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How HTC Got It Right

April 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

I’ve been very critical of smartphone makers in recent times. Last year Nokia got it in the neck and last week I laid into RIM. Now it is time for credit where credit is due. Just how did HTC increase its share price 30x in two years…?

This is the topic for my TrustedReviews feature. As always, find a link to the full feature at the bottom of this sample.

 

How HTC Got It Right

On Wednesday HTC hit a remarkable milestone. Its market capitalisation surpassed Nokia. It had already surpassed RIM. Even more impressive was the vast majority of the rises occurred in just the last two years. So what is HTC getting so very right?

First things first. Let’s put these figures into context. Market capitalisation is not a literal valuation. For example in 2010 Nokia turned over €43.5bn and employs over 130,000 people. HTC turned over $9.57bn (€6.7bn) in 2010 and employs just over 5,500 people. Instead market capitalisation is share based. It looks at the share price multiplied by the shares outstanding. Run these numbers and HTC is currently worth $33.88bn, Nokia $32.84bn and RIM $28.5bn. What’s more HTC’s market cap is in excess of 30x its value five years ago. This poses two questions: 1. Why? and 2. Don’t you wish you bought shares?

The why can be answered economically. For all Nokia’s size its €43.5bn turnover made just €1.85bn in net income. By contrast HTC’s €6.7bn turnover produced €1.35bn in net income. Who would you say has the more efficient, more profitable and consequently more appealing business model to investors? On Friday HTC reported its Q1 2011 financial results. Net profit for the first three months of the year hit $511m, this traditionally slow time is almost triple HTC’s figures for the same period in 2010.

 

Don’t you wish you bought shares? In fairness you’re not daft if you were caught out. Despite its meteoric recent rise, HTC isn’t a new company, it was actually founded way back in 1997.

READ ON

What Can Be Read Into Google’s eBook Plans?

December 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

What will happen when Google leaps into the eBook sector? If you enjoy this sample, read my full editorial over at TrustedReviews.


I get asked this question a lot, so let’s just get it out of the way. My favourite gadget of 2010? The new Amazon Kindle. Come this time next year, however, could it be a Google eReader?

If Google decides the follow the path laid down by this-is-how-you-do-it handset the Nexus One as well as the much rumoured Chrome OS smartbook then quite possibly. That said given the torturous route to market of Google’s eBook store perhaps I’ll be rehashing this editorial in December 2011. Let’s stay positive though, because what has prompted all this talk is a statement this week from Google product management director Scott Dougall that the company is finally getting its eBook store plans together.

“Because of the complexity of this project, we didn’t want to come out with something that wasn’t thorough,” Dougall explained to the Wall Street Journal adding that a revised timeframe would see ‘Google Editions’ launch in the US this month and internationally in Q1.

So what? There are plenty of eBook stores out there and yes it is Google, but why should we care? READ ON

Why Google missed a beat with Buzz

March 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Reprinted with permission from my original article featured on the TalkTalk Blog

The attraction of social networking is undeniable. Posting status updates, photo tagging, ‘poking’ and telling each other how pretty we look has been like catnip to web surfers for many years now. In fact, if Facebook were a country its 400m members would make it the third largest country in the World behind China and India and 25% larger than the United States. Understandably, as widely recognised king of the Internet, Google felt it was being left behind. It wanted to catch up, and – as is Google’s obsession – fast.

From the moment it made this decision, however, the problems started. The cleverly named Google ‘Buzz’ was launched on 9 February to widespread disdain. At best, Buzz was deemed a me-too service with little to distinguish it from Facebook or Twitter, and at worst an invasive, assumptive robot that led to genuine privacy concerns and even fears over personal safety.

Google Buzz

Buzz off

What had gone so terribly wrong? On the outside Buzz is a simple, almost Twitter-like, status update service which allows users to share their thoughts across other Google offerings such as Picasa, Reader, Blogger and YouTube as well as integrating with Flickr and Twitter. The key message: that Buzz would bridge the gapbetween work and leisure.

The problem, to my mind, was that Google hadn’t thought enough about the ‘social’ element of ‘social networking’ – that, at heart, it is founded on people’s need to interact and to do this with all of the quirky, illogical, endearing and infuriating methods that make up the human condition. Google isn’t a company based around the quirky, illogical, endearing and infuriating. It isn’t even really a fan of the human condition. To me, Google is more of a fan of ones and zeros, of computer logic and crunching the numbers, of building by formula and that silicon chip approach is ill-fitting with the unscientific heart at the centre of social networking.

Consequently the key message was the most fundamentally misplaced: the gap between work and leisure is often there for a reason. Those who we email most often are not necessarily our friends or the most important people in our lives; in fact they may be the people we least want to know out innermost thoughts and ramblings. Computers don’t pick up on this and neither did Google.

Consequently Buzz automatically conscripted all Gmail users, their friends lists were determined by frequency of communication and their personal information spread between them. The result? Your boss was suddenly told about the slacking you did in the afternoon, your parents about how drunk you were at the weekend, you ex-partner about your latest love life revelations. Understandably, criticism flooded in and emotions ran high.

Back to the drawing board

Thankfully Google was quick to respond to feedback. Within 48 hours it had added privacy options to hide personal information from so-called ‘friends’ and introduced the most basic of human needs: the ability to block people who start following you. Another 48 hours passed and on 13 February yet more changes appeared with fundamentals such as giving users the right not to automatically follow their most emailed contacts. Your personal Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader stories of interest were also not fair game to anyone who had reason to speak with you regularly.

To anyone not using the world’s most powerful collection of servers to make their business decisions these would have been obvious omissions from the start and Buzz product manager Todd Jackson spoke to BBC News acknowledging “tens of millions” of users were “rightfully upset” and that it was “very, very sorry”. I wonder why everything was so rushed? Perhaps Google was upset that Orkut, its previous attempt to hop on the social networking bus, lags far behind Facebook with just 100m users (the majority of which, famously, live in Brazil). Perhaps it didn’t want to rely on the importance of Twitter for real time search. Or perhaps it was just a little frustrated and desperate – two very real, but unfamiliar emotions during its meteoric rise.

Google is famous for launching products unfinished, but this is dangerous with social networking. And you can’t make up for lost time by forcing a social network together out of Gmail users, anymore than you can force users of the same telephone company into a room and tell them to be friends.

The irony in all this is sublime. Google is a company obsessed with collecting and analysing data on human behaviour, yet when it came to the crunch I don’t think it really understands us at all…

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. 

How Twitter will change internet search forever

November 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Reprinted with permission from my original article featured on the TalkTalk official blog

The name alone instantly polarises reactions, but ‘Twitter’ looks set to have a far greater impact on our lives than anyone could have imagined.

If you haven’t heard the phrase already, ‘Real Time Search’ is likely to become one of the buzz words of 2010. What it refers to is the ability to search for information published on the Internet as it happens and it is something Twitter has perfected as it sought to organise the tens of millions of tweets sent through the service every day. Consequently Twitter users can immediately see what the ‘trending topics’ (read: hot topics) of the minute/hour/day/week are, read about developments and get involved.

Twitter - real time search

High profile examples of this during 2009 include the breaking news of Michael Jackson’s death, the Hudson river plane crash and the Trafigura waste dumping scandal. In fact multiple heavyweight news organisations now scan Twitter on a daily basis for breaking news and trends in public opinion – all of which is pulling traffic away from traditional search engines. After all, why use Google to find what the weather is like in Madrid when a Twitter search can pinpoint a local who made comment on it in the last five minutes and posted a picture?

The keyword in all this is ‘relevancy’. The battle for web supremacy lies in the service which can provide the most relevant information to the user and a key aspect of this is speed. So while traditional search engines work by web search crawls which index them into a logical order, the delay can take hours when the goal is seconds. Consequently the Twitter licensing deal will initially see users Tweets integrated into Google and Bing search results (Twitter users have the right to opt out) and the impact of this is profound.

While what Ashton Kutcher or Stephen Fry had for breakfast is unlikely to trouble CNN, it means the on-location reports from (for example) the Hudson River crash would now break through search engines not the BBC or Reuters. Never before has such people power been harnessed. Of course such a system is also open to great abuse, the recent tasteless fad for spreading fake celebrity deaths on Twitter is a prime example, but with this door now open it is extremely unlikely to ever be closed.

Still not convinced? YouTube and Facebook have recently both announced plans to integrate this technology into their respective sites. So that’s Microsoft, Google, Facebook, YouTube (Google by proxy) and Twitter all focused on real time search. Resistance is understandable, but in the long run it’s futile.

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. 

Google Chrome OS and what it means for you

July 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Reprinted with permission from my original article featured on the TalkTalk official blog

There is a new operating system in town and it’s built by Google…

This month the search giant announced ‘Chrome OS’ – a strange name you’d think because it is named after the Google Chrome web browser. Surely what is usually just one component of an operating system should not be the inspiration for it? After all you don’t see Microsoft announcing ‘Internet Explorer OS’.

In actual fact however this is exactly what Chrome OS is, an operating system named after a web browser which is its inspiration and core. The argument is simple: research shows users now spend the majority of their time on a computer using the web browser and Google believes elements traditionally outside it can be seamlessly integrated in time. This strategy includes an impending redesign of Google Docs which it hopes will tempt users away from Microsoft Office.

Google Chrome

So is Google OS simply an operating system which loads a web browser? In short we don’t know. What we do know it is will be open source so anyone can develop for it and that it will be built upon Linux, the same core behind the increasingly popular Ubuntu platform. Google says the benefits of Chrome OS will be extremely fast boot times and much faster operation on old and low powered PCs compared to Windows.

Moving your data onto the internet means that users will be able to access it from any computer and the theory is it should be much more secure with the might of Google looking after it (conspiracy theories aside). Furthermore, if your computer breaks or is stolen then that data is safe. Critically it will also be free.

The drawbacks? We simply don’t know enough about Chrome OS yet. Google recently published a Chrome OS FAQ which confirmed major PC makers such as Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba are interested but up to now we haven’t been presented with so much as a screenshot. Google Gears will allow common online tasks such as Gmail and Google Docs to be used offline but it is still awaiting widespread industry acceptance. It is also unclear how Google will tackle popular pastimes such as gaming with Chrome OS though the OnLive Cloud based streaming model may become paramount here.

The relevance of Chrome OS however is clear. Google sees the future of computing online. As the most powerful company on the Internet that could be expected but the cost savings, performance benefits and accessibility of information online does make for a compelling argument. That said, I would stress expectations are tempered, at least initially. The first version of Chrome OS will not arrive until the second half of 2010 and Google is a company which famously likes to beta test in public so expect things to be extremely rough and ready at first.

In the meantime, whether Google or Microsoft has the right approach, there is one indisputable fact which cannot be ignored: in future we’re going to be spending even more of our time online and what we do with it will become ever more advanced. So be sure to grab yourself a fast and reliable broadband connection and hold on tight!

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. 

HTC Magic Android Smartphone

May 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

The T-Mobile G1 has been left on its own as the sole Google Android handset for seven long months, but now it finally has some company and competition in form of the ‘Magic’. Like the G1, the Magic is made by Taiwanese manufacturing giant HTC but has been sold to different networks around the globe. On the surface, the HTC Magic is a far more sophisticated handset than the G1 and is an easy sell, so most importantly what’s not to like…

The preamble: My cult and contentious reviews’ system. Designed as a time saver to highlight the potential deal breakers in a product before you commit to reading lengthy reviews on your favourites sites and/or magazines. For a more detailed description please read: the Rules

HTC Magic Android Smartphone

HTC Magic Android Smartphone

Just the Bad Points Review: HTC Magic Android Smartphone

  • 3.2in capacitive touchscreen is large, but physically smaller than the HTC Touch HD & iPhone
  • The screen’s 320 x 480 resolution matches the iPhone but is less than some VGA (480 x 640) Windows Mobile smartphones
  • No physical Qwerty keyboard or number pad
  • 3.2 megapixel camera is mediocre and lacks autofocus
  • Native storage is minimal at 512MB though there is a microSD expansion slot
  • No multi-touch support exists in Android at present
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack means an adaptor must be used for third party earphones
  • No DivX/AVI video support
  • No support for lossless music
  • Android requires users to have a Gmail account (though enforced, in itself not a bad thing)

Google Android vs. Mobile Mac OS X

January 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

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If the launch last week of the wonderfully impressive INQ1 didn’t make it abundantly clear, there is an intense war now being fought across the mobile phone landscape and it has nothing to do with megapixels, gigabytes or even – despite what mainstream advertising might tell you – touchscreens. In fact, this war has nothing to do with hardware at all because at very long last it appears dopey manufacturers are getting the message that specsmanship is nothing without a solid foundation of software craftsmanship.It’s a simple, yet much ignored notion that if you want a handset to be used to its full potential it must have a GUI intuitive enough to entice consumers to make the learning process seem worthwhile. After all, if you equipped a car with a circular saw blade instead of a steering wheel, no one would learn how to drive.
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The reason for this change is simple and polarising. No, not the Apple iPhone – if that’s what you thought you’ve missed the point. It is mobile Mac OS X, the game changing software platform which turns a nicely designed but also in many ways flawed slab of a handset into such an incredible product. You’ve heard it all before: where both the iPhone and iPhone 3G flourish is in terms of usability for despite a number of spec sheet faux pas both generations are a joy to use, an intuitive quantum leap for the sector which has seen perhaps the best examples of convergence to date and the creation of devices which actually encourage owners to use all their featur… *SNORE*Yep, boring. Grandpa Simpson boring. Mind numbingly, spirit crushingly boring.Why? Well, don’t get me wrong – the industry clearly needed the iPhone to kick it up the backside using boots fitted with steel toecaps and a cattle prod but to be almost two yearson from the original iPhone announcement and still find ourselves eulogising about how wonderful/slick/fun the handset is to use is as much an insult to Apple’s vapid rivals as it is a credit to Cupertino. We’re in the tech industry for Heaven’s Sake! Do you think we enjoy prattling on about this every time the latest example of ill-thought out steroid induced specsmanship from the Far East turns up on our desks? No, it’s dull, dull, dull – until now…
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You see Microsoft might have ambitious plans for Windows Mobile (6.5 and 7 are both scheduled to launch in 2009), Symbian might evolve beyond all recognition now the newly formed Symbian Foundation is going open source and with the Storm RIM might finally hit back against the iPhone which outstripped total combined BlackBerry sales in recent months.

On the other hand, there’s a quirky little company headquartered in Mountain View, California that has actually gone out there and done it. It’s name is Google – I’m guessing you’ve heard of it – and with the uncanny knack of turning everything it touches into gold, the search giant formed the Open Handset Alliance to create what is currently the most ambitious and exciting alternative to mobile OS X on the market.

Attractive, intuitive, App Store rivalling and – vitally – open source, Android is handset free, network free and yes, free. Praise be, the mobile market suddenly got interesting again.

So with this in mind let’s take a closer look at the two most exciting platforms of the moment and see what there is to choose between them and where their future lies. Ding, Ding – Round One…

This is a sample, read the full editorial 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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