1. Look at Japan: US mobile internet will dominate desktop

    A few years ago I went on a business trip to Tokyo for Google. The first iPhone was just released months earlier. Nokia sold the most phones. Blackberry was exploding. I owned a Motorola Q.  

    And here I arrive in Japan. As I walk through the streets, I see cab drivers using full screen mobile phones watching live TV. LIVE TV. I see kids using their phones to buy anything under $50 in 3 seconds at virtually any store in the city. Just swipe the phone over a reader. Done. I see another person take a picture of a QR code (those funny looking black and white squares) on a movie poster in the subway, and then buy the movie ticket right there and then. I couldn’t believe it. And this was almost 3 years ago. 

    Many of the things I saw still aren’t fully adopted in the US, but it’s clear now that I viewed a strangely prescient landscape in Japan. To this day I still get the feeling that I was glimpsing into the future by visiting the other side of the world. 

    So when the pundits of today’s tech media talk about the mobile web, I’m always surprised how long it took for people to realize this trend was going to define us. I felt compelled to write about this though because I still think the magnitude of this change still has not been adequately examined. 

    In Mary Meeker’s recent presentation, she provided evidence that “more users will connect to the Internet over mobile devices than desktop PCs.” To me this reads as: “Hey, sometime soon mobile usage will edge out desktop usage.”

    But after thinking more about my visit to Japan, I’ve come to believe for a while now that the mobile web will absolutely dominate the desktop web. In the same presentation, Meeker does explore the Japan effect on a popular website, although this slide is much less discussed by the media. In the slide below she shows the usage statistics for Mixi, an incredibly popular Japanese social networking site:

    Sure Mixi lends itself to mobile and you could say Japanese trends don’t necessarily apply elsewhere, but I still think it’s striking that most recently 16% of pageviews came from a computer. 16%. How many people building new businesses and web-based services today (except phone-only app developers) really are anticipating that the service may be used 84% of the time on a phone?

    For all the talk about how mobile has changed everything in the last year or two, I’d say the change is just beginning.

  2. Google is now 6.4% of global web traffic, according to DailyTech (via Arbor Networks Security).

    Google is now 6.4% of global web traffic, according to DailyTech (via Arbor Networks Security).

  3. Gapify your logo

    By now you may or may not have heard about the fiasco that is Gap changing their logo to rebrand. It’s set off a firestorm of criticism and has even prompted them to launch a Twitter account that seem to be speaking on behalf of the brand. Gap also mentioned on their Facebook page that they will be considering crowd sourcing a new design. 

    Seems to me that they will be forced to change their logo to stop the bleeding (and the the “American Gapparel” chants). Regardless, here’s some fun takes on how other popular logos can redesign to be as Gapy as possible. More over at Gapify.

  4. Dealing with Unexpected Design Flaws: From Skyscrapers to iPhones

    You can find interesting product challenges in the most unlikely of places. I recently stumbled across a story (thanks @kevinpalms) about the Vdara hotel in Las Vegas, which was constructed in a modern towering curved design. Only problem: the curves create a parabolic dish at the roof which magnifies the intensity of the sun — and directs it right at unsuspecting pool goers. This boosts the poolside temperature by 20 degrees. And in Vegas. Ouch.

    While it would appear that this becomes a great case study in the completely unexpected, the designers actually anticipated this magnification effect and applied a coating to the glass that absorbs the sun by 70%. What the designers didn’t expect was the extent of the sun’s intensity given how wide sweeping the rays were. 

    From the largest skyscraper to the smallest of devices, I also stumbled across an issue with my new iPhone 4 that I that has completely left me as baffled as the pool goers undoubtedly were at Vdara. When making a call and holding the phone up to my ear, I accidentally activate a button on the touch screen with my cheek. Constantly. This occurs about half the time I use the device. 

    The iPhone touch screen detects electrical impulses that surge from your fingers using a capacitive touch surface. Like fingers, your cheek can trigger the same impulses which activate the phone. The iPhone designers thought about this and so included a sensor to turn off the screen when you hold it to your cheek. Only problem is that it’s too sensitive. Slight movements of the phone (such as when you are walking and holding the phone to your head) reactivates the screen.

    Now this seems like a small problem but it’s actually quite intrusive to the core experience. As intrusive as it being so hot at a pool that your plastic cup is melting. For example, during the call friends will say “I can’t hear you.” I immediately assume spotty service but nope, I muted myself with my cheek. I’ve even accidentally conferenced in random contacts with my cheek. Not good. 

    What both the hotel and iPhone example illuminate is that unforeseen consequences of a product will always arise. Always. That’s why you want to build something that’s flexible enough to accommodate changes and can evolve. Vdara built a skyscraper and given the permanence of their design challenge have really dug themselves into a hole. With that type of project an increase in riskiness needs to be matched with a proportionate increase in testing and certainty. It’s a fixed building. They are simply more limited when changing their product and so need to have considered alternatives or at least had a modification plan if things did go wrong. With Apple, while I find the design flaw somewhat unforgivable given how simple it would be to test, they can fix their issue with a software update. And I hope they do so I don’t accidentally conference my mom in on my next business call. 

  5. The gift of blogging (i.e. complaining)

    It’s my birthday today, and I thought there could be no better day to finally launch a blog. I’m looking forward to writing about technology, sharing some experiences from my life, and most likely doing some (constructive) complaining about things I wish I could change in the world. Stay tuned…