Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and Search Engine Strategies in Xiamen, China


OK, it’s time to start getting excited about several events I’ll attend in 2008 – China SES in Xiamen, The Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and the Web 2.0 Conference from WebGuild in Silicon Valley. More about China later as I start to plan that trip with my two table tennis pals, one of whom was born in Beijing. Here’s a great recap of Rand Fishkin‘s experiences last year at this conference.

CES Las Vegas is the world’s most super gigantic humongous computer show. Bill Gates is the keynote this year.

There will be amazing new product launches and thousands of exhibitors hawking the latest and greatest electronic gadgetry. I expect at least a few new amazing Google phones based on Android SDK and literally thousands of neat new gadgets for hands on investigation. Hopefully Scoble and Podtech will host another Bloghaus at the Bellagio. I’d read about CES Bloghaus 2007 last year and it really sounded like the happening place to hang out during the conference as a gathering point and 24/7 watering hole for bloggers.

I’m already getting a lot of emails and some phone calls about setting up press appointments with the CES Exhibitors. For many this is the key place to build the buzz for new product launches. I’ll hope to report on the neatest things I see in travel and tourism as well as anything amazing that really stands out.

SES China 2008 in Xiamen

CES Las Vegas 2008

Universal Voice Translators are almost here


One of the neat futuristic gadgets in Star Trek was the universal translator, a device that would take in any language and output English.

Engadget reports that NEC says they are close to having one of these.

the firm has developed a system that can understand around 50,000 Japanese words and translate them to English text on the mobile’s display in just a second or two.

Now this is not quite Star Trek because you’d need to convert the text to voice, but that technology is here already.   This is close, and it’s just another in the long line of technological improvements we all call … home.

I see this as very fertile ground for the open handset alliance.  Just think how positively travel would be affected if the language barrier was stripped away!    Perhaps even less conflict as people would find it harder to keep from communicating during crises.

Seybold on wireless = early senility?


Update:  Andrew Seybold’s reply:  http://www.andrewseybold.com/blog.asp?ID=132

Tonight PBS covered the smart phone market, and asked for input from Andrew Seybold.   He should have been a great choice and clearly has an insider view, so how could he say something this transparently absurd? 

ANDREW SEYBOLD: As much as I respect Google, the wireless industry can’t be an extension of the Internet because wireless bandwidth is finite. It’s a fixed resource, and it is shared bandwidth. The more people who use it in a given area, the less data speed they have.

Andrew, with all due respect – and considerable respect is due, I think you’ve missed something profound here.    Sure, wireless capacity must increase to accommodate all the data, and it certainly will.    There are already technologies like WIMAX and EVDO that will scale up to meet demand, and it’s likely that improvements and new technologies will emerge very fast in response to this cash rich, market.   In any case, it is now *crystal clear* that all players in this space are moving to converge the phone experience with the internet experience.    It is not clear exactly how that will shake out and eventually become seamless, but you are suggesting this is not even the *direction* in which things are moving.  

ERIC SCHMIDT: I completely disagree with the characterization that somehow the wireless network is going to be any different than the wired network, because there’s enormous spectrum becoming available through licensing programs, better radio design, faster computers, and so forth.

Thank you Eric, you are absolutely right.  In fact I expect you already have several plans in place to make the higher speed and broader bands available to prospective gPhones and Google Phones and Android equipped phones.  

Google “like” Phone Pictures. Bug labs modular phone to run Android SDK


Update: The headlines are misleading.   This phone is not by Google, but will be able to run “Android”, the Googley operating sytem from the Open Handset Alliance.   This is an important development but different from a true phone from Google.     

There are reports that a Google Phone or gPhone will be out shortly.   Here are some pictures. There is not much buzz about this yet so I’m not clear about the source of these rumors, but it makes sense to me that Google will put something out much earlier than the “middle of 2008” we’ve seen in a lot of reports.

Based on the early pix I’m not sure this device is going to win any design awards – looks more like a geek design than the stylish iPhone design that has helped make Apple the clear “smartphone to beat” and brought them such success in this market.    However on balance I think that *cost* will be the key.     If the gPhone can come in under $100 and do all the neat things promised by Android and the Open Handset Alliance, I think it’ll be so broadly adopted as to be an unstoppable mobile force.  

Google Phone is coming, the gPhone is coming!


The Wall Street Journal has (ummm – just figured out?) that Google’s phone ambitions are substantial.  It’s not yet clear if they’ll become their own huge phone company, but I’m guessing they will and that they will do a good job solving some of the nagging problems that have been experienced by .. lets see now … 99.9% of all cell users?    I do not think this necessarily bodes well for Google financially though, and release of hardware and a national cellular network may be part of their “jumping the shark” moment.    Google has thrived as a company that could ramp up as profits rolled in.   Not so with mobile, where they will have to anticipate a lot of profit and incur huge capitalization costs in a “bet” that they can capture enough of this market to turn a big buck.     Clearly Google is already going to influence this market quite a bit by spearheading the open handset alliance and other open architecture initiatives, but it’s not clear their bottom line would have a huge positive impact even when you anticipate the revenue from advertising (currently small but sure to grow) and revenue from subscribers  (currently huge but capital and labor intensive).    

I’m torn between thinking Google clearly will fix many technical challenges with the hardware (I see even cheap phones as iPhone clones with great mapping and data and more), but Google has done a simpy *terrible* job of basic customer service over the years, feeling that if a problem solving thing can’t scale up then they won’t put much energy into that problem.    Typically this has related to advertiser problems with adwords and webmaster problems with websites.  Google has made some improvements as they hired legions of people to deal with customer service, but I cannot see Google handling millions of calls along the lines of “now, which button do I press to dial my sister in Toledo?”.  Google culture is not compatible and will become impatient with the slow, labor and capital intensive mobile landscape.   Maybe they’ll change it into something better.    Maybe they won’t.

In any case they’ll bring some great phone online and as I’ve noted before I’m very excited about that.

Androids bearing gifts


 The Android SDK is out.   This would be geek speak for saying “let the cell phone games begin”, and perhaps market speak for “Palm’s Dead and Symbian is probably screwed”.

The Androids haven’t just landed though, they are bearing suitcases stuffed with cash for developers who bring neat applications to market.   This is more of the normal Google cleverness at work.   Don’t just make it free,  *pay* people to make it, and make it better than anything that has come before.    Brilliant!

Unselfish of Google?  Hardly. With their lock-grip on online advertising don’t forget who will be the big winner in a world saturated with mobile users surfing around a lot more stumbling upon super relevant geo-targeted pay per click advertising.    For those of you in the back of the class, that winner would be …. Google.  

Over at Om’s blog somebody in the comments suggested that Open Handset seemed like a solution looking for a problem, which seemed very ill informed to me.     It solves two big problems – crappy phones that will soon be like iPhones, but much cheaper, and it will bring more organization and convergence to our harried digital lifestyle by blending mobile and online worlds more effectively than the current players have managed to do.

Maybe I’m missing something but I agree with those who see the Open Handset Alliance approach as a profound sea change in mobile, and something that will shake things up quickly  (though not necessarily the prize money because  $10,000,000 is a drop in the bucket of cash at stake here – over a trillion dollars in the coming decade. )

I’m *already* anxious to get rid of my nasty Palm Treo software (and maybe the whole phone) given that it won’t even synch anymore without me losing all my data.  I envision a mobile future where my phone, PC, GIS, picture, and online needs all merge *seamlessly*, are accessible from all my devices easily and without any extra steps, and where I pay *nothing* for services in exchange for viewing ads or pay something if I want to get rid of the ads.

Open Handset is going to make that happen fast, and I wish them well. 

Google to buy Sprint? Only if Sprint gets really “gets lucky”.


Rumors that Google might buy Sprint appear to be mostly just that – silly rumors to catch a headline.    Not so much that it would be a bad idea – for Sprint it would be the rescue they can only dream about as shifts in subscribers and the mobile landscape do not appear to favor Sprint right now.   As a Sprint customer with 4 phones on the plan you’d think I’d be rooting for them, but my misadventures with bad coverage here in Oregon and back east, the overhyped Treo 650, and a ringtone scam I had to *remind* them remove too often has basically soured this customer.    

If Google buys Sprint the Champagne should be popping – but probably not at Google though the economics of a deal like this are well beyond my expertise – probably anybody’s for that matter.

Google clearly wants to enter and effectively destabilize and reinvent the mobile market and they’ve already taken a major first step in the direction with the Mobile Handset Alliance.    Also true that Google can keep a secret as the recent Myspace “Open Social” partnership made very clear.    But I have a hunch they’ll do this more indirectly than managing their own mobile network.   Cleverly, Google is poising themselves to be the keeping of most mobile advertising which is where the “extra” cash is now laying on the table.    Open Handset Alliance phones will combine with mobile services and ads to bring a lot more advertising revenue into this market fairly fast, and Google is making sure a Google mobile OS, or something very compatible, is waiting there to scoop up the bucks.

Why buy the cow when you can get all that milk … for free?