Thanksgiving Thoughts 2009

On the eve of Thanksgiving I’m thinking about how more then three hundred years ago, a small band of pilgrims united in faith and seeking liberty came to a new world. A place where they could worship according to their own beliefs. Tomorrow, in the United States, we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving. How cool is that?

Wherever you are, I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes for the holiday season. See you next week.

5 Things Missing from the Droid

Lots of buzz about the Droid over the weekend as more users got their hands on a device. My first take is posted over on SlashGear and it’s mostly positive. If, however, you’re thinking of getting one, here’s a list of five things that you should know about before you buy.

1. Applications. Despite the 10,000 apps in the the marketplace there’s too much stuff still missing, especially in terms of entertainment. That means a real lack of good games, no eBook readers like Kindle or Noook, no Slingplayer etc. Even worse, Android 2.0 still has a limit of 256mb for application storage. Sorry, that’s not even close for what most users need. Also not seeing a lot of best of breed applications. I still can’t find a decent Twitter client that comes close to what’s available for other platforms. Apple’s lead in the app marketplace is now 10x but beyond numbers, it’s the depth, breadth and quality of the apps that make the app store stand out.

2. Security. No real password protection. Hardware or SD encryption. No remote management or wipe. Maybe Ok for consumers but hardly good enough to protect anything important.

3. Exchange. It’s nice to see Exchange support native (HTC has offered it for their Android devices for some time) to Android but it’s not a great implementation. Too many issues, especially in terms of calendar.
4. Keyboard. Sorry, the keyboard just doesn’t work for me. The keys are too flat and too close together. This is the first time that the virtual keyboard is better than the physical one and that one’s not great (there’s a few better keyboards for sale in marketplace)

5. PC Sync ) I know the idea is to move everything to the cloud but the reality is, there’s a lot of folks who still want to do local sync to Outlook and get their contacts and calendars on their devices that way. Worse, there’s no media sync. I understand some folks prefer to just drag and drop their stuff on their device but I can’t imagine why (unless you’ve got a tiny music collection or are just moving limited content such as podcasts). I certainly don’t want to try and replicate my playlists in iTunes or Zune one song at a time, digging through directories on my desktop.

Even with these issues, I do believe Android is going to be force to reckoned with in this space and the Droid, if for no other reason than because it’s on Verizon’s excellent network is going to be a very popular device. I do think it’s going to appeal to more of a geek audience than a mainstream audience at this point.

Sonos S5 well, just rocks

I’ve been a Sonos fan since they first introduced their first products years ago and it’s been fun watching them evolve the line, tapping into new trends and offering new services and values. The latest in the line is the Sonos S5, a standalone device that’s designed to be used with an iPhone as the controller (of course, it also plugs into the rest of the Sonos family and can use any Sonos controller). It’s a simple concept and I’m surprised that no one has thought of it before. First, let’s see what the S5 isn’t. It’s not a speaker dock to recharge and play content on your iPhone. It’s designed that way and it makes sense if you think about it. In a bedroom setting (a likely place where the S5 will end up) you *don’t* want your phone in a dock across the room. Nor do you want your speakers next to your bed. Same for almost every other room where the S5 might go. What you do want is to access your iTunes library (which likely has more content than your phone), your online services like Rhapsody, Pandora, Last.FM and the like and Internet radio. It’s that combination, combined with the iPhone as a controller that makes the S5 work and stand out in a crowded market of speaker docks that really don’t work well with the phone model. It’s really simple. Sonos is about tapping into the Internet and your home network to deliver a complete and total music experience.

As for the S5, it’s pretty amazing. I met with Sonos in NY and they went through all the software magic they did to make this thing sound so good but bottom line it is magic. Here’s an example. Take your typical speaker dock, anyone will do. Crank up the sound. What you will get is distortion as soon as the volume gets loud. On the S5? It doesn’t happen. I can crank the volume up high and it just doesn’t distort. Not that I’d want to turn the volume up that high. At the highest settings, I had no problem filling a 30′ room. For most scenarios, where the S5 is going to be used, the sound is simply phenomenal. I connected to Rhapsody, Pandora, iTunes and a few Internet radio stations with ease. There’s also a setting that lets you set the S5 as an alarm clock as well. Overall, it’s a complete set of features that work well together.

So what’s the downside? I haven’t really found one. You will need another Zone player that’s wired to your router to use the S5 wirelessly (or it can be plugged directly into a router itself. In theory, you might use something like home-plug to connect but I haven’t tried that). You’ll also need an iPhone (or iPod Touch) as a controller or invest in a Sonos one. Having said that, Sonos has done something really interesting here. They’ve not just created an accessory for the iPhone, they’ve created an accessory for an app and that’s where things start to get really interesting.