So many of my friends ask me – what the hell is that foursquare/gowalla/brightkite thing I see popping up on your Facebook, Twitter or blog feeds. Well, for those not in the know, it’s possibly the next big thing (or possibly just annoying). Anyway, these are all so-called LBS or Location-Based Services. These services are all variations on the idea of ‘checking in’ to physical locations via a GPS-enabled mobile device to let your friends know what you are up to. Some, like Gowalla, involve a game of sorts, where virtual objects are available for pickup when you check in, rather like a virtual version of Geocaching. Gowalla ran a scavenger hunt in December for actual prizes – t-shirts, $10 iTunes gift cards etc – and I managed to find an iTunes card on my last trip to NYC, although I’m still waiting for the card to arrive. Anyway, as seen above, there is this spiffy site Wheredoyougo that creates a heatmap of your check-ins by using the Foursquare APIs along with Google maps. No surprise there that I pretty much stay ITP (or at the airport, ahem). There’s also a cluster of activity up on Buford Highway where I drag the family to get our ethnic on as frequently as possible ;-).
Pretty hilarious. Courtesy of my friend Jay D’Lugin via Facebook.
I think they’ve outdone themselves – the new iPhone (despite the Cisco product by the same name) looks absolutely killer – taking a completely fresh approach to the UI of the mobile phone, and creating a true mashup of relevant technologies. Apple has posted a great walkthrough of the features including their interesting approach to many of these features at http://apple.com/iphone/ – check it out.
Although I need to see it to really understand and confirm, Jobs keynote speech seemed to describe the new phone as less a touchscreen and more of a ‘proximity’ screen – where your gestures, not ham-handed mashing of buttons triggers responses. So from unlocking it (a side to side gesture over an on-screen ‘slider’) to zooming in on webpages or images by ‘pinching’ the area of interest, this sounds like an amazing step forward. It’s super slim – 11.6mm thick, about the width of the Uniball pen I carry around. It’s running some flavor of OSX, so development of applications will hopefully be straightforward. And it includes some very tight integration with Cingular (exclusive in the domestic market for some time to come) in regards to a visual form of voice mail – where each message can be accessed independently, rather than the typical wading through obscure menus. And it includes robust Wifi and Bluetooth 2.0, with some very smart widget integration from Google Maps (GPS of some sort active here), to Weather (location aware), to Stock Quotes. No RSS shown, but I suspect that’s probably not hard to pull off either. Anyway, at a price of most other ‘smartphones’ like by Verizon PPC6700, this is a strong contender. Too bad it doesn’t include an expansion card slot. My only hesitations here are that although it supports IMAP or POP email, getting to my corporate Exchange server is my top priority, as well as the fact that it’s on Cingular, when I’ve recently moved over to Verizon. I may still be drawn to try this out come June. Price is not bad either, at $499 for the 4gb or $599 for 8gb.
Also announced to day was the shipping date (February) and the final name (Apple TV) of the ITV product mentioned here previously. No big surprises there, although it’s now confirmed to include a hard drive (40gb) as well as 802.11n, the speediest of the current close-to-standard Wifi technologies. These features were both rumored over the last few months.
Not mentioned in the Stevenote was the addition of a new Airport Extreme Base Station, shaped to fit squarely below or above your brand-new Apple TV box. See picture at right. The unit is prices at $179, and includes a USB port for shared devices, as well as a hub to connect other Ethernet devices. Obviously, this is also an 802.11n device. Apple has a new feature built in here to provide extended network storage as well. You can connect an external USB hard drive to your network via the USB port, or attach a USB hub to connect multiple devices. Ideal for network-attached storage of large video, image or music libraries or simply for backups.
Unlike back in the day when I was with CNNSI.com, real-time biometric and GPS data on the competitors in the Tour de France is now apparently being published into the public domain. Typolis/Ubilabs have created an amazing mashup between Google Maps and data being published by SRM. Here is the result – realtime tracking of the riders, complete with heartrate, speed and similar metrics. Very slick – and better than what I’ve seen on the ‘big sites’ – including ESPN.com. Too bad we can’t see Lance or his disqualified heirs to the yellow jersey.