Saturday, 20 December 2008

No More Stevenote.

20080115-macworld-jobs Apple announced this week that the keynote at this years Macworld Expo will not be delivered by Steve Jobs. There’s no doubting that this is a disappointment and has killed a lot of interest in the conference but to be honest it is probably one of the most intelligent moves Apple have made in a while.

The media is full of talk of Steve being too ill to deliver the address this year but I don’t believe this for a second. I think there are probably four reasons why Apple are toning down their participation Macworld 2009, their final Macworld. The first reason is pride. You have to remember that large companies such as Adobe have already pulled out of the event. Steve Jobs does not take part in second rate shows and I’m afraid after watching others withdraw that’s probably how it was beginning to look. This years show will probably be pure sales figures and some marketing but not much else.

The second reason is Bill Gates, or more accurately no more Bill Gates. The Jobs keynote always competed with the Bill G keynote at CES for media time and Jobs had to have a certain amount of satisfaction watching Macworld get so much hype. With Gates now gone however Jobs is free to pull out knowing that the competition on that front is over.

The third reason is a possible lack of any major announcements. Since Steve’s last two event’s of 2008 have produced little to no surprises he probably has no intention of walking out on stage and basically delivering a state of the company address to people who have paid a lot of money to hear an, “and finally…”. Steve doesn’t do disappointment.

The forth reason is the most important reason of them all, the element of surprise. With Apple being forced to show new products in the first week of January each year people would begin to start searching for product information in December. Removing these sort of shows from the calendar allow the Cupertino company to deliver products at any time of the year with very little notice. Bringing back the element of surprise will bring back one of the strengths that Apple lost recently.

image from atsuki.net

Anyway you look at it there are plenty of good business reasons for Apple to pull out of Macworld before you look anywhere near Steve’s health.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The new bebo

I logged into bebo today and was confronted with a new home page. After playing with the new windows live home page and thinking it was the most complete hub available I have to say bebo surprised me. You see the new bebo allows you to integrate flickr, twitter and a number of mail services including gmail, yahoo mail and aol into one hub. Add to that the news from your friends and the option to add other feeds and you've got a relatively comprehensive system. It does lack windows live integration which is unfortunate.

What I think they need to add however may surprise some people. They need feeds from facebook and my space. You see bebo is really now looking for for switchers and they are going to want as easy a transition as possible. To provide this these people should be able to view their old profile news so they can keep up with their friends who won't move. Add this and bebo has the kind of winner on it's hames that could turn it into a legitimate facebook compeditor.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

BlackBerry Storm Improvements

There are certainly improvements that need to go into this phone to make it an iPhone killer. There are two that come to mind for me. The first is the OS. There is no doubt that the OS is slow and buggy. I had to remove the battery today to fix a scrolling issue. This needs to be fixed with an update ASAP. It’s easy to do though and I expect to see an update within the next few weeks.

The second is an addition that BlackBerry need to consider. The user should be able to type without having to press the button down. Pressing the button/screen should be for selection only. The ability to type by just touching the screen would sort out the typing speed issues and I would be confident in saying would bring users from other touch screen smartphones over to the Storm. I’s guessing it would also be an easy addition considering the menu navigation is done by light touch. Even putting this as a keyboard option would be great, for each of the keyboards of course. So please RIM implement these two suggestions. I really want to love this phone.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Windows 8 Is A Failure!

I understand the desire to get headlines in media land and beating on Microsoft seems to be regarded as easy headlines at the moment but I couldn’t believe that I was seeing reviews of Windows 7 appearing across the net. We’re talking about an Operating System that isn’t even in beta yet. This is the same as reviewing Android based on the first simulator and not the phone itself. To hear negative reviews of Windows 7 at this stage borders on a joke.

In the interest of getting a good headline therefore I’m going to review Windows 8 now. I’m thinking it’s going to be based on the Windows Vista architecture and therefore it’s going to be a total disaster. In fact based on this one thought alone the whole Windows line is probably doomed, Apple will capture the desktop market and Microsoft will be out of business within the next ten years.

Well that should have the anti-Microsoft crowd happy. For everyone else I would tell you to look forward to the upcoming Windows 7 release. The Vista architecture gives stability and security while the Redmond team are obviously listening to users and have massively improved the UI and usability of 7. Microsoft are moving in the right direction and with the Windows Live platform to go along with it I can see Microsoft holding onto it’s crown for many years to come.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

UTV TV Ads Are Misleading At Best

I was watching TV tonight and the Advert for UTV Broadband came on. Now this is advertising a broadband service. Except it wasn’t. In fact not even close. You see each person in the ad was getting a BSOD, blue screen of death, and one of the promises was for a better computer experience. How can the broadband service possibly offer this? The BSOD is usually caused by something like a badly written driver doing something it isn’t meant to do and therefore crashing the OS. Unless of course every crash is caused by other broadband providers, which is highly unlikely since any BSOD I’ve had comes from nVidia drivers and I don’t have UTV.

It seems to me that the UTV ads are about as believable as the Apple ads and that’s saying something.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Should Microsoft Be Worried About The Linux Netbooks?

asus After reading an article in PC Pro about Microsoft’s upcoming doom I had an interesting thought. You see the article talked about Linux being installed on netbooks from Asus and how this would leave Microsoft having to retreat to the corporate world as Linux becomes the major consumer OS. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Microsoft will, most likely, produce a version of Windows 7 that is trimmed down and perfectly suited to the netbook world. There is one company however that should be concerned with the tiny tiny tiny rise of Linux.

Apple have no competitor to the Asus netbooks. They have nothing to offer to Asus in the way Microsoft can offer up Windows XP and their cheapest notebook is $999. In the current economy are people going to choose to buy the Apple laptop that still has the difficulties of switching associated with it in the public consciousness or will they go the the cheaper notebooks offering old reliable, Windows XP. You see Vista may be perceived as unpopular but I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about the fact that these people, in choosing XP, are still handing money to the folks from Redmond. Microsoft will happily maintain their dominant market position even if everyone who buys a new laptop decides to downgrade to XP.

I don’t honestly believe that Linux is going to threaten either Windows or OSX but if it does then it’s the 8% Apple have in the American market that’s going to be under the most threat and when your share is that small any loss can do a lot of damage.

Is it time for Apple to license OSX? Or produce some sort of MultiTouch netbook? What do you think?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Dawkins Wastes Money on Obsession

I've had little doubt for a long time now that Richard Dawkins hatred of religion is an obsession and after the announcement today that he is spending money on an atheist ad campaign I'm now sure of it. Dawkins is supporting an ad campaign that will display messages on the side of buses stating, "There's probably no God. Stop worrying and enjoy your life". In fact at this time he will be matching the £11, 000 the campaign has risen. What an absolute waste of £22, 000. I'm not in favour of religious advertising either and feel that the money would be much better spent on helping those that are worse off and perhaps help them to enjoy their lives. You see major religious organisations try to spread their message through their actions not through advertising.

What annoys me most about this campaign is that it's basically trying to brain wash the population into thinking that believing in God, any God by the way because this is an attack on all religions not just Christianity, will lead to a miserable life of worry. This is total rubbish. There are people in this world whose religion is giving them comfort in their lives. People who are terrified by the idea of death being the end and the image of eternal darkness fills them with dread. Do these people deserve to have this shoved down their throats when they're walking through the city?

For arguments sake lets say that belief based advertising, because atheism is still a belief, is a good idea and tackle one last point. This is being classed as science! This is being delivered as something that has been hypothesised, tested, observed and concluded. Except it hasn't. In fact the mere fact that it says "There's probably..." should highlight the fact that this is simply an opinion with no actual scientific backing. There are those that will now say that religion has no scientific proof either but then again it never claims to have. It's faith based. Atheism is the same just from a different angle. Dawkins can quote probability all that he wants but there's no difference between his theory of there being no God and The Drake Equation working out how many alien civilisations there are. They're both guesses. He needs to start producing the evidence or accept that what he says is simply hypothetical and has as much chance of being wrong as it does of being right.

Under UK advertising laws I'm not even sure if this should be allowed. After all you are not allowed to make false claims in UK ads and saying there is probably no God could be argued to be false since there is no evidence that it is correct.

This is extremist Atheism and I cannot see where the human race is meant to gain from following it, other than it gives Dawkins a chance build a legacy that in my opinion lies in tatters at the minute. He is a great evolutionary scientist but he is not a great or even a good philospher and is certainly not leading the world into the photons.

Perhaps religion is the opium of the people but imagine a world without that opium and try to tell me that it's a better place.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Apple Close To Gates Vision

I've been thinking recently about Apple's position in the consumer market and I realized just how close Apple are to creating Bill Gate's vision of a digital home. They are 2/3 products short of a viable claim to the home.
Firstly lets look at what they have in place at this time. The iMac is an aesthetically pleasing piece of technology that will look well in any office or bedroom. I'm going to ignore the functionality of the software installed on the device because OSX certainly has some shortcomings but lets assume for a moment that the software is at a level to compete with Microsoft Office etc. On the iMac you can have your music, pictures, video and documents all managed by the ilife and iWorks suites.

That's all good on one machine but no internet isn't much use so we turn to the AirPort Extreme Base Station. This will give you wired and wireless network access along with the ability to share a USB printer or USB hard drive which can be plugged into the unit. But what if your rooms do not have the room or the look to take an iMac. Well that's OK because the AirPort Express can be plugged into a wall socket and will extend your wireless network. All you need to do is plug in a set of speakers and you can stream your music to this room too. But what good that's if you have to go to the room with the iMac to play and change songs? Well you don't. Buy an iPod Touch or iPhone and you can download the Apple Remote app. This gives you control of any iTunes library on your wireless network so you can play, stop and change any song you want from the comfort of any room.

Want something more impressive well if you have a Widescreen television with enhanced or high definition then you can add the Apple TV. From this little white box you can access and play your music, video, TV Shows, films or pictures stored on any iTunes directly on your TV over the wireless network. Even better you can access the iTunes store and buy a new film etc anytime you wish.

To round it all off lets just add Time Capsule to back up your Macs to so you don't lose any of your files and photos and a Macbook to allow you to work or surf the Internet from where ever you're sitting. This, my friends, is the Apple home and if price isn't an issue it's a pretty impressive situation.

Now the missing pieces. We need a photo frame in order for us to display our images for visitors to see without having to switch on the television. Connecting over wireless the minimal white or black look could be very impressive and non-obtrusive. Secondly we need a silent media server along the lines of Windows Home Server offering much the same functionality and being cross platform. Thirdly and finally a partnership with Sega or Nintendo where Apple could get a foot into the computer game/media machine market. While the Apple TV is nice it can't compete with the Xbox 360 0r the Playstation 3. If Apple could add these three devices to it's portfolio then it would only be the price that would be in their way. Apple is high end and the people who could afford this vision would have to have a lot of disposable income. The main point is however that Apple have brought themselves within touching distance of Bill Gate's vision to have the digital home leaving Microsoft with the less exciting but more lucrative digital office.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Reaction To New Macbook's

Today Apple announced the newest models in their Macbook, Macbook Pro and Macbook Air lines and to be quite honest I'm not going to talk about them very much because it's a pretty boring announcement. The new machines are designed to compliment the iMacs and the ridiculously over priced new display, more on that later. They have the glass touch pads as expected and they have more power also as expected. In fact there was nothing in the announcement that we didn't expect. We got the prie cut but instead of the competitive $800 we got $999. That's a price snip not a cut! And lets not forget that price reduction is on the older white macbooks not the new shiney ones.

The big surpsise of the announcement was probably the new 24 inch display. The display wasn't really the surprise though. The surprise was that Apple are charging a ridculous $899 for a big screen display. Add to that the fact that this new display only works with the new Mini DisplayPorts that are on the new Macbooks. That's right everyone, this is a $899 Macbook accessory. Has anyone told Steve that there's a bit of a financial situation at the moment. Glad I'm not an Apple shareholder because today's product launch isn't going to do the share price any favours.

On the plus side Steve is healthy.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Sega Vision Due In 2009?

Sega are due to release a new mobile gaming unit called Sega Vision in early 2009 according to The Register. This is a story I can't help but treat carefully but I haven't read any arguments against this so far so here it is. The device is shown on the left and is supposed to support music, games, videos and books among others

This would be a direct competitor of the Sony e-Book reader and the PSP. This almost seems to be too good to be true and I fear that it is. You have to wonder how they managed to keep this so quiet for so long but here's hoping.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Nokia's First Touch Phone Launched

As I said they would Nokia have launched their first touch screen phone today. It's called the Nokia 5800 ExpressMusic and it's a stunner. Engadget has a review here. This phone is being pushed as a media device more than a smartphone but it appears to hit this bar easily. The beautiful screen should be fantastic for watching video. Coming hot on the heals of the powerful N96 the 5800 has much to do but if this is basically the entry level Nokia touch phone I can't wait to see what's still to come.

Will I buy it though? Well I'll be able to answer that by the end of the month. As far as I'm concerned there's currently 4 phones I'm interested in, iPhone, N96, 5800 and Blackberry Storm. Of them all the Storm is the most interesting and if it manages to be as good as I think it will then this will be my new phone. While there's no release date at the moment my guess is a release on the 1st November on Vodafone in the UK. It's a great time to be looking for a new phone and for anyone who loves music and media in general then the 5800 is a phone they should certainly look at.

The 5800 is available through the Carphone Warehouse in the UK.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The Market Crashes!

The Nasdaq has suffered it's biggest drop since April 2000, declining by 9.1%. Getting crushed in this decline was Apple who suffered a massive 17.92% drop in share price today. This is caused by a mixture of a market losing confidence in Apple themselves and a total loss of confidence in tech stocks. In fact today has been a disaster for a number of tech stock with Yahoo dropping to $16.88 per share. When you compare this to the $33+ per share they wanted from Microsoft a few months ago you can see just how far things have dropped. Microsoft themselves have taken a 8% hit today.

This has been a disasterous day for the markets and the Nasdaq has been showing the markets the way down. I can't see this improving anytime soon. Tomorrow is going to be important. The markets cannot be allowed to collapse for a second day or the crash by the end of the week will be felt for months to come.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Huge Upcoming Month For Tech

I'm looking at the upcoming week and into October and I can't help but feel that this is going to be an extremely important month for some huge names in the industry. Lets start at the beginning of the month. According to reports Nokia could be releasing two big phones on the 1st and 2nd of October. The N96 due on October 1st is the phone i had been waiting on. So far I haven't bought an iPhone because I'm willing to wait to see what Nokia are going to do.

On October 2nd Nokia have a conference during which it is expected that they will launch their new music service. During the same conference I expect them to announce the new Nokia 5800. Now this is going to be an extremely important phone for Nok because it's their first touch screen phone. It looks excellent but with Sony producing their new Xperia running Windows Mobile, the HTC G1 running Android and obviously the Apple iPhone there is a lot of expectation hanging over this unit. I expect to see it released by the end of the month/start of November in time for Christmas.

On the console front XBox's new dashboard should be available on the 1st October hopefully. New features like the characters and new look could put off the older more hard core gamer that the XBox 360 currently has pulled in. They don't want to try to compete with the Wii when they don't have the same usability as Nintendo's baby.

The next big release is the much talked about Apple Macbook makeover and "The Brick". We have no idea what the Brick is but I'm going to make my guess now. I'm thinking along two lines. One is a phone with a keyboard. Announced now because Steve doesn't like it as much as the iPhone but still needs it out for Christmas and the brick tag is a reflection of this. My second though is that it's a base unit for the Macbook. A machine similar to the iMac except that the OS is on the Macbook. You plug the portable into the base unit and run it like an iMac with extra storage space on the unit to allow you to have smaller SSD drives on the portable. The third possibility is the eventual arrival of an Apple tablet/PDA. I doubt it's this. I think Steve's going to want this one for Macworld 2009.

Failures of the above devices and services could completely change the face of an industry that is struggling in the current environment. Apple need a big hit after the disappointing iPod announcement and if we don't see it this month we can watch the share price disappear. Nokia are in a similar boat. I've spent 3 months waiting for a decent phone to be released and I've yet to see one. Nok need to compete in the touch phone market and the N96 really needs to be more than an N95 with a new cover. If October ends with no 5800 and a disappointing N96 then Nok are going to lose their position in the market. 

Above images from: aurum3.com, symbian-freak.com and tuaw.com

XBox Live Dashboard Update Tomorrow!

I just logged into XBox Live for the first time in a while today and I've mail informing me that XBox live is going to be offline tomorrow for about 24 hours. This must be the big update that was announced at E3. The blades will soon be gone and we'll have the more modern interface. I liked the blades but I'm very excited about new interface. I'll post about the new look once i get a look at it hopefully on Tuesday.

Friday, 19 September 2008

A Little Zune EU Support Please?

zune Firstly, apologies for the shortage of posts recently but I’ve been out of the country for the last three weeks. I spent the last week or so in Florida and loved every minute of it. While I was there I was taking a look in Best Buy at the MP3 players and considered replacing my old Zune with the new blue one. I was then reminded of problems I had a few months ago trying to get my current Zune repaired.

I bought the Zune 30Gb while I was in New York last summer and had no problems with it for the first few months. Then one morning I plugged it into charge and nothing happened. I tried resets and everything with no luck so I eventually decided to give Microsoft a ring. Now bare in mind that I live outside the US and the Zune isn’t supported here but also remember that you’re talking about an MP3 player with a 3% market share and a company with a base in Ireland. So I gave them a ring and after a few minutes of describing and re-describing the issue to a support rep he told me that the Zune needed fixed and I could post it from my home. However they won’t post it back. They’ll happily fix it as it’s still in warranty but I have to get a US postal address in order to get it it back. I was even willing to pay postage on it but they were having none of it. This leaves me with a $200+ paper weight!

So this brings me back to last week and Best Buy. If I had picked up the nice shiny Zune and it had failed me, again, I wasn’t going to get any help from Redmond. So why should I bother? Well I didn’t. The Zune remained on the Best Buy shelf with so many others and I walked out with a Nintendo DS instead. While I understand what “not supported” means it would be a nice gesture if Microsoft could give the supporters of their device some sort of help when they’re outside the US. After all if they had been able to help a few months ago they would’ve gained an extra sale they now don’t have.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Saturday, 6 September 2008

02 are making a mistake! (Updated)

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,

3phones N96, Samsung Tocco and Samsung Omnia. Does anyone know what these three phones have in common? Well I'll tell you, 02 have dropped them all. My contract with 02 is about to expire and I've been checking with them about availability. Now I got the Tocco from Vodafone and as you can see from my review I have had issues with it and I could believe the reason 02 gave for not carrying it, the phone had too many issues. However 02 have said they won't carry the N96 because they are worried about how it will effect iPhone sales. I suspect this is the reason they are not carrying the Samsung Omnia either and I wonder if it influenced the decision to drop Tocco. It's this mistake that will mean that I'll probably be leaving 02 within the next month.

If 02 can't offer me a full range of quality handsets at this time because of iPhone why should I think that this is going to change any time soon. What about when Nokia release their first Touchscreen phone, at the moment called the Tube? I'm guessing we're not going to see it either. I don't want an iPhone. It's still not up to the standard of phone that I use and moving from N95 to iPhone feels like a downgrade. For those people who are feeling the same then I'm afraid 02 is not an option any longer.

September 9th? What's on the way?

Well Apple have confirmed that they are holding an event in San Francisco this Tuesday, September 9th. So what are we in store for at this event? Well I'm going to outline my predictions now and I'd be interested to know what you guys think.

1. New Generation of iPods. This one is pretty much a given. Since the new terms have started and the laptops for schools and universities have been bought by now this show is most likely going to introduce products for Christmas. New iPods are the most obvious new product for Christmas. Cult of Mac are even carrying the image to the left that claims to be the new Nano.

2. iPod Touch Improvements. With the iPhone getting it's improvements I have to believe that the Touch is about to get some improvements. I would

love to see the ability to tether the Touch to a phone added but that's just hopeful thinking. The best case scenario would be a new Touch that acts like an Internet tablet. Like an iPhone but without the ability to make phone calls. I can't see this hurting the iPhone because, let's face it, your phone needs to make calls but it would act as a fantastic entry level to the iPhone family. I also suspect that the current family of Touch will get a price cut.

3. iTunes 8. Kevin Rose of Digg has already talked about some of the features that he expects to be announced in iTunes 8. These include a Genius feature.

A new source comes forward w/this info:  (this is consistent w/everything I've heard)

What's new in iTunes 8
iTunes 8 includes Genius, which makes playlists from songs in your library that go great together. Genius also includes Genius sidebar, which recommends music from the iTunes Store that you don't already have.
With iTunes 8, browse your artists and albums visually with the new Grid view; download your favorite TV shows in HD quality from the iTunes Store; sync your media with iPod nano (4th generation), iPod classic (2nd generation), and iPod touch (2nd generation); and enjoy a stunning new music visualizer.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Stop Avoiding Coding For Internet Explorer


Apple are the latest participant in a very limiting trend that I've seen on the Internet and that's developers making the choice to simply not support Internet Explorer for some functionality. I pick Apple because of it's high profile warning when you access MobileMe using Microsoft's browser. Instead of taking the time necessary to code for the most popular browser in the world they just stick up this warning and think that that is the way web development works. Well I'm afraid it isn't. In the end it would be much easier to be able throw up a message stating that the service doesn't work with Safari, an unsafe and unstable browser with a tiny share of the browser market, or Firefox, competent but again a browser without a majority share. I'm fed up with seeing web pages telling me that the developers couldn't be bothered programming for the majority of their viewers and if they don't care about providing me with a fully working service then why should I bother using it at all. If they can't develop for Internet Explorer then say so but don't blame it on the browser.


And for all the fan-bois out there who think that this is the behaviour that will bring down the Redmond Giant and is being done to make some sort of stand then just bare in mind that the iPhone and all iPods are fully compatible with Windows with no difference in functionality between Mac and PC. The major products are compatible because they won't sell if they aren't and profits are what matters most, bottom line. Minor services don't matter as much and obviously get less attention so ask yourself is your service minor and insignificant or will it be the next big thing? If the answer is the latter then sit down at you development environment, remove the warning message and get to work.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Hands Up Who Wants To Be Sued?

ASUS have produced an excellent new controller that has motion sensing technology. It's an excellent idea and I think it could catch on in a huge way. In fact any console with this technology would be a massive hit.....and the Wii is. I'm not saying there will be a lawsuit from Nintendo but you've got to admit there's a pretty good chance. By the way for those interested the ASUS controller is called the Eee Stick and works with a new range PC games that will be packaged along with the Stick and Eee PC or Eee Box.

If they want to keep tempting fate I hear loading Apple Operating Systems onto PC's and then selling them is a good way to get attention.

You can find the story and above image here.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Apple Admits It Made Mistakes With MobileMe

stevejobs_painting Steve Jobs has admitted in an email to the company that Apple made mistakes with the launch of MobileMe. The email makes a few very fair points and shows the Apple is willing to at least admit their mistakes. We'll see soon if they're learning from them too. The email was published in it's entirety on Ars Technica and I've copied it below:

Team,
The launch of MobileMe was not our finest hour.  There are several things we could have done better:
– MobileMe was simply not up to Apple's standards – it clearly needed more time and testing.
– Rather than launch MobileMe as a monolithic service, we could have launched over-the-air syncing with iPhone to begin with, followed by the web applications one by one – Mail first, followed 30 days later (if things went well with Mail) by Calendar, then 30 days later by Contacts.
– It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store.  We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.
We are taking many steps to learn from this experience so that we can grow MobileMe into a service that our customers will love.  One step that I can share with you today is that the MobileMe team will now report to Eddy Cue, who will lead all of our internet services – iTunes, the App Store and, starting today, MobileMe.  Eddy's new title will be Vice President, Internet Services and he will now report directly to me.
The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services.  And learn we will.  The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year.
Steve

Image from Ars Technica too.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Unnecessary Complexity

I just read David Pogue's latest post, which can be found here, about the complexity of software and I could not agree with him more. In fact at one stage I worked on installation applications and constantly pushed for the process to be streamlined and made easier. I thought that about 3 screens could do it for the average user and maybe 5 for the more adventurous. This was not the way it was built however because of the terrible idea in software design: the user is stupid and doesn't know what they're doing so we must take them through it step-by-step by the hand. That did include showing them options on 10 different screen just incase seeing one screen with multiple options might make their head explode.

Anyway fair play to you David I'd love to see software made simpler and here's a cartoon from flickr showing how the software process basically works:

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Mojave Experiment

Mojave experiment is now available to watch at http://www.mojaveexperiment.com/. It makes for pretty good viewing, for example it's interesting to note that one of the more popular features appears to be Instant Search. It does highlight an important point about Vista and to an extent a weakness in all upcoming Microsoft OS's, lack of education. These people in the videos do not seem to know what features are actually available in Vista or how to use them.

Microsoft should consider releasing a Power Pack for XP that introduces some of the vista functionality. The people need to feel like Vista is familiar because they've seen some of what it can do already on their XP machine. They have a fantastic marketing tool as long as it's used correctly. People will not embrace Windows 7 if they do not understand it in the same way as they haven't embraced Vista because they don't understand it.

Microsoft Sphere

This is very very cool.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Can Apple Be Trusted?

I've been thinking about the MobileMe mess, the iPhone launch and the restrictions imposed on iPhone application developers and I have to wonder if Apple can be trusted. Before I continue I'm not saying Apple would do anything illegal or quesionable. That's not the type of trust I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of trust Enterprise customers need before they are willing to purchase your hardware.

The first point to get out of the way is the overly discussed issue of secrecy. It's been talked about so often that I'm not gonna spend too much time on it. Basically Enterprise customers do not like secrecy. They do not like surprise. They like to know months in advance what the upcoming hardware and software can do. They want to know which of their products are going to work and which ones are going to cause issues and they like to test them repeatidly before their customers get anywhere near the new product. That doesn't fit with the Apple "One last thing..." culture.

The next thing to consider is the Apple Ecosystem. Apple software favours the customer who buys only Apple software and interacts only with Apple products. However these kinds of restrictions cannot be imposed on Enterprise customers. Big companies have big clients and these clients will be using different environments. iWork 08 for example does not work well with Microsoft formats even though Office is the most popular word processing, spreadsheet and presentation environment. The fact is that Windows is a very open environment. Microsoft has made Windows so open and backward compatible that Corporations can feel confident that they can use their software on a Windows machine. This is most likely the key problem Vista is having. To code for it requires changes to applications that run just fine on XP, if it's not broken don't fix it.

If Apple are wanting to break into Enterprise properly then they have to start opening up to other companies. For example, blaming IE7 for not working with MobileMe properly is not the way to solve that issue. Apple want to be a big player and therefore they should've just coded to suit the most used browser in the world. Trying to force people to use Safari will not work in Enterprise environments were ordinary users cannot install whatever they want.

The third thing to consider is networking. Adding Apple machines to a network that also has Windows and other OS's on it is painful. For Microsoft Server 2008 only has to be able to play with Windows clients because they are the majority machine. If Apple wants to compete then they need to let OSX server be fully compatible with Windows clients. The compatibility has to go beyond file sharing, it must include permissions and groups. Enterprise doesn't have to replace all client machines at one time, they simply need to replace the servers as they feel they need to and they know that the effect on the clients would not be as noticeable as having to buy Macs would be.

Finally stop being so arrogant towards your investors and customers. If shareholders felt they needed to know about Steve Ballmers health for a justified reason you can guarantee they'd have their minds put at ease. That wasn't Apple's approach. They alledgedly stretched the truth. They twisted and finally an award winning author was insulted for voicing these concerns. This simply isn't the way a trustworthy corporation operates.

Apple could be a viable option for Enterprise if they play it right but their current tactics in the current environment is a receipe for disaster. Respect Microsoft in this field they are the Kings but at the moment Apple are nothing but the court jesters.

Read Dan Lyons

Just a quick post to bring more people's attention to Dan Lyons blog which you can find here. In case you're not sure who Dan Lyons is he was Fake Steve Jobs. His own blog is a fantastic read.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

"Mojave" The Sequel To Windows XP...Wait Isn't That Vista

Microsoft presented computer users in San Francisco with a sneak peak at what it called "Mojave", supposidly the next OS from Redmond. After these people got a chance to use it they were asked for their opinions and over 90% were impressed. It was only then that they were told that they were in fact using Windows Vista.

It isn't a surprise that Windows Vista would invoke this kind of response but what is interesting is that these people didn't recognise it. I would like to think that I would have been able to identify the current OS but if these XP users couldn't identify Vista how were they able to decide that they didn't like it?

Microsoft have to battle bad press and Apple marketing but with Apple getting badly hammered by the whole MobileMe and iPhone debacle at the moment and even the press having to admit that Apple can do wrong, this has got to be Microsoft's best opportunity to gain the upper hand. It's obvious though that it's not Vista itself that's the problem just the perception and that can be changed....with about $300 million hopefully.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

XBox 360: The WOW Is Coming!

screenshot_5325 I've just been watching the trailer for the new XBox 360 Dashboard and it's looking good, it's looking very very good. This is one of the first time's I've seen Microsoft really get the concept of style nailed. The new dashboard seems to use a coverflow style to show different TV shows, films and games that can be viewed/downloaded. An example of the new style can now be seen on the http:\\www.xbox.com home page. I wonder will the new media centre look anything like this?

Another change is going to be the creation of Avatars. These are the little characters that you create on the Nintendo Wii who are then included in some games and online and basically it's a digital version of yourself. The 360 versions seem to be exactly the same and could be quite and interesting new feature depending on whether or not games actually bother to support them.

The third change will be the ability to rip a game to your 360 hard drive. This will turn off the DVD-Drive and allow the game to run directly from the HDD. The feature will allow games to run a little faster but more importantly they will silence the 360 and make it welcome in bedrooms once more.

The final change that I find exciting is the deal with Netflix that will allow 360 users to rent a film from Netflix through the dashboard and then watch them on your 360. This is an excellent new feature that adds tremendous functionality and once we see television shows here in the UK on the 360 this will really start to put the pressure on iTunes.

There's obviously a long way to go yet for Microsoft to bring all it's services up to this kind of level but if Steve Ballmer follows through on his promises to improve the mobile and windows platforms, I have to assume that means the Zune too, then there could be some great things to come.

Image from oxm.co.uk

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Apple Mystery Product Transition, Is It Steve?

Just to clarify this is a piece of pure guesswork which I sincerely hope isn't true. I've read the reports today on the Apple Q2 results and to start with congratulations Apple on a fantastic quarter. During the call however reference was made to a "Future product transition" that was going to have a detremental effect on Q3 results. Now this could be anything from an iTablet to what I beleve is most likely, an iPhone with the built in keypad. Actually I'm going on the record as saying that that's what I think it is but I want to consider one other possibility.

Reading some of the other reports that have been going around recently regarding the health of Steve Jobs and the way Apple dodged the question in the press conference by stating that his health is a private matter, I have to wonder if the product transition is Jobs himself. I really hope he is in full health and I hope he will remain at the helm of Apple for many years but he was worryingly thin at WWDC and while Apple put that down to him recovering from a bug there has been speculation that it's something worse and perhaps his cancer has reappeared. I can't say enough times that I hope it hasn't but if it has and if Steve needs to take time off to recover then the transition will certainly have a negative impact on Apple's Q3 results and what more important "product" does Apple have than Steve?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

iTunes Really Is A Pain

Just a quick note to back up Paul Thurrott when he posted a couple of days ago regarding iTunes dragging down his Windows Vista reliability score, posted here. I checked mine today and it's sitting at 5.9! That's dreadful! Strangely there are only two applications that appear on the list and here's another interesting point the reliability was at 9.1 on the day before I installed iTunes. All the red X's are linked to Outlook Sync Client failures or to iTunes failures. Every single one! For those wondering the Outlook failures only occurred when I was trying to sync MobileMe with my Outlook contact list. I'm not anti-Apple, not by any means, but this recent launch has not been good to Apple's Windows customers and as a user I'm just voicing my displeasure over it all.

MobileMe Realisation

I've been using MobileMe since it became available and on the Apple side I've had no issues with it. It syncs easily with iPod Touch and OSX. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Windows side of things. I've been trying to sync contacts and calendar with Outlook with mixed success. I have my Windows Live account hooked up to Outlook using Outlook Connector. I was under the impression, rather stupidly, that the contacts and the calendar would sync out of the box. There's been none of it. Not even close in fact.

Syncing contacts is the first major issue. If I sync with Windows Contacts then everything works perfectly and the contacts appear. If I use Outlook however OutlookSyncDevice crashes every single time. I'm going to hook in and debug it but I suspect it's linked to Outlook Connector and MobileMe not playing nice. I've no intention of turning off Outlook Connector so that could mean bye bye MobileMe.


Before I jump however lets look at the calendar. Well it's awful. I've tested multiple scenarios with it and so far I'm having no joy with Outlook. In this case I can't even test it with Windows Calendar because for some reason Apple won't support it. I'm now looking at Windows Live Calendar and the cost of using it seems to be perfectly justifiable compared with the cost of using a badly substandard MobileMe.


On a quick note what about the online applications? Well I first used them on OSX and found them pretty useful and responsive. There's nothing really new in what they offer but they are simple enough to use. Move over to Windows and again there's issues. The service doesn't work properly with IE7, I'm very interested to test it with IE8 to see how well it works. You even get an arrogant warning that blames this on IE7 but remember that if Google can develop for IE then you would expect Apple to be able to. So what are the services like on Firefox? Well they work but they're slow and if you're a Firefox user then I'm afraid you can't get your bookmarks synced even though it's one of the support Windows browsers. Weird? Well not really because there's a browser that happens to display the services and let you sync the bookmarks, guess which one? That's right the downright hideous Safari. MobileMe is not a good reason to use Safari, nothing is a good reason to use it in fact. So the online services aren't sitting well for Windows either even though they are meant to be platform independent, kinda the point of the "cloud" concept I would've thought.


The final scenario and the realisation I had was that if I wanted MobileMe to work even a little on the Windows side then I would probably have to abandon my current email accounts and make sure that Outlook is only hooked up MobileMe. I'm not doing it. I've no interest in doing it. I'm sticking with my Windows Live address and services so I'm guessing it's going to have to be goodbye to MobileMe. Let's face it Live Mesh offers a great online storage option along with Office Live Workspace and SkyDrive. There's nothing at all wrong with Live Mail and if I ever decide to sign up to MSN Premium account I'll get calendar sync but lets face it, is it really that important? What about push? Well since it's on a 15 minute delay I can get my Live Mail forwarded to my GMail account and get my N95 to sync every 15 minutes for free. That's a Microsoft flaw however. I shouldn't have to. Live Mail needs IMAP or POP asap.


So what's the lesson from all this? Well I think it's pretty obvious. Computers are still not even close to being user friendly. There's so much infighting and "nerdy" arguments between Microsoft and Apple users, to name but two, that we can't simply get an integrated system that is user friendly. Users don't want to have to understand all the stuff that's going on under the hood. They simply want to be able to sign up to their email, select what they want to sync with and when they look at their Nokia phone they want the same contact list as their email account has and at the moment that is not being offered. It's not just Apple, Google and Microsoft that are to blame for this but they have a lot to answer for. There's room for more than one company in the technology world but only when the systems easily integrate. There's plenty of car companies making money why can't the same be true for IT? Imagine a world were there was a different driving test for each make of car. Then one company would dominate simply due to people not wanting the hassle. I want to see real system integration between the major companies because one will never win out over the rest and the bitter cat fighting is just hurting the consumer. Also lets face it people are sticking to Microsoft because it's familiar and that's a hard habit to break. It's no coincidence that Apple released Boot Camp and Apple hardware sales really started to rise. MobileMe was in the position to really breakdown a few barriers and show that Apple can develop quality software for a different platform in the same way as Microsoft have built Office and Messenger for Mac. I'm not sure they actually can. iTunes is weak as is MobileMe. Lets see something better guys because I'm getting fed up waiting around for you.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Apple Aren't Patching?

An article in Arstechnica highlights how slow Apple can be when patching security flaws.

Although Apple didn't make a big deal about it, one of the security fixes included in the recent iPhone/iPod touch 2.0 firmware is a fix for a fairly high-profile WebKit bug that was used to hack a MacBook Air back in March. People immediately began asking why the bug took so long to fix on the iPhone. Now, the researcher who discovered it, Charlie Miller, has called Apple out over its iPhone patching practices in a recent Computerworld piece, saying that the company "messed up."

When the bug was originally disclosed to Apple, the company asked Miller if Mobile Safari was also affected, and he suggested that it probably was. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to confirm his assertion at the time, and left it up to Apple (which had all of the details) to test the exploit on the iPhone itself. It turned out that the exploit code needed to be tweaked slightly to do anything malicious on an iPhone, but Apple apparently closed the case after the OS X exploit failed to do anything nasty.

Further research revealed that if the actual JavaScript regular expression exploit code was run, bad things would still happen. Apple seemed to have corrected the bug pretty quickly after that. However, the mere fact that it took Apple so long to patch an iPhone WebKit bug has brought up the question: how well will Apple be able to manage two OS versions? Miller has pointed out that most WebKit bugs found on OS X will also occur on the iPhone and iPod touch, so Apple could theoretically patch both at the same time. Whether that will ever actually happen remains to be seen.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

IE8 Adds Browser Navigation To Ajax

The IE8 team have put up a post confirming that the Back/Forward buttons can be used in IE8 with an AJAX application. No more hitting back and watching the app get reset to the start. It's great to see this feature added. I've used IE8 beta for a while now and I must say I do like it. Looking forward to getting my hands on beta 2.
One of the AJAX improvements we adopted in IE8 from HTML5 is AJAX page navigations. In IE8 mode, we provide support for script to update the travel log components (for e.g. back/forward buttons, address bar) to reflect client-side updates to documents. This allows a better user experience where users can navigate back and forth without messing the AJAX application state.

There's Only So Much You Can Blame Microsoft For.

Gary Krakow claims Microsoft Exchange Server is the reason for the woeful iPhone battery life when using push email. Total rubbish obviously and Paul Thurrott quotes the following piece that makes it clear just how bad the claim is. Lets face it Apple don't get it right every time. Check out Paul's posts here.

On the note of Apple getting it wrong I actually intended the quote the article here but I'm using Safari on the Macbook and I'm getting some totally messed up printing results. Safari just can't get it right with Blogger at the moment. Suppose that's why I've downloaded Firefox, I miss Internet Explorer.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

N95 v iPod Touch Apps

So far virtually all the apps I have for the iPod Touch are available for the N95 in some form which is just as good. The applications were one of the major reasons, if not the major reason, why I was considering the iPhone but with virtually every major newspaper having a mobile version, every major email provider having mobile access and most major blogging services having a mobile interface or an application that gives a mobile interface then what exactly sets iphone apart?

I'm looking at moving to the N96 and if the developers deliver to that platform in anything close to the way they've tried to deliver to the iPhone then Nokia could have a massive winner on it's hand. Better camera, better reception, ability to change the battery, Java platform and therefore more welcoming to developers along with.....get this....Multimedia Messaging! The N96 is the better phone and it's the one I'll have in a months time.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

The Apple Tastes Sour Today!

I've been quite complimentary to Apple over the last few days and I was fully ready to accept that perhaps they had their game together. Today however has been an absolute nightmare for me in terms of Apple software. I signed up to Mobile Me when I got my first opportunity and got it setup on the Mac with virtually no problems. Everything seemed to sync and play ball. Then I discovered that the web apps were down. Well no big deal it's the first day and they're probably being pounded so I'm happy to wait and decided to get my PC setup. This is where the trouble started.

Trying to sync Outlook 2007, a supported application, with Mobile Me was a horrible experience. The Outlook Sync Client kept crashing and therefore failing to sync correctly. After some investigation I discovered that this was down to an issue with my contacts. So I wiped my Outlook, and therefore Windows Live, contact list under the impression that I could sync again from Mobile Me. After all it did have the most up-to-date version of the contact list. That didn't happen. Instead the contacts did not sync back. Neither did the calendar for that matter. I was left with the task of recovering my contact list from my Windows Contacts. Thankfully the nice people in Redmond have made this task easy with the Windows Live Contacts importer tools. Maybe they foresaw the disaster Apple would have trying to play with the big boys and knew we'd coming running back to them.

Anyway back to the issues. With a newly repaired contact list I switched the Macbook back on to see if the iPod Touch update is out yet, it's not by the way and it's getting frustrating. The Macbook then chirped up with it's list of syncs that had to be done and most of them were blanks! They seemed to be failures from the feeble attempts to sync with Outlook and they remained in the sync log waiting to be written to somewhere. Anyway I'll clear them in a bit and then I have to give some real consideration to the idea of abandoning Mobile Me until the issues are sorted.

I don't want to come across completely negative though so I will say that some of the stuff that has been done with Mobile Me so far is excellent. The Web Apps look fantastic now they are up and running and really are a pleasure to use. The push functionality is something I look forward to testing on the iPod Touch when it gets it's new update, hopefully tomorrow and there are some great looking apps in the app store. It's extremely unfortunate that the teething problems of today have overshadowed an extremely promising service but for £60+ I want something that will operate when I need it and today it didn't.

Now how do I actually go about uninstalling Mobile Me from Vista anyway??

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The coolade doesn't taste too bad.

I've been using my wee Macbook quite a bit lately and I'm really starting to like it...a lot. You see I'm generally regarded as a Microsoft fan and I suppose that's been fair. My Vista laptop has got mostly Microsoft only software at the moment with only a few things like Adobe and iTunes representing the rest of the world. However due to the size of the machine I prefer to carry around the Macbook and the more I use it the more I find useful features that I miss on Vista.

The best example at the moment is the syncing of contacts and calendar between my PC and my Nokia N95. I don't want to use the Nokia software to do anything more than install updates and move photo's so I tried to keep the contacts in sync with Sync Centre. It was having none of it! Couldn't even get the devices to talk to each other. Without too much hope I thought about iSync. Within two minutes my contacts and calendar were synced to the Mac and iTouch. Another couple of minutes and I can have the calendar synced to Google and then back to Outlook. Now for anyone paying attention to Apple in the last few weeks you might have heard about a wee thing called Mobile Me. Suddenly the ability to sync Apple and Windows through the Cloud and my N95 through Bluetooth is very promising.

So what do I want to see? Well I'd like to see Live Mesh being extended to cover hotmail contacts, email and calendar then being implemented on Mac and Nokia. if this happens and sits with the current file sync then I will happily pay a subscription to Microsoft but at the moment I'm giving serious thought to Mobile Me. The main point is that Apple have made the syncing life easier and if someone like me is considering moving to Steve Land others must be thinking the same because lets face it easier wins out in the end.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Mobile Me on the way

Macworld.com is reporting that .mac will be switched off at 2am on July 10th with Mobile Me coming online at 8am. The site reports Apple as saying:
Apple declares: "As part of the MobileMe launch, www.mac.com will be taken offline at 6pm PT on Wednesday, 9 July. Members will be unable to access www.mac.com or any .Mac services during this time with the exception of .Mac Mail accessed via a desktop application, iPhone, or iPod touch."
It'll be nice to see it live if for no other reason than it gives Microsoft a kick and gets them offering similar services to those of us who are still sticking by them.

Image from Apple.com

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Review - Hancock

hancock_l200801101709 I went to see Hancock last night in the cinema and, while it's nothing to do with tech, I thought I might as well give it a quick review. So what's it all about? John Hancock, played by Will Smith, is a superhero who has completely forgotten the first rule of being a superhero, with great power comes great responsibility. While he does try to save the people of Los Angeles he goes about it in all the wrong way and ends up causing thousands/millions of dollars worth of damage. He even flies and lands with all the style of a 1990 Volvo, there's none of the smooth Superman stuff here. However it's during one of these acts of goodwill that Hancock meets a PR Executive Ray Embrey, who takes on the unenviable task of turning Hancock into a much loved man of the people.

This film was never going to be a Hollywood masterpiece but as far as being an enjoyable and at times funny little action romp it could probably be held in the same regard as Men in Black and Independence Day. Seeing Hancock in his supersuit was hilarious. The times when the tempo of the show slows and we start looking at the emotional side of Hancock are well handled. They don't spend too much time on it but there's enough to make sure that we understand the conflict and eventually understand it's resolution.

This is a great action flick made all the better by Will Smith's humour and excellent portrayal of the 'messed up' Hancock. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys Will's style of movie.

Image from Apple.com

Saturday, 5 July 2008

A few fun headlines from Paul Thurrott

Paul Thurrott took a fun look at some tech industry headlines and it's a fantastic read. Check it out here. Here's a couple of examples:

Apple's Snow Leopard. What's The Point?
It appears to be a tacit admission that Leopard is horribly broken.

Thinking Like a Cocoa Programmer
Just think, "I'm going to sell 6 copies of this application!"

Paul's blog is my favourite read online at the moment. Keep up the great work.

Friday, 4 July 2008

What Should Viacom Get?

A quick post on this before I head out to work. As I'm sure you know Google has been told to hand it's user logs over to Viacom. The reason is apparently to let Viacom see if the legal or illegal clips are getting higher viewing figures. That's fine if the logs didn't contain IP addresses, login names and other personally identifiable information.

So what do you guys think? Should Viacom be allowed this level of access to the logs? What will they do when they know that a user they can now identify has uploaded or viewed copyrighted material?

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Where does Windows Home Server fit in?

I have decided that the time has come to buy myself a new toy. My first inclination was to buy a Windows Home Server from HP. I did some research into the options available and regardless of the noise the product is reported to make I was still keen on it. You see I was using WHS a few months ago through the Microsoft Connect Program and I loved it. Great backup, easy to access from any location and very stable.

However I've changed my mind. Why? Well it's quite simple and it's nothing to do with HP or WHS itself. It's all to do with Microsoft's lack of an integrated future. You see I've got Office Live Workspace, Live Spaces, Live Mail, Skydrive, Live Mesh, Vista, XP and Windows Mobile 5 and I have absolutely no idea how it all connects together. Obviously I know that I can save to Skydrive or setup Mesh on Vista and XP but where does WHS fit into all this. Surely there are some obvious over laps between Mesh and WHS and with no ability to map Skydrive onto Mesh, WHS, Vista or XP it's very hard to see the point. I now fully understand the problem people are having when it comes to waiting for Windows 7. I'm thinking the same about WHS. I think, well if I wait for version 2 maybe it'll have better integration with the new services and therefore be more appealing. It's not that it's not an amazing product at the moment, because it is, it's just that Microsoft don't seem to have a clue how to present an integrated environment to the users and this is starting to confiuse us. Apple present new services like Mobile Me, with it's support for Windows, Mac and iPhone it immediately show us what we can do. Microsoft just don't seem to be able to do the same. Why?

So what are we looking for? Well I'm looking for a WHS that stores my big files and backups along with the remote access and basically everything it's offering at the moment. All I really want added is an integration with Mesh, some Media Server capabilities, the ability to map Skydrive as an external drive and perhaps the ability to wake the server over Mesh when I need to. Offer these servcies and I'll buy it without hesitation. Oh and one other thing....integrate it with Mac. Apple are a company that can no longer be ignored. I love Windows but I'm writing this on a Mac. I'll buy into anything Microsoft offers if they can give it to me cross-platform.

What do you guys think? Do the Redmond guys need to start offering cross platform services and better integration or is the current setup working for you?

Monday, 30 June 2008

Studio 60: Pure Class

A few months ago I watched an episode of Studio 60 on television in the UK and I wasn't won over by it. In fact it was the only episode I watched and after it I wasn't surprised that the show was canned. Then iTunes came along and I decided that after watching South Park and Flintstones I would give something different a try and downloaded the Studio 60 Pilot, afterall I didn't bother with the West Wing until Season 3 and now I own all the box sets. So I sat down and without much hope of being entertained I watched Studio 60 one more time......then I downloaded the entire season! It is, quite frankly, the best show on television since the West Wing. The quality of writing is exceptional, as you would expect from Sorkin, and the characters are one's you can easily connect with. The season finale is stretched over 4 episodes and had me hooked from beginning to end.

There are of course places where the show moves slowly but what 22 season show doesn't have the odd episode like that. Considering the garbage on television that gets 9+ seasons, I'm thinking here of Big Brother, S60 deserves another chance. If NBC don't want it then Fox should pick it up. They made the mistake of not listening to the people and abandoning Futurama and look how that turned out. Listen to them now and give S60 another go.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Reactions To A Few Things

Since I last posted a few things have happened in the world of tech that I think need to be covered. The most obvious is the Microhoogle. This deal turned into an absolute mess. Microsoft managed to get out of it with a few bumps and scrapes but they do now seem to be much more focused on what services will succeed and which ones they should simply drop, like book search. Book search has been done and done well. Microsoft is not going to benefit from trying to clone Google's version so there's really no point in wasting money on it.

What Microsoft do need to do online is actually quite simple. They need to bring the current services into a more logically connected structure. Microsoft's online offering, and part of Google's for that matter, feel like they're a bunch of independent services with the word Windows or Google in the title. They don't really work together particularly well and they certainly don't bring other devices together well. Now I'm using Live Mesh and I love it but I'm not sure why it has online storge when Sky Drive is offering storage too and neither connect together. Surely adding SD to Mesh would make sense.

Also the Redmond boys need to start deveoping applications for devices other than Windows based ones. Internet Explorer for Mac would be nice, I'm using Firefox on my Macbook but I'd like to see IE 8. I'd also like to see some live services for Nokia devices that I can just download and not have to go through that annoying download application only to discover that my mobile carrier doesn't support Live for some weird reason even though I can get Google off the mobile Google site with no issues. A connected environment that offers O2's Bluebook with Live Mesh, Sky Drive, Live Mail and the other services across multiple platforms would be great. In fact that sounds very similar to a certain Apple offering doesn't it? I really am looking forward to Mesh on mobile and Mac.

If Microsoft are serious about offering Software + Services then they need to embrace the multitude of environments that are now being used. By all means favour Windows but offer services on all. Oh and one more thing. Please fix Spaces. I really can't see a use for it. It's worse than Orkut. Give us blogging software we can use on our domains and this blog will be running off it. Give us ad's we can put on our sites and we'll do it. The future of the Cloud is not going to be the awful applications that you can develop for Facebook and Bebo, it's going to be the services users can place on their own domains and homepages and the simple way you can fulfil the simple needs of the end user. A blog, a few ads to make a few quid, a decent search engine, somewhere to put pictures and a gallery to display them. Mobile Me looks set to offer this Microsoft can too if it just takes a sip of the coolade and worries more about end users than end-user-developers.

I'm Back

OK it's been a few days, well a couple of weeks actually, since I last posted here and I'm sorry for the lack of activity over that time. I'm very happy to say though that I started a new job, that I'm loving, and now that I'm settled in I'm going to start blogging again. So please keep watching this space for more reactions and opinions on the stories hitting the tech world.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Windows 7 Multi-touch

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer appeared on stage at the D: All Things Digital conference and introduced the world to Windows 7, or at least a major piece of Windows 7 functionality. The ability to manipulate Windows applications using touch is an excellent feature but is getting horrible press from people asking, "do we really want to touch our computers?" Now remember when rumours were circling about Apple releasing a touch phone and it was hailed as the greatest invention of all time, even though Microsoft had been using touch technology on it's mobile platforms long before Apple did. I am not arguing that Apple have used touch technology much more succesfully than Microsoft but MS did come up with it first. On the run up to the Macworld Keynote 2008 there was speculation that Jobs was going to announce a version of the iMac with touch technology built in. Once again the web was full of statements of the genius of Jobs and what a fantastic idea this was. Microsoft have actually done it.

I love the idea of Windows 7 having touch capabilities built in. A widescreen touch capable TV with a Windows 7 PC hooked up to it means no mouse, no keyboard but total control. Build similar technology into the next XBox, not for actually controlling games obviously, and you could have control of all living room media without the need for multiple controls. All you need to add is a touch sensitive media remote that displays the menu's that appear on the screen so selection is as easy as possible and you have a fantastic touch driven media suite all from Microsoft. Add the next generation of Windows Home Server, which I imagine will have full media server capabilities built in, and Microsoft can easily beat Apple and Sony to the living room and have it sewn up before anyone realises what's happened.

Apple Keynote Bloopers

With only 19 days to go until the Steve Jobs Keynote at WWDC I thought it would be fun to post video from YouTube covering some bloopers from past keynotes. Bill Gates, enjoy :)

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Steven Sinofsky Interview and Windows 7

CNET is carrying an interview with Steven Sinofsky in which he talks about Windows 7 and the cone of silence that supposedly decended around Windows 7. For anyone interested in the full interview it can be found here. There is also a blog post from Steve to his team regarding the disclosure of information on Windows 7 which can be found here, it's an interesting read. Finally, there's a response from Paul Thurrott to the interview here and here. These posts are all worth a read espeically along with the reaction from Paul.

A few interesting points to take away from the interview are:
1) Windows 7 release is penciled in for 2010, baring that in mind we are in the very early stages of development and this may not actually be a cone of silence just the lack of a hard feature list.
2) The approach now appears to be, under-promise then over-deliver. A good strategy.
3) Windows 7 is a 'manor' release, i.e. not quite a major release but more than a minor release.

Paul concludes by saying:

This makes me wonder: Is the major release wording a hint that major new end user functionality is coming? Or are they simply pulling an Apple and claiming that every release is a major release now?

I think it's a hint at major new functionality being built on the existing code base. The integration with Cloud Computing, altered security (I have to believe UAC will get an overhaul even though I don't believe it should), new UI and a deeper integration of virtualisation with the desktop environment could lead to a feature list that could be argued as a major upgrade.

Another reason i don't think Windows 7 will be a major upgrade is the close relationship between Server 2008 and Windows Vista. The work that went into bringing these two systems closer will not be thrown away. 7 will have the same Core as Vista but it'll feel very different.

Windows Vista Shortcut Keys

Here is a list of Windows Vista Shortcut keys that are listed on the Windows Vista Blog. These are great time savers.

Display Help: F1
Copy the selected item: CTRL+C
Cut the selected item: CTRL+X
Paste the selected item: CTRL+V
Undo an action: CTRL+Z
Redo an action: CTRL+Y
Delete the selected item and move it to the Recycle Bin: DELETE
Delete the selected item without moving it to the Recycle Bin first: SHIFT+DELETE
Rename the selected item: F2
Move the cursor to the beginning of the next word:
CTRL+RIGHT ARROW
Move the cursor to the beginning of the previous word:
CTRL+LEFT ARROW
Move the cursor to the beginning of the next paragraph:
CTRL+DOWN ARROW
Move the cursor to the beginning of the previous paragraph:
CTRL+UP ARROW
Select a block of text: CTRL+SHIFT with an arrow key
Select more than one item in a window or on the desktop, or select text within a document: SHIFT with any arrow key
Select multiple individual items in a window or on the desktop: CTRL with any arrow key+SPACEBAR
Select all items in a document or window: CTRL+A
Search for a file or folder: F3
Display properties for the selected item: ALT+ENTER
Close the active item, or exit the active program: ALT+F4
Open the shortcut menu for the active window: ALT+SPACEBAR
Close the active document (in programs that allow you to have multiple documents open simultaneously): CTRL+F4
Switch between open items: ALT+TAB
Use the arrow keys to switch between open items: CTRL+ALT+TAB
Change the size of icons on the desktop: CTRL+Mouse scroll wheel
Cycle through programs on the “View definition” by using Windows Flip 3-D: Windows logo key +TAB
Use the arrow keys to cycle through programs on the taskbar by using Windows Flip 3-D: CTRL+Windows logo key +TAB
Cycle through items in the order in which they were opened: ALT+ESC
Cycle through screen elements in a window or on the desktop: F6
Display the Address bar list in Windows Explorer: F4
Display the shortcut menu for the selected item: SHIFT+F10
Open the Start menu: CTRL+ESC
Display the corresponding menu: ALT+underlined letter
Perform the menu command (or other underlined command): ALT+underlined letter
Activate the menu bar in the active program: F10
Open the next menu to the right, or open a submenu: RIGHT ARROW
Open the next menu to the left, or close a submenu: LEFT ARROW
Refresh the active window: F5
View the folder one level up in Windows
Explorer: ALT+UP ARROW
Cancel the current task: ESC
Open Task Manager: CTRL+SHIFT+ESC
When you insert a CD Prevent the CD from automatically playing: SHIFT
Open or close the Start menu: Windows logo key
Display the System Properties dialog box: Windows logo key +PAUSE
Display the desktop: Windows logo key +D
Minimize all windows: Windows logo key +M
Restore minimized windows to the desktop:
Windows logo key +SHIFT+M
Open Computer: Windows logo key +E
Search for a file or folder: Windows logo key +F
Search for computers (if you are on a network):
CTRL+Windows logo key +F
Lock your computer or switch users: Windows logo key +L
Open the Run dialog box: Windows logo key +R
Cycle through programs on the taskbar: Windows logo key +T
Cycle through programs on the: Windows logo key +TAB
Use the arrow keys to cycle through programs on the taskbar by using Windows Flip 3-D: CTRL+Windows logo key +TAB
Bring all gadgets to the front and select Windows Sidebar: Windows logo key +SPACEBAR
Cycle through Sidebar gadgets: Windows logo key +G
Open Ease of Access Center: Windows logo key +U
Open Windows Mobility Center: Windows logo key +X
Open the Quick Launch shortcut that is in the position that corresponds to the number. For example, Windows logo key +1 to launch the first shortcut in the Quick Launch menu:
Windows logo key with any number key

Monday, 26 May 2008

Are Apple Relying Too Heavily On PC Sales?

I read an article in the Wall Street Jounal outlining the importance of the iPhone to Apple. I found one paragraph in particular quite interesting:

Mace, a onetime Apple executive, parses the company’s most recent earnings report to point out that iPod unit growth has essentially ground to a halt–up only 1% from the same quarter the prior year. (Mac unit growth was 51%.) He adds that it’s risky for Apple to rely on the relatively mature PC market for such a big part of its growth.

There has been a lot of talk about the move to Cloud Computing and the threat this poses to Microsoft's desktop business. I haven't heard anyone mention the dangers it poses to Apple. If future sales of Microsoft software and Operating Systems are going to be affected by Google and other online services then you have to think that the Apple environment is going to be hit just as hard if not harder and with such a reliance on Mac sales for growth Apple need another major market. With iPod sales levelling and the prospect of Mac sales declining the iPhone is going to be vital to Apple's growth in the future. Looking at the new models in the mobile phone market such as Samsung Soul and Steel you have to think that Apple are going to have to give the iPhone a radical makeover soon in order for it to compete with non-Apple fan boys. Apple need to seriously start considering the future because beautiful but expensive and stuck in the past will not save them when the market shifts. Apple online services?

Friday, 23 May 2008

Does Google Not Like Microsoft?

The Wall Street Journal blogs summed up nicely why Google are looking at a search deal with Yahoo:
The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Google co-founder Larry Page thinks a Google-Yahoo deal is the best idea ever. In further news, he still hates Microsoft with an intensity hotter than a thousand burning suns.

And for those who are interested this earth shattering conclusion is drawn from this article in the Mercury News where he said:

"If you put 90 percent of communications in one company, that's really a big risk, especially one (Microsoft) that has a history of doing bad stuff,"

...

"There are ways to structure a deal with Yahoo that are reasonable, for us and for Yahoo to remain independent," Page said. "We would support that."

Vista Hurt By User Feedback?

Well things are quite quiet on the tech news front which gives me the opportunity to look at the Windows 7 debate again. I read Ed Bott's artcle on Windows 7 here. He makes a two points regarding beta cycles and feedback that I don't agree with.

[Update: After re-reading the post it appears that I misread it. I agree with what's being said in these points. Suppose that's what happens when I post after a late night]

Long beta cycles make better products. Oh really? If you count the infamous “Longhorn reset,” Windows Vista had arguably the longest beta cycle in the history of software development, with tens of thousands of outside testers. And look how well that worked out. Getting advance access to new Windows releases might make some outsiders feel like insiders, but it doesn’t make for a better product.

.......

Users need time to give feedback about design decisions. Microsoft is getting plenty of feedback about the design decisions it made with Windows Vista. I don’t think there’s been any shortage of suggestions on what needs to be fixed in Vista, do you? Presumably, that feedback is being incorporated into components and features of Windows 7, including User Account Control, Windows Explorer, the Network and Sharing Center, and Internet Explorer. But there’s a cold, hard reality with all those design decisions: You can’t please everyone. One of the weaknesses of the Vista beta cycle was that the UI designers kept changing things up until the very last minute. For Windows 7, they need to get the design right (or nearly so) the first time.

I suppose this comes down to how much of a failure you believe Vista is but for those who do believe Vista failed to deliver I ask them to remember that the features you saw in the final release is only a small subset of the features that were supposed to be in it. It was the large amount of public [Update: Not public, private testing] testing that told Microsoft that the new features were too complicated and too far from what the users understood and Microsoft had to remove them. The Vista that would've been released if it hadn't been for the comprehensive testing and feedback might've been a little more complicated but it certainly would've been feature rich and different enough from XP to make it a must have. Microsoft seemed to be saying at the time that the features that were removed would be slowly added over the next few OS versions to make the transition easier on the end user. I don't think added user feedback would help Windows 7, actually the opposite.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Manchester United Champions of Europe!

Congratulations to Manchester United on a fantastic win in the Champions League Final in Moscow. The match itself was a fantastic showpiece for English football. The absolute hell that I went through for the length of the second half and extra-time really was nothing compared to the penalty shoot out. I honestly do feel sorry for John Terry but lets face it Chelsea fans weren't going to have too much sympathy for Ronaldo if his miss had cost United the trophy. In the end the Premiership Champions are the best team in Europe and rightfully lifted the European Cup.

Microsoft Embraces ODF, PDF and XPS

Microsoft announced that it will introduce support for Open Document Format, Portable Document Format and XML Paper Specification in Office 2007 SP2, due for release in 2009. This is another step by Microsoft to support Open Source while at the same time hopefully keeping their critics quiet. As I've said before I now expect other Office vendors such as IBM and Sun will now embrace OOXML. While I don't care about ODF support it is a great addition for education where students can use Office 2007 in school and know that they can work on their coursework at home on their Open Source Office suite without formating difficulties. The ability to open and save PDF's is much more useful to me and lets remember that Microsoft had intended to support PDF in Office 2007 until Adobe forced them to pull support in 2006, not really thinking about users there Adobe were ya? I assume Office for Mac will also get support for these formats at some point in the near future also.
The 2007 Microsoft Office system already provides support for
20 different document formats within Microsoft Office Word, Office Excel and Office PowerPoint. With the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2) scheduled for the first half of 2009, the list will grow to include support for XML Paper Specification (XPS), Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.5, PDF/A and Open Document Format (ODF) v1.1.


When using SP2, customers will be able to open, edit and
save documents using ODF and save documents into the XPS and PDF fixed formats from directly within the application without having to install any other code. It will also allow customers to set ODF as the default file format for Office 2007. To also provide ODF support for users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office (Office XP and Office 2003), Microsoft will continue to collaborate with the open source community in the ongoing development of the Open XML-ODF translator project on SourceForge.net.