Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Blackberry name...

I remember when I posted about the Blackberry on a business networking website. Someone replied - in complete seriousness - that they had a huge bush in their garden that produces lots of fruit.

Nonetheless, the name has been re-purposed in some circles. Mention the name Blackberry and people know that you actually mean a mobile email device, later nicknamed the Crackberry by some addicts.

That nickname only improved the popularity of the device, unlike Nokia's Communicator, which was dubbed "The Brick".

So, did the name Blackberry make a difference to sales? Well, that's a hard one. But, certainly the brand name has had success.

If you haven't already heard about it, I recommend reading Wordcraft, a fascinating book about the naming of products and how important naming can be. It includes a very detailed insider story about the Blackberry!

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The challenge...

This month's Business 2.0 magazine has a great cover feature on "The New Instant Companies". Here's the intro...

"Savvy startups are tapping some of today's most powerful trends - cheap software, offshore factories, the blogosphere - to go from concept to multimillion-dollar sales overnight. Here's how you can too..."

Wow! Sounds impossible, but the stories are incredible, albeit to be understood within the usual context - i.e. all the unmentioned thousands that tried same and failed.

Nonetheless, the success stories are real and they do tell us something. There's still money to be made with good design, especially in niche area. None of these products are "rocket science". They're in good old-fashioned markets: shoes, prams, toys and motorbikes! What's more, the "instant" bit is also real. It is possible to go from concept to product with relative ease compared with how things used to be.

Just when you think it's all been done before, smart designers come up with a new spin on an old theme. It's as if they suddenly realised that the "rules" and "conventions" of a particular market don't apply. Take, for example, Nike's latest shoe - "Nike Free". It has a multi-joint sole that flexes naturally with the foot to give a "bare foot" user experience. Why didn't anyone think of that before?

Then there's the Motorola RAZR, the new chic of flip-phone design with a keypad made from a single sheet of metal. Very cool! I'm glad that Motorola have claimed this spot. As the inventors of the flip-phone, it's about time they gave us something to be proud of instead of the incredibly persistent attempts to make phones as unusable as possible. That embarrassment seems to be behind us.

This leads me to the challenge...

Is it possible to set-up an instant company that produces a new cool mobile phone?

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Book review

The recent (June/July) edition of IEE journal "Communications Engineer" awarded my book a maximum 5 stars. Here are some quotes:

"The author gradually builds the knowledge of the user, but always relates this back to the 'big picture'. I suspect this volume will do much more than most to help dispel the fog surrounding wireless applications, and will allow the reader to create their own view of how all of this technology can actually be harnessed to provide mobile applications that are needed and loved by the users - and therefore can become revenue generating."

"There may be no 'killer application' yet for the next-generation wireless networks - but this book could easily become a 'killer book' that excites and motivates you to devise successful new ideas for mobile applications, and to understand which technologies can be used to build them."
The book is also a 5-star buy on Amazon. Go buy it!

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Wireless is all balls!

Pondering on the future of wireless, I ventured into the domain of golf. Actually, I'm not sure. I think I may have been pondering golf and wondered into the domain of wireless.

My kids are learning the game of golf, but they seldom hit the balls straight. I am hopeless at golf, but I'm a techie, so there must be a tech solution, right? Something to make them hit the ball straight every time?

On my first search, I found this on Sensor Mag's forum from an enthusiast (golf or tech, I'm not sure):

"I am looking for ways to identify the point of contact on the ball itself made by the club face. I had initially mused over the idea of embedded wireless sensors to transmit the co-ordinates of the point of contact of the ball made by the club face to determine the three factors important to a golf swing such as club angle, alignment and speed."

Ah-ha! That's an interesting use of wireless. However, some lurking realist (there's always one) put a downer on the idea:

"If you're interest is actually the point of contact on the clubface, there is a much simpler, low-tech solution --- stickon impact tape."

Low-tech? What's wrong with this guy? But such stuff really exists, courtesy of some bright spark in marketing who has re-purposed good old sticky tape.

However, our low-tech spoiler (spammer?) went on to reveal that wireless and golf might still have a future:

"About 20 years ago a company made a golf ball with a wireless transmitter buried deep in the center to help golfers find it using a handheld receiver when it got lost. I don't think the company (or the golf balls) survived."

What does he mean 20 years ago? What kind of wireless transmitter was that? Was it an over-sized ball attached to a valve? Surely, there is a modern mobile-age version, hopefully with accompanying detection software delivered via the mobile (that's idea #65 if I can't find it - Golf is big money in Japan and the US = big potential market). What's more, I sense that this will work on a small screen. I must get the patent!

However, our friend at the forum is already working on it:

"Another issue I have at hand is whether I can use RF Triangulation to determine the exact location of the golf ball in the golf course. 1.Must I use GPS to perform such capability? 2.Can a GPS chip and Wireless sensor be embedded within the same golf ball? 3.Will it also be cost effective?"
What triangulation does he have in mind here? Perhaps if we convert all the flags (pins?) to WiFi hotspots, not only could we perform the triangulation, but we could charge golfers in their carts to surf the web, or remain connected to their customer-relationship systems.

Of course, most serious golfers (i.e. businessmen) don't need WiFi to be on par in business. They already have a Blackberry. That's the real reason for their success. According to one Blackberry-golfer on a recent game with my father, he said:

"This (i.e. the Blackberry) is what enables me to do this (i.e. play golf)"
That's time critical messaging for you. Squeeze the customer inbetween the 9th and the 10th. No one ever thought of that one. I think if you overlap golf demographics with customer-support, you'll find the total potential mobile email market. The numbers seem to add up.

(P.S. Please don't comment on the WiFi-enabled flags. Yes. I know that golfers tend to pull the flags out. I already thought of that one! Ultra wideband (UWB) transponders my dear readers! OK, the triangulation might get affected, but we can solve that with an enhanced algorithm.)

Now, before I get ahead of myself on the wireless ball, the use of GPS software on PDAs in order to locate the holes has already caused consternation on the courses:

"The official golf rules clearly state that a player is not allowed to "use any artificial device or unusual equipment, which might assist him in making a stroke or in his play; or for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions, which might affect his play." If a player breaks the rule, he is disqualified from the match, the rule states."

OK, so that's that. Let's abandon the wireless ball idea, but how about a round of golf on the mobile whilst waiting with boredom at the first tee for those foursomes to tee off?

We could add a menu to order food from the food hut at the 9th (idea #66?).

I digress. I wanted to use technology to do something really useful, not frivolous. I want to improve hitting the golf ball. Clearly, I'm not getting anywhere with this...

Of course, my problem here is obsessing with wireless. Let's face it, beyond talking, mobiles aren't proving much use for anything else. It's all a big red herring. Over one billion mobiles. They must be useful for something besides talking and crazy frog ring tones. Not so. We need to look in other areas to move forward...

These days, no self-respecting techie can proceed without surveying the promises of the new frontiers of the bio-tech and nano-tech worlds. Of course, I should have short-circuited all this wireless nonsense and gone straight to home and collected a fortune.

Yes. Nanotechnology, courtesy of people like Nanodynamics, renders my whole wireless pursuit, and soon career, pointless.

It turns out that using nanotech, we can make balls that fly straight every time!


I know you're thinking "that's a load of balls", but it isn't. Welcome to the wonderful world of nanotechnology. And, if you're wondering how I homed in on this life-changing application, I was led by this inspiring summary of an expensive Frost & Sullivan report on the bright future of nanotechnology investments:

"Recent product launches, such as transparent sun blocks, stain-free fabrics, golf balls designed to fly straight, and nick-proof trims on hummers, clearly demonstrate the enormous potential of the technology to provide superior medical treatments, better production processes, faster computers, and smaller memory devices."

Enormous potential indeed! Stain-free golf trousers perhaps?

Now, before you budding golfers go buy all those balls, let me tell you about the bio-tech solution....

OK, I'll leave that for another post perhaps...

Don't buy my book (Amazon US/UK).
Read this instead.