The iPhone is not an innovation per se - a lot of other smart devices already do what it does (c'mon, claiming "vibrating alerts" as innovative is stretching a bit).
But the iPhone is a completely new concept in terms of mobility. Using the Safari browser as the platform to distribute and run applications, is one of the best moves I've seen.
Whoever ever tried Pocket Internet Explorer knows that Safari can be only better. But Opera for Mobile is not a bad competitor. They just don't have the traction in the market to pull this off.
Now, selling 500,000 units of any new product on its first weekend is some serious business. But what is even more interesting is that 50% of buyers were switching from other mobile operator to AT&T, the company with the exclusive deal with Apple for the launch. And this is for a two year contract.
Both Vodafone and Telecom New Zealand should look into this as something to work on for the next six months. I am not sure if Telecom New Zealand would have a chance though, even with their plans to launch a WCDMA network here, seeing that rumours are flying that Vodafone Group PLC is working with Apple to launch the iPhone in Europe - which I believe would of course include the Vodafone New Zealand operation sometime later.
If you don't know, this lolcat thing is so big, there's even a LOLCODE programming language:
CAN HAS STDIO?
VISIBLE "HAI WORLD!"
Or this more complex loop:
CAN HAS STDIO?
I HAS A VAR
IM IN YR LOOP
IZ VAR BIGGER THAN 10? KTHXBYE
IM OUTTA YR LOOP
Or this one implementing a complex IF condition:
CAN HAS STDIO?
I HAS A VAR
IZ VAR BIGGER THAN 10?
BTW this is true
VISIBLE "BIG NUMBER!"
BTW this is false
VISIBLE "LITTLE NUMBER!"
The service is just another one in a sea of "personal homepages", such as Microsoft Windows Live, iGoogle, Netvibes and others.
They even offer a widget called "Virtual Puppy", a Flash-based animation of a dog walking around the widget and pouncing at balls and bones you throw at it...
Their press release comes with all the buzzwords for this decade, including "user generated content", "Web 2.0", "Second Life" and more:
BigPond Group Managing Director Justin Milne said: "I-Pond is BigPond's latest innovation as we spearhead the charge towards Web 2.0, the user-generated internet experience of the future."
I-Pond is the latest Web 2.0 initiative to be launched by BigPond, following launches of BigPond's islands in Second Life, interactive BigBlogs and Australia's leading online games community BigPond GameArena.
Mr Milne continued: "As internet users become increasingly sophisticated they're demanding new ways of organising and engaging with information online. Our Web 2.0 products tap into this desire for personalised internet experiences and explore the new ways of communicating that Web 2.0 enables.
"Today we're launching I-Pond, the ideal way to personalise and prioritise the huge amount of information available online."
I-Pond is a new, personalised way of organising information. It enables customers to keep an eye on the weather, have the latest headlines from their favourite news sites updating in real time via RSS feeds, see their diary and have one-click links to web videos or the latest sports results only a glance away.
The look is good, the widgets are fun. But do we need another personalised homepage service? I guess BigPond is trying to introduce the concept to people who would visit their ISP's page, but not tech savvy enough to find this kind of services on the big Internet.
I wonder if any of the New Zealand ISPs are working on this? Xtra, IHUG, Slingshot, Paradise? They all have very boring pages. Both Paradise and Slingshot have pages coming out of the 90s. Xtra diverts to its Yahoo!Xtra partnership, which seems to have been engineered and designed in 1997.
Anything else brewing here in New Zealand?
More information on this IP6 New Zealand PoP page.
I was told that for this month SixXS we will be giving new users from New Zealand bonus credits so that they can directly request a tunnel + subnet from this PoP.
Better than nothing anyway. This will be available for customer of European subsidiaries while roaming in some of the Vodafone networks around the world, including Vodafone Australia and Vodafone New Zealand.
With 'Vodafone Connect Abroad' customers will be able to use their laptops when overseas to surf the internet, check emails and access their company intranet, whether they are sitting in a hotel room, in a cafe or on the beach. The new tariff ensures the comfort of straightforward pricing combined with a familiar and reliable service. In countries where there is an HSDPA network, Vodafone Connect Abroad customers using a Vodafone Mobile Connect USB modem or a Vodafone Mobile Connect 3G broadband data card will be able to connect just as they do in their home country and benefit from download speeds of up to 3.6Mbps.
Any Vodafone customer who uses a wireless data product, uses their mobile handset as a modem or has a laptop with an embedded SIM card, can sign-up for Vodafone Connect Abroad free of charge. Customers will pay nothing until they choose to connect abroad for a 24hr session. They can access the internet, emails or business network as many times as they choose for e12 (excl. VAT) in the same 24 hr period on any Vodafone or partner network included in the offer.
The move to introduce Vodafone Connect Abroad, which was first announced in March 2007, builds on the success of the company's innovative voice roaming tariff, Vodafone Passport, which since June 2005 has brought lower, reassuring prices to over 12 million European customers' mobile phone bills when travelling
Meanwhile, we at Vodafone New Zealand still pay NZ$10 from the word GO! while roaming to other Vodafone networks. Granted 50 MB is not "unlimited", but it would be a great start of a service.
When is Vodafone New Zealand going to "unleash" Vodafone Passport services and tariffs here? Perhaps now that their billing system has been migrated (not without pain to users) we could expect to see some improvement in the offerings to Vodafone customers?
An AT&T employee who works on Operations tells us that the carrier ordered a last-minute beefing up of its EDGE throughput, latency and coverage in anticipation of the iPhone. The operation, internally referenced as "Fine Edge" will continue until June 15th, and has been going on for as many as 6 weeks.
EDGE is slow, but at least at AT&T, the implementation isn't limited by the protocol itself. Rather, the limiting factor is, according to our source, the data backend and the way the towers are configured to allocate bandwidth to data and calls. And according to an internal doc, they're dropping in more T-1s in their poorest performing towers, hoping to get that paltry 40kbps performance to a new minimum of 80kpbs. (EDGE's real world max is about 200kbps.) That's still painfully slow, but we're not ones to look a gift WWAN upgrade in the mouth.
Hmmm. Isn't this the same problem that Vodafone New Zealand is facing? Good HSDPA infrastructure (up to 7.2 Mbps in some places), but a backhaul providing poor performance overall? Or are these just the rumours I hear?
UPDATE: Verizon Wireless (which Vodafone PLC is one of the major shareholders) has upgraded 100% of its U.S. network to CDMA EV-DO Rev A - which leaves any EDGE network in the dust, by a factor of ten. Competition is good...
This setup is an example of a small NGES deployment, and of course most individual users will end up using the web-based NewsGator service, which can also be used with FeedDemon.
What I wanted to do
Last month I learned about FeedDemon 2.5 and a new feature that allows synchronising clipping folders with the NGES. Clipping folders are special folders where you can drag-and-drop RSS items to share with other users within your organisation for example.
I immediately thought this would be great for creating a linkblog here on Geekzone - but I didn't know how much work that would involve. At the end it worked, and here are some of my findings through the process.
Things I had to do to get there
First, FeedDemon 2.5 requires NGES 2.0 and up - and I was running NGES 1.4. So I had to update that, which required updating my Microsoft SQL 2000 database software to the newer Microsoft SQL 2005 version. Not impossible, and actually it took absolutely no time.
After the installation - which simply updated my current NGES database, so nothing wasn't lost, I found that the stock FeedDemon 2.5 is not actually ready for NGES, so I had to run a FeedDemon 2.5 beta software.
I initially had Beta 1 installed, and I am currently running Beta 4, which is much better and stable - including fixes for some problems I've found with FeedDemon 2.0 in my previous installation.
Some new features
NGES 2.0 introduces a lot of features and before explaining how I got to my linkblog, I will post some screenshots:
User features: mark as read, flag post, save to clippings, forward via e-mail, tag, rate
Inside your organisation you will be able to share attention data between users - and extract a lot of information about the feeds in use. The new reporting feature is great for IT admins, people managing attention data within the organisation and marketing specialists "managing" your company's presence on the Internet.
The new version allows tagging, and automatically creates tags from articles downloaded to the server. It also allows users to add tags to articles, and clip those to shared areas.
It also makes heavy use of AJAX, causing the NGES homepage to load slowly at first - I recommend you keep the page always loaded, since it refreshs automatically. I also noticed that Firefox seems to perform a little bit better than Internet Explorer 7 - albeit I had not taken any formal timings in the process. As usual, your mileage may vary in this case.
The software is not completely bug free though. I've noticed a problem found in NGES 1.0, fixed with NGES 1.4 was back with NGES 2.0: the folder counters in the mobile location are completely wrong. I've reported this to support and something is going to be done about it.
Creating my linkblog
But what I wanted was to get to the linkblog feature - so my plan was to use FeedDemon 2.5 on my desktop, as usual, to "clip" interesting articles, having this synchronised back to my NGES, and from there use the public RSS feed for the clipping folder and have it as a source for a new FeedBurner feed.
But it didn't work. I found out the RSS feed for the clipping folder is actually password protected, and this can not be changed (so I am told by the NewsGator support people). I also find out FeedBurner does not support password protected sources, so I was back to square one.
"Locations" can only be created against feeds in "My Folders", and is not relevant to feeds in "My Clippings", so had to subscribe to my own clipping feed, create a "Location" with this single feed in it, and enable "Headlines". This actually worked perfectly and did exactly what I wanted.
But since this is my test server at home, I didn't want to have an unknown amount of traffic coming down my cable modem connection. So I thought hard and found a way around it: the public NewsGator web-based service does support authentication, unlike FeedBurner. And it also supports "Headlines" in its main "Location".
I just had to subscribe to my clipping RSS feed through the free NewsGator web-based service, which worked well, and then enable "Headlines" for the default location.
Like FeedBurner would, the NewsGator web-based service acts as a proxy between my linkblog and my NGES, thus solving the possible load problem on my home server.
After all the updates, tests, support inquiries to NewsGator and FeedBurner (thank you guys!) I managed to get this working and have my linkblog up and running.
I could have migrated my feeds to Google Reader, which provides a "linkblog" feature automatically, but I simply can't think of replacing FeedDemon - this thing is fast and very convenient.
Of course you can do the same with a combination of FeedDemon and the NewsGator web-based service, if you don't run your own NGES. You don't even need FeedDemon, if you want to solely use the web-based service provided.
Now I am ready to test NewsGator Go! for Mobile on my Pocket PC...
UPDATE: Newsgator support pointed to a way of making the shared clipping RSS public, that is available without a password required. So I now have it also through FeedBurner to provide a public RSS feed, whch is now up in the linkblog.
There's also a video from Walter Mossberg's review on The Wall Street Journal ("The iPhone is Breakthrough Handheld computer").
As well as Sweden, Omnifone confirms it has now entered into partnerships with 30 mobile operators with networks in the following territories: Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK.
Omnifone is the company behind the MusicStation, a flat-fee mobile music subscription service. Users pays 2.99 euros per week to access all you can eat music from your mobile device. If you stop paying, the music is gone.
So I contacted both Vodafone New Zealand and Telecom New Zealand about this, trying to find which one is the "confimed" network Omnifone hinted in their press release.
Telecom New Zealand came back to me with "some discussions were had – nothing more serious than that", so I though it could be Vodafone New Zealand (which haven't replied yet).
After a quick Google Search I found an old forum thread here on Geekzone, where this very topic was being discussed. Also, there is the partnership between Vodacom and Omnifone already.
So, could it be that Vodafone New Zealand will add this to their Vodafone Music Store? Their current business model is simply direct sales, with a song track download for your mobile device or PC for a set price. MusicStation would be an interesting complement to this service.
UPDATE: I've received a phone call from Vodafone New Zealand... They confirm there's a global partnership with Omnifone, but there are no current plans to deploy this service in New Zealand. They can also confirm the Vodafone Music Store is doing well - just this week they entered the New Zealand charts with a single only available through the Vodafone on-line store.
Vodafone has signed a deal with Omniphone at group level, however here in New Zealand we're very happy with the progress of the Vodafone Music Store (the number one seller of music singles in New Zealand) and have no plans to change that model any time soon.
UPDATE: I also got a reply from Omnifone, who says that any service launch would be confirmed a day before its "go live" date, so they can't confirm or deny anything.