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Cat is Reading Constant Touch

Constant Touch
by John Agar

If you know someone who is new to the mobile industry buy them this book. They will love you for it.
Constant Touch is the story of the mobile phone; how the major players came to be. It’s coloured with how both the Thatcher years and unification of GSM contributed to the success of the mobile.
It was published in 2003 however the historical anecdotes, like Ernie Wise making the first call on Vodafone don’t date. I read it when it first came out, dipped into it again for this review and was hooked. I re-read the whole book.



The Greatest Shoemaker Ever


Salvatore Ferragam-o was the greatest shoemaker. An imaginative innovative  craftsman. He made wonderful bespoke shoes for stars from Marilyn Monroe to Eva Peron.

After he died his wife cashed in on his name and went into mass production. Today every major airport has a Ferragamo shop selling shoes, bags, scarves and keyrings. Volume is there. The craft is gone

It’s necessary, to produce the quantity. You can’t make each pair bespoke and tailored. You can’t have hundreds of geniuses with marker pens and chisels, they don’t exist. Just as Mrs Ferragamo didn’t understand craft, most managers of programmers don’t either. Most coders are good, not brilliant and no-where is this pain felt more acutely than in the mobile phone world. There is no glory in being a programmer working for a handset manufacturer. Glory goes to salesmen, marketing and occasionally industrial design. Coders are foot soldiers.

One brilliant “Ferragamo” programmer is worth 200 ordinary ones. Crafted and innovative  code is fast, uses the least memory and the least battery power. These three are a trade-off. Making a routine do all three is something special. Most coders have no idea what will make optimal routines – they leave it to the compiler. Those very few, very special coders who profile code to use the fewest cycles and least memory don’t want to work for the dull phone companies. They go to those their peers admire: Microsoft,  Google and Electronic Arts.

The bible on managing programmers is “The Mythical Man Month” by Frederick P. Brooks. No-one understands the code better than the person who wrote it in the first place. Anything built on one piece of code to do a later job is best done by the person who wrote the first one. Pretty soon the best person to do a whole suite is one person. This is impractical but Brooks says the biggest team should be seven and most of those are just running interference for the three who do the work, with two of the three being sous-chefs for the master.

It’s not that we don’t have good code in phones, it’s that we don’t have the best. Until managers learn to appreciate the super-star coders it won’t change. Most of the shoes sold under the Ferragamo name were not designed until after he died. It’s less surprising none have been as special or daring as his famous wedges.


Fake mac or fake company? Internet detective work rules the roost.

O2 goes HSDPA, they are the  last of the UK networks to launch, perhaps it’s preparation for a 3G iPhone in June.

Not news, but I stumbled upon this and thought it cool. You can sign up to Become a Vodafone beta tester.

M-Pesa to launch in Tanzania. Mobile money is better than the real stuff if you live in a place where you are likely to be mugged. It’s been a huge hit in Kenya and now m-pesa (Swahili for money) is now to roll out in Tanzania.

Motorola are simply to be pitied. So says the Google Android fanboys.

US consumers aint got no rhythm – or perhaps they all have iPods.

Microsoft rediscovers mobile web browsing. In 1999 Microsoft bought the leading Symbian browser developer STNC (Some Things Never Change) in Cambridge. The excellent browser appeared in the Sony CMD-Z5, Benefon Q and Amstrad E-mai@ler (have you noticed how they now don’t have those in The Apprentice). Now it seems that Microsoft is trying again.

Less content with content. The network in the UK with the highest Average Revenue Per User is 3. They do this off the back of content. Principally porn and sport. Now it seems they’ve changed their mind.

Everyone is putting a spin on the Nokia 6212 classic describing it as new in having NFC (it isn’t) or a mobile wallet (that’s seven years old), what makes it special is easy Bluetooth paring.

Everyone agrees on 3G LTE licensing. It’s co-operation and interoperability which made GSM a success and it looks good for the future of 3G LTE. The standard which isn’t called 4G but should be. With Nokia, Sony Ericsson Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NEC, NextWave Wireless,  and  Nokia Siemens Networks all agreeing to play nice.

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