FON Gives Away More Free Stuff

We stopped by the so-called FON Freedom Friday event in Union Square this afternoon, and watched the WiFi-sharing company give away 500 FON routers to those milling around, mostly workers on their lunch break. By the time we left, around one P.M., they had given away about half of the routers. It’s not too hard to give away free routers and get people to take them — the hard part will be making any money, especially in the U.S.
Joanna Rees Gallanter, the company’s new executive in charge of U.S. operations (we previously covered the departure of former US chief Juergen Urbanski) was there handing out the goods with the rest of the crew.
We asked her how giving away routers combined with free WiFi access would make a good business model. She said the low cost subscription fees for non-community member day passes will bring in revenue, plus once the company gets to a sizable amount of users there are other ways to bring in revenue from a large community.
FON is a noble idea, but still it might take a lot of investment for them to get a great user base. Then again Google and Skype are investors, so maybe they know something we don’t.

Quellan: Chips for Noisy Cell Phones

While startups and investors are clamoring over flashy mobile consumer applications, there’s a lot more mobile money found in the silicon — a fact that chip giants like Qualcomm and Broadcom know better than anyone. Quellan, a four-year-old Santa Clara-based startup knows this too. The company, which has raised over $20 million in two rounds from investors like Menlo Ventures and Samsung Ventures, designs and develops analog chips for electronic communications equipment that cancels “noise” or signal interference. The less noise, the better and faster the connection.
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Is Social Media the New Hollywood or the new Pittsburgh?

When Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated his new invention, the telephone, for the first time publicly in 1876, he didn’t announce the birth of a new age of ubiquitous electronic person-to-person communications. Nope. Instead, to the oohs and aahs of those gathered around him at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Bell proclaimed the advent of a new entertainment medium designed to deliver music, drama, and news to the people. In other words, he described what we all now know as “radio”, not the “telephone”… oops.
I’m reminded of this little bit of historical trivia every time I watch social media evolve…
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What was missing at CES?

The CES in Las Vegas is over and most attendees are either back home or on their way to another location. The show is dynamic and exciting, but so large it is almost impossible to see all you want to see. Reflecting back on the show I have to admit there were some things I was hoping to see but as far as I could tell were missing from the show. Let me know your thoughts on the following things that I didn’t find at the CES. Maybe I just missed some of them.

Ultra-portable PCs– I was hoping to see some handheld computers other than the OQO and the cPC. It’s exciting that OQO has finally put the Tablet Edition on their device and it was cool to play with. The DualCor cPC grabbed a lot of attention and rightly so and it didn’t disappoint me at all. But I have to admit I was hoping this year would find some other entries into this space. Sony was completely absent, even though they have led the way in the UPC space for some time. They apparently have abandoned it completely. It would have been great if some other vendors had introduced something, even if in concept. I think there is a big market in the handheld segment if enough OEMs bring out machines to generate sales numbers big enough to keep costs down for everyone.

PDAs/ phones– Other than the Verizon Treo 700w running Windows Mobile 5.0 none of the PDAs I saw from all the major players had any features that jumped out. I didn’t see anything cool from HP, Palm nor Dell, who jointly have the PDA market pretty wrapped up at least in the US. There were tons of “me-too” mobile phones but nothing that grabbed my attention for very long. Maybe I’m just too picky. The services side seemed to dominate the show from my perspective. Streaming and slinging and shooting video to PDAs and phones is definitely the big thing, especially trying to mix HD into the picture. But from a device standpoint I didn’t see anything innovative at all.

Notebook computers– Intel’s Duo (dual-core) notebook computers running XP and Media Center were everywhere. I’m certain I saw at least two dozen different notebooks with dual-core technology but other than the CPU nothing much stood out. No new connectivity options, accessories, nothing. I was hoping to see some really small ultra-portable notebooks but maybe I missed them.

Tablet PCs– Toshiba stole the show with the M400, sporting the dual-core processor and integrated optical drive. They also demonstrated the concept Tablet PC with the detachable screen, but they’ve been showing this for about a year now. It’s time to have a first generation model in production, if they intend to pursue this commercially. I hope they do, it’s a very nice hybrid. Fujitsu was there showing the P1510D which is very nice but there was nothing new from them. HP was abysmal without even bringing the one Tablet PC model they still sell to the show. No Tablets at all from them. Motion Computing did not have a booth again, something I frankly don’t understand. I was asked countless times for directions to the Motion booth and I had to tell them to take a flight to Austin and visit them personally because they were not at CES. I think that is a major mistake on their part. The coolest thing I saw in the Tablet PC space was in the Microsoft booth. They were displaying the Motion LS800 and Fujitsu P1510D running Vista, and running it pretty well. That was pretty cool.

Tablet PC users gathering at CES a huge success

Last Friday the Tablet PC users meetup was held at Cheeseburger at the Oasis in Las Vegas. The gathering was open to all Tablet PC users attending the CES and it was a great experience. I’d rank it the best part of the CES for me as about 50 people got together and geeked out and generally had a good time. Loren Heiny has a good summary of the even and Rob Bushway does too. I have borrowed Rob’s partial list of attendees and added the few I knew were missing so have a look at this roll call:

  • Kevin White- Agilix
  • Fritz Switzer- Ablet Factory
  • Betsy Weber- TechSmith (SnagIt)
  • Trevor Claiborne- Student Tablet PC
  • Chris Pirillo- hey, everybody knows who Chris is
  • Jake Ludington- Media Labs
  • Gail Gudmundsen- Etymotic Research
  • Robert Scoble- now a published author
  • Jeremy Hague- Skylook
  • Richard Kuo- SnapStream Media
  • Jeff Clavier- SoftTech Vc
  • Evan Feldman- Microsoft
  • Adam Gould- OQO
  • Ken Collura
  • All of the Heinys (Lora, Loren, Layne (his daughters), Bob and his wife
  • Dennis Rice- Tablet PC Buzz
  • Arjay
  • Steve Beller- Advanced Neuromodulation Systems
  • James Kendrick- me
  • Chris DeHerra- Tablet PC Talk
  • Linda Epstein- Tablet PC2
  • Buzz Bruggerman- gives free copies of ActiveWords to everyone
  • Renee Roberts
  • Rick Segal
  • Sierra

I had a good conversation with Jake Ludington who is really jonesing for a Fujitsu P1510D. Seems his wife took his Stylistic and will not give it back. Chris Pirillo was feeling good about the next Gnomedex in the June timeframe. He said something they have planned will blow everybody away and he almost, almost spilled the beans. Betsy Weber was giving away copies of SnagIt! the best screen capture program on the planet. A new OQO with the Tablet Edition was being passed around for everybody to play with- I love the hinged hard cover case!

Thanks to all attendees for making this event so much fun. Thanks to those who picked up the tab for the meal. Thanks to the First Family of the Tablet PC for arranging such a wonderful event. It was great fun to meet a lot of people I know but haven’t met. I can’t wait until next year! Until then, enjoy these few photos I snapped with my camera phone:

Betsy Weber of TechSmith

Lora Heiny- What Is New and member of the First Family

Robert who?

Dennis Rice- looked at my new Treo and tried to switch with his old one

Loren Heiny- standing with the badge visible; Adam Gould of OQO sitting in foreground with beard

Robert Scoble- standing

Fritz Switzer

Chris Pirillo- the original Lockergnomie

Buzz Bruggeman- it took longer than I thought to get him standing on a table

F-B: Jeff Clavier; Betsy Weber; Robert Scoble

Coolit xBox 360 cooling unit at CES

I met with the folks at CoolIt Systems at CES where they were displaying two cool products (pun intended), the USB Beverage Chiller and the soon-to-be released Xbox 360 cooling unit. The beverage chiller runs off a PC USB port and in seconds chills to 45 degrees to keep any beverage nice and cold. It uses a typical USB port so will even work on gaming consoles with a USB port. They are going to release a cooling unit for the Xbox 360 soon that will keep the gaming console nice and cool, even when those units that are modded. Here’s a photo of the two units side by side:

ThinkOutside to release a new Bluetooth Keyboard

The original ThinkOutside USB Stowaway keyboard has always been my favorite mobile keyboard. The Stowaway is a full keyboard with great tactile response that folds up and fits in a shirt pocket. The only way I could see to improve it would be to cut the cord with the computer. I met with the ThinkOutside folks at CES and they had some cool news for mobile gadget lovers. A new Stowaway keyboard will be released in the next couple of months that is a Bluetooth version of the venerable Stowaway I love. Here’s a photo of the new keyboard (click to enlarge):

They also were showing off the PDA Bluetooth travel mouse that now also works with PCs for extra versatility. This mouse is really nice.

Sitting down with DualCor Technologies at the CES

I had a great opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with DualCor Technologies’ President and CEO Steve Hanley to review their new ultra-portable handheld that is generating a lot of buzz since it appeared out of nowhere a few weeks ago. Steve was very forth-coming about the cPC and DualCor’s plans for the release of the combination Tablet PC and Windows Mobile 5.0 device. Steve brought two of the cPCs to our meeting and it was exciting to see them both in action close up and personal.

Two cPCs in a row. Notice the prototype portable keyboard. Sorry for the blurry pic- never take a brand new camera to the CES until you learn full operation of it. Click to make it even larger and blurrier.

DualCor cPC in tandem showing off both OS.

Windows XP Tablet PC mode.

Windows Mobile 5.0 mode. This photo taken just seconds after the Tablet mode photo.

A lot of the information I heard was not ready for public consumption but I found out some new information that I can share with you. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the cPC and hopefully this will provide some accurate details straight from the OEM. Let’s take a look at the actual specs of the cPC:

Dual Os:

  • Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005
  • Windows Mobile 5.0

Dual processors:

  • Via C7-M 1.5 Ghz
  • Intel PXA263 400 Mhz

Hard drive:

  • 40 GB (shared between the two OS)

Memory:

  • 1 GB DDR2 RAM
  • 1 GB Flash memory

Display:

  • 5 inch touch screen
  • 800 x 480
  • 200 nits luminescence

Ports:

  • 3 USB 2.0 (2 Type A, 1 Type B)
  • Mini-VGA port
  • Compact Flash slot
  • Headset jack
  • Microphone jack
  • Speaker

LED Status Indicators:

  • Red- alert
  • Green- power on
  • Green flash- low battery

Connectivity:

  • 802.11
  • Bluetooth
  • 3G enabled

Battery:

  • 3.6 AH lithium-ion
  • Up to 300 hours of standby power
  • 3 to 8 hours of continual use (depending on operating mode)

Miscellaneous:

  • Speaker
  • Microphone
  • Mouse controls- trackstick, mouse buttons
  • Power switch
  • Volume control

Dimensions:

  • 6.5 ” x 3.3″ x 1.2″
  • Weight approximately 1 pound (depending on wireless options)

I have to admit I am very impressed with the design and engineering that DualCor has put into the cPC. The look, feel and operation of the cPC is very reminiscent of the Sony U-750. It is a very solid device and constructed to work in the field with few worries about the device. I was also curious how the Via C7 processor would perform compared to an Intel Pentium M chipset and am pleased to report the cPC is lighting fast. I was continually blown away how fast things happen when using the cPC. Touch an icon on the screen and the program opens in a flash. Push the icon to switch from Tablet PC to Windows Mobile 5.0 and if you blink you miss the transition. When the cPC is switched to Windows Mobile mode the XP “device” is put into a kind of hibernation for battery reasons. All controllers on the cPC are fully shared between the two OS so you can load up your data on the HDD and have it available to both “sides” of the device.

A lot of people are questioning what type of cellular 3G capabilities the cPC will ship with on launch and the answer is I can’t tell you. The fact is DualCor is in negotiations with US carriers and until that is finalized not even DualCor can answer whether the device will ship with GSM, CDMA or UMTS HSDPA. All are under discussion and what is impressive is how DualCor approached this from an engineering standpoint. The “cellular” layer is a modular layer that can be easily adapted to any of these wireless technologies in the manufacturing stage so there is a possibility down the road to find the type of 3G to be selectable. Very nice indeed. DualCor did state that the device will be launched without the cellular capability if things aren’t finalized by launch time.

The cPC is an amazing bit of ingenuity and DualCor says it will be available in March for $1500. They were adamant on both availability and price so the next few months will be quite interesting to see what else these guys come up with before shipping. I will be keeping in touch with DualCor and will of course revisit the cPC here on the blog whenever something new comes up. I know I want one.

Infill car PC at CES

I met with a representative of the Infill in-car PC at CES and he gave me a complete demo of his product. The Infill PC is a multi-component based PC with a touchscreen that puts a complete PC in a car, and rather easily due to the small size of the components. Full GPS navigation, DVD player, etc. Might be available in the US later this year.

The two components of the Infill PC can be installed separately. The screen slides out and is a touch screen.

Screen inside the unit.

New smartphones from CES

No doubt by now you have heard the announcements about several new smartphones that are soon to be available. Verizon is already selling the Windows Mobile based Treo 700w in their stores and Motorola is expected to release the Motorola Q thin smartphone very soon. Here are some photos I took of both phones:

Palm Treo 700w

Motorola Q