Why the Exeter BID didn’t work (and shouldn’t!)

For those who don’t know, Exeter (where my IT Business is based) has recently been part of a campaign to establish a “BID” (Business Improvement District). Essentially what happens is that an extra levy is added to Business Rates, collected by the council they take an admin fee (except in the first year I think), then pass the rest to a “not for profit” company. That company then takes a load more off in administrative costs, staffing etc. After all that is done, whatever is left is supposedly spent on improving areas covered in the “BID”.

We already have issues:

(a) It’s a mandatory levy that businesses in the BID area (that you get no choice over) would HAVE to pay

(b) It’s another 1.5% on business rates. In our case that’s something like another £500 per year. Although it’s actually 1% if you are in certain areas. I’ll come back to that…

Anyhow, since the BID was first punted at us as a great idea to aid Exeter Business I’ve been incredibly sceptical about it. None of the large glossy (and presumably therefore expensive… not sure who is paying for that!) advertising convinced me otherwise. It listed “potential” benefits to Exeter, but the whole thing was rather biased. Given the idea is painted as a “good thing” for Exeter, you’d think there would be a medium to openly discuss it so any negative issues could be considered and addressed. Alas this was not the case. You could be pro-BID, but if you had any concerns or queries, it was much more difficult to mention them. I tried a couple of times but was given a bit of a run around.

So what was my problem?

Dubious and unclear benefits. The main thrust of the BID was clearly to improve the RETAIL shopping experiences in RETAIL areas. So why was it that they generally only were asked for 1% rates? Why is it that areas such as “Southernhay West” where our offices are based were expected to pay 1.5% when the main benefits in our area were utterly pointless things. Pointless? Yes, try:

(a) Bird Boxes in Southernhay (because that will improve trade and help non-retail)

(b) A feasibility study into a video conferencing centre (I’ve never heard of demand, I’m sure our office could accommodate people if they wanted that right now). But really, a study??

(c) A literature festival on the green.

…no really. That’s the sort of outstanding benefits to which I am supposed to be happy about that would really  boost my business. Except of course it would have absolutely no impact. Our office environment wouldn’t benefit.

If I look at the other areas of the proposed BID, benefits in areas such as Mary Arches Street were also a little weak. Putting lights in the trees… given lights are generally only of use at night, this basically means adding lights for the benefit of drunken revellers going to Mosaic, Mama Stones and Rococo’s. I’m not sure that this would help either, but a valliant clutching at straws effort.

Of course to really improve business in the area, the councils and red tape generators could help businesses in Southernhay via many means. One simple idea… Stop general public parking outside our offices (we have several multi-story car parks nearby), giving each business 1 free/reasonably costed space (akin to residents permit parking), and allowing 1 visitor pass each – it would help people visiting us (you know to spend money) – and would also serve to improve the connection with trade in the area. We could also really use a proper loading bay in the bottom end of Southernhay West because none of us can get goods in/out without a fuss. That I believe would require Devon County Council to get involved, so I guess it won’t happen. One of the most common complaints from our customers is the lack of parking nearby to us. It makes us seriously consider moving away from the centre of Exeter. OK sure we could have thought about it before moving in, but we also didn’t realise just how bad it could get (and with new hotels being added opposite us which has no parking, the problem gets worse – especially of an evening).

Anyhow, I digress. Back to the BID.

The BID failed this week, with 48.4% of businesses voted for, 51.6% against. Personally I am delighted. Asking businesses for extra levy’s at a time when business is quite tough for many is a poorly timed plan (seriously, the benefits are unlikely to genuinely cause an uplift in trade). The BID has a few issues, not least that it is really too small. The sums of money being dished out could only make small improvements, and not massive ones that would help.

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Posted in General SME Business by Vince. No Comments

More deathcries from Nokia

So Nokia once again declare that life is tough for them, posting a massive loss (which apparently is only the 2nd time in 19 years…), but why?

It’s really quite simple. Nokia is out of touch.

Its current product lineup is inadequate to meet the demands (not needs) of consumers today. They’re using horribly out of date software platforms (Symbian is good, the UI is terrible for the touchscreen generation), and it lacks the coherent thinking and vision of other players out there. That in itself was bad enough, but they decided to poor boiling water over themselves in announcing and tieing in with Microsoft, creating the worst combination for many out there.

Windows Phone 7 is too immature, lacks the market share and application support of the 2 big players out there (yes, Android and Apple iOS). It seems obvious, but the underlying OS is not what people care about – if it can do the basics of calls, text messaging etc then that’s fine. What sets it apart is capability. Todays phones are assessed on capability by “apps” – a phone without apps is just not worth considering.

I’ve had this conversation with someone in our office recently. They’re still using the pension collecting Nokia E90 device. It’s a top end phone (generally associated as a “Nokia Communicator” in past times), has excellent battery, life, the keyboard and a reasonable browser. The problem is there is a glut of apps – not that unexpected when you consider that the “app” concept is still pretty new. In looking at alternatives/replacements a few have come up – including Nokia’s E7 – a touchscreen, qwerty keyboard enabled device. On the surface he said the hardware seems good, it feels nice. But his problem? The software. That lack of apps.

What Nokia STILL hasn’t grasped is that having good hardware DOES matter (Apple excel at making hardware people find visually attractive, irrespective of its merits). A lot of people like Nokia’s hardware. I used to (until they started taking shortcuts on things like USB connectors). The hardware though will not save the day, it’s just not enough.

People want Facebook apps, they want Twitter, they want games to play, tools to let them play with camera photos, stuff to make stupid noises, tools to let them work “out and about” and so on – it is what smartphones are ultimately targetted for, and it should be of absolutely no surprise when that is precisely what people expect.

Nokia made a poor decision with Windows Phone 7 – it has the same fundamental as Symbian does. “It’s alright” on the surface, but hasn’t got the third party things people and that’s the key – today’s phones are all about those third party developers who either adopt your platform (and it succeeds) or you don’t and you die with it.

Nokia would have been far wiser to take the base of Android, embrace its rich application support, gone back to building exceptional hardware, with great cameras, acceptable battery life and so on, and perhaps differentiated themselves using concepts like HTC with its “Sense UI” – Nokia have the talent to sit an amazing UI on top of the core OS, and wouldn’t have to fight to get acceptance of the application market, nor would it have to switch to a competitor considered an “also ran” in the market today.

Mobiles have changed. It isn’t about Nokia anymore. It is perhaps a shame to see, but they’re making the destiny for themselves. The current Chief Exec is making some incredibly poor decisions. Perhaps they should have thrown developers at writing a mind blowing, touch specialising UI with some absolutely killer applications that take full advantage of that know how. Instead people are abandoning ship. Why exactly WOULD you bother to develop for Nokia’s Symbian efforts anymore?

So if you’re listening Nokia, give this a try:

  • Android Based Device
  • Don’t scrimp on the memory/flash for the core OS and application installation
  • Chuck as much flash memory for storage as you can (or offer lots of options) – 64GB or more PLEASE!
  • Make the camera genuinely brilliant – Nokia do have the better cameras generally
  • Make sure it has GPS
  • Make sure it has all the acceleromters and other “ometers” going
  • Do something to make battery life BETTER than “a working day” or “a sligtly longer day with less load” – a couple of REAL days or a full HEAVY use day
  • Write amazing widgets for functions like calendars, facebook updates and all the stuff people like to see
  • Make sure you offer a QWERTY format device (more niche but valuable and targets businesses more) as well
  • Do not get second best processors, dual core, fast processors.
  • Do what apple do – make sure you “hide” issues by offering no hassle, immediate swaps if a fault develops (this helps your reputation easily)
  • Hire incredible designers of hardware – be different to apple, but better. Don’t do stupid stuff (apple antenna madness, your own usb connector weakness debacles)
  • Issue Software updates every month – proactively fix issues, offer new features, you’ll build loyalty

..do those things and you have half a chance, but you’re going to have to run like hell to catch up now.

There is a market for a really powerful, really well specified mobile device out there. Nokia could deliver it, but they’ve chosen to get lost instead.

Silly Rules, Tough Language

This is one of those really obvious statements that we all say, but none of us really “get” until we “get it”.

For years we’ve had lots of rules and procedures in place for our business. Mostly they’re for sound reasons and are designed to ensure that everthing goes smoothly. Sadly though over time things get a little out of hand, and before you know it you have procedures and processes that just add red tape, no longer serve a meaningful purpose. Worse, they may alienate people and really slow things down.

Our business is as guilty of this as any other. It’s not something I’m proud of, and certainly not something I’m happy with. I’m pleased that we recognise the problem exists and over the coming weeks are taking steps to reduce the number of the manual processes, attempting to reduce the number of paper forms, get rid of some of the silly barriers and just make it all a bit easier for everyone.

Some of these are to help customers, some are to help us, and most of them are designed to bring some sense to proceedings. An internal spring clean of what we do, reevaluating it against current thinking and just geting shot of anything that is just a silly rule (some silly rules we don’t control or have to be there, so they will have to stay – for now!)

The other thing we’re really guilty of is having “tough” wording on some of our automated e-mails. It stems from all sorts of decisions taken which made sense “at the time” but again haven’t been reviewed. Sometimes the tough, rather firm feeling language has no place at all (for example on an automated acknowledgement of a helpdesk request), while in other cases it is difficult to get your message across well if you’re too light (such as a “seriously, your invoice is overdue by 30 days, you really do need to sort this” message).

Both of these changes  (1 – procedures and forms, 2 – tough language)  are ultimately part of a massive internal project at the company (which hasn’t been given a fancy “codeword”  although I wish it had) designed to help us communicate better what we offer, help our customers get better value and feel less offended and irritated by frankly silly processes. It is a significant turning point and one that is long overdue.

I’m very fortunate to have some long standing customers who are helping us understand the pinch points, helping us understand what we can do better and helping shape the future, and to those customers I’m incredibly thankful. So if after September you spot anything that my IT company does that smells like a silly rule or tough language, please do tell me and we’ll look at it. If it makes no sense, we’ll get rid of it.

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The Apprentice. Did Sugar choose the right person?

There is of course much debate about whether Alan Sugar made the right choice to ‘hire’ Tom on the Apprentice.  It is actually a pretty simple thing to determine and there can be no doubt that the answer is “Yes”.

There is no doubt that Sugar would have preferred to hire Helen, but unfortunately her Business Plan was, frankly dreadful. Based around an idea where many players exist, with weak USPs (unique selling points) and no clear idea how it would be driven to market. It also suffered from a critical issue – the service is available for free or at a low cost as a benefit of other products. For example with many Bank Accounts for “Premium” customers, some American Express Credit Cards etc – just for starters. Although her other idea on the surface made more sense, there is again lots of competition and he frankly couldn’t have made a decision because he hadn’t seen the numbers and plan for that particular business. It would be foolish for him to say “well you’re clearly organised and bright, so I’ll ignore the lack of the plan and give you £250,000 to invest”.

Jim isn’t to be taken lightly, he has a lot of charm and could be great at buying peoples hearts on a number of issues – the guy needs to work in a role where it is essential to get buy in on an emotional level, at a very human level. He could most certainly have high impact in those sorts of roles.

Suzie has amazing potential despite the grief people give her – her issue is in getting the ideas from her head into words. A classic issue of someone who is incredibly bright and under-estimated but has a lot of trouble communicating it clearly and ultimately flounders. With the right support her ideas could be taken, shaped and made very successful.

As it happens, there are some great parallels between Suzie and Tom. It’s where they differ that ultimately makes Tom the right choice. Like Suzie, Tom has ideas. He has the potential to come up with unique concepts – but importantly he can invent something. Something totally new. It is this that makse him the perfect choice for Alan Sugar. He’s looking to make money from the investment, and the biggest potential return is with Tom. It comes with high risk (but this is hardly something new to Sugar), however the reward (return on investment) is potentially massive. It takes just one idea. One amazing, unique, moment of brilliance to make a lot of money.

That is ultimately why Lord Sugar made the right choice today in picking Tom.

It is without any doubt that Sugar would have preferred to hire Helen, and was clearly hoping her business plan would involve one completely brilliant concept where he could have a very hands off approach and wait for his money to roll back in. That she made such a poor choice in the idea meant that her business capability was lost.

Ford Focus, helping enforce the most basic of rules…

There’s something pretty cool about the new Ford Focus. It’s still a fairly sane choice of car for general family and run around use if you want something reliable, but in the latest version it has some crazy features to make driving easier (or at least thats the idea).

Most of them I’m not too interested in, after all Parking Assistance is something you should just be able to do without help – but I guess there’s no harm in having a bit of tecgnology to make it all a bit easier for you if you’re the kind that struggles with the concept of placing the vehicle in a given space…

What does float my boat is the lane control feature – essentially if you start drifting towards another lane, the car will automatically pull the car back into the correct lane – which in itself is a nice but not that useful feature (again you should be able to keep in the right lane on your own!). What I did spot, and what appeals to me is the utterly amazing concept that in order to change lane you’ll HAVE to use those indicators (you know those flashing orange things) to cancel the lane drifting controls – otherwise it’ll be difficult to change lane. So why is this such a great concept…?

For that, I think I’ll hand over to “The Infamous Grouse” on www.theregister.co.uk who so aptly describes the benefit:

“To prevent the system mistaking deliberate lane changes for accidental meandering the indicators cancel the system.
…forget add-on packages, that should be a standard feature on ALL cars. It might just discourage all those selfish cocks who think it’s OK to change lanes at the last second without indicating or checking their blind spot.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Mind you I think there could be a small problem with the grouses other suggestion:

“If that works, the next step is a system that won’t let a driver leave a roundabout until they’ve signalled their intent to other road users. We can’t all be Derren fucking Brown you know. Some of us need a visible CLUE as to what you might be going to do next”

…which could be  problem if you’re planning to go “straight across” for what is typically the second exit! Still, I’m sure it can be worked on – maybe ONLY let them leave by that option if they don’t bloody indicate. That’d suit me.

And while we’re at it, why the hell is it that drivers of BMW 3 Series and practically any Mercedes driver seems to think that indicators are optional features?!? This does seem to be a flaw wherever you are and certainly its no worse in Paris than back in England, although Parisians seem to think the concept of parking is “force another car out of the space you want to be in”…  but I digress.

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Posted in General by Vince. No Comments

Why Nokia can’t get it right.

Before I start, let me make it clear that I like Nokia. I have owned, and continue to own a good number of the products they sell and in many ways wouldn’t look elsewhere. However they are increasingly (and sadly) getting it wrong at very grass roots levels – and it wouldn’t take much to fix – I just don’t think Nokia “get it”. Here’s the most recent example based on the “Nokia Music” service and the very much related “Comes With Music” facility. In theory an absolutely great idea and the only chance for Nokia to compete with iTunes from Apple. Except Nokia have royally missed the boat.

Comes Generally Without Music…

First up, “Comes With Music”. The principle is good enough. Buy a Nokia Phone, get unlimited access to music. The reality though is less favourable. You can only get the service on a very limited number of handsets, and not all variants – so just because Nokia advertise the Nokia 5800 as “Comes With Music” it is in fact only that on certain models from certain networks. Whoops.  For me that makes this a little pointless – I use a few handsets, I bought a Nokia N97 SIM Free direct, but still no Comes With Music. I’d have had to buy it subsidised via Phones4U for that. No thanks. Right now I’ve got the “Flagship” N900. No Nokia Music Store to buy or play stuff I own, no Comes with Music option.

I’m not entirely sure why Nokia can’t just offer a “Comes With Music” subscription you can buy for your Nokia Phone. £10 a month. £15 a month. I’d buy. I guess I’d be less annoyed were it not for the fact I buy my phones SIM free, so I’ve already paid £499 for my N900, and £499 for my N97. Yet some getting it bunged free as part of a contract can in some cases get Comes with Music too. Own goal Nokia.

Nokia Music Store… or “Ovi Music”…

Another idea that in principle is good but they’ve royally messed up on. So they create an app called “Nokia Music” which is the front end to the Music Service – including the one for Comes With Music users. However it has a handy option (well a compromise I guess) which means I could pay them £8 per month for “unlimited streaming” to my PC. Ideally I’d want that on my phone, and certainly it would make more sense, but nonetheless I subscribed. The rationale was simple, with the Nokia Music app on my PC I could get access to a good choice of music, could easily see new release albums across Genres I was interested in (a key to why I liked Nokia Music), rediscover old albums etc. All good and worth the £8, even without the “on phone” facility.

I tried “Spotify” – the “on phone” stuff is excellent in concept, the desktop client fine to have too, but I don’t like the lack of proper genre searching, it’s just messy and not overly clever. I found with Spotify I pretty much need to know what I want to hear which wasn’t really why I used it (if I like something I go out and buy it! Also £9.99 a month while not much more seems bad value when it doesn’t work as I want. I tried out “Napster” too – much better than Spotify, as it had Genres but not as much music I wanted – less of the big names seem to be found on Napster – £5/month so good value. Since then Napster seem to have binned the “app” and now does it via a web page – all well and good but sometimes music play gets interrupted when something “takes over” the browser. Bad move.

Nokia Bin Streaming

The other day I suddenly found that the “Play with Unlimited Streaming” icons had disappeared – initially figuring I’d just logged out I then find out Nokia have binned the Unlimited Streaming option. No warning, it just disappeared. Gee thanks.

Recapping….

So why are nokia totally missing the boat?

  • Making the “Comes With Music” option limited to very specific variants of handsets mean the facility isn’t known of to many potential customers, let alone used much. Meanwhile every iPhone sold includes access to iTunes. OK sure not “unlimited music streaming” but people will pay for music as iTunes shows, so even ignoring “Comes With Music” nokia shoot themselves by not including it.
  • Having “Comes With Music” available as standard on all phones that could support it even if it is an add-on subscription would grow usage, and help Nokia keep market share as in the same way it is unlikely iPhone users will move away from Apple if they have to lose iTunes, they’d likely think twice on moving from Nokia. I guess it’s “lock in” and there are drawbacks but the fact the most obvious competitor today does it, and what’s good for the goose….
  • “Nokia Music” store was pretty good – if a little unstable from time to time, but nonetheless it worked well. The upgrade to “Ovi Music” though was plain stupid. Slower, and most importantly with a “playlist” screen that constantly disappears with no way to “pin” it to keep it showing – why it has to keep scrolling up again is beyond me.
  • Limiting the exact phones you can get Comes With Music on has stopped more than one person I know from buying a new Nokia. They wanted a new phone, they liked the idea of Comes With Music, but the phone they wanted doesn’t come with Comes with Music. Funnily enough the phone itself is a major part of the choice, and certainly likely to matter more than compromising on the phone for the sake of Comes With Music.
  • Doing smart stuff and having what I think is the best Music availability and choice (well certainly in the genres I care about) is typical Nokia. Shocking limitations, poor communication of change and short sighted decisions are what will kill Nokia.
  • Not allowing streaming via its own products. Firstly technical issues: Yes, I know data usage is a possible issue, but surely that’s my decision – I don’t mind paying for data – besides most phones have WiFi now anyway so it could be less of an issue than considered – especially if it could cache content. Secondly “ARE NOKIA MAD” – why would you release a service that cannot actually be used on your own products. Madmen.

Here’s hoping Nokia wake up, smell the coffee and sort it! (N900 first pleaseeee)

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Photos of the Snow (some of which turned up in the Express and Echo)

In the recent snowy and icy weather we’ve been having I’ve snapped a couple odd photos on my Nokia N900 on the way to work each day. A couple of them have ended up in the local Exeter newspaper, the Experss and Echo. I’ve dropped a few photos (including the 2 in the Echo) here as a few people have asked to see them.

For the record, these were taken on a Nokia N900, with all the default settings and given how cold it was, I didn’t make too much effort to optimise them (click on the small images to see them fully sized)!

   

 

 

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Clearly common sense is not with us

Certain companies seem to encourage failure and dissatisfaction, almost like a concious decision. Take for example Nokia. The clear leader for many years in Mobile Phones. Yet somehow they seem to be increasingly getting it wrong at the clear and rapid detriment of the companies finances and market share. I’m a long time Nokia supporter, and while many love the iPhone, I’m not one of those people. It’s not just because it’s made by Apple, but that much of the “great new” features aren’t great, aren’t new, and exist on devices I’ve had for years. Importantly too, they don’t make me choose a particular network or tariff, or have to “jailbreak” them to do what I want with them.

However Nokia seem to be losing it completely lately. First they make a big song and dance of the Nokia N97. I bought one. In theory this should be a worth successor to my Nokia E90 in many ways, as it has a real keyboard, good screen resolution, all the apps I want in general terms, but adds a respectable MP3/Media Player, a proper headphone jack, oodles of storage and a touchscreen.

It sounds good, but the reality it has taken 6 months of firmware updates (and I’m a lucky SIM Free owner so get updates more quickly than network locked folks who form the majority of the ownership base) to fix some blatantly obvious bugs and stupid performance issues. Typical Nokia. Still, I’ve got used to that, so it doesn’t bother me too much.

Anyhow, having my Nokia phone, with 32Gb of storage and great sounding audio (it has been tested to sit level with current iPhone/iPod kit before the iPhone users swear it’s inferior), means I probably like music. I do. I subscribe to Nokia Music Unlimited Streaming. £8.00 a month for unlimited streaming to my PC. Yes, my PC. Not my phone. I can’t use the Nokia Store or Nokia Music Player to stream to my phone. That’s just ass backwards.

It’s ass backwards because Apple iPhone can do it I believe (I’ve never tried, but I’m pretty sure that’s right). It’s ass backwards because surely the NOKIA Music service would be best on NOKIA PHONES. It’s ass backwards because if I had a “comes with music” phone I could in fact download tracks direct to it for a fixed fee as long as I had the subscription.

The trouble is for some reason Nokia only make “Comes with Music” available on a tiny subset of the devices it owns. That’s bad, but worse is that even if the model of phone you want can do it, you can only get that option if you buy a phone which comes with it built in from the beginning. You can’t “add it later” even at a higher price. You can’t add it to several models of phone (including mine) at all it seems. Nokia sort of say (on some pages) it is available in “Comes with Music” variant, but I’ve yet to see it anywhere here in the UK.

Then Spotify comes along and releases a client for Nokia. Personally I think it’s “alright” but I prefer the Nokia setup by miles – especially the choice of music via Nokia. But Nokia loves being ass backwards, so instead I use a third party product to do the job on my phone, good work folks.

Spotify wants £9.99 a month. They’ll let me use it on my laptop, via my Phone and so on.

Nokia wants either £8 a month on my PC and just not available on my phone, or me to choose one of a tiny number of models of phone for £300 odd to get a limited time subscription (not sure what happens afterwards!). The logic is that it gets you more Nokia phone purchases.

Nokia are shooting themselves in the foot. They sell mobiles. They should be making content available first and foremost on mobile platforms. They need to offer a Spotify-a-like option or they’ll suffer the death of the service because frankly nobody will be interested.

So Nokia ,when you get your head out of the silly cloud:

  • Make Streaming a “on phone” thing for the monthly fee.
  • Allow customers to buy “Comes with Music” as a standalone option (call it “Nokia Loves Music” or something)
  • Stop having stupid UIs on your Apps – why does the “playlist” item have to keep disappearing.

Otherwise a certain fruit based company is going to completely eat your market share.

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Posted in General by Vince. No Comments

Thinking about the Connected World

Those who know me will know that I’ve always been a fan of connected & mobile technology, and after an impromptu chat or two with @scottgould (web) was reminded that I’ve been ahead of the curve on mobile technology for a long time, having used e-mail and internet capable mobiles for as long as they’ve been around – long before GPRS, and miles before any of the more glamorous design showcases disguised as technology gadgets people crave today.

While I’ve always benefited from this sort of technology, the true holy grail for me hasn’t yet been realised. I see a world of what I’d say is truly connected technology. I call that technology “real time state sync” (because you’ve gotta have a geeky name for everything). Apple would come up with something more marketing friendly and stick an “i” in front of it mind and suddenly people would call it “new technology”. But that’s another rant!

What is real time state sync?

To explain it, it’s probably easier to just explain what we have today vs what I hope to see. Right now most people have a small splattering of devices, often, with mobile phones taking centre stage for obvious reasons. Your other devices such as a Laptop typically talk to these devices using Bluetooth and exchange basic data, either on some sort of schedule, or when you manually hit a button.

In my case I have my laptop sync with my current flavour-of-the-month mobile, the Nokia N97, and keeps my calendar/contacts up to date every 15 minutes or so, with the phone also regularly checking in with an Exchange Server too (you can never have too much sync!). It’s no different with my music or video content, photos taken etc. It’s OK, works reliably and ultimately does it’s intended job.

What I want is to to see that concept of sync taken and expanded. So, we have technology close to that in things like Blackberry’s which “push” e-mail to your phone as soon as it arrives – so you’ve now got an inbox that is near real time. I can run clients like Gravity that keep my Twitter feed up to date (well almost thanks to API Limits). But that’s not what I want from real time, and it certainly isn’t state sync.

I won’t explain what Real Time means, since I hope anyone reading this grasps that concept. But what do I mean by “state sync”. Well here’s a scenario:

You’re walking home and reading a news article on your phone from BBC News or The Register (for example). In my case, I’m using the N97 and Opera 5 Mini Beta. I’m halfway through that article when I arrive home. Home where quite a bit of connected technology exists. For me, the myriad of so-called internet connected devices includes such wonders as Vye S37 & Acer Aspire One “Netbooks”, 2 Microsoft XBox consoles, multiple Logitech Squeezeboxes, and I’m thinking of getting the Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet at the moment.

And now the big question… why can’t I just pick up the Archos Tablet and find the Web Page I was reading is there, with the same web page open, and waiting for me to continue on the larger screen- it is after all an Internet capable device, and should always be connection ready.

Or maybe I’m I’m listening to Chicane’s latest track on an MP3 Player/Phone) – as I walk into the house and flick the Squeezebox Boom on in the kitchen to make a cup of tea, why can’t the boom just takeover from my MP3 player and belt out that same track, from the same point my phone is at?

That is connected technology, and that is real time state sync – I’m not only keeping the same content on my devices, but I’m enabling those devices to share state and do so in real time. My devices are smarter, my enjoyment of that technology enhanced, and the steps and (admittedly minor in the most part!) hassle involved in making those choices reduced.

Hurdles?

It’s clear we have many hurdles in technology terms to handle first, such as the increasing divide between power demands and battery life, the black spots and performance in mobile data coverage, and the insistence of manufacturers to allow coexistence of devices. Personally I envisage too that for this to work you probably need some form of central “control” to make this efficient – fortunately I’m an advocate of Hosted (or “Cloud” computing) and suspect this is probably the easiest part of that jigsaw to solve.

The technology would need to be smart from the outset and expect capabilities to grow, and intelligently deal with compatibility – I don’t expect my music player to render full web pages, but I do expect my Netbooks to be able to render a web page I’m seeing on my mobile, and clearly you need some sort of over-ride or control (which must be a single button/tap action) in case you do want to do multiple things at once. Quite likely too we have to handle those issues of multiple people sharing devices, but those are really secondary consideration.

Am I the only one who wants seamless technology? Let me know.

Posted in General by Vince. No Comments