Verizon

OpenSignal is Helping You Stay Connected.

iconAfter spending 5 days in the Colorado Rockies, and driving across western Kansas I can tell you that cell phone coverage pretty much sucks in rural America. I know that some of the issues are geographical. Cell signals can’t travel through mountains, and if cell towers are a hundred miles apart you might drop service. None the less almost every cell provider in the lower 48 will tell you that you will have uninterrupted service as you drive west on I-70.

OpenSignal in the UK (winner of the UK’s most innovative mobile company 2013) realized this problem is universal on both sides of the Atlantic and the startup has introduced an app  that allows cell users to report their coverage in real-time. This means that cell users can cut through clutter to find honest, crowd-sourced information about signal strength and reliability. App users can track signal coverage across maps, that also display nearby wi-fi networks.

“The most innovative aspect of our project is that every app user shares signal information with us, meaning that we have built up the most complete database on carrier performance in the world, much of which is viewable in-app or on our website opensignal.com. We’re trying to build a community to help dispel some of the mystery associated with how carrier’s networks perform.” Samuel Johnston, brand strategist, OpenSignal.

Oh and it works here in the United States as well as Europe.

3-up

A Couple of Wishes for iOS and iPhone 4.0

Yesterday I watched Apple’s iPhone 4.0 keynote given by Steve Jobs at the World Wide Developers Conference. I have to say, while the iPhone isn’t a perfect device, the upgrades presented yesterday improve the functionality 10 fold. And yes, I will probably buy one when it comes out and sign 2 more years of my life away to the shackles of AT&T.

There were a couple of things I was really hoping they would announce, and there is still a possibility that one of them might surface between now and the iOS drop in the next month. I was hoping they would announce a partnership with Verizon, and I was hoping that they might show off something like streaming audio from iTunes to a set of wireless speakers. I pretty much knew the Verizon thing was not going to happen, the iTunes thing though…

Here is the deal, I want to be able to stream music from my phone. It’s not always convenient for me to sync my phone to a computer connected to my wireless networked speakers, and use that device to spread the musical love through out my house. Sometimes, I buy music on my phone, and then want to play it back on a set of speakers in my home right from the phone, and I would think with the introduction of the iPad, this is going to become a more common request. I know that I can buy a third-party app like Airfoil to handle this, but it seems to me  that this is something Apple should have added to the overall user experience of the iPhone when it came out.

One last thing I was kind of surprised about, and could possibly be in the works, was the lack of native video out on the new phone. I’m not asking for a HDMI port on the phone, but it would have been interesting to see a iPhone dock connector to HDMI cable. Now that iMovie is available for the iPhone, and iPad it just seems like a no brainer. Think about all that video content that people are going to be creating, and wanting to show off on the big screen TV. It’s just to hard to cram around a phone or any small screen and see something like a video of your trip to Europe. Since the phone shoots 720p HD video, I would have expected Apple to have a solution for the TV, whether it is hardware based or software based.

So those are a couple of my wishes for iOS and the new phone. Hopefully they will come in the near future, or they already exist and there just wasn’t time to talk about them in the keynote yesterday.

Let the Convergence Begin. CES 2010 and the Future.

CES is in full swing at the Las Vegas convention center this week, and there are all sorts of crazy announcements that have been coming out cool new gadgets and technologies. The one thing I have been noticing is, there seems to be a lot of buzz this year around 2 specific product formats. Tablet PC’s, and Internet streaming devices like Boxee, and Vudu.

Today Microsoft’s Steve Balmer  introduced “Slate” it’s touch screen tablet running windows 7. The device will be built by HP, and available later this month. The price has yet to be announced. One thing for sure though, it’ll be cheaper than Apple’s iSlate, or iTablet which set to be announced on January 27th.

HP Slate Running Windows 7 Touch

In the keynote Steve Balmer said,

“They’re more powerful than a phone and almost as powerful as a PC. Perfect for reading, surfing the web and taking entertainment on the go.”

This is an important statement  because it give credence to an emerging trend. People want all their communications and entertainment devices to play together. They also want access to their media of choice any time, any place, anywhere.

In addition to Microsoft, other touch screen tablets have been announced by Lenovo, Nokia, and IDC which introduced the Tegra, which will have connectivity through T-mobile as well as Wifi making it a true mobile device.  The Tegra is running on the emerging tablet OS of choice Android, which is going to become the 800 pound gorilla of Operating Systems in the near future. T-Mobile is  positioning the Tegra as a tablet for the whole family, and says that the device is designed primarily to sit in the kitchen to let families keep watch on the household calendar and manage their schedules — although it’s also of course still capable of things like 1080p video playback, music streaming, running Google applications and widgets, surfing the internet etc.

The Android OS Tegra

Nokia Booklet 3G

Sounds like a bit of convergence doesn’t it? Which brings me to the net connected devices like Boxee’s latest.

Not only is the Boxee just a beautiful piece of industrial design, it is a game changing piece of hardware. Here is why.

The Sub 200 dollar Boxee

First off Flash 10.1 support. This means that the device can not only place shift your favorite TV shows and movies, it can run any application that you can develop in Flash. This is huge. It means that if you are a designer of interactive content, or applications, you can get them on to that big flat panel TV in everyone’s living room. For under $200, Boxee will support a wide range of formats, including DivX, VC-1, WMV, H.264 MKV, and Flash 10.1.The  service support is equally broad, with channels from Pandora, Last.fm, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, and Flickr all integrated, and today it was announced that they are in talks with Netflix.  In addition there is the Boxee app platform so anyone can design additional apps, plugins, and games.

Like Boxee Vudu made similar announcements at CES saying that are partnering with 3 of the largest manufacturers of LCD televisions, and bringing over 100 new channels streamed directly to your TV set.

The Vudu UI as seen in all its 1080p Glory

For the last year, Vudu has been steadily strengthening its service offering by rolling out applications like Wikipedia, Pandora, and Flickr to connected LG TVs (all this in addition to streaming 1080p movies to you from the Vudu service). With Vudu Apps they expand their reach in terms of services offered as well as hardware supported, by offering hundreds of apps to connected TVs and Blu-ray players from a variety of new partners: and the service will show up in HDTVs from Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio, as well as Blu-ray players from those last two companies.

So why is this a big deal?

Because with these kinds of services you don’t need the cable company or AT&T to provide you with entertainment services. Both of these devices only require you to have an internet connection, which is great for us. Time and place shifting of content has changed the way people interact with content so much in the last 5 years that it’s no surprise that devices like Boxee and Vudu are making such huge gains in the content delivery game.

What all these devices bring to the table though are the first real steps of how we are going to be interacting with media by the end of this decade. The fact that Boxee has Flash support is huge. This means it has Browser support. That means it will be able to let you do so much more than be a passive observer. It will be interesting to see what these companies start to do with multiple application and media feeds. Verizon is already making headway with its FiOs system allowing you to Tweet, and check Fantasy Football stats while watching a real-time broadcast of your favorite show or movie. Combine that with the power of any of these net connected devices and imagine the future. Think Slingbox on steroids.

It’s gonna get fun people and I can’t wait.