Saturday, July 28, 2007

How to create your browser app on the iPhone

Since I started going around with my iPhone with the additional icon on it, showing the contacts application included in the free myFUNAMBOL portal, a lot of people have asked me how can they have it as well, or do the same with their browser-based app.

The goal is simple: having an additional icon on your screen, with your logo and the name of your application, that fires up a browser to your site. So you can keep the Safari for browsing and that icon to access that web-based app you really like (for me, it is one-click access to all my contacts over-the-air, with search capabilities, since the native iPhone contact app has zero search and I have 700+ contacts...).

The assumption is that you have already done jailbreak and you have ssh access to your iPhone. If you did it already, I am not responsible for anything that happens on your iPhone (or the warranty). If you did not, well... good luck with the rest of this ;-)

  1. Create a folder called under /Applications
  2. Copy all the files under /Applications/ to /Applications/ (making sure you copy also the subdirectory English.lproj). You can use iphoneinterface, sftp or, better, do a "cp -r"
  3. Make sure /Applications/ can be executed (chmod 755 MobileSafari)
  4. Overwrite the existing icon.png with the Funambol icon.png in /Applications/ (or make your 60x60 PNG file)
  5. Overwrite the existing Info.plist with the Funambol Info.plist in /Applications/ (the trick is simply for the app to be called something differently than
  6. Reboot the iPhone
That's it. You now have a second browser on your iPhone, with a pretty icon named Funambol. The two browsers share bookmarks and history at boot, but once started they will live separate lives. That means you can click on your Funambol icon, open the URL and it won't change, while you use your Safari icon to browse your favorite sites.

Change Funambol with your application and you have one-click access to your favorite web app. Nice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Is Apple still thinking different?

Years ago, Apple launched the "Think Different" campaign. It worked nicely. When your customers are a small minority, why not make them feel special? Otherwise, they will just leave you.

Few years later, Apple has made a spectacular comeback.
The AAPL stock went up almost 10% in after hours trading today. They are selling Macs and iPods like crazy (and a few iPhones ;-) They are becoming mainstream. Why? Because they now sport Intel laptops, iTunes runs on Windows and so on. They are thinking mainstream...

Now I am starting to wondering what they have in mind for developers on the iPhone. If you look at their current propaganda, it is all about Web 2.0 applications. Do they really think running apps on a mobile browser is the best for us? Do they really believe this is the way for thinking differently in mobile, instead of having applications on the phone? Are they really crazy?

Maybe not. If I look at my iPhone tonight, I have full ssh access as root on it, I can sftp files to it, I have a Funambol icon on the screen that opens up a browser (separate from the Safari one)... I have full control of the iPhone and I can develop any app I want on it. I do not need the browser anymore, I can create real local mobile apps (I just wish I had the time and the skills to do it ;-)

Now, it took our beloved hackers three weeks to make it. It was too easy. Too easy. The root password can be cracked in 12 seconds with basic tools. The system is completely open, once you have control of it. It is a developer dream, that leaves Windows Mobile, Palm and BlackBerry in the dust.

I have the feeling Apple left the door open. They could not do it "officially" because at&t wanted to control everything, from ringtones to applications. The door is therefore officially closed, but you just had to push it a bit to slam it open. Now we can build real mobile applications and more...

They might be still thinking differently. But they are becoming way smarter at it. They are now thinking mainstream, and they still make you feel different.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Off-topic from HostingCon 2007

I am in Chicago today, attending HostingCon 2007. A very interesting conference, dedicated to a market that needs to go mobile, has big issues with device compatibility and has been using open source for a long time. Now you know why I am here... If you are in Chicago and want to meet, please drop me a note. Yes, if you are hosting email... we can mobilize it :-)

Now the off-topic. Why in the world do American foosball tables have thirteen players per team?

Do foosball table manufacturers watch their daughters play soccer? Did they ever notice there are eleven players per team? Where did they get the idea that there are three goalies?

I am going to design an Italian baseball table with a square instead of a diamond and see how it goes...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mobile data is NOT killing SMS

I just read about a recent Informa report that total mobile data revenues (excluding SMS) in the US were $11.3 billion in Q1 07, up 40% from last year. This number represents one third of all data revenues. The rest is SMS.

So you would guess that mobile data services (including email and IM) are eating into the SMS plate.


SMS usage is up 50% worldwide, with 620 billion messages sent in Q1. SMS revenues are up as well ($34.3 billion in a quarter!), although they do not follow the growth in messages directly, because of the bundles.

How do you read this? Well, let me try:
  1. Consumers want messaging more than ever
  2. Consumers are still willing to spend a lot of money on messaging
  3. If you add email and IM in the mix, that does not kill SMS
  4. Email and IM are additional sources of significant revenues for carriers
If you are a carrier, this is the time for consumer mobile email...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Funambol is a 2007 AO 100 Top Company

Last year we made the Red Herring 100. They do not name companies twice, so this year we won something else ;-) We made in the 2007 AO 100 Top Companies, which is a pretty trendy list.

Looking at the list, I noticed:
  1. 13% of the companies in the list are mobile (thanks to the iPhone!). For example, there is AdMob, which is a cool company. Some of the others are mobile play but they do not know it yet: for example, Jajah (believe me they are a mobile play)
  2. 5% of the companies in the list are open source, such as rPath, MuleSource and others.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Look, what a nice icon!

Unfortunately, the quality of the picture is quite bad... But those with a good eye might notice a Funambol icon on my iPhone (my apologies to Safari ;-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to escape (iPhone) jail

I have a bet out (with myself) that someone will be able to completely hack the iPhone in less than two weeks. I am running out of time but it looks like people are getting very close. There is an (open source) tremendous effort on the iPhone Dev Wiki (that I am not linking because they asked not to), which is starting to bear fruits.

In a nutshell:
  1. They know how to activate the iPhone without at&t (not how to unlock it, yet)
  2. They apparently have gained full access to the file system, a.k.a. "How to Escape Jail" (although they have not posted software yet, so this is just a rumor)
Bottom line, I believe we'll have something before the end of the weekend. The issue is that Apple will be able to wipe every effort out with a single firmware update. It looks like a crazy race where evil (close as in jail) will sadly prevail against good (open as in free), but it is fun to watch
anyway ...

You know for which side I am cheering ;-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The iPhone nano is coming soon(er)?

I have been convinced from day one that the current iPhone will be a niche. After using one for a while, I am more convinced than ever... Too expensive, too slow, too closed. A fantastic device, do not get me wrong, but I am not giving up my Windows Mobile device with Funambol installed. I simply cannot live without push email and push calendar anymore. Or without a real keyboard. It looks to me like the same experience I had with Tivo and the DirecTV DVR. When you get spoiled, it is hard to go back. Even if the new device has more features and it is gorgeous. The basic is missing and I simply need it.

Now, if I am not switching to the iPhone (and I am a smartphone user), then who would? People that do not have an iPod and are planning to upgrade their dumbphone. What will suffer? The iPod sales numbers...

Yep, the iPhone will eat into the iPod market.

What can Apple do? Launch the iPhone nano as soon as possible... I wrote about it many times, this will be the killer device (and it would be a dream if Apple agreed with at&t only for the iPhone and they would made this completely unlocked...) but the rumors are now stronger. JP Morgan reported that it could happen even before Christmas. It is the only way for Apple to avoid iPod numbers to collapse...

Will it look like this?
Probably not, but it would be interesting to guess which features would they cut from the original to the nano. What would I cut? Let me try:
  1. Calendar -> only for geeks and if it is not synchronized, useless even for geeks...
  2. Stocks -> only for geeks with money (very small category)
  3. Calculator -> only for geeks that forgot how to divide numbers, due to excessive use of computers
  4. Notes -> who takes notes on a mobile device with a supercrippled keyboard??
  5. Clock -> believe me, you have another device on you that tells you what time it is...
  6. Weather -> well, this would be really nice to have but I am out of room... You'll have to use the browser for it, sorry.
What would you cut? What do you really need on a phone? Can you live without weather or would you rather sacrifice maps?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

iPhoneDevCamp starts Friday night

Here is an event not to be missed if you live in the Bay Area. Tomorrow night (Friday) starts iPhoneDevCamp, "Making the web a better place for iPhone". It is a developer meeting, going on for the entire weekend. The outcome? An unlocked iPhone (just kidding)...

Funambol is sponsoring the pizza on Saturday night. Hey, it is developers on a mobile platform, we just launched the first contacts app for the iPhone, built by a bunch of Italians... we definitely could not have missed it and pizza clearly fits the bill. Just to keep your expectations in check, it is going to be American pizza ;-)

I'll see you there.

IT Conversations

For those who like podcasts and do not mind my Italian accent, I had a (pretty long) chat with Scott Mace of IT Conversations a few weeks ago.

Monday, July 02, 2007

myFUNAMBOL: your contacts on the iPhone

So I listened to the imaginary suggestion of Steve Jobs and I showed up Friday at 6 pm at the Apple store in Palo Alto. I saw the long line (about 150 people), but not as long as I would have expected. I did not see Steve Jobs (who appeared from the sky in the store, some say). However, I saw a guy tearing one iPhone apart, in front of a camera (just for fun, I guess). The wait was too long, so I went out and had few beers with friends (that is what you are supposed to do on a Friday night, not standing in line...) and I came back at 10 pm (ok, maybe the beers were not few :-) Five minutes wait, and I got my iPhone. Went home, tried to activate it, waited until the next morning and had it working (and no hangover).

Now, the iPhone is an amazing device, with one missing feature that makes it just a toy for me, not something I can use everyday. It is missing over the air sync. That is, you cannot sync your address book or calendar, unless you are at home, your PC is on and you are connecting the iPhone to it with a cable.

I need my address book on the iPhone. Having wifi and cellular connectivity and being forced to use a cable is insane. I could do cable sync in the nineties with my Palm.

So... we decided to launch myFUNAMBOL.

myFUNAMBOL is a demo installation of our Carrier Edition (without push, in most cases). You can get email on your device for free (that is, your RAZR, Nokia, but also Windows Mobile) and you can sync your address book and calendar from whatever phone you have. It includes Outlook and iPod sync, but you can use the community plugins to sync Thunderbird, Yahoo, Evolution and so on. More info about it is on our web site.

The coolest thing is that you can use it with the iPhone.

So, if you have an iPhone and an old phone, you can sync your old phone and access your contacts on the iPhone. Or you can use Outlook, Thunderbird, Evolution to keep your address book updated in real time. Even Yahoo address book is there. Steve Jobs would say "this is the best portal we ever did".

For now, the myFUNAMBOL portal is beta and we are open it slowly. We received hundreds of requests in the first few hours and we are processing them. It is an early beta, so... be patient with us. In any case, more to come. This is just the beginning...