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Jan 2012

CES 2012: top five highlights

Posted in Technology | 1 Comment »

CES can be very interesting, or very uninteresting, depending on what sort of tech you’re into. Personally, I’m fascinated by most stuff, so it doesn’t take much to keep me glued to the screen during CES. Here’s my five highlights from this year’s show in Vegas (isn’t it oddly suitable how new tech is showcased in a city known for gambling?):

The Sony Concept TabletOh my god, this was a nice bit of kit. Separate keyboard (not a fan of keys I can’t actually push down into the chassis, but hey), nice looking chassis, and a series of coloured styluses. The highlight, without having seen it in motion, was definitely in the design. Sony make fantastic-looking technology without copying Apple (a first, lately), and although it’s likely to be expensive (it’s Sony), and this will likely pull in more than a few punters come release.

3D printersOne of them could even manufacture most of the parts required to replicate itself. What is this?! It’s certainly a nifty idea – 3D printing, in the home. My guess is that 3D Systems’ Cube will probably take home the gold once they’ve all launched, even at a whopping $1,299 for the printer itself. Still, if you want to make plastic objects, you could do worse!

Chromebooks Yep, still going – they’re pretty divisive, though. A complaint I heard is that it’s as heavy and large as a laptop, but only runs the bare minimum of apps and other tools, compared to a laptop with an OS such as OSX or Windows (yes, or Linux, calm down). It does look sweet, though, and as a Chrome fanatic, I can totally see it working – especially with major game releases popping up more and more often for the Chrome platform.

Smart watchesIt’s a tiny Android tablet, with a strap to anchor it to your wrist like a watch. Good lord, do I want one of these? Yes. The idea of having Spotify, Twitter and SMS as my three apps would mean… well. I can do this on my phone already (an HTC Desire HD), but god damn, do I want to use a watch face instead? Of course! Bring on the future! Flying cars for everyone!

Super smartphone battery lifeI like my phone – it’s big, it’s powerful, and it does what I need it to do. So, the downside to that is battery life. Mine’s not too shabby, but iPhone owners must be sick to the back teeth of watching the little green bar vanish all too quickly. iPhone tribute act (zing!) Samsung have stepped in and offered all-day battery life. If they can make good on this promise, they’ve got a winner. It might even push Apple to finally get its good battery tech (currently sitting in the Macbook and iPad region of its product catalogue) into the iPhone. Then I can switch! Maybe.

Those are my favourites. So it leads me to ask – what are yours?

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Jun 2011

Why does a next-gen product qualify business-worthy?

Posted in Business tactics, Technology | 0 Comments

Today is the first day of E3, for for those outside the spectrum of games industry knowledge, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. This three-day conference (five, for the press) centres on new games and technology produced by the big three – Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. It also saturates games news sites with lots of smaller (or sometimes equally important) announcements and news bits from individual games or gaming tech developers.

One of the biggest topics will be Microsoft’s Kinect Sensor, something I’ve written about here recently, as their conference starts at 5:30pm today. Also today, BusinessWeek published Lee Yi’s three-item list by which someone could confirm whether or not an app or piece of technology would benefit a business well enough to justify keeping it in play. Given that, outside of the hacking community, Kinect is struggling somewhat, it’s an interesting time to think about these criteria.

The first is thus: Is the app or tool a fad, or does its provider have long-term potential?

This is a major issue for me when considering purchasing new technology, one that was recently relevant to my shopping list as I braved the negativity surrounding Sony’s Playstation Network data security issues and bought a PS3. For items designed by small businesses, it’s especially relevant – there are countless companies producing new apps, and some will end up like Rovio (creators of Angry Birds, and now one of the richest apps-only developers around, as of 2011 at least), while some will fade. However, how can we judge whether it’ll stick around? The second qualifier for a long-lasting product helps with this.

The cost of education and transition.

This is crucial – for example, I’m considering switching from Microsoft Word to Scrivener for the purpose of writing and researching. I am considering this because Scrivener allows me to put my notes, research, images, plans and outlines all into the one program, as a single project file, whereas Word requires me to open multiple document windows and a browser – possibly more programs, if I need them. However, if it takes too long for me to learn Scrivener’s intricacies, I will abandon my attempt because my time is worth money, and I can’t waste too much time trying to shift between programs. It’s pick-up-and-play, or cut-and-run.

The third sign of how your product will perform in the long-term? Current employee behaviour.

Now, for a business, the individuals using the app or technology matter, because if your office is full of people who have a hard time adjusting to new ways of doing their jobs, this could make using a new concept extremely difficult and potentially far more costly than you could justify to investors or shareholders. “The key to productivity is user adoption,” states Yi, “so finding out what your employees like to use or are currently using should be a factor in your strategy.”

I couldn’t agree more. Now here’s the final test, tonight – will people finally see the merits of adopting Kinect, or Scrivener, when simpler alternatives, like conventional controllers or the old favourite, Word, are right there and ready to go? I’ll follow up on the Scrivener experience from a writer’s perspective, but for now I’d love to hear your thoughts. What software packages or bits of tech made your business better, and how worth your time and investment was the transition from the old to the new?

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Jun 2011

Five reasons I’m not scared of the PSN.

Posted in Technology | 3 Comments »

Okay so the Playstation Network is now back up in full, after the hacking outage. I bought a load of stuff last night – on a debit card. While that sinks in and you start rushing around to find tins of baked beans and see if the shelter needs airing out, I’ll list five reasons why there’s no point in being terrified of the service stealing your soul.

1. It is now probably the most secure network in gaming. Seriously, think about it. They’re never going to take this chance again, and you know that the security systems they’ve put in place are probably of incredibly high quality, so relax a little. Oh no – what about my Xbox details? Argh! I’m kidding, guys, calm down.

2. Most networks are hackable; everything can be hacked. There is no such thing as an infallible network security system. Think of it as a technological arms race, and realise that even now, there are networks that you consider safe that will eventually be hacked. Don’t believe me? How did you feel about the PSN six months ago? Right, exactly.

3. You can wipe your details. I don’t know if they keep backups (possibly, if so that’s a little silly), but I can delete my details off the PSN in under thirty seconds. Xbox Live? That’s a good hour of fumbling around, as their site is so badly designed it’s almost impossible to remove card details. So pay, wipe, and chill out.

4. Paranoia is healthy. That’s a paraphrased quote from our IT department, specifically our own security whiz. Without paranoia governing the way in which you use your information on the web, you’re putting yourself at risk. Security was developed out of the worry of being stolen from, so don’t assume fear isn’t healthy and compromises your fond sentiments towards the PSN.

5. You will save money on tinfoil. If you’re going to go on a paranoid crusade and assume every one of your details is going missing somewhere, you’re not going to be able to enjoy the amazing technologically-focused world around you. We have WiFi (not secure), the PSN (not secure), and houses! Again, not secure! But the chances of things like this happening are miniscule. It’s why we were all so shocked in the first place.

That’s it, guys. Enjoy your weekend, and for the love of all that is Sony, please stop trading in your consoles. You’re making Microsoft richer. And that’s coming from an Xbox owner.

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May 2011

The corporate blame-game

Posted in Business tactics | 1 Comment »

At the end of this month, I was planning to get a PS3. I am, despite the news, still getting a PS3. However, what I’m not doing (for now, at least), is putting any of my bank details onto the thing, for fear it’ll be leaked again. But I’m not sure what worries me worse about the whole issue – the collapse of games journalism into an endless cycle of articles about the PSN relaunch date (to save time when writing them, just put “when?!” and hit “publish”), the lack of response from senior Sony executives, or – and this is my personal favourite – the blaming of Anonymous.

If you’re a company with seventy million accounts, and you’re not securing their details, you’re quite simply insane. Crimininally so. Here’s the kicker, if you have seven accounts and you’re letting security slide – you are still insane. There will never be a solid reason for not protecting your customers’ bank details. Unless you’ve been hacked by the one group being blamed for every major hacking job in the last six months, right?

Meet Anonymous. WikiLeaks? They were there. Palin? They were there. Sony? They weren’t there, but apparently the hacker left a similar calling card on Sony’s servers (though there’s no real proof, just their word) and the blame game began. The problem with this is that Anonymous have never stolen anyone’s details – they down sites via a DDoS attack, and have never expressed any desire to commit an act of theft, especially not on a scale that could equate to an extremely long time behind bars.

This was news that rivalled, at the time, the upcoming Royal Wedding and the events in Syria, and it was not handled well. That the story is still going on, even after Bin Laden’s death, gives an idea of the scale of the PR disaster. It should act as a warning to smaller businesses who wish to grow. No matter how much you expand, how impervious you may perceive yourself to be on the basis of profit and loss sheets, share prices and sales figures, you’re not. If you lose people’s credit card details, they will have to cancel their card, and no one wants that. You then become The Unreliable Company, and it’ll take Sony years to drop that reputation.

It’s an interesting example of business strategy at its worst, though the fact they’ve taken the network down until May 31st (at which point it will be restored in full) is cause for rage amongst fans, which baffles me slightly. Shouldn’t you be pleased they’ve spent a month upgrading security and sorting everything out, rather than shoving it back online immediately? It’ll never cease to astonish me how, when people’s private details are now being toyed with by people across the globe (for all we know), they will still bemoan the loss of an online gaming service.

If you’re curious as to how it’s going, follow it via Twitter, though don’t bother with Sony staff, they’re all very quiet, funnily enough – like I said to a friend earlier, probably on holiday. Not much to do bar wait for the security to emerge all shiny and upgraded. I’ve already had my card details stolen once, and that wasn’t a small hack – that was part of a huge iTunes operation. But had iTunes blamed Anonymous, Steve Jobs would’ve looked a right mug, and frankly, that’s what Kaz Hirai looks like at the moment. Until the end of the month, Sony. Then we can be friends.

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