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Showing posts from March, 2014

Please Apple, License Swype

If there's one area where the iPhone really lags the competition it's that of data entry. Whilst Google (and Swype, Swiftkey) have upgraded the concept of a touch keyboard with their excellent trace keyboards and Microsoft are promising a similar upgrade for WP8.1, Apple are stuck with the same basic technology that arrived with the original iPhone in 2007. It's proving beyond them to even get a workable 'shift' key solution.

There's a quick-fix solution and delivering it would make for an significantly enhanced user experience - one of Apple's core values.

By licensing Swype from Nuance Apple would be utilizing technology from one of its existing partners, so there shouldn't be any complications arising out of a new partner. It would also be getting a mature solution, which would mitigate against the kind of disastrous introduction that it endured with Apple Maps.

It's rare that Apple ends up in a position of playing catch-up, but now that they ar…

Twelve South SurfacePad Review

I don't like putting cases on my phones, ease of access is everything in my book and anything that gets between me and interacting with my phone is a barrier I can do without.

There are times however when you need to protect your phone - especially the screen. Which means putting a case on. Finding one which doesn't add to the bulk of your phone is important at these times, especially if you use an iPhone.

After Apple have gone to all that trouble of making the iPhone as slim, light and attractive as the current iPhone is, it seems a blasphemy to then wrap it up in a god awful rubber, polycarbonate, or chunky leather case; which both adds bulk and looks vomit-inducingly ugly.

When I heard about the Twelve South SurfacePad my interest was piqued. This looks like the slimmest lightest way of protecting your iPhone from damage.

The Surface pad s a wraparound case which protects the front and most of the back of your iPhone. The edges aren't protected - except for the left ha…

Tesla Mitigates Battery Impact Risk

Looks like the Tesla battery fire farce is over, Tesla has announced that it will add an extra battery guard to new Model S EVs and retrofit this Titanium protection to existing cars free of charge. As as result the NHTSA has announced that it is ending its investigations into the fires.

Tesla has done the right thing here, boosting customer confidence in the product - although as Tesla's customer satisfaction ratings and loyalty rival even Apple's that probably wasn't the main intention. Why the fossil fuel lobby was allowed to make such a big deal of incidents that were directly related to object strikes isn't clear. Porsche's GT3 spontaneously combusts, is far more dangerous than the Tesla when it is burning, and its problems can only be resolved by a complete engine change, all without drawing anything close to the hysteria that surrounded Tesla's fires.

Now that monkey is off its back Tesla can concentrate on battling the dealer groups for the rights to s…

Windows: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Two years ago Stephen Elop wrote a memo to Nokia staff which appraised its direction, capability and performance. The infamous 'Burning Platform' memo was the beginning of an attempt to turn the Nokia supertanker around before it was dashed on the rocks.

Assessing Microsoft in 2014 I wonder whether Satya Nadella is busy crafting his own version of that memo.

Since Windows 95 launched Microsoft's platform has been in every part of our lives - at work, at home, on PDAs, on phones, even on our ATMs. Over the last two years that platform has been burning - now it may be out of control.

Nadella has taken the reins of a company that has failed to judge the market direction and as a result has seen the balance of profits rapidly shift between its two key products. In 2011 Office (54%) Windows (45%) generated the bulk of Microsoft's profit. Today those numbers are closer to 60% and 30%.

Windows is becoming less and less important to Microsoft's bottom line. And as the mar…

Microsoft Takeover of Nokia Delayed

If it seems like a long time since Microsoft announced it was buying Nokia's handset division, that's because it is. It's getting longer too, as now the two companies are suggesting that the tie-up won't formally close until April - a month later than planned.

There are two fairly major roadblocks to be overcome before Microsoft can kiss the bride and hustle her up to the wedding suite: the Indian tax wrangle and the failure to gain sign-off from Chinese regulators.

The first is a simple financial burden issue - the Indian government won't allow Nokia to hand-over it's key Chennai fabrication plant until they have lodged a bond of $571m against a claim of unpaid taxes amounting to over $3.4bn. There is also a district claim which seeks close to $500m against unpaid taxes to the regional government of Tamil Nadu - where the Chennai plant is located.

On the other side of Asia, regulators are considering a motion supported by Samsung and Google to prevent Nokia u…

HTC Updates Its Flagship, Offers Fresher, Not New

HTC pulled the trigger on its much leaked replacement for the One yesterday, refreshing the device with a larger screen, improved build and design. As the leaks suggested the new One packs two rear cameras - the Ultrapixel 4mp device familiar from the original One and a second 2mp camera used for depth perception.

The One was lauded as the best phone of the year by several authorities last year, its fabulous build and screen pushed it to the top of many lists. Except for buyers. Compared to what Apple, Samsung and even Sony and Nokia achieved last year the One was a flop. HTC insiders give it credit for saving the company, but this didn't translate into great financials at any point in 2013.

So what does the new One have that is going to allow it to compete against the S5, 5S, Z2 and Lumia?

On the plus side are the build and screen - both improved over the originals. The front facing camera is now a 5mp with a pretty impressive spec, which should improve selfies no end. The BoomSo…

Seven New Alfa Romeos On Their Way

FCA boss Sergio Marchionne hasn't had a lot of good news for Alfa Romeo enthusiasts over the last few years. The arrival of the Giulietta and 4C have been tempered by the loss of the 159 and Brera, leaving the Italian marque with just two mainstream and one niche model to fill its showrooms. Unsurprisingly sales are down. Dangerously down in fact. With a minimum of 100,000 sales per annum required to keep the brand alive a second successive year of sales below that would be life threatening.

Instead Marchionne is putting in place a plan to revive this most charismatic of brands through a program that will deliver seven new models over the next four years, a return to sales in the United States and a strategy which will put Alfa Romeo into direct competition with BMW and Audi in the near future.

One thing that probably won't be happening is an Alfa Romeo badged version of the new Mazda MX5. Marchionne has promised that all new Alfa Romeos will be built in Italy - a declaration…

How Bad Has The iPhone 5C Been For Apple?

Apple quietly launched an 8GB version of the iPhone 5C last week, prompting many to question how well the new strategy for old phones has been going.

In previous years Apple has dropped its current iPhone into a midrange position when launching a successor. This strategy has always played well for them. The new phone taking the bulk of the sales after launch, with the older phone making good numbers over the rest of the year leading up to the next launch.

This time around Apple chose to re-jig the outgoing iPhone 5 in polycarbonate and make it cheaper to build - this making Apple more margin on its older device. Seems like a logical choice, but perception seems to have hurt the 5C 's sales. The new 5S remains the best selling iPhone halfway through its lifecycle.

Overall iPhone sales are up, so it's hard to say that Apple's strategy has been faulty, especially given that the 5C outsells BlackBerry and Windows Phone in their entirety. The bigger question might be how well …

Old Media Is Losing In News: What It Means For Music

How do you keep up-to-date with what's going on in the world today? Chances are that you have a number of real-time and near real time feeds that you access from your phone, laptop or work computer; perhaps a daily catch-up with TV news and, in the event of a major incident, one of the available 24x7 news channels.

What is increasingly likely is that none of your news comes from newspapers.
A discussion paper published by Communications Management Inc, in 2011 demonstrates how great this move from paper to electrons has been.
Over the period of the report (1950-2010) UK newspaper circulation dropped from 220% (Sundays) and 150% (Dailies) of households to 40% for both. In the US those numbers weren't so steep, but still saw a drop from around 120% of households to around 35% of households. In both countries actual circulation fell by a third in the last 15 years.
Newspapers have no intrinsic value. Their only value was as a delivery mechanism for the things we really wanted ac…

Microsoft Getting It Wrong: In Car Fail

Fiat has been through some tough times recently, however the company still holds seventh place in the European car sales market. A few years ago Fiat chose Microsoft to supply its cars with Bluetooth and media player functionality in a product which it brought to market as Blue&Me.

Blue&Me works very well in all respects bar one - it lacks the ability to stream music using the A2DP Bluetooth profile. I'm not sure why this was left out and I'm even more confused over why it hasn't been added through a software update since.

Never mind, Blue&Me provides a USB port for connectivity to media players which allows the use of steering wheel controls or voice commands. And it works very well. Especially if you have an iPhone, in which case you can use either the built in Music Player, Spotify or Xbox Music and gain all of the benefits of the Blue&Me system. In fact having used various other iPhone in car implementations I have to say it's probably the best yet…

Samsung Next Big Thing Ad Disses Everyone

Samsung has a history of clever advertising for its products based around targeting shortcomings of its competitors devices. With this ad for its new Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro range it's looking to make a statement along the lines of 'you can't do what I can'.

Whilst the multi-tasking features of the iPad and Kindle look like fair comments, the cameo played by the Microsoft Surface looks a little contrived. Trying to make the ability to have a keyboard and mouse plugged in a weakness is a real stretch in my book. Especially as the Surface can answer yes to all of the questions posed in the ad titled 'It Can Do That?'

See what you think:


More USPTO Nonsense - Sparkfun Gets Borked By Fluke

This post on Sparkfun's blog details yet another unfortunate side effect of the poor management of patent and trademark applications by the USPTO.

Sparkfun is a great little site for finding components and tools for electronic projects - it's very much about making these sort of things fun and supports educators and education. Amongst its products are a $15 multimeter.

Fluke has been granted a trademark on any tools containing multimeter capability with a dark coloured body and a yellow frame or border.

What?

How on earth has this ever got through any form of vetting process? I can understand if Fluke had provided specific colours - backed up with Pantone numbers - to prevent the duplication of it's products, but something as vague as this should have been rejected out of hand.

The ITC, the body who upholds these patent and trademark claims, has impounded around 2,000 of Sparkfun's multimeters at import, deeming them to have infringed on the Fluke Trademark and leaving…

Tesla v The Auto Dealer: What's Best For The Consumer?

There's something of a war breaking out across some states of the US right now, as the old school car sales network rails against Tesla's direct sales model.

Traditional car buying involves a dealer acting as a middleman between manufacturers/importers and the consuimer. Tesla seeks to own this experience too, effectively allowing the consumer to work directly with the manufacturer when buying a vehicle.

The two sides of the argument go like this. Tesla's owner Elon Musk says that auto dealers will always steer a customer to a combustion engine vehicle rather than sell them an EV - because servicing and repair costs are much lower on the latter, which means less repeat business for the dealership. The dealers however are adamant that Musk's reasons are entirely about retaining all of the profit for himself.

But which model benefits the consumer?

As far as the states that have so far banned Tesla's direct sales model are concerned, I've yet to hear an argument …

Why Don't Kiwis Buy Electric Cars?

New Zealand is a great place to live. The air is clean, the cities uncrowded and the people friendly. People love the outdoors and healthy active lifestyles.

New Zealand is a world leader in the use of renewable energy - by the end of 2012 three quarters of electricity was generated through renewable sources. It's entirely likely that the combination of limited coal fired power stations and limited sales of diesel cars or mopeds majorly contribute to the quality of the air.

Having lived and traveled through most of Europe I can't begin to describe the difference in air quality in Auckland when compared to similarly sized conglomerations on the old continent.

Aucklanders have almost ideal conditions for electric vehicle use too. Most homes have their own parking, either in a garage with power or on their own land where charging can be easily setup. Journeys within Auckland are generally short, and commutes would fall well within the range of even the most limited EV, even allo…

Microsoft Goes OneNote Update Crazy

In case you hadn't already picked up this from other posts here: I love OneNote. I work and live out of its note-taking features and integration into the Office suite. I also use Evernote, but only because OneNote either wasn't available on the platform I was using (in particular Mac, but Android and iOS in the past too) or because if better integration with non-Microsoft products.

Today Microsoft have released a whole bucketful of updates to OneNote to make it even more useful and effectively remove the need to use Evernote (unless you prefer it of course).

First of all free versions of OneNote are now available for OS X and Windows - effectively giving the tool to everybody. Those who own Office (and presumably Office 365 subscribers) will gain access to premium features.

Now for the important updates which boost productivity: IFTTT integration, email into OneNote, a new web clipper and Office Lens.

If you've not used IFTTT before I highly recommend it - a great tool fo…

F1: FIA Disqualification of Ricciardo Does Sport A Dis-service

Daniel Ricciardo's debut for Red Bull this weekend was a triumph,  personally as his second place was his first ever podium; nationally as he became the first Australian to stand on the podium at his home Grand Prix; and finally for the team who - despite huge problems in pre-season testing and a Renault engine that was both unreliable and under-powered - managed to score a race finish, and a competitive one at that.

To have that second place stripped is a disaster. But given the reasons behind the disqualification it becomes more of a travesty.

This season the FIA have introduced a standard fuel flow sensor, manufactured by Gill, with the intention of preventing teams from pouring fuel into the engine at a rate higher than 100kg/h. The sensor as proved to be incredibly unreliable and was the cause of problems for several cars - notably Vettel - and most importantly Ricciardo's Red Bull.

On Friday the fuel sensor fitted to the car was found to be faulty. The replacement suppl…

One Million Pre-orders Suggest That Nokia's X Is Going To Be A Winner

Nokia has a pretty solid reputation in the developing world, so perhaps it's no surprise that it's announcement of an Android-based handset targeting those very markets should prove to be a success. In fact it took just four days of availability for pre-orders in China to break through the million sales barrier.

I've already spoken about the dilemma that a successful Android handset presents Microsoft once it takes ownership of Nokia. And here's a further demonstration of that problem.

The prospect of a Microsoft product running an open source OS outselling a Microsoft product running its own OS in the same market space is going to be difficult to reconcile.

Nokia is suggesting that the X will never come to the US, yet that's one market where Windows Phone has failed to build up a head of steam. How much better would sales be if Nokia was selling an Android phone I wonder?

The recent news that Microsoft is giving away Windows Phone licenses to OEMs further points …

Three Phones From The Past That Could Guarantee HTC's Future

HTC is a little over a week away from announcing the replacement for its flagship HTC One smartphone. Last year HTC announced what was probably the best smartphone ever made, yet sales have been modest as best. Unable to compete with Apple and Samsung's advertising budget or in store sales presence the One was passed over by many buyers.

This year I'm expecting more of the same - another great smartphone that hardly anyone will buy. A similar story is happening all the way down HTC's product line.

To survive HTC needs to be different. After all every phone you can buy today is a standard slate device, in varying screen sizes and device heft. Looking back, HTC used to be very good at producing the odd ball form factors that sold well into niches in the market. Exactly the sort of thing that Samsung did with the original Galaxy Tab and Note.

So with a glance over the shoulder here are some devices that HTC should look to modernise and bring to the market in 2014.

Touch Pro 2…

Mercedes, BMW, Ford... What Sort of Smartphone Do You Have?

Cars get you from Point A to Point B, in essence that is what a car does - the size of the car will determine how quickly you can get there, how much you can carry and how much it costs you to do the journey. Essentially though there is no real difference between any new car on the market today, the fulfill a basic travel function.

However looking at sales figures you can see huge discrepancies in the cost of vehicles with essentially the same features, capacity and performance, how can that be?

In truth you only really need to sit behind the wheel of a Mercedes or BMW to understand why they command a premium over a Ford or a Hyundai. That doesn't make the latter any less capable, but the premium brands offer something over and above. Some of it is brand value - the perceived worth of the badge on the bonnet. This explains why VAG manages to get away with selling essentially the same car under Skoda, Seat, VW and Audi brands and at massively different pricepoints. Yet that not…

$50bn To End Coal Mining In The USA

Two interesting articles in the Guardian today. The first, by Seamus Milne, discusses the end of the coal mining industry in the UK after a battle of political wills between the Thatcher Government and the Unions in the 1980s. This destruction of union power and wholesale shutdown of the UK's mining industry was a huge political battleground and victory over the miners and change in the mining industry was achieved at a cost that the article pegs at £32bn in today's money.

The second, by environmentalists Felix Kramer and Gil Friend, discusses the potential to recoup hundreds of billions of dollars each year by making an investment of $50bn to buy up the US coal mining industry - and shut it down.

The argument is sound - the mining industry is in a tailspin anyway and by taking ownership of the whole industry and shutting it down in a controlled manner everybody wins: owners recoup some of their investments, employees get retraining and emissions of poisonous by-products like …

F1: Hamilton Favourite For 2014 Title

This season marks the fortieth year that I will have been following F1 and in that time I can't remember a pre-season more disrupted and with so many teams having so many problems.

I also can't remember a time when a single driver was such a runaway favourite for the title in those forty seasons.

Mercedes engines have always been strong, but the ability to invest heavily in the new Turbo/Hybrid engine development phase, over the last eighteen months, has really paid dividends. Whilst both Renault and Ferrari have been fire-fighting problems with reliability, Mercedes teams have been able to get down to the detail of fine-tuning their cars in readiness for the season ahead.

Of the four Mercedes powered teams there seemed to be a definite pecking order established over the three winter tests. The factory team, ahead of McLaren, with Williams and then Force India not too far away.

However looking into times on long runs and those on soft tyres it looks very much like the Mercede…

Will The Presence of A Nokia Android Phone Make You Think Twice About Windows Phone?

I'm a big fan of Windows Phone - even though I regularly switch between platforms (sometimes on a daily basis) and find each mobile platform has something different to offer, the look and feel, the operating method and the focus on integration in Windows Phone 8 makes it my preferred platform.

The prospect of WP8.1 arriving soon has me salivating at the prospect of a Siri-like voice control method as well as more features that have been in high demand since Windows Phone first launched. The recent Nokia Black update delivered these in spades and I'm expecting great things of the next WP point upgrade.

With a range of Nokia phones in the market running Android and the common knowledge that Microsoft takes ownership of the Finnish company any day now; I wonder how that will impact customer's buying intentions.

Whilst I feel, like many, that the Nokia X range has only a short lifespan ahead of it, the prospect of the X slaying Windows Phone in developing markets has to be co…

Pono: Does Neil Young's Hi-Fi Music Player Have A Chance?

Aging rocker Neil Young has an interesting proposition for you on Kickstarter right now: the Pono music player, designed to be the audiophile's portable music player. It's an interesting conceot, with a USP intended to be an ability to play back music that has been sampled at very high quality in as close a representation of the analogue original as possible.

I'm not entirely sure how Neil Young will be able to tell the difference between this and your average iPod - my own hearing is sufficiently dulled by just a few years of gigging to make me wonder what his is like after half a century.

However the concept is in itself interesting. The triangular casing makes the device capable of standing on its own, and, given that it is close to reaching its Kickstarter funding goal of $800k that appears to be true of the concept too.

Pono will have its own music store and supports both headphone and auxiliary connections to your home hifi.

Whilst the concept is good and the device…

Windows 8.1: What Microsoft Haven't Changed For Notetakers

Microsoft's Surface Pro and a number of other devices from Lenovo, Sony and Asus; amongst others, have demonstrated that an active stylus and Windows 8 are a winning combination for very specific use cases.

Paired with the extremely powerful OneNote desktop application, it's a mighty combination for note takers - and I count myself as one of those.

What does disappoint though, is the use of the stylus for text entry. Don't get me wrong, the handwriting recognition is great as far as it goes. But having to use the standard Windows soft input panel for text entry is very limiting. Demanding large amounts of screen real estate and limiting the amount of text that can be entered in one action it's a retrograde step to a product Microsoft used around a decade ago.

In the old days of Windows Mobile Microsoft had an input panel called Transcriber which allowed
handwriting text entry anywhere on the screen.

It wasn't 100% perfect but it was certainly better than any of i…

Siri - What A Wearable Should Be

We've seen a couple of takes on what a wearable computer should be, Google thinks it's a pair of glasses whilst Samsung, Sony and others think it's a replacement for your watch.

I think they're all wrong.

First of all Google Glass. These things look awful, introduce all kinds of issues with privacy, distraction and poor behaviour by users. The term 'Glassholes' has already been coined to describe its users and that's before it has got anywhere near general release.

Personally when I switched from glasses to contact lenses it was one of the best days of my life. The suggestion that I strap something this ugly to my head just isn't going to fly - and I'm not alone in feeling this way. Glasses are a pain, and Google Glasses even more so.

The smartwatch concept has a better use case - however I haven't seen one that looks good enough to make me take my Heuer Monaco off my wrist, nor usable enough to make it the primary method of interacting with my…

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Shows Microsoft Backing Down

Thanks to the leak of  a registry key change which allowed users to download an early copy of Windows 8.1 Update 1 we have a pretty good idea of what's coming in the next update of Windows 8 - and it's all aimed at dumbing down for users who haven't or couldn't learnt the new gesture based method of working with Windows' Modern user interface.

Interestingly it looks like Microsoft will present different ways of working depending on whether you are using a touchscreen or mouse and keyboard, perhaps if they'd done this from day one there would have been less user resistance (although sales figures would suggest that this has been a little exaggerated in the media).

Most of the changes relate to the way the new Start screen is navigated when using a traditional input setup. First of all some of the Charms menu items get a permanent place on the Start screen. A right-click on Live Tile now produces a traditional pop-up menu rather than the Modern UI style menu tha…

More iPhone Proximity Sensor Strangeness

Last week I mentioned the problems I was having with the Proximity Sensor on my iPhone 5. This was a particular concern to me as one of the main drivers I have for using an iPhone is voice control through Siri.

After blogging about my problems I was emailed by a reader to say that he had a similar issue and that I should try holding my iPhone up to my other ear. I was tempted to ignore the suggestion, passing it off as the deranged rantings of a madman, but curiosity got the better of me and I tried it. Holding the phone in my right hand and putting it up to my right ear resulted in the classic Siri beep and voice control of my phone. 
Bizarre. I could think of no logical reason why this should be the case - it's not like the left hand side of my head is transparent to infrared light (or at least I don't think it is).
Things took an even stranger turn this morning. Having demonstrated the weirdness to several people over the weekend, I was going through the same routine only t…

Nokia Answers The App Question

It's the one question which dominates every conversation when Windows Phone is discussed, used or contemplated as a buying choice. Nokia has created an advert to try and cut through the myths and communicate the growth in the number of apps in the Windows Phone store. It's quite good although the one problem it doesn't address is what you do when you need an app which isn't available?

There might be more than two hundred thousand apps in the store, but it takes just one missing one to stall a Windows Phone purchase. That's the reality Nokia/Microsoft need to address this year.

How Is Your iPhone Proximity Sensor Working?

My journey into iPhone use came to a crashing halt today, with what appears to be a pretty common bug for iPhones upgraded to iOS 7.

A colleague of mine has struggled with calls randomly disconnecting for a few months now - it's something she's always put down to a dropped signal on her 4S.
Today whilst using my iPhone to demonstrate the usefulness of Siri (the number one reason for owning an iPhone in my opinion) I discovered that the raise to speak feature wasn't working. I messed around with the settings and made sure the front of the device was clean, without any success. And then I took a call and had it disconnect. 
This got me thinking and some quick experimentation determined that the proximity sensor isn't working, preventing Siri's raise to speak feature from working and not disabling the touchscreen during calls.
My colleague's phone had the same issue - the proximity sensor wasn't sensing proximity.
Some quick searches soon uncovered any number…

Apple Clearing Space For New AppleTV

Apple will give you a $25 iTunes gift certificate if you buy an AppleTV before March 25th. That's as good an indicator that a new AppleTV is about to drop as you're likely to get.

The AppleTV has been variously described as a hobby, potential fourth leg of the Apple stool and a trojan horse into the living room. Whatever it is, it's a profitable little item, with Apple hitting $1bn in revenue for the last year.

What will the new AppleTV bring to the table? I'm pretty sure it won't be a screen. The AppleTV is ideal plugged into a HDMI port and I don't see Apple changing that anytime soon.

I'd like to see AppleTV get it's own apps in the App Store - it's a very limited device as it stands today. Some reworking of the user interface would be nice too. It's all very well providing a simple and tidy remote control, but if you don't have an iPhone or iPad to hand it can be tricky to navigate using just three controls buttons.

There may even be po…

Flexcoin Becomes Second Bitcoin Casualty This Year

Flexcoin - AKA the Bitcoin Bank, were probably congratulating themselves this time last week, possibly even gloating over the collapse of Mt. Gox, especially given that the company advertised itself as the one that solved the Bitcoin security problem.

So on Monday morning when they woke up and found out that they'd been robbed of $500k worth of the cryptocurrency I imagine there was a fair amount of egg on faces.

Not to mention customers missing large deposits from their accounts.

Its the second time in a week that a proxy Bitcoin holding service has been cleaned out, and although this incident was dwarfed by the Mt. Fox robbery, it has been more than enough to put Flexcoin out of business.

For customers who once more find themselves out of pocket its looking unlikely that they will ever see their funds.

And once more the value of banking legislation and auditable is demonstrated to those who would seek to bypass those very regulations.

Ouch, Blackberry Owners Turn Down Cash And Jump Ship

T-Mo News has the interesting story of a promotion run by T-Mobile in the US to allow Blackberry customers to trade in their phones and receive a cash incentive.

The promotion began as an offer to Blackberry users thinking of moving to the iPhone. T-Mobile offered them $200 if they wanted to trade their current phone for a new 5S. As you can imagine news of the offer reached Blackberry CEO John Chen very quickly (via some very upset Blackberry addicts) and he publicly condemned T-Mobile's offer as 'inappropriate and ill-managed'.

T-Mobile's response was to work with Blackberry to come up with an alternative offer that promised Blackberry owners $250 if they traded their device in against a new Blackberry.

You can guess what happened next can't you?

Yes, if you guessed that 94% of Blackberry owners went with the iPhone anyway, despite the additional cost and reduced cash offer you're spot on.

For Blackberry's future as a handset maker it's looking bleake…

Flipboard Buys Zite To Kill It - Fight Facebook

CNN and Flipboard have come to an agreement which sees the latter acquire Zite, the smart news aggregating tool which competes directly with its main product. As well as purchasing a potential rival Flipboard has negotiated a long-term advertising agreement with CNN which will see the two market advertising space to 'large-scale' advertisers going forward.

For Zite's users its a disappointment, primarily because Zite's news selection algorithms always seemed to work better than Flipboard's. The user interface also managed to be slicker - once you've got over the novelty of Flipboard's page turning experience.

I can't help but feel that this deal has been driven by the announcement of Facebook's Paper which threatens to steamroller its way through competing applications just by virtue of the number of Facebook users who will end up trying it.

Flipboard has brought out some innovative new features recently, not least the ability to create and share y…

Apple's Car Play Demoed At Geneva

Apple has renamed iOS In Car to Car Play and announced that it will be coming to a Ferrari, Volvo or Mercedes near you very soon.

Engadget went hands on with the system in a Ferrari FF and watching the video it all looks pretty slick. The one complaint I would make is that the presence of a touchscreen is going to encourage users to fiddle when they should be driving, not the greatest idea, I'd say. Especially when Apple has done what looks to be a great job of integrating Siri - still the best reason for having an iPhone.

Here's Volvo / Apple's unveiling and demonstration video which gives a better run through of features.

F1: Vettel - Melbourne Could Be A Farce

A bad winter of testing has certainly put the downers on Red Bull's F1 operations. Dr. Helmut Marko, team principal has suggested that the season will start two months too early for the team as it struggles with its new car.

Sebastian Vettel has been even more forthright, predicting that the car is unlikely to reach the finish line and would need half the field to drop out to have a chance of scoring points.

Vettel isn't the only one with a cause for concern. All four Renault powered teams are in dire straits as they struggle for mileage and reliability. Of the four only Caterham have managed any serious running in the pre-season tests and none of the Renault cars have looked close to competitive.

I would not be surprised to see some of these teams fail to qualify - Lotus in particular seem to be a long way away from qualifying pace.

This bodes well for Marussia who switch to Ferrari power this year and who could potentially get amongst the points at Melbourne. However the …

Is Poor Reception To Blame For the iPhone's Battery Problems?

I made an interesting discovery today when using my iPhone 5 as my primary phone: its reception is awful. And that may go some way to understanding why its battery life can be so bad for some yet perfectly acceptable for others.

In my office I regularly laugh at the problems experienced by my iPhone owning colleagues who regularly suffer dropped calls and loss of signal. Seeing them scurrying out of the building desperately trying not to lose a call, or doing the 'no signal' dance to try and get a message away is just funny. I make no apologies for that.

I've always assumed that the real problem was their being on a different network to my Samsung owning colleagues and myself.

Turns out I was wrong.

For the first time since moving offices across the Waitemata Harbour I found myself using my iPhone rather than my Nokia or Sony phones. I struggled for reception, dropped calls and had to sign on to our wireless network to have my push emails work properly. Issues that I have…

Sponsors and Celebrities Never Learn

Ellen DeGeneres managed to crash Twitter with a high-profile selfie at the Oscars, with over two million retweets this was far and away the most popular tweet in the short history of Twitter.

The phone that Ellen used to take the selfie was a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 - Samsung having several marketing hooks into the awards ceremony to promote its devices.

The thing is that whilst throwing large amounts of money at celebrities to endorse your phones can raise your profile (insert you own commentary on the sad, shallow nature of the world today if you so desire!) it's ultimately going to backfire when said celebrity is revealed as a committed user of your deadly rival's products who would cross the street to avoid using the product you're pushing if they weren't being financially rewarded.

In Ellen's defence, it looks like the beneficiaries of Samsung's large marketing spend at the Oscars will be two charities that she backs.

However it strikes me as hugely unprofe…

Toshiba Encore WT8 Review - Windows In A Smaller Form

Windows 8 has had something of a rough start to life - gaining more bad press than even Vista. This despite selling in the hundreds of millions, despite the generally depressed PC market and, at the time of writing, having an installed user base that dwarfs every version of Mac OS X currently in use.

Nonetheless, with the arrival of Windows 8.1, as a free upgrade, Microsoft has continued to push its dual use case OS. Standard desktops for PCs and laptops, Windows Modern UI (AKA Metro) for touchscreens. With the introduction of 8.1 Microsoft extended the capabilities of Windows downwards - 8" screens and a new lower minimum resolution of 1200 x800 were supported.

This seemed a sensible move, both the Galaxy Tab and iPad Mini had demonstrated that people like to use a smaller tablet. But one with Windows? That wasn't such a clear cut thing.

Enter the Toshiba Encore WT8. A Windows tablet exactly conforming to the new specifications. Packing the latest Intel Atom Bay Trail T pro…

Why The Nokia X Is Dangerous For Microsoft

Now that Nokia has an Android powered smartphone in its portfolio there's been some lengthy and heated debate over the long-term future of this solution once Microsoft takes ownership of the Nokia phone division from the Finnish company.

Some are arguing that Microsoft will kill the platform immediately, whilst others take the contrary view and suggest that Microsoft will keep it alive in order to get users onto its platforms and services.

The argument is crucial because it flags the future shape of Microsoft under its new CEO.

Why so?

It's all to do with what Microsoft gains from having an Android handset.

The alleged reason for Nokia launching the X range is to fill the gap between the Asha and Windows Phone. From a pricing point of view there's no real gap there to fill though. The bottom of the range Lumias are both cheap enough and capable enough to sit above the Asha phones directly - and offer a straightforward upgrade path.

Maybe the X range is a replacement for t…

Apple's Tim Cook Shoots Down Green Energy Naysayers

Apple has been devoting more and more of its financial might to ensuring that the energy that powers its operations comes from renewable sources. Indeed its new headquarters is likely to be almost entirely self-sufficient from renewable energy generated locally when it comes into to operation.

The right-wing think tank the National Centre for Public Policy Research demanded a vote on the use of renewable power across Apple's operations, demanding that Apple reverse its position and, furthermore, fight the current administrations initiatives to drive more use of renewable energy. Couched in terms of a fight to keep Apple doing things that only generate a return on investment the attack clearly stank of self-interest over public good.

Tim Cook's response is important in further positioning the company on the side of good. He said that Apple does things because they are right and just; and that ROI was not the primary consideration in these cases.

Cook and his board's attitu…