What Will It Take for Google Home to Be a Success?

Google Home

Google Home

This years Google I/O saw the introduction of Google Home, a voice powered assistant device aimed at competing with Amazon Echo and Alexa.  In a competitive world I started thinking “What Will It Take for Google Home to Be a Success?”

Like Echo and the Alexa technology behind it, Google Home represents an ambitious effort to bring a voice interface into our lives.  For decades’ science fiction has featured User Interfaces focused on speech interactions, and for decades’ engineers have worked to bring this fiction to reality.  Google Home is an intriguing look at the next step, if it can deliver on what it’s promotional video promises.

The success of Google Home will certainly depend on many factors.  Below are some initial thoughts on what it will take to attain said success.

Actually Producing And Selling The Device

Google has to actually make and sell Google Home devices

That’s right.  I said it.  Google has to actually make and sell Google Home devices.  It’s an obvious first step for any new product but I/O’s past is littered with Vaporware(Nexus Q, Android@Home, don’t get me started).  Google has to Home in the hands of customers, and at a reasonable price point.  While the promotional video was well produced it failed to show how many Google Now’s we’ll actually need throughout our house, or how far their effective range is.

Developer API/SDKs

Developers are the most important part of creating an ecosystem.  “If you build it they(users) will come.” but if you don’t give developers the ability to do anything, the product ends up being pretty boring.  While some premier 3rd parties are already signed up there hasn’t been much released on how other developers can integrate with the platform.  Alexa on the other hand has over 800 “skills” (think apps for Alexa) available.  Amazon also recently released a toolkit that makes it easier for developers create smart home skills.

Deep Integration to the Google Ecosystem

This is a device about making your life easier, and to do that it needs to know what your life is.  It needs to integrate with all of the Google services you’re already using and it needs to do it well.  Gmail and Google Calendar are the most obvious with Google Now’s scary intelligence factoring in.  However, it’s worth noting that users who aren’t on Android or other Google platforms may not get the full experience here.

 Intelligence

At this point in the game it’s simply not enough to just respond to voice commands, there are plenty of voice assistants that do that on various platforms.  Google Home will need to leverage all of the Google Assistant AI to intelligently provide answers to users.  Otherwise what’s the point?  Echo is already a capable voice response system, if you want to beat it you need to be better than it.  The information released makes it seem like you can have two way conversations with the device, where it remembers the context of your conversation and provides intelligent “results” accordingly.  I say results here because it does seem like Google is staying true to their roots as a search engine.  What Google Now returns to you can easily be considered the result of a very intelligent search.  We’ll have to wait and see how well this actually works in the wild.

Conclusion

All in all, I’m looking forward to the actual release of Google Home.  New products equal more competition, and competition yields innovation.  Innovation is a win for us all. While it’s obvious that Google has to actually sell the product for it to be a success I still believe developer access, integration with the Google ecosystem, and Intelligence are key to Google Home being a success.

My Apple Wish List

MyAppleWishListFeatured

MyAppleWishListFeatured

Apple makes some great products, but there are still some things I’d like to see them address.  I decided to write up a list of things I’m still waiting for Apple to do, create, or change.  I’ll try and update this from time to time, and certainly with the cycle of Apple events I may actually get some of what I ask for.  I should also note these are not yet in any sort of priority or logical order.  Just things I want.

NFCKit

Yeah I made that name up.  It’s a hypothetical set of libraries that would give us access to the NFC capabilities of iPhone 6(s)(Plus) and Apple Watch.  Why do we need this you ask?  Well this would allow you to walk into work with out the need for a badge, just tap your phone and go.    Hate keys for hotel rooms?  Tap your phone and the door unlocks, yes just like Starwood has but for everyone else.  Hand someone an NFC Business card, they tap it with their phone and instantly have all of your contact info.  There’s a host of good NFC use cases and right now we have like 1% of them on iPhone.

Affordable Watch Bands

$50 for a rubber watch band.  Sure it’s “fluoroelastomer” which is a fancy word for elastic rubber.  Sure according to Phone Arena (http://www.phonearena.com/news/The-Apple-Watch-Sport-straps-are-all-made-of-fluoroelastomer—here-is-what-this-means_id67029) it’s an expensive polymer used for “fuel-distribution systems”(I’ll admit fuel if it’s gasoline can really eat away at stuff).  Sure they finally added a bunch of colors for variety.  But $50 for a rubber watch band is still just too expensive.  Even the recently announced Nylon bands still come with a hefty price tag of $50 (the non-Apple Clockwork Synergy bands start between $26.95 and $29.95 based on size).

Smart Connector(S) and Pencil Support for All

I’m not sure that the Smart Connector gives us that much more then a lighting port, but it does seem to be more convenient.  I’m not sure I need it on a phone either but certainly on all sizes of iPad.  Having it on a 9.7″ iPad is great.  The same goes for Apple Pencil, I’d love to see that trickle down to the Mini,  I suppose I can see it not being on the Air 2.

Inductive Charging

Look we have this on Apple Watch, so when it comes to iPhone what’s the hold up?  Samsung has had it for years.  Plural.  Multiple product generations.  And don’t tell me I don’t need another adapter or part or thing to put on my nightstand.  I have an Apple Watch.  I already need something else plugged in.  If you’re mantra is to reduce ports, and size, and not need to sync with a computer via a cable… why haven’t you added inductive charging.  Starbucks has them all over, which yes I know and Apple solution probably won’t be compatible with those.  However, when was the last time Apple really waited for something to become a standard?  Isn’t Apple the company that’s setting/making standards at this point?  Think Thunderbolt, Lightning, Retina displays,

One Charger for Everything. Or at Least a 2 or 3 USB Port Charger

You sold me a phone, a watch, an iPad, and a laptop.  It’s only fair you sell me something I can at least charge my watch and phone with.  My travel bag has to have 2 wall warts in it at all times, and that doesn’t count my Macbook Pro Retina charger.

Stay Tuned

New devices and operating systems are constantly being released.  We’ll just have to see how many items from my Wish List Apple creates.

 

 

 

 

Smart Watch Remote Start for Pebble

PebbleRemoteStart750

PebbleRemoteStart750
I developed an app for the Pebble Smart Watch that allows me to remote start my truck from my watch.

With all the discussion about smart watches going around, and what you may be able to do with an Apple Watch, I decided it was time to move from idea to reality. This app isn’t just screen mock ups or screen shots from a simulator, it’s actual code that works and it’s on my wrist right now. . Let’s get into the how it works/what I had to do.

Truck Equipment

Let’s start with the basics here. I installed a remote start alarm with keyless entry module into my truck. This let’s me start my truck from a few hundred feet away with a remote. Then I added an upgrade box to the remote start system that contains a cellular modem and companion app. Essentially the App communicates with a server on the internet that sends commands to the cell modem that now resides in my truck. This all allows me to remote start my truck from my iPhone.

Reverse Engineering

Knowing that my phone was interfacing with my remote start system over the internet the next step was to learn how. Using the Charles Web Debugging Proxy I was able to record my phones interactions with the server and reverse engineer the REST API it uses. From there it was a simple matter of figuring out the authentication used and defining the REST calls I would have to make to the server.

Programming the Pebble

Pebble native apps are programmable in C. Old school, tried and true, used in embedded systems C. Pebble also offers Pebble.js which allows you to make full apps in JavaScript that runs on top of things. Being an Objective C guy I went the C route. This is where things get a bit tricky though, in order to access the internet you still need to use JavaScript via PebbleKit JS. You do this using an object called AppMessage that sends key value pairs back and forth between C and JS code.

Basically I defined values 0-3 for each of the commands I wanted Lock, Unlock, Car Finder (honks the horn 5 times) and remote start. Whenever I selected a value on the UI it would send that code to the JavaScript which would then transmit the appropriate command to the Remote Start server on the web.

What’s Next

I’m working on cleaning up the UI a bit. ). I’m going to post a video on the app in action, I just have to wait for a day when it’s not snowing and Ill post a link to it.
I’ll also admit I’m keen to finish up my code to make it work on an Apple Watch (look for a separate post on that). At some point I want to add an Arduino unit to my truck along with a 3G connection for it. Ideally I want to be able to do things like open all my windows and moon roof in the summer.

A Note On Apple Watch

I’ll admit I’m still fascinated by the Apple Watch and I’ll probably buy one. I already have code working that will allow me to remote start my truck from my iPhone. I just have to finish the requisite iOS extension and lay out the User Interface and I’ll have a functional Apple Watch app. This is certainly a great example of a first generation Apple Watch app. As mentioned before the apple watch could make a great controller for other connected devices / “The Internet of Things” (I hate that term…).
A Key Fob-ish remotes start app is a quick use case associated with an action that you may not want to take your phone out of your pocket for. It’s a connected action but not a data or interface heavy one. You push a button, a REST call gets made, something happens in the real world.

Summary

In conclusion I can remote start my truck from anywhere where my phone and my truck have an Internet connection.

Google’s Santa Tracker Codelab Is an Extremely Simple Way to Teach Kids How to Code

SantaTracker750x420

SantaTracker750x420

Google’s Santa Tracker Codelab is an extremely simple way to teach kids how to code, and honestly it’s the easiest and most beautiful way I’ve seen yet.  The Codelab consists of 10 challenges that slightly increase in difficulty as you go on.  These challenges have you moving an Elf through a maze to find a holiday present.  Which is a pretty genius way to pull students interest in right off the bat.  It’s simple and fun, conceptual, and easily tied back into real world coding.  Access it now at https://santatracker.google.com/?hl=en#codelab and you’ll see what I mean.

Being a CS Major in under grad and grad school I’ve learned my fair share of programming languages and environments to write code in.  For me the concepts of programming always came easy, even if the actual code writing was hard.  AT times however, setting up those environments could be cumbersome.

So how do we teach students not only the concepts of coding, but also provide them with an easy to use coding environment?

Some of the simplest coding environments involve visually dragging and dropping boxes of code that already have pre-determined functionality.  There are less semi colons and more focus on putting building blocks (the functions we write with curly brackets) together.  Lego Mindstorm’s native development environment allows you to program visually like this; you drag and drop sensor and motor control blocks to bring your robots to life.  However the kit isn’t cheap and you have to actually build something to see your code come to life.

Blockly is Google’s “ library for building visual programming editors.” And as far as I can tell this is the Engine for the Santa Tracker Codelab.  This Codelab features a very polished, Material Design minded and cartoonish environment that kids will love.  The environment is all set up and ready to go, it’s accessible via a web browser.

Equally, if not more important, the Codelab starts simple and conceptual with out adding anything technical to confuse you.  For the first challenge you literally combine two puzzle pieces, or lets call them “Blocks” to create a picture of a reindeer, then in challenge two you use three blocks to create an image of an elf.

The first concept is combining smaller pieces to create a larger whole.  Simple.  No Code yet, but your mind is now starting to get conditioned.

SantaTrackerChallenge2

Level 3 is where things get exciting.  Your challenge here is to move an elf through a maze, one step at a time to grab a present.   You do this using North, South, East, and West controls.

…the basics of programming, with out actually writing a line of code.

For this challenge two north moves find you the present.  So you drag two north blocks under the “When Run” block and push play.  Now you see an Elf move forward two spots on the screen and he finds the present.  So now we’re putting blocks of functions together, and directly seeing the outcome.  Challenges increase in difficulty and we eventually are introduced into conditional loops to repeat blocks of code.  Again the basics of programming, with out actually writing a line of code.

SantaTrackerChallenge3

In the more difficult challenges there is more then one way to solve the puzzle and get through the maze.  In these instances the Codelab will actually tell you that you can do it in fewer blocks of code.  So now we’ve taught students the basic concept of optimization.  One could even make the argument that this is the bedrock to teaching analysis of algorithms and concepts such as Big O Notation (simply put how many times an algorithm needs to run to solve a problem).

Now how do we tie this back into actually writing code?  Well there’s a link that says “View code” that will show you a JavaScript equivalent would look like.  This shows kids how the concept of their code blocks translates into actually written code.  In my mind the next step would be to allow kids to actually write the Javascript shown while still moving the elf on the screen, and I’d love to see that on future iterations, or even a stand alone offering.  Given that the Santa Tracker this year was a 20% Time project it’s easy to understand that this Codelab was small in scope and as such doesn’t feature this, but it would make it a more robust solution to teaching kids how to code.

As I mentioned the visual nature and the fact that you don’t need to actually use a keyboard and write code makes the Google Santa Tracker Codelab simple.  The fact that it has a holiday theme makes it fun.  By abstracting the notion of coding into assembling building blocks visually the Codelab provides us with the concepts of coding, and since we can view the code that would be generated it easily ties back into real world coding.  The Google Santa Tracker Codelab is an excellent example of how we can begin to introduce coding to students at younger ages.  I can’t wait to see if there are more like this.

What makes a watch a Smart Watch?

SmartWatch750x420

Prior to Android Wear I honestly thought that most smart watches weren’t really Smart. There’s a lot of buzz, and hype around Smart Watches and wearable’s. For years I have been unbelievably enticed by the concept of a fully connected device on my wrist. As a kid my concept of a Smart Watch was more akin to a walkie talkie(think Knight Rider), but as an adult those delusions of grandeur look more like something out of Minority Report. Samsung’s “Galaxy Gear: A Long Time Coming” ad highlights this pretty well. However I wanted to dig deeper and think about what it means to be “Smart” in a connected device world.

What Makes A Device Smart

I decided to do some research into the origins of the term “Smartphone”. I had once read a definition that stated a Smartphone was a device that you could add applications to and extend its functionality. This is not a bad term but that actually precludes the first generation of iPhone from being a smartphone(which was an argument at the time of it’s release that many made). More recently PC Mag defines a Smartphone as “A cellular telephone with built-in applications and Internet access.” http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia/term/51537/smartphone. Which would include the original iPhone and iOS 1 (I don’t think it was ever actually called iOS 1 though).

Crafting a smart watch definition from these ideas we get “A watch with built-in applications and Internet access”. Sounds a little vague still and I think we can all agree that we’ll be flexible with the “internet access part”. I don’t expect every watch to have 3G, or even Wi-Fi necessarily, but I certainly expect it to be able to tether to a smart phone and access information services via that connection. Since all of the watches labeled as “Smart” perform this function we’ll just label that as a given.

Built-in Applications

So let’s talk about the built-in applications part for a moment. I’m going to focus a bit on the Pebble for a moment because it’s a great candidate for this argument. I own a Pebble and use it a lot for the convenience of seeing my notifications on my wrist and not having to take my phone out pocket every time it vibrates. Notification viewing is of great utility but I have a hard time calling it a “Smart” feature. You can think of it as an application on the device, which it is, but I need more. The watch also comes a built in application for music control and clock, it tells time. So I guess it has built in applications, but are they that smart?

Well Pebble’s 2.x firmware allows you to add “Watch Apps” and Watch Faces. At first glance the apps just seem like watch faces with some extra information being displayed. As a developer I decided to dig deeper. The reality is Pebble provides developers with some fairly robust tools, including a cloud based IDE, to develop for the Pebble. It’s easy to use web services/APIs to pull in data to the Pebble, as well as push information from it. The Pebble can actually run JavaScript-ed code on itself. And while the interface is still fairly limited I feel the expandability of the platform allows the device to function in a much smarter manner then just telling time. Focusing on the “a smart watch needs apps” argument I think we can consider this a smart watch, and since it’s able to utilize your phones internet connection via Bluetooth it fulfills our two pronged test for a smart watch.

Now let’s look at the Galaxy Gear for a moment. While I haven’t had a lot of hands on time with these devices it’s fairly obvious that any number of smart phone functions are duplicated. You can reply to text messages, answer calls, and take pictures. Like the Pebble the Gear has a Developer Kit that allows Developers to create additional apps and functionality for the watch. So it’s a fairly easy argument that the Gear is smart. My biggest problem with the Galaxy Gear, it doesn’t work with my iPhone. I get it, kind of, but since it only works with a handful of phones (it doesn’t work with all Androids) Samsung is extremely limiting their marketplace. You could look at it as a Brand/ecosystem play but is their ecosystem that strong to have the watch limited to only a few devices that it works with? I digress.

Conclusion

So what have we done here? Well we defined a Smart Watch as “A watch with built-in applications and Internet access”. Then we tested that hypothesis with both the Pebble and the Samsung Gear. Basically I proved my own pessimism about the term “Smart Watch” wrong.

More of My Thoughts

I think these devices are just the tip of the iceberg. I believe Android Wear will really advance Smart Watches as a technology and as a consumer device. The enhanced interaction between watch and phone, as well as the standardization of a more open platform will allow developers greater freedom. And lets be honest if you keep the developers happy great things will happen.

The iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch

iphone6 apple watch

iphone6 apple watch

So Apple just announced quite a few new products. While the tech blogs did a great job of covering the event I just wanted to provide a quick summary.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Apple just announced two phones, the 6 and the 6 Plus both of which are larger then the current 5S and 5C.
The 6 will feature a 4.7 inch screen at 1334×750 pixels.
The 6 Plus will feature a 5.5 inch screen at 1920×1080 pixels (1080p).
Both receive a bump in camera specs with the 6 Plus receiving optical image stabilization.

Under the hood they will both have a more powerful processor dubbed the A8 and an updated motion processor.

Both of these phones will also feature Apple Pay. Apple Pay works in conjunction with Touch ID and a new NFC (Near Field Communications) chip/antenna for contactless payments.

The iPhone 6 starts at $199 and the 6S starts at $299 with both available on September 19th (preorders September 12th) coinciding with the release of iOS 8.

Apple Watch

Many believe this was the bigger announcement of the event, and they may be right. As speculated Apple is indeed coming out with a watch, and it’s called simply The Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch features a touch screen and a “Digital Crown”

What I consider to be extremely important is the inclusion of NFC for Apple Pay. I’m very curious to see if NFC will be opened up for developers, there was mention of the Watch being able to open your room at a Starwood hotel, not sure if that’s NFC or BLE however.

The Apple Watch is very fitness focused, taking on a lot of the duties of todays wearables while still having some pretty sweet watch faces and capabilities. There’s also the ability to make a friends watch vibrate and send them doodles.

The Apple Watch will be available in 2015 and is broken down into 3 different classes of style based on your personal tastes. The current price is listed as $349.

What else should I know?

Well go to iTunes NOW because U2′s latest album is being given away exclusively and for free until October 13.
Also the 5C and the 5S aren’t going away, there are however receiving a price cut with the 5C at 8GB being offered for free (2 year contract) and the 5S starting at $99 (2 year contract).

How to Improve your iCloud Apple ID Security

Apple ID Icons

Before I provide my summary of this weekends cracking of celebrity iCloud accounts let me just say this, go to the Apple ID site (https://appleid.apple.com) and setup up Two-Factor Authentication. What is Two-Factor authentication you ask? Well think of your password as one factor. It’s not bad but isn’t two better then one? So we add another way to identify you are who you say you are. So like I said right now go to the Apple ID site here https://appleid.apple.com and Click on Manage your Apple ID –> Click on Password and Security –> Then Click on Getting Started under Two-Factor Authentication. That’s right go do that now. I’ll wait…

Ok good you’re back. To provide a slightly longer walk through of my experience:

Once I clicked on that Apple actually first asked me to update to a more secure password.
Then I was able to click on Password And Security and was asked to add 2 security questions which I did.
Then once I clicked back into Password and Security there was a section for Two-Step Verification.

Once enabled, the only way to make changes to your account will be to sign in with two-step verification.

The site will then explain to you that only you, using Two-Steps of Verification will be able to make changes to your account, and that Apple will no longer be able to reset your password with out them.
Then you click forward and realize there is a 3 day waiting period to activate Two-Step Verification after you make “significant” changes to your account(ie password changes and/or new security questions). This annoys me to no end but Apple is trying to claim that it’s a necessary thing to make sure someone else isn’t hijacking your account. They do however provide a mechanism to create a Calendar reminder to come back.

Some other useful links while we are on the topic:
Apples FAQ about account security http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4232
Apples FAQ about two-step verification http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5570

So why are we doing this?

Well over Labor Day Weekend 2014 a nice sized “hack” exposed a number of celebrity’s iCloud stored photo’s. Details are still being investigated into the how so many accounts were compromised and where the photo’s were stored, ie iCloud or Photo Stream. I want to point out that the correct term for this is actually a “crack” since passwords were cracked, not code or something being hacked together. We’ll excuse the media yet again for using these terms incorrectly.

Thus far Apple claims there was no serious flaw or crack/hack to iCloud. Instead Apple believes there was “a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions,”. Basically someone was somehow getting or guessing celebrity Apple ID user names and their passwords. There is still the question of where the photo’s were stored, photo stream or iCloud back up. There are even some claims that the photo’s were deleted some time ago, meaning that either the cracks/hacks have occurred over a long period of time, or that simply deleting them isn’t enough to destroy them.

Also worth noting however was a security flaw in Find My iPhone that allowed a “Brute Force” attack on passwords. Basically someone could constantly try new passwords on some ones account with out being locked out. AMEX allows me 3 attempts to remember my new password before they lock me out. This flaw has been/is being addressed by Apple and it now looks like you have 5 attempts before it locks you out. Apple does not believe this was involved in these attacks. Digression – This raises the question, are our selfies and smart phone content now as valuable as our banking info? A topic for another post.

“This raises the question, are our selfies and smart phone content now as valuable as our banking info?”

You may be asking ”So what’s this Two-Factor or Multi-Factor Authentication you made me sign up for?” Multi-Factor Authentication basically employs more then one method of you proving you are who you say you are. If you consider simply using a password as a single factor, multi-factor typically add’s things like a code that gets sent via text, or a something like an RSA token or Google Authenticator that gives you a code to type in. In the case of Apple they will send you a 4 digit code that you have to enter when you try to access or make changes to you account. From the looks of the FAQ this is also used when you go to make iTunes and App Store purchases on new devices. It doesn’t sound like you have to enter in the second factor on current devices though. On some systems you need to use Two-Factors/Multi-Factor at any login. Just something to keep in mind, I’ll update this post once my 3 day waiting period is over.

WWDC 2014 – What I am Most Excited About

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Last week’s WWDC keynote contained an immense amount of information. It essentially summarizes an entire week’s worth of presentations into two hours. I won’t summarize it all here as Engadget, The Verge, and the many other sites out there already have, however I did want to provide some of my thoughts.

What I am most excited about is the underlying theme everything working together. It seems Apple has continued to think about ways to further tie their eco-system together, a genius business move all around but also an innovative one. I am constantly frustrated by the segregation of devices and the sheer fact that they just seem to exist on their own with now knowledge of the other.

The announcements of Continuity, Handoff, Extensibility, and a hand full of others mean we’ll be experiencing a more integrated experience soon.

Bridging OS’s

While the Mac and the iPhone still won’t share a completely common code base(akin to some of the direction Window’s is going in), there’s already a lot that they share at their core. However iOS 8 and OSX Yosemite will include what Apple is calling “Continuity”. One dictionary definition of continuity is –“a continuous or connected whole.” Great I love when they use the root of the word in the definition so let’s go with a “connected whole” which is what Apple’s been converging towards for a while. It’s a single Apple eco system that allows all of your devices to function as a connected whole.

The biggest feature here is Handoff, which allows one device to hand off what you’re working on to another device with a similar app. The best example here is email, if you start typing an email on your iPhone and walk up to your Mac you’ll see an Icon in the corner of your Mac that allows you to open that email up in the Mac Mail app and finish typing it.

Apple’s also the ability to answer an incoming call from your iPhone on your Mac or iPad, as well as allowing you to originate a phone call from them. Other features of note in this category are the ability allow your iPad to automatically data tether off of your iPhone, and iMessage’s gaining the ability to SMS from your Mac/iPad.

Bridging Apps

Remember the day’s of Blackberry when an App could add it’s capabilities to the system menus and even other apps? Well Apple’s finally bringing that to iOS with Extensibility. Instead of just development time SDKs and APIs apps can now share each others abilities, and as well apps can add themselves to Action Sheets and define what happens when you use them from there. This is huge for developers and I think we’ll see some really cool app interactions in the future.

Bridging Your Family

Family Sharing allows you to define a group of Apple ID’s that all use the same credit card. And every Apple ID in that group are able to share iTunes and App purchases.

That’s right Apple’s acknowledge that your 9 year old now has an iPod Touch and wants to play the Smurfs game. After taking some heat for In App purchase Apple, in true Apple fashion, has come up with a pretty elegant solution. When a sub user (your kid) tries to purchase something it prompts the main account owner (that’s you Mom or Dad) and asks them to approve it.

Family Sharing also creates a family photo stream where an entire family can share photos and videos, a shared calendar and the ability to access your families Find My IPhone.

The Business of an Eco-System

Apple’s experienced an interesting product halo; people came to them for the phones, but stayed for the laptops. By adding these interconnected abilities they are creating not only a stronger eco-system but as well are increasing the switching cost to leave. Family share alone can have a huge impact on reducing a families app and media costs making it more expensive to leave (i.e. you would have to buy the apps all over again for each user on Android) but also makes it cheaper to join (you only have to purchase Angry Birds once on iOS).

What’s Missing?

Well notably they didn’t show anything about Apple TV. Sure we have Air Play already, and it works pretty well, but I am curious how Continuity and Handoffs could improve it.

What Am I Really Most Excited about?

Honestly out of everything above Ia m most excited about the raw power of Continuity and Handoff’s to tightly integrate my activities across all of the Apple Platforms. It’s been a long time coming and I am excited about the groundwork that’s been laid out for developers.

2014 The Year of Smart – My Impressions of CES

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The Consumer Electronic Show is a massive convention in Vegas where the largest  (and even some of the smallest) names in technology show off their new products.  While it’s role has shrunken a bit as a result of companies like Apple and Samsung choosing to unveil their flagship products at their own media events, CES is still full of announcements and prototypes.

The announcements at CES tend to set the tone for the years new technology.  In the past it was things like HD TVs, then later 3D TVS.  This year the theme is “Smart” Everything, Smart Watch’s, Smart TVS, Smart Devices.  So I’m officially dubbing 2014 “The Year of Smart.”

With mobile establishing dominance (yeah I’m not going to call it the year of mobile.  Every CEO says that every year) we’re seeing more and more devices come out that integrate with our smartphones.  “Wearables” is one of the new buzzwords we’ve been hearing, but at CES we also saw a lot of home automation devices.  Archos is one of the companies making a big play in this area.  Personally I hope it takes offs, but larger have tried and failed, although can we actually call Googles Android at Home a try?  I digress.  Let’s take a look at some of the new “Smart” products that we’re seeing

Smart TVs

This is not a new category but it is one that’s gained increased focus and an area that’s going to be interesting.  I can’t tell if TV vendors think they need apps because that’s part of the reason Smart Phones took off and are all the rage, or if they believe there’s a genuine purpose for them.  While I certainly like the idea of an app on my TV I still find there to be some issues, I’ll relegate this to a separate story.  For now needless to say everyone is adding more apps, web browsers, and even operating systems into their TVs (LG is putting WebOS on theirs).

Smart Watches

There’s been a lot of buzz and speculation about an “iWatch” coming out of Apple, a competitor coming from Google, and a host of other companies.

This used to be an area of technology that highly excited me, but then again I grew up watching Michael Knight talk to KITT via a watch that looked lower tech then a Casio calculator watch.

The idea here is you can stop taking your phone out of your pocket every 5 minutes and look like a social human being at a bar.  You should have the ability to quickly glance at important information such as weather, traffic, appointments, missed text messages.  Sound like a nice evolved Smart Phone home screen (that we still don’t have options for on iOS cough cough).  However in practice I find them to be quite limited.  Having something constantly linked to the Bluetooth on my iPhone just drains the battery and I end up looking at 6 hour old weather information.

The Galaxy Gear is an interesting experiment albeit to expensive and only supported by a few devices.   While it’s already been on sale for a few months BMW showed off an app at CES for the Gear that let’s you see information about your car and even access certain features on it.  This is cool, plus one for them.

We’re seeing a host of other Smart Watches from other manufactures.  Most of the specs on these aren’t all that new or noteworthy, but we are finally starting to see more stylish options, such as the redesigned Frame from Meta and the Pebble Steel from Pebble.

Wearables

This is the category that the likes of the Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband and Fitbit helped create.  CES showed an increasing number of companies creating products in this category.  Most of these are fitness trackers, with some occasional upgrades such as pulse and blood pressure monitoring.

Smart Cars

Ok I might be making this term up also…but CES has always had an automotive component to it and this year we continued to see a convergence of the digital with the automotive.

This year Audi announced are working on an Android integration, while Pioneer and JVC announced new Stereo head units that further integrated with iOS and Android.  With Tesla continuing to lead the way for 3/4G connected telematics we’re seeing the traditional car manufacturers adding the same technology into their cars.

Smart Startups

CNET seems to have said it best startups are starting to steal the show at CES.  Crowdsourcing seems to be a huge driver of startup success, enabling engineers and inventors to fund their ideas.   This begs the question why larger companies aren’t innovating at this high of a level, a post for another day, probably including some corporate finance.

What we can say however is we are seeing smarter products utilizing smarter funding methods, and often times crowd sourcing final feature sets.  It’s intriguing that they are spending budget on CES displays but at the same time it gives them huge exposure to the media and consumers.

In summary CES continues to show off the advancement companies are making every year in technology.  This year we’re seeing more devices that can connect to each other, sharing data and resources and providing users with better experiences.  This is a trend I hope continues.

Showing Two Timezones In Google Calendar

How To Show Two Time Zones In Google Calendar
Team,
For those of you travelling and or working with clients and the team in different time zones this may be a big help:

Can I show more than one time zone on my calendar?

Yes, you can view two time zones in Google Calendar. To add another time zone to your calendar view, click Settings. On the General tab, under Your current time zone, select another time zone in the Additional time zone list.

http://www.google.com/support/enterprise/static/gapps/docs/users/en/learning_center/faqs_calendar.html

Also worth a look is http://www.worldtimebuddy.com