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Showing posts from April 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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.

AdBlock Plus Victory Threatens The Future Of Content On The Net

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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?

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.

Jalopnik Drives A Giulietta

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.