Archive for December 7th, 2006

Eugenia, the sexist

Last night I was accused of sexism for one of my articles. Originally, the author of the comment thought that I was a “he”, but even after I told him that I am a “she”, he continued to advocate that I am a sexist. The sentence in my article that led to his comment was this: “I am a power user and so this phone would never satisfy me. But probably it would the average housewife who wants to show off to her also desperate housewife girlfriend.”

Obviously, I tried to make the article a bit funny at that point, and the guy just doesn’t seem to have any sense of humor. But here’s the thing: I truly believe that this phone that I reviewed in the article, the LG Chocolate, can only attract people who are in need of flashy stuff, to give some color to their boring lives. Like desperate housewives and the like, indeed. How is that sexism, when it’s also so true? Patronizing a bit, yes. But not sexism (how could I be discriminating against my own sex?). I know of no person in the Bay Area or power user friend of mine who would actually buy this phone for what it really is. It’s a mediocre phone hardware-wise, it has a terribly old and buggy software stack in it, and as long as you are not some sort of an idiot or bored to death, you would never, ever, buy it. In fact, I would advocate you buy my long-standing enemy, the Motorola RAZR, instead of the LG Chocolate.

And please don’t confuse the CDMA version of the LG Chocolate with the GSM version that I reviewed. They are not the same phone at all, except the external shell.

Making DRM less painful

I was reading about the Sony PSP which can now emulate PS1 games. Apparently, after you buy and download a PS1 game from their store via your… PS3, you are then allowed to copy it 5 times from your PS3 to your PSP. I think that something like this can work for movies and music too.

You see, my biggest gripe with DVD and DRM’ed movies (except region-locking) is that you are not allowed to transfer them from device to device. I believe that most people would be happy if there was a single DRM format (as I have many times advocated) and that it allows each movie to be copied unlimited times to 3 devices only. For example, a BluRay/HD-DVD/DVD disk can be played on its expected hardware player connected to a TV, once on a laptop or PC and once on a mobile device (PMP or phone). Then, the user can also buy additional “copies”, if for example he/she requires an additional copy for his/her child’s PMP, for a small amount of money.

I believe that such a thing would work well, because it doesn’t legally limit users from ripping their disks and what not. But on the other hand, it requires to “lock” a physical disk or ripped data to specific devices, it requires an internet connection to allow a disk to lock/unlock and register its existence with a main server at MPAA’s site, and you will have to kiss your privacy bye-bye as RIAA/MPAA will know exactly what kind of devices you have at home (not that this is such a big secret, but hey).

Then again, this is how DivX and their Certification Program works for 3 years now. It hasn’t created major problems, so I don’t think that consumers will get too unhappy about this if MPAA starts such a program. But the fact that currently they ask you money for the same movie each time you need it in a different format, is preposterous.

Nokia E90 info leaked out spilled the beans (update: Nokia has taken that link down) about an upcoming Nokia Communicator phone, the E90. Now that platforms S80 and S90 are dead within Nokia, they are using S60 all the way — even in their Communicator line. Basically, the handset has an external QVGA screen and an internal wide-screen of the amazing 800×352 resolution (although I would have preferred the 848×480 HDTV 480p resolution for HD video viewing reasons). It has a QWERTY keyboard internally, 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, mini-usb, megapixel camera & VGA video-call camera and a microSD slot (miniSD would have been preferred, as this device is not exactly “small” anyway).

If this device is quad-band, has a 2.5mm headphone jack, EDR Bluetooth with A2DP/AVRCP support and VoIP with STUN in it, it’s a star!

Windows Mobile in the next few years

Ballmer said recently that in the smart phone market, they will be essentially only Nokia and Microsoft to fight. Of course, there are people who love their Treos, their Blackberries and Linux semi-smartphones, but you know, Ballmer is right. Nokia is currently the No1, but Windows Mobile devices are catching up — fast.

The funny thing is that all mobile-oriented Linux providers agree that by 2010 Microsoft will be the No1 provider of smartphones. Instead of giving Nokia the second place though, they are eulogizing that Linux will be the No2 with about 27% of market share.

Personally, I don’t find this to be accurate. Currently Linux has an extremely small percentage in the smart phone market (which itself is smaller than 5-6% of the overall cellular market) and it will take a miracle to get Linux to 27% in 3 years time. Then, there is the problem of forking. There are currently 5 different Linux implementations for phones, all completely and utterly incompatible with each other. Windows Mobile for Smartphones and PocketPC are binary compatible these days (depends how you compile your app), while Nokia promised that they won’t break binary compatibility again in their S60 platform.

Personally, I think that Ballmer is right. Microsoft will only compete against Nokia, and that’s mostly in Europe. If they manage to win over Nokia, the years between 2010-2020 will all be about Windows Mobile — with maybe over 50% of market share. It will be the same kind of era as 1995-2005 was for the PC desktop. Full of Microsoft that is. I don’t think that Nokia stands a chance against Microsoft in the long run, mostly because Nokia are hardware people.

Linux would lose the battle and will drive Microsoft to yet another monopoly if they don’t create one, single, fully-compatible platform that it’s used by ALL Linux-oriented providers. Their current “my implementation is better” mentality will be their death bed.

For the record, here’s what counts as “smart phone platforms” (with ability to develop native apps) so far:
* Symbian S60
* Symbian S80 (dead)
* Symbian S90 (dead but still sells)
* Symbian UIQ (µe t? ??a p?d??? st? ????)
* Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition (no touchscreen)
* Windows Mobile PocketPC Phone Edition (with touchscreen)
* Blackberry RIM-OS
* PalmOS
* Danger’s HipTop/Sidekick (often forgotten by journalists that it can run native third party apps too)
* Linux flavors (at least 5 different flavors have been released so far, all incompatible between them, and except Trolltech none offers a public SDK, that’s why I call them semi-smartphones): Motorola’s EZX platforms with touchscreen and without, Mizi Research for Samsung, DoCoMo’s NEC/Panasonic/Applix phones and Trolltech’s Qtopia.
* Apple’s iPhone (rumors say that the first models won’t be able to run native apps and therefore won’t be a smartphone, but models currently under development will)

Mark Shuttleworth on Gadgets

Ubuntu’s front man, Mark Shuttleworth, wrote an interesting blog piece on gadgets and Linux. He stresses out that Linux should be used more on gadgets, however, I think he forgets that the PC side of any gadget is as important.

Today, one of my biggest frustrations with GNU/Linux (except that Beryl/Compiz doesn’t work on my Linux laptop with an ATi Radeon 9000 Mobility 64MB chip in it) is gadget-related support. There are several apps that supposedly do this or that for Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Palm or Windows gadgets, but none works well or is really robust or complete. If that was not enough, Gnome’s Bluetooth UIs are a hit and miss. BT doesn’t work properly on my Arch Linux system for example (can’t send a file or authenticate successfully with a new device using the latest Gnome BT apps), and all the Arch devs say is either “works for me”, or some of them don’t even bother to test.

Anyways, the point is, the desktop Linux needs some love regarding easy and painless gadget support (syncing, easy Bluetooth usage, UI wizards to make phones work as modems etc). Putting Linux itself on a gadget is only half the story in my opinion.