Monthly Archives: May 2007

Palm’s Foleo vs. VTech and er, Fisher Price

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The Palm Foleo is a 10″ screen with a keyboard, wifi and bluetooth for syncing with your Treo or some other smartphone.

“However, the Foleo uses an underpowered processor that isn’t really suited for video, Hawkins admitted. It gets five hours of battery life. It wasn’t designed to be a standalone product apart from its smart phone, although it can use its Opera browser to surf the Web over a built-in Wi-Fi connection.

It doesn’t sync calendar appointments, just e-mail and contacts. And it doesn’t work yet with widely used mobile e-mail products such as Research In Motion’s BlackBerry software or Motorola’s GoodLink software.” CNET NEWS

And it’s $599 (well, $499 with intro rebate … because … why?)

You know, for $300 less, I can get the V.Smile Touch Tablet.

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It even has a trackball while the Palm Foleo only has a nubbin pointer.

PLUS, It has 100 activities to teach age-appropriate content in English, math, science, geography, history and Spanish through arcade-style adventure games! And apparently includes more “business” applications than the the Palm Foleo as the V.Smile includes a word processor, personal organizer with address book, calculator and savings tracker.

Or for $149 dollars in HOT PINK, I can get the Barbie one with a mouse included!

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Or for $29, Fisher Price’s Fun 2 Learn Laughtop Laptop not only has Pong, games and can even “check e-mail.”

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What is the Palm Foleo? A mini laptop to project/beam your Treo (or a limited selection of smartphones) to so you can read or see it better?

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Palm’s Jeff Hawkins’ vision is probably going, I understand, I need some better glasses myself but if he can’t read their tiny Treo screens, maybe instead of a giant kids laptop to act as a monitor, maybe they should upgrade to an HD resolution screen or maybe for $30, something like this?

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Sure, nobody likes to have to hang a giant piece of looking glass around their neck but it’s a way cheaper solution that spending tens/hundreds of millions to reinvent a Fisher Price toy at 10 times the cost? Because then aren’t you just using that giant magnifying glass to set fire to a pile of the shareholder’s money?

Or of course, a solution to make you feel like a 9-year old kid again … it’s technology so old you can only buy it used …

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That’s right. it’s a magnifier for your GameBoy – I think it was around $10 new? About $3 used on ebay now. It’s HIGH TECH (well, for 1995). Think about it Jeff, the Palm Treo Foleo Mini – better mark it up to cover the cost of developing a laptop without any real functions except a keyboard – $149.99 (with a $50 rebate because you need more overhead at Palm).

Or maybe it’s the wave of the future to always get a giant attachment, when you buy a 40″ plasma, you also buy a 70″ screen with granite legs to beam the guide portion of your screen … not the TV image – just the guide.

Good luck Palm, though you might want to take some bits of advice. Remember, to follow Microsoft guidelines and you’ll be okay:

SHIPPED is as good as “sold” so use whichever number is bigger.
Always say it’s exceeding expectations.
Blame Apple’s “flashy” marketing.

Of course, it helps to have $12 billion in annual cash flow to hide any billion dollar boondoggles … you do have $12 billion in cash laying around, don’t you?

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Filed under Computing, Gadgets, Internet, Media, Retail

iTunes EMI DRM Free + 50 Other Online Mp3 Stores for Your iPod

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Yesterday, most if not all of EMI tracks on the iTunes music store went DRM-free for $1.29. You can pay $.30 to convert your tracks from Fairplay AAC 128kbps to AAC 256 kbps. Since Apple keeps track of your purchases, after you download and install iTunes 7.2, you will be presented with a list of your tracks from EMI you purchased for $.99 and you’ll be asked if you want to upgrade/convert. Click YES and you get a second confirmation before the downloading begins.

There is a new additional choice – it will ask if from now on, if faced with a choice between a DRM track or a DRM-free track at $1.29, do you want the store just to list for you the DRM-free version. You’ll have a new setting in STORE>VIEW MY ACCOUNT (see below)

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You can change back at anytime.

Of course, all along there were plenty of other choices for iPod owners to load tracks on their machines LEGALLY split between PAID stores and SOCIAL COMMUNITY sites. Just download the tracks and then drag into a PLAYLIST in iTunes. Takes a few seconds literally to load and sync with your iPod and of course, in a few weeks, your iPhone.

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STORE CHOICES

Emusic.com – 2nd largest online music store. Smallest plan is $9.99 gets you 30 tracks or about $.33 a track. 2-million tracks from 13,000 labels – they don’t have a lot of tracks from the major 4 labels but lots of interesting alternative, A3, classical & jazz.

Audio Lunchbox – also 2-million tracks from independent labels. They offer a ala-carte plan in addition to $9.99 for about 40 tracks. Most tracks are 1 credit but some apparently are more. If you like music outside of the top 40, check them or emusic.com out.

Beatport – They rep 3,000 dance labels and offer 320 kpbs tracks for $1.49, $1.99 or $2.49 for promo releases. You can choose mp3, mp4 or WAV.

DanceTracks Digital – another huge dance track site – tracks are 320 kpbs and around @1.39 a track.

MBop Megastore (UK) – Excellent online store with lots of unique, different and interesting tracks hard to find elsewhere – most mp3 tracks around $.99

DJMR Music – Another large & huge selection dance & DJ tracks online store – also 320 kbps & around $1.99 a track.

7 Digital – UK based, selling some EMI tracks at @$1 for 320kpbs mp3’s.

Bleep – Lots of brand name indie tracks & labels. @$1.35 a track.

PayPlayFM – Just launched. 1.3 million indie artist Mp3 tracks at $.88 each – 192 kbps. Ignore the FAQ, that was for their subscription WMA service.

Digital Other Music – nice looking selection of indie music. Tracks @$1.11, full CD’s @$9.99 – 320 kbps Mp3’s.

Mp3Tunes – also represents thousands of indie & alternative artists and sells every track in mp3 format. $.88 a track at 192 kpbs. Only note of caution – their front page says 2005 – site looks current and seems to function okay but are they asleep at the switch?

eClassical – the largest classical music online store. All tracks available as 192kpbs mp3’s – @$.49 to $.99 a track.

Smithsonian Global Sounds – Traditional music from artists all over the world – other than Mp3, you can also buy tracks in the FLAC format.

MagnaTune – Unique, the artists gets exactly half of what you’re willing to pay … it seems most every track is available in MP3, WAV, OGG, FLAC or AAC – or you can buy the CD for @$5 more than the download.

AmieStreet – Even more unique, tracks start as free – the more popular the artist/track is, the higher in cost it goes so don’t get in one the ground floor – get it the basement!

EarBuzz – Tops them all? Artists make 100%.

Mouzika – World artists $.99 a track – WMA or Mp3.

IslandBeats – specializes in Polynesian music from the islands of the Pacific. $.99 a track.

Wippit.com – a UK company (don’t worry, they accept the USD 🙂 – they offer subscription based (like emusic) along with individual tracks. They seem to offer some unusual tracks so it might be worth your while to take a look.

Starzik (France) – Not positive you can order from site from US but the allure is you’re not paying $27.99 for a legal CD … of course with dollar losing to Euro, tracks start at around 2€ and go up from there.

MusicIsHere – Indie artists – large selection – also offers a wide variety of format choices for $.99 – MP3, MPEG4-AAC, MPC, OGG VORBIS, WMA, FLAC.

Alternative Addiction – indie bands. Mp3 CD’s & singles – plus lots of free tracks for downloading.

Nervous Records – Rockabilly – huge selection. $.99 mp3’s.

MusicTradebit – indie tracks, 128kpbs $.99

Easy-Listen.com – The site could use a re-design but it offers an interesting selection of bossa novas, easy listening and chill out tracks. Only thing now at €.99 Euro, prices have essentially doubled since the $ has dropped in value.

IntroMusic – UK based, 256kbps MP3 format for 59p or 79p – this might be a good place for those hot new UK bands.

Interia – Poland site, okay for US buyers? Not sure – look like around $.90 converted for a track.

QTRNote – Indie artists $.99 a track – also offers music licensing for other media.

Rhythm Records (South Africia) – Not a huge site but nice looking and well, where else will you find an mp3 site selling South African music? About $.85 USD a track.

GreatIndieMusic – well, not sure how great the tracks are but it is indie music at $.99 a track.

SoundFoundation Australia – Indie music Australia, not all tracks seem to be available as an Mp3 but those that are @$.90.

RuleRadio – Mp3 $.99, indie artists.

Amazon – announced they too will be joining the DRM-free download biz but not launched yet. Though you can get started on the free tracks they offer.

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FREE TRACKS at SOCIAL COMMUNITIES

Jamendo – 35,074 tracks from talented artists, for free! You can donate if you wish.

SXSW Festival – Most bands performing there this year offered a free track or two. Any artist with the cassette icon means there is a track available.

The Live Music Archive – Over 35,000 concerts & performances by nearly 2,000 artists and bands. FREE in a variety of audio formats including mp3’s. Related – Open Source Audio.

MySpace.com is of course, sprawling – they claim 1+ million bands – so that would make 3+ million tracks available for downloading. Some formats vary but the #1 format are mp3’s. MySpace has talked about opening an online music store but nothing yet.

iLike – Formerly GarageBand – you can download mp3 tracks to listen or buy CD’s. Both links work, slightly different presentation.

CTG Music – one of the oldest electronica communities – tons of free tracks and links to thousands of DJ’s and artists.

DMusic – another longtime music community with thousands of interesting and new artists.

InternetDJ – another huge collection of new electronica artists, not the greatest page design – some tracks are only for sale but most are downloadable.

SoundClick – Don’t be fooled by it’s under-designed front page, there are links to hundreds of thousands of bands and tracks.

CNET Download.com – They offer 75,000 free mp3’s by thousands of artists. The site is oddly designly (probably because it’s designed to serve ads first, which is fine but could use a major re-think) so you do have to slog through a lot of menus to find it but once you get there, it’s nice.

Free Kid’s Music – not exactly a community, more like a collective but a nice collection of kid’s music.

Hybridized.org – legal collection of DJ sets.

iSound – Artists community, stream, download, etc …

Sublime Archives – From the band, Sublime – a small community of the bands (friends, etc …) with links to downloads.

SonicGarden – music community site – I couldn’t get mp3 tracks to play correctly.

VIRB – Artist community – not all music but all bands offer some sort of download.

Pure Volume – music/band community.

Trig – New community with band section/

AOL, yes, that AOL …

Mp3.com Australia – Australia musicians, bands & tracks.

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MUSIC BLOGS – LINKS/REVIEWS OF LEGAL MP3’s

Fluxblog.org – A blog with reviews of the best FREE mp3’s on the internet – all okayed and posted by artists THEMSELVES. Excellent writing and fun tracks.

The Crutch Blog is no more but the roundup of legal tracks from artist sites is still around here.

MP3 4U – Good roundup of free tracks from all over.

Better Propaganda – some streaming only. Mostly electronica.

Knobtweakers – focuses on electronica music with intros and links to new bands and artists.

Salon mag – you have to sign in or listen to an ad but some great tracks from well known artists. Well worth the extra time spent.

MFiles – A massive review and over-view site for classical and instrumental music. They offer a nice selection of mp3 tracks (and also midi files).

Ubu – Interesting collection of non-mainstream tracks for your iPod (some audio tracks).

Playlist Mag – while not exactly a blog, Playlist mag’s roundup and recommendations of free tracks.

iLounge – the brilliant all things iPod site, they have partnered with a few other sites to link/bring you free tracks.

RECORD/CD LABELS

Virually every smaller record label (um, that sells CD’s) offer a handful of Mp3’s to download. I’m not going to list all of them but some interesting ones to check out include:

Matador Records Matador has some great artists so it’s a good place to start.

Comfort Stand – indie label closed but all tracks still posted and available online FREE.

Telarc – free tracks, some classical.

Sonic Squirrel – has done a nice job of rounding up every obscure label on the net (or planet) with links to their tracks. Very obscure stuff so if you only want completely off-th-beaten path tracks …

MORE LINKS

Oddio Overplay – in case you want the obscure of the obscure, Oddio offers several hundred more sites.

itunes Free Tracks – Roundup from It’s Free Downloads … though keep in mind these have DRM tied to your account.

And like any other lists about the internet, I’m not claiming this is complete but it will be enough to keep you busy for a long while. I also did not include those that fall into a mix of legal & not so-legal tracks like Webjay.

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Advice For Your Startup – Web Site Design

Now, that I’ve visited about 400 search engines and about 100 web apps, let me offer some tidbits of advice for your web startup page & site:

a) It’s 2007. Make sure all your copyright, trademark notices all read 2007.

b) Typos. SPELL CHECK. There was a site with about 25 words on its front page, one was spelled incorrectly.

c) It’s fine to use FLASH on your front page but ask people POLITELY to turn on Flash or to ask POLITELY to download a newer version BUT do not just make it an advertisement for Flash.

Do NOT do what the people at GLIDE have done – present a white page with some words demanding people to download FLASH before they can do anything else. Is that really the point you want to convey to people stopping by your “storefront?” That you are a shill for Adobe’s Flash? Now, if you are part of the Adobe family, that’s perfectly fine or if Adobe is paying you to put up a velvet rope in front of your potential customers – great but why would you go out of your way to block potential customers? You work so hard to get people to your site, don’t follow GLIDE’s example, just telling you to go away unless you do EXACTLY as they say?

Other than a logo and quotes about how great they are, this is essentially all you see at GLIDE (text quotes appear in middle of page – not in screenshot):

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Now, if you’re a well establish company or you don’t want casual people to drop in – maybe, but why would waste an opportunity to brand? Not a photo, illustration or a mission statement? Nothing? … But just a demand and some quotes? What do we know about this company other than they really, really like Adobe Flash? Not much.

And frankly, are you enticed to explore further? I’m not.

So make sure if you are using Flash as your front gate, what does your site look like with Flash turned off or if the potential customer hasn’t upgraded, do you want to turn them away as unworthy?

d) Unless it’s obvious in your name “JOHN’S BAKERY” or “ALISON’S TIRES,” it’s best to put an explanation of what you do right there on the front page.

You don’t have to be fancy or get carried away – At JOTLET, this is right on the front page:

“Jotlet Calendar is an online calendar that helps students, families, and small groups manage and share their schedules online. It’s a perfect way to manage and share your schedule with family and friends.”

THANK YOU!

Nothing fancy, no mushy marketing speak – simply, here is what we can do to make your life easier.

Or from BaseCamp – they manage to cover a lot of ground and throw in some marketing but you know exactly what they stand for and how they might make your life easier:

“Why Basecamp?
Basecamp takes a fresh, novel approach to project collaboration. Projects don’t fail from a lack of charts, graphs, stats, or reports, they fail from a lack of clear communication. Basecamp solves this problem by providing tools tailored to improve the communication between people working together on a project.”

And then below, they offer more detailed examples.

Of course, it depends on how complex or how simple your offerings are …

Personally, I thought this was a little ‘stiff’ and too jargon sounding from SlideAware …

“SlideAware is a presentation management platform designed to help you & your team to manage the entire lifecycle of PowerPoint ™ presentations.”

Huh?

It turns out by “lifecycle,” they mean from blank page to final – not sure why they decided to muddle the waters. Even if it’s something that’s commonplace jargon for PowerPoint slingers, if your intention is to draw in new users, you don’t want to scare them if they’re not ready for a PowerPoint “lifecycle” – lifecycle – which could mean furious peddling that gets you nowhere or this presentation will follow you forever until you die … either way, not real pleasant.

From another site, try to talk like a human (being):

“… augmenting your team with the best of breed technology and a savvy strategic team who knows how to use it to your greatest advantage.”

Yes, I know you’re proud and you can augment and breed at the same time but we don’t want to hear about it. Let’s not cloud the issue – if you’re the best, just say so.

“We’re the best, we will help you kick ass”

(and take names because we’re also a business card scanner)

Okay, having the word ‘ass’ in your mission statement or your branding statement is probably not the most ideal but you get my point 🙂

e) Try not to use stock-art people on your front page. We are all so media savvy that we can tell right away this woman is thinking about getting a mortgage at 7%, deciding which fertilizer is best for her summer lawn and pondering dinner plans now that her man is taking the blue pill …

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Or maybe she really, really, really like your accounting software package … if you know what I mean …

When your stock photo can mean everything from “I think I’m irregular – how can I be sure?” to “Will Hamburger Helper really stretch my household budget?” to “We’re accounting so you don’t to!”

You need to stop.

If you’re a shoestring operation, just skip photos. If photos are really important to tell your story, hire a local photographer and local actors for a few thousand dollars. At web resolution, you don’t need amazing, you just need a solid professional. Or check on OnRequest.

Or this from the same website:

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Really? There was nothing else on the stock photo CD disc for $249? A photo of a guy who just backed in a broom or he’s the VP of East Coast Sales and you just accused him of using 45% of the company’s bandwidth on downloading torrents from NakedNakedMen.com?

Come on, think people.

Or Spinvox – great service – why is there a death-mask photo on your front page? They convert speech to email – do we really an indication where the mouth is on a human face? Really?

e) Even if you’re not crazy about the whole Web 2.0 look & feel, it is better than sticking with the Windows ’98 look. even if you are cutting edge technology wise, people will not be able to see past the Win ’98 look.

f) Help out people who want to review you. Put your logo in JPEG form on your ABOUT US page – and even better, take some tiny screensnaps of your website so we can drop them in our review. Help us help you.

g) Related to the Flash issue, it’s 2007 now and people are using everything from Linux to the Wii to a phone to surf your site so try think of it as a real storefront – how inviting are you? Are you excluding users? In essence, building a 4-foot doorway so anyone taller will have to make an effort to enter? If you want people to activate java or flash – ASK THEM POLITELY. Do not demand or imply they are morons – THEY/WE are your potential customers – do not alienate them/us in 10 seconds – your website front page is EXACTLY the same as the door to your brick & mortar business. We don’t as much of the must-use IE thing anymore but don’t design like that or let the designer you hire lazy out that way and drive away customers.

Speaking of storefront, take a look at the Tommy Bahama site. I think it’s safe to say that most people think of them as a apparel company and you would want to go their site to look at the clothes – so why is there a HUGE log-in the middle of the front page? Sure, I understand they would want to create some sort of club where “members” might have privileges, etc, that’s all fine but why so large – why make it seem as if you have to log in to check out the rest of the site. Now, you don’t have to – but then why create that impression? Why push your apparel line, your MAIN business to the top in small thumbnails while the log-in dominates the page? Who is a bigger base? Your members or people interested in your clothes? I find it hard to believe that they would have 200 million club members – isn’t it the other way around? Don’t you want to reach 200 million people and oh, by the way, you can also join our club with these benefits? Or look at it this way, MySpace has 170 MILLION accounts and the log in is less prominent than Tommy Bahamas.

Let’s think through every impression you make. When your site draws, what do customers see and why?

h) Do NOT auto play anything on your website with audio. Yes, in 1999, that was clever but not now – ANYONE can do it – that does not mean you should. And yes, even if you are a musician or a music site, do NOT presume anything. Offer or ask us POLITELY. How easy is it to get someone to surf to your site? Now, that they have actually arrived, you want to assault their aural senses because that will win them over? Really?

Next time you are out window shopping on the street, if you stop to look at my storefront, I should have someone drop from nowhere and hold a boombox next to your ear at 110 decibel? Hey, you stopped to look, you should listen to my favorite song! Right?

THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING with AUTOPLAY on the web.

It serves NO purpose – why? Because for every one person who might like it, there are 10 others who are annoyed and forced to look for the mute button – so why risk that? Isn’t it hard enough to get people to your site? Why would you want their FIRST interaction with your website to look for a mute button?

i) Answer your emails. And do not then send an automated email asking people to call you even if it’s an 800 number. If they wanted to talk to you on the phone, they can pick up the phone. If people send you an email, respond by email.

j) Test out every link on EVERY page with more than one browser and more than one OS. There are so many sloppy sites out there where if you ask people to fill in information but if they miss something like the state, it erases everything (not customer friendly) or the worst if you enter some “bad info,” it triggers a text error line from your DB. So, test out ALL your forms by typing in numbers where text should go and text where numbers should go and see what happens.

“config/config.class.php(103): ConfigDbStorage->ConfigDbStorage(NULL) #2 /home//www/post(12): Config::getConfig() #3 {main} thrown in /home//www/class/database/db.class.php on line 42” is NOT something customers should see.

Related to that is you have to understand where most of your customers are or coming from … so if you have a country pulldown and you’re going to do 99% of your business here in the US or Canada, do NOT list in alpha order – as much as want to support the rebirth of Afghanistan, how many orders are you getting from there? Let’s list the US & Canada FIRST and then draw a line and alpha the rest. Now, of course, if you are doing business on an even basis across the globe, great – then by all means – alpha the list but otherwise, look at EVERY detail.

k) Make sure your pages are named correctly, when I want to bookmark your site, I don’t want to see MOZILLA FIREFOX or DREAMWEAVER as the text in the box so that I have to type over … also and I know you want SEO but let’s not get too carried away – there should be no more than 10 words in my save bookmark text box.

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Filed under Advertising, Computing, Internet, Marketing, Media, Retail

New Google Street View Maps

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This is a shot of one of my old haunts called the Mars Bar in San Francisco. It is not too far from the old Eidos headquarters so it made it convenient to slug down some suds after trying to wrangle a deal with the Eidos boys.

Called Street View, Google Maps now allows you to see what a location actually looks like in its real surroundings. Think that apartment looks cool and hip? Now you can look around in 360 degrees such as across the street at the crack lot and decide if that is really where you want to live – or not.

Only available in a handful of locales just yet such as SF, Denver, NY, Miami, and Las Vegas and only certain segments at that but if you live and/or work in one of these places it can be very handy.

I will have to try it out on a handheld and see how my MDA posts this stuff.

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Free & Nearly Free Phone Calls & Texting From Your Mac

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Computer to Computer “VOIP”

Skype, of course. Free calls worldwide to fellow Skypers. SIP/Gizmo – same free calls to fellow Gizmo users. Both offer phone numbers to dial in locally worldwide. Gizmo is offering 40 minutes to landlines, cells, etc for signing up another Gizmo user.

GizmoCall: Free phone calls worldwide – if you can close all your sales & deals in 3 minutes, it’s a great deal! 🙂 “Call length limited to up to 3 min/call, 10 min/day to most landlines & select mobile phones around the world. Additional restrictions apply.”

ADCalls. Install their dialer (unclear if it’s an app or a browser add-on) – then see ads before you make free calls in the US & Canada. Free worldwide calls with other AdCall users.

Yak4Ever: “Register your number and 10 overseas numbers you call regularly. Dial our access number. Enter the extension number you choose for each friend during registration. Enjoy your unlimited call! Make Unlimited Calls from The USA.” From the UK. From Ireland.

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Mobile VOIP

EQO – leverages VOIP for international calling. Free int’l calls & free SMS to fellow EQO members – also free IM to anyone. Rates are for landline or SMS.

TalkPlus – Int’l VOIP on Mobile, Int’l phone number that rings the mobile, & add second line to cell – try for 10 minutes free.

TruPhone – VOIP over WiFi. UK & US for now – free calls to fellow TruPhoners + a $2 call to test it out. Only works on select Nokia phones.

Mobivox – another Mobile VOIP – free Skype & Mobivox community calls.

Voice on Phone

Free WakeUp call from TelePixie (also get weather & stocks) – there is listening to advertising involved.

Web to Phone

Jajah and Talkety offer the same basic service. Enter your number and calling party Select dial on website. Their phone will start ringing – then pick up your phone when it also rings. Rates seem comparable – up on website so you can check. Talkety offers free first 30-minutes. Jajah is free between Jajah users. Both offer additional Business plans.

Set up a group on Jyngle. Send text message – Jyngle will convert to speech and call group, leaving voice mail if no answer. Jyngle can also send SMS. You can also call from phone to Jyngle – leave message and Jyngle will forward voicemail to your group.

Talkster – it combines what Jajah & Talkety are doing with also being able to conatct your IM buddies. Frankly, their explanation makes it probably seem more complicated than it is

Voice to Email

Jott works on a couple levels. You can leave a email message to yourself by calling Jott (it converts voice to text), you can leave a voice message for a pre-set group that arrives at their email or leave a voice message that gets sent as an SMS.

Also try GotVoice, voicemails emailed to you, or access them online – plus broadcast a new voice message out to everybody instantly. Free versions includes advertising.

Email on Phone

Spinvox – the “big” player in this arena. Voicemails as text, speak to convert to text to blog, record memo to email & deliver message to group. Free trial – scary mascot.

Send the emails you want to read to your phone (Standard text messaging rates apply) at TeleFlip.

TapGad – Check Email via Text (free from Tapgad, not so much from your cell carrier).

Or Berggi, yet another service available only in the US, Spain & Turkey 🙂 – first 12 months are free.

“Free WiFi” Nationwide

Fon – buy a La Fonera router from them for $39. Everyone on the “Fon” networks shares a portion of their bandwidth (securely) so now as you travel around, you hop onto the WiFi shared bandwith in the “Fon” community at no additional charge.

IM

Of course, IM has always been free to computer to computer … or you’ve been ripped off but instead of having to launch an app, you can IM most anyone on any network, with Meebo or Snimmer. Plugoo offers a web button – visitors who activate it will launch their IM to talk to your IM. KoolIM offers links to everyone plus ICQ – anyone left on ICQ?

eBuddy does everyone except Google. The new Yahoo Webmessenger does MS Live and Yahoo.

Peekamo lets you switch to talking on the phone without giving out your number. They just know you as your Peekamo ID.

SMS/Text Stuff

Send free SMS’ to any phone (they might have to pay): GizmoSMS, TxtDrop (they also have a widget),

Joopz – two way SMS – Joopz Basic is free (10 messages).

Texticate – send free text messages (up to 500) in your group/community/customers.

Wattpad – read novels & short stories on your cell.

Zemble – free blast text to community/group.

Voicemail

BrainCast – record messages to yourself, of course, you could do it on most newer phones but it’s free.

YouMail – specific greeting messages for specific numbers, listen to voicemail online and more. Basic service free.

VideoPhone to Web/Blog

Springdoo – dying to get your videophone footage on the web, Springdoo will help you do it for free.

This is by no means a complete list, it would take a staff of dozens just to keep up with what’s going on in this slice of the Web 2.0 pie – these are either the major players in the sub-sub category or they offer something interesting you might want to check out. Enjoy!

(Some repeated from our online business apps list)

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iPhone Clone to Hit US Shores Prior to Apple Launch of the Real Deal

iphone clone

The Chinese are very agile in their bootlegging and just as apt at creating one-offs (ok, blatant ripoffs) of hot consumer brands. The CECT P168 phone is modeled directly against the upcoming iphone.

They have obviously copied the wallpaper but also many of the specs including: a 3.5-inch QVGA LCD touchscreen, a 2 Megapixel camera (actual resolution: 1.3 Megapixel) and it has an integrated music player, video player, a dictionary, and six speakers (!) for surround like sound. It sports a two sim card slot but apparently you need to switch between the two cards.

Obviously, IP issues need to be on the table between China and the U.S. in the next round of diplomatic ‘talks’. Here are some more pics (courtesy of Chinese blog phonedaily):

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Clearly, this is not going to halt the bloodbath on our U.S. wallets (who doesn’t want this phone?!) but situations like this do pose serious challenges to people and companies wanting to create unique intellectual properties only to see potential profits overseas vanish before you can even get your own product out the door.

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The Calm Before the iPhone Arrival Storm: The Last Days of the Cell Phone Industry Cabal

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It is interesting how in the final days before the iPhone Arrival Storm, the other cell phone manufacturers and cell phones networks seem to think all is well. That, no, they haven’t really noticed that they are guardians of a decaying system – much like feudal lords thinking the serfs would never rise up and that the order of their world will always stay the same.

After all, this system has served them well for 15 years, a lifetime for bureaucrats. And long enough to fool many analysts who make proclamations such as the iPhone will not equal the success of the iPod … that is sort of like saying, the Moon is not the Sun – they are right but then they’re really not saying anything at all.

But why won’t the iPhone be a success according to “them?”

Of course, some people are just plain pessimists, anything new or different is scary for them so they hope it doesn’t succeed since that would require opening new pathways in their brain. I say anyone who thinks the iPhone will fail and who also thought the iPod or Apple retail stores would fail, please take a step back and I think you should take up another line of work that is less taxing on your brain – clearly you are not ready to cope with anything new.

Speaking of which, let’s start there – the 5% who dismiss the iPhone because it’s not really “new.” Apparently since it’s metal, plastic & a screen with batteries – well, that’s been done before – and a cell phone, please, how old school. Better or different is not good enough for them – they either have extraordinary high expectations of Apple or they set the bar so high … or perhaps they would sneer at anything from Apple as just the same old, same old.

Of course, that is really the cell phone industry. Really, how far have we advanced in the cell phone business? I’ve had a cell phone since the early 1990’s – I could not afford the Motorola brick but I remember a flip phone after that (pretty sure it was Motorola) and paying about $1 a minute for a call and the thing having a battery life of about 30 minutes. Now, some 10-12 phones later including the Palm, Handspring, Treo, Blackberry and the RAZR, have we really advanced that far? Surprisingly no. I had the Motorola Startac which was an excellent phone. It didn’t do much except have an address book and maybe one other feature and now, 11 years later, the RAZR is actually heavier … though it has a video camera, still camera and WiFi capabilities but beyond taking blurry photos and blurry videos, has it really changed? It has sync but it’s a dumb sync – insisting that if my contact has 5 numbers, every number should get an entry. So, it’s back to entering each name by hand with its wonky keyboard and “smart” feature that is about as smart as a tree on fire. Now, the PDA/smartphones do a better job with sync but then it falls down in other areas … like, why am I holding a pop tart to my ear? Or why jostling the phone will change the ringer to vibrate?

I also don’t think I’m alone. Show of hands (outside of people who work for Moto, Sony, Nokia, etc ), who here has a phone they think is flawless? Nearly flawless? Mostly perfect? Or at best, nice but has some serious flaws you skirt around?

And cell phones are not some fly by night or minor part of consumer electronics like wifi picture screens or something like that – this a $100+ BILLION dollar industry and this is the best they can do? They get to throw some 200 versions of their phones at us EVERY YEAR and after some 15 years and THOUSANDS of phones later, you have to ask – this is it?

That’s not to say there aren’t phones with great or brilliant aspects – the Blackberry is brilliant with email but the rest? What do 40% of the icons even mean – you have to stare at it – is that a guy holding a sickle or 4 rings on his head – WTF? What does that even mean in phone communications? Or a lock right in front with the iPhone – sure, you can lock other phones – it’s only 3 menus deep. Hell, it took Microsoft 10 years to copy the Palm OS whose last great innovation was a snap-on cover for the screen.

It also hasn’t helped that the cell manufacturers could care less or are powerless to let the cell phone companies destroy their brand value by dropping the price of their latest phone from $300 to ZERO in a year. Of course, you’re not really satisfied anymore – what you bought for $300 is now worth zero – who is happy with that? It devalues your choice and of course, makes you want to switch to yet another phone. And does that other phone deliver anything unique? – can anyone honestly tell a Nokia from a Moto or a Samsung or an LG outside of some design history?

Analysts seem to confuse sales with satisfaction – if your only choice are these choices and your second choice is no phone, of course, people are going to be on the hunt for something new – and yes, given the same price of something, who is going to turn down extra features if it’s “free?” Why not a camera phone, a video phone, wifi, etc, etc … but you’ll notice that when consumers have to PAY for that extra feature, they balk.

“No one wants to type on a touchscreen,” analysts cry … well, it appears that 97% of humans do not want to type on a phone keypad either – smartphone/PDA’s only hold about a 3% market share so clearly, while people use the phone for SMS, no one wants to PAY extra for a better keyboard because they don’t think think it’s worth it. They also claim that because they’ve once typed on a touchscreen and hated it, everyone will hate it forever and touchscreen will never be any good ever … well, that’s one way to not bother to try or invent anything new.

And going back to the “extra” features – just look at the phones that can play music or link to a cell phone storefront – Nokia claims to have sold more phones than Apple has sold iPods but if NO ONE is using it, what is the point? That is like saying my phone can talk to anyone on Mars. The point being that cell phone manufacturers think people are actively choosing their phones because they want “that” technology … when the reality is that most people could care less because no one will turn down extra FREE features but if you’re going to charge to use it, you can see how much value consumers place on it. That’s why “advanced” services in the US comprise of about 6% of users. That’s the bottom line.

Sure, we’ll take photos but will we pay $3 a month to upload it to the cell companies site? Or will we go to a free place or just copy the photos off? Will we pay $15 a month to buy tracks while walking around plus pay $2.50 for the first track each month? Yes, you can blame the greed of the cell phone carriers but the point is that people are not buying new phones because they want to spend an extra $20 a month to access and activate the new features but instead are buying new phones because they hope it works better than the current one and why not – it only costs another $20 to $50 dollars – it’s cheaper than buying a new pair of shoes. But the technology bar hasn’t changed, it’s still the same old UI or OS and while they might add another whole number to the megapixel count of the camera, the lens is still plastic, so really, what has changed?

Make a list of all that you find wrong/missing or dumb on your phone now and match it to the list of what Apple will offer in the iPhone – until it’s actually released, we won’t know if Apple delivers but who has the better track record? AND if Apple delivers, what will be their excuse then? They only had a 15 YEAR head start …

Another belief is the price of the iPhone will limit the market – sure, yes – that is not saying anything. Even if are selling a gumdrop for a penny, that price might be too high for most people – do you drop a quarter into every newsstand or candy dispensing machine? Of course not, we make buying everyday for whatever reason – sometimes good, sometimes not so good but it’s all your perspective and your buying decisions. The iPhone is $500 which is not immediate disposable money for most people but then you can spend $500 on a round of golf & some drinks, or dinner for two or for some people, a month’s rent. $500 can buy you a diamond, shoes, a used car or a clothes for a year. $500 is just a number – whether it’s costly or cheap is completely your perspective, income and buying expectations. Would you spend $500 on feeding the homeless or dropping it on a table in Las Vegas in 30 minutes? Again, all perspective. The iPhone is not unreasonably priced for a phone in 2007 PLUS an iPod Video built in. The new T-Mobile Wing phone is $600 (though it comes with $400 in rebates) but it does not come with an iPod built in.

There are probably 100 million people just in the US who could afford $500 – whether they want to buy an iphone with it or not is another question but that’s like everything we buy. Whether we buy something because it’s useful, because it’s cool, because we want it, because we have to have it or just because it makes us feel good – everyone is different. You cannot just randomly say something is more expensive and that will make it a difficult sale – if anything, sometimes the higher prices makes it an easier sale so don’t go leaping to conclusion and those buying surveys are idiotic. If I ask you would you rather pay $25k for a Porsche or 50k, how are you going to answer? Or if I ask you if X is overpriced, how are you suppose to answer? That answers nothing because they presume people will always buy the cheapest no matter what. If that were the case, wouldn’t we all be shopping at $.99 stores and buying Yugo’s? People have DIFFERENT price points for different things. Just like old aging journalists were convinced no one would pay $300 for an Mp3 player …

Some people also bring up the cost of a contract – uh, in case they hadn’t noticed, we’re already under contract so how is that going to be different?

And for the analysts who boldly proclaim the iPhone cannot replicate the success of the iPod? Will they weasel out of their words in a year by saying they meant market share and not sales? Because that proclamation also means nothing – that’s like saying the Apple won’t replicate the success in the speaker market as the iPod did with Mp3’s – why, because even though they are both consumer electronics items, they are different market conditions … the mp3 player market was something like a $200 million dollar market when Apple entered it – of course, massive sales means you become the leader in more ways than one. Clearly, the cell phone market is much more mature BUT on the other hand, the selling infrastructure is in better shape – Apple literally had to explain to people what an mp3 player was AND then why you should buy an iPod. Now, Apple’s selling is much, much easier. It’s a cell phone and an iPod. 99.9% of your potential market gets it (the 20% of people without cell phones clearly do not care about either). You just have to look at the buzz the iPhone has built based on ONE keynote speech, TWO official websites (Apple & Cingular/AT&T) and ONE TV ad. So, in many sense, the iPhone has already won the mindshare market. Now, it will just have to replicate sales – and in many ways, it is easier because the percent of people who love music enough to buy a portable player to carry around is much lower than people who want a cell phone … so will Apple get to 100 million cell phones in 5 years? If Motorola can sell 50 million RAZR’s in two years, how many phones can Apple sell? Or maybe the measurement is revenue & profit? While there are two iPhones, let’s just $600 in revenue per phone presuming there will also be some sales in the bluetooth handset plus other accessories so for every million iPhones sold, that’s @$600 MILLION in additional revenues/gross. If Apple’s margins stay around 30%, for every million phones sold, that’s about another @$180 million in profits (give or take) per million sold – not counting new customer service costs. Obviously there are some startup selling costs BUT there is also a rumor based on what Verizon rejected that Apple will make @$300 per new customer … meaning if it’s true, for every million iPhone’s sold, Apple will add @$900 MILLION in revenue or @$300 MILLION in profits … so will dollar to dollar sales matching the ipod be good enough for analysts or are they not quite ready to concede that Apple has clearly moved into the top tier in branding, manufacturing, marketing & sales (to go along with technology, usability & design?)

So in summary, the iPhone is a reset for the cell phone industry. People will buy it in droves because it’s probably going to deliver a lot more than every promise by the cell phone industry … I’m not saying it’s going to be 100% but it will be much more than what’s been delivered so far – we have 15 years of their best shot at advancing the cell phone for users … now, they’re pretty good about adding in tech features but usability? Pretty low on the scale. The report card will be how close to 100% Apple delivers. If it’s an “A,” then the cell phone industry has to revamp EVERYTHING because suddenly they are peddling horses and a carriage. Then the other big decision will be – should we be petty and point out all those who are called analysts but were so far off the mark? 😉

ADDENDUM: Release Day – It’s June 29 and here are the new ads.

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