Showing posts from March 18, 2015

The £50 Windows Tablet

Thinking about buying a small screened tablet, but struggling to fund it? Neowin has found an offer that might just make your day.
For £50 - if you use the coupon detailed on Neowin's page you can get yourself the HP Stream 7 tablet, which has pretty reasonable specs and is certainly better value than any Android tablet even close to this price point. The offer is on the Microsoft UK store page and - believe it or not - includes a year-long subscription to Office 365. That makes the net price of the tablet less than zero.
The problem is that a 7" tablet isn't very much bigger than common phones today, and the extra investment in funding an 8" tablet is well worth it - if you can run to the extra pennies of course.
Windows 8 is surprisingly good on these smaller tablets - and whilst Android has more tablet friendly apps, Android tablets at this price point are usually woefully underpowered and lag. The Atom processor in the Stream 7 shouldn't have any problems wi…

European Smog Highlights Desperate Need For EVs, Better Mass Transit Systems

Last week's pictures of European landmarks lost in dense smog brought to mind similar images from Britain's post-war years, when the 'Pea-souper' blanketed the city and, as well as affecting visibility, directly impacted on the health of millions of Londoners. The British Government acted to improve things by passing the Clean Air Act, and in doing so solved the problem. Now the problems are returning.
Air quality is worsening and transport policy is to blame, not just in London but across Europe. Visit cities across the continent and you will smell that mix of air, diesel particulate and two-stroke emissions that, to a seasoned traveller, indicates exactly which part of Europe they are in. The reason? PM10 particulates, which the World Health Organisation measures and sets safe levels for, levels that are exceeded in the current smogs descending on Europe.

Facebook's Peer To Peer Payment Service Might Be A Long-Game Winner

Facebook is looking to leverage mobile money transfers to further lock users into its platform. It's the first of the big players to offer this service and I have no doubts that others will follow. Is that its end game though? I don't think so.
The money transfer service will allow users to send money to friends and family who use Facebook Messenger on any platform. The service will be provided by Facebook on a fee-free basis. So how does it plan to monetise this activity?
This isn't the first time that Facebook has tried to make some form of financial service part of its offerings, its had a few goes at enabling transactions, with little success so far. This time things might just be different.
By offering a peer to peer money transfer service Facebook is sucking users into trusting the company with their payment details. Once it has a critical mass of users registered it can begin to extend the service to payments to retailers, adding an extra layer of security to onlin…

TAG-Heuer, Intel, Google Announce Luxury Android Watch, But Where's The Market?

My Heuer Monaco watch is possibly the favourite thing that I own, its design is perfect in every way, it is a tactile joy and other than changing the strap every few years and the occasional service I see it having a permanent place on wrist for the rest of my life.
I have absolutely no interest in it vibrating or flashing or reading my emails. 
In the face of the challenge thrown down by Apple I am glad that TAG-Heuer has reacted with its own smart watch. To be powered by Android Wear and featuring Intel's electronics it promises to be more watch and less gadget.
My concern though, is that most buyers of expensive watches will also be buyers of Apple iPhones, because sales in the premium part of the smartphone market skew heavily in this way. That immediately restricts the potential market for this watch and any other smart watch that launches at a premium price.
My guess is that this means that Google is working hard to cobble together iOS connectivity for Android Wear. It will…

Tesla Announces Range Assurance, Does Nothing To End Range Anxiety

Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised an end to range anxiety, and offered up a less than compelling vision of how that could be achieved today.
The new software update for Tesla cars uses a database of Supercharger points, the car's current charge state and the GPS system to work out if you're about to drive too far away from a Supercharger to make it back again.
Musk says its now impossible to run out of charge in a Tesla 'unintentionally'.
That doesn't end range anxiety. What it does is turn it into range finality. Knowing that you have to make a journey but having the car tell you that you haven't got the juice to make it there and back.
I imagine that if you were to continue your journey, ignoring the cars warnings, it will eventually enable HAL9000 mode, with the car singing its way to oblivion.

USB-C Coming To Windows Phone

The information coming out of WinHEC continues to revise the picture that we'll have of a Windows 10 world. Today we found out that Microsoft is preparing to legitimise millions of pirated copies of Windows 7 and 8 by allowing them an official upgrade path to Windows 10.

More importantly we also discovered that future Windows 10 Phones will utilise USB-C for connectivity and, much more importantly, support the full range of protocols. This will allow a Windows Phone to do pretty much everything that a desktop PC can do, just by plugging in to a USB-C hub. That means mass storage, keyboards and mice, and possibly video support too.

With Google announcing support for USB-C in Android it really does seem like we're approaching the point when a smartphone might conceivably perform enough functions to be our main and only computing device.

The Spectre Of A Sell-out, Bond Movie Ditches Integrity

The name's Bond... James Bond. Or as one tea advert had it many years ago, 'the name's Bond, Brooke Bond'. Suddenly that line doesn't sound quite so far-fetched after Sony Pictures leaks revealed a product placement deal for Mexico. As in the country.
Let's be clear, the James Bond movies practically invented the idea of product placement, Bond's cars, watches, clothes and phones are all there as the result of some serious negotiation between filmmakers and interested manufacturers looking for a credibility boost by association with the world's number one action hero.
However the level of placement has never gone quite this far before. Sony have allowed interference with the script, locations and even the cast in an effort to portray Mexico in a more positive light.
The reputed pay-off from the Mexican government is $20m, and we also know that Sony Mobile is in the hole to the tune of at least $23m to the filmmaker (and another $5m to Daniel Craig) for…

Project Milkyway Microsoft's Promise To Improve Windows Phone Updates

More and more little jewels of information are coming out of the WinHEC keynote that Microsoft delivered in China this week.

The latest is a commitment to make future Windows Phone upgrades available to all users within 4-6 weeks of release. The initiative is known as Milkyway and leans on the Windows Insider program, and new standards for testing and release in order to get OEMs and carriers through the certification process quicker.

That's a big step forward, and is likely a result of the changes in the way that Windows 10 Phone will work. So naturally the Windows 10 update won't be itself be part of the commitment.

A Giant Leap Forward In Mass Transit

Buses are something of a curate's egg. In terms of moving people around cities they are the most efficient, most cost-effective and most flexible mass transit system available. Yet it seems to be beyond the capability of most local and national administrations to deliver a service which actually fulfils the potential of the system.

London used to have things worked out, back in the days of the GLC, with hugely subsidised fares and an inclusive service that saw commuter rides increasing and car traffic falling. Those days are long gone and now those who choose public transport in London pay heavily for service which is both crowded and unreliable.

In San Francisco a new start-up, backed and managed in the same way as many technology start-ups, is looking to target a sector of the mass transit market which hasn't been served anywhere else before, effectively creating an internet cafe on wheels to serve commuters who choose to remain connected, either with the fellow riders or t…

Heat: The Hidden Issue With Android Phones

You'll have no doubt seen the (disputed) test by the Dutch website Tweakers, who found that during their benchmark testing the new HTC One M9 got hot enough to nurture a Phoenix. It's a report which has hit the headlines, with some seeing it as proof that the Snapdragon 810 (which powers the One M9) has serious heat issues, whilst others deride the site for using a device with a pre-production software build. The recent decision by Samsung to avoid the 810 for its new S6 flagship over rumoured heat issues hasn't helped the discussion.
The truth is that just about any Android handset suffers from thermal problems - and its not a new phenomenon. The HTC One X (a phone from 2012) had serious heat problems - and every high end Android phone I've used since has suffered to a  greater or lesser extent.
There are a couple of reasons why this might be. OEMs have pushed the performance envelope whilst trying to reduce the physical size of the devices. Conducting heat away from…

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers: Windows 10 To Replace Android On Your Phone

Microsoft announced a summer release date for its Windows 10 family of products today. However ti also announced probably its most radical plan to boost Windows Phone adoption: Windows 10 will install over Android as a replacement ROM.
Actually its just a trial that Microsoft is running with Xiaomi, allowing users of the Mi4 handset to replace the company's ASOP based Google-free Android ROM with a Windows 10 ROM instead, converting the handset from Android to Windows 10 Phone in one easy step. The suggestion is that Microsoft will be working with other partners to offer this option on other phones in the future too.
Given the issues with running a Windows Phone, all related to the absence of key software from its app store, its unlikely that Google will be losing too much sleep over this move. Even if those who switch are immediately enamoured with Microsoft's new UI, those missing apps will ensure that most, if not all, will be back with the little green robot sooner or lat…

Apple TV: How Apple Can Leverage Its 25m User Base To Win At Television

Rumours are swirling that Apple intends to begin offering a subscription based television service and, in the US at least, start competing with incumbent delivery services like cable. The Apple TV price drop, which saw the 'hobby' device fall to US$69 certainly looks like a marker to this being true.
Why does a device that has sold 'just' 25 million pieces in its (relatively long) life have such importance for such a service? Its all about the living room.
Apple has a phenomenal number of devices in customers hands - over three quarters of a billion iPhones and iPads worldwide - and if we only watched TV shows on mobile devices Apple would be able to destroy the traditional TV market overnight. We don't though, and even with the rise of second and third screens in the living room, the TV remains the preferred way of consuming television stations output.