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Recent posts in our tech blog

While we've been on the road in the US, we've not been neglecting our blogging duties. Here's a selection of entries from our tech blog, hosted over at IT Pro.

On Microsoft/Yahoo!:

Anyone who’s listened to me rant over the last couple of years will have heard me say that I expect Microsoft to takeover Yahoo!. With Google’s dominance over search, and Yahoo!’s success at what Microsoft wants to build into Live, there’s a certain logic to a merger of the two businesses. Yahoo needs the R&D boost that Microsoft can give it, and Microsoft needs the online presence of Yahoo!.

I wasn’t surprised to see that Microsoft has made a formal offer to Yahoo!, offering $44.6 billion for the company.

Microsoft’s been playing nice with Yahoo! for some time. It’s Windows Live Photo Gallery handles uploads to Flick, and Windows Live Messenger can talk to Y! users. The love goes both ways too, as Y! is one of the first applications to really take advantage of the Vista UI enhancements.

Reading Steve Ballmer’s letter to Yahoo! this morning I noticed a couple of quotes.
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On low cost 3G data and what it means for WiFi:

The usual round of email press releases dropped into the SandM mailbox this morning. One caught our attention, from the folk at PC World, which signals something we’re pretty sure is going to be one of the big IT trends for 2008.

In a tie up with 3, they’re going to be offering a free cheap laptop (or £350 off most) along with one of 3’s 3G dongle modems. You’ll need to sign up for a £35 a month data tariff for the cheap laptop, which gives you 3GB of data (with 10p/megabyte for anything over) at up to 2.8Mbps.

Ignore the free laptop (after all, PC World have a lot to get rid of, if you remember their recent results!) - it’s the 3G modem that really interests us.
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On bad tech patents:

The latest patent idiocies could put phone prices up and increase your security bill. And only one of the cases would be fixed by my own theory of patents (if you don’t yourself manufacture the item or use the process protected by a patent, I think you shouldn’t be able to benefit from the patent by extorting money from companies that do go to the effort of actually making something).

That would get rid of the patent trolls who buy up IP and sneak it past the patent office. Take the owners of the ludicrous new smartphone patent, which seems to ignore more prior art than I could shake a phone battery at. Read through the patent and you’ll find it’s not Nokia, RIM, Microsoft, HTC, Palm, Apple, Symbian, Sony Ericsson, HP or Motorola claiming to have invented the smartphone; it’s one Ki Il Kim of Minerva Industries, Los Angeles.
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On open phones and open networks:

We spotted a blog post the other day claiming that the iPhone set new standards as an open phone platform. Rubbish, I said; you can’t install your choice of applications without hacking the pone via an image bug in the browser - and if you do, then you can’t get the updates that come out because they fix the hole and lock the iPhone right up again. How can you call that open? Apple may have an SDK on the way, but the iPhone is as closed as one of LG’s shiny bling machines.

The examples in the article look odd to British eyes, as we’ve become used to ubiquitous high-speed data and unlocked smartphones. You can run Google Maps and get your location from the mobile phone masts? You can do that on Windows Mobile, and you can have Live Search and Yahoo! Go on there too, along with more apps than you can shake a stick at. And you can search your emails properly (once you upgrade to Windows Mobile 6; if your operator hasn’t made an upgrade available and neither has the manufacturer, check the enthusiast sites for ROM upgrades that won’t compromise security or stop you being able to get future updates).
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On using a mobile phone as a data modem:

We’ve been on the road for the last few weeks, doing a round of Stateside conferences and company visits. That’s meant relying on the “free” wifi in motels and conference halls. Consumer hardware really doesn’t cut it when you’re using a couple of Linksys routers to cover a hundred plus rooms - especially when it’s the cheapest motel nearest the CES halls. Every room was probably full of journalists and analysts trying to get online, and the routers just waved their little rubber feet in the air and gave up.

Normally that wouldn’t have been a problem. I’d have dug out a good book and gone cold turkey on my Internet addiction. After all, I didn’t need to read a dozen gadget blogs to tell me what I’d just seen that day. However I had the IT Pro editorial team back in the UK waiting for copy - and lack of connectivity wasn’t what I needed. I could have gone to a Starbucks for some of their wifi, but not many are still open at 1 am, even in Vegas. I could have used a 3G card, but this shiny new HP Compaq 2710P tablet is a Santa Rosa machine, so only has a ExpressCard slot - and my Vodafone 3G card is, yes, a PC Card.
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On wandering around MacWorld SF:

The Mac Air is cute, shiny, lightweight – and a true reflection of the Mac market in many ways.

Walking around the show floor at MacWorld shows the difference between the Mac and PC markets. There was the new Mac version of Office of course, Office 2008, which combines the logically arranged big icons of 2007 Office with the menus of every other version, adding the SmartArt and XML file formats without making a fuss about them. There was Bento, the build-your-own-catalogue tool for people who find FileMaker too complicated. There was Parallels, making an excellent business of putting Windows onto the Mac.

And then there were the colours. You can thank the Mac market for the different colour cases for iomega’s portable eGo hard drives, because Mac users are used to colours. We saw whale-print neoprene laptop sleeves, embroidered neoprene laptop sleeves, oversize purple leather handbags designed to take notebooks and more rubber, leather, plastic and metal iPod and iPhone cases than you could shake an unlocked iPhone at. Whatever your tastes in technology as personal jewellery, there’s a case to suit.
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On Oracle buying BEA and Sun buying MySQL:

It’s a sunny day in Silicon Valley. It’s also been a busy few days in boardrooms in the towns around San Jose. While Apple has been burning the midnight oil at One Infinite Loop while plotting this year’s MacWorld strategy, the lawyers’ Lexus convertibles have been powering up and down 101 with the documents that detailed this morning’s announcements.

Oracle buying BEA wasn’t a surprise, the two companies have been engaged in a takeover struggle for some time, and BEA’s capitulation, if not quite a foregone conclusion, was certainly on the cards. Sun’s purchase of MySQL came out of the blue. It’s actually quite logical though, as Sun has been moving away from its proprietary roots since Jonathan Schwartz took control of the corporate rudder.
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On the next generation of storage at CES:

Every now and then I want to throw my laptop out of the window in sheer frustration. I’ve certainly flung USB sticks across the room from time to time, by accident. I’ve also done a Bill Gates and left my travel mug on the car roof when we drove off (although unlike the spoof video in Gates’ CES keynote speech the mug wasn’t there when we arrived). Most flash drives can survive a certain amount of damage - or at least the flash memory can. A USB stick would probably survive the fall from a car roof but I have a rather fetching 1Gb earring made from a flash stick that was sticking out of Simon’s PC when he turned his chair a little too far and snapped off the USB connector.

If you expect to treat your data roughly, Corsair has the rugged, rubber-coated Voyager and the Survivor which screws into an aircraft-grade aluminium canister. The Survivor we saw looked a touch battered; Corsair had driven a tractor over it to test it out. Voyager drives were sitting in ice, water and sand but they still worked when we fished them out.
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On "Mommy, Why Is There A Server In The House" and other CES goodies:

Just because it’s the Consumer Electronics Show doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of products that matter for business here in Vegas.

Connecting to multiple monitors wirelessly is as useful at work as it is at home; manufacturers like IOGEAR and Samsung are doing that with DisplayLink’s chips and a future product will put the screen from your mobile phone onto a TV or monitor. A SlingCatcher lets you send video from one TV to another (so you don’t have to pay a second Sky subscription to watch the occasional show on a TV in the bedroom), but you can also use it to see photos, presentations, Web pages - and anything else that’s on your PC screen - on TV, which is handy for an informal meeting. Panasonic’s 150" screen is sized for a large meeting room rather than the average living room.

And then there’s Windows Home Server. It’s designed for the home - obviously. Microsoft has come up with an amusing ad campaign about Stay At Home Servers, complete with fake TV debates and a hugely funny children’s picture book entitled Mommy, Why Is There A Server In The House?
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Comments over there please!

Also, if you want to see these as they arrive, in full, there's a syndicated feed for the blog at itpro_sandm.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
andrewducker
Feb. 2nd, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
The problem with your idea about patents is that it gets rid of pure R&D companies, that develop designs and then sell them on. Like ARM.

Does the 3G Dongle plug into a USB port or an Ethernet one? Because unless they come with Linux drivers they're useless to me and my Eee...
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )