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Thursday, March 13, 2008

eComm day 2 - Android and others

Some quick notes on today's presentations at eComm in Mountain View.

Rich Miner from Google/Android presented this morning. I've refused to be drawn in by the Android hype over the recent months, and today's pitch has done nothing to convince me either. I'm not quite at the stage of saying "The Emperor has no clothes" - idealists with money are inherently unpredictable - but I'm definitely not convinced that it's going to be very important, especially outside the US.

Miner's presentation got off to a very shaky start with the tired old canard about "1 billion Internet users, 3 billion phones" and how this somehow proves that many people would be "One screen" users only using their handsets. I realise that Google's expertise about fruit & vegetables is limited, but I would have thought they'd have worked out the difference between apples and oranges by now.

There are also many open questions about Android in terms of radio support (especially 3G), SIP APIs, and just how "open" it really is. It obviously still has the "Google can do no wrong" halo among developers in Silicon Valley, but there still appears to be a US-centric view that end-users actually want to install applications on their handsets.

At least Miner had a better answer to my question "why does this matter to prepay users who don't have data plans" than Symbian has in the past. (Answer: it'll scale down to low-end featurephones & reduce bill-of-materials, plus people can sideload apps rather than download them).

Overall - I'm not writing off Android. It is Google after all. But I'm deeply skeptical that it'll become very important, very quickly. It's certainly not going to be ubiquitous.

Apart from Android:

  • Ribbit has a very clever-looking API platform for creating telephony mashups, based on a "big iron" Lucent class-5 softswitch. Discussions about blending voice+web have cropped up increasingly of late, and although this isn't my core area of coverage, it looks impressive at first sight.
  • Intel had anthropologist talking about context, GPS sensors, location-based services and related topics. Very well-observed commentary distinguishing between "machine-readable" context [GPS, motion sensors, light/dark etc] and more personal forms of context [commute vs journey, home vs house, relevance to conversation etc]. She comprehensively demolished some of the sillier location-related business models like sending coupons/ads to passers-by at a particular location.
  • Yahoo's Fire Eagle cross-platform location API and service platform sounds intelligently thought-through. It basically captures a wide variety of location inputs (GPS, cell, addresses etc) and maps them to a personalised profile for a person, enabling each "querying" application to have separate, user-defined permissions settings for what data & granularity is divulged. It also gives the users reports to work out which applications have been regularly asking for location lookups, so you can track which software has been snooping on you.
  • Embarq gave a presentation about privacy vs security, which was interesting, but not as memorable as a phrase in the upfront disclaimer "some concepts are still in the ideation phase". I'm stealing 'ideation' as it's the most obtuse jargonese I've seen in ages.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

> She comprehensively demolished some of the sillier location-related business models like sending coupons/ads to passers-by at a particular location.

Would you explain that further?