Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A giant like Google

An iPod killer never arrived, and it seems unlikely to do so until some new technology comes along to kill it as dead as the Sony Walkman. Despite that the industry is already looking for an iPhone killer, but I think they're looking in the wrong direction. Because the iPhone is not a phone, it just happens to be able to make phone calls.

A few weeks ago Google announced (via Hack A Day) the winners of the first round of the Android Developer Challenge. Perhaps somewhat interestingly, only four of the winners chose to withhold details of their applications from public view. I'm not entirely sure what that says about the winners, but I'd be interested in finding out how many of the losers wanted their ideas kept secret if they'd won.

Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats - Howard Aiken

This call was actually something I kicked around some ideas for, but in the end got side tracked into writing for the iPhone and playing with Arduinos. There are, after all, only so many hours in the day where you're not actually doing work you're paid to do.

However from the list of winners two applications stood out...

Jigsaw by Mikhail Ksenzov stood out because it's an application for something I do a lot. People with mobile phones taking pictures of the white board are pretty common during meetings.

Applying a geometric transform to the photograph

While I can't find a website for the application from the screen shots and description in the PDF it looks to scratch an itch I've been having for a while. It comes with edge detection, geometric transformation and image enhancements pre-canned to help you capture that vital architecture diagram. If I end up getting a 3G iPhone I might get round to doing a clean room implementation, just for fun.

I've actually done what BreadCrumbz does without the automation, or the sharing, or the mobile phone come to that. I'm not alone, if you go to the directions page for Liverpool ARI you'll see that the text is annotated with links through to pictures of useful landmarks [1, 2, 3] enroute. So while it's not an original idea, it looks to be a good implementation of a good idea. Which is probably better for them in the long run, they're helping people do stuff they already want to do rather than trying to convince them to do new stuff. The second one is always harder than the first.

Of course what stands out for you depends on what you do, I'm fairly sure an application to take pictures of white boards doesn't have a mass market appeal, you have to be a geek like me...

What's the point? Well the winners were applications that you'd find on a smart phone. But the iPhone isn't a smart phone, it's an ultra-portable that can make phone calls. Google Android has the potential to unseat the iPhone, if that's the market they push it towards, but Google has to make a decision. Whether to go for the smart phone market, or to go for the iPhone. Of course, maybe smart phones are just about to become as dead as the Sony Walkman? They were never a good compromise ergonomically speaking anyway. Maybe the iPhone killed them?

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