September 28, 2005

Palm + Microsoft = Treo on Windows Mobile with Outlook

Co-opetetion makes for strange bedfellows. Who would have imagined just a few years ago that Palm and Microsoft would ever have joined forces? However, a short year ago, I posted here that Palm entered a licensing agreement with Microsoft for providing support for Exchange on the Treo line. Many wondered where this was going.

This week, Palm, Microsoft, and Verizon Wireless decloaked out of the stealth closet to announce their alliance, complete with an hour-long press conference with the heads of all three companies, and a brief demo of the new Treo. While watching the entire conference, it was quickly apparent that Bill Gates was the only one truly comfortable on stage, perhaps something of an omen.

To save you some of the PR chatter and mutual admirations, the demo starts at around 20:50 in the video, with audience Q&A beginning around 29:20.

Some of the highlights:

  • The new Treo is expected to be out early 2006, running on Windows Mobile OS, not Palm OS (with all the fanfare PalmSource made over switching to Linux, this is a surprise to some).
  • It will support Exchange ActiveSync, for an Outlook experience on the Treo.
  • The blending of Treo and Windows features will enable one to bring up a contact's multiple phone numbers, text messaging, e-mail, and instant messaging options in a single quick pop-up.
  • Verizon Wireless will offer the new Treo exclusively beginning early 2006, with it opening up to other carriers in the second half of 2006.
  • Verizon will be supporting the Treo over their fast EV-DO data network.
  • Due to the inclusion of the EVDO radio, expect it to cost more than other Treos.
Naturally, the press is quick to point out Palm's predicament, such as's "Five reasons for Palm's slide".

Yes, Palm experienced a reversal in the PDA market, but they realize their strengths with the Treo. Rather than jump on the negativity bandwagon, I recall my opinion from a year ago:

"In the past, Palm and Handspring were great in making such announcements, but never seemed quite able to deliver on all the hype. Thus it will be quite interesting to see if the relatively new merging between Palm and Handspring, and its new relationship with Exchange, will finally give Treo the entré to the Enterprise it has so desperately been seeking since its debut. While other solutions have existed, Palm-based devices have long needed a more level playing field for the corporate wireless messaging market. This is a great announcement, but now palmOne needs to put its money where its mouth is and execute, execute, execute like never before. They're probably not going to get a better opportunity at the corporate market than direct support with Exchange (and thus Outlook)."
While I'm sure some are thinking "too little, too late", let's see if they can finally deliver on the hype. With the Microsoft juggernaut backing them this time around, coupled with Verizon's fast and highly rated EV-DO network, they've got a shot. Except that their toughest competition in the enterprise market was never Microsoft.

RIM has quietly proven itself in the enterprise, and is already embedded. That's what Palm is truly up against: It's not the better device or platform who will win. It's the one who can retain the CIOs and messaging managers at these companies, and RIM has a healthy head start. Unless these IT leaders experience serious problems with RIM, I predict they'll take the more conservative approach and stay pat with the one they know. Thus Palm's largest growth target are companies without wireless messaging. I think they'll win some and add revenue, but the real question is whether it'll be enough to make a substantial difference? While I'm intrigued by these new possibilities and love rooting for the underdog, I'm left thinking that Palm can do all the right things and still fall short.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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September 21, 2005

Opera Browser: Now Free & Why You Should Care

The Opera 8.5 web browser just became free, offered without the ads. As Opera's site is fairly scarce on details, BetaNews and CNet provide a few more tidbits as to why Opera is now offered without ads, licensing fees, or registration. (Premium support is still available at $29 per year.)

Interestingly, the timing could be fortuitous, given this CNet article published two days ago: "Symantec: Mozilla browsers more vulnerable than IE". (Yes, that's not a misprint.)

According to CNet's summary of Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report, "25 vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities were disclosed for the Mozilla browsers during the first half of 2005, 'the most of any browser studied,' the report's authors stated. Eighteen of these flaws were classified as high severity. 'During the same period, 13 vendor-confirmed vulnerabilities were disclosed for IE, eight of which were high severity,' the report noted." [...] "There is one caveat: Symantec counts only those security flaws that have been confirmed by the vendor."

With this said, Symantec adds that only IE has experienced "widespread exploitation" so far, but "expects this to change as alternative browsers become increasingly widely deployed." In other words, IE is just more squarely within hackers' sights -- at the moment.

The article goes on to cover the Secunia statistics for the browsers. Secunia is a well-known security monitoring company that tracks security issues of various applications. Just to provide a more apples-to-apples comparison between IE, Mozilla, and Opera, I looked up the latest version of each browser to see how many Secunia "advisories" (i.e., security risks, exploits, etc.) were reported for each. As of today, Opera indeed appears to fare the best among the three, and Mozilla doesn't look so bad with just a few outstanding issues (although "none" would be better):

Total Secunia Advisories (I believe these are cumulative):

IE 6.x:85
Mozilla Firefox 1.x:  23
Opera 8.x:8

Total Unpatched Secunia Advisories (these are the ones to worry about):
IE 6.x:19
Mozilla Firefox 1.x:  4
Opera 8.x:0

Over the past several years, I haven't been a big fan nor user of Opera, namely for these reasons: I don't like ads or anything remotely related to adware, nor did I want to pay for a web browser when good free alternatives existed. Also, some web sites didn't display properly in Opera (although the same could easily be said for Mozilla-based browsers as well).

However, given that Opera is on version 8.5 and was more commercially developed compared to Mozilla's open source efforts, one could make a very good argument that it's more mature and has more built-in features. Mozilla requires many third-party plug-ins to achieve its functionality. One area I've always thought Opera was a leader was its mouse gestures for quick navigation -- a great feature that once you master, you don't want to use a browser without. And, as a market trailer, it's far less likely that hackers would find any meaningful return in their efforts to exploit it. That could change now that it's free, as there's a lot to like.

Is it too late for Opera to compete in the browser wars? Hard to say. Fairly recent surveys show people are much more aware of security issues relating to Internet use (adware, spyware, browsers, spam, phishing, etc.). People like choices. People like free choices even more, especially if it's a good product and the pain to change over from a competitor is fairly low. I do think that by now, most people have "settled in" with their browser of choice, and don't want to migrate their bookmarks/favorites yet again. However, there are many who always want to try the latest and greatest, and I have no doubt they are already downloading Opera, willing to give it a whirl.

After Microsoft has dominated the browser scene for so long (amazing considering its lack of releases to keep pace), it's nice to see the pendulum swinging back the other way.

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security  |  Web Wizardry
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September 15, 2005

Google Blog Search Beta Released

In the ever-expanding Google universe, they've just released the Google Blog Search Beta. Not surprising, given Google's general affinity for blogs in its regular search engine, and naturally they own Blogger, so what better way to boost both technologies?

While some speculate it will give services like Technorati a run for the money, I see it a bit differently. Yes, all of these services perform a search function, but some do a better job of tracking the pinging or links between them, which could be translated as discussion threads. Now remember, this is a beta, so Google could certainly add more features as they go.

There are a few different ways you can get to Google's Blog Search:

Per Google: "It's the same search in each place, no matter how you get to it. The Navbar, however, provides two buttons: one to search the blog you are currently viewing, and one to search all blogs."

More help and info is available at the Google Blog Search Help page, which is a list of FAQ's.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Web Wizardry
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September 13, 2005

Excellent iPod Parody Video

It's been out for a little while, but just seems all the more fitting and funny after the iPod Nano launch. If you've ever wondered how small the iPod could go, you'll love this.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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September 12, 2005

NY Times: Katrina Left a Legal System in Shambles

For those wondering just what Katrina has done to our legal system in its wake, the New York Times piece, "A Legal System in Shambles" chronicles the many legal problems caused by the devastation as well as the very human impact.

Update: Championed by Ross Kodner, and joined by many legal technology experts, vendors, and more, is now online. Ross describes it as a "Resource of volunteers for legal technology, practice management and disaster/data recovery for any law practice affected by Katrina".

The site describes in more detail the type of help they are marshaling across the legal market:

  • Guidance regarding restoring backed up data, or recovering data from physically damaged computer systems or media

  • Advice about temporarily practicing with either borrowed, rented or purchased new PC and voice systems

  • Provide remote access to allow any lawyer who can get online to use well-known legal software to get their work out and contact clients and associates

  • Provide sound longer-term focused guidance on replacing destroyed or damaged systems - but doing it the best way at fair prices, avoiding making costly mistakes
Also, don't forget the other resources posted earlier.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management  |  Other Musings
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Gadget Roundup

For some reason, during this past week a number of interesting gadgets got my attention. Highlights for those who need a gadget fix (you know who you are):

  • iPod Nano -- Apple makes a splash with flash memory

  • Bye-bye iPod Mini, Hello uber-thin Nano -- but will it fit all the regular iPod accessories on which we've spent so much?

  • Motorola ROKR phone -- The vaporware iPod phone finally decloaks

  • It even claims pretty decent battery life -- because, well, you'll need it if you want to talk more than 15 minutes after you've been cranking your tunes.

    Me? I'd rather invest in a slim Nano and keep it separate from my phone, especially as it looks to be more robust than the ROKR. Otherwise, what happens when you want to upgrade your cell phone -- lose the iPod? There will also be occasions when I'd want to mount my iPod into a car holder or portable speaker dock, and keep my cell phone free for calls. Thus I see ROKR succeeding more as a supplement to an existing iTunes account and iPod owner than as a primary player.

  • Aleratec USB Copy Cruiser Plus -- The ultimate portable USB host?

  • From the site: "The USB Copy Cruiser Plus copies digital pictures, MP3 files and other data between USB drives without a computer. With the USB Copy Cruiser Plus you can quickly transfer data between USB drives and Flash Memory cards where ever you are. The easy to use control buttons and LCD display allow you to choose specific files, folders or all files and folders to copy."

    Sounds like an interesting solution for digital photo transfers directly from your digicam. Of course, an iPod Photo does this in style. But it does solve that "How can I get this file from my thumb drive to yours" problem without having a laptop booted up.

  • Charge 2 Go -- Emergency Cell Phone Charger

  • We've seen emergency chargers before, but this one claims to charge your phone from a single AA battery. It's tiny, cheap at $25 (including shipping) and you can always find a AA battery. This one I'm checking out.

  • Batman PC Case

  • Okay, this isn't so much a gadget as it is a cry for escapism (or help). But if you thought Batman's utility belt was cool, then you'd probably like this case for your PC. Hey, at least it's original. The PC Begins?
    (More info at Bios Magazine)

  • Übergizmo -- A Gadget Blog

  • Worthy of the place alongside Gizmodo, Engadget, and Lifehacker in my RSS reader.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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September 03, 2005

Tablet PCs: A Reality Check

I came across a very good set of articles today relating to the Tablet PC's lackluster market performance. First, there's the doom and gloom from various market analysts in the BetaNews' "Tablet PC Platform in Trouble?" piece. Yet David Coursey's eWeek column, "Tablet PC Is Stronger Than Predictions Suggest" adds some much needed perspective on the issues.

My perspective is somewhere in the middle of these extremes. Back around the millennium, at the very pinnacle of the Palm and Pocket PC PDA hype, I recall reading analysts' staggering predictions of PDA market share numbers by 2010 that struck me as unsustainable. I felt the analysts didn't fully grasp the concepts of market maturity and saturation at the time. Not to mention that mobile technology experiences fads and subsumption -- as newer and different types of technologies absorb, morph, and obsolete them. For instance, think of how even mid-range cell phones have affected the PDA and pager markets, not to mention the incredible amount of convergence between e-mail, organizers, text messaging, and voice features.

From that point on, while I found tech market analysts' predictions interesting, I knew they were just as swayed by hype and emotion as anyone else. I've seen major analysts' product and vendor rankings that were just plain wrong when further examined. Thus in this regard, I agree with Coursey, and these analysts need to get a grip on reality and admit when they've been off target. I'd also like to see a more conservative approach in their projections, because, after all, they're just guesses.

I've tried numerous PDAs and a few tablets. To sum up my experience, I found Palm-based PDAs to have an intuitive handwriting and navigation interface which facilitated very fast adoption. Pocket PCs, not so much at first, but they've improved and are quite usable once you get acclimatized.

So, moving back to the future: Tablet PCs are just a much harder sell. Why? Well, first there's the price premium for what's effectively a scaled-down PC, and they're much more expensive than a PDA. Even in good economic times, companies managing large fleets of PCs will be less than eager to see the multiplied effect of that per-machine premium on their financials. Several years later, the price difference is finally lessening, but it's still there. Then there's the input paradigm shift from a laptop, but having a keyboard definitely helps, as does a twist display.

I said here well over a year ago: "Don't get me wrong, I think Tablet PCs definitely have their own niches and strengths and are extremely cool, but in a tight economy, a $500 PDA that meets 70-80% of a user's mobile needs is a lot more marketable." For the right uses, a tablet PC could come in very handy. I just think that many businesses will be more comfortable issuing stock laptops and BlackBerries (or possibly Treos) than have to support yet another niche line of products. With the notable exception (pardon the pun) of Microsoft's OneNote, I just haven't seen the "killer apps" for tablets, and it's been several years now. If you do a lot of note-taking, markup, and creative brainstorming, then I could make a better business case. But then I think one would want better collaboration tools between tablet and non-tablet users, and that's more difficult to do well.

In the end, I don't expect tablets to soar nor to go away overnight. Are they cool? Absolutely, but that doesn't factor into a business case. The tablet and software developers need to get together a whole lot more than they have and present us with much more compelling use and collaboration factors. Then they may start to gain better traction. But until that happens, I think tablets will stay relegated to the niche market, used more for sales, field, medical, and other markets where you need to record point-of-contact type information. That could also work in some legal instances, depending on the practice, but it's still not ready for broad adoption by any means. Too bad, as I was seriously rooting for tablets to have been making better inroads by now.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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September 02, 2005

Legal/Tech Relief for Katrina Victims

We've all been saddened and shocked by Katrina's devastation, and few words could effectively express our thoughts and emotions regarding those who have been so profoundly affected. While the first priority for the victims will be essential life needs, many will need help in other areas as well.

Over the past few days, many individuals and organizations have stepped up to help pool resources and render aid, particularly in the legal profession:

ILTA, The International Legal Technology Association, has quickly set up a listserv to which anyone can subscribe to request assistance or offer assistance of any kind. They hope to act as a clearing house for information exchange. They've also posted valuable links to numerous aid resources on their home page -- well worth the visit alone.

The ABA has set up a good portal for "Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief". They are asking for legal professionals to donate their services and office space to those displaced by the hurricane.

Seth Rowland of Basha Systems has set up a project forum board to help coordinate efforts of numerous legal technology consultants and service providers who have joined together to help.

Also, many state bars and their Practice Management Advisors (PMA's) have volunteered their time and advice. I'm sure I've only covered a fraction of the efforts being made, but wanted to help get the word out. My friend Dennis Kennedy has also been posting many of these resources over at Between Lawyers.

Topic(s):   Other Musings
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