Nokia N900 – Two Paragraph Review


With Nokia jumping into Maemo for their future device offerings, there is certainly a lot at stake in terms of closing the UX gap between their competitors as well as enfranchising developers with an open and performance-able platform they can grow their Ovi store offerings on. And with the Nokia N900, they do not disappoint. The device is a huge leap forward in terms of usability and a pleasant device to use and develop for. Nokia used to throw around the term “mobile computer” when describing offerings like the N95 and the N97. This is the first device where this really seems to hold true. The update and firmware repositories in terms of both available content and frequency of updates has been superb. They are truly nimble in this way for the first time, a trend that must continue as they go forward.

One thing that sticks out is that this particular device still caters to the hacker, or maybe what was the early adpoter smart-phone users of the mid-2000’s. The folks who were okay with hacking, installing, tweaking etc… If they mature this platform with this device and bridge the learnings onto a future (and a little thinner 😉 ) mass-market offering, they have really positioned themselves well in the future. Bravo Nokia, great phone!


Podcast: Live from 360|iDev


I recorded an onsite podcast from the 360|iDev conference with some great folks from the Flash Lite and mobile community. Emmanuelle Cipollini from Barefoot Software, James Eberhardt of Echo Mobile, and Dave Yang of swfoo joined me for a quick talk concerning this conference, Flash, and transitioning from Flash to the iPhone.

You can subscribe via iTunes here.

Download the audio file here.

I’ll be posting a rave review on the conference itself later.

I’m Speaking at Mobile Connect Conference on Nokia WRT


For those who are interested or in the Bay Area, I just found out that I’ve been chosen to speak on Nokia Web RunTime at a new convention that is colocated with SDWest next month called Mobile Connect. Details are here:


    90-minute Conference Session, to be held Thursday, March 12th, 2009, 11:15am in the Santa Clara Convention Center


    Mobile Development & Technologies
    You know what your stakeholders want; now it’s time to implement it. Whether you need to determine coding standards or choose technology, this track will help you navigate the last few phases of the mobile software development lifecycle. With courses on programming styles, updates on the latest languages, core build and release techniques, maintenance guidelines and more, you’ll find advice and information on building, deploying and maintaining mobile software in the real world.


    Nokia Web Runtime Widgets
    This session will cover an overview of the benefits and features of Nokia’s Web Runtime technology including the recently announced platform services allowing for device specific access to features including the calendar, contacts, messaging, audio, video, images, GPS, and camera, via JavaScript APIs. The session will feature both best practices in widget development as well as an end-to-end solution demonstration in creating a real functional widget.


    Rob Toole
    Rob Toole has over a decade of experience in bringing rich and engaging experiences to both the desktop and mobile space with companies including, ESPN, Medtronic, and Fidelity Investments. As a recognized community expert in the mobile technology space, Rob has led sessions, product demos, and seminars as a guest for high-profile event organizers such as Adobe, Nokia, and Mobile Monday Boston.

Very excited about this opportunity and hope to see you there!

Race against Runkeeper and Sports Tracker


In starting to get acquainted with my new iPhone, I’ve been testing out some of the new location aware apps offered on the App store. One that caught my eye was Runkeeper. RunKeeper tracks workouts and tracks data such as time and location allowing you to build a diary and share your progress with your friends. I had been using Nokia Sports Tracker on and off for the last year and had been pretty happy with it so I decided to put my Nokia N95 in one pocket and my iPhone 3G in another and see how they matched up. Let the battle begin 🙂

    RunKeeper – My Tracked Workout

    Newcomer first…. RunKeeper is pretty sweet. It does a great job allowing you to see your stored workouts on the device itself and even will leverage maps so you can see your mile markers and route. This is far beyond what Sports Tracker offers in the device, though ST does offer a lot more general data points. The RunKeeper online portal is a little primative but cool allowing you to post your workouts into social platforms such as Facebook and the like. From what I hear they are improving this as we speak.


    Cons include some known issues that are being worked out. First, the touch interface makes it pretty easy to press something by accident when you’re stowing the handset, not their fault but a usability issue nonetheless. I did experience one bug (pictured above) that somehow had me running to Burlington, MA and back (40 something miles!) in under 20 minutes. I think this was caused by the low battery message. This is a killer since you simply can’t just do your run over and disappointing to find that after all that work you don’t have your data. But other than this anomoly it has worked for everytime since.

    Nokia Sports Tracker – My Tracked Workout

    Sports Tracker is still a great application that you can use with your compatible Nokia device. The socialization piece on the website is top notch allowing you to look at a world map and see other workouts in your area as well as post pictures from your workout. It also allows you to share your progress via widgets into other platforms.

    Now the bad. In the same run head to head you can see that my N95 did not pick up the GPS till I was well into my run. This is not a software issue so to say since the built in GPS on this devices takes a notoriously long time to pick up location, but still not cool. Also the visualization on handset is terrible compared to RunKeeper. Strange that they are strong on the desktop and weak on the device here.

In closing, it’s important to note that Sportstracker is free while RunKeeper is not, at least for the premium version which is $9.99. You can also use a free version of RunKeeper which I used for the demo, but you’ll get hit with ads. I did end up buying the full version, but I think there needs to be a few more differentiators other than ads to justify the price here. As for Sports Tracker, it’s hard to tell if it’s more than skunkwork for Nokia as it’s been in beta for a while. It’s a great offering however and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them evolve it someday as they roll out more devices and maybe roll it into their Ovi strategy.

Who wins? They are both great and both specific to the handset, so depending on what you own (Nokia, iPhone) give them a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Aptana tools for Nokia Web Runtime on the money


Aptana has released a suite of plug-ins a few weeks ago supporting Nokia Web Runtime. I was able to load it into Eclipse on my Macbook easily enough and give it a whirl, though they offer their own IDE for those on PC. It’s a free donwload with a 30-day trial available here.

To set some expectations, this tool is not a substitute for the S60 Emulator which gives a more real scenario of how your widget will perform. But what it does do it give you a great idea of how all of your AJAX and DHtml will perform in real-time. I remember testing out some widgets recently both for business and for a talk I gave for Nokia back in October, and it was tedious using a browser for crude tests, let alone constant installs to the phone and S60 emulator. There were security issues as well as CSS formatting inconsistencies, not to mention certain Javascript functions that simply were not supported the same way you’d see it in a conventional browser. This tool really bridges the gap in those instances and I wish I had it months ago. Would have saved me loads of time.

As usual, your hardware will still give you the ultimate watermark of whether or not your code works in the runtime. Other things to note is that it supports a variety of Nokia handsets with different screen sizes, Flash Lite embeds, packaging and deployment to Bluetooth devices, as well as soft-key support. No 4-way navigation, though this is where the emulator comes in. Wonder how this will affect touch as more S60 5th Edition devices entire the product line.

Kudos to the Nokia WRT team for getting another useful tool out for widget developers

2008 Professional Laundry List


2008 is over, thank god. But along with an ailing economy and painful marketplace came a lot of good things. So anyways, here’s my year in review:

    Launched a number of rich applications with my employer Fidelity that I’m very proud of. Look forward to doing that in 2009 as well, hope to continue to raise the bar.

    I spoke at Harvard University, led a lively talk with staff and the user group organizers.

    Was a speaker at a Forum Nokia event with several colleagues in the industry.

    Created and produced a podcast series with friends from BAMaDUG to critical acclaim.

    Made dozens of contacts in the mobile industry at meetups and conferences such as Mobile Internet World, Mobile Monday and MiTX.

    Founded and launched a social venture (still in stealth mode bit will be public soon).

    Participated in beta testing for several Adobe products, under NDA so no comment 🙂

    Broke down and bought an iPhone… after the intimate talk I saw by Phil Schiller (who’s doing the final MacWorld keynote this week in place of Steve Jobs) I couldn’t help myself. The developer tools are fantastic and I’ve already hit the ground running in getting some apps built. Look for that in Q1 this year.

I’m looking forward to what 2009 brings and have a good head of steam for the coming year. I’m excited to be booked for Flash on the Beach in Miami as well Flash on Tap in Boston. I’ll continue finishing my studies at Suffolk and look forward to finishing my MBA and will be a regular at industry events as usual. Look forward to seeing you all.

Mobile Apps in 13 Weeks at MIT


Picked up on this story via TechCrunch. Basically a bunch of kids from MIT built some mobile apps for platforms including Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian as part of a course. They got a little help from the likes of Microsoft, Nokia, and Google which all have offices and research centers strategically located right next to MIT. Interestingly enough no iPhone apps (Objective-C anyone?), but I guess Apple puts more stock in Stanford anyway.

First, these days, is 13 weeks really that fast? These platforms are built for rapid prototyping and launch, so 13 weeks isn’t that impressive, especially from MIT caliber folks who had help from the companies. Another observation is the application ideas. Sure they are interesting but there are no killer apps to be found. Wonder if they went cross campus to the Sloan business school and talked to entrepreneurs there.

I guess my point here is that this kind of innovation should be fostered at other programs, not just MIT. It would also be interesting to see a professional development program offered for folks not in school. And how about build an app in a weekend? You could do that with Flash Lite, the hardest part (as always) would be getting a good idea.

BAMaDUG Episode 3 podcast available

Boston Adobe Mobile and Devices User Group December 2008 meeting - Share on Ovi

Back again for more punishment, we recorded another podcast in Harvard Square the other night. Great conversation and good atmosphere. Here’s the low down:

    Members Rob Toole, Max Antinori, Scott Janousek, Ira Hochman, and Alessandro Pace give a recap of the MAX conference, cover new CS4 features, and the release of the Nokia N97. Recorded on location at Cambridge 1 in Cambridge, MA.

Subscribe via iTunes here!

Download the audio file here!

Hands on the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic


Those are my meat-hooks handling that ultra-cool Nokia 5800. Luckily someone brought one to the event I spoke at this past Friday at the Nokia Research Center. In the limited time I had to play with it, I have to say that I really liked it. They really seemed to have freshened up the S60 UI with v2, feature pack 5. It’s still the regular maze that is S60, but the icons really standout, not to mention fluid scolling that was not really present on joystick based devices on feature pack 3.

There seems to be a strategy in place here to roll out touch across all of the product lines, with speculation of a N-series device coming soon. Of course my one big grip with touch is the lack of keys. How am I supposed to text from my pocket in my MBA class if I can’t feel the keys? 🙂

I’m Presenting at Forum Nokia Tech Day


I’m porud to announce that I’ve been asked to speak at the Forum Nokia Boston Flash Lite Technology Day on October 10th. My session will focus on Nokia Web Runtime and Flash Lite and will highlight the advantages that both platforms offer in bringing your application/widget to market. Click here to see the full agenda.

This free seminar will be held at Nokia’s Cambridge Research Center and will feature a number of industry experts listed here:

Ganesh Sivaraman, Internet and Web 2.0 Business Development Manager, Forum Nokia
Robert Burdick, Senior Architect for Emerging Technologies, Forum Nokia
Bill Perry, Mobile and Devices Evangelist, Adobe
James Talbot, Adobe
Alessandro Pace, Forum Nokia Champion
Scott Janousek, Forum Nokia Champion
Ira Hochman, Untravel Media

This is a don’t miss seminar or any mobile professional or enthusiast. Please feel free to come out and heckle me. Registration is filling up so signup below.

Register here.