Whiteboard girl “hoaxed” the Internet hard, apparently

August 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

A bit of reporting from the BBC about the whiteboard girl stunt which turned out to be fake.

As soon as I read this story I felt it missed the point. What’s important wasn’t whether the stunt was true or not; it was funny. Arguably, it was the news outlets that got duped, reporting this nonsense obviously without doing any kind of basic fact checking. The Internet? Was the Internet “duped”? The Internet doesn’t care. And amusingly, The Chive understood this. “Jenny” resurfaced Wednesday, infamous whiteboard in hand, with her last words:

Ultimately the article elucidates two points, both pretty unfortunate for mainstream journalism:

  1. Some mainstream media outlets, who actually have the resources and manpower to professionally cover all sorts of news stories, sometimes have worse journalistic standards than the average Internet blog run by a community of voluntary writers; and that
  2. The mainstream media, even the BBC, still don’t have a real understanding of the Internet or its culture.

(A big thank you to the reddit community; I’m glad I wasn’t alone in thinking this.)

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BlackBerry Torch and Blackberry 6 OS

August 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just coming off the previous post, RIM have announced their “next-gen” phone as well as an update to the Blackberry OS software. My reaction is this: indifference. RIM needed to really pull their finger out and deliver something at least on par or better than what’s currently available. They haven’t, and my gut feeling is that they’re never really going to. That 40% slice of your customers who’re thinking of switching over to Apple or Android next time they buy a phone? Say bye-bye to them, RIM, because they are so going to do that.

Here’s the new phone, the BlackBerry Torch. By all means, check out the technical specs and the video gallery to get a better idea of how it’ll work.

Now, from my point of view, putting a 624 Mhz CPU in your flagship phone at this point in 2010 is a bad joke. Simply put, it’s already obsolete tech, and this also goes for the low res 480×360 display. The rest, such as the wi-fi, the 5 MP camera, the memory, the fully functional browser, the 3G, etc., all seems fine – but, so what? RIM didn’t need “fine”; it needed “awesome”. This is not an awesome phone; it is not an exciting phone. The new Blackberry 6 OS looks to have a cool UI, seems easy to use and has the necessary features – but, again, so what? Nothing new to see here, folks. This is a very boring phone…

And it’s confused, too. I actually think the form factor looks quite sleek, but RIM really need to let go of that hardware keyboard. It’s old-fashioned now and slightly embarrassing, all told. It demonstrates a clear lack of  conviction in their design on their part; it looks like a device that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. I understand that the QWERTY hardware keyboard is kind-of a stalwart of the brand, but this was RIM’s “do or die” moment. You cannot afford to be that conservative in the mobile tech market; you just can’t.

In a couple of years’ time RIM’s BlackBerry may still exist, but they will merely be a footnote in the history of smartphones. In this market, fortune favours the bold, and the innovative.

Browser Warz: Smartphone and Desktop Edition

August 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

My hard-on for Google related news continues.

There have been a few articles recently about the staggering growth of Android’s market share in the smartphone arena. The BBC reported Android phone shipments increasing 886% compared to last year, while in the US alone Nielson reports that in the last six months Android market share has risen above the 23% held by Apple to 27%, thereby overtaking their most important competitor. However, it’s also worth stating, for the sake of balance, that Symbian overshadows both OSs in the worldwide market, claiming 43.5% of this lucrative pie, and then that’s followed by RIM, the Blackberry OS, trailing way behind at 18%, followed closely by Android at 17.1%, with Apple at 13.5%, and so on.

However, Google shouldn’t be celebrating just yet, says MG Siegler from TechCrunch, claiming that the handsets sales aren’t really that impressive considering how many phones now carry the OS and how many mobile carriers sell those phones – compared, that is, to the iPhone, which only has two models available on one mobile carrier. He concludes that the comparison is unfair, that it doesn’t take into account iPhone 4 sales, and that we should wait to see the iPhone on at least one other US mobile carrier before making any kind of real assertions.

Now, to be honest, it reads a bit like an Apple propaganda piece, especially when he states “most shocking thing about the news today that Android sales overtook iPhone sales for the first time last quarter is that it didn’t happen sooner”. However, he does raise a couple of good points – that iPhone 4 sales aren’t counted; and the iPhone’s limited availability. That’s all true, but unfortunately I think it points more to Apple’s straight-up unwillingness to make partnerships and instead rely on exclusivity agreements. I don’t think people need to be reminded about this, but this is a very similar path to the one they trod when Microsoft took the desktop OS market by storm, leaving Apple their very small, but pretty, niche.

Anyway, irrespective of the issues of comparing market share in the US, GfK reported a “staggering” 350% increase in handset contract sales in the UK, and that was over a three-month period between Q1 2010 to Q2 2010. This being the UK, the iPhone is out on all the major handsets, so MG Siegler’s criticism doesn’t really stand up to much over here. The fact is that all these stats point to a massive surge in the uptake of Android-based handsets and that this trend is likely to continue for a while yet. Frankly, whether it’s 886% or 350%, Google should feel very pleased with what they’ve accomplished, even though they’ve got a long way to go.

Onto a somewhat related topic, Gizmodo, among others, has reported that Microsoft quashed radical privacy features that it was planning to integrate with IE 8, and it was prevented from doing so because of internal company conflicts. The privacy settings in question would have blocked third-party trackers by default, essentially cutting off advertisers from the anonymous, personal information that would normally be disclosed in the background while users surfed the Web. For Microsoft, that’s a pretty big step towards giving users more control over what information they wish to disclose – which is why Brian McAndrews, senior VP at the company, previously a CEO of web advertising company aQuantive,  put the kaboose on the whole thing. Long story short, the IE dev team lost against him, and it resulted in one feature being dropped altogether and another that users would have to manually turn on every time they booted up the browser – in other words, making it absolutely bloody useless.

The reason I’m talking about this story is because people care about their privacy. Sure, they might eventually compromise on it – if, for instance, what is offered in return is substantial enough to warrant it – but it’s still an issue. The point is, Microsoft and Google, for all the money they can put into desktop browser development, are beholden to certain stakeholders who hold a massive interest in online advertising. For Microsoft, less so; but for Google, that just about counts everybody in the entire company.

Google’s Chrome OS has made impressive strides in the browser marketplace, currently holding a 7.1% share against Firefox at 22.9% and IE (all versions) at 60.7%. Pretty good considering how “young” it is, and I truly believe it has already surpassed the latest Firefox build in certain aspects. However, unlike Google, one thing the Mozilla Foundation doesn’t have to worry about is advertisers, which means they don’t have to design their browser with them in mind; and in fact, all they need to think about is the core user experience. This is the single greatest advantage Mozilla has over its rivals, and if they can compete in terms of offering more speed, functionality, better UI and integration with third-party plugins, then it will almost certainly keep them ahead of Google, if not Microsoft as well.

Google-y eyes too big for its stomach?

July 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

I don’t know why exactly, but I’m finding myself more and more drawn with interest into what Google’s doing these days. Only at the beginning of this month it was unveiled that they may be entering in to the travel market – and maybe the price comparison market – as they bought up travel information firm ITA Software (who basically supply flight info and pricing to major travel websites such as Kayak, Orbitz, Hotwire and Microsoft’s Bing).

And now, only a week or so later, Techcrunch has discovered a secret $100 million plus investment deal Google has made with Zynga, part of a strategic partnership to both a) prepare for Google Games, coming later this year; and b) put a bullet in PayPal, Google Checkout’s direct competitor and major beneficiary of Zynga as a payment medium. But it’s also a shot over the bow of Facebook, too, as Zynga (if you didn’t already know) makes such masssively, massively popular games such as Farmville (approximately 62 million active users) and Mafia Wars (close to 18 million), which of course have their foundations built upon on the number one social networking site on the web.

(To put these numbers into perspective, World of Warcraft, the poster child for massively online social experiences, has around 11.5 million active subscribers from the last count taken around late 2008, and that took them four years to develop, whereas Farmville was launched only 12 months ago.)

So, this is Christmas present, but what about Google’s future?

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"I’ve made a huge mistake"

June 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just realised that I never actually got around to giving my impressions on the iPad, despite making several fervent statements elsewhere. To sum up my original position, I thought it would underperform, and I happened to mention this on a friend’s status update on Facebook:

Turns out I didn't need to wait more than two months, let alone two years. (Also, REDACTED, BITCHES!)

So, essentially my reasoning was: they’re entering into an unproven market; it’s too big; it doesn’t do all the things a laptop/netbook can do; it looks delicate; and it will become old tech within a short period of time. Ergo, it’s likely to fail.

Unfortunately, I underestimated one thing: the Apple factor – by which I mean the strength of the brand and Jobs’s (or his team of engineer’s) uncanny talent for designing accessible, shiny-looking user interfaces.

And why am I mentioning this all now?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/may/31/ipad-apple-tablet-sales

Taken from The Guardian.co.uk (obviously)

Oops.

The summer drought; finally my final impressions on Final Fantasy XIII; and so-called misogyny and misandry

June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, the summer drought is well and truly here. Just looking at the GiantBomb release schedule for the UK, there looks to be very little in the way of major releases coming out in the next month or so. Got to say, it’s kind-of welcome, since I’ve quite a few games on my shelf I’ve been meaning to play more of. Bayonetta, in particular, is one regret of mine, and its presence on the “To do” pile is a symbol of great personal shame.

I’ve just managed to finish Final Fantasy XIII, and, I’ve got to tell ya, reviewing that game would be an absolute nightmare. Fortunately, someone’s done my job for me. That man is Chris Kohler from Game|Life, Wired’s online gaming publication, and you can read his review here. It’s definitely a weird one, FF XIII. In some areas it makes some rather brave steps forward, but they feel misjudged, yet it’s also a game trapped by its heritage and its conventions; and, not unlike the recent Alan Wake, it also looks like a game that started out as very ambitious in the original design but was then scaled back to fit time and financial constraints. So, a bit of a mixed bag, then.

From the gaming blogosphere, there have been two instances of controversy: one from Hoyden about Town, where they accuse the creators of the Xbox LIVE edutainment title Privates of misogyny; the second, a reaction against the satirical Hey Baby FPS game, in which you, playing as a woman, gun down dozens of men who are catcalling, harassing and chasing you through the streets of some modern day metropolis.

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Steve Jobs: the iPad offers "freedom from porn"

May 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

A little background first. Ryan Tate from Gawker.com recently got into a heated e-mail exchange with Steve Jobs, chairman and CEO of Apple.Inc. Within this back and forth between the two, Ryan criticised the iPad for having too many restrictions for it to be described as a revolutionary device, which Steve and co. are currently advertising it as. Jobs responded back with this:

Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom.

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