Mike Torres and his gadgets

While some of us talk about the upcoming convergence of television, PCs, and mobile, Mike Torres (Lead Program Manager for MSN Spaces) is living it. Right on Mike for blazing the trail!

QR Code shortcuts text entry

This is  old news for those of you who have been to Japan. Anyone that’s used UPS or Fedex has seen these newfangled barcodes (QR code stands for "quick read") that allow them to be scanned from any direction. There is a lot of information that you can pack into these codes which can hold up to 3,000 alphanumeric characters on a single square. Squint your eyes and you can also see the Mona Lisa.

The most interesting applications are coming from Japan where cellphone software for the phone camera (you cannot buy a cellphone without a camera these days) can read the QR code and use it to navigate right to a web page on your phone’s web browser without having to use the numberpad to painfully enter in a long web address.

Magazines and newspapers also use this code to provide links to more information and advertisers put this mark onto their posters on commuter trains where a captive audience can click through for more details.

Fluid Market for Ringtones

In the March 7th New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones writes about the cell phone ringtone industry which, in 2004, generated $4 billion dollars in worldwide sales (only $300 million from the US). In Korea, the ringtone market outsells the CD single market. There is a newer, higher quality version of the ringtone that is just gaining popularity. But there is more than just better quality that makes the mastertone interesting; there is commercial appeal,

Record labels, convinced that they have lost millions of dollars in CD
sales to MP3 file-swapping, have been especially attentive to
ringtones, and they love master tones. Polyphonic ringtones are
essentially cover versions of songs: aggregators must pay royalties to
the publisher, who then pays the songwriter. But master tones are
compressed versions of original recordings, which means that record
labels—the entities that typically own recordings—are entitled to
collect a fee, too.

She goes on to explain the royalty deals signed to get these songs were extremely one-sided pushing up to 25% for some record companies. This boosts the overall cost of the mastertones which keeps people from adopting them. Kind of killing the hen before it can get around to laying it’s golden eggs.

This arrangement is unlikely to last. There are now Web-based
companies, like Xingtone, for example, that will convert songs from
your collection into master tones. Or you can do it yourself: some new
cell-phone models can be connected to a computer by a data cable,
allowing you to create master tones from MP3 files at home. However it
is done, transferring music that you own to your phone is legal under
copyright law.

Like a water balloon, exert too much pressure and the market moves around you.

GPS Photoblog

So totally cool. My sister has hooked up a GPS unit to her cell phone and is moblogging with coordinates. She did this before, back in 2003, but that was in Japan, high-tech gadget heaven.

Smart Mobs

One of the nice things about going on vacation is that you get to catch up on all that reading that you want to do. One of the books I read was Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs which has given me a lot to think about. This book has been out for a couple of years now so while I was reading, it was like I was connecting dots and getting answers to questions that have been sitting in the back of my mind for some time now. I now know why Dr. Mizuko Ito looked at me and rolled her eyes when I asked at a recent lecture she gave at Berkeley why texting hasn’t really taken off in the US. It’s covered in detail in this book and she is referenced quite a bit as a primary source of research.

I had the chance to dabble in SMS and have a new appreciation for T9 software. One of my first exchanges, while sitting on a beach in Hawaii was with a friend that I thought would be holed up in a meeting room in Silicon Valley. Nope, came the reply, he was sipping bitters at a pub in Edinburgh. The appreciation for the power of this medium was immediate!

Gotta try out this new RSS to SMS app Feedbeep.