Showing posts from June 23, 2016

Why Would Google Build A Phone?

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumours that Google will build its own phone, I’m sure it won’t be the last. Is there any reason to expect that they’ll be any more accurate this time than before?We shouldn’t forget that Google was, briefly, a phone manufacturer previously. During its ownership of Motorola it had everything it needed to start churning out Google phones, yet it resisted the urge and eventually shipped the company onto to Lenovo.Why build a phone now if it didn’t then?Google has a slick Nexus programme which turns out a small range of competitive devices that offer the best of pure Android. It has a stake in the design of the Nexus phones and gains both through Nexus sales but also in improved performance in the partner’s own branded handset divisions.Every Nexus partner has ridden the partnership up the sales charts. HTC, Samsung, LG and Huawei. So long as Google picks its partners carefully it is guaranteed future success.So why build a phone and upset the apple …

Microsoft Says Messaging Everywhere Won’t Be In Windows 10 Anniversary Update After All

The promise of being able to leave your phone in your pocket or charger or anywhere where it still has an internet connection and then be able to control it from your PC won’t be fulfilled in Windows 10 Anniversary update after all. The Messaging everywhere feature will be dropped from Insider Build 14376 and its functionality will be provided by a future release of Skype.It’s unclear from the Windows Blog post that announces the change whether this change has been wrought because of negative feedback from Windows Insiders or whether the team weren’t comfortable with the way that the feature was being enabled. Either way its gone and it leaves Microsoft exposed again.Firstly it calls into question the logic of releasing (and to some degree hyping) a new feature that gets pulled just three months later. If the experience was so bad that Insiders picked it up so quickly how did escape from Microsoft’s internal testing. Is it the case that nobody within Microsoft actually uses a Windows …

Amazon Scuttles Windows Phone App

Amazon's Windows Phone app will cease to function in less than a month, and with no news of a forthcoming Windows 10 UWP app incoming it looks like another high-profile name abandoning the platform.
Once more this is an inevitable outcome of the lack of support for the platform within Microsoft itself. Senior executives are playing lip service to the idea that the platform has a future, but the company's actions make it clear that it has little faith in its own product and is really just going through the motions.
Whilst Microsoft places such a low priority on developing for its own mobile platform how can it argue that others should do so?
First-party Windows 10 Mobile or UWP apps are generally pretty good - the official Twitter client, for example - is leagues ahead of the Android and iOS versions - but with smartphone sales falling through the floor and no evidence that Microsoft can or wants to reverse it, those will inevitably start to wither and die.
Amazon clearly saw …

Scale Of Apple’s Tax Avoidance Is Breath-taking

How much UK corporation tax should a company reporting £2bn of turnover be paying? Moreover a company that regular reports profit margins above 40%?If you guessed £12.9m you’d be about right, because that’s the amount of UK tax Apple pays on those phenonmenal UK sales numbers. Based on income and stated profit margin that number should actually be up somewhere around £160m, which means the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a $150m hole in his finances.Not a great deal in the grander scheme of things, spread that over the many US businesses using tax loopholes to avoid UK tax and it starts to look like something much more interesting.The EU is currently examining Apple’s tax deal with the Republic of Ireland and is allegedly on the hook for around £8bn of back taxes if the agreement is found to be outside of EU law.Which would be a bonus for the Irish Government, but less so for the UK, EU countries and of course Apple.Although as far as tax wins go, it seems to me that Apple has had mor…

Evernote Pushes The Self Destruct Button

Pop-quiz: $89 for a year of Evernote Premium or $69 for a year of Office 365, including OneNote (with all the features of Evernote Premium), full Office 2016 for your PC and tablet, 1TB of OneDrive storage and 60 minutes a month of Skype Out calling?Evernote really doesn’t have much to offer in this comparison, so unless you have completely foresworn Microsoft products there doesn’t seem to be any reason why you would choose Evernote over OneNote.

PC Makers Can’t Stomach Another Year Of Free Windows 10

In a month Windows 10 will no longer be a free upgrade for users of older PCs running Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. The collective sigh of relief from Microsoft’s OEM partners is almost audible.The free upgrade to a version of Windows that actually demanded less of the hardware in those older machines has no doubt delayed any number of hardware upgrade purchases and in a PV market that has been in freefall that hasn’t helped anyone.When the free upgrade offer ends that doesn’t mean that PC manufacturers are in for a golden harvest of upgraders, it may not even be enough to stem the continuing reduction in PC sales. But if it slows the tide a bit that would be a welcome relief for those OEMs.With brand name PCs reaching impulse buy levels of pricing and Windows 10 anniversary release threatening to add a whole slew of noteworthy features, the next two quarters are vital for the PC market.Continued downward pressure on sales would be the true indicator that the PC market is beyond saving.

Snapchat On Windows 10 Mobile? I’ll Believe It When I See It

Snapchat has been one of Windows Phone’s highest profile holdouts forever. A complete disregard for Microsoft at an executive level has ensured that the easiest way to kill any conversation about migrating to Windows Phone is to mention the app.Even when heralded Windows Phone developer Rudy Huyn developed a third party app which was lauded by users the company moved to kill it.So the rumours that Snapchat and Microsoft are working towards the launch of a Windows 10 version of the app comes as something of a surprise. Further digging suggests that the house of cards that supports this news is very poorly put together, building as it does from comments made by an online support technician working on behalf of Microsoft Spain.Without wishing to put a slam down on the online support people at Microsoft, but they are the lowest of the low, as far as the company is concerned. It’s true of any large company’s online support team. So the chances of this Spanish support technician being in po…

Sony Should Demolish Its Smartphone Ambitions With Its Flagship Ginza Store

Sony’s Xperia X has been poorly received by the media, a backward step from its quasi-successful Z range and wildly overpriced to boot it is a phone designed to maximise profits at the expense of user experience and value.Symbolically, after fifty years Sony is about to demolish its flagship Ginza building in Tokyo, it should take its smartphone division with it.If Sony has been unable to build a smartphone business when it has been building some of the best smartphones you can buy, what hope is there for it when it lags behind the competition so woefully? The company has managed to be poor at everything to do with selling phones: poor marketing, poor engagement with the carriers (especially in the US) and failing to follow through on its successes. Never having product to sell until too long after launch has not helped.At a time when your smartphone division is fighting for its life the availability of more Sony accessories for iPhones than Xperias is a crazy kind of commercial suici…

Microsoft's Kevin Gallo Kind Of, Sort Of Endorses Windows 10 Mobile

Microsoft's VP of Windows, Kevin Gallo, has given a further endorsement to Windows 10 Mobile - although it's a very qualified one that barely stands up to much scrutiny. Gallo's comments were made at Build London, and were reported in The Register.
The endorsement was in response to a direct question about Windows Mobile and whilst Gallo's answers were firm on the platform "There’s really no change in what our direction or strategy is with respect to releasing the Windows Phone software" they were less emphatic when discussing future hardware "we’ll lead with some high end and category innovation like we’ve done with Surface, and OEMs will go and build the breadth of the catalog."
Now set aside the natural reticence of an executive questioned on unannounced hardware and you have the hint of a suggestion that Microsoft will carry on building hardware, albeit in limited quantities. Given that Microsoft offers just four phones at the moment that'…

Android Or Bust…?

Over the weekend stories were circulating about Huawei’s plans to abandon Android for its own platform in the event that it became disaffected with Google's stewardship of the mobile OS. Aside from stating the obvious, did these stories have any substance?When I say that these were statements of the obvious, I mean that Huawei, along with every other Android OEM, will have a contingency plan for the day that Google starts to exert some pressure on them. That may be their own platform – as Samsung seeks to do with Tizen, it may be an increase in the  number of handsets running other platforms like Windows 10 Mobile or, most likely, it will be a AOSP homespun version of Android which excludes Google’s services.The most obvious option would be the latter. It’s relatively easy to do and there are alternatives to the Google Play Store which mean that the loss of Google Mobile Services would be no disaster.What would be a disaster, however, would be for OEMs to take their own direction …

Post-Brexit Discord Of British Labour Party Rebels Shows Some Politicians Have Forgotten How To Listen

If there was one very clear message that Thursday’s Brexit vote delivered it was that the people are fed up of being ignored by the political classes, who seem to operate on the assumption that the plebs opinion is of import once every five years and should be otherwise ignored. The election of Jeremy Corbyn to leader of the Labour party, the current opposition was a similar kickback from Labour’s grass roots supporters who saw a man of integrity and a leader who offered honesty and endeavour, rather than the spin and beauty parades that have comprised British politics for the last three decades. In short Labour party members were sick to death of New Labour – a party that were Conservative in all but the colour of the flag they waved. Corbyn offers an alternative choice. His opponents may be right, he may never get the Labour party elected, but if being electable means being the Conservative Party in all but name, then really, why bother at all? Over the last twenty-four hours a gro…

Apple’s Display Intentions In Question

Apple’s Thunderbolt display has been discontinued and with no announcement of a replacement the models in stock at Stores and dealers will be the only option for customers looking for an Apple branded display.Apple’s announcement that the display was no longer going to be offered seemed ill-timed and out of character. Especially as it pointed out alternative third-party options for customers to investigate.The conventional wisdom is that Apple is going to release a 5K display, possibly with a built-in graphics card. Clearly if that is the case then the replacement isn’t ready and isn’t likely to be for some time.Does Apple actually have plans to replace its display? Possibly not. Why direct customers to third-parties if a new product is on track? Why announce that the display is discontinued at all, rather than just allowing stocks to dwindle as production of the replacement is ramped up, which is what Apple always does?So if there is no replacement incoming why would Apple kill what …

How Does Android on Chromebook Affect The Platform Wars?

Microsoft has pretty much had its own way when it comes to the desktop, owning 90% or more of the market since the launch of Windows 95. Apple has carved its niche, as has Linux latterly but they have been small - some would say inconsequential - shares of the market. Recently though there is evidence that a new player has the potential to upset the status quo: Google with its Chromebook. Having overtaken Apple in the US  and having seen global success in education markets, the browser based platform has established a bridgehead from which to challenge Windows. In this Chromebooks may succeed where Netbooks and tablets failed because they offer capabilities in line with today's main computing use cases: email, web browsing and web services. The only weakness is an absence of some software that demands more than web based operation can offer.This is where Android comes in. With an extensive catalogue of apps and games, including all those that are currently fashionable, and a stron…

Is Microsoft's Hardware Retrenchment Going To Claim The Surface Line Next?

Microsoft has signaled the end for the Surface 3, informing prospective customers that manufacturing is coming to an end shortly. With no replacement in sight this would indicate that Microsoft is on its way out of the consumer hybrid hardware arena.

The Surface 3 is the third most popular Surface in existence, which is an impressive performance considering its high price against comparable entry-level or consumer devices. That many outlets have the device in constrained supply suggests that demand is not leveling off either. So surely that means a replacement is on its way? 
Not necessarily.
The Surface 3's Cherry Trail processor hasn't been updated since the Surface 3 came out, so there isn't a logical upgrade path. Microsoft could switch to a different processor family, but would be unlikely to be able to do so and retain its current price point. 
So why kill the Surface 3? Clearly there are a number of reasons why Microsoft may choose to do this. Firstly, its reason f…

Why Microsoft Was Wrong To Abandon The Smartphone Entry-Level

Windows Phone was doing pretty well in some countries and in some smartphone market niches, in parts of Europe and South America it had overtaken iOS to be the second most popular platform behind Android. The growth was all about low-end and mid-range phones selling into markets where value for money and low-price were key differentiators.Last year Satya Nadella decided that he didn’t want these customers any more and signalled a retrenchment that would see Microsoft all but abandon the manufacturing, design and sales capabilities it had acquired from Nokia and move in a new direction that relies on third-parties to deliver handsets, whilst Microsoft focuses on its platform.Entry-level smartphones are a difficult market to manage. The profit margins available are razor thin and the ongoing cost of support and providing updates don’t add up to a sensible business proposition. Which is why Windows Phone did so well in this space.Competing Android smartphones were generally pretty nasty,…

Brexit: Now The Fun Begins

Britain has decided, the EU gets the cold shoulder and the United Kingdom will forge its own future outside the union. I have no legal or financial insight into what happens next or how the will of the people gets enacted. Having left the country behind I shouldn’t really have an opinion one way or another. But I am an interested party, with financial and family commitments in the UK and young children who might now be denied the opportunity to live and work in Europe had that been in their future.With the resignation of David Cameron, who shoulders the blame or shares the credit for the decision (depending on your viewpoint), the Conservative party needs to elect a new Prime Minister and a new cabinet that will take ownership of the exit negotiations. That in itself will be a challenge.Primary candidate is almost certainly going to be Boris Johnson. The former London mayor seems a most inappropriate person to lead the country at any time, never mind at such a pivotal one. And what of…

Microsoft And Opera Trade Blows On Browser Battery Usage, Google Trying To Ignore Issue

Any Windows user who takes a interest in the way their machine is performing will tell you the same thing: Google Chrome is a resource hog and your Windows PC works harder when it’s running. When your machine is a laptop that means churning away battery life.Microsoft wanted to emphasise the effects of this particular Chrome problem  and also took the opportunity to take a potshot at Mozilla’s Firefox and Opera’s eponymous browser in the process. Hence the video above.A fairly restricted test and no indications as to why this is a particularly valid comparison, but overall it hits its mark: Edge is the most battery efficient browser (on a Surface Book, streaming this particular video, YMMV).Opera fired back, with its own test which showed that its new browser outlasted Edge (and Chrome, which was once more bottom of the pile).All it requires now is for Mozilla to respond with its own video which also places Chrome at the bottom of the heap and we’ll have the full set.Personally I’ve s…

Opera Mini For Windows 10 Mobile

Until now Microsoft’s Edge browser was the only option for Windows Mobile users and whilst its a big step over Internet Explorer for Windows Phone there are still some missing features that won’t be resolved until the anniversary update arrives for Windows 10.Enter Opera Mini, almost unheralded. The new Windows 10 version of the mobile web browser integrates both Opera’s famous data saving technologies and an ad blocker – the things to have in the mobile market right now.In use Opera turns out to be quite resource intensive. On my Lumia 640XL it ran at a crawl, proving to be all  but unusable. On the significantly more powerful Lumia 930 it was a little sluggish, but usable. Compared to the fluid performance of Edge on mobile though this is a definite downside. I did see a rise in operating temperatures of both phones when Opera Mini was running, suggesting it was working processors hard.The usual Opera features are present – speed dial and a slick bookmarks interface, although for so…

How Does The iPhone 5S Compete At Its New Budget Price?

Apple has superseded the iPhone 5S on three separate occasions now, with the 6, 6S and now the SE. The older phone remains on sale though – and at a very attractive price. Kiwis can pick up the 16GB version for NZ$499 or the 32GB version for $599.That’s not exactly a bargain basement price, but for a premium handset sporting Apple’s best industrial design, it’s quite an offer. By comparison the new SE sells for $749 – or a markup of around 70% and I’m not entirely sure it can back those numbers up.The other interesting comparison is with the iPod Touch. The 32GB version sells for $449 and personally I’d happily trade 16GB of storage and $50 for the 4G radio and Touch ID.I said at the launch of the iPhone SE that the smaller phone had made me realise what a bad turn Apple had made with the industrial design of the iPhone 6, nothing about the 5S is different in that respect. For the Apple only buyer, the 5S is something very much worth considering.What about the smartphone world at larg…

Microsoft And Verizon Fix Lumia Icon Upgrade Faux Pas, Official Windows 10 Incoming

One of the worst own goals Microsoft scored in the official release of Windows 10 Mobile as an upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 devices was the Lumia Icon disaster. Despite clearly meeting the requirements to receive the upgrade the Icon was missing from the official list of supported devices.That the virtually identical Lumia 930 did receive the upgrade did nothing to make the situation less vexing for Icon owners.Verizon, for whom the Icon was an exclusive, was clearly the problem. So in the months since the release there has clearly been some behind the scenes manoeuvring and the outcome is that the Icon will indeed get the Windows 10 release after all.Verizon has a web page detailing the update, so if you’re an Icon owner – who hasn’t trashed their device in frustration already – the good news is that you can get the upgrade by following the instructions here.