I neither work from home, nor from a specific office. I live from my rucksack – in fact, my Swiss Gear laptop job, thanks to the slimness of my laptop, is sufficient for me to travel for 4 days without anything else. OK, so the shirts get a little creased, but no more so than on the daily commute, and before anyone asks, there’s always daily clean underwear and shirts.
It’s not uncommon for me to go 12 hours in London between umpteen locations for meetings and never touch a desk. This poses a problem; modern electronic equipment, such as the branch of Dixons in my rucksack (two phones, iPad, laptop and a MiFi) seems to have gone full circle with battery life. The first Motorola mobile phones lasted for just a few minutes…… then Nokia in the late 90s appeared to have produced a hydrogen fuel cell by accident as the 6110 and its ilk would last for what seemed like years, even playing Snake constantly. And now, I am lucky to get 2-3 hours full use out of the Apple equipment and maybe 4 out of the laptop with the extended life battery.
If Shakespeare wrote Richard III today, I am sure the famous line would be “A socket, a socket, my Kingdom for a socket!”.
I know you can eek out more life by using more Wifi over 3G/4G, or disabling 3G/4G and relying on 2G/Edge and disabling push email/notifications and lowering screen brightness, clearing background apps and whatnot. That essentially, with each step, reduces the smartphone more and more back towards its Nokia 6110 ancestor and, for the professional nomad, makes life more and more difficult.
I’ve long known about portable battery backs, things to give a quick boost in charge to a phone; brilliant if you’re broken down at 3am on the side of the road, but an extra 20% wouldn’t cut it, not in the slightest. I then discovered there are packs out there that (in technical lingo 14000 miliamp Hours in capacity) can charge the devices that demands 10W/2A outlets, like the new iPads. Not only that, some can charge another device at the same time, albeit at the lower rated output used by older devices. In layman terms, 14,000 mAh is about 7 full iPhone 5 charges, or just short of one full iPad 4 charge.
This was a godsend of a revelation; not only could I do a full 12 hours out and about without a socket, I could do another day too. Best of all though, it gets over the fact that almost every Premier Inn in the country doesn’t have a socket by the bed, which is infuriating for the average smartphone user.
It also has an unintended side effect. Despite the model I chose being brickish and garish white, it attracts attention. On more than one occasion pretty ladies have inquired as to what it is at the bar; so it seems I have somehow lucked upon the modern day equivalent of a Gucci filofax!
We have a BlackBerry 10 and have put it through some rudimentary comparisons with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 4s1. The iPhone5 may perform differently but I don’t think it hugely matters as the comparisons are not particularly scientific.
BlackBerry10 79 seconds
Samsung Galaxy S3 26 seconds
Galaxy S3 wins hands down but reality is that most people keep their phones on 24×7 and the BlackBerry has to perform a handshake with the BlackBerry Enterprise server so it is no wonder it takes longer. This test is therefore probably not hugely relevant but seeing as we had done it I’m not going to waste the info.
At this point the iPhone4s left the room and we continued testing:
The BlackBerry10 is supposed to major on speed of web access and this would appear to be the case. We tested the BB10 versus the SGS3 on two websites. Initially we chose a random site europafastenings.co.uk – speciality fasteners and screws – you know it makes sense. Both devices loaded this site in around 6 seconds though there is a lot of room for error in the measurement with this method – clicking on start buttons on timers and also trying to ensure that both of us did it simultaneously on two devices.
We moved on to html5test.com which gave us a reading as to the speed of our web access – at least for html5. For good measure we also threw in Google chrome running on my laptop.
Samsung Galaxy S3 390
Chrome on Windows7 448
Higher is better here so at first glance, and with only a small set of comparison points BB10 is, as it claims to be, a fast device for accessing tinterweb.
Couple of videos for your delight and delectation. Firstly Timico Engineer Dean Asher talking about his first impressions of the BB10 which are very good.
The second vid is Dean showing off BlackBerry Flow which does seem to have some very nifty features in allowing you to switch between applications.
All in all the BlackBerry10 is likely to be a device that corporate IT managers can give to their staff that won’t make them complain about its functionality. To a large extent it is going to be all about the timely availability of apps. Time will tell whether the BB10 turns around RIM’s fortunes but it looks like it could give them a sporting chance.
1 I couldn’t find an iPhone5 around the office and not being an Apple fan I don’t care if someone comes along whinging saying that the iPhone5 is much better than the iPhone4s. iPhone5 sales are disappointing the markets anyway and it’s no wonder I couldn’t find anyone with one 😉
I started to look at mobile VoIP clients a good 8 or 9 years ago. At the time the handsets were near enough useless – battery life was rubbish and the processors lacked the oomph to properly run a SIP user agent.
The advent of the modern day smart phone has changed all this, together with years of development effort put in to improve the soft clients themselves.
Now, most of us have a VoIP client on our phone – almost certainly Skype, maybe 3CX, Bria or Eyebeam. I stopped counting the number of low cost VoIP calling services that you might use as the target for the mobile VoIP client.
Many desktop VoIP clients are not supported on mobile. So if you use MSN or Facebook or Google+ or Lync even their mobile clients almost certainly do not support voice but are just used for presence and Instant Messaging.
The dwindling list of vendors of Unified Comms equipment offer their own mobile VoIP clients, which necessarily have better functionality than those I’ve just mentioned from the major platforms. Ask Avaya or Mitel about it and they will proudly show off their solution. These vendor specific solutions usually use a third party soft client tailored to their specific need. Bria from Counterpath is one and MobileMax is another.
I am very proud to announce that Timico has introduced its own mobile VoIP client . There are some clear differentiators from the generic soft phones mentioned earlier and used with hosted solutions.
First of all the user’s account is tied to the employer’s VoIP subscription, so the desktop extension and DDI is the same as the mobile. The user interface is also similar to that of the soft client running on the desktop and is controlled using the same familiar portal. Mobile users can not only speak and do video calls with other users of the network, but are able the see the availability of others
There is more to the technology that goes in to making a successful mobile VoIP client than is at first apparent. A little technology primer might serve a useful purpose here. When you speak into a telephone you are using an analogue broadcast service, i.e. your voice. In order to get to the telephone at the far end this analogue signal is converted into data packets (i.e. digitised) and then transmitted using computer networking technology, in our case Internet Protocol and the layers of networking technologies that come under its umbrella.
The sent packets have to traverse a number of hurdles in the guise of different networks and routers before arriving at their intended destination (next door, Australia – anywhere connected to the internet). Voice is very time sensitive. You really notice the difference if there is a delay between the person at the other end speaking and you hearing it, and vice versa. Slow or poor quality hops in the network can affect the quality of the user experience.
Use of mobile networks for VoIP transmission comes with its own specific issues. 3G is a notoriously latency ridden data service and a number of mobile operators actually block VoIP services (although they are far from transparent in their approach to this). It is too early to assess the practical usability of 4G because there is only one service provider in the market and that network will be only lightly used. The issue of cost of bandwidth over a mobile carrier network has also historically made VoIP impracticable in many cases.
WiFi is the sensible alternative. Although even WiFi comes with its own issues with Ethernet style best efforts transmission. Packets that collide with other packets don’t arrive at their destination. The busier the local WiFi network, the more likely you are to suffer from poor quality voice.
In practical terms this is likely to mean if you are sitting in an office with many hot desks where WiFi is the principal means of connecting to corporate resources, then that network is likely to become congested. This congestion may not be particularly noticeable to laptop users just doing emails or general web use.
A congested WiFi network that is ok for most uses might not be good for VoIP. In an office environment this can be engineered around, by creating more cells/hotspots each with fewer users. At home there is far less likely to be a problem although VoIP packets in this scenario are more likely to be using the open internet for transmission.
A VoIP phone is actually a computer that looks like a phone. Fortunately the lost packet compensation and packet processing techniques used in modern mobile VoIP clients (smart phones/computers) are able to overcome many “noisy” environmental scenarios, or at least go a long way towards mitigating their effects.
Timico’s announcement today comes after some time working with partners (Genband) to develop the soft-client. The app is available on the Apple App Store to existing (and new!) Timico VoIP customers and is a piece of cake to install – use of our Mobile Endpoint Provisioning (MEP) portal means all the user has to do is enter a username and password and they are up and running.
The MEP is worth further mention. With the MEP comes the ability to change mobile client settings on-the-fly which provides the Timico operations team with a critical tool for managing your mobile VoIP solution in near real time. There are over 200+ settings that the MEP controls, including default codec selection, NAT traversal settings and the keep-alive timer value.
There are often deployments where we might initially need to make adjustments to these settings to suit the environment in which you use the service. We can do this transparently and without requiring interaction with the end-users.
Another feature to our service that is designed to provide the optimum user experience is our Client QOS notification. The mobile client analyses the RTCP statistics in real time. Should these stats fall below predefined thresholds then the user will receive a notification informing them of ‘network quality issues’.
I’ve been around polling some of the early users and got the following comments:
“I’ve ditched my deskphone and now just use the iPhone app”
“Connects very quickly”
“I was sat in Starbucks in Canada and used it to call the office”
I’m sure that I will have previously mentioned that last year we won the ITSPA Award for the best Enterprise Unified Comms service. This mobile client adds nicely to that existing feature-rich service set. It’s going to be a terrific tool for people who need to make calls out of the office but don’t want to pay extortionate roaming charges or use their own phones.
Because the VoIP service is tied to their company’s business account then all calls just appear on the standard monthly bill. Calls to other internal VoIP users are of course free.
So there we have it. The mobile VoIP client has finally come into the world of reliable, serious business strength communications. If you want to try the service check it out here . Press release yurr1.
We have an excellent team in our logistics1 department. Phillipa has efficiently found me a temporary HTC One S whilst my trusty Galaxy S3 is sent back for a new screen. This time it wasn’t a fault of Samsung – the last two times were faulty headset socket and a faulty connector that meant the phone wasn’t charging, or at least only intermittently.
This time the phone was accidentally dropped on a hard floor and unfortunately the display smashed. Ok s*&t happens. It’s gone off to the menders for a week or so and in the meantime I have a temporary HTC One S. The One S is ok but smaller than the Galaxy S3 so I keep hitting the wrong keys. It’s also not quite as high a spec but hey, I only have it for a week or so.
Setting up the One S was very simple, as for all Android phones though I note that with Samsung all the apps I have previously downloaded are re-installed on a new phone whereas this hasn’t happened with HTC. This is probably a Samsung service that might well be replicated by HTC but I clearly haven’t signed up for it.
Anyway when I handed the S3 in to Phillipa in logistics1
My mobile phone, an N97, ran out of battery yesterday. It normally lasts 2 days but there was a network problem and it kept searching for a GPRS signal. It wan’t really the phone’s fault but it does go to show that battery technology has still some way to go with mobiles, especially as we are trying to do more with the device.
The N97 is supposed to be targeted at consumers. It has a 30Gig hard drive so all my music fits on it. It also has a nice Facebook widget and I regularly use the camera, the voice recorder and make notes.
I don’t really see a difference between consumer and business applications for these high end phones. People want to listen to music whilst on the move with work. Business people take photos (mine are usually for the blog), make recordings and notes (I do it because I can never remember things otherwise), update twitter, pick up mails, VPN into the office network etc etc etc.
At Timico there is an increasing demand for the iPhone from our business customers. In fact I think that consumer technology has outpaced what is provided specifically for business use so it makes sense that business people want to use consumer tools.
The iPad is not currently a business tool but that type of device will soon be used by business for all sorts of mobility applications. Whether the Apple device specifically is it will depend on the applications that reside on it – I suspect not.
It is all going to be highly reliant on connectivity, and battery life, and cost, and functionality, and ease of use, and I’m sure the list goes on… Anyway all that stemmed from the battery running out on my N97 – streams of thought:)
Oracle has been in the news recently with the acquisition of Sun. One of the prizes that comes with this purchase is Open Office. This probably would have fitted in very well with Oracle’s Network Computer play of ten or more years ago – I remember visiting Oracle at the time to try and design in some networking components.
Lack of cheap high speed connectivity is what brought Oracle’s efforts to a halt in the 1990s. Today the environment is completely different. Today, however, I don’t see Oracle playing in the space. Instead the spotlight is on Google and what can be seen under the bright lights, understandably, bears no resemblance to what was there in Oracle’s day.
All the components are there: cheap connectivity which is getting faster and cheaper all the time, a massive cloud computing infrastructure that would have been unimaginable ten years ago and a whole bundle of applications that are easy to use and can be accessed from multiple platforms.
Google is poised to be a massive player in the Unified Communications market, at least in the consumer space and downstream probably for small business as well.
There are already many reasons why people use Google’s online facilities. Google mail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Docs and Google Talk and of course Google the search engine.
When I log onto my iGoogle home page I can already access many features that would traditionally have been the domain of a business based Unified Communications service. From my Google Mail account I can send Instant Messages and have video conversations. I realise there are other services available where this can be done but none have the same potential for integration with other cloud based applications (Microsoft will probably disagree with me here).
Now add mobility. Despite being a clunky initial design, sales of the G1 phone have just hit the 1 million units mark and are forecast by British based analyst Informa Telecoms and Media to overtake the iPhone by 2012. And it is still early days for Android, the open sourced mobile operating system used by Google.
HTC has announced a new Android based smartphone that will support Google Mail, Google Talk, GoogleMaps, and synchronises with Google calendar and contact list. Word also has it that Samsung is also looking to introduce three models later this year. The initial clunkiness will soon be long forgotten.
All this points to more and more users using Google Unified Communications services. This doesn’t mean to say I am tolling the death knell of other UC services. I am not. Business has needs that go beyond what Google offers as a basic service.
Better office tools aka Microsoft Office, integration with other business services such as Customer Relationship Management tools operation behind secure company firewalls etc etc. These services are however becoming increasingly virtualized and hosted in the cloud, just like Google does and like Oracle wanted to do way back when I fitted into a smaller waist trousers.
As far as Unified Communications goes I can see clearly now and the future is in the cloud.
Google is launching its new mobile handset, labelled the G1, in the UK on Thursday 30th October. This is Google’s first phone and is based on a new open source operating system named Android.
I haven’t had a play with it myself yet and am unlikely to in the near future as T Mobile has an exclusive deal in the UK. In anycase it is initially going to be a consumer play and I use a mobile phone for business rather than listening to music etc.
The exciting thing here is that Android is open source. Anyone can write an application for it. I’m sure there will be gotchas that benefit Google but that is understandable. Why otherwise would a company make such an investment.
If you don’t understand the implication here of “openness” look at Facebook. Facebook has had thousands of applications developed for it, good and bad.
Nokia is making its own Symbian OS open source and Apple allows developers onto its iPhone although not with complete freedom. The mobile revolution is about to move onto its next phase.
I have always been a fan of Nokia handsets for business use. However I have recently been a little concerned that in the longer term the writing might be on the wall. What with developments in the iphone world and more competition potentially coming from a google open mobile platform.
Nokia has just announced that it is purchasing outright rights to the Symbian operating system. The company intends to make Symbian freely available as open source which might do something to stop the potential rot. We can only wait and see.
The developer community for iphone will I’m sure come up with thousands of applications in a very short space of time. How many of these will be particularly useful is another thing. Again we can only wait and see, or at least wait and see how many of them will be useful to business. The issue really for me is is how many useful applications will now come out of the woodwork for Nokia handsets.
I did come across an application on the Nokia website which I consider to be supercool (excuse my naievity if readers think this is all old hat). This is a barcode generating application that allows Nokia handsets to be used as barcode scanners.
It took me seconds to generate this barcode and upload it to the blog. There have to be many uses of this in business and Nokia has made it easy. There is a prize for anyone who can tell me what the barcode says. Leave a comment if you have the answer.
Use this link to see more. http://mobilecodes.nokia.com/create.jsp