Sunday, December 18, 2011

Playing with Fire for a month.

Now that I have owned  Kindle Fire for a month, it's time to  look back and document my own and only my own opinion about it. This disclaimer is necessary to not upset ipad fan club. This is not meant to compare Fire with any other mobile device in the market. To surmise my findings in one sentence - it's not very often that you get more than what you paid for. That's Kindle Fire for you.  How much more? It's up to every one to decide after reading this post. In my opinion Fire hits that sweet spot of providing you with adequate features with superior performance at a very very affordable price. It's no wonder Fire is flying off the shelf since its launch.
For those with little patience for reading, the summary of my evaluation is presented here in a nice tabular format.

I received the Fire in my mail after a month long wait time. I had placed an order on Amazon, immediately after the product announcement basically trusting the good reviews from analysts. Right from the time I opened the box I was hooked. Fire comes in a cardboard box with perforated edge that tears without help from scissors, there are no sticky tapes any where outside or inside the box. I was off and running in less than 5 minutes. The interface is intuitive and easy. It has its own quirks, but they don't  rob you of your quality time.

First off, let's get out of our way some well documented and commented on 'lack of features of Fire'. They are, absence of any buttons other than power button. Not having  a button even for controlling volume is kind of annoying. The power button is at the bottom together with micro USB  port and a jack for headphones. Because of the unusual placement of power button, it's possible that Fire goes to sleep by holding it in your lap. But bringing it back to life is easy enough - sliding the switch on the screen like an apple device. The Fire is not exactly light and because of its very thin edges it's hard to hold it in a hand for a long period of time without touching the screen and without slipping through your hands. I would recommend Amazon to provide grooves or impressions/dents on the edges to make it easier to hold.
Fire does not have a microphone, neither does it have a camera. So for all those skype fans this could be a serious issue.

Now on to the best part.
I have used the Fire so far to do almost all my online activities like reading my emails from various personal accounts, using social networks like facebook, twitter, linkedin, watching videos on youtube, carrying out banking, investing functions, listening to local radio channels and Pandora, downloading books and apps from Amazon, watching HD quality movies from Amazon, sending documents to kindle over an email. Without a doubt,  I am extremely happy and pleasantly surprised at its ease of use. The Fire boots remarkably fast, downloads web content at great speed, shows crystal clear images and videos. The screen rolls at a very fast pace showing the power of dual core processor, virtual keyboard is sensitive and fun to operate.The sound quality is acceptable and volume is loud enough for a noisy room. Streaming videos of movies and TV episodes works super fast and quality of the display is awesome.

Now for the things I wish the Fire had -. I watch educational videos on you tube all the time. I really wanted  to download them to Fire, so I could watch them when I want and where I want, which according to my knowledge is not possible today. The Silk browser does not have any plug-ins that could perform this task. So you are back to downloading videos to your pc and then uploading them to Fire.
Another missing feature is the absence of folder structure. The content is automatically classified and stored in different sections like video, audio, books, magazines etc, but you can't access those from any other section that the menu at the top. The folder structure like windows explorer doesn't exist in Fire today. This prevents you from organizing your content in your own way.

Now for the quirks I found a little bit annoying. When you are watching youtube video in full screen mode and want to adjust volume, the only way you could make the volume adjustment bar to appear is to tilt Fire at an angle (sometimes but not always clicking the small arrow at the bottom displays settings. Why only sometimes is something I need to figure out). When Kindle senses that it needs to go to a portrait mode from a landscape mode or vice versa, it displays the settings at that time. Once you adjust the volume, the video restarts from the beginning and not from where you left it before adjusting the volume. I am sure, there must be some work around, but I haven't found that yet.
Another important feature I think is important to mention is uploading of documents to Kindle. It could be done in two ways. One by connecting your other device like PC that hosts the document or by sending the document as an attachment to an email to your kindle email address. This email address is automatically assigned to you when you register the Fire. Getting the doc uploaded through this email address is something you need to get used it.

As for the kindle applications. Although Kindle's ecosystem is still limited, it is expected to grow very fast. So far I could all applications that I wanted like Facebook, Pandora, Radio streaming, Weather and most importantly Angry Birds - yeh!

So friends, the Fire is an excellent and exciting product that competes with the best product in the world providing the best value in its class of products. Truly an excellent holiday gift, the Fire will bring you blessings from the recipient.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mobile manifesto - fundamental right to own a mobile device

The person who never handled a tablet before, the person who didn't own a smart phone, the novice and the illiterate in the mobile world. Some one who didn't use skype with iphone, who didn't know how to take photos on a phone and upload them to facebook. The person who didn't know what made one smart phone better than other or didn't have a clue as to why every one thought it was important to interact with their phones but not to the person sitting next to them in a meeting or on a train or in a conference. I was that person until a few days back. None of those things made me totally irrelevant or useless to my kids or to my friends as yet, but it did deprive me of contributing to their supposedly valuable conversations like which smart phone is the best in the market or why it's important for everyone to buy it as if their life depended on it. Kidding aside, barring a few disagreeing heads, mobile technology has become an enabling technology for all of us. While we take such features as finding directions, listening to music, sharing your pictures as granted for smart phones, we are not far removed from the day when all appliances in and outside of your home will be controlled from your phone. In fact, remote 'car starter' application is already available on iphone today. So guys, albeit relunctantly I convinced myself to buy Amazon Fire and a HTC smart phone. What I think about those toys, will be posted soon but the reason for today's post is -

While we acknowledge the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices in our lives, how do corporations for which most of us work are reacting to this revolution? Just a decade ago buying everything online seemed liked an idea in distant future, but look at what Amazon and other companies have made possible in this short period of time. Do corporations take mobile computing as seriously as the web revolution? Do they think that making their business mobile friendly is a core requirement to keep them relevant in the market? Why would a company enable its enterprise applications for mobile computing? Are the legitimate security concerns keeping them from going full steam ahead with mobility?

These questions are addressed and basically a case for linking mobile computing to the survival of a company is made in a wonderful document which could be downloaded here.  It's a great read for every one remotely interested in mobile computing. It's called mobile manifesto. Eric Lai, who regularly blogs for Sybase is the editor of this wonderful document and it's kind of funny how he puts forward the mobile computing as the fundamental right of a person/corporation.

The document helps an organization in assessing its mobile friedliness, the strategies for mobility adoption and tactics for transforming the way the business is conducted. It includes a score card that computes an organization's mobility status based on how you scored on the questions, the mile stones of our journey to mobile platform from analog devices. The document helps you make some tangible decisions as whether to buy mobile apps or to build them . The key take aways for an enterprise are

  • Open the doors to mobile computing to keep your enterprise relevant to the market
  • Adoption of mobile devices by masses is an irreversible trend. There are more mobile phones than tooth brushes in the world today.
  • Mobility projects are typically shorter than other technology projects allowing you to go full steam ahead. There are low hanging fruits that can provide ROI immediately.
  • Many companies who absolutely opposed to allowing emplyoee's personal device to connect to corporate network previously, are now rolling out plans of adoption in phases.
  • Security of such devices and hence the data protection and application maintenance on them is vitally important and companies like Sybase offer these services at very competitive rates.
  • Last but not the least, and easier said than done, is to eliminate the fear of failure.

For the companies that do not want to host and support their own infrastructure, the cloud option is most attractive one. In fact, number one reason companies go to cloud is the need to open information access to multiple computing devices. Check this article on by Matt Silverman for some interesting statistics on cloud adoption. Most intriguing for me is last in the chart about US Gov. employees. It wasnt' the number(48% of US goverment agencies moved to cloud) but the mention of 'cloud-first' policy of goverment agencies that caught my attention. Assuming it's true, adopting a cloud strategy is a no brainer. Because goverment agencies typically are the last to adopt new paradigm in technology, their adoption of  'cloud-first' strategy is proof enough that cloud is gone main-stream. In many companies it's not question of it but when to go to cloud or what applications to migrate to cloud.