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The Brydge for iPad – Review

March 3, 2013 1 comment

I have been meaning to write this for some time now that the Brydge is shipping and it’s been in my hands for the past couple months. Click here to see the video overview of the Brydge if you are not familiar with this iPad keyboard and cover.

The Back Story

A few years ago a friend, Eddy, and I were working together for a startup. The startup was on its last legs and during the summer of 2008 there was no light at the end of this tunnel as most venture capitalists were not willing to invest with the impending financial decline. As a result, we both had an extended vacation. At this point I decided on a career change to pursue Internet marketing with the consumer division of Symantec, started this blog and co-authored a web-comic with another friend.

Eddy went down a different path of self enlightenment and discovery. Eddy was always very creative and good at building things whether it was carpentry, electronics or other types of design. For exaample, while we were still at the start up, he worked evenings and weekends building a Segway. After our days at the start up ended, he spent most of his time at the techshop as a prototype builder-for-hire. When he wasn’t being paid to build something, he was building things out of his own curiosity. Things like colorful 3D printers back in the pre-hype days of 3D printers.

Fast forward to 2012 and Eddy emails me a Kickstarter link to a bluetooth keyboard for the iPad. This was his latest project and it had raised $800K. The promotional tagline for the Brydge was that it made your iPad look like a Macbook Air. This was definitely an interesting concept and the protoype looked very impressive in the videos. There have been other iPad keyboards on the market so what made this one so different? Having known Eddy for so long, I had the impression that it was not only going to be well designed, but functional and might actually make my iPad look like a MacBook Air.

The Review

The Brydge is pretty much what it promised it was going to be in the original Kickstarter campaign. There are now three versions, the Brydge with a brushed aluminum keyboard with or without speakers and a third version with a polycarbonate keyboard. The brushed aluminum version definitely feels more like a Mac keyboard with the same texture and a good weight. The Brydge supports iPad 2, 3rd and 4th generation models.

The element of the keyboard that most impressed me is the ease with which you connect the iPad by sliding into the clamp or hinge of the Brydge. The clamp is extremely well designed, very solid and feels sturdy. Setup is as simple as pairing a bluetooth device to your iPad.

Carrying around the Brydge connected iPad is like carrying a Macbook. The iPad easily folds down on the keyboard, looking like a clamshell and goes to sleep. There is a little extra weight added onto your iPad with the Brydge, but that makes the product feel that much more stable when placed on a table with no fear of the iPad tipping over when it is open. The clamp also alllows you to display the iPad in a range of angles depending on your preference, going from 90 degrees or greater if you want to get just the right angle to view a movie on your iPad. If you can image giving a presentation on your iPad or letting your kids use it for games or videos, this flexibility is a life-saver.

The keyboard itself works great and is very responsive, springing back upon touch as I type. You’ll have to get used to the width of the keyboard which matches the length of the iPad resulting in a more compact layout. Nonetheless, it takes no time to adjust and you’ll be blogging away in minutes. Also, the keyboard sleeps after a minute or so of non-use further maximizing battery life. Typing a key wakes the keyboard up within a second or two. One hidden gem of the keyboard is it runs up to 2 months between charges…seriously?

The Brydge is available online at www.thebrydge.com and goes from $150 for the polycarbonate version to $220 for the brushed aluminum with speakers. The aluminum version are on back order due to high demand. I have used the Brydge with and without speakers and find the speakers to be a nice to have, but not needed for everyday use.

If you happen to get the Brydge sometime in the near future, you’ll wonder how you were able to use your iPad without it especially when typing emails, blogs or note-taking. In the meantime, here is a closeup of the Brydge for your visual pleasure.

You still have a Blackberry?

February 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Some habbits are hard to give up whether that is staying up late, sleeping in on the weekends or giving up on your Blackberry. I’ve been a BB user for the past 15+ years and it has been faithfully supporting me througout every phase of my career. These days when I bring out my BB and lay it on the meeting room or restaurant table, it suddenly becomes a topic of conversation. I hear stories of how those that have switched to an iPhone can now browse the web that much easier or download some fabulous apps from the App Store.

Great, I think to myself “Is it time for a change?” Considering I still have my BB, the answer has been no.

Now the answer is not so straight forward. Having an iPad for the past few months, I have a new appreciation for the amount of productivity the next gen of mobile devices bring. I can use my LinkedIn app on my iPad but not my BB. I can easily visit my bank apps on my iPad but not so easily on my BB. The list is getting longer by the day.

So has the market changed faster than I have? That will always be the case. Or has the value of mobile devices surpassed what my PC can deliver with regards to ease of use and productivity for specific needs. More likely. The fact that I am writing this on my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard is a good indicator.

That leaves me with a more difficult decision these days. When will I switch from BB to a new phone that gives me even more productivity than what my PC delivered.

Status Quo Vs. Innovation: Kindle 2 Buries Text-to-Speech

March 1, 2009 1 comment

Short-SightedOne of the biggest challenges to innovation is the status quo. While the defenders of the status quo, a.k.a. the short-sighted ones, would like to continue to protect their territories, markets and margins, they are continually being pushed by innovation. Ultimately, the ‘short-sighted ones‘ have to make a choice to embrace innovation or try to block it.

Amazon.com chose the later when faced with objections from the Authors’ Guild about text-to-speech capabilities in the Kindle 2. Seth Godin writes about other recent missteps by similarly short-sighted groups.

Ultimately the Kindle 2’s fate will be determined by the market. Hopefully a challenger to the Kindle 2 will appear with full text-to-speech capabilities so that those with impaired vision will be able to enjoy literary works like the rest of us.

Unlocking Business Opportunities

Kindle 2

What Amazon may not have fully thought through are the businss opportunities in a market enhanced with text-to-speech. For example, they could offer a selection of voice over actors for any book on the Amazon store. This could range from Paris Hilton reading The Little Engine that Could all the way to Patrick Stewart reading Moby Dick. How about having a selection of actors reading Moby Dick and let the customer choose which one to hear? What if Amazon offered it up in a marketplace like iTunes at a price of 99 cents where voice actors can upload their versions of stories that can be imported into the ebook on the Kindle 2?

And what real leverage does the Authors Guild have over Amazon? Can’t Amazon simply choose to not distribute books that disagree with their text-to-speech implementation on the Kindle 2? But the Authors Guild does not have to be locked out of this potential revenue stream and, in fact, the more voice-enabled books there are, the more books they will sell. Maybe I am just naive to think everyone would benefit or maybe the Authors’ Guild are short-sighted?

Amazon may have such a plan in place and they are simply working through logistics. I hope that is the case. There are other platforms, besides the Kindle, that can also take advantage of integrating text-to-speech into ebooks. Android already has a few text-to-speech and ebook apps on the marketplace. The next step would be to combine the two and allow users to upload their audio readings of the books. Eventually more well known voice actors i.e. LeVar Burton may join in and offer their interpretations at a slightly higher premium price.

There will continue to be ‘short-sighted ones’ that prefer the status quo in the face of change. In those cases, just look at how these organizations fared:

1. The RIAA and MPAA are losing the battle to justify lost revenues in light of the trend towards file sharing networks

2. Microsoft’s anti-trust activities failed to maintain browser marketshare against alternatives offering innovation

3. The Republican party completed an epic fail in losing the presidency and any influence in the house and senate in election cycle 2008

All I can say is that if you favor innovation then you will NOT chose to click that ‘Add to Cart’ button for the Kindle 2. 

Photo Credit: dekuwa , rajeshvj

G1 Android Wishlist for 2009

January 2, 2009 2 comments

Potential

2009 is the year of Android and G1, at least that is my hope. There is a lot of potential in this product, but potential doesn’t get you success or superbowl rings, just ask Tony Romo, T.O. and the Dallas Cowboys. I found a post talking about a Top 10 G1 wishlist which covered the most important feature missing in the G1, the on-screen keyboard. With the upcoming ‘cupcake’ release that will hopefully be remedied. Unfortunately as of Jan.1 in CA, there is no more texting and driving so my #1 reason for wanting the on-screen keyboard is no longer valid. Not to worry there are a few other reasons for wanting the on-screen kb which I will not bore everyone with unless you really want to hear it.

Continuing on with the G1 Android wishlist, here are a few that I think can take this product from just a smartphone to my most favorite gadget EVER!! At this moment, that spot is being held by the Flip Mino HD, which I got a few weeks ago and absolutely cannot live without.

SIDEBAR When I was growing up one of my responsibilities was family video recorder. I had to lug around these giant video cameras to record family vacations and social events on VHS tapes. The weight of this on my shoulder alone cost me any shot at a professional sports career. The fact that I had no hops, just average speed and was 5’6″ didn’t help either. Fast forward 15 years and the video recorder is the size of a cell phone, records in HD and is as easy as pushing a little red button. If I had this when I was growing up, then my mom or dad could have been the one recording and I would have been able to protect my shoulder for football, basketball or baseball. I guess these things happen for a reason. 

Back to the G1 Android list, here are a few things that I think will continue to fully exploit the G1’s potential. (In no particular order)

1. Better integration with the accelerometer and screen rotation in all apps. It is already integrated into the video player and Steel showed that you can do this with the web browser, what about other apps like fBook, WikiNotes, photos?

2. More battery life. I am tempted to buy the higher capacity battery. Power Meter is a very cool utility that takes on managing the battery for me, but I need to be able to go longer between charges.

3. More apps that integrate camera with context like shopsavy and wikitude. Augmented Reality is not a future innovation, it is here and getting integrated in many places. There are a ton of opportunities to blend context into the camera that will make people happier, more aware of their surroundings, save them money and connect them to the world among other things. We are just scratching the surface of what is possible and I would love to see the G1 be the device to bring AR into the hands of consumers. Read my earlier post about AR for other uses.

4. Mario Kart + accelerometer integrated would be killer. This is a personal wish based on the cravings of my innerchild. But it would be cool, no?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Luigi Travels the Rainbow Road in Mar…“, posted with vodpod

Hope you enjoyed my take on the G1’s potential.

Photo Credits: Cheryl Syverson

Augmented Reality – G1 app to add context to the stars?

December 20, 2008 5 comments

I just read Jennifer Bruin’s blog post on an app for the G1 called Wikitude AR Travel Guide. The app employs augmented reality, AR. If you don’t know anything about AR, like me, reading the wikipedia entry is very helpful.  

After reading it, I can think of other ways to employ it for everyday use. Here is an interesting idea.

 G1 + AR = Astronomy 101 for Everone

astronomy

Ever find yourself lying down on a field of grass or hood of your car, looking up at the stars in the clear sky and wishing you learned how to identify the Big Dipper, Polaris or Orion? Never? Ok, but what if you did? What if you can take your G1, point it to the sky and have it identify constellations for you as you look through the camera lens? Think of all those millions of children that never had the opportunity to learn about the stars or astronomy, now having all this information in their hands. In addition to identifying the stars, there can be more context of each star given on the screen, like origin of the name, when it was discovered and other interesting stats. Make astronomy fun again. (was it fun to begin with?)

Take it step farther and incorporate interactive learning so that the patterns are not just being identified for you, but the G1 is teaching you how to identify them yourself like in this tutorial.

With this kind of app, an interesting case can be made for the G1 to be subsidized by schools for students. Isn’t learning supposed to be fun and interactive?

Interested in Augmented Reality? Read this wrap up of milestones in 2008 for AR.

Where has my browsing gone, according to Chrome

December 16, 2008 Leave a comment

After spending a couple of weeks with the Google Chrome browser, I now can see an advantage of the ‘new tab’ screen that presents your top 9 sites most frequently visited. On the right side you’ll see an image of my top 9 and here is a brief description of my daily Web browsing which might tell you a little about me.

Row 1 (from left to right)

my most visited sites

Facebook : I spend a good a mount of time either on facebook or at least keeping the window open to check out what people are up to. Lately I have been connecting with a lot of old college buddies which has made me spend additional time catching up with what they have been doing for the past decade. I only play one or two games and visist a few of the groups that I am a member of.

WordPress – WordPress is my blog platform and I am on this site a lot, especially when I get writer’s block and just sit there looking at a blank new blog post screen. I also enjoy looking through the blog stats and where people are doming from.

CNN.com – CNN.com actually grew into my top 9 during the election. It was a tight race between CNN.com and Foxnews.com over the past few months and during the elction they were neck and neck, vying for my attention. After the election though, CNN.com won out because I felt they delivered more varied viewpoints on news stories while FoxNews.com was tilted toward the conservative viewpoint. I still visit FoxNews.com from time to time to get another angle on stories and they do a better job at highlighting local news around the nation. Oh and their Strategy Room during the election was the best web programming around.

Row 2

iGoogle – This is my home page. You can’t see too clearly what widgets i have but they are Hulu.com, Google Reader, Google Docs and weather. I recently added fora.com to my home page based on a recommendation, but haven’t really been using it, so it will probably get removed soon. 

I used to go to myyahoo.com as my home page, but slowly moved away from that. It wasn’t a one day switch. I can remember having a myyahoo.com and igoogle page running in parrallel. I would use myyahoo mostly for news and stocks. Once I started using CNN more for news and was less interested in stocks, I stopped going to myyahoo.com. I still visit myyahoo.com to check on how my fantasy football team is doing, but that is pretty much it. I never really thought about how much less I use yahoo now than say a year ago, but it is pretty remarkable. MyYahoo.com was my default page for almost 3 years.

I would say that the first four on this list are high traffic sites for me and the next two are medium trafficked sites.

Twitter –  I just started using Twitter and while I go to the website to look at profiles of people following me or for searching through tweets, I primarily use tweetdeck to monitor tweets of those that I follow. TweetDeck is a very cool application that allows you to organize groups of people you follow and filter out the rest. This is extremely useful  as your twitter network grows and you get inundated with tweets. 

LinkedIn – I am trying to figure out the best use of LinkedIn. It is great as a contact database for my professional network, but as I wrote earlier, I don’t make status updates in LinkedIn because I don’t think it is appropriate for the audience. I turned on the WordPress application today and linked my blog so we will see how that goes.

Row 3

CraigsList – This is on the top 9 primarily because I have been looking around for furniture for the kids’ rooms. I was able to get a great deal on a couple of beds, dressers and a desk and only had to drive 5 minutes to pick it up. Amazing. Craigslist will probably stay on the top for the time being as I try to sell the kids’ old beds and their car seats. Gotta love growing children.

BacknGear.com google home page – This is my e-mail, docs, etc… all powered by Google for backngear.com.

Meebo – I have written about Meebo in a previous post. I am still a big fan.

Finishing up

So there you have a day in my web browsing shoes. There are a ton of other things I do online that aren’t in the top 9 but are just as important. For example, I follow up on a lot of links through my Twitter network. 

It may be interesting to have your top 9 sites updated on your facebook or google profile so your contacts can see as well. Since Chrome is an open platform, maybe someone can write that app?