Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gumstix Goliath - myPhone system board

The Gumstix Goliath open phone hardware is now available for order. There are versions with and without the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) support.


GSM/GPRS/EDGE, GPS, analog audio in/out, LCD, touchscreen controller, USB host port, 3D-accelerometer, NiMH battery charger (batteries not included)

Provides full- speed USB access to the Siemens MC75 GPRS/EDGE module, the u-blox NEO-4S GPS module and one external USB device.

60-pin Hirose connector to verdex motherboard only
105.5mm x 67.3mm

I've placed my order (I already have a Gumstix Verdex CPU board), and I'm still working on myPhone case design for this board and its 4.3" touchscreen LCD. Unlike the iPhone, the hardware and software is completely open, you can do anything you like with it, and thats also the problem, the software is extremely basic at the moment. However, its about the journey, not the destination, I'm going to have a lot of fun as we build this device.

iPhone, the good the bad and no ugly bits

I got my iPhone in the mail after 10 days, beating the 2-4 weeks delivery estimate. I've used it for a week and have some opinions I'd like to share.

The biggest suprise is just how good video looks. Everyone I show it to goes "wow". This is something you have to see in person. The video quality for "video iPod" mode and for "WiFi YouTube" mode is basically perfect. When running on EDGE, YouTube downloads a lower quality version of the video that has visible artifacts, and looks more like typical video on a PC quality (e.g. similar to my Slingbox). In any case this is a seriously good video player, and I happily watched several complete TV shows on it.

The built-in speaker is also surprisingly good, considering the limitations of a mobile device. I left the iPhone lying on the table and used it as background music.

The user interface is easy, no-one has any problem using it immediately, and typing on the keyboard is much easier and more accurate than I expected.

My main disappointment is with Email. It works, but I've got used to the Gmail client application on the Treo and Blackberry. The generic pop client just doesn't work well enough since it doesn't understand archiving and threading, and the safari browser version is inconvenient and slow when using EDGE. I really hope that the Gmail application is in the works for a future update, it seems likely, given the relationship between Google and Apple, and the Google Maps application that is already included.

For use at work, it can't yet replace my Blackberry. The iPhone VPN doesn't work with the VPN where I work. The LEAP security mode we use for wireless is also unsupported, although it works fine on my MacOS laptop. Using a simpler guest wireless setup I did see over 3Mbits/s in a speed test which is very impressive for a mobile device.

I can use Safari to get at Outlook Web Access, and http redirect based secure access to internal web pages worked fine. I have had no crashes or problems with Safari, trying it out on several sites.

For Netflix, heavy use of "mouse-over" in the user interface design is an issue since the touch screen doesn't generate mouse-over events. Although Safari on iPhone supports JavaScript, some work is needed to figure out how to use JavaScript effectively given the different input behaviors. In the meantime, the basic operations of browsing for movies and adding to the queue work fine, but rating a movie doesn't work since the star-setting method uses mouse-over.

For detailed insight into the iPhone, go read RoughlyDrafted, its by far the most thoughtful and interesting blog on the subject.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Global Classified Ads - Kijiji

eBay recently took the final step with their Kijiji classified advertising brand of launching it in the USA. There has been quite a lot of commentary, most of it fails to point out what matters about Kijiji. eBay also holds a small stake in Craigslist, which also has sites around the world, but there is one very significant difference that no-one seems to have commented on:

Go to http://rome.craigslist.org - there are a handful of entries, but the most important thing is that the site is still in English. Check out http://paris.craigslist.org - same thing.

Now try http://roma.kijiji.it and http://paris.kijiji.fr - notice the difference? Its localized and there are a decent number of items listed. Now see how many times you can figure out http://[city].kijiji.[country] (remember to use the local name) and see just how many cities and languages there are. Remember to try http://shanghai.kijiji.cn too... There are also a few countries where eBay bought a local brand - http://www.gumtree.com for the UK, and http://www.loquo.com for Spain.

So its clear that eBay has spent the last few years building up a global localized classified advertising business that has wide coverage and a lot of listings. They have had English-speaking Canada for a while (they also have French Canadian), so adding the USA must have been a small amount of extra work and cost, and there was a well crafted and debugged product ready to roll.

It may take a while to catch on in the USA, but its not likely to go away. Its free for the users, and can generate revenue by using services like banner ads and Google Adsense to monetize the page views. Kijiji is already doing quite nicely in my opinion....

[Disclosure: I used to work for eBay, I know some of the people who created Kijiji, but I have had nothing to do with Kijiji since it launched in 2005, and this is all public information]