Friday, June 27, 2008

Helio Gets Sold

When Helio claimed to have 70k subscribers, it also claimed $100 Average Revenue Per User [ARPU]. Now Helio is claiming 170K users. Which means they should be doing $17 million of total revenue per month, if the ARPU number was a) true b) sustained till now. Virgin is acquiring these claimed 170K users $39 million, and not even in cash, but in a stock that was worth $15,- per share when it did its IPO last October, but is now at $3,- a decine also known as 'tanking'.

So for Virgin acquired Helio for two months of revenue of Helios subscribers? Virgin just acquired 170K new high-value subscribers for a measely $229,- per subscriber? This after SK telecom invested hundreds of millions and was ready to invest hundreds more, to the tune of a pledged half a billion in ten years, when the dollar hadn't completely tanked yet?

What is wrong with this picture? That Helio basically gave itself away for free.

I'll tell you something: my gut feeling is that $100 ARPU was exagerated at 70k subs, and Helio got the next 100K subs by shutting off the credit check. And their subscribers ain't paying their bills.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Feature Creep

Every time there is some article on Slashdot about phones that are smarter or more interesting than the ones a year ago, there's always someone whining "I just want a phone why do I have to pay extra I only want to make calls why can't I just get a phone waaaah", completely ignoring that low-end phones are always available and you can, if you want to, ignore there's a camera or an text inbox on them. The only sympathy I have here is people who need to not have a camera on their phone for security reasons, they are getting problems.

What interests me is how the tenor of these posts have changed. First of all, finally people are responding with a STFU, get the cheapest one, and just don't crack open the manual. But second, the whine has changed. It used to be "I just want a PHONE that MAKES CALLS." Then it was "I just want a PHONE that makes CALLS and DOES THE TEXT THING RIGHT" which means a leap in the USA. Now I just saw "I just want a PHONE that makes CALLS and does text and so I can check my emails why does everything have to have SO MANY FEATURES."

The really cheap people with not so much disposable income, young teens, want every feature they can get. Technology has now been completely mainstreamed: I remember 2 years ago watching The Young And The Restless and the teens were discussing using a USB key with a password logger program to get a login to check a guy's mails, and Mariah Carey is singing about being posted on YouTube and probably even knows what that means too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I Am Not Sure How I Feel

Well, then. We all started, and it seems the last hold-out can't make it work, even with investments of over half a billion dollars.

But dammit, we really all tried.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


They always tell you to put minimal text on presentation slides, especially for points that you will present as well verbally. Certainly do not make your PowerPoint a written copy of what you want to say. But that never addresses that the last 7 'presentations' I made got presented maybe only once, if ever, but were mostly passed around as a sort of e-mail brochure to read alone from a screen. It's kinda hard to make a presentation that works as both a presentation and a hand-out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Somewhere after Steve Dyer decided not to be a hoster anymore, I decided I needed my own domain. I tried to come up with something and smashed 'cool' words together to have a really cool doman name like liquidneutron or ionsky or whatever, but everything was taken or actually stupid. So I invented the word exonome and took out, and built my electronic life around it. Hundreds of sites have no an exonome address as my registration. If I had to change that, I'd collapse in fits.

I just found out and have now been taken. I am now either paranoid or scared. I wonder what I have to do to protect the word Exonome to be abl to keep my domain.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Whiny Tech Blog Entry

Dear Aza

You obviously have really good eyesight. Unfortunately, mobile users like my brother, a 40+ executive, do not; he has to take out his reading glasses these days to read small type. So you managed to come up with a mobile browsing organization concept that seems like it will only work on devices with at minimum iPhone-like slabs of glass, yet still manages to be about, literally, text in 2-point fonts. Also, if you browsed some old papers in the ACM Digital library -- you are a member, right? -- you could read how fish-eye and zoom-interfaces actually do not do so spectacularly well in tasks. So using them to arrange slabs of data in an already size-constrained environment in a way that leaves 50% of the screen unsused gray half the time really needs some justification here.

This is what user testing is for. Let me know how it works out with an actual cross-section of the population instead of 20-somethings. Meanwhile, look at how Sony Ericsson is doing tiling for their latest attempt, it uses the whole screen all the time.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

iPhone 2.0 vs N-Series

It is always good to wait a day or two before writing about an Apple product announcement. When it comes to phones, I compare iPhones always against their main competitors, which happen to come from a former employer, Nokia, that I am also very familiar with.

iPhone 2.0 comes with new features like 3G, (a)GPS, notifications, enterprise connectivity, Office doc viewers, and a software eco system from developer tools down to a store on the phone itself. To start out, every feature that Apple announced is pretty much already available on Nokia phones. But not very well. And not in the US. Nokia's flagship 3G phones, the N-Series, weren't widely available, and those models that were weren't promoted or discounted as much as the iPhone was. In Europe they are very widely available, and thus the iPhone's capabilities were not a huge advance in the market as they were in the USA.

Let's start with the last feature, the applications and store. Symbian-based Nokia phones -- S60 as they are called these days -- have always allowed users to put on 3d party applications. Always. Nokia has a software store available on N-Series phones, it is under the 'Download' application; I use it to buy games that I pay for using SMS. The 3d party development tools have been awful for a long time but getting significantly better over the last couple of years (I may have had a small hand in that when I wrote a snippy report after using them saying we could save a lot of money and look a lot better by moving to Eclipse, a report that made the rounds internally.). But it is still not easy to write a Symbian program.

Building a smartphone on the hardware available in 2002 was not easy. Nokia did this by using software from Symbian, a company that made a smartphone based on code from Psion. The resulting programming language goes to great great lengths make sure a program plays nice, gets told whether every piece of memory it wants is available or not so the program can tell the user to quit other stuff, can be suspended and restarted at a moments notice (like when a user gets a call, which is supposed to interrupt everything), and can be kept running or suspended in the background for months without crashing. Theoretically. The result is a very subtle and rigid programming environment that is difficult to master. Now Nokia has also made JAVA and FlashLite available for commercial software, but those are not as fast, nor can they reach all the cool facilities of the phone as well as a Symbian program.

Apple has the advantage of starting over on pretty big hardware, but also looked at the whole problem of programs having to run in the background in memory, sharing space and cycles, and said "Well screw this. Only one thing runs at any type. If you get interrupted, you just stop, save to memory, end of story, program is over." This models doesn't allow cool stuff to happen in the background, but really simplifies programming.

This makes Apple's ecosystem a lot more viable, since, by using newer technology, it can offer a very nice experience building applications. It also offers a phone to deploy those applications on that somehow encourages exploration and finding features and using a lot of them. Steve Jobs' hyperbole aside, the network stats show that iPhone users use an awful lot of data time, which means they are comfortable browsing and using YouTube and what not. I am not sure the N-Series encourages as much exploration and adding, even if Google Maps and Yahoo Go are really neat programs to have. Apple's iPhone got a lot of websites to make iPhone optimized sites, the N-Series did not.

Apple really hasn't offered anything really new on Monday -- I could rattle off the technologies used behind the scenes when I read the reports -- except really integrated packaging. Apple's syncing technology really does make it easier to integrate the PC with the phone, something that is ok for Nokia on the mac with the Nokia Multimedia Transfer tools, but sucks with the N-Series PC Suite 2.0. I recently had to write a report on it so I installed and played with it, and in the words of my manager, the design and usability of it is "totally retarded". It's just a bad disheveled mess, the result of many unaligned groups doing their own little thing and one desperate product group having to integrate it all. Comared to the iTunes for iPhone experience, it's a joke.

And now MobileMe has eclipsed that and, for $99 a year, you don't even need difficult synchronization software to keep your PC or Mac and iPhone synchronized and your address book editable from ever web browser out there. It Just Works. Nokia was trying to create a wireless cloud destination for your games and photos and music called Ovi, but the announcements for it are over a year old and there is no useful syncing there, music  just jumps to a music store that blocks mac users and uses a DRM scheme Microsoft either has or will ditch, N-Gage gaming is late for most N-series phones, and Ovi certainly does  not integrate with your documents on the computer or give you 20Gb storage space. And that is just sad. I am using for mobile wireless syncing of my calendar and contacts, it's been working for years, but Ovi is just still nowhere (and won't even have single sign on between the syncing and gaming components from all I hear). And what is the relationship between Ovi Share and Mosh? Does anyone know?

All the pieces have been available for years by Nokia, and yet they can't seem to pull it together into a whole system that is fun to use. Instead we get crappy PC Suites, 3 different logins, delayed advanced gaming, and not very compelling products except generic JAVA games on the download store. Nokia, step up, your lunch is being eaten. Right now the only advantage you have is actual keys for people who like tactile keyboard experiences, your phones are slightly smaller, and the cameras are far better. But every time I see someone slide their finger across a screen and start up a browser on which they can actually see things, I kinda wonder hmmmmm....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

20 Months In LA Has Left Me Warped

First thought upon queuing the video: I wonder if John has a SAG card by now.

Does anyone want my thoughts on yesterday vs Nokia S60?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Fun With Utilities

Oh yeah, utilities. So E-on called me back one final time that day I was on the phone with them and we figured out my downstairs neighbors were registered to my electric meter. Obviously I had a manager, and he had thought it over, and cut through what to do:
"I just need to know one thing: did you move into this property on March 3d?"
-- "Yes."
"Then we're starting an account on your name."
--"What about my downstairs neighbors?"
"That's honestly a dispute between you and them."

So now my name will be on my electric bill. I warned my neighbors they need to calculate how much electricity money I owe them for the last 3 months, and we are both wondering who has been paying the other meter...