Monday, March 28, 2011

Great apps for the iPad

In December, my boss got all of us iPads as an end-of-year gift. Since that time, I have tried to find the right applications that will turn the device into a real business tool. While there are some very large missing pieces, here are a three versatile applications that have made the iPad a worthwhile investment:

Taking Notes: So far, the killer app for note taking is still OneNote, from Microsoft. Unfortunately, the boys from Redmond have not made the application available for any of the Apple devices, including the iPad. Absent that, I use Notes Plus, available from iTunes. It comes with a variety of useful features, most notably a way to zoom in for hand-writing and drawing. I've tried EverNote and PenUltimate, and this app easily betters them.

Instant Messaging: Meebo is an instant messaging application that will give you access to multiple I/M accounts at once. After setting up an account at their website, add log-in credentials for the various I/M tools you use, like G-Mail, Facebook, AIM, MSN Messenger, etc. I don't believe that you can set up a group chat across accounts, but that's it's only shortcoming. Well, that and the fact that the current version is not optimized for the iPad. (I just hit the 2x button to make it easier to see.( They have not announced when an iPad version will be released, though a lot of users have requested it.

Task Management: I have a lot of clients, and remembering deliverables and tasks for all of them is really challenging. So I use Remember the Milk to manage and organize my tasks. After signing up at their website ($25/year subscription), you can manage all kinds of tasks from the web site and from the app on an iPad, iPhone and even a Droid phone. Like Meebo, no iPad-optimized version is yet available, nor have they announced one for release. Even so, it does a great job helping me keep one synchronized list of tasks managed and organized.

Notes Plus
Remember the Milk

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Now that hardware doesn't matter ...

Remember the big moments in mobile technology?

My first cell phone - actually it was a car phone - could hold 99 speed dial numbers, and I occasionally would have trouble in traffic when the cord got caught up in the gear shift of my 1988 Ford Ranger. We've come a long way.

The smart phone changed a lot for us. Its introduction was an inflection point in the way we used mobile technology. It was no longer just a phone, but it became a means for managing communications across multiple fronts. We could handle email, as well as voice. We could manage our calendars and contact lists. However, all of those functions were still tied ... one might even say held prisoner to ... the device itself.

But that has changed. The features and functionality of a device are no longer controlled by the manufacturer. Even though Apple tightly regulates what you can put the iPhone, it remains a highly customizable tool. I can buy that applications of my choosing for a Droid, making it do things that another Droid won't.

This is why we are starting to hear rumblings about speed. And I'm not referring to network speed. LG claims to have the Fastest phone at CES 2011 in the Optimus 2X. Samsung and Google are touting the processing power of the soon-to-be-released Nexus S. Manufacturers are talking about processor speed in the same way that we talked about it 10 years ago.

The mobile market is moving away from hardware differentiation at a high rate of speed. It no longer matters that I have a Motorola Droid and my wife has an LG Ally. And I won't care who makes my next phone. I'll care about chip speed and memory.

The great news in all of this is that it opens up avenues for businesses to set themselves apart with mobile technology. Five years ago, it was cost-prohibitive to write a mobile application, because the hardware changed before you got it finished. Now, you can write an Android-based app and be confident that it will bring value for at least a few years. If you haven't started thinking about how your customers can interact with your company using mobile technology, start now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

An interruption is coming

The news coming out of last week's devastating earthquake in Japan doesn't seem to be getting any better. As of this writing, engineers and other experts are working to stabilize a nuclear power facility that was seriously damage in the tremors. Nuclear power produces a significant amount (perhaps as much as one-third) of Japan's electricity, and the loss of a major supply point will have important long-term consequences.

Toshiba, in partnership with SanDisk, is the source of roughly 45% of the world's wafers for flash memory. Their primary manufacturing facility, located near Tokyo, saw its assembly line shut down for briefly due to the earthquake. These NAND chips are a critical component in a wide range of devices, including the iPad and smart phones. While production has resumed, its not clear how quickly transportation and other logistical concerns will be resolved. The wafers might end up sitting on shelves waiting for ships or trains to come and pick them up.

Demand for these devices is heating up. Apple has created a lot of buzz around its product line in the past two months by engaging Verizon and with the introduction of the iPad2. Samsung and Motorola have picked up their game with the Xoom and the Galaxy Tab. These are game changers, and we can expect senior sales professionals, junior executives and middle-managers to suddenly "need" them to do their jobs effectively. I expect that over the next 60 days, we'll begin to hear of waiting lists and backorders for these devices ... reports that will grow more common through the summer. If you intend to begin rolling them out to staff in the coming two quarters, plan accordingly.

For more, check out ... Toshiba Chip Production Resumes