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Showing posts from December, 2008

Long Tail Under Attack

The Long Tail has become a fundamental belief of a large core of the internet, mainly because of the way that it contrasts retail and online methods of selling media.
To sum up its most relevant message, as the cost of storing and distributing things like music and video on the internet approaches zero the more likely you are to make a profit from the 'long tail' of your distribution curve.This varies from the retail model because the cost of manufacturing the disks is constant whether it be a week after launch or five years later. Shelf space and storage also retain a value and when these are all tied together its easy to see that at some point in time the product's sales will no longer cover its distribution costs.
For a digital only store its fair to say that as costs of distribution approach zero the value of product in the long tail is as likely to be as great or greater than the head.
Seems straightforward and quite logical?
Well this article in the Times would suggest n…

Top Five iPhone Apps

Here's another list of what was good in 2008, this time looking at applications that made it into the iTunes App Store.1. Last.fm. I love the idea of music as a social tool, finding new music through the technical wizardry of matching music in your playlist to others and then making recommendations based on that info. Apple has added it to iTunes but Last.fm were there first. The iPhone app gives you access to your own music, as well as creating playlists that tie in to any artist you select. Integration with the desktop and web applications is excellent and it can also be used to tell you a lot about the sort of music you listen to. See the charts on the right of this page for an example.2.Shazam. Can't identify the tune you're listening to? Grab your iPhone, fire up Shazam and in less than a minute you'll know. How it achieves its near-perfect record of identifying tracks I don't know, but it does. 3. Evernote. The cloud based note-taking app arrives on the iPhon…

The Culture Secretary Is An Idiot

Not that many politicians seem to be playing to be playing with a full deck, but Culture Secretary Andy Burnham doesn't seem to have enough cards to manage a game of snap.In an interview with the Telegraph he suggested that his department is considering legislating websites to age rate their content.What?I mean seriously, what? Did these guys take a trip on Braindead Airways over the festive period? Here's a tip, make parents take responsibility for parenting their kids, rather than just giving them a computer and sending them to their bedrooms. Same goes for television. Then you won't need to try and set arbitary rules on a bunch of people who really don't care about our little island or its crazy lawmakers.There's some other stuff about Facebook and Youtube that's equally as crazy - as well as the suggestion that the government is now going to legislate what can and can’t be viewed on the internet. And we’re worrying about what's happening in China? Betwe…

Psion Asserts NetBook Trademark

Although the Netbook name has come to mean the class of low-power sub-notebook devices typified by Asus Eee PC range; the name is actually a trademark of Psion-Teklogic and in particular one device from the Psion Series 7 range. Although out of production for some yeas now, the Netbook did indeed predate the EeePC (and the Palm Folio) by a good few years. Its low power consumption, small-screen, reduced keyboard, flash memory-based design lacked only Wifi to be a bang up-to-date tool.Psion's lawyers (Origin) have been sending out cease and desist letters to websites using the term 'netbook' to describe what have come to be known as 'netbooks' . Which has had the effect of causing some uproar in the community - along the lines of "Why me? What about Intel and the big retailers?" Origin have now written to jkontherun – the blog that first broke the story - to explain exactly what's going on. You can read the letter here.The upshot is that Intel, retaile…

Free Laptop With Broadband? Beware

There are an awful lot of tempting free laptop deals in the stores at the moment some even look quire tempting - if you don't look too hard that is. Problem is, that free laptop is going to cost you an awful lot of money if you aren't very careful indeed.One current off gets you a free Samsung NC10 netbook and a Three HSDPA dongle with 5 GB of data for just £35 a month on a two year contract. Total cost: £840.You can get the same Samsung Netbook for just under £290 if you look carefully; whilst the mobile broadband contract will cost you £15 a month bought direct with Three. Total cost: £650 - or nearly £200 less than the free laptop deal.Unless you're desperate for over-priced credit don't do it - your wallet will thank you.

Three Intros Credit Crunch Tariff

As the global credit crisis begins its clearout of our high-streets (who will follow Woolies, Whittards and Zavvi I wonder?) Three has seen the writing on the wall for luxury items - mobile phones for example - and introduced what must be Britain's best value mobile contract ever. £9 a month gets you a new SE K660i, 100 cross network minutes/texts and 300 3 to 3 minutes.
For a company in a risky position that's a pretty sensible move - one that the other carriers are sure to copy. We may be seeing the race to the bottom starting here - who can score a handset at the lowest monthly tariff? My guess is that we'll see a £5 a month mobile contract before the end of the financial year.
Think it can't be done? My 200 mobiles cost £4 per month and come with an annual handset credit of £35. Fine in a business environment so why not for cash strapped consumers?

2008's Top Five Gadgets

Well its the big day, so I'd like to say a merry christmas to everybody who's visited the blog, commented (even the sarcastic ones!!!) or passed on a link, thanks to you all. Its traditional to take stock at the end of a year, so in keeping with that tradition here's a list of the gadgets that crossed my desk this year that have impressed me most.

1. Apple iPhone 3G. Not completely flawless, yet absolutely true to what Apple intended when they designed it. The original iPhone flaunted its brilliant UI and genius in restricted areas whilst being unsuited to the European market with its large 3G penetration. The revised version added that high-speed data connection and the ability to run third party applications. Everything else since then has just been icing on the cake. High quality third party applications (especially games) have appeared in their thousands, usually at scandalously low prices. They have been sold in their millions.

To make the final step to legendary statu…

Madoff Claims First Life

Whilst I'd like to think the vagaries of the financial world have little relevance here in an IT blog, the truth is actually that the fraud, deceit and mismanagement which is currently bringing the world's economy to its knees is having a huge impact in the IT world, from the financial troubles of big retailers (like DSGi) to the variation in exchange rates hurting manufacturers. All of this affects people's jobs and livelihoods, but the suicide of a French fund manager - out by nearly £1bn of his clients money thanks to the Madoff fraud – put things into sharp focus.
The guilty - the Bernie Madoffs of this world - have been living the high lite, getting fat on the bonuses earned through sharp practice whilst the innocent have been left to carry the can. In this case Thierry de la Villehuchet paid with his life and Bernie Madoff, those around him who helped perpetuate this fraud and the regulators whose negligence allowed it to pass un-noticed for up to twenty years should …

Elevation Feeds The Palm Loss Monster

Palm’s recent disastrous financial results have done little to dampen the ardour of Elevation, the investment company backed by Bono, who announced a further $100m investment in the company.
To put that sum into context, Palm lost over $ 500m last quarter, reducing its cash holdings even further. Given that rate of cash burn Elevation`s $100m represents a little under two week operating capital. Add in the $200m that Palm holds in cash and short term investments and the current credit crisis; and that leaves Palm with enough capital to last through to February.
Which means the forthcoming CES announcement had better be good.

Is Sony’s netbook really a UMPC?

Engadget (and others) have found a filing on the FCC’s website which details a new machine from Sony. At the same time Sony New Zealand has begun teasing a new Vaio laptop that will “change the way you look at laptops. Forever”.
The dimensions of the new machine (calculated from the size of a label detailed on the FCC website) make this machine just a bit too small to work as a true netbook – unless Sony have done something radically different with touchpad and keyboard.
On the other hand the dimensions are very, very similar to the Q1 Ultra – and this could point to Sony making something which is hybrid netbook/UMPC – a successor to the UX range if you like.

A nice thought, although if you check the bottom of the picture there are very clear indications that the device has hinges – so either a UMPC with a drop down keyboard or a netbook on a truly minimal scale. We won’t find out until January 9th.

Can Mozilla Survive Chrome?

Mozilla Firefox has become a very popular browser in the last few years, rising up to challenge Internet Explorer’s dominance, despite the latter’s inate advantage of being pre-installed on every PC shipped. A large chunk of the funding for Mozilla comes from its close relationship with Google, but it looks like that could be under threat with the arrival of Google’s Chrome browser, which the company clearly intends to make the backbone of its strategy to challenge Microsoft with its vision of computing as a service.
For Google this makes absolute sense, it needs to have tight integration between the browser and the service to ensure that things work well and it can only do this by owning the browser. The obvious question around how they intend to maintain standards compliance and move forward with a Google agenda hasn’t been addressed yet.
For Mozilla the reliance on Google’s money can continue for another 12-18 months, then development funding needs to be underwritten from another sou…

Apple All But kills MacWorld

January's MacWorld will mark a significant point in time - it will be the last time the show will be attended or keynoted by Steve Jobs and Apple. Which seems a strange move, given that this is the premier Mac show and has been the location for many of Apple's key launches down the years.

There are a few reasons being put forward for this decision - one that Apple will be moving its show to CES, which runs concurrently; the other around Steve Jobs health and its varying reported strength.

I suspect that this is actually a sign of a wider malaise that will afflict the trade show industry in the coming months.

After all as things are getting tight financially why go to the expense of exhibiting at a tradeshow when some online viral marketing will do the job just as well. Or if you're a company like Apple you have ready access to the cream of the blogging community just waiting to blog your every more, live and at little or no cost to your advertising budget.

Now this won't w…

Android Powered Omnia Next Year

pictures have surfaced of a version of Samsung's Omnia i900 Window Mobile Smartphone with Google's Android installed as the operating system. This makes four Android handsets in the offing for the new year - an exciting prospect.

The Samsung (I'm not aware of it being named yet) retains the touchscreen only format of the Windows Mobile version, which suggests that we'll be seeing the first Android soft input solution here as well. Will it retain its 5Mpixel camera, video recording and weird 400 x 320 screen resolution too? I suspect so, which will probably be the main reason why this takes Google's platform a big step closer to mainstream than HTC's G1 has done this far.

Vye S37 Arrives

Yes, as well as the Samsung, I now have another piece of mobile tech to look at over the festive period. This time its the Vye S37, a convertible tablet PC with 7" screen and a large battery. Thus far I've only managed to take it out of the box to establish that everything is there, so look for an in-depth review some time in the next couple of weeks.

Samsung Q1 Ultra Update

Well I promised an update to my first thoughts on the Q1 Ultra after the weekend, however a particularly nasty chest infection stopped me travelling so too many questions remained unanswered, but I will update my thoughts after a couple of weeks of ownership.

The Q1 has taken over as my primary tool in the last couple of weeks and has coped admirably with everything that's been thrown at it since. That includes all the standard things that you'd do with a laptop/tablet - note-taking to excel; Skype video to BBC iPlayer and most points in-between. That's impressive given the apparent low-spec 800 Mhz Intel processor which powers it. At the moment I'm listening to Last.fm, carrying on a Skype chat and (hand)writing this post without any troubles at all.

The screen is bright - its clearly visible in direct sunlight, indoors its necessary to turn the brightness down several notches otherwise it overpowers ambient lighting and makes the key markings hard to read. All other LC…

So Long Zaurus, We Barely Knew You

Sharp has decided to finally pull the plug on the life support machine that has been keeping its Zaurus PDA alive for the last far years.

The Zaurus has been a ground-breaking device ever since its launch. First device with a concealed keyboard; first device with a VGA screen; first with a built-in hard drive... Not to mention Linux, flash RAM, etc.

Of course the Japanese focus of the device and its marketing meant that it fell behind in other areas - the absence of any wireless radios in even the latest of its iterations.

There were eventually only three official international releases of the Zaurus. The 5000/5500 which tailblazed the line through the likes of Palm and Compaq's dull peers; the 5600 which brought maturity to the line, but only made it to the US; and finally the 6000, which was the only Zaurus which came with built-in wireless, but was difficult to get hold of even in the States where it was officially available.

It was the Japan only 8x0/3x00 ranges which really will …

Japanese Mobile Phone Sales Worsen

Seems like there's just varying degrees of bad news recently, the latest coming, via Forbes, from Japan; where sales of mobile phones have continued to slide - and the rate of slide is increasing too. Having registered year on year drops around 21% in the first half of the financial year to September (but with drops of 30% in July and 48% in August).

October's figures show a continued acceleration - a 58% fall off in sales year on year. Some have characterised this as being an indication of Japan's saturated mobile market, but that seems unlikely given the country's love of new gadgets. Much more likely to indicate that the Japanese are digging in for serious recession - remember last time out Tokyo property prices collapsed by 75% - and that's very bad news for companies doing large amounts of trade there. Nokia's withdrawal from the Japanese market looks remarkably prescient now.

Yet Another Banking Con

Having endured the after-effects of some pretty major league dubious practice (I refrain from using the words criminal negligence only because I couldn't possibly afford the lawyers) and seen the global economy crushed as a result; we now start to see some more real evidence of the calibre of people who rise to the top of the modern banking world.

Bernard Madoff, former head of NASDAQ, has been arrested after admitting running a completely fraudulent hedge find, possibly since 1960, with a potential impact (to other banks initially) of around £35 billion. So that's one pillar of the banking industry exposed as a thieving, lying scumbag, how about another uncovered as super-gullible, or possible super-stupid? That would be Nicola Horlick - the UK's so-called superwoman - who not only invested as much as 10% of her employer's assets into Madoff's black hole; but also sang his praises whilst doing so...

I suppose the positive side of this 'credit crunch' is that…

Credit Crunch Biting Even In Japan Tech

There are some indicators that tell you things have gone beyond the 'getting really bad' stage. For example the troubles at Honda and Sony, two Japanese companies that should have been well insulated from the downturn. Honda's decision to kill its Formula One team must have been as painful as it was embarrassing.

For Sony the culling of 5% of its workforce is probably as much the result of some pretty bad decisions over the last few years as the current economic client. Failure to protect its Walkman brand from the iPod onslaught, the failure of the PSP and the PS3 to compete against Nintendo's DS and Wii; and the subsequent drop in game revenue. Not forgetting the drop in percieved value in the Vaio line which can't have helped the Sony bottom line. In fact if you add in the poor performance of the Sony-Ericsson joint venture its been a bad few years for the company and if their consumer divisions are doing as badly its unlikely that these will be the last lay-offs…

The Mobile Data Boom Is Heading For A Jam

Have you noticed that this year's must have thing is a 3G mobile broadband connection for your laptop? All the operators are pushing them heavily (even usually data-unfriendly Virgin) either as free laptop deals or modem/contract bundles, mobile broadband has never been cheaper or more accessible.

Which worries me.

As it gets more and more difficult for the operators to erect 3G masts - public opinion being what it is - and the number of users increases month by month there's going to be a inevitable fall-off in performance, making for a poorer experience for everyone.

I think the mobile operators are hoping for the imminent availability of pico- and femto-cells, devices which attach to your broadband connection and act as a mini-mast for 3G services, theoretically filling in the gaps in the 3G network. I'm not so sure that there'll be the sort of take-up necessary to make this work. And even if there is, just how much of your bandwidth are you going to give up?

And the si…

Is Palm Getting Ready To Launch A Monster?

This post from Treo Central (and also on a few others) points at the rumoured Palm Roteo device, possibly the first to get the new Nova Linux Palm platform.

And boy is it an ugly beast.

Interesting concept, the idea that you gain the benefits of a large screen and still have the ability to walkaround with the device in one hand in the same way as a device with a front mounted keyboard. Smacks of the sort of thinking that produced great little tools like the Tungsten T.

So will the fact that it looks like Frankenstein's Monster and may ship with a completely untried OS stop it being a sales success? I fear that Palm's recent troubles won't help in this respect.

Q1 Ultra Thoughts

Well I've had the Q1u for the best part of a week, time to post some first impressions and thoughts.

On the whole I have to say I'm mighty please with the Q1u, its filled a hole in my technology needs that I'd probably never have noticed before I started using it. Prior to the arrival of the Q1u I was using my OQO as my travelling companion and a Dell 17" laptop as my main machine at home. Naturally the OQO introduces some compromises, its screen and keyboard are pretty small and while notetaking using the active pen feels pretty natural it has two downsides - firstly the unit gets uncomfortably warm in the hand and secondly the fan can become intrusive, especially in a quiet environment.

The Q1u doesn't suffer from either of these problems and that's a small price to pay for its reduced portability. Even better, the portfolio case and keyboard turn the Q1u into the ultimate convertible, on the desk its as usable as a regular laptop - albeit a very small screene…

Is It Just Me?

Or has the release of the iPhone's latest OS resulted in a significant increase in battery drain to go with the improved performance?

My previously stellar battery life is now no better than other smartphones I have owned.

Psst... Wanna Buy Palm?

That's right Palm, not a Palm.

The companies shares have slipped below $1.50 - around an eighteenth of their value two years ago... Making their market cap about £300!!!

Seriously though, after more bad news this week it's no surprise the shares are tumbling. By this time next week that slide may well have taken the shares below a dollar and with little cash reserves, no real product movement and little hope of credit from the banks this could be the beginning of the end.

Unless Elevation are prepared to throw more money away of course.

Samsung Q1 Ultra Arrives

Despite some fairly strong advice to go for a MacBook and what I hope was a tongue in cheek recommendation to go for the OQO for it's warming properties, I find myself the proud owner of a Samsung UMPC.

I'm hoping to ascertain why UMPCs have been failing as a category and also to see how Samsung have carved themselves a sizeable slice of this niche market.

First impressions of the Q1 Ultra are very positive: its a good looking device, with a nice bright screen and some clever touches - performance on this XP Tablet version is very good too. One fear I had were the possible shortcomings of a pressure touchscreen after a year with the OQO's active digitiser, but this has proved unfounded as the performance has been at least as good so far.

Tomorrow will see Samson (as he has been christened) loaded up with software - then we'll see how good this little tablet really is...

Virgin Makes Pitiful Mobile Broadband Offer

You'll no doubt have seen the headlines around Virgin's 30p a day mobile broadband offer. Which sounds cheap, but beware, Virgin only allows 25MB of data usage for that 30p and will charge you around £2/MB for any run on.

Compared to T-Mobile's £1-per-day offer, with a 3GB monthly fair use policy and a guarantee of no run-on fees it doesn't look that great after all.

Nokia N97 Launched

Nokia's new flagship phone has launched and boy have they packed it with features. Loaded with (Deep breath) a touchscreen, sliding qwerty keyboard, HSDPA, Wifi, Bluetooth, A-GPS, TV output, 32GB storage, micro-SD slot, 5Mpixel camera with DVD quality video support and a Carl-Zeiss lens; this is has heavy hitter in the burgeoning prosumer smartphone market created by the iPhone. There's also a high resolution 3.5" screen (640x360) with support for all the major video formats - so you can stuff that 32GB full of movie files if you so desire.

The only fly in the ointment is its reliance on Symbian S60 - version 5 with touchscreen support - which looks like the weakest link in its armoury. Its going to mean a dearth of quality add-on software and a mish-mash of a base OS designed to be used with a phone keypad and a touch screen GUI which doesn't quite fit, as seen on the XpressMusic 5800, the only other device currently running this config.

Still, this looks like it could…