Barack Obama’s MacBook Pro

Here’s an interesting article on the power of product placement and branding.

Barack Obama’s MacBook Pro – Apple 2.0 – Fortune Tech.

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Google Discontinues the Nexus One

Due to that, I now officially own a limited edition smartphone! LOL

Click here for the full story -> Google Discontinues the Nexus One Android Phone.

Honestly whilst I understand why the sales have been poor I still feel this is a wonderful device to own and use everyday. Especially when powered by Android 2.2 it feels much faster & stable.

So long Nexus One, long live Android! 🙂

Finally Found My Dyson!

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How many of you have used a Dyson? I first encountered this brand during my study years and have since followed its progress. Personally I find the inventor, James Dyson, to be not just an excellent designer & engineer but also an astute marketeer. Believe me when I say designs don’t just sell themselves without a certain amount of self selling in the process.

That said, from my own experience with a DC unit it really does impress. I vividly recall vacuuming my carpeted living room in my rented UK home and the amount of dust & debris it sucked up was unbelievable. I’ve continued using the unit here until recently when the motor broke down. So the million dollar question now is do I buy a new one or send my DC for repairs? Definitely something to ponder…

Car Design With A Socialnomic Perspective

Note: This article originally appeared in the thinklab blog. Click HERE to be directed to the site. My personal thanks to the thinklab team for supporting & engaging the design discipline in Malaysia as we push towards globalization through design awareness.

Car design is a very interesting and challenging profession. It involves a multitude of people from diverse disciplines and is always under intense pressure to create the ‘what’s next’ for the world to see. In essence car design today can be also be likened to crystal-balling future trends in the effort to always stay one step ahead of the competitors. That effectively puts it in the same league as some of the more technical fields of work such as forex forecasting, advance engineering and social sciences. It’s worth noting also another rather new field which is becoming more and more intertwined with design; socialnomics. Technically speaking it isn’t that new but relatively it is a field of knowledge that has only started to gain prominence in organizations over the past few years. Erik Qualman (author of the book Socialnomics) states that it is quite simply the art of listening to people around you.

This knowledge in the ‘other facet’ of car design is what will differentiate auto designers of the past with the designers of the future. Honestly speaking, car designers of today can no longer be complacent and delve only in their field exclusively supported by what they learned in college. No, they must evolve.

Allow me to give you two examples from the past 6 months. On 7th January the Ford Motor Company announced they will partner with notable social media companies like Openbreak, Pandora and Stitcher to bring Twitter & internet radio control to their cars. Simply put, users will soon be able to social network directly from the comforts of their car interior (with safety systems engaged of course) using their smartphones. This initiative is a breakthrough for a primarily traditional company like Ford, especially when you take into account the current crisis they are facing. But adapt they must to these up coming technologies and trends to stay one step ahead of their competitors. Subsequently on May 13th, General Motors also announced their intention to partner with Google to implement the latter’s Android OS into their cars. This collaboration would allow users to control in-car systems like navigation, multimedia and telephony via their Android powered smartphones.

So what gives? Why would these stalwarts of the auto industry go on a relatively foreign tangent from their usual self? It is obvious they recognize the need to change from their usual business model and typical mode of operation. This need to change is also known as a tipping point. A point where things or ideals veer off to another seemingly unexpected direction but normally borne out of necessity.

You would ask me now, how does this all relate to DESIGN? It’s pretty straight forward really. Designers also need to evolve in meeting the challenges & needs of social media. Designs need to be tuned towards the complexities of social media where integration is key. This sounds a lot more daunting than it is but in any case shouldn’t be taken lightly. The good news is that most of the young designers today (Gen Y’s especially) are already participating in social networking, thanks to their affinity to this thing called the World Wide Web. All things considered, there are a few key points which I feel must be kept in mind in order to ensure sustenance in this new design agenda:-

Front End Processing is the first thing designers must comprehend & understand. Know what social networking & social media is all about, how it began, where it is today and what holds for it for the future. As more and more of this new technologies are being used by people in cars, there is a need to ensure they are used responsibly and efficiently. Car designers must be able to think in a broader perspective where aesthetics isn’t just enough any more.

Intrinsic Integration is the next bit of skill which will differentiate truly successful designs from the mediocre. In a world where socialnomics is a lifestyle, software & hardware integration will define ease of use and GUIs & HMIs will be the main differentiator which sets designs apart. Components in the car will not only have to talk to each other but also listen in to conversations from the Web and location-based services. Designs must be functional in meeting these needs. Speaking of which…

Location-based Awareness will be the next big thing. Like a killer-app for computer OS’. Once the powers-that-be sort out the logistics and processes required to implement this en-masse I am confident it will become mainstream and be integrated into our everyday lives. For design, specific requirements must be met to ensure the integration is seamless and intuitive.

From what you’ve read I reckon by now you would have noticed that I didn’t specifically delve into normal design ideologies. It is my intention to do so. Let’s be clear, social media is about listening and push information. Design on the other hand is about visual aesthetics and form follow function or function follow form. How can these two specialized fields work together? Actually, they are already deeply rooted together but this is evident more in product design than car design. Having said that, I am confident it will get there very soon.

Allow me to hypothesize; what if we started to sell cars and tie each sale with a contract to a mobile service provider? The customer will not only get a car but also a smartphone which can interact with all his or her social media networks AND the car as well. Mobile number portability will allow seamless transfer of existing number(s) to this new set, should the customer wants to. For the carrier, they will be able to grant greater usage of mobile internet traffic and possibly secure valuable post-paid customers who signs up to data contracts. From here on the possibilities for both the customer and service providers (car & carrier) is almost limitless. Navigation, location-based advertising, social networking, live & instantaneous CRM and B2B + B2C integration are just some of the possibilities.

And guess who will be tasked with designing the interfaces, graphics, haptic responses, gadgets and accessories to power all that? Make sense now doesn’t it? 😉

Anticipating The Apple iPad

I was walking about The Gardens and Mid Valley Megamall over the weekend, frantically looking for Moleskin notebooks and a sports armband for my Nexus One (for them days when I actually have time to run). In the process I visited a handful of shops selling iPod accessories which I reckon would have something compatible with my phone. Whilst I was browsing I couldn’t help but notice the amount if iPad accessories already available on the shelves. To think, the gadget hasn’t even launched in Malaysia yet!

I guess it’s only a matter of time before Maxis officially brings it in. But retailers are already stocking up with everything iPad to ensure they ride the wave from the onset. Interest on the iPad has, afterall, reached fever pitch since its launch in the US. 2 million units I’m as many months. Heck, it even beat the iPhone in terms of sales generated within the first 2 months of release.

It should be interesting to see if the iPad can replicate it’s worldwide success here in Malaysia.

Over A Month With The Google Phone (Nexus One)

It’s been a solid few weeks now since I’ve used the Nexus One as my primary communication device. Thus far I’ve brought it around Malaysia and roamed over to Europe with it too. Pretty soon I could be testing the unit over in North America as well.

Truth be told it is a very convenient device to use everyday. Android works quite seamlessly & intuitively as it switches between service providers, WiFi networks and data services. Signal reception, however, isn’t impressive. That’s a common trait of concealed antennas I guess. But ten folds better than the E90 for sure.

Communication capabilities are top notch here but you need to have data services active all the time. It’s true what they say, the Google phone really shines when it’s connected to the Web. Right now I use this unit extensively (almost religiously in some aspects!) for emails; both corporate & web based, social networking (Facebook, Twitter), location services (Gowalla, Foursquare), instant messaging (Gtalk, Fring) and blogging (WordPress). The beauty of open source platforms is the huge library of apps available to users. Obviously Android doesn’t have as many as Apple’s App Store but it’s getting there and the latest reports it is gaining market share at a phenomenal speed. I also use my Nexus One for creative photography (Photoshop, fxCamera) and multimedia too (Zimly, Music Junk) so I can indulge in my hobby & interests wherever I am. I can also attest that news gathering (push news?) is greatly enhanced by the many Widgets you can download which ticker the most up-to-date data/information to your personalized screen. Remember, you can personalize 5 home screens to match your lifestyle where all your shortcuts, Widgets and links are displayed for quick access.

In spite of the sluggish, lesser-than-expected sales success and over hyped marketing leading to the soon-to-happen revamp of the Google Phone business model (from web based sales & support to service provider linked) I stand firmly in my opinion that this is one of the better phones available in the market. It has very unique features (like built-in voice recognition/search for almost EVERYTHING) and exceptionally well built too. I feel people are hesitant to get one primarily because of the lack of support & subsidy from carriers. A worthy alternative if I may recommend is the HTC Desire which is basically the same phone and will be launched in Malaysia soon. I had a look at a unit today and personally I find it’s a little less refined than the Nexus One (sounds biased I know!).

So if you’re in the market for a new integrated communications device, do your benchmarking well and have a feel before committing. I am more than pleased with the Nexus One but that doesn’t mean the other offerings (HTC Desire, iPhone 4G, Motorola Droid) are not as good. It comes to what you want from technology, brand and quality. Choose well and it’ll last you a good few years.