Showing posts from June, 2015

Microsoft Exits Mapping, Uber Moves In

Microsoft will no longer be in the business of mapping, after it announced its Bing mapping unit would pass into the hands of Uber, along with around one hundred staff who work there. Its a sign of Microsoft refocusing on its key goals, so not a huge surprise. It will be interesting to see how this affects Uber's appetite for swallowing up Nokia's Here Maps service, which it has strongly been rumoured to be doing. Given the strength of the Here product and technology this move suggests perhaps the asking price for Here is too high or the Finns lack of rush to sell has forced the company's hand. Uber needs maps and it needs its own mapping service to safeguard its business. A chunk of Microsoft will satisfy that demand for now, but I suspect that Uber will be in the running for Here, whenever Nokia finally decides to get rid of it.

Xperia Z3 Stars At World Cup Final

The Under 20 FIFA World Cup climaxed here in Auckland yesterday with the Final and third place play off games being played in what was probably the worst weather that New Zealand has to offer, continuous and heavy rain.
The games produced great football, five stunning goals and a surprise World Champion, but the star of the show was my Xperia Z3 Compact.
In a day that started early and finished late; and encompassed an almost unprecedented workload, the Z3 delivered on all fronts.
Battery life was never an issue, despite a large number of voice calls, messages, emails and social media use. Add in all the photos and videos I took and there I have no doubt that neither my iPhone 6 nor  Lumia 930 would have made it through the day. The Xperia did, and with more than 40% of the battery still remaining after a sixteen hour work cycle.
Of course neither the Lumia nor iPhone would have survived the rain anyway. 
So whilst others kept their phones in their pockets or tried to use them whi…

About Those Apple Terms

So Apple's new News service had been canvassing bloggers for permission to publish their RSS feeds to iOS devices. Or rather Apple has been asking bloggers if they want to opt out of being published.

That sends to have caused something of an uproar. Which suggests some don't understand why they have RSS feeds at all.

RSS, Really Simple Syndication, is a method of sharing your blog posts to aggregators of all sorts. Apple is just taking what you make freely available and republishing it in the News app.

By offering bloggers the option to remove their content from the service Apple has gone above and beyond what is reasonable.

The other complaint has been about Apple's legalese which accompanies the offer. Specifically the stipulation that the publisher indemnify Apple against legal action for the content of the blog. Seems reasonable, prevents Apple being sued for hateful, unlawful or slanderous posts. As an aggregator I see no reason why Apple should take responsibility f…

Stephen Elop To Leave Microsoft

Microsoft has announced that Stephen Elop will be leaving the company. It's a tame end to the tenure of the man who was briefly tipped as the next Microsoft CEO. Since Elop took over Microsoft's hardware division has seen some improvement, notably in the Surface line, however as Microsoft has demonstrated that hardware sales are a secondary consideration in its future, Elop's management of that division was always going to be hamstrung.
Elop's legacy will be the mobile phone division, which Microsoft acquired for Nokia at great expense. Many claim that he was a Trojan Horse, despatched to the Finnish company to decimate it in order to facilitate a cut price buy for Microsoft.
I don't buy that. Nokia had screwed the pooch with its own in-fighting, navel contemplating and refusal to develop products that customers wanted. When Elop arrived the company was all but finished. 
Was the decision to switch to Windows Phone the right one? Probably not, with the benefit of …

F1: A Quick Easy Fix, Tyre War

F1 has become somewhat tedious, to the point where fans are abandoning the sport in ever greater numbers. Since the Belgian Grand Prix in 2013 there have only been four race winners and there had been uncertainty about the outcome of just two of those races in all that time.
The sport needs fixing. The sports governing bodies, teams and even drivers are all asking how this can be done.
The answer is easy: tyre competition.
F1's decline has come about ever since a single control tyre was mandated. Bringing back competition between tyre manufacturers changes the whole dynamic of the sport and introduces some uncertainty into races.
Ideally there should be at least three companies competing, with absolute freedom to innovate and develop between races. We would lose the ridiculous two compound rules and allow teams to use whichever tyre suits their car best, with the only restriction being the number of tyres used over the course of the weekend.
It's a quick and simple fix to th…

Windows Phone Needs A Better Flagship

If you want a premium phone running Android I'm sure you know where to go. The Galaxy S6, HTC One M9 and Xperia Z3 all offer high end features and build. An aspirational choice for Android users looking to upgrade from their first Android phone.
For Windows Phone that isn't necessarily the case.
Which phone is the flagship? The 1020 with its amazing camera but outdated internals and small screen? The 930 with its lack of standout features and appalling battery life?
There's no question that Microsoft has a new top of the range handset coming when Windows 10 Mobile arrives. Will it be a true flagship though? Windows Phone needs one, because Microsoft have been successfully converting entry level users to its platform and then failing to offer them a better handset to aspire to.
As it stands the Lumia Icon/930 fills that role, with its great screen, solid build quality and decent (but not outstanding) camera. Yet it has too many flaws to offer up as a competitor to those An…

E3: Microsoft Brings Xbox 360 Games To Xbox One

Backwards compatibility. It's the number one reason why people I speak to say that they won't be upgrading to a next gen console. At E3 Microsoft just gave Xbox 360 owners an upgrade path that removes that particular complaint.
The change of architecture between the current consoles and last gen boxes was always going to prevent true backwards compatibility, however Microsoft have created a workaround using an Xbox 360 emulator on the Xbox One, and a process for packaging games as downloadable content. Insert your 360 game disk into your new console, wait for the repackaged game to download and then its playable, requiring only that the original disk is in the drive to play.
At launch - before the holiday season according to Microsoft - there will be around 100 games re-packaged, with hundreds more to follow so there's a pretty good chance that your favourites will be in there.
For Sony it's a blow, as it makes it much harder to convert Xbox 360 owners to a PS4, given…

Modern Bus Service Leap Dead Already?

The concept behind San Francisco startup bus company Leap was a good one: provide a modern, business class express bus service for Silicon Valley workers who wanted more than just a ride. Two slip-ups seem to have done for the company though: failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and failure to procure an operator's licenses which resulted in the arrival of a cease and desist order from the Public Utilities Commissioner.
According to Ars, Leap's vehicles are being auctioned off by a liquidator which suggests that the company won't be with us much longer.
That's a shame, although a failure to understand the basic requirements of operating a bus service is a bit of a schoolboy error. Maybe those behind the service were hoping to do an Uber-style run around the regulator and hope to win in the court of public opinion.
It would be interesting to see how such a service would go down somewhere less restricted by regulation. The UK, for example, where bus…

Samsung Safety Truck. Genius.

For anyone who has sat frustrated behind a wagon on a single carriageway road this is a godsend. A phenomenal idea from Samsung and one that should be productionised across the world immediately.

Please Microsoft Put Moonraker Back In The Game

This is allegedly the Nokia Moonraker, a smartwatch that the company was moving towards production before it was bought by Microsoft last year. Apparently it was canned because of a potential conflict with Microsoft's Band. That's a shame because this looks a lot more smartwatch and a lot less fitness band.
Whilst smartwatches haven't necessarily proven that they have a role on your wrist when compared to normal watches, as a platform Windows can't really hope to compete without having an offering and this could have been a good start.
Microsoft needs to consider whether the clunky Band is enough of a presence in the wearables market. The Moonraker looks like a product that needs further investigation. Please.

FTC Takes Down Crowdfunding Scammer

Techcrunch is reporting that the Federal Trade Commission, the US government department tasked with protecting consumers, has taken action against a failed crowdfunding project. 
Crowdfunding as a concept worries me. Backers take all the risk and gain none of the rewards. It's an environment rich in pickings for scammers and chancers. Too often we hear stories of projects that failed to deliver what was promised or, far worse, never had any intention of doing so.
Now the FTC has signalled its intent to regulate crowdfunded projects there might be some protection for consumers still willing to risk their cash.

Why The Android Blackberry Makes No Sense

So in an admission of defeat that comes about three and a half years too late, Blackberry is rumoured to be on the point of launching an Android smartphone.
It's the right thing for Blackberry to do, or at least it was in 2011. Now, I think that ship has sailed.
Remember when the Blackberry was so addictive it was nicknamed the Crackberry? Well all those engaged users are now happily engaged with Apple and to a lesser extent Android. Those businesses that aligned their Exchange platform with Blackberry's enterprise solution have found that the iPhone or Windows Phone makes for a better solution.
Android? There's a degree of risk that comes with the wild west of smartphone platforms. Look at the efforts that Google and Samsung have gone to in trying to making it an acceptable enterprise risk.
So a high end Android-Blackberry frankenphone may look appealing at first. But for consumers there are too many reasons not to choose it. For enterprises too few to do so.
For Blackb…

Apple Music For Android: Why?

One of the snippets of information that came out of WWDC's keynote was that Apple Music will not be an Apple only app, and will be available on Android as well. It will also find its way onto the desktop, but as that will be through iTunes, it isn't a huge shock.
An Android specific app though, that's an interesting decision.
There doesn't seem to be a logical reason for this unless Apple has decided that Satya Nadella's all embracing strategy at Microsoft might work for them too. Presumably Apple doesn't believe that large numbers of its users also use Android regularly and if it did releasing its Music app is hardly going to discourage that.
So does Apple see Android users as potential Apple Music customers? Maybe, and if it does then chasing their subscriptions makes sense. After all Microsoft has a serviceable Xbox Music client for both iPhone and Android.
Yet by bringing Apple Music to Google's platform Apple appears to be legitimising it as a competi…

Ad Blocking, Ad Funding And The Collapsing Future Of The Internet

Free and open to all. It's a pretty good description of the internet as we see it today. There is an on-ramp fee, which your ISP and mobile providers charge you for accessing the web, but otherwise content is available to all, equitably.
That may not be true in the future.
First of all there is the question of advertising. Large sites which run teams of journalists, photographers and editors, shipping them across the country or even the world to research, report and assess stories need to be funded, and funded well. Adverts are what keeps these guys in business. However rulings in Germany which legitimised ad blocking software preventing these adverts from displaying in user's browsers subtly change the balance of funding for these websites.
Large scale adoption of ad blocking software prevents those sites from operating as they do today. Pre-roll or inter-page adverts requiring an action from the user to prove they have viewed the advert could be one solution. Barring ad blo…

HMRC Ditches Microsoft For Google

Britain's tax authorities will be sending out your bad news courtesy of Google in future, after the HMRC decided to select Google Apps as its platform for the future.
This is huge news on so many fronts. In the past the British Government has shied away from ditching Microsoft, not least because of the leverage Microsoft has as a result of its investment in UK R&D. In itself it isn't a huge loss for the Redmond software giant, numbering 70,000 licenses, what it is though, is the thin end of the wedge being driven into Microsoft's monopoly on UK government purchasing.
That HMRC are being allowed to store its data offshore also suggests a softening of the attitude of the Information Commissioner's Office, which previously mandated UK or EU storage of all sensitive information, with very strict controls on its transmission across borders.
Having previously run into these roadblocks myself when trying to modernise Healthcare services, I'm pleased to see that a mor…

Apple News A Potential Flipboard Killer

Flipboard is one of those apps that is synonymous with the iPad. It launched on the tablet platform and despite branching out onto the web, iPhones, Windows and Android, is still far and away at its best on the Apple tablet.
Now however it looks like Apple has decided to kill Flipboard off, including a new News application in iOS 9 which seems to take the best from Flipboard and make it native.
Why does the appearance of Apple apps raise a warning flag for third party developers? It's the way that Apple is able to tie them into the iOS platform to make for an improved user experience. I have no doubts that News will tie into the new, proactive Siri in the same way that Apple Music does. That may not in itself be a killer feature, but it is interesting enough to suggest that large numbers of Flipboard users will see it as a reason to switch to Apple's own offering.

iOS Multi-tasking Brings New iPad Impetus

The big announcement from WWDC, as far as iPad users were concerned anyway, was multitasking. This ability to run apps side by side brings the promise of a more powerful, more capable iPad better suited to facing competition from hybrid Windows tablets.Ignore the requirement to have an iPad Air 2 to make use of the functionality, that's down to the memory limitation of other iPads, and instead consider how this is another step towards the blurring of the lines between iOS and OS X.A larger iPad is now inevitable. Potentially packing a keyboard that turns it into exactly the sort of hybrid device that iPad users have been creating themselves ever since the tablet was first launched. I'd wager that after a case a keyboard is the number one accessory purchased by iPad owners.For a larger, professional iPad that keyboard is an absolute necessity. And knowing that there is huge demand for such an accessory I can't see Apple not making a play for customer dollars.Add together th…

Apple Music Will Shake Up Streaming Services

As expected Apple arrived in the streaming music arena earlier yesterday, with the announcement of Apple Music, a Spotify rival that will change the face of the streaming industry.
It doesn't even need to be any good to do so. Yes, it needs to meet the basic requirements of a streaming service, which it does, but beyond that the unswerving loyalty of Apple's customers offers a real threat to other services.
Right now there are an awful lot of streaming services out there and most are probably pretty worried. For once Sony seems to have got ahead of the game by killing its own streaming service and handing the reins over to Spotify. The latter is by far the biggest service out there in terms of global paying subscribers, however that is unlikely to insulate it from the shock. Apple customers are, more often than not, those who will pay for services like Spotify. It is odds on they will be the first to switch to the new service too, unless it turns out to be an Apple Maps style…

No Excuses For Water Damaged Phones

Water damage kills large numbers of phones every year and the industry has been very slow to do anything about it. Except for Sony. The Xperia line has traditionally integrated weather resistance into its premium and some mid-range devices. Other manufacturers have either restricted such protection to a single device or ignored the concept completely. The argument has always been that sealing flaps against water ingress is an annoyance users aren't prepared to accept. Sony has gradually worked to remove this frustration. First by creating a headphone socket that was self-sealing (for the Xperia Z1) and now, with the Xperia Z3+ doing the same for the charge/sync port. So if Sony can make a device which is IP68 compliant without any flaps there is no reason for other manufacturers to not do the same. As customers we should demand nothing less.

Wired Builds A Ghost Gun

So we've had 3D printed guns - which turned out to be not so reliable - and in some instances more dangerous to the person holding the 'gun' than the person on the end of it. Now we have a DIY gun solution that seems to deliver a far simpler and relatively foolproof method of creating a completely unregistered and uncontrolled rifle. 
Andy Greenberg writes about this new, CNC based method, as well as older hand and 3D printed methods of creating a weapon in Wired.
The process is a bit clunky, mostly down to the authors lack of skills with the tools, however the end result is a working, reasonably reliable rifle.
That's a pretty scary thought. Anyone can gain access to one of these rifles without going through any kind of controls and its entirely legal.
Even more worrying is that the manufacturer of the dedicated CNC mill which created this rifle claims to have sold more than a thousand of them already. Each one a self-contained weapons factory capable of turning out …

Apple TV Reports Conflict On Detail

A new generation AppleTV has been rumoured for WWDC for a while now and the talk has been of a marginally improved device, perhaps with a new remote control and HomeKit integration. However the New York Times is reporting that this device will no longer appear, partly because the product isn't ready - according to their sources at least.
A minimally changed product that isn't ready yet? That sounds unlikely to me.
So what are the other alternatives? Does the absence of the rumoured Apple TV service make the launch of new hardware pointless. It wouldn't seem likely, after all Apple has got an awful lot of existing AppleTV owners out there who it will want to service with its new product, which means that the service can't rely on new hardware unless Apple wants to kill its installed user base. Could there be premium features which will only work on the new hardware and would be obvious once the new device is unveiled? Possibly. Certainly not wanting to steal the thunde…

Tim Cook Burns Ad Based Businesses In Google Attack

Tim Cook delivered a fairly harsh assessment of businesses which derive profits from mining your data for advertising purposes. At the EPIC awards ceremony in Washington Apple's CEO went big on the dangers of allowing businesses to learn about you from your online data.It's an interesting strategy, positioning Apple as a safe harbour for your information, financial, health and personal. However I'm not convinced that Cook has valid points once you take out the business led reasons for his attack.Apple's income stream is based on the sales of hardware devices, specifically the iPhone. It has been the absolute star of Apple's business since launch in 2007, but in recent years has come to be such a big earner that it drives Apple's whole business strategy, not to mention its share price. The iPad looked like it may split that burden for a while, the Apple Watch might just do, but only because it's an iPhone accessory.Google and its partners are able to offer …

Wireless Charging Down To Two Alliances, Apple Holds The Key

The wireless charging battle is heading towards a common standard, following the merger of two of the three consortiums offering wire free charging technology. A4WP and PMA announced a merger yesterday which leaves them competing with the WPC and its Qi charging technology.
With Qi providing the technology behind just about every phone with wireless charging it seems the new alliance will have its work cut out to win the market over, but maybe it doesn't have to.
Apple has not yet offered an iPhone with wireless charging embedded. Whether that's because the technology requires some compromises in battery performance and device design isn't known. However the truth is that whichever alliance manages to secure the sale of their technology to Apple becomes the de facto standard and kills the other.
Whilst Samsung has included both PMA and Qi charging in the Galaxy S6 its unlikely to be a widely adopted solution to the problem. Samsung's decision was in part driven by t…

Windows 10 Upgrade Ad Really Is This Bad

Okay, I'm not sure that this will be the whole of Microsoft's planned publicity campaign for Windows 10's launch, but as a starting point it's a really, really, bad one. Really.
I get that Microsoft's agency is trying to push how easy the upgrade is for users but it does it in such a badly implemented way that it doesn't actually deliver a message.
Remember the Jeff Goldblum 'Get Connected' ad for the original Bondi Blue iMac? That's how it should have been done. Look and learn Microsoft, look and learn.

Is Wunderlist Microsoft's Latest Buy?

Microsoft has been hoovering up mobile apps providers recently and the latest on the list appears to be Wunderlist, the cross platform To-do application which I highlighted in a recent Living with Lumia post.

The report comes from the WSJ, who have a good track record on these things, and a price of between $100m and $200m is suggested by the paper's source.

It's good news for Windows and Windows Phone users, as Wunderlist is at its best when combined with Live Tiles, and the ability to sync information across the cloud. The service is cross platform though, so dovetails nicely with Microsoft's current plan of offering everything, on every platform.

Windows 10 Upgrade Reservations Hitting Now

Windows 10 will be arriving on July 29th and if you want to be first in the queue you can reserve your download now. Eh? No I'm not entirely sure why you want to do that rather than just download when it hits, but it's a good piece of PR for Microsoft, emphasising as it does the free nature of the upgrade. If you're on a Windows 7 or Windows 8.x computer you should see a notification in your task bar offering the chance to reserve your download. There's no indication that the downloads are limited in number, or that you'll be prioritised for bandwidth when the downloads begin. Still, cant hurt to reserve a download can it? And Microsoft will no doubt be letting us know how many people have already done so in the not too distant future.