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Showing posts from November 16, 2014

Motorola Blows Nexus 6 Launch

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The Nexus 6 doesn't rank highly in this season's must have devices. Now an error by Motorola means that some of those sold are going to have to be replaced.

The problem results from a faulty firmware that Motorola installed on devices shipped to AT&T. The faulty devices have now been withdrawn from sale and the error has been corrected on new stock. Customers who have an affected device are being asked to return their devices to a store for replacement.

Given that the Nexus range is Google's interpretation of what an Android phone should be, and the Nexus 6 itself is the first premium device in that range, having such a high profile error as this occur is amateur hour level attention to detail. Added to the poor reception of the Nexus 9 and the withdrawal of the Lollipop upgrade for the Nexus 5, it hasn't been the most successful of product launches for Google.

European Parliament Planning To Pursue Dismantling Of Google

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The Financial Times is claiming that the European Parliament is to conclude its investigations into Google and recommend the seperation of Google Search from the rest of the company.

The suggestion would be catastrophic for Google were it to be enacted, although the parliament itself has no leverage to make this happen. In fact to drive this through, the European Commission would have to take this on and pursue it with vigour.

The argument being put forward by the investigation is that Google's dominance of the Search market puts it into a position where it is able to promote its own products over others. Giving it a competitive advantage.

Isn't that how business works? Build a great product and use its success to drive sales of further products.

Navigating The Modern Age As A Musician

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Today is an interesting news day for musicians and song-writers, full of news about how embracing the internet driven music business is an opportunity to create an income stream from making music.

First off, Billboard is reporting on a piece of research by the Country Music Association that finds music streaming boosts album sales. The work uncovered some interesting facts, such as the fact that 69% of users who heard a track on streaming services took some kind of follow up action to learn more about the track or artist. That compares to around 17% of listeners to broadcast radio.

When it came to purchasing 25% of users who first heard a track on a streaming service went on to buy the track or the album from which it originated. Again that's a massively higher proportion that the 8% of broadcast radio listeners who went on to do the same thing.

Tech Crunch has a story about musicians engaging directly with their audience, and how it is possible to be successful with a much small…

F1: Can Mclaren Afford To Lose Button?

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With the confirmation of Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari and the resulting displacement of Fernando Alonso, the pieces of the F1 2015 seat puzzle are falling into place. Alonso will almost certainly move to Mclaren-Honda next season and the only question remaining (at the sharp end of the grid anyway) is who will partner the Spaniard?

Based on his previous, stormy, year with Mclaren in 2007, it seems a likely that Alonso will be pushing hard for Jensen Button to be dropped. Alonso needs to have number one status in a team and having Button alongside him will not make him happy. Having been outraced and outwitted by the rookie Lewis Hamilton, Alonso knows that partnering with an Englishman in an English team can cause him problems.

Kevin Magnussen has a number of factors in his favour. He is extremely cheap - $500k compared to Button's rumoured $12m, which will please the bean counters; and he has performed erratically this season, which will please Alonso.

Yet I can't help but be…

Moleskin Goes For Digital Designers with Connected Notebook

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Anyone who has used a Livescribe pen and notebook combo will tell you that it's an extremely capable solution. It's probably not an ideal tool for graphic designers and artists however and Moleskin hopes to leverage that weakness with its new digitally connected notebook.

Moleskin makes great products and this notebook is unlikely to be an exception, but the way that it integrates the digital and physical worlds isn't ideal and doesn't advance the art hugely over what Livescribe does, or indeed what Samsung has achieved with its S-Note app.

In effect the Moleskin notebook uses visual tags which mean that when you take a photo of your drawing the image can be corrected for skew and turned into a pair of digital files - a jpg and a svg. the latter will open in either Photoshop or Illustrator. Those services are important, because Adobe's Creative Cloud is the driver behind the whole solution.

In comparison Samsung's S-Note application does a fine job of de-skewi…

Nokia's N1 Shows Why It Never Needed Android

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At the moment I'm still not one hundred percent sure whether the Nokia N1 tablet is a Nokia design with Foxconn taking on all of the risks, or a Foxconn tablet that Nokia has agreed to apply its name to in return for a per device royalty paymet. Gut feeling is the latter.

Ever since Stephen Elop took Nokia down the Windows Phone route there have been dissenting voices demanding, pleading and moaning about Android. Nokia could have been the next Samsung with Android.

Realistically, that could never have happened. Samsung had already risen to the top of the pile and would have taken some serious unseating, and about the time, where all going well, Nokia would have been battling for top spot with Samsung, the entry of OEMs from China and India would have cut the market from under it.

What we would have got is what we have now. An iPad Mini clone, running commodity Android and a passable launcher overlaid. Nokia's reasons for doing this device are clear - an income stream, brand …

Beats Music To Become Part Of iOS Pre-Install

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Those in the music industry seeking to slow, or even stop, the adoption of streaming services will face a new challenge with the news that Apple plans to integrate Beats Music into its iOS pre-install.

Since buying Beats Apple hasn't really pushed the service forward much, the rumoured price reduction hasn't happened, although that would seem to be a logical offer to tie into delivering the app to hundreds of millions of iOS users.

As to the likely take up, the reduction of some of the friction from the Beats sign up process (pre-installing the app, allowing the subscription to be drawn from the connected iTunes account) should prod a significant portion of those iTunes account holders to at least give the service a try. It's highly likely that Apple could go from being a music streaming also-ran, to overtaking Spotify's 12.5m paid subscribers almost overnight. In fact with on-demand music streaming currently counting around 22m paid subscribers, it isn't inconcei…

F1: Young Guns Get Test Try-out

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GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer, Formula Renault Champion Carlos Sainz Jr. and Euro F3 racer Spike Goddard will all get a chance to stake a claim for  a vacant F1 seat for next season in the post-season young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

Palmer and Goddard will drive a Force India - although the team has already confirmed both Hulkenberg and Perez for next season, there's potentially an opportunity for one of the two to grab the reserve driver seat.

Meanwhile Sainz will try out in the Red Bull, with the prize for a good performance likely to be the second Toro Rosso seat alongside Max Verstappen.

Palmer's career has closely mirrored that of his father, JP the GP, who won the then F2 Championship by a country mile in 1983. Jonathan's career rather stagnated once he arrived in F1 with the massively underfunded RAM team. With available race seats thin on the ground and teams doing a poor job of promoting reserve drivers there's a risk that Jolyon's F1 career might never even…

Netflix Arriving Down Under - Finally

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Video streaming service Netflix will bring its service to New Zealand (and Australia) in March 2015.

It will be interesting to see how Netflix fairs as it seeks out subscribers in a market where geolocation-free ISPs have meant that users already have access to streaming services (including Netflix's own) in the UK and US. Netflix says it does everything it can to block these users, but I suspect that it will put in a more concentrated effort once the service launches locally next year.

There are competing film streaming services in NZ - Quickflix and Lightbox for example - not to mention Sky's offering, but my own personal experience suggests that Kiwis don't really spend much time watching TV, except for a few sporting exceptions. That may make for a service with limited appeal.

Between them those two factors are likely to restrict take up, unless Netflix is able to offer either very attractive pricing or lots of unique (and local) content. I'd be very surprised if …

Apple Pushes Lightning Ports To Accessory Makers

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Apple's Lightning port, as featured on iOS devices, is a mix of good and awful. It's a slim, non-directional connector which carries numerous signals. On the other hand it contains DRM which restricts the places that the cables can be sourced from, and official cables from Apple are both ridiculously expensive and terribly fragile.
Things aren't getting better for iOS device owners either, as Apple is pushing the Lightning connector to accessory OEMs to enable these devices to drop the commonly used micro-USB interface. For Apple this offers a further opportunity to lock-in customers to its ecosystem, while for OEMs it means they can delete the cable from some of their products, releasing a few more pennies of profit.

For the user it's going to mean some new products like headphones that use a Lightning to Lightning connector, with Philips slated to be first to market with a set. It's also going to mean mollycoddling those fragile cables - or accepting the need to …

Spotify Clearly Makes Its Case For Music Streaming

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Earlier today Spotify tweeted the image on the left detailing the money that it has paid out to the music industry since it launched. That $2bn figure looks pretty good, but even more impressive is that the first billion dollars took from 2008 to 2013 to achieve. The second billion has been paid out since last year.

The rate of user growth is illuminating too. In May this year Spotify hit the 10 million paid subscriber mark, it's now at 12.5 million, if that rate of growth continues it will have reached almost 20 million paid subscribers by this time next year.

As musicians continue to take sides in the battle with Spotify, it's becoming clear that the consumer has already made it's choice. Streaming is here to stay.

iPhone 6 Attracting Fewer Android Users

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In the US at least, Apple's new iPhone is proving less successful at converting Android owners than expected. Around 12% of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus buyers converted from Android, a significant fall from the 23% who converted last time around. Even though sales have been higher than this time last year, in pure numbers that still reflects a large drop in the number of buyers Apple has courted away from its rivals.

The arrival of the new, larger iPhones was expected to drive increased numbers of users to switch platforms, on the basis that the reason those users chose Android was predominantly because of the availability of the larger screens.

With the new information from CIRP showing this not to be the case it's time to reflect on what the driving factors are behind smartphone sales. It may perhaps lead to iOS inheriting even more of the features which make Android so popular.

So whilst the iPhone continues to draw in huge profits for Apple there must be a long term concern that …

Watchkit Arrives, Apple's Big Smartwatch Advantage

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Apple released its latest iOS SDK for developers today and together with the new Xcode 6.2 beta this completes the development stack for the Apple Watch platform.

The period from today until launch will determine how much of a success the Apple Watch is (I'm sure everyone knows that it will be a success). Applications have been the real driver in Apple's growth over the last six years, without the efforts of a vibrant development community and some star applications I doubt that the iPhone or the iPad would have been half as successful as they have been.

Apple now must rely on the development community again, this time to develop apps that will enhance the perceived value of the Watch, give it a competitive advantage over Google's Wear platform and drive sales not just of the Watch, but also encourage users to move to the iPhone.

New Nokia Tablet Is All Foxconn

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Nokia announced the N1 tablet today, a 7.9" device running Android Lollipop and packing the company's custom Z launcher. It's a thin, light device built around an Intel Atom processor. Interestingly the press release talks of an all aluminium body - but then says it has a soft touch finish. I'm not sure whether that's some kind of coating or paint finish - we'll see when we can go hands on.

Although the design and engineering were undertaken by Nokia it looks like this is a Foxconn product, with the Chinese OEM taking on the costs of building, shipping and possibly supporting the device. The design and Nokia name are being used under license. This is subtly different from the was that other brands work, were Foxconn is the manufacturing partner and no more. It looks like Nokia have offloaded some of the risk of bringing this product to market at the cost of most of the profits.

The device will make it's debut in China, Q1 2015, before rolling out to other…

What Value Do You Place On Intangible Products?

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It bemuses me when people pay the thick end of $1,000 for a phone and then moan about having to pay $2 for an application to run on it. Yet at the same time I would happily pay a $10 monthly subscription to a music service but would never buy a CD of music.

The value we place on these intangible goods - music, software, even films and ebooks - has changed over the last decade.

Boxed software, books, music CDs and VHS films commanded their high prices partly on the basis that the distribution network and materials added cost, and therefore value, to the product.

Those material artifacts have disappeared and as a result we've re-aligned our thinking on the relative value of the product itself.

Years of sharing services and easy pirating has reduced the value of a music recording to zero. The price models that have fallen out of the various app stores has similarly changed our perception of what software should cost - and as a result software has an effective value of zero.

Books an…

F1: Chilton To Caterham For Abu Dhabi?

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Bizarrely it looks F1's Tail-end Charlie, Max Chilton, might be back on the grid for the season finale in a Caterham. The Marussia driver has emerged as a front-runner to partner Kamui Kobayashi in Abu Dhabi. Presumably Chilton's sponsors have the funds available to buy Chilton a drive, although given the financial problems that almost led to him missing the Belgian Grand Prix that seems unlikely.

It's doubtful even an uncharacteristic storming drive in Abu Dhabi will get Chilton into a seat next year, however with Andre Lotterer turning down the opportunity to reprise his eye-opening one off at Spa, Chilton might be the next best thing for Caterham. He does tend to get the car home and, in the unlikely event that there are limited finishers a good result for the Brit might be enough to snatch ninth place in the championship from Sauber.

Nokia About To Re-enter The Fray

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Now that Microsoft has taken full ownership of the Lumia smartphone line and brand, Nokia is free to begin operations under its own brand again. So this tweet promises the first product from a Nokia with no phone division.

There are plenty of people guessing what this black box contains, most popular suggestions centre around a set top box of some sort - an Apple TV competitor - or some sort of home networking hardware.

One thing's almost guaranteed - there won't be a phone in there. Nokia is contractually restricted from putting it's name to a smartphone for the next two years, and a feature phone for the best part of a decade.

It will be interesting to see whether this is the start of Nokia recovering its mojo, or the beginning of the end for its consumer aspirations.

Uber - Spotify Deal Highlights The Gulf Between Riders And Drivers

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Last week Uber and Spotify announced a partnership which promises riders the opportunity to plug in their phones and control the music in Uber cars.

It's a strange deal because it's hopelessly pointless. If the Uber driver is going to be required to provide a lead from his in car entertainment's auxiliary jack to the passenger what's to stop that passenger playing any music the choose, from any source? Do Uber and Spotify intend to enforce some kind of lock on the rider's phone to prevent other music services, or even locally stored music, being played?

There's also the question of how this affects the rider-driver relationship. In terms of value there's a heavy bias towards the rider already. A negative review from a rider can impact on the driver's earnings and even number of jobs he gets.

So a driver faced with loud, distracting or just plain awful music is not going to be in a position to ask for that music to be turned down or even off. For that r…

F1: What's Going On At Sauber?

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Either Sauber has a cunning plan to run four cars next season or else it's putting itself into a complicated contractual position as it sells its race seats to the highest bidder.

The situation look like this right now. Sauber have a long term contract with Adrian Sutil - believed to be for another two seasons, plus possibly another agreement with Giedo van der Garde based upon free practice running in 2014 leading to a race seat for 2015.

However last week we found out that Marcus Ericsson had signed a deal to move his sponsors to Switzerland and takes a race seat for 2015. Then we found out the Felipe Nasr has signed up to take a race seat in 2015, based on a hefty injection of sponsorship from Brazil.

That leaves Sauber with four contracted drivers and rumours of a dispute with Simona de Silvestra over a similar deal to Van der Garde.

Whilst it looks like Sauber are battling for their existence, the driver merry-go-round can become quite costly when it comes to broken contract…

Matt Taylor's Shirt And The Offensive Offended

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Matt Taylor is a scientist who was part of the team that landed a space probe on a comet. The enormity of that task has transcended even scientific circles to gain recognition in the wider public.

And then he chose to wear a bowling shirt to work on the day of the landing. A bowling shirt with pictures of women on it. Some have called them scantily clad and provocative, but other than a few flowing locks, legs and arms it's hard to see why.

As a result Matt became the target of the professionally offended, led by Chris Plante of The Verge. He wrote an op-ed piece headlined 'I don't care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing' and started a storm that ended with Taylor apologising in tears for his choice of couture.

This was ugly bullying of a person in the public glare for no other reason than a cheap power play because he happens to be a man. The shirt in question was pretty tacky, but the embodiment of misogyny? I think not.

Did …

F1: Caterham To Return In Abu Dhabi

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Almost unbelievably Caterham's crowd funding efforts appear to have paid off, and after reaching nearly 80% of it's crowd funded goal the team are packed and on their way to Abu Dhabi, with talk of a potential investor on the sidelines ready to save the team in the long run.

This is a success for fans of F1 and one in the eye for the aging diminutive who holds the power. Fans want the back of the grid teams, even though Mr. Ecclestone doesn't want the fans any more.

The efforts of the fans plus the promise of a prize fund payout of $11m looks to be enough to give the team a long term future. Although that's likely to be at the back of the grid, as perennial tail-ender Piercarlo Ghinzani once said "It's better to be at the back in Formula 1 than not be in Formula 1 at all".

All that remains for the team is to decide who its drivers will be. That's likely to be a long list, as the team is likely to field two pay drivers in free practice and with Marcus…