Posts Tagged ‘design’

Why Android won’t worry RIM and Apple

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

My US colleagues are regulars on John C Dvorak’s excellent Cranky Geeks and a highlight of the show. I was recently intrigued to hear the opinion from Vulture West Coast (in Episode 232) that RIM was toast, and Android would triumph. Now, bearing in mind that I’ve been wrong about mobile more than I’ve been wrong about anything else – quite epically and unheroically wrong – I beg to differ.

Apple will continue to rule the roost, dictating terms and charging eye-watering prices to punters. The punters will continue to be delighted with Apple, and will clamour for more; while BlackBerry has an ace up its sleeve – probably the biggest mobile sensation of the year.

When the crystal ball lies

But first things first. It’s sometimes useful to revisit why you’ve been wrong, because it can tell you a lot about the future.

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Why has Thunderbird turned into a turkey?

Sunday, August 8th, 2010
A while ago I wrote an old bugger’s whinge about the state of email clients in general. I realise this is now a minority interest.

Read more at The Register

Adventures in Linux (Part One)

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Last Autumn I volunteered to review Windows 7. But in the following weeks, I found Linux to be preferable in many ways. This is pretty significant progress, and outside the ‘community’ has gone largely unnoticed, too – I haven’t seen all that many Ubuntu stories in the Wall Street Journal. But what comes next is going to be pretty challenging for everyone involved – and that’s what I’ll look at here.

 

Read more at The Register

Bloggers, mind control and the death of newspapers (the Internet imagined in 1965)

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Calder invites us to have a giggle, but really it’s not a bad list at all, and compared with the (cough) ‘futurists’ who have come and gone since, Calder and the participants did a good job. Alvin Toffler was repackaging these ideas, particularly mass amateurisation, many years later. As are thousands of Web 2.0 consultants today.

Read more at The Register

Best reader comment here.

For me, the iPad is just a port short

Monday, April 12th, 2010
Quite unexpectedly, it’s looking like a useful bit of daily computing kit.

It hasn’t taken long for the iPad to be seen as a bit more than a pointless and expensive luxury lifestyle accessory. Just nine weeks – and in that time the hardware spec hasn’t changed at all.

But last week’s iPhone 4.0 preview, which isn’t due on the iPad until autumn, already makes it look much more attractive as a netbook or laptop replacement than it did on Wednesday.

I’ll admit I truly loathe netbooks. When the first models emerged at least they had their size going for them. Now they’re bigger and more expensive, but mostly dog slow.

Size and weight matters to me, and the iPad has had these advantages from the start. The disadvantages of an iPad over a laptop were many, but the lack of multitasking was the biggest. That’s been fixed now – at least well enough so most people don’t notice.
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Why we hate the modern mobile phone

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

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Brendon McLean wrote to me with such a succinct summary of mobile phone angst, I invited him to elaborate. Read the result, How the mobile phone biz lost the plot, here.

'Please read this important email: you are being shot'

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

These days, no major tragedy is complete without ambulance-chasing technology boosters muscling in on the aftermath. The Asian tsunami and the London 7/7 attacks both provided a tasteless excuse for evangelists to hype their favourite cause: instant real-time communications in general, and blogging in particular.

But with the Virginia Tech massacre, the reliance on technology itself is in the spotlight. Campus administrators took two hours to warn students there was a threat to their lives. Police were alerted that a gunman was on the loose at 7:15am. The second shooting spree began at 9:45am.

All students and staff received this warning by email (yes, email): “A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows.”
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Widget-fiddling at Nokia

Monday, April 16th, 2007

When one looks at the prime assets of the Nokia of five years ago, it’s alarming to see how many have been discarded. At the turn of the decade, the Finnish giant boasted a formidable reputation for reliability, security and ease of use. Now it’s thrown all three out of the window, with security being the last to go.

The diminishing reliability of these devices isn’t unique to Nokia, and it may be a consequence of having so many products, in so many markets, all at once. But engineers deep in Nokia we’ve spoken with describe how they grew weary at being conditioned only to fix a proportion of bugs. It offends an engineer’s pride to release a flawed product, but this became a way of life. There was simply too much to do.

As for usability, the company which pioneered an interface that helped popularize the digital mobile phone – NaviKey™ – now falls far behind much of the competition. With feature phones, Nokia’s interface has failed to evolve with the tactile and graceful interface of Sony Ericsson, for example.

At the high end, the story is far worse. The S60 UI initially provided Nokia with a clever bridge to the future, but it looks pedantic and cumbersome besides Motorola’s MotoRizr 8, let alone Apple’s iPhone. Nokia answers the perennial S60 user’s question, “Why so many clicks?” by adding extra hardware buttons, such as the slow and inflexible “Multimedia” key. S60 is incredibly poorly written in parts, but Samsung has demonstrated that it doesn’t have to be sluggish, by using its own chip to speed up its first European S60 phone. Yet Nokia has ensured most of its smartphone users have a substandard experience, by starving the devices of sufficient memory or fast enough processors.

It doesn’t augur well that the company’s skill at exploiting the emerging markets owes little to its recent R&D work: it’s succeeded with low cost models in China by dusting off older, more reliable, and easier-to-use technologies. In other words, it’s living off past glories, rather than looking to the future.

In fact, Nokia now appears to quite relish the complexity of its devices. Quite bizarrely, a company which had no need for an inferiority complex appears to have acquired one.
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Why I want the iPhone to succeed

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

The new thing

I’m glad the iPhone’s is here – and I have very selfish reasons for wanting it to succeed. That’s because even without the cellular telephony, it looks like something I’ve been wanting to buy. But it’s also because after years of writing about smartphones, I’ve seen the established players become lazy and complacent, go down blind alleys, or standardize on horrible designs and feature sets. So the iPhone should focus minds wonderfully – it should raise the bar for everyone.

I’m also hoping a crushing wave of shame will overcome anyone who has a Blackberry, or one of its hideous clones from HP, Motorola, Nokia or Palm. Owning one of these is like volunteering for a lobotomy – then boasting about it afterwards.

I’m also hoping a crushing wave of shame will overcome anyone who has a Blackberry, or one of its hideous clones from HP, Motorola, Nokia or Palm. Owning one of these is like volunteering for a lobotomy – then boasting about it afterwards.

But common sense suggests it’s going to be a bumpy road for Apple, and it knows it. This isn’t a new experience: both the original Macintosh computer and the iPod received rave reviews on their debut but both were, a year of later, perceived to be failures. Both eventually recovered. Will Apple’s new PDA?
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The Emperor's New AI

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

“It looks like you’re trying to have a conversation with a computer – can I help?
In the early 1970s, no science show was complete without predictions of HAL-like intelligent autonomous computers by the turn of the century.

The Japanese, fearing their industrial base would collapse without a response to this omniscient technology, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into their own AI project, called Fifth Generation. They may as well have buried the money in the Pacific Ocean. Two decades later there are no intelligent robots, and “intelligent” computers are a pipe-dream.

(It was an academic coup for MIT’s Professor Marvin Minsky, a fixture on the AI slots. Minsky’s own preferred, linguistics-based approach to AI, symbolic AI, triumphed in the grants lotteries over an approach which preferred to investigate and mimic the neural functions of the brain. Minsky’s non-stop publicity campaign helped ensure his AI lab at MIT was well-rewarded while neural networks starved.)

For the past week reports have again confidently predicted intelligent computers are just around the corner. Rollo Carpenter, whose chatbot Joan won an annual AI prize for creating software that most resembles a human, predicts that computers will pass the ‘Turing Test’ by 2016. In this test, computer software fools a human interrogator by passing off as a human.

(You can spot the flaw already: to sound human isn’t a sign of intelligence. And what a pity it is that Turing is remembered more for his muddle-headed metaphysics than for his landmark work in building computational machines. It’s a bit like lauding Einstein for opposition to the theory of plate tectonics, rather than his work on relativity, or remembering Newton for his alchemy, not his theory of gravity).

But let’s have a look. A moment’s glance at the conversation of Joan, or George, is enough to show us there is no intelligence here.
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