Showing posts from May 17, 2017

Roger Moore, Iconic 70s Bond

Roger Moore has died, aged 89, after a 'short battle with cancer' his family have announced. He will be remembered for his portrayal of James Bond, the longest serving Bond of all time, but let's not forget his success in both The Saint and The Persuaders before he landed the big one.

For me Moore was under-rated for his performances as Bond. He brought a new direction to the role, reaching a peak with 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me.

Iconic opening scene, iconic car and Bond played the way Fleming originally wrote him, as a very smooth, very English, gentleman.

Microsoft To Introduce New Dongle From Surface Connector To USB-C

In an interview with The Verge Panos Panay has clarified the availability of USB-C for the Microsoft Surface Pro. The new port will be available via a Surface Dock to USB-C dongle which will support both charging and data transfer.
Interesting decision to retain existing ports and then ship a dongle - especially after the flak Apple took for dongle-life after the MacBook Pro announcement.
Panay is probably right that this is the right way to provide access to the new ports though. Retaining the ports users know and love; and are likely to be already setup to use just makes more sense than ditching them and forcing customers into additional purchases.
This way only those keen to leverage the capability of the new port types get inconvenienced. And it seems its great news for other Surface owners too, as the Surface Dock connector exists on Surface Pro 3 and 4, Surface Book and the new Surface Laptop.
One thing I would argue with is Panay's reports of poor reception of the micro-US…

Microsoft Announces New Surface Pro

As leaked last week, Microsoft announced an updated Surface Pro this evening in Beijing. With a new name, new hinge, new pen and support for the Surface Dial as the headline updates. The decision to remove the version number from the Surface Pro name gives Microsoft some consistency across its hardware line.
Unsurprisingly there are new Kaby Lake processors, with both m3 and i5 versions able to run without fans this time around.
It's the Surface Pen which got most of the attention. Microsoft clearly took aim at the Apple Pencil with this update, adding tilt support and improving the response time so as to create a truly lag free experience.
There is support for USB-C, well sort of anyway. It's on the Surface Dock. Even if Panos Panay got hopes up by accidentally suggesting the Surface Pro has USB-C onboard, before correcting himself and confirming it had USB-A only.
The Surface Pro is the first of its line to support LTE. That was a big gap in the Surface Pro armoury. Avai…

Why Your Next Phone Will Be An iPhone

Android has a comfortable lead on the smartphone sales race, with between 80 and 90% of new sales going to Android OEMs. However when you come to buy your next phone it is increasingly likely that it will be an iPhone and that's as it should be.
Right now if you buy a premium Android phone there's a good chance that you won't be getting any security updates after it's six months old. You may get a platform upgrade, assuming your phone's manufacturer feels that it is worth doing, but there are few guarantees. By the time it's eighteen months old you'll have something which is out of date, probably insecure and almost certainly without value
Buy an iPhone and you're covered for the next four years for updates and upgrades; and you'll have a device which is worth substantially more as a result. 
Sure there's plenty of things an Android phone might be able to do that an iPhone can't but chances are you won't ever want to do them anyway.


Apple Now Making iPhones In India

Last week Apple confirmed that it had begun manufacturing the iPhone SE in India, marking a key step in its plan to continue the iPhone's domination of the smartphone market.
India is currently vying with the US for the second largest smartphone market in the world, behind China. Unlike the Chinese or US markets however, India's is growing rapidly. And not just in volume, the average selling price of smartphones in India is growing too.
Apple is a small player in the Indian market but by beginning to build locally it opens the door to a much more favourable reception from the Indian Government. Especially when it comes to things like remanufacturing and selling iPhones coming from the rest of the world.
Its the scale of the Indian smartphone market which has really driven this move though. In a country with a population approaching that of China's one quarter the number of smartphones were sold last year. However, whilst the Chinese market has stalled, India's sees si…

Why Is Google So Bad At Hardware?

Microsoft might well be winning the battle to be exciting, but the flipside of the coin is that Google is incredibly bad at hardware and as a result is losing the 'exciting' race by miles. How bad, well just take a look at all the skeletons in Google's hardware closet... Glass, Nexus Player, Nexus 10, Pixel C and, very probably, the Pixel.

That's not to say the hardware itself is any worse than the competition, far from it. However Google just doesn't seem to be able to bring together the three legs of any product strategy - building a great product, marketing it well and then distributing it to customers.

For any given Google product, whether its good or bad, Google splits the world in two: the smaller portion is deemed worthy of receiving the latest Google toy, whilst the latter is left wanting. Nobody ever built a successful hardware business by excluding the majority of potential customers from that product.

Then, irony of ironies, when Google has delivered pr…

Microsoft Is Winning The Race To Be Exciting

Microsoft is having a hardware event in Beijing tomorrow, where it is expected to reveal a lightly upgraded Surface Pro 4. It will be the most disappointing Microsoft event in years. Not because the product is bad or the upgrade is weak, but because it is an iterative upgrade of an existing product which doesn't move the game on significantly.
If Microsoft doesn't sneak in something which hasn't been previously leaked then the buzz around this event will be small. And that's become unusual for Microsoft as it has continued to deliver suprising new products which garner column inches in both the tech and non-tech press, has people talking about Microsoft more and more often and has raised the profile of the company significantly.
In fact if you review Microsoft's releases over the last few years - Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, Surface Studio, Hololens and Windows 10 in all its versions - you'll find that Microsoft has leapt over both Ap…

Indy 500: Sebastien Bourdais' Accident Shows The Amazing Advances In Safety

Indycar doesn't have a great track record in recent years, with more driver's killed or seriously injured than most, if not all, other top level motor racing series. That's an inherent danger of cars going very, very quickly around an oval circuit in the company of lots of other cars.
Today's qualifying accident involving Sebastien Bourdais does demonstrate the incredible strides in safety Indycar has made over the years.
Bourdais accident was terrifying to watch for anyone who has been around motor sport for many years, specifically because of the way it so closely mirrors the accident of Gordon Smiley, thirty-five years ago.
In both cases an over correction of a tail slide sent the drivers into the Brickyard's outside retaining wall at unabated speed. For Smiley the mistake was fatal, the accident destroyed the unfortunate driver's body and was described at the time as being of the same severity of an aircraft accident. Smiley was obviously killed instantly.

The Biggest Problem With Android

Google has been promising to fix the major failing of Android for far too long. That's of course the completely haphazard way Android phones get updates.
Recently we've had promises of new commitments to delivering from OEMs around security updates. Google says it will deliver them on a monthly basis, premium OEMs promise to get them on to devices quickly.
So how are they doing? Well I have two devices from premium Android OEMs and their current state is illuminating. My Xperia XZ has Android Nougat 7.0, however it's security firmware update is dated November 2016. Seriously out of date.
My Galaxy Tab S2 tablet is even worse though. This is rocking Android 6 Marshmallow. It's security update is from June 2016. Almost a year out of date.
Now I'm not talking about version upgrades and fragmentation here, we're talking security updates released to reduce the risk of exploitation of known vulnerabilities on these devices. That's an incredibly shoddy state of…

This Is The Future Of Electric Cars

The Renault Kangoo may be the lest exciting car of all time, but the one you see above is possibly the most important car ever built. That's because its running on a special road which is charging it as it drives at speeds of up to 100kph.
The technology is Qualcomm's and the track is Vedecom's. Between them they have built a solution which can charge multiple vehicles, at speed, at a charge rate of up to 20 kw/h.
Part of a European Union project to investigate the feasibility of dynamic wireless charging (DEVC) this promises to deliver a killer blow for EVs. With no range anxiety and constantly recharged batteries, why would you ever consider something that burns fossil fuel?
It would be good to see this technology embedded in Formula E cars at some stage in the future - even built into a slightly longer track loop which challenges drivers to either top off their battery at the cost of a time penalty or try to eke out a charge with the benefit of the shorter run.
In any …

Those Stories About Android - iPhone Usage Share Are All Wrong

More than a few websites are getting excited about an article published by Forbes, claiming the iPhone's share of usage is higher than previously thought. That article references a blog post by Google employee Dave Burke, which reveals that two billion Android devices are in use right now.
The argument runs that as Apple released news that iOS runs on one billion devices recently, one third of phones in use today are iPhones, rather than the one fifth previously accepted.
All good as far as it goes, however there's a rather large hole in the theory. Google only measures active Android phones running Google Play Services - and given that no phones sold in China have these services they can't be counted by Google, so aren't included in those usage numbers.
China has been the biggest smartphone market since 2012, so failing to count these Android devices rather skewers any theory about relative usage in the market. In 2016 almost half a billion smartphones were sold in C…

Air New Zealand Trialling Hololens In The Sky

Air New Zealand is not only the world's favourite airline, it's also one of the most innovative. From completely changing the way in-flight safety briefings are completed (creating a number of viral hits along the way) to this trial of Microsoft's Hololens.
Probably not the most attractive proposition in its current version but if and when Microsoft shrinks it down to a more discrete size this could be the sort of thing that becomes common place in the service industry.

Surface Pro Update Leaks

Reliable technology leaker Evan Blass is at it again, this time outing the updated Surface Pro, which Microsoft is expected to announce in Beijing next week.
The pictures show very limited changes to the hybrid's exterior, with the biggest change likely to be the inclusion of new Kaby Lake processors.
That won't be the only change though, Blass reveals Microsoft will rechristen the SP4 to plain old Surface Pro, giving a line up of Surface Laptop, Surface Book and Surface Pro.
Microsoft's Surface accessories (keyboard, mouse and pens) are also up for an upgrade – although this might just be a touch of color to match the Surface Laptop.

With 92% iPhone Loyalty, Apple Is About To Spin The Smartphone Market

Morgan Stanley has completed a survey of current iPhone owners and recorded an impressive 92% intent to make their next purchase another iPhone. With the anniversary iPhone likely to drive unprecedented numbers of upgrades Apple could be soon be back on top of the market as a result.
That 92% loyalty figure has a longer term impact too. Users who move to iPhone mostly never go back. The end result will be a market that swings toward Apple. With smartphone ownership certain to drive consumer technology purchases in other areas, that promises even more opportunities for Apple. 
At this point I don't even think a way exists for other smartphone OEMs to break the grip Apple has on its customers. More technology, more features or more gimmicks won't do the job. And if any turn out to be useful or popular, well they all end up on the iPhone eventually.

Time To Say Goodbye To The iPad Mini?

Amongst the rumors of new hardware for Apple's WWDC conference next week is one suggesting one piece of hardware that will be exiting Apple's catalogue shortly, the iPad Mini.
The Mini has been blamed for the fall off in iPad sales over the last three years. The story being that the iPhone Plus has cannabilised its market. 
That may be so, however the Mini is still responsible for a sizeable chunk of iPad sales and given that the only possible selling point is its size, killing the iPad Mini potentially costs Apple sales it can ill-afford to lose.
As long as the smaller iPad remains profitable I see no reason for Apple to kill it. 
However it seems natural to trim the range  available, maybe to a single memory size in either WiFi or LTE versions.
Whether that will be as part of an upgrade to bring the Mini in line with performance of other iPads like, or just a rationalization on current hardware remains to be seen.
Either way, I can't help feeling the Mini will escape th…

Google Assistant On iPhone: Another Reason Why Apple Will Win

Google has launched its Assistant on the iPhone, replacing previous voice assistants it has made available to Apple's customers.
It's a futile effort to persuade users to abandon Siri in the long term and clearly  demonstrates how Apple is going to win not just the smartphone war, but probably the whole of consumer computing.
The problem with Google Assistant is that you can only use it on the iPhone by launching an app. Siri responds to a voice command reducing friction and significantly impacting the appeal of Google's tool.
The smartphone is your most personal and most used device, the voice assistant you use elsewhere will be defined by which phone you use. As voice assistants become more popular this will be an even stronger draw. 
So the fact that you own an iPhone leads you to an iPad, then an Apple TV and eventually the new Apple home assistant, because your voice assistant becomes infinitely more useful if it's ubiquitous.
If you agree that the smartphone…

Microsoft In The Home: Make Xbox A True Cortana Hub

Amazon, Google, perhaps even Apple shortly. Each is seeking to take control of your home by placing digital assistants in to your daily routine. Microsoft and Harman Kardon are doing the same with a 'me too' product that they may well struggle to position competitively
Microsoft already has a Cortana presence in millions of homes today and it seems somewhat strange that it hasn't taken steps to leverage this advantage.
Yes, all those Xbox One and Kinect consoles are listening for a 'Hey Cortana' command 24/7. At the moment all you can actually do at that point is ask Cortana to power your Xbox on, but it could be so much more useful. If only the Xbox had a speaker. 
What it does have though are Bluetooth and USB ports, two easy ways of giving Cortana a voice without having to power up a screen every time you issue a command.
The Xbox is the one device which my whole family happily gives verbal commands. I'm sure we aren't alone. Microsoft should find a way…

Samsung Selling Fewer Flagships But More Profitably?

Samsung has announced first month shipments of the new Galaxy S8 of just five million. That's a disappointing number compared to main rival Apple, but also when compared to sales of its previous flagship phones.
Based on Samsung's own information each model in its Galaxy flagship range has had a weaker launch than the previous one. A trend that goes back to the GS5.
Now fewer sales are not necessarily a bad thing if a device is more profitable. The S8 is certainly more expensive than its predecessors, so its financial success depends very much upon its bill of materials, assembly, shipping and cost of sales. Those fewer sales could be generating a larger profit and having a halo effect on the rest of Samsung's range. 
The bulk of Samsung's smartphone sales seem to stem from the mid-range, where it has some pretty impressive offerings. Basking in the reflected glory of the S8 makes them appear more desirable. 
Interesting to see that the premium Android segment appears…

Apple Investing In Knowledge Tools To Boost Siri

This weekend we learned that Apple had dropped $200m to acquire knowledge graph company Lattice Data, a deal which makes a lot of sense in a world where Siri is lagging behind all its major competition.
Whilst Amazon, Google and Microsoft are finding ways to better extract useful information in order to respond to queries, Siri struggles outside of some narrow constraints where its understanding of underlying data is strong. Stray too far off the path and Siri's answers deviate quicker than its rivals.
Lattice Data has been developing tools to bring a level of structure - and as a result confidence - to 'dark data'. Built on Stanford University's DeepDive the company claims to drive 'human quality' understanding from unstructured data by using the structured data it already has.
If it can deliver then Apple has just acquired a powerful data engine to power Siri back to the top of the digital assistant pile.