工艺学 | technology | 기술

Origami – hype and the non-launch

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If you live on planet tech you can’t help but notice the fuss that the blogosphere has been worked into about a Microsoft project called Origami. Its the biggest thing to hit the street since Apple’s fun announcement last week.

Ok, so let’s debunk some of the hype:

  • Origami is a new product launch: something called the ultra mobile personal computer (UMPC). UMPC has been touted by Intel at developers conferences for a while: so its not really news. In fact you can read here how Intel has already demoed a device last August. And if that’s not enough Microsoft launched UMPC devices last April. On another note wouldn’t Tablets from the likes of Motion Computing count as a UMPC by their very nature?
  • Ah, but this is a new product: no it isn’t OQO have had their UMPC device out for over a year. The product design is actually quite nice, in fact if it ran a decent Linux distribution and worked with iSync core services I would be interested in getting one
  • Its a new paradigm in computing: err no. Sub-notebooks have existed for years and are very popular in Japan, PDAs do the same job in a more energy and space efficient way, Nokia has the uber cool but hard-to-find 770 device and Psion had a cracking device called the NetBook.

In reality UMPC devices is putting lipstick on a pig. Tablet PCs haven’t flourished and the best way to make them cheaper (hence making them more likely to be purchased) is by reducing cost. You can do this by using lower performance parts in the name of energy efficiency, smaller capacity hard drives and smaller displays.From a marketing point of view I love it, get manufacturers to pay for a full Windows licence which will be dearer than what they would pay for Windows Mobile, reduce the price point of the device and the component cost, give them little point of differentiation and watch them beat each other the price poiint to a pulp and potentially make a new market segment for you. And from a PR person it is a story well-spun; but it’s a shame that it doesn’t stand up to much examination.

Picture from of the OQO device mentioned earlier.

工艺学 | technology | 기술

Rogue IT

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I was surprised when I was reading an article on Rogue IT Rogue IT may be a blessing in disguise by David L Margulius in InfoWorld. The main thrust of the article is that user implemented innovations may have value in themselves. Duh!PCs were not shipped into companies during the late 1970s and early 1980s by innovative, far-sighted IT staff.

On the contrary, VisiCalc and the Apple II were smuggled in by middle managers to make their own lives easier and paid for out of their own personal monies or expensed back to the company.

This has continued on with web applications, PDAs, personal cell phones and pagers and wireless email.

Now web services by the likes 37 Signals to free software like browser toolbars and RSS newsreaders to iTunes provide users with easy-to-use, easy-to-implement solutions to everyday problems.

What is even scarier is the ‘expert’ opinion GartnerGroup How to Eliminate Five Causes of Poor IT Financial Visibility (September 14, 2005 – expensive registration required) which contains advice to IT departments on trying to repress independent thought within the organisation.

工艺学 | technology | 기술

Power to the people

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One of the key limiting features in the technology sector is battery performance.Processors, memory chips, storage media and new screen technologies have all come down in cost with time and improvements in process technologies so that we are paying less money for IT gadgets on an ongoing basis.

Where the model falls down is battery technology which has not been improving at anything like the same rate.

It’s the achilles heel of the iPod, laptops and my portable DVD player. Some Japanese companies (notably Panasonic, Toshiba and NEC) have looked at using fuel cells instead.

Real Business 50 to watch (February 2006 page 38) had a nice vanity paragraph for Oxis Energy who make big claims for their lithium sulphide (sulfide for all you American chemists) technology versus lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium with up to five times the power and a 40 per cent cost saving.Ultralife whose customers include the US military use lithium-sulphur (sulfur) dioxide technology is a key competitor in this sector and rival technologies utilise manganese dioxide instead of sulphur.

I ran a quick search on science search engine Scirus and found some 500 abstracts and articles on the area of lithium-sulphur battery technology. It looks like things could get interesting in this sector.

Picture courtesy of the Energizer bunny and name are trademarks of Energizer.

工艺学 | technology | 기술

Next Generation Media Format War will be won in 2 places (& they’re not Japan or Silicon Valley)

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Hollywood only has delusions of grandeur, it won’t be the majordomo in the next-generation media format wars, neither will Microsoft or any of the Japan-headquartered consumer electronics companies.The battle of disc versus disc will be won in the San Fernando valley and the rogue disc factories of China (and elsewhere) who will crank out pirate copies. However if you read coverage from the CES industry show happening in Las Vegas, you wouldn’t pick up on this.

AVN, the US adult industry’s news website has been debating the benefits of the different formats for quite some time. Reading the articles shows that the San Fernando valley based industry has been thinking HD for quite some time.

Don’t believe me, then have a look at the history of VHS versus Betamax, or for a more modern phenomena see the rise of paid-for content on the net, how many porn-stars and glamour models feature on print advertisements for moble phone wallpapers?

Key factors for consideration include:

  • The cost of duplication: one of the reasons why porn voted VHS according to industry veteran Al Bloom, discussing the price difference between blank Betamax tapes and VHS with AVN “Sony didn’t quite understand that if they sold their tape to the adult duplicators at a cheaper price that the format would have probably survived because the technology was better. They didn’t understand that people were buying these things to watch porno.” These economics are also important for the pirate plants that will fuel the sale of hardware in developing markets.
  • Backward compatibility: Bruce Mendelson of Legend Video sees the next generaton disks as an “extension of the existing formats” rather than a whole new products. Consumers will have a similar view and look to be able to play their existing library of DVDs.
  • Compelling reason to purchase: Bloom “I don’t think the technological shift is nearly as great this time around. Back in the ancient 8mm days people were used to silent seven-minute reels, usually black and white, though there was some color reels out there. Then with videotape you could get a full hour with sound and color.” The lack of a compelling reason to purchase is a potential stumbling block for both formats.

Another company which may suffer at the hands of the adult industry is Apple, despite having pushed HD video and having some of the best editing and post production tools on the market, it was Windows Media version 9’s format the the first HD adult film was distributed in last year.

工艺学 | technology | 기술

CES Fever

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COMDEX used to be the big technology show out in Las Vegas. However as the technology market has moved from business to consumers, so the shows fortune declined. CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is the tech spectacular replacing it. Once the preserve of hi-fi systems and big screen TVs CES now has a technology face. Expect journalists to be frothing at the mouth at the gadgets and bitching about crummy airlines.Some useful resources

  • Scott Wargo of the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) talks about the US market for consumer electronics
  • Technology Evangelist has a show primer here (QuickTime required)
  • David Pogue of The New York Times will be providing a video update each day from the show
  • Lesley Walker at the Washington Post exposes the guts of the PR and marketing behemoth that provides the engine of CES. Seriously lessons on what works or doesn’t can be read in her article and I would recommend PRs and marketers to read here.