HTC Hero – Quick Hands on/First Thoughts

hero1It’s was the mobile platform with the might of Google behind it, but there was a lot missing. The Android native UI wasn’t overly interesting and the first devices were missing basic features like a standard audio jack. With the introduction of the HTC Hero this morning, HTC offers the first Android device that feels like it’s actually finished and it’s the first Android device I’d pay for.

I’ve just been using mine for a few hours but it’s been love at first sight. Mine’s a white unit with the Teflon coating and it feels great in the hand and looks like prop off the set of the moview 2001. Quick review of specs, GPS, digital compass, a gravity-sensor, 3.5mm stereo headset jack, a 5 mega-pixel autofocus camera and expandable MicroSD memory. The Hero also has a dedicated search button that allows search through Twitter, locating contacts, find emails or search for any data that’s on Hero. In practice it works well, when I remember that it’s there.

What sets Hero apart is HTC’s UI for Android called HTC Sense. The Ui is fluid and works great and feels modern. I love the multiple screens with glanceable information. I’ve got my calendar, Twitter, Weather etc all set up and customized they way I want it. As I’ve pointed out before, it’s the home screen concept for information done right. HTC includes a boatload of widgets that totally transform the device into a custom user experience. Even better, I can save multiple profiles or scenes as HTC calls them and switch based on context. Excellent.

Downside? The device has got a lot going on and is nowhere near as fast the iPhone 3Gs in terms of performance but it’s not nearly as slow or sluggish as some of the early reviews have made it out to be. It’s also too early for me asses battery life which was a nightmare on the G1. More over the next few days as I spend some more with the device.

This is clearly what T-Mobile should have brought to market. The MyTouch feels totally dated by comparison.

Illegal Downloaders *Can* Drive Music Sales

A guest post by my Interpret colleague, Josh Bell who leads our music research on how illegal downloaders can actually drive music sales. Great stuff.

Interpret’s Syndicated Research Service recently released an interesting report about illegally downloading music. Rather than focusing on the illegal activity, we took a closer look at how else downloaders get their music. This isn’t the typical “let’s vilify the illegal downloaders and get them to switch to iTunes” strategy – it’s been tried with little success. Nor are we suggesting more lawsuits, though I’m sure that would be a fascinating and controversial read. Instead, we took a look at overall music consumption – what else are these “pirates” doing to find music? Are they paying for music at all? How can we reach them and squeeze some additional revenue out of them? recently posted a thoughtful article about our report, but there are two points to clear up – first, we surveyed a nationally representative sample of over 9,000 respondents, then weighted the data to the US Census to project to millions. Second, the finding that “51% [of music pirates] are fine with the current price point of legal downloads” is misleading. What we state is that on an 11-point scale where 0 = completely disagree and 10 = completely agree, 49% of illegal downloaders completely agree that downloading should be cheaper than buying a CD. This doesn’t mean the rest don’t agree – in fact, 85% agree with the statement (rated it a 6 or higher).

And one tidbit from our report not mentioned in the article – music pirates are consuming music in a multitude of ways – video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, streaming on social networking sites, etc. So even if they’re not buying CDs or paying for downloads, there are other ways to reach them that the music industry is not exploiting.

Want to read more? Let me know and for a limited time we’ll send you the report free!

Twitter fizzles at Comic-Con

Variety reports on the Social Media research we’ve done at Interpret on the effectiveness of Twitter at Comic-Con. My colleague Zack Kirchner guest blogs and has some more details on what we learned.

Despite efforts to generate interest in over 30 different movies that were featured in studio’s booths, the majority of movies featured at Comic-Con did not generate significant enough buzz on Twitter to break the barrier of .01% of total tweets. The movies that did generate significant buzz (Summit’s New Moon, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland & Tron: Legacy, Paramount’s Iron Man 2 and Sony Picture’s District 9) were central to the comic fan’s ancillary interests in fantasy and science fiction. More importantly, the movies that generated the most significant Twitter buzz had established fan bases who re-tweeted the tweets coming directly from Comic-Con attendees, allowing those movies to expand their reach virally. New trailer releases also made it easier for people on Twitter to share links online, which certainly helped Alice in Wonderland, New Moon and Tron: Legacy rise to the top.

One factor limiting the effectiveness of studio’s efforts to promote their movies was the sheer number of movies featured at Comic-Con. Comic-Con attendees were inundated with flyers, posters, buttons and other promotional efforts even before entering the convention. It’s hard for a movie to stand out in the crowd, even when that crowd is made up of rabid costumed fans who live for Comic-Con weekend.

Summit and Disney were the most effective studios at generating Twitter buzz overall. Summit’s booth was constantly surrounded with people hoping to get a glimpse of video clips released at Comic-Con, generating a large amount of buzz for both the original Twilight movie and its sequel, New Moon. Even though Disney didn’t have a large booth to showcase their movies, they gave their fan bases what they wanted with the debut of both the Alice in Wonderland and Tron: Legacy trailers.

Overall, Twitter buzz for Comic-Con is very low with no movie generating enough tweets to even account for 1% of the total tweets during a given hour of the convention. To put these numbers in perspective though, Harry Potter, another movie with an established, active fan base, generated 4X as much buzz as the #1 movie in the box office this weekend, G-Force.

Some Google Voice Tips

I’ve been using Google Voice for sometime, as I was former Grand Central user that migrated early. As more folks are getting on board, here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve learned to make it more useful right off the bat. If you have a Google Voice tip or trick, just add it in the comments below. I’ll also update this more over the next few days as time permits.

Keep your existing phone # with GV. In order to do this, you’ll need to have at least one other phone # you can use to forward calls to. I forward my old number to GV and then let GV direct that number to wherever I am on whatever phone I’ll be near. I use the present caller option to make sure that the only VM that gets used is GVs

If you’re in the car, answering can be hassle if you need to pick up the phone and press 1. Turn off call presentation before getting in the car and if you’re forwarding your number elsewhere, only forward to the one phone in the car you are using. Using only one phone will present GV from sending VM to the wrong phone.

If you have a GV number and want a new personalized one. You can change it under settings for a one time fee of $10.

The mobile web UI for GV leaves a lot to be desired. Google offers native clients for some platforms but not the iPhone. On the iPhone, the best app I’ve ffound so far is GV Mobile. It’s reasonably priced and makes GV a lot more useful on the iPhone.

If you set caller presentation to on, you can not only find out who’s calling but also send callers to voice mail directly and listen in on the voice mail as it’s recording. Yep, it’s like answering machine screening at home as you can pick up at any time if you choose.

Calls from a corp number seemed to get assigned an ID based on who makes the first call. That means just because GV says someone is calling from a particular place, it might not actually be them.

How do you use Google Voice? Add your tip or trick in the comments please.

Loving the Loop

loopWith more folks using their PCs and Game Consoles as media and entertainment devices the questions becomes, how do you best control them. The PC in particular was designed to be used with a mouse but newer UI elements such as Front Row and Media Center work best with a remote control. I’ve tried a variety of Bluetooth Mice, 3D wireless controllers and the like and none have worked well for me until now. So when I first heard about the Loop, it was hard for me to get to excited. What’s the Lopp? A new device from Hillcrest Labs that turns out to be a killer gadget for controlling your PC, Mac and even the PS3. The Loop itself looks like… a loop and while it feels a little strange at first, after a few minutes of use, it becomes a totally natural extension of the media experience. Using RF technology, you just plug a small dongle into your PC/Mac/PS3 and pretty much you’re up and running. Hillcrest Labs offers some usage scenarios and adjustment tips on their website in case you run into issues.

It’s great for PowerPoint presentations as well but the Loop really shines as media controller. It’s the perfect complement for using a Mac-Mini as a media center device with the ability to use and navigate things like the native Hulu app as well as launch and use Front Row. For the PC, it’s a great alternative to using the controller to navigate and control. At $99, it’s a little pricey but no more so than a high end mouse would cost and Loop does much more. It’s not for everyone but if you’ve got a home theater PC, looking for a new way to control presentations or just use your PC from across the room, this is one of the most innovative gadgets I’ve seen for that purpose since Apple put a mouse on a mainstream computer in 1984. This one’s highly recommended.

“The Internet is everything” Deja Vu all over again

There was an interesting article in the Register by Ted Dziuba (who has a pretty good take on Chrome OS). What struck me, however, was this quote form Mike Arrington of TechCrunch.

As Mike Arrington says: “The Internet Is Everything. All the OS has to do is boot the damn computer, get me to a browser as fast as possible and then stay the hell out of the way.”

I found it amusing because it’s almost the same thing Marc Andreeson said to me on a conference call more than a decade ago about Netscape. At the time he said Windows was just a collection of device drivers whose sole purpose was to run a Netscape browser. (I’m paraphrasing from memory and not quoting directly. Any of former Gartner colleagues who were on that call, please let me know if I’ve erred in my recollection).

Yep. as the great man said, it’s Deja Vu, all over again. I don’t know Mike and I’ve never discussed his position with him. And perhaps to Mike, the Internet is *everything* and he can do all his work, communication and entertainment in a browser. I know for sure I can’t, even though connectivity is important to many applications I use, the browser itself leaves a lot to be desired. Even web based services like Twitter work better for me through an application like Tweetie as opposed to the the Twitter site (and a lot of user data suggests I’m not alone in this thinking).

People have been predicting the death of the PC along with Windows and Mac OS for more than a decade. Like the news of Mark Twain’s death, the reports of the demise of the PC applications architecture are greatly exaggerated. Sure the web is great, browsers are important and there’s more functionality than ever before delivered through this medium. But that’s doesn’t mean that the web and the PC are mutually exclusive. One of the great ironies of the whole network computing paradigm of a decade ago (which Mike Arrington restates) was that the best vehicle for network computing and the Internet turned out to be the personal computer. That’s something that hasn’t changed and I expect most users enjoy the best of both world. The richness and diversity of PC applications combined with the best of what the Internet has to offer. It’s not one or the other but both together that create the optimum user experience.

Chrome is to desktop Linux what Android is to mobile Linux

Or to put it differently. What’s different about Chrome as opposed to all of the other Linux distros out there? Consumers totally not interested in Linux netbooks at the moment as the return rate of those devices confirms. What I can see is Chrome becomes the most important Linux platform at the expense of the others much as Android has become the most important mobile linux platform. Is that something the Linux community wants to see happen? I wonder.