On the iPad and Iterative Design and Web Sites

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 at 04:21 PM with 0 comments

photo of a pad with the letter i on it, thus an iPadAs several people have asked me about my opinion about the iPad, I figured what better way to answer them than on The Hot Iron? While collecting my thoughts on it, what I am presenting goes beyond the device itself, but is related to how and why it is here.

Before I start, let me say I own an original iPod Shuffle and an iPod Nano. I don’t own a Mac or an iPhone, the former as I am content with my Windows PC and the latter is due to it being a locked device to the shaky and overpriced AT&T network. I will also say to satisfy the FCC hawks that I have no direct connection or direct financial stake in Apple. Working in tech my entire career, I also understand a little on how Steve Jobs thinks, and my opinion will come out as you read this.

On The iPad Itself

When I saw the announcement of the iPad, I admit I was not blown away by it, but I was also not repulsed by it. It seemed to me a larger version of the iPhone, allowing for full Web browsing and book reading, which is not an unfair description.

Here’s what I said to PSFK’s Purple List, which was posted on their blog the other day:

“In the short term, Apple fans and early adopters will gravitate to the iPad, though many I have talked and my own belief is that people prefer the portability of the iPhones. In the long-term the impact of the iPad will be in the advancement of other hardware manufacturers’ own foray into tablet devices.”

It’s a nice device but not for me. It will have its market but I don’t think it will take off in its current version as some may think. And this is about all I have to say about the iPad.

On Iterative Design

You’re probably wondering that is all I, Mike Maddaloni, has to say? Actually, that’s it, for I feel this first version of iPad is really about getting out there and seeing how it is received in the marketplace. I can somewhat speak from experience as the Shuffle and Nano in my home are only a few years old and far different from the current models. Apple is a product company and they need to sell units. What better way to do so than under the moniker of innovation?

What Apple has done is put out an initial, well-styled and designed product. They will next put out another initial, well-styled and designed product with iterations in its features, but not quite perfect. Where critics will pick apart each new version, it will certainly draw customers, and as a result sell more products. Granted Apple is not the only company who does this, but among all of the style and black clothing, Apple is a business. This in itself is a topic which could be debated on and on and on.

On Web Sites

Rumors are swirling as to why the iPad’s browser will not support Flash. Today, Flash is the main way people view video content on the Web. It has not always been that way, and it won’t necessarily always be that way. Talk of how the next version of the HTML Web programming language supporting video will address this issue has been one answer, but asking any programmer you will find few thinking about HTML 5.

My rumor to add to the mix is AT&T couldn’t possibly handle the network traffic of full-screen, high-definition video. As Apple continues to be tied to AT&T, this is a sacrifice anyone who owns an iAnything will have to deal with.

I don’t see this as much of an issue for those who build Web sites. In general, you should accommodate for those who don’t want to see Flash or don’t have its browser plugin. Sure, all Flash Web sites are still popular, but it’s nothing I recommend to my clients at Dunkirk Systems, LLC, and here’s a prime example of why. I doubt the iPad will push new ways to view video on the Web. Apple has its own Safari browser and QuickTime video format, and these could be a contributing factor as well.

In other words, I am not losing sleep over the launch of the iPad, nor is it making me sleep easier. I am more curious to see, as I was quoted, what the competition comes out with as a result of this high-profile device.

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Google Promotes Maps and Local Listings With Decals and QR Codes

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 05:44 PM with 1 comments

photo of Google Maps letter and decalIt’s not everyday that someone says you’re a favorite, especially when that someone is Google.

Yesterday I received a letter from Google’s Local Business Team regarding my Internet consulting firm, Dunkirk Systems, LLC. It stated my Google Local listing is a “Favorite Place of Google” and reinforced this with stats – it was viewed 346 times in the 3rd quarter of 2009. Along with this letter of praise came a window decal stating “We’re a Favorite Place on Google” which features a QR code with a link to the mobile version of my Google Local listing. If you have a QR code reader on your mobile device, click on the accompanying photo to see a larger version of it from which you can scan the QR code and navigate to the link, or view the link to my mobile listing in your Web browser.

Where I haven’t done any poking around to see who else got a similar letter, there is some value in this, and just the opposite. First off, Google Local listings work. I have been seeing the hits coming to the Dunkirk Web site from the Local listing in my Google Analytics reporting. It is also yet another way to drive traffic to you and your business. Google Local also gives the ability for people to rate a business, similar to Yelp, which also provides businesses with window stickers.

For a retail establishment, this is a great program to offer the window stickers. But for a business like mine, it isn’t something I can leverage. First off, my mailing address is different from my office location. And my office isn’t typically where I meet my clients or have walk-in traffic. But Google Local doesn’t know this, nor did they ask.

Legendary US Congressman and House Speaker Tip O’Neil is known for his quote, “all politics is local.” Can the same be said for search? Yes and no, with an emphasis on the word “and.” If you don’t have a Google Local listing for your business, set one up right away. Today, there’s many services offered by Google, at no cost, that businesses and Web sites must use. So it’s quite obvious I use them myself, and do business with Google in many ways. Whatever your opinion of them, keeping up with what is offered by the Internet giant is vital.

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Nokia E72 Unboxing Video

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Thanks to the great folks at WOMWorld/Nokia, I will be evaluating the new Nokia E72 device for the next few weeks. It arrived last week, and here is a video I made of my first impressions as I was unboxing it.

If you cannot see the video above, follow this link to watch my Nokia E72 Unboxing Video.

I will use it as my primary device, as I have switched my T-Mobile SIM from my Nokia E70 device to this. I am going to give it some time and really try it out, including installing the new Ovi Store and several apps, including Qik, ShoZu, Facebook and a Twitter client. I also plan on reading the instruction manual – seriously.

For the sake of full disclosure, and to avoid fines from the bureaucrats at the FTC, here’s the deal with me evaluating this device. I have been lent the device, and will be sending it back to WOMWorld/Nokia once completed. I am not being paid anything for evaluating this device, and I have not been asked or directed as to what to say. Also, in 2008 I was invited to participate in Nokia’s first OpenLab, and you can read more about it at psurl.com/fuftc.

Watch The Hot Iron for a full report when I am done reviewing it, or if I decide to share something in the interim, like photos or videos or who knows what! I will be sharing thoughts on it on Twitter - follow me @thehotiron.

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The Unloader Allows You To Recycle Digital Documents Online

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, November 08, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

As a way of promoting their E series of mobile devices, Nokia created a Web microsite called The Unloader, where you can upload a digital document and it is either recycled or destroyed through the site. It is a clever idea site which takes an image of the uploaded document and merges it with video and audio of “real” equipment doing the destruction.

The site has been out for a while, but I just rediscovered it this week. To play with it again, I decided to destroy the FTC guidelines for blogging! Below is the embedded video from the experience.

What else can you destroy here? Perhaps a PDF of a small paystub or a copy of your tax bill? The options are endless! And for the sake of full disclosure, I was an attendee at Nokia’s first OpenLab and the global device manufacturing leader lent me an E71 device to evaluate for a month at no cost, for which I wrote a review.

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Testing Mippin To Mobilize The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, October 26, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

Add The Hot Iron Mippin widgetMobile devices are the next frontier of the Internet. Where companies and even governments are now battling it out over the desktop, it is the device you can fit in your pocket that will be the next place they will be after. Where those reading this who live outside of the US are very in tune with this, folks here are not so much aware of this, namely as mobile devices are now crossing over from being simple phones to smartphones.

Now I will step off my soapbox and talk about practical applications, which is the path to the success of conquering the mobile frontier. When I recently happened upon Mippin, a service that will format your blog to display on a mobile device, I had to try it out. By creating a free account and entering my blog’s URL, it created an optimized version of The Hot Iron for a mobile device. You can see this for yourself by clicking the widget above or click this link. You are sent to a page to display it on your device, whether by entering a URL manually of scanning a QR code. As it is a Web page, you can display it in a standard Web browser as well.

Eventually I plan to build my own mobile-optimized version of The Hot Iron, but for now this is a good stand-in for it. I welcome your input on how this mobile format looks and works for you.

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Mike Maddaloni featured in CBS2 Chicago Story on T-Mobile Paper Bill Charges

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, September 02, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Mike Maddaloni interviewed on CBS2 ChicagoAs much as a mobile phone is a high tech device, it doesn’t necessarily mean everybody who uses one is also high tech. In most cases, that is not the case. When I heard T-Mobile, who is my mobile provider, is going to start charging for paper copies of bills to be sent, I was honestly surprised. I heard about it in a tweet from CBS2 Chicago, and responded with my stance.

Shortly after I was asked if I would like to be interviewed about the story, to which your humble and definitely not camera-shy writer quickly obliged. The accompanying photo is a screen shot from the interview today on CBS2 with reporter Vince Gerasole, and by clicking on the picture or this link to the CBS2 Web site you can watch the story.

Maybe I am hyper sensitive to such issues in my capacity as a Web architect and developer, but the ultimate goal of any use of retail technology is to help those using it. As much as online billing is alive and flourishing, not to mention my use and support of it, I also understand that we are “not there yet” as a society when it comes to being completely paperless. Some people prefer a paper bill, especially for those who are not online continuously as others are. T-Mobile is charging $1.50 for a non-detailed bill (not listing all calls) and $3.50 for a bill listing them all. I can see if they wanted to impose a charge on a detailed bill, as they tend to run long (in the news story, the bill I printed was 18 pages), but charging even for a basic bill makes no sense to me.

Rather that starting with the charge, T-Mobile should incentivize people by offering them a credit, say US$5, to go paperless. That may cover most people. For those remaining, this should have already been worked into your pricing structure to send bills in some form. Rather than sending bulky envelopes with all kinds of inserts, perhaps send the statement in a self-sealing sheet, similar to how some checks are sent? There are other options – explore them!

I must admit I am a very satisfied T-Mobile customer, and I have stated that before here on The Hot Iron. However, one issue I do have is with billing. Where I get my bill online, I never get an email or even SMS alert that my bill is available. I have to rely on my credit card statement to see a new bill has been cut. Also, the T-Mobile site offers an HTML version of the bill and not a PDF version, so someone would need the software to make PDFs in order to save it digitally. Most other vendors send email alerts and offer PDFs.

I’m interested in how this issue plays out, and if other providers capitalize on it, or if all others start charging for bills. In any case, we all need to be aware about what is showing up on our bills. For this issue, I thank CBS2 Chicago for letting me know about it.

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Selling My Palm Treo 600 Locked Device on eBay

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, August 31, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

After some decent success selling off my Palm Treo 680 unlocked device, I am now selling its predecessor, a Treo 600 up for sale on eBay, along with a slew of accessories, as you can see below.

photo of Palm Treo 600 Locked Device on eBay

Along with the device itself, which is in good order but has some wear, there are a large number of cables and chargers, plus a cradle. If you’re a Verizon Wireless customer and are looking for a device, this could be yours.

The auction closes next Sunday and the bidding begins at a penny!

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Selling My Palm Treo 680 Unlocked Device on eBay

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

All good things come to an end, and so does the use of my Palm Treo 680 unlocked device. Since making the switch to Nokia about a year ago, I have decided to put the Treo 680 up for sale on eBay, along with a slew of accessories, as you can see below.

photo of Palm Treo 680 Unlocked Device on eBay

Along with the device itself, which is in good order but has some wear, there are a large number of cables and chargers, plus a spare battery. If you’re looking for an unlocked device, this could be yours.

The auction closes next Monday and the bidding begins at a penny!

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SpinVox Is My Voicemail Hero

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 3 comments

SpinVox logoThere comes a time when you introduce something remarkable in to your business or life that you almost don’t realize it is even there. For me, that is SpinVox, a service which transcribes voicemail to text.

I started using SpinVox in January, and here it August. I was setup with an account by James Whatley, SpinVox’s Head of Digital & Social Media Strategy, whom I met at the Nokia OpenLab last year in Helsinki. The service is tied to my mobile voicemail, and as it worked so well I added it to my Vonage account, which they refer to it as Visual Voicemail. Since then it has been such a vital tool for me, I almost forgot life without it.

How It Works

SpinVox replaces your mobile carrier’s own voicemail system, in my case T-Mobile. This is achieved by forwarding all calls that do not answer to numbers tied to the SpinVox system. When someone leaves me a voicemail, I get both an email and a SMS (or text message as we call it in the US). Each has the transcribed text of the voicemail plus numbers to call to listen and reply to the message. For my Vonage line, it was simply adding the service, and the regular emails and SMSs I received now have the text of the message.

So how well does it transcribe it? Not bad! Common words come through without missing a beat. Names and not-so common words come through pretty well, and if it cannot translate it exactly, it does it phonetically and even puts a question mark next to it. For example, my last name, Maddaloni, is usually spelled out phonetically. All in all I rarely have to listen to a message to understand it, but if I want to I can. The delivery of messages is not instantaneously as compared to traditional voicemail, but it usually arrives within a few minutes.

Why It Works

You may be asking, as I did originally, so what? There are 2 benefits to SpinVox that made me a true believer. The first is the ability to read a voicemail message when you don’t have the ability to listen to it. In the middle of a meeting, calls get translated to text and you can get the gist of it without putting the device to your ear. Many times a return email or SMS to the caller will do the trick. A second and equal benefit is the ability to file and store transcriptions of voicemails. This is huge, as many times project details are communicated by voicemail, and now you have a written record that can be stored in email archives or in other digital files.

Another feature of SpinVox is Memo. This is where you can speak a message to yourself and it is delivered in an email message to you. I find myself using this when I am out for a walk and ideas come to me, and I don’t have – or want – paper and a pen.

Reading voicemail is a great convenience in today’s multitasking world, and SpinVox makes it easy. It is available through several carriers, such as Vonage, Skype and Verizon in the US and Rogers in Canada. If you are not on these carriers you can get it as an add-on through uReach. On the uReach or SpinVox sites you can try it for yourself to see how well it translates your voice, which for me at least was an experience the first time I saw it.

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Great Video Explaining Unlocked Mobile Phones

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, August 03, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 0 comments

Regular readers of The Hot Iron know I have written a post or 2 (more like several) on unlocked mobile devices, or mobile phones as some know them as. Where I have tried to explain it, the following video does a great job explaining the benefits of an unlocked device. Watch the video below or view the video directly.

This video showcases the specific US network providers as not all of them offer a SIM card. This differs greatly from pretty much the rest of the world! Devices like the iPhone and many other models stamped with a carrier’s logo are locked to those networks, and there isn’t even the option to use a SIM card. This video is from Nokia, who sells mostly unlocked devices, though recently they have offered models locked to Verizon Wireless.

Of course, unlocked devices cost more. But their value is also greater as you have a better chance of reselling it as the market for it is greater. Some device manufacturers, like Apple, only want you to use them on a specific network, as they have made business deals with the network provider for exclusivity. Where that may work for them, it doesn’t work for the masses who want a particular device. The providers like locked devices as they probably see it a big part of their competitive advantage, which is a lot harder than providing excellent customer service!

This video is a great start to educating people, but it will time. In the meantime, I shy away from the iPhone. But note to Steve Jobs – I would be willing to pay a lot more than the highest price you currently charge for the iPhone to get one unlocked!

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