Could the Sprint InstinctHD Displace a Pocketable HD Camcorder? [jkOnTheRun]

sprint-instincthdSprint is taking convergence to the next level with the InstinctHD built by Samsung. Obviously, folks would expect CDMA device is more than any average phone at $250 after rebate and commitment — you’ll need an Everything Data plan for the InstinctHD. There’s Opera Mobile 9.7 for the web, Wi-Fi, and stereo Bluetooth support. But there’s a twist to the 5 megapixel camera sensor.

With it, you can capture pics and video in high definition. Couple that with the integrated TV-out connection and that user generated content can be viewed in high def on an HDTV, right from the phone. While you can’t view that content in high def on the phone — the 320 x 480 display clearly doesn’t support 720 lines of resolution needed for HD — the InstinctHD essentially doubles as a 720p handheld camcorder. I’d have to see the output to determine if it rivals that of my Kodak Zi6 or another high-def pocket shooter, but it’s appealing nonetheless.

Even if currently available, dedicated cameras are a shade better than the InstinctHD, it’s only a matter of time before we see more handsets with this feature. And as that happens, there’s less of a need for those single-purpose devices. If I were Kodak, Creative or Cisco — the folks who bought PureDigital, makers of the Flip — I’d be scrambling to add some killer features to my camera right about now. My instincts, not to mention Sprint’s, tell me that decent HD quality capabilities are about to explode onto the phone scene.

Sprint’s InstinctHD launches on September 27 at Best Buy Mobile and will be available in Sprint stores starting on October 11.

Twitter Raising $100M in Funding? [GigaOM]

twitterlogoTwitter is close to securing $100 million in new funding, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. Mutual fund T. Rowe Price and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners are said to be the new investors in the micromessaging site. Spark Capital and Institutional Venture Partners, who have previously invested in the San Francisco, Calif.-based company, are also said to be participating in the funding round.

Twitter doesn’t generate revenue — and hasn’t yet hammered out a business model — but the aforementioned investors are valuing it at around $1 billion, the Journal reports. Twitter has raised $55 million thus far.

Why You Can’t Trust Google [GigaOM]

googlelogoIf, like our little company, you run your business using Google Apps, you’re playing with fire. For time and again, the company has proven that despite all its talk, its offerings are as unreliable as those of any other service provider.

Today, once again, Google’s Gmail service has gone on the blink, thereby disrupting our company’s work flow. For a few minutes, I quite enjoyed the fact that there was a lot less email than usual in my Inbox, but its absence gets in the way of getting any work done. Just to be clear — we have a paid version of Google Apps, so I have a legitimate reason to gripe about the Gfail.

What really bothers me is the crap Google posts on its Google Apps status page. “We are aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users,” it posted this morning. Seriously, guys? If you look at the number of people complaining on Twitter and Facebook, it sure doesn’t look like only a small subset of users is affected by this.

A large number of entities depend on Google for applications that include Gmail. The city of Los Angeles has been moving to Google Apps, as are other civic departments. Even the U.S. government is toying with Google’s offerings. But that would be a mistake — Google, as some of us can attest, is still not ready to reliably offer cloud services. Not even email!

TomTom iPhone GPS Kit Debuts in Apple Store [TheAppleBlog]

tomtom-carkitThose of you hoping to augment your TomTom GPS iPhone experience shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. As Engadget reports, the TomTom iPhone Car Kit page on Apple’s online store temporarily went live earlier today in the UK, with an asking price of £99.95 (around USD $162). It also later went live for the rest of mainland Europe. Briefly.

It was set to ship in about two or three weeks, according to Apple’s website. I say “was,” because it isn’t there anymore. At all. The device has been pulled from the product listings for the time being, and Apple isn’t saying why.

Many suspect that the real reason Apple has temporarily stopped taking pre-orders is because TomTom was offering the car mount and GPS signal booster bundled with its actual navigation app, the one that was released a while ago with its own nearly $100 price tag. The one which many people already purchased, not suspecting that TomTom would offer the software free with purchase of this new hardware. This was apparently generating complaints.

So alienating your number one target user base for a product at launch probably isn’t the best possible marketing strategy. How TomTom and Apple decide to get around this is going to be interesting to see. On the one hand, they could offer rebate vouchers towards the hardware to any customers who’ve already purchased the navigation app on its own. But that would probably result in them taking a huge bath on at least this round of mount sales.

On the other hand, they could simply remove the part in the blurb about the Car Kit including software, and not bundle anything with the device. It’s the solution that makes the most fiscal sense, but as I’m sure TomTom is painfully aware, the cat’s already out of the bag, so it’ll look like the company’s just backpedaling, with customers losing out in the end.

My advice to TomTom: Take the hit and offer the hardware with a discount for existing navigation app customers. Sure, it’ll probably result in a fair size loss until the market of people who already have your app are sated, but you’ll retain customer confidence and good will, and it won’t make you look incompetent and dishonest, which is what will happen if you try to say the bit about the app being included was just a typo.

Those interested in the hardware itself, regardless of selling conditions, will be interested to find that while the Car Kit dock is said to be compatible with all iPhone models, the navigation app only works with the 3G and the 3GS. Looks like the brave claims of iPod touch compatibility have yet to be substantiated. We’ll see if TomTom redacts that particular claim, too.

Great Blog Content vs. Search Engine Optimization [WebWorkerDaily]

SEO Smackdown PanelThis weekend I was on an “SEO Smackdown” panel at our local WordCamp Portland. Two of us were from the content side, while the other two panelists were SEO experts. My take on SEO is that writing compelling, interesting blog content that people will want to talk about and link to will get you around 95 percent of the way to good search engine rankings. If you don’t have great content, SEO is not going to be very useful for you. You might be able to do some SEO trickery to get people to your web site, but if they aren’t impressed by the content when they arrive, they won’t stick around long enough to have any impact.

Here are a few of the tips that were shared during the panel to help you write blog content that will help your search engine rankings with no knowledge of SEO techniques or web development required.

Write Great Titles

Keep in mind that you are writing titles for human beings, so your title should be catchy and convey the meaning of the post as a first priority. While you write the title, you should also be thinking about the keywords that people might want to use to find your content and make sure that you have included a keyword or two in the title. I’ll illustrate this with a couple of examples of good and bad titles.

  • Bad: Dawn’s Thoughts for March
  • Better: Analysis of Facebook and Twitter Demographics in March
  • Bad: Day 1 of LinuxCon
  • Better: Mobile Linux and Open Standards on Day 1 of LinuxCon

Write New and Interesting Content

Write content that people will want to link to and discuss. If you are rehashing the same stories as every other blogger, people are much less likely to read and respond to your content. Write posts that are new, fresh and unique with analysis and insight from your unique background and perspective. You can talk about a news story that other people are blogging about, but spend some time writing about your experiences and ideas that offer a different perspective than the rest of the crowd. Use research in new ways, interview interesting people, and talk about your experiences. By offering something new, people are much more likely to read your blog post and link to it, which is where the real SEO magic is found.

Include Personal Anecdotes

Nothing makes a post unique quite like personal anecdotes based on your experiences. I saw this first-hand when I started writing for WebWorkerDaily. I wrote what I thought was a brilliant post on using Yahoo Pipes and then I wrote a short, quick post about how I dread answering the question, “So, What Do You Do?” during the holidays when talking to non-technical family and friends. The “brilliant” post got a few comments and some traffic, but nothing like the short, personal story about how to answer that difficult question. Human beings read our blog posts, and personal stories resonate with people in a way that technical facts and figures never will.

These are just a few of my tips for writing content that people will enjoy reading and then link to, which generates better search engine rankings.

What are your tips for using content to improve your SEO?

Photo by Nathan Bergey, used under Creative Commons.

NetNewsWire on iPhone Is a Must-try for Google Reader Users [jkOnTheRun]


As a tech writer, I read far more than I write. And most of my reading is through RSS feeds on a computer, be it a netbook or a notebook. I used to read feeds on smaller devices, but the experience was generally sub-par for me. The new NetNewsWire app for iPhone has changed that perception in a big way. I downloaded the free version of the app a few days ago and I’m totally enjoying it. I’m not keen on the advertisements in the free version, mainly because they take up a bit too much space when in landscape mode, so I’m dropping the $1.99 to get the ad-free version. The app is slated for a price increase to $4.99 in October, so hurry up and try the free version if you’re remotely interested.

netnewswire-iphone-feedsYou’ll need to have or create a Google Reader account to use the application, but I’ve been addicted to Google Reader for a few years now. It meets my needs in terms of features and since it’s web based, I can use it on any device I have. For a while, I used the mobile version on different phones, but again, it just wasn’t the best experience for me.

Once NetNewsWire is installed on your iPhone or iPod touch, you sign in with your Google Reader credentials. Synchronization fires up and my few thousand feeds were all pulled down in under three minutes over Wi-Fi. Once you’ve synced your feeds, you can take your device offline and read at your leisure, although you’ll miss out on link tapping and other features that require connectivity.


The app starts up with all of your feed folders and unread counts showing — simply tap one to expand or collapse it to view the feeds. Tapping any feed provides a list of unread articles in chronological order, from newest to oldest by default. You can reverse that order in the settings if your a FIFO kind of person. Each article shows the title, publication time and the first 40 or so characters of the article. Between that tidbit and the title, I know if I want to tap and read it. I don’t see a way to mark an article as read from this view, although there is a “mark all as read” button for each feed.

Tapping an article brings up a beautiful, easy to read view of the full article as well as any images. From here, you can star it, tap the next unread button, or move up and down through the other articles. A “send to” button at the bottom left offers four additional options: email article, post to Twitter, send to Instapaper, and open in browser. I’m finding that there’s little need for the “open in browser” button. Tapping the article title or any link in the post slides the RSS bit to the left and opens a Safari-like experience for the real deal. All of the Safari controls are in the feed reader: pinch and zoom, cut, copy, paste, etc…

netnewswire-iphone-sendtoI can’t say that I’ve looked at every RSS reader for the iPhone, but NetNewsWire has me reading feeds with my handset on the go again. And that’s something I haven’t done for at least six months. The performance is solid and the experience is enjoyable. If you use Google Reader and own either an iPhone or iPod Touch, I consider this app a “must-try.”

Red Hat Has Another Rocking Quarter, Looks Toward Better Economic Times [OStatic]

While the economy is showing only slight signs of recovery, Red Hat continues to turn in stellar financial performance. Yesterday, the company announced its second quarter results, which were quite strong, and this morning Red Hat's stock is up 13 percent. Red Hat's revenues for the quarter were $184 million, a 12 percent increase over last year's comparable quarter. Earnings came in at $28.9 million for the quarter, up from $21.1 million a year earlier.

One of the really notable things about Red Hat's report is that, as has been true for many quarters in a row, all 25 of its biggest accounts renewed, at subscription prices that were 20 percent higher. Red Hat continues to demonstrate that providing support and services for open source software is a winning business model, and that has to give confidence to small startups focused on the same model, including Cloudera and Acquia.

According to Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst:

"IT organizations continue to move ahead with purchases of high value solutions, and Red Hat is capitalizing on this demand as a result of our strong customer relationships and proven value proposition. These factors contributed to our better than expected total revenue in the second quarter, and drove annual subscription revenue growth of 15% for both the quarter and first half of fiscal year 2010. We continue to be optimistic about Red Hat's future and believe the company is well positioned when the economic and IT spending environment improves."

Indeed, as the economy improves, Red Hat stands to do even better. Companies such as The Gap have learned to save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by working with Red Hat, but IT spending still isn't healthy overall.

Red Hat has shown that it has both pricing power over and loyalty from its existing customer base. Not only did all 25 top accounts renew last quarter, but they were willing to pay more. Additionally, customers were willing to lengthen their existing subscriptions for support and services.

At a certain point, it won't be a good strategy for Red Hat to just raise prices and deliver longer subscription contracts. It needs to get new customers, and is working on several channel-oriented initiatives to achieve that. Still, as we've noted before, Red Hat achiveves diversification by soundly investing alongside its software and support efforts. This latest quarter's report included news that the company has bought back $47 million of its own shares. That implies a fair amount of confidence from one of the few public companies focused entirely on open source.


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