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April 2010

Traffic Wombles And Elections

Friday, April 30, 2010 0

Driving to work this morning I was making good progress travelling down my local dual carriageway at a steady 70mph the cars in front of me suddenly start to appear in my windscreen rather rapidly.  At this point I realised why – the traffic in front of me had completely stopped and was queuing due to an accident up ahead.


Pressing the brakes in a gentle and sensible manner, I lined up behind the traffic.  Turning up the radio a little bit louder and glancing out of the window at the glorious sunshine weather and beginning to contemplate dropping the soft-top roof of my car the traffic ahead started to crawl at a snails pace – which it did for at least another 15 minutes before I reached the front of the queue only to find a line of cones and a “Traffic Womble Mobile” parked behind a white van that was clearly parked off the road on the grass verge, allowing more than enough space for traffic to pass-by on both sides of the dual carriageway.


It was clear that traffic wombles (or “Roadside Assistance” to everyone else), by arriving on the scene and putting out their fluorescent cones they had made the situation 10 times worse than it needed to be – and the queue of traffic behind me to be more congested than it ever needed to be, no doubt causing all of those people to be late – as I was.


It was at this point I was reminded of the campaign a while ago, headed by a UK newspaper, to elect Jeremy Clarkson as the UK Prime Minister.  With all of the political debate at the moment between the three main parties in the UK vying for election into office, my question is why, oh why, haven’t the British people demanded Clarkson to stand for election?


He would be a great British Leader.  Anyone who’s read one of his books or his newspaper articles will realise that he’s also very much about Great British values and British engineering successes – never before have I heard someone talk so passionately about the success of Concord and bemoaned its place in history as its resigned to a museum piece never to fly again.


A few weeks ago, I had a discussion in which I said if any of the three UK Party Leaders really wanted to win this election they could do so by targeting one specific kind of person – that person is the motorist.  Think about it, promise to lower the price of fuel duty and the millions of car owners will flock to vote.  But if when the price of fuel goes up, so do other things such as food items, then it makes sense that if fuel goes down, due to less tax, then so will these items – thus making it better for everyone.


I think this would be an ideal policy for Clarkson to campaign on – who appeals to the motorist more than the Top Gear presenter? 


Clarkson for PM I say!  Lets make it happen – perhaps not this time, but next time people  - Britain deserves it!

Microsoft: Why, Oh Why?


Following circulating rumours, Microsoft has all but confirmed that its dual-screened tablet device aka “Courier” has now been well and truly shelved, never to see the light of day. In a double-blow, HP also announced that the “HP Slate” computer will not be released with the Windows 7 operating system.

The bit I’m unable to work out just yet is why Microsoft and HP have sidelined both of these projects, at almost exactly the same time. The cancellation of the HP device is even more confusing; Steve Ballmer stood in front of the crowds at CES earlier this year and took great pride in announcing the device and the possibilities that lied in store for the tablet device and for the Windows 7 operating system.

So why has it been ditched? HP’s recent acquisition of Palm now means they have their own operating system (webOS), which they could adapt to run on the Slate computer, but after the fanfare of the Microsoft partnership for this device and the timescales involved in potentially getting webOS ready for such a device, for me it doesn’t quite add up.

The Courier is even more of a mystery – having undoubtedly spending millions in R&D for such a device – and the buzz that has been generated on the web from those who wished to get their hands on the device, it’s baffling me why they would pull the plug on the project in its entirety, especially as Apple starts to make in-roads into the tablet market with the iPad thingy.

The only thing that comes to mind is that Microsoft has decided to reverse its decision to base its tablet software on Windows 7. Whilst that’s possibly a little unlikely given the touch capabilities that were build directly into the OS and the lightweight design of the software (compared to previous Windows OSs) to stay competitive in the netbook market, the announcement of “Window Mobile Phone 7” could have changed that, though any change of direction obviously leaves Microsoft trailing further and further behind its competitors.

It’s all too much of a coincidence to me, which is why I’m going to watching what happens next very closely. Strange going-ons are a foot.

Not Palm'd Off


Anyone who follows my Twitter stream (and if you don’t, why not?), will have seen that I was rather taken with a certain item on the news yesterday – that’s right, it’s the story of HP buying Palm for $1.2 billion.

It’s a story that grabs my attention and interests me in more ways than one. But let’s start at the beginning.

Way back when I was only a child, my first mobile device was a Palm Pilot (don’t ask me to name the model), which I loaded up with games and used as my first digital notepad. Its lack of connectivity to…well anything, always disappointed me, but I always knew that the palm-sized computers would take off one day.

I forget whether my next device was another Palm device or not, but I can say for sure that after I was done with Palm, my next mobile device selection was a HP iPaq (which seems quite poetic now!). Again, this was before mobile technology really strayed over into the PDA world, and even with the wireless card that plugged into my SD card slot, still felt disconnected and very limited.

Fast forward a few years and mobile phones replaced the PDA and the ‘Smartphone’ has replaced the mobile phone as we knew it back then. When the announcement came that Palm would be entering this space with the Palm Pre and the tech crowd seemed to go wild for the device, I knew that I had to have one (after all, I knew I wouldn’t buy the Apple device).

Despite some reviews of the Palm Pre out there on the web, which seem to praise the webOS software, yet aren’t so complimentary about the hardware device, I have to admit that I actually like it. For me the keyboard buttons aren’t difficult, it feels pretty solid (though the slider could be a little better and can see why some people may think it’s a tad flimsy), and it actually looks quite pretty.

Unfortunately, the device didn’t do so well in terms of sales. It’s not difficult to see why; Palms advertising campaign practically bombed, the iPhone had already been long established and applications were in short supply. Palm’s stock price began to slide – and recently rumours were that bankruptcy was inevitable. The company had already made the move however to start looking for a potential buyer, the favourite being smart phone manufacturer HTC.

However, just days ago HTC announced that they would not be buying Palm. Right now, HTC have their own set of problems – they are being sued by Apple for patient infringement and both Google and Microsoft are circling with strategic movements around them to both protect the device manufacturer and also claim them as their own as the Android and Windows Mobile platforms go head-to-head in the smart phone arena.

But then completely out of the blue HP announces the acquisition of Palm, Inc., saving the company that has long been associated with mobile devices. I said at the start that this deal interests me in more ways than one; being a bit of a fan of both companies, the fit seems perfect to me.

The “Palm” name and brand will live on, albeit in a “HP” guise and with their help and expertise in hardware build and design, they should be able to produce some excellent hardware devices which compliment what seems to be a universal agreement in the excellence of the webOS software.

But on the flip side I can totally see why HP would pay so much for the struggling company; it promotes HP right there into the smart phone market, this time not reliant upon Windows Mobile or Android or any other operating system, but with their own platform they are able to build around and promote as their own. That is invaluable to HP who’s previous foray into the smart phone market were perhaps hampered by the lack of development in Windows Mobile and which ultimately saw HTC steal their market share away from them in this space with some clever ‘over laying’ software that managed to hide the ‘Windows Mobile’ experience away from the user with some touch-friendly buttons.

More importantly though – I think – is that Palm will bring to HP a springboard into the world of Web 2.0. For far too long now, HP have been outside of what is happening in the changing world of the internet and social networking. The openness of webOS to the online world will open up this door to HP and as Palm already have an AppStore platform with applications for Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Yelp and many other ‘online’ platforms, HP by extension will be exposed to these services and Web 2.0 applications.

Some articles I’ve read have suggested that HP could also adapt webOS for use on a tablet device, positioning it directly against Apple on the tablet market, especially as webOS is already capable of running Flash. TechCrunch have some other ideas here of where the webOS could be used by HP here…

Yesterday, HP re-entered the smart phone market by saving Palm, tomorrow they could disrupt not only the smart phone market but also many other device markets, positioning it directly against all of the big players; Blackberry, HTC, Nokia, Google Android/ChromeOS, Apple and Microsoft. Welcome back HP, lets hope you can unlock the promise of webOS.

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