Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Comment on Pondering about Google's Evilness

Some time ago Tom Foremski pondered over the ethics of Google's pouring free services and software to the market. His column is sliced into three parts
Part 1: The limits of Google's limitless business model
Part 2: Will Google's limitless business plan test the limits of its ethics code?, and
Part 3: Could nationalism limit Google's ambitions?

Even though this isn't anymore new in the blogosphere I wanted to write out my thoughts about his article because I think it's good to thoroughly think what the emergence of Google as well at the general convergence of the web and different services means. So, I think Foremski's questioning is good. But:

I'm somewhat disturbed about some of these anti-Google comments like this. I'm left wondering if people are forgetting that the users use these services because they get great value from using them? Isn't THAT what is important? And what difference does it make if Google doesn't capitalize the added value in a way other businesses typically do or not (something that particularily seems to bother Foremski)? I really don't understand. And Tom Foremski doesn't even try to explain.

Just the fact that Google's products make it difficult or impossible for some (not all) smaller players to compete in the sector is a lousy explanation. It's really too bad for the smaller ones, but I have huge difficulties seeing it as evil or unethical from Google's side per se. Just the fact that freeware has made it more difficult for some players in some sectors doesn't make it evil!

Saying that Google locks people to their services doesn't have a very solid ground either. Let's be honest here!

Gmail is the first larger free email service that lets you both download your email and change your email service provider for free (forwarding for free). I'd say this is _un_locking peoples' emails.

And the problem in downloading 2.5GB of email? What is this?!?

I pop my email every once in a while to my computer to have an archive locally, too. Other than it being very useful for situations when I don't have a network connection but need to check out something or reply it's also common sense! No provider, especially a free one, can give you a 100% guarantee that they don't lose your data.

But even if I wouldn't download my emails incrementally it wouldn't take that long to download 2.5GB. What kind of connections do you guys have, anyways?

It's good to be wary about the privacy issues and keep an eye on how Google handles the data it collects (having said that I know that you can't really know for sure). But it's not as if MS, AOL, or other big players were any better!

This brings me back to the claim that Google is locking people. Gmail is not the only service where Google let's people keep their content. Google Reader has OPML import, and Export, too. Google Notebook let's you print your notes in a stylish less-is-more way (I keep a back-up of my notes printed as PDF). And so on.

Besides Gmail the other best example - and also the latest case for Google not locking users unlike many other services do - is Picasa Web Albums. It allows users to very easily download all of their photos back to their computers. And allow their friends/family to do that, too. This has been a huge annoyance in just about all of the photo services on the market for a long time. Many of the services still are at worst case billing you for your own photos if you want them back (ie. not allowing you to download your photos but allowing you to buy them burned on a DVD). Now, that's evil.

All this doesn't mean that Google is perfect. Far from it. It surely doesn't make all the information that users type into their systems easily available for them to download or transfer to other systems. At least Bookmarks and Blogger are service that don't have a solid, easy-to-use export system (as far as I know). But again, the other big players aren't any better - some are surely worse, though.

It's very important that people understand what they're getting into. And there are many who don't. I think that's a real and a big problem.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Why there's no iPhone and why Nokia hasn't succeeded in US

David Pogue writes in his New York Times blog about why he thinks there will never be an iPhone.
His point is that the carriers (aka. operators) have so much power and want to influence every step in the product development of mobile phones. And that Apple doesn't want to give "veto power to ANYONE over its software design". He tells about his friends' - who've worked in the Treo development - experiences: "the carriers (Verizon, Cingular, etc.) have veto power over EVERY move you make. You have to fight, -- refine, -- repeat…all in hopes that -- (they will) -- stock your phone."

I think David has a very good point. It seems to me that Apple and Nokia have had the same approach to making their devices in at least one way. They've both wanted to keep control in their product development. This might be partially the reason that Nokia has such a lousy market share in the US compared to other market areas.

This might even partially explain the 'design problem' that Nokia has had especially in the US. The carriers' influence is quite monopolistic in practice and they can influence the trends and what people 'want' very strongly.

I'm pretty sure that if the carries didn't have such a strong influence, ie. if there weren't subsidies for buying phones, Nokia - whose phones are just so much better than Motorola's - would have a larger market share - and, who knows, maybe there'd be an iPhone on the market, too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Blogger Beta ROCKS! - includes category support

I gotta say just briefly that the Blogger Beta has finally made up my mind about my preferred blogging platform. The little thing that made me make up my mind (for now) was the introduction of categories or tags - or Lables, as Google calls them. And the other things are that it's free, convenient (the new layout tools are very nice), supports email posting, to mention a few.

The only nuissance comes to my mind after playing around with it for a while is that you can't batch edit the categories. That will hopefully be fixed in the future.

A related note for those who haven't found a good feed reader (for blogs and all aggregated stuff): I warmly recommend Google Reader.

EDIT: Google Reader just launhced a new UI. Among other things the sharing feature seems to have developed very nicely. Very nice.

Suuri menetys suomalaisessa politiikassa

Nyt se on varmaa.

Soininvaara kertoi Vihreassa langassa jattavansa eduskunnan. HS valottaa taustaa kertomalla Soininvaaran tympaytymisesta suomalaisen politiikan tilaan. Ja nainhan se taitaa olla. HS oli sattumoisin juuri raportoinut Tuomo Martikaisen ja Sami Fredrikssonin uudesta tutkimuksesta. "Martikaisen mukaan tulevaisuudessa poliittiset valinnat tehdään akselilla, jonka ääripäissä ovat vihreät uusvasemmistolaiset arvot ja toisaalla kovat oikeistopopulistiset arvot."

Ei hyvalta nayta.

Alla ajatuksiani Soininvaaran erosta (kommentti HS:n keskustelufoorumille)

"Kuten niin monet muutkin ovat todenneet tassa poikkeuksellisen fiksussa HS:n foorumien keskustelussa on suuri menetys, etta Soininvaara jattaa eduskunnan ja siten mita todennakoisemmin myos kaytannossa Vihreiden paivanpolitiikkassa vaikuttamisen.

Soininvaara on kiistamatta yksi alykkaimpia ajattelijoita, joka ei kuitenkaan ole jumissa historian formaateissa.

Kuten joku totesi sini-vihreille jaa kokoomus, mutta mita jaa liberaareille vihreille, jotka kannattavat markkinamekanismien ja uusien teknologian hyodyntamista vailla vanhaa kapitalistista painolastia ja jotka nakevat myos reguloinnin merkityksen seka yleisemmin arvostavat ihan oikeastikin myos humaania suhtautumista politiikassa? Naille vaihtoehdot ovat entista vahemmassa, vaikka naita ihmisia on oman kokemuksen perusteella iso liuta.

Pahasti nayttaa silta, etta vihreat ovat tosiaan radikalisoitumassa tai ainakin yha selvemmin kallistumassa puna-vihreaan suuntaan. Suuntaus on toki ollut nahtavissa jo pidempaa ja on monessa mielessa ollut Vihreiden pohja aina. Kovin harmillista kuitenkin."

Toivon syvasti, etta luuloni vihreiden radikalisoitumisesta tai pysyvammasta kallistumisesta selvasti vasemmalle osoittautuvat vaariksi. Toivottavasti puolueen ohjelmasta loytyy jatkossakin alykasta ajattelua, ymmarrysta markkinamekanismien tuomista terveista kannustimista ja uusien teknologioiden luomista mahdollisuuksista seka erityisesti riittavasti pragmaattista otetta. Idealismi ja realismi on taysin mahdollista sovittaa yhteen, vaikka se olisikin vahan kivuliasta.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

E-series Raves & A Good Review of the E-series Software

Having used the Nokia E70 for a while I've really fallen for this form factor and package of features combining a 'normal phone' with:
* (rigid!) full-sized querty keyboard,
* excellent screen,
* good camera (2Mpix, minimum for photo-scanning letter-sized documents),
* good music player is an excellent base.
Not to mention
* 3G, Wifi (and bluetooth and infrared, too), VoIP, and GPS capability,
* hot-swappable memory card (support for 2GB cards),
* email client (with POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP),
and last but not least
* excellent package of business software which include
- numerous synchronizing solutions (Blackberry, ActiveSync, SyncML, etc) and
- Office document viewing and editing tools, too.

Of the last mentioned, the E-series email and synchronization solutions & Office documents viewing and editing features that interest the business users has just published an excellent review of features.

The conlusion of the review:
"... not so long ago large corporations and medium-scale business had been considered to be Window Mobile’s and RIM’s domains, with the advent of Eseries the balance of forced significantly changed, to say the least. Even though the real confrontation is yet to emerge, Eseries smartphones already have what it takes to hold an upper hand there – VoIP, powerful set of office tools and customizable mail client."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Mobile Opportunity: European vs. American mobile phone use

Michael Mace writes a very interesting post about the differences between
European vs. American mobile phone use.

Here's my comment to the post:

Thanks for the excellent post, Michael, and all commenters for an excellent discussion. A few comments about the American cellphone usage and industry from a European users perspective.

Having lived a few years in the US the biggest surprises to me have been
- coverage,
- paying for incoming calls and the impact that I think that has had to the phone usage culture,
- the ignorance of technical issues concerning the phones and the networks of BOTH users as well as the people working for the industry (phone sales & carriers' personnel).


As everyone knows the coverage in the US is not nearly as good as in Europe. And as noted here it's often blamed on the smaller population densities or the mere size of the country. This is only a tip of the iceberg, I'd say. I think it's more of an issue about the general mentality of I presume just about all parties involved. I'll give you two examples.

The CEO of Verizon Wireless criticized the customers of Verizon quite harshly some two or three years ago for wanting cell coverage in unbelievable places such as garages etc. I could still probably find the article I saved someplace about his outburst. But anyway, this showed and unbelievable attitude from the number 1 carrier in the US that advertises to have the best coverage in the country.

Interestingly the other (practical) example about coverage concerns Verizon, too, but also the authorities. The example is DC metro system. I find it funny that in this free market-economy bosting country the mobile coverage in all of the DC metro system tunnels has been given solely to one company, Verizon. And guess what: it doesn't work! You usually get a decent signal at the stations but don't dream about talking in the metro throughout your ride. I had a Verizon phone only for the metro 'connectivity' for almost a year but gave it up in frustation.
Who's to blame? Not only Verizon Wireless but just as much the DC officials for making such a monopoly deal in the first place and then not beeing able to even get good coverage with that. In all European cities that I've visited you get good signal of various mobile operators throughout the metro systems.


This was commented already, but I just wanted to add that I've gotten quite strongly the impression that this has been a major issue for people not to get addicted to their cell phones or even use them.

Tomi mentioned connectivity. Not sure how he defines it but I feel that because it's the same price to call to all numbers, fixed or mobile, the general public hasn't understood the value of connectivity.

Also the people who have had cell phones have seen an additional downside of connectivity (there are number of downsides as we all now) compared to the Europeans - losing their minutes, that is. To this date I haven't understood why should the cell phone owner pay for incoming calls when in fact the caller has something so important in mind that s/he wants to reach the person.

The result of all this: at least two-three years ago people were simply not giving out their mobile numbers, where not keeping the phones with them, had them turned off, or were simply not answering them because they didn't want to loose their minutes. Cell phones were, and partially are still seen as simply pagers. Listen to the voicemail whereever and return to the call from a fixed line. I've seen this be more or less the behaviour of surprisingly many.


For final comment I just want to say how surprised I've been about level of technical knowledge related to cellphones, not of the users which is understanable, but of pretty much all the people working for the industry.

It seems that most of the cell phone sales personnel that I've talked with - and I've talked with quite a few - haven't even known if their network is GSM, CDMA or TDMA. It seems that it's changed a bit in a year or so, but I think it's quite stunning that not even the T-mobile or AT&T sales personnel knew that they where selling GSM phones. No wonder people don't understand what liberties GSM gives them!

Too bad the ignorance doesn't stop at sales personnel. It's really not much better with the carriers' staff. I understand that the generalists in the customer care can't know everything. But when they've never heard of MMS, don't know if their phones can be unlocked, don't have a slightest idea what are the technical differences of their data packages, just to mention a few, I'm giving up.

It's naturally an egg and a chicken dilemma. The customers don't ask about the technical issues because they haven't ever been told any. And the carriers don't tell pretty much any technical details because the customers don't ask for any.

But in a country that uses a number of different technologies which all have their special features it gets everybody into trouble.

Thanks again for the excellent post and discussion!


I forgot to mention that another great problem in my opinion in the US mobile industry is the way they're packaging services. The pricing plans are very often not that good for people who'd either want to just try out the service or use it only every once in a while.

Like with T-mobile data service: it's either $30/month unlimited - or nothing! There's no way to just enable the service, without or with a low monthly price, and only pay for the data transferred. The same mentality is seen in many other areas and other carriers, too.

Like with Cingular if you want to be priviliged to make dirt expensive phone calls with your GSM phone while you travel you have to pay a monthly fee for that.
Now, how much does it make sense to pay even twenty bucks a year to have the privilige to pay shitloads more for the calls - especially in the time of various VoIP services.

It's really no wonder that Europe is ahead of US in innovation and how users are learning to use new services.