The Smart Digital Assistant

While considering my next phone purchase, I thought deeply on what I really wanted in a phone.  One of my asks: after my morning alarm wakes me in the morning I want it to start dictating relevant information.  I’d like to know what the weather is going to be like today, and any appointments I have, and if it’s garbage day, and if a movie I want to see is coming out.   I’ve seen this in movies… why don’t we have something like this available now?  The smart phone is the most personal tech gadget ever created, yet there is still plenty of room left making it personal.  Where is our friendly (sometimes sassy) smart digital assistant (SDA) we were promised?

To me, this is the holy grail of tech.   It is the digital compliment to our own brains.  Whichever tech company who executes this best will be crowned King.

I saw this article about an IBM team creating a digital Jeopardy opponent and I’d love to think artificial intelligence is a big part of the puzzle.  IBM doesn’t seem a likely candidate to bring this to consumers, so who will?

Google of course is the most likely company.  People who say Google should just stick to search and pass out dividends clearly do not think long term.  I think Eric Schmidt is the only CEO is the race that is indeed already thinking about this problem.  Microsoft is so far behind it would be hard to see them come back, but if they developed something wonderful like this, they could.  Balmer would have to go though.  Facebook is too busy trying to dominate social, which is a vital component, but only a piece of the pie.

So the questions is, which phone do I get?  I think the choice is obvious: my next phone will be an Android.  I hope I won’t have to wait too long though to have Kit read me my morning headlines though.

An asside: will the system running the SDA be owned by a single company, or can it be built openly?

Thoughts on Chrome OS (by a Google fan)

Despite my history with the internet, and my love of Google products, Chrome is a tough sale for me.   The idea of a internet-based operating system is exciting, but the benefits of Chrome OS over using Chrome on a Win7 laptop seem sketchy.

So, what are the benefits over a Win7 laptop?  From what I can read, SPEED, SIMPLICITY, CONNECTIVITY, and SYNCING are Chrome’s main advantage (and maybe battery life).  Do these advantages tip the scale over what I’d miss from a Win7 laptop?  Hard to say.

Google hasn’t really defined Chrome OS’s positioning in the marketplace.  Despite advertisements suggesting it is a disposable machine, the costs of laptops are still expensive.  We won’t really know how much these devices will sell for until it is released, but will the really be under the $300 price tag?  I don’t think so, and to me that isn’t disposable.   Most likely, considering they’re hard-wired to carriers, they will be heavily subsidized ($0 price tag?), but I am not willing to add another monthly bill, and I don’t think many other consumers will either.

Where I think Chrome might work: educational and business environments (Update: that’s their strategy?).  If Google can convince enough organizations to switch to the Google way, these small machines will be a great and inexpensives productivity tool. $300-$500 may be “disposable” to an organization, certainly when you consider the cost saved by avoiding expensive IT setup costs of regular work PCs.  Chrome OS machines are not only disposable, but sharable.  Pass a netbook off to a coworker and they instantly have their own work session.  I don’t think Schmit has said so, but I believe that is their plan with these devices.

Verdict: As a consumer, I just don’t see enough benefit right now.  If I wanted a 2nd computer, I’d get a fancy new Android tablet.  For work and educational use I can see a real benefit in using a Chrome OS netbook, and I think they could really take off here.  We won’t be seeing banks switching over any time soon (ever), but small and medium businesses could really benefits from this solution.

Looking in the crystal ball… will Chrome OS be successful?  The greatest battle Google has is convincing people they can do everything they’ve traditionally done in Window on the internet.  In the coming years I don’t think people will need much convincing.. that concept is an unstoppable train at this point.  In the short term, however, Google will have to fight for every contract they can.  Also, Balmer and Microsoft won’t go down easy.  I would be very surprised if Windows 8 wasn’t much more internet friendly (but maybe too late to the party).  I’ll be bullish and say, despite the challenges, I think Google will have success with Chrome OS.

As an aside.. I have a hard time understand are Chrome Apps.   I’ve tried a few on my desktop Chrome (HuffPo, NYTimes, Flixster), and for each one I realize they looked like they were designed for the iPad.  The problem with this?  iPad apps were designed for a touch interface.  Why do these app developers think that these interfaces will work as a Chrome “App” when they really don’t work as a website?   Maybe this will be fixed when the OS matures.