Category Archives: Mobile

Want to sync your iPhone contacts with Hotmail, Outlook Express, and more? Try Plaxo

In part three of his review of the iPhone, Paul Thurrott notes a limitation on the iPhone’s online syncing:

"Notice any limitations here? First and most obviously, Yahoo! is the only Web-based email/contacts store supported: If you use Hotmail, Gmail, AOL, or any other Web-based email service, you cannot sync between contacts stored there and the iPhone. This is a glaring functional lapse that the early Mac-using iPhone reviewers neatly skipped over as they stumbled all over themselves trying to complement think of new superlatives. Heck, Apple doesn’t even offer a way to export contacts from these locations in order to get them into the iPhone."

However, there’s a way around this: Use Plaxo, the online service which was set up to allow easy update of contact information and which is gradually becoming a "lingua franca" for contact and calendar information on the web.

Plaxo currently allows you to synchronise the following services and applications for contacts and/or calendar:

  • Outlook
  • iCal/Address Book (Mac)
  • Yahoo!
  • Hotmail
  • Outlook Express
  • Thunderbird (Mac, Windows, and Linux)
  • AOL/AIM
  • LinkedIn
  • Windows Mail

Google Mail/Gmail was supported, but recently broke – and the guys at Plaxo are working on getting it up and running again soon.

Plus, you get the other benefits of Plaxo: if any of your contacts are also Plaxo users, when the update their contact information it’s automatically updated in your address book too.

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Virgin ditches mobile TV service

Virgin ditches mobile TV service | | Guardian Unlimited Business:

“Virgin Mobile has decided to dump its broadcast mobile TV service after less than a year because of poor customer take-up.
The mobile phone operator’s partner on the project, BT, is ending its experiment with mobile TV and disbanding its BT Movio business that was supposed to take mobile TV into other countries. It has also cancelled its contract with GCap Media, the radio business that owned the spectrum over which the service runs. The service is likely to be switched off completely early next year.”

I’m not exactly surprised by this. First of all, the phone you could use with it wasn’t exactly the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, and – as the iPhone has proved beyond doubt – pretty phones are popular. Secondly, there’s never been much demand for mobile TV in the UK, as the makers of all those tiny TVs in the 1970′s and 80′s could tell you. Not even TV on a watch sold well.

(Disclosure: I work on the BT account at Redwood.)

Presenting the Mac market’s very own Dvorak

Several months ago, everyone’s favourite pundit John C Dvorak admitted – as if anyone couldn’t guess – that every now and then he trolled Mac users, baiting them with outrageous and outlandish claims about their platform or the superiority of Windows. Better yet, John outlined his three-step method of Mac user-baiting:

Dvorak’s formula

• Find something critical to say about the Mac that may or may not be true.

• Personal attacks and hate mail then ensue. This gives me “free column number two.”

• Apologize for being wrong and then all the Mac crazies really go nuts since they all feel so vindicated.

The great thing about this forumula is that it’s applicable well beyond Mac fans: you can do this with any audience. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that one Mac “pundit”, Roughly Drafted’s owner/publisher/editor/tea maker Daniel Eran, has decided to apply it with a “pro-Mac” slant.

Yesterday, Eran produced what can only be described as a flame-baiting beauty of a column, claiming to “prove” that over a seven year period, Windows cost five times as much as a Mac. His method was to factor in the cost of OS upgrades, then add – for Windows only – a premium for anti-virus and spyware removal. So far, so good: there’s no doubt that you do indeed pay a tax on top of the cost of Windows for keeping yourself clean of malware, although you can – if you shop around – get both anti-spyware and AV software for nothing.

Where Daniel went off the rails, though, was in his costings. To determine the cost of spyware removal, he added in $200 per year for professional servicing. As a million people on Digg and in his comments pointed out, this was mad: it’s like claiming that every car driver must pay thousands per month for fuel just because some people have gas-guzzlers. Or, as I put it, it’s like saying every Mac users must have ProCare if they want their Macs kept up to date, as one of the benefits of ProCare is updating your Apple software.

That’s column number one. Today, Daniel has posted a second column, called “Bloggers in Blind Rage Over Digg”, which is basically one long “shock” piece at how he’s been criticised, while attacking those who criticised him – including me, of course. When I posted comments that were critical of his argument, Daniel threatened to ban me from his comments, and then trumped all my points with a one liner: “Haha Ian, you are such a tool”. Oh, to be wounded by such wit.

Does this method sound familiar to you? Yes, of course: It’s steps one and two direct from what should be called “The Dvorak School of Column Writing”. I’m expecting step three within a week, once Daniel’s trolling has stopped having the desired effect. It’ll probably take the classic “they all misread me, I don’t know what the problem was” form.

Daniel has been trying to stir up this kind of stuff for some time. His first effort that came to my attention was an attempt to show that, in fact, Apple’s market share was effectively double it’s usually-cited level – a figure he achieved by lumping together OS software and hardware, giving Microsoft a 48% share of the PC market. Why he didn’t add in printers, scanners, monitors, and everything else I don’t know. Thankfully, most people didn’t take the bait: perhaps because his argument was so jaw-droppingly specious that few could do anything but laugh at it.

There’s a second way in which Daniel reminds me of John: His gift for self-promotion. However, while for John self-promotion is mostly a face-to-face thing, Daniel’s chosen forum is Digg, and boy does he do it well. Being told off by some Digg users for the practice of submitting his own stories (referring to himself in the third person while doing so) hasn’t stemmed the tide of Roughly Drafted stories being submitted to Digg.

Instead, the baton has been picked up by an “Andrew Levi Black”, who since registering on June 21st, has submitted a grand total of 25 stories, all from Roughly Drafted. Oddly, many of the submissions follow the same style (“Daniel Eran of RoughlyDrafted Magazine has a phat list…”) as Daniel’s own submissions (“Daniel Eran of RoughlyDrafted Magazine Introduces the Apple XServe mini…”). Also oddly, doing a search for “Andrew Levi Black” on Google returns only his Digg profile: as far as the rest of the internet outside Digg is concerned, there is no Andrew Levi Black.

But whether “Andrew Levi Black ” is a real person who just happens to sound like Daniel, a helpful friend of Daniel’s or a good old-fashioned sock puppet, there’s no doubt that Daniel knows how to use Digg to maximise his traffic. And it all adds up to a pretty impressive package: Dvorak-style trolling, Dvorak-style writing, and Dvorak-style self-promotion. Fellow Mac users, we have our very own Dvorak.

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The Real Deal with the video iPod

David Card of Jupiter Research links to a Mark Cuban post about the real significance of the iPod video announcements.

It’s not about portability, it’s about breaking down release windows — or not — and re-engineering the consumer-paid vs. ad-supported nature of Amuhrican TeeVee.

And he quotes Mark:

And this isn’t about watching video on Video iPod screens. Its about downloading video to iTunes software and its competitors, and all the places it does and will reside. All will be playback devices.I expect that either a 2nd tier of pricing will come along from Apple for full screen quality that is designed to play on a TV rather than an iPod or half screen on a Laptop or PC, as competitors compete by enabling higher quality and full screen playback. All of which will further expand the market. The future of network television got immediately brighter yesterday. All because Bob Iger had the brilliance to say yes to giving consumers his content , where , how and when they want to consume it.

Both David and Mark are quite right. The real story of the announcements that Apple made are that consumers now have a choice of downloading legally content that previously they could get only illegally. Just as iTunes Music Store made it simple and easy to download audio programming legally, so Apple has done it again with video.

There’s just a few flies in the ointment, though, that make it less than a foregone conclusion that Apple will win this one. First of all, there’s the quality: while the video content looks pretty decent on the iPod’s screen, there are plenty of reports around the web that it’s not so great when blown up to TV-size. That’s something that Apple must address, and quickly: while most consumers couldn’t tell much difference between AAC at 128k and CD, they’ll easily see the difference between a TV programme recorded on a PVR or computer and the current video that Apple is selling.

Second, Apple needs to make FrontRow available for all Macs, and especially the Mac mini. FrontRow isn’t as comprehensive as Microsoft’s Windows Media Center, but – in standard Apple style – it does what it does very well, and it’s a good “living room distance” interface. Making it standard on all new consumer Macs makes sense – and I see no reason why Apple shouldn’t make it a free download to everyone else.

The third issue that Apple has to deal with is the complexity of the media rights landscape worldwide. Transferring this service to countries outside the US isn’t a simple process of negotiating with the territorial rights holders, as it was with music. For example, suppose Apple wanted to make Lost available in the UK. Lost is made by ABC, but in the UK it’s been bought for broadcast by Channel 4. Channel 4 has bought a package of rights that allows it to broadcast and repeat the programme in the UK, in return for which it pays lots of money and promotes the programme, which in turn will ultimately lead to more sales of DVDs and more revenue for ABC.

Now how does ABC make available Lost to UK audiences? Who gets the money? How much does Channel 4 get, how much does ABC get? You can imagine the negotiations.

Then add in the question of question of residual payments. These are rights that actors get for repeats of shows they’ve been in – and some way would have to be made of accounting for these and distributing monies for downloads. And then there’s the fact that rights holders for TV shows are much more diverse than for music. Whereas, by negotiating with a handful of record companies, you could cover off 80% of music, rights in the TV industry tend to be held by in whole or in part by the production company that made the programme – and there are hundreds of these in the UK alone. Unless Apple looks for a blanket agreement with someone like PACT, it will have major problems with rights negotiations.

Sony dumps Clie

In a move that’s certainly surprised me, it looks like the Clie is no more – at least in North America, and therefore probably in the rest of the world sooner or later.

I think this really bodes badly for the handheld market in general, which is now being squeezed between smart phones on the small side and Tablet PC’s on the other. In a way, Sony’s strategy – to pile in multimedia features – made little sense: while there’s scope for a handheld for simple stuff, the more complex it gest the more it starts to look – and be priced like – a laptop.

At last

Of course, it had to be SonyEricsson that produced a 3G phone that you wouldn’t be embarrased to get out in a crowd. Assuming they can actually produce enough of them, this may be the one that shifts me from T-Mobile, where I’ve been for years.