linux penguin bluetooth headset mobile stanceConsumer Dissatisfaction and the Macroeconomics of Mobility Provide Linux with the Opportunity to Achieve in Mobile What it Failed to Reach on the Desktop: Relevancy.

Last week Verizon Wireless was just the latest big player to jump aboard the Linux train. In joining the LiMo Foundation, “an industry consortium dedicated to creating the first truly open, hardware-independent, Linux-based operating system for mobile devices,” Verizon joins existing LiMo members Motorola, Samsung, Panasonic, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Orange and Vodafone.

The Google / Verizon Open Access Wars Continue. Verizon’s move is consistent with it’s grudging embrace of “openness,” a relatively recent development and likely result of Google’s aggressive initiatives with their own Linux-based mobile initiative, the Open Handset Alliance (whose members read like a who’s who of the mobile ecosystem), as well as the search giant’s success in influencing the latest US spectrum auction to partially adopt “open access” rules. These rules prohibit the new “owner” of the highly sought-after “C-Block” of wireless spectrum to restrict network access – based on either device or software requirements. This was a landmark ruling by the FCC that upset established business practices by the US operators (especially Verizon Wireless).

Ironically (or by Google’s design, if you buy into the hype) Verizon Wireless, who vigorously pursued legal action against the Google-backed “open access” initiative, is by default its biggest backer, as the carrier ended up spending $9.4 billion to win the auction for the “open” C-Block wireless spectrum. Maybe “ironic” doesn’t quite cut it. “Asleep at the switch?”, “Poetic Justice? or just good old “Machiavellian Legal Mastery?” So much to think about I just can’t get my head even half way around this one… hopefully a “tell-all” book will hit the market and shed some light on what really happened here between Google, Verizon and the FCC.

Regardless, Verizon asserts that among its reasoning for joining the LiMo is that, unlike the Google-led OHA, LiMo software is truly open source (whereas Google maintains a relatively tight grip over its Linux-derived Android Mobile OS). That said, both operating systems are “open enough” in that developers are free to create and distribute highly robust mobile applications unencumbered by (the current) intellectual property and financial barriers maintained by the wireless carriers and (to some extent) the handset manufacturers.

All roads lead to Linux? In addition to all of this, macroeconomic forces also seem to be contributing to an environment favoring Linux as a mobile OS. With the majority of the world’s mobile users living under severely limited economic conditions (i.e. the so-called “developing” world), an open source product such as a Linux-based handset and / or application would enjoy tremendous price advantages versus competing proprietary models – and is therefore far better positioned to compete for the majority of the world’s mobile user base.

While the US mobile industry has yet to feel any real impact resulting from all of these developments, rest assured that big changes are coming – and soon. One only needs to peruse the recently announced finalists in the Android developers challenge to get a sense the coming spike in mobile innovation. The development of rich, life-enhancing applications like Android Scan, a promising app that integrates a traditional barcode reader with existing online databases to facilitate real time product comparisons and m-commerce, would simply not be possible under without an open mobile operating system and business environment unencumbered by powerful gatekeepers.

Now, it might be tempting to dismiss Linux-based mobile initiatives due to the failure of Linux to achieve success on the desktop. The various desktop Linux operating systems also enjoyed the considerable advantages of pricing and of an open development environment, and yet none of them realized anything more than marginal successes. Why should mobile Linux be any different?

The key lies in the differences between the development and limitations of the two channels. When Linux arrived on the market most desktop users were relatively satisfied with the PC computing experience. Sure, Microsoft (and Apple) products had their problems, but most users were content with the functionality and prices associated with the leading PC operating systems and applications. The same cannot be said for the mobile data space, where most users face an entirely opposite scenario: a high (perceived) priced product delivering a wholly unsatisfying experience.

Ultimately, perhaps the walled garden model that worked “well enough” in the desktop space just isn’t up to challenge in the more demanding environment of the mobile data space – a space far more restricted in terms of device size, bandwidth, processor power, memory and display resolution – and is inherently laden with costs far greater than that of traditional wireline data networks. Perhaps it is precisely this challenge that Linux is uniquely suited to overcome, and perhaps this is why Linux – and perhaps only Linux – will be the portal that will finally fulfill the promise of the mobile channel.

ctia-vegas.jpgHonoring The Very Best in CTIA Show Floor Swag!

At first glance it might seem odd to honor those little branded trinkets given out on the show floor – hardly worth one’s time to pick up – let alone to honor with an award. Yet, the creation of a truly quality show floor giveaway is a highly challenging task – a process laden with strict, yet unwritten rules that one must follow if one is to succeed in this oft derided genera.

First, there is the cold Swagonomic reality that these artists must face: Swag items are usually confined to the “less than $3 per item” category – not exactly the hottest area of the catalog. Second, conference swag must reinforce several (often competing) brand messages: there is the company’s brand itself, the industry the company is in, as well as the city where the conference is being held. Then there is the question of utility: Will the prospect find the item useful? Finally, there is the need to stand out and get noticed – in a conference otherwise awash in a sea of like-minded exhibitors.

Considering all this, as well as a final factor dubbed “industry timeliness” (i.e. how well does the Swag item capture “the moment” of the wireless industry), we’ve scoured the show floor at the CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas to bring you the best of the best.

Therefore, without further delay, Mobilestance.com is proud to present the winners of “The Swaggies” – our homage to those seemingly unimportant conference freebies and a heretofore neglected form of commercial artistry that may very well portend the direction of our fledgling industry.

Note: Hi-res images of all winning Swag items can be found at bottom of the post.

  • Winner, Best Writing Implement: Call2Recycle. Very few areas of the show floor are as competitive as the “Writing Implement” category. Nearly every other company at the conference offered attendees endless varieties of branded pens, pencils, markers and crayons. That said, Call2Recycle, a non-profit ” promot[ing the] recycling of nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) rechargeable batteries,” successfully captured the palpable “green vibe” of the conference by crafting a pair of cleverly designed writing utensils created entirely of recycled materials (click here to view). The pen sports a smartly crafted cardboard body complete with wooden “pocket-protector”-style clip, while the pencil was created entirely from recycled currency.
  • Winner, Best Mobile Accessory: Reagan Wireless. Until now this category has been a non-starter… plagued with inane creations such as the ubiquitous mobile “screen wiper” and equally ill advised “mobile caddy.” Padded cell covers and other trinkets are of equal value, with the litany of handset models in circulation it becomes next to impossible to create something of mass interest. Samsung (as they have done in previous shows) was offering free batteries and other valuable items to visitors owning their handsets – the catch was that you had to produce a Samsung handset as proof of ownership. In a move seemingly pulled from the corner of Mott and Canal, the upstarts at Reagan Wireless took this basic concept and turned it up a notch – offering free Blackberry and Motorola cases and chargers to anyone who dared reach into a pair of large, unmarked cardboard boxes – no questions asked (see image here).
  • Winner, Best Plush Toy: NSTL appRelay. The guys at National Software Testing Labs may hate bugs, but they’ve made this one famous… bringing him/her to show after show and no doubt in front of the children of many a conference-worn, wireless exec. It’s been rumored that the NSTL bug (and flyswatter companion) have their own Facebook page and have been spotted throughout the world, posing in front of scenic landmarks. No sightings yet of the alleged Facebook profile – but anyone who finds it please leave a comment and pass it along.
  • Winner, Best Travel Accessory: Acme Packet / Novara (tie). Branded travel items are a popular category, as companies vie to meet the needs of weary, far-from-home conference attendees. While both winners sported a nearly identical “Luggage Spotter” giveaway (all that differed was the logo and the color), the item is so useful that it could not be ignored. Not only does it make it easy to find your bag in the airport luggage carousel when wrapped around a bag’s handle or strap, but it doubles as an extra layer of padding and holds a business card to boot.
  • Winner, Best Multi Tool: Talley Communications. An offshoot of the “Travel Accessory” category, the rising popularity of branded, MacGyver-esque contraptions at CTIA warranted the creation of a dedicated award. Talley left little on the cutting room floor in selecting this rugged behemoth. The tool offers office workers the option of stapling, taping and labeling… all from the convenience of one compact (and branded device). Doubles as a weapon of last resort if [insert office cliche here]…
  • Winner, Best Koozie: Opera Software. While usually this conference mainstay stays stubbornly on the more blue collar side of the conference, the geeks at Opera took one back for the Tri-Lams as they captured the coveted “Best Koozie in Show” award with their (now classic) black, fou-leather rocker-style “Opera” koozie. See ya in paradise, Booger.
  • Winner, Best Incorporation of Local Flavor: Openwave. After rifling through countless branded poker chips engraved with such witty slogans as “You can bet on [company X],” we finally came across this little gem – a stylish, mock-silver money clip. If only I had something to put in it after leaving Sin City…
  • Winner, Totally Useless Objects, Lit: DRT. There’s a special place in our hearts for totally useless objects that light up and sparkle – and DRT made sure we didn’t leave empty handed. This lava lamp-looking doodad shines multi-colored light through a heated liquid, which moves about suspended metal particles that scatter the light every which way. All in it’s less than three inches high, and carry-on friendly with less than 3.4 oz of liquid. Such pretty, pretty colors…

food3-copy.jpgWinner, Best in Show; Food & Beverage: Yahoo! Mobile. Congratulations to Yahoo! Mobile for capturing the fiercely competitive “Food and Beverage” category as well as our Best in Show award with their extravagant on-site Gelato parlor. The delicious treats, offered in twelve eye-popping varieties, were the hit of the show, and were just the thing to cool off with after a day spent sweating in the Las Vegas sun. The dessert successfully captured the oral fixation of this year’s show (read: the continuing evolution of voice recognition – get your minds out of the gutter!), and easily trumped the three varieties of smoothies offered at the AOL booth. Thanks to Ricky Montalvo at Yahoo! Studios for the photos.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge photos:

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AndroidWho Among Us Can Argue with the Time-Tested Wisdom Of “Whoever Denied It, Supplies It?”

There are few gadgets, mobile or otherwise, more eagerly anticipated than the release of the world’s first handset running on Google’s Android operating system.

So when leaked details from HTC’s upcoming Android handset hit the web late last week many were quick to take notice. The handset, dubbed “Dream” by HTC’s Philip K. Dick-loving creative team, includes “a large touchscreen and a full (flip/slide out) QWERTY keypad,” this according to Infoworld. According to an unidentified source “close to the situation” the “HTC’s Google handset is just over 5 inches long and 3 inches wide, with a keypad underneath the screen that either slides out or swivels out… Internet navigational controls are situated below the screen on the handset.”

The source claims that “the handset will likely hit the market near the end of this year” and that the handset may be the first “Google Android” phone on the market. HTC would not comment on any specific details of the handset, other than to confirm its existence.

The HTC “news” comes on the heels of a string of related Android-related rumors of variable accuracy. Back in January Dell was rumored to be working on the world’s first Android phone that many speculated would be announced in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress the following month. This rumor ultimately turned out to be false, as not only did Dell officially deny any such handset or future Android-related products were in development, but it was also a no-show at 3GSM.

Not to be left out, serious rumors began swirling around Samsung’s Android designs following a Robert X. Cringley post claiming that the Korean handset manufacturer would be releasing two Google-branded Android handsets in 2008; a high-end model in September and a lower-end device around the holidays. Cringley also cites an unnamed person (“you know who you are”) as the source behind the leaked information, who goes on to claim that “both [devices] will include WiFi… The high-end phone will look somewhat like a Blackberry Pearl, but the screen flips up and there is a keyboard for texting. No word on pricing for the high-end phone, but the second model is intended to be less than $100 — AFTER Christmas.” The post identifies both T-Mobile USA and Verizon as potential carrier partners.

We find it curious that the Samsung handset described by Cringley is eerily similar to the leaked details of HTC Dream (including the swing out QWERTY keyboard), perhaps giving more credence to the adage “Whoever Smelt it, Dealt it.” Regardless, mobilestance.com will continue its Android Watch series until an actual sighting appears in the wild. In the meantime, please send us any unsubstantiated rumors, gossip or just pure speculation relating to what will likely be the biggest moment in mobile for 2008: Day one of the Android Invasion.

 

 

31849319-2-300-overview-11.gif Today at CES Yahoo! is planning on announcing that they are opening up their “Yahoo! Go” mobile application to third party developers, this according to the New York Times. The Times is reporting that MTV, eBay and MySpace have already created Yahoo! Go widgets that consumers can download either online or directly via the mobile application. Yahoo! Go has been ported to roughly 250 mobile devices, and comes preloaded on some phones made by Motorola, LG, Samsung and Nokia outside the US (domestic carriers force users to manually download and install the application prior to use, although this might change once device manufacturers start selling handsets directly to consumers).

Analysis: Yahoo!’s work on developing Go to a more mature platform is commendable. While the move does serve to further fragment the development environment for mobile (What, another new platform to write for? Better hire another developer!), the platform’s large (for mobile) install base of 250MM users worldwide will be attractive to major publishers and content brands (although some estimates confirm less than half of this base are actively using the application).

A no-brainer for Yahoo!, the move costs them little in oversight, while serving as a short-term defensive move against Google’s open Android platform. Ultimately the long term success of the play will hinge on the ease of developing third party widgets for Yahoo! Go, as well as any advantages that the development environment might afford (access to the address book? GPS data feed?). More on this as it develops.