iphone

Babylon Touch, PrimeSense and OpenNI at GDC 2012, and the OpenNI Challenge

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We’ve got some exciting things happening for our clients:

Babylon just launched a cool new app for the iPhone that received over 100,000 downloads in the first week!  The reviews are coming in, and the consensus seems to be that the Babylon Touch is both useful and user-friendly.


See?

GDC 2012

In other news, OpenNI and PrimeSense just presented at the GDC in San Francisco.  The discussions were lively and stimulating, and covered an array of topics including the capabilities of 3D sensing technologies.

Meanwhile, OpenNI is also getting ready to launch an exciting challenge for game developers. This contest will take place from April 1st-August 1st, and is two-fold:  The first part of the competition is a Twitter raffle from April 1st-May 1st where participants tweet in order to enter to win one of ten free ASUS Sensors. Anyone can enter — you just have to follow @OpenNI on Twitter and tweet with a specific message which will  be released by our client very soon.

But that’s not all!  Meanwhile, developers will also be able to  create an app using the OpenNI standard — and, if they win the Twitter raffle, they may also use the ASUS sensor.  Once completed, they can upload the app and a short video explaining how the app works to the official competition website where it will be voted on by website viewers as well as by a panel of distinguished industry leaders.   The grand prize is a free trip to IBC 2012 in Amsterdam in September!

For more information, please check out http://www.opennichallenge.com/

We’d also love to hear what’s going on in your company!  What’s new?  Has it been an interesting and challenging week?  What sort of projects do you have on the horizon?

Memories in a Digital World

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Four months ago I went through a life changing experience: My first daughter was born, and I fell immediately in-love with the little adorable baby that became an important part of our (now mostly sleepless) life.

From the moment she was born, my wife and I photograph and videotape her, using our iPhones, and our DSLR camera.

At the same time my parents aren’t getting younger. My father turned 72 this year, and my mother 66. On his 70th birthday, I made a short film about him, as an excuse to both hear and document the story of his life. We went through old photographs that were lying in our living room drawers, and with each picture came a story, about love, war, family, and friendship. Most of these pictures were older than me –from the 50s and 60s — telling the story of his life as an immigrant, young tank commander, husband, and young father.

Not surprisingly, I love gadgets, applications, and great sites. That’s why I upload my daughter’s pictures to Flickr and Facebook, and save all of them in our centralized media hub, and I also back it up using Dropbox. I use Twitter, Foursquare and serendip.me to tell the story of my life – places I’ve been at, songs I’ve heard, thoughts I’ve had at a specific point in time.

Up until now, I was certain this is enough. We have all those cameras with their amazing images, those fancy video cameras, these smartphones that are actually point and shot cameras that can also call people. But something is missing:
When you look at it from an historical perspective, all these sites and gadgets lose their sex appeal. The reason is simple – in 40 years perspective, suddenly Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, hard disks and iPhones seem like not the best way to store memories.

I don’t know what will happen with Apple, Yahoo!, Twitter and Facebook 40 years from now.
I don’t know if the images I am taking now will be compatible with the technology 20 years from now.
I don’t know if my media center’s hard disk will survive the next 5 years.
And maybe, just maybe, Dropbox will go out of business.

There is a missing link in our digital age. There is a crucial element that is not guaranteed in our advanced technological environment. It is a simple thing: the physical element of our memories. The real life scrap book. The image, printed on a paper.

Yes, I know, these physical representation of our memories can be lost or destroyed. In fact, history teaches us that the physical element of our memories could be easily destroyed (such was the case of the Library of Alexandria).

However, if there is one thing that is for certain, it is that we will be able to see the pictures of our lives in the future. It is not a matter of file formats, web applications, and smartphones. Our eyes will still be able to see pictures. Our fingers will still be able to feel the aging paper they are printed on.

Think about it, next time you look at your hard disk full of those priceless images of your life.

Atavist and the New Content Ecosystem

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Couple of days ago I ran across Atavist, a simple and well designed iPad app. This application is simple. You download it for free, but every story you’d like to read costs ~$3. What you get for your hard earned cash is an  in depth article, 12,000 words length, with additional multimedia content. All storied are non fiction, and based on long and in depth research. The writers are well known journalists, writing for Wired and The New Yorker.
As an avid fan of crime films, I bought the story of a famous bank heist in Sweden. The long and detailed story included videos from the heist itself, photographs of the suspects, maps of the event, timeline and more.

I am intrigued by the business model of this publication. Selling individual articles was a model that was discussed in the past. I didn’t believe in it, but the fact that I bought the story, read it from beginning to end, and would gladly pay again for interesting articles, makes me wonder if this model is more viable than I’ve expected. Is this another glimpse on the future of publishing? I am not certain yet. But in the mean time, go, download the app and judge it yourself.

Humus Manifesto and Shakshuka Reality

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Shakshuka
Image by STML via Flickr

Michael Eisenberg, an Israeli VC, wrote two thought provoking posts about the way the government  invest properly in Israeli High Tech. From Microsoft and .Net monopoly through iPad banning, to poor distribution of CSO funds, our government neglects the important aspects of maintaining Israel’s technological leadership.
Though not a VC, I’ve worked in several industries, from mobile to internet to media, and I meet a lot of startups in different stages. And I think that though Michael is right in his claims, there is another angle to this story – the core competencies of the Israeli industry is not as important as in the past.

Origins of Israeli High Tech
Israel’s High Tech originated, broadly speaking, from 4 sources:
1. Technological army units such as 8200, Air force and Mamram
2. Universities such as Technion
3. Russian immigration
4. ECI/Comverse RAD group and other major companies, whose employees who jumped ship and opened their own startups.

The strong points of these sources were electrical engineering and telecom oriented know how.

The Best Beta Site
Israel has one of the highest mobile and broadband penetration rates. Therefore, a mobile startup could easily sign a deal with a local mobile operator and make it a beta site. The local mobile industry was at the same level as  European mobile markets, so Israeli companies could launch products in that huge market relatively easily, as it was close to what they had locally. I was a part of such process when working with Flash Networks. First we sold our product to Orange, and then to T-Mobile. We knew what was needed in order to build and deploy a product in such an environment.

Media and Internet are Winning. Pipes are losing.
However, the market changed. World wide innovation lies more and more in internet companies. Hulu is more innovative then Motorola. Google is more innovative (and profitable) then Nokia. Mobile operators are not as important in the value chain as they were before. And Apple is changing the game again and again with innovative hardware and software.

Failure in  Growing the Business
Most Israeli companies are just not big enough, or maybe not with the right culture and financial resources to win over the mobile and telecom market and create the next Nokia or even next iPhone. The last guys who tried it failed and closed shop, not to mention their founder’s financial trouble. Yes, I am talking about Else Mobile and Eli Reifman‘s troubles. So in that area we are basically, well, screwed.

No Longer a Beta Site
So let’s look at the Israeli internet industry. Unlike the mobile market, there is a huge difference between local internet industry to international or American one. While video is growing drastically in the US, and major media companies experimenting with new business models, our market is just too small, too centralized, to make companies feel their bread and butter is at risk. With 3-4 major media players (Hot, Yes, Reshet, Keshet), and two major portals (Walla, Ynet) no one has the incentive to innovate. They are making enough money as is, and digital cents are not even on their map, as no one buys content here.
We don’t have an Israeli iTunes. We don’t have an Israeli Hulu. We don’t have an Israeli Huffington Post. We don’t have an Israeli ereader market (Sorry E-vrit, not enough units sold yet). Come on, iPhone, one of the biggest media innovations, landed here less than a year ago.
Amazingly, there is a huge gap between Startup innovation and portals’ adoption of technology.
So the Israeli media and internet is like Shakshuka – some great cutting edge media technology (eggs) floating in a sea of not extremely innovative portals (tomato sauce).

Culture
With technology less of an issue and winning product is the focus in the online and media industry – culture and media consumption habits become the key for creating a winning company. And, we don’t have the visibility of neither. Cause our local market is so different.

Is This The End?
Is this the end of Israeli startup industry? No. There are several amazing content and media companies here in Israel such as Innovid, Outbrain and many more.
But we need to start think differently. It is not like 8200 will start to create cool video players so Israeli innovation won’t die. But it might be that in the future these units won’t be as important in Israeli High Tech as in the past.

Possible Solution
We need a simple plan – and do the so unIsraeli thing to do- actually follow it. We should encourage Hot, Yes and the major portals to invest in innovation. It might be through tax incentives or other ways, but we should give them a reason to do so, cause they don’t have one now.
We should create special incubators for media companies with international media veterans. I have couple of names in mind.
And we should take into consideration that the market is going to change to the worse for us. As Michael said, we are definitely not competitive in price. If the current situation will continue, we will lose our technological edge as well.

What’s Wrong with this  Post?
If you know me you know that I love well established facts. Unfortunately I don’t have the numbers to back the claims here. It is based on personal experience and being in the industry for 10 years.
Would love to hear your opinion.

Android Apps: From Open Market to Flee Market

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nokia e61i symbian v google nexus android
Image by osde8info via Flickr

Google released their Android app inventor, an intuitive development tool for non developers, that enables anyone to develop and publish an android app.
Open ecosystem followers rejoice!
Well, sorry, but it seems that instead of improving Android’s ecosystem, this latest move will only harm it.
You see, Android is becoming the new Symbian. Too many devices, too many different features in each phone, and not enough standardization. We are back to square one, explaining to our customers which phones are supported by the apps we develop for them.
And now things are going to get worse. Instead of improving user experience and providing better apps, Google are opening their app market to a flood of poorly written, mostly useless and probably badly designed applications.
When deciding between “open” and “just works” I chose the later. Ecosystem should cater consumers with easy to use, high quality, and screened apps.
Google will win the smartphone market. The sheer volume of new android phones will eventually eclipse Apple‘s production power. But at the end of the day, Android Is heading towards lower consumer satisfaction, bigger headache for developers, and a clear decision to chose quantity over quality.

iOS4 – Multitasking done wrong

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After couple of days with iOS4, the new iPhone/iPad operation system, I find myself a bit confused. Yes, it’s that multitasking feature that everyone were waiting for it, if not due to its usefulness, then in order to shut all those Android lovers mouths. But it was implemented wrong. Here’s why:
1. I still don’t get it – which app supports multi-tasking and which just freezes? The main difference is the experience. The ones that don’t really support Multitasking just start again when you chose them from the open apps menu. The experience isn’t consistant, which is pretty annoying.
2. Who the hell decided to use the home button to reach the open apps? Sometimes clicking the home button works as intended, but in some cases I reach the search screen.
3. The apps don’t quit on their own. Now I have gazillion open apps. What am I supposed to do now?

I’d like to have file upload, VoIP calls, and IM sessions open in the background. But who needs this app cacophony?

2 thoughts about iPhone 4 and FaceTime

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Steve Jobs is going to revolutionize the video telephony market. Here are 2 posts discussing how it would affect the market and what does it mean that it is based on open standards:
Thank You Mr. Jobs
The Technology Behind  FaceTime

These posts were published in IMTC‘s blog, an international consortium of visual communication companies,  and were written by me and Anatoli Levine, President of IMTC and Director of product management, Americas  at RADVISION.

iPad Chronicles (2): App Store – Home of Overpriced, Buggy Apps

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iPad blurs the line between traditional devices
Image by myuibe via Flickr

After spending tens of dollars on iPad apps, I can tell you one thing – developers are still in the dark re the UI of this device. However it doesn’t stop them from charging more than $10 for an ever crashing app.
While iWork apps prove to be stable and usable, others are just riding the hype. I couldn’t finish a 2 minutes session of Elements, without a crash. It didn’t stop the developers from charging $14 for it. And yes, I am talking about a periodic table, with fancy pictures. Compare it to an amazingly useful GoodReader, that costs $0.99, and you start to see how misguided the iPad apps pricing is. SocialReader is another great idea done wrong, that cost $1.99.
And while Things is overpriced but useful ($19.99), the guys from Omni Group are asking for $49.99 for OmniGraffle, a diagram application.

I have to admit that some of the best applications are the free ones. NYT is awesome. The same for Bloomberg and BBC. Gaurdian’s Eyewitness app is great too.

Now, I am all for pricing applications based on their value. But many of the apps on my iPad are simply unstable to the point of unusable.

I have a short list of apps that I really like to use. But I will wait until sanity regained in the pricing of iPad apps.

The iPad Chronicles (1): iPad, Crippled Innovation?

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I got my iPad a week ago, and in this series of posts I’ll cover this device from point of views of a power user, publisher, marketer and media consumer.

iPhone was and still is a revolutionary device. it changed the whole concept of mobile interaction, the way we perceive mobility, and our expectations from mobile devices.
But just like any other device it has its flaws. Two of the most important ones are:

1. Lack of mulitasking – the inability to run several applications in parallel was one of the main points against the iPhone by Linux/Android/Symbian lovers around the world.
2. Lack of Adobe Flash support – well, unless you don’t have internet connection you probably know that Jobs hates all thing Flash with passion. iPhone and iPad do not support Flash. At all.

These two points were really not that important on the iPhone. I found that I have no issue what so ever with multitasking. Whenever I need a background app, Push notification gave me all that I needed. The whole “listen to Pandora while browsing” Scenario seemed a bit stupid to me – or at least relevant to less than 10% of my time. Other issues raised by iPhone users seemed esoteric to say the least.
The lack of flash wasn’t a biggie either. The iPhone screen is too small to watch embedded videos, as you need to watch them in full screen anyway. And besides one case, I never watched long format videos in the iPhone – and this one too was from the iTunes store.

But while these issues are minor when talking about the iPhone, iPad is a totally different story.
The iPad is using the same OS as the iPhone, with both limitations. But while I use my iPhone for limited time in each iteration, the iPad is an actual laptop replacement. I am writing this post on the iPad with a bluetooth keyboard – an activity that takes time. Suddenly, not being able to have my IM client running in the background becomes an issue. I am using IM+, that supports push notifications, but it isn’t enough. Luckily this lacking feature will be implemented in the next iPhone OS, that will reach the iPad in the coming Fall.
But lack of Flash support is a different story. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel here. We know that Apple is in a head to head battle against Adobe, and judging from history, it doesn’t seems like Apple is going to back down. Not having Flash on my iPad means that not only I can’t watch video streaming from most sites out there today (including many of the local official TV sites, that stream full episodes for free). It also means that I can’t access Google Analytics, Livestream Statistics and many other websites that I use every day. Cracking open my laptop just to look at stats seems stupid to say the least.

It might be just a matter of time before HTML 5 will gain more ground and additional sites will support it. And I am still very happy with my iPad, and amazing device that is truly a game changer.
But till then, I feel that my iPad is a bit crippled, and a bit less useful.

The Future Of Publishing (2): One iPad to rule them all?

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Apple_iPad_keynote
Image by cattias.photos via Flickr

As magazine publishers are looking for ways to survive the digital revolution, there is one knight in shining armor – the iPad. At VDZ’s Digital innovator summit, the “magical” device was mentioned every second panel. Booths at the exhibition area showed protoypes of iPad applications, and CMS vendors stated that they are planning iPad support sooner then later.

However, amazingly enough, most of the people I’ve talked with never saw the iPad or held it in their own hands. Most of their knowledge about the device derived from Apple’s announcement and blogs – not first hand impression.

Though seems strange at first, that a whole industry would be betting its future on a device that almost no one  used or seen, when looking t the deatails, the iPad is a publisher’s wet dream:

1.  A sexy device

2. That provide a rich media experience, way better than the black and white Kindle

3. With embedded DRM, billing, and distribution mechanism

Based on iPhone and iPod success, iPad has the potential to become the magazine industry’s savior. However, magazines could not rely on single device or concept to be the answer of  all their woes.

Want to know what P&G told publishers about their future? check out this post.