Showing posts from February, 2013

HP Android Tablet Surfaces in Bargain Basement

Seems somebody at HP was learning lessons when the WebOS disaster was being played out. The lesson being that branded tablets fly off the shelves when they're seen as offering great value.To this end HP has launched its first Android tablet with an eye to offering value and competing in the space between the no-name imports and Google's Nexus. Which seems like a small space to play in, but with the brand name to beat the imports and added features like micro-SD expansion and Beats audio to compete with the Nexus its might be a big enough space for HP to gain some traction.The only let down on the HP is the so-so resolution of the display panel, but at this price level this may not prove to be too much of a hinderance.HP sees this as the start of a range of tablets, which would put it into direct competition with Samsung - should make for some interesting challenges in the future.The 7 will retail for $169 when it arrives next month.

Galaxy Note 8: Phablet to the Extreme

What's probably too big to fit into your pocket, too big to hold up to your head and yet still packs phone functionality? Yes, its the latest Galaxy Note, running in at 8" and squaring up to the iPad Mini.

Samsung's strategy over the last few years has been one of carpet bombing the market with phones and tablets of all sizes and capabilities to ensure that whatever your particulalr preference in the market they have a device you might consider.

The Note 8 takes the best of the Note 2 and Note 10.1 and creates a tweener device. What makes it interesting is that it supports use as a phone, so potentially you could dispense with your day to day device and your smartphone and tablet and carry one device that does it all.

Its a concept that I considered with the original Galaxy Tab, which similarly packed phone functionality into a tablet device. The difference with the Galaxy Tab was that with its 7" screen it could fit into the back pocket of a pair of pants, a suit po…

The Verge Gets To Experience Google Glass

This video doesn't really give much of an insight into the Project Glass, experience. However, the stated aim to have these available in retail for customers to buy before the end of the year is huge.

I hope that Google doesn't rush to get the product out of the door and concentrates on making the experience good (we don't want another Newton - look what that did to hand writing recognition, even now twenty years on) but I so need to have my hands on a pair of these!

Lights Go Out At Microsoft

Cloud computing is brilliant, until it starts raining. In Microsoft's case it spent most of the last few hours wading through a thunderstorm when it's Azure platform went down.

Microsoft has ambitions to turn its business to the cloud and is using Azure to achieve this. All of its cloud property is hosted there.

So Friday's Azure failure impacted pretty much the whole shooting match: hosted customers, Skydrive, Xbox Live and even elements of Windows Phone.

Not a good day, although at least most of the world was already enjoying its weekend when the failure occurred.

And a vital lesson for those who have moved to the hosted cloud: it's not always available. So have contingencies in place for when it isn't.

Yahoo Kills Work From Home

Flexible working and the ability to place shift your working hours are key tools in maintaining a healthy workplace. Studies have shown that employees are more productive, work longer hours and respond more quickly when doing so.

Against this backdrop news that Yahoo is shortly to kill the practice for all of ours employees, all of the time looks suspect.

In amongst the outrage from staff - some of whom have only ever worked from home - are some honest grievances. Certainly no company in the UK would be able to enforce such a radical change without significant consultation.

However, for Yahoo to make this change there had obviously been a decision that flexible working isn't... working. Once that's been established fixing the issues becomes a matter of urgency. Yahoo is a company with serious problems to address and having the guts to implement such a change speed that management are getting into the task.

It may cost them some good people in the short term, but those who…

Apple Needs To Switch to Six Month iOS Updates

It's been a pretty steady strategy for Apple for the last half dozen years, announce an update to iOS and then ship it in tandem with an updated version of the iPhone. It's worked well in the past when Apple was ahead of the game, but now the iOS is looking dated and even ardent Apple fans are succumbing to temptation on the other side of the fence, its time to step up a gear and move to a six monthly major release cycle.

Why would they do that? They'd do it because iOS needs to develop radically to keep up, but dedicated iPhone owners aren't great with change. So introducing major revisions all in one go would keep iPhone competitive in the marketplace but risk alienating those core customers that Apple rely on.

Doubling the frequency of updates mean that the change introduced at each step can be less dramatic whilst still driving to that place where iOS doesn't look tired on the demo shelf.

iOS 7 should really be ready to go into the hands of beta testers now, re…

Google Announces A Pro Level Chromebook

Google's Chrome OS has made several strides forward in capability recently, adding new OEM partners in the process.

But Google clearly thinks Chromebook's potential is greater than just a low end companion device OS. And its backed that with a device aimed to compete with the best that Apple has to offer.

This is the Chromebook Pixel, a laptop that out does the MacBook Retina in display terms and all but matches the MacBook Air in portability.

And it packs a touch screen, one upping both Apple products.

Whether the $1300 entry level pricing will constrain sales remains to be seen, but if this is as good as it looks when it starts delivering to customers Google may have a hit on its hands.

Sony Launches PS4 (Sort of) And Denies Block On Used Games

Whilst Sony's PS4 event was heavy on specs and light on devices - other than a natty new dualshock controller - it did present some good news for the average gamer on the street. Not to mention Game stores up and down the UK, where I imagine frenzied parties are only now coming to an end.

Why the jubilation?

Sony have denied categorically that any technology will be implemented in the new console with the intention of blocking the use of second owner game disks.

Its a sensible move from Sony and given the incredible problems it has on its corporate hands right now, could amount to a corporation saving decision.

So, Microsoft, the ball's in your court now...

HTC: Sense 5 Coming To Older Phones

HTC's official twitter feed appears to have confirmed that the updated (and very slick looking) Sense 5 Android overlay that graces its new One will also make it to older One series devices including the One X, X+, V and S; as well as the Asia market Butterfly. Updates will be available in 'the next few months' and HTC notes that features relating to the new One series hardware will not form part of the update.

This is good news for HTC customers and also demonstrates that HTC intends to do a better job of supporting customers long term, one of the past failings that I believe has been at least partly responsible for falling sales recently.

F1: No DTM For Kubica

Despite achieving some credible performances in testing and also a quite remarkable return to rallying, its looks like Robert Kubica won't be tackling a full season in the DTM championship this year.

Many, myself included, were hopeful that Kubica's rehabilitation from the rallying crash which severed his forearm would continue with a full season of DTM, before making a step back into F1. I'm not sure what made Mercedes decide to leave the Pole out of its line-up for 2013, especially as pre-season testing seemed to have gone very well.

Whatever the reason for the decision its a disappointment for everyone hoping to see Kubica back in a competitive race car and doing what he does best.

F1: Does Marketing Power Outweigh Driving Skill?

F1 is suffering in the financial crisis, with HRT having lost the battle to stay on the grid earlier this year when funds in its native Spain weren't enough to keep the team running. Pay drivers are proliferating and the circus is taking in a bewildering array of new events in countries prepared to pay for the privilege, usually at the expense of races with lengthy historical significance to the sport.

Which raises the question, just how important is driving skill to a team, especially when balanced against huge marketing draw?

The reason for asking this question now is related to the rise of American racer Danica Patrick, who become the first female to take pole position at Daytona earlier this week. The combination of American, female and reasonably fast suggests the kind of marketability that most of F1's partner brands would open their piggy banks for.

American racers don't generally achieve a great deal in F1. Former champions Zanardi, Andretti Jr,, da Matta, Bourdai…

Is HTC On The Way Back?

Its often said that you can't be a true petrolhead unless you've owned an Alfa Romeo. Its a brand with amazing history and a history of machinery which is quirky, amazing or ridiculous; and frequently all three at once. For serious smartphone users HTC occupies the same place. This company has so many smartphone (and PDA before that) firsts that you have to say it helped build the industry. Unfortunately in the last eighteen months or so, as Apple and Samsung have started to hoover up sales HTC has been increasingly marginalised. Despite producing what many considered the best smartphone of 2012 in the One X, sales and profits have tumbled.

I believe that there are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, its advertising has sucked - to the point where I'd say that it may as well have taken its last couple of years advertising spend and burnt it in a field somewhere - it worked better for the KLF than the ghastly Nick Jojoba adverts have for HTC.

Secondly HTC have done a po…

Don't Buy Office 2013

Microsoft's business is more and more reliant upon Office and, with the release of its most recent version it has changed its licensing terms to make this a product that home users should avoid like the plague. Retail copies of 2013 will be locked to the first PC that they are activated on. Replacing your PC will also necessitate the purchase of another Office license. I suspect that Microsoft's reasons for doing this are to encourage the take up of its Office 365 online suite. Getting you to pay monthly forever works out to be a more profitable model for Microsoft and they'd like you to help them restore their business by doing so. Having evaluated Office and Office 365 for several enterprise organisations in the past I strongly urge you to look elsewhere for your productivity software. If you are happy with an online solution then Google has an excellent solution in its Google apps suite. Otherwise I suggest you run Open Office which is free and a very close fair match f…

Australian Court Strikes Cancer Blow

In what could prove to be a landmark ruling the Federal Court of Australia had upheld a patent on a genetic sequence awarded to Genetic Technologies. The gene in question is BRCA1, which when defective can increase a woman's chances of contacting breast or ovarian cancer by up to 65%.What's troubling here is that Genetics had previously used the patent to halt work by some research centres into the defective gene. Something they only backed down from after loud public protest. It's also worrying that a patent can be awarded to a discovery. It's certainly taken some time and effort on the part of Genetics to sequence the gene, but to suggest that they 'own' that genetic code after having done so is nonsense. It does not pass the test of being an invention or non obvious. Preventing other practitioners from using the information in attempting to research a cure goes against everything that is sane. Share the information and allow multiple teams to work with it. P…

New York Times vs Tesla Motors, An Exercise in Futility

I'm sure of you're at all interested in more environmentally friendly motor cars then you'll have been closely following the story of the New York Times' Road test of the Model S and the subsequent fallout. The article claims that the Tesla failed to reach its road test destination after its battery ran dry before the claimed range. Tesla claims that the author drove the car erratically, turned the heat up too much and didn't recharge properly. It knows this because it secretly tracks road test vehicles. Whilst no-one apart from the article's author John Grober can be 100% sure of the exact method used during the road test, the heated back and forth between the Time and Tesla's owner Elon Musk, doesn't do anyone any good. It's no surprise that Tesla has reacted to the criticism of its article,  especially given the previous problems with the Top Gear test of the Roadster model. I can't help wondering if they are doing themselves a disservice in …

HP Joining The Android Tablet Game

Like a mad dog chasing its tail HP is searching for relevance in the post-PC world. Nominally the largest manufacturer of PCs, HP's management team have recognised that they face significant problems if they can't re-orientate the company as the PC market shrinks.

In the current climate its amazing that HP don't have a smartphone to offer. And they're only offering Windows 8 tablets - something that, thus far at least, doesn't seem to be setting the sales charts alight. The decision to launch an Android tablet is a positive one.

However that is not going to be a guarantee of success. The tablet market is still a predominantly Apple playground. In the Android space the competition is cut throat. Samsung were first to market with an Android device and the first to recognise the value of a smaller pocketable tablet, whilst Amazon and Google have bought sales by being much cheaper than the competition. The rest of the companies fighting for Android tablet sales are str…

Smartwatch Market Ripe For Apple Intervention

Apple 2.0 isn't about innovation. When the iPod launched there was a reasonably healthy Digital Music Player market already. None were particularly user friendly or easy to use, but Apple came in with a product that worked - and worked well. The same is true for smartphones and tablets.

Now the talk is about the launch of a bluetooth connected smartwatch that will link to your iPhone and, possibly, allow you to take and make calls through it.

Its interesting that Apple should be entering the market just now, because there are several smartwatches currently available - Sony being the biggest name playing this game.

The problem seems to be that none of the smartwatches currently available are very good. Bluetooth connectivity drains batteries quickly, maintaining a connection with pre-bluetooth 4.0 specification devices is problematic and finding the right mix of functionality and utility is challenging.

All conditions that mean an iWatch (as several sources have dubbed it) would b…

Google's Now Advert - How It Should Be Done

Google's latest advert for the Nexus 4 is pretty clever, focusing on the features of Google Now without getting all technical or trying to be a daft electro-pop dance video. Microsoft take note, this is how it should be done.

ReadWrite: Who's Manipulating Apple's Stock?

This is an interesting piece by the ever interesting Dan Lyons. Apple's share  price went into freefall after its last set of results. Suddenly everyone is talking about the iWatch and the stock is on its  way back up. There's definitely a question to be asked about who is driving massive price changes in Apple's shares. Lyons  suggests that it's probably Apple. I disagree.Big money had been attracted by Apple and their meteoric sales. However at $700 a share there wasn't a lot of scope to play the long game and make money on investors buying at higher and higher prices.Solution? Dump shares, drive the price down and then when it's dropped as low as possible buy again before driving the price back up with rumours of big selling new products.As ever, the easiest way to see what's really happening is to see who is moving large numbers of Apple shares.Who's Manipulating Apple Stock With This iWatch Story? – ReadWrite

This Sort of Advert Isn't Going To Solve Microsoft's Surface Problems

I'm not entirely sure what Microsoft is trying to achieve here. The original Surface RT ad was bad enough, but this really takes the suckiness to a whole new level.

I imagine this sort of advert is having zero effect in promoting the Surface as a viable solution to anybody. Back that up with reviews which can be called ho-hum at best and I'm struggling to see how Microsoft managed to sell a million Surfaces last quarter... its an achievement I'm not expecting to see repeated even if you lump together Surface and Surface Pro sales next time around.

Someone needs to tell Microsoft's ad account holder that Microsoft is not Apple, it can't make this kind of advert work because its product and reputation mitigate against it. Something that demonstrates the capability of the Surface Pro as a flexible laptop replacement, showing lots of desktop class apps running would work better.


Microsoft Sony Planning To Block Second Hand Games On Next Xbox/PS4?

With fourth generation console announcements imminent, Microsoft and Sony could be on the point of a mighty own goal.

Reports are floating through the ether suggesting that the next gen Xbox will use always connected technology to ensure that games disks will only work for original purchasers. Sony has allegedly developed on disk technology which locks a game to a single console without needing a network connection.

Either way this amounts to epic levels of stupidity - the availability of cheaper second hand games enables a higher first purchase rate by users and keeps console sales higher by bringing in users on tighter budgets.

If Microsoft and Sony go ahead with this strategy I would expect then to struggle to sell fourth gen consoles in anything like the numbers of the past.

Where Now For Dell?

Backed by a whole heap of Microsoft money, Michael Dell has taken his company back into private ownership. The irony, given his famous advice to Steve Jobs, hangs deliciously in the air everytime the move is reported.

Dell failed to catch the smartphone or tablet wave, despite delivering at least two potentially winning devices. I say delivering, but perhaps falling to deliver is a better way of putting it.

The Streak - a 5" phablet - pre dated the Galaxy Note by years, but a lengthy gap between announcement and availability, poor pricing choices at launch and an apparent lack of desire to promote it meant that it say unloved on the shelves. In a similar vein, the keyboard toting Venue Pro was an absolute dead on winner in the initial batch of Windows Phone 7 devices. By the time that anybody got their hands on one the moment had passed, the phone was EOL'd almost before it arrived.

With tablets Dell has fared little better. The Steak 7 had everything in its favor - it was…

Streaming Is The Future For Musicians, Maybe Not The Unpopular Ones Though

This NY Times has an article up today which suggests that music streaming services are going to drive musicians with small fanbases or niche styles out of the business because of the low rates that they pay.

Sorry, but the Times has that all wrong. Niche musicians are never going to be able to make a living based on music sales alone, doesn't matter where those sales are coming from, album sales, digital downloads or streaming services. Niche is niche because there isn't a huge audience. No audience = no sales, it really isn't rocket science.

The artist used to demonstrate the claim is an 'Avant Cellist' called Zoe Keating. Like me today is probably the first time you've heard the words avant and cellist used in the same sentence. Doesn't sound like a huge market does it? Zoe had 131,000 plays on Spotify this year - a reasonable number and if it translated into that many album purchases then the $0.5k she got paid by Spotify looks a little light. Thing is t…

WP Central: Eight Required Windows Phone Changes

Here's a very good article on WP Central which points out some of the shortcomings in Windows Phone as they stand right now.

My biggest gripe right now remains the absence of too many vital applications, but I'd have to agree that Microsoft has to make most of these changes - hopefully in the update due to be announced at MWC. I'd also add one of my own - a system-wide toggle for screen rotation. Its an absolute necessity and doesn't seem to me to be an awfully difficult thing to add.

The arrival of a revamped Blackberry platform puts the pressure back onto Microsoft and it needs to make good on some of its key promises with the platform. Having Ben Rudolph and the Smoked by Windows Phone team travelling the continental US winning highly selective 'challenges' against other platforms isn't going to be enough now. Users who signed into their Lumias eighteen months ago have already seen the unpleasant side of being on Windows Phone, with Microsoft making the…

Unbelievable:Movie Mogul Claims Credit For Tolkein's Literary Popularity

In what looks like a particularly nasty land grab for merchandising rights, Saul Zaentz Company, the rights holders to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies have claimed responsibility for the popularity of Tolkein's work!

Zaentz purchased the rights to the works in 1976 and for more than thirty years did nothing with them. Yet in a lawsuit filed by the company against the family of the author we find probably the most preposterous statement ever presented in a courtroom, to wit: the fame and good will of the Tolkein books is“largely the result of the dedicated efforts of Zaentz and its licensees (including Warner Bros.) over the past four decades.” That despite the books being lauded as some of the greatest pieces of fiction ever written for four decades before Zaentz got hold of the licence.

The case ranges over several claimed infringements of copyright by the movie producers New Line and Warner, and in  particular Zaentz. How the court will decide remains to be seen, however f…

PC and Tablet Sales Numbers Converging

Microsoft's reasonably good financial figures announced this week have led some to question whether the PC market is dead after all. Well here's a little takeaway from IDC's number on tablet sales. As sales of PCs fall and those of tablets rise we're rapidly approaching crossover point. Today one tablet is sold for every two PCs. I suspect by the time that those numbers are published in a couple of quarters time we'll be at parity and by next holiday sales season the reverse will be completed.

Why do I believe this is the case? Consumers have realised that they don't really need a home PC, an iPad or Galaxy Tab will do all that they need it to do. Rather than replacing an aging PC with a new one it makes much more sense to buy a tablet and allow the old PC to soldier on a bit longer, given that its going to be seeing less and less use. Enterprise IT departments are having their budgets squeezed, one way of getting better return on their investment in a PC is t…