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Showing posts from August 3, 2014

Infiniti Q50, Driverless On The Autobahn

After writing about self-driving cars and the risks introduced by dangerous drivers this week, here's a timely demonstration of both.

In this case the car is the Infiniti Q50, which sports active lane control and cruise control, which allows - in the first part of the video - the driver to travel down the Autobahn with hands and feet off the controls. So far, so technically impressive.

In the second half of the video the driver vacates the driving seat and allows the Infiniti to continue the journey down the motorway completely autonomously.

Dangerous? Yep. Wildly reckless? Yep. Technical impressive, absolutely.

Infiniti need to add a driver seat sensor to it's controls in order to prevent this particular experiment being repeated. But as a demonstration of the advance of technology it's hugely impressive.

Microsoft and Hardware: A Match Made In Revenue Hell

Microsoft had quietly been building itself an income stream from hardware for years - from Windows 3.0 and the first Microsoft Mouse, through keyboards, webcams and then the Xbox, little by little Microsoft turned hardware into a pretty good revenue and profit stream.

Then things started to go wrong. Badly wrong.

First we had the Zune - which failed spectacularly enough for its name to become the new byword for tech failure. It at least passed some of its interface design through to Windows Phone.

Then there was Kin, the result of the purchase of Danger and a two year devlopment cycle that cost around $1bn. The Kin lasted forty-eight days on the market before being canned.

A couple of years ago Microsoft introduced the Surface range and despite favourable reviews and a positive reception to the most recently announced Surface Pro 3, it's looking like Microsoft have launched a product which is hemorrhaging money to an extent not seen in the business before.

Estimates put the curre…

Xbox One Getting Freeview Dongle

Microsoft went big on positioning the Xbox One as the centre of your home entertainment experience when it launched last year - and for users in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain that experience promises to get a lot better with the launch of a Freeview dongle especially for the Xbox.

The dongle will plug into a USB port and allow the TV service to be more tightly integrated with the Xbox One dashboard, making use of the power of Kinect and voice control without the clumsy IR control that until now blunted the service.

The dongle will cost £24.99/€29.99 and from Microsoft's details page here it sounds like availability is imminent.

For dedicated gamers this isn't going to swing the choice hugely in favour of the Xbox over the PS4, but for those who see the console as being more than just a games machine and more of a family device this might just be enough to tip the balance in Microsoft's favour.

No word on when the dongle will be available in other countries with…

Long Term Review: Sony Xperia Z1

I go through a lot of phones. Really, at any one time I have at least three phones - an iPhone, an Android phone and a Windows Phone - and that doesn't include any devices I have for test or review.

For more than seven months now though I've stuck with one phone as my daily driver and that's the Xperia Z1. Although it's a phone that was superseded by the Z2 after just six months on the market, it's worth looking at how the Z1 has shut out the competition for such a long time.

The Z1 has the best performing camera in a smartphone, even alongside the Lumia 1020's massive 41mp sensor. Whilst the 1020 ultimately allows you to take better pictures if you take manual control and know what you're doing, 99 times in a hundred the Z1's superior auto mode will take a better picture. The speed of launch and shot to shot times of the Z1 are better, the add-on camera apps better integrated and overall the camera experience just works better.

The Z1 does waterproofi…

Formula E: Pit Stops Looking A Bit Wacky Races

Formula E cars don't have the battery life to last a full race, as a result the drivers will have to undertake two car swaps. That's not a great advert for battery technology and now that we have a video of the process for a car swap I'm inclined to say that it isn't a particularly safe or elegant process either.

This Instagram video shows Nelsinho Piquet (yes, him of Crashgate infamy) practising a car swap and I can't see how this can be considered an acceptable solution.

In endurance racing when driver swaps are undertaken it's usually in conjunction with a fuel and tyre stop - as a result the driver change isn't undertaken under time pressure. For Formula E this won't be the case and the likelihood that under race pressure - with wind or championships on the line - drivers and teams may fail to complete the necessary buckling up and HANS attachment in the rush to save tenths of seconds on the pitstop.

Whilst battery swaps appear to be an impossibility…

Samsung Losing Smartphone Sales Leads In Major Markets

We knew from Samsung's recent quarterly reporting that the company was undergoing a bit of downward re-alignment of its smartphone sales numbers (i.e. sales are tanking) but news in recent days shows the news is probably worse than first feared but also better than it could be.

First news broke that Xaomi had outsold Samsung in China to take number one sales spot, then that Miramax had done the same in India. That's important because these two markets are outgrowing the rest of the world by some measure. Anyone focusing on pure volume to sustain a business model can't afford to be losing out here. With close to two-fifths of the world population centred here and limited smartphone penetration compared to the rest of the world, sales growth is the name of the game.

On the flip side of the coin these two markets are going to be seeing growth mostly at the entry level of the smartphone field - low cost phones equal lower profit margins. For Samsung these markets mean lots of…

iPhone Advert Focuses On The Outliers, Works Well

Apple continues its marketing push focusing on what customers are doing with their hardware. After the somewhat underwhelming 'Stickers' ad for the Macbook Air, which didn't really say much (to me anyway) the follow up 'Dreams' ad for the iPhone is much stronger.

It's interesting to note that this ad (perhaps unintentionally) centres around an iPhone weakness which turns out to be an ecosystem strength. Whereas other phones can do some pretty impressive stuff straight out of the box (and other OEMs make this the centrepiece of their advertising) the iPhone is much less capable. It's the add-ons and third party software that make the iPhone such a compelling device.

The tools and use cases presented here are probably used by less than a hundreth of one per cent of iPhone owners, yet presented in this way they make the point very well.

Apple Expecting A Biq Quarter - Record iPhone Sales or A Smartwatch?

Amongst the generally good news for Apple investors when Apple published its Q3 results was an interesting piece of forward looking guidance, which points the way to Apple's activities between now and the end of September.

Apple projected revenues between $37 and $40bn. Aside from the staggering size of those numbers there's soemthing else that can be gleaned from the projection.

Either Apple is projecting iPhone sales to go through the roof when the iPhone 6 launches, or else its going to be giving us something else to lust over as well.

In the quarter to September 2013 Apple's revenues were $37.5bn. That was on the back of record sales of more than 33 million iPhones. Since then Apple's iPad and Mac lines have had decidedly uneven performance, with the general impression being that both are on a downward trend.

As a result Apple need to beat that record iPhone number by anywhere up to four million more iPhones to generate the extra revenue. That would definitely be …

Formula E Can Take On F1 - If They Do Something About The Noise

In this video Formula E development driver Lucas di Grassi laps Donnington Park with a GoPro camera strapped to his visor. It's a unique insight into the racing driver's world when he's behind the wheel.

The video clearly demonstrates that Formula E offers plenty of potential to become the leading racing category, however the sound is awful. In this case the wind noise and tyre shriek are all that you can hear. With so many complaints about how current F1 hybrid-turbo cars sound this isn't likely to prove popular with fans.

What's the alternative? How about adding a sci-fi style woosh sound, as used in countless video games and movies? The addition of a speaker to generate the sounds at enough volume to make it audible to spectators may reduce the overall range of the racer, but will be well worth adding for the entertainment value...

Self Driving Cars - Why We Need To Hasten Their Arrival

Every time you get into your car you're taking an enormous leap of faith, trusting your life to every other road user that shares your road space during your journey. The more miles you drive the more people you put your trust in. It goes beyond the trust in their driving ability, concentration levels, regard of the law; and all those other things that regulate how we drive, but also encompasses the vehicle itself.

I love driving but I can also see that the most dangerous component in any car is the one that sits behind the steering wheel.

Which is why I'm looking forward to a future where cars are driven by computers and not people.

However, like any change it's going to be hard to drive through. (Pardon the pun). Whilst there are many manufacturers who are working on self-driving cars, ultimately someone is going to have to bring them together to create some standards and regulations around the what, where, who and how of self-driving cars.

The motor industry blossomed …

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 Rolls Out - Adds New OEM Tricks

A bit earlier than expected Microsoft rolled out Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 to phones registered in the WP Developer Program. There are a few niceties included - Live Folders in the home screen which open a mini app drawer, rather than jumping to a separate folder screen - being the most visible.

However there are a few under the skin updates which sound very promising for future Windows Phone devices, even if they bear no relevance to currently available devices on the market.

Foremost amongst them is the support for smart devices - and I'm expecting this to mean smartwatches, given that they are the current bandwagon rolling through technology central. The ability to add and manage notifications on devices points to the imminent arrival of a Microsoft powered smartwatch, more than likely just ahead of the holiday season.

Another new component relates to a leak which occurred yesterday. The imminent launch of a Windows Phone powered version of HTC's One M8 was let slip by a …

Phablets v Tablets: Is There A Market Reversal Coming?

One of the great things about living in New Zealand is that the country is a fair bell weather for what happens globally. The country is used as a test market for all sorts of new products - technical and non-technical - and as a result it's probably fair to say that buying trends that sweep New Zealand will likely follow worldwide.

So it's interesting to see more and more large phablets making their way into consumers hands here. Not the 5" screened devices that have come to typify the current range of flagships, but larger phones like the Xperia Ultra, Galaxy Mega/Note and HTC One Max. Looking at the devices that reach these shores unofficially as well as those sold through the networks it's reasonable to suggest that a 6" screened phone is going to be the next standard.

In Auckland I'm seeing them everywhere - particularly in the hands of students and other younger people.

Why the popularity? I'm guessing there are multiple reasons. Large keyboards, b…