So here is my pick for the best mobility technologies in the show:
The Qool Labs SkyQube2 gets the top prize. It's a Skype GSM gateway and has the potential to save you lots of money. Just before you go out travelling you remove the SIM card from your mobile and insert into the SkyQube2. You then configure it to use SkypeOut to redirect any incoming calls to your mobile number to a another mobile number (hopefully a prepay SIM card in the country you are visiting) through cheap SkypeOut calls.
This will save you the roaming call costs. And you can plug the SkyQube2 into a landline and have your fixed line calls redirect as well. Sweeeeet!
The next item I liked most was Agere's BluOnyx. This is a credit card-sized device that works as media storage, media distribution, media server, media manager, media everything. You can connect to the BluOnyx through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and USB.
My last meeting during the 2007 International CES with with Agere's product managers and engineers, and they put an extra effort to show a good product. I am really looking forward to have one to play with sometime in the future.
Then we have the fabric interfaces... Eleksen manufactures the fabric and the platform for these. Two examples are shown here: the messenger back compatible with Microsoft Windows Vista SideShow technology, and a UMPC bag that doubles as a keyboard:
Next in the list would be the S-Xgen, a Windows Mobile Pocket PC device with a fully foldable QWERTY keyboard. Unlike other Pocket PC the S-Xgen comes with ethernet, USB client, USB host, and dedicated media player keys.
Visiting the AMD stand also revealed some interesting cases:
And just so that we don't forget game consoles, this "Xbox 360 flower" is pretty cool too:
Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of worldwide iPod marketing, has confirmed that while the company is encouraging third parties to design peripherals for the iPhone, as is the case with the iPod, “There is no opportunity right now for third party development”. He told Macworld: “Right now the opportunities are limited to the accessory market.”
This does not mean that companies are exempt from approaching Apple with ideas for applications for the iPhone. Joswiak emphasized that Apple has already worked in partnership with both Google and Yahoo on such applications, but essentially it will always be Apple who releases the software.
Steve Jobs told MSNBC the iPhone won't have third party applications because...
“You don’t want your phone to be an open platform,” meaning that anyone can write applications for it and potentially gum up the provider's network, says Jobs. “You need it to work when you need it to work. Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.”
What about all those Symbian, Palm and Windows Mobile devices out there already? Are they actually a threat to networks?
The market will obviously dictate where this design is heading. There are no doubts the device looks good, and it joins the iPod functionality all users love, with the base feature set expected from a smartphone. So why not go ahead and make it a full fledged smart device, with the possibility of application install, and user management?
We already know that operators are keen to customise devices to suit their brands. We have seen this happening before with Windows Mobile and Symbian devices. In addition to the very cool voice mail interface provided by Apple, I'd expect a set of policy management tools, just to make enterprise and operators happy.
But if it doesn't happen, I want to see the Apple fans come out now and say the Mac OS is an open platform, when comparing with other proprietary mobile OS platforms.
Certainly the market in the U.S. and overseas are going crazy over a 2.5G (GPRS/EDGE) phone, with a non-replaceable battery, and a non-existent developer community. But only time will tell us if this will redefine mobile computing, or just add another competitor to the feature phone market.
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The following from the Wikipedia entry on OLPC:
The rugged and low-power computers will contain flash memory instead of a hard drive and will use Linux as their operating system. Mobile ad-hoc networking will be used to allow many machines Internet access from one connection.
The laptops will be sold to governments and issued to children by schools on a basis of one laptop per child. Pricing is currently expected to start at around US$135-140 and the goal is to reach the US$100 mark in 2008. One thousand working prototypes were delivered in late 2006 and full-scale production is expected to start in mid-2007.
Marvell (famous for acquiring the XScale technology from Intel in 2006) is responsible for a couple of items in the bill of materials for this laptop, including the wireless networking components.
The device is interesting, but I am not sure about the "rugged" part of its description. It did feel fast enough for browsing the Internet and loaded and rendered Geekzone without any problems. The chiclet keyboard seemed responsive, but I am not sure how comfortable fast typing would be on that.
Alas I couldn't use it for more than a couple of minutes, and even so I am told things can still change since this was an engineering sample only. Check some of the pictures:
For example I tried using the very good Hamachi virtual private network product (now a LogMeIn product) and it simply won't work on Microsoft Windows Vista 64 bit as it is.
You see, Hamachi uses the developer signing, which certifies the software is legitimate. But Microsoft Windows Vista 64 bit requires WHQL signed drivers, which are on signed after passing tests from Microsoft or affiliates. There are lots of guidelines listed here.
It is a pain for consumers who need to migrate from a 32 but environment to the 64 bit platform. People have been complaining about rogue applications and drivers, but the processes are not being followed, so users are left out in the cold. I have for example three programs I want to install that simply won't work on my current 64 bit machine and there is no (good) alternative to these tools.
You can go around this requirements if in each boot you press F8 and select the option to install and run non-signed drivers. But this is not persistent and in the next boot the user needs to press F8 again and repeat.