Monthly Archives: October 2013

BlackBerry to Become a Platform?


With the launch (and success) of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for iOS and Android platforms, BlackBerry opens up an important piece of their mobility ecosystem to non-Blackberry platforms.  It is not the first time the Canadian firm makes its software platform available outside the devices manufactured by themselves.

BlackBerry users would remember BlackBerry Connect, which allowed non-BlackBerry devices to offer BlackBerry email service to their users.

Times have changed enormously since BlackBerry Connect was released, and the company that then was quickly gaining market share concentrating on email, is now struggling for survival. Their devices have lost the battle agains the strong contenders from Apple and the Android ecosystem, but they still play a strong role in the Corporate world.

Would the launch of a multi platform BBM, a fundamental piece of their puzzle that’s underpinned an important portion of their success in former times, be actually the first step in their new strategy?. Would we see a release of the whole BlackBerry suite of productivity tools (Email, Calendar, Browser, Messenger) for iOS and Android?.

I believe this would be a brilliant strategy to follow. Focus on what is still a strength rather than on the devices where they seem to have lost their edge. They would enter with a potentially very strong proposition a market in which probably now only Good for Enterprise is playing, with the advantage of plugging it to their large base of BlackBerry Enterprise Servers already deployed across the globe.

Given the 20 million downloads of BBM in the first week after its launch looks like there definitely is an appetite for BlackBerry as a platform.

Advertisements

Let the sunshine in


A beautiful application of technology it is to use it to bring sunlight to a place naturally deprived from it.

The Rjukan Mirror Project

The Rjukan Mirror Project – photo courtesy of The World’s Best Ever

With a peculiar orography, Rjukan small town west of Oslo, Norway is surrounded by mountains that prevent sunlight from reaching its almost 3500 inhabitants between September and March each year. A pioneering project is installing three computerized mirrors that will direct sunlight to the town’s market square.

Powered by solar and wind energy, the heliostat mirrors are controlled by a computer program following the sun movements to provide an illuminated ellipse-shaped area of 600 square metres.

A century in the making

The town was established in the beginning of the 20th century around the industrial settlements of the Norsk Hydro Company exploiting the waterfalls in the area for power generation. The importance of sunlight was identified as early as 1913, when Sam Eyde, founder of Norsk Hydro, envisioned the idea of a mirror to direct sunlight to the settlement in the valley.

A century later, the vision has become a reality thanks to the application of modern technology. A beautiful and environmentally friendly application of modern technology to deliver the sun to those deprived of it.

Corporate Crusade


First Crusade

Adhemar de Monteil carrying the Holy Lance in the First Crusade

It is becoming increasingly clear that Apple is executing a serious, calculated strategy to conquer the corporate space, traditionally dominated by Microsoft in the desktop/laptop space and BlackBerry in Mobile. It all started back in June when iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks were presented. Silently, they both introduced several features that clearly target the introduction of their devices in the corporate environment, where security policies and device manageability play a crucial role in determining which technology is used in the workplace.

In fact, the enterprise market is the only one where Macs are really increasing their footprint, reportedly at a yearly 20% uplift. Serious numbers for an industry -desktop computing- not living its best days.

Looks quite timely that OS X Mavericks includes several new features that make very good sense in a policy controlled environment, just to name a few:

Security enhancements to VPN connections used for remotely accessing resources in the corporate network, better ways of managing and controlling FileVault 2, the hard drive encryption facility in Mac OS X as well the possibility to use Apple TV for presentations onto screens and projectors.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/enterprises-will-love-mac-mavericks-2013-10#ixzz2iVxQHbff

Whilst OS X is not new in the corporate scene, iOS seemed to be lagging when compared to its desktop counterpart. This, together with BlackBerry’s lately decline, will surely boost the adoption rate of iPhone as the corporate mobility solution.

The list of features is extensive but can be summarised in the ability to embrace both personal and corporate use in a single device in a totally seamless way for the user. Details about them can be found in this article about the iOS 7 Event for Corporations that never happened.

Enterprise space

Enterprise space

And just when we thought these were strong arguments in the Corporate Crusade, the 22nd October event surprised us by giving out both the Operating System

and iWork (Apple’s equivalent to Microsoft Office) for free. How this translate to corporate purchase agreements is yet to be seen, but definitely a bold move within their calculated strategy to secure a leading position in the enterprise space.

Apple suitcase? Or maybe bike?


Apple logo

Apple – photo courtesy of confidentjohn

There is lots of speculation on why Angel Ahrendts, former Burberry CEO and the best paid Executive in the UK, would quit to join Apple as senior vice president of retail and online stores. Ahrendts diversified and transformed Burberry bringing back the prestige lost over the years while increasing revenue by 250% since she joined the British firm back in 2006.

The very reason behind this move could be a radical change in the way we understand Apple. The guys in Cupertino might be considering a deep transformation from a Technology manufacturer to a lifestyle or even a luxury goods company.

It’s no secret that other luxury brands have found good success in diversifying their portfolio of products well beyond their traditional products (Montblanc, Prada or Loewe are just a few examples). When executed with care avoiding the vulgarization of the brand, this strategy has worked well for quite a few players in the luxury industry and is a great way of leveraging the value of the Apple brand, estimated in 98 billion US dollar, about four times the first luxury brand, Louis Vuitton (LV).

Does this mean that the next big thing coming from the kitchen at Cupertino would be a hi-tech line of suitcases?. Or maybe an iOS powered bike?. How about the rumored iWatch being a luxurious line of finely crafted watches?.

Thrilling possibilities, watch this space.

The convenience marriage – The BAe 146 and London City Airport story


I have always been fascinated by the women and men with the drive and determination to row against the tide in the pursuit of a vision. With no fear to think and create different, they often find opportunities where the majority only see issues.

This is a story about a convenience marriage, a symbiosis of two elements that possibly would not have been what they are without each other. London City Airport and the BAe 146 (also known as Avro RJ), the most successful British built airliner.

The airport

London City Airport

London City Airport – photo courtesy of Mostaque Chowdhury

It is under the drive of the LDDC – London Docklands Development Corporation, the government agency that in the early 80’s took the lead  the regeneration of the London Docklands area, that the idea of a city airport was developed.

Whilst the benefits of such a location are obvious, the operational, technical, social and environmental challenges associated to an airport located in a densely populated area are of a tremendous scale. It takes strong determination and courage to overcome every single one of them and bring the airport to what it is today, with more than 3 million passengers every year and over 70,000 operations.

Surrounded by water and with a very short runway of only 1500 metres, the airport has one of the steepest glide slopes, meaning aircraft have to approach the runway at an angle more than twice the usual one. The steep approach and climb requirements, together with the limited runway length, limits the aircraft types allowed to operate out of London City, restricting it to propeller aircraft. Not to mention the severe noise restrictions.

Next 26th of October will mark the 26th anniversary of the first commercial flight out of London City Airport (LCY).

The aircraft

BAe 146 in LCY

BA Connect BAe 146 taking off from London City Airport

After almost two decades of abandoned studies since the late 50’s, the then designated HS146 study begun in 1971. With very unique characteristics for a regional, feeder airliner, the 146 featured four turbofan engines a high wing and a T-tail.

The 1973 oil crisis brought the project to a halt, and it was not until the formation of British Aerospace in 1978 that the project was revived.

Built around the idea of operating out of small, often unpaved airfields, the aircraft offered outstanding take off and landing performance, being able to operate in short runways. It’s four Lycoming engines granted the aircraft it’s two most common nicknames: Jumbolino and Whisperjet.

The silent operations proved to be, together with the shortfield performance, the two key attributes that made it the perfect -and first- jet aircraft to operate in London City Airport. After a very successful trial in July 1988, followed by a poll in which 83% of the residents approved the introduction of the BAe 146, commercial flights of the type started operating in the small airport in 1993.

Ever since that moment, the history of both airport and aircraft is written together. The airport proved to be the perfect field for the aircraft, and the introduction of the type into London City boosted the traffic, with a 96% increase in passengers in the first year of operations of the BAe 146.

Having flown in this charming, silent and comfortable aircraft many times, I am still fascinated by the radical engineering solutions taken when designing and building it, which made it the most successful British airliner ever together with the merit of making the impossible airport the success it is today.

A convenience long lasting marriage that contributed to the success of both, thanks to the creativity, courage and determination of the men and women that saw opportunities where others only saw problems.

Torpedo


Windows RT powered tablet

Windows RT powered tablet – Photo courtesy of Vernieman

Difficult times for Microsoft Surface. The tablet that is meant to bring Microsoft back in business and steal some market share from Android and iOS powered devices, could have a serious set back if the Redmond guys don’t come up with a clean solution fast.

One of the beauties of tablets is that they simplify the way we understand computing, making complex activities like an operating system upgrade seamless. Issues like this, with users reporting total data loss and devices being left unusable after attempting an upgrade to Windows RT 8.1, are a big torpedo right into the flotation line.

One can only hope for a quick solution to this problem.

More on this story:

Microsoft Pulls Windows RT 8.1 Update

A decade without you


Concorde

Concorde

Time flies even faster than the speed at which she flew the skies. Next 24th of October, it will be a decade since Concorde touched down in Heathrow with passengers for the last time, bringing the era of supersonic transport to an end.

Being an aviation enthusiast and passionate about technology and innovation, this is one sad anniversary. Concorde was a huge engineering achievement and possibly one of the biggest leaps in technology.

One can only hope that supersonic transport will be possible again in the times to come. In the meantime, here is a beautiful gallery of Concorde pictures.

You are missed, Concorde.

BlackBerry: resurrection?


Blackberry

BlackBerry – Photo by arrayexception

In what looks like a desperate attempt to claim their existence, BlackBerry has released an Open Letter in which they try to reinforce to the public the reasons why they should still count on BlackBerry.

Interestingly, the document pivots around two basic ideas: the strength of BlackBerry in the Corporate environment, and BlackBerry Messenger. Interestingly because sticking to those two arguments as their main reason to exist is what probably brought the company to where they are today. Having been a BlackBerry user since 2007, and having used almost a dozen different models, I really wish they find a strong proposition to resurrect. But I do not believe their strong security nor BBM are going to change the game.

There was a time where corporate policies where set by IT departments. It is secure so this is our mobility solution. And that was it. But things changed. Executives have changed their approach and it’s no longer about what works for the IT department, it’s the other way around. I want to use my iPhone for work. Make it secure. Executives love their iPhones and Android smartphones, and not BlackBerries. The product needs to be attractive. Attractive enough so that we will ask for it, rather than accept it as the only alternative.

There was also the time where BBM was a sufficient reason to get hooked into the BlackBerry platform, but WhatsApp wiped that. Yes, BBM is now trying to become cross platform, but, isn’t it a bit too late for that?.

I still see core strengths in a company once revolutionised and almost monopolised mobility, but don’t think the good old arguments suffice anymore. It is no longer about how secure the platform is nor how easy it is for the IT department to manage large estates. You really need to come up with something truly revolutionary and game changing that will make us want to ditch our iPhone. I honestly hope and trust you can make it.

Capturing the fleeting business


Nokia Lumia 820 onboard POS

Nokia Lumia 820 onboard POS

While still struggling in the consumer market, some potential success stories start to emerge for the Nokia and Windows Phone tech marriage. Turning a Nokia Lumia 820 into a mobile point of sale with specific apps connected to their booking and payment systems, allows to capture a very short-lived business opportunity like on board paid upgrades.

Onboard connectivity definitely plays a role in the success of the initiative, but more importantly, paves the way for the next level of loyalty recognition and rewarding on the spot thanks to the connection with the centralized CRM systems.

A promising prospect for Delta and Nokia/Microsoft and definitely a big scale experiment with 19.000 units distributed amongst Delta’s Cabin Crew.

More about this story:

Nokia Lumia 820 Flying High With Delta Airlines

Delta Streamlines In-flight Customer Service With New Windows Phone Handheld Devices For Flight Attendants

Transplacing and the second life


The ubiquitous nature of technology and the frenetic pace at which it evolves becomes dramatically obvious when products with a traditionally longer lifecycle embrace electronics and software traditionally only available in computers. The flooding of technology into these consumer products can be seen everywhere, with TV sets becoming closer and closer to computers with Internet connection and multiple apps that go well beyond the original intention of the base product, or cars with multiple, software-powered, onboard systems such as Navigation, Audio, Phone and Voice command, just to name a few.

This increased affordability of computing power and ubiquitous connectivity brings a whole new world of possibilities to enhance the traditional concept of certain consumer products,  it has also had a number of downsides. Some products have seen their life cycle accelerated and a TV set that not so long ago had its lifecycle measured in decades, is now reduced to a few years. The adoption of advanced operating systems to power day to day consumer products accelerates obsolescence of these bringing it closer to that of computers.

iOS in the car

iOS in the car

Cars, for obvious reasons, are a different story. Long lasting products by nature, and with manufacturers integrating more and more technology (both hardware and software) onto them, a situation is created in which the (expensive) technology onboard vehicles, such as GPS Navigation, gets quickly outdated, with very few options for upgrading the hardware part of it. These systems soon pale when compared to the much more affordable, and easily upgradable features available in smartphones for a fraction of the cost.

Moves like iOS in the car, announced as a yet-to-be-implemented feature in iOS 7, can be game changing by going far beyond just providing a pretty interface for your iPhone when shown on your onboard screen. They can go as far as transplacing the complete onboard technology of vehicles into a smartphone, by basically getting all the software to run remotely in you

r handheld device, rather than in the onboard processors.

Huge move

First of all, the obsolescence is over. All your car will provide is a screen, and that is the only thing that can get obsolete. The Navigation software available on iOS (despite the Apple maps fiasco) is on par with any onboard GPS system, and comes for free. No in car GPS hardware required, no more slow processors that can only run simple maps, no

more costly upgrades to onboard maps. Online maps permanently updated, real time traffic information and all the necessary hardware packed in your smartphone, which you can upgrade as frequently as you wish.

Audio is another key application brought by iOS in the car, creating a specific interface for managing your audio library while on the move, together with the phone interface.

Siri is King

Lexus Remote Touch

Lexus Remote Touch

In my humble opinion this is the moment that Siri has been waiting for. Interacting with onboard technology in cars has been, and still is, a big safety concern. Whilst all manufacturers have invested obscene sums in creating intuitive interfaces (BMW’s iDrive, Lexus’ Remote Touch or Audi’s MMI as an example), they still require attention from the driver. Of course most of the premium brands have implemented voice command systems, but in most cases require learning or following very specific instructions with accuracy being low enough not to be a full alternative to the physical interaction.

But here comes Siri, with the ability to understand natural language and take dozens of different instructions without the need for the driver to learn how to enumerate them.

Online Car

Basing your car electronics in a naturally connected device brings new possibilities by being able to make use of Siri’s current (and possibly future) capabilities like finding restaurants, petrol stations around the current location, finding movies to watch and maybe booking hotel rooms in the future.

Development

If Apple opens iOS in the car to developers, I bet we will be seeing cars giving away most of their onboard technology transplacing it to apps implemented in iOS which will manage most of the car functions, with Siri as the main way of interacting with your vehicle systems, from your Navigation,  Climate control, Audio, Video and even car adjustments to be managed easily by interacting with apps in your Smartphone while talking to Siri.

Not a bad move, and one that would increase customer loyalty once a long lasting good like your car is tied to a particular Smartphone platform, on top of possibly transforming the way we understand technology onboard vehicles. And bring a second life to them.