Another One Bites the Dust

It was announced yesterday that today’s edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will be the final print version of this 146-year-old paper. One can’t help reading the story without hearing the “Print is dead” cries echoing in one’s ears. Amidst all the talk about new business models and transitioning to a new online format, I can’t help thinking that “20 news gatherers and Web producers,” “20 newly hired advertising sales staff,” and “150 citizen bloggers” will never be able to cover the news like an experienced news staff.

We know that the Kindle can deliver content from major U.S. newspapers. Is the SPI “major” enough to merit some Kindle attention? Even if does, you still won’t be able to read it on the plane during takeoff and landing. And therein lies part of my concern with the whole “print is dead” movement. Now don’t get me wrong – I like electronic books. I’ve been through many, and I have about 50 on my Palm Treo now. But there are some places/times where/when my device is not allowed. Beyond that, traditional print books and newspapers never need to be recharged, they never need a network connection, and they never have to be migrated to a new hardware/software platform. I can easily loan my print book to a friend, but I’m certainly not going to loan them my Treo!

I hope that the various facets of the publishing industry can find a comfortable balance before the pendulum swings too far.

(For the record, I first read this story on my Palm Treo when it was delivered through Pocket Express. I read follow-up material on various web sites.)

Seattle P-I to publish last edition Tuesday
Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints final edition in online transition
First big US newspaper goes web only

A Consistent User Experience for Mobile Browsing

Thinking about cell phones makes me think about both their possibilities and their limitations. The online experience is an increasingly important consideration for cell phone users. Cell phones are becoming more complex and truly reaching the level of handheld PCs. For many users computing is increasingly an online activity, and they expect a natural and seamless convergence point. The problem of course, is that the applications simply aren’t there. The lack of a Flash player come to mind. If you’re running Windows Mobile, you can enjoy some Flash content. But no Flash for iPhone. No Flash for Palm OS. Can you say “No YouTube”? What about Android? Who knows?

The layout and display will obviously vary on mobile devices due to varying screen sizes. I can accept that image resolution will be different since cell phone resolution falls far below desktop resolution. But the current state of mobile devices and online content is such that in many cases you simply can’t view it. I think of radio as a fitting analogy here. Whether it’s a portable radio, car radio, home stereo component, or an online player, you can get the same radio content. Sure the quality will vary according to the quality of the device that you’re listening on, but in each case you can at least get the content. Not so with far too many web sites and web applications.

As user behavior increasingly moves mobile and online, mobile device manufacturers and software developers have to make sure that users can access and work with their content through any website on which it resides and with any of a host of mobile devices. There is certainly room for specialized applications offering advanced features, but full interactivity with all major websites should be a core goal for all software and device manufacturers. It’s no longer a question of just what users want; it’s a matter of what they need.

A Trio of Cell Phones

I look at new cell phones from time to time as I ponder which one will be my next. I’ve been using a Treo 680 for awhile, but as I’ve noted before, the browser just isn’t holding to the current crop of web applications. For this reason (among others), I’m on the lookout.

Since I’m currently a Treo user, naturally I’m interested in what Palm’s next offering will be. A few photos recently “leaked” out on Palm’s website, and they made their way over to Engadget before Palm removed them. The so-called Treo Pro looks sorta – um . . . how should one say it? Meh. Yeah that’s the word. Sure it looks kind of sleek and shiny. But when compared with the iPhone 3G, that Palm screen looks mighty small and all those buttons make the device look cluttered and clunky. Funny – the Treos didn’t look quite so bad before the original iPhone came out. This device finally includes built-in WiFi, but I’m still waiting and watching. A number of people are watching for Palm’s long-rumored next-generation user interface. The device and its UI can definitely use a makeover, and some industry analysts are predicting that the new phone will be the make it or break device for Palm.

And then there’s the iPhone. Good and getting better. The app store is a great addition. It’s about time for users to be able to choose their own applications, dontcha think? But there is still no user replaceable battery. And the rumors about reception problems go on and on and on. In fact, there have been so many post about this problem on the support forum that Apple has already locked two threads. Some people are suggesting a hardware issue. Some people are suggesting software. So far Apple isn’t admitting a problem. No surprise there.

So what about Android? It sounds like it’s finally about to hit. The New York Times is reporting that T-Mobile will offer the first phone with Google’s eagerly anticipated Android software. The new phone by HTC may make it into the stores before year’s end. The Android software creates an entirely new realm for cell phone technology by offering a OPEN platform. Of course this OS is still a dark horse since we don’t have any real world tests yet, but it will be interesting to watch.

I guess I’m no closer to choosing a new phone, and the contenders just keep making it a tougher choice.

It warn’t broke, but they fixed it anyway.

Dontcha just hate it when a company fixes something and performance takes a hit? Such was the case with Opera Mini 4.1 Final (in my case, 4.1.11355, 20080522).

I’ve been using a Palm Treo 680 for almost a year and a half now. Blazer, the built-in web browser was just okay at the outset. As I explore more websites and as the websites get more complex, I increasingly find that Blazer just can’t cut it. Several months ago I installed Opera Mini, and I have used it a number of times since then – primarily when Blazer chokes on a page. With the supporting software that Opera Mini requires, it was a bit of a pain to get going. Once I finally had it running, I kept it on my phone, dutifully upgrading with each new release in hopes of a better interface and a more refined Treo-like user experience. (Did anyone else notice that Opera’s implementation of the 5-way Navigator button was completely inverted when compared to ALL OTHER Palm apps?)

Anywho . . . suffice it to say that Opera ain’t working so good now. After “upgrading” to the “final” 4.1 version, the program is all but unusable on my Treo. All kidding aside, most of the time I can’t even load Google with Opera. It crashes my phone, and I have to remove and replace the battery to force a reboot. You know, that new iPhone is looking better all the time!

Oh, for a version of Firefox that would run on the Palm OS!