Showing posts from July 21, 2015

Nissan Leaf: All-Electric Can Make Sense

Nissan used to be a byword for reliable but dull. Over the last few years cars like the GT-R, Qashqai, Murano and Juke have largely helped it shed that image. By selling the Leaf Nissan hopes to further move away from that image by becoming the first manufacturer to sell an all-electric family car which was also affordable. The Leaf cost NZ$39,990 - about the same as a premium brand car in its class. On top of that you'll need to consider the NZ$2-3,000 that your charging point install will set you back. Once its all done though you can say goodbye to the petrol forecourt forever. The Leaf's electric battery pack offers a 140-150km range when fully charged, more than enough for the average Kiwi commute. A full recharge would cost around $5 - although changes are you aren't going to be using a full charge in most commuter scenarios. Plugging in every night is a good idea though, you never know when you might need the extra range. At a cost of around 3c per kilometre it mak…

La Tour: A Name Blackened Forever

Doping has been the bete noir of cycling for as long as I can remember. Ever since the 1988 Tour of Shame, when doping really hit the front page, fans have never really been sure who is clean and who isn't. As testing became more rigorous so the dopers became more sophisticated and it appeared the real battle amongst the mountains and plains of France was between the chemist and the tester. Then Lance Armstrong happened. A seven-time tour winner, cancer survivor and high profile celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic, Armstrong's continued and vociferous denial of doping was enough to convince his fans. Until the weight of evidence became overwhelming and Armstrong admitted to doping all along. As more and more former winners came clean on their enhanced performance, it became difficult to declare a winner for some Tours. The sport lost. It lost because those who cheated not only claimed the glory but also because good riders who were potential winners in a clean field were …

China Opens Way To Games Consoles

Having previously barred the sales of games consoles for over a decade, the Chinese government is opening their sale up across the whole country. This follows a small scale trial which played out in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone last year. For next gen gamers the console war has all been about Sony and Microsoft, with the PS4 and Xbox One going toe to toe with the Sony console generally ahead at this point. The opening of the Chinese market could see both platforms blossom, and for Microsoft its going to be hugely important to avoid the drubbing it has received in Japan, where its Xbox One sales are, to all intents and purposes, zero. Sony will be expected to do well in China, but I suspect the greatest beneficiary will be Nintendo, a product which has struggled elsewhere might just be a winner on the Chinese market and Nintendo is desperate for that result. For all three this is a golden opportunity to make it big in a market with huge potential, without the hovering shadow of Apple …

Goldmine Of Windows Phone Update Information Released

Want to know what's happening with Windows phones when Windows 10 Mobile arrives. You need to head over to Windows Central and read this post by Daniel Rubino, which reveals all. I won't spoil the impact of the article because it's clearly the result of significant research and tapping of sources, but I have to say the talk of the Cityman and Surface Pen compatibility, added to the Continuum features make for a properly mouth-watering prospect.

Sweating The Assets: Why The PC Market Is Shrinking

The PC market continues to shrink - alarmingly so if you are one of those OEMs that rely upon PC volume to maintain a viable business. That could be a result of consumers delaying upgrades to get a Windows 10 PC, but I very much doubt it.
Much more likely is that a PC duty-cycle has been extended significantly. Better hardware and software has meant that performance doesn't drop off until many years of usage have been completed.
As an example, the Acer Ultrabook I bought in 2010 and the MacBook Air I bought in 2011 are both still perfectly serviceable machines. The latest versions of Windows 10 and OS X run comfortable on them and but for the arrival of hybrid machines in the form of Microsoft's Surface I would be happily using one or the other of them.
For business and enterprise users there are taxation benefits to both three and five year life-cycles for computer equipment, but for home users there are no reasons to replace a machine which is working well. The net result? …

Account Management Challenges In The Living Room

PlayStation, Apple TV, Xbox. The encroachment of technology services into the living room is more or less complete. I can't remember visiting anybody recently who wasn't rocking one of these devices in their home. Which raises some interesting questions about the balance between security and usability for a device and service for the whole family which is tied to one user's account. At the moment most of these devices rely upon you either giving any user carte blanche to purchase content with your account or being there to authorise each purchase by entering a password. That's not really useful in a context where we're more and more expecting these services to replace the broadcast media we've been used to consuming. There are shortcuts - an Xbox equipped with a Kinect sensor will see and recognise you; and sign you in automatically. Apple is rumoured to be adding Touch ID to the next Apple TV remote control and Sony.... For now separate user accounts and a st…

With $200bn In The Bank You'd Think Apple Could Buy Someone Who Understands The Cloud

Write a list of all the things that Apple is good at, what have they got in common? Absolutely no cloud service involved. For some reason Apple has the reverse Midas touch when it comes to cloud services, everything it does turns into brown smelly stuff. Latest example of this? Apple Music. Here's a service that Apple has spent a lifetime preparing yet still hasn't managed to get right. When absolute dyed in the wool Apple fans, for whom Apple can usually do no wrong, suddenly start moaning about a new Apple service you know something is very wrong. As it is, Apple Music seems to be randomly destroying customers carefully curated music collections. A similar theme has run through anything cloud since Apple decided to mangle photo collections with iPhoto. Right now Apple is sitting on a huge pot of cash and it has a technology that it hasn't been able to work out. The logical answer would be to find a company that 'gets' cloud services, buy them and use that expert…

Starbucks And NYT Offer A Glimpse Of One Possible Future

How do content creators get paid on the internet? Right now there are two options: advertising and subscriptions. The former is disliked by users, can be intrusive and damages the browsing experience at many sites. On the other hand the latter is incredibly difficult to get right and by limiting access to your content hurts your ability to grow. Starbucks and the NYT have announced a partnership which may offer a third way. In future Starbucks loyalty card members will get access to NYT articles (and other news sources further down the line) whilst NYT subscribers will get credits to their Starbucks accounts. By tying a content product and a physical product together both companies hope to profit. For Starbucks it means more reasons to join its loyalty program and, once you're in, more reasons to choose Starbucks for your regular caffeine hit. For the NYT it means a funding source for its news service which isn't actually obstructive to users. This kind of arrangement does ra…

Xbox One On The Verge Of Mouse And Keyboard Support

In a Twitter exchange discussing the potential of streaming Windows 10 to Xbox One - the reverse of the service that Microsoft has recently enabled - Phil Spencer let slip that mouse and keyboard support is on its way for Xbox One, and presumably with it a whole range for additional capability that these new input devices enable. There's no question that some games lend themselves more naturally to mouse and keyboard control and it has been one of the strengths of PC gaming in the past. By adding that capability to the Xbox One Microsoft is greatly expanding the realm of games that game be played on the system, not least because once the Xbox switches to a Windows 10 codebase, games written for Windows 10 will be relatively easy to release for Xbox too.

There's Probably Something Inherently Wrong When You Need Tinfoil On Your Phone

Several sites are reporting on efforts by XDA Developers forum member schecter7 to improve heat dissipation and reduce the resultant CPU throttling on the Xperia Z3+ using a tinfoil heat sink. It's a pretty good hack, if the figures are to be believed, but seriously, if your phone needs this treatment then its time to switch to something else. The Snapdragon 810 CPU is at the heart of the Z3+ and has had some pretty bad press around its thermal performance - notably from Samsung. On the evidence of this hack it seems to have been justified. However part of me wonders whether the real problem isn't Android and the way that its loading of features and design elements makes greater and greater demands on hardware. We're seeing 4GB of RAM becoming the new benchmark for Android phones, on top of CPUs that would do reasonable duty on a desktop PC. Doesn't stop them stuttering or feeling sluggish in use. Google needs to address this at source. Slimming Android down and worki…

Some PC Manufacturers Are Doing Okay In A Shrinking Market

Against a backdrop of a PC market that shrank 12% year on year a couple of names you might have heard of made good progress this year. In Apple's financial call Tim Cook reported Mac sales up by 9% to 4.8 million units. That gave Apple a notable 7% share of the PC market last quarter. More impressively Microsoft grew its Surface revenue by 117% - I've discussed what that means in terms of unit sales elsewhere. Suffice to say that from a standing start less than three years ago Microsoft's computer division is now shifting between one-third and one-fifth as many PCs as Apple sells Macs. The introduction of the Surface 3 in May won't have had a full quarter effect for Microsoft, so expect the cheaper Surface to potentially drive Microsoft hardware growth even higher next quarter.

Apple Results Give Clue To Apple Watch Sales

How well is the Apple Watch really doing? I've covered this before, however detail from Apple's financial call yesterday allows some educated guesses at numbers and performance. First of all Apple has claimed that it isn't breaking out sales numbers because it doesn't want to provide competitors with information which may help them. I'll call BS on that straight away. Apple has never been shy about numbers when they have been good. Which means that the numbers for Apple Watch haven't been what Apple hoped for. Also Apple's claim that it's just catching up with demand is a bit smelly too, given that you've been able to walk in and buy one in store for a while and the market is being expanded to low volume countries like New Zealand next week. Lumping the Watch sales in with all of Apple's other orphan children (like the iPod) doesn't strike me as a particularly positive move either. However if we take some educated guesses around trends and …

Microsoft Selling More Lumias, But Only Cheap Ones

Microsoft's Q4 financial figures are somewhat confused by the massive write-down it has booked for the acquisition of Nokia. However for Windows Phone fans there are some positive signs. Year on year sales grew by an impressive 45%, however that was almost entirely achieved at the budget end of the market, with the average selling price per phone reaching just $89. That's an awful lot of cheap phones and probably not much else. From a volume perspective that's okay, however given Satya Nadella's recent positioning statement on the mobile platform it suggests that most of those sales are going under the bus in the very near future. Surface fans should be pleased. Surface revenue is up, suggesting that Microsoft has another billion dollar income stream on its hands. No idea of the ARPU at the moment, but with an revenue of $888m its likely that Microsoft shipped somewhere between one and one and a half million Surface's in quarter.

A Month With The Surface 3

When Microsoft launched the Surface 3 I was a little sceptical of the device. It was priced close to the iPad but without the huge range of apps; it was a low power Atom based device, but significantly more expensive than some other Atom devices.
As an iPad and MacBook Air owner you could say that I was slap bang in the middle of Microsoft's target market. As a Surface Pro owner my more natural upgrade path would seem to be the Surface Pro 3. The Surface 3 has proven capable enough to replace all three of those devices for me.
Its an easy device to live with. It's light and portable, has excellent battery life and great connectivity. The screen is a decent size, the keyboard is excellent and the trackpad is good enough for daily use. Performance turns out to be excellent, that Atom processor is the first quad-core 64-bit version of its line and turns out to be very capable.
What the Surface 3 does well is demonstrate how good Windows can be on good hardware. Which I guess is …