Friday 18 November 2011

Speaking of Technology

So my wife now has an upgraded phone, the iPhone 3GS (my old one) and I have my new iPhone 4S. So we could move to iOS5 together. One of the unique features of iOS5 on the iPhone 4S is Siri. Siri is not just voice recognition; it is contextual language understanding. Voice recognition on most other devices relies on you speaking particular words or sometimes phrases, which are recognised, matched and cause actions to be carried out. With Siri, you don't really have to think what the phrase is that you have to use; you simply say what you want. And you can usually rely on Siri using previous voice commands when interpreting subsequent ones. For example, if you ask something about weather for one location, you do not have to mention weather again when you want that information for another location; you simply say "and in London?".

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Siri was demonstrated the first time I ever tried it. After removing it from the box, and the SIM card was inserted, I instantly loaded my mail, address book, and calendar information via MobileMe. I then used Siri for the first time by saying "Call my wife". I expected it to ask who my wife is, at least the first time. But instead my wife's phone rang! The only way I can think that this was possible was from multiple lookups to my Address Book. My own entry in it gives my spouse's first name. There are two records in my address book that have that first name, only one of which is my wife. A match between surname of that person and me would have correctly led Siri to the correct person. The mobile number in that person's address book record was then selected from the three numbers listed for her. It's therefore not only the speech recognition of Siri that is impressive, but the actions taken according to the meaning of the words recognised.

I have seen many speech recognition systems, some very good. Siri is an order of magnitude further forward. It is certainly not perfect and does make mistakes. But it is still the best speech system I have used. Many of the actions you can ask Siri to take are quicker to do that way than without Siri, such as setting a reminder call. That is ultimately why I (and many others) will use it - not because of the quality of the technology but because it is more efficient.

Thursday 6 October 2011

A sad day

The world has lost a great innovator who was always prepared to think and act different.

Saturday 17 September 2011

The fall '11 device technology landscape

Being somewhat busier these days, my posts here tend to have bigger gaps between them .. but they will still happen! And they may be a little longer when they do.

As summer disappears and the leaves begin falling, more froth is bubbling on the technology landscape as many await the next move by mobile device leader Apple. Yes the next generation iPhone is coming and my 3GS is due for replacement so I await with interest. It's likely that this time the range of iPhones will be increased by a choice of high-end and less expensive models in order to broaden market appeal. The storage capacity of a lower priced model could certainly be smaller, given the imminent simultaneous launch of iCloud and the storage/streaming/download features it supports. The latter will also open the door for a couple of innovations, through its instant app-sync across devices facility.

The first is that when Apple decide the time is right to introduce NFC (Near Field Comms) to their devices, this will likely support multiple features/services, and not just the small-value contactl-less purchasing that most commentators talk about. I expect the sensing and proximity aspects of NFC to feature in a number of distinctive ways. The seconds is in the mapping space and especially how people locate and track other people and things that they care about, in a secure and privacy-aware way.

Away from Cupertino, what else is happening? Well RIM have continued to see BlackBerry sales drop sharply and are shedding jobs ... not good for the major corporate smartphone supplier. Its 200,000 PlayBook tablet sales have also disappointed investors. Travelling by train a lot recently, I see many employees juggling the corporate BlackBerry and their personal device of choice (Android or iPhone). This is an unsustainable behavioural situation and I believe that change will continue to happen in favour of the consumer/personal devices, especially as IT managers, CTOs and employees become more aware of the way that corporate security policies can be automatically and securely deployed remotely to protect company data while leaving the users happier and more productive with an experience/device they enjoy using.

Microsoft have begun to show people what Windows 8 will look like. Something tells me that many Windows users are not yet ready for another new operating system upgrade, they just want their existing PCs to work better like the smiley "I'm a PC" folk shown in Microsoft's recent TV advertisements. (Note that the Redmond company never used to have to advertise PCs a while ago!) And for those that do yearn to embrace the next Windows experience, they may be a little surprised to find that it may not be so happy to run some of the software they traditionally rely on. They may also be wary of the latest layer of user interface to be slapped on top of the system. But that is all in the future.

Samsung are having a hard time in the courts, with rulings in increasing numbers of countries that they cannot sell their Galaxy Tab models which not only compete with iPad but also look so similar in most design aspects that lots of non-geeks could be confused. HTC and other Android system smartphone makers must be still reeling slightly from how Google appeared to get into bed with Motorola last month, and looking for additional alliance options for mobile operating systems, either by partnering or acquisition in order to mitigate risk. However there aren't too many competitive options out there. You might expect the LinkedIn profiles of a few ex WebOS designers to be updated with new employment details soon.

Finally for this time, Intel has announced more about their roadmaps including extra support for even lower power processors that PC manufacturers may use to attempt to compete with the MacBook Air which continues to sell in huge numbers. Intel have also announced support for OpenCL in such processor families coming soon which should increase further the performance of future lightweight Air models. Then, like their bigger notebook siblings, they will be able to ship out some general processing tasks to the GPU (graphics processing unit) when it is not busy painting pixels on the screen.

More of a roundup and opinions of it soon!

Friday 19 August 2011

Google, Motorola, HP & Autonomy

OK so it's been a while since the last post ... I've been pretty busy enjoying a new role at the TSB, but I couldn't ignore the recent corporate announcements...

So Google buys Motorola Mobile, acquires alot of patents, and says that its Android eco-system for third party hardware partnerships is intact, well maybe for now, but it will be interesting to see how long so called partners like LG, Samsung and HTC feel that they are as equal as Motorola, and stick with Android or cross the bridge to Microsoft and do deals like Nokia have already done. Even the patents Google has bought are not in the important areas of innovative user interface or hardware/software integration (which can be used to defend innovation in the marketplace). Instead they are in the areas of radio and network technology which like Nokia's portfolio can really only be used to extract royalties from others who use those technologies in their products. In 2007, Apple reinvented the phone and changed the mobile industry for good. This week, Google has changed the marketplace again, by effectively dis-incentivising a whole set of traditional mobile phone hardware vendors from having Android as part of their mobile strategy.

And then HP gives up its PC and mobile device businesses. This effectively wipes the traditional lineage of PC vendors (Apollo, DEC, Compaq, and Palm) off the map forever. HP have taken action to stop the haemorrhaging caused by selling large volumes of barely profit-making devices. You might think this is so that they can switch focus from PCs of the past to mobile computing devices of the future. However, with $100m being written off to pay distributors that are resorting to giving away HP tablet products in order to shift inventory, HP have also announced that they are killing off their mobile devices too, to focus on software and printers. They have also been spending by acquiring innovative firm Autonomy, although how HP's remaining hardware will benefit from this is yet to be explained. The ex-Palm employees must feel the most hit upon, having had their distinctive hardware and WebOS system software destroyed, the latter having been strangled by poor quality hardware that no-one wanted to buy. The PC landscape changed today.

Friday 17 June 2011

Sensors in the home ... mass market?

My home is instrumented with over 30 sensors. These provide information on temperature, movement, doors & windows, alarms (such as smoke), and visual information through lamps and cameras. Some also measure power consumption and allow control of electrical devices. They all connect to a central hub controller using the ZigBee wireless standard, and are completely user installable by non-technical people very easily. The hub self organises and configures the network as you add more components to the system. Batteries in the smallest sensors generally last about a year. The hub has battery backup from mains and also a GSM data SIM if the ethernet connected broadband should fail. The system is managed / configured through a web browser on any computer operating system or via an iPhone/iPad app. The system can use the same set of sensors and other components to provide a number of services including security, energy monitoring and home automation.

The user installable aspect and ease of retro-fitting are the main reasons why this system (AlertMe) has the potential to be mass-market. However I believe this will only happen when the product is available and showcased in home improvement stores (such as B&Q and HomeBase in the UK, and equivalent others across the globe). The fact that it can be fitted in a matter of minutes by almost anyone, and is as simple as un-boxing it and inserting batteries and then fixing the sensors with sticky pads, means that it needs to be on the shelves of retail stores nationwide in order for this innovation to have a bigger impact on the marketplace.

Thursday 16 June 2011

IoT: The built environment - a workshop

It was great to attend the KTN workshop on the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Built Environment today in London. A number of interesting issues were raised.

A major outcome in one of the syndicates that I witnessed at the event was the need for incentives for the construction industry to add support for smart sensor infrastructure in new build sites. It seems that characteristics of this particular industry sector mean that there is a lack of enablers for say, implementing Ethernet or similar network points in each room next to 13A mains power sockets in new buildings, whereas in the consumer electronics industry there are few such inhibitors in for example adding a new A/V socket to new devices (such as HDMI).

Since construction companies typically build and then sell the property to another organisation to take forward, maybe it is these customers of construction that can lead the requirements for new innovation rather than trying to regulate. It seems to me that the building industry has quite enough regulation already!

A second important point made in the workshop was the need to encourage opening up data so that others will innovate and offer services that people will want. It is necessary to make it simple and cheap for people to acquire data and add some value to it. As I said in a previous blog post, it is imperative that a marketplace is established that takes away the pain of developing innovative solutions.

In the same way that the iOS App store free's developers from having to do marketing (all apps are brought together in one searchable, place with user reviews and ratings), payment transactions (all the credit card accounts/validation etc is done) and other 'pain' or hassle, an InfoStore marketplace would spur the innovation of applications that could access the data made available from 'things'. Such an InfoStore would provide potential innovators and developers with not only data feeds with defined descriptions, but also scope, terms & conditions, and a price (value) of the data. This would then allow developers to innovate and produce applications and services for more traditional App stores for end customers to realise benefit from and pay for.

Thanks to all those who organised and attended the workshop which was a pleasure to be a part of.

Sunday 12 June 2011

An Internet of Things Future

The premise for the Internet of Things (IoT) community is that the number of addressable devices on the Internet will be over 7 times what it is today by 2020. Already we are seeing a wide range of consumer devices that have internet connectivity. Such devices when also able to tap into sensors around buildings (e.g. movement, temperature, light, sound, etc.) can bring a new dimension of comfort, security, environmental consciousness including energy saving, to the people who use or indeed manage the use of the space. Outside of buildings, but still in the environment, such devices can make a huge impact on such areas as congestion, pollution control, communications, and service provision.

In the home, for the masses, it is the point at which automation and intelligence in technology also makes a difference to the human sense of security, comfort or cost control which is the tipping point for wide adoption of it. Outside in the street, it is the corporate cost of managing the public space that provides a key driver. Many services and facilities then follow from the deployment of such systems, provided that the interfaces are open and a market for using the data is created in an economic way.

Rather than setting the cost of access so high that only a few large corporations can take advantage of it, the market should look to a volume based model which encourages innovation and grows the potential market. A good analogy to this would be how software developers have vastly reduced the price of applications software which is appearing in App Stores now compared to the much higher prices that were previously charged. The profit per sale has decreased but the volume of sales has more than made up for that. The end user feels that the cost of the service is reasonable and so many more people take it up. And the platforms behind the most successful App Stores have taken the pain out of selling, marketing and distributing for sellers as well as simplifying processes for buyers.

Friday 27 May 2011

Digital Locker or Lightener?

Apple's acquisition of the iCloud domain name suggests that their soon to be revamped MobileMe online services will be re-titled as well as re-purposed. But what purpose will the Cupertino company put its huge data server farms in the 'Cloud' to? Much has been written about the idea of a digital locker to securely store and stream content (such as music libraries) to any devices. But the cost of licences that Apple are paying for to rights holders of the content will have to be clawed back and I don't see them going down the advertisement route. So if the streaming part of iCloud is to cost users, then the value proposition will need to be very clear. I don't think the secure storage (i.e. backup) aspect of the digital locker is enough. Neither do I think that the ability to stream content to various devices will be enough. Users will compare the benefits of iCloud streaming with what they are already able to do. For most people, syncing and carrying the content they own on their devices is not an issue. It's there, it works so why pay more to achieve the same? One additional possible benefit is if the cloud based versions are better quality (e.g. higher bit rate, hence larger files). Well I'm still unconvinced. Most people cannot tell the difference in the quality beyond a point and they won't therefore see much value in paying for higher quality which is hard to perceive. That's not to say that all of these benefits would be rejected or complained about. I just don't think that the general masses will perceive enough value to pay for the service if they don't already!

But there is one thing which would cause a large number of those people who currently don't pay for MobileMe or other content streaming services to do so. If Apple were to launch a lightweight iPhone 'Nano' which has very little flash memory for content at a massively cheaper price, then it would put an iOS device in the hands of many more people, and allow those owners to effectively spread the cost of device ownership via a content subscription service. It would also fit the pattern of Apple later launching a cut-down version of successful high end products, and also be a model which is hard for many competitors to copy, requiring the server farm / data warehousing, licence agreements etc. to work. This would signal a shift, a digital device lightener, shifting content from devices towards the network. For quality to be maintained, better streaming/buffering technology will be needed than is currently used.

But I would be surprised if such a device came as soon as the revamped service ... rather it is likely to follow a while later. The initial marketing impetus for iCloud will be the benefits already mentioned as well as some additional facilities such as finally making it out of beta status, and a family/friend location tracking service which people explicitly trust to keep them in control of their privacy, whilst letting their loved ones follow their progress.

The Privacy thing again...

Quite a lot has been happening in the privacy debate recently. There was the froth about Apple iOS and Google Android based mobile phones tracking users' every moves. Well of course the smart device in your pocket knows where you are and stores it internally from time to time. Anyone who has either owned one of the early standalone GPS units (and knows how long it took to get a decent accurate reading) or who understands the idea of 'assisted-GPS' will realise that more information is required than simple GPS from Satellites to instantly show you your location on a map on your smartphone. People also need to understand how much of their movements are tracked in all sorts of ways in the modern age (ATM machines, CCTV, credit card payments, etc.) in addition to their mobile phones.

Of course there is a debate to be had about how this information is stored, where it is used and who can get access to it. But users have to understand that in order to benefit from technology they have to give something up too. And most people won't worry about this; they have nothing to hide and their location information is not leaked to anyone, and certainly not to anyone they would be concerned about. But some US senators seem to be having a good time asking representatives of Google and Apple to explain themselves. I suppose it's an easy way to look as if they are attempting to protect the people who elected them.

Then in the UK recently we have had examples of how privacy afforded by secret court injunctions has been shown as farcical when 70,000 people have twittered online about something which national newspapers have been barred from printing to their readers. It demonstrates nicely how the legal system and current legislation is outdated in all sorts of ways, due to the changes that new technology and the Internet has brought about. This will continue to get worse as more cases of irrelevance happen in law. It's a part of the social change which is happening in society and which is leaving the established old laws of the land behind.

Microsoft Musings ...

Most of you reading this will have read by now about Microsoft's purchase of Skype. I would think the recipients of the cash they paid are quite overjoyed to have sold the company which was/is losing money for such a hefty price tag. I somehow think Microsoft will struggle to turn this around. Despite vague signals that the cross-platform availability of the popular communications package will be maintained, one has to wonder if the Windows (especially Phone) versions won't be updated with more features earlier and at the expense of others... Skype on X-Box comes to mind, despite the uncertain effectiveness of a gaming interface for communications. Anyway we will see if Skype is safe in their hands as time goes on.

Then we had the retracted Ballmer statement! Most CEOs are careful about what they say as head of their companies, but last week Steve Ballmer declared that Windows 8 was to be launched next year in 2012. More recently the Redmond PR machine has corrected the "mis-statement" by their CEO as not in fact being true. It was hardly a technical detail so one has to wonder what Steve was thinking about? Either way I am not sure the world is ready to change the Microsoft operating systems out there again just yet, especially given the time it takes most Corporate IT departments to do in-house testing and deployment and at a time where economics are tough. WIndows upgrades of the past have tended to require significant shifts in hardware specs too, now in a world where both desktop and notebook sales are declining. Ballmer looks and sounds clumsy in his operations at the top of Microsoft, and key investors in the city have noticed and started to comment on it. Maybe change from the top is what the company needs. Then in my view it needs a complete revision of its business strategy for the future.

And finally on the topic of Microsoft, following its strategic deal with Nokia, the latest Windows Phone adverts seem to have taken a slightly new direction, including the notion of X-Box on your phone. Well, certainly the processing power of Windows Phone and the OS layered on it will make it hard to create an exhilarating experience for users and an attractive environment for developers. Interesting in passing that the Ovi branded Nokia app store has died a death. Microsoft's biggest success recently was Kinnect for X-Box ... people love the idea that was 'borrowed' from Nintendo's Wii ... but its not an interface that is easily imagined in conjunction with a Windows Phone ... so why would a marketing message raise expectations of X-Box on that platform. It all seems a bit muddled and slightly desperate.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Catchup from hiatus!

Hi all. This blog has been quiet for over a month and a half due to some professional commitments of the author, but I hope to put this right from now as I return to comment on aspects of the tech scene. There are some interesting activities going on in the world of the leading companies ... Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft for example. I'll cover most of these in some separate articles. Anyway those of you reading this in the UK, I hope you have been enjoying the early dry and warm summer weather. This is bound to change now that the England Test Cricket season is beginning!

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Apple's current plate-load ...

Last time, I discussed the Tech scene more generally. This time I'm looking at Apple's possible moves for 2011 in a bit more detail. Their new range of ThunderBolt-enabled MacBook Pro notebooks and the previews of Lion have been rather quickly overshadowed in the tech press by the successful launch of the iPad 2, which seems to have sent competitors reeling back to their drawing boards. Microsoft has also recently quietly announced that its range of Zune music players which were originally intended to rival the iPod are not to be developed anymore; instead they intend to focus on including Zune technology into Windows Phone 7 (WP7).

But lets look at what Apple has on its plate at the moment. iPad 2 distribution & logistics, iPhone 5 and iOS version 5 development, finalisation and launch, OSX Lion finalisation and launch, a major Final Cut Pro update in the works, and a MobileMe makeover and relaunch including the complete commissioning of its cloud computing infrastructure to name but a few.

Firstly, iPad 2, which seems to have again been received better than even Apple had hoped. Just a two week window between the US launch and many other countries seemed ambitious to me at the time of its announcement but it remains to be seen whether they can meet this or not. Compared to its hardware product launches of not so long ago, the Cupertino company now has a much wider distribution network in place, which has both pros and cons in terms of logistics. Eager buyers of iPad 2 can go to a number of different retail outlets (including but not limited to the 3G network carriers' stores) in addition to Apple's own stores and the online store. Not only that, iPad 2 distribution is also complicated by the fact that there are 18 variants of the product to choose from. iPad 2 is the first iOS device to be available in two colours as well as just WiFi or GSM 3G or CDMA 3G, as well as three storage capacities. Someone in Apple has some interesting choices to make about how many of which variant go to which outlets. The permutations will be a little simpler in most other countries where the CDMA version is not needed. Getting these all produced and sent to the places where they can fly off shelving and into customers' hands across the USA and across the globe is no simple task.

Next is the iPhone 5 hardware and iOS version 5 which will come in versions for the phone, iPad and iPod Touch. Despite rumours recently about Near Field Comms (NFC) being delayed until iPhone 6, I still wouldn't be surprised to see it make it into this summer's refresh ... if I were Apple, I would quite enjoy putting out some confusion at this stage amongst my competitors. Apple have the NFC expertise (just look at recent job hires), they have the chips, and most importantly they have the tens of millions of one click credit card accounts on their books. Any standards issues could be handled in software later like 'n' WiFi was. Its about time their Liquid Metal acquisition was exploited so I wonder if that will lead the change from a glass back to a new material for iPhone 5. In the same way that they used thinner glass on the iPad 2 screen to make it lighter despite all the internal additions (cameras, bigger A5 processor, more RAM, gyro, etc) over its predecessor, a non glass back may slice a few ounces off iPhone 5.

The introduction of Lion will usher out support for a number of early Intel Processor driven machines as well as all PowerPC emulated application support with the absence of Rosetta. I still feel slightly underwhelmed by Lion so far ... and wonder if the new desktop candy borrowed from iOS will encourage people to upgrade. Maybe something significant is as yet unannounced! It is possible that some nice new features in iOS 5 will also make their way into the final builds for Lion, especially if both are fully revealed together at the Developer's conference.

The next Final Cut is due sometime soon ... probably during the broadcasters conference season and is likely to make a splash there. It also presumably impinges on the team who update the iLife suite etc too.

And then there is the MobileMe makeover... to give Apple a lead in the cloud computing space. Syncing and streaming media wirelessly between OSX and iOS devices, as well as potential walk-up instant personalisation at any OSX machine would seem to go hand in hand with system updates (Lion and iOS5). The cloud access to personal media and documents would also fit very well with a smaller iPhone (nano) which has much less onboard storage than its older sibling, and which could be priced accordingly much lower. Anyway the switching on live of their huge data centre is going to keep many Apple folk's minds focused in the coming months. Altogether a busy time for what is still a relatively small company.

Friday 11 February 2011

Tech Industry overview 2011

As 2011 revs up into full steam, I'm taking a look at various sections of the tech industry. In January the year began with the once amazing Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas but it took place with barely more than a whimper. Facebook continues to lead the pack in the social networking arena, with Apple having failed to tie it's Ping music network into the social giant at the back end of last year. News Corp more recently has launched The Daily, a news service designed solely for online consumption via mobile devices such as Apple's iPad. It is hoping that people will pay for up to the minute news services which are provided by paid professional journalists - we will know by the end of the year whether its hopes are realised. Meanwhile AOL has bought the Huffington Post, taking the opposite view to Murdoch that free web based news content will prevail.

A day or so after an astonishing internal memo by Nokia's CEO was leaked in which he likened the company to a burning ship and catalogued major corporate in-house failures, the company announces a tie-up with Microsoft and its Windows Phone operating system. This virtually signals the end for the old leader Symbian and perhaps Nokia's latest Meego operating system too, as both companies try to catch up with Apple and Google in the mobile devices space. They have a lot of ground to make up and I am very sceptical that they can make it. HP's buyout of Palm has seen it describe a new push in the same marketplace with the inherited WebOS system but they similarly have a huge challenge ahead.

Google is now leading the pack in terms of Android devices sold but Apple remains the leader in terms of money-making in that market. Being a profit-leader is not just a good business statistic. it also gives them a huge cash reserve which is key to strategic purchasing power of components for the next generation of mobile devices. This in turn means that the highest quality devices can be marketed at lower purchase prices which helps drive sales in the longer term.

And meanwhile, on the streets of Cairo, yet another previously dictator-controlled country is suddenly teetering on the brink of overthrow, as people attempt to claim some form of democracy. It is indicative of the Internet's support of people-power that the first clamp down reaction of the incumbent Egyptian regime was to try and cut off the Internet and prevent the mobile social networking being employed by the people organising the protests. And Egypt will not be the last. Gradually over decades, we will see many other dictatorships around the world fall, as technology not only enables people to act on mass with a global voice, but also shows many of them for the first time the freedoms that those in other countries enjoy, and which they then aspire to for themselves.

The rest of 2011 will see some more players in the tech industry merge or otherwise disappear as the strengths of the leading players' platforms increase. Google will continue to suffer the challenge of a continually fragmenting Android system across so many device manufacturers as each of them attempts to differentiate their products. Apple will announce and ship updates to its iPad and iPhone, probably introducing a 'nano' version of the latter to compete at the lower end of the smartphone market. Their high end mobile device replacements will incorporate near field technology to facilitate payments as they take on the banks in the next phase of the iTunes account based eco-system. I see parallels from how the network operators in the mobile phone business have seen their power and value-add services diminish since the original iPhone arrived, appearing in the banking sector as they become bit shifters in the same way as the network providers.

Apple will also want to eventually condense the separate recently launched CDMA iPhone (and later iPad) for Verizon in the USA and other CDMA operators globally into a single worldwide phone which just works anywhere on anyone's network. I think the company is well aware that the international data roaming charges cartel between operators is the single biggest obstacle for users getting the great iOS device experience when travelling overseas. A new open-SIM approach which the operators are already fighting will also be on the Cupertino company's agenda.

The success of iPad shipments in its first full year was absolutely astounding for a new class of product, surpassing the statistics of the previous launches of DVD players, VCRs and other consumer devices, and I think surprising even Apple. The take-up of the iPad in major corporates with hardly any encouragement has also surprised many. This has the potential to really ignite the consumerisation of IT in organisations longer term.

And in the Summer of this year we are promised the next major revision of Apple's computer operating system, OSX (Lion), in which they will begin the transition of many old style computing ideas to the iOS-like mobile computing approaches. I believe the iPad is an embryonic symbol of how computer hardware will almost disappear in the decades to come, as people just get on and do stuff, working with information and media in far more natural ways than the stepping stone technology of the mouse gave us. As mobile networking speeds increase and devices are increasingly sharing information and media between each other, it is likely that Apple will considerably enhance their cloud-based services using infrastructure which is already built.

I doubt very much that 2011 will be boring technological year!

Friday 28 January 2011

Conference in Arundel

Been a busy couple of weeks with different clients .. I particularly enjoyed the chance to talk to folk at the after-dinner conference I attended on the 19th January in Arundel, Sussex. It is a lovely part of England and the setting was very pleasant. Thanks to all those who were there and who listened/asked some great if sometimes complex questions afterwards. I look forward to meeting you again sometime - I know a number of you said you read the blog here. Hope the rest of your conference went well.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

CES 2011 been and gone...

Well, I've had a break and left you all in peace over the Christmas & new year period for a few weeks. Now it's time to review the main stuff at Vegas's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year. Even though Apple doesn't attend CES, yet again this year most of the talk seemed to be dominated by one of their products and this time it wasn't phones but tablets. It's not as if they haven't appeared at CES before; in fact there have been concepts and vapourware from lots of companies over many years. However this year everyone it seems was trying to come up with the "iPad killer". So how did they do?

The most likely competitors expected to achieve any moderate success in the market are the RIM PlayBook and the Motorola Xoom. However one of the biggest problems for competing devices to iPad may actually be the sheer confusing number of devices, with around 40 different ones likely to appear in 2011.

Most analysts and commentators still seem to overwhelmingly believe that Apple are likely to continue dominating as market leader with iPad with around 70% share as these competitors come to pass. The PlayBook will try especially to appeal to those corporates that already run Blackberry devices, however the iPad has already become a consumer-led trojan horse in many large global corporations. The PlayBook seems to suffer some power management and browser/scrolling performance issues, the latter apparently common amongst many of the Intel competitors at CES. Many competitors also have too small screen sizes, and the promise of later larger models will worry potential buyers in case the apps each device is trying to build up will not look so great or function well on a different sized screen later.

Apple still leads the way in aesthetics and design, although a new even sleeker upgraded iPad 2 is expected in the next month or two. They also have advantages in hardware-software integration and hence a better user experience, and their massive app store ecosystem. On the profits side, Apple also have cost/volume advantages in component supplies not only due to the number of iPads being made but also some of the components that it shares with other Apple products. This will make it difficult for competing companies to match quality and price of device.