have done? Perhaps, but we suspect that most users will elect to take the Palm-based Treo over the Windows Mobile version out of sheer simplicity.
As said by others in the past, it really comes down to usage model and whether you're coming to the 700w from the Treo 650, another Windows Mobile device or just a plain old handset. I still have a month or so until I get my hands on my Treo 700w, but right now I'm leaning on getting a GSM version of the HTC Wizard so I can stay on Cingular and get Wi-Fi as well...

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Creative Refocuses to try and become iPod threat

RED HERRING reports Creative Technology "would de-emphasize its professional workstation graphics business in favor of the portable handheld device market." The Singapore-based company will "refocus its 3Dlabs subsidiary on producing handheld devices that require intensive processing for video, audio, and 3D graphics" in hopes of unseating Apple from the top of the portable multimedia device heap.

Sam Bhavnani at Current Analysis said, “Creative is refocusing their efforts from higher-end computers to the mobile market, which they believe is going to be moving much faster. A company like Creative is fighting tooth and nail with companies like Apple in the digital audio space, and they have ATI and Nvidia on the other hand [in graphics technology]."

According to the article, "personal digital entertainment made up 67 percent of Creative’s revenue, followed by audio and speakers at 13 percent each. Other categories amounted to only 7 percent."

Bhavnani added, "Creative saw they were able to find a niche within the digital audio space. They will refocus their efforts away from what 3D used to do and will focus everything on mobility."

Weekly Roundup

A roundup of mobile analysts in the news for the week ending February 25:

iPod demand down 'only slightly' from holiday quarter

iLounge writes that according to Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray, "demand for Apple’s iPod is expected to only slightly dip from the record-breaking holiday quarter," and "he expects Apple to ship 9.3 million iPods during the March quarter." Munster wrote in a recent research note:

Our checks with Apple specialist resellers last week indicated that they are not experiencing a significant slowdown in Mac sales. iPod availability is significantly better than it was during the December quarter, while iPod demand is only down ‘slightly,’ not ‘significantly’ from Dec-05 to Mar-06. Additionally, our preliminary analysis of iPod unit shipment data from NPD leads us to believe that Apple is on track to meet or slightly exceed our iPod unit assumptions.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Symbolic Upheaval

Unstrung writes about "more management changes at mobile vendor Symbol Technologies" in hopes of turning the "firm around after the financial scandal that has cast a long shadow over its fortunes." The company recently appointed a new CEO and a number of other changes at the top. The company is also looking for a new CFO and general counsel.

Rob Enderle at the Enderle Group thought "Symbol is moving past its recent trouble, albeit fairly slowly." He said, "As far as I can tell, they've put it behind them. But it does take awhile to recover from this kind of a problem, and it does make customers very nervous. I actually think things are starting to look up for Symbol even though their results don’t really show that yet."

Craig Mathias at the Farpoint Group concurred, "I think they will do just fine. I will concede, though, that the next two quarters are likely to be rocky."

Enderle added that Symbol "may be wise not to bet too much on RFID location tracking technology just yet." He said, "RFID isn’t picking up as quickly as many hoped either, and Symbol has bet much of their future on this technology. I still think RFID may be the big long-term play for them. But yes, I think I’d come up with a much stronger plan B so that if RFID continues to lag expectations I have a backup plan."

BlackBerry users relieved e-mail service will continue for now

Following my little diatribe about sensationalistic quotes, comes this article about the potential Blackberry injunction saga in Computerworld. Commenting on the U.S. District Court Judge James Spencer's decision to decline enforcing an immediate injunction to shutdown BlackBerry service in the U.S., Ken Dulaney at Gartner said, "The judge pretty much told them today to find a settlement, and we’ve always said that’s the most likely outcome. Both sides have a lot to gain and a lot to lose.”

Dulaney also noted the significance of Spencer remarking that "RIM had indeed been found by a jury to have infringed on NTP patents. He said, "The judge basically said to RIM that they should not think they can get away scot-free."

Dulaney advised "BlackBerry users to avoid making any drastic moves for a few more days, in case Spencer actually does issue an injunction against RIM that would affect the more than 3 million U.S. users of its BlackBerry service."

While NTP had "urged the judge to consider a 30-day grace period for users before any injunction he might issue takes effect," Dulaney thought it "would be insufficient to get client and server systems in compliance." Dulaney said, "We think a minimum of 90 days is better."

Todd Kort at Gartner added that "if an injunction is issued next week, any grace period will be important. But a bigger unknown is whether the planned RIM work-around will infringe on NTP’s patents and when that issue might be determined."

BlackBerry dodges blackout bullet for now

SearchMobileComputing.com reports that "U.S. District Court Judge James Spencer declined to enforce an immediate injunction that would have blacked out BlackBerry service nationwide. The ruling is a small victory for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) in the vexing patent infringement suit filed more than four years ago by NTP Inc."

According to the article, "Spencer, however, issued a stern warning to RIM, telling the company that it did infringe on NTP's patents and a ruling on the injunction would come soon. Some experts said they expect Spencer to rule on the injunction next week."

Daniel Taylor at the Mobile Enterprise Weblog said, "This is like sudden death overtime. Starting on Monday, the Court could announce its findings at any point, and there could be an immediate imposition of the injunction. Or things could go the other way, or they could drag on for several more weeks."

Jack Gold at J.Gold Associates said, "I'm not surprised the judge didn't issue an immediate injunction. There's no way to know what this really means." Gold pointed out the final "decision could take anywhere from weeks to months," and advised to "Stay tuned."

Over at TechNewsWorld, Info-Tech Research Group analyst Carmi Levy said, "The stakes in the hearing were extremely high, with an injunction able to alter the "North American mobile landscape." A drawn-out court battle could "drag down mobile e-commerce adoption rates and serve as a disincentive for innovative vendors to enter the space. The United States and Canada are already losing their competitive edge on the global stage, and an injunction won't help matters."

Levy added that a RIM victory could help "take the brakes off" wireless adoption by giving companies confidence in the BlackBerry platform.

Umm, yeah. This doom and gloom scenario from Levy is way over the top. Maybe he was misquoted or taken out of context. A RIM injunction would be an inconvenience for "crackberry" addicts and the company, but will it really "drag down mobile e-commerce adoption rates and serve as a disincentive for innovative vendors to enter the space?"

The last I checked there was plenty of mobile innovation and adoption taking place without a Blackberry in sight. It's a freakin' mobile email device primarily used by businesses to conduct business. It's not curing cancer or world hunger or even helping companies run their core business processes.

Sensationalistic quotes might spice up the copy, but is this really what you want from an analyst? Going out on a limb and making a prediction is better than hemming and hawing and playing things safe. Just leave the tabloid-like quotes for the supermarket register stands...

ABI Research: 3G Chipset Design for Music, Gaming, Video and TV: No Longer an Either/Or Game

According to ABI Research, "In 2004, ABI Research counted 17.3 million 3G subscribers worldwide, but by the end of 2005 there were 42 million: a year-on-year growth of 142%. And by the end of 2010, 3G will comprise fully 30% of the mobile marketplace, equating to about 1 billion subscribers."

A new report looks at market drivers, issues and challenges 3G chipset vendors, such as Agere, Broadcom, Ericsson Mobile, Freescale, Icera, Philips Semiconductors, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, face as they tackle this budding market.

Alan Varghese at ABI Research said, "In cellular's early years, the primary focus was the cellular modem, and on improving its design. In later years, as cellular networks switched on high-speed data, the design focus veered away from the modem and towards applications such as digital imaging, music, and video."

Varghese added, "it is no longer an either/or game; the chipset design focus has to be on both the modem and the applications in order to enable robust wireless connections, low power consumption, and enjoyable user-experiences. 3G chipset architects find they have a full plate on their hands. The good news is that the 3G and HSDPA cellular tide is rising; the bad news is that this rising tide may not lift all chipset vendors' boats."

Wedbush Morgan: iPod Roadmap Should Include PortalPlayer

The Consumer Electronics Stock Blog picks up a research note from Wedbush Morgan analysts Craig Berger and James Schneider about "emerging Apple iPod products and implications to suppliers PortalPlayer and Broadcom." Key points from the note were:

  • There is significant market speculation that a new Video iPod is in the works, and that PortalPlayer may lose the Video iPod chip business to Broadcom, that device’s video processor supplier, as two chips integrate into one chip.
  • While we have been unable to confirm this rumor through channel checks, technical analyses of these firms’ current and likely next-generation chips leads us to conclude that it is unlikely that Broadcom will replace PortalPlayer’s chip in the Video iPod in 2006.
  • If a new Video iPod product launches this spring, we believe it is quite unlikely that PLAY will be designed out given software ’stickiness’ issues and next-generation video processor requirement.
  • We think PortalPlayer has an 80% chance of retaining its Video iPod socket in a fall 2006 product refresh given our calculations suggesting few power benefits of moving to a one-chip solution. Furthermore, there is a good chance the firm will “deliver the goods” for video processing with its next-generation chip.
  • Competitors’ wireless chip offerings are not likely a threat to PortalPlayer in 2006, with a wireless radio unlikely to be integrated with the processor until 2007 or later; wireless capabilities will be driving the next phase of growth for media players.