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Viiv la Cable

So Viiv is dying. Slowly. The Intel brand which signified a multimedia powerhouse PC never really captured the imagination of the livng room masses. On a similar note, Windows Media Center has now been included as an application built into Vista rather than as a separate release. I haven’t met anyone who has Apple TV.

Why don’t we want to put computers in our living rooms?

Price is probably one factor. Given that many people already have some kind of set-top box, persuading them to buy another item is challenging even though it might provide more functionality. Most people considering this discretionary purchase might have much of the functionality already in a laptop.

Watching TV on PCs can also be a weaker experience than using cable. The Media Center interface is superb to use for TV but it’s difficult to hook hundreds of channels (cable/satellite) into it. This means being restricted to over air channels, so the viewer’s experience is less satisfying. On-demand downloads have started but it’s a small market at present. Perhaps when a cable company releases a PC TV card then we might see more penetration.

Recognising that Viiv was struggling in the living room, Intel has decided to concentrate on the extremely strong Core brand. So future multimedia PCs will be branded Core with Viiv.

I say well done to Intel for trying and I’m sure tht one day this concept will get mass market approval. I’ve got a feeling though that when it does, the concept will actually be sold to the masses by cable TV companies.

Neil Berman

Jul 24, 2007 Posted by | Apple, Microsoft | , , | 1 Comment

In Defense of MacBook 1.1

When Apple released its recently updated Intel MacBook, the changes were more 1.1 than 2.0. Rapid condemnation followed. Moving from 2 GHz to 2.16 was more like an engine tune from Santa Clara than an engine overhaul from Santa Rosa.

In Apple’s defense, the Intel MacBook was probably a pricey initial release. Even now, getting a T7200 powered laptop for $1,099 is amazing value, especially if you use it as a Vista and OSX dual boot machine.

Given that it would be exceptionally difficult to find a laptop of similar spec on the market we can make one of the following conclusions:

1. Vista adds considerably more cost to the price of a new laptop than OSX, or

2. Apple took a financial hit upfront to woo Windows users by offering a high-spec medium-cost laptop capable of running OSX and Windows, figuring that over time MacBook would become profitable through falling component prices linked to minor technology facelifts.

Although 1 is true to an extent, I think 2 is more likely as it is very hard to find a similar spec’d laptop within even a few hundred bucks of MacBook. Also, any increase that Vista adds would be partially offset by the discounts big PC houses probably receive on massive-scale component purchases compared to Apple.

So I can understand Apple for this one. They’ve got a great laptop and it’s time in MacBook’s lifecycle to cash in on sales and component margins. We’ll just have to wait a little longer for MacBook 2.0.

Neil Berman
www.neilberman.com

Jul 21, 2007 Posted by | Apple | , , , | Leave a comment

iPhone vs AT&T 8525 / HTC TyTN

Another day, another thousand iPhone reviews posted. Another bunch of people marvelling at the awesome straight-from-a-sci-fi-flick design. Another bunch of people cursing that only kids have fingers small enough to sms on the thing. Another bunch of people making pointless comparisons to competitors in the market.

See photos and read the latest CES cellphone news here
Read the latest CES 2008 Laptop and UMPC news here

Pointless? Well yes. It’s pretty impossible to make any meaningful comparison to similar devices when there aren’t any. Can you name another 500 buck cellphone which doesn’t have 3G or even stereo bluetooth? Me neither. Can you name another 500 buck cellphone which seamlessly plugs into iTunes, says ‘I’m uber-cool’ rather than ‘I’m a workaholic’ and has captured media attention more successfully than a military coup? Me neither.

So, why stack the iPhone against the HTC TyTN (AT&T/Cingular 8525)?

Well, if TyTN is the king of Smartphone Street then iPhone is the trendy kid who’s just moved in, and it reckons it can set off a few car alarms as it swaggers down the road.

That road happened to be Fifth Avenue New York, where people queued round a glass cube just down the road from a TyTN advert on a subway entrance. Beauty comes in many forms on 5th, but on June 29 it came as a slice of Apple. And what a beauty it was. You pick the thing up and think “woah, this is a real trick tablet”. I mean like what a Trek-era tablet should really be. Just a surface, nothing more. Thin as you could want, it is purity of design in the extreme.

Meanwhile Beast screams out from ads around the city. Functional to the last, TyTN’s touchscreen is almost the size of iPhone’s but with buttons strategically placed to give control over assignable functions. A slick slide-out keyboard with great backlit response hides under the screen. This helps make Tytn big-boned whereas iPhone is size zero.

iPhone’s keyboard is a bit different. Criticized upon release for being difficult to use, Apple has responded by placing an iPhone keyboard video smack on the front of its website. The Apple-simple video explains some of the cool tech behind the onscreen keyboard which makes it intelligently resize target zones as it guesses your typing. A clever implementation of a difficult paradigm. Apple was always up against a challenge by trying to replace the tactile feedback of a thumb-board with an on-screen equivalent. It still doesn’t work for me, I don’t think it can compare to the Tytn which gives a full landscape keyboard and a full screen to write on (see the newly released Tytn II’s tilting keyboard here). But does it need to…?
TyTN is the daddy of smartphones because it is the road warrior’s wet dream. It can run Microsoft Office Mobile so its keyboard is likely to see serious action. iPhone is unlikely to see similar usage. It has a size zero data diet and no productivity software, so I reckon most keyboard action will be for adhoc messaging and occasaional email unless you really get the knack of pressing the ‘keys’.

The URL keyboard on iPhone is pretty cool with a dedicated .com button and the surfing experience is good. Definitely beats TyTN for me although TyTN loads pages quicker (remember big-boned data diet). To be honest, viewing web pages on anything smaller than Samsung Q1 is a sign of desperation generally (since the time of wiritng the Nokia N810 has changed than with an amazing ultra-portable web experience). But desperate times call for small devices coz there’s not always a Q1 handy when you need one. Shame.

See photos and read the latest CES cellphone news here
Read the latest CES 2008 Laptop and UMPC news here

iPhone iTunes iLike. The iPod created the market conditions for iPhone to exist and Apple has integrated iTunes beautifully into iPhone. By comparison, TyTN’s Windows Media player is clunky and doesn’t seem to have undergone changes in the transition from Windows Mobile 5 to 6. But once you’ve got the songs fired up TyTN sings them wirelessly over Bluetooth…whereas iPhone keeps you plugged in with its size zero muscles dropping stereo Bluetooth in favour of a regular size headphone socket. Whoops, bet that gets fixed in iPhone the sequel.
Recalling nostalgic early iPod days, Apple has chosen to take the hassle out of iPhone battery replacement by offering to do it for customers for 79 bucks. Whilst your battery is being changed you can get a loan iPhone for another 29 green. Tytn batteries are 10 bucks on eBay but you have to fit it yourself. Fortunately I generally find that I am capable of fitting cellphone batteries…

Apple has partially opened up iPhone to third party developers through Ajax, which should lead to plenty of Safari-centric releases. I guess this will also preserve the quality and security of core application releases on iPhone, but I reckon if you want your kid to grow you have to let go. Fortunately TyTN lets its owner try to brick their phone (and potentially void their warranty) by loading on anything the Windows Mobile SDK supports. For example Skype, Google Maps and AvantGo for Windows Mobile work on TyTN. Kewl. I’m looking forward to seeing what gets released for iPhone though, even if at this stage the platform doesn’t seem quite as flexible.

Using iPhone is a jaw-dropping experience. Screen animations are awesome, picture viewing is slick and anything with big on-screen buttons, like the phone dialer, is easy to use. Even the screen lock is great. But I can’t help feeling that much of this ease is due to the size-zero functionality and lack of depth. It’s evidenced by the small number of applications on the home screen. TyTN’s Windows Mobile presents more information at once but you either need a fingernail or stylus due to the concentrated breadth of info on offer. For example the home page on the TyTN I’m looking at shows an internet search bar, email/sms/skype/network/battery/lock status, various notifications and the usual time & date stuff.

With iPhone much of this info seems an extra finger smudge away because the interface is designed with screen consuming easy-to-target buttons. That said, I suspect Apple knows what it’s doing and has given iPhone owners the type of experience they’ve been dreaming about. Much of the finger navigation has been superbly implemented and communication between core applications is sweet.

So do I go for Beauty or the Beast? Well for what I want from a cell, iPhone is a pretty fling but couldn’t keep my attention beyond looking fine and having a good singing voice. It’s a sublime first effort though and I’m sure future models will get even better. TyTN is functionally a more complete device and a king in the techno-jungle. Its convergence is fantastic.

But which one says I’m uber-cool before I even order a drink? That’ll be me at the bar with the size-zero. Question is, does iPhone have enough inside for you to have a long term relationship or will it end up as a one night stand?

Click here to see if iPhone can survive a Maine Coon mauling.

Click here to read about the recently released TyTN II / at&t Tilt.

Click here to read about emerging 4G technologies.

See photos and read CES news about: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies.

To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here.

Neil Berman
http://www.neilberman.com/

Notes:

Thanks to anon Apple expert for editorial comment.

HTC TyTN available as AT&T / Cingular 8525, T-Mobile MDA Vario II, O2 XDA Trion, iMate JasJam, as well as other carrier branded models sold globally based on the HTC TyTN/Hermes.

Warning: Installing applications onto your cellphone or making modifications to your cellphone may invalidate your warranty or fry your cellphone.

Links:

iPhone at Apple

iPhone at AT&T

HTC TyTN

8525 at AT&T

TyTN at XDA Developers

Jul 13, 2007 Posted by | Apple | , , , , | 4 Comments

Beauty and the Beast

Hey and welcome to my brand-spanking-new blog for random acts of techo-analysis, info-chatter and absolutely no kindness for tech that stinks. I welcome Mac-fans and Windows-worshippers, techno-haters and Linux-lovers.

So I’m going to kick off with a beauty and the beast battle taking place in US stores right now: iPhone vs HTC Tytn

Hope you enjoy :-)

Neil Berman
www.neilberman.com

Jul 8, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

   

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