Eight 2007 “Non-Skype” Technology Recognitions

…or how to use up all those IP addresses available on a cable/DSL router.

While our focus has been on Skype, there are other products and services that we have had access to over the course of the year. Here are the ones that have stood out with me as providing a significantly differentiated and innovative user experience:

Eye-Fi Card – a 2GB Secure Digital (SD) Flash memory card with an embedded WiFi chip. Once set up and in a recognized WiFi zone, you simply take a photo and it goes to a designated folder on a PC on the same WiFi network as well as to one of many photo services such as Facebook Photos, Flickr or even some that print your photos. You do have to access these services to provide final "authorization" for the photos to appear on the service. With the WiFi chip located in the memory card and no "dongle", this is perhaps the most amazing technology I have encountered this year; it simply continues to "wow" those whom I have demonstrated it to or discussed it with. If WiFi can be embedded in such a small form factor, we can expect to see many more single purpose WiFi-enabled devices in 2008.

SightSpeed: While Skype has certainly taken the lead in one-to-one video conversations with its High Quality Video, SightSpeed continues to be the leader in providing PC-based multi-party video conferencing as well as video messaging services. And with their SightSpeed Business, they certainly have become part of the disruptive "no hardware" hosted services movement.

FreeTalk Wireless Stereo Headset: This one continues to perform and make my entire PC audio experience – media players, SlingPlayer, Skype calls more enyoyable.

Nokia N95 and Nokia N81 8GB: The Nokia N-Series phones are maturing into a quite acceptable line of smartphones. Improved browsing, GPS and navigation features, more reliable WiFi access point management and a more robust Symbian operating system in the N95 have all contributed over time to change my perception of these from techie toys to a relatively user friendly product. Support for SlingPlayer for Symbian and Truphone help to differentiate it from the Blackberry as well as the FM radio which I use every time I visit my fitness club as the audio for its multiple TV displays. As a consumer user test I have recently provided the N81 8GB to a non-techie acquaintance; he is finding it quite useful in his daily work visiting customers. Takes a little learning about all the features but they are working quite reliably. But it’s about the T9 keyboard — not suitable for any heavy duty e-mail. And the N95’s battery life is still an issue.

Blackberry 8820: This has become my smartphone of choice, largely due to its QWERTY keyboard, rock solid operating system, relatively long term battery life and WiFi connectivity. And, of course, it provides true push e-mail. And it’s the WiFi connectivity (even without deployment of UMA/GAN by my provider) that has changed my use of a mobile device. Gmail now monitors my standard e-mail for important "non-Blackberry authorized" messages in my regular e-mail; iSkoot and IM+ for Skype allow me to keep in touch with Skype IM chat sessions when in a WiFi zone; its built-in GPS support has bailed me out of a few driving situations … all while lowering my wireless data usage on my Rogers EDGE data plan.Add in its multi-media capabilities the 8820 certainly provides a comprehensive enough feature set for all my business activities.

With a Blackberry that has the required connectivity speeds inherent to WiFi support (along with the 8320 Curve and 8120 Pearl) rumors say that a SlingPlayer client and Truphone capability are under development. But at the moment I need both the Blackberry 8820 and Nokia N95 to have access to all the mobile applications I routinely use. I can only hope that Rogers will not only soon supply and support the Blackberry 8×20’s but also invoke its UMA/GAN features (as the T-Mobile @ Home plan has in the U.S.) to provide truly cost effective mobile voice and data access.

SlingPlayer Mobile for Symbian: One of the "micro" wonders of 2007; I continuously use this on my N95 to follow all the sports action when away from home, especially since I have a personal interest in one of the pro athletes who is having his best season in the NHL. That I can emulate a full HD format picture so crisply on the N95’s small screen continues to impress … and with no speed compromises for the fast action of hockey.

Truphone; When I was able to facilitate a 30 minute, high quality voice, no-charge call from Hanover, Germany to Brandon, Manitoba for a colleague attending ceBit 2007, I realized that Truphone had a serious service for anyone with an appropriate mobile phone (such as most Nokia N-Series smartphones). While currently free, except to mobile phones outside North America, Truphone continues to expand its service offerings and mobile device support such that I expect it to become a major player in the mobile communications uberlayer where Skype plays – using the Internet to provide low cost worldwide connectivity that bypasses the traditional carriers.

My Blackberry Google(-enabled) Phone: OK, so it’s not a mobile device but then you can’t always believe the media hype. Back in April I predicted that Google would not be offering a hardware device but rather an applications platform. As of a couple of weeks ago Google is supporting nine1 of their applications along with a Google Updater program for the Blackberry. The "Google Phone" experience is going to diffuse its way onto various mobile devices; currently its support for the Blackberry is the most comprehensive (for instance, on the N95 only Gmail and Google Maps are supported via mobile.google.com).And, with Google Maps’ support of the 8820’s GPS, I have found myself using the Search, GMail, Maps and News applications regularly.

Using up my home network IP addresses. When I set up a wireless network at my home office four years ago, I wondered why there would be so much "address space" for the internal IP addresses assigned by my Linksys cable./modem router. I only had two PC’s around at the time. Yet, today I look at the DHCP table and find I have addresses assigned to 2 SlingBoxes, two PC Free cordless Skype phones, Nokia N95, Blackberry 8820, three PC’s and an Eye-Fi card. With my family home for Christmas we added two Macs and another Dell Inspiron to the network and a friend occasionally visits with his iPod Touch. I certainly expect that 2008 will be another year of IP-based networked devices in our high tech repertoire.

New Year’s Eve Update: Both Research in Motion (Blackberry) and SlingMedia (SlingPlayer) were mentioned in this year end review of disruptive innovation.

1Top Row: Google Search, GMail, Google Maps, Google News, GTalk; 2nd Row: Picasso, Google Updater, Google (Calendar) Sync, Google Reader, Google Docs

Tags: Eye-Fi, FreeTalk Wireless Stereo Headset, Nokia N95, SlingPlayer, SlingBox, Blackberry 8820, Truphone, Google Phone, SightSpeed

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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