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Archive for January, 2010


January 29th, 2010

So will you be queuing up to buy an iPad?

So will you be queuing up to buy an iPad?

Considering the frenzy of excitement that preceded Wednesday’s launch of the Apple iPad — you couldn’t move on Twitter, Facebook or tech blogs for rumour, speculation and general pant-wetting anticipation — it was somewhat surprising to wake up on the morning-after-the-night-before to find the huddled online masses shrugging and underwhelmed.

A prolonged news conference spearheaded by Apple supremo Steve Jobs and his magical assistant Jonathan Ive was precisely scripted to reveal the wonders of the iPad feature by feature – hyping the innovation and revolutionary claims, pushing the lifestyle benefits and dropping the odd price-bomb along the way. We got to see a stylish device twirled around, and to preview that stunning display streaming multimedia marvels and handling productivity apps with aplomb. So why exactly are so many potential customers now seemingly feeling deflated and dismayed?

It’s hard to pinpoint really as there’s not really anything wrong with the iPad, but the hype cycle would suggest the market is merely experiencing ‘the trough of disillusionment’. I believe we were basically spoilt by the huge sea change brought about with the launch of the iPhone/iTouch design. Apps, screen-pinching, accelerometers, GPS, Wi-Fi, 3G, HD… …it was all massively impressive the first time round and now the iPad is giving us more of the same, pretty much. Yes the SDK is a leap forward, the browser experience is better, the screen is sharper, mail is better integrated, eBooks will look terrific and so on. But to many observers the overall impression was much the same as it was to a five year-old who saw me streaming the launch: “Hey it’s just like your phone, only for giants!”

Whatever your own personal reaction has been to the unveiling of the iPad, you have to admit that Mr Ive has conjured up a gorgeous chunk of techy eye-candy, and that this is likely yet another launch pad device for Apple to take off from, taking millions of followers along for the journey. No doubt it will work hard to earn its place in the Apple product stack and in the affections of many customers throughout 2010 and beyond.

What did you think of the unveiling? Please let us know.

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January 26th, 2010

Sports will look as cool in 3D as you do wearing those glasses

Sports will look as cool in 3D as you do wearing those glasses

By now, you’ve seen Avatar, now the most lucrative film ever. You looked through your awkward 3D glasses, gazing past its Fern Gully-meets-The Last Samurai-meets-Dances with Wolves plot straight into the vivid world of Pandora. Avatar’s astronomic box office figures ensure one thing: we’ll see a lot of the technology that made it a success in some very unAvatar-like places very soon.

When South Africa and Mexico kick off the 2010 World Cup on June 11th, you’ll be able to watch it in the same stunning 3D. ESPN’s new 3D venture (unsurprisingly named ESPN 3D) could purportedly change the way we watch sports. It could even more easily not change a thing.

Most sports broadcasts make use of the same camera angle: at the midfield (or midcourt or midice or midanything) line, perched high above the action. While Avatar was urgent, yanking viewers by the collar and dragging them through Pandora, the traditional sports broadcast is more passive. During the run of play, viewers watch games unfold from this one, distant vantage point, taking stock of the entirety of the action, not just a few protagonists. Only in replays can producers find the right angles for the right plays, immersing viewers in the action from field level. Cameras can’t shift in live coverage from a player curling a free kick into the box to a goalkeeper rising to grab the ball during the run of play. They don’t know that it will happen. They didn’t receive a storyboard before the match started.

The medium, as it stands, isn’t ready for 3D. Sports broadcasting conventions don’t allow networks to make the technology worthwhile. That high-above-the-action camera is a staple because it works, consistently capturing the whole of the game. Jerking around viewers with constantly changing field-level shots will enhance the 3D experience, but take away from the game experience. High costs won’t dissuade early adopters, who’ll need to buy 3D TVs, the premium channel, and glasses. ESPN needs to make sure that an unexciting product doesn’t either.

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January 15th, 2010

Reality Bytes

Reality Bytes

Do you ever feel that the natural world you live in is a little ragged around the edges and could do with a bit of a techy upgrade?

Ever dream you could saturate a beautiful sunset or crop and retouch ugly power lines out of sight? Ever caught yourself trying to pinch-zoom into a magazine or touch cut and paste from a newspaper? Wish you could see names and contact details hovering over people at a crowded party or business conference?

No me neither. But a heckuver lot of young dogs do. Which is why the ongoing evolution of Augmented Reality is proving of so much interest to inspiring developers, stirring the wider public imagination along the way.

To check out where we’re at so far, all you need is a smartphone, an app store, and the confidence and lack of self-conciousness to walk around the streets looking at your world through a small screen.

Wired’s latest guide to the ‘7 Best Augmented Reality Apps’ might also help you get started.

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January 5th, 2010

Top 9 Technologies in 2009

Top 9 Technologies in 2009

As we enter a new year, let’s take a look back on several technologies that created buzz in the tech world throughout 2009.

1. Windows 7

After the disaster that was Microsoft Vista, many people thought that Microsoft was down-and-out in the operating system market. However, Windows 7 started getting good reviews and once again, Microsoft proved the rule “buy every other Windows” rule to be correct. It significantly improved on Vista, made it much more user friendly, introduced a better taskbar and faster response times in starting up and loading applications.


With a flashy ad campaign that focused on what “Droid does” and the iPhone doesn’t, the Droid’s announcement left gadget geeks drooling. Sure, T-Mobile had its G1, but the Droid was really the turning point for Google’s Android operating system hitting the mainstream. Over 250,000 Droids flew off the shelves in the first week of North American sales.

3. Bing

Microsoft decided to take the search engine fight to Google with Bing. Almost immediately, Microsoft gained several percent in search engine market share. Its main innovation is an improved semantic search that offers suggestions related to search terms. Although its market share since then looks to have dropped slightly, it has pushed Google to innovate, and Microsoft has all of the necessary resources to compete long-term.

4. Twitter

Twitter has been around since 2006, but 2009 was the year that it really went mainstream. At the beginning of the year, Twitter’s monthly growth rate was 1,382 percent. Celebrities started to tweet, and information was available on Twitter before mainstream media. One famous example was the first picture of Flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson River was available first on Twitter because a passenger posted on Twitpic before any media arrived. Information is now expected to be real-time, and the search engines have started to add real-time searches in response to demand from users.

5. Chrome

Google has been hard at work innovating this year. From its bread-and-butter search business to mobile and operating systems, it has touched on just about every area of IT that can involve the cloud. However, it made a bold move by entering the browser space which has been dominated by Microsoft and Firefox. In 2009, it became the third most used browser, with 4 percent of worldwide web browser usage.

6. Google Wave

Not satisfied with browsers, Google took on the concept of online communications and introduced Wave, which combines instant messaging with email, social media and collaboration. Although it generated a tremendous amount of buzz, however, users are still struggling with figuring out how to use it in their daily lives and it has not reached a critical mass of people using it to completely popularize it. Stay tuned in 2010 for its progress.

7. Wolfram Alpha

Want to know the size of the moon relative to the size of the US? Or maybe how much a polar bear weighs versus a human? Wolfram Alpha has answers for that. It was launched in May and it queries factual data, particularly mathematics, to help users find answers to complicated queries. It was voted Popular Science’s 2009 greatest computer innovation of the year.

8. Nook

Amazon’s Kindle was launched in 2007. This year, in fact, e-book sales surpassed print versions in the days following Christmas on Amazon. But it was 2009 that brought the first real competition in the e-book space, developed by Amazon’s competitor Barnes & Noble. It has a color touch screen in addition to the e-ink display. Since it launched at the end of the year, its success is still pending, but if the demand that caused shipments to be pushed back several times is an indicator, look for it to be a popular gadget this year.

9. Snow Leopard

Microsoft’s Windows 7 wasn’t the only new OS on the block. Apple updated OS X with Snow Leopard. The new version featured mostly performance-related improvements, however for many it was a let-down. The new features did not prominently improve its user interface, however, and all-in-all it was a fairly minor update (sorry Apple fans!).

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