Thursday New Tools Feature: No 4G 4 U, Netbooks No Longer an ARM and a Leg, and More

Lots going on in the New Tools world this week. Here's a quick recap of some some of the most important things happening in the tech sphere:

  • NDN and the New Politics Institute held an event on Tuesday entitled New Tools for a New Era. Hopefully some of you were able to join us in person, or via our new NDN Live Web cast. In case you couldn't make it, I'll be posting videos and a recap from the event tomorrow, so be sure to check back then - it was really good (and I say that as an objective, unbiased observer).
  • Several prominent articles this week explored how the blurring of the line between phones and computers is both creating new opportunities and posing new challenges. First, an article in Wired discusses the spread of "iClones," phones from other manufactures that closely mimic the iPhone's features and interface. Another piece in Wired looks at how others are copying Apple's innovative (and highly lucrative) App Store model.
  • A great article in the New York Times this week raises many of the same questions I asked in a previous post about location-aware mobile technology, one of the many advances enabled by the proliferation of smart phones and apps. It's well worth the read.
  • Two more articles in the Times look at how mobile phone processors are beginning to rival PCs in their functionality. The first looks at how phones are beginning to break into the education sector. From the article:

    On Tuesday, Digital Millennial will release findings from its study of four North Carolina schools in low-income neighborhoods, where ninth- and 10th-grade math students were given high-end cellphones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile software and special programs meant to help them with their algebra studies.

    The students used the phones for a variety of tasks, including recording themselves solving problems and posting the videos to a private social networking site, where classmates could watch. The study found that students with the phones performed 25 percent better on the end-of-the-year algebra exam than did students without the devices in similar classes.

    The other looks at how the ARM processors used in many smart phones are being adapted to create very inexpensive (~$200) "netbooks," stripped-down laptops with limited functionality. These ARM-based netbooks might even run on Google's Android platform, which currently powers Google's G1 smart phone. 

  • These are certainly exciting prospects for those of us interested in the possibilities for using mobile technology and cheap laptops as instruments of social and political progress (see A Laptop in Every Backpack and Harnessing the Mobile Revolution to see just how much potential there is). But it's not all good news this week; because they will use broadcast TV's old frequency blocks, the delay of the DTV conversion will likely also delay the development of 4G networks and devices. However, the stimulus money should get the DTV conversion moving, and hopefully avoid any further delays (it's currently been pushed back until June).
  • Obama's new site for the stimulus bill,, was built using Drupal (just like this site!), which is a big deal for nerds like myself. Drupal, for those of you that don't know, is a free, open-source content management system. The Administration's embrace of Drupal is another signal to us that they "get it." 
  • Finally, a word about search ads. As I wrote last week, search ads are a highly effective and cost-efficient way of reaching targeted audiences (the Obama campaign saw an ROI of around 15:1 on their search ads). This market has recently been dominated by Google, which now owns two thirds of the search ad market share. However, in an attempt to shake things up and gain back market share, Yahoo has just introduced new search ads with images and video (they are normally text-only). This is something search ad buyers should certainly consider, as it mixes some of the benefits of search and banner/display ads.