Showing posts from April, 2011

Royal Couple Break With Tradition For First Kiss!


Sony Down $20m On PSN Outage, Real Cost Much Higher

The loss of income from its PSN operation is likely to see Sony down around $20m based on its declared annual income and suggestions that the outage is liable to last another week.

The overall cost of the downtime, Forbes suggests, could be as much as $24bn, which seems a bit on the high side, even allowing for the costs of rebuilding the network and putting right any claims from those whose credit card details have been exposed.

None of its especially good news for Sony who look more and more like the next company to follow Nokia off the edge of that slippery slope...

Microsoft, We Have A Problem - Office & WP7 Don't Play Nicely

Windows Phone 7 is pretty good in many respects, it has a great user interface and Xbox Live and Zune integration that really work to create a useful and usable ecosystem around the phone. Unfortunately there's a leg missing on this particular stool and its one where Microsoft could really have knocked the ball out of the

Office integration on WP7 is woeful.

There I've said it and it feels good to get it off my chest.

Let's be honest, Microsoft have the technical equivalent of an open goal when it comes to Office integration on their phones. They own the whole package from end to end. So how have they managed to deliver such a half-arsed solution? Office for WP7 is functionally at about the same level as Office 2010 for WM6.5 - in other words little progress has been made in the package itself. Third party Office suites for Android and iOS match that functionality and in some cases go far beyond it.

Perhaps Microsoft spent their time developing integration into the c…

Sony Introduces Interesting Tablets

Sony has a history of uniquely interesting mobile devices, from the 12mm thick, magnesium shelled fx-505 of the late nineties through to its OQO challenging UMPC handhelds.

Now Sony is bringing that ingenuity to the tablet space and announced a couple of new devices today which should give Apple pause for thought.

Sony seems to have grasped the concept of how portable a tablet should be right from the off and as a result is offering two very different devices, aimed at home and portable users.

The first is a large screened device, with the profile of a folded over magazine to make it more comfortable to grasp. The second is a dual screened clamshell device which fits into a jacket pocket and is aimed at more mobile users.

At first glance Sony seems to have jumped in to the top of the game, however much of the success of these two tablets will depend on how they are marketed and where they are prices.

Promising stuff though...

Samsung vs Apple, Game On!

Samsung and Apple are going to be providing us with plenty of entertainment in the coming months I suspect. Apple have sued the Korean company for copying the look and feel of the iPhone (something somewhat disproved by the existence of the Samsung F700, a phone that predates the iPhone by some 12 months) and Samsung have countersued for infringement of 10 technical patents.

What's the cause of this sudden fractious behaviour between two significant technology partners? I'm guessing that Apple's forthcoming move into consumer electronics - TV specifically - will intrude on Samsung's core market. In fact its likely that Apple's filing last week was a pre-emptive strike in the knowledge that Samsung was preparing something of its own.

The next step in this particular battle will play out when Samsung's current agreement to supply components to Apple expires.

If Apple has lined up alternate suppliers its in a strong position to walk away, causing Samsung massive p…

F1: Overtaking Easier, But Is It Real?

So we've had three races of the new season and this far its been a success, more overtaking, more excitement and less procession.

Except that I can't help feeling its all gone a bit, fake.

The DRS system, which allows a driver to stall their rear wing, effectively given them a 5-10mph straight line speed advantage over the car in front, makes it virtually impossible for the driver in front to defend against the attack and, for the most part, none are even bothering.

We gave swung from one extreme to the other and with the addition of tyres which disintegrate at an alarming rate its all starting to look a bit like Saturday afternoon wrestling on World of Sport.

Contrived entertainment rather than a sport.

I guess we'll have to wait a few more races to be sure, but thus far I'm less than impressed by what I've seen.

For anyone who thinks processional races are boring I refer you to perhaps the greatest of its genre. Seek out footage of the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix at …

New Beetle Gets Sporty

VW's new Beetle has shrugged off the push-me, pull-you look of the, errm... New Beetle and has taken on a far sportier, almost rakish look.

The promise is that it will be a much sportier drive too. Its based on the same platform as the Audi TT and will have a selection of engines, with the top of the line petrol boasting near 130mph performance.

Can't argue with the looks and if it drives as well I guess it will sell heaps...

Spotify Service Changes Serve No Good Purpose

Spotify announced some changes to its free service last week. A reduction in the number of hours free streaming from 20 hours a month to 10. Not a massive change in itself and hardly unreasonable for a business based on the freemium model.

Part of the reason that this change has happened however, is because of the streaming costs which the music publishers demand for their product: about a penny a song. Doesn't sound much but it means that at 10 hours a month Spotify has to bring in £1.50 per free user per month - that's a big ask in the current challenging economic climate.

The change is unlikely to bring Spotify much relief, with the most likely response to the reduction to be a move back to piracy for many users, not a mass take-up of premium subscriptions. Net result, less income (and potentially failure) for Spotify, less revenue for publishers and artists and more illegal downloading of music.

The music industry needs to understand that services like Spotify and are…

New Tablets Impress

Spent time at the Gadget Show at the NEC today and got to spend some of it with the new tablets which will be vying for gadget spend this year.

First off the Motorola Xoom. A beautiful screen, very quick and a healthy dose of Honeycomb made this my favourite tablet at the show. The only fly in the ointment is the price. At £80 more than the equivalent iPad 2 this isn't even going to get onto most people's shopping lists. Motorola are going to have to find some way of slashing £100 off its price, buying market and mind share even if it means making a loss on each one.

Perhaps the 3G version will look better on contract...

Next up the HP Touchpad. HP were very defensive on this device and weren't letting anyone get hands on, nevertheless I did manage to have a quick poke and prod and found it quite responsive although much functionality was incomplete or absent. The presence of a touchstone area on the front of the device which can be used to communicate with other WebOS dev…

Opera Mobile Takes Browsing Plaudits

Mobile web browsing has come along an awful lot in the last few years
but the first really usable mobile browser come from Opera on the
Sharp Zaurus.Well Opera have launched a new version of its Android browser and in
the process jumped to the top of the pile again.Page rendering is spot on, performance is excellent and there are even
different control sets depending on whether you've installed on a
tablet or a phone device. On the Galaxy Tab the interface is a joy to
use.The ability to sync Opera across all your devices remains a feature as
does Turbo mode to speed up performance on slow links. New in this
version is support for Flash, which can be left permanently enabled as
out has no impact on browser performance.All in all a magnificent piece of software that plays to Android's strengths.

iPad 2 Significantly Outperforms Original

Had a first chance to go simultaneously hands on with iPads 1 and 2 yesterday, giving me a chance to evaluate Apple's upgraded package against its predecessor and competitors.

First thing of note is the decreased weight - its really quite a difference and probably nullifies one of my criticisms of the original, that its really too heavy to hold up for any length of time, for example when reading.

Secondly, there's a quite noticeable difference in performance. Not that you'd notice unless you held the two side by side, but the 2 is definitely faster than 1.

The screen also seems sharper and brighter, with better colours. I can't find any reference to a change in the screen technology but certainly in the two units I had there was a perceptible difference.

I briefly tried an Advent Vega too and found it to a pretty competent competitor. The screen wasn't as good and the materials arer definitely on the cheaper side but in other respects there was little to justify the iP…

Cars: New MG Looks Good

SAIC, the Chinese Government owned motor company that acquired MG and Rover hardware and technology after it had been thoroughly asset stripped by BMW (cheers for that Bernd!) has relaunched the MG brand in the UK.

The car in question is the UK designed and assembled MG6, loosely based on the Rover 75 platform and powered by a turbocharged derivative of the K series engine.

The car manages to look quite good - one magazine calls it a cross between an Audi and a Korean rental car - although the quality of plastics used seems questionable.

Its not a momentous car in itself but the MG6 marks a start to a new Sino-Anglo relationship that will see the (partial) rebirth of the British motor industry. For that reason alone I look forward to seeing plenty of them on the road.

Wifi Only Galaxy Tab Arrives

PC World appears to be the first out of the blocks with the new Wifi only Galaxy Tab.

Priced at £299 it looks like good value, until you consider that the 3G version can also be had for around the same price if you're prepared to do some shopping around.

There's also a question over the Wifi only Tab's utility. Without a 3G radio the Tab seems to be confined to the home or office and loses the biggest advantage it carries over 10" tablets: its portability.

If you're planning on using one as a couch potato companion then a 10" tablet is probably a better option.

In all other cases you'll need to be able to take advantage of your phone's Wifi hotspot function to get access to the net on the Wifi Tab.

And that to me doesn't feel like a particularly solid solution...

Nintendo Makes Babysitting Tools

So says Sony CEO Jack Tretton in an interview with Fortune Magazine. He also says that no self respecting twenty-something would be seen with a DS on a flight.

I don't think he's far off the mark either, after all in terms of 'serious' gameplay experience the current PSP is far ahead of the DS and all smartphone platforms. The DS is a pretty embarrassing thing for a grown man to be caught carrying, whereas the PSP doesn't have that juvenile stigma.

Of course what Tretton fails to mention is that both DS and smartphone platforms are crushing the PSP in hardware and software sales. Even the Xperia Play is generating better buzz than the PSP at the moment.

The question for Sony is: with the further encroachment of the smartphone into their target market are there going to be enough customers looking for a 'serious' standalone games machine to make further investment in the platform worthwhile for either Sony or developers?

WP7 Updates Make For A Much Speedier Phone

The March update for my Windows Phone 7 powered HD7 arrived earlier than expected from O2 - April Fools Day in fact, which seemed ominous.

It was closely followed by an update from HTC and between them its made an enormous difference to the way the phone 'drives'.

WP7 has always been very responsive however apps have always taken just a little bit longer to open than felt comfortable. With no multi-tasking that's been something of an issue when jumping between different applications. Similarly installing applications from the Marketplace has always been a sluggish experience - not helped by the occasional failure of the Marketplace application, requiring a restart to fix.

So its good to report that all these issues have now been resolved and apps launch quickly, Marketplace installs are speedy and there's no evidence of any crashes.

I can't say that the phone has been transformed but I can say that for most users WP7 is now a viable alternative to iOS and Android.

Back To The Old School

One of the side effects of Microsoft's wholesale move to Windows Phone 7 has been the almost instaneous disappearence of older Windows Phone devices, developers and software.

That's a shame, because Windows Phone 6.5 has some unique features which make it competitive (in the Enterprise arena anyway) and for some organizations 6.5 is the only way forward if you absolute compliance with Exchange policies and aren't interested in deploying a kludgy BES solution.

Its still possible to lay your hands on some WP6.5 powered devices, the rather excellent HTC HD2 is a competitive consumer phone and both Acer and Samsung still have slate style devices available.

For the ultimate messaging device though, a front facing keyboard is required. Previous king of the hill, Palm, no longer offers the Treo Pro, however it turns out that Samsung have stepped into the void with a very competitive device indeed, a spiritual successor to the Blackjack.

That device is the Omnia Pro 4 or B7350 to its…

Tesla Drops Ludicrous Lawsuit On Top Gear

Heard the one about the 'supercar' company that didn't like a TV review so decided to sue the programme that published it?

The company in question is Tesla, makers of the Lotus Elise based electric car that looks more and more like a 21st Century De Lorean. The TV programme is of course Top Gear and the dispute arises over issues that the Top Gear team identified with the Tesla when roadtested.

Firstly, the Top Gear team stated that the Tesla's batteries would be drained within 55 miles of spirited driving on the test track, after which it would need to be recharged for several hours before it could be used again.

Secondly Top Gear's test car suffered a brake problem which they characterised as a breakdown, something Tesla disagrees with.

I can't see where Tesla's argument lies frankly. The car is daft in concept, costing three times as much as the car it is (loosely) based on and manages to be less usable (as a result of its limited range and lengthy recharge…

You Couldn't Make It Up

I had to check the byline date for this story because it just sounds too much like an April Fool. A pensioner scavenging for copper takes a whole country offline? Unbelievable!

And they're planning on putting the pensioner in prison? Have they never heard of resilience?

The original story is here.

Fring Needs a Desktop Partner

Fring remains the most widely available mobile video calling solution, besting alternatives by virtue of its availability on both Android and iOS platforms.

However I don't believe that a large proportion of video calls are made mobile to mobile - a fact which I'm sure can be verified by 3G telecoms licensees who saw virtually no revenue from video calling despite it being the alleged 'killer' application for their expensive new networks.

What Fring desperately needs is a desktop partner to replace Skype, who blocked access to their network around a year ago. Because the biggest potential use of mobile video calling is to a home user in front of a webcam. As Apple rolls out Facetime to its desktop clients I'm sure yorill see massive increases in its usage for example.

Without that link to a non-mobile user Fring's network is always going to be marginalised. So much so that I could suggest that they rename it 'Fringe'...

The Music Industry Stinks (Again)

Last week Amazon announced a new service which, on the face of it, seems like a wonderfully powerful way of persuading people to buy their music from Amazon's MP3 store. The Amazon Cloud and Amazon Player mean that you can access your music collection from anywhere.

Apparently the concept of somebody buying music and then having the audacity to want to be able to play it isn't sitting well with the various bodies of the music recording industry, they believe that an entirely different licence is required to listen to your music once you've paid for it. Unbelievable. Next they'll be demanding an additional license if you want to listen to your music in the car or on the tube. One licence for your house, one for on the move.

Frankly this sort of behaviour makes me want to stop buying music and go out and pirate it.