Since I am going back to work tomorrow I thought I would lead with a holiday style post.

I have listened to a couple of books over the break… yup listened (not read), with a young baby I find it much easier to check audio books out of the Microsoft library and listen to them on my phone while walking the baby along the beach or around the park rather than lie in the sun and read. Anyone will know that #1 babies leave you with little time to yourself to read and #2 this summer in NZ there is little sun to be had anywhere!

What were the books? #1 The Long Tail and #2 The Art of Innovation.

There were lots of great take-aways from both of these books and I was especially happy to see mentioned in relation to the early days of My Chemical Romance in “The Long Tail”.

One of things I became present to is that I am (due to the nature of my job and my interests) probably living today like most mainstream consumers will be in the short to medium term.

I have wireless Internet at home… Via WiFi I have high speed (esentially free) broadband on my phone when I am at home, around the house or in range of an open wifi connection. Yes this is particularly useful for things such as voip phone services but I am finding more and more uses for this technology since I have it available.

I normally listen to Internet Radio on my phone while mowing the lawns. I don’t normally listen to broadcast radio as it is irrelevant to me I like few hits and I like to discover my own music (before the web I used to do this via word of mouth and friends that I trusted the opinions of… I remember bus rides to school with my walkman and listening to tapes from my friends older brother that worked in a record store), some of my favourite bands Modest Mouse, The Shins, Mercury Rev, Barrington Levy, Flaming Lips, Cat Power spend little time on radio hitlists. It was for this reason that I was particluarly happy to be put onto pandora and even happier to see msn radio has licensed this technology. But I digress… Last week I saw TVNZ advertising free streaming of the ASB classic tennis through the web… this is of little use to me at home as I have a PVR (Windows Vista) connected to my TV and can time-shift broadcast TV (something that I have been using excessively with the cricket of late). I thought the TVNZ streaming would be useful for people living outside of NZ, or following the tennis at work but of little use elsewhere… then i remembered the fact that the 3 cellular network in Australia broadcasts the cricket live to it’s mobile customers on a subscription model. Also Vodafone has a deal with prime to stream prime news at 5:30pm live to vodafone live mobile devices. I thought I would experiment watching the tennis on my phone outside at home at 128kpbs, through WiFi the result a “GREAT” experience! I used to have a small battery powered TV that I took to cricket matches, the beach and out boating when I was a teenager and this certainly brought back memories of that. I might be wrong but I’m not aware of any phones that have a TV Tuner card built in ( I wonder why not?). Can TV follow radio and make its place on the Internet with broadcast technology for any device any place any time or do they also need to open up their back catelogue and make it available to you via recommendation on subscription and on demand?

With “free” broadband, an ok quality camera/ camcorder, an mp3 player, web browsing, voice recognition, IM, push email and a 2GB mini SD card in a late model phone the convergance of devices promised in the late 90’s is alive and real… I can that this is going to get better and better in the next few years until it reaches a point where you may ask yourself why you would carry anything else! Check out this video/ photos I shot from my phone while snowboarding with my sister last year… I even saw a cell phone video of the Sadam Hussain execution on TV1 news last night!

All of this said the current devices do still have their limitations. My phone for example has quite a low maximum volume when listening with standard headphones (or unamplified speakers) this may be by design to protect your hearing or as a limitation of the built in amplifier related to battery power I’m not sure. I had a problem today when I was trying to listen to an audio book while mowing the lawn, for some reason these books seem to come at a lower normalised volume than music.

I’ve been prototyping a bit recently and i finally made the connection between this and old skool childhood discovery. As a kid I spent weekends building tree houses, making home movies that stared my soft toys and pets and turning rubbish bin lids and monkey apples in shields and missiles.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I have found recently that by building mock-ups of Windows Sidebar Gadgets, Crazy pointless WPF applications (to learn) and MacGyver style mashups that a prototype is worth a thousand pictures!

So how did I solve my problem today with a prototype? Well I have talked to many people that rave about their “noise cancelling” head phones these things sell for a fortune and many executive travellers can be spotted wearing them in first class on airaplanes. Me I have a pair of basic Sony neck headphones with no amplifier and no noise cancelling. Today I took a drive to the hardware store and brought an 8$ pair of earmuffs. I found that by wearing these over my headphones I can hear my audio books while mowing the lawn remove external noise and protect my hearing by not needing to increase the volume on my phone. One of the strengths of NZers is that on mass we apply this #8 wire behaviour to everything we do including business, and I can’t help but think that taking yourself out of your familiar surroundings you can identify opportunities and improve business process and products when you come back to face a fresh new year, relaxed and buzzing from your recently completed holiday.

Enjoy the new year at work, Nigel.