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Spillikins 148. Gadgets and Glamour


  1. From Bricks to Smartphones
  2. Watches as Fashion Accessories: Mechanical and Electronic, Cheap and Expensive
  3. RIM Reports on the Cost of the Playbook Failure
  4. Android and Spyware
  5. Censorship and DDOS
  6. Samsung and the Market of Netbooks

From Bricks to Smartphones

Last week my new book From Bricks to Smartphones on history and evolution of mobile phones came out and it already available in most Moscow book stores. If you are a regular reader of Mobile-Review.com then you know most of the stuff I wrote about in this book but I think you will still enjoy reading this very nice quality book. I must say, this book is a milestone for me. I have written a few books before but none of them required so much work. And I can say that this book is everything I wanted it to be an easy and fun narration about the history of mobile phones and people who were behind most influential phones. I have started working on the second volume already that will concern the history of the phone market, research, trial and error. I am proud for this book and I advertise it with pride. I am happy to sign it for you if you happen to be in Moscow. The first run is only 3000 copies and judging by the first days they will be gone very soon. Unfortunately, digital copies of the book are only available for iOS so far.

You can also get a copy from Ozon.ru at the lowest price available (although shipment will probably cost you more).

I would like to show you a few pages from the book so you can get an impression of the books design and layout:

Watches as Fashion Accessories: Mechanical and Electronic, Cheap and Expensive

You may know that we sometimes review watches and I am often asked why bother wasting time on them since Mobile-Review.com is about phones and I reply that our website is dedicated to mobile lifestyle and though mobile phones are the most important element of it the range of topics should not be limited to phones only. And I think the fact that modern watches are being turned into music players proves I am right. Some watches can even monitor your health just 15 years ago this sounded like sci-fi and today its a boring reality. Besides watches there are bracelets that can monitor the distance you walk and how many calories you consume.

You can see Jawbone Up on the picture. You can find its review here.

This device is one of the very few that really made an impression on me. It is, of course, merely a fashion accessory like silicone bracelets that have been so popular in the US this year.

They say these bracelets have magnets inside that can boost your agility and strength. Athletes are not even permitted to use them in training or compete using one of these. I dont know whether anything of this is true but I got one such bracelets just because I liked that it says Failure is not an option.

This bracelet is a statement about me, my position and preferences. It does not have to be of any practical value. Jawbone UP can tell others that you care about your health. Such accessories are meant to express your individuality. Unfortunately, Jawbone were too hasty with this new market of accessories. They should not have positioned UP as a wireless headset it is a fashion accessory and should be marketed as such.

Watches no longer serve to tell the time: cheap electronic watches are just as accurate as expensive chronograph but they all have their market niches. People wear (or dont wear) watches to express themselves watches have also become merely fashion accessories and statements about their owner. No watch on hand is also a statement about you.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there as many opinions as there are people. Some prefer expensive Swiss watches while some would much rather wear a practical digital watch. Some like heavy metal bands, others use bright silicone ones. It is very unlikely that you will ever meet someone wearing exactly the same watch as you they might be same brand but not year, color etc.

During one of my recent business trips one of my friends voiced what I think to be the basics of the watch culture: you either wear an expensive Swiss watch or something that immediately attracts attention of others. Today there are great many manufacturers that produce original looking watches but by far the most successful one is Apple. The latest generation iPod Nano can be supplemented with a band ($25-50) and be worn as a watch. You can choose any type of dial you like this is the essence of a watch as a fashion accessory. You can change dials as often as you like for particular occasion or place.

This year for the first time in my life I bought an iPod not as a music player but a watch with an mp3 player and a number of other features. I think this will still look fresh in the next year as well.

Of course, there are those who claim that gadgets cannot be fashion accessories but life proves them wrong. Very soon we will have smart clothes with display surfaces that will be able to project any text, images or patterns you want and interact with clothes of other people. Phones have long become fashionable. In some countries people always put their phones on tables in public to make a fashion statement.

But the most important conclusion I can draw from these phenomena is that the paradigm of consumer electronics is changing. In a decade there will no more arms race when it comes to gigahertz or terabytes. The very concept of a device will be the priority once again. Today consumers see newer devices as better because they are faster and cheaper. The TV arms race is nearly over as the quality of modern TV sets is getting closer to perception limits of the human eye. And that is where marketing gets really important. TVs now offer extra features like 3D or LED backlight but these are only temporarily measures and TV manufacturers will soon have to change their sales policy. I think it is more than likely that in future TV sets on their own will be free of charge and you will pay for subscriptions to channel packs, games and other services. Manufacturers will get profits not from hardware as today but from selling services. Content becomes of utmost importance. I have raised the topic of TV wars many times it is financially devastating for all manufacturers.

Besides TV there is a number of devices that will also see depreciation of hardware it is getting more important to sell experience and emotions. And the sooner manufacturers realize that the more profit they will be able to make. Apple is becoming one of such companies: this company does not pioneer new technology; they mostly use something that has been around for a while. But Apple successfully manages to create unusual recipes from very regular components. They have a different view on what can be done from old known tech. Ideas are getting a lot more important than technology nowadays.

Very soon the market will reach technological limits in several aspects such as: integrated cameras (in 5-10 years), sound quality (already done), size of devices (also done). There are very few technological aspects left for manufacturers to compete. It will be more important for a device to entertain and be fun than to be technologically advanced. And the manufacturers that fail to understand the new rules are doomed to fail in the long term perspective. The world of emotion cannot be conquered by gigahertz.

And, lastly, I want to share an idea I got from reading an Iain M. Banks book called Matter. I like this author a lot, especially his books on the Culture civilization (Matter belong to this series too). This book tells a story of different civilization at different levels of technological progress successfully communicating and cooperating with each other. We generally think of civilization that never got to be technocratic (like Amazon aborigines) as primitive but this is merely our point of view. Mankind has chosen the technocratic path but it does not mean that this is the only way. Our dependence on technology might be as detrimental as lacking it. The history of Man shows that technologically undeveloped civilizations are doomed to be wiped out (Spanish conquistadors in America). And in Hollywood movies people always fight an alien invasion off by coming up with some weapon. This logical paradigm basically tells us that whoevers got the biggest club is right. I think we might be wrong and the changing paradigm of consumer electronics might be a sign of us revising our views on the world. May be it will become a fresh start for the global culture and rid us off eternal technological arms races. Let me know what you think.

Further reading:

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RIM Reports on the Cost of the Playbook Failure

RIM continues to struggle and new competitive challenges are to arise in the near future. The market was shocked by RIM last quarter forecasts (data will be announced on December 15) and the company's shares lost 10% on NYSE. The reason for such a strong reaction is behind several pieces of news. Once again analysts made a mistake in their forecasts. RIM will be able to ship 14.4 million smartphones in the third quarter (ending on November 26), but sales figures will be down to $5.3 billion, which is slightly lower than the earlier estimate of $5.6 billion. For the first time the company itself proclaimed it would not reach its own annual profits indicators. Besides, the company reserved around $50 million to combat issues associated with the service outage earlier in the year.

The heaviest blow was the sales of Playbook. Blackberry promised that all current owners will receive 2.0 firmware as soon as it is available on the market. In the last quarter 150,000 items were sold, whereas in May and the next quarter 500,000 tablets were sold. Sales figures are sliding despite heavy discounts. Competition on the market is so heavy and Playbook is another victim of the enormous popularity of Apple iPad. The price is not that vital as consumers are looking for differences and clear advantages, which Playbook cannot offer. The price of failure is $465 million, which is a staggering amount and can be rivalled only by losses of HP when it had to sell its TouchBook for $99 per item. RIM promises to change the situation in 2012 when QNX phones hit the shelves. Let's hope it will happen, because otherwise the market will be quite flat.

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Android and Spyware

Another scandal shattered the US high-tech sector when an Android developer found spyware on its phone and the story started from then on. First Trevor Eckhart published his results here, but this information was drowned in the sea of high-tech clutter. No one would have noticed that, but for the company, which created the spyware to attack Eckhart and make him destroy the evidence. Carrier IQ could not have attracted more attention to the issue otherwise. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) not only highlighted the case, but helped Eckhart fight back against Carrier IQ. The full story is available here On November 28 Eckhart uploaded the video with full description how on an HTC phone the log file keeps info on buttons pressings, browser access and location information. By December 4 the video was viewed 1.5 million times:

The original message from the Eckhart's page mentions that the issue is typical of phones sold in the US and several carriers- Apple, HTC, Samsung, Nokia and RIM were mentioned. Then we learnt that Nokia and RIM do not use the services of Carrier IQ and their products are not affected. Several products from Apple contain spyware from Carrier IQ, but it is not active by default. You have to move to the developer's mode and the amount of gathered data is pretty limited anyway. Interestingly, you can use standard iOS tools and block sending out any data by ticking Don't send in Diagnostic&Usage Data. Other phones used in the USA do not offer many options for protection and the easiest version is to use the utility from Eckhart.

If your phone is not from the US do not bother. At the height of the scandal it was alleged that software from Carrier IQ was found in European phones of Three, Orange UK and Vodafone, but it was not confirmed later on. So far the European market seems to be safe. In the US Sprint and AT&T are under threat, because they initiated the installation of the software. Phones manufacturers did not spy over the users. We don't know who initiated this trend, but Carrier IQ is turning into a scapegoat. I think there are too many emotions in the question. Once again it was software from Carrier IQ, which was so easily detected by Eckhart. I am sure that our mobile phones have many secret apps installed, but they were not discovered yet. The only advice is not to give your phone to others and refrain from installing apps you are not sure about. If someone knows about the security hole they can easily write an app to learn a lot about you. Anyway, there are so many unknown facts, which await their revelation.

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Censorship and DDOS

I will start not from the Russian elections, but with the situation in Syria. This country is like a huge steaming kettle with numerous rival groups and continuous street protests. Starting from March the number of foreign journalists was artificially limited, but ordinary citizens record what happens in the country with the help of mobile phones and upload the videos online. This information is predominantly used by foreign TV news. The government of Syria made a silly move and banned the use of Apple iPhone. Probably officials associate this handset with an opportunity to make recordings and upload videos on YouTube. This measure cannot be effective, because any modern phone has similar capabilities.

The same happened in Russia when on December 4 several news websites were unavailable due to a classic DDOS attack. The counter measures are available and certain websites (e.g. LiveJournal) have to retaliate almost on a weekly basis. Attacking websites is clearly a case of censorship, but we should not think that all such attacks are inspired by governmental officials. The cost of DDOS attack is pretty low now ($200 per day for one website) and can be easily masterminded by individuals. It is more expensive to defend your website though. Websites affected this week were not prepared technically and did not have appropriate policies in place. The only beneficiary here is opposition leaders, because incumbent politicians may only suffer afterwards. People who ordered the attack knew pretty well that the majority of clients paying for DDOS attacks are never found. I hope that these events will change our attitude to online censorship and vandalism as the appropriate legislation must be modernized. I hope the government will find those who initiated the attacks. Unfortunately, from the technical point of view it will be extremely difficult to achieve.

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Samsung and the Market of Netbooks

I had a feeling that the world gone crazy when Samsung announced they may stop selling 10.1" netbooks starting from the second quarter of 2012. The company is planning to replace them with 11.6"and 12" models and believes that tablets will eat into the netbook market share considerably. It is logical, but who said that Samsung is leaving the market.

Additional reading:

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

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Related links

Spillikins 145. Apple iPhone 4s: Short Supply or Lack of Demand?

Spillikins 146. No Time for Flagships: Devaluation of the Term

Spillikins 147. Chinese Phones Semi-prepared Meals

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 12 December 2011

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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