Showing posts from October, 2008

Hypocrisy, How Much More Can We Stand

I was going to write a clever, funny and insightful piece (what do you mean 'that would be a first'?) into the hoo-ha currently engulfing Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross at the moment, but as Peter Tatchell has done a much better job in The Guardian, I'll point you there.

G1 Misses Mark, Android Shows Promise

This is going to be a brief review of the new T-Mobile G1, released in the UK today, as I've only had a brief chance to try it out and couldn't honestly claim to have explored the phone's full depths.

Nevertheless lets plunge on and cover what I've been able to discover thus far.

The hardware of the G1 is a bit of a mishmash. It feels like HTC had an agenda which said 'make this different from the Touch Pro'. In places it feels like design decisions were made for no other reason than this. A good example is the slide mechanism, which describes a short arc. It adds nothing to the usability of the phone, feels considerably less 'solid' than a good straight slider and I suspect will be much more prone to wear.

Again with the trackball, why a perfectly good five-way pad hasn't been used is beyond me - HTC have made some of the best examples. A trackball has no real advantages, is less useful for gaming, requires more maintenance and again is likely to wear…

Windows Mobile Still In The Game, Just

The launch of Sony-Ericsson's new Experia X1 was the one real opportunity for Microsoft's mobile platform to score some much needed points after the successful launch of the iPhone and Android platforms in the last few months.

On the surface a pretty exciting new device, with a large screen and keyboard and Sony's customisations to the base OS. For those more involved in the industry the first non-UIQ smartphone from the Swedish/Japanese combo and the completion of Sony's migration from Palm to Windows Mobile were of most interest.

Underneath though I believe that the X1 offers little hope for WM 6.1 as a viable platform. Despite the presence of Sony's panels interface it only takes a small scratch of the surface to reach the clumsiness that is underneath. The same problem affects HTC's touch enabled devices, as well as Samsung's Omnia.

Until the major rewrite of WM7 its unlikely that there'll be a fix for these issues and attendant performance problems, g…

iPhone 2.2 Update Fails To Deliver The Big Stuff

Wired Magazine has posted on what we should expect to arrive in the next iPhone system update due any time soon.

Amongst the many reasonably useless updates (Google Street View, Emoji icons) and possibly useful ones (line-in recording, direct podcast downloads, location sharing) there's a huge hole - the absolute must-have fixes for the shortcomings which make life with the iPhone more frustrating than it should be.

So it looks like we'll still be missing background notifications, SMS forwarding, copy-paste and no sign of turn by turn sat nav either.

That's not to say Apple aren't working on these things but let's be honest the delays in producing the goods suggest either they are so difficult to deliver as to be a long way off or that Apple don't see them as a priority. Either way that's a big pain in the backside for iPhone users hanging on for features which are taken for granted in even the most basic feature phone.

Google Earth On iPhone Not Such A Big Deal

The arrival of Google Earth in the App Store has garnered some headlines but is it really such a big deal? The most significant thing is that it shows Google's commitment to other platforms even though it has just launched its first Android powered phone with T-Mobile.

For iPhone users the Earth application amounts to little more than an alternative view of the maps data, at least until more plugins are supported.

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Maemo Or Symbian, Which Horse Should Nokia Back

Nokia has seen its huge lead in the mobile marketplace slowly being eroded as challengers appear from all kinds of strange places. Biggest worry for Nokia will be the arrival of advanced platforms like iPhone, Android and (theoretically anyway) Palm-Linux, which threaten to expose Symbian's problems.

There's also the change of direction from RIM, the promise of a more competitive Windows Mobile and direct competition from the far-east, LG, Samsung and a host of other new names with big plans.

Whilst Symbian is something of a lame duck, having gained a touch interface only recently, Nokia does have a potentialy greater product which could rewrite the rules.


Like Android its open source, like iPhone touch based with a good onscreen keyboard. However whilst Android struggles for apps (50 at launch after all that pre-launch hype and hysteria?) Maemo has apps and devs to spare, especially when you look at the quality of the apps on offer. And whilst iPhone users bemoan the lack…

Dataviz Coming To iPhone, Soon?

Dataviz's much-loved Documents-to-go Office compatibility suite is on its way to the iPhone, unsurprisingly given the latters desperate need for a solution to this enterprise sized problem.

Docs-to-go has been a mainstay of the Palm OS world for many years now and given the astonishing success of the App Store its no surprise to see Dataviz making the jump to Apple's top selling platform.

One obvious question is how they plan to handle copy-paste functionality, notoriously absent on the iPhone. Especially now that the forthcoming 2.2 update looks less likely to address this failing. Its entirely possible that Dataviz could choose to provide a clipboard between its own applications, which should keep it well within the terms of Apple's licensing agreement.

However its done, I for one am looking forward to benefiting from Docs-to-go's fabulous roundtrip support for documents sent from PC to handheld and back again.

Let's hope the wait isn't too great.

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ALP Arrives - Too Little, Too Late!

Access has released details of ALP 3.0 and ALP Mini, it's new Smartphone and Featurephone operating systems.

Only the former has support for Garnet applications, which should give ALP a head start over Android (in theory anyway) thanks to it's greater application pool.

The theory is great of course but whilst there aren't any ALP powered phones available Google, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and iPhone platforms are racing off into the distance.

Which beggars the question, where will that leave Palm and it's terminally delayed Nova platform?

App Store: 200 million and counting

102 days from launch and the App Store has served 200 million downloads to iPhone owners. That's some achievement and tacked onto news of Apple's iPhone sales makes good reading for software publishers who have chosen the iPhone route.

I'm not entirely sure what the ratio of paid to free apps is, but going on my ratio of about 1 to 4 that would suggest application sales (as opposed to downloads) of around 40 million. Probably accounting for more sales than all other mobile platforms have achieved in the whole lifetime of the mobile market.

Google, Blackberry, Nokia and Microsoft are all planning on copying the App Store model for software distribution. Somehow I doubt they'll do quite so well...

iPhone: 6.9 Million Sold In Last Quarter

Now I'm guessing these figures are slightly skewed by the pent-up demand for the iPhone ahead of its launch but, nonetheless Apple's quarterly report made stunning reading for the mobile phone industry. 6.9 million iPhones were shipped in that quarter, meaning that Apple hit its 10 million target for 2008 well ahead of schedule, outsold RIM by more than 12% and claimed third place in the mobile phone market behind Nokia and Samsung.

For a computer company that's a remarkable achievement. Especially given the lukewarm welcome its competitors gave it on launch. Many non-iPhone websites are still unable to get away from their anti-iPhone fixation.

Its likely that sales will tail off this quarter, especially given the global uncertainty around finance. But with the iPhone available in more countries and the holiday season on its way, I'm guessing the next quarter's figures will turn out to be a pleasant surprise for Apple investors as well...

RIM Please Build A Mute Switch

Aaargh. After a busy week in meetings I'm on the point of throttling the next Blackberry user whose message notification causes an interruption.

Its as if these guys still think that it's a badge of importance. It's not. It's a sign of utter stupidity and disrespect for the other attendees of your meeting.

Palm users can do it, Windows Mobile users can do it and even iPhone users can do it.

So if you have a Blackberry learn how to mute it when you're in a meeting. Because no-one else is impressed. Get it?

G1 Getting Mixed Reviews

There are a few reviews of the new Android powered G1 smartphone trickling out onto the web as people get to spend some time with the test units shipped by T-Mobile.

It's fair to say that initial impressions have been a little mixed. The hardware appears to be the weak point of this handheld, although the software seems to offer hope that Android can become a competitive challenger in the mobile space.

We'll probably have to wait until someone else ships an Android phone to be sure, but in the meantime the G1 should be available for fondling in your local T-Mobile store from the end of this month.

Yahoo Shareholders Not Feeling So Clever Now

Over the summer Jerry Yang and the Yahoo board were congratulating themselves over the successful rebuttal of Microsoft's $33 per share bid for the company. At the time of writing Yahoo's NASDAQ rating is a eye-watering $12.29 close to a third of Microsoft's offer. Anytime soon Yahoo will be worth less than the combined pocket change of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer... are they still feeling so clever I wonder?

Speed: Its Not An Option Anymore

The Times is reporting on what could be the end of driving as we know it, as the Government prepares to roll out it's new Specs3 average speed camera networks to A roads and suburban areas.

Currently used through roadworks on the motorway network Specs works by measuring time taken to travel between points monitored by number plate recognition cameras. The new systems will network much larger areas of cameras and monitor speeds on a much broader range of roads.

Carried through to it's logical conclusion (nationwide rollout) this is a truly game changing development for the motorist.

The new cameras can be much more widely deployed as they use digital imaging and wireless technology to break the limits of the older cameras, which had to be cabled together and used film.

I'd say that snortin' road racer you were looking at for your next car is probably a bit pointless now. A small diesel with cruise control looks a better bet to me now...

Blackberry Bold On Hold After Glitches Uncovered

Orange has suspended shipments of the Blackberry Bold after a number of reported software problems. A memo sent to its staff was leaked to the Mobile Tech Addicts web site and later confirmed by an Orange press release.

“Following reports of software issues with the BlackBerry Bold handset across a variety of mobile operators, Orange has decided to act in the interest of its customers by suspending shipments of the device in the UK,”

RIM also confirmed that the original design for the forthcoming Storm was rejected by Vodafone for not being cutting edge enough. Although the company thinks that it now has the design right it stopped short of pitching the Storm as an iphone competitor claiming instead that there is room in the market for both devices. Which suggests that RIM don't believe it has the tools to take on Apple's star.

Motion MC5 Gains Smartcard

About a year ago I looked at Motion's MC5 Clinical Tabletand concluded that it was a brilliant bit of kit for its target market. Well since then Toshiba, Panasonic and Fujitsu have all entered the clinical market.

Motion's new Clinical Assistant looks to keep the company at the forefront of the market by adding a Smartcard Reader - an absolute necessity considering the National Programme for IT's more to two-factor authentication by Smartcards. With Fujitsu's forthcoming Clinical Assistant also supporting Smartcards (when it arrives in December) there's likely to be at least some competition in the MCA market.

After a brief toy with the new machine I can say that there are only minor differences in the old and new - the pen seems a little more accurate and the colour has changed from predominantly white to grey and white. The lack of significant change means that all the Mc5's accessories are compatible with the new machine - a bonus for cash strapped hospital tr…

App Store Review: Writing Pad

IBMs support for the iPhone is mostly hidden by its reliance on its
various lab groups to deliver impressive yet unsung applications like
Writing Pad.
Writing Pad is a replacement notepad application which does away with
the iPhone's standard soft keyboard and replaces it with a completely
new concept in text entry. The new keyboard is used by sliding your
finger from letter to letter and lifting your finger at the end of
each word. Sounds complex? Believe it or not it's unbelievably simple
and ridiculously quick to use. Helped by a comprehensive dictionary of
words and a simple method of adding your own, Writing Pad will soon
have you bashing, sorry sliding, out notes you wouldn't even dream of
attempting on another handheld.
After about half an hour of using Writing Pad I have no doubts that
you'll be questioning why anybody would use any other input method on
a small device. I'm even sure that after a short period of practice
you'll find it faster…

RealDVD and the Art of IP Lockdown

Real Networks aren't my favourite company, their products were a haven of crapware for many years and actually managed to make Windows Media Player look a viable software solution (which it wasn't, isn't and never will be) but the recent RealDVD court case shows once again how (in America at least) content publishers have gained the whip hand in the IP debate.

If you don't know RealDVD is a product that allows the ripping of a DVD movie to a hard disk, albeit with content protection to ensure it isn't easily re-distributed. Given the rather fragile nature of DVD disks it doesn't seem entirely inconceivable that a person spending a tenner on a movie might want to protect their investment by separating the content from the delivery medium. Its not like there aren't a million and one pieces of DVD-ripping software out there which completely circumvent copy protection, so anybody paying for the Real product is probably going to be the sort of person who will use…

Browser Market Share Shows IE Decline

Market Share's report on Internet Browser penetration must be making interesting reading over at Microsoft, now that almost 3 in 10 users are browsing on something other than IE.

Whilst IE's market share fell from 77% to 71% over the last ten months, Firefox (19.5% up from 6%) and Safari (6.7% up from 5.1%) being the main beneficiary.

Google's Chrome managed to capture market share to the tune of 0.78% from a standing start and I'd wager next time we see a similar report that will sit somewhere between 5% and 10%, probably leapfrogging Safari in the process.

Of course these figures are based on the information of one company, so without digging deep into the hows and whys of the survey undertaken, its probable that they vary from the true picture.

Still the trend information should be consistent, which suggests that having oulled IE from the Mac platform a few years ago, Microsoft could be looking at making a similar decision on the Windows platform in a few years time.

Nokia 5800 Xpress Music - Another Me Too Product?

In the wake of the original iPhone announcement every smrtphone manufacturer on the planet was rushing out touch screen based designs, despite the ptrvious trend away from touch and towards button based controls.

Nokia, as the big daddy in both the phone and smartphone market, was naturally one of those companies to react quickest. Or were they? The Nokia Tube first surfaced as a concept from Nokia some twenty months ago, not long after the iPhone changed the playing field.

From what I've seen of the handset that the Tube became - the 5800 Xpress Music - Nokia have managed to cobble together a pretty average product which is exceptional only in its slavish following of the iPhone. Which isn't good enough from Nokia and shouldn't be allowed to pass without comment.

What has become abundantly clear is that Nokia haven't got any new ideas to put onto the table, despite having invested heavily in the Maemo and touchscreen based Internet Tablet N770/N800 series. The N810 would…

Samsung Omnia

For the rest of Britain the arrival of the iPhone 3G has meant an endless barrage of Apple/O2 advertising. In London things seem a little different. I was there this week and it appears Samsung have bought every flat surface in a bid to promote the Omnia - advertising hoardings, underground trains, buses. In fact you name it, there's probably an Omnia advert on it at the moment.

It'll be interesting to contrast iPhone and Omnia sales inside and outside the capital over a three month period, to see if Samsung's huge marketing budget has done anything to derail the iPhone bandwagon.

iTunes Saved For The World

If you were holding your breath after yesterday's bombshell from Apple about the future of the iTunes Music Store, you can release it now - the Copyright Royalty Board ruled that digital copyright fees would remain at 9 cents per track, frustrating the recording artists' bid to increase their share of the take.

Whilst I can see Apple's side of the argument, it does make me wonder that of the 70 or so cents that Apple pays to the labels for the sale of a track less than 15% reaches the creator of the original work. I guess the answer is for musicians to break away from the yoke of the music labels and start self-publishing tracks. If they're brave enough of course...

Apple v The Music Industry (Round 132)

The National Music Publisher's Association in America has asked for a 66% increase in the royalty paid to recording artists for digital music sales - from 9 cents to 15 cents. The current split of the 99 cent price of a track in the States sees Apple retain 30 cents whilst the rest is paid to the labels, who then pass on 9 cents to the artists.

Apple argues that the success of its music store relies on the standard pricing of 99 cents per track and it neither intends to increase the price of its tracks nor sell them at a loss. If the Copyright Royalty Board, who will meet to rule on the change tomorrow, decide to agree the raise and the music labels pass the cost on to Apple then Apple has indicated that it will close the iTunes Music Store. Drastic threats indeed.

Can Apple follow through on this threat? Absolutely no question of that - the tight integration of iTunes and iPod wouldn't be affected if the tracks were bought elsewhere and imported to iTunes, however I suspect tha…