Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The new MobileWe portal

Many people showed up at our booth in Barcelona. The main feedback we received showing our new MobileWe portal was "oohhh" and "aaahhh", with some experts saying "it looks better than MobileMe!". And something you can easily brand and launch, because it is meant to be a white-labeled solution.

For those who did not make it to Barcelona, I am posting a few pictures of what we presented (clicking on the image will show it larger). I will shoot a video later to give you the full idea.

Login Page:

Home Page:

Home Page with click on a picture:

Contacts Page:

Calendar Page with week view:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A review of MWC

I had hopes to be able to report from MWC in Barcelona, as I did in the last few years, but this year I just could not make it. Too many meetings, too many parties, too much business... I know, it sounds like a lame excuse, but it is true (and I am very glad about it).

On my way back to the Bay Area, in a nice hotel in London Heathrow, I started collecting some thoughts about MWC. It moves so fast when you are in it, that it is hard to capture everything. It is easier to do it a few days later.

  1. Attendance was not bad. Sure, it was slower, there were reasonable lines at the entrance, restrooms and taxi. You could even grab a table to eat. But it wasn't deserted by any means. Tons and tons of people. Everyone I expected to be there was there. Those that did not come were just the people that have no budget and browse around the show for gadgets. Those with checkbooks did not miss the show. Our booth was never empty. But we had to fix a lot less APNs for syncing from the guy who stops by saying "hey, I can't sync, can you fix it?"
  2. Android was a shocking no show. I was expecting a lot of Android devices, but they just were not there. The first day, HTC did not even have the G2. It showed up the second day (thankfully). The HTC Magic (G2) will be available this spring in the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. I have no idea if Android is just hard to put in a phone, or if there is something else. Last year was the year of Android announcements. This year was supposed the year of the phones actually showing up. It did not happen.
  3. LiMo, instead, was present and shouting "we are still alive!". Alive they are, and they are not threatening for mobile operators (Google is). I was invited to the LiMo Foundation meeting and, when I showed up, I noticed everyone had a suit and tie... Shocking for an open source initiative. Maybe not open source enough ;-)
  4. Steve Ballmer said "The time has come for us to bring the full Windows experience to mobile phones". Somehow, their brand is so screwed up that "the full Windows experience" sounds like they are bringing the blue screen of death also to phones... Anyway, they announced the App Store and Windows 6.5 with Flash (but no Silverlight... do they have a Product Management team left at Microsoft?)
  5. LG announced a Windows Mobile phone, everyone said OOOHHH, then the next day they announced a Symbian phone as well. Everyone said AAAAHHH.
  6. Adobe was pretty bold with Flash announcements and Sun did their part on Java FX Mobile (which I am keeping a special eye on)
  7. Yahoo unveiled a mobile portal that it hopes will become “your starting point to the Internet.” It is called Yahoo Mobile. I saw Marco Boerries show it on stage (he spoke right before I did) and it was impressive. Too bad their brand is so bad, because they are doing everything right in mobile. If Google had Yahoo Mobile, it would be considered a super innovation...
  8. Nokia confirmed the launch of its Ovi Store application storefront, but everyone was still talking about how they destroyed three weeks of address books in the Ovi Sync service. I am still amazed by it.
  9. Funambol showed its "MobileWe" portal and everyone was incredibly positive about it. I knew it was gorgious but the feedback we received was beyond my expectations. We are already negotiating with the first mobile operators for a launch shortly. If you want to be first, this is the time to give us a call (but we'll take you even if you are ok being second :-)
  10. Lists usually are made of 10 items, but I could not come up with one. Ohh, maybe it could be related to travel. It wasn't the best show when it came to travel, luggage, flights and so on for me. I am sure I will get some of my luck back in the future.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Funambol Fabrizio Barcelona

So the times has come, MWC is next week. The big show of the year. Finally: I am flying out tomorrow.

Things have been heating up a lot lately, sign of a pretty good show coming. We will be in booth #1J46 in Hall 1 (same spot as last year, with the nice couches to rest your tired feet). We'll be showing off our new "MobileWE" Funambol v8 portal, which is awesome. Preview below.

If the portal is not enough (it should), we'll also have espresso on site. And if you are very nice to us, you might actually also get a Funambol Espresso Cup, which is very cool.

We had already some leaks of a bunch of announcements we are going to make (yes, we are not that good at keeping secrets in open source...). One is with a la Mobile about Android. They have been working very hard to build an Android distro with our sync engine integrated, doing pictures, videos, music sync and more. There will be a demo at our booth with people from a la Mobile, so do not miss it. The other leaked announcement is with Phoenix Technologies, yes the public company which brings you the BIOS of your PC every time you boot it. They have extended their BeInSync product to mobile, which is a big market as you know ;-)

I was invited to speak - for the first time (sign of the times, for mobile open source!) - so I will be talking about "Exploring the impact of open source on relationships across the mobile value chain" in the "Mobilising Open Source session" Wednesday afternoon.

Apart from being around the booth with a million appointments in my calendar, many overlapping (trick learned from the airline industry: always overbook yourself at 3GSM because people do not show up or are late, then you'll manage with espresso cups :-)) I am planning to attend a bunch of events. If you are going to be at Mobile Sunday, the LiMo event and Mobile Monday Awards on Monday, the Access, Jefferies, Sun parties on Tuesday, the Nexit/Nokia dinner of Wednesday... look around because I might be there as well.

See you next week. It is going to be fun. I will try to report live daily from the show, as I did for the last few years. No promises, though.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cloud syncing is hard to do

Ouch, after the MobileMe initial meltdown for Apple (a black eye, one of the few they have), now we have a Nokia Ovi meltdown... This one was huge, maybe worst than the Apple one.

The Register reports:
Nokia's Contacts for Ovi - the Finnish manufacturer's answer to MobileMe - was down for most of yesterday and has lost all amendments made since January 23 when the last backup was taken.
Check your calendar. Today is February 12th. They lost their users address books for the last three weeks.... Ouch. Ouch.

Cloud syncing is hard to do. There are so many ways to screw it up. Duplicate all your users contacts. Maintain security among accounts (imagine what would happen if someone would break into Ovi...). Wipe out contacts and the phone number of that girl you met last Saturday night... People would kill for less :-)

Cloud syncing is hard to do. However, as the Register says "Cloud synchronisation is ramping up to be the next big thing".

To do the next big thing, it takes a lot of time and a lot of people. Yay ;-)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The other battle: app stores

It is fascinating to watch the mobile cloud sync battle from within: Google Sync vs. Apple MobileMe vs. Microsoft My Phone vs. everyone else who is using Funambol, like AOL and many more ;-) I am so excited about all the companies that went live with Funambol last quarter and this quarter, I just want to jump on a plane and land in Barcelona to show our new v8 portal.

But I can't talk only about cloud sync, even if it is the hottest thing on the planet today.

There is another battle, which is very interesting to watch. The battle of the App Stores. Here, we have Apple App Store vs. Google Android Marketplace vs. Microsoft SkyMarket (or whatever they will call it eventually; looking at how they changed SkyBox to My Phone, I am betting for MarketStore...). There are more competitors here, like Palm App Catalog and BlackBerry Application Storefront. One per operating system, Symbian coming soon, JavaME DNF but you never know...

The latest news on the app stores front are juicy. First, Apple has passed the 20,000 apps mark. The news comes from Apptism, an iPhone app activity aggregator. The number sounds about right, since Apple has announced they passed 15,000 on January 16th. However, if 5,000 apps a month are added, the accelaration is shocking.

The question is "who can keep up with Apple?". Sheer numbers do not tell the entire story, but it is hard to deny that you can find any app on the App Store today. Most are useless and stupid, but... The App Store is huge. Apple has created an enormous developer community from zero. It is unbelievable and hard to repeat for anyone.

Google is trying. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Android Marketplace will start accepting paying apps this week. Keeping up with Apple is tough. Making money is a good reason to publish an app, however stupid. If Google does not allow a developer to make money, it will always be a second choice for many.

The advantage of Apple, though, is big. They have your credit card.

I repeat: they have your credit card.

You might think they don't, but if you look into your iTunes you will find it. They collected it once when you bought that 99c song for your daughter. Or when you walked into the store and bought an iPod (did you notice they ask you for your email when you pay? Boom, credit card linked...).

You cannot download a FREE app on iTunes, if your credit card is not valid. It happened to me, my credit card was expired, I tried to download Funambol on my iPhone and I could not make it. I had to go back to my PC, put in the new expiration date on my card and voila', the free Funambol app installed on my phone (billed for zero dollars).

Having the billing element set up, with the credit card ready for you to pay is BIG. Google does not have it, people will have to go through an additional step to buy. Bye bye impulsive buy :-))

That said, I am sure Google will soon have all your credit card as well. And your location with Latitude, as Apple already does (if you have an iPhone). What is Microsoft going to do to match evil?

We'll see, the app store novel has yet to be fully written. It is going to be fun to read.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Please no phone calls on planes (pleeeaaase)

I was about to pack to fly to Europe for Mobile World Congress (not a chance, I am going to pack an hour before check-in as usual ;-) and I remembered an article a saw a few days ago. The news was that British Airways (my preferred carrier to Europe) was planning to introduce mobile phone data-only usage on planes.

The idea is simple: allowing Crackberry addicts to check emails and surf the Internet (or use Google Maps to see where they are on the planet ;-) while still forbidding voice calls.

Few comments:
  1. I like the idea and I am not bothered by it. Actually, I would love it, as I like wi-fi in the air.
  2. What the heck happened to that "cell phones cannot be used while flying because the plane might crash" statement I heard for years on planes??
  3. What happens when people figure out they can use VOIP and chat away with friends over data connections?
Item #3 is worrying. I have to admit that the first thing I did when I found wi-fi on a Lufthansa flight years ago (before they disconnected it) was using Skype to call my wife. The usual "guess where I am calling you from?". Obnoxious. I whispered and I guess most of the people around me thought I was just insane, talking to my computer. They weren't that off.

I have no other place than a plane, where nobody bothers me. Where I can work on my laptop and clean up my Inbox (it happens only during long flights), or even read a book and watch a movie. I cannot stand the idea of cell phones ringing, with the annoying ringtones most people think are cool (I don't, phone vibration should be mandatory for people with bad taste in music).

Please BA, go for data-only services, but forbid voice. As a punishment for breaking the rule, may I suggest moving the violator between two toddlers for the rest of the flight?

Since you are there, can you fix the annoying issue I have with my MacBook Air when I plug the power in, and the touchpad goes berserk? I swear I am not going to talk on a phone ever again.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The day mobile cloud syncing went mainstream

Today Google has put the stamp on the success of mobile cloud syncing. They extended their Google Sync product (which supported only BlackBerry devices up to now), to a lot more devices. Half with SyncML, the other half with ActiveSync (licensed from the enemy, Microsoft, which is big news by itself).

It is a big day for cloud syncing. The 800-pound gorilla has made his move. A day after Microsoft announced My Phone, which does pretty much the same (of MobileMe...). It makes 1,600 pounds of gorilla on cloud syncing over a weekend...

For those who thought cloud syncing would become a world-wide mass phenomenon (yep, I am now referring to myself as "those"), the last two days have been spectacular. I mean, SyncML pushed by Google means a ton of more SyncML users. Syncing pushed by Microsoft means a lot of people getting familiar with the concept. It will generate even more demand. It will make syncing truly mass market.

It is so great to see the rest of the world catching up.

Now, if you are one of those trying to add cloud sync to your strategy, today is the day of no-return. The big guys have made a move, it is now or never.

If you are a device manufacturer, you have to move NOW.
If you are a mobile operator, you have to move NOW.
If you are an operating system vendor, you have to move NOW.
If you are a portal, you have to move NOW.
If you are a service provider, you have to move NOW.

I know this looks like a marketing pitch for Funambol and our up-and-coming Mobile World Congress demo of our MobileWe-OurPhone-NotOnlyGoogleSync, and it probably is :-)) But I could not dream for a launchpad coming from Google and Microsoft... This is way too much.

It is happening now (jump). It is happening now (jump jump). It is happening now (jump jump jump). Very difficult to contain myself, I know. But I am trying hard...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Microsoft SkyBox is "My Phone"?

Man, I just wrote a post saying that - at least - Microsoft came up with an original name for their MobileMe initiative, and it turns out I was wrong... A new site went live today,, (and it was promptly shut down) where Skybox is actually called Microsoft My Phone.

I mean "My Phone"!!!

I still feel it might be a hoax, but all the info I gathered point to a real thing. Something Microsoft is getting ready for MWC in Barcelona. Skybox is supposed to be the outcome of their acquisition of Mobicomp in Portugal, a sync company, last June.

Q&A (summary from the site):
  1. "Microsoft My Phone works only on phones that run the Windows Mobile 6+ operating system". No surprise.
  2. "Recommended settings will synchronize contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, photos, videos, text messages, music, and documents between your phone and your My Phone web account". If this is true, it is tasks, videos, text messages and documents more than MobileMe (not a small difference...). But email is not there (wow).
  3. "Access and update your contacts and appointments on the web Microsoft My Phone enables you to view and manage phone information by using a web browser. [..] From your web account, you can save photos to your computer or can e-mail them to family and friends.". Nice, I am curious about the documents...
  4. "Microsoft does not charge a fee for the My Phone service at this time". Uuuhhh, that's $99/year less than MobileMe...
  5. "How much data can I back up? Your Microsoft My Phone account gives you 200 MB of free storage on the Microsoft My Phone web site". Well, 200 MB is not that much if you sync pictures and documents. But who cares? It is free...
  6. "If you accept the recommended settings, Microsoft My Phone will automatically synchronize information between your mobile phone and your Microsoft My Phone web account once per day between 11:00 P.M. and 5:00 A.M. [..]. You can also back up your data manually at any time by selecting Sync in the Microsoft My Phone application on your phone." What? No push? Only one sync a day? That is surprising, and a bit depressing.
Bottom line. If all this is true, it looks a lot more like a backup service than a real mobile life sync service (e.g. what Google gives you with Android). No email, no push and just once a day sync is very very limiting. But being free, it is a good start.

However, if you want to see the real next thing, stop by our booth in Barcelona... And yes, it works with Windows Mobile as well.

[update 7 Feb, 2009: it is all true! Microsoft has now a web site at]

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Microsoft new mobile OS to be open source?

I have been saying for a while that one day (probably in 2020 ;-) Windows Mobile will be open source. I do not see any other option for Microsoft in the long term. They will have to capitulate, although I was convinced they would fight this hard.

Instead, I bumped into a few sites that recently claim that the new Danger Sidekick 2009 will run NetBSD.

As you probably know, Microsoft bought Danger. Rumors abound of Microsoft coming up with a phone very soon (MWC?). If there is one, it will come from Danger - for sure. Some even say it will have the Zune brand (yep, some think it is a good brand... I would call it actually the Zune Vista to reinforce the brand with another good one ;-)

Now, it would have made sense for Microsoft to force Danger to use Windows Mobile. Maybe they thought about it. But probably it ended up not making sense (do you want to throw away years of work and a bunch of enthusiastic users just to push Windows Mobile?). Maybe they even realized why open source is better as a model (but they are not telling anyone ;-)

Therefore, they probably got stuck with what Danger had. And that is said to be NetBDS. Which is open source. As recent as last October, Microsoft was "looking for a talented NetBSD software developer interested in helping Danger (a subsidiary of Microsoft) ship the next generation of Danger’s Sidekick platform"... It does not leave that much doubt.

If I can't have Windows Mobile open source soon, too bad. I can live without it for a few more years. But if the other mobile OS from Microsoft is open source - the consumer one - I would be moving an inch closer to my prediction...

Open source for consumers, closed source for enterprises. Interesting choice. Sooner or later, it will be open source everywhere. That is where the world is going, after all. Microsoft is just going with the flow.

Garmin and Asus: here comes the Nuvifone (finally)

One device that I have been waiting for, with some trepidation, is the Garmin Nuvifone. A very interesting concept for a smartphone, coming from a navigation company. In a word, a smartphone that is a personal navigation device (PND) for your car, that you snap out of its in-car holder when you leave the car. Since it is a navigator, it is well designed to guide you to a restaurant and share your location with your friends. On top of it, it is a smartphone with phone capabilities and a camera, messaging, browsing and calendaring.

What is unique about this device is that it is not a smartphone with some mapping capabilities (like all the others). It is a navigation device with some smartphone capabilities. It takes the smartphone paradigm and turns it upside down.

Garmin announced it (with some fanfare) over a year ago in January 2008. I have been waiting and waiting and waiting, but the device never materialized. I always wondered if they were going to launch it with a carrier in the US, or just as a standalone product ("put in your SIM card and go"). The latter being an option not in the US, but a pretty good one in Europe.

Today, they announced the device is coming out at MWC in Barcelona (which is shaping up as a cool event) together with Asus. That's big news. Asus is the device manufacturer behind the Nuvifone, so it is no surprise. But the announcement puts Asus on the front seat with Garmin. They share the risk, the share the reward.

For Asus, is a low-risk way to get into the smartphone market with its brand (it will always be a Garmin device for the public). For Garmin, it is a way to have someone to lean on, with a distribution channel in Asia, and lower the risk (cost, I would assume) in the short term in exchange for a lower upside (if the device turns out to be wildly successful).

I found this move to be a smart one. This is 2009, after all. These days, you see everyone making careful moves. Nobody is coming out bold. Everyone is trying to play safe. Share the risk, share the reward. Join forces. The world is tough out there...

Monday, February 02, 2009

A smartphone for everyone

I was looking at a report today, plotting the price for a smartphone in the US. In May of last year, it was over $200. Now, after the Palm Treo 800w was discounted from $199 to $99 at Sprint (to leave room for the Treo Pro) and T-mobile cut the Pearl 8120 and 8220 to $79 (gulp!), the average price is $147.

Anything that goes below $150 is, by definition, affordable to anyone. It is less than three months of phone bills. It is mass market.

In an economy that is collapsing, people need to save cost and cheer themselves up. I know, it sounds bizarre, but games do always very well in a down economy. It is human nature (and having more time to waste, I guess).

Would you buy a desktop with DSL or a smartphone that can also be a camera and an mp3 player, always connected to the network, with a navigation tool like Google Maps? The former is probably $500 plus $30/month for Internet. The latter is $150 plus $20-$30/month for data.

And you will feel much better after buying it, because you can carry your shiny thingy with you everywhere, showing off iFart to your friends.

Bottom line, the smartphone is going to be one of the few areas of growth in this economy. And the price will keep coming down. A Perl for $79 is low but it can go even lower (to zero).