Archive for September, 2006

Skype & Jajah Good, Mobile Providers Bad

I just read a good article discussing why Skype is having problems getting its mobile VOIP strategy in gear.  Skype has been slow to roll out its mobile offerings and there are technical hurdles to overcome for sure, but all that is surmountable.  The biggest concern I see is the fact that operators are blocking Skype network traffic.  That is troubling!

“Some wireless service providers have little incentive to let Skype on their networks. In its PC-to-PC incarnation, Skype is a competitor, luring away landline customers. Skype for Mobile could do the same for cellular operators. But unlike landline companies, mobile-service providers can block Skype on their networks.”

That is just wrong… wrong for developers trying to build mobile apps and ultimately wrong for consumers wanting to do mobile things better, faster, and cheaper.  How long can this go on?

Jajah, another mobile VOIP client and one of the 11 disruptive companies according to Business 2.0, seems to be pushing forward faster than Skype, but won’t they ultimately run into the same problems with cellular providers blocking their magic?  This is jacked up… consumers need to know that they are getting hosed.

On a side note, the article states that Jajah “says it will support all cell-phone models by yearend”.  I’d love to be wrong on this, but I am about 99% sure that won’t happen.  The folks at Jajah are doing a wonderful thing; I just think their ambitions are not attainable.  But it can’t hurt to think big hey?  Good luck Jajah!

September 29th, 2006

Windows Mobile Love

I have noticed a heavy advertising push for Windows Mobile lately, and I love it.  Windows Mobile devices are awesome - I wish everyone had one.

I have seen full page ads in Business 2.0, Wired, and most recently at the gym.  I have been fighting a cold and thought 30 minutes on the stair machine would help sweat it out.  Bad idea, but I did pick up an issue of Fortune to help kill the time (I’m not ready to throw away all traditional media in favor of NewsGator Go! just yet) and on the third page was a two page ad on Windows Mobile… nice!

And on top of that, I had lunch today with Brian Casazza, CEO of 9squared and a really cool, sharp, and energized guy!  Brian was sporting the Windows Mobile Cingular 2125.  I had this phone until it get run over by a car (don’t ask) and am now using my older SMT 5600 (still a great device) - the 2125 predecessor. 

A day full of Windows Mobile.

2 comments September 29th, 2006

NewsGator Go! Trying to Behave Nicely

I previously posted about the news from Jason Calacanis about Weblogs Inc. making their sites render nicely on mobile devices and how this is very cool but presents a challenge for mobile clients… you can read more here and at the::unwired.

Here is what I plan to do about this in the next version of NewsGator Go!  Currently, you can turn on mobile formatting for all your feeds.  In this case, I am using Skweezer to transcode all web content external to my app  (links to the original article, links to other articles, etc).

 

Skweezing Web Pages

 

So, if I subscribe to blogs that behave nicely and render properly for mobile, the transcoding is going to jack things up.  Sites like the::unwired and Engadget get penalized for doing the right thing.   So, what I will be able to do is turn on/off transcoding at a more granular level on a feed by feed basis.  That is pretty cool.

 

Mobile formatting at the feed level

 

So, with these check boxes now in the UI it creates some extra clutter and uses valuable real estate. No worries though… just click on the “Mobile Formatting” menu option and the check boxes go bye bye.  I know this isn’t the perfect solution. The user still has to go in and enable/disable formatting at a feed level but it at least provides a valuable option. Hope this helps!

Mobile format setting
Hide feed format option

 

5 comments September 28th, 2006

Newspapers and RSS on the Go

Robert Young at GigaOm posted about Rupert Murdoch’s likely move into blogging to complement the social networking hit MySpace… I think that is inevitable.

Robert talks about the challenges facing the newspaper industry and how blogging is one of the major disruptors.

“Simply put, it’s centralized content production and distribution vs. decentralized people media. I have now learned, first hand, how blogging competes with traditional newsprint reporting and publishing.”

There is one point that Robert doesn’t address with respect to blogging’s threat to newspapers.  I was riding the bus to work this morning and of the 50 or so people on the bust I’d say 15 or so were reading the newspaper.  One person was consuming RSS – that would be me and I was using NewsGator Go! of course.  Mobile consumption of RSS is critical to blogging’s ultimate success and ubiquity.

There are several options for consuming RSS on the go, Bloglines Mobile, Dave Winer’s River of News, mobile formatted blogs like Engadget, etc.  My favorite is NewsGator Go! - I am a bit biased suprise… suprise… like a newspaper, when I am done reading articles in NewsGator Go! those articles are purged (if I choose) from NewsGator’s RSS synchronization engine and will not show up when I get to the office and fire up FeedDemon.  That synchronization is absolutely critical to my mobile RSS experience.

Regardless of your choice for consuming RSS on your mobile device, please spread the word.  If those folks on the bus could get the news they wanted when they wanted on their mobile devices, I am sure they would have not bothered buying the old school newspaper.  This is good for the RSS space and good for you the consumer!

September 28th, 2006

Weblogs, Inc/Blogsmith Goes Mobile But May Cause Headaches

Our CEO at NewsGator, JB, sent me a link to a post on Jason Calacanis’s blog about his dev team and their efforts to properly render versions of the Weblogs Inc. sites for mobile devices.  This is very cool - I just took a look at Engadget on my Windows Mobile device and it looks great.   I subscribe to Jason’s blog so would probably have gotten to this post eventually, but it is pretty amazing to have a CEO who is so in touch with & on top of what is going on in the RSS/mobile space… that is very cool as well.

Anyway, like I said, this achievement is great for the mobile space but creates an interesting dilemma for mobile clients that are already trying to solve the same problem.  Let me elaborate… in NewsGator Go! I use Skweezer’s (or Google’s) transcoding proxy to format web pages for mobile friendly viewing (Bloglines does this as well).  So if you are consuming RSS feeds in NewsGator Go! and want to spawn a browser to dig into an article, the page is formatted for mobile and for the 90+% of sites that aren’t mobile friendly this is a great thing.  For the small percentage of sites that do render properly on mobile, the transcoding foobars all the work they have done (the default page is run through the transcoder and all the publisher’s mobile goodness is lost).  Arne and the good folks at the::unwired have noted this as well.

This is an interesting problem that needs a creative solution.  Anyone have any thoughts on this?

3 comments September 28th, 2006

IZZE, Pepsi, and Websites

About three years ago I met Lance through our wives who had recently become friends. Lance was working at IZZE, at the time a 5 or so person beverage startup working out of a cool old house in downtown Boulder. Lance said they were about to revamp their web site. Being a passionate developer ready to take on any project (I was all about mobile and client/server apps not a web dev or designer by any stretch I should add), I said I could help. I met Lance and Todd the CEO (who was actually doing the site himself in FrontPage - impressive undertaking for a CEO) and shortly after that started building their site. I was learning ASP.NET and Web programming all at the same time and after many weekends, all-nighters, and late nights, I had a pretty cool CMS and web site built. I wasn’t over the top amazing, but it was good and allowed them to update & maintain their site without any html or web knowledge.

After starting to work at NewsGator, 7 or so months ago, I really slacked at supporting IZZE’s site, and they rightfully started shopping around for a “real” web design firm. They hooked up with Zing Studios - a company started by a really good dude and smart guy, Jeff shroeder. Jeff and I had worked on some projects in the past, and he is solid. It was a good match, as I had no extra cycles for IZZE.

The IZZE site as it exists today looks pretty much exactly the same as the one I had built (with a ton of help from my buddy Matthias Eder I need to mention). So, maybe I’d like to think I played a small part in the IZZE/Pepsi deal… imagine if Pepsi was doing diligence and stumbled across a FrontPage site built by the CEO. They probably would have been impressed with the CEO’s passion but maybe turned off by a rough looking site. Now, if I only had gotten some stock out of the deal, I may be planning a trip or something cool like that ;) I did get some t-shirts and lots of drinks so at least I have that going for me ;(

September 28th, 2006

Not the Only One Using Skweezer

I just ran across Josh Bancroft’s blog at TinyScreenfuls talking about Bloglines Mobile using Skweezer too…

Great to see Kevin and the team at Skweezer getting fantastic exposure!  I know NewsGator Go! is a much better product beacuse of Skweezer.

September 22nd, 2006

Skweezer is Great

One of the issuesi that mobile developers face is how to render web pages on mobile devices…. Most web publishers don’t provide a mobile friendly version of their site and this makes viewing on mobiles painful and in some cases completely unusable.  Viewing issues (such as excessive scrolling) or memory pressure (when a page is laden with images) can prevent publishers from getting in front of mobile eyes.  This is a problem for the developer, the publisher, and the consumer.

There are a few solutions.  You can roll your own transcoding engine – if this is not your core competency it is probably too much to tackle.  You can use a third party browser, Opera for Mobile is a great choice.  In fact, if Opera is the default browser on your device, you can use Opera with NewasGator Go!  Or you can use a service that will do this heavy lifting for you.  My choice for this is Skweezer and you can also use Google’s transcoding engine!

NewsGator Go! and Skweezer

I found Skweezer one evening while looking for solutions to my mobile rendering problems and was psyched about their offering.  I sent Skweezer an email (I think it was like 1 am or so).  Within 30 minutes, Kevin Perkins, the CEO, emailed me back.  We started a dialog and took it from there.  Kevin was coming into Denver for another meeting, and he made some time to have lunch with me.  I really liked Kevin right away – very smart, honest, and hard working guy and he has a great team.  He also is a very proud Dad which says a ton about one’s character.

I added the ability to use Skweezer to NewsGator Go! in a beta release shortly after meeting Kevin and have been thrilled with the results (see screen shot below).

TechCrunch on NewsGator Go!

In this example, I have Mike Arrington’s TechCrunch blog rendered w/ Skweezer.  So, you will notice that ads and images have been removed and that initially may not make Mike happy.  But,  without using Skweezer I cannot even load this page on my Treo 700W.  So, using Skweezer, I can actually view TechCrunch on my mobile, clip interesting articles using NewsGator Go! and then view TechCrunch using one of the NewsGator desktop readers (I use FeedDemon btw) or using NewsGator Online.  Everyone benefits!

Skweezer rocks!

5 comments September 22nd, 2006

Crystal Ball

So, how did Oliver and Blake at MobileCrunch and Mike and Marshall at TechCrunch know about the launch of NewsGator Go! before I did?  That just doesn’t seem right ;) Hah, they must have a crystal ball.

Seriously, I am psyched to announce the release of NewsGator Go and am really glad that these folks picked up the story!  I hope it opens up the eyes of some customers who may not recognize the power of RSS coupled with mobile devices.  If you have a Windows Mobile device you have to try this application.  It will add a whole new dimension to your mobile experience.  A ton of effort has gone into making the mobile RSS experience enjoyable and into making NewsGator Go! a must have tool in your arsenal.

 If you are new to RSS but a Windows Mobile user, then I promise you, getting the latest news and information on your device is invaluable.  If you are all over RSS and in the market for a new device, take a look at Windows Mobile.  These devices are awesome.

And for all you other mobile users with smart devices, that are not Windows Mobile, we haven’t forgotten about you.  We will be launching an awesome reader into beta real soon that will be just what the doctor ordered.  Finally, I have been working on a skunk work project that has the promise of bring RSS to everyone… more on that soon!

Take a look at the NewsGator site for all the details on NewsGator Go! and if you want to see what the application can do for you, there is a 30 day trial, so please give it a Go!

10 comments September 20th, 2006

I Am Really Just A Feature

The other day, on the Windows Mobile Team Blog, Mike talked about the process and life cycle of a feature in the Windows Mobile world.  There is quite an intricate process for a feature to realse to the wild and it explains why it may take a while for a feature to come to life and why that feature should be rock solid when released. 

Let me contrast that to a situation where you are perhaps in a startup w/ very limited resources or even a one man show and you adopt some form of Agile programming.  You hopefully are building an application that solves a problem you face and already have a good idea for the base feature set.  You build it, put it out as an alpha or beta and hopefully get some user feedback.  You then start cranking away on the next version - usually you crank out the low hanging fruit (that which is easy to implement) and then pick the best features and start coding.  During the process you are constantly testing and iterating.  You then put out the next version and repeat the process until the product is ready for release.  This is akin to one aspect in the Web 2.0 way of building software - “release early and release often“.  On a side note, I read the “Cathedral and the Bazaar” right after reading The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks way back when in graduate school and didn’t realize the significance until I started actually attempting to create production software - definitely check these out if you have not already.

What you have is two completely different approaches to building software - each have their advantages and disadvantages.  Which do you prefer?  Or do you do it in a different manner?

2 comments September 14th, 2006

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