Social Shopping links for 27 Dec 2010

LA Times article on” gameification,” the trend to add elements of gameplay to applications.

Carl’s Jr. has just released their own check-in program for their restaurants. Rather than partner with one of the big location-based providers, they decided to roll their own. Eschewing Gowalla, Foursquare, and Facebook Places, they opted to roll out a solution which involved installing special point-of-sales software.

The benefits? For one, they own the customer relationship (and whatever data they collect). Also, they were concerned about fraud protection and efficient administration of the program. Since they are offering free menu items and other merchandise, this makes sense, and no doubt a big part of any successful deployment of such a program is tailoring the tools so that harried fast-food employees can do what they need to do, even during lunch rush. Not like you can run off to log in to the Internet to see if someone wins fries when there’s a big line of hungry people in front of you.

The mobile app part of the program, Happy Star Rewards, is available on iPhone and Android. Too bad my local Carl’s just went belly-up, I would have owned Sherman Oaks.

Prominent in the LA Times article above, SCVNGR is also profiled at GigaOM.

Blackberry enters the Tablet race

Blackberry announced their Tablet today:

http://www.macrumors.com/2010/09/27/research-in-motions-7-inch-playbook-tablet-to-target-business-users/

Of course, it connects seamlessly to all the BlackBerry web services, has a webkit browser, multitasking, etc. Not sure what the connectivity is, rumor had it as something that tethered to a Blackberry handset rather than having its own cell radio. Definitely aimed at Enterprise market. No pricing announced yet,

More info on Engadget.com, including some pics from the RIM conference.

The demo video is fairly interesting, they appear to have cribbed a lot of UI concepts from Palm’s WebOS. All in all, it looks like a good offering; if you look at it as sort of an accessory to one’s Blackberry, it could get a lot of traction amongst Enterprise customers, even if the Blackberry app store doesn’t expand dramatically.

As a comparison, here’s the 7 inch Galaxy Tab:

This Official Samsung Galaxy Tab Video Demo Is A Nine Minute, Must-Watch Snooze Fest

They have borrowed liberally from iOS user inferface concepts, and the device does appear to be very responsive. What they don’t talk about is the price. Of course, there are a lot of questions about app availability as well, most Android Market apps will need rewriting to use the unique screen size, and it’s not clear it will have Android Market.

This video of a prototype HP Windows 7 tablet does not bode well for Microsoft at all:

Hp Slate review

Based on how sluggish the UI is, how many buttons the device requires to support Windows (a Ctrl-Alt-Del key? Really?), and the obvious lack of touch integration in the OS ( you have to press a button to make the keyboard appear for text input) this device is too little, too late.

Personally, I don’t think the 7 inch devices will prove to be a big hit. You are talking about a device that’s bigger than a phone, but smaller than a paperback book. While it can support the split-view type interfaces we’re seeing on the iPad and in Sencha, they’re still kind of small for displaying a lot of information. The larger screen of the iPad is just a lot more real estate for displaying information, and given the limitations of the touchscreen input resolution, gives you a fairly precise pointing mechanism at a low price point.

I don’t buy the rumors that Apple is going to introduce a 7 inch iPad, their decisions for the size and form factor for the first-gen device were not arbitrary. At its current size, the iPad’s screen is small enough to be a portable device (think replacement for a clipboard), but large enough to display lots of information and allow for very immersive UI interactivity.

Prcing is going to be an issue for all of these. With the current benchmark being $499 for the entry level iPad, there just isn’t a lot of room for price competition, especially since analysts believe that Apple could drop the price by $100 or more and still turn a profit. Right now, the phone-call-enabled European version of the Galaxy Tab is said to be priced at 700 or 800 Euros, or 679 British pounds. With contract, this is going to be lower, but who wants to commit to a multiyear contract for a device that is more of an accessory than a primary device like a laptop?

Hope that HP unveils their WebOS tablet soon, I assume it will hit much closer to the mark than the Slate, which appears to have been cancelled for a very good reason.

Android ‘openness’ more like ‘Open your wallet, please’

Insightful piece about Android’s “openness.” The promise of Android as an alternative to Apple’s approach is severely diluted by the same device manufacturers and carriers that were holding the smartphone market back in the first place.

It’s important to remember that Android was never conceived solely as a consumer phone OS, it’s an OS for mobile device OEMs to use in building their devices. As such, the device manufacturers have ample motivation to bolt custom user interfaces and features onto the core OS, since everyone starts with the same core Android OS. For their part, the carriers are back to their old tricks of disabling the features they’d prefer to monetize, and promoting their own app stores. Only Verizon allows Skype on Android, for example. AT&T only lets you use the Android Market for apps, no side-loading or alternate sources.

Mind you, in the days when the carriers had total control of the app market, fewer than 3 percent of phone users ever bought games, personalization content, or apps for their phones. In contrast, over 30% of iPhone users buy apps for their phones. By detaching app purchases from the phone bill and providing superior merchandising for apps, Apple was able to develop a real marketplace for mobile software. The old ‘carrier deck’ was a terrible place for discoverability, was tightly controlled by people who were very tone deaf to the brands offering apps and games, and the pricing model ensured that anyone purchasing apps would get a nasty surprise when their phone bill arrived.

App restrictions aren’t the only place where the carriers are flexing their newfound muscle in the Android world. You are also at the mercy of the carrier to see whether your Android 1.5 phone will be upgradable to 2.2; if the carrier decides they’d rather upsell you to their newer phones and a new contract (with stingier data allocations), you are out of luck.

The real revolution of the iPhone was to do an end run around the chokehold that carriers had on the functionality of a phone. It was unheard of to have a phone that was completely disconnected from the carrier deck for on-handset purchasing. Apps that used the Internet seemed expressly designed to ding you with additional data charges, and things like VOIP were strictly off limits. It was also nearly unheard-of to be able to easily update the phone firmware and receive new device functionality on an older phone. The latest crop of Android phones is selling ‘openness,’ but the real goal is to put the genie back into the bottle, and more of your money into the carriers’ pockets.

Mobile links for 15 Mar 2010

Blackberry user loyalty very much in question. Two in five Blackberry users are thinking about switching when their contracts come up, and not just to iPhone — Android is also poised to take away users. About 90 percent of Android and iPhone users say they plan to stay put.

Is anyone really surprised about this? Microsoft is going to only allow apps for Windows Phone 7 Series to be offered through their app store, and is going to have an approval process. They claim theirs won’t be as arcane as Apple’s, however. While some developers are crying foul, the success of Apple’s store has underscored the importance of having some sort of gatekeeper for apps, and making sure that apps are of sufficient quality and utility. Hopefully they will also do a better job than Android at promoting their marketplace.

Mobile links for March 11, 2010

On Android, Myspace is the number one social networking app. Seems that the facebook client on Android doesn’t measure up to the slickness of their Blackberry and iPhone versions.

Apparently 80 million Farmville users is not enough.Facebook games head Gareth Davis thinks that the ‘Mario’ of social gaming is still out there waiting to be discovered.

Uh-oh. More App Store approval drama. Really, though, there’s a lot of shovelware on the App Store, and asking developers to at least tryisn’t so heinous. Templated apps aren’t all bad, but if you are going to just hook up some RSS feeds, why not just use Dashcode to make a web app and avoid Apple’s approval process entirely?

The wi-fi only iPad may be a back door to drive sales of MiFi devices at Verizon and Sprint. So far prices aren’t so hot, compared to AT&T’s new no-contract plan; even though the wi-fi iPad is $130 cheaper, these plans more than make up the difference, and all require contracts.

You’re doing it wrong. I can see AT&T hedging their bets by offering an Android phone, but removing Google search and locking the phone down pretty much misses the point, doesn’t it? Even Verizon got this one right by letting their Android phones be.

We know Android is going to be significant, but when? Android’s growth is still building, doubling over the last quarter. Is it inevitable, or will there be a ceiling, as fragmentation and carrier interference (see above) take the luster off of the open-source OS?

Motorola Droid: is someone finally getting it right?

Verizon’s upcoming Motorola Droid phone has gotten a lot of buzz, and the usual chorus of “this is going to be an iPhone killer” has started.   The phone has a very compelling feature set, but people should keep a few things in mind:

  1. Verizon has been trying to release ‘iPhone killer’ phones since the iPhone was first announced.  They’ve released a number of LG touchscreen phones, each with a different incomprehensible interface, and tied to Verizon’s on-deck store.
  2. One of the more compelling things about the iPhone is its build quality — the touchscreen feels really responsive, and the phone feels solid in your hand.  So many of the phones that are trying to compete with it still feel plastic-y and cheap.
  3. It’s the user interface and ease of use that makes the iPhone a first-class device, and such a game-changer.   Also, as frustrating as it is, Apple’s trajectory to today’s App Store has done a lot to ensure the consistancy of that user experience.    A wide-open store of apps and the ability to customize away some very thoughtful UI decisions would have diluted the strength of the product.
  4. Every mobile device is a set of compromises. So, what’s the Droid compromising on?  That big screen suggests battery life will be the biggest compromise.

I can’t wait to actually get my hands on a Droid phone and see what Motorola has done.  They’ve made a large investment in Android, hiring dozens of programmers, so here’s hoping that their gamble is going to pay off in a flurry of good phones.