Showing posts from August, 2015

Google Makes Android Wear Cross Platform - Desperation Or Genius?

Going forward all new Android Wear watches will function with iPhones running iOS 8.2 or later, starting with the just released LG Watch Urbane. It's a move of dubious merit and one which will serve only a tiny portion of the wearables market. That is, iPhone buyers who must have a smartwatch and don't want the Apple Watch with all its hooks into the system and ability to run apps, respond to notifications and do all those things that Apple likes to put into adverts but no-one sane does in real life. The functionality of an Android Wear device with the iPhone will be limited. Google Now will work, as will notifications. That's about it though. So how big do we think this potential market might be for Google's OEM partners? Outside of the devices that will be given away or bought for review I'd imagine there could be 10 or 11 people that are jumping up and down with excitement at this moment. It's like playing a game of diminishing returns. Take all the people…

OneNote For Windows 10 Gets Fixed In Latest Update

One of the biggest disappointments for Surface (and other pen enabled Windows tablets) users who upgraded to Windows 10 was the lamentable quality of the new OneNote for Windows client. A lack of features which were present in its Windows 8.1 equivalent meant that for heavy OneNote and pen users the upgrade was somewhat spoiled.
Good news though, the latest update to OneNote has addressed most of the issues that made it so disappointing.
So now we are able to change the thickness of pen nibs and add photos and pictures into notes.
The promise of Windows as a service at work...

Windows 10 On 90,000 Different Hardware Combinations

The news that Windows 10 is on 75 million PCs within a month of launch is pretty impressive, but as well as sharing this Yusuf Mehdi also shared some other interesting facts.
Most impressively Windows 10 has been installed on 90,000 different PC or tablet variations. In that context the number of problems that have been reported pale into insignificance.
Windows 10 users seem to be a bit keener to use Microsoft's Store too, with six times as many downloads per user as Windows 8.x users. No doubt some of this is down to Windows 7 upgraders getting their first taste of the experience.
There was also some worrying news for hardware OEMs - machines manufactured in 2007 have been happily taking the upgrade, suggesting there might not be the hoped for hardware sales bonanza.
Overall though the news coming out of Microsoft looks very positive for the company. Which should make the next set of financial results intriguing...

Wearables Market Grew 230% Year On Year

IDC reported its estimates for wearable sales in last quarter and they show an enormous growth in the sales of technology that we attach to ourselves and, most surprisingly, only a small proportion of the growth coming from sales of the Apple Watch.
IDC estimates that Apple sold 3.6m Watches in the quarter, which is the top end of estimates derived from deep diving into Apple's financial results but they are credible. Those sales propelled Apple to second place in the wearables market behind Fitbit and ahead of Xiaomi. The top three sold 4.4m, 3.6m and  3.1m respectively
Nobody else moved the needle. Garmin and Samsung were fourth and fifth best sellers and they only managed 0.7m and 0.6m respectively.
However it does seem like there are a large number of vendors doing smaller numbers of sales - 5.7m devices were lumped in the 'other' category, accounting for nearly a third of all sales.
I think it would be fair to assume that the majority of the wearables sold were fitn…

How DuPont Poisoned The World

This story at the Huffington Post is a beautifully written piece that details the way in which DuPont put its profits above public health and in doing so poisoned the world. If you truly believe that the world is safe in the hands of corporations then this should be all the evidence you need to disabuse this theory. The effects of this outrage are global and ubiquitous. Our children will be dealing with the after effects for generations to come. My only question is why isn't this the leading news story everywhere?

The World Really Is On Facebook

When it was announced that Facebook had one billion active users that was a milestone. The Social Network was now so big that it defied belief. Another milestone was breached this week, after Mark Zuckerberg took to his own account to announce that one billion users had accessed Facebook within one 24 hour period. I guess the next milestone will be when we hit one billion simultaneous users. What strikes me is that Facebook has transcended the idea of an internet service and become a part of life in the frictionless sort of way that mobile phones and landlines became a part of our lives twenty and sixty years ago.

Why Europe Hates Google

I'm sure you've read the news today that Google will be fighting the EU on antitrust charges. In fact if you look back at the last few years Google in particular, and the big internet services in general, seem to have been waging a litigation war with the European Community. Why is that? If you want an answer you only need to look at Alexa's page ranking results. European sites have virtually no penetration at all and as a result a whole generation is growing up under the patronage of US web properties like Google, Bing, Facebook and Yahoo. This failure to create a voice on the internet is baffling. The EU is not a small place - half a billion people live there, a population that's not far short of the double that of the US, which dominates the internet's voice. If you look at Alexa's ranking, the first site that is European (as opposed to a US subsidiary like Google UK) is the BBC, which is the 86th most popular website. The only other website of European ori…

Apple Can't Do Cloud - Part 257

Apple Music may be relatively popular amongst Apple device owners, but its reliance on the company's cloud services is doing it a lot of damage too. At ReadWrite Matt Asay writes of the complete mess that Apple has made of his carefully curated music collection. Tim Cook is sitting on an enormous pile of cash and having splashed an indecent amount to acquire Beats and the Beats Music service he is damaging the investment by continuing to leverage Apple's cloud for the service. He is doing the technical equivalent of balancing an elephant on a traffic cone. I haven't tried Apple Music yet, the promise of three months free service isn't enough to tempt me to use anything Apple in the cloud, having been burned before. Especially when Microsoft's music service (Xbox Music on my Lumia 930, Groove everywhere else) works so well in the areas where Apple falls down. My music follows me across phone, tablet, web browser and Xbox One. That's true whether I'm using A…

Fix Windows 10 Sign-in Problems

One issue I have come across on several Windows 10 installs is the incorrect handling of security when signing in after sleep. Despite the modern UI accounts control panel being set to 'Every Time' or 'Never' some machines will ignore the setting completely. This happens because the power management classic control panel has a separate setting for deciding what happens when your PC wakes from sleep and for some reason sometimes changes made in the modern UI control panel aren't pushed through to here. So if your PC isn't doing what you want the fix is simple, even if the problem can be frustrating. Open the settings control panel and type 'power' into the search box. The first result should be 'Power and Sleep settings' open it and scroll to the bottom to select 'Additional Power Settings' which will open a classic control panel window. On the left hand side select 'Require a password on wakeup' which will eventually get you to …

Wunderlist Updated For Windows 10

Wunderlist is a magnificent task manager which you should really try if you haven't already. It's available on all platforms that matter, synchronises across devices and you can send it emails to create tasks. After upgrading to Windows 10 you may be a little disappointed to find niceties like the Live Tile no longer work. However the recently-acquired Microsoft company has been quick to get a Windows 10 ready version sorted and has released a beta for users willing to accept some bugs. Although thus far I have found that it has no obvious problems. You can access the beta from the Microsoft Store here.

What Happened To The Promise Of Covers For The Microsoft Surface?

Over the last few days Microsoft has been showing off a prototype cover for its Surface devices which contains an embedded touchscreen. The DisplayCover embeds a second screen in the space between the keyboard and hinge of a Type Cover add-on. Its good to see that Microsoft has been thinking about how it can make use of the technology which it has pioneered. The concept of a proprietary port on the Surface which offers the opportunity to do all sorts of clever things hasn't really been expended upon by Microsoft, other that the half-hearted discussion around a keyboard for music mixing and the 'now you see it, now you don't' appearance of the battery cover for the original Surface form factor. Microsoft needs to look at the potential it has for the use of this port and either create a 'Designed for Surface' approval program that allows third parties to build add-ons that use it, or take a risk on putting together some accessories itself. For example we know th…

Once Again Tesla Hypermiling Feat Sends Wrong EV Message

Norwegian Tesla fanatic Bjorn Nyland just set a new distance record for driving his Tesla 452 miles across Scandinavia. Its a feat that is being lauded in EV circles and especially in Tesla ones, but it significantly damages the image of EVs in the marketplace by sending out very negative messages. First of all the range. 452 miles? That's a journey that no conventionally fueled vehicle owner would even think twice about. Seriously, if you had to get into your car and drive from London to Liverpool and back again the range of your car wouldn't even cross your mind. Maybe if you have something sporty you may have to consider a fuel stop on the way, but otherwise it wouldn't even warrant a mention in your social circles, never mind the wider internet. By making a big noise and drawing attention to the fact that a Tesla had achieved this otherwise unremarkable thing, Nyland brings attention to the limitations that its motive force brought to the journey. To whit, a journey t…

75 Million Windows 10 Installs Completed

It's four weeks since Windows 10 became available to end users and in that time it has achieved a phenomenal number of installs - from fourteen million on day one through to seventy-five million today. The number comes from Microsoft VP Yusef Mehdi and is backed up by Statcounter's usage statistics which show the new OS responsible for 6.25% of all internet traffic as of the 25th of August. The next big headline number will be 100 million users, at the current rate of take-up that threshold should be crossed before the end of September. Which would be a nice number for Microsoft to be able to drop into its Windows 10 Mobile launch when that happens.

Ads On free Public WiFi Hotspots

Free public Wifi hotspots have to be paid for somehow and anyone who thinks that they are getting a free lunch is seriously deluding themselves. However there are rules to be followed and it looks like AT&T have been caught playing fast and loose with those rules on its US hotspots.
In this case the company has been injecting adverts as overlays or replacement ads on sites browsed from its free hotspots without asking permission or explaining to users that they will be doing this when they sign up for the free services. Pretty sure that's prohibited by US law.
I should say that if AT&T were transparent about what they were doing and didn't interfere with site's own ad service, I'd see little to complain about here. If someone were to offer free Wifi in exchange for showing me ads on the pages y view I'd probably accept. At least I'd be making an informed choice.
On the other hand its a good advert for HTTPS which prevents this kind of man in the middle…

Virgin Media To Share Customers Wifi, Bandwidth For The Greater Good

It seems like forever ago that Virgin Media announced it was creating a Wifi network to compete with BT's. Now it has started to slip more details about how the network will be built and it offers some challenging premises that should not be the subject of a knee-jerk rejection. Virgin will be deploying its own network hardware up and down the country, but by far the largest part of its new network will be created by sharing access to its customer's wireless networks. The connection will be provided via a separate SSID which bypasses the customer's own network and uses segregated bandwidth on the customer's fibre connection. In return for allowing their connection to be used in this way Virgin Media customers will get access to a 10Mb/s wireless connection whenever they are in range of another user's access point. Other users will only get access to a 500Mb/s connection. For Virgin Media customers the trade off is excellent, especially if the work is done to provi…

Dear Internet: Microsoft's Family Accounts Are A Good Thing

When you install Windows 10 onto a child's computer, or add a child account to your own PC, Microsoft turns on its Family Accounts feature by default. This safety feature monitors the accounts of your children and reports on their activity. Previously in Windows 8.x it was an opt-in feature, now it is opt out. Stupid people are complaining about this. And certain websites are trying to make an issue of it. With the dangers of cyber bullying, websites promoting extremism, violence, self-harm and stalking of children online by dangerous individuals no parent should be allowing their children to access the web completely unsupervised. For all the trust you put in your children there is no 100% safe path and without any intention on their behalf trouble can come looking for them.. By enabling this feature as a  default Microsoft is ensuring that all families gain some measure of protection, even those lacking even the most basic technical knowledge. For those who don't wish to t…

Galaxy Note 5: Broken Stylus Silos Are Your Own Stupid Fault

I really can't believe that Samsung is receiving any kind of negative publicity over the issue of the Galaxy Note 5's S-Pen silo. If you haven't heard, some users are finding out that if you shove the stylus into its slot upside down you break the sensor that detects its presence, robbing the Note of some seriously useful functionality. There is no logical reason why you would put the S-pen into its slot the wrong way around, even if Samsung didn't quite clearly tell you that if you did so you would damage the device. Which it does, even though common sense should tell you this. For pity's sake people, this is an expensive piece of finely crafted technology, if you aren't going to treat it with respect then you deserve everything you get. So, if you have a Note 5 and feel that you are unable to ascertain whether you have the S-pen the right way up before putting it back in the phone I suggest you return it to the retailer forthwith. And if anyone asks you why…

Tim Cook Forced To Respond To Apple Stock Slide

The current turmoil ripping apart China's financial sector has had a serious knock-on effect on Apple's share price in the US, presumably as investors see China as Apple's biggest growth market, and consequently are wary of anything that may affect sales there. The slide in Apple's stock price has been so pronounced - a third has been wiped off Apple's market cap since its last financial call and as a result Tim Cook has had to take the unusual step of making sales information available to the market outside of Apple's normal reporting schedule. In a note to Jim Cramer Cook reported that Apple had seen "strong growth for our business in China through July and August" and that "growth in iPhone activations has actually accelerated"  which suggests that whatever the problems China is experiencing they aren't affecting the appetite for Apple's products. Whether the general malaise that China's problems are spreading through the wor…

Open Source Advocates Rolling Over To Microsoft

There has always been a small and vocal community advocating the adoption of open source software and standards over Microsoft's proprietary offerings. For individuals and small businesses this is an option which could lead to lower costs. In the enterprise it's an entirely different matter. Having been asked on a number of occasions to look at the feasibility of moving large organisations to an open source software solution I have always found that the promise of lower upfront costs falls down once the total cost of ownership is considered. Then there are the technical, compatibility and training considerations to address. That doesn't stop me running Ubuntu and Libre Office on several machines at home, however I have yet to see a well made argument for doing the same in the enterprise. So you can imagine my surprise when government organisations announce they are going the open source route for their IT solutions. Once such was Munich City Council, which took Linux and …

F1: Justin Wilson's Accident Prompts Closed Cockpit Discussions

The horrible accident which befell ex-F1racer Justin Wilson yesterday has called into question the continued use of open cockpit cars.
Wilson was critically injured and remains in a coma after a freak Indycar accident where his helmet was struck by debris from Sage Karem's accident. The piece Wilson hit, whilst travelling at around 200 mph, was either the ballast or crash structure from Karem's nosecone, a heavy part which caused the injuries that have hospitalised the British racer.
Calling it a freak accident is a cop out though. Felipe Massa's accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009 was very similar, whilst Henry Surtees died after he was struck on the head by an untethered wheel which had detached in another car's accident.
And whilst neither incident involved striking debris, both Jules Bianchi and Maria de Villota died as a result of brain trauma received in helmet strikes.
It really is time to decide whether some form of cockpit canopy should be deployed…

If You Want To Beat Apple, First You Have To Be Apple-like

Every company on the technology sector wants to be like Apple. To sell electronic devices at premium prices,  with exorbitant profit margins and religion-like customer loyalty. The things is that none of these companies have actually tried to understand why Apple has achieved its success or how it has managed to maintain it despite the tragic loss of a high-profile leader. Apple has built its empire by making compelling products that do things which persuade buyers to change their way of thinking. The iPod was a better way of consuming music. Once people experienced the flexibility of the music player and the ease of use of the iTunes Music Store they stampeded to abandon record stores and CDs. The iPhone took mobile web browsing and made it a joy, at a time when WAP and mobile websites were common the iPhone offered a far superior portal to the joys of the internet. It wasn't a great phone when it launched, but Apple delivered update after update to both hardware and software, …

I'm Not Working Around The Windows Phone App Gap Any More

It may not be the most popular opinion, but I like Windows Phone. It has the cleverest UI and the best user experience of current platforms. There's a great Windows Phone available at every price point and the things which make a smartphone more usable are all done well on the platform - battery life, screens, call quality and durability. The problem remains, as ever, the app gap. Those apps that don't appear on the platform because of an unwillingness by the provider to support anything Microsoft or a perception that the platform has no users. Well I'm not prepared to keep working around the problem any more. No, I'm not ditching my Lumia 930, which is a truly outstanding phone. Instead I'm kicking those services that don't support Windows Phone into touch. So, goodbye Belkin Wemo. I will switch to the more inclusive Insteon platform and as well as gaining a native Windows Phone client I'll also be able to control my smart devices using my voice and Corta…

Get OneNote Metro On Windows 10

If, like me, you've found the new Windows 10 implementation of OneNote to be a complete disaster then Sean Ong has got your back. The video above explains how you can replace the abomination that shipped with Windows 10 with the infinitely superior and more capable Windows 8Metro version of the app.
I haven't yet installed it on my Surface 3, however I can confirm that it works as promised on my Asus Vivotab Note. The only downside is that you can no longer use the Edge browser's 'write on a web page' functionality, which doesn't strike me as a big price to pay. I can't tell you whether the removal of the Windows 10 version of the app releases the pen top button command for the OneNote desktop app to take command.
The pessimistic side of me suspects not. Which is a shame as that would allow me to restore Windows 10 onto my Surface 3. Having installed and then downgraded twice now I'm waiting until this issue has been completely resolved before trying …

Utilisation And The Motor Car

Just recently I've been spending a lot of the time up in the air. That is to say, I've been on board commercial aircraft, as opposed to practicing the art of levitation.
The modern aircraft and airline is a perfect example of a business squeezing every last drop of value out of an expensive asset. On the ground turnaround times have become shorter as loading processes and turnaround procedures have become slicker.
Companies have refocused on their key business truth: airplanes on the ground aren't earning money.
As consumers we have a very specific set of high utilisation devices - for most people a smartphone and possibly a tablet, from which we derive a pretty good return against the purchase price.
We also have one asset which gets very little use at all and it's one of the most expensive assets we'll acquire. Our cars.
In terms of utilisation owning a car makes little or no sense. Most people commute in their cars and then don't go out in them again duri…

Apple Music Is Doing Just Fine

MusicWatch surveyed 5,000 US-based Apple Music users and produced some scary results for Apple. Once the survey results hit the headlines Apple was forced to respond, pointing out that MusicWatch's numbers were wildly inaccurate and rather than losing 48% of its trial users as the survey has suggested the churn was actually 22%. I don't think that's an unreasonable number, in fact given the bad publicity and bugs that have dogged the service since launch, I think retaining 78% of its users is a pretty positive thing for Apple. As I detailed here, Apple is in this for the long run and an expected conversion rate of 30% is about where Apple needs to be. Any judgement on how the service will fare in the long run can't really be made after just a few weeks in which no-one has been asked to pay for using it.

MIcrosoft Opening The Goody Bag In October

Techradar is reporting that October should be a good month for fans of Microsoft devices as company is expected release a whole bucketload of new technology to back up both the successful release of Windows 10 and the expected release of Windows 10 Mobile.
If the reports are to be believed then October will see the launch of a more powerful Surface Pro 4, packing Intel's newest Core M package. Given how well the Surface Pro 3 has done in the market this is probably the most important part of the announcement, as Microsoft will want to see growth of the Surface line maintained by a successful update to its flagship device. Talking of Surfaces bring us to two rumours that refuse to die. Firstly that Microsoft will introduce a smaller ca. 8" Surface to the hybrid line. And secondly that there will be a professional targeted Surface Phone. I'm not sure how credible either of these rumours are. Surface and Lumia offer two distinct and growing brands in different areas. It wou…

Does The Return Of VAIO Signal A Premium PC Market?

Separated from former owner Sony, the transformation of VAIO from product range to PC manufacturer will be complete when the company re-launches in the US courtesy of  an exclusive deal to put its products into Microsoft stores.
One thing that has been missing from the PC market since Sony abandoned it has been an OEM that can go head to head with Apple in design terms. VAIO has been a watch-word for beautifully designed hardware in the past and if the new owner's 'Made in Japan' philosophy pays off it can be again.
Hopefully the new company, shorn of the baggage of the Sony meltdown, is lean enough to survive on the much smaller revenues that being a niche player will bring. The suggestion that the company will only offer two machines suggests it probably can. It will give us a chance to see whether PC buyers are prepared to pay a premium for good design or whether those prepared to pay that little bit more will always gravitate towards Apple.
Having a heritage probabl…

Silent September Is A Monumentally Stupid Idea

Talk of the way that streaming services divvy out subscription revenue has been under scrutiny for a while. It is a model which introduces some challenges and identifies some unfairness in the agreements between artists and labels. Nonetheless, the model is sound and ensures that those artists who get the most listening time get paid the biggest share of the pot. Artists and scammers trying to game the services by artificially bumping up the number of plays they receive - and by association their share of the pot - have meant that services are forced to implement tests to ensure that play counts are legitimate. Now a group are calling for listeners to get involved in a protest called 'Silent September' whereby listeners leave their music players on a constant repeat cycle with the volume turned off. The logic being that by selecting an independent artist and repeatedly playing their music you help to bump up their share of the pay-out. And this is a protest against gaming of …

In A Growing Market Samsung Has Growing Problems

GfK released its report on smartphone sales for the last quarter and they offer some insight into who is buying what. For example phones with giant screens (bigger than 5" anyway) now account for one in two sales across the world. In China that number goes up to two in three. Premium devices are booming too. And yet Samsung continues to struggle with its sales numbers. The company that all but invented the phablet market and owned the premium market with the S3 and S4. The growth in phablet sales and premium phone sales both point to the success of the iPhone 6 and 6+. This seems to be the trend that Samsung has responded to with the S6 Edge and Edge+. There's no denying the two phones have showroom appeal, the screens are amazing to look at, with surreal levels of colour and detail. The problem remains that the S6 Edge phones have no real use for the curved screen - unlike the Note 4 Edge, which delivered some useful functionality. For that reason I think that Samsung will …

Apple Patents Invalid, Samsung Award In Question

Apple's $1bn lawsuit victory over Samsung has been shrinking away since its original award with a significant $380m being wiped off the judgement by the appeals courts. Now it looks like the remaining balance might be thrown out too after the US Patent re-examination process found that the key iPhone patent was invalid and should never have been awarded, thanks in part to prior art from - and here the irony just gets heaped on - Samsung! FOSS Patents has the details here and they make for interesting reading. Not least because it allowed Apple to process a case which should never have got to a courtroom. It seems likely that the next stage in this process will be for Samsung to challenge the judgement in the Supreme Court, with what looks, to the untrained eye,  like a pretty good case for dismissal.

Microsoft Surface Type Cover Trick For Portrait Use

I'm going to have to admit to feeling pretty dumb having just found this out today, especially as I've had a Surface Pro pretty much since its New Zealand launch.

When using a Surface tablet in portrait mode with the keyboard flipped around to the back it's a strange sensation pressing down on the keys as you hold the device. often if I'm using the Surface in portrait mode for any length of time I'll remove the keyboard and use it naked.

Chances are you do too. Don't, there's a trick which is either unintentional or something so obvious that Microsoft didn't think they needed to tell anyone about it.

Unplug your keyboard cover, flip it over and re-attach it upside down. Now when you fold the cover back the keys face the rear of the Surface and your hand holds the pleasing suede cover, which protects the rear of your tablet and is a tactile joy at the same time. Mind blown! Please tell me I'm not the only one who didn't know about this?

Windows 10 Mobile Can't Ship Without Bookmark Synchronisation

From Chrome to Safari to Internet Explorer there's one key feature that desktop and mobile users have come to rely on: synchronisation of bookmarks across devices. Having all of your desktop browser favourites synchronise to your phone is a must do, I well remember the bad old days of having to manually build mobile favourites from scratch and it isn't something I'm prepared to go back to. One of the shock gaps in Microsoft's Edge browser in Windows 10 is the lack of favourite synchronisation. For a cloud first OS and a cloud first company that's a failure. At least desktop users can still use Internet Explorer to synchronise browser favourites between machines. For users waiting for Windows 10 Mobile to land that isn't the case. The Edge browser in the latest 512 Insider release of Windows 10 Mobile lacks bookmark synchronisation, leaving mobile users with a lot of work to do restoring browser utility. That's aside from the overly complex process for ac…

NextBit's 'Frigging Awesome' Phone Probably Isn't

In a couple of weeks NextBit is promising to launch a new smartphone that is going to be, in their own words, 'frigging awesome'. I'm sure the presence of former Android and HTC team members will ensure that its a good, or maybe even a very good phone. At this point however I don't think there's an set of capabilities that make for a 'frigging awesome' Android phone. If NextBit is hoping to differentiate on price its going to have enormous amounts of competition. Features? There too. Price and features together? Been done. There is a reasonably well known saying about under-promising and over-delivering. I'm willing to bet that NextBit is going to do the complete opposite of that.

Five Per Cent Of World's PCs Now On Windows 10

Statcounter's figures are derived from activity, so whilst they may not be absolutely accurate they do reflect a repeatable measure for market trends. So when the company says that 5% of the PC market are now running on Windows 10 its worth noting. Given that almost no enterprises will have upgraded - that's a Windows stronghold by the way - and Microsoft hasn't yet made the upgrade available to everyone, it's a pretty impressive number, just two weeks since the launch of the new OS. There's some good news for PC vendors in the report too, which suggests that 3% of XP users found their way onto new PCs over the last week. As XP still holds nearly 10% of the overall market share, that points to a boost in PC sales for some vendors this quarter. Overall though it's looking like Windows 10 is the new Windows 7, and, apocryphally, I'm hearing that users who have taken the plunge are pleased with the new experience.

Nowhere Left For Samsung To Hide

The iPhone 6 was possibly the worst thing that could have happened to Samsung. It took the Galaxy S range's unique selling point and matched it. Then, in a passable attempt at an own goal, Samsung the other two big advantages of its flagship out from the S6 - removable batteries and expansion card slots. Now I can understand why some people argue that a removable battery is not a requirement and I'm sure that Samsung themselves were aware of how many battery charging kits it sold. The truth is that removing that capability from the S6 meant it was less of a phone than the Galaxy S5. Perhaps my favourite thing about the S5 was that I never plugged it in at any time. The spare battery was always charged up and ready to be dropped into the phone at a moments notice. Its also true that this isn't the way that most people think of the replaceable battery. Users are considering the ease of replacement when the battery loses its ability to hold a charge. If you've bought a p…

Bitcoin Is Forking, A Dangerous Concept

Bitcoin is a strange thing. A currency which holds no backing and no intrinsic value. It isn't legal tender anywhere and it has a history of fortunes being won, lost and stolen. Why would anyone gamble on such a thing? There are two main reasons why anyone would get involved in Bitcoin. Firstly because they want to buy and sell goods - usually illegal ones - without being traceable. Secondly, because the market for payments is immense and the payment processing industry is a gold mine waiting to be worked. These twin needs have driven its boom and bust phases. And now, thanks to divisions in the Bitcoin community, it looks like Bitcoin will be forking into to two non-convertible currencies. To me the idea of Bitcoin is shaky already, but driving a wedge between proponents of the solution and splitting the community is hugely dangerous. Bitcoin only exists as long as people are prepared to exchange it for hard currency and goods. This split isn't likely to further that cause.

Repair v Replace: How The PC Industry Is Falling Out

In days gone by the motor industry talked about cars of the future being sealed for life - a vehicle that you drove out of the showroom and then didn't have to return to the workshop until the car had reached the end of its useful life. It never happened, of course. The motor industry realised the most profitable part of being in the motor industry was the servicing and maintenance regime. Keep them coming back and spending. By stretching warranties and bumping up labour rates, as well as the hefty markup on service items, the motor industry, as a whole, has managed to survive and in some cases flourish, in challenging times. The PC industry is seeing a similar challenge. In days gone by enterprise replacement schedules meant that PC manufacturers were benefiting from reselling new equipment every three years. The consumer market followed suit. Two things happened to change that. Firstly Windows XP arrived and cleaned up the operating system's act. No longer would the very ac…

Apps That Pass In The Night

How many apps do you have installed on your phone? How many apps have you deleted off your phone? How many apps are sitting there on your home screen gathering dust, perpetually unused? The lure of a new, shiny app that does some thing that we'd never considered doing before is great. We see the write up, or the advert or somebody mentions how they've done something amazing with an app and we hunt it down in the Store, download it, try it a couple of times and then ignore it as we search out the next one. The truth is that we haven't done things before, or searched out apps to do them because generally, you know, we don't actually have an inclination to do them. Apps pile up on our phones and we end up with screens of the stuff that never gets used - we build up a sort of app blindness where we don't see the app's icon anymore and can't remember what it does. The app stores keep on growing but unless new apps offer better way of doing something that we alr…

Subsidies, Smartphones And Conspicuous Consumption

Most Smartphones are bought with a contract. Talk to users about their Smartphone and you'll find the discussion eventual turns to how long they have left on their contract and can get their hands on a shiny new device for free.
Only it isn't free is it? The cost of the phone is lumped into contract and the value proposition isn't actually that good.
The contract has become a tool of more value to the phone manufacturer than to the carriers and Apple, in particular, has worked hard to use this as a lever to move sales. The two-year cycle of design refreshes plays to the two-year contract cycle nicely. However the two year contract is an expensive way of buying a phone and service - and consumers are starting to wake up to this, especially in the US where carriers are starting to respond by moving away from contracts with subsidies. That could hurt smartphone sales, as consumers realise the true cost of those $99 or $199 phones, once they have to account for the full cost …

Apple's Music Is A Long Term Game

Apple has signed up 11m users for its Music service so far - a number which looks good but doesn't account for the entirely free nature of the service, for the first 90 days at least. Like all things Apple does at the moment, the long term game converges with the company's interests. There are half a billion iPhone users out there, 200 million iPad users and more iPod Touch and Apple TVs than you can shake a stick at. Apple knows that it needs to increment that number of users by only a very small percentage of its installed user base to blow the rest of the streaming market away. It would seem that Apple has moved the needle on trial users by one million users - or 10% - since the end of the first month of availability. If it keeps adding users at that rate - and its conversion rate sits at, say, 30%, it will bypass Spotify as the largest paid streaming service sometime around mid-2017 - assuming the latter doesn't see a fall off in subscribers as they switch to Apple. A…

What Does Success Look Like For The Next iPad?

The iPad has been rather hard done by in the court of public opinion recently. A few quarters of falling sales and market share have been allowed to obliterate the achievement of selling hundreds of millions of tablets into a market that practically didn't exist before it arrived. Things being what they are, and expectations of Apple products being so high, that in some quarters the forthcoming update - whenever it arrives - is being seen as a key moment in the stewardship of the company by Tim Cook. Has Apple broken the tablet market, or has the tablet market broken Apple? Its an absurd thought, which directly mirrors the pernicious commentary that preceded the arrival of the iPhone 6 last year. It's likely that Apple's next iPads will be slimmer and lighter than the current versions. It's likely that Apple will add a larger iPad 'Pro' to its range, one that will borrow features from Samsung or Microsoft, yet acknowledge neither. The tablet market was born an…

Apple May Be Reliant On The iPhone, But That Isn't A Problem

When Apple's recent earnings call failed to live up to analyst's expectations last month, it sent the company's stock tumbling. Strange, in what appeared to be yet another blockbuster of a quarter. Aside from an element of market manipulation, which always appear to be a risk with Apple's shares, there is a reason for this: the iPhone. The line goes that Apple's income is so heavily reliant on the iPhone (nearly two-thirds of revenue) that any sign that the flagship device is failing sets investors panicking. Ignoring for a moment that the analysts themselves make the predictions and then kick Apple for failing to meet them, how accurate a perception is this? Currently the iPhone holds a small, but incredibly valuable part of the smartphone market. Globally that amounts to somewhere between a fifth and a third of overall smartphone sales, depending on which quarter we are in. Focusing on the premium market, Apple's share is somewhere more like 60-80%. The iPh…

Google's Stagefright Patch Doesn't Work

Android's code execution vulnerability, which allows hackers to remotely execute code on an Android phone simply by sending a text message to the device, allegedly patched by Google,  is still open. Researchers from Exodus Intelligence report that they are still able to exploit the bug in the Stagefright tool even after the handset has been patched. As if that wasn't bad news enough, another research firm has been able to break the isolation security that prevents one app accessing the information stored in another. It seems very much like Google has lost control of the Android environment when it comes to security. Whilst there is no indication that exploits have been released that use either of these vulnerabilities, the potential impact of the two combined should have all Android users worried. For all its flexibility and power, if Google cannot reassure its customers that Android's security lid is firmly in place, then they will inevitably seek out a platform where i…

Samsung Denies Europe Galaxy Note 5, Bets On Edge+

Samsung's launch of the Galaxy Note 5 and Edge+ went pretty much as predicted, with most of the leaks turning out to be pretty accurate. No Micro-SD card slot and no removable battery were the major casualties of the move to Samsung's new premium strategy. I'm not sure how the Note's power userbase will take to those changes. Nor the clip-on keyboard accessory which seems completely redundant in these days of continuous flow typing and - on the Note at least - pen driven handwriting recognition. For Europeans they won't have to worry about adjusting to these changes though, as Samsung has said that the whole continent will be denied the Note 5 for marketing reasons. Presumably that's a sign that the Note 4 did poorly there. Probably because it was priced head to head with the iPhone 6+ and buyers were prepared to forego the S-pen and its capabilities in favour of Apple's promise of updates and quality (which is a completely different thing to premium by t…