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Showing posts from January, 2009

Windows Mobile 6.5 Breaks Cover

I'm not sure Microsoft will be completely over the moon about this particular leak but one of their OEM partners appears to have leaked images of the revised UI in Windows Mobile 6.5.


From this very little sneak peak its hard to say whether the Windows Mobile team have done enough to keep Windows Mobile relevant until such fine as the completely overhauled WM7 arrives, but it looks like we only have to wait Feb 16th at MWC, when Microsoft will be taking the wraps off its latest release.

Last.fm Arrives On Android

Last.fm has released its client for Android based smartphones (okay that's just wishful thinking, what I really mean is the T-mobile G1) which manages to match the iPhone version in every respect.
In fact the Last.fm client for Android exposes one of the iPhone's biggest failings - no background applications. Andoid owners will be able to listen to the streaming service whilst browsing, emailing and doing just about anything else really, whilst phone owners will only be able to look on jealously...
Lets hope this comes as a wakeup call to Apple whose non-specific threats of IP violations (apparently aimed at Palm) harked back to the bad old days of the early nineties, when the company was deep in trouble.

That's Pretty Shifty Microsoft

Microsoft has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, with profits for the quarter ending on 31st December 2008 coming in at a dismal $4 billion - down some 15% from the same quarter last year. This is a company with over $37 billion in cash and convertible assets and total assets of over $65 billion... so an appropriate response does not appear to be the dismissal of 5,000 employees at a time when finding alternate employment is going to be either hard or impossible.
Lets just put that into context, the company made a quarterly profit two and a half times that of Apple's best ever quarter which was reported at the same time... that's a completely indefensible justification for taking peoples jobs and in some cases futures too; and as a fair-minded individual a good reason to begin a sustained boycott of the company's products. Its about tine the world's richest computer corporation started taking as much care of its employees as it does its shareholders.

New President, New Broom

Alongside other early-presidency moves, like closing Guantanamo and ending the torture of America's war prisoners, this doesn't seem like a massive thing, but as the we teeter on the edge of worldwide recession it could change the world for some businesses. President Obama has commissioned Sun CEO Scott McNealy to prepare a white paper on the benefits of Open Source software in the U.S. Government. Given some estimates of a $1 trillion annual software spend that's a huge chunk of savings to go at.
Primary consideration must be the replacement of propriety document formats with open standards. This would allow Open Office and its open-source cousins to compete on a level playing field with Microsoft. I should imagine that this won't be too well recieved by Steve Ballmer, but I'm guessing that Office is contributing proportionally less money to the company now then at any time since its mid-nineties launch. Big buyers like Government and the NHS pay next to nothing fo…

HP 2140 Going Thin Client, Flash

HP's CES launch of its latest netbook iteration, the impressive 2140 didn't mention the company's plans to develop the platform into a enterprise friendly mobile thin client terminal but that is what is coming.
The as yet un-named device (although HP's naming convention would suggest 2140T) will sport a flash memory storage device and run Windows XP embedded. As usual with this sort of device local disk access is barred, making this an ideal candidate for secure applications where the data can be locked in the data centre and not put at risk through the loss of the mobile device. The XPe operating system should give access to 3G cards, extending the reach of these devices to anywhere you can snag a half decent 3G signal.
An announcement is due anytime soon, with HP likely to target shipments ahead of the end of the financial year in an attempt to grab a share of the public sector budget clearout windfall.


Slashgear Reviews Vaio P

After the hype and the bizarre launch shenanigans the Vaio P is starting to get into the hands of reviewers. Slashgear is one of the first to deliver a full review on the P and it has a few interesting points to raise.

Ultimately I think we will see this as folly from Sony - missing the mark in all kinds of different areas - a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to differentiate themselves in the 'netbook' market. I also suspect that Toshiba's 'me too' NB100 will be a much more successful device when the sales numbers are in.

Games For Netbooks

Want to add some gaming goodness to your netbook or UMPC but put off by the high system requirements? Well suffer no more, GOG appears to have the answer, with its library of older games at what are quite reasonable prices. For example the critically acclaimed castle-empire building strategy game Stronghold sells for $5.99 (about £4.20 at today's dismal exchange rates) which has to be something of a bargain, especially as the download is DRM-free and the game runs from your hard disk - an important consideration for us ultra-mobile types.

I'm a bit concerned about the system requirements published on the site though, looking at the age of the games I'd expect them to run fine on much leaner hardware than suggested by GOG. I've raised it as an issue with them and will see what they say.

Spotify Invites

If you're still looking for Spotify invites post a comment here as I have a few more to share. I'm still hugely impressed with the concept, the occasional ad doesn't really cause me any problems, its not overly intrusive - let me know how you find the service.

Vaio P Unboxed

Akihabara News has some Sony Vaio P unboxing pictures which can be found here and I'll draw your attention to the picture where the P is being handled... notice the difference in scale when compared with previous shots - almost as if Sony built an 80% scale model just to con potential customers and get some extra CES column inches.

Its a dubious practice but it certainly worked, but for the Palm Pre Sony would have walked away with the best of show award.

O2 Brings Advantage To Education

Which frankly begs the question why? The Advantage has a horrible keyboard and is a very, very expensive device; so why would you (or an education authority) buy one of these instead a perfectly serviceable ' netbook'?

I suspect that O2 have picked these up at a very good price - I can't imagine that HTC are seeing these flying out the door - although the leaked roadmap of future devices does include yet another update to the Athena. So perhaps bought in bulk and with O2's subsidy these might not have the price disadvantage that would otherwise exist - still doesn't seem like this would make a very sensible purchase.

What irks me is that the fundamentally flawed Athena platform gets repeatedly updated whilst the far superior Universal appears to have been left to die.

What The Fu... Iggy Pop, Car Insurance?

Iggy Pop is advertising insurance on British TV, as is Alice Cooper. I'd make some cutting 'Hope I Die Before I Get Old' type My Generation comment but a certain Mr Daltrey beat them to it. And I'm not even going to mention John Lydon...

I mean there are sellouts and there are sellouts and this is the great rock and roll sellout. Sheesh...

Michael Mace On New Palm And The Pre

Here's a typical Michael Mace blog post, considered, articulate and founded on solid industry roots.It gives a very good indication of the impact of the Pre on Palm and the smartphone market; what risks Palm faces, where the competition stands and how Palm has changed. I do wonder though, now that we've seen what Palm, RIM, Apple and Google have on the table whether Windows Mobile isn't being written off prematurely? After all Michael makes the point himself - the tech community writes off a platform long before the world at large.
I like the idea of Microsoft as the underdog - but sales figures probably still show Windows Mobile as a strong contender. Of course without figures for the holiday period its hard to say whose market shone is doing what. Being a more business focused device than all but RIM will probably mean WM devices don't show especially well, but come end of the financial year in March there will probably be some adjustment.

I hope Microsoft are working …

No Google Isn't Killing The World

As you've probably seen in various places over the last couple of days, The Times is reporting a study which suggests that a search on Google produces 7g of CO2, or about half as much as is required to boil a kettle. Now, I'm not going to go into a huge study on just how many servers service the request and routers shunt the traffic backwards and forwards, but a basic look at the technology behind the search will tell you those numbers are a whole magnitude out.
The average Google search takes less than a quarter of a second. The generation of 1KW/h of electricity from a power station averages to about 700g (taking Gas, Coal and Oil powered power stations into consideration, the use of Nuclear or Renewable sources would reduce this).
To put this into context the quarter of a second that your Google search runs consumes 0.05g CO2 to generate 1KW of electricity, so to generate the 7g of CO2 your search would need to run on devices with a combined power consumption of 144KW/h. L…

Sony's Distorted Reality

The Sony Vaio P and the Palm Pre were without a doubt the two most newsworthy launches of CES 2009, so I make no apologies if there have been a lot of P related posts recently. Here's another I'm afraid.
These images are from Sony's Vaio P launch and website, notice anything strange about them? How about the fact that the person in the image has just managed to fit a 4.7" wide device into their back pocket. Not impressed with that? Why not measure your back pocket, do it now I'll wait while you find a ruler - you may want to get some help for an accurate measurement, although if you do the middle of the office probably isn't the place to get caught doing it (I suppose being caught in private could be even worse!)
Done? Well the back pocket of my suit pants measure 4.5", my jeans a little smaller. So how big is the backside on this lass to fit 4.7" of Vaio P into her pocket? Perhaps these are specially made for Sony Japan jeans with 5+" pockets..…

Vaio P Pricing Announced - How Much?

Sony's Vaio P arrives in the UK sometime in February according to the Sony Style website, but at a price that is so-eye wateringly eye that I wonder whether anyone will really be interested. The entry-level P, with HD rather than SSD, the slower Atom Z processor, clocked at a measly 1.33GHz, comes in at £849.

Now while its likely to be cheaper from non-Sony retailers even a 10% reduction would be still outside of the realms of reality.

For comparison the Acer Aspire One, equal or better in every area bar screen resolution, costs around £250... Even adding a 3G card wouldn't make the P look like a good purchase against that.

I also had to laugh at the 'Pocketable' tagline being thrown for the P. Its ever so slightly bigger than the Q1 Ultra which I tote daily, and there's no way I'd consider carrying that in my pocket - even clowns don't have pockets that big.

What's NOT Wrong With Windows Mobile

Now that's not a sarcastic question, more of a response to a blog entry written on Gizmodo by Jason Chen called What's Wrong With Windows Mobile. Now I'm not particularly going to defend Microsoft over what is essentially a clunky system, but Jason's post is factually wrong in many areas and I feel these should be addressed.

Let's take Jason's points in the order he makes them.

1. Its hard to multitask. Sorry Jason, but its really not. In any application you can tap the Start menu icon or press the Windows key and jump to any of the last six applications you've had open or up to nine others on the Start menu. Its possibly the biggest redeeming factor in the Windows Mobile interface.

2. Closing a program doesn't close it. It can do - a tap and hold on the X button, but more importantly why worry about what does and doesn't happen. Since WM5 Microsoft have pretty much cracked the memory management side of things and programs minimise or close as necessar…

Where Does Apple Go Now?

Here's an interesting dilemna for Apple, how does it respond to the Palm Pre? If the Pre is as good as its launch and first impressions suggest then Apple have serious competition on their hands from the most unlikely of sources. They probably expected RIM or Google to come up with something that would seriously challenge the iPhone's dominant position and when both failed to step it probably allowed the iPhone to ease back a touch. Which would explain the less the stellar updates that have been arriving recently.

Palm's recent history - probably for the last five years - had nothing to suggest that they could deliver a truly competitive device and many, myself included have said that this was Palm's last chance for survival. They've grabbed it with both hands and now Apple have been leapfrogged.

Can the iPhone deliver the much promised (and much delayed) missing features of the iPhone - notifications, copy/paste, turn by turn navigation? And more importantly can the…

Palm's Pre/Web OS, More Thoughts

Exciting though Palm's new OS and handset look, there are a few questions that need answering. Like when will we see a GSM version? Given Palm's previous performance and the promise of a US device only by June we might not see anything over here until Christmas...

Also there's the question of applications. It appears that these are going to be web apps in all but location - much like the original iPhone. Whether this will allow developers to deliver sufficiently complex applications when compared to the iPhone or Android remains to be seen.

There was no mention of backwards compatibility with Garnet applications which is somewhat disconcerting, there are after all, somewhere in the region of 30,000 Garnet applications out there, possibly all orphaned now.

Anyway, I'm still pretty impressed with what we've seen thus far, we'll have to wait for our US friends to let us know how the new OS works; I'm sure those other questions will get answered sooner rather than…

Palm's Back In The Game

Palm's CES launch is currently underway and, based on what we've seen of the new hardware (the Pre) and its new Web OS Palm has clawed its way back into the game - assuming the shipping devices match up to the launch buzz that is.

Vaio P Looks A Strange Mongrel

The Sony Vaio P has had its official unveiling and some prices announced and, frankly, I'm a bit bemused.

Apart from the screen resolution (of which more later) the P's specifications read like a fairly standard 'netbook' the like of which will set you back between £200 and £350 from a variety of manufacturers with names and reputations every bit the equal of Sony's. So how exactly have Sony worked out a price of $899 (a likely UK price of £700 when it crosses the pond) as being appropriate?

Its not the battery life (4 hours, above average but far from class leading) or the processor (1.33GHz as opposed to the 1.6GHz on the competition) nor is it the size which, although smaller than a regular 'netbook', is only a marginal saving in volume.

Which brings us to the screen. An 8" beauty with an absolutely eye-popping 1600x768 resolution. Now I've seen that sort of pixel width on a 15" screen and thought it a bit on the high side, I can't begin t…

New OQO Unleashed

And what a beauty it is. The first OQO to sport an Intel processor the new 2+ sports 'netbook' specs in an Ultra-PC form factor. The OLED screen is described as gorgeous and makes this the first PC of any kind to sport the technology. I'm dissapointed that the screen resolution has remained at 800x480, however I can understand that the company needs to compromise between screen real estate and text size to avoid putting off potential buyers with aging eyes.

It'll be interesting to see how OQO have dealt with the heat issues that plague some of the Atom-sporting 'netbooks' - OQO have had much more experience at dissapating heat, but they've got much less space to deal with it.

Price is set at around $999, which will no doubt translate into £999 once the collapsing pound and the 'technology exchange rate tax' are taken into account. No indication on the spec that will come to the UK (and as ever the bulk of the OQO site is restricted unless you have a U…

Spotify Links To Last.FM

One thing I mentioned in the brief summary of Spotify last week was that it didn't do social networking, which is technically true I suppose, but what I did find out after writing the review was that you can link Spotify to Last.FM and scrobble away happily. As a music service I think its safe to say that Spotify now has everything, except perhaps a mobile client (iPhone, WM, etc).

I have some invites to Spotify, so if you'd like to try the service leave a comment on this thread and I'll send you one.

Update: All the Spotify invites are now gone, but check back as I'll distribute more as I get them.

Palm's Big Day In The Spotlight

Later on today Palm should be unveiling its new Nova operating system and, with any luck, the first handset to run on it. There's a lot riding on this (as you're no doubt sick of reading) and Palm can't afford to choke this one as they did with the overly hyped Folio.

Ed Colligan made some fairly forthright statements about what it was and wasn't possible for Apple to do around the time of the iPhone launch. This included the claim that knowing the smartphone business meant that Palm was better placed to deliver a killer handset. Well Apple haven't done to badly with the iPhone, so now its time to step up to the plate Ed, deliver us a new OS and handset that proves what you've been claiming.

Nothing less will do.

iTunes Gets Tiered Pricing, Loses DRM

Phil Schiller, keynoting MacWorld in Steve Jobs absence, made few earth-shattering announcements however the changes in the iTunes Music Store are worth a second look, not least to understand the state of the relationship between Apple and the music publishing industry.Tiered pricing has been on the publishers agenda since day one, they want to charge more for new tracks and albums whilst lowering the price of older tracks. Which fits the long tail model nicely, so long as the number of tracks at the new lower tier is a fair match for those at the higher.Apple has been pushing for DRM-free tracks for a while now, for the obvious reason that more and more people have seen the problems with locked tracks and moved to Amazon. Whilst not a statistically significant number, it was enough for Apple to see the writing on the wall and go back to the negotiating table with the publishers. That contract with Amazon looks a pretty clever move in hindsight, it certainly seems to have focused App…

Engadget Scoops Vaio P

Looks like Engadget have outed Sony's new ultra-small Vaio, if only through some blurry pictures of the device on a screen at CES.I hesitate to call the Vaio P a 'netbook' at least until we've seen a price tag as this looks more than £350 worth of machine, which to me really demarks the point at which a device is starting to get too close to the price of real lightweights with much better spec sheets.Still its nice to see the spirit of the old Picturebook revived in a new device. Lets hope Sony have learnt how to support these devices in the interim period.

UIQ Files For Bankruptcy

Reuters is reporting that UIQ, the touchscreen branch of Symbian, currently owned by Sony-Ericsson and Motorola has finally fallen over and yesterday morning applied to the Swedish courts to begin bankruptcy proceedings.The writing was on the wall once the company started shedding staff, however its interesting to see just how far and how quickly the company has failed, hurt no doubt by some truly awful devices from Sony-Ericsson.When launched in 2002 the UIQ based P800 looked like a template for smartphones to come, yet the software was clunky, not very usable and hugely unstable. The device even came with its own white screen of death, introducing phone users to system crash related service outages years before Microsoft got into the game.Subsequent updates of the hardware brought us the P900, P910, P990, M600 and P1. None ever eradicated all of UIQ’s problems and despite building up a loyal (if small) following the writing was on the wall when Sony-Ericsson switched to Windows Mobi…

Palm To Launch Nova Phone At CES

Looks like Palm are going to grab their last chance opportunity with both hands, as TechCrunch is reporting that the big CES launch will be a new Palm phone running Nova. Hooray!The new hardware sounds impressive too: a large touchscreen and slide out keyboard. Whether this is a HTC style sideways slider or a vertical slider like some mobile phones isn’t clear yet, although I’d hope for the former, on the grounds that it supports a much bigger keyboard. Now Nova just needs to be a big enough step forward to put Apple, Google and Microsoft in the shade. Anything less might not be enough.

Spotify - A Paradigm Shift For Music Services

I've been playing with the public beta of Spotify and its a game changer especially when judged against iTunes and Comes With Music. Spotify essential gives your PC full access to music in the same way as last.fm, although it trades the social aspect for an unlimited listening model - even on the free account. This model is apparently supported by advertising, but I haven't seen or heard any of that yet.For now I can report an abundance of music, a slick front end and good quality audio performance. It will her interesting to track Spotify's performance over the next few years to see if they can deliver on this early promise. More info on Spotify’s web site here.

iPhone 2.2 Upgrade: A Bit Of A Turkey

I've been pretty much impressed by the iPhone 3G since its launch in July and whilst it has its foibles, it remains the trendsetter for smartphone style, performance and interaction; where the iPhone leads others are sure to follow.

Except, there's a massive hole opened up in the iPhone's armour of invincibility which has had been longingly fondling my Windows Mobile device again, aided no doubt by the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia.

Since the 2.2 Upgrade my iPhone has gradually become less and less impressive. Reliability has disappeared out of the window and appears to have taken a large chunk of battery life with it. Little things about the OS work differently and mostly not for the better. I could probably forgive at least some of these problems if the upgrade had added some of the missing functionality, copy/paste or tethering for example.

Instead we've got a hugely unstable version of Safari and Streetview, whoopee...

I have to say that the reduced battery life see…

Apple Preparing Super-sized iPod Touch

A rumour which has appeared before is doing the rounds of tech sites again, presumably because MacWorld is now just a few days away. The story claims that Apple is readying a larger iPod Touch with a screen size being reported as anything between 5" and 9".

I'm really struggling to call this one - after all, Steve Jobs has ruled out an Apple entry into the 'netbook' market which would make an entry into the barren and dying UMPC market seem a less than likely path for Apple to follow. On the other hand, the MP3 market wasn't really going anywhere until the iPod arrived.

A 9" screen version of the iPod Touch seems a little too large to me - with a device that big you'd really want to be looking at full Mac OS X functionality, otherwise its a huge useless brick for most tasks - even if its wafer thin. Using the onscreen keyboard in landscape mode would prove something of a challenge too!

At 7" you're still looking at something that's only bar…

Belated Happy New Year

Another year older another year wiser? Not sure about that but for all my friends, colleagues and visitors here my best wishes for the New Year, thanks for your support and I'll try and keep digging out interesting stuff in the year to come.