The Hills Are Greener: I Come To Bury The Telephone

The Hills Are Greener: I Come To Bury The Telephone

Feb 27, 2012

The cell phone providers’ days are numbered. They can try to fight all they want to continue to sell voice, messaging, and data subscriptions as separate products, but their futures are all the same: as dumb pipes that just carry information provided by other services. The technology to replace their costly voice and messaging services already exist, and connections are only getting faster. Soon, all people will need to communicate is a logical hookup to data services, which is what the providers will, well, provide. They may still make money off of subsidizing phones at yearly contracts, but this will be their funciton entirely.

Pretty much the only thing holding us back is a reliance on phone numbers and their cross-platform interoperability. No matter what operating system they use, a phone number is a phone number and it will receive its phone calls and text messages no matter what. However, the idea of having one unified contact point may be dead in a generation or so as social networking and those handles become more used. We use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking services to get in touch with the people we need to so often now that phone numbers are decreasing in importance, and it’s even already affecting the carriers’ bottom lines as far as text messaging goes. We can get the same kind of direct, real-time notifications that phone numbers give us, and non-telephone voice and video communication are only getting more popular.

Apple, in their attempts to bring everyone forward, may be the ones holding back this dream. iMessage is closed off to everyone. FaceTime is still not open. Google’s branded Google Talk products are simply just branded versions of the XMPP protocol that anyone can implement to work with their accounts. Like Apple, who have Google Talk implemented into iChat, along with the variety of apps that openly support it as well, through the Jingle video protocols. Android users can easily communicate with anyone using the protocols that Google has built-in; Apple wants people to use Apple products and Apple protocols.

Perhaps this is room for a startup to take advantage of, to disrupt and supplant phone numbers, to find a way to unify all these disparate communications systems, to create one unified handle for people to use that could work with whatever text, voice, and video messaging system the user wishes. Right now, we are simply in a transitional period where the growing pains of new technology are clashing with the standards of old technology. But growing pains are not forever. It will just take someone with a service that is inventive and useful enough to solve this problem of disunification.

The Hills Are Greener: Protocols Protocol

The Hills Are Greener: Protocols Protocol

Oct 17, 2011

So iOS 5 was released to the public this past week, and with it a variety of useful new features for iOS users. Notification Center, while it does borrow a lot from Android’s notifications, is a much-needed improvement. iCloud features are useful and there’s just lots of little fixes that make the iOS experience much better. However, the problem is that Apple has introduced yet another proprietary standard: iMessage. This allows any iOS user to send text, photos, and even videos, to another user from within the Messages app. Even iPod touch and iPad users can message other iOS users, and iPhone users have a unified solution for SMS/MMS and free iMessages that use the data plan.

Except that this is not entirely designed as convenience, or as a way to stick it to the carriers; instead, this is designed to promote vendor lock-in. This is meant for iPod touch and iPad owners who may not have an iPhone as their phone to become tempted to get one. After all, won’t it become a pain when trying to communicate with friends who have iPhones when not around wifi? Wouldn’t it just be easier to have an iPhone so iMessaging is just what becomes used when communicating? That’s exactly what Apple wants. They want to sell more Apple products, not promote open standards. Apple promised that FaceTime would become an “open standard” last year when announcing the feature; there are currently zero products not made by Apple that are able to use FaceTime. I sincerely doubt that Apple will be even attempting to make iMessage usable outside of Apple products.

This is the kind of vendor lock-in that hurts innovation and competition. Open standards and protocols are in use because they allow for different platforms to talk to each other. It’s why SMS and MMS took off. It’s why we can email anyone. Open protocols are good for everyone, and Apple trying to promote their own protocols for the sake of improving their own products seems dangerous and potentially monopolistic. Google at least is interested in creating services that work over multiple devices and operating systems: Android voice calls use Google Talk video calls and work on PC, Mac, and Linux devices as well. While there isn’t an official app for Google Talk video calls on iOS, third-party solutions exist, and Hangouts through Google+ are available as well. In fact, this is because Google Talk is based off of XMPP and uses standard cross-platform open protocols for their services.

I will not call Google angels trying to promote open protocols solely for the good of mankind, because they are a business after all, and they are trying to make money. However, their actions and services they run show a concern for open access in a way that Apple does not. Apple wants to sell more Apple products by creating services that run solely on Apple products. Google wants users to use Google services, but on whatever device they choose to run it on. That is the difference between iOS and Android: one is far more committed to openness than the other.

Samsung Debuts Galaxy S Wifi 4.0 and 5.0

Samsung Debuts Galaxy S Wifi 4.0 and 5.0

May 3, 2011

Samsung are announcing two new products aimed at consumers who want a smartphone, but without the phone.

The Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.0 and 5.0 are Android-powered, handheld computing devices that look set to provide the perfect solution for the consumer who wants an entertainment device capable of playing music, video and games, surf the web and send email via WiFi without committing to a contract. In essence, it’s a smartphone, minus the phone. For some of us, that’s perfect.

I used to carry around an iPod touch with a pocket router and 3G USB modem just so I could have all the power of an iPhone, but without the costly AT&T contract to go with it. It was a cumbersome solution that didn’t always work, but when it did, I was quite happy. These days, I could never imagine going back to that. I have a contract I’m happy with and an Android-powered smartphone that does everything I need, but I have no doubt that there are still those like me out there who would be very interested in these new devices.

With two variants, boasting 4-inch and 5-inch screens, the devices are meant to have all the power of their smartphone brethren through the virtue of their 1GHz single-core processors. Their displays rely on the mDNIe image engine technology to ensure stunning video and image quality. In addition to the 1GHz processor, the features of the Galaxy S WiFi include 8/16GB memory configurations with a microSD slot for plenty of expandability and a built-in camera capable of shooting HD video and images.

Running on Android 2.2 “Froyo” with the possibility of upgrading to 2.3 “Gingerbread,” you get access to the more than 150,000 apps available on the Android Market, as well as Google Mobile Services, such as Gmail, Google Talk and YouTube. The Galaxy S WiFi even features integrated GPS support for use with Google Maps and other directory services. You also get Samsung’s Social Hub, allowing you to simultaneously post messages and pictures to Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. As well there’s, VoIP for voice and video chat through Qik.

Even if you never leave the house, these devices seem perfect for playing games and surfing the web. Looks like the iPod Touch is finally getting a serious competitor!

Currently, there’s no word on pricing or when the devices will come stateside, as they are only available outside the U.S. Let’s hope they make it here very soon.