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Microsoft Reborn: The Beast of Redmond Rises

July 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

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Record Q4 revenue ahead of next gen products suggests Microsoft is back.

When you’ve just made your first loss in 26 years, a loss of almost half a billion dollars at that, it would seem trouble is afoot. In Microsoft’s case, however, nothing could be further from the truth. The Beast of Redmond has risen from its slumber and with a renewed appetite to consume all around it.

6104 Microsoft Reborn: The Beast of Redmond Rises
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Look away from the headline dip into the red and Microsoft’s Q4 figures are remarkable. It had record revenue ($18.06bn),  a 12 per cent rise in operating income (to $6.93bn), a 30 per cent jump in net income (to $5.87bn), a 20 per cent increase in its entertainment and devices’ division and a 15 per cent year-on-year increase in Xbox Live subscriptions. So where did the loss come from? A whopping $6.2bn one-off write down from its failed 2007 record purchase of aQuantive in 2007 - an Internet advertising firm it believed would see it rival Google’s online ads. As such ignore the aQuantive anomaly and an entirely different picture of Microsoft’s business begins to form, one that is even more impressive considering when it has happened…

The Generational Lull

Right now Microsoft should be stagnating badly. Windows 7 sales are trailing off with Windows 8 confirmed for October, Windows Phone sales should be catatonic after Windows Phone 8 was confirmed to be incompatible with every existing WP7 handset and the aged Xbox 360 recently had its seventh birthday with the follow up ‘Xbox 720‘ expected to arrive next year. The company also hasn’t got a competitive tablet on the market, in an app-obsessed world Windows Marketplace lags well behind rivals and even one of its greatest weapons, Microsoft Office, is two years old and looks set to cede to Apple and Google with iOS and Android versions coming in November.

And yet Microsoft is turning in record revenue figures. Furthermore it is achieving them during the most radical shake-up in the company’s 37 year history and before any of the key products coming from it have hit the market. Much like the shake-up, all these products are bold, all contain huge risks and all are potentially game changers. This is a sample, read the rest of the feature on TrustedReviews.

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Dangerous data: Is the shift away from calls bringing down our phone networks?

July 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

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Making calls is now just the fifth most frequent use of a smartphone.

According to Ofcom text messaging is now the most popular form of daily communication between British adults.

Drill down into the stats and this equates to 58 per cent of UK adults sending at least one text message everyday compared to 47 per cent making at least one phone call per day. What are we to make of this? The first point is that this doesn’t tell half the story.

Look back less than three weeks and O2 published a report which claims making calls is now just the fifth most frequent use of a smartphone.

“Apparently smartphone users spend a little over 12 minutes on average making calls each day”

…that’s less than half the time they spend surfing the web.

6103 Dangerous data: Is the shift away from calls bringing down our phone networks?

Making calls also fell behind checking social networks, listening to music and playing games while emailing and, yes, texting were just behind. Is smartphone user data relevant, aren’t they still a niche?

Actually in February mobile phone industry figures showed over 50 per cent of the UK population own a smartphone and this number is expected to reach 75 per cent in the not too distant future. The masses are finding out that smartphones do a great many things and a lot of them are more fun than making phone calls.

The second point is even more significant: the change in usage is going to make everyone unhappy. From a people perspective the Ofcom report says that, despite this leap in text messaging, British adults would rather meet (67%) or speak on the phone (10%) than communicate by text (5%). Aka we do it, but we don’t like it.

“The disparity shows a shift away from quality of communication towards convenience and quantity of communication.”

For our carriers the scenario is even worse as it represents a seismic shift from calls to data. As Graham Stapleton, Chief Commercial Officer at Carphone Warehouse, admits: “Data packages have exploded in the last 12 months… Our insights team has forecast that an extra 12 million people will buy their first smartphone this year. It’s a market that continues to go from strength to strength.”

What aren’t going from strength to strength are our carriers’ network infrastructures. The O2 blackout generated 24 hours of headline news last week and came just days after a similar outage in France stranded 26 million France Telecom customers.

“The networks are bursting at the seams trying to cope with demand.”

For the UK in particular the beginning of the Olympics this month bringing an anticipated one million extra tourists into the capital per day is expected to push them beyond breaking point.

The solution to all this is claimed to be ‘LTE’ – likely to be marketed as 4G – a much faster evolution of the 3G standard. The problem is carriers are still trying to recoup the £22.5 billion they (over)spent acquiring 3G licenses 12 years ago so investment has been slow, embittered legal infighting high and roll-out is several years behind countries previously left in the UK’s wake. Ofcom says widespread LTE availability now isn’t expected until 2015, until then our newfound love for data is in for a bumpy ride…

 

 Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Ceratec CeraAIR Two AirPlay Speakers

July 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

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The best looking AirPlay dock yet, but can the audio match up?

By  (for TrustedReviews)
Reviewed 18 July 2012

Price as reviewed £499.00

Overall 7/10

Key Features

  • 2x 50W speakers
  • Anodised aluminium chassis
  • Bundled AirPort Express unit
  • Adjustable bass
  • Wall mountable
When reviewing products few things are more enjoyable than being impressed by a company you hadn’t previously come across. This is only amplified when the product in question is entering one of the most brutal sectors in technology today: audio docks.
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Design
The name which doesn’t trip off the tongue is Ceratec, a German audio specialist that has previously had little contact with the UK. It has come up with the ‘CeraAir Two’ and out of the box impressions are immediately positive as the dock is a stunning piece of design.

6102 Ceratec CeraAIR Two AirPlay Speakers

The tubular form factor (67 x 16 x 16cm) is machined out of anodised aluminium giving it weight (6Kg) and the unmistakable feel of quality. Pressing this point further are polished stainless steel speaker and bass ends while the drivers are covered by punched honeycomb steal with premium fabric finish. Black, white, silver and red are the default colour options, but Ceratec offers a personalisation service where any RAL colour can be chosen for an extra charge. A further nice touch is the base doubles as a bracket allowing it to be easily wall mounted.

The overall effect is better than any speaker dock we have seen and even outdoes the iconic design of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air. Rivals take note.

Features
Whereas Ceratec has gone to town on the CeraAir Two’s styling its functionality is more streamlined. This is a sample, read the full review on TrustedReviews.

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Orbitsound T9 Soundbar & Dock

July 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

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A tiny soundbar/dock with epic performance and a budget price…

Price as reviewed £199.00

Overall 9/10

Key Features

  • Proprietary spatial stereo technology
  • 140RMS 2.1 arrangement
  • Apple dock connector
  • 3,5mm, stereo phono & S/PDIF inputs
  • Remote control with bass & treble adjustment

We may as well accept it: convenience wins out, and in many cases convenience means bulk. Gone are bulky televisions, laptops and brick-shaped phones while elaborate setups like 5.1 speaker systems are deemed too substantial and complex for our increasingly minimalist sense of style. Step forward Orbitsound…

The company famous for its spatial stereo technology has come up with the ‘T9′, a drastically smaller version of its long running T12 soundbar. Naturally enough Orbitsound claims this little brother will still deliver jaw dropping audio, but out the box this is initially hard to believe.

6101 Orbitsound T9 Soundbar & Dock

Design

Whereas the T12 soundbar was already compact measuring just 605 x 110 x 100mm, the T9 is less than half its length at 300mm with its depth and width a mere 94mm. It is smaller than a shoebox… made for one shoe. The accompanying subwoofer has also been hit by a shrink ray. While the T12 sub came in at 460 x 230 x 230mm, the T9′s sub is 344 x 230 x 139mm meaning the whole unit should squeeze into the tightest of home cinema setups and appease even the most technophobic of partners.

Given the focus on compactness it is no surprise that Orbitsound has also made the T9′s look discrete. Available in black or white, the units are made from lacquered wood (Orbitsound claims this reduces resonance) and each has a smart – if not matching – finish with good build quality. We also particularly like the magnetically attached speaker grill of the soundbar which makes it easy to remove or attach, depending on whether you prefer your drivers hidden or exposed. Less welcome is the sunken iPod dock which means you won’t be connecting an iPad without an adaptor. When plenty of other docks have achieved this in an elegant manner, this is something of a let down. This is a sample, read the rest of the review at TrustedReviews.

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

O2 Blackout: Mobile Networks Are Damaging Tech Innovation

July 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

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Gordon Kelly: Forget Microsoft versus Apple versus Google, the real villains are your telcos.

O2 Blackout: Mobile Networks Are Damaging Tech Innovation

I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!
-Howard Beale, Network

25 hours. 1500 minutes. 90,000 seconds. Whichever ever way you divide it this was the time O2 customers screamed blue murder and national newspapers, radio and TV made the network’s one day outage headline news. With it came the same old quips about taking a moment to look up from our phone screens and enjoy the world around us, but few spotted the bigger issue: the future of technology is built upon horrendously weak foundations.

94 000023cc7 f3be 1 O2 Blackout: Mobile Networks Are Damaging Tech Innovation

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Intel, Sony, Nokia, HTC, ARM, Dropbox, Spotify, Sky, the BBC… all of these companies and many, many more have astoundingly ambitious plans for technology over the coming years and yet every single one will require a reliable, ultra-fast Internet connection to fully enjoy it. In 25 years this has yet to happen widely on the ground and – as O2 has so strongly reminded us – it is an utter mess in the air. Isn’t the future supposed to be mobile?

And what of the future? In the UK LTE, the successor to 3G, has become as well known for its delayed arrival as its potential speed advances. Whereas other countries like Sweden and Norway and even geographic monsters such as the US and India have managed to get LTE networks up and running, Britain believes 2015 is a more realistic date for its widespread rollout. We were told LTE should initially provide a reliable 2-4Mbit connection, but what will be our data demands then?

610 O2 Blackout: Mobile Networks Are Damaging Tech Innovation

The signs aren’t good. Ofcom claims the average home broadband user now downloads 17GB of data each month, a seven fold increase in just the last five years. It sounds a huge amount given the 1GB monthly cap imposed by most mobile network’s data packages, but 17GB translates to just 12 hours streaming HD content from BBC iPlayer. Interestingly increased speed only feeds our hunger with Virgin Media admitting each month its 10Mbit customers typically consume 19GB while its 100Mbit customers go through 130GB. This is a sample, read the rest of the article on TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Linksys EA4500 Smart Wi-Fi Router

July 10, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

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Cisco shows us the future of routers is in the Cloud and we like it…

By  (for TrustedReviews)
Reviewed 10 July 2012

Price as reviewed £159.99

Overall 8/10

Key Features

  • Cisco Cloud Connect user interface
  • 2.4GHz & 5GHz dual bands
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Four Ethernet Ports, one USB 2.0

Cloud Computing has long been touted as the service to revolutionise the way we use our devices. The likes of DropBox, iCloud, OnLive, Spotify, Google Docs and many more have set the process in motion, but few thought its next place of attack would be our home routers. This is exactly what Cisco has planned however and it has become the first in a wave of networking companies to launch a range of Cloud-based routers.

94 000023ad7 6b2c orh616w616 4 Linksys EA4500 Smart Wi Fi Router
Features
The ‘Linksys EA4500′ is the flagship in this line-up and on paper a great deal is familiar. It is a dual band 802.11b/g/n router with a 3×3 antenna array to boost range and performance (theoretically 450Mbit per band), packs in four Gigbabit ports and one USB port and is compatible with IPv6 which means it will work with the 340 undecillion new device addresses the standard will support. It also has DNLA to allow DLNA certified devices like TVs, media players and games consoles to wirelessly stream media . So far so very normal.

Design
Take a closer look and the design of the EA4500 isn’t particularly different either as it is virtually identical to its predecessor, the E4200. As such there is the same slim, rounded rectangular shape with smart matt black finish and metallic band around the outside. Build quality remains good too, but the moulded plastic feet really should be rubber. In sum it isn’t until you switch on the EA4500 that you start to notice it is wholly different to anything we have seen before.

94 000023ad5 931b orh616w616 2 Linksys EA4500 Smart Wi Fi Router
Setup
In a somewhat nanny state manner Cisco insists the initial EA4500 setup is only via the supplied CD (potentially a problem to the legion of netbook/Ultrabook owners who have long ditched CD drives), but the end result is well worth it. The simple process not only connects you to the router, but also automatically updates the firmware and lets you choose the router’s SSID, WiFi and network passwords. It even creates a text file on your desktop with this information once it is finished. We found the process seamless and we were up and running in minutes.

From here things become interesting as you are directed to the ‘Cisco Cloud Connect’ (CCC) website and asked to create a user profile, rather than the usual next step of manually typing in the router’s IP address. With your profile created you can now log into the router from the www.ciscoconnectcloud.com website and monitor and control it wherever you have an Internet connection. Yes, the admin is in the Cloud… This is a sample. read the full review at TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Nexus 7 Begins Google’s Ruthless Partner Cull

July 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

News Analysis: Why Google is deliberately pricing smaller partners out of the Android tablet sector.
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They thought the threat would come from Motorola. Bought for $12.5bn, Google had acquired a hardware giant yet claimed the deal was purely for patents. Nine months later the deal was concluded and within five weeks Google launched a high spec, budget tablet sold at cost and with a four month period of exclusivity for its latest Android 4.1 operating system. Everything Android partners feared had come true, except for the fact the tablet was made by Asus…

Unlike Google’s previous Nexus smartphones, the ‘Nexus 7‘ tablet isn’t a concept or a guide. It is a ruthlessly priced land grab, a housecleaning exercise designed to eradicate smaller, less significant partners who have up to now produced bargain basement, low quality hardware which has given Android tablets a bad name.

google nexus 7 Nexus 7 Begins Googles Ruthless Partner Cull

Interestingly the move was not the realisation of a carefully worked master plan – it was an act of desperation. “We went from zero to working product in four months,” admits Google’s head of Android, Andy Rubin. ” The exec had previously admitted Android tablet sales were “less than I’d expect them to be if you really want to win” and that the key is app support. “I can’t force someone to write a tablet app,” he said, “[developers are] looking at market share and… being frugal.”

The Nexus 7 is Google’s answer to the problem of market share. It demanded a high end 7in tablet which must not cost over $200 and set Asus to work. “Our engineers told me it is like torture,” said Asus’ chairman Jonney Shih. “They [Google] ask a lot.” The kickback for Asus is Google will absorb all marketing costs. How will partners compete? There is “plenty of room left for Android tablet innovation” Rubin told All Things D.

This is a somewhat hollow answer… This is a sample. Read the full editorial on TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Arcam rLink

July 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

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Breathe new life into your HiFi system with this high quality discrete DAC.

Price as reviewed £149.00

Overall 9/10

Key Features

  • Integrated TI Burr-Brown PCM5102 DAC
  • Optical & Coaxial inputs
  • Dual RCA outputs
  • 10Hz – 20kHz Frequency Response

Much like your favourite band, when technology companies get on a roll you just want them to keep doing what they are doing. This rarely works with bands determined to change things around and technology companies determined to chase the latest fashion or fad. Happily Arcam knows when it is on to a good thing.

Features
The rLink is the latest addition to the company’s rSeries line of audiophile grade products that integrate a Burr-Brown DAC in various form factors to enhance your listening enjoyment. It follows the rPAC (a USB powered headphone amplifier), and drDock (a iPhone/iPad charge dock with audio and video outputs) and is arguably the simplest of the bunch: a wired DAC that cleans up a digital source (be it from a TV, games console, media player, etc) on its way to your speakers or hi-fi.

94 0000239f3 f7e3 orh616w616 arcam rlink1 Arcam rLink

Essentially this means the Arcam rLink is a middleman that – if it does its job well – will breathe new life into existing equipment. To set about this the rLink has coaxial and optical inputs on one side and left/right RCA outputs on the other. There is also a power port alongside the inputs as, unlike the rPAC, none of these sources can power the device. Setup is merely a case of connecting the source device and destination output to the rLink and switching it on at the power socket. This is the true definition of plug and play.

Design
Much like a good referee, the role of the rLink is therefore to be heard, but not seen and as such it has a deliberately innocuous appearance somewhat akin to a rectangular Apple TV. At 100 x 75 x 25mm it is of a similar size too, but weighs a noticeable 350g.

In a lounge-based scenario the weight is a good thing as it comes from premium build materials. This is a sample, read the full review at TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Jawbone Big Jambox

July 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

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An enlarged Jambox portable speaker with call conferencing proves bigger isn’t always better.

By  (for TrustedReviews)
Reviewed 22 June 2012

Price as reviewed £259.99

Overall 6/10

Key Features

  • 2.0 speaker setup
  • Live Audio virtual 3D spatial sound
  • Battery life up to 15 hours
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 2.5 hour charge time (via mains)
  • 256 x 80 x 93mm, 1.27Kg
 Aliph is a company with great ambition. After years of making arguably the best Bluetooth headsets on the market it has expanded radically in the last 18 months with the Up lifestyle monitor and hugely successfulJambox portable speaker. For a company clearly thinking big creating a larger Jambox appears a logical next step.

6110 Jawbone Big Jambox
Design and Features
The wonderfully-named Big Jambox is the result and it is exactly what the name suggests: a larger version of the Jambox. This means a significant jump from 151 x 57 x 40mm and 327g to 256 x 93 x 80 mm and 1.23kg though the styling is identical. On paper this makes sense. The Jawbox may look like a large Lego brick, but it is beautifully made with a vibration absorbing rubber top and bottom, and smart metal grille around its circumference.

There are a few subtle tweaks – there are now eight rubberised feet on the bottom, play/pause and forward and back buttons added to the top and a dedicated Bluetooth pairing button on the right side. Aside from this the Big Jambox looks and feels exactly like a blown up Jambox. In terms of connectivity again it is a match: it connects to devices via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm auxiliary input, has an inbuilt microphone for conference calls and is compatible with the company’s MyTalk upgrade platform which offers firmware updates and apps. These include adding the ability to read out texts/emails, hear calendar alerts and more.
61110 Jawbone Big Jambox
Naturally enough, however, the primary reason Aliph saw the need for a Big Jambox at all is just one reason: better sound. This is a sample. Ready the full review on TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Disgo Tablet 8104 – £150 Android 4.0 tablet

July 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

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Is a £150 10.1in Android ICS tablet too good to be true?

Price as reviewed £150.00

Overall 5/10

Key Features

  • 10.1in 1024 x 600 display
  • 1.2GHz Corex-A8 CPU, 512MB RAM
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Mini HDMI, microSD slot
  • 4GB onboard storage
 “What a difference a day makes, twenty-four little hours…” Stanley Adams wrote these famous lyrics in 1934, but their relevance has struck once again in the world of technology. On Wednesday the Nexus 7 was unveiled as we were putting the finishing touches to this review and now Google has completely changed the game for budget Android tablets. 

610 Disgo Tablet 8104   £150 Android 4.0 tablet
Design
As such it is with new eyes that we look at the Disgo Tablet 8104. On paper the company appeared to have put together a package of excellent value: a 10.1in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich tablet with HDMI and USB connectivity, a microSD expansion slot and 1.2GHz processor for just £150. Then again, even before the Nexus 7 appeared cracks appeared close up.

Out of the box the Disgo Tablet 8104 is immediately underwhelming, even considering its price. At just 645g it is surprisingly light (considering its screen size), though this is in part because of cheap build materials. We can compromise a great deal for a budget RRP, but the 8104 has an entirely plastic construction with a thin, textured back that does its best to make the tablet feel brittle and sound hollow.

Equally uninspiring is the unusual button layout. Disgo dumps the typical trio of front mounted Home, Menu and Back buttons in favour of a single back button with small On/Off, Menu, Volume and Home buttons positioned along the right side.

Features
In terms of connectivity things do improve. This is a sample. Read the full review at TrustedReviews

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

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