Friday, 29 February 2008
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 for an solid state hard disk, outdoor-optimised screen and a HSDPA modem make it a truly anytime, anywhere piece of equipment.
My only problem with OQO Appreciation Day is that its only once every four years. The guys at OQO obviously deserve at least an annual celebration.
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
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.
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.
Sunday, 24 February 2008
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. Indicative of the commitment of Google to its new mobile platform or Palm's incompetence with theirs I wonder.
Thursday, 21 February 2008
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.
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 done well of late.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Monday, 18 February 2008
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.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
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 again that Apple really does have the customer experience well and truly sewn up.
Time for the competitors to step up to the plate and provide some real competition.
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.
Saturday, 16 February 2008
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.
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
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.
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!)
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
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.
Monday, 11 February 2008
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 iPod might be a big ask...
Saturday, 9 February 2008
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.
Friday, 8 February 2008
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...
Thursday, 7 February 2008
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...
Wednesday, 6 February 2008
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 made to get their supr-thin headline figure.
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 a built in stand when laid down on a desk, so that the screen is angled towards you and is therefore still quite readable.
The screen itself is about 7" in diagonal and readable from quite a wide angle. Its not so good out of doors, although still readable. Native resolution os 800x480, which is quite blocky on a 7" panel, however the interpolated resolutions of 800x600 and 1024x600 are pretty awful, so you'll only want to view them when dialogue boxes or other buttons run off screen. This is true of all UMPCs I've tried with the 7" panel so shouldn't necessarily put you off the Ubiquio.
The weight of the device is considerable - just a whisker under a kilo, but then a large chunk of that is the double battery. Acceptable then, if it means you can run all day away from a charge. Unfortunately not. The 702 lasted between four and five hours on the extended battery, depending on how it was used. Whilst this is better than you'd get from a normal UMPC it still means carrying the charger around for a regular top-up if you need to last a full day.
The extra weight causes problems when writing too. The 702 is heavy to hold in one hand when using the Tablet Input Panel to write on the screen with the other. The stylus is good, and extends to nearly the same size as a regular ballpoint. However the size of the screen means that when writing you have to be careful not to touch it with any part of your hand lest it registers a tap or spurious bit of character recognition. Added to the weight testing your non-writing hand its a bit of a trying experience.
Performance is about what you'd expect from a 1GHz CPU and 512Mb od RAM: pedestrian but usable. It easily copes with the sort of tasks you'd expect of it and you're unlikely to be doing any heavy Photoshopping or the like on a screen this small. A re-adjustment in expectations is still necessary however. The installed OS is XP Tablet Edition, the main benefit being the TIP mentioned earlier. This does run some overhead compared to standard XP Pro, which may explain the occasional sluggishness.
Hardware-wise the Ubiquio is a shiny black plastic unit, slightly larger than a paperback book. It looks quite slick, in a geeky tech kind of way. The screen dominates the front of the device although there is quite a wide bezel containing the majority of the controls. To which: a trackpoint style device to the right of the screen, with left and right mouse buttons to the left; page up and down, settings and screen zoom keys under the trackpoint and on the left a five way controller and buttons for the Ubiquio menu app and the TIP launch. Above the screen are four status LEDs. On the right hand side are the headset socket, volume keys, USB port, power and unlock buttons; whilst on the left hand side there are the power connector, another USB port and the wireless hardware switch. Underneath is what appears to be a dock connector but there doesn't yet appear to be a dock available.
Included software is limited to the non-standard Ubiquio launcher, which could come in useful for use as a portable media player. The dial-keys application is included here, of which I have nothing good to say, although someone seems to like it as it continues to be part of the UMPC install.
The final thing to note is that the supplied slip case is quite the most awful I have ever seen, being little more than a cloth drawstring bag big enough to contain the 702. It is supplied in the most awful bright yellow shade which I imagine would never see light of day in the hands of any self-respecting user. To balance this you do get a very nice cradle which angles the 702 nicely for writing on your desk, although the warning about not touching the screen when writing still applies.
On the whole I liked the Ubiquio 702 with one serious reservation. The screen calibration isn't set until after the user login has completed. This means that if you need to enter a password on the 702 (to access a domain or for device security) it is virtually impossible to use the stylus to hit the required letters on the virtual keyboard. There appears to be no workaround on this problem except to use the mouse to click the letters of your password. Given the severity of the problem and the security issues it brings to the table I'd have to say that I couldn't recommend the 702 for use in an enterprise environment, although for home use you may find it to be an acceptable risk.
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
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 and MTV to provide videos for its MSN service in a bid to close the huge gap to YouTube which scores more than ten times the viewers of its Microsoft challenger.
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.
Monday, 4 February 2008
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...
Sunday, 3 February 2008
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.
Saturday, 2 February 2008
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 disaster, a revival in Mac sales and the continued adoption of Linux; the failure of Zune, Windows Mobile and the Xbox struggles; the Redmond giant is on the ropes on a lot of fronts. Something unimaginable even five years ago.
Are we through the looking glass here?
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.
Friday, 1 February 2008
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.