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2012

Tell me the Price Already!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 0

It’s all part of the show, part of the game, part of the experience; the combination of mystery, surprise, allure – and it’s all Steve Job’s fault (in my opinion)!  What am I talking about?  The product unveils and the secrecy that surrounds the modern day launch.
 
I’ll admit that these keynote speeches where the wrappers are taken off the next great shiny, must have product are extremely attractive and captivating to watch – why else would millions point their browsers towards these streaming videos and live blogs every year?
 
The problem I have is that they are now so carefully choreographed, to the point where us mere consumers are still left with a million and one questions at the end of them which are pondered in a never ending amount of speculation blog posting.  What ever happened to the Q&A sessions?!
 
My frustration of these on-message keynotes is actually directed towards Microsoft (but I’m still blaming Jobs – he started it!), and their Surface tablets.  You see, I’m really sold on the idea of a Microsoft touchscreen running Windows 8 and the Surface, as Microsoft likes to remind us, are the perfect stage for their new operating system.
 
The problem I have is that I’ve got my heart set on the Surface Pro as I believe it offers more to me (being an IT professional), than the Surface RT.  As the RT version has been available since November, a lot is known about them; availability, pricing, reviews, etc.  The Surface Pro, however, isn’t due until January 2013 and I’m happy to wait – apart from a small caveat; I want to know the price.
 
Microsoft are refusing to name the UK price for the Surface Pro; they’ve announced the US price, starting at $899 – but historically, a direct conversion to UK pound sterling doesn’t provide an accurate representation.  So, Microsoft have a very confused audience here in the UK; no more so than me and I’ve asked the @Surface account many times, but only get the standard “Unfortunately we do not have any pricing details for Surface Pro to share”.
 
 
Why are Microsoft frustrating their UK customers by withholding the price?  Personally, if the price is going to be too high, I’ll settle for the Surface RT and I’ll order that right now today.  If they announced a reasonable price then I’ll happily wait, with the full knowledge of exactly what I’ll need to save/spend when the time comes in January.
 
I blame Steve Jobs!

Invent Again!

Monday, September 3, 2012 0

If you’ve been following along, you already know that I’ve already made the decision as to what my next phone will be – and if you haven’t been following along, I suggest you catch uphere.
Further details about the Nokia Lumia 920 are still emerging and the full facts won’t be known until the NokiaWorld announcement on 5th September (mark your calendars if you haven’t already). 
The latest rumours today are that the 920 will not be a ‘PureView’ 41MP camera as hoped, but would be a 8MP ‘PureView’ branded camera instead – I don’t quite buy that theory and believe the 8MP camera has been mixed up with the 41MP sensor that defines PureView technology.  Remember the 808 PureView has a 5MP camera installed.
Wireless
The very latest news on the Nokia Lumia 920 is even better though; wireless charging.
That’s right, the magical technology that HP pioneered (in the phone market at least), with the Palm Pre in the form of the ‘TouchStone’ charging dock, will be making its way to Nokia’s latest offerings.  Whilst some will see this ‘feature’ as a bit of gimmick, I for one know of the wonders that the wireless charging benefits are great – no fiddling with wires or catches or hidden panels on the phone to uncover a charging port, simply place and charge!
The wireless dock rumoured by Nokia is a little bulky when compared to the ‘TouchStone’ dock, but as long as it works, it’s going to be a great addition to any desk in its vibrant colours.  I also hope that Nokia don’t make the same mistake as Palm and they allow the wireless dock to charge from USB port, rather than from mains adapter only.  This killed the wireless concept for me totally.
The addition of wireless charging does suggest that the back cover of the latest round of Lumia phones will be interchangeable.  Whilst I’m yet to spot a seam on the leaked photos yet, it could be a reverse of the decision to build a complete unit, containing the battery a-la Apple’s iPhone – meaning the battery could be replaceable by the user.
Some could say that such an approach is revolutionary.
What about HP?
I’m really excited about the new Lumia phones and my service provider just so happened to call me today and confirmed that my contract is due just as these phones are going to be made available.  Which is a bit of a bonus for me.
With all of today’s talk though, it made me think back to the last phone I was excited about before the Lumia was reality – the Palm Pre.  I obsessed about this phone so much and totally bought into and believed that webOS was vastly important within the mobile industry because of its unique user interface and ‘cards’ user experience. 
It was the first phone to offer the wireless charging and the very first to offer true multi-tasking features; something that was often overlooked as Apple struggled along to make multi-tasking a reality on their earlier handsets and versions of iOS. 
However, whilst I thought webOS was beautiful, the rest of the world apparently did not and since HP bought the struggling Palm, the entire project has been sunk and spun off into a new company.  But I want to ponder a bigger point – why aren’t HP still in the mobile industry?
Partner Up
Just about every electronics company and every mobile company is now all in when it comes to the mobile phone and computer industry and whilst much has been said about Dell’s forays or lack of movement into the ‘post-PC’ world as desktop sales die down in favour of tablet devices, HP’s desktop division must also be struggling just as much.
Let’s take Samsung as a prime example, putting aside the recent spat and rather large cheque they’ve had to make out to Apple’s patent department recently, they have invested in mobile technology, partnered up with Google’s Android software and produced some of the most sought after phones on the consumer market and currently sit alongside Apple in terms of popularity.
It was no mistake and it took a lot of work to get there I’m sure.  Nokia has similarly teamed up with Microsoft and has re-launched themselves and much is expected with their latest line up (I’ve already stated my excitement on this subject).  But HP has been seemingly been stuck without any activity what-so-ever and most will argue that HP are now focused on Enterprise hardware, I simply cannot understand how they don’t have the resources to run multiple programs and continue to operate inside the consumer space too, after all, if Enterprises are all going ‘BYOD’ (Bring Your Own Device’), wouldn’t that make sense?
HP still have the Palm brand and I’m sure some of the mobile engineers on their books still too.  Hell, they don’t even need the Palm engineers as HP have a history of creating handheld devices in the form of their organisers from back in the day.  So, why not create HP branded mobile phone hardware and partner up with Microsoft for Windows Phone 8 and launch something really special?
No one does a clamshell phone these days – HP could bring that back.  No one does a slider phone either and despite the poor build quality of the Palm Pre, a HP re-engineered slider device could be just what the industry is crying out for – something a bit different, something that appeals to the consumer market that doesn’t look like everything else already available.
Who knows, even the HP tablets could make a comeback too if everything works out successfully.
The HP Way: Invent
I used to be a huge fan of HP of old, they were true engineers that build great hardware – and not just in the computer arena following the acquisition of Compaq.  HP desktop computers were always well built and seem to last forever, their ProLiant servers are legendary especially when paired up with SmartArray RAID cards (still the best in my opinion).
EVA storage devices were revolutionary and lead the way when it came to selecting a reliable storage solution.  I fell in love with the HP C-Class Blade technology that seemed so amazing clever at the time.  All of these things were an engineering and hardware break-through that HP Invented.
I hate seeing HP in the state they are in right now; in my place of work we no longer buy HP desktops (even I’m using a Dell workstation these days!), or laptops, our servers are now all IBM branded, storage devices from EMC and network kit from Cisco – ok, maybe something’s should never change, but my point is that HP isn’t even on our radar anymore and it’s sad to watch and think about.
I want HP to make a comeback in a big way, but they need to make some changes in order to do so.  They have been far too quiet for far too long.  Bring back HP I say, do something bold – Invent again!

Microsoft Account Subscription Thoughts

Sunday, September 2, 2012 0

I’ve been thinking – which is always dangerous! – about Xbox Live subscriptions and there is a very good reason why too.  Let me explain…
12 Month Subscriptions
Last year I took out my first Xbox Live Gold membership, a 12 month subscription to the services offered by Microsoft on their Xbox console platform.  This includes access to online gaming, game extras, online interviews, video content, music content, messaging and a lot more. 
It’s quite a lot for your money, especially as it completely unlocks the potential of the console turning it into mere games console into a multimedia, interactive experience.  All for around £30 – bargain!
After a year of taking the subscription I reckon that I would now find it very difficult to give it up, even if I don’t always get the most of out it at all times (i.e. I don’t play online games).  But it’s not just my Xbox that the Gold membership unlocks, but also my Windows Phone Xbox games and soon the Windows 8 Xbox enabled games.
Windows 8
Microsoft have already announced that 40 Xbox gaming titles will appear on Windows 8 at launch, which is great news for Microsoft as a gaming platform and it certainly expands the reach of those games to those without an Xbox console. 
But for those that are already Xbox Live members, it simply expands the platform and pushes the reach of the Live membership further, allowing the users gaming profile to reach ever further.  The headscratcher, for me, is how does that change the membership once Microsoft switch all of their services to a single “Microsoft Account”?
For example, does an Xbox Live Gold membership, which allows me to stream video content from my Xbox also allow me to stream and access that same content from my Windows 8 laptop?  One would assume it does and if so that raises further questions.
Office
The next version of Microsoft Office (Office 2013), we already know is going to be delivered to users in a whole new way from previous versions; it will be delivered across the Internet from Microsoft Cloud services in the form of Office 365. 
This means that Office will be sold on a subscription basis, exactly the same as Xbox Live membership.  It is already believed that an Office subscription will allow the user to install the subscription on a number of devices (that number is yet to be determined, the trial version allows five), but no one is quite sure of the price just yet.
Having installed the trial version since its announcement and availability, I have to admit that Office 2013 is superb; everything has been adjusted to make it an absolute delight to use and so much difference for the better from the previous version.
Xbox Music
Another subscription based service coming soon for Microsoft is Xbox Music; their online music streaming service, that is charged separately from the Xbox Live Gold membership package.  Again, like Office, pricing has not yet been announced, but it’s likely to be charged similarly to Zune and other streaming services.
Microsoft Account
As all of these services become available, I’m really hoping that Microsoft is going to find a way to price each of these elements competitively and fairly, with discounts applied for those who take more packages than one and also for the number of devices the user has.
If the user has an Xbox device, Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablet registered against their Microsoft Account, wouldn’t it make sense for Microsoft to reward that user with a discounted price compared to a user who has a Sony Playstation, Android phone and Window 8 tablet or similar combination of non-Microsoft devices?
I would say it does, however Microsoft have been extremely fair with users in the past – granting access to the same software to those who use Apple devices for example.  Whilst that same offer hasn’t been extended to Google and their Chrome OS and Android platforms, there is no reason to think it wouldn’t be offered in the future as more services go online and are available across-devices, including those by Google.
Perhaps Microsoft could offer alternative incentives to users who subscribe to more than one service, such as increased SkyDrive storage or even Skype call minutes to those who opt for some of those online video/calling services within their subscription.
Whilst I hope that Microsoft don’t create a subscription service that is as complex as most mobile phone contracts are in the UK, balancing minutes, texts and data, these Microsoft Account services should be simple to understand, simple to order and simple to operate and apply to your account.  So far there is no evidence to suggest that won’t be the case though.
How much?
The final question is, how much would you be willing to pay for all or even some of these services?  £30 for an Xbox Live subscription for 12 months is great value and £30 a year for Office would be absolutely fantastic, but also possibly very unrealistic given the previous Office retail prices – but those are from a different time and for a full package.
Music services, SkyDrive storage, Skype calls and any additional services that can be bolted onto your account could result in a huge monthly or even larger annual bill at the start of every year that no user is going to look forward to paying.
There has been talk that Microsoft devices, such as Surface tablets and Xbox consoles may be offered greatly subsided to bring the price of the hardware down on the understanding that users sign up to multi-year or multi-service deals for online content and applications.
Caution is required, yet I’m confident that Microsoft will position their services exactly where they will appeal to users.

Charming Technology....

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Re-watching the Microsoft Smartglass video, the technology that allows Windows 8 tablets to interact and share content with the Xbox, I realised that I’d seen it all before somewhere….
One of my favourite YouTube videos to share on my blog is a video from Intel that depicts a version of the future where devices connect and share data with each other.  It seems that others also had that same vision of technology, but where Intel failed to recognise the power of the Cloud (which can be forgiven – it was a video way ahead of its time remember), Microsoft and others applied software to the solution.


Browsing the Internet
Another element of the Xbox UI refresh and Smartglass tech is the ability to surf the Internet for the first time from your games console.  The stumbling block for enabling this feature previously has always been in how you navigate the web from a console device reliant upon a game pad controller (or Kinect device).
Microsoft have seemingly solved this problem by using a Windows Phone and the Smartglass software to allow the navigation and interaction to occur away from the Xbox – which is a little bit ingenious and a great solution I can’t wait to get my hands on to try for myself.
Charming
So far, Smartglass seems to be a major win – and the unravelling of Microsoft’s three screen strategy is practically laid bare; the seamless blend of console, phone and tablet – perfect. 
But I think I’ve found a bit of a flaw in the process.  Sat with my Windows 8 (beta), laptop yesterday as  I watched television on my Xbox, I just so happened to activate the ‘Charms’ and noticed that one of them was labelled ‘Devices’.
Curiously I clicked on the icon and half expected to see my ‘Xbox’ device available as a screen to share to (thinking about it a little further, I also expected to see my Windows Phone there – but that’s a different story all together).  But it wasn’t there.
I’m hoping that this is something that will come in time as I can certainly see a use for it.  Imagine being able to work from your laptop and when you need that second screen as you work or wish to play a video from your laptop on the big screen, it would make perfect sense to be able to take advantage of the Xbox working together with your laptop or tablet (remember that Windows 8 is both tablet and laptop enabled).
I can totally see myself using Xbox and Windows 8 together.  But I have a feeling that I’ll be let down this time around, but with the next technology refresh, I hold out hope.

Hey! Want to be Inspired?

Saturday, September 1, 2012 0

I have something to admit….

It’s not something I ever thought I would have to write….

I have a guy crush. 
 
Not just any guy though, I’ve developed a fascination with Elon Musk – or more specifically his companies.  Whenever I mention the name Elon Musk to anyone, the first thing they seem to say to me is ‘Who?’  Well, let me tell you, this guy is pretty impressive and his bio is well worth a read on Wikipedia.
 
For the uninitiated, Elon was co-founder of Internet darling of the 90’s, the universally known PayPal.  One of the only companies to make, what was an unprecedented, exit (of $1.5 Billion), during the height of the Web 2.0 bubble, netting Musk a pretty penny ready for his next adventures.
 
Those next adventures are what really excites me though; Tesla Motors, SpaceX and a stake in SolarCity.  With such an impressive CV, it’s little wonder that Jon Favreau chose Musk as his inspiration for the Robert Downy Jnr depiction of the genius billionaire Tony Stark for the “Iron Man” films.

SolarCity
 
As a philanthropist, in the same style of one Bill Gates, Musk’s mission to combat global warming is well documented and SolarCity is a perfect example of just how that work is developed. 
Whilst SolarCity isn’t the only solar panel provider on the planet (they seem to be popping up everywhere), but knowing Elon Musk’s commitment to the cause, I feel that SolarCity is exactly the type of company I’d want to do business with; as a company that I could trust and be safe in the knowledge that the technology is very well developed.
Solar is still a technology that absolutely fascinates me and one day I hope to have the capital to install my own panels and help the cause.  I’m glad Elon has a stake in solar technology and it’s the perfect accompaniment to his other companies.
Telsa Motors
I’ll freely admit for a long time I’ve not been convinced by the electronic car; maybe it’s the petrol head in me, maybe I’ve watched far too much Top Gear, or maybe it’s because electric cars have never made that much sense to me – I mean, what happens if you run out of power, most petrol stations don’t have a free plug for you to charge up from….yet, and nor do I think I have the time waiting for batteries to charge up, when it takes only a couple of minutes to fuel a normal car.
However, I’m coming around to the idea – and the reason why, again, is that I’ve been and visited the Tesla Motors website and took a look around – and I have to admit, those cars look pretty impressive.  I’d even go so far to say that should I ever raise enough money in my life to buy an expensive car, I would have to think really long and hard as to whether I’d buy a Ferrari (full of history and racing pedigree and passion), or a Telsa.
And that is a bold statement from me, as a Ferrari lover.
Somehow though, electric vehicles are becoming the norm and just like my desire to switch to solar, I also have a desire to switch to electric cars too.  Whilst I don’t think that is likely to happen any time soon (I’m far too poor to buy a new car right now – plus the one I have provides with me way too much fun), perhaps my next will be something a little more on the eco side.
Telsa, named after the intentor Nikolas Tesla, is Musk’s car company.  It was the first to produce an all-electric car and what’s more, it’s a car that appears at the very top end of desirability.  Everything about their cars oozes perfection and elegance, yet they also somehow appear to blend in and look very much like a normal family saloon – something which can’t be by accident and more by design.
Also, as if the Iron Man references weren’t already enough, a look inside the Tesla factory shows an army of robotic arms, painted in bright red, working in absolutely synchronicity with one another similar to the robot/computer ‘Jarvis’ featured in the movies;
SpaceX
As if fighting climate change, energy shortages and launching the world’s first all-electric car company wasn’t enough after founding the PayPal Mafia, Elon’s next company really is out of this world.
SpaceX is exactly what the name suggests – a rocket company, whose mission is to conquer space and pickup exactly where NASA left off now that their rockets are no longer flight-worthy.  SpaceX is a company that every little boy could ever dream of wanting to own and be a part of.
They have built rockets, shuttles, buggies and capsules capable of manned missions to space and also thegoods lorries of outer space – shipping supplies and parts to the International Space Station and also laying claim to be the first non-government funded rocket ever to dock with the ISS!
To believe that one man has created his own space going company is amazing and to understand more you really do need to spend some time on the SpaceX website reading about all of the different rockets and components, test plans, successes and failures along the way to build this company.  It really is outstanding.
Yet, for Elon it is just another day in the office.
Summary
If modern day living is all about computers and software, industries built and pioneered by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, their companies and those that emulated them, then in my mind undoubtedly, the next name in line has to be that of Elon Musk.
A software pioneer who set out to build a payment gateway for the modern world, but seemingly became distracted by a much bigger objective; a goal to reduce our needs on fossil fuels, create smarter transportation and to reach for the stars.
A man who’s blended software, science, technology to build three outstanding companies – he has to be an inspiration for most people.  I know I’ll certainly be keeping a closer eye on the achievements of all of these companies and the “what’s next” for Elon Musk.
-------------------------
PandoDaily Fireside Chat
Below is the Fireside Chat from the PandoDaily website, featuring Sarah Lacy interviewing Elon Musk who speaks about all of these companies, the what’s next, his plans to retire on Mars and basically leaves the audience with that ‘wow’ and ‘inspired’ factor.
It is more than worthy of a watch – make the time and make it happen;

This Is (Probably) My Next: Nokia Lumia 920....

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Ladies and gentlemen, it has yet to be announced (though it will be very soon), but to steal a phrase from The Verge; This Is My Next.


That’s right folks, this undoubtedly will be my next phone – the Windows 8, Nokia Lumia 920.  An upgrade to my trusty Lumia 800 whose contract expires shortly.  Last year I wrote about how I could never understand all of those people that queued up around the block outside of an Apple Store waiting to get their hands on the latest iPhone hardware - I mean, just how big a jump can one version be to the next right?  But then when Nokia unveiled the Lumia 800, I fell in love and instantly got it.

The buzz around the new hardware and the new features is exactly the reason why we look forward to these new devices every hardware refresh time and Nokia are certainly delivering quite a punch with the 920.

PureView

During the last 12 months Nokia released a phone called the Nokia 808 – and whilst the name isn’t exactly catchy, it did have one truly outstanding feature on-board; a 41 mega pixel camera sensor capable of capturing the highest quality photographs of any other mobile or compact camera.  In other words, the photographs that this camera is capable of are ‘Pure’.

Whilst the 808 hasn’t exactly been the biggest of sellers, camera enthusiasts’ (rather than your typical mobile user), have been snapping up these phones for a taste of the camera’s abilities and marvel at how Nokia have managed to re-write their software to capture a 41MP High Definition image and compress is down to the size of your standard snap, meaning that memory remains expansive and you can continue to shoot all day long without fear.

Be sure to check out some of the sample photographs on the Nokia PureView page.

Windows Phone 8

Let’s face it, as a Microsoft user I was always going to upgrade my phone to Windows Phone 8 whenever it became available and having already watched the developers launch event online, I feel excited by the prospect of Microsoft’s converged strategy of Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox coming together to complete their long over-due promise of a “three screens strategy”.

Windows Phone 8, by taking the underlying Kernel of Windows finally moves the Operating Systems closer together, which should yield more apps becoming available for the platform.  What’s more, Microsoft’s Xbox should allow some of those gaming elements to cross over from console to Windows 8 and onto the phone too! 

Gaming is already a huge and growing industry within the mobile sector and the crossover of Xbox should be huge for Microsoft.

It’s Red!

Looking at the leaked images of the Nokia 920 there appears to be a couple more colours for the new phone – and one of them is red! 

Whilst I’m not going to preach that I’m in anyway fashionable, some smartphone users are and the wider range of colours will certainly appeal to some of those users who are looking for something a little different from their device and Apple’s black or white experience.

Whilst I can’t say for sure which colour Nokia I’ll end up purchasing (more likely to be the standard black colour, unless I do go adventurous with red), it’s certainly something different.

This Is My Next

I never thought I would turn into one of these types of people who cared so much about having to queue up for a new smartphone and experience the device desirability, but the Nokia Lumia 920 with PureView simply launches Microsoft and Nokia right back into the smartphone business.

No one else will have a camera experience like it and it will take others a while to catch up with the same levels of quality from their cameras. 

You may be wondering why I think the camera is such an important element of the smartphone?  The answer is simple, look at the amount of images we share from our phones!  Facebook uploads, Flickr accounts, Twitter accounts, picture messages and videos – we live in an online world where everything we do is shared through photographs – they capture memories and experiences, so why not capture them at the highest and best possible rate? 

Images from other mobile phones aren’t going to look anywhere near as good as those the 920 will be capable of producing, which will hopefully drive market for Nokia – the camera is important.  And I’m sure Microsoft will take care of the rest.

This is my next and I can’t wait for launch.

PureNokia: Things Are About To Change....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 0

Things are about to change…..according to Nokia.
They have an announcement due about the new Windows 8 phones on the 5th September and I’m getting rather excited about it, mainly because I’m due an upgrade at around the time the new phones are due to arrive.
The video suggest that Nokia PureView, the HD high quality camera, is coming to their Windows Phones – though this is purely speculation at this time.  Stay tuned to the Nokia announcements soon.
 

Redeemable by Voucher Only....

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When I’m not sat in front of a movie screen at the cinema or watching a film, or being at work, you can almost guarantee that I’m reading a book on my Kindle – having fully embraced the digital format of the eBook after a bit of soul searching to give up on those paper bound beauties.
However, there is one element of the eBook phenomenon that has yet to be mastered in the same way as a physical book: the element of gift.
Whenever I seem to want to gift an eBook, I find that I have to purchase an Amazon gift card and then forward on an email with a book recommendation along with a line “or buy something you really want”, as a disclaimer that the book I’ve carefully selected may not appeal or enlighten that person’s life in some way.
But then I read this on Pando just the other day and it seemed to make a lot of sense - http://pandodaily.com/2012/08/21/livrada-bridges-the-gap-between-physical-books-and-the-digital-world
I love the idea of being able to select an eBook and then order up a voucher redemption code for a particular eBook.  It ensures that the perfectly selected gift is passed on and it means that we finally have something physical to enclose within the birthday card you pass on to your nearest. 
Sure those redemption codes can still be passed on electronically for those who still don’t want to have to deal with postage and fiddle around with gift cards – especially if the recipient is far away and out of postal range (or at least not without some cost attached to it). 
So, there you go – redeemable voucher codes for eBooks.  Amazon – make it happen!

Vorsprung durch Technick: The Passion for Innovation

Saturday, August 25, 2012 0

Very rarely does a TV advert come along that stirs up so much emotion and feeling that you grow fond of it and develop an attachment to it.  But think back over the years to those ‘classic advertisements’ that you still remember to this day and it’s obvious that we do, deep down hold onto them for so long when they are done so very right.

That’s exactly how I feel about the following advert from Audi though;


 
The blend of automotive driving passion, competition – blended against physics, technology and cutting edge science for me just ticks all of the right boxes in my technical wired brain.

It’s the challenge and dynamics of what makes us human – the ability to design, understand, better, improve, re-design and reach for the very edge of perfection and then to keep on pushing beyond that marker for something truly awe inspiring that breaks our pre-conceptions of ‘what is’.

Whilst I’m not tempted to go cash in, sell my car and go out and buy an Audi right now, I feel I can still be inspired by their work, their pride and their passion and apply it in my own life and work.  After all, I see this same passion and pride and determination in others too – Ferrari, Microsoft, Sony, Apple, Google, Nokia, Tesla, SpaceX, *Insert your own company name here*.

The human race thrives on this innovation and desire to reach for the stars and beyond.  Touch the very fabric of what it means to be alive and dare to dream big.  Think about or watch this advert the next time you need any such motivation – I know I will.

Oh No!

Saturday, August 18, 2012 0

The popularity of the ‘Angry Birds’ franchise has been revolutionary; with Rovio spinning off its game beyond the touch screen mobile phone devices into plush toys, t-shirts, clothing, radios, etc. in the process making absolutely millions along the way.
Which is all great, but there is one game that I cannot get off my mind, that seems absolutely prime for a reboot and re-launch.  I believe it would work great on touch screens and would almost certainly sell just as much as the bird flinging game. 
The game I speak of – Lemmings!

For the uninitiated, Lemmings was first released back in 1991 as a puzzle game – the objective of which was to guide and save as many suicidal lemmings as possible to their safe haven.  You do this by assigning some of those little guys a job – say to dig a hole or block a pathway or build a bridge.  Save enough of the little blighters and you progress to the next level. 
The simplicity of the game and addictiveness of the challenge of saving the little rodents is what makes this an absolutely timeless classic and one that deserves to be brought back for the modern mobile phone playing gamer.
I’m convinced that if brought back in its original format (no one wants to see “Lemmings 3D”), it would be a huge success and a genuine challenger to those Angry, Angry Birds.

Many Messengers....

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I’m getting confused by Skype and Microsoft’s various ‘chat’ and instant messenger platforms. 

‘Messenger’ (formerly ‘Live Messenger’ which was formerly ‘MSN Messenger’), seemed to be the IM platform of record for everything Microsoft and the work they undertook to bring “Facebook Chat” into this platform seemed to be a stroke of genius as Messenger users signed up and moved to the social networking site for their chat fix.

Windows 8 has a built-in, seemingly cut down version of ‘Messenger’ which allows a IM and Facebook Chat integration without having to switch to the full blown desktop client.  Video chat and file sharing and many of the advanced features are missing from this version, as you might expect.  This cut down version also appears in the new Outlook.com.

‘Lync’ (formerly ‘Communicator’), is the business/enterprise focused messenger, which allows everything from video conferencing, screen share (formerly ‘LiveMeeting’), collaboration tools and Outlook and Office applications integration.

And then, there’s Skype which seems to be creeping into all sorts of Microsoft products (which can only be expected from the acquisition), from Xbox, to Windows Phone, Office and Outlook.com for video conferencing.My confusion though stems from the fact that each of these systems (with the exception of Messenger and the cut down Windows 8 client), are all separate entities that don’t work with each other to allow a single, unified messaging system.
Screenshots have recently emerged of the new Windows 8 Skype client – which looks absolutely fantastic and looks like something I could potentially use.  Putting Lync to one side, the only problem is that all of my contacts are either in Messenger or Facebook Chat!

It’s my hope that by using Windows 8’s “People Hub” and/or “Microsoft Account”, they are going to allow you to register multiple accounts (Messenger, Facebook, Skype), and link them together into a single interface/application that can then be used from Windows, Xbox, Windows Phone, etc., similar to how multiple email accounts, Twitter and other social network feeds are amalgamated together into a single view.
Lync
At work, I’ve recently started using Lync for IM and screen sharing with 3rd parties for support and I have to admit that I’ve been really impressed with its functionality.  I (very), briefly used Communicator before it and noticed that some of the file sharing functions have been removed for some reason, but other than that, it remains a great product.
Again though, I’m a little confused at the lack of scope the service offers.  I understand the Lync is for internal communications with your co-workers, but I haven’t been able to fathom given the social world we now live in and the popularity of LinkedIn for collaboration and connectivity, why Lync doesn’t allow you link and expand your professional network?
I’m not an administrator or expert in Lync, so such features may already be available for configuration, but why not allow Lync to connect to your Facebook, LinkedIn, social network feeds and/or simply other domains of partnering companies, i.e. allowing @contoso.com users to communicate with @northwinds.com users, whilst blocking personal contacts owning @hotmail.com addresses for example.
Summary
Microsoft’s IM approach is scattered across multiple platforms right now – and whilst I can see exactly where each of these platforms fits into the overall eco-systems of corporate communications, consumer products and video conferencing, in today’s ever connected and ‘always available’ mentality bringing all of these services together would be a huge win.
Being able to also individually control your presence on each of these platforms would be an even bigger win; the control and ease of use should be built into all of these products for Microsoft to truly build a fantastic communications hub, regardless of application and/or device.
It’s simply a matter of doing it.  IM me when its done.

Smart Watch

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I’ve always been a watch wearer – ever since I can remember, there has always been a clock digital or analogue attached to my wrist.  Over the years they have changed and performed a number of different functions; calculators, data storage, telephone address book, world time, stop watches – hell, some of them even told the time too!
These days I sport a Seiko analogue watch that has a timer and date calendar and that’s about it; but there seems to be a market trend towards wanting more from your wrist wear.  There have been a few Kickstarter a project outlining some of the ideas to bring these fancier features to market – and the trend suggests that the way to do it is to pair your watch to your phone and allow your mobile device to do all of the heavy lifting.
This actually makes a lot of sense – your phone more than likely to already have the connectivity, battery life and applications to support the functions most of us would require/expect from a smart watch.
Ultimately, a smart watch brings us one step closer to a wearable computer.  Expect to see them sold in a store near you anytime soon…..

Gram for Gram

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My long standing affair with Palm has been over for a good 12 months now, having jumped ship from Palm Pre to Windows Phone just before HP finally canned the rather expensive project and later declared that webOS would be no more, which later turned into “webOS will become open sourced” – only to go nowhere….
Until now. 
It seems HP have spun webOS away from Palm and formed a new company known as ‘Gram’, which are likely to transform webOS into something hopefully new and exciting concerning the cloud.  The details of the project are still all very “hush, hush” but I can’t see them about to launch a new mobile or tablet device anytime soon.
It’s safe to say that Palm is now, unfortunately, dead and buried.


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