Wednesday, 30 July 2008
From a standing start they've put together a Linux core and Java libraries to create a OS/Platform, which they appear to have been hawking around the mobile market since late 2006. The announcement of Android late last year busted rumours of a 'gPhone' but suggested that a multitude of manufacturers might be releasing handsets around the latter part of this year.
Enterprising folks have managed to get the platform up and running on a number of handsets (HTC WM devices and Nokia Maemo Internet Tablets mostly) and there's not yet a wow factor about the project. That's probably the job of the 50 developers who are currently being funded between $25,000 and $300,000 to develop apps for launch.
I can't help but feel that Google's need for a platform has vanished due to two seperate events. Firstly the arrival of more and more handsets with GPS on-board. This makes them ideal candidates for the location-aware services that Google would like to push to them. Secondly Google's GPay patent isn't looking enforceable (or even allowable) given the number and variety of 'prior art' examples which abound.
Given that clients for Google Maps already exist on Windows Mobile, Symbian, Blackberry and iPhone (99.9% Smartphone market penetration); and that this technology is likely to form the basis of any location aware application; why would Google get involved in the expensive, messy and focus-shifting handset market?
J. Gold Associates have been suggesting that Symbian and Android would merge in the near future. I can't see how that would benefit either party. However I suspect that at some time in the next year or two Android may revert to being an intermediary layer on one or more of the existing Smartphone OS's - Java on steroids if you like. It would give Google an out which saves face and allows them to re-focus effort on delivering location aware features before Facebook, MySpace and new startups like Loopt beat them to it.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Its a bit of a looker, with Toshiba claiming it to be the lightest two spindle equipped machine on the market. However its in no spindle mode where it scores best on the portability front - its barely heavier than the HTC Shift in this mode and a lot more usable.
The Toshiba logo is the wrong way round on the lid though, following the current (narcissistic?) trend for makers names to be legible on the lid only when open. Its more of a problem for the Tosh because its shape disguises the location of the hinge and every single person I gave it too tried to open it the wrong way around.
The model I had was packing a hardware encrypted drive from Stonewood and in this configuration ran between four and five hours on its standard battery before giving up the ghost. The screen uses LEDs for the backlight and has a coating which makes it more readable in sunlight, although this should be qualified by saying that more readable than the unreadable of standard notebooks still doesn't make it a pleasant experience in bright sunshine (not that we've had too much of that this summer). For brief outdoor use it was passable, but no more than that.
The keyboard was similarly okay, considering the constraints of the form factor, but I didn't find the trackpad to be of much use - and I'm one of the few that enjoys using one.
Wireless reception was excellent, however on battery power the R500 disconnected from the network ever five minutes. That suggested a fault in the review machine, especially as when AC powered it had no such problems.
Finally I was a little concerned with the robustness of the lid and whether it was up to the job of protecting the screen enclosed. If found a lot of flex across the lid and would suggest that the R500 would reward careful handling to avoid an expensive screen shattering moment.
Overall its a nice toy, but I think too many compromises have been made to get the headline weight and thickness figures down. I could have handled a couple of extra millimetres of thickness and an extra 100g of weight in exchange for a sturdier feeling machine.
Monday, 28 July 2008
Of course the news of the iPhone 3G's early success and the amazing App Store performance were in there, as well as details of the best ever quarter for Mac sales, with Apple becoming the third largest PC seller and approaching 10% market share.
But also in there was the news that investors should get ready for the effects of a new product launch. And not in a good way, at least as far as margins are concerned.
Now anything that hits margins but (presumably) increases revenue and gross profits has to be something at the lower end of the market. Mostly because I don't see Apple taking slim pickings out of a product with a big price ticket. So what's in the works?
There's been a bit if speculation around a tablet Mac for some time (an iPod Touch with a big screen, effectively) and the MacBook range is due for a refresh, so they both seem likely candidates. Most of the smart money is out for a drop in price of the iPod Touch, which wouldn't really merit the big build up that Oppenheimer gave it, despite his best efforts not too.
Are Apple about to delve into the ultra-mini PC market and throw something out at the EeePC's £299 price level? It would be a great way to grab even more market share, especially at a time when Microsoft are in serious trouble (poor Vista sales, the Yahoo fiasco, the Zune). Given that Apple has the inclination to take OS X down to that sort of price level, what sort of hardware specs would we expect to see?
Well from experience I know that OS X 10.3 will run on as little as a 400MHz G3 processor reasonably well. So something based around Intel's Atom, 1GB of RAM and a basic 16GB flash drive should do very well. Could it do it at a cheap enough price level? Who cares - if Apple were to make that machine available at around 25% more than the equivalent Asus/HP/Dell equivalent they'd be queueing up outside Apple Stores for days before the release. And I'd probably be at the head of the queue.
Sunday, 27 July 2008
The easiest way of doing this? Click here and take the test. If your DNS server comes back as being at risk then switch to OpenDNS by following the instructions here.
And even if your DNS server appears to be good you're probably as well to change anyway as you'll benefit from generally better security, more features and more speed than your ISP assigned DNS.
The recent test of Nokia's new e71 is a case in point. The headline: "Nokia E71 Is a Legit iPhone Killer — We’re Serious This Time"
Now there are so many ways this is garbage. Apparently they're serious this time - as opposed to all the other times they were just having us on? What about the fact that this is a business phone, with a small screen and large keyboard aimed squarely at the Blackberry market, with a few consumer features for good measure. The iPhone famously being a consumer phone with large screen, multimedia at its core and a few corporate features added on the side. No one conisdering the one would ever look at the other. Then there are Nokia's notorious issues with syncing, Mac compatibility, Symbian's flimsy app catalogue and unstable Release 3 software. Or the iPhone's inability to edit Office docs or copy and paste - key features in a serious business phone I would suggest.
Still, wouldn't want that to get in the way of a good headline would we?
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Its a less than pleasant experience. First you manually have to install the certificates, which means exporting them from the CA to files and then getting them onto the device, easy enough if you're a system admin... less easy for Joe User. Once the certificate is installed you can them enable Wifi and login to confirm authentication. And then randomly have to re-login to the same network depending on what you have connected to in the meantime.
And on the iPhone? Turn on wireless, enter your login details, accept the certificate and then just use it as necessary.
Just a bit easier...
The number of apps has nearly doubled too, from 500 at launch to over 900 today. Which suggests that more and more developers are seeing the potential is the platform - and are probably deserting other less successful platforms at the same time.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Which I'm guessing will compare very favourably to the less than 20% of other smartphone users who have paid for applications for the phone.
The upshot of this is almost certainly going to be a huge surge in developers switching platforms. Why not? After all Apple's terms are a lot better than Handango's for the developer; the whole buying process for the consumer is easy and painless, which practically guarantees they'll buy more and finally the whole selling process is handled by Apple which makes life easy for the developer too.
To sum up the article (to which I refuse to link) Sheesley says that if you took the $4000ish an iPhone and totally unlimited contract would costs over two years and put it in stocks it would be worth $38,000 in thirty years time. Further he then says if you were to pay the $149/month for the At&T service into a savings account for thirty years then it would be worth $205,000 at the end of the third decade.
What utter tosh! Who is going to sign-up to a contract and then run it for thirty years? And is anyone expecting the iPhones themselves to last more than two or three? This claim is the more ludicrous because its the financial equivalent of saying "Suppose the moon was made of cheese..." Yes if his article said "Unlimited contract on AT&T will cost over $200,000" the fair enough. But it doesn't.
The first claim doesn't even add up on basic facts - and for this I'll have to switch to UK pricing to base an example in fact.
The iPhone on the cheapest contract with O2 costs £639 over 18 months, with 75 mins, 125 texts and unlimited data calls and wifi hotspot access. A feature phone on the same contract costs £360 over eighteen months without the data plan or wifi access.
Which means you're paying £279 over the 18 months for the iPhone, data plan and hotspot access. Subtract the latter two (£135 for the data and £48 of the equivalent Boingo Wifi plan) and you're left with the additional cost of the iphone over those 18 months is actually £96. Put that £96 into a stock offering even a 10% rate of return and its value would only be approximately £1700, nothing like the figure quoted by Sheeshley. This isn't taking into account Sheesley's suggestion that you carry your laptop at all times (and who's funding that £400 purchase I wonder?) so that you can use the free Wifi that apparently abounds in the US. Hardly practical and unlikely to fit in your pocket...
Furthermore the whole concept of calculating the cost of something by extrapolating the interest on its capital expenditure over a extended period of time is false. I seriously doubt you'll find any Total Cost of Ownership models which use this method for measuring value and cost because its totally irrelevant. By the same argument I could take the £250,000 I spent on my house and put the money into that 10% return account and in 10 years it would be worth £650,000. Of course I'd have nowhere to live in the meantime, but hey, why let common sense get in the way of a catchy tegline?
Saturday, 19 July 2008
With most analysts predicting that mobile phone purchases will be one thing that suffers badly during the current credit crunch and Apple's recent reputation for being able to buck downward market trends that's got to have the bean counters at Nokia, HTC and RIM quaking in their boots.
Friday, 18 July 2008
I'm no stranger to Apple's products, having owned more PowerBooks than you can shake a stick at, I even had (still have, in fact) one of the original Newtons. Even so, the degree to which Apple have trumped Microsoft, RIM, Palm and Nokia is almost disconcerting. It makes you wonder what they've been up to all these years.
The speed of the GPS, the quality of the browser and the slick operation of the music and app stores on the device is amazing. The quality of the App Store products is mostly poor, but then there are some gems in there and this is week one - it took Pocket PC and Palm much longer to build such comprehensive libraries.
The iPhone 3G achieves even more than the original and is likely to spur Apple to greater things on what is becoming a platform in it's own right.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Whilst everyone else is looking to copy Apple's swoopy, swooshy user interface and making everything ever-so touchy feely Palm has continued down the road that it began with the earlier Treo 750 in making a touchscreen Windows Mobile device as easy to use without a stylus as with.
The enhancements which bolstered the previous Windows Mobile Treo, the 750W, have been built upon here and I can genuinely say that Palm have built an exciting device, one which will appeal to the mass of people unimpressed by the iPhone hype.
I wait with baited breath for the UK GSM version to arrive...
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Unfortunately there are two problems: Apple's claim of 500+ apps and their quality.
First off any list that includes 7 Bible Readers, 10 Tipping programs, 11 RSS readers or glorified feeds; 7 golf scorecards and an incredible 118 ebooks which are all in the public domain and freely downloadable from sites like Project Gutenberg or manybooks.net; is a list that needs to be seriously trimmed.
I mean I've only barely scratched the surface and it seems to me that if you remove all the junk (a labour contractions timer? a virtual glass of milk? these aren't apps) and duplications you'd have about two dozen useful apps and about the same in fringe apps. Hardly matching Apple's grandiose claims.
There's no doubt the concept has potential, which is why Palm (unsuccessfully) tried to implement the same concept on their handhelds several years ago.
But if it is to work Apple are going to have to start getting real with its claims and making a bigger effort to control the quality of software being published. Otherwise the whole model breaks down.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
The tagline makes a good point too, 3G, WM6 and all the applications you want on a phone and network of your choice. One size doesn't fit all.
Shame Microsoft haven't been out on their bandwagon shouting about Windows Mobile features before now.
Microsoft and its mobile partners have been quietly getting on with the job though and it seems that Apple's Jesus phone hasn't had quite the impact that the media outlets would have you believe.
For example in the last quarter Windows Mobile sales grew by more than the complete sales total of iPhones worldwide (1.8m against 1.7m) enough to keep Windows Mobile a comfortable second behind Nokia/Symbian in the smartphone segment.
Now those numbers are something of a surprise and may be skewed by a fall off in availability ahead of the 3G launch, but even so its a clear indicator that Apple's one size fits all mentality needs to be revised if its going to compete with the serious players in the smartphone market.
Its now looking like August is the earliest ship date... Never mind, the say patience is a virtue...
Well I have to tell you that its almost certain that you're worrying about the wrong thing. The laptop is worth a few hundred quid, but the data on it could be worth much, much more. Especially in the hands of a skilled thief.
Ever used you laptop and credit card to do some internet shopping or login to your banking website? A thief could use that information to clear you out. And if you're thinking you're safe because the site uses SSL then think again.
Not so many years ago I took part in an investigation into a social worker who was suspected of possibly exposing the children in his care to pornography. By forensically examining his computer drive we were able to establish he was innocent of that charge, yet discovered some rather more disturbing evidence which required immediate disciplinary action to be taken.
Given access to your laptop and those same tools a thief can get into any website you've visited, secure or otherwise.
Your only protection is some heavy duty encryption, which protects the whole disk or is embedded into the drive electronics themselves. Don't rely on Windows own encryption (the security key is easily retrieved) and don't accept anything less than AES-256 standard. Create a secure, complex pass key and don't write it down.
If your laptop goes missing and you've taken these precautions then you need only worry about filing your insurance claim form. If you haven't then its time to start worrying...
Friday, 11 July 2008
A computer system failure (a catch-all term for something that I'm guessing was probably nothing to do with computer systems and all to do with penny-pinching) meant that customers spent up to two hours longer collecting their iPhones than expected and a large number won't actually work until the activation process catches up.
Never mind, at least they appear to have generated some column inches, not necessarily a guaranteed thing given the lower key reception for this second generation device.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
There are some highlights (ereader and evernote for example) but Apple are going to have to entice more serious developers to the platform if its going to be taken seriously.
O2 managed to sell their stock in a matter of hours, something that they rather pointedly didn't achieve back in the Autumn.
There are some rumours that new customers to O2's network got the bulk of the available stock, understandable from O2's position; and its likely that more pre-order phones will arrive tomorrow, so no-one should be overly disappointed come Friday.
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
And a fancy mouse. Yes, a mouse on a Windows Mobile device. The five way pad is also a laptop style trackpad, which can be used to move the (slightly ugly) mouse pointer around the screen. Guarantees you'll almost never need your stylus.
Shame they couldn't find a way to integrate the click and hold action into the pad, you'll need to grab the stylus or use a finger if you want to use this feature.
Otherwise a pretty fast handheld, with a nice screen and okay keyboard. Shame about the proprietry power and headphone connections though...
All in all a pretty impressive device, however I suspect the forthcoming Palm 800W will be a better buy, especially if Palm extend the OS improvements made for the 750W onto this new device.
Research carried out on behalf of Dell appears to show over 600,000 laptops being lost in US airports every year. Around 12,000 every week if the figures are to be believed.
I'm sceptical mostly because the release of the survey coincides with the launch of a new laptop locator service from Dell. Still I suppose by the time that you add in the people scamming their employers and insurance companies then it might be possible to arrive at such a figure.
Most of the laptops appear to go missing in the process of being security scanned. Which also suggests that the security staff involved are either none-too-bright or in on the deal. Neither of which seem like acceptable traits for the staff guaranteeing your safety in the air...
Monday, 7 July 2008
You get something less than four thousand weeks on thi planet and you guys are happy to waste one of them queueing up to buy something?
Sheesh... Lifeis wasted on the living...
Friday, 4 July 2008
Amazingly enough Symbian's software powers around one in thirteen phones sold in the world, which shows that Nokia are clearly taking the twin threats from Google and Apple very seriously indeed.
First milestone will be the much anticipated S60 Touch platform, now that touch is the thing to have. Nokia should have some hardware available in the latter half of this year, not before either.