Monday, 26 January 2009
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.
Friday, 23 January 2009
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
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.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
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.
Friday, 16 January 2009
Its a dubious practice but it certainly worked, but for the Palm Pre Sony would have walked away with the best of show award.
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.
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
I mean there are sellouts and there are sellouts and this is the great rock and roll sellout. Sheesh...
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
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 to deliver Zune functionality instead of the poor mobile Windows Media Player currently in place, whilst an early release of an improved web browser wouldn't hurt one bit. A reduction in the number of screen resolutions supported would probably be welcomed by the developer community as well. My worry is that Microsoft will be too busy with their Vista-fix (aka Windows 7) that they'll fail to give Windows Mobile the attention it really needs.
Saturday, 10 January 2009
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.
Friday, 9 January 2009
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 necessary.
3. Different builds work differently. Hardly surprising as one supports touch screen interfaces and the other is all keypad based. And the argument that tablet and desktop pcs work the same is spurious - you're still using a point and click metaphor on both. And its not as if many users are going to be switching between a Pro and Standard device regularly enough that they'll confuse themselves is it?
4. Calling is difficult. Really? Here's how it works, from anywhere in the OS hit the green call button then either key a number or select from your list of contacts, hit dial and boom! you're making a phone call. I struggle to see how it could get any easier (in fact its noticeably more difficult on the iPhone for example).
The complaints about the UI are, of course, entirely personal. I've always thought it functional rather than pretty, but its certainly an acceptable method for interacting a phone which offers so many more possible usage scenarios than competitive devices. Jason's main argument is that the swipes and slides of the iPhone are missing, but that assumes Microsoft were in the market for customers looking for eye candy - which they weren't, although they may now be.
Ultimately Windows Mobile has been surpassed in three areas, UI, web browsing and media, but as handset manufacturers have dropped their customisations on top of WM the former is less of an issue; and the arrival of Opera 9.5 as a de facto standard browser for new WM devices the latter is also less of an issue. Media handling is something of a joke and needs to be sorted out, but there are alternative players around which even the most basic of user would soon find their way too.
I don't think anyone would argue that Microsoft have been outplayed on the mobile front over the last year, but dig down into the real usage and the gap isn't as big as some would have you believe. Were I to have my iPhone forcibly removed tomorrow I would be upset naturally, but going back to a Windows Mobile handset wouldn't really cause me any worry.
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 they deliver before the Pre starts shipping around April/May negating some of its software advantages?
The other advantages of the Pre will be difficult to overcome until the next gen iPhone launches, but the absence of a swappable battery or physical keyboard isn't going to hurt as much as the extra software features, but will need addressing when Apple looks to its next hardware refresh.
As I said, a lot of this will depend on how the shipping Pre devices actually perform, but it looks like Palm are standing in front of an open goal and it will be interesting to see how Apple respond to having the goalposts moved on them for a change.
Thursday, 8 January 2009
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 later.
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 to imagine how it looks on something approaching half the size. The 1280 pixel wide screen on the 8.9" HP 2133 was tight enough. Whilst many consumers will look at the numbers and be wowed (at least until they see the price) those who get a demo before buying are going to be put off in droves. What benefit is Sony expecting customers to derive from such a high dot pitch and resolution? Especially when the cost is so high.
The last Vaio to have this form factor, the Picturebook C series, built up a loyal following, but not a very big one. I fear the same fate awaits the Vaio P.
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 US IP address), but if the 2+ mimics its predecessors the $999 model will be very entry level.
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.
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.
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
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 Apple's corporate mind.
So each party has completed a trade off to get what they want and now we'll see some real action in the digital music marketplace? Probably not... Apple's tracks are AAC format, which most MP3 players can't handle. Also a change to the music store now allows iPhone users to buy over a 3G connection - feeding those impulse purchases and probably boosting iTunes market share even further.
Expect to see AAC become a supported format on an awful lot more third party music players in the coming months.
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.
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 Mobile for the X1 last year.
The loss of Nokia’s backing and the rise of too many clearly superior operating systems did for UIQ and its not surprising to see the company become the first casualty of the mobile OS wars. Executives at some other companies would do well to heed the warning and get their houses in order lest they become the next victim as competition for customer’s cash gets tougher and tougher.
Monday, 5 January 2009
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.
Sunday, 4 January 2009
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.
Saturday, 3 January 2009
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 seems to be affecting me only, friends are reporting much better results. Which suggests Apple have made changes that don't suit my usage profile.
I'm left hoping that Apple have a far more impressive upgrade due imminently. Otherwise the desire to break out a Windows Mobile device is going to be very hard to resist.
Friday, 2 January 2009
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 barely portable so why bother for the feature set that the iPod carries. Lets face it, your need for a video player isn't going to warrant a big ole piece of kit that often. Plus the default 480x320 resolution is going to look really blocky at this kind of size.
At 5" we suddenly start looking at a new market - it can retaing the same resolution, remains pocketable (just) and also still fits the iPod Touch target market - those who want to consume media and play games on the move. Adding GPS would be a sensible idea, a half decent camera too; although those features would have little affect on the cost price the perceived value would rocket.
Unfortunately the announcement that Apple's CEO won't be making his customary keynote suggests that anything as radical and newsworthy as this isn't on the menu for Macworld, unless of course rumours of his deteriorating health prove to be more accurate than anyone believes.
Coming off the fence, I'll say that Apple won't announce the new tablet sized iPod Touch at Macworld, but will probably dive in sometime this year. I'll also say that when (if) they do launch it will have a screen of 7" or smaller.