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Can Windows Blue make users care about Windows 8?

March 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

A new form of Windows 8 update may finally see this revolutionary OS excite the masses…

It is said apathy is the worst insult and by this token Microsoft must be fuming. In the five months since its release sales of Windows 8, the company’s self proclaimed revolutionary operating system, have been described as “on par” with Windows 7 despite a fire-sale launch price. And growth of touchscreen monitors, laptops and Windows RT-based tablets has been modest.

Furthermore, partners are unhappy. Both HP and Samsung have recently ditched Windows RT tablet launches, Acer and Asus have publicly stated Windows 8 demand is weak and Fujitsu even blamed the platform for its poor financial results at the end of last year. Never fear, Windows Blue is here. Well, kind of…

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In the Blue Corner
In the most convenient of leaks “from a Microsoft partner based in France”, an all-singing, all-dancing beta of the major Windows 8 update codenamed ‘Windows Blue’ (pictured above) touched down this week. It installs smoothly, has no obvious bugs and brings a raft of new functionality which Microsoft hopes will inspire those as yet unmoved but its hybrid OS.

The feature list is long and includes re-sizable Live Tiles, new Snap Views for fitting apps side by side for better multitasking, access to the majority of core settings without the need to go into desktop mode and tighter integration of SkyDrive with options for it to automatically upload images and videos. There are also tweaks to improve the Charms interface, a preview of an even more touch friendly Internet Explorer 11 and new built in apps including dedicated alarm, calculator and video editing apps.

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Dying Desktop?
Look closely at these improvements and you will see an obvious theme. They tie Windows 8 closer to the experience of Windows Phone 8 and lock users more tightly into Microsoft’s services.

More interestingly though, in bringing greater control and functionality to its touch-centric start screen, Blue has the potential to significantly reduce the time users need to spend in the desktop mode. In fact the desktop mode itself, while getting a technical bump from version 6.2 to 6.3, appears to have received no significant updates whatsoever.

Yes, while Microsoft’s marketing ploy with Windows 8 was its potential to be a hybrid and all things to all users, it is becoming increasingly clear with Blue that the focus is to gradually move users away from the complexities of the desktop altogether. With future editions of Microsoft Office surely not reliant on running in desktop mode that transition will become even easier and force third-party developers to increasingly make apps rather than programs that must be submitted through the Windows Store (along with 20 per cent of their profits).

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Don’t Call It a Service Pack
At this stage whether Windows Blue will update Windows 8 to version 8.1 or 8.5 is unknown, but one thing is certain: they won’t be called ‘Windows 8 Service Pack 1’. Aside from its features, what is arguably even more central to Blue is the change it brings to Microsoft’s software roll outs. This is a sample, to read about how Windows 8 is taking a leaf out of the book of Mac OS X and why it still faces a huge battle to win users’ affect click here for the full editorial @ 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. 

Braven BRV-1

March 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

If you’re looking for a portable speaker that can withstand the trials of outdoor life, the Braven BRV-1 could be the perfect travelling companion…

A sample of my review for ITProPortal.

Score 4/5 Stars

Price £149.99

Good Points
Stylish and extremely rugged design
Speaker, speakerphone and charger in one
Clear, rich audio performance

Bad Points
Volume could be louder
No support for AptX over Bluetooth
Battery life could be longer

“Rugged, water resistant, and built for the outdoors. The BRV-1 will keep up with you in even the most extreme environment.” – Braven BRV-1 product page.

Here at ITProPortal we like a challenge so we decided to put the marketing rhetoric behind Braven’s first rugged Bluetooth portable speaker to the test. In our exclusive review we took the BRV-1 north of the Arctic Circle to spend a week in the snow covered landscape of Finnish Lapland where temperatures in March can drop below -30 degrees Celsius.

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Design
Making the 1,000km journey from Helsinki to our destination in Äkäslompolo by train meant a 14-hour ride. This was more than enough time to get a feel for the BRV-1, but it took just minutes to be struck by two significant aspects. The first observation upon opening the box is that Braven has decided to omit a wall charger. The BRV-1 charges over microUSB and a USB to microUSB cable is included in the box (plus lanyard and 3.5mm cable) and while USB wall chargers aren’t exactly scarce, it will come as a shock to buyers who first unpack the speaker on their travels as we did.

Secondly, and more positively, was the BRV-1’s build quality. To guard against water, impact and extreme temperatures the BRV-1 has a molded rubber finish, tightly sealed seams and control buttons and a large screw cap at the rear which covers its ports. At the front is an aluminium grill (coming in blue or orange finishes) to protect the drivers and the whole package not only feels solid as a rock, but measures only 115 x 60 x 85mm and weighs just 338g. The BRV-1 also looks great thanks to curves somewhat reminiscent of Dark Vader’s Tie Fighter!

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Style is rarely high on the agenda with ruggedised products, but on the side of substance the BRV-1 is shock resistant and sports an IPX5 water resistance rating. The latter of these is defined by International Protection standards as “water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm wide) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects”. In real life this translates to the BRV-1 being happy out in the rain, snow, or liberally sprayed by water in a shower. It cannot, however, be fully submerged.

Features
Aside from the durability the key feature of the BRV-1, and Braven speakers in general, is its flexibility. Bluetooth audio playback is its staple fare (more on this later), but users will also find the BRV-1 functions as a speakerphone for taking calls and a portable charger. The former is aided by the inclusion of a noise cancelling microphone while the latter is enabled by the inclusion of a USB port under its rear screw cover.

The BRV-1 is fitted with a 1,400mAh battery which Braven claims is good for up to 12 hours of continuous playback, but this capacity is also large enough to virtually recharge an iPhone 5 (1,440mAh) or iPhone 4S (1,430mAh) from flat. It will also add significant extra juice to a Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S3 (both 2,100mAh) or a Galaxy Note 2 (3,100mAh), or even an iPad Mini (4,400mAh). It won’t make much impact on the huge 11,666mAh battery fitted inside the iPad 4, but it does still make the BRV-1 potentially three highly useful portable devices in one.

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Performance
So how does it all come together? The good news is remarkably well. At the heart of the BRV-1 are two 40mm drivers, a large 70mm passive subwoofer, class D digital amplifier (delivering a total of 6W) and output level of 95dB at 0.5 metres. Other than the size of the passive sub these don’t actually stand out a great deal, but for portable speakers dispersion and sound signature are far more important and Braven has got both of these right… This is a sample, to read more detail about the performance of the BRV-1, how it faired in our durability tests, its value for money and it read my final verdict click here for the full review @ ITProPortal

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. 

 

 

 

Copywriting – The Food Source: Great Tech-spectations

March 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Media & Copywriting

For freelance writers and journalists flexibility is crucial to earning regular and varied work. One of the most interesting copywriting projects I’ve had as a direct result of this was this report looking into the affect of technological innovation on the restaurant industry.

The grab of the report is below and when clicked it will enlarge. The original article can be found here and I urge you to check out The Food Source which is a super site and opened with the publication of this article just a few weeks ago.

As with my feature writing, editorials and reviews, parties interesting in hiring me for copy writing should contact me via any of the methods listed on my Contact page. You may also wish to view my LinkedIn profile which features numerous recommendations and skill endorsements.

Great Tech-spectations

Click Enlarge

 


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 rBlink

March 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Super high quality audio streaming over Bluetooth may sound like a fantasy, but it is now fact not fiction.

Score 9/10

Pros
Breakthrough in high-quality Bluetooth streaming
Smart, rugged, minimalist design
Setup takes minutes

Cons
Fairly expensive
Could include some wired functionality
Review Price £159.99

Key Features: Integrated TI Burr-Brown PCM5102 DAC; Bluetooth with aptX & AAC streaming; Optical & Coaxial outputs; Automatic distortion and jitter control

Cornflakes and ketchup, Ferrari fire sales, open-source Apple software and high quality Bluetooth audio… some things just aren’t meant to go together, or at least so we thought. Claiming it can disprove the last of these universal truths is British high-end audio manufacturer, Arcam, which seriously believes its latest piece of kit can convince audiophiles that Bluetooth is able to deliver sound quality worthy of their ears.

Arcam rBlink – Design
The product given this herculean task is the ‘rBlink’, which follows the rPAC and rLink as the third in Arcam’s series of consumer-friendly DACs (digital to analog converters), all of which are designed to bolster the quality of our home audio. As such, the design similarities are clear: the rBlink is constructed from the same heavy cast brushed aluminium as its stablemates, has the same thick rubber base to keep it from moving and combines the same feeling of durability with stylish minimalism. In terms of size the rBlink is in the same ball park as its siblings, measuring just 75 x 100 x 26mm and weighing 350g for a tumbler-like reassurance.

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Arcam rBlink – Features
That said, looks aren’t where our interest lies and it is actually the name of the rBlink which subtly gives away its controversial purpose. The ‘B’ stands for Bluetooth and whereas the rLink is a DAC for connecting any source to your speakers via SPDIF or coaxial cables, the rBlink enables the source to connect via Bluetooth. SPDIF and coaxial remain for tethering the rBlink to your speakers, but suddenly the audio from smartphones, tablets and Bluetooth-equipped PCs can be sent to them wirelessly.

The arrangement is Apple-like in its focus: coaxial and SPDIF connectors on one side of the rBlink, while a power input, a pairing button and an antenna reside on the other. Setup is a doddle too; simply connect the rBlink to your speakers, plug in the AC power adaptor (or power it using Arcam’s FMJ A19 stereo amp), press the pair button, pair your source device and hit play. Happily it works just this well in practice.

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Which brings us back to the elephant in the room: Bluetooth. Arcam tackles this affront to audiophile sensibilities via two steps. The first step gives the Bluetooth spec itself a boost by incorporating support for AAC streaming and CSR’s impressive aptX codec. Bluetooth as it stands only supports 128Kbit music using its standard SBC (Subband Coding) codec, however AAC streaming enables AAC music files up to 256Kbit to be streamed to the rBlink. Furthermore aptX supports streaming of any music file up to 380Kbit (typically the highest standard before lossless files) when the source is also aptX compatible. The snag here is that Apple’s iOS devices aren’t aptX compatible, but increasingly large numbers of Android devices (including Samsung and HTC smartphones) and MacBooks are.

As for step two, it comes down to the DAC inside the rBlink. Arcam has opted for tried and trusted technology, with the rBlink using the same TI Burr-Brown PCM5102 DAC that produces stellar results in the rPAC and rLink. Consequently you’ll find an array of high grade specs including support for sample rates up to 192kHz with 24-bit depth, frequency response of 10Hz-20kHz, a signal-to-noise ratio (A –Weighted) of 106dB (24-bit) and line output level of 2.15Vrms. More crucially, the PCM5102 has a Total Harmonic Distortion Noise of just 0.002%, meaning it should put the kibosh on the distortion usually associated with Bluetooth audio and combat jitter. this is a sample to read about how the rBlink performs, its final for money and my final thoughts click here for the full review @ 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. 

 

 

Why Google won’t merge Chrome OS & Android

March 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

No merging of Chrome OS and Android? Apparent stupidity could actually disguise a cunning plan…

 

One Ring to rule them all
One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them
-Lord of the Rings

Contrary to rumour, Sauron may not sit on the Google board of directors (”Don’t Be Evil”), but the dark lord certainly had a mission statement that appears to make more sense than the search giant’s plans for its Android and Chrome OSes…

With or Without You
According to Google chairman Eric Schmidt yesterday, Android and Chrome OS are “certainly going to remain separate for a very long time, because they solve different problems.” His statement surprised many coming just days after Android head Andy Rubin stepped aside to be replaced by Sundar Pichai, vice president of Chrome and apps development. Pichai’s new title: ‘Senior vice president for Android, Chrome and Google Apps’.

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Interestingly Schmidt did tell Reuters he expected more overlap between Chrome OS and Android, but unless we assume he was being entirely disingenuous it seems the two platforms’ Mulder and Scully chemistry will remain on the back burner.

When Two Become One
Which seems stupid. Over two years ago I asked What Is Google Doing With Chrome OS? and the same question could be pitched today. As it stands Chrome OS now looks rather like Windows 7, remains desperately short of killer applications and – most bafflingly – is suddenly being pushed as a touchscreen platform on the new Chromebook Pixel (below) despite no touch optimisation in its user interface whatsoever. What would make sense on the Pixel? Android.

Android and its myriad online and offline apps and Chrome browser (still essentially all that Chrome OS is) now supports ultra-high resolution displays like the 2,560 x 1,600 and 2,560 x 1,700 pixels found in the Google Nexus 10 and Pixel respectively.

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Android does everything Chrome OS can do and much more, is infinitely scalable, holds a 70 per cent share of the global smartphone market and intelligence firm IDC expects it to overtake the iPad as the largest tablet platform this year. Having previously stitched its Android smartphone and tablet operating systems back together in version 4.0 and in continuing to complain about the damage done to Android by fragmentation, it would seem one more simple nip and tuck from Google to fold in Chrome OS would make a great deal of sense. And that was before it brought the platforms together under the same development head.

Furthermore it is a thinly veiled secret that {http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/windows-phone-next-release-set-for-holiday-2013 Windows Blue} is Microsoft’s next major step in merging its Windows and Windows Phone platforms, and Apple continues to take baby steps toward doing the same with Mac OS and iOS.

For these companies the mergers are a major headache, the most difficult and arguably most crucial move either will make in the next decade. Google could merge the best bits of Chrome OS (multiple window support, optional desktop UI) with Android in a heartbeat and jump years ahead of its rivals… but it won’t.

One Is the Loneliest Number
Then again what if Google is right, because it just might be. This is a sample, to read about why Chrome OS and Android may well be best off coexisting click here for the full editorial @ 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. 

 

 

What iOS 7 Features Apple Needs to Catch Android

March 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

After two years of stagnation and bitter legal battles it is time for Apple to get back into the fight with iOS 7…

It is time to admit it. Whether you bought your iPhone or iPad because your friends have one or you bleed white when cut, the sixth generation software of Apple’s iconic handset looks worryingly long in the tooth. iOS 7 needs to do something special.

If you can’t admit it, don’t worry, Apple already has. Last October the company fired Scott Forstall (pictured below), the head of Siri and Apple Maps development which were the two headline features for the iOS 5 and iOS 6 launches respectively. “Scott got what he deserved,” said Tony Fadell, the former senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division.

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By contrast Google’s famously functional ugly duckling Android has grown into a swan during iOS’s troubled times. The influence of former WebOS design genius Matias Duarte is now unmistakable as it leaves the once beautiful, now dated skeuomorphism of iOS behind.

Furthermore, game changing new functionality such as Google Now and Google Voice Search have seamlessly built upon the rock solid core of Gmail, Google Maps and the Chrome browser without any of the drama witnessed at Cupertino.

The trouble is this makes us uneasy. While we are thrilled Android is blossoming, as its primary rival we would like to see Apple spice things up a bit with more than the promise of a cheap iPhone to attract new customers.

Furthermore with Android 5.0 ‘Key Lime Pie’ expected to be unveiled ahead of iOS at Google IO in May it is time Apple and iOS 7 got their mojo back before that gap grows even wider.

User Interface
Enough already. We know there is comfort in the familiarity of the iOS homescreen, but there is also no flexibility unless you define that as “apps in folders” or “apps out of folders”. With iOS 7 Apple must finally embrace ‘’dynamic content’’ as seen in both Android and Windows Phone. Mainstream consumers may be happy with grid after grid of icons, but the ability to insert larger widgets for at-a-glance information for things like calendars, to do lists, notes, core settings and weather is years overdue.

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Equally is the option to ‘’hide apps’’. The opportunity to delete Apple apps has long been a staple of message boards, but with Apple unlikely to entertain that the Android-like ability to keep apps off the homescreen is vital. Imagine Windows or Mac OS forcing you to display every programme on your desktop, it would be chaos yet this is what Apple currently expects iOS users to do.

With Jonathan Ive now heading up software as well as hardware design, expect iOS 7 to get a significant visual makeover so we won’t waste time ranting about skeuomorphism (Ive is well known for his dislike of it). Instead more visual care needs to go on navigation. ‘’Switching between apps’’ should present us with more than four icons at a time (at least make it eight or twelve, if not an actual thumbnail or cards system akin to the App Store) and the ability to ‘’change default apps’’ is fundamental.

Apple may not want users to be able to ditch Apple Maps so easily, but until it proves more worthy of our time switching the default maps app for links to Google Maps should be an option. The same goes for any smart linked information such as browser URLs and phone numbers as well as tighter third-party email integration and switching the default music playback app.

Multitasking
‘‘Smart functionality’’ is the name of the game here. As it stands iOS makes its owners work too hard. New podcasts, RSS and app updates and any form of third party app synchronisation is currently a manual process. It all turns into a real chore requiring users to perform constant maintenance: want to listen to a new podcast on the plane? Did you remember to open the app and wait for it to download first?

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It is worse still with uploading information. If you were uploading images to Dropbox, video to YouTube or Facebook you need to keep the app open and stop the screen from locking until it finishes as iOS limits these functions to just five minutes of background operation before they expire.

It’s time to get smart. Android has long performed all these tasks automatically, as does the new BlackBerry 10 platform. As such notifications are not for what you need to do (or remember to do), but for what has already been done: these apps were updated, these new podcasts were downloaded, these photos and videos were uploaded.

The trouble is that for iOS 7 to achieve this requires an entirely new approach to how it handles multitasking… This is a sample, to read about the fundamental problems for Apple in evolving iOS to better handle multitasking, why iOS need to anticipate our needs not just react to them and why iOS still has key advantages over its rivals if it can modernise click here to read the full 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.

D-Link DIR-845L Cloud Router

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

The fastest dedicated 802.11n dual band router I have seen and strong value for money too…

Score 9/10

Pros
Fastest dedicated 802.11n router to date
Excellent speeds and range over both 5GHz & 2.4GHz
Well priced

Cons
mydlink Cloud platform remains basic
802.11ac routers still best it running at 802.11n

Review Price £105.00

Key Features: 802.11n/g/b WiFi; 2.4GHz & 5GHz dual band ; SmartBeam smart targetting WiFi technology; WPA/WPA2, WPS & WEP 64/128-bit security; IPv6 ready; DLNA certified ; 6 Multi-directional Antennas

D-Link DIR-845L – Introduction
Despite high scoring reviews 802.11ac routers have yet to take off because of one simple, but fundamental thing: a lack of hardware support. Quite frankly there are next to no laptops, tablets or phones on the market right now fitted with this next generation WiFi standard and it could remain quite some time before that changes. As such D-Link steps forward with the DIR-845L, a router which sticks to venerable 802.11n but offers many of the technological innovations seen in AC models and packages it with an appealing price tag. Could the old ways be best?

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D-Link DIR-845L – Design & Features
Certainly unpacking the DIR-845L gives a sense of nostalgia. Before its 802.11ac-equipped DIR-865L returned routers to their more rectangular and uninspiring roots D-Link’s 802.11n models had taken on a more elegant, cylindrical form and this ‘Dark Vader Pringles tube’ look is happily back with the 845L.

At 93 x 111 x 145 mm and 330 grams the 845L is slightly larger than its wireless n stable mates, but that is with good reason. Finally D-Link has married the best features of its 802.11n products into a single model: the 845L gets the dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz antennas and ‘mydlink’ Cloud platform support of the disappointing DIR-826L and ‘SmartBeam’, the superlative performance enhancing technology, of the single band, Cloudless DIR-645 all rolled into one.

Most noteworthy for day to day use is SmartBeam, which has made its way into the 802.11ac standard. Unlike normal 802.11b/g/n routers SmartBeam means a router doesn’t throw out a blind signal of equal radius but instead detects the location of devices connected to it and boosts signal in their direction. Think laser guided missiles rather than a single bomb.

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As for mydlink, the company’s Cloud platform lets you log onto your router from any computer with an Internet connect or from Android and iOS apps and manage it remotely. Functionality includes adding and removing devices, prioritising types of traffic, rebooting, changing the SSID and passwords and enabling notification emails when new devices connect, fail to connect and new firmware is available. mydlink isn’t as powerful as ConnectCloud seen on the latest Linksys routers, but it is a solid base that will no doubt add further features over time.

Elsewhere the 845L ticks all the usual boxes: four Gigabit LAN ports, IPv6 and DLNA support, a USB port for adding external storage or a printer to the network and WPA/WPA2 and WPS security.

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D-Link DIR-845L – Setup
A high point for D-Link in recent years has been the simplicity of its routers’ setup and this remains the case. Less technical users can pop in the supplied CD or download the setup software from the D-Link website and it goes through a setup wizard that lets you name the router, its 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (the latter is labelled ‘Media’ by default), change passwords and register with mydlink. Since the 845L doesn’t contain a modem (the popular option these days) connecting to the Internet is merely a case of plugging it into your existing modem via an Ethernet cable.

Meanwhile advanced users will be happy to know that unlike ConnectCloud, mydlink doesn’t do away with the more old school local admin access (via the familiar 198.168.0.1 IP address). This allows you to delve deep into all advanced settings and tinker to your hearts content… This is a sample to read about the class leading performance of the 845L and why its exceptional value for money means you have a difficult choice to make click here for the full review @ 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. 

4G & Phablets Pressurise Hollywood to Move On

March 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Movie studios must grasp the mobile video revolution while file sharing slumps…

 

“Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who.”
-Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Look at the battleground in the war against illegal file sharers and the casualties pile sky high. Kazaa, LimeWire, ShareReactor, Megaupload, SuprNova, LokiTorrent, NZBMatrix, Newzbin; ISPs ordered to block sites and track customers; The Digital Economy Act, SOPA, ACTA, Three Strikes Rules; countless members of the public sued in court… and this week yet more censorship as the UK’s six largest ISPs were ordered to block access to three more sites: Kickass Torrents, H33T and Fenopy. It is a scorched earth policy that needs to stop, lawyers must have their firing pins removed and common ground met because, low and behold, both the answer and the threat of a (literally) larger problem are now with us.

Pirates At Bay
First the good news. According to research company The NPD Group illegal music file sharing declined in 2012 and the numbers are impressive:

  • Usage of illegal peer-to-peer (P2P) music services down 17 per cent
  • Volume of illegally downloaded music down 26 per cent
  • Copyrighted files swapped between hard drives down 25 per cent
  • Cessation or reduction in illegal downloading by 40 per cent of self confessed pirates in 2011

Was the answer litigation, laws and censorship? Don’t be silly. “The primary reason for this reduced sharing activity was an increased use of free, legal music streaming services,” said NPD. “In fact nearly half of those who stopped or curtailed file sharing cited the use of streaming services as their primary reason for stopping or reducing their file-sharing activity.”

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Right on cue the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry reported more good news: in 2012 the music industry posted its first overall revenue growth since 1999. It was just 0.3 per cent but driving it was, surprise surprise, musical subscription services which grew 44 per cent in the last 12 months while their revenues leapt 59 per cent in the first half of 2012 alone.

Even the record labels themselves had a rare moment of sounding happy. “Pirate services are clunky and old-fashioned,” said Rob Wells, president of Universal Music Group’s global digital business. “They’re being usurped by mass consumer migration to smartphones and access to millions of tracks from legitimate subscription services… the pirate option just cannot offer that complete consumer experience.”

That noise you hear comes from thousands of light bulbs collectively flicking on above the heads of record executives across the globe. Of course the music industry isn’t out the woods yet, but with the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon still to deliver subscription services it would seem there is room for massive additional growth which will further reduce piracy and bolster earnings. So we have an answer: after nearly two decades of fighting through the courts, the most successful way to counter piracy is simply to offer more compelling legal alternatives.

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Video Killed The Radio Star
Yet with substance to finally back up a line of argument which has been preached for years, there is a new threat on the horizon that risks history repeating: video.

Illegal sharing of video, both television and film, is nothing new but in 2013 proliferation of big screen smartphones, so-called ‘phablets’, the continued rise of cheap tablets and mass 4G roll outs are set to drive portable video into the mainstream for the first time. Last September research from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech had already spelt out the obvious: the larger the screen size the more video (and content in general) you consume.

Consequently since January what have we had? *deep breath* The 5in Sony Xperia Z, Huawei Ascend D2, ZTE Grand S, Asus PadFone Infinity and impending Galaxy S4. The 5.5in LG K900, LG Optimus G Pro and 5.7in ZTE Grand Memo. Meanwhile cheap tablets got a boost from the 7in Asus PhonePad and 8in Galaxy Note 8.0.

Which leads to even more good news: the services are in place to make this happen. NetFlix and LoveFilm have mature platforms and polished apps, Sky Go and BBC iPlayer lead the way in on-demand and downloadable broadcast content with most of the other main channels following suit. In the UK the 4G spectrum auction also completed successfully last week, with widespread services set to launch in the second half of the year (full analysis here).

This is supposed to be a happy occasion…
Which brings us to the inevitable ‘but’ and that is the overriding villains of the piece: content creators. This is a sample, to read about the battle – and the opportunity TV and film studios cannot afford to miss click here for the full feature @ 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. 

 

Is Matias Duarte the man to make or break Android?

March 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Matias Duarte might not have the god-like image of Jony Ive, but he’s had almost as much impact on the mobile tech we use today…

Technology journalists are rarely a sentimental bunch, but the mere mention of WebOS is enough to make some teary eyed. Bandied around like an unloved puppy, the former Palm platform was this week sold on to LG which hopes to find it a place in smartphones, tablets and primarily TVs. HP, its former owner, is typically cast as the villain who snatched WebOS away from more suitable buyers during Palm’s demise and slowly ran one of tech’s most promising platforms into the ground through ridiculous decision making and neglect. Prior to the sale, HP’s last act was to throw WebOS to the open source community to rip it apart like wolves. Yes WebOS’s story is a sorry one, but the man behind it could yet have an even more dramatic tale to tell.

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The Webslinger

Matias Duarte was just 35 and dressed in a shocking orange shirt when he demoed WebOS for the first time at CES 2009. Duarte was the lead developer and showed off features that not only caused shock and awe at the time, but which are still passed off by the likes of Apple, Google and BlackBerry as revolutionary today. Most recently the last of these went to great pains in its BB10 launch to highlight its ‘true’ multitasking, swipe gestures which originate from the bezel, card-style app switching and the ‘Hub’ which aggregates SMS, emails and social networking alerts into a single thread. In 2009 WebOS already had them all.

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Meanwhile WebOS’ ‘unobtrusive’ banner-style notifications, integration of social networking data with contacts and ‘Think Ahead’ all-in-one phone, Internet and Wikipedia search were mimicked by both Android and iOS less than 12 months later. In all Duarte is named as inventor of 18 of WebOS’ primary patent applications and was given full control over its evolution. As such it was no surprise to see Duarte leave Palm less than a month after it was acquired by HP in 2010. His destination was an obvious one: Director of User Experience for Android.

Background

Moving to a company with near-limitless resources and a functional rather than beautiful product range which desperately needed a makeover seemed like the ideal fit for Duarte, but his rise to the top of the software designer tree had long looked inevitable.

At just 23 the Chilean had been lead designer on Atari’s Phase Zero hovercraft simulator, at 24 he was vice president of design at game studio MagicArts and between 2000 and 2005 Duarte was director of design at Danger. Here he created the platform of the same name for T-Mobile’s hugely successful Hiptop and SideKick phones and won Wired’s 2002 Industrial Designer Rave Award beating competition from Apple’s Industrial Design Team which had been nominated for its work on the flat panel iMac. In 2007 Palm came calling.

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The subsequent switch to Android delighted Google’s executives, they believed they had found their very own Jonathan Ive.

Do Androids Dream?

Certainly early signs are that Google has the right man. Arriving in May 2010 Duarte’s first challenge was developing Android 3.0 ‘Honeycomb’, the release which controversially fractured Android into phone and tablet segments. Duarte’s instructions were to design a more beautiful and intuitive tablet platform, re-stitch it with the phone OS carrying forward his design changes for Android 4.0 and pursue three key goals: larger screened devices, continued evolution of Android, and a better user interface.

Coincidentally May 2010 was a key month for Android. It was the month analysts reported Google’s OS has overtaken the iPhone’s market share in the US for the first time, though it still remained significantly behind leader BlackBerry. Skip forward to 2012 and Android has over 70 per cent of the global smartphone market, Apple has 20 per cent and Windows Phone and the new BlackBerry 10 platform are left desperately fighting each other to stay relevant miles behind in third place.

Over this time Apple’s troubled Siri and Maps launches have seen iOS stall, but a huge amount of credit for Android’s rise also goes to Duarte as he adds increasing amounts of the polish and smart design seen in WebOS into Android 4.x. A key moment came with Android 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’ in September which saw the realisation of ‘Project Butter’. This ended the previously choppy navigation associated with Android and made the whole platform run at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. Google was suddenly pushing beauty as a key selling point.

After Project Butter was released Duarte commented “we still have a lot of work to do. Personally I feel like I’ve gotten only about a third of the way to where I want to be with regards to consistency, responsiveness and polish.” The same month Duarte was recognised by Co.Design as ‘One of 50 Designers Shaping the Future’.

Blade Runner

There was a further upside to Duarte’s design lead revolution: suddenly Google’s own-brand Nexus products were in massive demand. This was a radical turnaround. In July 2010, just months after Duarte’s arrival then Google CEO Eric Schmidt announced sales of its debut Nexus One would stop and that Google had no interest in making more self-branded hardware. “The idea a year and a half ago was to do the Nexus One to try to move the phone platform hardware business forward,” he told the Telegraph. “It clearly did. It was so successful, we didn’t have to do a second one. We would view that as positive but people criticised us heavily for that. I called up the board and said: ‘Ok, it worked. Congratulations – we’re stopping’.”

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But Google wasn’t stopping. By the end of the year a Nexus S was launched, followed by a Galaxy Nexus in November 2011 – though while garnering good reviews, sales of both remained niche. Exactly one year later the Nexus 4 was unveiled and launched with a breakthrough price point and Android 4.2, the latest, smoothest and most polished version of Android to date. Suddenly sales went through the roof and Google was lambasted for being unable to keep up with demand as stock ran out for weeks at a time.

Much like the Apple business model, slick hardware and even slicker software had now combined and ‘Google phones’ were being propelled into the big leagues. Duarte and his designer team appeared to have led Android into a new era… but it now looks only to be the calm before the storm. This is a sample, to read about the storm Duarte is leading Android into and the crucial choice Google must now take click here for the full feature on ITProPortal


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. 

4G Auction Fallout: Finding the Best Network For You

March 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

The UK’s 4G auction is over, but who came out on top?

The launch of the PlayStation 4 may have dominated technology news this week, but a far more important and wide-ranging event for UK residents also occurred: the winners of the 4G spectrum auction were announced. It isn’t surprising the news largely flew under the radar; the process was long and arduous, the subject of the bids is complex and its end result doesn’t immediately impact the consumer. But boy will it, so let’s break things down.

What Is 4G?
The first thing to say about 4G is that the name is misleading. 4G is actually an extension of 3G which squeezes the last (but easily most significant) speed gains out of the standard. Experts refer to it as 3.9G or LTE (Long Term Evolution), but understandably this isn’t a great marketing term and given its potential to increase mobile data speeds by up to 20x it’s understandable why the powers that be have decided to market it as 4G. Genuine 4G (which, amusingly, is now likely to be labelled ‘5G’) won’t be with us for another decade.

4G

What was at stake?
4G is split into three primary spectrums in the UK: 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz, with the lion’s share of 800MHz and 2600MHz up for auction. Bidders were O2, Vodafone, Three, Everything Everywhere and British Telecom. BT has no plans to become a mobile carrier again, but instead wants a section to augment its nationwide service of BT OpenZone wireless hotspots.

As for the spectrum itself, there is a simple rule of thumb: the lower the number the further it will travel (good for increasing coverage) but the higher the number the faster the speeds it can deliver (good for congested urban environments). As such, those living in rural areas should look for a provider with lots of 800MHz spectrum and those in urban would benefit from a lot of 2600MHz spectrum.

Crucially 1800MHz, despite being a decent all rounder and the most common band for 4G services around the world, was not up for auction. In fact only Everything Everywhere owns any 1800MHz spectrum, which it had used for 2G services. Last year Ofcom controversially allowed EE to reuse some of this spectrum for 4G (which gave the company a significant head start on its rivals) under the condition it sold a large slice (2x 15MHz) to Three for a capped fee of £425m to protect its market position as the smallest carrier ahead of the main auction.

So Who Got What?
Vodafone
2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz
2 x 20 MHz of 2.6 GHz and
1 x 25 MHz of 2.6 GHz (unpaired)
Total paid: £791m
Vodafone was by far the biggest bidder splashing out £791m for five chunks of spectrum. Most notably it attained the joint largest share of 800MHz spectrum which means it is strongly placed for services in rural areas while it also bought the second largest slice of 2600MHz. The only hole in its armour is the aforementioned lack of 1800MHz spectrum, but these purchases should be enough to offset it.

Everything Everywhere
2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz
2 x 35 MHz of 2.6 GHz
Total paid £588.9m
EE was the second largest bidder attaining the greatest portion of 2600MHz spectrum of any carrier. Strangely EE didn’t invest as heavily in the 800MHz band, but it remains to be seen if it believes its existing 1800MHz 4G service is strong enough to handle any coverage issues.

O2
2 x 10 MHz of 800 MHz
Total paid: £550m
O2 spent the third highest total and surprisingly skipped purchasing any 2600MHz spectrum whatsoever instead opting for the joint largest 800MHz acquisitions. The theory behind this is that O2’s existing infrastructure of extensive WiFi hotspots will support urban needs – a smart move just so long as it doesn’t backfire in major cities where the largest concentration of customers exist. Interestingly O2 has also taken on Ofcom’s coverage obligation to provide indoor coverage to 98 per cent of the UK population by 2017.

Three
2 x 5 MHz of 800 MHz
Total paid: £225m
Given it is by far the smallest network Three predictably paid the least, but it actually came out well. It’s 800MHz purchases were price protected by Ofcom and combined with its 30MHz chunk of 1800MHz spectrum from EE it is in a strong position. Yes it lacks any 2600MHz, but given Three’s smaller customer base and traditionally strong backbone of 3G services this combination should prove more than enough. Of course Three’s recent announcement to charge no premium for 4G on its tariffs will no doubt put this to the test.

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What Happens Next?
From this outline alone you will likely be forming conclusions about which network looks best served to deliver your 4G needs, but it isn’t quite that simple. This is a sample, to read about what still has to happen, what handsets will work with which networks, what it means if you just signed a long term contract using 3G and when you’ll be able to get 4G click here for the full 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. 

 

 

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