Tuesday, 31 March 2009
This new ad from Microsoft cracks me up, not because there's anything inherently funny about it, rather the controversy its stirred up. The fact is that Apple gouge their customers when it comes to hardware pricing - that's why Apple's gross margins are up near 35%, compared to the 8-15% that is common in the PC business. The net result is that the cheapest Apple 17" MacBook Pro is over $2000 more expensive than the HP Pavillion bought in the advert, or almost four times the price. On a hardware only basis that's just impossible to justify. In the current financial climate its entirely sensible advertising thrust for Microsoft to take.
What's really got the fanbois gagging is a single line uttered by Lauren early in the piece: "I guess I'm just not cool enough to be a Mac person" when she quite clearly is cool enough. Its absolute gold, piercing the overblown 'Apple is cool' image projected by recent Apple advertising. Its not cool to pay way over the odds for something which is only arguably any better, its dumb. the recent falls in Apple's market share suggest a larger majority of people agree.
I don't care if its natural (as the ad agency claim) or scripted (as the naysayers argue) its a clever ad and hits its target well. I can't wait to see Apple's response...
Monday, 30 March 2009
I did like the comment about Skype adding video calling functionality to the application though - good luck, with the iPhone's only camera facing the wrong way!
More importantly users on Windows Mobile, Symbian and Maemo platforms have been asking for this functionality for ages, why hasn't Skype delivered to this much larger audience already?
Are Nokia losing the plot? Sales are off, market share is off, the standard mobile phone market, where there biggest strength remains, is shrinking rapidly, whilst competition in the Smartphone market is exposing the weaknesses of the Symbian platform and sales are again dropping.
The 5800 seems to have some really bizarre design decisions - the UI is confused and confusing and things like the stylus seem to be something of an afterthought. Until the Omnia HD arrives we won't really know whether its an inherent flaw in S60.5 or a Nokia problem, but given this rather tepid review I think I'll hold fire on sampling S60 on this particular handset!
Looking forward to come clarification from MySpace and/or Microsoft...
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Friday, 27 March 2009
So, if you're an Aspire owner then its pobably not a good idea to a) crank the volume up or b) listen to U2. In fact the latter is probably good advice for any laptop owner...
Thursday, 26 March 2009
This follows on from the news that subscribers in all countries other than the UK, US and Germany will be hit with subscription charges to continue accessing the service.
It seems to me a shortsighted move - after all mobile users are much more likely to be the ones who use the full service and Last.FM only really has value in its vast user group whose data allows users to recommend and be recommended songs and artists. Once it starts losing users and therefore accuracy there will be no additional value over and above the Genius feature offered in iTunes.
I will be terminating my use of the service as soon as these changes are enforced, although I'll be doing it with regret. Unless there is an official client announced for these platforms I doubt that I'll be returning either.
There's a new maximum data charge of €1 per MB from July (in time for most people's summer holidays) which falls to 50 cents over the next couple of years. When you consider that most data roaming charges are currently in the region of £7.50 per megabyte (about €8) you'll see what a good job the EU has done of leaning on the operators.
However if you are someone who travels regularly it might be worth investigating Three's Like Home deal, which means that if you're in one of three's partner countries you get the same deal as when you're at home, including your unlimited data tariff.
In terms of page rendering its accuracy surpasses that of any Windows Mobile browser I've tried - there are a few sites that absolutely refuse to display but on the whole if you can view a site on your desktop it will work on NetFront too. I'd quite happily say that as a browser its a match for Mobile Safari - the benchmark for mobile browsing. However it does manage to pack in a few nice little touches which make browsing just a little bit slicker than Apple's finest.
Visual bookmarks, where a mini-rendered thumbnail of the link is shown is nice to use, especially the carousel animation that brings the selected bookmark into focus. I'm also loving the text browsing mode, which strips away everything but the text content of the page and reduces page load times by a factor of five. A good example is this site, which renders fully in 12-14seconds in full browsing mode (displaying everything bar the last.fm Flash animations) but takes only 2 seconds to render in text browsing mode.
NetFront has changed the game for Windows Mobile browsing - we now have something which works as accurately and quickly as Safari whilst having a better memory footprint and processor overhead than Opera Mobile. Bring on the final release.
Although that doesn't sound like a great deal of money for what is a pretty good service, I wonder just how many users will decide to use it given the current economic situation.
Which is a shame given the advantages it has over nearest competitor Spotify.
Still the urgent need to raise some money to pay off the baying music industry has forced their hand, although for the moment revenue raised from website adverts is enough to power the systems and pay off the local music industry here, in the USA and Germany.
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
In about six months time I'll be much more interested in what Microsoft are working with, for now its just a distraction with WM6.5 just around the corner.
I'm far more interested in the news that WMP Mobile will be replaced by Zune for Windows Phones in WM7... that's a much better sign that Microsoft are concentrating on the things that matter.
Evolens has made its PIMOrganizer application free, for a short time anyway. The name is a bit misleading as this is more of a backup and management tool for your PIM, rather than an organiser in itself. Reviews over at XDA-Developers have ranged from the good to the bad, so if you fancy finding out for yourself you can avail yourself of their generousity and download the installer to your Windows Mobile phone directly from here.
I will be installing this to one of my spare devices to see how it runs, but in the meantime let me know how it works for you if you decide to try it.
The Bluetooth headset on the other hand is very impressive. Combining with a USB charger/dock it has 4GB of storage which can presumably be accessed over Bluetooth by the phone as well as through the USB port by a PC, making transfer of files between the two signifcantly easier. No word whether this is using a proprietry protocol or a standard Bluetooth profile, which would make it usable for other phones too.
Perhaps I'll take a survey of activity at a selection of Palm and Windows Mobile websites and publish a metric report that says 'No-one uses their iPhone for web browsing at all' which would be about as valid.
Lets be clear about this, AdMob's survey is invalid for several reasons: conflict of interest, inappropriate survey sample and poor analysis of data. AdMob needs to sell advertising on mobile websites and in iPhone and Android applications, therefore a survey which says anything but iPhone and Android browsing of mobile sites is booming just blows their reason for existence out of the water.
I'd say that as most mobile users will go to the full fat website, so the only time a mobile site gets visited is when the webmaster redirects the browser to that site - and for most of AdMob's targeted sites that's going to mean iPhone and Android, unsurprisingly. Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian users invariably get redirected to a different site (usually by Alex King's Wordpress plugin) which contains no advertising.
So the real story here is: If you want to avoid AdMob's annoying adverts, don't buy iPhone or Android.
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
However I am intrigued by some of the changes brought in by the update and what they say about Apple's relationship with its loyal customers.
For example how many iPod Touch and iPhone users have gone out and spent money on a bluetooth stereo module, FM transmitter or car kit which, with the update to A2DP is now redundant?
And whilst I appreciate that copy/paste is difficult to achieve (although everything cleverer than a toaster has had it since the middle ages) I can see no such excuse for delaying MMS messages, SMS forwarding or Satellite navigation.
In effect, iPhone user, Apple has denied you these features, cost you this money on a whim. A powerplay that says you may own your device, but we own you. Only the arrival of stern competition from Palm has forced Apple's hand into giving you those features. Worse still, Apple have conned the mainstream media into believing 3.0 to be a major update, rather than a fix for the shortcomings of the originally launched configuration. What groundbreaking new feature actually arrived last week?
More bad news for iPhone 3G users will be the launch of at least one new iPhone this year. No doubt making the 3G look as 2008 as it made the original look 2007 at launch. And I doubt that we'll see any subsidised upgrades for any but the highest value users.
I don't imagine that any of this will cause Apple's management any sleepless nights, nor impact its bottom line. Nonetheless its an interesting insight into how the Apple/customer relationship is developing.
Now users who sign up for the Windows Live service (the service formerly known as Hotmail) get push email into the bargain, without really having to do very much at all. The service also synchronises contacts and will integrate your Live Messenger contacts into your address list - a nice touch which shows Microsoft does 'get' integrated services.
The only missing feature is the synchronisation of the calendar service, which would really seem to be an obvious winner, no-one at Microsoft seems willing to commit to this happening yet... Although common-sense says it must be part of Microsoft's consumer strategy.
The email push service is mighty impressive, with new messages arriving at your phone seemingly instantly, a confirmation message for a recent internet order had arrived at my phone before the web page could refresh to say it had been sent. That's mighty quick. Head to head with Apple's MobileMe and Google's Android Gmail, Live for Windows Mobile compares well - MobileMe's push never worked for me and Gmail's IMAP service has been rather unreliable since its introduction. Neither service integrates an Instant Messaging client either.
If Microsoft can sort out Calendar synchronisation that works as well as the email service it will have a compelling package to offer consumers comparing platforms.
A free service that really works and makes offerings from Apple and Google look a bit ropey... Can this really be a Microsoft product we're talking about?
Monday, 23 March 2009
Now while I think that this particular combination is the most effective compromise for a Smartphone, its also a nightmare for designers as striking a balance between the screen and keyboard, whilst keeping the whole device in proportion is incredibly difficult. As yet I haven't seen a device using this layout that could be described as anything better than unbalanced, whether it be from Nokia, HTC, Palm or RIM.
Of the type the Nokia e71 strikes me as the least flawed in design, shame then that it runs Symbian S60, an operating system I've never really been taken with.
But then aesthetic considerations are definitely not at the top of my list when buying a new device.
Sunday, 22 March 2009
Now Spotify is looking to bring its service to mobile phones as well, if adverts for programmers on Symbian, iPhone and Android are any indication.
Of course that excludes one of the major mobile platforms. Which seems strange, given the number of devices Microsoft's licensees are selling and have sold in the past. I guess Windows Mobile users will have to hope that the reason there's no Windows Mobile programmer on the Spotify job advert is that the similarities between development on the desktop and mobile platforms mean that development of the Windows Mobile version is well advanced...
Friday, 20 March 2009
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Now whatever your feeling on the iPhone its ridiculous to suggest that it is anything other than the hottest gadget around. 13.7 million of them were sold last year, more than most other platforms, never mind individual phones.
And to have two devices which next to no-one has handled never mind reviewed in anger in the top ten in its place is completely pointless, calling the validity of the whole list into question.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Of course in absolute terms of what the iPhone can do out of the box there are some notable features absent - video recording anyone? And Apple's dismissal of background applications seems a poor reflection on how they tested the feature rather than an inherent problem with the feature - Windows Mobile phones are able to handle background processes for things like Skype, IM and Scrobbling and still manage to get better or equal performance out of similarly sized batteries.
What is missing from this comparison is the feel and speed of the interface and until someone independent gets their hands on a release ready version of the Palm Pre we'll have to wait. With every day's delay the likelihood of Palm scoring a winner decreases just a little.
Things may be about to change though with the arrival of Pocket Informant in the App Store. A well regarded Windows Mobile application Pocket Informant could make a significant contribution to the iPhone's appeal for people who need more than the basic iPhone PIM functionality.
Coupled with the changes announced for the introduction of iPhone 3.0 its been a good 24 hours for iPhone fans pointing to the continued success of the platform, in the short-term at least.
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
Not any more.
Today's unveiling of OS 3.0 brings all these features and many more; and its available for iPhone owners in June, for free! iPod Touch owners will also get the upgrade however they will be required to pay the usual minimal fee for the privilege.
I'm not sure what impact that will have on Nokia, RIM, Microsoft and Google, but as far as Palm are concerned I'm fairly sure that Ed Colligan and Roger McNamee spent a large part of today's webcast soiling themselves as feature after feature rolled out.
And that's before the third generation iPhone arrives...
Monday, 16 March 2009
First test: Create a contact.
iPhone: Tap the Contacts icon, tap the plus sign and tap in the name box to enter information, once complete tap Save and move to the next field.
WM: Tap the Contacts softkey, tap the New softkey and enter contact information.
Result: Whilst the process of getting to the new contact form is similar, the iPhone requires each field to be saved before the next can be accessed meaning that to enter a full contact with an address, two phone numbers, an email address and company information requires 16 non-productive interactions as opposed to just three on Windows Mobile.
Second test: Edit email details of an existing contact.
iPhone: Tap the Contacts icon, tap the contact's name, tap the Edit button, tap the red icon beside email, tap delete, tap Add new Email, add details then tap Save.
WM: Tap the Contacts softkey, tap the contact's name, Tap Menu, Tap Edit, enter details, Tap OK.
Result: The iPhone interface means that more interactions are required to complete the task, in this case hampered by the inability to tap in to a field to edit it.
Third test: Take a photo and add it to an existing contact.
iPhone: Tap the Contacts icon, tap the contact's name, tap the Edit button, tap Add Photo, tap Take Photo, press the Shutter button, tap Set Photo, Tap Done (this can also be done by starting from the camera, however it takes the same number of taps)
WM: Press the Camera button, press the shutter button, tap Menu, tap Save To Contacts, select contact.
Result: Windows Mobile makes this a quick straightforward task, whilst the iPhone needs more interaction (and because of two periods of waiting - one for the camera to be ready and one for the photo to save to the contact - the task takes significantly longer to achieve. Its entirely possible to complete the task on WM before the iPhone camera is ready to take a picture)
Fourth test: Send an SMS to a contact.
iPhone: Tap the Contacts icon, tap the contact's name, tap Text Message, select number, enter text, press Send
WM: Tap the Contacts softkey, tap the contact's name, tap Send Text Message, enter text, press send.
Result: Poor layout of information on the iPhone Contact's card means that you have to select a destination number after making the text message request, whilst Windows Mobile handles this in the initial Contact card, again reducing the amount of interaction required to complete a task.
Fifth test: Email a contact.
iPhone: Tap the Contacts icon, tap the contact's name, tap email, edit and send the email.
WM: Tap the Contacts softkey, tap the contact's name, tap Send Email, edit and send the email.
Result: Almost identical processes.
Sixth test: Call a number.
iPhone: Tap Phone icon, tap keypad, dial number, press Call.
WM: Press Call button, dial number, Press Call button.
Result: An extra tap is required to open the keypad on the iPhone.
Seventh test: Call a contact.
iPhone: Tap the Contacts icon, tap the contact's name, tap the number you wish to dial.
WM: WM: Tap the Contacts softkey, tap the contact's name, tap the number you wish to dial.
Result: Almost identical processes.
Again its not difficult to see that, as far as user interaction is concerned, the iPhone's interface lags far behind Windows Mobile. For the most common contact tasks there is a small gap in useabilty, however as the task becomes more complex the iPhone makes it much more complex to complete. Fortunately the iPhone performs poorest in the areas which are less commonly used. Once more its clear that in terms or raw usability Microsoft have achieved much more than most commentators would give them credit for.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Which is either a wild shot in the dark or very, very bad news for Palm...
Saturday, 14 March 2009
So Microsoft can do the advertising thing, in a different way to Apple... we just don't seem to get the good ones over here. 'I'm a PC' is okay, but not really good enough...
According to the EFF the list of products where Apple have implemented DRM include:
> Apple uses DRM to lock iPhones to AT&T and Apple's iTunes App Store;
> Apple uses DRM to prevent recent iPods from syncing with software other than iTunes (Apple claims it violates the DMCA to reverse engineer the hashing mechanism);
> Apple claims that it uses DRM to prevent OS X from loading on generic Intel machines;
> Apple's new Macbooks feature DRM-laden video ports that only output certain content to "approved" displays;.
> Apple requires iPod accessory vendors to use a licensed "authentication chip" in order to make accessories to access certain features on newer iPods and iPhones;
> The iTunes Store will still lock down movies and TV programs with FairPlay DRM;
> Audiobook files purchased through the iTunes Store will still be crippled by Audible's DRM restrictions.
Some of these will seem of little importance but others scream out - the use of an authentication chip to force third party vendors to be Apple approved is there for the sole purpose of allowing the creation of an 'Apple Tax' based on the 'Made for iPod' program.
With the recently announced iPod Shuffle things take on a far more sinister bent. Apple have implemented DRM in the headphones! Want to bet that's not been done to keep prices low? Credit for the discovery goes to iLounge, who discovered this worrying development whilst testing.
So far as DRM is concerned Apple's line is 'Do as I say, not as I do' a particularly unpleasant attitude frankly. It seems to me that Apple is seeking to take on Sony for the 'Most evil tech company on the planet' and whilst some buyers will be happy to be tied to Apple's approved partners, others will be bitten once and never again.
Friday, 13 March 2009
O2 UK already has an exclusive on the iPhone, as well as having a pretty comprehensive XDA range of Windows Mobile devices. So why go out on a limb for the Pre - especially if they are expecting a new iPhone this summer?
I can see two possible reasons: firstly having seen the Pre in detail they are convinced that its going to derail the iPhone gravy train and affect subscriber churn, or secondly the new iPhone is so average they need to find another horse to back in the battle for consumer contracts this summer.
Now, all we need is a release date so we can start preparing...
For the puposes of this phase of testing I'm using vanilla WM6 .1 and iPhone frmware 2.2.1. I'll also start each test from the default home screen. I'll also use what I believe to be the most efficient way of completing the task on each device. For each test I'll assume the default view is 'Day' unless otherwise specified. This is configurable in WM, but the iPhone reverts to the last view used.
First test: Create a Calendar appointment.
iPhone: Tap the Calendar icon, tap the plus sign and the tap a field to start entering details.
WM: Tap the calendar plugin, start entering details. On devices with no hardware keyboard there's an extra step to open the input panel. (Default view day or week)
Result: The iPhone requires an extra screen tap over WM, in some cases an extra two.
Second test: View upcoming appointments.
iPhone: Tap the Calendar icon. (If the last view was list - otherwise an additional tap is required to select list view)
WM: No action required, upcoming appointments are displayed on the Today screen.
Result: The iPhone is leagues behind for this task.
Third test: Move an appointment today to next week.
iPhone: Tap the Calendar icon, tap the appointment, tap Edit, tap the time/date field and change details.
WM: Tap the calendar plugin, tap the appointment, tap Menu, tap Edit and change details.
Result: No difference in the number of steps required.
Fourth test: Move an appointment from this morning to this afternoon.
iPhone: Tap the Calendar icon, tap the appointment, tap Edit, tap the time/date field and change details.
WM: Tap the calendar plugin, drag the appointment to the new time.
Result: The iPhone's lack of drag and drop makes this task much more difficult to achieve than WM.
Fifth test: Delete an appointment due today.
iPhone: Tap the Calendar icon, tap the appointment, tap Edit, tap Delete Event and tap Delete Event again.
WM: Tap the calendar plugin, tap and hold on the appointment, select Delete Appointment then Yes to confirm.
Result: Once again the task is easier to complete using Windows Mobile.
Sixth test: Create an appointment repeating six times from an existing appointment.
iPhone: Tap the Calendar icon, tap the appointment, tap Edit, tap Repeat, select the frequency, tap Save, tap End Repeat, select an end date, tap Save, tap Done.
WM: Tap the calendar plugin, tap the appointment, tap Menu, tap Edit, on the Occurs menu select Edit Pattern, tap Next, tap Next, enter the number of repeats, choose Finish and then OK.
Result: Although the same number of taps are required, on the iPhone if you want to set a certain number of meetings you have to calculate the end date yourself - hardly very user-friendly!
Its not difficult to see that the iPhone's user interface makes using the calendar slower, more difficult and clumsier. In some areas the iPhone is way behind, in most of the rest it is still a step behind.
When you add the functional shortcomings of the iPhone's calendar application (no categories, no status, no sensitivity) and the inability to sync multiple calendars (other than with Mobileme) its obvious that in this core PIM function Apple has a significant amount of work to do. If managing a calendar is an important function for you the iPhone isn't necessarily a good choice. Far from being outdated the WM interface makes a calendar much easier to manage.
Lookout for the next test when I'll look at Contacts and calling.
Thursday, 12 March 2009
On the face of it little has changed, not a bad thing as WMP was always a good looking solution, although not on the same scale as the iPod app on the iPhone. The mechanics of the player seem to work much better though - syncing with the desktop player finally seems to work reliably and album art, playcounts and playlists all transfer as expected. The only remaining anomaly - that the shuffle and repeat options don't work properly also seem to have gone away.
On this basis, can WMP serve as your only MP3 player, rendering that iPod, or add-on software redundant? I think it can - as long as your needs are the ability to listen to music either in playlists or randomly, with easy track control and support for A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles. And scrobbling.
Yes its possible to scrobble your tracks live with the entirely unofficial Pocket Scrobbler. This sits in the background and sends details of what you've listened too through to the last.fm servers either instantly or at the users request.
Its not as clean a solution as Pocket Tunes, nor as pretty as Pocket Player, but it is entirely free and it works very well. When the radio portion of the application (inexplicably disabled in this version) is restored this will be the ultimate scrobbling setup.
Pocket Scrobbler can be found here:
Where this will play is uncertain and I doubt we'll see it in the UK, but at least its a sign that Microsoft are serious about the mobile market and intend to compete against Nokia, Apple, RIM and Palm.
Is the success of the iPhone more about it being the ultimate iteration of the iPod line than necessarily about it being the best smartphone? Its clear that media handling is one of the iPhone's real strengths which, along with web browsing, make it such a covetable device.
The other statistic worth mentioning is the behaviour of previous smart phone owners when confronted with an iPhone. Everybody I know who previously owned a smartphone either found the iPhone too limited and never bought in to the phenomena, or has reverted back to another smart phone for some, or all of their smartphone needs.
I'd like to see how all the success of the iPhone has affected iPod sales - and just how its changed Apple's bottom line.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Google was first out of the blocks with the news that UK users would no longer have access to music video on its premium streaming service after the artist's body, the PRS, asked for a disproportionate increase in royalties for the use of content.
The PRS countered by saying that as far as it was concerned the two parties were still in negotiations and it was baffled by Google's unilateral action.
Finally, Billy Bragg, writing in The Guardian explained the formation of a new group to negotiate musician's rights to be fronted by himself and members of Blur.
There's a real sense of traffic accident about this one. No one disputes the artist's rights to get paid for their work and most would agree that they get as badly screwed over by the Music Industry as the customer. What I can't understand is how the artist's have fallen out with Google, who would appear to be their ally in this battle.
Without knowing what the current fees are, or what the proposed new fees being requested its hard to see where the injured party is. However, the artists should probably take a good look at what happened with MP3 music downloads and realise that a little payment for a lot of downloads is better than no payment at all. The majority of the buying public put a very small monetary value on what musicians produce and are happy to take it for free if its on offer.
Being heavy handed with Google sounds like a very bad idea to me...
Unfortunately there are rather strict rules about what a company can and can't do and say about the future - for good reason, to protect investors. If any of those predictions were to prove false Palm/Elevation/McNamee could have found themselves in a whole heap of trouble. Especially it it could be shown that money had been made as a result.
The end result is that Palm had to release a statement to the SEC reversing all the comments made in the interview. Although if the Pre flops I'm not sure that it will protect McNamee from any civil or criminal charges laid at his door.
Although the whole event has garnered some poor pubicity for Palm, on the whole I see it as a reason to be positive, that McNamee's statements were the result of his enthusiasm for a great product getting the better of him. But with the GSM Pre still not even officially announced the time when we can actually get our hands on one looks to be a disappointingly look way away.
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
This year promises to be equally competitive, with the new Palm Pre and an expected on-rush of new Android based handsets, but this doesn't seem to be phasing Microsoft, who let slip a projection for this year in an interview with the Times. That number is 22 million, representing growth of nearly 25% against last year's figure. That's an ambitious target even if the smartphone market is expected to be somewhat immune to the current recession.
It will be interesting to take a look at that prediction sometime closer to Christmas and see just how well Microsoft know their playing field.
What exactly do these people think the iPhone's app store is behind the glitzy front end? Or do they really think Apple has loaded the whole app store onto each iPhone in some secret cache area?
Get real people. All app stores are ultimately just front ends to a web based store of installation files. For Microsoft's large number of existing users it makes lots of sense to provide access to the new store via a web link so they aren't excluded from Microsoft's new income generator. And it also means that Microsoft can sell developers an app store with 50 million potential customers.
All the fancy application and service updates can be managed in any number of on or off device ways whether the store is web based or not.
I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: Its not rocket science.
Which is something of a problem if you have just switched to Windows Mobile. In order to address this shortcoming I've been looking at all the replacement browsers available for Windows Mobile, more details in a future post. However I just had to post on the most recent release of Access's NetFront 3.5 Concept Edition. This is one of the slickest, best looking and most capable pieces of software I've ever seen - never mind for an early pre-beta release.
If you have a Windows Mobile device and want to reverse the browser envy you probably suffer when meeting iPhone users this is a must have on your phone.
And if the rest of Access's ALP OS is this good then I can't wait to see it running on a device.
Dealing with just the facts, two British skiers became seperated from their tech-savvy skiing goup on a run in Verbiers. One of the group put a tweet out asking if anyone knew the mobile phone number of one of the missing skiers and then twittered updates of the rescue services location attempts. So what the headline should be is 'Twitter used as slow, expensive telephone directory and remote rubber-necking service'. Its use in the rescue attempt is peripheral, if at all valid and the headline is wilfully inaccurate. Sadly the missing skier could not be located and died in the incident.
Far more interesting is the story of the second lost skier. He used his iPhone to locate his position using GPS and Google Maps, sent the information to his friends, who were then able to pass the information on to the emergency services, leading to his eventual rescue. A far more important and newsworthy story which shows the benefits of this sort of technology and, just as importantly, knowing how to use it.
Monday, 9 March 2009
After the last set of financial guidance issued by Palm I surmised that even with the reduced revenue that its current range is bringing in the company should survive to launch the Pre and also keep going through the initial sales period that seperates the costs of manufacturing the thing from the arrival of customer's cash from selling it.
Palm is looking to grab an extra $49 million with an issue of common stock, whilst investors Elevation will be looking to cash in some of its options to ease the position that it has in Palm.
Why would Palm feel the need to do this? The only reason I can see is if the Pre isn't getting to market quite as soon as Palm and Sprint have projected. Plus of course there's the whole saga of the GSM handset that the rest of the world is waiting for.
Why would Elevation be cashing in shares now? After all a successful launch is bound to boost Palm's stock further, especially if anyone at Elevation really believes the bluster that iPhone users will be switching to Palm in their droves.
All is not as it seems in the world of Palm and without resorting to tea-leaves or a crystal ball I couldn't guess what the story is. I do think that this is far from the last surprise that Palm and Elevation have to spring on us as far as the Pre is concerned.
Read Palm's press release here:
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Toshiba have done a spectacular job with the TG01 - the combination of huge high-resolution screen and super thin chassis looks a real winner. Toshiba's Stripes home screen treatment looks the business too. And of course it will be the first phone based on the new 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which should make it absolutely fly!
If Toshiba can deliver on the promise of the TG01, then not getting the iPhone deal could be the best thing to happen to O2 Germany. Lets hope that O2 UK don't pass up on the new Toshiba because they already have the iPhone. Its definitely a candidate for my next phone when contract renewal comes aound...
Yet just 12 months ago the banks were in the process of multibillion pound rights issues, selling shares to investors on the grounds that they had sound business models and a solid financial footing. We now know that such a notion was ridiculous and the people at the top of the banks were well aware of that fact.
Which amounts to fraud on a massive scale. So why aren't the Serious Fraud Office investigating the perpetrators and preparing criminal charges against them? By their actions, inactions and incompetence they have damaged the economy of this country for years to come and cost millions of people their livelihoods, homes and pensions.
Never mind stopping their pensions, lets see them rot in prison for the damage they have done.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Of course that's far from true, I've been doing it since the early Newton days - probably close to a decade and a half and I'm sure Palm Pilot and Psion 3 users will remember doing the same themselves. Palm (purchasing Peanut Press) and Microsoft (with its mobile version of Microsoft Reader) helped make eBook reading a popular pastime for many PDA owners. Now the iPhone is in on the act can we expect a MP3-style boon in eBook popularity? Probably.
How is Windows Mobile equipped to face this brave new world? Having just jumped ship its a pertinent question for me to address.
The good news is that there is an almost unending choice of software, free and paid, to suit almost every reader's needs. The classic eReader (descendent of Palm's Peanut software), Microsoft Reader and Mobipocket (now owned by Amazon) are all present. As are some less well known names (µBook and Haalireader for example).
What's not so good is the abscense of a Kindle reader (just released for the iPhone). Still, I suspect making the existing Mobipocket framework fit the Kindle format won't be a taxing task - hopefully meshing nicely with the arrival of the Kindle and books at Amazon UK.
I say this not because I'm a big fan of Amazon, the Kindle or its sales model. I'm just hoping that the rapid growth of the eBook market will see more competition in the eBook market and drive the sort of change that the iPod, iTunes Music Store and P2P have forced on the music industry.
Details and images are at Jason's website (http://www.mrmobileblog.com/2009/02/27/sudoku-grab-wow/)
Application itself available now from your favourite app store (that'd be the iTunes one then).
Key features of the new version include whole page viewing and fast zooming as well as in page Flash support. Its appearance in the Treo Pro proves to be something of a surprise after Microsoft last week suggested that it was a complex install and would therefore be restricted to WM 6.5 devices. On closer inspection the treo Po appeared to be running AKU 1.4 and Microsoft later confirmed that this would be available to OEMs to develop updates for existing devices, if they chose.
Putting aside the low likelihood of such a thing happening, I wonder if what we're seeing is a storm in a teacup and would actually reduce functionality on most devices. The current IE Mobile version isn't great, but it does have a few saving graces. Like One Column view, its speed and that many sites automatically dish up optimised pages to suit.
The latter is important in our current climate of 'Unlimited' Internet, which turns out to be very limited indeed. One mobile operator caps its unlimited Internet to 500MB a month. Which, when some web-pages are pushing more than 1MB each time you view them, suddenly looks very limited indeed.
Still, in its current climate of slavishly following fads its a change Microsoft were always going to have to make. I suspect that some OEMs will drop Opera, but buyers will still have the choice of several free alternatives should Microsoft's new offering fail to measure up.
Friday, 6 March 2009
His claim that every iPhone user will be a Pre user one month after their contract ends can be dismissed as hyperbole. What is worrying is how this links with other claims about the Pre (What's the market? We don't know, You don't know?!? Ed Colligan's dismissal of undercutting the iPhone 3G's price). It really does suggest that they are after renewing iPhone users.
If that's the market they are after they are in for a world of pain.
Firstly iPhone 3G users are tied in to 24 (US) or 18 (UK) month contracts, which means most of these aren't going to be upgrading until 2010. The original iPhone wasn't a big success, especially when measured against the 3G. So counting on a large percentage of those users upgrading (which is far from given in my book) is a shaky foundation at best.
Secondly, existing Windows Mobile, Symbian and Blackberry customers who haven't been tempted by the iPhone are probably not going to fall for the Pre's similar charms either. It lacks all the same features which made sure they passed on the iPhone, with a likely similar result on the Pre.
So Palm are going to be looking at upgrading Treo and Centro users initially. And that probably isn't gong to be a big enough market to achieve the cashflow they need to keep going for another year, given their cashflow problems.
Palm needs to get the Pre to market in droves, it absolutely must be cheap enough to compete with feature phones, because as a smartphone it will only be tempting to former Palm owners and that crowd won't be buying enough to float the company off the rocks, nor trendy enough to persuade others to buy enough to complete the job.
Despite all the good Pre launch publicity Palm still sits very much at the crossroads, with no safe path assured yet.
We have now reached the point where it would have been cheaper to allow our ill-managed banking sector to collapse and re-pay all debtors through the protection scheme than to follow the bail-out path which has thus far proved completely ineffective.
The nationalization of the banks that would have allowed could then have allowed the government to control the supply of money and credit, allowing us to manage our way out of this financial dead end. Instead we are heading for a period of deflation which will harm savers, investors and manufacturing.
Nice one Mervyn, another banker proven well-worth his highly inflated salary. Or not.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
Which would make some sense it this were a sub £100 device, but actually its closer to a £200 device. Which is right in mini-laptop territory.
So, a full OS laptop with loads of functionality and pretty good connectivity options, or dumb screen and keyboard for your phone? I might be missing something here, but as far as I can see there are no common sense reasons for choosing the Redfly.
How it can have been successful enough for Celio to be preparing the launch of a Blackberry version is completely beyond me.
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
The security risk was identified and fixed before Christmas, so only accounts registered before 19th December are at risk. As the service was in private beta at this time there should only be a limited number of accounts affected.
Its not great publicity for Spotify, who recently opened the service to all UK users and its a warning to anybody signing up with a new start-up, yet at the same time its also why these sorts of services have beta periods. Its worth remembering that beta testing, whether for software or a service, comes with its own risks which should be weighed carefully before signing up.
Whether its because that campaign hasn't been entirely successful, or because Tesco are looking to generate some publicity for their music download service I'm not sure, either way until the end of this week the album will be available as a download from Tesco for the bargain price of £3.97.
Even at that 'great' price I think I can safely say I won't be indulging.
Its pretty clear that Palm's once mighty cash reserves are all but depleted and if they don't start making money out of the Pre soon they'll be forced to go cap in hand to investors for more cash to tide them over. Given the fantastic coverage that the Pre has garnered thus far that shouldn't be a problem. But Palm needs to get the Pre right first time, because they may not get a second chance.
Monday, 2 March 2009
Reaction to what? Well the news that I am going to be sidelining my iPhone and switching to Windows Mobile as my everyday device. If you've read my review of the XDA Zest you will know that I was very impressed with everything about it, so when the time came to return it I decided that I couldn't and one exchange of filthy lucre later, I'm back in the Windows Mobile camp.
Whilst there is plenty to like about the iPhone, after six months of use I think that the iPhone's aims are too narrow to really qualify as a smartphone. It is instead a merging of internet tablet and media player which makes perfect sense if you've previously owned an iPod and a feature phone. And, unsurprisingly, every single iPhone owner I know had this combination prior to buying the iPhone. No wonder that the app store is overwhelmingly populated by consumer type applications.
For former smartphone owners like myself I think that the iPhone will ultimately prove to be unfulfilling and I would imagine that many are already looking at new WM, Symbian, Android and Palm devices without really knowing why.
Whether Apple will ultimately loosen the restrictions that limit the iPhone remains to be seen.
In the meantime I'll look to finding applications which address WM's shortcomings when compared to the iPhone to ease the transaction back again.
In terms of features Lobster Tunes looks pretty promising, it supports uPNP which allows you to stream music from compatible host applications (Windows Media Player being one), as well as internet radio and local content. Additionally Lobster Tunes can connect to the internet and retrieve album art for songs that are missing the crucial pictures which can make music listening a pleasant visual experience too. Lobster Tunes will also scrobble your music to Last.fm if, like me, you are a user of this service.
Now let me say up front that I tried Lobster Tunes on a VGA screened device, which may be why there were problems, but frankly VGA has been around long enough and is popular enough that I wouldn't expect that to be an issue.
On opening Lobster Tunes you are presented with a mostly blue screen, with three tabs along the bottom and a mini control pad (previous, next, play/pause and volume) at the top of the screen along with a small album art holder. The three tabs are labelled Now Playing, My Music and Playlist. If you switch to the My Music tab you'll find a list of possible storage locations for music (internal, external and network) and Lobster Tunes does a pretty good job of finding any uPNP servers on your network. Select your music (usually from the storage card of your phone) and tap the Play Now or Add button and the music is added to the playlist. Press the left soft key or return to the now playing tab and start your music.
Here's where things start going wrong. The loading of album art is very hit and miss - the first track that has no album art will be updated without problem, but subsequent tracks which are missing album art will then display the picture from the first track updated that session. There are also problems with displaying the art that is present, sometimes it loads, sometimes screen artifacts appear (for example the start menu or parts of the Today screen) instead of the artwork. The control pad suffers from the same graphical problem, with the centre of the on-screen controller jumping out of place when the next track is being loaded into memory. On the whole its a disaster and doesn't bode well for the rest of the experience.
Never mind lets jump to the next track. Press the right key on the d-pad. Nothing happened. Hmm, maybe I need to set the button assignments. Nothing in the menus. Why? Because you can't interact with Lobster Tunes in this way! Instead each press of the d-pad moves a highlight around the screen, and you need to highlight the appropriate button and then press the d-pad centre to make your change. I've never seen this approach before and, hopefully won't again, its not intuitive and its far too clumsy for the task at hand.
Control isn't any easier of you have a set of bluetooth headphones, whilst the music streams to the headphones without problems, Lobster Tunes lacks support for AVRCP, the protocol that allows headphone mounted controls to do things like change the track, pause playback, etc.
Having disappointed on two counts, Lobster Tunes is about to drop a third clanger - if you exit the program and return to it later your playlist is empty! Again, I've never come across a music player that works in this way and I can't for a moment imagine why anyone would want it to. Yes, each time you start Lobster Tunes you need to select your music all over again... Not an appealing prospect.
At this point I have to say that I gave up on Lobster Tunes, three strikes is all I'm prepared to give a piece of software and Lobster Tunes used those up very quickly indeed. I can say that the Last.fm scrobbling feature worked very well, audio quality was good and the program made scant use of resources. So it may well be that Lobster Tunes is something which will work for you.
From my point of view I'd need Electric Pocket to fix the controls and screen glitches, make the layout more VGA friendly and make the playlist selections persist through a restart of the program before I could recommend it, especially when the infinitely better Pocket Tunes is available for just $5 more.
Sunday, 1 March 2009
Imagine the situation, you're out and about, possibly away from home when a power spike, bad piece of software, or a similar issue causes your smartphone to hard reset. You've been relying on your device, so you've now got no other access to your contacts, calendar or email. You don't know where you're supposed to be and you have no way of getting in touch with anybody to find out.
If you have an iPhone I'm afraid its probably game over right now. You can't re-activate your phone unless you have access to an internet connected machine which can sync to iTunes. You can't even call anybody to explain your predicament.
Most devices would leave you with the bare minimum - a working phone and the ability to call anybody whose phone number you can remember. If your device was operator supplied and you have online access to your data you're probably going to be able to make do until you can get your phone restored properly. Otherwise you'll need to use whatever backup solution you have in place to restore and carry on.
You have been backing up, haven't you?
And of course you've got a version of the backup pogram that will install on the device? Its where many people slip up. Copy the cab, pdb or sis file to your memory card so that you can restore the application to restore your data.
And if you own an iPhone that asks you to plug-in to iTunes to activate when you least expect it, don't give up hope. Try a reset (hold the home and power keys) and the iPhone will often come back as normal.