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Thoughts on Nokia’s Burning Platform

Nokia
Image via Wikipedia

To be frank, I thought the Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s open letter was a waste of time and extremely long overdue. It should never have come to this. I don’t understand why he wasted so much time talking about a burning platform. He should have just got straight to the point and told his company that their products are just rubbish when compared to the competition and that after 4 years they still don’t have a product that can even come close to the iPhone experience.

To their credit, essentially no other company has been able to produce a product that matches the iPhone in quality so at least they’re not the only ones. The problem is that their competition are generally running Android, and Nokia’s devices are several steps behind even these. In addition, they have announced some kind of deal with Microsoft. I’m not sure if it’s an exclusive deal to run Windows Phone on their new devices, but even a partial deal would be a mistake in my opinion. The industry is clearly moving towards iPhone and Android as the two main operating systems. Blackberry is still using their own OS but they don’t really need to compete with the other major mobile OS makers as they have a more dedicated following of users.

I don’t care what Microsoft are saying, I just can’t see them challenging Apple and Google any time soon and will probably stay a distant 3rd or 4th in the OS race. I suppose the change from Symbian to Windows Phone 7 or the next version will be a step forward, but it’s not a big enough one for Nokia, who are in trouble if they don’t make a success of their next generation of devices.

They should be following Sony Eriksson and others who have seen the light and decided smartly to jump onto the Android bandwagon as opposed to supporting their own faltering OS efforts. Nokia should at the very least start producing good quality but affordable Android phones in order to quickly turn their fortunes around as much as possible in the short term. They have to work quickly as they have essentially warned potential customers off purchasing one of their current crop of smartphones.

The other thing the company needs to focus on is their long-time speciality: cheap, simple and fashion phones. Even now, if someone who isn’t that tech savvy asks me to recommend a phone to them, I’ll recommend a cheap Nokia. They are almost indestructible, have big buttons and for the most part, simple interfaces that anyone can understand. They have a lot of competition in this area now but such is the norm for all mobile products. They have to find a way to separate themselves from the competition once again and continue their dominance of the low cost phone market. This has been keeping the company going in the last few years, but they have to continue to innovate to bring in the funds to develop their smartphone program further.

Overall I think this is the start of the company’s turnaround. By being so honest and open about their problems, they’ve put themselves in a back against the wall situation, which is good as it will force them into a state of urgency and hopefully quick recovery.

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Miscellaneous

Quick Recap of Last Week’s Tech News

There have been a number of things I’ve been meaning to comment on in the last couple of weeks and not got around to it until now. Rather than write long posts on each, I’ll quickly summarise what I think of these points.

AOL wants to buy Yahoo!

This is I think good news. They are both very similar companies and to me at least, it makes sense to create one bigger one to help them both better take on Microsoft and Google. At one stage, AOL even directly copied Yahoo’s own homepage so I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to integrate both of their services together if this were to happen.

BlackBerry Playbook Announced

You may say that this deserves a post of it’s own, but if you want to read that then you’d be on Engadget, TechCrunch, Gizmodo and all of the others. Personally, while I think it’s cool and probably a smart play for a very quickly maturing market, I can’t say I’m very excited for it.

From what I’ve always heard, touch screens by companies other than Apple tend to be more frustrating and hard to press than the multi-touch displays that are such a joy to use. On the software and hardware sides, I can’t see them making anything that can genuinely rival what Apple can do. I liken this to Android in a way. It tries to be mainstream but ends up being too geeky and confusing for a lot of that audience.

Android is making steps forward so it’s not to say Blackberry can’t do the same. I feel the same way about tablets from companies like Samsung. I just doubt whether they really have what it takes to go head to head with Apple, but we’ll find out soon.

Google Launches goo.gl URL Shortening Service Publically

This is hardly huge news, I just wish they had done it much earlier because now they are way too far behind everyone else to compete. Bit.ly, J.mp, fb.me, wp.me and many more including now Twitter‘s own t.co service are all established now and I don’t think Google are going to be able to get a foothold in the market.

In order for them to really be successful with this, they need to get two things started. Firstly, they need to get integrated into Twitter and other news apps on Apple’s and other devices so that more people will be likely to choose to use it. They also need to give users a bookmarklet so that they can shorten links much quicker. Currently, you have to copy the URL, visit goo.gl and paste it in the box to get the short code.

While they are some way behind the competition in the process or shortening the links, where they do shine is in the stats they provide. Google have the best servers in the world and they put them to good use here, tracking data such as clicks, browsers, locations and platform used.

I don’t think until they make the changes I’ve noted, they can challenge the heavyweights of this growing category of service, but it’s Google. If they wanted to take it seriously, they could surely trounce everyone else pretty easily.

My IGN Updates

MY IGN is the cool social networking service built into IGN.com. It replaces the original community aspect of the site and makes it much better. I’ve written a detailed post on it before, so check that out if you need to get up to speed on what it does.

The new updates now allow peace of mind regarding blogging. At first, they had stated that all blog posts written in the new wordpress powered blogging system would be deleted when the service left beta. That is now not an issue and all posts written with either platform will be kept. This is great news.

They have also made the service more stable, have given more security options to prevent people from spamming your wall by only allowing people you follow to do so. You can also block users now.

Finally, you can see who you follow and who follows you and quite a few other improvements including post deletion. I’m really excited to see how they keep improving MY IGN going forward, because it definitely fills a void in the social media market as I’ve said before, and it has great potential.

The next thing I’d like to see them do is integrate the service into the IGN app for iPhone and maybe their m.ign.com mobile site which appears to be inspired by YouTube‘s mobile version.

Apple Updates iTunes Ping

This happened quite a while ago now, but essentially what Apple did was remove the genius sidebar, which I and probably most other people never used to begin with, and replaced it with the Ping sidebar. The new sidebar shows your recent activity from bands or friends you follow. When you click on a song in your library you get the option to like or comment on that song in the sidebar, or by clicking a button next to the track you have highlighted.

When the artist of the song you’ve highlighted has a profile on Ping, you’ll be provided a link to that in the sidebar as well, which is useful if you didn’t know before that they were active on the social network or not, or if you want to quickly check their activity.

It’s not a major upgrade to Ping but it makes sense and probably should have been there from the start. Genius never really needed the sidebar so it’s good that they’re putting that space to better use now.

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Miscellaneous

E3 Impressions

E3 this year has been exciting, predictable and uninteresting in equal measure. Nintendo have seemingly fully learned their lesson from the casual-fests of the past and this year really came out strongly with a surprise lineup of hardcore titles we didn’t know about. Nintendo seem keen on continuing their foray into the 2D platforming revival with Kirby and Donkey Kong games for Wii, and surprised everyone with a Kid Icarus game. The surprise was not the fact that it was Kid Icarus, but the fact that it was a title for the newly announced and shown off 3DS and not the Wii, as was previously rumoured.

Last years Nintendo conference was actually very strong for the hardcore crowd, following the disaster of the year before, but they went even further this year to entertain the core gamers who generally attend E3. There were some casual titles this year but they kept coverage of them to a minimum which I thought was a smart move.

Microsoft’s conference was in my opinion the weakest of the 3 main companies. While Nintendo have seemingly learned from the past and decided to focus less on casual games and more on the traditional market and Sony have included a good mix of both, Microsoft have gone in the opposite direction which I think is a bad move. Kinect is the new name for Natal. It’s not a terrible name but I’m sceptical of how well it will work for more in-depth types of games. Can the controller free concept deliver on its promise?

I’m also not a fan of the voice control aspect of the device either. Voice control is hardly new and Sony could probably do it with their eye camera if they wanted to, but so far they haven’t shown anything like that. I just think that talking to a machine is always going to make you look silly and feel awkward.

The most important aspect of this whole thing is that even if the device is great and has good support software wise, will the price be low enough to sell units and more importantly get casual players on board. It will likely cost around £100 when combined with £200 for the system itself. £300 seems a bit steep for a casual gaming family. The Wii is considerably cheaper and while it doesn’t offer the same level of technical power and also requires multiple expensive controllers and add-ons to use multiplayer, the initial outlay will put quite a lot of people off I imagine.

Then there’s the problem of Xbox 360 just not being a very appealing name for anyone other than core gamers. They will have to work very hard with casual game advertising in order to really sell this to the wide audience that Nintendo currently enjoys.

Sony I think had just the right mix of traditional hardcore games like Killzone 3 and Infamous 2 along with Twisted Metal, innovative titles like LittleBigPlanet 2 and their foray into full motion gaming with Move. SIXAXIS was their first, unsuccessful attempt but I think they have the right formula this time around. Move is the perfect motion controller, or at least so far. You combine the accuracy of camera tracking with the buttons and accelerometers of the Wii Remote.

Move seems like the perfect fit for sports games such as Tiger Woods and Grand Slam Tennis, both of which I’m very much looking forward to. It’s far from limited to that one category though. Unlike Kinect, which I feel at this point is somewhat limited in what types of games it can be used in, I think Move has much more potential to fit into many different types of games seamlessly.

I think there are two barriers for the Move to overcome. The first is the cost of buying multiple controllers for friends and family groups, but Nintendo haven’t been set back by this problem so far so I don’t see Sony struggling too badly. Of course, Nintendo supply the Wii Remote as their default controller so that does help them but even so. The other issue could be the complexity of the setup. You need the eye camera somewhere in front of your TV as well as the controllers and possibly a subcontroller (nunchuk or duelshock 3) which is similar to the sensor bar but it could get confusing for some.

Moving away from the motion control aspect, I felt the rest of the press conference from Sony was strong. While there weren’t really any surprises, and Playstation Plus doesn’t really offer much that I would be interested in, I think they showed good demos of great upcoming games, and we now have a release date for Gran Turismo 5 which is very exciting for me.

To point out two negative sections of the show, I would say that firstly Sony put too much emphasis on 3D. The technology is still in its infancy and the TVs and glasses are very expensive. Hardly anyone will actually be buying it and I think they should be keeping it low key for the first 6 months to a year of availability because they’re spending considerable amounts of time talking to only a very small percentage of their customers at this time. At the moment Nintendo are the pioneers of 3D because they’re making it available to everyone for presumably a reasonable price.

They also introduced a new PSP advertising campaign. However, they didn’t lower the price and while they did show God Of War: Ghost of Sparta and announced Patapon 3, they only showed it briefly in a video of upcoming games. To me they are sending mixed messages. On one hand, they want us to consider the PSP still alive and kicking, but at the same time, with no price cut and hardly any talk of new games, you wonder if they even believe it themselves.

I think the lack of a PSP2 could hurt Sony badly in their battle with Nintendo and Apple for the next generation of handheld gaming. Nintendo have already stated that they will release the 3DS before the end of March next year. Will Sony have even announced PSP2 by then? If not then it will be likely at least 6 months or maybe even more between the launches of the two systems, and I don’t think they can afford to give Nintendo a head start. Especially because of all the hype and positive press that the 3DS has had surrounding it at E3 and beyond.

E3 was a massive show with so many games announced and shown off. I can’t really go into everything in this post, but overall I think this E3 was a great show with a lot of interesting announcements. 3DS was the big winner and Sony did a solid job. I think Microsoft have something to prove now especially with their motion control. They did announce the slim system with wi-fi but that’s only good to a point. It should have been done years ago.

I’ll have more thoughts soon, and will be back to more regular posts on F1 and all other topics. Thanks for reading.

Categories
Miscellaneous

MarsEdit 3 vs Windows Live Writer

I’m not the biggest Microsoft fan generally speaking. I don’t like Internet Explorer at all and I’m not a fan of how they brand their products in a nonsensical way. For example bing doesn’t really have anything to do with any other product. Windows Live Search made more sense to me.

However, I can say that I very much like Windows 7 and another lesser known product called Windows Live Writer. This application is a free downloadable publishing tool for a variety of blogging platforms from wordpress to blogger and more. It comes as one part of Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials package of apps. Of course I’d love for it to be on Mac too but you can’t have everything.

On Mac I’ve used Marsedit for quite a long time. It works well but until version 3 it was purely an HTML editor and compared to the features live writer offers, it’ feels a bit bare especially for a paid app. Version 3 now has a rich text editor but it still feels very basic and you can hardly tell the difference between the versions until you actually insert an image and see the image itself instead of the html code. There is no format bar like you would expect in a publishing app like Word or Live Writer, so you can’t change the font or do any other simple formatting without digging through a drop down menu which doesn’t feel right.

I think when you consider that because of ventures like Google Chrome OS, the future is going to be more browser based than ever, I find myself wondering if I really need a local app for blog publishing. Of course, I enjoy using live writer at the moment. I’m writing this post on it, but I feel that in the end there’s going to be only a stable of a few core standalone apps that you’ll use apart from the browser, on the desktop at least.

On the mobile front, things appear to be going in the opposite direction towards more apps than web content, but I think there will always be room for some apps on the desktop. Whether they will primarily consist of games, movie, photo or audio editing software or more isn’t clear right now, but apps in the traditional sense aren’t going to go away completely any time soon.

Going back to the point of this article in comparing the best windows blog publishing app to the best on the mac, it’s clear that live writer is a more complete experience that feels well made. Marsedit does too but I think for a paid app, it’s just not quite there and I would probably prefer to just use the wordpress dashboard editor itself to create my posts when I’m away from my PC. I think it has a lot to do with being a one man developer. Covering costs is an important aspect, and of course everyone needs to make a living. The issue is that when you’re competing against one of the biggest companies around who are making a free product, it’s hard to match up.

If you’re on a Mac and want a well made stand alone app, then I do recommend marsedit. If you’re not bothered, then the wordpress browser editor should be fine for you. If you’re on windows, the same can be said. If you’re happy with the browser, then that will be adequate, but considering live writer is free anyway, it won’t hurt to give it a try regardless of if you prefer standalone apps or not.