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What are Google’s real motivations behind Chrome OS? | VentureBeat November 29, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets.
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Chrome OS is Google’s latest entry into the consumer space. It is designed to be an operating system that runs on customized hardware and provides the user with only a state-of-the art browser running  HTML-5 and some plugins. The tech (and mainstream) media has seen no shortage of opinions about its meaning and future impact on the industry. Unfortunately, I think most people have missed some of the key implications of Chrome OS.

[As a disclosure, I am a former Google employee, having worked there from 2002 to 2008, but I don’t have any inside information on this project. In fact I didn’t even know of its existence before I left.]

Google has two main aims with this project:

  • To use the Google brand and buzz about its “game-changing OS” to push for new and better web apps using nascent technology. This lets Google reduce its customers’ dependence on local apps it does not control.
  • Once a lot of these apps are deployed and become heavily used, the mass market will force owners of closed systems like the iPhone to implement support for  HTML-5, the latest version of HTML, and rich web interfaces. Coupled with  net neutrality (which Google currently strongly supporting) this will allow Google to circumvent uncooperative devices and network providers, and access consumers currently hidden behind locked system.

via What are Google’s real motivations behind Chrome OS? | VentureBeat.

Here is a more detailed analysis:



Agile User Experience Projects (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox) November 29, 2009

Posted by hruf in Enterprise 2.0.
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Agile projects aren’t yet fully user-driven, but new research shows that developers are actually more bullish on key user experience issues than UX people themselves.

Last year, we conducted a study of best practices in integrating usability methods with Agile development projects.

Usually, it’s not worth studying the same problem again just a year later since user behavior doesn’t change much. But this particular project didn’t concern user behaviors, but rather the best way to run Agile projects to ensure usability.

Because this is still a new field, we decided to supplement last year’s research with a new round of more detailed studies focused on additional organizations that have had more time to discover better ways to manage Agile user experience (UX).

UX: The Gatekeeper Role

The two main recommendations for ensuring good usability in Agile projects remain the same as in our original research:

  • Separate design and development, and have the user interface team progress one step ahead of the implementation team. That way, when it comes time to build something, it’s already been designed and tested. (And yes, you can do both in a week or two by using paper prototypes and discount user testing.)
  • Maintain a coherent vision of the user interface architecture. Create the initial vision during a “sprint zero” period — before any implementation has started — and maintain it through annual (or semi-annual) design vision sprints. You can’t just design individual features; they have to fit together into a coherent whole — a whole that must be designed as well. Bottom-up user interface design equals a confused total user experience (the Linux syndrome).

In both rounds of research, these two ideas proved useful across many of the different companies we studied. One modification became clear in the second round, prompted by the PayPal case study: it’s important to designate a gatekeeper to track requirements and communications between the UX team and the other project teams to keep everybody on track (even though those tracks are parallel).


Augmented reality to be a $732 million market by 2014? | VentureBeat November 26, 2009

Posted by pannet in Mobile & Gadgets.
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Hype around augmented reality, a technology that can superimpose graphics or information over the real world in your phone’s viewfinder, is at a fever pitch. But can it deliver the revenues?

Around two dozen applications like Layar, Junaio and Wikitude have burst onto iPhone and Android devices as smartphones with GPS, a compass and Internet access have finally made it possible for the technology to go mainstream. […]

Now Juniper Research is saying the market could grow to $732 million in five years, from just under $2 million next year. ABI Research has a more modest estimate: $350 million in annual revenues by 2014. That’s on the back of three primary revenue models: upfront payments to buy an app, subscription fees or paid premium versions and advertising.

The first two are self-explanatory, and might work well with augmented reality games. Advertising could take several forms. You might see augmented reality coupons or sponsored information tags as location-based services become more adept at serving ads based on your historical search needs and where you are. A couple augmented reality browsers like acrossair’s Nearest Tube or Layar could incorporate sponsored layers. For example, Starbucks could pay to add a special augmented reality layer to an existing browser showing nearby coffee spots. Or they could buy access to the technology to build their own app.

But there are reasons to remain skeptical. Venture capital firms have been relatively reluctant to back these young companies — Amsterdam-based Layar is the only company in the last three months to announce a round of venture funding. The larger and older businesses, Metaio and Total Immersion, are launching mobile products on the back of the businesses they’ve already built through augmented reality marketing and factory layout projects from the past. (See an example here.)

There are still also a number of design issues to overcome. The use case is physically uncomfortable. It can be easier to look something up in a conventional map application than to constantly hold your phone at eye-level to see augmented reality tags.

The second issue is that augmented reality is still a bit of a novelty or a gimmick (see Metaio’s app to the left where you can insert 3D objects into your camera viewfinder).

And then of course there’s the business hurdle of reaching critical mass so that an advertising model can sustain the company. That said, Layar is boasting some promising statistics. The company said it has close to half a million downloads and the app is sticky with users logging in about 6.7 times a week on average.

So if their adoption (and those of their competitors) continues accelerating upward, stay tuned.

via Augmented reality to be a $732 million market by 2014? | VentureBeat.

The Problem With the Boxee Box – GigaOM November 25, 2009

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Boxee generated a lot of excitement on the part of online video fans when it said it would release a dedicated hardware device that will enable users to connect its open-source media center software directly to their TVs. But by becoming a hardware company, Boxee may have to choose between alienating its biggest fans and alienating potential content partners.

As Sam over at OStatic points out, much of Boxee’s success stems from a “very enthusiastic community of users” that has helped augment its media center platform by building out various content channels. But while some content owners have created their own channels, not all channels are built by the content owners themselves — or even sanctioned by them. As just one example, Boxee’s new chief creative officer, Zach Klein, told an audience at the Future of Television conference in New York last week that when he joined Boxee he was surprised to find that users had built channels for IAC’s Vimeo and College Humor, where he previously worked, without that company’s permission.

We saw the possible repercussions of such unsanctioned channel-building earlier this year, when Boxee got into a public cat-and-mouse game with Hulu over the online video site’s content being available through Boxee’s software. Since then, Hulu has gotten even more aggressive in trying to protect its content from being embedded on video aggregation sites without its permission.

Boxee has always defended its software by saying that it was just another browser, even if it was clearly meant to be used for navigating online video content when a user’s laptop is connected to a TV. But by becoming a hardware play, the company may have to rethink what content it makes available.

And therein lies the rub. If Boxee simply ports the software and all the channels that it and others have created into its Boxee Box without the permission of content owners — in other words, if it’s committed to remaining open and allowing anyone to build content channels for the device — then it risks alienating potential content partners. Or worse, it risks getting itself into legal trouble for distributing copyrighted content to the TV without getting the content owners’ permission.

For now the company says it’s committed to providing the same content on the Boxee Box that’s available through its desktop software — even if it doesn’t have rights to distribute that content. In an email to NewTeeVee, Andrew Kippen, Boxee’s vice president of marketing, writes, “It’s always been our goal to keep a consistent experience across all platforms — Windows, Mac, Linux, AppleTV, and now, the Boxee Box. We’ll do our best to make sure our users can access the same content across all the different platforms.”

The alternative would be for Boxee to provide content on the device only from companies with which it’s officially partnered, such as Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Current, Pandora, Digg and Tumblr. But there’s also a whole lot of content on Boxee from major broadcast video sites or cable networks that Boxee doesn’t have deals with, like Hulu, CBS, CNN, Comedy Central or MTV.

While Boxee is taking a chance by making unverified content available without a deal, others are playing it safe. Roku, which already sells a broadband-connected set-top device, only has content from partners available through its channel store. The company also issued an SDK earlier this year that will allow just about anyone to build their own content channels for Roku devices. But in that environment — on its platform and on its box — Roku will have the ultimate say when it comes to who is included.

If Boxee kowtows to content owners, the platform will not only become less open but it will also mean it will offer less content than what it currently makes available — which could make it less attractive to consumers.

via The Problem With the Boxee Box – GigaOM.

Blogging Vs. Microblogging: Twitter’s Global Growth Flattens, While WordPress’ Picks Up November 25, 2009

Posted by pannet in Internet & Communities.
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Only a year ago, the conventional wisdom was that blogs were dead and microblogging would soon replace them. Twitter was supposed to kill blogs because it’s so much simpler to publish one sentence fragment at a time rather than whole thoughts bunched together into what is known in the trade as “paragraphs.”

Today, blogs are doing fine, while Twitter is struggling with flattening growth, at least to its Website Twitter.com (clients like Seesmic and TweetDeck have seen no slowdown). The weakness Twitter has been experiencing in the U.S. since last summer is now finally hitting its worldwide visitor growth as well.

In October, comScore estimates that Twitter had 58.3 million unique visitors worldwide, down from 58.4 million in September. Meanwhile, WordPress.com gained 10 million unique visitors to end the month at 151.8 million—this is after going pretty much nowhere since March, 2009.

Of course, I am using WordPress.com as a proxy for all blogging here (I could have just as easily used Blogger, which is actually bigger with 291.7 million visitors worldwide. And Blogger saw a similar holding pattern since March, with a huge sudden jump of 18.2 million visitors in October

So is blogging back, while microblogging is on the skids? A one-month spike in the popularity of blogs doesn’t tell you much of anything, but in any case it’s the wrong question. Blogging never really went away, and was in fact helped by Twitter, which is becoming the preferred feed reader for many people (thanks to services like Twitterfeed).

And don’t count out microblogging just yet. Twitter is finally rolling out improvements to its site such as Lists and the new Retweet button. Once geo-location features kick in, Twitter’s growth could come back with a vengeance.

via Blogging Vs. Microblogging: Twitter’s Global Growth Flattens, While WordPress’ Picks Up.

AppleInsider | Motorola passes Apple in brand loyalty among men – study November 25, 2009

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Motorola has exceeded Apple in brand loyalty among men ages 18-and-up since the launch of its new Droid handset, but the iPhone maker has remained well ahead of competitor BlackBerry, according to one study.

According to new, daily tracking statistics from YouGov BrandIndex, Apple dropped from a peak score of 48.1 in the month of November to a score of 22 last week. That took it below Motorola, which remained relatively static from its month-long peak of 32.3, finishing last week with a score of 29.3.The study's scale ranges from -100 to 100, based on interviews conducted with 5,000 people each weekday from a representative U.S. population sample. YouGov conducts more than 1.2 million interviews per year, selected from an online panel of more than 1.5 million unique individuals. The study has a margin of error of +/- 2 percent.The company said its survey demonstrates that Motorola has likely come out on top of the ongoing advertising dispute between Verizon and AT&T.”Motorola has seen its brand loyalty unaffected by AT&T's lawsuits against Verizon Wireless and ad war bashing,” YouGov said. “But it seems to have taken a toll on Blackberry, which has withered under all the Droid/iPhone marketing and hype.”

via AppleInsider | Motorola passes Apple in brand loyalty among men – study.

AdMob Data Reveals Android’s Growth, Device Market Share November 23, 2009

Posted by pannet in Mobile & Gadgets.
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AdMob, a mobile advertising network, which has been releasing mobile metrics for a while now and touting the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch metrics as headlines, is instead focusing on RIM, Symbian, Android and even Windows Mobile devices in its October 2009 mobile metrics report. I guess when you are soon going to be part of Google, why give arch-nemesis, Apple and its iPhone any airtime. AdMob is in the process of being acquired by Google for $750 million. The report has some interesting facts about Android and gives a rough breakdown on the success or lack there of of various different Android devices. As always, the data from AdMob which serves display and text ads on 15,000 mobile websites and applications, is limited in scope but is broad enough to be a barometer for the larger market trends.

* HTC has taken an early lead, thanks to availability of three different devices.
* Motorola Droid launched on November 6 already represented 24 percent of all Android requests in AdMob’s network worldwide even though the device is available only in the US.
* Worldwide requests from Android devices increased 5.8 times since April 2009 in the AdMob network.
* In the US, Android has 20 percent share of smartphone traffic versus 7 percent in April 2009.
* The Motorola CLIQ generated 6% of Android traffic worldwide as on November 18th 2009.
* Worldwide requests from RIM devices increased 44 percent over the last six months in the AdMob network.

Just to be sure, AdMob does include data about iPhone in its report. the iPhone and iPod Touch collectively accounted for about 33 percent of total requests up 6.9 percent for the month. In US, the total share of Apple is about 35 percent, up 7.5 percent for the month.


via AdMob Data Reveals Android’s Growth, Device Market Share.

Cambridge’s ProFORMA does 3D scanning with any stationary webcam November 23, 2009

Posted by andre in Multimedia.
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Off-line model reconstruction relies on an image collection phase and a slow reconstruction phase, requiring a long time to verify a model obtained from an image sequence is acceptable. We propose a new model acquisition system, called ProFORMA, which generates a 3D model on-line as the input sequence is being collected. As the user rotates the object in front of a stationary camera, a partial model is reconstructed and displayed to the user to assist view planning. The model is also used by the system to robustly track the pose of the object. Models are rapidly produced through a Delaunay tetrahedralisation of points obtained from on-line structure from motion estimation, followed by a probabilistic tetrahedron carving step to obtain a textured surface mesh of the object.

via Cambridge University Engineering Department – Qi Pan

and Cambridge’s ProFORMA does 3D scanning with any stationary webcam | Engadget

10 things about Microsoft’s PDC 2009: The good, the bad and the ugly | Betanews November 21, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Multimedia, Programming.
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Microsoft’s 2009 developer conference wrapped up yesterday in Los Angeles. Not since PDC 2003 has Microsoft talked so much and said so little. As I listened to the keynotes and have reviewed the sessions, words “series finale” repeatedly popped into my head — like a TV show coming to its end after a long run. Good or bad for Microsoft, a computing era is ending. Perhaps PDC 2009 demarcates the transition.

PDC 2003 was memorable for demos that wooed but seemed insubstantial. Within weeks after that developer conference, I began telling my clients (I was a senior analyst for JupiterResearch then) to expect Microsoft to delay Windows Longhorn sometime in early 2004. The delay came, followed by several others, as Microsoft dumped features to get Windows Vista out the door — late — missing holiday 2006.

PDC 2009 had a quality that reminds me of the event six years earlier. Much of the big new stuff came off a bit airy, and there are gapping pot holes in the product strategy — mobile being the biggest — that Microsoft executives tried to walk around or jump over. Ignoring these holes doesn’t make them go away, unless perhaps sticking one’s head in them like an ostrich might.

Windows is no longer the satellite around which trendy development projects revolve. Windows gravity remains strong in the enterprise, for which switching costs to competing platforms hold tight the orbit. Increasingly, Web development and the mobile device capture pull developers away from Windows. Microsoft didn’t increase enough the gravity to pull them back. For example, Internet Explorer 9 demos were laughable in context of continued and aggressive Apple Safari, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox development. Meanwhile, Microsoft had virtually nothing to say about Windows Mobile/Phone.

With that introduction, I’ve compiled my thoughts about PDC 2009 — and related announcements this week, such as the Office 2010 public beta — into a list of 10 things. The things are in no particular order of importance.


Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Consumer Mobile Applications for 2012 November 20, 2009

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STAMFORD, Conn., November 18, 2009 — Gartner, Inc. has identified the top 10 consumer mobile applications for 2012. Gartner listed applications based on their impact on consumers and industry players, considering revenue, loyalty, business model, consumer value and estimated market penetration. […]

The top 10 consumer mobile applications in 2012 will include:

No. 1: Money Transfer

No. 2: Location-Based Services

No. 3: Mobile Search

No. 4: Mobile Browsing

No. 5: Mobile Health Monitoring

No. 6: Mobile Payment

No. 7: Near Field Communication Services

No. 8: Mobile Advertising

No. 9: Mobile Instant Messaging

No. 10: Mobile Music

// Read the full article for more details…

via Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Consumer Mobile Applications for 2012.