Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays, Best Wishes for 2008

I hope you enjoy the holiday season and I wish you a happy, healthy and
prosperous new year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I tried Three’s new Skype phone and I liked it

Before leaving for California, I was approached by Matt from 3mobilebuzz.com to test Three’s new Skype phone. I don’t usually bother reviewing products (albeit for a few books) but I live in London and my new company is in Mountain View, California. I am on Skype daily with our partners over the world, and often with our family and friends in Singapore. A phone plan that integrates Skype sounded like a godsend to me.

Two months later, upon my return to the UK, I received as promised 2 phones for a month long trial.

The phone

The silver ring around the Skype button is borderline bling but overall the phone is sleek and elegant in its simplicity. And it has a really nice feel when you hold it. I guess Three must have spend weeks with focus groups just to get the right weight, not too heavy, not too light resulting in this smooth feeling handset that fits nicely in the hand.

The specs
Decent colour screen, 2MB camera, takes pictures, videos and many other things that I could not be possibly bothered to mention, as I am not that geeky. Specs are there if you are interested (select a phone and click on "Mobile details").

The interface
Among the phones I used, Motorola consistently ranked worst in terms of clunky, non-intuitive user interface. Nokia is doing a pretty good job but I always had a soft spot for Sony-Ericksson. I am adding to my favourites Three’s interface which is easy to use and aesthetically pleasing. Good job for people like me who would rather never use a functionality than opening a user manual.

Skype
This is the crux of the matter. You can call and receive calls on Skype using Three’s network, which means you don’t rely on finding a wifi connection. Finally, I could talk to my Skype friends without being glued to my laptop. Because I am using Three’s network , voice quality was much better than my normal Skype calls. When logged-in to Skype (just press the “Skype” button), you will see your contacts and their status. To call, just select a contact and you are on. You can use Skype chat as well but the Three Skypephone does not support Skype Out or Skype In.

Live TV
The picture quality of live TV is impressive. Sharp and good streaming. On offer: BBC1, BBC3, BBC News, National Geographic, FHM, MTV…

Facebook, MSN, eBay and the likes
It has all that if you need it. There is a handy shortcut to Google Search on Three’s launcher (like a “Start menu on Windows). There is a direct link to Youtube as well so instead of spending too much money on video calls, post your clip on your Youtube channel for your friends to watch and reciprocate.

Finally, the price…
Now this is where it gets complicated, there are lots of information on rates and plans but it is a bit all over the place on Three’s website, and the small print is hard to find.

Pay As You Go (no contract)
You can buy a handset for £59.99 that includes a £10 top-up. You can use Skype for 30 days with a “fair use” policy (4,000 Skype minutes and 10,000 chat messages per month) but you need to top-up again with a minimum of £10 every 30 days.

Contract
Contracts are 18 months, which is far too long to consider for someone like me who spend months abroad. The cheapest plan is £12 a month and gives you 100 minutes or text messages. The phone comes free with the same “fair use” policy for Skype.

Live TV is £5 a month and add another £5 for unlimited web surfing. This will go on top of PAYG or contracts.

Verdict...
I showed the phone to a couple of friends and they all agreed that it is a looker with great functionality, with Skype, Live TV an mobile web among their favourite features (in order). As far as I understand, rates are competitive but my hunch is that you need to spend lots of time on Skype at time when you don't want to be at home to make it worthwhile. Otherwise you may be better off sticking to Skype on your laptop and a cheap call plan for calls/texts. The 18 months contract is a no go for me but I may look into the PAYG option after I speak to Three’s sales reps to clarify call rates for that option.

Overall, the Skype Phone is on top of my 2008 must-have list and I am glad I tried it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Surface Computing to go mainstream 3 to 4 years from now?

Think Minority Report:

The story of stuff: how the real world works

A must-watch movie. Help spread the word and change a system that has turned you into a shopping zombie.

"The Story of Stuff:

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. (...) It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."

Friday, December 14, 2007

BlogNation to shut down amidst much mud-throwing 2.0

I read Blognation and TechCrunch from time to time. I found the whole Arrington / Sethi saga entertaining at first then slightly pathetic (story well summarized by Patrick de Laive). The bottom line is that some bloggers have too large an ego and a nefarious tendency to air their dirty laundry in public (PR execs... beware!). I can only sympathize with Blognation’s writers and readers who lost a decent outlet for global news.

Back to how much Facebook has replaced blogging now...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Facebook to license platform methods and tags to counter Google's OpenSocial

Extract from Facebook's announcement:

"Now we also want to share the benefits of our work by enabling other social sites to use our platform architecture as a model. In fact, we’ll even license the Facebook Platform methods and tags to other platforms. Of course, Facebook Platform will continue to evolve, but by enabling other social sites to use what we’ve learned, everyone wins -- users get a better experience around the web, developers get access to new audiences, and social sites get more applications."

Bebo already announced that it will focus its efforts on applications compatibility with Facebook (while continuing to support Open Social).

Are we heading towards a format war between Google and Facebook?

Monday, December 10, 2007

You Will Control 25% of Entertainment by 2012

Nokia's latest study,"Glimpse of the Next Episode" predicts that within five years a quarter of all entertainment will be created, edited and shared within peer groups rather than coming out of traditional media groups.

I told you so.

Mobile Crunch.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Facebook's Beacon More Intrusive Than Previously Thought

"Stefan Berteau, a Computer Associates security researcher found that Facebook's Beacon goes much further than anyone has imagined in tracking people's Web activities outside the popular social networking site: Beacon will report back to Facebook on members' activities on third-party sites that participate in Beacon even if the users are logged off from Facebook and have declined having their activities broadcast to their Facebook friends."

Full article on Washington Post