I spent a lot of my time at SXSW this year sitting on panels discussing the mobile space. I did learn quite a bit, but the thing that I found most intriguing was the difficulty people are having distinguishing the various mobile spaces, particularly the difference between mobile applications and the mobile web. These two practices are fundamentally different and must be mentally separated by our community. The mobile web is about re-purposing current sites or creating stand-alone sites that are meant to be experienced through the phone's web browser. Mobile application development deals in applications written to run directly on the phone. These spaces are vastly different and have noticeably divergent challenges to overcome. Obviously, I am doing both of these spaces a slight disservice by only using one sentence to explain them, but hey, this is a blog post.
On Sunday I sat in an excellent session by Brian Fling of Blue Flavor where he opened a fire hose of information into the audience concerning the mobile web, running the gamut from mobile IA to the sweet spot of visual design. The overall message was clear: we already have most of the tools we need, it's getting easier, and mobile users are a space that absolutely cannot be ignored. When he finished and the questions started coming in, they were centered around technologies such as flash lite, brew, and other mobile development platforms. He deflected the questions easily, but the confusion in the audience was quite clear.
Later, I sat in a panel specifically put together to talk about mobile application development. This panel was a bit of a disappointment. One of the panelists was John Poisson from radar.net. He was very well spoken and their crew had done some very intelligent things (like only choosing words in their destination email addresses that didn't have letters on the same key adjacent to one another), but I don't believe that they have actually built a mobile application. Their service depends upon a user taking a picture and sending it to their servers via MMS, and the service then provides them with a site where they can view their friends' pictures in their mobile browser. This is NOT a mobile application, this is a very clever use of the mobile web. Yet there he was on the mobile apps panel. No wonder people are confused.
The only person on the panel that had any experience building a true mobile application was Simon King from Yahoo! who is working on their Zone Tag product (there was a designer/developer from Nokia but he couldn't talk to specifics due to secrecy issues). King spoke with authority and the most interesting thing he said was his definitive statement that Flash Lite is not a production ready technology primarily because of memory leak issues and lack of access to the phone's firmware. He did mention that it is an excellent prototyping tool, but certainly not ready for prime-time. Naturally, once the panelists finished and the questions started coming in, they were along the lines of migrating current web sites to the mobile environment, the state of ajax on the mobile phone, and other mobile-web centric topics. Most of these questions were simply deflected by the panelists and referred to Fling's presentation notes.
There will be enormous growth in both the web and application development for mobile devices in the near future. Yes, it is true that mobile applications use the same data services as the mobile web and there is definitely overlap between the two spaces, but they are different enough that they must be separated in people's minds. One is no better than the other, but developing and designing for them is going to be a challenge and we need to ensure that people understand their medium so that the correct challenges are addressed and questions are answered. I do not believe that there was any clarity delivered at SXSW, and that is mildly disappointing.
Deloitte just released their 2007 annual study "Innovation in emerging markets," which presents the results of their survey of 446 executives representing 31 countries around how to stay competitive and grow profitably in China, India, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. While Deloitte's findings confirm many of the common concerns about doing business in emerging markets (e.g., intellectual property issues and talent acquisition), there are some novel insights. The full report is worth a read, for what it describes and for what it omits.
The report is divided into three sections: talent management, risk management, and operating models. The talent management section makes the fairly obvious point that talent acquisition and retainment strategies should be localized. The brief case studies provided are interesting (e.g., AstenJohnston's use of 3 salary reviews per year rather than the customary 1). Similarly, the operating models section confirms that some level of organization decentralization and careful consideration of the standard 4 operating structures (greenfield investment, acqusition, joint venture, and outsourcing) should be employed.
The risk management section is the most insightful. The main takeaway is that risk management is traditionally not comprehensive enough -- it includes the obvious factors (legal issues, IP, supply chain) but neglects the less obvious (security, politcal issues, acts of nature). Fair enough. More interesting is their elaboration on intellectual property protection. They describe such variegated approaches as keeping R&D in developed markets, sourcing across markets, producing across markets, and using lower-risk emarging markets (like Singapore) over higher risk ones (like China).
I find the edge cases (which are not described in the report) -- successful companies that are finding a way to safeguard their IP while conducting R&D and production in China -- more interesting than the averages. Another piece of China news today is Intel's investment in a chip fabrication plant in China. Bruce Einhorn at BusinessWeek describes how this move is partially a response to competitor AMD's advancement in China through an R&D center in Shangahi and partnerships with all of the major Chinese PC vendors. Intel's move builds on existing R&D centers in Beijing and Shanghai. And let's not forget Apple's iPod manufacturing operations that are based in China. These are top brands with significant IP protection requirements who are finding a way to bring significant pieces of their business to China. I'd like to see detailed case studies of these...
You were right and I was wrong. Math isn't useless after all. I've been using lots of trigonometry lately at work and I now wish that I had paid attention during my high school years. I thought I knew it all. As it turns out, I did know it all, but I did however drop the ball on this math thing. My days of walking into math class with my hand on my crotch saying "Cosine this" are long gone. Goodwill hunting I'm not.
I didn't attend sxsw this year.
Instead, I bought a mouse.
The Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 to be exact.
I was wrapping up a project with my team this week and presenting final work out on the road.
Before I broke out, I realized that I needed to purchase a presentation clicker; something everyone should have if they are presenting in powerpoint or keynote.
We are increasingly asked by clients about our point of view on how to bring innovations to the Chinese market.
"Contradictory" is the first word that comes to mind when addressing this question. While there are numerous examples of IP infringement and copycat strategies (consider Meizu's M8, China's response to Apple's iPhone; or this unbranded PSP phone; or Oriental Virgin's rip-off of Sony Ericsson's brand), there is plenty of genuine innovation too (such as AOpen and Fortune Motor's Car PC; or China's plans for commercial jet development). Similarly, for every story of government over-regulation (of user-generated content; of online access; of mobile), there is a trend that runs against it (such as the boom in e-commerce; the very existence of a china web 2.0 meta-blog; or VC fundingÂ of the Chinese version of Joost).
Stay tuned to this space for more thoughts on how to manage these contradictions...
A new e-mail management solution introduces a virtual currency to relieve knowledge workers from attention disorder
The ability for customers to broadcast their experiences with companies is greater than any time in the last 150 years ago when we all lived in small villages. My earlier post on my experience with Audi's corporate feedback loop is a perfect example: that micro experience gets amplified to potentially rival big budget advertising efforts (not to say my one in particular has this effect...).
Have you heard of Twitter yet? Well it seems like that's all I hear about lately when perusing through the WPF and Flash community blogs. The concept couldn't be simpler. You make posts saying nothing more than what you are doing at the time. The more you do it, the more interesting it becomes. You can follow other Twitters as well as adding them as friends. Think of it like a set of one sentence blog posts that allow people to track what you're up to. This has been particularly useful for people who are attending conferences as it's a great way to find people. The popularity of Twitter seems to be exploding!
Go over and sign up and you can follow me here.
The new Optomap Retinal Exam from Optos has improved the User Experience of eye exams. I've worn glasses forever and every year I get an eye exam. In the past, eye exams consisted of a series of tests, one of which was pupil dilation in order to better examine the internal surface of the eye. This dilation has always been difficult because it lasts for several hours and makes the eyes quite sensitive to light. The Panoramic200 Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (this company's product) takes a digital image of the eye which apparently provides enough information to the Opthamologist so that they don't require pupil dilation. Additionally, the images are very cool. This isn't my eye but you wouldn't know the difference.
Science and engineering just took another step towards a better future. Now we just need to pick up the pace a little.