Microsoft and touch….

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One of the things I managed to do while in America last week was to visit a Microsoft shop (it was next door to Apple so I didn’t have to go far out of my way) – I was interested to have a look at the Surface – Microsofts take on a tablet. It runs Windows 8 (in two forms) but with touch rather than using the non touch version of Win8 that does not appear to have been received with much enthusiasm anywhere!

20130727-220239.jpgIn the UK I had failed to find a working surface in any store, so I was interested to see what it was like – and to be fair it’s not a bad piece of kit, although even with the recent price drop it is still rather expensive (and quite chunky). Also the keyboard cover (which is clever) is an extra and adds to the cost). What was more interesting however was the fact that in the Microsoft store – which was quite large – there wasn’t a single non touch screen PC or laptop on display (and there were a lot)!

Now if you take it that probably 90% of PC’s are traditional non touch units you have to wonder quite what Microsoft are up to? Do they expect all their users to replace their machines as well as their software when they update to Windows 8.

I actually think windows 8 looks and works OK (much as Windows Phone does), but do they really think they can ignore the non touch market?

This did make me laugh!

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I am an Apple fan – anyone who reads this blog will be aware of that already. I do however like any tech – if its clever and works I don’t mind who makes it. My first entry to ‘gizmos’ was British – Psion PDA’s, they were fantastic and at the time world leaders, sadly time moves on….. and Apple make the best tech currently.

I have looked at the new Microsoft entry20130106-094322.jpg to the tablet market – the surface – it looks OK but the only time I have managed to actually get my hands on one in a store (John Lewis in Nottingham), it didn’t want to work properly! The much vaunted keyboard / cover didn’t seem to work very well at all – now this was probably a one-off, but how many not working iPad’s have you come across in a similar situation?

So I suppose the attached press clipping didn’t come as a great surprise to me – someone breaks into the Microsoft campus and steals Apple gear only! This does sadden me as Apple need some competition to keep them sharp, currently this is only coming from Samsung it would appear. Perhaps Microsoft will eventually move back into a ‘good place’, it just doesn’t feel likely at this time.

Airbags for mobile phones – not such a daft idea?

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This sounds like a pretty weird idea on first look – but having had our first iPhone 5 casualty this week at work it has its attraction!

All of our smartphones now have motion sensors and can tell where they are and more importantly where they are going! The technology makes use of these motion-sensors to detect when it has entered an airborne state, so that a mini-airbag can be deployed to cushion its fall.

The idea comes from the technology department at Amazon, which won a patent for the protective system this week. As well as mobile phones, the technology could be used on electronic readers, including the online retailer’s own Kindle, as well as computer tablets and cameras. I am not sure how much bulk it would add to an item, and it would be no good for those who prefer a ‘naked’ iPhone. But, in a work environment forcing people to make use of the technology might just prevent so many breakages!

Phone networks – friend or foe?

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EE-new-logo_orange-t-mobile-webThe mobile phone is a part of everyday life now – the smart phone is rapidly getting to the same position – how many people do you know who haven’t got one?

The mobile phone operators are all keen to land us as clients – they make great offers to lure you over to them, but how is the service then? At work we received some interesting ‘care’ from Orange before we had even signed up with them – because of this we didn’t move to them from Vodafone – perhaps this should have made me think before going with T-Mobile for my daughters iPhone!

The deal was (is) good, and the network is great. But, once things go wrong the care becomes rather less ‘impressive’.

Daughters iPhone was stolen this weekend (second time – not good, but not her fault). So a replacement SIM card was required – not a massive ask you would think as we have a contract – but there is a £10 charge! They give them away free to new customers! Also the opening times on the EE website (which has recently been updated) were wrong for the Nottingham stores – but that is another story!

And it gets better, we needed a ‘fill in’ phone while we sorted out the insurance, so a cheap pay as you go was required. But, and there is always ‘a but’ – we had to add £10 airtime to a sim we didn’t want. I asked the question – “can’t you wave that on the basis that we have just paid £10 for a sim anyway” – apparently not!

So we went to Carphone Warehouse who were very helpful and let us use a pay as you go number on another network to do an upgrade and therefore pay only for the phone.

So brilliant service (and advise) from Carphone Warehouse, but money grabbing and greed from T-Mobile, Orange, EE or what ever they call themselves today. If I need another mobile who will I be going to do you think?

Street View is back!

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photo2You would have had to have been on a deserted island not to have seen the details of the Apple Maps debacle in recent months. Apple sent Google packing – they had previously had a close relationship with them over many things in iOS (the iPhone operating system). But, in IOS 6 they finally got rid of Google maps with its amazing detail and street view and replaced it with their own Map App – which was (and is) rather poor by their standards (actually by anyones standards!).

Heads have rolled at Apple and they have made a public apology about the Maps – a rare event from Apple. There is talk about them buying TomTom who provide the data to enable a faster solving of issues – time will tell.

But now we have Google Maps back on iOS (iPhone at least) in the form of a new app – and it looks great (much as it did before – but better).

It will be interesting to see what Apples response will be – the pressure is on!

Possibly predictable – but interesting!

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I have had various comments about how numerous my ‘Apple’ blogs are from people I know, I make no apology – although it would be nice to get the same effect as my colleague Tim Garratt and his Jaguar blog! I still believe that the retail world can learn a lot from Apple and how they run their stores and staff them – they are universally seen as ‘the way to do it’, but recent data further supports that by showing just how efficient they are at selling!

Apple Stores are the possibly the envy of every other retailer on the planet. From their wonderful design to the constant stream of customers, they are all but universally a success. But, how much better do Apple Stores do than the competition? According to a new American study (and one assumes this would be the same the World over), they bring in twice as much in sales per square foot as anyone else in the market.

The research by RetailSales shows that Apple top the list of chain store productivity, pulling in $6,050 in sales per square foot of store. Tiffany the jewellery store come in second place, at $3,017.

The numbers were generated it appears simply by taking the brick-and-mortar sales numbers from the companies, and splitting it among the square footage of store space they occupy.

Apple is the only tech company to break the top ten, a section otherwise dominated by luxury and clothing products. Interestingly there are plenty of other retail chains that sell more than Apple on a per store basis, they just tend to be physically much, much larger. Apple stores are also often in very prime retail locations – so the rents are likely to reflect the footfall. So the data is not as clear as it first looks – but it makes a nice story…..

Life without broadband….

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20121116-211600.jpgThis week has seen an interesting experience at the Dare household – no broadband for 3 days. This was an enforced experience, the connection had been getting somewhat ‘flaky’ over a period of a few days and then it stopped working all together. A quick call to Virgin Media confirmed that it was terminal and a visit from an engineer was required – but that the earliest visit was Thursday (and this was Monday evening).

I will admit that the initial thought of no Internet access (except via my iPhone) caused me to have a hot sweat. But, having gone through two and a half days ‘cold turkey’ it wasn’t all bad!

Yes, we couldn’t really do our weekly shop with Ocado or Able and Cole (I say we – my wife does it), but it did cause a teenager to appear from YouTube for a couple of days and actually talk to us! And it highlighted just how good a smartphone can be to run your life on!

Service was returned before lunchtime on Thursday, so we are back to normal. It was a loose connection in the cabinet apparently – this was the first time our Internet had gone down in 10 years, so a pat on the back for Virgin (for once).

An uncharacteristic slip?

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I am an Apple fan – no one would dispute that, and I would always describe their customer care and retail experience as second to none. however, I have finally caught them out – not in a big way – but they have finally made a mistake!

I have an old MacBook at home, one of the black early Intel chip ones. It is lovely, runs like a dream (far faster on Snow Leopard than my much younger Windows 7 laptop) and it is a family favourite now. It was the reason for my recent dealings with Apple.

My step daughter is the lucky owner of a new MacBook Pro on account of her A level results and imminent move to Loughborough University (well done Star). Setting this up and playing with it set me hankering after Lion on my MacBook (it won’t run Mountain Lion). Now upgrading should be easy, just visit the Mac App store and download it, except for the fact that Apple have removed Lion and replaced it with Mountain Lion.

I am sure I am not the only person who didn’t upgrade when they could have, so how was I to progress this? My initial call was to Jigsaw24 in Nottingham who were really helpful (thanks John) and confirmed that there was no way they could get me a copy of Lion, but that they would raise a case with Apple for me so that I could try to get it.

And this is where I finally get to catch out Apple! The case setup by Jigsaw24 worked and I was able to order a copy of Lion – I was told it was a download version so I would get two emails (just like the current Mountain Lion update) – but no emails arrived apart from an invoice and a ‘how did we do’ customer service email. This was strange I thought, so I left it 24 hours just incase it was an issue with mail. Still nothing!

So a call back to Apple care, who were again amazingly helpful, was made from which it transpired that I was being sent a disc copy of Lion. Strange because to the best of my knowledge it was always download only! This is not a problem, I will get my software, and being on a disc actually suites me (it’s an age thing).

This is not the end tot he story – two days later I actually received the download emails as originally informed – so it was a download after all!

But it feels good to have finally found just a tiny error in the Apple system – they must be human after all!

Apple, Samsung and Microsoft

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I read a very interesting article last week explaining why Microsoft were where they are today and why they have failed to make the most of numerous technological leads that they appear to have had over the years. The gist of the article is that it is down to the way the company is run – it has become far too committee based, the geeks aren’t allowed to develop things.

Now Apple on the other hand have a very different ethos – Sir Jonny Ives has recently said that they don’t aim to make money – just the best of anything – if that is then successful, and makes money, that is a bonus.

However, my concern is that Apple may be going the way of Microsoft. Money talks and Microsoft used to be able to buy their way out of trouble – that is not an issue for them at the moment and the once most valuable company in the world is now far from being this (it’s now Apple).

Apple have always been litigious, their current ‘spat’ with Samsung is the latest in a long line of court cases. And the ruling that Samsung should pay them $1bn in damages just seems too crazy to be right. I accept that protecting your designs and technology is important but this just appears bizarre! I particularly liked part of Samsung’s response to the ruling;

“it is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners”.

I just hope that Apple don’t get to the point that they take their eye off the development ball to sue people.

What I have seen leaked about the new iPhone looks good – but is it really going to be so much better than the current Samsung’s? What I have seen of them suggests that they may well be ahead of Apple already! Are Apple taking their eye off the ball already?

It’s good to talk….

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You may recall the BT advert from a few years ago that tried to get us all to use our telephones to talk to each other – it was apparently ‘good to talk’. Time moves on and it now seems that it isn’t and we are more likely to text each other than speak!

According to Ofcom while 58% of people communicated via texts on a daily basis in 2011, only 47% made a daily mobile call, the shift away from traditional ways of keeping in touch being led by young people aged 16-24 (no surprise if you have your own teenager).

The report confirms that on average UK consumer now send 50 texts per week while fewer calls are being made on both fixed and mobile phones (certainly our home phone is more of a decoration now).

However for the first time, there was a fall in the volume of mobile calls – by just over 1% – in 2011, while landline calls were down by 10% and overall time spent on the phone fell by 5% in 2011.

This change in behaviour is believed to be down to greater ownership of internet-connected devices – smartphones like the iPhone;

  • 39% of adults now own a smart phone, a 12% increase on 2010.
  • 42% of these now say their smart phone is the most important device for accessing the internet, with a similar percentage regularly using social networking sites and 51% using e-mail.
  • The average consumer spends 90 minutes a week accessing social networking sites and email.
  • Tablet ownership is also on the rise, with 11% owning such a device, up from 2% last year.
  • According to Ofcom, tablets are most often used in the home as a “snacking version” of the home PC.

So probably no surprises here, but a confirmation that the smart phone is beginning to play a very important part in all our lives – and is perhaps going to kill off the basic telephone before too long. It is also sad that people now prefer not to talk to each other. Is this the start of something more insidious in our behaviour?