Category Archives: Games

Engadget alert: Chinese tech toys

Feng Jun shows me his book scanner

Engadget alert, this post is just for Ryan Block who runs the killer gadget blog: Engadget. Sometimes I love pretending I work for Engadget and am responsible for traveling the world finding killer gadgets. Hey, a guy has to have some dreams, doesn’t he? :-)

So, I was riding the train up to one of the closing parties in Davos when Tim Weber of the BBC introduced me to Feng Jun, CEO of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Company. I recorded the whole thing on my cell phone.

He pulled out of his pocket a book for the Olympics. Ahh, here the Chinese go again being proud of their Olympics, I thought.

Awesome Chinese scanner

But then he pulled out of his other pocket a gadget that he aimed at the book and it started talking about what he aimed at. Then he aimed it at some music and it played the song and he started singing along with it.

Damn, that was cool. How did it work? An infrared film over all the logos, pictures, etc that contained microdots that told the scanner what to play. Cost? $70. I want one just to keep on my coffee table.

But that was just the start. Then he pulled out of his pocket something that looked like a thick business card. Only it had 32 GB of memory on it and the damn thing had a tiny USB connector on it. I want one of those!

Finally he pulled out a digital camera. OK, I was getting bored there. But then he pulled out the SD card and unfolded a little USB connector that was on the SD card. Damn, I want one of those too for my little Nikon pocket camera.

Anyway, I got the whole thing on video. This is definitely a company to watch. The Chinese sure are doing some interesting things.

The danger of not letting your bloggers know… (more Origamisms)

What’s the danger of not letting your internal bloggers know about your product release plans? They might not be able to help keep your announcements in proper perspective. But, that’s OK. Todd Bishop, of the Seattle PI did more work over the weekend to dig into the details behind the Origami project. He learned that there isn’t going to be a product release on March 2, but that we’ll learn more details. John Markoff of the New York Times has more details too. And Memeorandum is tracking a bunch of comments.

Kent Newsome asks “will it walk the walk?”

Whenever hype gets ahead of an announcement, the answer has to be: no.

But, then, you gotta realize that I totally agree with Joe Wilcox who says that the best companies underpromise and overdeliver. ;-)
Maybe I should have posted that no one will want an Origami and that it sucks raw potatoes.

Seriously, let’s keep our hype in check, OK? Where’s the snarks when we need them? Calling Christopher Coulter, calling Christopher Coulter!

Oh, and marketing teams, I know you don’t want to let bloggers in on the secret, but when you don’t tell us what’s up we can’t help you keep expectations under control. Now everyone expects Origami to be bigger than the Xbox. I’d much rather expectations were dialed down a bit.
To bloggers outside Microsoft: it’s not healthy when things get hyped up so much. Whenever a company does this (whether it’s the one I work for, or another company), ask some tough questions. I have a ton. What is this? Who will want it? When will it be purchasable? When will there be decent quantities on the shelf? What are its limitations? Who’ll think it sucks? Who’ll think it rocks? Are any real customers using it yet? What will the price be? What will the real price be (after you deck it out to work properly?) When will we be able to get our hands on one? Does it have a chance in the marketplace? Why? Will Patrick Scoble want one of these instead of a video iPod? Why? (And, yes, as soon as I have one in my hands I’m gonna show it to Patrick and see if we have a clue).

Anyway, it’s gonna be a fun week. And not just because of Origami stuff. See ya in New York!

The word-of-mouth killer product of CES


I asked dozens of people “what did you see at CES that you’d spend your own money on?” I also asked “what was the coolest thing you saw?”

Most people stammered on both answers, but yesterday I started hearing about the Celestron SkyScout so Buzz, Shel, and I went over to the Sands to check it out.

It wins my award for the single coolest thing I saw at the show. By far. I’m not alone, either. Shel and Buzz were both speechless when they saw it.

What is it?

Well, for that I asked the inventor, Mike Lemp about it. Here’s a picture of Mike with Shel holding a SkyScout.

Mike and his team has been working on this for five years. It is a revolutionary product. One that you’ll want the first time you play with it. I’m buying one.

So, what is it?

It’s a $400 box with a lens that you look through.

It comes out in April. Order it on Amazon. But do it soon. Amazon has sold dozens and the hype hasn’t yet started on this thing.

So, why am I spending my 400 bones on this thing?

Here’s why.

You look through this device at the night-time sky and it tells you what you’re looking at. Oh, it doesn’t need to be night, either.

Celestron is a famous maker of telescopes (I sold a truckload of their product in the Silicon Valley camera store I used to manage and they always made great products).

It has GPS, gravity, and magnetic field sensors to detect where it’s going.

But it just gets better from there. You can tell it “show me the cool stuff in the sky right now.” It’ll take you on a tour and show you how to point the device with a series of LED’s in the viewfinder.

But it gets cooler than that. It has an audio guide that tells you what you’re looking at and gives you some facts about it.

Oh, wait, there’s more! You hook it up to your computer via USB and it does even more! (Sorry, Windows only for now).

This is going to revolutionize astronomy. It is simply the coolest thing I’ve seen lately (and I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff walking around CES).

What do you think? I can’t wait to go out with Patrick on a dark night and play around.

Apple guy gives Xbox team some advice

Chuq Von Rospach, who works at Apple, gives us some advice on how not to introduce a product. Funny how soon he forgets that I couldn’t find an iPod Nano 4 GB black in time for our wedding anniversary a few months back. We finally found one about a month later, but truth is it is extremely hard to make enough gadgets to go around — especially when demand goes nuts.

I just bring this up because I’m seeing reports of iPod Nano shortages again — this despite MONTHS of sales and preparation. The Nano is very simple to make compared to an Xbox (it has far fewer suppliers to rely on, is much smaller too so can be shipped in greater volumes).

I notice a little bit of FUD, there, though, cause Apple fired IBM and went with Intel (IBM is the chip vendor for the new Xbox). Why did Steve Jobs fire IBM? Cause IBM couldn’t get Steve Jobs any new portable chips, which is why Apple hasn’t shipped a new portable computer in quite a while. Did that cost them sales? You betcha! When I met with Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, he was showing me his new Sony portable computer. Said he went with it instead of an Apple product cause it was a “ton faster” according to him. It’ll be interesting to see what Apple brings out in January at its MacWorld show. I brag about Matt cause he’s one of those guys who’s always used Macs.

Oh, and Chuq wrote about the folks who were waiting in line last night: “Sorry, but some people need to get a life.” Oh, Chuq, how about THESE PEOPLE. Do the folks who wait in line for YOUR products (er, just to be able to visit your stores, even) need to “get a life?” Got it. Hey, Apple folks, if you’re waiting in line to buy one of Apple’s new products after next month’s MacWorld, come and see what an Apple employee thinks of you!

You’re always welcome to stand in our lines, though.