Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Droid Doesn't. Neither do other "Smartphones The Global Recession, business PIM data, and not-so-SmartPhones.

Droid Doesn't. Neither do the other "Smartphones"!

The Global Recession, business PIM data, and not-so-SmartPhones.
 March 3, 2010- Professor Bryan Grant RSCH1203 Georgia Perimeter College

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Consider that we are in a recession.  Recessions result from a cumulative effect of poor decisions, missteps, and inefficiencies spanning the global business communities, governments, and individuals.

The talk of economic stimulus has been hollow, the results insignificant, and the investment cost astronomical.

One way of gaining a lot of ground in turning around the current recession is to empower people everywhere with tools that actually work. Tools should use standards, empower effective collaboration, and minimize redundant tasks.

When your Windows system crashes, is slow, or does not sync reliably, the user waits. Waiting means you lose money, means less business, and depresses economic growth. When Microsoft Office Outlook on PC does not collaborate at all with Microsoft Office Entourage on a Mac, time and money is lost since those two participants have to redundantly find ways to collaborate.

Each time a user must manually re-enter information, such as contact information from a business card or an email, this is time and money lost. Each manual cut n paste to open a website or a map is money lost. VCards are now broken owing to lack of use and variant new implementations. Beaming does not exist any longer except between Nokia and Palm products. Blackberrys cant open vCards from other platforms. The standards for shared calendars amount to no standard at all. Calendars are not shareable unless you work in the same corporate environment. Office now uses .docx formats, breaking with standards used for nearly 20 years.

G20 nations should use their preeminence to development, establish, and adopt common business tools. Many of these standards have already been developed and been available for use by software vendors for the past 12 years. VCards, ical, ldap, are all jargon for standards that enable anyone anywhere to leverage the same data without having to retype it all in. These standards are sporadically used, and are endemic to inefficient economic development.

Adoption and enforcement of the use of common, open source based standards for business tools would truly stimulate economic growth since business operators would be able to quickly and easily collaborate using common tools such as categorized contacts, calendar items, notes, and tasks, all enabled with reminders and prioritization flags. Overlooking the use Categories is very much like having a huge pile of data and simply throwing it all in one box without any means of keeping it organized. Categories enable you to organize, and therefore actually use your data. It is a critical component of any PIM.

For all of Microsoft’s faults, bloated programs, and inherent risks to data loss, as well as proprietary licensing, Outlook is the ONLY game in town that provides a standard suite of personal information management (PIM) applets as well as email, and a way to categorize, thereby organize, all of it. It is the only platform that syncs to practically every handheld device in the market. It is the only tool that has dozens of conduits to services like Plaxo, LinkedIn, etc to make your data portable and shareable.

This is a straightforward issue, and the players consistently ignore any attempt at standards.

Why don’t more people complain? Most people aren’t aware of this issue until they run afoul of this.Most folks new to the environment are unaware that it used to actually work. Still others cannot express their complaint since they do not have the technical jargon/vocabulary to do so. The problem lingers and festers, hindering the workplace from leveraging their knowledge to create more opportunities for growth, innovation, and change.

The buzz of late has been about SmartPhones. The offerings in the market for the past several years are inherently broken.  This article will look at the so-called SmartPhones, and their shortcomings. Going forward, “PIM” implies all four databases complete with reminders, flags, and categories. “Social Media” implies any tools that enable access to services like Plaxo, LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook, share this article links, Twitter, MySpace, BaseCamp, Groove, etc.

Every last one of the competitive offerings are broken in way or another.

Blackberry- The most common Blackberry to small business people is the 8330 Curve. It is also the lowest common denominator in their product lines, being the cheapest and most widely available product. Storms, Tours, etc are better in terms of performance, but most people either don’t have them on their carriers or simply can’t afford them unless their company buys them.

While boasting to have three slots in the top 10 highest radiation (SARS) ratings on the market for any phone anywhere, Blackberry 8330 does all of the PIM functions, reliably and fully. Yet, 8330 is slow, cant access the BB App store without frequent crashes. Social Media access is useless being slow, unreliable, and very limited in use. Yet it sure does a good job of keeping your data synced with Outlook on PC. On Mac, until Sept of last year, there was no sync software for Blackberry, unless you rolled the dice and $60 to use Missing Sync, which is apt to mangle your data. Using a virtualPC on Mac was not possible since the USB cable would not stay connected to the VirtualPC.

The Blackberry User Interface is very poor, without logical links between new phone numbers and existing contacts in the address book, addresses in the address book and maps, graphics and scripts on web pages are just plain broken, you can’t set the default browser to another more functional browser like miniOpera. You have to use the Blackberry one unless you manually run Opera and cut n paste the URL into the browser. Can you say broken?

Windows Mobile. While it does sync to Outlook very well, the rest of the system is slow, crashes frequently, and is problematic when actually making phone calls. It has many similar issues to Blackberry. Social Media is also a non-starter at this point. Apps are few and far between, and most cost a pretty penny.

iPhone, while the bling factor is very high, it does NOT sync fully to Outlook. It does NOT provide a complete bridge between Mac and PC systems if that is your goal.  Categories, Notes, Tasks do not travel well between platforms, and most these don’t sync to begin with. Mac does not have a Notes app that can sync anywhere, UNLESS you buy the data-mangling MissingSync. iPhone is good at linking all kinds of things together... An address can be viewed on a map without manually selecting the address text, and then pasting it into a map application. Websites look terrific and are fast to load. It is good as an entertainment device. There are very many useful apps; some are even good for business. Yet, it does not fully sync to Outlook, nor does MobileMe, the OTA sync solution.

Google's Android, arguably the only open source based cell phone OS platform on the market, does not handle PIM very well at all. Likely this stems from the dysfunctions of the Gmail development team. All these years Gmail has been up and running, do you think there is a tasks or notes feature in Gmail? No. Do you think there is bidirectional sync between any local PIM like Mac Address Book or Windows Outlook? No. One way via data export, not sync. Does Gmail handle Categories? Nope. They call them Groups. Which conflicts since Groups in outlooks are used to create Mail Lists? If you import from Outlook to Gmail, you will mangle your existing email list groups within Gmail unless you manually save them offline, then manually repopulate them after you bring in the latest contacts database. All of this is manual.

Therefore, the Android, being closely related to Gmail and Google apps, is also a non-starter. Oddly, Android is NOT closely integrated even with Google’s own applications! Google reader? Nope. You have to install a broken 3rd party app. Blogger.com? Good luck. Can you edit or cut n paste from an email in Gmail? Nope. You can only annotate an email to reply to or forward, and you can’t select the text from the original message. With Google docs it is only through the browser.  You have to manually retype in your address, though you told the android your Gmail sign on info to begin with. YouTube? Hah. You have to type it manually. (Better hope it doesn’t forget what you typed a week later!) How about Picasa? Nope. 3rd party substandard apps only, so Android provides practically no interface to Picasa for web albums... opting to point people to Flickr instead... which is NOT tightly integrated to Gmail.

And Outlook... ah yes. The fundamental reason why a Smartphone is a Smartphone, at least IMHO, is the ability to use and update your PIM data on the road. All the stuff that is broken between Outlook and Gmail? Most of that is also true between Android and Outlook.
Android ONLY syncs Contacts and Calendar items, and then only from one data store. If you are using say Gmail locally in outlook, and have an exchange account for work, you will only be able to sync with one or the other. Not both. (Blackberry allows full sync to all, so does windows mobile)

Specific gripes for Android:
- The Quick office app did not display a small (1.8mb) PowerPoint presentation. Useless.
- Typing with your thumbs is pretty useful since your other fingers are holding the device in the air, and preventing it from landing on the concrete. I can only get the touch screen keyboard to accurately respond by using a smaller finger such an index finger. Using thumbs, I am all thumbs. poking with one hand and one finger while the other holds the phone, I am a 10word a minute typist. Whee.
- Unless you want duplicates, you must blow away one of the databases, either your Gmail data, or the Outlook data. The "sync" tool does not merge. You pick from Outlook or To Outlook, overwriting one way or the other. How is that Syncing? It’s not.
- The ONLY tool to remove duplicates from your PIM data is Plaxo. If you are use Gmail imap on Outlook, Plaxo has a bug which conflicts with Gmail IMAP. To remove Dup's you have to remove Gmail IMAP from Outlook, restart Outlook, install Plaxo's conduit, run the De-dup routine, remove the Plaxo conduit, re-install Gmail IMAP. Fun!

My conclusion, barring some unattended surprise from a test drive of the Palm Pre, is that I will have to remain a Blackberry customer for the foreseeable future. I will have to manage my Social Media assets on a real computer. I will have to sync with a cable to my real computer. I will have manually cut n paste text to get the job done.

Time testing those two phones, Samsung Moment and HTC Hero, amounts to 6 hours. Time writing up the results so the rest of us will know to give it a pass and use those6 hours to something actually useful? 3 hours.

Imagine all the other users attempting to improve their position by adapting new tools to increase access and usability of their data? Imagine all those out there who simply accept it, and just bang away without a complaint? Add up all those hours. Then look again, with a fresh eye, at the global recession. Broken tools lead to broken bank accounts.


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