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? 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.

Steve Jobs sleeps like baby after Nokia World

So, my wrap up after Nokia World here in Barcelona, Spain?

Steve Jobs doesn’t have anything to worry about.

Apple still has the best mobile OS out there with the best developer support.

Nokia customers should, however, thank Steve Jobs because their OS is seeing pretty dramatic improvements thanks to the pressure from Apple and Google’s Android OS.

It’s interesting. Yesterday I went to the Barcelona Zoo. Lots of fun, but I was keeping track of what the kids were using. I did not see a single iPhone. Nokia owns the Spanish marketplace. Nokia’s challenge was to get close enough to the iPhone to keep from losing those kids. I think they’ve done it and not because of the N97, either. Their cheaper 5800 phone has a far better music service for kids than the iPhone has. Why? It includes a subscription. You pay flat rate price and your kids get all the music they want.

But, why is Steve Jobs sleeping like a baby? Because Nokia’s N97, which does push the market ahead on several fronts, is six months away and Nokia still hasn’t shown off a good set of developer features.

It’s so strange for me to say that Apple is way ahead in developer support. That will really be the mobile story of 2009 going into 2010. The device with the coolest apps will win. So far that looks like iPhone, big time. If Nokia changes that in any way, it will be the story of 2009.

Anyway, Nokia did show off some really great stuff. Here’s a few videos of my favorites:

1. Messaging. Joins email and chat and Lotus support. The chat supports XMPP so FriendFeed’s new live feed can be shoved in here. That’s cool. Here’s a demo during yesterday’s keynote of Messaging.
2. Maps. Nokia’s maps are ahead of Google’s in some ways. See a demo of why.
3. R&D, Point and Find. We all know that eventually you’ll be able to point your camera at things on the street and get data back. Here’s Nokia’s answer to how you’ll do that, named Point and Find. Still very early, but inspiring demo.

Bonus video from Nokia World? I filmed the designer, Eguchi Shunjiro, of the N97 during a press conference. He told us all about how they designed the N97 and the thought that went into various details like the hinge.

Anyway, all said and done I want one of those Nokia N97’s just for the 16:9 video capabilities, especially now that YouTube has turned on 16:9 widescreen videos, this is going to be a killer device for recording my life.

Even if that doesn’t keep Steve Jobs awake at night it’s damn cool.

Next up, London for family time and meeting some cool entrepreneurs.

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 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.

TurnHere for interesting recession-resistant video business

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Well, I can see that on my last post I went too far in pushing a point that corporate bloggers don’t live under the same rules that unemployed bloggers do. In any case, this next video demonstrates why I’m not going to go to the PDC even better than worrying about my feelings.

Today I visited Some facts. Profitable. 60 core employees. 7,000 paid contractors. Hundreds of new videos per day.

But in talking with them I realized they are a recession-resistant business and thought what I learned from them is important to highlight. Why are they recession-resistant?

1. High value for low price. Their customers are small businesses who don’t know how to use Apple’s FinalCut Pro or how to tell a story with video. It’s not easy, as I joke around about in the video “I don’t have talent.” They charge less than a grand to do the videos, a videographer shows up, spends an hour or two interviewing and shooting, then goes home and edits together a pretty nice video. I sat in their meeting today where they showed off a couple and they were nice quality, the kinds of things that a small business would find invaluable for their website, etc.
2. Distribution. They are on, Citysearch, and other places. I can’t get my videos onto the, so they have defendable and high volume distribution that small businesses are willing to pay for.
3. Few salespeople but lots of revenues. They outsourced their sales team to Yellowpages and Citysearch and their other business partners. Those business partners bring them tons of revenues and distribution. That’s a neat business that I admire.
4. Low-cost production. They have hand trained 7,000 videographers around the world who make the videos. That might seem expensive, but not really. There are a lot of people who have decent video equipment out there (decent being a $500 camera, a $200 tripod, and a $300 microphone, along with a fairly beefy Mac and Final Cut Pro) who often have day jobs working at TV stations and making movies. They get hired for a few hundred bucks to make the videos.
5. Rapid iteration and quality control. The team meets every afternoon to watch a couple of videos from that day’s videos. That ensures that quality stays high (no one wants to put a crappy video in front of their teammates) and increases the ideas that come from the team.

Anyway, I asked off camera if they had seen any effect yet (I’m hearing small businesses are having a rough time right now, so wondered if they had seen any effect). They have not, the execs say, and their sales are up. Since it’s a private company I can’t verify those claims, but the product and team seem very good and it’s nice to see a business with real revenues and a real business plan (and a good reputation, I’ve been getting nice notes from people since Twittering that I was visiting this afternoon).

Oh, this video is the first I did with a new Nokia N96 cell phone that Nokia sent me to try out. It’s nice, but since it doesn’t work with AT&T’s 3G yet it will be hard for me to use for my live videos, but for things like this it works very well. My wife just bought a Flip cam too, so we’ll do some comparisons.

I’m using Viddler for this video and am very impressed. Last week I put a couple of videos up on Google Video and Viddler is a lot nicer to use for uploading and the player is much nicer too. Viddler videos are also embeddable in, while Google Videos are not. I’ll compare to Kyte soon (I like Kyte because it has a neat chat room and can be used with live, including recorded stuff like this).

Thanks TurnHere for showing me an interesting new business!

I'm a phone freak

Everywhere I go I carry three phones now:

1. iPhone.
2. Nokia N95.
3. Nokia N82.

I also have a Blackjack II Windows Mobile smartphone that I occassionally carry.

I have three separate SIMs, er, three separate phone numbers (I only use one for voice calls, though, and my number is +1-425-205-1921).

So, why do I carry around so many phones?

Well, I need to do videos on Qik. I’ve done 700 already including three yesterday alone. To do those videos, though, I need 3G and video capabilities. The only one that fits that bill is the Nokia N95. So, why carry around the N82? Well, the still camera on that one is better. My photos on Flickr are probably shot with that or my Canon 5D camera.

So why the iPhone? I hate the browsers on the Nokias. The iPhone is much nicer for browsing, for looking at maps, for reading emails, and for looking at stuff like stocks and weather.

“But isn’t the N95 faster due to its 3G?”

Yes, but not enough to really matter. The reason you need 3G is for video. But I will buy the new 3G iPhone when it comes out and I’ll do a video demo so you can see the difference in browser speed. It will be noticeable.

Why not a Blackberry? Well, I had one in the late 1990s. I was so addicted that my hands started hurting. I lost it in a taxicab in New Orleans and since then my hands have never hurt, so I try to avoid phones with keyboards (which probably explains why I don’t carry around the Blackjack much).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to trying other phones out. I know Nokia has some new ones coming soon. Anything else? If I do a review, what would you like me to tell you about these three phones?