Showing posts from February 2, 2018

F1: Dell - McLaren Deal Not The Title Sponsor The Team Craves

McLaren has been without a title sponsor for so long it's hard to remember a time when the company was anything more than just 'McLaren'. Having spent so many years in its iconic Marboro livery the almost plain orange of its current cars, whilst nostalgic of the cars Kiwi Bruce McLaren brought to the sport, just don't seem right.
The announcement of Dell as a new partner suggests that the team is making progress in this direction. Reading between the lines however, this is as much about a technology partnership as it is sponsorship. That McLaren makes no reference to Dell being a title sponsor is revealing.
So whilst we're likely to see Dell's various brands on the car - VMWare and EMC prominently I expect - there's still going to be plenty of blank space.
Perhaps a better season with Renault power might erase the bad memories of the team's Honda partnership, restore some of the brand's lost reputation and tempt a big name in.

Samsung S8 Oreo Update Is Now Rolling Out

One of the big reasons for Android Oreo's low penetration numbers - just 1% at the last report - is the lag between the new version's release and Samsung's implementation of it. That's understandable, unlike HTC and Sony, who tend to get there first, Samsung has an awful lot of different phones with large numbers of users, so it needs to show an abundance of care when releasing these updates.
We've seen what happens when that care isn't taken with the last few iOS updates, which have been less than exemplary despite the much smaller number of devices Apple has to support.
So the news that Samsung has started sending the update out to its S8 and S8+ phones is positive. The rollout begins in Europe, before heading global. As ever, unlocked phones will be at the head of the queue, whilst those with carrier branded S8s will have to wait until those extra checks have been completed and the carrier is ready to release.
Next up for updates will be the Note 8, before …

Launching A Tesla Into Space Was A Sideshow To Distract From Financial Woes

SpaceX's launch of its latest heavy rocket certainly got a lot of media attention, not least because it was planned to carry a Tesla EV into Mars orbit. The reason for that little sideshow piece became clear yesterday, with Tesla reporting its latest financials under the distraction of the launch.
2017 wasn't a great year for the company. It failed dismally to sort out its problems with building the new Model 3 at any kind of volume, it has been censured for overplaying the capability of its Auto Pilot system and crashes involving 'self-driving' Teslas are becoming more prominent.
Then there's the company's financial performance.
Tesla is bringing in lots of revenue - $3.3bn for the quarter, $12bn for the year - but it's spending it at an even faster rate. It's loss for the quarter hit $675m.
The problem, as ever, is that Model 3 production is ramping up far more slowly than Tesla ever expected. Elon Musk initially set a target of 5,000 cars per week f…

Bringing Nest Under Google's Control Is All About Assistant

Alphabet will be bringing its Nest division under the control of Google, as it seeks to battle Amazon in the smart assistant market. With thermostats, smoke alarms and security systems with a strong focus on being smarter than the average device in each category, it's an obvious change.
For all Google's big splash of devices running Google Assistant at CES, it was notable just how many services and hardware manufacturers have integrated with Amazon's Alexa. Whilst Google isn't too far behind, it is behind and that's an unhealthy state of affairs in the company's book.
Nest's range of home devices are all ripe for integration with Google Assistant, not just as part of a home automation setup, but also in providing another home for Google's service.
With Google Assistant in more and more devices which you already have in your home, those people who wouldn't deploy a Home or variation thereof, can discover the joys of both voice search and voice contr…

HomePod Had To Be About The Audio, Because Siri Is So Weak

Apple's HomePod is getting some rave reviews for its audio quality and some very so-so reviews for its performance as a smart speaker. Given the way that Apple has allowed Siri to fall behind the opposition that's probably not a big surprise.
I'd even go as far as to say that Apple, aware of its problems with Siri - and restricted support for audio services - has sought to manage the message around the HomePod's reason for existing.
It's usually very easy to find out what the message Apple wants to push by looking at its favourite bloggers (you know who they are). When they are all aligned you can bet that's because Apple has briefed them on the message. They're all aligned this time and the message is clear, never mind Siri, just listen to that sound!
As to the HomePod, well it sounds like it might be a really good speaker. I'm sure there will be plenty of Apple fans happy to pay $350 to have one grace their home and hang the poor quality of the voice…

Google Brings Better Office Integration To Drive

Predator one day, prey the next. Microsoft faces another step up in competition from Google Drive as the latter integrates better compatibility features into its suite. 

The obvious intention here is to reduce the friction which might prevent potential customers from switching from Office 365 to Drive apps.

The greater interoperability between users of Google's suite and Office makes Google a viable option for small and medium businesses looking for some competition for their office suite business. 

Microsoft Looks To Poach Cloud Rivals Biggest Customers By Buying Their Business

Enterprise customers with at least 500 seats deployed in a rival cloud storage business can now get an equivalent OneDrive account free of charge up to their next renewal date. Effectively Microsoft is allowing rival's customers to have an extended free trial of OneDrive in a bid to persuade them to switch.
The big target for this offer is almost certainly Dropbox, which has 200,000 businesses signed up to its storage plans. By making it easy for those larger users to trial the benefits of OneDrive side by side with Dropbox, it Microsoft is going to be expecting to pick up large numbers of its target customers.
OneDrive remains something of a bargain for customers of all sizes - especially when you start to compare feature for feature against competitive offerings. It's no wonder that Microsoft's Cloud business is growing at such an impressive rate.
And yet, I'm not sure how much success Microsoft is going to have with this campaign. Customers who have chosen an alter…

New York Police Department Begins Provisioning iPhones, Microsoft To Get Hit With Lumia Returns

The NYPD has had three successful years of supporting its officers with Nokia / Microsoft Lumia smartphones. Of course, with Microsoft's decision to dump Windows 10 Mobile, the NYPD had to follow other customers to a new platform - in this case iOS.
The department will be rolling out iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models to officers over the next month or so, with the first precincts already in receipt of their new devices.
Of course there's a little matter of disposing of the 36,000 Lumia 830 and 640 XL handsets which the force has been using since 2014. For the NYPD that should be reasonably straightforward - the handsets will be wiped and then resold back to Microsoft, presumably at a pre-agreed value, set when the original contract was signed and all was rosy in the Windows Phone garden.
Whatever that value was, it's sure to be more than Microsoft will get refurbishing and reselling the phones, which have been rendered worthless by Microsoft's actions over the last two years…

Amazon Ends Lock Screen Ad Programme

Amazon has been reducing the price of tablets and smartphones by subsidising them with ads for more than five years. These ads are displayed on the lock screen of Fire tablets and select Amazon Prime phones.

Now the company has announced that it will no longer being displaying ads and will update all devices to remove the feature. 

There are good reasons for this. Most users unlock their devices with a fingerprint scanner, effectively bypassing the lock screen completely. Ads are either not seen or obstructive to the user experience. 

Instead Amazon will ship future devices with a pre-installed bundle of Amazon software and services. The price of all devices will rise as a result. 

Google Enables Visual Core For Pixel 2 Users

Google's Pixel 2 and 2 XL are already up there as the best cameras you can find on a smartphone today. From tomorrow they should be even further ahead of the pack.
A blog post on Google's Blog published yesterday confirms that the Google developed Pixel Visual Core has now been enabled, meaning that HDR+ photos will be captured and processed much more quickly; and look better too.
The Visual Core is a image processor engine with some serious props - which Google claims will allow zero shutter lag or processing delay, even with HDR+ being fired.

Apple Sold Twice As Many iPads As Macs In 2017

Apple shipped nearly 44m iPads last year, comfortably sitting at the head of the tablet sales table. In fact it sold more than second-placed Samsung and third-placed Amazon combined. There were rather more iPad sales than Mac sales - under 20m for the latter. The iPad may not be seeing the sales numbers it reached at its heights, but with a first full year of growth in several years, things are certainly moving in the right direction.
Combined sales of iPad and Macs weren't enough to claim the top PC vendor spot however, that went to Lenovo, despite the Chinese company posting negative growth figures for both PCs and tablets. Based on the rate of growth of Apple's PC business, expect it to regain that top spot next year.
Whilst the 6% growth in Mac sales can be put down to Apple finally refreshing its Mac line-up over the last eighteen months, the iPad's 3% growth looks much more like a response to Apple's revised line-up, which offers both mid-range models and a PC-l…

Microsoft To Kill Windows 10 S, Introduce S Mode Instead

When Microsoft announced Windows 10 S alongside the Surface Laptop last year it was based on the premise that corporate and education users would flock to the new Windows version because of the implied security and reliability advantages. The new version, and risk of missing out on those users, was almost certainly the reason why Spotify and Apple announced versions of their software for the Windows 10 Store.
Seems the strategy has failed to pay out for Microsoft however. Or at least the imminent decision to kill Windows 10 S in favour of an S mode available in other versions of Windows would appear to suggest so.
I'm guessing the offer to upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro was taken up almost universally.
The problem, as ever for Microsoft these days, is the volume and quality of apps in the Store. Compared to the wealth of Win32 software available outside the Store it's downright embarrassing. One look at the Store is enough to convince any regular PC user that a v…

Apple Music Set To Overtake Spotify In The US? Seems Unlikely

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple Music is set to overtake Spotify in terms of paid subscribers in the United States. That just seems very far fetched to me, with the claim even including the suggestion that with free trials included, Apple already has the lead.
Apple just announced it has hit 36 million paid subscribers, whilst Spotify should hit 75 million in the next few weeks. Even if a disproportionately high number of Apple Music subscribers and a disproportionately low number of Spotify subscribers were in the US the numbers don't add up.
Let's say 50% of Apple Music subscribers are US based that would suggest 18m accounts, less than 25% of Spotify users would need to be in the US for this story to be true. Such a large disparity smells funny.
Especially when you know that Spotify is the number seven most downloaded app in the App Store in the US. And that Spotify has consistently outgrown Apple Music ever since the latter launched. When Apple Music launc…

Formula E Has Its First Rules Fiasco

Racing series inevitably end up having a furious row over the implementation of rules at some time or another and, following Sunday's Santiago race, Formula E now has one of its own. 

In this case, the Techeetah cars of top two finishers Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer; plus points scorer Jerome D'Ambrosio's Dragon car were found to have seat belts which had been modified to allow for faster tightening. 

That's important because the Santiago race was the first where pit stops for car changes have not been controlled by a minimum elapsed time. Faster seat belts, faster pit stop. 

The team's involved have been fined £15,000 per car, but the result has been allowed to stand. 

Contrast that with the disqualification of Daniel Abt earlier in the season, for the offence of having mismatched barcodes on two power unit components. 

The two offences are at opposite ends of the scale for severity, yet the relatively minor one cost Abt his maiden race win, whilst the more cont…

LG Mobile Exiting Chinese Market, Global Market Next

LG is going to exit the Chinese smartphone market after comprehensively failing to grab market share. 

With annual sales in the country hitting half a billion in the last year, LG's couple of hundred thousand sales is unsustainable. 

Being unable to compete with Chinese OEMs in their home market is one thing, but LG is finding it difficult to compete with anyone, anywhere. 

The LG V30 and G6 were very good phones, but next to nobody is buying them. Globally there's little or no market for LG. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars down the drain pursuing the market and seen little return.

Unlike Sony or HTC it isn't able to withdraw from the volume sector in order to focus on profit from niche, premium devices. That's because it's brand doesn't have the cachet of these Android competitors. And with the middle and low end lost to Chinese brands, there's really nowhere else for it to go but the exit. 

Absent a phone that blows customer's socks off this …

F1: Ex-Toro Rosso Racer Scott Speed Banned From Pro Racing Sim

Scott Speed, a former Toro Rosso and Red Bull development driver, has been banned from the iRacing sim racing series after being caught trying to take another driver out of an online race in a live stream. 

Speed alleges the intended victim had previously crashed him out of the race lead and he was seeking retribution in the move. 

Not something which would be acceptable in any real life car, but in the virtual racing world that seems to be relatively normal behaviour. 

However, iRacing sets a high bar compared to standard console Sims and the setup required to be competitive is about as expensive as going out and buying a real car. Behaviour is expected to be better too.

The upshot is that Speed has received a non-permanent ban and has also been reported to have sold his racing rig. Possibly making the length of the ban immaterial.

Bathurst 12 Hours: Martin / Walsh Crash Brings Back Bad Memories Of 2006

A race ending accident involving  John Martin and Ash Walsh marred this weekend's Bathurst 12-hour race. Walsh's car was left sideways across the track after an incident with a backmarker, and Martin's Mercedes t-boned the Audi at almost 200kph. Only lightning reactions from Martin, who was able to throw his car sideways sufficiently to temper the impact and avoid slamming into the drivers door of the R8.
The incident bore scary similarities to the accident which killed Mark Porter at the same circuit in 2006. Porter's car was hit by David Clark's car in exactly the same circumstances, with both suffering critical injuries, which Porter eventually succumbed to.

The safety of racing on the mountain has been in question for a while. At the same time there has to be questions raised about the marshalling of the event - in the video you can clearly see a single stationary yellow flag being shown on the approach to the accident, which only becomes double waved yellows …

Formula E: Vergne Leads First Ever 1-2 For Techeetah

Jean-Eric Vergne converted yesterday's pole position into his second ever Formula E victory, despite a number of issues and some aggressive driving from team mate Lotterer, Vergne held on to take the Championship lead. Lotterer scored his first ever Formula E points by taking second place in the race across the streets of Santiago, Chile.
The result was historic for a number of reasons. The two Techeetah drivers delivered the Formula's first ever one-two finish, in its fourth season - compare that to the results of F1 in the last four years - whilst Sebastien Buemi's third place ensured Renault powered cars filled the three podium positions.
Vergne's victory came despite losing radio contact with his team and therefore not knowing that the race length had been shortened following a first lap incident. While those around him were racing for the line flat out, JEV was conserving power expecting to have to complete another lap. The win was even sweeter as a result.

By Abandoning The Middle Ground, Apple Boosted iPad Sales In 2017

Apple learnt an interesting lesson in 2017, if the product is priced right it will sell. Probably shouldn't have needed years of iPad sales decline to find that out,  but by March of this year they final find the answer to the iPad question. 

That answer turned out to be a new low end,  competitively priced entry level iPad and a new right sized,  fully featured, premium iPad Pro 10.5".

The former persuaded previously happy iPad owners to upgrade to a newer more capable machine because it was a comparative bargain. The latter because it made a feature based case for its premium price. iPad sales halted their multi year decline immediately after these two were released and sales have been up every quarter since. 

Ultimately I guess there will be two traditional iPads (and possibly a MacBook replacement option)  which just cover the top and bottom of the market. Anything else just doesn't seem to get buyers interested.

So What Happened To The iPhone Super Cycle

In the lead up to the launch of the iPhone X many smartphone industry analysts were talking about an iPhone 'Super Cycle' - a massive release of pent-up buying energy which was going to see iPhone sales rocket to previously unattainable highs.
Apple's sales figures yesterday clearly show that didn't happen. But why not?
Buyers still wanted a new iPhone, but the iPhone X and iPhone 8 weren't enough to attract new buyers, Android converts and even those abandoning the Windows Mobile platform, in ways which met the analysts predictions.
Some of it may be down to the price of the iPhone X. But not too much. The average selling price for iPhones rocketed last quarter, clearly demonstrating that Apple fans will pay whatever it takes to get to the top table in iPhone bragging rights. 
A lot of it will be down to the disappointing iPhone 8 upgrade, prompting users not prepared to fork out on an iPhone X to stick with what they had, rather than go for the iPhone 8, because…

IDC Puts Apple On Top Of The Smartphone Pile For Q4 2017

As is becoming an annual tradition, Apple took top place at the head of the smartphone sales charts in the final quarter of 2017, just edging out Samsung to clinch top spot.
It's very much a feature of iPhone buying patterns, with more than one in three iPhones being sold in the October to December quarter. Samsung actually sells less than a quarter of its Android smartphones in that period, for comparison.
This year the big surprise was Xiaomi, which managed to take fourth place in the market, after all but doubling sales year over year.
For the year as a whole it was Samsung it stole a march, selling almost half as many phones again as Apple and increasing the gap, thanks to better relative performance to Apple in full year sales.
Once again Xiaomi was the big mover - it closed the gap on Oppo for fourth place for the year, also selling one third of its products in the final quarter.
The smartphone market was all but the same size this year as last, but for the final quarter sa…

64GB In A Smartphone Is Enough For Most Sane People

The Verge writer Vlad Savov postulates that 64GB phones aren't big enough for him any more. Looking at his explanation for the statement two things are immediately apparent. First, he's carrying around 24GB of MP3s on his phone, for what seems like no apparent reason, and secondly, he bought a phone without expandable storage. Which is just plain dumb if you know storage is going to be a limiting factor to your smartphone usage.
Let's look at the MP3 thing first. Almost nobody needs to carry these things around any more, that's why we have streaming services. I'd be very surprised if Savov isn't subscribed to one music service or another.
Even if he isn't, there are a number of Android apps which allow you to stream your own music from the cloud, any cloud in most cases. 
In the very edge case that Savov needs to carry all of those 24GB of music with him all the time because he's paranoid about quality or is expects to find one of the few spots on eart…

Tesla Model 3 Production Distress Showing In Completed Cars

Tesla has been having some very public issues with getting the Model 3 built in numbers - something that has been predicted to be an issue from the point at which the company started building up a hefty pre-order book immediately after launch.
Now that the first cars are making it into customers hands, the results of those difficulties are getting exposed to the raw light of day. Rumours that cars are being handbuilt and jerry-rigged in the factory certainly seem to be supported by some of the evidence.
In this case, a professional tear down engineer, who points out some immediately obvious issues with the visible parts of a Model 3, before even getting into the teardown.
At the moment, Tesla is pretty bullet proof in terms of customer approval ratings. However, if it lets the quality of the product slip, that loyalty, as well as it's premium perception could be completely wiped out.
Building one car a day is easy. Building one every few minutes is a damn sight harder. If scale i…

Tesla One Make Racing Series Sanctioned By FIA, Seeks Teams, Drivers And Circuits

Formula E has proven you don't need noisy engines, massive top speeds and remote circuits to make a success of a racing series. Now the Electric Production Car Series will join the small but growing ranks of all-electric racing series after having officially being sanctioned by the FIA.
The series will use Tesla Model S P100D EVs, race prepared to run a series of innovative events at nine European locations through 2018. Each event will have a day race and a dusk race each 60km long, with an after race drifting challenge for bonus points. Circuits and dates haven't been announced, but it would be good to see the series follow Formula E and bring racing to city centre streets - something which noisy petrol powered racers are much less likelt to get away with.
Le Mans Cup entrant SPV Racing is the first team confirmed for the series, which is planned to kick off mid-year. The team will field Spaniards Alvaro Fontes and Javier Martinez in the series and, as first recipients of t…

Microsoft's Surface Line Has A New Entry Level Device

Since the Surface 3 died a couple of years back, there's been no real entry level device in the Surface line. The cheapest Surface on offer was the Pro, but once that was specced out with a Type Cover and an Surface Pen it was all but the same price as the Core i5 Surface Laptop.
Well now there's a new Surface Laptop, like the Surface Pro it's running the Core m3 CPU and packs 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. As an entry-level device that's more than acceptable, though some sites will tell you that 8GB is required for Windows 10, I've found it runs beautifully in 4GB and even has no problems in 2GB.
The Surface Laptop m3 is US and is Platinum Silver only. It seems highly unlikely that Microsoft won't ship this globally, it's just too tempting a machine.
At $799 - $719 for students - the new model of the Surface Laptop is a flat out bargain. In comparison the MacBook 12" has a smaller screen without touch or stylus support, a truly terrible keyboard an…

Sony Posts Record Quarter, Loses CEO Hirai

Sony's various business units aligned to post the largest FYQ3 in the company's history. Profits from every business unit helped it post a consolidated $3.2bn operating profit, on revenues of $23.6bn. Both numbers were up on the previous year.
Big wins came from the PlayStation unit - 76 million PS4s now sold and its still racking up the numbers, 9m in the last quarter alone. Sony Pictures raked in over $800m globally, whilst the mobile unit picked up sales of $2bn - and managed to stay profitable.
It's a far cry from the troubled Sony which Kaz Hirai inherited when he took over the reins of the company six years ago. So its concerning that he will be standing aside as CEO. At least the person who takes over, CFO Kenichiro Yoshida,  is familiar with the role, he's been described as the architect behind Hirai's rebuilding of Sony.
Hirai isn't going far, taking over the role of Chairman of the company. Changes happen from the beginning of April.

Did Apple Sell Fewer iPhones? Not Really

Apple's earnings call was full of good news for shareholders, other than the report of fewer iPhone sales. That was tempered with news of higher revenues. 

However Apple may not have been really playing up how good the quarter was for the iPhone. This report's quarter was a week shorter than the corresponding one twelve months ago. 

Makes those numbers look even better doesn't it? Especially with Apple reporting the iPhone X is the best selling iPhone for every week that it has been on sale. 

All those analysts claiming sales were low, future demand was awful and Apple was shuttering manufacturing look pretty silly now. 

Except there's a pattern developing, especially around this time of year. Apple news turns negative ahead of its January reports, analysts downplay performance and the stock price falls. 

It's too much of a coincidence to be believable. What it amounts to is manipulation of Apple's share price in order to take in the profits when the earnings are an…