Most everyone needs a phone these days. While there are those who still prefer a feature phone over a smartphone, the plummeting prices of smartphones should eventually kill the feature except for those who really prefer a physical keyboard.

But how cheap is cheap? If you check out Chinavasion you can spot really cheap smartphones for prices as low as HK$574 for the DOOGEE Voyager DG300 handset. How can a manufacturer sell a smartphone at that price and still make money? Your guess is as good as mine. But there is a good chance that they trim the fat around to come down to a bottom-basement price. Whilst Chinavasion claims this dual core Android 4.2 phone features a 5-inch IPS Screen, 960X540 QHD display and MT6572 1GHz CPU, and comes with a full year warranty. I am just not sure if anyone has ever tested that one year warranty.

I know from experience that getting support for your Samsung gadget at their local service centre is like going to the dentist – painful.

With that in mind, I happen to attend the launch of the Lumia 535 Dual SIM smartphone from Microsoft. The company calls this an affordable smartphone with advanced features like a 5-inch, 960 x 540 screen; Snapdragon 200 processor; 5MP cameras front and rear

Manufacturer. Wait! That reads like the DG300 above. So why would I buy the Lumia 535 phone? For one thing, you are paying for all the extra things that come from a branded phone.

One benefit of buying a Microsoft smartphone is longevity. The Lumia series are generally classed as durables following their Nokia heritage. Microsoft has also made it a point to upgrade its Windows Phone operating system regularly and so far, most of the early Lumia phones can be upgraded to the new OS – like the iPhones.

The Lumia 535 Dual SIM retail’s for HK$1,298. You can probably get it for free from your “friendly neighbourhood” local carrier.

Like its more expensive siblings the Lumia 535 has a sharp display even if it’s only a 960×540 resolution. You can see the phone when out and about. The 5-MP front facing camera with a wide angle lens makes this a selfie lover’s dream particularly for those on a tight budget. Most smartphones across any price range are handicapped with their cameras – front or rear – particularly when you want to capture a wide shot. The Lumia 535 doesn’t suffer from this condition. It’s therefore great for group selfies.

I understand that operators in Hong Kong want their customers to move over to 4G – to get consumer addicted to using more data – but the reality is that 3G phone is good enough for just about anything a regular user would ever need – PERIOD!

The Lumia 535 may look like it is skimping on storage – given the 8MB in-built storage – but Microsoft made sure you can expand this device to 128MB – something other higher end smartphones refuse to do. The back cover is removal so you can change the battery – again something many of the more expensive phones simply can’t do.

In Hong Kong where government statistics claim that people have more than two phones on average – the Lumia 535 Dual SIM may find life as a second phone. Certainly, if you are not into Microsoft but fancy an affordable full featured phone, the Lumia 535 Dual SIM gives you all you will ever need and it may likely outlast any Android smartphone you buy in the market – branded or not! As an ex-Android user, I find it disappointing to be left in the lurch each time Google updates its popular phone OS. Vendors like Sony, LG and Samsung take their time to upgrade their phone’s OS – if at all. In this regard both Apple and Microsoft live up to their responsibility of creating products with a longer-than-average shelf life.

Lumia 535_Back_Cyan Lumia 535_Back_Green Lumia 535_Back_Orange Lumia 535_Marketing_01

Advertisements

Someone once told me that you buy a Mac if you don’t know where the power on switch is. For years I’ve always wanted to own an Apple Mac computer but couldn’t because my company has standardized on the Windows platform so all our applications were wired for the Microsoft operating system. Then came the decision by Apple to get out of the PowerPC platform and joined the Intel X86 bandwagon. I was ecstatic as I now thought I could finally use the much desired Apple operating system on an x86 computer – my PC. Alas, I soon realise things were not as simple as it seemed. Yes there were a few geniuses out in the world that tried to hack the Mac OS to run on an Intel PC but to my dismay you can’t expect to reap the benefits of the Apple operating system when you hack it into your standard Intel PC hardware.

To test the waters I borrowed a friend’s Apple Macbook. He’d been using Boot Camp for some time and swears by it. He was going away for a couple of weeks and said he didn’t plan on bringing his workhorse for the ride.

I tried Boot Camp and quickly realized a few things: (1) I have to reboot to shift from one platform to another; (2) it’s not easy sharing data between the two platforms; and (3) Boot Camp, while easy to install, took up what limited space was available on the MacBook (250GB configuration). Sure they say Boot Camp is faster because it runs native on the Mac hardware but cutting 250GB storage capacity cripples my ability to have my favourite programs and data with me when I need it.

A friend of mine loaned me an evaluation copy of Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac. With the new PD6 I get around the single biggest complaint about running Windows on a virtual machine – which it doesn’t run as fast as Boot Camp.

With PD6, I can install Boot Camp inside a PD6 instance and get the same experience as if I were running Windows 7 in native mode. And because I was using Parallels I could run both Mac OSX and Windows 7 at the same time with no rebooting.

Best of all I can now check my Outlook email and run Microsoft Word and Power Point on the VM window and be able to quickly cut and paste data from Windows 7 apps to the Mac OS X apps. It was an awesome experience!

For those of who have been following my typical reviews, you will discover this to be a totally different approach. Its largely because I’m still fiddling with this platform. If you want more info on a more details review, watch the video below. I didn’t get to try all the features highlighted in the video.

One other thing I found quite interesting with PD6 is the available of an app for the iPad (I happen to own one) meaning I can boot Windows on the Macbook using the iPad. The caveat is the Macbook has to be powered up, I have the Macbook’s IP address, and it only works on Windows running inside Mac OS X.

How cool is that?

SAP [7] agreed to buy Sybase [8] for US$5.8 billion further accelerating the software arms race that appears to have no end in sight. The acquistion is just a tad bit shy from the German software giant’s 2007 acquisition of Business Objects [9] for US$ 6.78 billion.

The Sybase acquisition gives SAP two things: a database of its own, and a foothold into the mobile marketplace by way of Sybase 365.

For years SAP has been content on selling its ERP applications to interested Oracle [10] database customers. The co-opetition scenario benefited both companies as it allowed them to ride on each other’s brands to grow their business. Ray Wang, an analyst with Altimeter Group [11], estimates that SAP sells about US$1 billion of Oracle databases annually. With the Sybase acquisition expect that number to come down a bit in the long term as the German giant uses its size to sway customers away from Oracle.

But not everyone thinks SAP can dance their way around the Oracle strangledhold on customers. WSJ quoted Peter Goldmacher, an analyst with Cowen & Co [12]., said the deal seems to be a desperate move by SAP. “Their business is terrible,” he said. “They’ve been out-executed at every turn by Oracle.” Goldmacher said he believes SAP will have a hard time convincing customers to move from Oracle database software to Sybase offerings.

IBM [13] benefited on this as well but mostly through its systems business and middleware offering. But with Oracle beefing up its middleware stack and offering a single-box solution, IBM should start feeling the pinch from the Oracle Exadata offering. The selling point for many business executives is still faster, better and cheaper – all the elements you will find in the Oracle Exadata product brochure.

The Sybase365 [14] business should be an interesting new field for SAP as it is aimed squarely at the mobile market – an area many analysts agree should get very hot very fast, not only in the consumer space but in the enterprise arena as well.

IBM CEO Samuel Palmisano is quoted on Wall Street Journal as indicating software is the top priority [15] for Big Blue. Palmisano is aiming to have software account for about half of the company’s pre-tax profit by 2015. IBM has spent US$13 billion over a period of seven years acquiring a total of 57 software companies.

One particular area on Palmisano’s analytics. Itself a broad segment of the software industry although around the area of business intelligence and analytics, there is only one vendor left standing by itself – SAS [16].

Wang believes that this acquisition is good for SAP [17]. It allows the vendor to prepare for the next generation of applications that are heavy into mobile and cloud technologies.

At the same time, the Sybase acquisition gives it better access into the financial services and public sector markets. The bonus for SAP is China. Sybase has a strong presence in that market.

M&A, a gentler way of saying takeover, continues to be the norm. I’m not seeing any changes to this strategy anytime. It is the goal of many a small or mid-sized niche software vendors to get rich quick by being acquired and retiring to the Bahamas.

Which leaves me to wonder, what is Microsoft [18] doing?

I work in the media business and a couple of our publishers and heads of sales keep telling our web development team to make sure our websites support Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) as many of their customers are still using IE6.

Now I don’t know about you but I generally like to keep my browser applications (I use IE, FireFox, Chrome) up-to-date to take advantage of new versions of JAVA and Flash and other web apps that are specifically designed for web browsing.

IE6 was launched in 2003. Today the current version is IE8 and development is underway for IE9. So it begs the question why would people want to stay with IE6? Most enterprises use a 4-5 year window to plan their infrastructure upgrades. Since we are at the beginning of 2010, this implies that enterprises planning for their upgrades this year have computers purchased in 2006-2007, around the period when IE7 was launched. I understand that many SMBs in Asia will likely be using really old PCs, perhaps even as old as early generations of Pentium running on Windows95. These folks would likely use IE5 or IE6 to browse the web.

According to w3counter, as of January 2010, 49.70% of users browsing the web use variants of Internet Explorer. Worldwide IE8 accounts for 23.69% of all browsers surfing the Net. Firefox 3.5 share is 23.30%, IE7 is 15.59% and IE6 is 10.41%. Click here for other stats.

So why am I ranting these numbers? Web giants, Google and youtube announced earlier this year (2010) that they will stop supporting IE6. Youtube will do so in March 13 while Google plans a phased approach to cease supporting IE6 from March 1.

If you use IE6 to watch your favorite videos on youtube, on March 13, you will be presented with a message from youtube asking you to upgrade to either Google Chrome, Opera 10, IE8, Safari 4 or Firefox 3.6.

The campaign to stop supporting IE6 started as early as August 2008 when a band of startups launched the IE6 No More campaign (http://www.ie6nomore.com/). (more…)

The turn of the century was a bad omen for computing industry stalwart Sun Microsystems. Once seen as leading the pack in the Unix server market, its decline in fortune may have stemmed from its refusal to accept early on the potential of the Intel x86 platform as a viable, computing workhorse for all but the most demanding of applications.

As far back as 2002, Sun faced quarter-upon-quarter of revenue decline even as analysts estimate the market was actually picking up steam with rising server revenues by most vendors (except Sun).  And so it was that nearly 8 years later, Sun finally conceded defeat accepting an offer by database giant, Oracle, to be acquired for US$7.4 billion at 2009 levels.

Should the industry mourn the death of Sun? I don’t quite revenue the atmosphere during the days when Digital Equipment closed it’s doors following the completion of its acquisition by Compaq (itself eventually gobbled up by HP).

Will the sunset for a veteran hardware vendor mark the official beginnings of the dawn of the software age? It can be argued that for many years most industry observers swooned to the music of hardware vendors. Even today we applaud with each new processor by Intel, or the new lineup of Thinkpad laptops, and tomorrow – January 27, 2010 – the much anticipated Apple tablet device (or whatchamacallit). Sure, we turn our heads when Microsoft launched the latest incarnation of its much despised yet very popular Windows operating system. Yes, enterprises raised their hands to view the latest SAP ERP software. And definitely, businesses are listening more intently on how Software-as-a-Service will reduce their CAPEX cost considerably and make them look better on the accounting books because OPEX doesn’t hurt their market positioning as much as CAPEX.

Its hard to figure out when the software revolution started. But you can bet that just as Apple revolutionized the MP3 market not with a neat, flashy, fancy music player (on the contrary it defined convention by being overly simple) but with software, so too will we finally see the years ahead as the period when software defined how consumers and enterprises will use technology.

For the moment, we bid fond adieu to one of the pioneers of hardware-based computing solutions – Mr Scott McNealy. He is, by many reckoning one of the more colorful characters of Silicon Valley. Hopefully his legacy will somehow survive under the watch of Oracle CEO, Mr Larry Ellison – another industry stalwart.

CEO farewells are fun to read because they are often drafted by wordsmiths who don’t fully understand the emotional turmoil that accompanies an executive’s departure. I am not sure if Mr McNealy hired a professional writer for his farewell but it certainly paints a sad story of the rise and fall of an icon. So before you take out that tissue to wipe away the sadness in his farewell message, watch this video to take the bite out of Mr McNealy’s bittersweet farewell.

Click more for the memo. (more…)

Its probably difficult to figure when the concept of touch computing first came about. History tells us that as far back as 1980s, there was fascination with the idea of entering data into computers outside of the keyboard and mouse, in particular – using a pen.

Conrad Blickenstorfer, publisher of the website Rugged PCs, , and the long-time editor-in-chief of Pen Computing Magazine, wrote that early efforts by software giant, Microsoft, as well as other vendors like GO, Nestor and CIC, did not produce the expected influx of demand for pen-based. Blickenstorfer wrote that by 1995 pen computing was all but dead. The idea of using anything other the keyboard to interact with a computing device did not die though. The market for such technology survived in niche vertical applications like digital design. Even today, there are still lots of pen-based digital devices from pocket digital dictionaries and personal digital assistants, and smartphones.

Bill Gates, co-founder and ex-CEO of Microsoft, has been a staunch supporter of the concept with various generations of the Microsoft Windows operating system being embedded with the technology (did you know that Microsoft introduced pen extensions into Windows 3.1?). But while there was enthusiasm for such as technology that would allow you to input data into a computer from anything other than a physical keyboard, the actual software and hardware technologies present at the time did not make the experience worth engaging users.

Next came Tablet PCs.

Even when Microsoft launched a tablet edition of its very popular Windows XP Professional operating system, the popularity of tablet PCs didn’t really catch on. Pundits like Steve Jobs of Apple Computer claimed the technology would never fly – that the product use was limited to surfing the web. Of course Steve Jobs should never be taken seriously when it comes to lambasting technologies Apple does not currently market. He is using what every militarist and aspiring business strategist uses – misdirection.

The launch of the iPhone and iPod Touch revived interes in the technology using the human fingers as the primary medium for entering data. But where Apple presented us with the notion that it is possible to use your fingers to enter data into a computing device, I’d argue that it was Microsoft’s development of the Surface Technology that gives us a glimpse of what is possible (in the future).

In the here and now, though, the arrival of touch-ready Microsoft Windows7 signals a commercial revival of the notion of pen computing or tablet computing or touch computing. In 2009, pundits and analysts predicted that 2010 will be the year of the tablet PC (or touch depending on who you talk to). True to form, we are starting to see new generations of computers that either have touch screens or trackpad that support multi-touch. But this only where the operating system is either Windows7 or Apple OSX. The Linux variants have yet to respond.

But let me make it clear. If you are interested in buying a new PC because you like what you read about multi-touch technology, if the software application you plan to use extensively on this new PC does not support the technology, you won’t benefit from its feature until the software developer makes it happen.

Side note: I bought my daughter an HP Touchsmart TX2 in 2009. It was running Windows Vista Home. It was both pen and touch base. And while it had its kinks (occasional software and hardware glitches), it worked for the most part. I made a mistake of buying Microsoft Windows7 Professional edition with the understanding that Microsoft put a Vista to 7 migration path. Little did I know that this only worked if you bought the same version of the next generation OS (ie., if you have Vista Home, get 7 Home. If you have Vista Professional, get 7 Professional). So I ended up doing a full install of Windows7. What both Microsoft and HP failed to tell me on their website though is that I would lose a lot of the original add-on software that HP created for the TX2 in the process.

So now I am tempted to do a full recovery on the TX2 just to get back most of the software that came with the original HP Touchsmart TX2. Bummer!

.

It was many years ago while selling ERP systems that I learned to appreciate the power of technology to help me manage my prospect database. Cutting edge back then was a laptop, Microsoft Windows, MS Word and MS Excel. I used MS Word to craft my proposals and invitations. I used MS Excel to keep tabs of my prospects as they progress from cold to hot leads and everything in between.

Reports were simple because I only had a few leads at any given time. I spent an inordinate amount of time between looking for prospects and nurturing my relationships. Most of those relationships were forged through long hours of sifting through directories, begging for referrals, and sticking by every bit of opportunity that comes my way.

My newfound career in the publishing doesn’t require me to be directly involved in sales but I still have relationships to forge with our company’s customers. My contact database is a respectable 2,300 records of people I’ve met in the last seven years, many of whom have moved about their own respective careers and businesses. So if forging good relationships is important in my job as well as career, how do I keep my tabs of all 2,300 names?

The only technology I use at this time is my Outlook contact database. Is this sufficient? Probably not. It would be good for me to know what each of my 2,300 contact looks like because my memory fades as I age (with grace). It would be nice to greet them on their birthdays – thank you FaceBook! And so on and so on.

A friend suggested I try using customer relationship management (CRM) software. Although I’ve heard of and written a bit about CRM, I’ve never really used one. The sales people in my company have. They tried their hands on a CRM solution from salesforce.com and recently migrated over to Oracle On Demand.

I’ve not been offered nor asked to use the system. I am testing out a couple of free CRM products: FreeCRM, MX-Contact and ZohoCRM. I’ll let you know what my adventures (or misadventures) in finding the right CRM software in a separate story. For now this is about de-linking CRM from customer relationships.

According to Anthony Lye, senior vice president of Oracle CRM, many companies misconstrue having CRM as tantamount to knowing and understanding your customers. He re-iterates an old computing adage: garbage in, garbage out. He warns that many CRM implementations fail because companies implement CRM without understanding the context for which the [CRM] solution is being deployed.

He has a point. Today we are often overwhelmed by the promise of technology and we lose sight of what we want to achieve in the first place. Technology should always be viewed as an enabler of a goal or objective. Process innovation should not be sacrificed in favor of technology.

It’s not a matter of “if you build it, they will come.” Rather, its about listening to your customers whether an opportunity is present or not. My aunt is probably my best role model for developing loyal customers/clients.

I’m not advocating you ignore what technologies like CRM, business intelligence and business analytics can do for you. These are great tools at helping you automate some of the mundane aspects of customer relationship building and nurturing. Rather I am suggesting that we do not let technology, and all the marketing hype that surround it, to overwhelm our sense of what is right and proper. Each of us is endowed with common “business” sense. Use it wisely.