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Showing posts from April, 2015

MIcrosoft Edge Browser Channelling Courier Spirit

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Microsoft's new modern browser, Edge (formerly known as Project Spartan) introduces some new features that promise to make it less of a hated tool than Internet Explorer. The ability to use extensions and plugins from other browsers is novel. The promised integration with Cortana on the desktop exciting. But it's the inking feature that has me most intrigued. For users with a touchscreen it will be possible to annotate webpages directly in the browser, annotations which will it will store in the cloud and place back in the page when you next visit. The annotations can also be shared with other users. For those who remember the Courier concept which Microsoft floated a while back, this sounds all too familiar. In fact if integrated with OneNote and an enhanced version of the Windows Snipping tool you could indeed begin to replicate the Courier experience, shown below, on a Windows 10 touchscreen tablet.

Microsoft Surface Revenue Up 44%

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Even before the arrival of the new, full fat Windows, entry-level Surface, Microsoft's tablet hybrid seems to be making progress in the marketplace, with last week's earnings call reporting an increase in revenue of 44% to $713m. Revenue isn't profit, but growing the former is important in that it indicates the build up of momentum behind the product. That growth hasn't been achieved in an easy climate either, with both PC and Tablet markets shrinking year on year, Microsoft's performance looks even better, whichever category you place the Surface in. When the new, cheaper and more relevant Surface 3 starts to bring numbers in I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft post some as impressive growth figures at its next reporting call. However, lets not got carried away. The iPad was being panned in commentary on the Apple earnings call, with sales down 23% year on year. It still brought in close to $5.5bn in revenue in quarter though, so Microsoft have some way …

Here's How Good Continuum Looks On Windows Phone 10

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Here's Joe Belfiore showing off Continuum on Windows Phone and I have to say it looks pretty good. Whilst you may not choose to use your phone as your only computer, it certainly offers new options for hot-desking that look mighty attractive.
Two things, Windows 10 for Phones will be available "this summer" and new hardware will be required to make this work, some of which Belfiore details in the voice over.
This alone makes a Windows Phone far more attractive than previously thought possible. Let's see if Microsoft can make something of this or whether it turns into another Origami.

Did Nokia Let Slip Smartphone Plans?

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Just a day after denying that it was working on a smartphone of any type, Nokia managed to mix up its messages and 'confirm' that it was in a response to a query on its Facebook page. Most likely this is the result of a mistake by the person responsible for the social media strategy at Nokia. Whilst it may be working on its future smartphone strategy it certainly shouldn't be talking about it, at least until the constraints placed upon it by the sake of its handset division to Microsoft have expired. It seems an absolute sure bet that Nokia will be working on bringing its name back to the smartphone world as soon as it can. I think the only question is: how will it do this? I'm still betting a haphazard strategy of licensing deals will be the way they choose to go. Individual devices may well be strong (and the N1 tablet certainly looks to be) but there may be a lack of coherence across the range of devices.

Build: Lots Of Good News For Windows Fans

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Lots of exciting news coming out of Microsoft's Build '15 conference today as the company prepares the world for the release of Windows 10 later this year. 
Talking points include new desktop capability for phones, a first glimpse at Edge the replacement for Internet Explorer, new migration capability for iOS and Android developers looking to bring their apps to Windows 10 and a new consolidated Store supporting both modern and traditional apps.
The latest release of Windows 10 was also released to testers as well, featuring an updated version of Cortana, with improved links into your applications and information.
For me the most interesting new information concerns Windows Phone's Continuum feature, which potentially makes your phone the single source of computing power for all your needs. It practically guarantees a USB-C connection on Microsoft's next flagship Lumia, as it leverages an external screen, keyboard and mouse to turn your phone into a desktop computer. …

Amazon One-Hour Prime Service Used Mostly For Water

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Mashable has queried Amazon for details of how its One-hour Prime delivery service is going in New York. Turns out that in the areas where its being used most the products customers want are water, water and more water. And then toilet roll!
Yes, three of the top four items for one hour delivery are bottles of water, with the fourth being toilet roll.
Its a good thing that Amazon has the ability to get this stuff over to customers so quickly because is not like it just runs out of the taps or anything, is it?

Samsung Back On Top Of Smartphone Market

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According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung managed to reclaim top spot in the smartphone market in the last quarter, selling 83 million phones. It seems a revival in low and mid-range sales rescued the company's quarter,though sales were down from 89 million this time last year. Samsung's own financial call gave details of further falls in profits in its reporting quarter.Market share fell significantly, as the market overall grew by more than 25% year on year. That growth came from Apple mainly, with Huawei and the vague 'others' group also showing significant gains.Surprisingly, Lenovo and its US subsidiary, Motorola also struggled with a drop in year on year sales which has allowed rival Huawei to close in the battle for third place.Samsung will no doubt be hoping that the arrival of its new S6 models will provide it with a boost when the current quarter's sales figures are tallied, three months from now.

Software Problems On iPads Stop American Airlines Flights

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When American Airlines chose to switch its pilots over to an electronic flight bag using iPads they probably never expected a technology failure to cause them problems. It appears that this is the case though, with several users on Twitter reporting that they are sat on the ground in American Airlines planes after the flight crew's iPads crapped out on them.
It seems highly unlikely that it is the iPad itself that is causing the problems, rather the software used to manage flight plans and information, which is provided by a Boeing subsidiary.
This shouldn't detract from the success of technology in this situation. Despite the headlines talking evocatively about iPads, airplanes and crashes, the devices are not used as part of the control system for the plane. So the problems are more of an inconvenience rather than disaster nature.
It does raise the question over whether American Airlines considered the processes around its electronic flight bags properly. Had it done it wou…

Crowdfunding Is A Gamble, Part 732

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Sage Lazzaro, writing in the New York Observer, tells a not unprecedented tale of a crowdfunded project gone horribly wrong. On this occasion the CST-01 watch, which appears to have died a death without ever shipping a single product, at a loss to investors of over $1m.
I've said it before, but crowdfunding is an exercise in risk. Whereas getting investment to build a product through traditional means requires some effort and investigative rigour on the part of investors, crowdfunders are taking the word of the product's developers pretty much at face value.
That's not to say that crowdfunding isn't a valid way of getting a product to production, its just that as these type of projects become more popular its inevitable that there will be those who use them as a vehicle for fraud.
In the case if Central Standard Time it appears incompetence rather than dishonesty was the cause of the failure. Nevertheless the story that Lazzaro tells should serve as a warning to anyon…

Microsoft To Implement New Global Retail Strategy?

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It appears that Microsoft is going to try something new in a bid to improve its sales performance, at least in developing markets. The company announced it is going to be rebranding 50 Brazilian Nokia stores as Microsoft sites over the next year, with the first planned for Sao Paolo, opening later today.
In addition Nokia stores in India will be getting the Microsoft treatment, although its not clear which of these are real stores and which are pop-up shops in other retailers stores.
With the news of a true Microsoft store coming to Australia it seems like Microsoft has finally got the message that it has a potential retail market outside of the US. Of course the Australian store is the only really new one, but if Microsoft can build on this by developing a truly global retail strategy it may be able to boost its revenues significantly. Look at how Apple has used the presence of customers in its stores to take ownership of the retail accessory market in those countries where it has a…

Apple's Caution On Watch Faces Is Warranted

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Apple has changed its app submission guidelines to specifically ban watch faces from the App Store. It isn't a completely unexpected move given that no hint of this functionality was offered in any of the pre-launch presentations, however its extension to include apps whose primary purpose is to tell the the time has had some developers up in arms.
There are very good reasons for Apple controlling the watch faces that appear on the Watch. Firstly from a litigation point of view they do not need the headache of policing claims and counter claims from real world watch manufacturers that their trade dress rights have been infringed. We've seen this happening in Google's Android Wear store and the results are messy. With Apple's firm stand on protecting design it would be remiss of the company to do anything less.
There's a second reason though. The Watch app store is a new property for Apple and the Watch a new device. Its success is, in part, dependent upon third pa…

Microsoft Mobile Strategy Is Well Off Beam Right Now

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The warnings in Microsoft's SEC filing about its potential write off risk relating to the business formerly known as Nokia contained some information that suggests that the Microsoft of Satya Nadella is perhaps no better than that of Steve Ballmer when it comes to plotting strategy.
The statement included the following line when talking about Microsoft's most recently reported quarter: "Phone Hardware did not meet its sales volume... the mix of units sold had lower margins than planned". Now as an outsider I can't say I'm particularly shocked. Microsoft hasn't launched a high end handset since the Lumia 930 broke cover in April last year. Since then it has released six low end (43x, 530, 535, 63x, 640, 640XL) and two mid-range phones (73x, 830).
Who in the company thought that this was a strategy that was going to increase the margins of handsets? In fact, given that we now know that Microsoft lost $0.12 per handset in cost of sales alone, as far as the bot…

LG G4: Android As She Should Be Wrote

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Samsung's decision to start building iPhones that run Android left a wide open hole in the market for its biggest rival and, with what they showed in the G4 big reveal today I'm pretty sure that LG is planning on driving its bus straight through that hole.
At its heart Android is the OS for those who don't want to live exclusively in Apple's world, the tinkerers, the straightforward users who do calls, messages, a bit of photography and a little bit of life management. They have no interest in organising bike rallies or electro dance music bands. They certainly aren't looking to use their phones to create art school photos that being in a gallery.
No, if Android were a county it would be Yorkshire. And the Galaxy S6 is Cannes.
So LG launched the G4 today and in doing so offered a route forward for those Samsung owners who felt betrayed by the loss of replaceable batteries and expandable memory.
That's not to say the LG doesn't have any design kudos, it loo…

The iPad Hasn't Failed, It Just Needs That Refresh

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Apple only sold 12 million tablets in the last quarter. Only? That's still a huge number, especially when you look at first time buyer numbers. 40% of US and 70% of Chinese buyers are buying their first iPad. iPad ownership is growing, it's just that buyers are holding on to them for much longer. Apple hasn't really managed to produce a compelling reason to upgrade. Everything but the original iPad is getting iOS updates and everything but the original iPad is still viable as a tablet device. They don't take the same level of abuse as smartphones so consequently last longer. So the compelling reason for an upgrade has to come from Apple, in the form of a dramatically improved iPad. Is the iPad Pro that iPad? Given that it might not ever exist that's a big ask. So what can Apple add to the iPad to make an upgrade a must? Personally I'd like a stylus, a proper active one like the Surface Pro has. There are that many stylii on the market for the iPad I'd guess…

Is Microsoft Done With Phone Hardware?

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A few sites have picked upon an SEC filing made by Microsoft, as well as language used by CEO Satya Nadella, that point to Microsoft potentially being about to write off its phone hardware business, the part of the company formerly known as Nokia.
If this really is on the cards it will mark the end of a disastrous partnership that failed to ignite the market despite delivering excellent combinations of hardware and software.
Earlier today I wrote about fixing the app gap and the last opportunity for Microsoft to do this at Build 2015. I still believe that Microsoft has that opportunity. However even if it does deliver a fix Microsoft may not see it being a business it can have a long term future in. Cost of sales exceeds the value of sales. That isn't good business and whilst sustaining a short-term loss could be justified in search of longer term profits, almost four years since Microsoft bet the farm on Windows Phone 7, it's still losing money on the platform.
If Microsoft …

Microsoft Needs To Make App Porting Easier To Save Windows Phone

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Windows Phone is a great platform, with its elegant live tiles, beautiful hardware and performance that mostly belies even the lowest end internals. Of the three platforms currently available it sports both the most elegant UI and the best hardware. Yet other than for testing purposes I can't remember when I last carried one.
As usual the problem remains the app gap. After years and years of trying Microsoft have singularly failed to fix the problem. Yes, we hear of every single big name arrival as a cry of victory from the Windows Phone cheerleaders, yet the gap between the release of the iOS, Android and Windows Phone versions of these big name apps is usually a reason for concern, not celebration.
It isn't even the big name apps that are the real problem. For every big win Microsoft scores there are one hundred apps that aren't ported and every one of those is a show-stopper for someone transitioning to Windows Phone. In fact by making its apps available so freely on i…

Jay-Z Hits Back At Tidal Critics

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Tidal has had a pretty rough first month, a ill-conceived celeb-focused launch, a rapid rise and fall through the app store popularity charts and lots of scepticism over the claimed musician friendliness of the service. Not to mention queries over its pricing model.
Jay-Z has started to respond to some of the criticisms via his Twitter account, asking for a little time to get the service embedded and claiming 770k paying subscribers on the service. That's a reasonable effort, but not game changing by any stretch of the imagination. 
I think most consumers of music through streaming services, as well as those who buy their music outright through online or physical stores, would be keen to support a service that demonstrably provided a better deal for musicians and cut the record companies out of the deal.
After all I never heard of anybody who was a fan of a record company, we are here for the artists.
If Jay-Z can demonstrate how Tidal really is a better deal for the musician, ra…

DisplayMate Says Cheapest Apple Watch Has Best Screen

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As you probably know by now, DisplayMate takes display testing to a whole new level, so whilst others are making qualitative opinion statements about which display is best, DisplayMate has the tests and numbers to back up their statements.
So when DisplayMate tell you the cheapest Apple Watch has the best screen, it's worth sitting up and taking notice.
Actually it isn't the screen that makes the difference in this test, as all of the Watches sport OLED screens in two different sizes. The important factor here is the sapphire glass that protects the screen on more expensive Watches.
Apparently the Sapphire reflects twice as much ambient light as the glass on the Watch Sport, which impacts on contrast and colour performance. So if you want the absolute best performance from the Watch display the cheaper model is the one to have.
Otherwise it appears that the Apple Watch has a pretty good display, with DisplayMate's measurements suggesting it meets Apple's definition of…

Apple Taking Back The Smartphone Market One Quarter At A Time

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When Apple released its record breaking earnings report last quarter I predicted more of the same to come when this quarter's report was released.
Whilst my estimate of 63 million iPhones was a touch high, Apple achieved all that was hoped for. Its second biggest quarter in history, improved average sales prices for the 61 million iPhones it did sell and year on year growth of 40% and 10% for iPhone and Mac respectively.
The only downside remains the weakness of the iPad - a 23% decline on sales compared to the same quarter last year. It really does seem as if the iPad has turned into a dead end street. Perhaps a bit of love in the next update can reverse that trend.
So why was Apple's Q2 result so good? The growing importance of China for the company. Unlike the western world, where the holiday season and gift-giving times fall in December, Chinese tradition is for gifts to be made at New Year. Which falls in Apple's Q2. The extent of the importance of China can be seen …

Should Australia's Boat People Success Determine EU Policy In The Med?

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The number of asylum seekers seeking to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean in overcrowded and unsafe boats has reached crisis point, reports of dozens, even hundreds of lives being lost are becoming an all too frequent occurrence. As Europe seeks a solution could it find some guidance in the events in Australia?
Kiwi blogger David Farrar, a notable right-wing commentator, has a post detailing the impact of changes in Australian policy towards asylum seekers arriving by boat over the last eight years. The timing is crucial because it encompasses two significant u-turns in policy when dealing with these events.
In 2007 a hardline policy on turning asylum seekers boats around was abandoned transferring refugees to asylum camps instead, leading to a 10,000% increase in the number of people attempting the journey to Australia. It also resulted in the number of deaths spiking from zero to over four hundred a year at its peak.
In 2013 the policy change was reversed, by last year the…

The Half-finished iPhone

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When the iPhone 6 was announced you could barely move across the internet for people eulogising its build quality and premium materials. They were wrong and the more I use one the more that becomes apparent.

First of all, let's be clear, the iPhone is a great handset that manages to fix the biggest single complaint that Apple have faced for the last three years: its screen size.
However, the iPhone 6 has a major failing: it feels like half a phone, the innards of a device awaiting the installation of the final shell. When you pop the back cover off a Nokia Lumia and are left holding the screen and innards that's what the iPhone 6 is. Apple has made it so thin and out of such a 'premium' material that it ends up feeling unpleasant to hold in the hand. Without a case I could not bring myself to use an iPhone 6 on a daily basis, it is a tactile dead zone.
Install Apple's leather cover for the iPhone - or any of a number of third party alternatives - and that sensation…

Mazda Riffing On Classic Mini Ad

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Not sure if its also true in the rest of the world, but here in New Zealand Mazda has started an advertising campaign claiming 'You'll always remember your first Mazda3' which sounds suspiciously like the old Mini advert 'You never forget your first Mini'. Of when British Leyland did it back in the 20th Century the Mini has a record of sporting and consumer success behind it, it was already an all-time classic and it had transcended class boundaries to truly become a car of the people. The Mazda3? Not so much. An innocuous enough hatchback or sedan with barely a family tree behind it at all. No, Mazda, you may be a byword for reliability, but advertising excellence remains firmly out of your grasp.

Android's New Handwriting Input Panel Rocks

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One of the things that I miss about Windows Mobile is the way that it offered so many ways to get text into a device, my own personal favourite being Transcriber. This turned the whole screen into a recognition pad for handwritten input. 
Since the iPhone-led switch to capacitive screens, input by stylus has become something of a niche thing. Only the Galaxy Note offers true sylus input and the handwriting recognition works okay, but not at the level that Microsoft achieved with Transcriber. 
Now Googe has joined the party, adding a handwriting input panel to Android.
I tried the new panel on my Xperia Z3 Compact using capacitive stylii and the results were very impressive.
Recognition quality and speed are really quite impressive, whether you write quickly and have whole sentences recognised at once, a write quite slowly and have one character recognised at a time.
Once you have gotten the hang of writing on glass - not something that I had a problem with having done it on dozens of…

Apple Watch Has 3,000 Apps, But Are They Useful

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The iPhone 3G launched with under one thousand apps back in 2008, the first time that Apple had allowed the new phone to install apps. With the app store button now live in the Apple Watch app we can see that the Watch app catalogue is going to be an awful lot healthier at launch, some reports claim 3,000 apps.
Are they going to be useful though?
For example, the Procreate drawing app has an Apple Watch app. Why? It's a drawing app for your phone, what possible need could there be to use your watch to interact with it? Similarly games like Real Racing 3 and FIFA 15 just don't seem to need the watch-based dashboard as presented.
On the other hand there are apps like Do, Wunderlist, Evernote and Gogobot that really do seem to make best use of the Watch's glance based interface.
Clearly there is going to be a period where the gold rush mentality prevails and every man and his dog will be pushing Watch apps at the store.
Hopefully we'll see that settle down and start to g…

What Does Microsoft Have Up Its Sleeve For The Windows 10 Launch

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Windows 10 is on its way - as soon as June according to some reports, more likely August or September. Its probably the most eagerly awaited launch since Windows 95 arrived. Windows 8 was a disaster for Microsoft, gaining as much bad publicity as Vista did back in the day.
Through a widespread beta programme, Microsoft has given us plenty of Windows 10 to look at. So the software itself is unlikely to bring many surprises.
In the twenty years since Windows 95 was released Microsoft has changed and is now as focused on hardware as its ever been. Which means the a software release as important as Windows 10 must live hand in hand with some impressive new hardware, designed to show it off to its fullest extent. The role that the Surface failed to play when Windows 8 arrived. Microsoft has a phone division now too, and with the merge of its mobile, desktop and tablet platforms into one the expectation is that new mobile hardware will also arrive to dazzle us.
Given that the Surface Pro 3…

Microsoft Windows Phone Sales Up Again

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Microsoft's earnings call has revealed more progress for Windows Phone in terms of outright device sales, with 8.6 million Lumias finding home in the three months ended March 31. That's an 18% jump year on year, which would suggest that Windows Phone is outgrowing the market.
However, the small numbers involved mean that even a relatively healthy jump like this only equates to just under one and a half million extra sales.
On the downside revenue fell by 16%, which equates to a fall in average selling price of around 30%. So not a lot of high end Lumias going out of the door right now, plenty of low end handsets though.
Market share is a good thing to have, and the more Windows Phone users they are the more likely that developers will support them. I'm not entirely sure that sales of lots of entry level 435s and 530s are going to convince developers that there's a healthy use base to support.

Amazon And DHL To Deliver Orders To Your Car

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Amazon really wants to remove any obstruction that could prevent you ordering things online. As a result it has been working to take the pain out of delivery for a while, with its Prime service being the main thrust in reducing this friction point, reducing cost and improving delivery times.
For Prime users in Germany things are about to get a lot more interesting though, because the company has announced a tie up with DHL that will allow it to deliver your purchases into the boot of your car, wherever it may be.
Initially the service will be piloted in Munich and support drivers of Audis only. (A brave move in the heartland of BMW!) Customers will have to give DHL permission to track their vehicles location and, for the pilot at least, have some additional hardware installed into their car to allow DHL one-time access to their boot.
Amazon Prime EU head Michael Paschz described the service as "a delivery location that is always available and convenient". Which is certainly …

Tidal Finally Scores A Win: Upload Service For Independents

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One of the things that Jay-Z promised when he relaunched the Tidal music service earlier this month was that it would do a better job or rewarding musicians. After a rough start - the launch itself smacked more of elitism than of supporting artists and its app has plunged out of the iOS and Android top charts just weeks after the big event, finally there's something positive to report about the service. Independent artists will be able to upload and manage their catalogues.
This is an improvement on sector leader Spotify who requires that artists not signed with a publisher go through an aggregating service. It also offers no tools for managing things like artist bios and information on performances.
Tidal's open access for artists mean that they can keep more of their cut of the streaming service revenues, which should hopefully make it a more viable career for more talented musicians who don't fit the mainstream model and wouldn't therefore get a record deal.
I'…

AdBlock Plus Victory Threatens The Future Of Content On The Net

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Content on the internet is generally free at the point of consumption. The content provider makes their resources available to browsers in exchange for viewing ads on the content pages. The content provider's business model is based on getting sufficient views and consequentially click through to provide it with the funds to keep operating.
Its a tenuous business model at best - we've seen some pretty big name sites disappear over the last year as the model fails to meet their funding requirements.
The alternative model is a paywall - locking up content (all or just some premium level stuff) behind a paid subscription or per access service. It has generally proven to be a limited success.
AdBlock Plus is a piece of software which prevents ads from displaying on websites. In doing so it damages the revenue stream for the publisher and makes it less likely that the website will be able to continue. 
In Germany (home of AdBlock Plus's owner Eyeo) several news sites challenge…

Facebook Sets Out To Win Voice Calling Too

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One in five people on the planet actively use Facebook. That's a staggering 1.4bn people interacting through the service. 10% of the planet's VoIP traffic - that's voice calls sent over data networks if you didn't already know - are handled by Facebook Messenger. It also delivers 45n messages daily. So to say that Facebook as grown from being a social network to a global utility wouldn't be far off the mark.
These figures were released by Mark Zuckerberg as part of Facebook's earnings call. Also released: Facebook Hello, a replacement dialer for Android phones, which will handle call routing, call blocking and caller ID functions. 
The calling is effectively an extension of what Messenger already does. It's how Hello interacts with the information stored in Facebook which makes it exciting. Get a call from someone whose number you don't know, but who is on Facebook? The app will deliver pertinent information to help you decide whether to take the call.…

What Would A Google-owned Tesla Look Like?

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So it appears that Tesla came close to being a Google owned company, with Elon Musk approaching Larry Page when manufacturing and technology problems stalled the company's cash flow and left it two weeks from bankruptcy.
The sticking point was related to Musk's demands, which valued the company far higher than Google believed it was worth. A belief we can now feel confident is incorrect.
Would Tesla have been as successful under Google's stewardship as it has been under Elon Musk's? I'm not so sure. Given the way that Google has approached the self-driving car we would probably be talking about a bright future for Google's Tesla, whereas Tesla has carved out a pretty good niche for itself without the input from the Google empire.
One thing I'm sure of though, if Page had bought Tesla Apple's plans for an electric car would be much further down the road than they currently are., wherever that may be.

Geo-Blocking And VPNs Under Scrutiny

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Consumers in New Zealand and Australia are about to find out exactly how much power their media companies wield, as battle begins to warm up over geo-blocking and the use of VPNs. At issue technology that works around country specific content locks, for example keeping overseas users from accessing the BBC's UK content.NZ media companies gave ISPs an ultimatum last week, demanding that they disable so-called Global Mode services, which implement an ISP level VPN solution to make users appear local for some get locked services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix.Having paid for exclusive licenses for content it must be pretty galling for these media businesses to find that Kiwis can get the content for free and months in advance of the subscription services on offer in New Zealand.The problem or the media companies is that the use of VPNs doesn't actually break any of New Zealand's existing laws. In Australia there are some more sweeping laws which could potentially be used to sto…

London's Black Cabs Fighting Uber Again

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For all its mis-steps and own goals, the concept behind Uber is a good one, especially in places where it disrupts a legacy model which serves its customers poorly. London for example, where the iconic black cab is everywhere, yet offers a poor service at a high price provided by drivers who do themselves no favours.
The minicab has been hurting the Taxi service for decades, however the black cabs have always two advantages: they can be hailed from the roadside and the drivers have to know their way around the city.
Technology has removed those advantages and Uber is exploiting that as a strength to bring what is effectively a minicab service into direct competition with the black cab and the cabbies don't like it.
Yesterday they came out en masse to block Oxford Street in protests about the way that Transport for London manages the Uber service. The cabbies argue that the smartphone app acts as a meter and therefore the drivers should meet the same regulations as the black cabs.

Always On Is A Basic Requirement For A Smartwatch

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With the imminent arrival of the Apple Watch on customers wrists the smartwatch is very much in the public eye right now. If we are to adopt the concept wholesale - and just about every OEM of consumer electronics is betting that we will - the transfer from a traditional watch to smartwatch must be seamless.
Yesterday afternoon I was trapped in a lengthy meeting, the sort that happens up and down businesses the world over. A waste of time for most of the people in it and a crutch for those who instigated it to share their problems. With more pressing matters to attend to I was unable to escape thanks to the seniority of those present. The result? Repeated glances at my watch and mental rescheduling of coming tasks to fit the decreasing window of time.
With my regular watch I was able to subtly check the progress of time, without insulting those in the meeting who felt the need to talk through endless trivial detail.
With a smart watch that might not have been so easy. There's a d…

Adonit Jot Pro v Bamboo Stylus - updated

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If you want to do anything other than basic note taking or finger painting on the iPad the. You're going to need a stylus of some sort. Having already discovered that Adonit's Jot Touch with PixelPoint, Bluetooth LE stylus seriously over promised and under delivered in accuracy, Palm rejection and speed it will be interesting to see how it's capacitive stylus fairs up against Wacom's Bamboo Stylus. The latter has been available for a couple of years now and doesn't vary greatly in technology from the standard, rubber tipped stylii that you can pick up for next to nothing just about anywhere. However it does have some features which make it worth the extra money over those giveaway stylii. Firstly the Bamboo has a thinner tip - around 25% narrower than that of a standard rubber tipped stylus. The rubber of the tip is of a different material than its direct competition, being a little stiffer and running across the iPad screen in a way that evokes the feel of pen an…

Nokia Returning To Phones Next Year, But In What Capacity?

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One thing you can be absolutely sure of next year will be that a phone bearing Nokia's name will arrive on the global market. Nokia's brand is so strong that even after seven years of wilful self-destruction, re-organisation and the sale of its handset business to Microsoft, it has the kudos to power a revival, in emerging markets at least. At the end of this year the contractual restriction on a Nokia phone lapses.
The question is not 'Will Nokia release a smartphone?' but 'How much Nokia will be in the smartphone it releases?"
The N1 tablet demonstrates how Nokia could move forward. Licensing its name to near-anonymous OEMs looking to boost sales through the use of a prominent brand. Its exactly the model that Virgin uses for most of its operations worldwide. You'd be surprised by how little of operation branded as Virgin is actually owned by Virgin.
Whilst it might work for Planes, Trains and... gymasiums, the same policy isn't going to be quite so…

Android Wear Bump Shows Strengths And Weaknesses

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Google has announced an updated software release for Android Wear smartwatches, bringing several new features to the table - but it's going to be an Android-style messy update that relies on manufacturers to push to users.

First of all the good. The arrival of Wifi, which means that you can make use of your smartwatch without necessarily having your phone to hand, as it will still pick up messages and notifications, assuming that you have access to an open Wifi signal of course. 
Android Wear watches will now have their screens permanently illuminated. That's a definite plus, especially for those with OLED screens that won't suck the battery dry as a result. One of the biggest complaints I've heard from people about smartwatches - and especially the Apple Watch - is the delay between lifting your wrist and the screen switching on. Losing that particular annoyance will make Android Wear instantly more appealing.
There are two new functions with this update. The ability …

Sony Announces Xperia Z4, The Very Definition Of An Incremental Update

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Sony soft-launched its latest Xperia Z4 in Japan yesterday,  skipping the big mobile show launches of previous handsets and favouring an almost apologetic announcement instead.
The new Z4 offers minimal change compared to the Z3, but still moves the Xperia line forward and remains competitive in the Android space. The slightly longer delay between the Z3 and Z4 launches might also be indicative of Sony's stated aim to slow down its rate of change.
New for the Z4 are a better front-facing camera, slightly thinner and lighter body; the new Snapdragon 810 processor (making the Z4 a 64-bit smartphone) and a bump in base memory to 32GB (although this may just be for the Japanese market).
What remains are all the things that made the Z3 the best Android smartphone choice for many users. The great camera, excellent screen, iconic design and weatherproofing. The retention of the weatherproofing means the Z4 is the only flagship phone that is weather resistant, after Samsung ditched this …

Home Solar Introduces New Issues With Popularity

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Installing Solar Panels at your home as proved to be a cost efficient way of reducing your power bill. Especially as governments have promoted the micro-generation of excess power being sold back into the grid. In some areas this means that credits earned in the summer for generating power can more than offset the cost of buying power from the grid in the winter.Great for the home-owner, not so good for the power companies, especially as the popularity of the solution grows.In areas of high supply some districts report 50% of community power requirements are met by micro-generators. As that figure rises the power company needs to start backing off its own generation systems. The way that figure rises is interesting for the future of the power companies. As a household gains solar panelling its requirements for grid supplied energy fall off and the supply of micro-generated electricity rises. Eventually supply will outstrip demand and the power company will be required to either store…

Didn't Palm Solve Small Screen Input Two Decades Ago?

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The wrist-worn computer is here but if you want to use it for person to person communications you'll struggle with data entry. Micro keyboards, canned responses and voice input don't add up to a usable input solution. If you don't want to pull out your smartphone every time you need to reply to a message (and surely that's the point) then you need to resolve this issue.
Well, not exactly. One company solved the problem twenty years ago.  The company was Palm and the solution was Graffiti. A machine-readable, single stroke input solution that was so close to the standard alphabet that with only limited learning users could enter information into their pocket devices without having to look at them or fiddle with cumbersome keyboards.
Its ideal for use on a smart-watch because it works on a small screen, can be entered with a single finger and can even handle extended character sets. Not having to look at the screen whilst writing is another bonus of the technology.
Give…

Jalopnik Drives A Giulietta

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Want to know how much of a draw Alfa Romeo has in the motoring industry? How about Jalopnik writer Michael Ballabean paying for his own travel to Italy just for the opportunity to drive one?
The result, possibility the best summing up of the Giulietta ever committed to paper, I mean, screen.
"Slightly less than perfect in almost every single way, and in that totality, perfection is achieved."
Doesn't matter what you compare it to in its class, the Giulietta offers a unique experience, a personality that is missing on anything else. Yes there are faster cars, better built cars and even better handling cars but, to paraphrase Alfa Romeo's advertising, they are mere machines.
You can read the full piece here.