Category Archives: Connected Experience

Mobile World Congress 2012: What to Expect

Once again I’m on the sidelines for Mobile World Congress. It may be better this way, though. From here in Seattle, I’ll get a broader perspective on what’s happening, seeing the news unfold in greater context since I’ll have the benefit of watching it all bubble up from a distance. That said, I’m reliant upon many friends that have feet on the ground, who will get both first looks and hands on experiences. If you’re looking for a play-by-play, follow RemotelyMobile.

For my friends that don’t have the slightest idea what Mobile World Congress is, it’s the place where all the mobile thinkers and doers come to influence, strike deals and play. From network operators and carriers to device makers and app developers, the mobile industry is descending upon Barcelona today for the event, which opens on Feb. 27th, attracting more than 60,000 attendees, including roughly 12,000 developers, 3,000 industry CEOs from 130 countries and over 1,500 media outlets.

So, it’s sort of a big deal, and it’s where an amazing number of business deals are born. It isn’t just about quad-core phones, 4G networks, and other mobile devices. It’s also about supporting consumers with apps, software, and the cloud that keep us mere mortals connected.

With the theme “Redefining Mobile,” I’m expecting to see a gazillion new ways to use mobile devices to interact with other devices and streamline consumer experiences.

More Devices Face Off with Apple: Be it internet-connected phones, tablets or PCs, device makers will come out of the woodwork to try and take down Apple. Frankly, it’s a monumental task. Apple has had the market cornered on devices, but new tech innovations, more powerful components and new pricing models will give other vendors the opportunity to give Apple a run for the money this year. In fact, Apple shares have eroded with the introduction of Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Nokia’s Lumia and the coming Windows 8 devices, not to mention how well Samsung has penetrated its marketshare. You can bet Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Samsung to make considerable investments in this years’ MWC, priming the market for some very exciting devices expected to ship later this year.

Smart Devices:  For years we’ve been inching closer to the promise of connected experiences across devices, and we saw a big jump forward at CES 2012 where smartphones acted as controllers for a variety of other devices: Smart TVs, home security, garage doors and even refrigerators. We’ll see even more of these scenarios at MWC. Innovative connected devices will be unveiled in Barcelona to manage and monitor your home or to consume an explosion of digital content.

Connected Vehicles: Wait…what? Yes, vehicles are becoming the latest “devices” to invest in these big technology shows. Ford, for instance, had a big showing at CES 2012 in January showing off its latest in-dash technology, SYNC, developed in partnership with Microsoft. Expect to see Ford and others at MWC again, sporting their play for the connected consumer’s mindshare with technology that strikes the right balance of safety, convenience and infotainment.

Advanced Apps: Technology innovations centered on faster processers, faster connection speeds and small but mighty devices are all culminating to advance a new class of applications that are delivering on the connected experiences dream. Mobile apps for shopping, media, healthcare and mobile in the enterprise are increasing efficiencies and improving productivity. Whether a client app or cloud app, MWC will be a breeding ground for app developers and startups looking for a break to get noticed. Though harder to find these gems, this is the part that really excites me, and I’ll be watching the folks like Venture Beat and others who are looking for the same gems

Infrastructure Advancements: The explosion of data driven by the use of our mobile devices has put a significant strain on the networks and infrastructures to support our increasingly mobile lifestyles. I would expect to see a number of announcements at Mobile World Congress from mobile networks and carriers to address the volume of streaming video, high-res images and documents that we share on a daily basis to stay connected and to keep the networks from breaking down.

Windows 8: Last but not least, we should expect some noise from Microsoft. Though no keynote this year, Microsoft is expected to offer the first Windows 8 consumer preview, which is likely to build a lot of excitement for the range of devices Windows 8 will support when it ships. Microsoft’s decision to preview Windows 8 at Mobile World Congress is a signal revealing how important mobility is to the Windows franchise, and we’re as likely to see Intel-based Ultrabook PCs as we are Windows 8 tablets running on ARM. Of course, we’ll see a range of Windows Phones, as well—notably Nokia phones and if we’re lucky the next version of Windows Phones, dubbed Tango, which will run on low-end devices, expanding its footprint into emerging markets.

This is just scraping the surface. We’ve been hearing industry buzz about Android, LG, HTC, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and many other device makers on what they’ll do for weeks. New tablets, new pones, new apps—there all expected at Mobile World Congress next week. But if you’re looking for a rundown of what specific devices will be unveiled, check out Engadget for a comprehensive list.

What are you most excited about?

Pinterest: Mindless Inspiration for the Overwhelmed

My biggest complaint in the last two years? I don’t have enough time in the day. Like most moms, from the moment my eyes open (usually with a toddler staring back at me six inches from my nose) to the moment they close again for the night, I am in constant motion.

My husband and I scramble in the morning to get the kids fed, ourselves ready for work and kids dressed for school. I race through traffic to get into the office. My brain is on overdrive as soon as I sit down with my PC, rumaging through email and writing my first narrative of the day. I run from meeting to meeting not even stopping for lunch. And I rush out the door a few minutes before 5:00p to start the commute back home, picking up the boys from daycare/preschool along the way. I walk in the house and immediately whip something up for dinner, check my work email with a full tummy and then march upstairs with the boys to start bedtime routine (brushing teeth and reading books and sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow for the thousandth time). At 9:00p, I sit down to finish up a few work projects and then it happens. My brain finally shuts down. The only thing left to do is surf, and I start and end with Pinterest.

As if I had time to spend hours sitting, exploring images of often beautiful and sometimes rediculous furniture, gadgets, art/crafts, recipes and awesome places to visit, I do it. Mindless inspiration.

Here’s how it works: Users create digital “pinboards” and fill them with photos from around the web of the things they care about. They can follow other pinboards and users, and “repin” items that speak to them. Using the “Pin-It” gadget you install on a browser toolbar, users add to their boards from anywhere, saving us from uploading an image to a photo-sharing service. And the browser experience is ideal for the small attention spans of web readers (uh, that’s me!) — almost no text, almost all pictures.

Remodeling a home or looking for great finds, this site is ideal for keeping track of things you want to revisit. I use it for capturing images of kitchens, baths and furniture I love in preparation for the updates we’re planning for our home. I also use it as a wish list for my favorite gadgets, ideas for fun with the boys and saving recipes for the day when I might be adventurous. I even have a board that captures nothing but color palettes that I love.

Here are a few important tips:

  • Name your boards: Categorize each board that you create in your space so that you’re able to group similar objects and find them easily. I have a category for home inspiration, one for gadgets, one for food, one for the kids, etc.
  • Hyperlink the images: If you ever want to get details about your images again, hyperlink it…or at least include a link in your description. I didn’t do that when I started, and now I can’t remember where I found the link…to buy!
  • Make notes: Give the images a caption that will remind you what you liked about the image. Love the color? Inspired by the overall look? Just say so.
  • Follow people: This easy little app not only connects you to the things you care about, but it also connects you to the people you care about.
  • Show who you are: The thing I love the most about Pinterest is that I can express who I am visually. If you follow people, you can get a really good sense for who they are, too.
  • Add a time limit: There are so many cool things to look at, that it can literally suck hours of your time. Don’t let it.

Though I have only been using it for my personal pleasure, there are some interesting and fun ways to use it to promote your business, too. Though still in its infancy, I can imagine some pretty creative marketing directors will find fun ways to link it to and/or be the center of brand campaigns. Can’t wait to see what these smart people will do with it

And, if you like Pinterest, you may also enjoy Houzz.com, a digital scrapbook for your home decorating inspiration. The user experience on this site is really, really good.

I really don’t have any extra time in my day to do anything but work and take care of the boys. Yet, I keep finding myself drawn to both of these sites at the end of my days, relaxed and feeling good. So what if the laundry continues to pile up!

Do you have a mindless inspiration site to share? I want to hear about how you recharge your batteries in the comments below.

That’s A Wrap! CES 2012, Smart and Connected

In spite of a lack of ground-breaking news, CES 2012 put a stake in the ground for the tech trends we’ll see in the coming year and beyondSyndicated on BlogHer.com

Smart this, smart that. Gadgets unveiled at this year’s big dance focused on one thing: connected. We want anywhere, anytime access to our digital lives, in and out of the home, so this year at the International Consumer Electronics Show, everything seemed to be billed as smart and connected.

With more than 20,000 products unveiled, most of them streamline the connected experience. New PCs, smartphones, and TVs were expected, but even new cars and appliances are smarter than ever, simplifying the way we live and creating unexpected efficiencies.

Women play a huge role in making the vision for the connected home come alive. According to new findings from international research firm Parks Associates, women today share more content online and download more movies and music than men. For example, women are 73% more likely than men to have watched a full-length TV show online in the past 30 days.

“Women are frequently the product buyers – and once she owns a CE product, she becomes a heavy user, most particularly for devices that allow sharing and uploading content and downloading TV programs,” said Tricia Parks, CEO, Parks Associates.

I’m one of those women, and my device portfolio is growing rapidly, which is why CES interests me so much. But with so many new devices unveiled this year, it was impossible to see everything, though I still have a few favorites. Check them out below.

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Personal Computing

Generally speaking, I expect a ton of new PCs to be shown at CES every year without fail. There were lots of PCs from the usual suspects this year, but only a few of them pleasantly surprised me.

Lenovo IdeaCentre A720: A great option for the family command center, the world’s slimmest 27-inch all-in-one IdeaCentre A720, with Windows 7, uniquely combines a frameless display supporting 10-point multitouch for greater accuracy with a widely adjustable screen angle (from -5 degrees to 90 degrees) that allows comfortable use in any position.

Samsung Series 5 ULTRA: Somewhere between the Series 9 and the Series 7 Chronos, the Samsung Series 5 ULTRA is an affordable, thin and light beauty. In your choice of a 13-inch or 14-inch display, this new laptop connects in just about any way you. Each version can be equipped with either a 128GB SSD or with a more spacious 500GB standard SATA hard drive and 16GB of ExpressCache memory. Starting price is $899 and its available later this month.

ViewSonic EXOdesk: Long rumored to be cooking up something special, this unusual setup supports an HTML5 interface running on top of Windows 7, Mac OS or Android, the ViewSonic EXOdesk transforms a 32- to 40-inch touchscreen monitor into a Surface-style desktop, supplementing your keyboard and mouse, and connecting to your main monitor. Fully customizable, the surface acts as the hub for casual games, productivity widgets (calendars, weather) and an app launcher, including Microsoft Office. You really have to see the demo to understand its full functionality.

Though a dozen or so tablets were on deck in another attempt to give the iPad a run for the money, CES 2012 was really about Ultrabooks, which were shown off by nearly every leading PC maker. Intel said it expects to see at least 75 Ultrabook PCs hit the market in 2012, characterized by an ultra-thin and light chassis and powerful processors with extremely fast boot-up times.

One that caught my attention was the HP Envy Spectre, which won a “Best of CES” award.  One word: GORGEOUS. Unique in that its lid and palm rest are forged from durable, scratch resistant Gorilla Glass, which we’ve seen across most smartphones. But its style isn’t just all that glass, its sleek lines and powerful computing capabilities make it one of the most attractive devices at CES this year. You’ll get an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD drive. Connectivity is easy with the latest options, including Near Field Communication (NFC), which is the first that I’m aware of for a laptop, but opening up all kinds of futuristic capabilities. Think about how easy NFC will make it for your laptop and smartphone to share information—just by the proximity of each other!

Another Ultrabook launching at CES that caught my attention was the Lenovo IdeaPad “Yoga,” boasting a display that bends back into a tablet form factor, aptly fitting its name—though I’m not quite sure if it’s a tablet or Ultrabook. Either way, it’s pretty cool, and it took home nine awards from prominent industry publications, all highlighting its groundbreaking hybrid functionality, distinctive design and innovative engineering. Be sure to check it out.

If you’re an Internet multitasker—surf while you listen to music, check your email and social networking accounts, watch streaming videos, write a paper, work on a presentation, etc., your device portfolio is probably growing faster than your children. Expanding the portfolio, though, increases the power cords and a need for more ports. If this sounds like your household, you’ll be interested in this little gem:

The Toshiba dynadock USB 3.0 hub is a universal docking station that links all your electronic devices to your laptop with just one single USB 3.0 cable, enabling you to connect your computer to your large screen displays, stereo speakers, external hard drive, optical drive, printer, full-size keyboard and mouse. It has a built-in Gigabit Ethernet port for Internet connectivity and two 3.5mm jacks for headphones and a mic. The hub comes with a full HD video card built in, because of this feature the hub can support up to two additional monitors via its HDMI and DVI/VGA video ports. At about $180, look for it later this month. I’m not sure my family can live much longer without this gizmo!

Smartphones

Though most new phones will be announced next month at Mobile World Congress, there were still a few new ones shown at CES 2012. For me, the most notable were the two new Windows Phones nominated for cnet’s “best of CES” award:

HTC TITAN II  Available in the coming months to customers of AT&T in the U.S., the smartphone includes the largest display among Windows Phones, an advanced 16-megapixel digital camera, and access to AT&T’s 4G LTE speeds.

The Nokia Lumia 900:  This phone took cnet’s “Best of CES—Phones” award, and is the first of Nokia’s Windows phones to arrive in the United States exclusively to AT&T in spring, feature high-speed 4G LTE connectivity in a colorful cyan and matte black. With Nokia’s largest display at 4.3 inches, the Nokia Lumia 900 balances speed, power and size for a rich content experience in a phone that still fits easily in your hand.

Connected Entertainment

As in years past, televisions were amongst the stars of the show, with skinny flat screens, Internet connectivity and delivering rich picture quality. LG, Samsung and Toshiba were probably the “TV stars” of CES 2012, arguably stealing the show from Ultrabooks.

LG and Samsung both unveiled skinny OLED 55-inch HDTVs, including Internet connectivity with streaming capabilities and integrated social media features.  Samsung announced its Smart Interaction technology, which is similar to Microsoft’s Kinect, supporting face, voice and gesture recognition. You can expect these smart TVs to be very expensive, so if you can wait, LG predicts that by 2016, it will be able to deliver OLED TVs at the same cost as LCDs. For the most part, Google TV was the operating system of choice, which allows users to surf TV listings and the Internet using Google’s Chrome browser and a variety of apps, but a few other interesting products surfaced that enable you to stream content from the Internet directly to your TV.

Other Streaming Devices

Simple.TV is a next-gen digital video recorder (DVR), which might push you to finally cut the cable subscription. It allows you to access over-the-air TV programs, either live or stored on your connected hard drive, then streams it to a number of supported devices already on your home network, including Roku, Google TV, Boxee, and your iPad.

Roku Streaming stick: If you’re looking for a Smart TV alternative, then you’ll probably want to learn more about this tiny gadget. Looking a lot like an ordinary USB flash drive, the Roku Streaming Stick is a wireless, all-in-one power and HDMI streaming-media tool, offering tons of video content, supporting over 400 channels, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Pandora, MLB.TV, HBO Go, MOG, and Rdio. It connects to the back of your HDTV, but it requires an MHL port, a relatively new mobile audio/video interface standard for directly connecting portable devices to hi-def displays (cnet has a great primer on this new connectivity port). That said, adapters are available for HDMI to MHL, which may work here. Expected to ship later this year, pricing isn’t available, but I suspect it will be between $50 and $100, considerably less than a new Smart TV.

Connected Home

While Whirlpool, Samsung and LG demonstrated smart washing machines that can alert you remotely when it’s time to put clothes in the dryer, what I was really watching for were the genius appliances, and LG delivered. The new LG appliances are focused on savings in energy, time and expense—the trinity for busy moms. But their latest appliances go further with new features, allowing homeowners to manage refrigerators, washing machines, ovens and robotic vacuum cleaners across a smart network, enabling them to talk to each other, to LG Repair and to you.

At $3200, the ThinQ Smart refrigerator will be available this summer, along with it,

a smart oven, and smart washer and drier. Imagine, with a smartphone, tablet or PC, you could see how much longer your food has to cook, or check the temperature and contents of the refrigerator without ever having to open the door. In addition, with its drag and drop icons, built-in camera, and voice recognition functions, LG makes it easy to keep track of where everything is in the refrigerator, when it all expires and it delivers grocery lists and recipes based on what you have inside—to your smartphone. Upping the ante further, its “blast chiller” can cool a bottle of wine in just eight minutes, and a can of beer within five minutes.

Connected Cars

We usually think of PC companion devices as smartphones, netbooks or tablets, but at CES 2012, a new companion was introduced: your car. Carmakers have been delivering enhanced entertainment systems, navigation tools and safety features that are controlled from the dashboard by the driver’s voice for a few years now. But more and more carmakers are boasting apps, touchscreens, and personal assistant capabilities to set themselves apart, transforming them from a vehicle to a companion and entertainment hub.

Ford has had a long and fruitful partnership with Microsoft for its Ford Sync software. Taking it a step further at CES and partnering again with Microsoft, Healthrageous and BlueMetal Architects, Ford announced an alliance to research technology to help people monitor and maintain health and wellness while on the move. Ford boasts that it is building a “car that cares,” hoping the new technology will not only improve drivers’ health, but also foster a more intimate bond between vehicle and driver.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled its mbrace2, billed as a “digital lifestyle” solution which can function as a “personal concierge,” continuously streams navigation information to the car, and enables connectivity to social media sites such as Facebook, and will send real-time automotive diagnostics back to the dealer. For us moms, the mbrace2 will allow parents to track what our kids are doing with the car and perform other common connected activities, including a variety of safety-focused functions.

Behind the showstoppers, other quirky devices were also introduced at CES, including motorized shoes, a laser system that will turn your car’s windshield into a see-through digital map (think Minority Report) and contact lenses that display images, text or other augmented reality information to the wearer. But from my vantage point, both LG and Samsung stole the show with their smart, connected devices with screens that range in size from 4 inches to 80 inches and appliances that communicate with each other and YOU.

This is just a sampling of the cool new consumer devices revealed at CES 2012, which was a hotbed for great topics to write on, and I’m not able to cover all of it here.  So, I’ll be showcasing lots more connected experiences from CES 2012 in the coming weeks, including more apps, more on the connected car and more devices that deliver on the connected home.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What got you most excited from CES 2012?

Is Your Living Room Connected?

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Yesterday, my 4-year old and I had a very active and sweat inducing game of Fruit Ninja with Kinect for Xbox 360. Slashing fruit and dodging bombs, he was having a great time, and I was getting a great workout. But we’ve only recently introduced our kids to the world of connected devices, and have limited their exposure to traditional video games in favor of toys and games that don’t have flashing lights or sounds. That said, Xbox rules our living room and keeps us connected to our entertainment and the people we care about.

Last year, Kinect for Xbox 360 introduced controller-free entertainment by letting you use your body and voice to play your favorite games and access entertainment, turning you into the controller. This amazing innovation changed my view of the gaming world and consoles, seeing that Xbox isn’t just for gaming anymore. In our household, it’s our entertainment hub, enabling us to access new release movies exclusive for Xbox, our Netflix video library, see live concerts and access our favorite television shows, as well as a growing library of family friendly gaming. And we use the device for live video chat with family and friends in other time zones and on different continents.

In fact, we’re so connected that our family was “forced” to invest in two consoles (one for the Man Cave and one for the family room) to prevent the boys from arguing, and by boys, I mean my husband and our 2- and 4-year old kids.

And now I’m getting in the game. Microsoft just launched perhaps its biggest software upgrade for Xbox 360, refreshing the interface, deeper voice integration, stronger social capabilities and more robust integration across devices. With these updates, we’ll get more TV programing, more movies, more music and of course more games across new third-party applications, expanding our entertainment options. And Microsoft is further enhancing the connected experience by broadly integrating Kinect with Bing search technology across the Xbox Live dashboard for smooth and seamless navigation using voice and gestures to simplify search for content and services. With Bing on Xbox, your voice becomes the ultimate remote control to find the games, movies, TV shows and music you’re looking for. Though voice control isn’t new, the deeper integration with Bing creates a completely new experience. Tell that to my kids, though. My 4-year old son already speaks to Xbox and waves his hands around, commanding it to launch Dinosaur Train, and my 2-year old skips Xbox altogether, commanding the TV to launch Team Umizoomi. Now we’ll see our devices actually respond to them!

For me, the story is about the updates that push our connected experiences further, and devices are central to this scenario. Though using my voice as a controller sounds like a fun option, it won’t always be practical. So Microsoft has also released a mobile app exclusively for the Windows Phone that enables it to control the console, services and content. The free Xbox Companion app uses Bing to search for content, access and launch programing, and turns your smartphone into a wireless remote control for media playback and for purchase transactions. I can’t wait to try it out.

Another cool feature is how Xbox leverages the cloud to create a more seamless experience across our device portfolios, including other Xbox 360 consoles. Got to run out before finishing your game or movie? This new feature will allow us to log into any Xbox 360, then play our saved games or watch our in-progress movies from other consoles. This update enables us to take our entertainment with us when we’re on the go. Parents rejoice!

Though some of the major network and entertainment partners won’t be ready to launch their content this week (see GeekWire for a complete rundown of who, what, when), you can bet my family will be bundling all our digital content and subscriptions through this one device, simplifying our experiences.

If you’re intrigued and want all the details, the folks at Engadget have a super solid review of the new features and functionality. So check it out.

What do you have to say? Do you think Xbox 360 is on the right track regarding the future of connected entertainment? What are the barriers to drive this concept forward?

UPDATE: The updates are live in many households this morning, and I see that Microsoft has updated a variety of parental controls, which will likely be of interest here. I’m told that parents can manage their child’s console activity, sharing on social networking sites as well as regulate access to games, movies, television, and music. Additionally, the update brings enhanced navigation to Xbox 360 Family Settings to better integrate with Kinect. I’ll check those updates out and report back. For more reading, check out Microsoft Xbox and Kinect Newsroom

 

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