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CES: The ultimate road warrior workout

Las Vegas strip at nightThe term road warrior gets thrown about everywhere these days. Working remotely, bashing out Powerpoints on planes and running your day from a smartphone are all part of it, but nothing encapsulates the term quite like covering CES.

It’s ironic that while being surrounded by every imaginable gadget at CES, we have to be ultra-judicious with technology choices or alternatively arrange an appointment with a chiropractor in advance. Reliable, light and effective gadgets are essential, as is intimate knowledge of how they work. There’s so much to see in such a short time that the last thing you want is to be dealing with tech roadblocks; it all just has to work, all of the time.

I tend to focus more on specific products, analysis and trends than attempting to cover everything at the show, but even so it can be hectic. For example last year I posted the first video of the groundbreaking Lenovo U1 on YouTube and it all happened in a matter of minutes. The U1 was demo’d at CES Unveiled on the Tuesday before the show, there was a mass scrum to get a look, I fired up my footage on my laptop, turned it into a meaningful video and then shot it up to YouTube. Then on to the next must-see of the day…

All of this would be easy except that a day at CES can easily last 12+ hours with much of that spent standing with all your gear on your back or perched somewhere writing. Plus there are none of the techno creature comforts that exist at home. I normally edit videos on a huge screen using Sony Vegas running on super-fast hardware. At CES it has to get done quicker, using a smaller screen and probably less power.

Last year I relied on a Dell Latitude E4300 to get the job done, and it was great with some room for improvement. Its 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor was quick enough but drained the battery in about 4 hours, or faster if I was editing a lot of video. That meant carrying a charger, which added unwanted weight to the 3.5lb-or-so Latitude.

MacBook AirThis year I’ve made the risky choice of swapping the enterprise ruggedness of the Latitude for the unproved portability of the new MacBook Air. I don’t really know how Cupertino’s finest will behave under pressure, but my experience so far has been one of superb battery life and snappy performance. Videos edited in iMovie ’11 render quickly as well. The question is what will happen when it gets thrown into a bag and carried with fifty browser tabs open and a video render executing in the background.

Basically I’m breaking my cardinal rule of making sure I know the hardware inside and out.

But if there are sometimes salvation opportunities if a laptop gets feisty out at CES…cameras are live or die affairs. They can’t fail but they also need to be portable and snapaholic friendly. While there are plenty of DSLR carriers walking the CES floor, I find their weight can make them impractical. Plus they tend to dangle around bashing into people and stuff. If you have a good understanding of light and positioning, I believe shooting well for the Web is achievable using a more compact camera. Carrying a DSLR around all day with a laptop, batteries and other stuff isn’t a recipe for a happy back. Plus you don’t want to be messing around with a lens cap when a crucial moment passes by.

A couple of years ago I used a Lumix FZ18 as my CES camera. It was superbly configurable, had a wildly long and wide zoom lens and was extremely light. It was hampered by weak low light performance so I switched to the Lumix ZS3/TZ7, which has a wider lens if not quite as long a zoom, but does better in low light and is pocket friendly. I haven’t found a better blogging camera so I stuck with it again for 2011. I was hoping the Nikon P7000 would offer the perfect balance between size and flexibility but it’s actually bigger than I’d like due to its viewfinder, and it’s a weighty beast.

All of that normally gets paired up with a MiFi, but this year I’m going to try using Sprint’s Epic 4G as a 4G hotspot. Las Vegas was one of the first cities to get Sprint’s 4G coverage and there were several Clear demos at CES 2010. Now that Sprint’s service has reached wide adoption, this week will be a good opportunity to see what happens to WiMAX when you put a bunch of people using the service heavily in the same location.

Putting this all together, spending an intensive road warrior week at CES makes you realize how companies can now let much of their office space become an expense of the past for those employees who don’t need it anymore. There’s precious little that actually requires dedicated office space these days. We need meeting space for personal contact, data space for servers and storage (which could be outsourced to cloud providers) and limited desk hoteling for working with other people from time to time. Smart companies value productivity and their cost base; this is an opportunity to achieve gains in both, by reducing office space and empowering employees to work in the spaces they find most effective on days when they don’t need to have face-to-face contact with coworkers.

If there’s one thing an intensive week at CES teaches you, it’s that the mobile model in one form or another works.

Neil Berman

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Jan 3, 2011 Posted by | Analysis, CES, Guides, Rants | , , , | Leave a comment

2010: The year that changed computers and TV?

Halo TV iPadHappy New Year to all of our readers!! If you’re already in 2011, what’s it like on the other side? On behalf of those of us still in 2010, we’re jealous of the cool fireworks that have been going on.

2010 turned out to be a pretty surprising year. Coming out of a recession it looked like the year would be a damp squib, but in fact consumer electronics spending held strong as we became ever-more obsessed with gadgets.

There were some technologies failed to make an impression, like 3DTV. I’m sure that next week I’ll see a whole new round of excitement around this technology even though consumers don’t seem all that interested in owning it at home. Even some of this year’s 3D hollywood blockbusters disappointed; Tron Legacy springs to mind, which asked moviegoers to pay 3D prices even though much of the movie was presented in 2D. The 2D parts of the movie were too dark with glasses on and more enjoyable with them off…but what’s the point in swapping them in and out for 2D and 3D footage?

The BlackBerry platform surprised us for an unexpected reason. While RIM’s smartphone strategy failed to impress with the disappointing Torch, the company surprised everyone with its PlayBook QNX announcement. I’m not sure if that’s enough to save the company long term though. I still believe that once corporates move away from the BlackBerry platform in larger numbers, the consumer market will choose to sustain the Apple, Google and Microsoft mobile offerings at the expense of RIM’s.

For me the most surprising aspect of 2010 was that the iPad really did turn out to be revolutionary after all. It completely changed the way we look at tablet computers and introduced new people to the computing world, both young and old. For kids aged 6-12 years, their most wanted gadget this holiday season was an iPad. Not a Nintendo DS, or a PSP, or a cellphone. They wanted a tablet computer; that’s how profoundly the iPad impacted the market.

Competitors weren’t ready for this. Microsoft thought they could pre-empt it by showing off the HP slate at CES 2010, and that product didn’t get very far in the consumer realm. Samsung got snubbed by Google for releasing the Galaxy Tab with Android 2.2. Even so, the Tab did put in a decent showing in sales volumes, although I’ve only ever seen one unit in someone’s hands outside of a store, review or trade show.

Netbooks also fell prey to the iPad’s assault. As iPad sales continued to increase throughout 2010, netbook sales suffered. Now nobody really seems interested in the sector at all, but that’s also because low priced ultraportables with decent processors are now hitting the market at under $500.

2010 also turned out to be the year that the mass market got excited about streaming content to their living room TV. With easy to use, high quality services like Netflix gaining huge popularity, Roku and Apple sold good numbers of their tiny set top boxes. Google had a different experience with Google TV, releasing a product that clearly hadn’t gone through a full round of consultation with TV networks, who promptly blocked the devices from streaming their online shows. But the overriding theme is that consumers definitely want to pull content directly into their living room from the internet.

The iPad changed the way we perceive computers and family-friendly content streamers changed the way mainstream consumers want to watch TV. Not bad for a year that was setup to be a “Meh” year in consumer electronics. Bring on 2011!

Neil Berman

Dec 31, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, Rants | , , , , | Leave a comment

T-Mobile’s US problems are bigger than iPhone

t-mobile-mytouch-4g-dummy-phone

T-Mobile's flagship (dummy) phone, the MyTouch 4G. If you want to try one, you'll need to ask first.

T-Mobile posted some disappointing results for its US division last week and laid the blame at the door of the iPhone, which is not available on T-Mobile US.  Analyzing that comment, it’s important to ask why this should this be a bigger problem for T-Mobile than for Verizon or Sprint, who are also sans iPhone.

To my mind there’s a simple answer and I’ve said it before.  T-Mobile needs to have a good look at their stores and figure out how to get more people into them.  The Sprint, Verizon and AT&T stores near me are always busy with customers fiddling with phones, trying them out and deciding which device works best for them.  The T-Mobile stores are typically empty because they have pretty near nothing interactive on display.  Their in-store demo phones are dull-screened plastic dummies and would-be customers cannot get a feel for how they work.  A friendly T-Mobile salesperson did pull out a working MyTouch 4G for me when asked, which is the carrier’s flagship and heavily advertised iPhone competitor, but the version on general display is the plastic dummy.  It’s the opposite of the “come and play with me” iPhone displays in AT&T stores.

It would be like going Best Buy and having to decide which TV to buy without actually seeing them working.  At least if you buy a $1,000 TV and get bored of it, you can move it to the bedroom and get a new one next year.  With phones we’re talking about potentially getting locked-in for two years based upon a plastic dummy.  I think most nervous consumers would say no thanks to that idea.  Although plenty of consumers buy gadgets on-spec through mail-order channels, that doesn’t cut it for many consumers.  Those folks need to build trust in a device and understand how it can benefit them before buying.

The CEA told us this week that consumers love to just play with gadgets, even if they have no intention of purchasing.  These opportunities for test drives are essential for gradually familiarizing consumers about a company’s products, especially for T-Mobile given the carrier’s current campaign to educate consumers about its 4G products.  Sprint showcases its 4G devices in store for consumers to experience, Verizon does a similar job for its Droid brand and of course there is a dedicated iPhone demo area in AT&T’s stores.  The message to T-Mobile is clear: entice customers into the store with the campaign, but then give them things to play with when they’re there and they’ll start drinking the Kool-Aid.

Neil Berman

Nov 13, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile, Rants | | Leave a comment

Three annoying things about the new MacBook Airs

1. It doesn’t have a backlit keyboard. Why Apple, WHY?????

2. My hope for a MacBook Air Touch didn’t crystallize, but it looks like the OS is going that way anyway just like I predicted. The iOSX mashup is coming to a MacBookPad near you.

3. This one hurts. If you dropped three large on a MacBook Air 128GB SSD a couple of years ago, there’s a better one in your local Apple store right now for $1299. And your neighbor just bought one for each of his college kids.

Neil Berman

Oct 20, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Computing, Hardware, Rants | , , | Leave a comment

This gadget life

Reflecting on the past year, I’ve done some wacky things to accommodate my gadget obsessed lifestyle.

Take my old BlackBerry Bold 9000 for example. A great smartphone in almost all respects except that it has a weak Bluetooth transmitter. I mean weak to the extent that I would get music streaming dropouts when walking in open areas where the Bluetooth signal had nothing to bounce against. I always carry my phone in my trouser pocket and it seemed that the only way to fix this was to reduce the distance between the phone and my heaadphones. I couldn’t relocate my headphones so proceeded to buy an army of T-shirts with top pockets. Problem solved. Incidentally the Bold 9700 has a superb Bluetooth transmitter so I’m back to wearing whatevs again.

Kindle 3 web browser screen sunlight

The Kindle's E Ink screen is great for use in sunlight

Speaking of headphones, regular readers will know that I’m a serious fan of stereo Bluetooth. While there are plenty of headsets that are great for the summer, only a few offer genuine wind protection which is a must-have for New York winters. I sought out the Sony DR-BT50 specifically because they have snug-fitting earpads that do double duty as fair-weather ear muffs. So long wind chill.

Now that we’re onto the weather it’s no secret that I like using my gadgets outdoors. This has led me to convert Apple’s iPad case into a sunshade, choose the BlackBerry Bold 9700 over other smartphones due to its sunlight readable screen,and more recently buy the Kindle 3 just for outdoor web browsing. Am I the only person out there to buy the Kindle just so I can read online content for hours outdoors in places like Battery Park’s WiFi hotspot? Weird eh, but I’m lovin’ this gadget life.

Neil Berman

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Sep 4, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BlackBerry follows coffee shower with rice bath

BlackBerry Bold moisture indicatorWarning, this post contains stuff which will almost certainly void your warranty if you repeat it.  If you like that kind of thing, read on!

This morning was a minor disaster. My BlackBerry Bold 9000 seemed damp to the touch as I threw it in my pocket, I thought nothing of it since I had just washed my hands. I did however get concerned ten minutes later when I tried using it.

The trackball was spewing liquid when spun, key presses resulted in random “hl” and “ou” garbage and the call buttons were ineffective.  The growing knot in my gut tightened as I caught the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee, and I wasn’t walking past Starbucks …continue reading

Apr 27, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to travel to Europe in the ash cloud era

NASA ash cloud

NASA image showing the ash visible to the eye (left) and through infrared (right)

Much of Europe is currently a no-fly zone due to volcanic ash but, more worryingly, volcanologists are suggesting that Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull could continue erupting for months or years to come.  This could have a disastrous impact upon the airline industry as travelers will be reluctant to make advance bookings for flights, since many insurance companies do not reimburse for cancellations caused by “Act of God” events.

So at dinner last night my good friend Charlie proposed that this could be the event which finally tips the balance of international communication towards video conferencing and away from air travel.

In the short term I certainly agree with him.  If technology and science fiction has taught us anything however, it’s that there are always options.  So let’s look at the ones out there and then collectively weep about our lack of modern day research into most of them.

The Transporter (Star Trek)

Being able to act upon one of William Shatner’s most famous lines “Beam me up Scotty” would save us a lot of hassle right now.  In fact scientists in Copenhagen did manage to transport some matter 18 inches a few years ago but let’s be honest, that’s just going to get you from one part of the ash cloud to another.  18 miles would be more promising, and 18,000 is frankly what we need right now.  Gene, the world misses you more than ever now.

The FTL Drive (Battlesstar Galactica)

The BSG take on instant point to point transportation is the FTL drive, which requires huge computational effort but can’t possibly take as long to prep for as a typical traveler getting ready to pass through airport security.  The FTL drive has to be fitted to a craft, so individual transportation is not supported unlike the Star Trek Transporter.  However for today’s needs that’s just fine, we’d fit one to a 747 and FTL our way across the Atlantic in an instant.

The Holly Hop Drive (Red Dwarf)

Holly’s hilarious effort to transport Lister and the Red Dwarf crew back to Earth was one of the finest moments of this BBC comedy sci-fi masterpiece.  I think I’d feel safer manually navigating a rowing boat across the Atlantic to Europe than trusting Holly to Holly Hop me there through an ash cloud.  Check out this all-time classic show on Netflix, where it’s available to stream instantly to your PC/Mac/Xbox/Wii/PS3/iPad whatevs.

Hyperspace (Star Wars and many others)

For some reason the often unreliable Millenium Falcon was faster than anything Vader or the whole Imperial Empire could manufacture.  I’m sure that many would even be happy to sit out the journey in the prisoner block of an Imperial Destroyer if it meant saving them from another night of sleep deprivation in a departure terminal.  After all, the duration of the cross Atlantic voyage at hyperspace would take less time than the blink of an eye.  Alas it’s just one more technology brought to the silver screen but never quite mastered in real life.

Helium filled light airship

Back to reality, the Excelsior from Archer (Skytanic, Season 1) could actually become useful if the jet engine is temporarily doomed over European skies.  It might be super slow but it sure looks comfortable and hey, this one actually exists!

Neil Berman

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Apr 18, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Rants | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MacBook Pro or a fully equipped entertainment apartment?

Mac vs PCWe all know that Macs are expensive, but just how much more expensive are they in real world terms?  This can be difficult to quantify.  In the Vista and XP days it was easier to justify a Mac purchase based upon the quality of its operating system.  That’s exactly what I did back in 2007.  With Windows 7 however the game has changed and while OSX wins on some aspects (prettiness, support, media apps), Windows clearly now leads on others (taskbar, multitouch, homegroup).  Overall it kind of feels like a tie at the moment.

So here’s the challenge: For the price of a decently spec’d MacBook Pro can a one bedroom apartment be kitted out with home entertainment tech including a similarly spec’d Windows 7 laptop?

First, the rules.  Pretty simple really, no refurbs, coupons or member-only offers.  We’ll also assume that in both scenarios we’ll buy the same wireless router.

The Mac option

MacBook ProLet’s start with the MacBook Pro.  We’ll take the 15″ with the standard Core i7 processor and 4GB RAM.  In fact the only upgrade we’d make is to dump the slow 5400RPM 500GB drive in favor of a faster 7200RPM unit, which we think should be standard on anything labelled “Pro”.  That’s a cheap $50 upgrade.

That gives us a grand total of $2,249 on Apple’s site.  Let’s see what we can get ourselves for that kind of money.

Our apartment has a bedroom and living room, so we’ll need to take care of both.  In the living room we’ll need a TV, surround sound audio system, something for gaming and of course Blu-ray.  In the bedroom a small TV would be nice along with a simple sound system.  And of course we need that Windows laptop too, so let’s start with that.

The one bedroom apartment

Keeping it simple we can pick up our laptop from the local Walmart.  They have the HP Pavilion DV6-2190US with almost identical HP Pavilion DV6specs to the MacBook Pro for $898.54.  There’s the Intel Core i7, 4GB RAM and 500GB 7200RPM hard drive, all being powered by Windows 7 Home Premium.  The DV6 packs a GeForce 230M in  place of the 330M on the MacBook Pro but in day-to-day tasks like surfing and typical comupting, Toshiba 40RV525R LCD TVmost people wouldn’t notice the difference.  The big 2010 performance leap comes from the Core i7.

We definitely need a nice big TV, so let’s go for a 40″ 1080p from Toshiba for $579.99.  It’s rated 4.6 out 5 from 91 reviews on Tiger Direct, so that’s a solid endorsement.

Xbox 360 ArcadeFor the games console we’d choose an Xbox 360 for $199.99, but a Wii would do just as well for the same money if you prefer it.

We definitely want to be watching that 1080p TV and playing our games in full surround sound, so how about adding a Sony Bravia surround system with speakers for $229.99 from Newegg.

We’ll pair that Bravia surround system with a Sony Blu-ray player for another $139.99 from Newegg.

Sony Bravia DAV-DZ170That gives us the kind of super duper living room setup that we’ll never want to leave, but that Mac Book Pro is so expensive that we still have $400 to burn!  So let’s go into the bedroom…

iPod TouchThe iPod Touch is a great device to have around as a flexible media player and second web device, so we’ll have one of those of Apple’s site for $199.99.

We need  to get some noises out of that so we need a dock.  Altec Lansing’s well regarded IM310 sounds good for $59 from J&R.

Finally we’ll complete the bedroom tech setup with a 15″ TV.  This one from Coby comes in at only $129.99 but still delivers 720p resolution.

That total home entertainment setup, all from major brands including a Core i7 laptop comes to $2237.49.  That’s still less than the MacBook Pro, but I think we’ve bought enough virtual stuff for one day.

So can you setup a whole apartment for the price of a MacBook Pro?

So one the one hand you could buy a HP Core i7 Windows 7 laptop, Toshiba 40″ HDTV, Sony BluRay deck and Bravia surround sound system, Xbox, iPod Touch, sound dock and a bedroom TV…or you could have a MacBook Pro.  The choice, as ever, is yours.

Prices accurate as of the time of writing, but as always in the tech world if you’re slow they’ll change!

Neil Berman

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Apr 16, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Gaming, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft, Rants | , , , , , | Leave a comment

When smart phones disagree with smart phone words

Nokia phone

Memorable phone words made sense in the days of pre-QWERTY phone keypads

I was taken by surprise last Fall when buying a Lenovo laptop. I’d ordered the computer online and needed to call Lenovo with some supplemental information.

The surprise was that this ended up being way more difficult than I expected because Lenovo published its contact number as 1-866-42-THINK. Now how do you dial that if you have a BlackBerry or any other smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard? Chances are you’re going to have a problem as the keys will lack the traditional “letters-over-numbers” phone layout.

In the end I used Google Image search to display a phone keypad so I could call Lenovo from my BlackBerry. Sounds ridiculous. Fortunately I’ve noticed recently that Lenovo now displays its phone number numerically next to its THINK listing.

Companies that continue to think it’s helpful to display numbers only in letter format are alienating a consumer demographic whose expensive smartphones have left the old style keypads behind. That’s worrying because this demographic either has a smartphone because they are gainfully employed and received it from work, or they are happy to pay extra each month for a data plan. Either way, it sounds like they have a source of cash.

Neil Berman

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Mar 30, 2010 Posted by | Rants | , , | 2 Comments

Why we need external mic inputs on high end digital compact cameras

Panasonic ZS3 1There’s a gaping hole in the digital camera market somewhere between point ‘n shoots and DSLRs, and it’s not in image quality.

High end compact cameras like the FujiFilm F200EXR and Panasonic LX3 are now good enough to make their output hardly distinguishable from DSLRs in many cases.

But while the best compacts can take pro quality shots, they’re still playing catch up against DSLRs when it comes to video capture or more specifically audio capture. Most compacts top out at 720p when the DSLR standard is now 1080p and crucially they pretty much all lack an external mic input. This means it’s difficult to shoot video seriously on a compact without a separate audio recorder.

Panasonic ZS3 2

The Panasonic ZS3 shoots excellent quality HD video at 720p but has to make do with its built-in stereo microphone for capturing audio

While I’m sure that 2011 will usher in 1080p video on high end compacts, I’m also depressingly sure that external mic inputs will not appear any time soon. This is not for a lack of real estate because cheap video cameras like Kodak’s tiny Zi8 manage to accommodate an external mic input. More likely there is a perception that most owners would just never use it.

While this assertion is probably true on a $150 HD capable digital camera, I’d propose that someone laying down three Benjamins on a high end compact might be more interested in creative flexibility. After all even at 720p today’s best compact cameras produce amazingly good video quality, but are crippled by their generally poor built-in microphone.

So how’s about it camera makers, can we get a external mic input on your next compact?

Neil Berman

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Mar 27, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Rants | , , , , | 12 Comments

Pre-orders seem like a good idea but…

…only one of mine this year has arrived on time. Halo ODST: Yay bonus code, arrived a week late. Modern Warfare 2: Yay free $20 gift card, but late and getting later. Windows 7: Yay only $49 AND on-time, thanks NewEgg :)

The salt in the wound right now is that clearly Modern Warfare 2 has been a huge seller and widely declared to be awesome. In fact the Halo 3 online community has shrunk by about 150,000 this week and I’m stuck being one of those left behind. There can only be one reason for that. At least I know my copy has shipped, I just don’t know if it’s coming by airplane or horseback. Maybe it’ll arrive by stealth bomber like the Droid, although that would leave a nasty hole in the sidewalk.

Neil Berman

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Nov 12, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Rants | , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPod Touch videocam: It’s not over yet

Adding more fuel to the rumor fire about whether the lack of cam-equipped iPod Touch is a temporary delay or a never-product,  a UK dabs.com flyer was spotted advertising an iPod Touch with “Built-in video recorder & WiFi”.  This was a publication error as said features are not currently available, as we know all too well, but it does lend credence to commentators who say that the device was pulled at the last moment.

Here’s hoping for the Apple Store to come mysteriously down sometime before Christmas and to come back up with enough cam-equipped iPod Touches for Santa to fit in his bag.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Sep 23, 2009 Posted by | Apple, Audio, Mobile, News, Rants | , , | Leave a comment

Hey jetBlue, what’s on TV?

There are sooo many cool things about flying jetBlue, like free WiFi in their JFK terminal, loads of charging points at their JFK departure gates and 36 channels of DIRECTV onboard…but please give us a 37th with a program guide!

Neil Berman

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Sep 13, 2009 Posted by | Home Theater, Photo & Video, Rants | , | Leave a comment

AMD has a Vision for Main Street

AMD VisionApparently there are some people who get confused by computery numbers. Not you of course but they’re out there somewhere according to AMD, and said company is on a mission to ameliorate said situation.

So instead of Athlons and Turions, look for your next AMD computer to have a Vision, or at least a Vision logo denoting the relative capability of the computer. From what we know currently there will be a graduating scale of four levels, starting with just Vision, passing through Vision Premium and Vision Ultimate all the way to Vision Black…er, because something can be better than “ultimate” these days.

So I’m assuming that means you’ll be able to get Windows 7 Ultimate on Vision Premium and Windows 7 Premium on Vision Ultimate; you can see where this is going.

To be fair, I can appreciate the value of this for some consumers and it makes it easier to train store staff as well. But if average consumers can weigh up a 300hp 4.0 liter engine against a 120hp 1.5 when buying a car, I’m sure that a little marketing wizardry can teach them about computer horsepower as well.

Hopefully this will go away in a year or so…unless AMD fades away into obscurity sooner as a result of the ground it lost to Intel in the netbook and ultra-low-voltage laptop markets.

Having said that, AMD just announced it’s new thin ‘n light processors to keep Intel on it’s toes so here’s hoping this two horse race has plenty more distance to run. Remember competition drives innovation and feature development, which is great for consumers. You only have to look at the camera-less iPod Touch for proof of that.

Neil Berman

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Sep 11, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Guides, Hardware, News, Rants | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stay calm and breathe normally

Warning: I’m haven’t fully recovered from today’s stratospheric letdown. I’m still angry that my planned trip to the Apple store on 5th Ave was cancelled at lunchtime. I’m hot under the collar that I still have the cash that I totally expected to part with this evening.

So it went down like this:

Steve’s return was obviously a wonderful moment and a great achievement on his part. After that the regular stats rundown took place. iTunes 9 looks cool, liking the LPs, loving the music sharing. Not a convert yet but it’s looking like a more welcoming platform.

iPod Touch makes an entrance, games start. Getting psyched on the games, going wild for the games, Madden (nice), Nova (WOW) and with a video cam on the back this is just gonna be SICK.

Just one more thing: Video Camera. Wallet…check. Subway ticket…check. Cancel dinner with Zune HD…check.

BOOM

Nano.

Awesome, this is gonna be so swee… Wait…NANO!!! Whaaaa??? Deflation takes hold of my entire body, I’m entering shock, emergency room on standby.

Epic disappointment. Legendary letdown. Quick mental review; the obvious contender for a cam, with its big screen for editing, WiFi for instant YouTube action and a processor which can allegedly handle HD video goes cam-less whilst an offline tiny-screened music player gets a VGA video-cam.

Whaaa???

Like I said, I’m still a bit emotional about this, but I guess that’s the risk of believing the rumors so many of us thought were true.

Neil Berman

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Sep 9, 2009 Posted by | Apple, Audio, Hardware, Mobile, News, Rants | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Will Apple build the tablet I want?

As rumors of an Apple tablet build into a frenzy, it’s hard to believe the grapevine story that a 10 inch device would be at its best running iPhone OS. Yet in Apple terms it makes perfect sense.

You see from my perspective, the iPhone OS is crippled by its lack of multitasking. We can see from the sales figures that most consumers probably don’t care.

From my perspective, the lack of a physical keyboard on the iPhone limits its use. The lack of a physical keyboard on a ten inch tablet could severely cripple it. Most consumers again probably don’t care, because they might primarily use it for media, fun apps and short messaging with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and occasional email.

From my perspective having a closed system where someone else decides which applications you can or cannot use is horrific. Most consumers probably don’t care and enjoy the feeling of pseudo quality control in the ecosystem.

So is Apple going to make the tablet that I want? No, it will make the one regular consumers want…and that’s why iPhone sales are so strong.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Aug 14, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , | Leave a comment

The App Store Shenanigans Continue…

Another day, another hilarious Apple App Store Story.  This time it’s a censored dictionary.

I say keep ’em coming, the most talented comedian couldn’t write this stuff.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Aug 5, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Mobile, News, Rants, Software | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI X-Slim: Time for a Slimmed-Down Price?

X340With Acer’s well-received Timeline series already seeing decent discounting, pressure must be mounting upon MSI’s X-Slim range.  Even though the X340 appears to be good value for its handsome exterior and light weight, it’s around $200 more expensive than Acer’s 3810T.  Even without the 3810T standing by, it’s hard to imagine the X340 selling well at such a high price given its mediocre press reviews.

At the time of writing there are still only four mixed consumer reviews on NewEgg, whilst the 3810T has nine.  Even worse for MSI, the SSD version of the 3810T costs the same as the typical $799 street price of the X340.

Let’s see a price cut MSI, or perhaps at least a 2.0 with a better keyboard?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Aug 3, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chrome OS: Hopes & Fears

News_google-chrome-OSSharing hopes and fears; we’ve been doing this since Google’s vague Chrome OS announcement came out.  Why?  Because there’s so little we actually know, we’ve all resorted to conjecture.  So while we hope for more info soon, here is a summary of hopes and fears

We hope it will disturb the OS market and generate innovation.  We fear it will be just another variant of Linux.

We hope it will be a quick booting platform.  We fear few people will care because Windows 7 and OSX wake from standby in a matter of seconds.

We hope enough useful applications will be available.  We fear the emphasis will be so browser/online-focused that the application base will be severely limited.

We hope mobile broadband prices will fall to support mobile online usage of the apps.  We fear that the status quo will remain and we’ll be relying on Gears.

We hope it will have a more consistent interface than Android.  We fear Google’s minimalist design history will lead to a functional, minimalist but unexciting front end.

We hope device drivers will be readily available.  We fear that it took so long for Mac drivers to appear for some devices that the wait for Chrome OS drivers may literally drive some people away.

We hope netbook consumers will be interested in it.  We fear they won’t; MSI has seen four Linux netbook returns for each Windows return.  Why should the Chrome variant be any different?

We hope other Linux distros will survive.  We fear Google was aiming for Microsoft and will hit the Linux community instead.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jul 28, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Rants, Software | , , | 1 Comment

Extension of TWC usage charging is a real life streaming video disaster movie

Netflix and Hulu must be worried; TWC’s decision to extend its usage charging model to additional cities spells disaster for mainstream online video streaming.

The explosive growth in online video streaming sponsored by broadcasters may be about to get stopped in its tracks.  Not due to copyright issues.  Not due to a lack of advertisers and viewers.  Just simply because many of us won’t be able to afford to watch the stuff.

TWC’s plan to charge $1 per GB above a max 40GB monthly cap means that after a few HD shows we’ll be paying bigtime.  Gizmodo reckons this could add $5 to the cost of downloading an iTunes movie.

Just when it seemed like streaming video was becoming a regular part of life, it might instead become a barrier between the haves and the have-nots.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Apr 2, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, News, Rants | | 1 Comment

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