computers macintosh mobile technology wintel wired culture

The PC is dead. Why no angry nerds? :: The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It

Famously proprietary Microsoft never dared to extract a tax on every piece of software written by others for Windows—perhaps because, in the absence of consistent Internet access in the 1990s through which to manage purchases and licenses, there’d be no realistic way to make it happen.

via The PC is dead. Why no angry nerds? :: The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It.

While true that Microsoft didn’t tax Software Developers who sold product running on the Windows OS, a kind of a tax levy did exist for hardware manufacturers creating desktop pc’s with Intel chips inside. But message received I get the bigger point, cul-de-sacs don’t make good computers. They do however make good appliances. But as the author Jonathan Zittrain points out we are becoming less aware of the distinction between a computer and an applicance, and have lowered our expectation accordingly.

In fact this points to the bigger trend of not just computers becoming silos of information/entertainment consumption no, not by a long shot. This trend was preceded by the wild popularity of MySpace, followed quickly by Facebook and now Twitter. All platforms as described by their owners with some amount of API publishing and hooks allowed to let in 3rd party developers (like game maker Zynga). But so what if I can play Scrabble or Farmville with my ‘friends’ on a social networking ‘platform’? Am I still getting access to the Internet? Probably not, as you are most likely reading what ever filters into or out of the central all-encompassing data store of the Social Networking Platform.

Like the old World Maps in the days before Columbus, there be Dragons and the world ends HERE even though platform owners might say otherwise. It is an Intranet pure and simple, a gated community that forces unique identities on all participants. Worse yet it is a big brother-like panopticon where each step and every little movement monitored and tallied. You take quizzes, you like, you share, all these things are collection points, check points to get more data about you. And that is the TAX levied on anyone who voluntarily participates in a social networking platform.

So long live the Internet, even though it’s frontier, wild-catting days are nearly over. There will be books and movies like How the Cyberspace was Won, and the pioneers will all be noted and revered. We’ll remember when we could go anywhere we wanted and do lots of things we never dreamed. But those days are slipping as new laws get passed under very suspicious pretenses all in the name of Commerce. As for me I much prefer Freedom over Commerce, and you can log that in your stupid little database.

Cover of "The Future of the Internet--And...
Cover via Amazon
navigation technology wired culture

Garmin brings first Android phone to US through T-Mobile | Electronista

As a phone, Garmin’s entry occupies the lower mid-range with a three-megapixel camera, native T-Mobile 3G and Wi-Fi. Built-in storage hasn’t been mentioned but should be enough to carry offline maps in addition to the usual app and media storage.

via Garmin brings first Android phone to US through T-Mobile | Electronista.

After it’s first attempt to create a Garmin branded phone called the G60, Garmin is back once again with the A50. But this time making a much more strategic choice by adopting an open platform: Google’s Android phone OS. I wrote about Garmin’s response to the coming Smartphone onslaught to it’s dominance of the GPS navigation market. This was after I read this article in the NYTimes: Move Over GPS, Here Comes the Smartphone – (July 8, 2009). At that time Navigon which had been in the market for GPS navigation, dropped out and went to software only licensing to device manufacturers. Whispers and rumors indicated TomTom was going to license its software as well. By Fall 2009 TomTom had shipped an iPhone version of its product. It looked like a form of paradigm shift that kills an industry overnight. GPS navigation was evolving to a software only industry. Devices themselves were better handled by the likes of Samsung, Apple, etc. When the Garmin nuviphone finally reached the market, the only review I found was on Consumer Reports. And they were not overly positive in touting what the phone did differently from a a standalone navigation unit. And worse yet, they had spent two years in development of this device only to have it hit the market trumped by the TomTom iPhone App. It was a big mistake and likely to make Garmin more wary of trying another attempt at making a device.

Hope springs eternal it seems at Garmin. They have taken a different tack and are now going the open systems route (to an extent). It seems they don’t have to invent everything themselves. They can still manufacture devices and provide software, but they don’t have to also create an OS that allows things to be modularly integrated (Phone and GPS) and given that they chose Android, things can only get better.  I say this in part because over time it has become obvious to me Google is a real fan of GPS navigation and certainly of Maps.

When I bought my first GPS unit from Garmin, I discovered that you can save out routes direct from Google Maps into a format that a Garmin GPS receiver can use. I know in the past Garmin forced it’s users to first purchase a PC application that allowed you to plan and plot routes then save them back to your receiver. Later it was made less expensive and eventually it was included with the purchase of new units. I’ve seen screen shots of this software and it was clunky, black and white, and more like a cartography mapping program than a route planner. On the other hand, Google Maps was as fast and intuitive as driving your car. You click on a start point, and end point and it would draw the route right on top of the satellite photos of your route. You could zoom in and out and see, actually see points of interest on your route. It seems in one stroke Google Maps stole away route planning from Garmin.

In the intervening time Google also decided to get in the Smartphone business to compete with Apple. Many of Google’s web apps are accessed through iPhones, so why not tap into that user base who might be willing to adopt a device from the same people running the datacenter and applications hosted in them?  It might not be a huge number of users, but Google has money and time and can continuously improve anything it does until it becomes the most competitive player in a market it has chosen to compete in. Tying this all together one can see the logical progression from Google Maps to Google Smartphone. And even Google came up with some prototypes showing what this might look like:

Google Shrinks Another Market With Free Turn-By-Turn Navigation – O’Reilly Radar (December 7, 2009)

Google made a video showing how Google Maps, and Streetview could be integrated on an Android 2.0 device. And it looked good. It was everything someone could have wanted, navigation, text to speech directions, the ability to zoom in and out, go to Streetview to get an accurate photo of the street address. There were some bits of unpolished User Interface that they still needed to work on. But prototypes and demos are always rough.

The video they posted led me to believe I would stick to my Garmin device, as it still had some logical organization that it would take years for Google to finally hit upon. My verdict was to wait and see what happened next. With Garmin’s announcement today though, things are even a little more interesting than I thought they would be. I can’t wait to see the demo of the final device when it ships. I definitely want to see how they integrate the navigation interface with the Web based Google Maps. If they’re separated as different Apps, that’s okay I guess but a Mashup of Garmin navigation and Google Maps with Streetview would be a Killer App. Mix in live network connection for updates on traffic, construction, and Points of Interest and there’s no telling how high they will fly. Look at this video from :

Now all I need is a robot chauffeur to drive my car for me.

science & technology technology wired culture

Move Over GPS, Here Comes the Smartphone –

Smartphone & GPS
Maybe these devices will converge into one

I personally enjoyed very much the iPhone 3GS presentation when TomTom Inc. presented their software/hardware add-ons that will allow you to use the iPhone as fully functional Navigation System. The question is how long companies like Garmin can sit monopolizing the market and provide little more than radical incrementalism in it’s new product offerings. About a year ago there were four competitors in the personal navigation market: Garmin, TomTom and Navigon with Magellan kind of in the background. Navigon has ended it’s production of devices but will sell it’s software to anyone willing to license it. Magellan is still creeping around, but has been superceeded by Garmin long ago. So TomTom and Garmin beat each others heads in on a quarterly basis. TomTom really did innovate in the software end of things providing all kinds of aids like telling you which road lane to take on the highway, or help at difficult intersections. As they rolled these out, Garmin would just sit back and eventually respond with a similar feature. Slowly by attrition trying to bleed away the advantage of TomTom. Worse yet, Garmin entered into a project to design a brand new cell phone with all the software and gps components integrated into it. THAT folks is the Garmin strategy. They will own the production of the device and the software or nothing at all. TomTom has taken a rather different approach and is kind of taking a cue from Navigon. They took the Apple iPhone Application development environment and ported the software into it. Now the GPS chip of the iPhone can be fully accessed and used to turn the iPhone into a TomTom Go!

Oh how I wish Garmin had seen this coming. Worse yet, they will not adapt their strategy. It’s full steam ahead on the cell phone and they are sticking to it. Ericsson is helping them design it, and it won’t be out for another year. Which shows the perilous position they are in. With the blistering pace of product introductions in the Navigation market, wouldn’t Garmin have learned that a 2 year design cycle on a cell phone is going to KILL the product once it’s released? And worse yet, as the tastes change, who is going to give up their iPhone just to have the privilege of owning the Garmin branded cell phone. I swear that product is dead on arrival and Garmin needs to pay off it’s contract with Ericsson and bury all the prototypes built so far. End it, end it now.

“It’s more like a desperate move. Now that you have the iPhone and the Pre, it’s just too late,” Mr. Blin said. Smartphones equipped with GPS “are the model moving forward that is going to be successful.”

via Move Over GPS, Here Comes the Smartphone –