Friday, January 30, 2009

Palm Pre and WebOS, what is it for you?

Palm introduced a new and fancy Palm Pre in CES some time ago. Palm isn't so popular in Finland (or in Scandinavia?) but I believe it has some interesting possibilities for all of us. The main enabler is it's new operating system called WebOS. At the moment there isn't too much information about the WebOS, but all in all this seems like an interesting mobile phone and concept.

1. Palm Pre. Images available at Palm Pre -gallery.

It is interesting to see how market will adopt touch-screen with a slider. I think this is a good idea, because the user has an option to use either one. I really like Nokia N96's slider mechanism, but every now and then I wish it would have also a touch-screen.

Pre's technical specifications are quite similar to any other smartphone; big screen, all necessary communication methods (GSM, 3G, WiFi, bluetooth), enough memory and good processor. One interesting detail is that Palm offers a cordless charger for Pre. The charger uses induction for charging, but if I understood correctly this is not included in the sales package.

Although Palm Pre is meant for anyone, I've listed some of the possibilities that it offers to users and developers.


As a user, you are probably enjoying the big screen that is suitable for example for browsing and watching movies. As a "all-in-one" device, I believe Palm offers a good music experience also. Palm has basically the same Webkit-based browser that S60 devices and iPhone/iPod Touch have.

You can use Pre with our without physical keyboard and I believe most of the users like this kind of possibility. Touchstone, the cordless charger, sounds first nice but when you start thinking it a little more, it might not be so convenient. At least I usually browse or play with my phone when it is being charged. When using Touchstone, this is difficult or impossible. So I think you will need 2 different chargers. On the other hand, cordless charging is a really nice feature which will be more and more popular in the future.

It doesn't matter which smartphone you are using, still you usually need to install some 3rd party software to make your life easier and better. Hude wrote a really good article about mobile platform diverseness and Palm brings yet another platform to the markets. Although platform is based on web technologies, it might take some time before you'll get all your favourite applications working in Palm Pre.

One of the coolest (and probably one of the most useful) feature is combining contacts and other information from different services, like Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn and corporate e-mail system. Palm Pre should be also able to combine conversations meaning that you can start with IM and continue with SMS and they are shown as an one conversation thread. Palm calls this feature Synergy. These kind of features are really good when people are using more and more different services. It is really time consuming to be active in several social networks.

Palm Pre promises that it is able to automate (or think ahead) in some services, for example if you are running late from a meeting, Palm Pre should be able to estimate your arrival time using GPS and maps and send a note to meeting participants. It is interesting to see how well these automated features work because usually they don't.

It is interesting to see what happens now that there are more and more devices with a really good browser. Good browsers combined with today's "cloud thinking" can be a success. Companies are for example taking or investigating if it would be beneficiary to take some of the services to a cloud. When the services are in the cloud, employees could easily access them with their mobile phone as long as the communication channel is secure enough. I believe this will fasten the mobile browsing even more. One of the obstacles offering intranet services for mobile employees have been wrongly designed intranet and connections to intranet.


As a developer, you must be thrilled that all the applications in Palm Pre have been build using web technologies (XHTML, JavaScript and CSS) or atleast they are stating this in the introduction video.

According to Palm, there are around 10 million web developers, so there should be a big enough developer community. Application distribution program will be vital, just like Apple has shown. I still have difficulties believing that there are more than 15.000 applications in Apple's AppStore. It remains to be seen how well Palm will handle this.

I believe that due to lack of information, developers have more questions than answers. Here are some questions that came to my mind:

  • Will the WebOS be fully open? Are there some restrictions that application can or cannot do?

  • Can application access memory card or SIM? Is this possible via browser?

  • What kind of billing system there will be? In Palm and in the Application Store.

  • When the SDK will be available?

  • How easy is it to port existing Palm software to be interoperable with Palm Pre?

Unfortunately there isn't too much information available yet about Palm Pre and my views are based on the Palm Pre introduction video. See it yourself and check if you are also amazed at the people applausing for the fact that Palm Pre has a removable battery?!?

Streaming your favourite music with your mobile phone

Streaming music has been possible to your home computer for a quite some time, e.g. using internet radios or different music services. Smartphones are getting closer and closer to computers, and it has been possible to stream music to your S60 smartphone using Nokia's Internet radio. You can find installing instructions in above mentioned link if your S60 doesn't have it pre-installed, my Nokia N96 had it.

One of the services that offers streaming music through a browser is One of its benefits is that it offers you the music that you like or at least similar artists when traditional radio stations play random music. You can also share your favourite music/genre/artist with your friends. It was nice to notice that it is possible to use -service with S60, the only thing you need is Mobbler. Mobbler is a music player and it also enables you to scrobble tracks that are played with S60 Music player.

1. Mobbler in S60 plays the artists you've added to

2. Mobbler looks nice also in landscape.

3. If you are using S60's Music player, Mobbler scrobbles music that you've listened.

When you choose the left icon, Mobbler enables you to buy music from Amazon's aStore, but the store is not mobile optimized. This weakens the user experience. You can also "Love a track", choose next track or "Ban a track".

4. There is also a possibility to buy tracks from Amazon's aStore.

5. Unfortunatey Amazon's store isn't optimized for mobile.

6. Amazon's aStore and S60's browser.

Mobbler enables you to easily expand the music that you are listening and you don't need to carry all your favorite music with you. You can also easily offer better musical experiences in different parties, because you can always choose the desired music based on the people and / or the feeling just by opening Mobbler. If you have your music in your S60 and there is right equipment available, you can use your smartphone as a media center.

When you are using Mobbler for streaming, you should use WiFi or have unlimited dataplan, otherwise your phone bill will be enormous. I've experienced that 3G is enough for music streaming.

One other thing that you need to keep in mind when using these "always-on" services is battery life. At the moment batteries don't last too long, but luckily this is improving all the time. For the time being, you should make sure your charger is near.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Putting videos to your phone

Phone screens are getting bigger and better all the time. This gives the users the opportunity to watch their favourite videos or TV series wherever whenever. For encouraging the users to do this, Nokia atleast have included some movies or trailers to their smartphones. Nokia N96 had Transformers, Nokia 5800 XpressMusic had Dark Knight's trailer and if I remember correctly Nokia N95 had Spider Man 3.

Sony on the other hand has taken little different approach and they are selling UMD movies that can be used in Sony PSP. Personally I don't understand this kind of approach because why should I buy another copy of my favourite movie which I have on DVD (or on Blu-Ray)?

Unfortunatelly putting videos to your phone is not too straight-forward because you need to convert the desired video so that it has the right resolution, good enough bitrate for video and sound and good enough frame rate. The better quality you want, the longer converting usually takes and the bigger output file gets.

Nokia offers a tool for this called Nokia Video Converter that is bundled to PC Suite and Ovi Suite. Unfortunatelly the program has still some flaws. I tried to use it for few times but it crashed and when it didn't crash, my Nokia N96 didn't have any video - only sound.

Luckily there are other (free) converting tools for Windows like Super, HandBrake, MediaCoder and Vio. I thought to test all of these, just to get some experiences and to see do they work similarly and are there big difference in converting speed.

My test environment were Windows Vista Home Premium with 2 GB of memory and a 17 minute avi-file with DVD quality. The file size was 121 MB, frame width 800 and frame height 450.

Basically every software converted the desired file in almost same time (7-9 minutes), and with same output size (56 MB). For some reason files converted using HandBrake and MediaCoder refused to work in N96. I didn't investigate the reason, probably some wrong setting caused this because MediaCoder used to work with different file some time ago.

Vio offered broad list of settings for different phones, but it lacked N96. Overall this is really important because settings are something than clear. Vio suggested 128 bitrate for N95, which seemed to be ok also in N96 but 400 that I used with Super was much better. With Vio's settings, the whole process was extremely fast, it only took 2 minutes and the output file was only 20 MB.

It seems that the most important thing in converting is to use pre-loaded settings. After this converting is easy and it can take some time and it is worth it. In future your trips will go much faster by watching interesting movies or series.

Inspired on discussions in Jaiku I'll try out soon a VGA quality video in my N96, then I could watch it from hotel's tv when I'm travelling. After all, N96 came with a S-Video cable.