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Enter the gphone

If you haven’t heard, rumors are flying around about a google phone – no I’m not referring to Android, but rather something called the
Nexus One

Why would Google do this? I’m guessing these might be the reasons they are pursuing this strategy.

1. Re-establishing control – Android ended up living up to it’s promise of being the perfect white label OS for mobile carriers, and in the process ended up a lot more fragmented as an offering. With three different types of Android handsets, and various handset specific versions (Cliq, Sense, Rachel), there is little control that Google could exert on manufacturers who choose the non-Google experience version of the OS. Creating your own phone brings ownership right back into Google’s lap, with all the benefits that it entails.

2. Cloud is the new pc – There has never been a greater number of web based services that leave you wondering if you really need a desktop. Other than running an OS and a browser, if you are adventurous enough, you can pretty much do everything online, from the mundane (Google docs, groups) to the exciting (photo editing using Aviary, 3d gaming etc.). Even the OS part will change soon enough with Google’s Chrome, an OS designed from the ground up to support web based applications. With so many of the traditional pc services moving to the cloud, why not a phone? The increasing prevalence of fast processors, connections make a phone a perfect platform for cloud based services and apps and with a Google Phone, Google has control over every aspect of how this phone will connect to the internet, either being subsidized through ad based revenue as some have speculated, or through other creative methods.

3. Design cohesion – I don’t know if Google cares about design cohesion but with multiple parties involved in the development of any single Android based phone, Android products have felt thrown together. I have been an avid proponent of Android for quite a while, but I’ve also been carrying around a ipod touch and my Google ION doesn’t hold a candle to the speed and performance of the Apple product (now granted I’m comparing iTouch and a phone but the core interaction remains the same whether it’s an iPhone or iTouch). Having one entity (google) in charge of the end to end user experience should result in a better designed product.

4. Next ad platform – Of course this goes without saying but with 1B mobile phones sold every year, and about 140M smartphone sales, mobile phone are the largest category of consumer electronic devices and are growing at double digit rates all of which add up to a perfect ad platform for Google. Google’s recent acquisition of AdMob is just the first step towards establishing a whole suite of mobile metrics that will leverage location, context and transactions to driver more targeted ads.

However, while there might be reasons why Google might be pursuing this strategy, nothing explains why they would make a decision to leave behind all the manufacturers who have jumped behind the Android platform and invested significant resources in the development of phones based on this OS (Motorola, SE).

If Google does in fact decide to approac customers directly with their offering, I can only imagine that manufacturers will start looking for an alternate OS that can power their smartphones.

End to the hiatus

It’s been far too long since I’ve put my thoughts to paper (well pseudo-paper in this instance). Starting a new job while completing grad school leaves little time for reflection – but I’ve felt the growing need to get back to it. It also helps that my classes are done for the semester. So expect to hear a bit more from me.

Airline Innovation

I wrote this post in response to a wired article about black boxes.

After having watched numerous Air Emergency shows, I feel that what’s really missing in the cockpit are simple cameras that look out over the airplane, highlighting sections like the wing, engines, tail section etc.

What struck me the most was that pilots were only relying on instruments and the external view to the front of the plane to guide their behavior. In addition, what they should have had is a “gods view” of their plane – so that they could see exactly what was happening. There were so many episodes where passengers were seeing flames shooting out of the engines, but the pilot had no view of them and ended up making bad decisions because of the lack of visual information.

Studied vs Read

I’m taking a class this semester on Marshall McLuhan, who I will admit not knowing prior to class (sorry Chris). On reading his chapter of the photograph, my thoughts kept wandering away after every sentence and I found myself re-reading many of his statements multiple times. Now this might seem obvious to you, but I wasn’t “reading” McLuhan, I was “studying” him to gain a deeper understanding. In contrast, I “read” Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, where a cursory glance allows me a high level understanding of the points he’s trying to make. This distinction might either seem nuanced or down right obvious, but the next time you ask someone if they’ve read XXX author, think about what that means, and what it implies in terms of their deep understanding.

I’ve started my post-grad career

Last week, I started working full time as an associate strategist at gravitytank, a Chicago based innovation consultancy firm. Some sharp-eyed readers might remember that I’ve mentioned this company before. GT (wonder why the short form is capitalized?) is closely tied to school as more than half the employees are graduates and many of them choose to teach at ID. At one point or another, I’ve been taught by, on teams with or had colleagues who were from GT which makes switching from school to work a lot easier and lot more fun.

School continues, as class requirements need to be met but will be taken over the year, rather than finishing up by May. I’m glad in some ways to maintain some contact with ID. The transition is much less abrupt and I actually get to enjoy the classes more, enjoying their theoretical discussions as a sharp contrast with the practical and interesting challenges at work.

The purpose of this blog I hope, will start to include perspectives that show the combinations of the practical and academic world. If you have any questions about my experiences, please leave them in the comments.

Work + Education

I think more people need to experience a combination of work and education. In fact, I would argue that people exposed to both day to day work lifestyle + some form of graduate education are better equipped than those who focus solely on either of those.

It’s nice when you experience knowledge convergence

I just finished Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success where he says that place, cultural legacy and people are critical in an individual’s success and that trying to narrowly and incorrectly define the success of people such as Bill Gates or Paul Allen through the myth of a lone-wolf is missing the point. In one of his chapters, he links wet-rice farming, math skills and the Asian people together with some interesting research. His basic point was that cultures that depended on labor intensive wet-rice farming methods spent double the amount of annual hourly labor in taking care of their fields. This cultural legacy spilled over to the intensity of preparation for children in their studies. The interesting part of this story was that while Asian’s didn’t necessarily have a higher IQ in general, their ability to spend far more focused time (30% more in one of his examples) trying to solve math problems led to an significant increase in their mathematical ability.

The second article I read today was about the “The New Work Ethic‘ where the point was being made that the work ethic of the new generation should not just be to work hard, but be more focused on whatever they are working on. This resonated well with me since a different chapter in Outliers mentions the 10,000 hour rule, which represents the number of hours to truly develop mastery of a specific skillset. It’s implied in the description of those who had accumulated these hours that they were 10,000 focused hours, not simple hours spent watching tv while practicing a violin for example.

Finally, this morning, I ended up chancing on the discovery channel episode regarding the evolution of the Shaolin Temple in China. The temple has long trained fighting monks who are perfect examples of those gaining mastery of their practice using focused attention and long hours of practice.

So it’s nice to see reinforcing perspectives the importance of focused attention, and long term hard work to develop mastery of a skill.