State of Mobile

I've been having an side conversation with someone at work and it spurred a number of thoughts. The summary of the conversation was that the mobile space has not reached critical mass yet followed by a summary of where he saw the most talked about platform in the next few years.

When I look at mobile today, I can't help but draw similarities to where the web world was about 5 years ago. A pre-dawn of the "Web 2.0" world if you will. Mobile is on the cusp of being relevant to the masses in my mind largely thanks to Apple's efforts. Most people don't care about the technical aspects of how things work, they care that things work and at an affordable rate. Devices are powerful enough and it is now acceptable (again) to have a phone that is as large as your palm so that you can have visibly acceptable amount of useful information. Combine that with more widely available high speed data access, this allows you access to more information and more computing power to make even more powerful and relevant tools.

Looking at the space of desktop web today, the killer function or app is not eBay, Twitter or even Facebook. It's still Google or more accurately – search. Of all the things we do daily, Google or some sort of search is the one place we are most likely to hit. It makes sense since underneath it all, the internet is just a web of information that is loosely associated and often unconnected information. The question I have is what is the killer function for the mobile platform?

My guess is information aggregation and consolidation. I'd even venture to limit it only to aggregation of very personally relevant information. The attributes of mobile are that it is small, not very powerful but always with me. This makes the mobile device always accessible but with limited input capability. I will want to get access to time-sensitive and probably personally relevant information. For instance, I might look up a friend, see who is nearby or look up for things to do and people to do it with. I'm not likely to research and write a paper on QA strategy. Ok, I personally might but most people won't. LOL. Any tool that can do as much of that in one place will be what I use the most.

I think social networking becomes more interesting with mobile because of the nature of mobile devices. Given that it's always with me, I'm more likely to keep more personal information with me. Having a way to interact and plan on-the-fly with friends will be an attractive feature. In many ways, it will be an extention of SMS.

All in all, there are exciting times ahead of us for mobile. It will be a very interesting shift to see how traditional product companies leverage this tech to bring more services to consumers.

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Missing Evernote

You never know how good you have it until it's gone – and I'm talking specifically about Evernote. Yes, Evernote has its flaws (well, actually only one real flaw for my use and that's the lack of offline synchronization for Windows mobile) but it works very well for me. I've been playing with a lot of Fuze ROMS lately and flipping between the Energy, PROven and At0mAng ROMS because of perceived instability on my part. I'm back to PROven but on version 3.0 and after 4 hours of "testing" it seems to work fine. I'm kind of hesistant to say it's stable though. It's far too early to declare it. I usually don't find instability until about 3 or 4 days from now.

 
One of the major reasons why I decided to go back to trying a different ROM was because I was having a number of issues with it. One of the more major ones was the ability to sync with Evernote. Evernote has quickly been a staple of the means to how I blog. Even though I'm writing this on my Windows notebook, I'm actually writing this on Evernote just in case I don't finish my thoughts tonight and decide to write this later. There is a certain amount of safety in knowing that it is going to sync with a server some where.
 
On another side note, I was quite surprised that support for Evernote was actually rather sparse. I tweeted about my frustration about not being able to sync as well as used their GetSatisfaction site. I never got nary a response from anyone. I have to admit that I was quite disappointed by that.

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Tag – you’re it

I
have to admit, I'm really late into the tagging game. Yes, I've seen it
for almost 8 years but was never a fan of it initially as I never
accepted what was my perception of the use of it. Maybe it's the
obsessive compulsive part of me that requires things to be consistent.
I remember using delicious and found myself extremely frustrated with
the fact that I would tag something multiple ways depending on when I
was doing things. I saw that the inconsistency as a detriment to a neat
and organized knowledge base. To me, the answer was always about
categorization. Any piece of information could only belong in one space
and categories would be pre-defined.

Tagging systems have come a
long way. Today tagging systems often auto-populate as you type giving
me the consistency that I desire. Most sites now allow you to
categorize and tag information. I see tagging as a means of describing
something similiar to that of metatags in web pages. I've come to the
point where I will find alternative solutions just to ensure that I
have the ability to ensure that information I've bookmarked must be
tagged.

For example – I read my RSS feeds on Newsgator because I
haven't found an alternative way of synchronizing to Google Reader in a
consistent fashion. Newsgator allows you to clip a listing on my my
mobile but does not allow me to tag information. Furthermore, it does
not allow me to search by tags easily. My solution is subscribe to my
Newsgator RSS feed in Google Reader. This allows me to queue up news
items to be tagged and then share them accordingly. Now I only have my
tagged information in 2 places: delicious and Google Reader.

Sent from my HTC Touch Pro

Flexilis – Nuke and Restore

I decided that I was going to try a new ROM this weekend so it was an appropriate time to test out the Nuke and Restore feature using Flexilis. I logged on to the site and nuked my device. I liked the fact that it asked you to confirm whether or not you wanted to nuke your device on the web but not on the phone as this is branded as as security feature for the phone. The Restore was equally easy. I only tested the restore of the SMS messages as it was the one feature I was most interested in. While it worked, it seem to have lost the SMS thread on the Windows Mobile on restore. That part was disappointing.

Overall though, I’ve been really impressed with Flexilis. I like it much better than GuardMobile. Now the big question mark is how much is it going to cost when it leaves beta.

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Leadership Tips from Barrack Obama

I’ve never been one to follow politics closely. Not because it isn’t interesting but rather that the players over the past little while have not been that interesting. I’ve been quite inspired by Obama in the few times I’ve watched him speak. I like that his speeches are simple and quite articulate. He gets the point across while making it simple for the everyday person to understand; I like that he keeps his stories relevant and to the point. There were a couple of highlights for me in particular. The first was to brush aside the finger pointing with the AIG mess and to take responsibility. “While it’s not a mess that I created, it’s my job to fix it.” The buck stops here. I like that throughout the conversation he never once diverted from that message – he didn’t try to subtlely blame the Republican for the current decisions, he focused on the fact that it was up to him to make sure that these things don’t happen. Here’s another tip – regardless of whose fault it is, he focused on trying to figure out the solution to the problem and ensuring that the problem doesn’t happen again.

Another thing that really impressed me about Obama was the ability to focus on the future. “If we’re being out-educated today, we’ll be out-innovated tomorrow” or some variant of that. It’s so true. So often leaders focus on the immediate only and neglect the future. At the same time, he understands the concessions he has to make to get to the future. “It’s not like I like paying out the banks but we need credit flowing now.”  The trick is not to stop on the short term fix. So often it’s so tempting to just focus on the short term fix because it can be so tiring to just get the short term fix done.

Another sign that impressed me about Obama is that he actively listens. In the final question, he was speaking to a man who lost his job in October. He talked briefly about his overall economic plan and quickly realized that he didn’t know enough. He followed up by asking specifically what the man used to do and then tailor his answers specifically to his situation. It would have been easier to left it generic.

I like Obama. It’s nice to be inspired by an individual. He has great ideas and great attitude. It’ll be interesting to see if he has the right people to help him execute it.

The Corporate Me

The one thing I have enjoyed about my journey in my professional career is the opportunity to observe and learn new things from both my clients and colleagues. Yesterday I had a really interesting conversation with Miles about the outsourcing our personal life. He raised the question of at what point does it make sense to oursource particular functions of our lives. The reality is that we outsource many functions of our lives without realizing it. Ever call a plumber, electrician or handyman? Those are the most common forms of outsourcing functions within our day-to-day lives. Outside of outsourcing, there are many aspects of our lives that run like a mini corporation whether you run a small business or not. We have financial management since for the most of us we have both income and expenses. We have technology infrastructure to support. Things used to be relatively simple when a TV was just a TV. Today we have multiple devices connecting to our TV alone. Most homes have more than one computer that is hooked up to a wireless network that connects to the internet. It’s always hard to keep track of all the things that are going on with friends and family given how hectic my life is. In not so many ways, these are similar challenges that corporations have with stakeholders and partners. These are just some of the more common similarities between my personal life and the corporate life.

While I write about a broad range of topics, the overarching story is about my journey to solve different challenges that I face managing the different aspects of my life. I think in a lot of ways it is similar to that of a small corporation and is unwittingly the theme of The K Unit.

Flexilis – Initial Beta Review

 

 

I received an invite to try out Flexilis late last week and I was quite curious to try it out. The premise of the product is to provide protection for your mobile device in a single application suite. It makes sense; the mobile device has become powerful and because of it's small size, I carry it every where with me. I'm more likely to carry more personal information on it then on my computer at times. In its current stage, Flexilis provides 3 services – backup, network intrusion protection and anti-virus protection. Upon installation, Flexilis recommends that you have unlimited data to fully utilize it which makes you very aware how it's best used. While I know it currently supports Windows Mobile, I believe the plan is to support Symbian 60, Android, iPhone, Java ME and Blackberry as well based on the sign-up form.

On the surface, the backup solution provided is not different then the service that Dashwire provides. It allows you to backup your application data like your contacts, sms messages, audio and video as well as your call logs. I like that I have the option to schedule the backup and choose to back it up over wi-fi instead of arbitrarily backing up the information over my data plan. Since my critical information such as my contacts is backed up to my Exchange server at home, I don't have a real need to constantly backup my information real time to Flexilis.

The network protection is a firewall that is set to protect you on both the wi-fi and 3G networks. There are limited options and the events don't provide a lot of detail. It's pretty alarming to see that I have tens of events per second. I can't help but wonder if Flexilis is blocking ports that other core apps require. That being said, everything seems to be working fine. Since I can't really control the firewall, it'd be useful for Flexilis to describe why a port is blocked and what potential threat it represents. The AntiVirus works like a regular antivirus. Can't say much about it outside of that it can be scheduled. I didn't install any virus to see if anything was picked up. Overall, the application works noiselessly in the background. I don't see any performance dips when it runs which I had expected it to. 

Where Flexilis really excels is the services it provides on the web. The dashboard provides a summary of the activity during the day. The first thing that stands out is the number of security events. It's pretty overwhelming but looking at the details it doesn't mean a whole lot.

The My Data tab provides you access to your pictures, contacts, documents, videos, sounds, sms and calls. Dashwire is much stronger here as it actually allows you to not only access the data but also interact with it. Also the SMS messages shows you the contact phone number and message but does not associate a phone number with a contact name. This makes it pretty hard to figure out who the message is from as I don't memorize the phone numbers of my friends. However, Flexilis doesn't claim to be a competitor to Dashwire – it's a backup service and it does that well. Flexilis gives you a 2GB limit which is pretty decent size for a mobile device.

Missing Device is another really innovative idea for your device – you can locate it, cause it to scream or nuke it. I tried the Locate and Scream. The Locate service put me to around 200m from my home. Given that I was in the house, I don't think the GPS would have worked and it located me using the cell towers and that was pretty accurate. The Scream function turns on a siren even if the sound on your device is turned off that will turn off only by a physical press of a button. While I don't see it being able to scare or embarass anyone, it will definitely help you locate your device. Don't know about most of you but I'm quite apt to lose my device especially with the device off. Or you have the misfortune of knowing my friends who have hidden my phone in the ceiling of the office just for kicks. One thing about the Scream is that in both tests, it crashed my phone.

When I was playing with Flexilis on my device, I was quite disappointed that I couldn't restore data from the device. I couldn't help but wonder if Flexilis intended to implement this feature later on. I was pleasantly surprised when I found the restore functionality on the web. This makes this a killer product. A few other features that I would love to see implemented here is the ability to restore from the device. Here's why – when I'm on the road, I may not always have access to a desktop browser but I will always have access to my phone. Being able to restore data on my phone makes it much more useful. Another important part of restoration for me is the ability to restore the registry and perhaps the Windows directory. The reason is that I typically install most of my critical software on my SD card and being able to restore the registry as well as the appropriate dlls means I have my device ready to go even when I'm not buy a computer. Perhaps a premium feature.

Overall, I'm really impressed with Flexilis. The features implemented are either useful now or potentially useful. I'm looking forward to see if there are any intentions to perhaps implement more features. I plan to use the nuke and restore features later on next week when I reflash the ROM again.

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