Tuesday 28 April 2009

Mobile rumours bearing fruit for Apple?

In the US press at the moment there are a lot of rumours (sorry rumors!) that Apple may open up the next iPhone to mobile operators other than AT&T, such as Verizon. This is pretty unlikely in my view. However I suspect Apple is in negotiation with a number of mobile providers around the globe. And what better time when there is a new iPhone coming out, just to keep them all interested. But my money is on Apple including a SIM card of choice in its line of notebook computers at their next refresh. This will push forward the connectivity of their laptop platform and offer options of subsidising (ok, subsidizing!) hardware, and therefore reducing the price of their range of MacBooks considerably. This will bring them into line with the price of other much lower spec PC laptops and again extend the Apple product range to more people, through more affordability without hitting margins.

In Europe, where the 3G UMTS networks are more developed across different mobile providers, Apple may well decide to open the iPhone to more network providers once any exclusivity deals are up for grabs, again to widen the potential penetration of its mobile platform. But this will be on a geography by geography basis and there's no desperate hurry given how the demand for iPhone is going so far, even in a recession!

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Future of Privacy

I had the privilege to provide the keynote opening speech yesterday at the CCTV User Group Conference in Manchester, UK. I touched on the idea of future privacy, since this is often a concern for people who are involved in security roles, of which CCTV is one component. Google may have made more of a headline recently with their street-view photography exercise amongst those people who felt it intruded on their privacy, but the number and placement of CCTV cameras which have seen explosive growth in recent years has probably meant that people are tracked far more as they go about their lives. This is the early embryonic stage of the technology digital bubble where sensors and cameras of various types are deployed in huge numbers in the environment such that information can be constantly provided and exchanged about what people are doing and where.

In the future, privacy will be more about selecting and managing how much information you give about yourself and to whom. Choosing not to give away information may say more about you than doing so to some limited degree. Increasingly the digital bubble that surrounds people will allow this sharing and interaction to be done automatically on your behalf and according to the rules that you have set. Choosing to give out information may be incentivised and provide you with benefits of some sort, in an analogous way to how accepting advertising today can result in "free" access to media or information.

Cameras will continue to be deployed in ever-increasing numbers, and instead of being connected in closed private circuits, many will be Internet linked and available to large numbers of people. Software already allows auto-analysis of what such cameras see and this will improve immeasurably in performance and quality. Eventually, many of us will be able to record our whole lives as media streams and software then will allow us to find interesting excerpts at will, quickly and easily. Virtualisation will allow the replay to be carried out from any desired perspective. Memories will be more vivid and easier to share. Maybe I will get to speak at the "Life Recording User Group" conference!

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Reducing the size of the world...

As this blog has now clocked up visitors from 50 countries around the globe I would like to give my thanks for all those who read it, especially those far from the shores where I am normally resident. I have seen so much technology innovation when in places like Japan and MIT in the USA, and look forward to visits to the emerging China and India when the time comes.

The Internet has enabled the globe to seem local. It will continue to do this and provide the backbone of a system that enables distributed democracy and global economic access to the smallest and remotest retailer. The net is enabling young people to build social networks from an early age, becoming a part of that global but seemingly local community. Organisations are beginning to wake up to the new ways that their young customers want to do business with them. And individuals are becoming empowered by the devices they carry around which keep them connected almost all of the time.

Information is being accessed and acted upon faster and in bigger quantities than ever before, effectively decision making in place of laissez-faire. What people didn't know they didn't worry about nor did they care. In the future the amount of information and the decision making processes that come with it will be totally dynamic. And then machines will be making more of the decisions before the human users have to worry about it! Now that will be fun... will people continue to complain of information overload when machines relieve them of the problem?

Sunday 12 April 2009

The 3 card trick - when will they learn?

So rumour has it that Microsoft are to follow-up their failed attempt with Zune to compete with iPod with a "Zune HD" device to compete with the iPod Touch. However it is not simply launching a media player device that makes an iPod a success in the market place. It is the old 3 card trick ... the device, the software to manage the media (in the iPod's case, iTunes) and the online store to sell content and applications... which is the recipe for success. This method of cooking has evolved too, with the establishment of a software development kit for a standardised hardware platform and unified sales portal which have added to the mixture. The other essential ingredient is timing ... important in all good cooking ... in this case hitting the market at the right time. It is only in recent times that fixed and latterly/increasingly mobile download speeds have facilitated the mass-market online purchase of media and applications.

Apple will likely add additional video features in a big way to the iPhone/iPod Touch hardware platform this Summer and follow that up with a completely new device with larger screen later in the year. These steps will take their lead even further ahead of the competition, in ways which give the latter a hard job trying to follow.

Friday 10 April 2009

The Windows Legacy

It is expected that the new Windows 7 replacing the ill-fated Vista will appear around January 2010. However Microsoft have already announced that anyone with Windows 7 will be able to downgrade not only to Vista but also to Windows XP, an operating system that was released in 2001. This means that some users will be stuck on operating system technology which is almost a decade old. That is a very long time in computing terms.

This must be a worrying thought for the company with clearly the most dominant numbers of desktop computer operating systems on the planet. But perhaps not as worrying as the fact that XP is really the only option for those who are following the current trend towards cheap and low spec netbook computers. And XP will soon transition to the almost unsupported stage, maybe not so important for the mass consumer market but certainly so for Microsoft's corporate customers. Maybe Windows "8" will overcome the Windows legacy? We shall see.

Monday 6 April 2009

Printing electronics potential

Innovation in future devices and electronics will be enabled by many advances.  The advent of surface mount components enabled huge advances in miniaturisation of devices for example, which we now take for granted.   Another advance is the ability to 'print' electronic components on to surfaces.   The surfaces may be plastic or textiles for example.  This brings mass market wearable computing closer and is applicable in lots of other contexts such as flexible displays.  

I was pleased to read recently that a new research centre (PTEC) has opened in the UK in County Durham, specialising in printable electronics.  They are hoping to accelerate the commercialisation of printable electronics research and an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) lighting firm is already building their first production line facility within the PTEC clean room environment.  In the display area alone, the printable electronics industry could see massive growth over the next decade as more and more devices demand these new innovative displays.