Saturday, June 30, 2007

Some Initial Thoughts on the iPhone

Yesterday afternoon, while driving home, Mike Q called me - he was in line at an Apple store waiting to pick up an iPhone when the store opened. He's blogged a bit about his experience already and has made some really interesting observations that I won't mention here because he is doing/will be doing so. I have not purchased one yet but will soon - I'm dealing with a current contract that expires in October and am in the process of trying to negotiate my way out of it.

I've been impressed with just about everything I've read, heard and seen so far. There are a few things that some are complaining/concerned about - here's my list:

- No Java or Flash support is no big deal for me - there likely will be soon.
- AT&T's (Cingular) EDGE network - it's 2.5G quad-band GSM based technology - a concern for some but I can deal with that. Most places I go now I find WiFi available. Steve Jobs has said 3G was not an option at this time due to battery consumption.
- Small storage capacity - 4G ($499) or 8G ($599) without an SD card slot. This could be an issue when watching video offline (iPod like).
- Lack of a keyboard - I think people will quickly adjust to multitouch and we'll see Bluetooth keyboards soon.
- Apple's Safari browser and no Firefox - how long do you think it will be before we see Firefox?

The fact that the iPhone is running Apples operating system OS X is key. The applications we're going to see will be impressive and we will see many.

Here's a list of some random questions running around in my head:

Microsoft - so far they are saying they will not respond with a similar product but the company really has to. Microsoft came from behind nicely with the XBox and will have to do the same with the Zune. It's going to be tricky - the Zune would have competed very nicely with the first generation iPod released in 2001. Unfortunately for Microsoft we're half way through 2007. Can Microsoft catch up? My opinion is definitely yes if they want to. Will Microsoft want to? I think they'll have to.

Other Smartphone manufacturers - Nokia, Motorola, Nokia, etc..... These companies also will have their work cut out for them and you can bet they all got them and have spent the last day taking them apart. If you want to see a gutted iPhone there is an interesting iPhone disection (with lots of pictures) link here.

When will Apple come out with a second generation product? Following the iPod cycle we will likely see something in the next 6-12 months.

Do I still want one? YES!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Disconnection Redux: A Walk on the Beach

I think I first wrote about disconnecting here in the spring of 2006. I've been away for the last 1.5 weeks without a broadband connection - hence my lack of posting. I've been out in North Truro on Cape Cod. Still here actually - am in the town library right now on a library computer - figured I better post something..... I actually got some down time which was pretty nice - not that I did not do any work.

On June 21 I had a great meeting with Joyce Plotkin from the
Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and Ellen Bemben from the Regional Technology Corporation in Framingham, MA. Thanks Ellen and Joyce for a great meeting and thanks Ellen for picking up lunch!

On June 25 I was in Omaha delivering the keynote for the
Midwest Center for Information Technology (MCIT). In the afternoon I did a Web 2.0 technology presentation on the University of Nebraska campus to a Nebraska business and industry group. I flew back Monday evening. I especially want to thank Dennis Kirlin and Dave Vankat, along with the rest of the MCIT staff for making my visit a special one. It's been about seven years since I've been to Omaha - a wonderful part of the country and a wonderful group of people.

So - what else have I been up to? Been spending a lot of time on the beach with the kids fishing, clamming and beachcombing.
Truro is a beautiful place which much of the town part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The establishment of the seashore national park in the 1950's has prevented new construction since - in many ways it's like going back in time. Go to just about any public access beach, walk 15 minutes down the beach in any direction and you will likely be in a place where you cannot see another person in either direction.

Lots going on in the technology world and I'll reconnect once we get back on Saturday. I've been amazed at the amount of iPhone hype in the mainstream media but I think that can wait a couple more days. Also Google, FCC, FTTP, FTTN...... Low tide in a couple of hours and we've got to go dig some more clams..... I hope you also get some time to disconnect this summer.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Has Moving Jobs Offshore Hurt Our Economy?

The June 18, 2007 issue of Business Week has an interesting cover story titled The Real Cost of Offshoring. The article, written by Business Week economics editor Michael Mandel, has the following byline: Official numbers show that moving jobs overseas hasn't hurt the economy. Here's why those stats are wrong.

The article describes what Mandel refers to as Phantom Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculations being made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The article goes on to describe the GDP as the inflation-adjusted value of all the goods and services produced inside the Unites States and goes on to say "Phantom GDP" arises when the real growth rate of imports is understated...... making it appear that more of the goods and services consumed in the U.S. are produced here.

I'm not an economist and I'm not going to pretend to be any kind of expert. I will try and explain and summarize based on the Business Week piece. According to Mandel, "Phantom GDP" happens four ways:

1. Offshoring - The cost of manufacturing most products offshore is commonly cheaper than it is in the U.S. What's kept some of the manufacturing in the U.S. has been reliability. Today foreign manufacturers are becoming more reliable and this increase in reliability is sometimes considered a "Productivity Improvement" by the BLS. So let's consider a U.S. manufacturer that moves production from the U.S. to China. The combined cost decline and increase in productivity, as the result of the offshoring, are sometimes miss-booked as part of the U.S. GDP growth.

2. Intangibles - the article mentions how R&D is also being shifted off shore. Now R&D is an expense that does not result in direct production of product. As R&D is shifted offshore, it is sometimes considered a cost cut by the BLS and may be indicated as an increase in productivity.

3. New Goods - the article mentions consumer electronics (offshored from the U.S. long ago) which typically have short life cycles. Think about just about any electronic device - next generation products are technologically more advanced and typically cheaper than predecessors. These improvements and cost cuts are sometimes credited by the BLS to the U.S. even though the R&D and production are being done offshore.

4. Cross-Country Shifts - Companies are constantly searching for the lowest cost supplier. As production of a product moves from one country to a lower cost country (example: from Mexico to China) there is a decline in cost of that product. Part of that decline in cost can show up in BLS GDP data.
The Business Week article quotes Michael Horrigan, BLS Associate Commissioner as follows:
"Capturing the shift from domestic to foreign production [or vice versa] and its associated impact on prices is at the forefront of methodological challenges we face."
This is an incredibly difficult challenge. Pick up a copy of Business Week if you can - it is a very good read. You can also listen to a podcast of Mandel's cover story here.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Free Directory Assistance: 1-800-GOOG-411

Last month Google started testing a new experimental directory service called GOOG-411 Experimental. You dial 1-800-GOOG-411 from any phone and a voice prompts you for the city and state you want and then asked for a business name or category. The first time I used it I called and asked for "pizza" in my home town - South Hadley, MA. I got a list of the top 8 pizza shops and was then asked if I wanted to be automatically connected free of charge. I also had the option of having the number and address text messaged to me - all free!
It's not just Google offerring these kinds of services. A couple of months ago Microsoft purchased a company called Tellme Networks. You may not have heard of Tellme but they are the company that provides automated directory services to most of the large carriers like AT&T and Verizon. In response to Google, Tellme has come up with their own free directory assistance service that you can reach at 1-800-555-TELL. Here's how Tellme works as quoted from their website:

"Call 1-800-555-TELL (8355) and say what you want!
Say a business, any business
Say "Business Search" at the main menu
Ask for a business name like "Domino's"
Or a type of business like "day spa".
When you hear the one you want, just say "Text me the info" to have the phone
number, address, and a map sent to your mobile phone".

Much of this is in response to Jingle Networks (1-800-FREE-411), a company that started offering free directory assistance a little under two years ago. Jingle isers actually hear ads from companies like McDonalds and CBS. On their website Jingle says thy have serverd over 200 million directory assistance calls so far. With the average cost of a single directory assistance call on a cell phone being over $1.50 many of us try not to use directory assistance. These services are changing that. Here's a quote from a Jingle press release:

"While consumers across the nation use 1-800-FREE411, five metropolitan areas have saved the most money by programming 1-800-FREE411 into their phones and hanging up on paid directory assistance. These cities and their associated savings since September 2005 are:

  • New York: $25.8 million
  • Los Angeles: $24.4 million
  • Chicago: $16.7 million
  • San Francisco Bay Area: $12.0 million
  • Dallas/Fort Worth: $10.8 million
“The rapid rise in the number of calls to the service reflects the fact that people nationwide have embraced us and that they love to share this money saving tip with their friends and family, underscoring our viral growth,” said George Garrick, CEO of Jingle Networks. “The consumer excitement around the service creates an even more attractive opportunity".
Not to be left out - AT&T has started a free director assistance service at 1-800-935-5697 in parts of California, Ohio and Oklahoma with plans to roll it out in other areas this summer. The AT&T service also includes short 15 second ads.

I'm going to go order another pizza!