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Think Android is not ready for Enterprise? Actually it’s Good


Android Good emailThere’s been plenty of noise surrounding the iPhone’s supposed march into the Enterprise, but little discussion about Android.  The iPhone natively supports Exchange email but it’s a little trickier with Android.  Of course, companies that have made the move to GMail will find Android smartphones like Sprint’s Epic 4G to be useful partner devices.  However these companies are probably more likely to be smaller businesses with a small footprint that want to reduce the costs associated with an Exchange/Outlook environment.  That thought fits with the recent discussion I had with Sprint, who told me they had seen the Epic 4G being picked up by plenty of small businesses but less so among larger companies.

The fundamental issue with the iPhone and Android in Enterprise is security.  BlackBerry has long been the darling device of the Enterprise market due to its encyption and security capabilities.  But using the Epic 4G, I’ve come to believe that this device is possibly the best consumer/corporate device on the market at present.  It combines the consumer friendliness of Android with a great keyboard, all rooted (sorry for the Android pun) in first rate hardware.  So how can the security concern be overcome?

There is a nifty piece of software out there from a company called Good, that allows Android (and also iOS) devices to receive Exchange email and calendar data in a secure smartphone app.  It takes a little more effort to implement than just regular Exchange, but it provides a secure container on the phone that is likey to satisfy many of the more stringent corporate IT security policies.  Good is totally self-contained on the device, allowing the user to have other apps and media just like normal.  Compare this situation with a corporate BlackBerry that is typically locked down to only be capable of making calls and sending messages from company accounts.

With Good on Android or iPhone, it’s a win-win.  Employees are able to have an awesome smartphone like the Epic 4G and the IT security folks still get what they need.  At the start of the year I predicted that BlackBerry had peaked in terms of market share; software like Good could make RIM’s outlook all the more precarious.

Neil Berman

Nov 4, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile, Software | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hulu Plus and the cost of coming second

When Netflix launched its online streaming service it was anyone’s guess as to whether it would catch on. For years now the Berman living room PC has been our primary source of couch media. Between Windows Media Center, Netflix and more recently Hulu and Fancast, our TV needs are fully served. But we still haven’t adopted Hulu Plus.

Around a year ago when we found we were gobbling 90% of our Netflix food online and only a snack through the mail, we cut down from two DVDs per month to one. The online selection has become enormous, with movies such as Ironman, the new Star Trek and Wall-E available through the pipe. We’ve also consumed all eight days of 24 over Netflix this year. It’s little wonder that recent stats suggest 20% of all US peak internet traffic is Netflix streaming.

So when Hulu Plus came along offering content WITH commercials for a dollar MORE a month than Netflix, I wasn’t really interested. We were already in the Netflix ecosystem; all our large screen devices (Windows Media Center, iPad, laptops) support Netflix and most importantly in the living room Netflix works with a simple remote control on Windows Media Center or the Xbox. In my household Hulu Plus was paying the price of coming to market a late second. Sure, Hulu Plus offers different TV content to Netflix but its overall library is weaker, due to its relative lack of quality movie titles. Hulu is also coming out with a remote control interface, but it’s not in production release yet.

It looks like I wasn’t alone. Rumors are circling about a possible 50% Hulu Plus price cut, which can only be a result of a lower than expected adoption rate. At $4.95 per month the service would definitely be more tempting than the current $9.95, but the most frustrating part of the Hulu experience remains i.e. the ever increasing amount of commercials. Ad breaks on Hulu have rapidly increased from an acceptable 30 seconds to around 2 annoying minutes, and I’m sure that duration will continue to increase. With Netflix being commercial free, Hulu Plus will always have a hard time convincing consumers to pay for an ad-supported service when much of its content is available on its free site.

I’m guessing therefore that the real objective of a lower Hulu Plus subscription price would be to remove the free service altogether when subscriber numbers reach critical mass.

Neil Berman

Oct 24, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Software | , , , , | 1 Comment

Pulse comes of age as one of the best RSS readers ever

PulsePulse was launched as an RSS reader for the iPad some time ago now but recent updates have really catapulted the app to new heights. Version 2.0 of Pulse was released a couple of days ago and now brings the ability to pull sixty(!) feeds across five pages. The cool design remains intact, and the funky feed organization just looks awesome. The iPad version will set you back $1.99 and there’s an iPhone version too.

Neil Berman

Oct 5, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Mobile, Software | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fix hp Laserjet 1012 Windows 7 driver issues

hp Laserjet 1012 Windows 7 driverI recently had an all-time lucky find when someone left an hp Laserjet 1012 laser printer in the recycling area of my apartment building, which looked to be in good condition.  The Laserjet 1012 is a pretty handy home and small office printer with pin sharp resolution, so I thought I’d give it a try.  There was no toner in the printer, but a quick shopping spree on eBay would fix that.  So $19 and a few days later, I had the Laserjet 1012 happily churning out pages from a Windows XP netbook.  Time to hook it up to Windows 7…or not as hp would seemingly prefer.

You see, it turns out that hp decided to not support the Laserjet 1012 on Windows 7.  It’s not as if the printer is even all that old, and hp does offer Windows XP & Vista drivers, so this has probably left a lot of owners high and dry…or more likely bitter.  Nevertheless I fearlessly went ahead and plugged the Laserjet 1012 into a Windows 7 computer to see what would happen.  Windows 7 did try valiantly to install the printer but ultimately failed and placed it in the Unspecified bucket within the Devices and Printers window.

I recalled a piece of advice that a Windows 7 dev had given me way back in the January 2009 Windows 7 Beta days, which was that Vista drivers would sometimes work if a manufacturer hadn’t yet written a native Windows 7 driver.  That was back when Windows 7 drivers were thin on the ground and we were still 9 months away from a retail release of Windows 7.  That approach shouldn’t apply now, but it didn’t look like hp was going to come up with a Laserjet 1012 Windows 7 driver anytime soon.

So I downloaded the Vista 64-bit driver from hp’s website, opened up the Properties window for the Laserjet 1012 in Devices and Printers, found the driver section and chose Update Driver.  I selected the Vista 64-bit driver that I’d just downloaded and hey presto, it installed in a flash!

Your mileage may vary of course, but this simple process got the Laserjet 1012 working on my Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit system.  It’s a shame that hp chose to not support the printer natively in the new OS, but I guess they want us to buy new hardware.  In a manner if speaking, their success is one of their challenges; the Laaserjet 1012 is so good that it’s hard to imagine why a home user would need a better quality laser printer.  So persuading people to upgrade willingly is probably a difficult task, but the approach should be to raise the bar even higher with compelling new products rather than simply withdrawing support.

Neil Berman

Sep 26, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Guides, Hardware, Software | , , , , , | 13 Comments

Chrome 6 downsizes

Chrome 6 default zoomWhen I opened up Chrome on my living room PC recently, I noticed everything seemed rather small.  It wasn’t my bleary-eyed morning at fault, Chrome 6 downsizes tabs and text making viewing pages at distance on my 1080p screen unbearable without constant zooming.  It’s near impossible to hit the New Tab button without super-precision.  The issue affects 3rd part apps as well.  The good news is, this a known issue with Chrome 6 and their devs are working on it.  Bookmark this Chromium page if you want to stay in touch with hoe they’re getting on with the fix.  Hopefully the fix will come with a default zoom like some other browsers.

Neil Berman

Sep 11, 2010 Posted by | Software | , , , , | 1 Comment

Is the Samsung Galaxy Tab heading for a soft fail?

Samsung Galaxy TabAs we await final pricing for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, one constraint is known: The iPad costs $499.  Regardless of the fantastic energy around the Android platform at present, any tablet launched at or above this price point must present a winning combination of software  and hardware in that order.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab, while endowed with promising hardware looks set to disappoint on the software front and but most importantly may simply self-destruct if current pricing rumors are true.

Samsung does have a history of expensively priced tablets, with the Q1 and Q1 Ultra (which I lusted after for months) being examples of good hardware that failed to achieve significant adoption due to high retail prices.  I have a feeling

Samsung Q1 Ultra

Samsung's Q1 Ultra failed to achieve significant adoption due to its high price and lack of tablet-optimized software

that the rumored prices we are seeing for the Galaxy Tab might be total costs of ownership based upon a cell carrier monthly contract plus a low initial purchase price.  This model does mean however that a standalone device would be very expensive and I suspect that few people want a tablet tied to a two year carrier contract.  So on a like-for-like basis the Galaxy Tab might end up being cheaper than an iPad 3G, but this is a probably a far smaller market than the regular WiFi model.

The bigger issue aside from pricing is the software.  While Android is clearly now an excellent smartphone OS, there’s no current indication that it ready to be a good tablet platform competitor to the iPad and here’s why:  The iPad has 25,000 apps that take advantage of its large screen to optimize content delivery and presentation compared to their iPhone versions.  At present pretty much all Android apps are optimized for 3-5 inch screens, and while they will probably scale up to fit the Galaxy Tab’s screen most of them will not be able to take advantage of the extra screen real estate.

While there were initial concerns that the iPad would not sell enough units to generate enough revenue for developers to built dedicated apps, the opposite has happened. iPad apps typically sell at a significant premium to iPhone versions.  Plants vs Zombies is a perfect example; it’s $2.99 on the iPhone and $9.99 on the iPad.  Herein lies the real issue for the Android tablet software developer.  The Android Marketplace has a larger percentage of free apps than any other mobile platform.  So before developers can even think about drawing higher margins from an Android tablet there’s work to be done on the smartphone platform first.  Plus, we don’t yet know if the majority of Android tablets will be 7 inch 1024×600 devices, 10 inch 1280×720 or some other resolution and these variables will create developer challenges to optimizing apps.

For the last decade it’s been clear that tablets are only as useful as their software.  While Android is clearly a good starting point for tablets we’re going to need to see a solid growth of dedicated apps to make the platform successful on the bigger screen.

Neil Berman

Sep 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Mobile, Software | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The magic of touch

magic touch ipad

While the iPad is not the first large screen touch device to hit the market, it has brought the technology into mainstream focus.  So does touch on a large device beat out a mouse and keyboard or is it just a …continue reading

Apr 7, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Software | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

theONbutton’s Flash HD video test: Hardware acceleration Mac vs PC

Flash has gained huge amounts of column inches in 2010.  This is mostly because of Apple’s current stance of not including it on the iPad while claiming at the same time that the iPad will be the best way to experience the Web.  Many commentators have disagreed with this statement because Flash is integral to so much online multimedia content.  As we previously explained part of Apple’s contention is that Flash is too processor intensive, which we agree with, and the company is pushing for HTML5 to be more widely adopted as an alternative.  Meanwhile as we also previously explained, Adobe is taking steps to use graphics hardware to accelerate Flash HD video decoding, which promises to allow smooth playback of content on computers with supported graphics cards.  The problem for Apple users is that due to the ongoing sparring between Apple and Adobe …continue reading

Mar 11, 2010 Posted by | Reviews, Software, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today is Windows 7 RC shutdown day

Windows 7 RC shutdown dateIf you’re one of those smart people running Windows 7 RC then take note; today is the day your PC will start shutting down every two hours.  On June 1 that install will become completely unusable, so do what you need to do now to get your all-important files off that computer and buy a upgrade full version/new PC/new Mac/whatevs.  Perhaps you’ve been so impressed by Windows 7 RC that it’s reignited your love for the PC, perhaps you got a free flight to Tokyo because Windows 7 was your idea (link is to my personal fave), or maybe you were just in it for the free ride and you’re now reading this on your new MacBook.  Hey we don’t care what you choose, we’re not platform snobs, we just love good technology.  Whatever you do though, do it soon; the clock is a’tickin, your files are a’fearin and the economy is a’beggin for your hard-earned money…

Correction: there is no upgrade path from RC to retail, it’s a full version clean install or nothing.

Neil Berman

Mar 1, 2010 Posted by | Microsoft, News, Software | , | 1 Comment

Android gets Flash

The Apple Flash issue came to the fore recently when  Steve Jobs announced the iPad and today Google dropped a flash bomb on Cupertino by adding Flash to Android.

As we and much of the world noted recently, the iPhone and subsequent Apple devices running its OS such as the iPod Touch and iPad do not support Flash.  This means that they need special apps to access certain internet media content like YouTube videos and many websites just don’t work on those devices.  Windows Phone 7, announced on Monday, will also initially ship without Flash support.  Today however Google announced that Flash 10.1 will be available for Android, setting up the platform to offer a unique feature set in the smartphone market.

We know that Flash can be a resource hog on full power computers, sometimes causing Macs to crash, so I was curious to see how fluid the experience would be.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find this demo of a Motorola Droid running Flash videos on YouTube in a browser perfectly, and even managing to switch from portrait to landscape without missing a beat.  Can iPhone and Windows Phone 7 really afford to sit this one out?

Neil Berman

Feb 17, 2010 Posted by | Mobile, News, Software | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teknica episode 4: Windows 8 is going to be mind blowing

In this week’s Teknica we catch up on Mobile World Congress, get a glimpse into the energy around Windows 8 and find out how to check up on your internet speed with YouTube Speed Dashboard.  Plus, we reveal the ultimate Apple fanboy accessory.

Neil Berman

Feb 14, 2010 Posted by | Computing, Gaming, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile, News, Software, Teknica, Video Features | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YouTube Speed Dashboard tells you if you’re getting what you’re paying for

Google has been aiming to get us going full speed on the Internet and its latest initiative on YouTube is another part of that effort.  YouTube Speed Dashboard analyzes your download speed over time and shows comparatives to other users of your ISP as well as cohabitants of your city, state, country and planet.  It’s certainly interesting to see how download speed can fluctuate between different days, although we don’t know too much about how the analysis is being constructed.  For example what happens if you don’t watch any YouTube videos on a given day; is that day recorded as zero MB/s or hopefully just discounted from the analysis?  Judging by the chart above we clearly have no such worries as it looks like we watch plenty of content!  So do our readers in fact, who just hit 40,000 views of our videos.

In any case it’s really cool to see how you’re doing, and gives you some firepower to use in a phone call to your ISP if you believe you’re being shortchanged.  Check out your own results at YouTube Speed Dashboard.

Neil Berman

Feb 13, 2010 Posted by | Computing, News, Software | , , , | Leave a comment

iPad, Flash and HTML5: What’s it all about?

Since the iPad announcement last week, much discussion has focused upon the iPad’s lack of Flash support. So what is Flash and why are people getting so upset?

What is Flash?

Flash is a hugely popular a software technology which many websites use for animations, video and other multimedia services like music streaming. According to its producer, Adobe, Flash is used by almost …continue reading

Feb 2, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Software | , , , , | 6 Comments

Apple iPad: A well-priced compromise, but should you buy one?

Today I found myself following a now familiar pattern for Apple press events.  Full of anticipation at the start, perhaps even fear of how I might feel if the event ends up being a letdown.  Anticipation building further during the introduction and megadownloadfiguresfinancialshyperbole etc.  Product announcement YAY!  Features look great, I’m pretty sure I want one.  Price way better than expected, definitely want one NOW.  Presentation ends. The dust settles and reality starts to kick in; my 100% enthusiasm starts to get tempered.  Seriously if the iPad had been live in the online store immediately after the announcement I would now be waiting for UPS.  After a few hours of thinking it over here’s how I feel about the iPad…

Most importantly the price feels right, given that this is a limited functionality computer.  The iPad is not a fully-featured tablet computer, we are going to see devices from PC manufacturers this year which can do more.  What kind of more?  Multitasking for one thing (pun intended).  Desktop-class application choice for another (no Photoshop right now on the iPad or any other native OSX apps) and better connectivity options (no SD card slot or webcam on the iPad).  Given these limitations the entry price of $499 seems fair.

Although it has a thick screen surround, it looks great and is as super thin as we would expect.  The promised battery life of ten hours is extremely encouraging and suggests an efficient processor design, I wonder how that will be affected by full-on 3G usage…The downside of the energy efficiency is that the graphics did not look particularly impressive, but we need to give developers time over the coming months to learn and exploit the new hardware.

iBooks was nice but I can’t get too excited about ebook software.  While it will definitely grow in popularity it’s not going to take the world by storm in the same way as digital music.  We don’t hear about industry problems of people trying to illegally download books unlike the environment which preceded mass digital music adoption.  With digital music there was a mass market ready and waiting to be tapped by a legal download service, which is what iTunes did so effectively.  With ebooks the mass market needs to be educated and developed further for it to become a cash cow. Also the iPad’s glossy backlit screen may not be so comfortable to focus upon for extended periods compared to the Kindle’s e-ink screen, especially outdoors.  I expect however that most people will overlook this limitation, if they are even aware of it, and be drawn to the wider appeal of the iPad.

The old fashioned 4:3 screen aspect is a peculiar choice given that one of today’s demos was a movie which is best viewed in 16:9 or 16:10 widescreen.  While a clear use-case of the iPad is as a media device, watching modern releases will almost always result in black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

The lack of Flash support is simply stunning.  While Apple describes the iPad as the best way to experience the web, I’m not convinced.  The lack of Flash support on small screens is forgiveable, but on a media-centric large screen device it just seems like a glaring omission.  This means no Hulu on the iPad and many popular sites will have elements which will not work.

Wide on-screen keyboards are pretty difficult to type on because the middle keys are a stretch, so the keyboard dock with screen support makes sense.  I think I was the only person out there who CALLED THIS ONE! I like the idea of iWork on the iPad, but only with an external keyboard.  I do feel that once you get a hardware keyboard going you want a mouse as well so you don’t have to raise your arm every two seconds to manipulate the screen.  Unfortunately the iPad does not support mice, so get ready for some arm exercise if you’re sitting with the iPad mounted on a stand in front of you.

Bottom line, will the iPad be a popular device?  Probably yes, because I expect people in the market for a high end $300-400 ebook reader like a Kindle DX could be tempted to stretch to $499 for something offering useful internet, media and email functionality.  The price point will also win over some netbook shoppers.  However I think that Apple’s description of the iPad as being “magical and revolutionary” over-compensates hype in place of some of the device’s deficiencies.  Evolutionary sure, insofar as this device is upscaled from the existing iPhone software and hardware paradigm.  At a lower price point netbooks are able to do basic tasks that the iPad can’t; like making video calls, accepting memory cards and handling Flash.  Fortunately for the sales figures most people probably believe the hype and will be happy with a $499 device which can only run one application at once.  It’s in a way ironic that the media criticized PC manufacturers and Microsoft for shipping Windows 7 Starter on some low end netbooks, which is limited to only run three applications simultaneously, yet I’ve seen minimal comment on the iPad’s limitation of only being able to run one app.

The wider question is whether Main Street needs a secondary or tertiary internet device, when many people have already invested in a netbook or iPhone to supplement their everyday computer.  And while I said earlier I believe the entry price of $499 is fair, it’s certainly not an impulse buy.  The range extends to $829 for a 64GB model with 3G capability; AT&T unlimited data connectivity adds another $30 per month on top of that.  This takes the first year cost of an $829 iPad with unlimited data to around $1,189.  Fundamentally though, if you already have an iPhone, how likely are you really to buy an iPad?  I’d say it would be a tough sell because the iPhone already has the core away-from-home functionality in a more convenient size and weight.  Perhaps the basic $499 version might make sense to use at home if you love the iPhone OS, since you can bring your iPhone apps onto the iPad.

Am I going to buy one?  I’ve gone from 100% yes to 60% yes 50% over the course of the five nine hours since the announcement and I’m stabilizing, so I think it’s probable possible.  I wouldn’t need a lot of storage in a device like this so personally I’d go for the 16GB model with 3G and just pray for AT&T to improve its network.  Still three months to go until the 3G model is available though and I have a feeling a lot of tablets will be announced between now and then…

Neil Berman

Jan 27, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, News, Software | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

In case you were sleeping, Windows 7 officially landed today and is already a record breaker

Windows 7 HPMr Postman arrived today with two shiny copies for me, but these didn’t count towards the record set in the UK where Windows 7 became Amazon’s biggest selling pre-order product of all time there.

I have a feeling it might go on to become the best selling OS of all time too.  I already posted my comments on Windows 7 way back in Jan and Feb this year based on pre-release versions and, as you probably know from the overwhelmingly positive media reviews, it rocks.  So what are you waiting for?  Go and get yourself a copy to try it out already!

Neil Berman

Oct 22, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Microsoft, News, Software | Leave a comment

Netflix & Windows Media Center meet, and it’s instant romance

Netflix Media Center 3Microsoft hinted about this one way back at CES in January and after a long wait it’s finally here.  Windows Media Center now has direct Netflix integration and I’m lovin’ it.

The Netflix icon appeared in my Movies section this week and clicking it led to a one minute installation followed by instant gratification.  Not much more to say apart from that it integrates seamlessly into the already superb Media Center interface.  Will other platforms ever try to catch-up with what is so far and away the best media library experience out there?

Here’s the gallery.  A warning for those of you not in the USA, this gallery may make you extremely jealous.  Sorry about that, and here’s hoping Netflix goes international!

Neil Berman

Oct 21, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Guides, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Microsoft, News, Reviews, Software | , , , | Leave a comment

Playing the waiting game

windows-7-taskbarAre you hoarding cash waiting to drop some on a Windows 7 PC on October 22? So was I, until I realized it might make more sense to take a different strategy. I think buying a Vista PC right in the next month might be a great idea, and here’s why I’m not mad…

You are probably aware that if you buy a qualifying PC at the moment it might be eligible for a free Windows 7 upgrade. Most manufacturers have a pretty clear definition of which of their systems are eligible, so you can check before handing over your hard-earned savings.


Sounds like a schlep, after all this means installing a whole OS, and yes, it shouldn’t be considered lightly.
However most off the shelf PCs tend to ship with a boatload of bloatware, which few people want and tends to contribute to an overall performance degradation. Installing a fresh OS wipes all of this away and you get a clean system which is likely to perform better.

Normally OS upgrades are done well into the life of a computer, once many applications are all loaded on and working habits are well established. This can be disruptive to smooth running (experiences of upgrades to Snow Leopard and Vista are recent examples of this kind of user pain). But buying an eligible Vista PC in mid-October and going straight to a fresh Windows 7 a few days later sounds like a great plan to me as I probably wouldn’t have loaded on lots of software yet. Plus if you get the physical media it’s an added bonus in case you ever need to re-install.


Deals on Vista PCs should start coming thick and fast as stores look to clear inventory ahead of October 22. Some refurbs may also be eligible for a free Windows 7 upgrade, but you should be extra-vigilant when checking the eligibility of these systems. For example it does seem like some systems on Dell’s Outlet site are eligible, make sure you check before you buy though.


The other factor creating downward pressure on current Vista PC inventory will be the increasing availability of the Intel Core i5, i7 and i7 Mobile platforms. It’s likely that HP, Dell and Acer and the wider industry will time many of these system releases with Windows 7, again pushing existing inventory prices south. Those current inventory Intel Core 2 and AMD Phenom/Turion based systems are still capable for what many people need on a day-to-day basis.


Ironically it seems, with Windows 7 right around the corner, there may have never been a better time to buy a Vista PC. Just make sure that what you buy is eligible for a free upgrade!

Neil Berman

Sep 25, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Guides, Microsoft, Software | , | 1 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

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

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

Hands-on with a pre-release Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional ROM from XDA Developers

The success of the iPhone has focused smartphone developers’ attention upon touch.  The Blackberry Storm, Palm Pre, T-Mobile G1 (Googlephone) and HTC Touch HD all looked to compete with the iPhone with large screens and touch interfaces.

Under the hood of the Touch HD was Windows Mobile with HTC’s TouchFlo finger-friendly overlay.  Like historical versions of the Palm and Blackberry OSes, Windows Mobile has generally been aimed at stylus+button input which has made it fast for savvy users.  However in an iPhone age greater accessibility is required and Windows Mobile 6.5 aims to achieve this.

We’ll be looking at a pre-release XDA Developers build of WinMo 6.5 Professional on an HTC Touch Pro (Raphael model), so the actual features I describe may be different to the ones available in the full future release.  We will also concentrate on the significant changes from WinMo 6.1, as much of 6.5 is closely related to 6.1.

Honeycomb application launcher

Many early photos of WinMo 6.5 showed the now-famous honeycomb lattice application launcher, designed to create more space between icons and make the easier to target with a finger.  In the version I’m trying the lattice borders are not present but the formation is there.  The icons are far easier to target than in 6.1, I haven’t missed any yet.

Swiping and scrolling

The scrolling action to reveal further pages of applications has been hugely improved.  Finger swipes now scroll the screen with ease, locking at each page if the swipe is gentle or scrolling through multiple pages if stronger.  The top/bottom bouncing effect has been borrowed from the iPhone and it works well.

This also extends within applications, such as Windows Live where mailbox scolling and mail selection has been made far more finger friendly.  Track forward/back changes in Windows Media player are also a side-swipe away.

Pre-6.5 applications currently have variable scolling implementations however.  AvantGo, for example, still scrolls as well as it did before but the new bouncing effect is not present.

Battery life

I’ve noticed a colossal improvement in battery life on the Touch Pro compared to it’s original AT&T 6.1 build.  The Touch Pro will now easily last a full day with regular periods of data usage.

It’s difficult to know what has caused this uptick, possibly it’s due to more efficient CPU or memory calls or perhaps the lack of HTC’s graphics intensive TouchFlo overlay means the system is being taxed less.  It’s certainly a welcome change and makes the Touch Pro a usable phone for my usage pattern.  YMMV.

3G stability improvements

Whilst 6.1 is a pretty stable OS, the Touch Pro previously had sporadic 3G connection issues which required a reboot.  These issues have vanished on this 6.5 version, and data seems to download significantly faster.  Note that I did not change the radio firmware when I installed 6.5.

So far 6.5 has not crashed on me once, but I have rebooted twice over the last two weeks to refresh the system.  Rebooting is definitely faster than with 6.1, but I put that primarily down to not having to launch TouchFlo following the OS boot.

Finger-friendly menus

All of the 6.5 menus have grown to be more finger-friendly.  It’s now easy to hit the target with confidence.  Even though 6.1 on the Touch Pro had some big menus in places, my hit rate in 6.5 has greatly improved and there might be better coding under the hood making this happen.

Everything else

Much of the remaining experience is similar to using 6.1.  The apps I’ve tried to download, such as Google Maps and AvantGo have worked perfectly.

Is it a game changer?

Whether you like the underlying Windows Mobile platform is a matter of personal taste.  Whilst this version of 6.5 has been great to use on the Touch Pro it continues to be hampered by the relatively small screen of most Windows Mobile devices compared to the iPhone.  This means that making Windows Mobile, Blackberry OS or any other small screen device close-in on the iPhone in terms of finger-friendliness will always be a huge task.

The continued breadth of form factors also hampers efforts, although Microsoft is now starting to get more specific on hardware which should help to standardize the platform for developers writing for a more consistent user experience.  RIM had a similarly diffcult experience taking the Blackberry OS and porting it to the Storm, which was received with mixed opinions.

So all I need now is a Touch Pro with a full length screen, same keyboard and only 3-4 oz in weight.  That’s not the Touch Pro2, but perhaps it could be the Touch Pro3…

Neil Berman

Jun 28, 2009 Posted by | Microsoft, Mobile, Reviews, Software | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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