Archive for the 'mobile' Category

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Opera Mini turns One

Congrats to Opera Mini on its first anniversary. I just installed it on my new SLVR, and the download is an astounding 98k. Why can’t more software be this lean? And yes, Y! search came as the default. -m

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Freudian ill-formedness?

In case you didn’t notice, a new XML Annoyances is out. From the first comment there:

markup typo
2007-01-11 18:58:33 Michael Dyck [Reply]

In the link following “same unofficial naming scheme as”, the attribute is missing its closing quote-mark, which (in my browser at least) causes a lot of the subsequent text (up to the next quote-mark) to be slurped in as the attribute value, effectively hiding it.
(Indeed, “well-formedness on the Web is dead”.)

This might be fixed by the time you read this, but indeed an interesting typo.

Update: I checked my original submitted article, and indeed there error isn’t there–it found its way in during the production process. But the interesting fact remains that it could happen in the first place 1) without causing any major problems, and 2) causing varied minor problems depending on the browser. -m

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Open Questions

And a few not so open…

Q: Does the iPhone (or specifically the desktop-grade Safari browser) make the “mobile web” obsolete?

A: The “mobile web”, as we know it today, will become obsolete without any help. Things change. Devices improve. That said, the context in which one uses the web is different, and there will always be a need for some sites to have mobile-specific versions, even after the day every mobile browser is desktop-grade.

Q: Does the advent of desktop-grade mobile browsers mean that today’s mobile development is meaningless?

A: No. The race is on today, and the winners will be those who can make the most users happy. That includes users who–for several more years–won’t own hardware capable of desktop-grade browsers. The winner on this playing field will have any easy momentum play to carry over to the next one.
Q: Will the iPhone “cannabalize” iPod sales?

A: Goodness, no. People who buy one will be either 1) buying it instead of an iPod, or 2) not. The Cingular CEO said it was a “multi-year exclusive” deal, signed sight unseen. In other words, Apple had incredible leverage to get a good deal. Their subsidy on the 2-year contract is probably significant, maybe in the $300 range, possibly a lot more. So would you call selling a $800-900 device instead of a $200 one cannabalization?

Q: What does this mean for XHTML-MP and XHTML Basic?

A: That’s a tough question. In the end, it will boil down to momentum. Today’s successful mobile development necessarily involves XHTML. Once browsers get better, nobody is going to re-write their sites in worse markup, though some might attempt to merge with the main site. (Another open User Experience Design question is the degree to which it will be possible for one site to work in a different, mobile, context.)

Q: What does this mean for Mobile Web Best Practice and mobileOK?
A: Like the “mobile web” both of these specs-in-progress will become obsolete without help. But now they are going to look increasingly obsolete at an accerated rate.


Monday, January 8th, 2007

Yahoo! + Opera = Crazy Delicious

(Press release) Starting today, Y! is the exclusive search partner for Opera Mini across more than 100 countries. The release also names “oneSearch”, going live later in Q1–definitely something to keep an eye on. -m

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

inputmode mobile question

I have a question for the mobile geniuses out there. What’s the difference (if any) between inputmode=”latin digits” and inputmode=”user digits”?

Will browsers treat these differently? How so? Which ones? Answer in the comment section below.
Thanks! -m

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

Amazon mobile

Site at How are folks supposed to discover this? -m

Monday, December 4th, 2006

UC Berkeley – what I talked about

Last week, I visited Erik Wilde, Bob Glushko, and students up at Cal. No major announcements, just some sharpening of discussion points.

Since this was my first visit to Berkeley, I finally got to tell the joke “thank you for your OS”. Maybe you had to be there.

The intentional web is a formalism for describing “why the font tag is evil”. I often work with 3rd party integration languages, and the markup design is, without exception, crap. I hypothesize that the reason for this is jumping into solution-space before fully understanding problem-space. This seems to apply to lots more than just font tags; I lumped in WML and about half the world’s ajax sites for good measure.

Microformats are a formalism for describing “why creating a new markup language for my CD collection” is evil. Could XForms have been done as a microformat? No, microformats require a strong intentional foundation language, and HTML forms ain’t it. Is the proposed W3C approach an instance of “a deadly two-pronged attack”, a la Yahoo! Photos + Flickr? We’ll see. It does seem like that road leads to a namespace apocalypse, highlighting the fundamental difficulty namespaces hoists on attempts to usably extend HTML and XHTML at the same time. A namespace apocalypse may not be a bad thing.

On namespaces, I went over most of the points from my recent article. I won’t rehash that here.

What are some practical and implementation issues around XForms or the lack thereof? Focusing on mobile, as reason #1 I gave the lack of commercial-grade java browsers, discussed here previously. The state of mobile browsers is appalling, other than Opera and S60. Terms like “model” and “field” are troublesome, because the confuse the problem domain (the real world) and the solution domain (the computer). Browser vendors have been too inwardly-focused, both now and during the first attempt at salvaging HTML forms, leading to a premature jump into solution-space. But perhaps XForms dwelled for too long in the problem space…

Maybe I’ve mellowed some, but increasingly I’m able to look at both sides of issues. A useful skill for Information School students, wouldn’t you agree? -m

Monday, November 20th, 2006

The new Flickr Mobile site is up, joining the recently-launched Notice a trend in mobile URL design here? Expect to see more of this from Yahoo! and other places.

The interesting thing about these URLs is that they don’t end in .mobi. There are technical advantages (cookies) to staying with an established domain name. What are your plans, if any, for dot-mobi domains? -m

Monday, November 6th, 2006

Meet me at Mobile 2.0

Monday I’ll be at the Mobile 2.0 event in SF. If you’re there, look me up! -m

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Softbank Mobile victim of own popularity

So, the question I posed here was what effect Number Portability would have on #3 carrier Softbank Mobile customers in Japan. Would they leave for greener pastures, or would lower prices and free Yahoo! content (not to mention a bit of advertising) attract new subscribers? Yep, file this under good problems to have. -m

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Letting the Sushi out of the bag

ZDNet Asia offers a rare glimpse inside Yahoo! Mobile, including the code name for a current project I’m involved with. Read on to get an idea why I keep saying to expect big things soon in this space. -m

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Opera Mini for Treo

Opera just released a version of their Mini browser for Treo. Here’s what the download and install process looks like.

  • point your existing Blazer browser at
  • the page detects your device (a Treo 650 in this case) and offers a download link
  • clicking the link starts a 100k download
  • the phone offers to store the download in the “applications” area
  • hunt through the ultra-confusing menu system that Palm has inflicted on users. Categories are “All”, “Games”, “Good”, “Main”, “Multimedia”, “System”, “Utilities”, Wireless Apps”, and “Unfiled”.
  • finally I find it under “Unfiled”. Click.
  • Error message “Missing IBM Java VM”: “Please ensure that IBM’s WebSphere Micro Environment Java WM is installed.”

In summary: Opera is great software, judging by the glowing reports all over the web. But installing mobile apps is a major pain spot. See also Daniel Raffel’s take on the confusing state of mobile development.

Hard to develop. Hard to install. We need to fix this asap. -m

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Number portability arrives in Japan

A brief nod to the east: now Japanese mobile users have the option to switch carriers while keeping their existing number. This development is triggering a new round of competition among the carriers and bringing in a new era of free content, something we take for granted in the U.S. -m

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Yahoo! Answers Mobile

Just ran into this. Nice! Mobile mashups are getting some serious momentum.

To elaborate on my previous comments a bit, the concept of what people find usable differs between sitting at a desktop and sitting/standing/running/driving with mobile in hand. Desktop sites aren’t optimized for these kinds of use patterns. Ergo, fertile ground for lots of mashups. You were getting tired of the Maps API + X formula anyway, right? ;-) -m

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Experts: Don’t try to copy Web 2.0 on phones

Link. My comment: “duh”. In fact, don’t even try to copy Web 1.0 on phones. Even the concept of what’s uable differs on the small screen. -m

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Unplug phones to save power

One other thing that caught my eye recently: a report from a mobile industry task force led by Nokia that extolls the virtues of unplugging your phone after it’s charged. The report claims that if 10 percent of mobile phone owners would unplug their phones when done charging…

it would reduce energy consumption by an amount equivalent to that used by 60,000 European homes per year.

Something about that seemed a little strange to me, so I did an experiment and some math. There are now 2 billion mobile phones used worldwide. Using a device called a Kill-A-Watt, I measured the power consumption of two different phones I had handy: a Samsung (3 watts charging) and a Treo 650 (4 watts charging). Both, however rounded off to 0 watts once the batteries were topped off.

Older power “bricks” feel like they have a hunk of solid iron inside because, well, they do. A transformer takes continuous current through its primary coil, quite independent from the device attached, if any. Newer power bricks–the lighter ones that feel almost hollow–use switching power supplies that are far more efficient.

Half a watt, say for an extra 8 hours a day, times (10% of 2 billion = ) 200 million phones is 800 megawatt-hours. Over a year, that’s 292 gigawatt-hours. Those billions add up fast.

To estimate how much power homes would use, let’s pick an easy figure of continuous average of 1kw. In a year that’s 24 x 365 = 8.75 megawatt-hours, and for 60,000 homes, it would be 525 gigawatt-hours.

So the numbers are at least in a similar ballpark. But statistics are tricky. To put it in perspective, my Dremel tool (with a transformer) consumes about six times as much power when fully charged. So if only 10% of mobile users would unplug their Dremels, it would conserve the power of 360,000 homes. Turning off one light for an extra hour a day: 1.5 million homes. If you really want to save energy, start with the bigger things. (But that doesn’t seem like a message likely to come from a group led by a handset maker. :-)

Is my math right? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. Not to be totally cynical, the task force is doing good things, including getting manufacturers to use less toxic heavy metals and nasty phthalates. -n

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Mobile Interaction with the Real World

Another great confererence I missed. Who wouldn’t want a trip to Espoo, Finland? Proceedings (link directly to large PDF). Looks like an interesting mix of theoretical and practical stuff. -m

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Mobile data at risk?

The little one just turned a month old. Since I have a spare moment, time for some blog catch-up. A C|Net puff piece survey reports

More than two-thirds of respondents said that their data was most vulnerable on laptop PCs, while 40% chose “other mobile devices” (i.e. PDAs, mobile phones, wireless devices)

Mind you, this is just a survey of how repondents felt, not reporting any specific security issues.

Is data accessible through mobile devices at risk? Absolutely. What are you doing to secure your data? -m

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Yahoo! + SoftBank: watch this space

Today Softbank Mobile launched a new mobile service, delivering tons of Yahoo! Japan content, powered by Yahoo! US technology, to Softbank Mobile phones. This is notable for a few reasons:

  • In the past, content of this caliber been inside paid walled gardens in Japan. Opening this up could be the tipping point for a shake-up in one of the most amazing mobile markets.
  • This is the first time a carrier has been in so close with a content provider. If this works out (and leading signs are very good), it could be a model for the rest of the world.
  • I’ve seen some of the new hardware from SoftBank Mobile. The phones are great and–through tight Y! integration–go a long way toward solving longstanding UI problems related to the mobile web.
  • Number portability is coming to Japan, I believe beginning today on October 24. Once this gets momentum, user bases could shift rapidly. Today is the ideal time to be playing a strong card.
  • Apple rumors continue to swirl around SoftBank. I’m giddy at the thought of iPods accessing the web through my code. :-)

So, watch this space. More good things are coming. -m

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

12 Lessons for mobile development

All right, the article is actually 12 Lessons for Those Afraid of CSS and Standards, but if I were to write the same list for mobile development, it would be almost identical. -m

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Another iTunes phone arrives, quietly

Check this out. It’s a RAZR V3i, which has a show-stoppingly bad mobile browser built-in. (But overall, it’s still better than the ROKR!) Compared to the huge announcements from Apple earlier this week, this one comes in fairly under the radar. Could this be a trial baloon leading up to an official iPhone?
If this one supports replacing the browser with Opera, this might be a near-term option… -m

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Actual copy about a phone

A Siemens SL65 to be exact:

Like any jewel, you have to slide the two shells of this tiny giant to open it up.

??? Read it again–it makes even less sense the 2nd time. Aside from hyperactive copywriters, can anyone comment on this phone? Steve didn’t deliver my iPhone yet, so I have to look elsewhere… -m

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Should hospitals censor internet access?

Most of the censorship stories you hear on the news involve public libraries, but right now I’m writing this from a hospital, which has free wi-fi. Someone providing a service like this has latitude to do pretty much as they please, including censorship, but is it a good idea?

The system here evidently consists of a monitor observing every HTTP access, either forwarding it on or bouncing to another server, one that seems to be down. That second server, referred to only by numeric IP, has yet to ever actually respond, so trying to load any page with a blocked site requres a lengthy timeout of about two minutes before landing on a browser error page with a URL something like this:

Let’s take a look at what kind of sites this inane system prevents hospital visotors from viewing directly:

  • (“Personal Pages”) — because honestly, who in a maternity ward would ever need to upload pictures of something?
  • (“Dating&Personal”) — because who in a maternity ward would consider posting to a blog?
  • as a (“Portal Site”) — because who, away from home for a few days, might want to check up on news of the world around them?
  • (“Personal Pages”) — thankfully, this dangerous and immoral content too has been shielded from the eyes of maternity ward visitors.

At some point, somebody must have pointed out a flaw in their system–that any named site can also be viewed through a numeric IP. Instead of actually thinking about the problem, they also banned all numeric IPs, even for sites that would otherwise work.
The upside to retarded filtering is that it’s easy to get around. Techniques that work here include using a search engine cached page, Coral Cache (, SSH tunneling, VPN, and adding a new entry to hosts to access the same site under a different name. The access is so slow, however (hmm… in a way another form of censorship) that the strain of the additional measures often leads to timeouts and various other errors.
Fortunately, the filtermasters haven’t caught on to yet, thus allowing this post to appear. I hear that site is pretty subversive.

What’s the net?

  1. It’s obvious their list of sites to filter is woefully generic, not at all adjusted to the environment in which people will be actually using the system. And still, I’d wager they’re paying someone fistfuls of cash to keep updating the generic list.
  2. I can imagine there are a few sites on the internets that wouldn’t be appropriate in this environment.  The majority of well-adjusted adults are perfectly capable of choosing not to visit those sites.
  3. In cases where supervision is needed, it is effective on a one-on-one basis, often parent-to-child. Witness how many ways there are to easily bypass the filters: software, particularly bad software, isn’t clever enough to replace human judgement.
  4. Yay for the mobile web, which allowed me to upload my pictures anyway.


Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Yahoo! updates their other front page

Yahoo! Mobile has a new look–the first of many changes in the pipeline. The refresh brings the mobile site in line with the recently relaunched main page. -m

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

Ten Most Beautiful Cellphones

Nice writeup. Doesn’t help me much with my decision, though! -m

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Rumor: Voda and Goog on the rocks

Interesting, but not surprising. The source article talks about revenue share unhappiness, but that seems like a bit of a stretch for a deal only inked six months ago. There’s some more interesting analysis in there as well.

It was the open secret in the industry that both Voda and T-Mobile were beginning to have their doubts about their marriage with Google. Now the honeymoon is over rumors are mounting that both operators are ripe for a new union with Yahoo or a white-label solution – or both.

My opinion is that folks are starting to realize that there’s a lot more to life than being really, really ridiculously good at search. -m

Monday, August 14th, 2006

What phone should I get?

I need to get a new phone, probably still on Cingular. What should I get?

The following features are important to me:

  • Good web browser
  • Preferred querty keypad
  • Not running Windows
  • Able to make and receive voice calls

What’s my best bet? -m

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Wireless Japan Expo

A few pics up on Flickr. Still recovering from travel, more soon. -m

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

XForms 1.1 and mobileOK

Word on the street is that some of the new stuff in XForms 1.1 is fantastic. Also on my to-carefully-read list, the mobileOK Scheme. As always, any thoughts welcome here. -m

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Become a Yahoo today!

Yeah, help still wanted. I’m looking for a markup and standards guru to work with me on a cool Mobile project. Can you list five different types of CSS selector off the top of your head? Can you map all five to the equivalent XPath? Can you spot semantic markup by reflex? Do you daydream about microformats or scribble down BNF during idle moments? Do you obsessively check the TR page at the W3C?

If you answered YES to the above questions, send me your CV. Include “Yahoo!” somewhere in the subject line. -m