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Showing posts from February, 2008

OQO Appreciation Day

It comes around but once every four years so members of the OQO Talk forum have declared February 29th to be OQO Appreciation Day.

I'm happy to join in, as I'm a OQO convert, my model 01+ has been far and away the most impressive computing equipment I've ever owned and coming at the end of two decades of portable computing (I was doing laptops when DOS 3.3 was the OS of choice).

Why is it so good? Well I can say without question that if you want a PC that fits into a jeans pocket you have no other choice. But to build something with such a single-minded purpose involves compromises, in this case that means an non-leading edge processor, low screen resolution and a small hard drive. Otherwise you're getting the full XP experience. The industrial design is magnificent, the battery life better than larger laptops and the Wacom active screen superb for writing on.

OQO's newer machine, e2, adds even more features, although at the cost of a larger overall size. The option f…

Earthquake

Wow, an earthquake.For those of you in more exotic climes that might no seem such a big deal, but for northern England its a extraordinary event.At 1.05 this morning I was woken by the whole house moving - doors were all rattling in their frames and the bed felt like someone was giving it a gentle shake. It wasn't too much of a shake as neither my wife nor children were woken.After a quick trawl around the house to check for damage (none, fortunately) my first reaction was to check BBC's website to see if it was what I suspected. By 1.20 the Beeb had no news of anything extraordinary which was quite disappointing, but also shows how much the web and ready access to the internet news services has become an integral part of our lives.

Are Mini-Projectors So Threatening?

3M's launch of a 4mm projector for use in small devices has been met with bizarre luddite criticism rather than the enthusiasm that such a breakthrough would normally warrant. Detractors are claiming that this is the first step on the road to visual pollution and are eyes will never be safe again.

Which all seems a bit previous if you ask me. Cameras in phones haven't reached an acceptable quality yet, what possible reason is there to expect this to work any better. Certainly it will be a long time before we have a camera-projector whose performance can approach even the feeblest of modern projectors. I think, for the next few years anyway, the technology will be useful only when combined with a laser virtual keyboard to create a very personal PDA/Smartphone with big input and display modes.

Which is in itself an appetising prospect.

Android In The Shops By Christmas

Google's new mobile platform threatens to overwhelm even the iPhone in the hype stakes and we don't even have any kind of release date for a phone running the OS.

Perhaps that's about to change though, as several of Google's hardware partners have started to let slip anticipated release dates. LG and Samsung are suggesting that they will both have phones available at least early in 2009 whilst T-Mobile are staking their claim to a late-2008 launch, presumably in time for Christmas (and also only in the US).

Of course as most T-Mobile badged phones are just warmed over HTC devices its no surprise that the company in pole position for the first Android phone in the shops is none other than HTC. More than that the Windows Mobile specialist is threatening a multi-device launch sometime in Q4 2008. Possibly as many as three.

Which means that Google's new OS has gone from conception to likely production in less time than its taken for Palm to move from Cobalt to Palm Linux.…

HP Arrival Validates UMPC

Its looking more and more likely that HP is about to offer a UMPC sized tablet PC and in doing so become the first major player to enter the market. This very much suggests that the sub-tablet sector is about to hit the big time, in much the same way that HP's earlier Omnibook helped validate the sub-notebook market some twelve years ago.Details on the new machine are sparse, however its likely to run a VIA processor and be a convertible tablet with swivelling screen. Size? I'm guessing in the 5-7" range to make it competitive in the niche. The top and tail of the market are owned by OQO, whose diminutive devices outsell practically all the competition put together as far as UMPCs are concerned; and ASUS, whose new EeePC wipes the floor with everything sub-notebook, but is a far different beast to any likely HP entrant. HP will do well to sit something desirable into the space between these two, not least because neither Dell nor Lenovo have anything to compete.

Microsoft To Be More Open

Microsoft have made a pledge to embrace openness, releasing details of its APIs, program code for its applications and guaranteed not to sue anybody using the code to create open source applications.Its sounds like a complete reversal of position from the company that has battled against open source since the early nineties. Rather than a complete change of position I believe this marks the first stage of a Microsft plan to throw the EU legislator off its back. The recent half billion euro fine and promises of more to come have hurt the company and the continued distraction of a anti-competitive battle with the European Parliament is the last thing it needs as it battles to fight off Google, Nokia, Apple and all in its various market segments.The second stage of this plan will be to follow through on the promises made today, which should be more than enough to close the book on the battle with Europe and allow the company to focus on battling its competitors, something it hasn't d…

P-P-Pick Up A Bargain

Pssst... want a pocket sized internet browsing device with a great screen and built in wifi? How about the Nokia N770 for a bargain £75? That's want Expansys are currently asking for the aging, but still capable internet tablet. Details are here.

Feb 29th - Work/Life Balance Day

As you've probably guessed from many of my posts here I'm a big believer in the working away from the office concept. Its a dead cert that if your office is anything like mine then its the least productive place you can be, plenty of interruptions mean its unlikely to be where your best work gets done.

Where better than the calm of your home office or local coffee shop to concentrate your mind on the job at hand, better for you, your employer and if it means the elimiation of a lengthy commute, the environment.

An official work/life balance day has been announced (although you're still at the mercy of your employer) which should promote a better understanding of the mutual benefits for employer and employee of work being done away from the office. So if you've ever wondered if working from home could make you more productive then there's no better time to find out.

Customer Satisfaction Survey Pans Palm

Smartphone satisfaction levels are never going to approach those of regular phones, PDAs and computers - after all these are much more personal devices being used for some complex tasks and in a multitude of different arenas. Nevertheless if, as a company, you have committed your business to the smartphone arena you would have to hope your satisfaction levels are going to be ahead of your rivals.

Even more so, if you are a relatively small company that does the vast majority of its business in the smartphone arena and most of your rivals smartphone business makes up a small chunk of their core operations, you would really expect to be some way ahead of the pack.

Both those statements are true of Palm, yet a recent survey by Jupiter suggests the company's customers are least likely to feel very satisfied with their purchase - less than one in three in fact.

In fact Palm was a significant marging behind winner Apple, as were other Windows mobile and Symbian manufacturers, proving once…

HD Format Wars Over - Toshiba Throws In Towel

The short, bloody battle to replace the DVD has ended much more prematurely than any analyst probably thought. However as 2008 has rolled on the HD-DVD bandwagon has been hit from all sides, Warner decided to cease releases in the format then several major retail outlets in the US decided to stop stocking HD-DVD movies and players. Now the death blow has been struck and we can look forward to a Bluray future, as Toshiba have decided to stop manufacturing the format and begin a fire sale of player equipment. With its key developer gone, HD-DVD is dead in the water.


Sony will be celebrating a spectacular reverse, all the sweeter after losing the VHS/Betamax battle way back in he day.

Probably give the PS3 sales figures a shot in the arm too, given that the console remains the most cost-effective way of getting Bluray into the household.

HTC Update Advantage Fails To Fix Biggest Problems

First details are starting to emerge of the refreshed HTC Advantage. The super-size PDA itself is little changed, it still packs a massive 5" screen and is as big as some of the UMPCs on the market. However the 8Gb micro drive has been replaced by a 16Gb flash drive. The pretty awful, magnetically attached keyboard remains, although in this version it seems to have 'gained' flat keys and a vibration feature to let you know a key has been pressed. No word on whether it has gained backlighting.

It appears as though the new Advantage retains all the failings of the old, something that is unlikely to be fixed until such time as a true replacement appears, hopefully more closely resembling the older HTC Universal, which did a much better job of packaging an integrated keyboard, large screen device.

Play launches DRM-free Download Service

Play.com has launched its DRM-free download service providing much needed competition for iTunes and undercutting its prices too.

320Kbps MP3 tracks are available from the big four music publishers from just 65p per track. And its that 'from' that is the important part of the deal. Whilst Apple continues to insist on a standard price per track, irrespective of artist, age, or popularity, Play appear to have agreed to the publisher's demands to be able to set per track pricing.

Given Play's regional focus it will be interesting to see what, if any, affect this has on iTunes pricing.

Still for those of us who don't have an iPod, yet still want to buy music online, this marks a great step forward. Here's to more competition.

HTC To Build X1

Sony Ericsson's forthcoming Windows Mobile device will probably not suffer the disastrous design failings of its recent UIQ devices, as HTC has been revealed as its production partner. A company which knows more about building Windows Mobile devices doesn't exist.This bodes well for this new phone, as its tantamount to an admission that Sony-Ericsson's recent disasters have been of its own making and its needs help to produce something less likely to antagonise its customers (see P990, M600, P1 and W950 for reference!)

Sony-Ericsson Goes Windows Mobile

After the Palm based Clies, then the Symbian UIQ Pxxx range, Sony(with Ericsson) have gone full circle and launched a Windows Mobile device, due to be the shops in the latter half of this year.Looking like a cross between a Nokia N810 and a Sony Walkman phone the Xperia X1 marks a whole new direction for the Japanese-Swedish combine. And we all know why don't we?Sony-Ericsson tied its colours to the UIQ mast on the grounds that touchscreens and PDA functions would make it a leader. In fact what has happened is that endless faukts with the devices which have made it to market (P990 and P1 for example) has robbed the platform of customer loyalty. Coupled to the imminent laucnh of Nokia S60 based touch system it looks like they've made a wise decision to bail out whilst thy still can.

Microsoft In Danger

Or rather Microsoft owns Danger, manufacturer of the Hiptop, AKA Sidekick, which has a certain cachet in the US where it has become the anti-Blackberry, the messaging device of choice for a younger, hipper generation. The cost of the deal to Microsoft hasn't been disclosed, but I'm guessing that those in Microsoft's Windows Mobile division aren't feeling overly secure in their positions tonight.

However Microsoft tries to spin it, this is an admission that they have failed to capture the non business market and that the Hiptop has succeeded as much for what its not - a Microsoft product - as for all the celebrity endorsements.

The danger (sorry bad pun alert!) for Danger is that coming under the Microsoft umbrella will stop it doing the things that made it so good.

Now Microsoft has to find an MP3 player that has been super successful and buy the company that makes it. Shouldn't be too hard to find something better than the Zune - although something as good as the…

3G iPhone On The Cards And Soon

Hints are starting to drop that the 3G iPhone is close - maybe even a matter of a few weeks away. AT&T has apparently shifted into overdrive on its rollout of 3G in the states, TUAW has information that Apple is planning a late February high level launch and the continued poor sales performance in Europe, where 3G is a necessity for even middle-end devices, suggests Apple are going to have to find something to keep their (big-spending) partners happy and soon.

Apple may just be planning a big launch for the iPhone software development kit, but I'm betting the 3G iPhone is going to be there or thereabouts.

Canadian Government Limits Blackberry Use

According to the Ottawa Citizen, one of Canada's Government has set guidelines to try and improve work/life balance. Deputy Minister of CIC Richard B Fadden advised employees to switch off their Blackberries between the of 7pm and 7am, not to schedule meetings during lunch breaks and that Blackberries should be switched off during meetings.

Good luck with that last one. In my experience Blackberry users having worked out how to find the 'silent' switch in meetings, let alone turn them off.

What Richard hasn't worked out, for all his good intentions, is that the constant interruptions of Blackberry messages are a badge of importance. There's nothing more unpleasant than a senior manager after a meeting when his Blackberry hasn't gone off...

Blackberry? Crackberry? Arseberries more like...

You Really Fell For That?

Apparently around the time of the Carnival in Portugal its common for practical jokes to be played - something like April Fool. I'm sure the Portugese perpetrator of the so-called HTC Magnum will have enjoyed the number of respected technology websites who failed to spot this as a hoax.

Still I'm sure that anyone who thought a Windows Mobile device on a 12" screen sounded like a feasible product will just love the all-new HTC Advantage, with its super slim line 5" screen...

From Thin Air

Apple's MacBook Air had some pretty impressive specs at launch, most critical being the five and a half hour battery life, which was a huge relief for those who panicked at the thought of a non-removable battery and the implications for those working away from the mains.Unfortunately its starting to look like Apple's claims are a bit far-fetched, as early reviews are pegging battery life at a real world two and a half hours. Which isn't nearly as impressive.I think for some potential buyers this won't be a problem, they'll only really be looking at the occasional presentation or sales pitch, rather than long stints away from the mains. For others though this will make a the MBA a non-starter and they'll be heading for the Fujitsu and Lenovo stands, where similarly sized machines are boasting 7-8 hours of battery life.Apple fans can always choose to go the MacBook or MacBook Pro route, and retain most of the benefits of the MBA without the compromises Apple have…

Ubiquio 701/702 UMPC Review

When Microsoft unveiled the Origami concept a couple of years ago it promised cheap, lightweight and portable Windows XP machines customised for touchscreen use and with significantly better battery life than could be expected from the current range of laptops.

When they arrived the first generation UMPCs (as they became officially known) were expensive, heavy and suffered from poor battery life. Additionally they weren't that easy to use with just a touchscreen, so most required the addition of an external keyboard.

The Ubiquio 702 looks to fix some of these failings and offer the kind of ubiquitous computing that Microsoft's viral marketing seemed to suggest ahead of the Origami launch.

The 702 is cheap. At just over £400 including the extended battery (£400 for the 701 with the standard battery) its much more in the ballpark of a standard laptop as far as price is concerned. The extended battery adds some bulk to the top of the device, but has been cleverly designed to act as …

Microsoft And Google Approaching Open Warfare

Microsoft's potential content war with Google took a couple of steps towards full head to head warfare with a new development in the Yahoo buyout saga and an attempt by Microsoft to increase its challenge to YouTube.The news on the Yahoo front is that the Microsoft bid has not yet been accepted and that a number of other parties (hedge funds in particular) are looking to gatecrash the party. Even more interestingly, Yahoo is now re-considering a prior bid from Google and having lost some recent high profile battles with Google, Microsoft really can't afford to lose this one.Google also posted an interesting anti-Microsoft piece on its own blog - suggesting that the Yahoo bid would be anti-competitive and would setup Microsoft for the same internet dominance that it enjoys on the desktop. Hmmm. Have to think about that one, I seem to think another company already owns that positon. Someone beginning with 'G'...Meanwhile, Microsoft has signed content deals with Sony BMG …

iPod Touch, iPhone Get Storage Boost. Still No 3G

The iPhone has had its storage capacity boosted to 16GB today, in line with what had been available on the iPod Touch. The latter gets a boost to 32GB, which makes it a pretty serious player in the handheld space - especially when you consider the recent applications update and the promise of a true SDK to come soon.Of course nothing is perfect and there's no sign that Apple are going to fix the inability to use certificates to autheticate on wireless networks. Still if your wireless connection needs are limited to standard locations and home hotspots this probably won't be an issue for you.The continued absence of the 3G iPhone is worrying - either its not going to appear stateside (possible, but unlikely) or else its coming to Europe first, which would be why we haven't seen any of the FCC's usual leaks. Of course the other possibility is that there is no 3G iPhone - but I refuse to believe that this is the case.

PS3 To Overtake 360 This Year

The continued problems which seem to be striking Microsoft from all directions at the moment don't seem to be abating. News today that EA have confirmed Sony's prediction that the PS3 will pass the XBox 360 to become the number two selling console behind the Nintendo Wii.

This is very good news for Sony, who have struggled with their third gen console since launch, however its another piece of trouble that Microsoft could do without. The Entertainment and Devices division (which owns the XBox amongst other things) has only just started to turn a profit after burning through hundreds of millions of dollars. To see it slide out of profit on the back of less XBox sales would be a disastrous backward step.

Having already endured big losses on the original XBox it remains to be seen whether there will be a 360 replacement if Microsoft can't make a profit out of this one either...

Skyfire Promises Improved Windows Mobile Web Browsing

Currently in beta and taking beta test requests at the moment, Skyfire is a new proxy-based web browser for the Windows Mobile platform. Its claims to offer the full web on the run seem to be substantiated by this video which showcases some impressive content which would normally only be available on a desktop browser.

In concept this seems very close to the aging (if not dead) Thunderhawk browser, which was popular around the time of Windows Mobile 2002/3. This suffered from an expensive subscription fee, necessary to support the bandwidth being pumped through the proxy server where all the fancy conversion from web page to Thunderhawk image was performed.

Skyfire looks, on the face of it anyway, to be a step forward from Thunderhawk, if not quite up to the performance of the amazing Picsel Browser. Once the Skyfire guys bring this out of beta it will be interesting to see how well it performs and whether they can keep it free.

Microsoft Goes All In

As more details of Microsoft's bid for Yahoo emerge it looks more and more like a desperate final roll of the dice in its battle with Google. Firstly the cash and shares offer completely wipes out Microsoft's cash reserves, secondly the gamble assumes that advertisers who have previously dismissed both MS and Yahoo in favour of Google will suddenly find the combined company more attractive. Which seems far-fetched to say the least.

The other potential benefits of the merger are around IM and webmail users. The combined company has a much bigger' audience' than Google. But then Gmail and Google Talk are much younger products and closing in fast - especially when you take account of the likelihood of subscriber duplication across Yahoo and Hotmail systems.

With Yahoo fading fast and Microsoft's web services wilting under pressure from Google; not to mention the Open office/Web App two pronged attack on Microsoft office; plus the effects on Windows sales of the Vista d…

Amazon's Kindle A Success

Bizarrely, for a product packing so many shortcomings, the Kindle is flying off the Amazon 'virtual' shelves. I'm yet to see an eBook reader which would tempt me away from any one of a number of multi-function devices that currently populate my office.

Still someone must see the value in a reader which is large and clumsy, can't be read in the dark and is able to display no more than four shades of grey. The Kindle must have hidden appeal.

Microsoft Gets Its Wallet Out

63% over current trading. That's the premium that Microsoft is offering to Yahoo shareholders to back its $23billion bid for the search company.

And whilst most people will see this as a desperate bid to get on terms with Google, but in reality it is so much more.

Perhaps the biggest question is how long will it take Microsoft to recoup this outlay, especially as every market indicator is suggesting a downturn ahead and advertising dollars will likely be very hard to come by. Perhaps this is a precursor to the end of free web services and subscriptions for the thigs we've taken for granted for so long.