Mobile Tech Manor #100: A Look Back


It is hard to believe this is the 100th time I’ve shared my past week with you. Mobile Tech Manor (MTM) is physically much the same, but there’s no doubt I’ve changed over these 100 columns. This is such a milestone that it seemed fitting to look back at how my home office has evolved over the life of the column, and to reminisce over the major events in the mobile tech space. Thanks for sticking with me all of this time, and I’m humbled that so many of you come back each week.

The beginning

The first column of this series chronicled my new life as a full-time tech writer with the GigaOM network. That was a big change for me, having “retired” from my previous life as a geophysicist, and then being able to devote my attention to my driving passion: mobile technology. The wonder of the new venture was just sinking in, as this passage drives home:

“This has been a long time goal of mine and I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not just dreaming.  I have longed to write for so many years and now that I can do just that is quite heady and I am a very content person.  Thanks to Om Malik and all the great folks at GigaOM for making this dream a reality.”

Working with the GigaOM team has indeed been a dream, and I consider myself very fortunate to be associated with such distinguished professionals. I’m a better writer due to the constant guidance of the writers and editors at the network; the improvement in my writing couldn’t be more evident than reading the first column. You don’t even have to read the column, you can see in the thumbnail of the article (right) the too-long paragraphs, and the sentences attempting to break the record for the “most rambling.” It embarrasses me to see this.

In spite of the poor writing, looking back at that first column shows how far the mobile tech space has evolved in just a couple of years. That week I was testing a new Windows Mobile (s msft) phone with a “disappointing” 64 MB of user memory. Phones with 16 GB of memory are commonplace now, and WinMo is on the shelf waiting for Windows Phone 7 to arrive. Back then, I was also having a look at two-feature phones. You may remember those, prior to the rise of the smartphone.

MTM #25- those new netbook things

Jumping to the 25th column shows how far the mobile space has evolved since it was written. That week, two new gadgets arrived to the Manor: one of the first netbooks to hit the scene and the biggest laptop I’ve ever used, then and still today.

The HP Mini 2140 was HP’s (s hpq) refresh of the very first 10-inch netbook, and a good refresh it was. It’s still competitive with similar netbooks on the market today. The 2140 shipped back then with Windows XP, as Windows 7 wasn’t released. That didn’t stop me from installing a beta version of Win 7 on the 2140 which ran “very well.” The only real problem I chronicled with the Mini 2140 would end up getting addressed by HP in subsequent models:

“The 10-inch screen of the 2140 suffers from low resolution, the affliction that affects most netbooks.  It can be a bit taxing to do a lot of web surfing at that low resolution so it will be great when HP makes the higher resolution version available soon.  This netbook would be killer with 1366×768 and would easily be the best netbook on the market.”

The other laptop that arrived at the Manor that week was as far at the other end of the mobile spectrum from the netbook as a notebook can be. At the time, I said the Lenovo ThinkPad w700ds was “easily the biggest laptop I have used as it packs a full 17-inch display, WACOM digitizer, numeric keypad, many ports and the second 10.6-inch screen that slides out of the 17-inch screen.  It’s the only two screen laptop I am aware of and it commands attention when it is fired up.”

This laptop is still available today in a largely unchanged form, aimed at engineering and graphics professionals. I still remember the ruckus it caused when I took the w700ds to work in the local coffee shop. That almost threw my back out, so I only did it once.

MTM #50- small tablet in the house

Column #50 covered my use of one of the coolest handheld computers to hit the Manor, and it’s one that’s still available today. The Viliv S5 ran Windows XP and packed a full computer into a form with a small 5-inch touchscreen. This column covered the integrated update process in detail, a nice inclusion on all of Viliv’s ultraportable products.

You’d just fire up the update and all hardware drivers and pre-installed software were checked against available versions. If the utility detected a newer version, it was downloaded and installed automatically. I wish more systems worked this way.

The smartphone I was using at the time of column #50 was the Palm Pre. The webOS interface was the best on any phone at the time, and in fact, it still is. I only recently traded the Pre in for the HTC EVO 4G, and I admit I still miss webOS. Let’s hope HP keeps it alive with some cool new phones.

MTM #75- Kindle fever

The Mobile Tech Manor columns are proof positive of my love for reading e-books, and in column #75, I shared the joy I experienced with the Kindle. I normally read e-books on phones or the iPad, but the week of this column, I’d just returned from a trip on which I’d brought the Kindle. It’s clear from my thoughts why so many folks are turning to electronic readers in general, and the Kindle in particular. I also stressed how important connectivity is to me for my gear.

“Reading on the two flights was very enjoyable using the Kindle. It was easy to hold for several hours, and it fits in the pocket in the seat back in front when not in use. I did have to remember to turn wireless off on the flights, which I almost forgot. The Kindle brought the number of devices on this trip which I had to remember to turn off the wireless radios to four. In fact, I only brought four gadgets with me for this short trip and all of them have wireless connectivity. That’s a true mobile geek.”

While I really like the Kindle — and still have it — I have to admit I no longer use it. The iPad (s aapl) has replaced the Kindle for most of my e-book reading. The Kindle app for the iPad lets me use it just like the Kindle, or in even more instances, since I can read in low lighting. I also use the Kindle app on the Android smartphone platform for reading when running around. I’m even further entrenched in the Kindle e-book ecosystem than I was when only using the Kindle device. That proves how sound Amazon’s (s amzn) strategy is to put the Kindle app on smartphones and other devices.

Random thoughts

This look back has been eye-opening for me on many levels. It proved how fast things move in the mobile tech world. Coverage of netbooks in the column watched the devices shoot to the top of the charts, then settle into relative obscurity as so many hit the market with no distinctive features.

The most rapid changes seen over the life of the column have been in the smartphone space. Smartphones went from things only early adopters bought to them being commonplace in today’s market. The feature phone is still around, but the powerful smartphone has taken center stage in the mainstream market.

This column has seen the birth of webOS, chronicled by my own adoption of the Palm Pre, and then seen it settle into relative obscurity when HP acquired Palm (s palm). It’s now in limbo waiting to see what (if anything) HP will do with webOS in the smartphone space. The company intends to make tablets running the OS, but there’ve been no firm announcements regarding phones. It would be a shame to see webOS disappear on phones.

The most amazing change witnessed over the life of the MTM column is the appearance of the Android (s goog) smartphone platform. It didn’t even exist when this feature began, yet Google is now challenging the biggest players in the space for dominance. There’ve been many Android phones covered in these columns — too many to count. I’ve personally owned two Android phones already, and I’m sure there will be others covered in future columns.

Apple’s iPhone is still around, and will be for some time. My iPhone 3G got a lot of coverage in these columns, and was recently retired. The iPad I picked up on launch day eliminated my need for the iPhone, leading to the cancellation of service with AT&T (s t).

I was reading e-books long before the cool kids did. I get more feedback over the e-books section in these columns than anything else. I enjoy sharing the e-books I’m reading each week, and what devices/software I am using to do so.

As a direct result of this column, I’ve become pen pals with four of my favorite (and top-selling) authors. I correspond with these folks regularly, and hear about new works in progress. These friendships are a direct result of writing this weekly column, which is just cool.

Writing the Mobile Tech Manor column is my favorite thing to do each week. I get a kick out of sharing my experiences weekly, and based on feedback, I know many enjoy following them. Here’s hoping one day I’ll be writing the 500th column; that would be awesome. A special thanks to those of you who follow MTM each week. You’re the reason I enjoy writing these columns so much.



Congrats on the 100th (WOW time flies…!)

I do remember reading your comments on the HP2140 – which I was considering at the time. So I’ve been reading JkOntheRun for quite a while now – and continue to appreciate this special flavour of enthusiasm and objectivity that permeates your writing.

I am confident that I’ll be one of your many regular readers on the 500th episode of MTM!


Congrats on the 100th column James, and keep up the good work!!! Btw, I never really noticed your writing improved, I guess it was a gradual shift to better writing.

Have a good one folks… looks at bottom right corner of computer screen “Damn, I’m late!”


MTM is one of my favorite features on my favorite tech blog. Congrats on #100, and keep up the great work!


James I really enjoy your MTM reading. I have been following your site since back in the day.


A lot changes in two years, especially in the mobile tech field, but I have to admit I liked the pre-GigaOM jkOnTheRun much better. Losing the signature black/orange felt like a loss of character IMO. It’s a well-known that the GigaOm network is pure Apple biased, and that trait has unfortunately filtered down to this blog too. No more do we see extensive coverage of Windows devices like we did with countless videos showing the HP 2130 netbook.


I am feeling the same way. I miss the videos too, it’s really too bad.

Especially since the website switched to the new design I stop by here less and less.

MTM is still good though and I will continue reading it.

Guy Adams


I raise my glass to you and the mobile tech manor column. It has been a pleasure to read for the last 100 articles and I cannot wait for the next 100.

Regards, Guy


James, thank you so much for MTM and the whole JKontheRun gang for MTR. I never miss either. You are knowlegable and always share the info that users want.

I learned of the Kindle for PC from MTM (and about free kindle books) and have not looked back. I recently bought my wife an iphone for her 50th and the first app I installed was the Kindle for iphone.

Now if you and Kevin and Matt could just equalize the volume on your mics during MTR, all would be perfect.

Thanks for your sharing, I appreciate it.


Congrats on your 100th episode. This is the place I visit on Friday morning. I enjoy reading your column.

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