What the press says about Intel North Cape

Posted on Dec 11, 2013 in Industrial Design, Media

131211 Intel North Cape Press
Intel’s “North Cape” detachable tablet reference design had been introduced at CES in January of 2013 and it did garner quite some buzz…

Different media outlets focused on different aspects of North Cape, and I wanted to take a moment to review what the press had to say about the product over the past few months:

Laptop Mag talked about the fact that this is a reference design and expressed their hope that the product would make it to market:

As a reference design, North Cape is meant to inspire OEMs rather than become a shipping product, though Intel said that it’s possible one will adopt this design. We hope they’ll take the hint.

Mashable was certainly excited about seeing the prototype at CES in Las Vegas:

Intel Shows the Awesome Laptop You’ll Be Using Next Year

The Verge clearly saw the value that North Cape’s Smart Frame adds to the product:

Smart Frame sounds like a gimmick, but when you see how narrow the bezel is around North Cape’s screen, you can understand why people might want some more free space for their thumbs.

Laptop focused mainly on the aesthetics of the product… and it sure sounds as if they liked what they saw:

A system that reminded us of a spaceship from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’

An evening project

Posted on Jul 14, 2013 in Industrial Design, Research

Well… here’s a design project that – at least in my eyes – does not really qualify to be shown off in this website’s Portfolio section… still, I wanted to share it and so it ended up here on the blog: a 3D-printed iPhone car holder.

With the recent updates to the iOS Maps and Google Maps Applications I found my iPhone 5 replacing my trusted Garmin nüvi inside my car. Unless I have been going on a remote hike where no cellphone network was available, the iPhone’s connectivity, speed, and its speech interface often made it the navigator of my choice. The only problem was, that I never knew where to put it while driving, unless I bothered my co-pilot to hold the phone for me. So I decided that it was time to buy a car holder for my shiny iPhone 5. My two criteria were pretty straight-forward:

  • I wanted a simple device that would visually not be overly distracting, one without too many mechanical features that could break
  • The holder should mount without a suction cup (so it’d not leave traces on the windshield) and preferably be fixed, using my car’s dashboard vents.

An extensive online search yielded no results, probably due to the fact that phone holders typically have to fit a wide variety of cars, phones, and mounting scenarios, where what I wanted was a very specific solution on all three fronts. And since we just received our little Solidoodle 3D printer at Artefact, I thought, I’d do something with it and design an iPhone 5 holder specifically for my 2008 GTI.

After two failed prototypes, I found the perfect mix between stability and simplicity and had fine-tuned the viewing angle of my design. It slides easily into the dashboard vents and a hook prevents it from falling out. I opted to add five pieces of 0.5mm thick fabric (shown in red in one of the above illustrations) to protect my precious phone from scratching.

I have been using the holder for a few months now and really like it, so I thought I’d share it here as well as on Thingiverse.

For printing on our little Solidoodle, I broke the product into four parts and the files contain 3D data both of the Solidoodle-version, as well as of the complete object – maybe you can find a better way to deconstruct and print it…? Feel free to share and/or to modify the design and let me know what you think!

iPhone 5 Car Holder 2008 Volkswagen GTI

The iPhone 5: Is It Boring or the “Next Big Thing”?


If you do not live under a rock, you know that the iPhone 5 has arrived and that it is thinner, lighter, larger and faster than its predecessor.

And if you, just like me, belong to the growing crowd of nerdy tech-blog followers, you have known this for quite a while. The fact that iOS 6’s new features had already been introduced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this summer, in combination with the wave of leaks, took a bit of the fun out of the announcement.

In addition, at first glance it seems that the innovation that the iPhone 5 brings is rather incremental.  Wired‘s Mat Honan argues that it is a boring device and Forbes thinks that the iPhone 5 is not “the next truly big thing“. There is, however, an interesting nuance that seems to go largely unnoticed and the number “Five” might mean more than one assumes. Here is what caught my attention:

The Incremental Improvements

  • The screen: The “biggest thing” about the iPhone 5 is obviously its larger display, using in-cell touch screen for better color accuracy and saturation, and a thinner form factor. While the new aspect ratio is very close to the 16:9 HD standard and thus better suited for the consumption of media, app developers are probably in frantic update mode as I am writing these lines…
  • From 30 to 8 pins: The original 30-pin dock connector had a great run of 10 years, but it was time for a change. In an industry where slimness is a key advantage, the size of the dock connector became an obstacle for slimmer products. Apple’s move to provide two types of adapters will salvage the millions of accessories already on the market, even though David Pogue expects some “grumpiness in iPhoneland” and wishes that these adapters came free with the purchase of an iPhone 5. The additional costs will certainly be a consideration for “upgraders” that own multiple accessories…
  • 4G: After most of its competition features LTE for quite a while already, the faster wireless standard finally arrived on the iPhone and it comes along with a smaller “nano-SIM” card. If you travel intercontinentally on a regular basis and want to get “the 5″, you’re up for a tricky purchase decision, though, as there are three region-specific devices available… I for one am holding off with my order until unlocked devices become available in the U.S.
  • Camera: Being the photography geek that I am, I was interested in seeing how Apple would improve what is the most popular camera on flickr. Except for the scratch-resistant sapphire glass, the hardware seemed unchanged and it looked like improvements were made only with the inclusion of a panorama mode and better low-light performance. DPReview has, however, found that Apple is also using an updated image sensor that is slightly larger and improves on the minimum light sensitivity. Altogether, this seems to offer an all-around better experience of the industry-leading feature.
  • 600 people to test and develop the EarPods: To me – and to many other users that gave the iconic white earphones a measly 2.5 star rating in the Apple Store – the redesigned EarPods are merely righting a wrong.  They never really did fit or sound too great and I hope that all that testing, did bear fruit – pun intended.

Five: What’s In The Name?

Apart from these “boring” improvements to the class leader, ASYMCO’s industry analyst Horace Dediu was quick to point out that the iPhone 5’s name holds an important clue as to how Apple views its halo-product. Prior to the event invitation that revealed the product’s name, there had been speculations on whether Apple would move away from a number-based naming for the iPhone.

After changing the iPad naming to the brand-subbrand scheme (iPad 2 vs. “the new” iPad) that the rest of Apple’s hardware follows (e.g. “MacBook Pro” and “MacBook Air”, “iPod Touch” and “iPod nano”), the iPhone is now the sole hardware product in Apple’s line-up that still bears a number in its name and this means two things:

  1. There will not be an iPhone “nano” or “mini,” and tiering the product line will continue to be achieved through several generations of the product being sold at the same time. Currently these are the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
  2. More interestingly, the nomenclature could indicate that Apple sees the iPhone more as a platform, much like its operating systems iOS6 or OS10.6. The platform could play host to an increasing portfolio of software and services, like Siri.

This could be a disruptive shift, creating new interesting opportunities for the iPhone and even more so for its users. Here are four hypotheses of what could lie ahead for the iPhone:

  • Apple Maps could see extensions with Apple-proprietary or third-party location-based services and augmented reality.
  • Apple’s Passbook service could develop closer ties with e-commerce websites and other forms of payment to become a true digital wallet.
  • With the addition of sensors and wearable technology, Apple could develop the iPhone platform into the leading hub for Digital Health & Wellness.
  • Along the same lines, the iPhone could become the gateway into that elusive Internet of Things, and connect not only to the personal computer and TV, but to pretty much everything one owns.

With these – and many more – potential additions to the platform, I do not think that the iPhone 5 is boring at all and while it may not be “the truly next big thing” itself, it might well be what the next big thing for Apple will be built upon.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… defining how we will use notebook computers in two years from now

Posted on Feb 18, 2012 in Industrial Design, Interaction Design, Working on


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

I am working on… an Ultrabook for students


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

Googlerola

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Opinion, Research, Trends


Since Monday’s announcement of Google’s multi-billion-dollar acquisition of Motorola, the media has been buzzing on what is the largest deal in Google’s history. While Google continues to reiterate that it is a protective move that allows using Moto’s patents to protect its Android OS from anti-competitive threats, it is fascinating to speculate about the fate of all players involved. So what might be next for “Googlerola”, for its partners and competitors, for Android and – last but not least – for the consumer?

Reading the media reaction to Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, it becomes clear that the move is not solely “defensive” as Google’s PR machine is trying to suggest. Sure, after losing the 6,000+ Nortel-patents to the Apple-Microsoft-led consortium just a little over a month ago, Motorola’s intellectual property of some 17,000 patents comes as a welcome infusion for Android, but more importantly Googlerola will now be able to build truly market-leading mobile devices that finally deliver a fully integrated Android hardware and software experience.

While it might be too early to sell your Google shares, not all is good in Mountain View: Google has just increased its workforce from 30,000 to 50,000 employees and has acquired 90+ low-margin hardware factories in an information-centric world that it dominates.

More importantly, beyond the mere numbers, it will be challenging for the search-giant to cope with the obvious looming cultural clash that might in the end tip the scales.

Android Partners and Competitors

Upon acquisition of Android, Google founded the Open Handset Alliance – “a consortium of 80 hardware, software, and telecommunication companies” (Wikipedia), the most important device manufacturers of which certainly have reason to feel threatened by Googlerola. The suspiciouslyuniform partner responses seem to spell trouble:

 “We welcome today’s news, which demonstrates Googles deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem.”
JK Shin, President, Samsung Mobile

“We welcome the news of today’s acquisition, which demonstrates that Google is deeply committed to defending Android, its partners, and the entire ecosystem.”
Peter Chou, CEO, HTC

“I welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
Bert Nordberg, CEO, Sony Ericsson

“We welcome Google’s commitment to defending Android and its partners.”
Jong-Seok Park, CEO, LG Mobile

Even before the news broke, Nokia’s stance against Android (and for Windows Phone), HP’s attempt at reviving Palm’s WebOS and Samsung’s move to create their own “Bada” OS late last year raised quite a few eyebrows.

While Nokia yet has to deliver a Windows Phone product, the Finnish market leader detailedaspects of their plans for the platform today. Samsung has shipped an estimated quarter of its 20 million smartphone shipments in Q2 powered by Bada (with a year-by-year growth rate of 355%!). Furthermore, two days after Google’s big shopping spree, Samsung’s chairman Lee Kun-hee demands from its company to “enhance its software prowess”. Wow!

So now that Samsung is showing that it can work and others are in the midst of trying, what keeps the LG’s and HTC’s and Sony Ericsson’s from attempting the same – especially now that Google has turned into a full-fledged competitor?

And what about Microsoft? As of today, they are the sole provider of a mobile operating system that does not come with integrated hardware and will have to figure out how to play in the mobile space once again. Maybe it’s time to produce some Redmond-designed phones?

The previously stale mobile phone market is suddenly fresh and exciting again and I expect the players to reevaluate their strategies and to react to the changed situation with enthusiastic new plans.

The Android Platform

I am wondering what the move means for Android as a market-leading platform that seems to dominate with “quantity” rather than “quality” (think: number of features, manufacturers, carriers, handsets).

Not even three years after the release of HTC’s “Dream”, Android feels more bloated and obese than Windows ever managed to become (“Longhorns” never were the most nimble of animals).

Android is extremely fragmented and doesn’t allow for much differentiation between Google’s partners (read: competitors), unless they inflate customize their flavor of the operating system even more.

There is certainly some word of caution in historic attempts to integrate hardware and software in this arena: Steve Jobs stopped the “Apple Clone” program after his return to Cupertino at the end of the 90′s, Microsoft never built their own laptops and Nokia’s acquisition of Symbian marked the beginning of the demise of that operating system. According to asymco’s Horace Dediu, “This is classic channel conflict and never ends well.”

Android will certainly not fade away, and it will probably not lose its market leading position either. However, the acquisition might however strengthen some competitors and will spark others to appear in the arena.

The Consumer

So what’s in it for us? Gizmodo is quick to point out “Samsung, HTC, et al, are going to need another avenue of attack, since Motorola branded products are going to theoretically have a major advantage”.

All these possible “avenues” are what will make Google’s acquisition of Motorola so interesting in the coming months and I strongly believe that the event will act as a catalyst in the development of a multitude of new and improved mobile products.

Paraphrasing JK Shin, Peter Chou, Bert Nordberg and Jong-Seok Park “I welcome the news” and hope that in the end the consumer will win.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

I am working on… improving how we interact with notebook computers

Posted on Jul 11, 2011 in Interaction Design, Working on


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

I am working on… changing how students learn


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

I am working on… transforming the way we interact with notebook computers

Posted on Apr 14, 2011 in Interaction Design, Working on


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…

I am working on… defining the tablet experience of 2013

Posted on Feb 26, 2011 in Industrial Design, Interaction Design, Working on


Most of the products, experiences, and strategies that I design are of a somewhat confidential nature. While I thus cannot go into the details of what exactly it is that I am working on at the moment or which company it is that I am engaging with, I am posting these headlines to give a little glimpse into my work…