SXSW 2009 will be known as the "SMS & location explosion SXSW"

This week tons of people were asking me “what’s the ‘Twitter’ of this year’s SXSW conference. See, two years ago at SXSW Twitter exploded onto the scene.

Looking back at this year’s conference (pretty tough cause I partied a little too hard with my new friends at Rackspace) it’s clear that this year is going to be remembered for when location exploded onto the scene.

First, everyone’s iPhones didn’t work very well for the first two days of the conference. Turned out that AT&T’s network was overloaded. I met the guy who fixed much of that problem on Sunday (they doubled the network capacity and turned on some new wireless bandwidth). That reminded me of the “Twitter SXSW” when Twitter itself was slow and went down a few times during the show.

But, that’s not the reason why this will be remembered as the “SMS & location explosion SXSW.”

First, it’ll be all the talk about a new app that got its first hype here at SXSW: Foursquare. Techcrunch wrote that up today. What is it? It’s a social app that you report via SMS where you are and it uses that info to build a little game with your friends. Lots of people were talking about it.

When I visited Governor Rick Perry along with a couple of other bloggers Chris Brogan was watching me use Ourdoings to email photos in from my iPhone, which posts them to my friendfeed stream along with a map of where that photo was shot, and he said “why aren’t you using Pixelpipe?” That’s an iPhone app that lets you upload groups of photos when you find available bandwidth. He said it was very valuable to him at SXSW when the iPhone often had very little or no available bandwidth (inside the capital building while we were visiting the governor we had the same problem).

Another app that got some attention at SXSW was CONTXTS, which are mobile SMS business cards. Daniel Graf showed me this. He asked for my phone number, SMS’d that to a number that CONTXTS uses and instantly a note came to my phone with his contact info. Very cool and useful for networking at conferences.

Here, you can try it with my phone. It asked me to “TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO TXT SCOBLEIZER TO 50500.” Now you’ll see how it works and you’ll get my contact information sent back to you.

So, how about you? Did you see any cool location-based services used at SXSW for the first time? There were a ton, like Google Latitude, or Radar, from Tiny Pictures.

Why don’t we list the coolest ones here, or on my friendfeed link, which I’ll post shortly?

Smartphone competition: It's too late for Nokia and Microsoft, but not too late for Palm in USA

Everyone is still talking cell phones. Just visit TechMeme today and you’ll see lots of news from HTC, I’ve already seen some claims that it has a “Palm killer.” Hint: it’s not about the device, it’s about the software you put onto it. Haven’t we learned that yet? Remember when I told you two years ago that the iPhone is a better device than what Nokia had? Remember how many people argued with me? They were wrong. Just like they are wrong to say that Palm doesn’t have a shot here. Heck, when I saw Walt Mossberg last week, the Wall Street Journal’s top tech writer, he said Palm has a shot.

But, sorry, Nokia, Palm caught the last train out of town. They made it to the station 30 seconds before the doors closed.

You didn’t make it and there are no more trains for the USA market.

Why do I say that?

Because in the USA there are only these major carriers:

AT&T.
Verizon.
Sprint.
T-Mobile.

AT&T? Gone. Apple has them sewn up. Verizon? RIM has them sewn up. I met with RIM’s director of marketing at CES and he was smiling. That should give you a hint. Sprint? Palm has them in the Palm of their hands now. T-Mobile? Google’s Android is their key smart phone.

So, what does this mean? All the US carriers now have their SmartPhone choices. All the trains have left the station.

Who is out in this game? Microsoft and Nokia.

So, what do Microsoft and Nokia have to do to get back in the game?

Do something so unbelieveable that it causes everyone in the world to want one.

Hint: I have friends who’ve seen the new Microsoft OS. I’ve seen the new Nokia OS, just a month ago. They don’t have it. The game is afoot and Nokia and Microsoft are left at the station.

Am I wrong? Argue with me.

Please note that I’m only talking about the US market. Nokia and Microsoft will do just fine in other markets because their offerings are better for those markets (lower cost, or have stylus’s which are demanded in China, for instance, or have all-you-can-eat music subscription services which are demanded by Europeans). But in USA? Sorry Nokia and Microsoft, it’s going to be a tough year.

Oh, and Laptop Magazine has some good videos of the Palm Pre in action. I can’t wait to get one of these devices and compare it to my Nokias and my iPhone.

Palm did what Nokia, RIM, and Microsoft couldn't: build a better experience than Apple

When I sat down at the beginning of the Palm Pre announcement press conference I was expecting to watch the death of a company. Palm? Give me a break. It would NEVER do anything interesting and Nokia, Microsoft, RIM, and expecially Apple were about to kick it into the deathbin of history.

I was wrong. WAY WAY WAY wrong.

Palm just did what Nokia and Microsoft and RIM couldn’t do: deliver a better experience than Steve Jobs did.

“Give me a break Scoble, you are drinking the shiny new object Koolaid,” I can hear you saying.

This is why I didn’t post a blog about it all day, even though everyone else did. I wanted to let the Koolaid wear off. I went back to the Palm booth again tonight just to make sure what I saw this morning was real.

I learned even more stuff that just blew me away.

From Palm? Give me a break!

Nokia’s devices that I saw last month just suddenly seem so lame.

Why? Well, when you look at the Nokia N97, which will be out at about the same time as the Palm Pre, you see that they also have a nice UI, but it falls apart when you click down into apps and try to do things. Palm doesn’t fall apart. Click down and you keep getting shocked.

Palm’s bet on social networking integration is a game changer. Click into a contact and you see people’s Facebook info and other info from their social networks. That is huge and not many people will get it.

Palm’s web browser is easier to get around than the iPhone’s is. Dave Winer will like some of the touches that were integrated here.

Are you surfing the web and alert comes up? Your web page doesn’t disappear. Really nice touch.

Are you a developer? Everything is based on standard webstuff. Javascript. Et al.

Cut, copy, and paste. Anymore to say?

How Apple centric is the new Palm team? Well, Chris McKillop is director of Software at Palm. He worked on the iPhone team (showed me pictures of me and my son buying iPhones at the Palo Alto store). One of the PR people at Palm did PR at Apple. Jonathan Rubinstein, who runs the Palm Pre team and led off the announcement, was a key person in development of the iPod and lots of people followed him from Apple to Palm, I heard from several people today.

Here’s some videos.

Peter Skillman, director of new product experience at Palm, shows the out of box experience and how the device’s size compares to the iPhone.
A piece of the announcement event today where they showed off some of Palm Pre’s web features.
Here’s another video of Peter showing off what he thinks the coolest things about the Pre are.

Anyway, the bottom line is Palm has a real winner here. It shows that you can never count a company out. Even one that looks like it’s already out of the game.

Nokia N97: the ultimate Facebook device

Nokia N97 sitting next to iPhone

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UPDATE: here’s a short video of the N97 in action last night at dinner.

I have a second video that shows the photo viewing, which looks a lot like how the iPhone does it.

Nokia just announced the N97. I got a chance to play with it last night and realized they have built the ultimate Facebook device. Now, I’m sure, lots of you will wonder how it compares to the iPhone. Well, for a Facebook user it isn’t even close: the new Nokia device wins hands down. Why? Let’s compare:

1. It does 16:9 video. The iPhone doesn’t even do video. So, how can you go to a Daft Punk concert and record it to taunt your friends?
2. It has a 5 megapixel camera. The iPhone only has 2, and the quality isn’t even close. The camera also has a dual LED flash, so you can take pictures in the dark where the iPhone can’t.
3. I can type three Facebook status messages on the N97’s nice QWERTY keybord in the time that I can type two on the iPhone.
4. It does copy and paste, so you can copy URLs to send to your friends. The iPhone can’t do that.
5. It has replaceable batteries so you can charge up three batteries and Facebook for days, while the iPhone needs to be hooked back up to the wall for recharging after a few hours.
6. The GPS device does turn-by-turn and has a built in compass, so you’ll get to your parties faster than with the iPhone, which doesn’t have a compass and doesn’t do turn-by-turn.

OK, so how else does it compare to the iPhone? It has a touch screen, with a cool customizeable home screen. You can add a Facebook component and can drag and drop different components with your finger. You can also use gestures so you can “flick” through your photos. That part is very similar to the iPhone, so you can see that Steve Jobs had a big influence on the user experience.

The device itself has only one button and you can see Jonathan Ives’ challenge taken up all over the device. Close your eyes and touch the device and you don’t feel buttons or other things protuding. Smooth.

Photos and videos will come soon. The wifi isn’t good here.

Other details?

Price? $550 before subsidy, so price should be about $350 in stores.

Availabilty? Second quarter of 2009.

UPDATE: I’ve uploaded some photos to my Flickr stream. I’ll upload videos shortly.


TechMeme has links to more info
.

Nokia's touchiest week

We’ve arrived in Barcelona, Spain for Nokia World, a week where Nokia talks to its top customers.

When we got here a Nokia executive met me and bragged that the Internet has no clue what they will announce this week. I asked “what about the touch screen cell phone that I’ve seen rumors about?” He said that no one had gotten it right yet. The announcements are on Wednesday morning (it’s early Monday morning as I post this) so we’ll have to wait to see what they announce. He told me this is one of the only times he can remember when a big announcement has not leaked. He said that even internally only a handful of people have seen the new device they’ll be announcing on Wednesday. Does that tactic sound familiar? It should, and is only one of the reasons why this is Nokia’s touchiest week.

This is the week when Nokia either keeps its seat at the cell-phone-thought-leadership table or it will give up its spot to Apple and RIM alone.

Here’s some datapoints.

1. At the recent Salesforce.com conference CEO Marc Benioff asked the audience what cell phone they used. 35% answered iPhones. That’s incredible. Apple has gotten HUGE market share among enterprise users, despite having a huge wall setup against them.
2. RIM was used by almost everyone else at Salesforce. Nokia? Hah.
3. When I traveled to China the thought leaders there bragged about their iPhones. Same in Tel Aviv, Israel. These are places that are HUGE Nokia strongholds and that have almost no Apple stores.
4. Apple is just about to pass 10,000 apps for the iPhone, says Webware. Developers are picking iPhone big time. Why is that? Because Apple has thought leadership that Nokia has squandered.

Translation: this is the week that Nokia either shines or moves to the B list of the cell phone market. Yeah, you won’t know how this week turned out for a year or two, but there is no bigger week for Nokia.

Now, can you count Nokia out yet? No way. It has the biggest slice of the cell phone marketshare pie. Its devices are much better engineered than Apple’s are (GPS on Nokia is better, so are the antennas, the cameras, and bluetooth radios that Nokia uses). But engineering does NOT equal a great experience. Yeah, my Nokia does not drop phone calls in places in Silicon Valley that my iPhone does, but generally I reach for the iPhone when I want to make a call or surf the web. Why?

Nokia is behind in experience. The executives here from Nokia that I’ve talked to know that. They know this is Nokia’s touchiest week and one where they either deliver a much better device or they are going to face a very tough 2009 globally.

Oh, and how do you figure out what kinds of new features are coming soon? You visit the suppliers of Nokia like I did last week. I went to Broadcom where I met with (and videoed) the team that does the GPS chip inside your cell phones.

What did they tell me? Well, first, look at how much smaller that Broadcom chip is compared to the prototype that team built back in 2000. Can they make it even smaller? The team says “yes.” How? They are now combining chips. In your cell phone today is three chips. One for GPS. One for Wifi. One for Bluetooth.

Broadcom now makes one chip with all three features. That means longer battery life, lower cost, smaller form factor so you can have sexier phones that are thinner and smaller. By the way, the videos I shot with Broadcom explain how GPS works and how they are making it better so it works even inside buildings. Think that one small group of people can’t change the world? These engineers did. They are now working on new chips that also include MEMS (micromachines on silicon) that will include things like accelerometers (like the iPhone has). As I was leaving, the Broadcom PR people said they were “just about” to announce new chips. Is Broadcom waiting for Nokia to announce its new device? I hope so.

So, what do you think Nokia is going to release on Wednesday? Will it take “touch” and “experience” leadership back from Research in Motion and Apple?

More from Nokia World all week.

UPDATE: more discussion of this over on FriendFeed.

Qik supports Blackberry for live video

Funny, I couldn’t Qik this video. Why? It was embargoed until tonight. So, I used a Flip camera instead of my Nokia phone.

But Qik is moving fast to support the most handsets out there.

For the people who don’t know what Qik does it lets you broadcast live video from your cell phone.

Anyway, a whole team of Russians made this because it’s hard to get video access on a Blackberry. In the video you meet the team behind Qik.

Want to read up on the moves instead of watch a video? Here are some others who’ve written about this news:

TechCrunch.
VentureBeat.
NewTeeVee.
ArsTechnica.
ReadWriteWeb.
WebWare.

And, of course, you can talk more about Qik on FriendFeed.

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My first Qik from my iPhone

Yesterday I visited Qik.com’s headquarters and they loaded a very early version of their iPhone streaming video app onto my iPhone. Here’s the first video I did with it.

Note that this is NOT a jailbroken iPhone, but they needed to do some magic to build me an app that’ll only run on my iPhone. I don’t know when it’ll be submitted to Apple as an official application. But for now I’m having fun trying it out.