20071121

Kindle Kindle little star - take my Word

The first of its Kindle ? Over the past decade, we've seen much nicer ebook readers than Amazon's ugly $399 gizmo. The size, weight, shape, vertical scrolling, the next / previous page system, the keyboard, or E Ink are cool, but Kindle is definitely not meant for LG Shine nor iPhone lovers - even though one may find a couple of book readers* among those.

And anyway, the aim of the game is not to propose the sexiest device but to set the standards for ebooks. Beyond hardware, this is about softwares, formats, DRM... and sustainable business models.

And this is truly wireless. Not Wifi but CDMA2000-EVDO (as usual, Sprint Nextel provides the radio for a new disruptive player). But the customer won't be charged for airtime.

This is not a phone but a reader with a restricted connectivity : the main revenues are supposed to be books. A New York Times Best Seller or New Release will sell for $9.99, and overall, there are over 88,000 books available in the Kindle Store (
amazon.com/kindle). And Amazon has already been a 99¢ store for paperless short stories for over two years**.

Compulsive readers could help Jeff Bezos break even, but he still needs to make sure all buyers will actually use the device on a regular basis. Usages that bring the dough, not like reading on and on the same thing (including The New Oxford American Dictionary included in the purchase).

Well. This reader has a rather restricted connectivity (dubbed "Whispernet"), and the only way to read something that wasn't imbedded is to access or download it over the air. Amazon offers all you can read Wikipedia.org, and you can browse for hours the store - no doubt other things can be ordered this way, but no card reader for book readers, and the capacity is limited to 200 titles (500 to 800 k files). AmazonKindle kindly declines files that are neither Word documents, nor pictures (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG), nor HTML, nor TXT.

You can download such files through a personal kindle e-mail at the rate of $0.1 each. That's a start. You can subscribe to blogs and news services from $.99 / month each. That's getting juicy. And Amazon can bring partners or open the web step by step and cent by cent as they please. That's smart to start from such a low point, but I'm not sure everybody will follow all the way.

Whatever. The proof of concept would help Amazon export this service to all other devices. And turn 3G handsets and PMPs into even more multimedia players***. Come on. You don't need 3G just for a 500 to 800k file every other month.

* I mean actual books, not the Bridget Jones / Devil wears Prada / Shopaholic series.
** see "
Google Mob (pay .99 for the unshorted version)" (20050823)
*** after all, you can already use your PDA or iPod or iPhone as a sort of ebook



20071112

Android Paranoid takes a LiMo

First step towards "commercially deployed" Android handsets (H2 2008), The Android Software Development Kit (SDK) is to be revealed tomorrow by the Open Handset Alliance, a Linux based initiative involving Google and 29 more or less famous members : When you open a handset, what will you see then ?

1) 2 charismatic netcos not used to this kind of initiatives : eBay and Google.

2) 4 manufacturers : struggling Motorola*, swift HTC (used to paving the way for new OS sponsored by wealthy players), and the usual Korean duet LG* and Samsung* (putting eggs in any basket popping up anywhere - the question is which one joined first to get the other one moving). Moto, LG and Sam were members of the LiMo Foundation, but so were NEC and Panasonic, not to mention Ericsson (without the Sony part).

3) 7 operators : NTT DoCoMo*, China Mobile, T-Mobile, KDDI, Sprint Nextel, Telecom Italia and Telefonica. That's an impressive crew and customer base, but these people are not always used to working together. And a most eminent Founding Member of LiMo didn't climb on board of that one ; Vodafone clinched a different kind of deal earlier with Google (KTF and Softbank also passed that move, but DoCoMo also speaks for the former and the latter prefers a Disney mouse than a Linux pinguin these days). France Telecom snubbed both initiatives.

4) a flock of enablers : Qualcomm*, Broadcom*, intel, TI Audience, Marvell, NVIDIA, SiRF, Synaptics, PacketVideo, Esmertec, Ascender, LivingImage, NMS Communications, Nuance Communications, SkyPop, SONiVOX, Aplix Corporation*, Noser Engineering, TAT - The Astonishing Tribe AB, Wind River*.

5) a pinguin, which didn't need all this mess to exist.

6) a new "tech" label or brand : Android.

What's in a name ? An android is a robot made to resemble a human being, and should respect Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics :
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Android is not a cute name. It's rather scary than sexy. But it's real. Not just hype. Something you build to achieve tasks. Say - you want to get some burdens off the shoulders of i-mode developpers, for instance. Say - you think Orangeworld and Vodafone Live are sexy and you want to make them look corny or obsolete.

So you bring two big names from the web. But these are also enablers facing tough competitors. Will the whole ecosystem follow ?


* these members of The Open Handset Alliance (
openhandsetalliance.com) are also Foundation Members of The LiMo Foundation (see "LiMo - stretching Linux Mobile" - 20070223).



20071111

MLB's DRM fastball : too fast too furious

Allan Wood is furious. He spent about 300 bucks on Major League Baseball game downloads but cannot play anymore because the organization decided to change the rules in the middle of the game. No warning, no strike call, you're out because our new DRM system prevents you from using those old tools. Nevermind the fact that Mr Wood cannot play a game where players are compelled to use wooden bats.

But the MLB knows a PR bomb when it comes across one, so all the Woods of the hood will be allowed to download the new versions for free.

On that one, the MLB definitely pitched a tricky fast-and-curveball. Too fast too furious. And this is truly DRM 101 : make sure your first base can swallow the pill before moving to second.

What's in the pill is another story - you can boost the performances but the user eventually has to pay for it (doesn't he, Mr Bonds ?)



20071110

Payez mobile, at last

If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. It's up to you, France, France...

Europeans were getting jalous of their Asian counterparts : while NTT DoCoMo, KTF or SK Telecom could do whatever they wanted in the finance area, European operators were caught in a stalemate with powerful financial institutions.

And nowhere was the issue more sensible than in France, home to the GIE Carte Bleue, the powerful lobby that brought you Moreno's smartcard but delayed the emergence of contactless and mobile payments for more years than needed.

So make no mistake : the "Payez mobile" trial is a turning point likely to set the pace for the continent and well beyond.

It just started (1,000 testers and 200 merchants expected overall in the cities of Strasbourg and Caen) with an aggressive TTM for full launch (2008). It will make more headlines during the Cartes & IDentification 2007 exhibition between the 13rd and the 15th of November in Villepinte.

The casting couldn't be much better :
- all 3 MNOs (Orange*, SFR, Bouygues Telecom), the most bank-compatible M-VNO (NRJ Mobile, a JV involving CIC bank, which already tried the concept earlier),
- the elite of French banks (BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole including LCL, Credit Mutuel-CIC Group, Caisse d'Epargne, La Banque Postale and Societe Generale), and
- the World's dominant credit cards (Visa, Europay / Mastercard), both sponsor members of the NFC Forum

Not to mention the French Government : this trial is under the umbrella of the regional TES cluster (Secure Electronic Transactions), which will certainly help this initiative play a key role in standardization at the European level (cf SEPA - The Single Euro Payments Area project).

On the technical side, another eminent member of the NFC Forum, Gemalto-Oberthur, provided the SIM cards and software.

Because this is SIM-based NFC. At a secured crossroads where both banks and operators put a lock on their valuable consumers.

This is about micropayments and the substitution of cash and the unsuccessful Moneo smartcard by the most personal and popular device, but who cares about handset manufacturers for such a trial ? No need to put those guys in a loop banks and operators took so long to weave.

Secured crossroads, double locks and narrow loops... the tie is tightly knotted around the customer's neck, but also between partners bound to cohabit on a tiny chip. Let's do business over the counter first - over the network is another story.

Let us not forget about that other success story of mobile payment, much less violent and involving Vodafone and Safaricom in Africa : M-PESA, a smart and simple but literally peer to peer system perfectly adapted to places where no banker ever set a foot (don't expect to communicate with one in your nearest field, nor even dozens of miles away), and where the very concept of metropolitan area network doesn't make much sense.

* France Telecom intends to keep the edge in certain strategical fields : they led the first trials in Rennes back in 2005 and are just starting another one in the same city for 2 months with 35 users. Main application : public transportations (bus and subway operated by the SNCF and Keolis). Bonus : a Tag 2D application (NFC chip on SNCF posters for passengers or ad viewers to download informations).



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