By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 0 Comments
BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion Ltd.) continues to prove its harshest critics wrong. The company today posted a return to profitability in the fourth quarter, announced the retirement of co-founder and board vice chair Mike Lazaridis and revealed that the company sold about a million devices running its new BB10 platform during the three-month period. The device sales were in-line with Wall Street’s expectations and were considerably more than the 300,000 or so predicted by some of the more bearish analysts following the stock.
It’s the first piece of solid data about the company’s efforts to make the transition from its legacy OS to a new platform. Though still too early to call BB10 a success, CEO Thorsten Heins said during a conference call that more than 50 per cent of people who have bought a BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen were non-BlackBerry customers, which bodes well for the company’s early efforts to win back market share from industry leaders Apple and Google. A version of the device featuring a physical keyboard is expected to launch soon.
Key to BlackBerry’s comeback will be making an impact in the huge U.S. market. While some analysts have expressed concerns about the Z10′s mid-March U.S. launch, Heins suggested it was far too early to pass judgment (the figures reported today only include sales up until March 2). He also cautioned against making assumptions about Z10 sales based on spot checks with retailers. “Guessing the store line-ups has become a bit of a spectator sport in our industry,” Heins said. “I would like to emphasize that BlackBerry 10 has a phased roll out.” In other words, investors will have to wait another three months for more answers.
By Tamsin McMahon - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
How apps and social media are revolutionizing health care
In 2005, Walter De Brouwer’s five-year-old son was rushed to the hospital with a severe head injury after falling more than 30 feet out of a window. In the three months that his son spent in the intensive care unit, De Brouwer, a Belgian tech entrepreneur transplanted to Silicon Valley, took to learning the myriad hospital machinery that tracked his son’s vital signs. He began bringing his laptop to the hospital, copying the reams of data into an Excel spreadsheet to study the relationship between his son’s blood pressure and heart rate, or the way his condition seemed to decline around the same time each night.
When his son was well enough to be discharged to a regular hospital room, De Brouwer panicked. “I knew this environment and these numbers and then I had to go to a room with no numbers, not even a computer,” he says. “I thought, ‘Why do I only have a thermometer at home?’ Perhaps we should know more about our health before it gets bad.”
The experience gave him the idea for the Scanadu Scout, a futuristic palm-sized device that can monitor five different vital signs, including temperature, heart rate and blood oxygenation level, by just holding it to your temple for 10 seconds. It then transmits the results wirelessly to your smartphone so you can track your health information over time, seeing, for instance, if a certain medication makes your heart rate climb, or what’s going on inside your body on those nights when you can’t fall asleep.
By Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 5:59 PM - 0 Comments
With concerns mounting about slowing growth and increased competition from rivals, Apple investors were hoping the iPhone—and iPad—maker would blow the doors off of its first quarter financial results. But while the Cupertino, Calif. company came close, it didn’t quite meet Wall Street’s expectations.
Apple reported earnings of $13.1 billion (U.S.) in the first quarter, about the same as what it earned during the same period last year. But investors were focused on Apple’s $54.5 billion in sales, which was less than the $54.9 billion that was expected by analysts. Another key figure—profit margin—also came in below the Street’s expectations at 38.6 per cent instead of 39.5 per cent, suggesting Apple’s ability to command a premium price for its products in the face of competition from rivals like Samsung is slipping faster than anticipated. Shares of Apple dropped below $500 in after-market trading. The stock has fallen by 26 per cent since September.
As for device sales, Apple said it sold 47.8 million iPhones, 22.9 million iPads, 4.1 million Macs and 12.7 million iPods in the quarter.
CEO Tim Cook reminded analysts on a conference call that Apple remains an impressive story, noting that it has so far sold well over half a billion devices running its mobile iOS platform. He also took on rumours that demand for the iPhone, which accounts for nearly half of all sales, was faltering amid reports it had cut orders for parts from some of its suppliers. “The supply chain is very complex,” Cook said, adding that it would be a mistake to try to interpret a single piece of data, even if it’s accurate, as being representative of Apple’s broader business. He also said initial iPhone 5 sales were constrained by Apple’s ability to make them quickly enough.
Apple is still an impressive company with impressive prospects. But investors have grown accustomed to being dazzled. Good simply isn’t good enough anymore.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
How a Canadian start-up plans to make thought-controlled smartphones the next consumer craze
Having trouble focusing on that 30-page contract? Just got chewed out by your boss and wish you had reacted more calmly? Trying to stay relaxed before a life-or-death job interview? Not only will there soon be an app for all that, but it’ll be one that you control with your mind.
This spring, the Toronto-based tech company InteraXon will release a product called Muse, a wearable brainwave reader that connects wirelessly to any smartphone or tablet device. Much like a heart monitor can measure physical exertion, Muse gauges levels of concentration, stress and relaxation. Through an app and various games that come bundled with the device, users will be able to strengthen those parts of their brains responsible for working memory and focus.
Using software originally created by the renowned University of Toronto engineer and cyberneticist Steve Mann (often dubbed “the world’s first cyborg”), thought-controlled computing technology translates brainwaves into digital signals recognizable by a computer—be it the chip in a video game, espresso maker or automobile. In other words, the brain’s electrical activity, which can be trained just like any muscle, is converted by an interface into binary code.
By Peter Nowak - Friday, September 28, 2012 at 9:27 AM - 0 Comments
In light of yesterday’s post about how the expensive iPhone may be counter-productive to societal goals, I thought it might be prudent to also touch on the other side as well.
When the first device powered by Google’s Android software was unveiled in 2008, it was intended to shake up how phones were made and sold and also how the mobile Internet would be used.
Four years later, Android is on the cusp of global domination and Google is well on its way to accomplishing those goals. While it’s customary to fear a rising power, this may just be a positive development for phone users, especially those in poorer countries.
“It’s about being better connected with the knowledge of the world and democratizing forces,” said John Lagerling, director of global partnerships for Android. “These are people who have never had a computer.”
Google’s foray into the phone game, however, isn’t exactly altruistic. In the early 2000s, the company realized that the computer-based Internet it dominated was quickly shifting onto mobile devices. Not wanting to cede its command of the online advertising market, it offered Android, an operating system on which Internet-enabled smartphones could run, to any device maker that wanted it.
While Android enabled web surfing, email and other Internet applications just like its competitors, it was radically different because it was free. Both Apple and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion keep their software to themselves, while Microsoft charges manufacturers to use a mobile version of Windows. Estimates have pegged its licensing fee at $23 to $30 per phone, which in the developing world is enough to make the devices unaffordable.
Manufacturers such as Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson have since run with Google’s free option. As a result, Android is the market leader in the United States and Europe. In developing regions such as Africa, Latin America, China and India, where Android phones can sell for $80 or less on contract, Google either claimed market leadership in 2011 or will in 2012, according to tracking firm Gartner.
The secret, Lagerling says, is that Android has made Internet-enabled phones much cheaper to produce. Not only is the software free, it also drives competition between device makers, which further brings down prices.
By Colin Campbell - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 1:19 PM - 0 Comments
Muting your cell phone with one simple whack
Technology can be frustrating. But smartphones, with their tiny touchscreen keypads and countless bells and whistles, can be downright maddening at times. Who hasn’t felt the temptation to whack their device into submission at one time or another?
Microsoft, it seems, feels your frustration. It recently filed a patent for “controlling an audio signal of a mobile device by detecting a whack.” In other words, when you want to silence your phone, you hit it. Microsoft cites the growing “capability and complexity” of today’s mobile devices for the need for its whack-it function. Tech bloggers have responded with equal parts glee and tongue-in-cheek humour to the filing. “I hereby dub this the clapper of the modern world,” said The Next Web. Many hope to see the technology appear on phones running Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. In an increasingly crowded smartphone market, even modest improvements can help a company stand out.
By Peter Nowak - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 10:05 AM - 0 Comments
There’s a war going on for control of the world, in a figurative sense. We’re not talking about nation versus nation or a clash of ideologies (okay, on that one, maybe we are). We’re talking about Google versus Apple. More specifically, the maps that each company serves up on their respective smartphones—the applications that literally guide us around the world in our daily lives.
As almost every iPhone 5 reviewer has noted, including yours truly, Apple’s new device—which goes on sale today—is amazing in almost every way, with maps being a notable exception. For reasons no one is sure of yet, Apple has ditched Google-supplied data and is instead building its app using information supplied by GPS maker TomTom and a few other sources.
So, if you buy an iPhone 5 or new iPod that runs the latest software, iOS 6, or if you download that iOS 6 onto an older iPhone, iPod or iPad, you’ll get the new maps app. If you refrain from updating to the new software, you’ll keep the older version. For how long is another unknown.
App developers have noted that the foundation of Apple’s new maps system is actually quite good, it’s just lacking in data. As I mentioned in my review, there are some glaring omissions. The maps of Toronto, for example, show streetcar stops, but some subway stations are missing. It’s also given me faulty directions and locations on several occasions. And we all know that going to the wrong place because your GPS told you to go there is just about the worst thing ever.
By Peter Nowak - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
The other day, a friend asked me whether he should buy the new iPhone 5. By virtue of writing about technology and gadgets for a living, it’s a question I get all the time – not necessarily about the new iPhone, but friends generally wanting advice on what smartphone they should get.
There’s never a simple answer, since every person’s needs are different. And it’s not just the device itself that matters, the carriers that offer them also factor into such a decision. My response is therefore always a flurry of questions in return: do you like physical keyboards, what kind of computer do you use, do you want to surf the web a lot, how much do you want to spend, do you travel a lot? Oh, and what are your politics? More on that last one in a second.
From there, we winnow down the options. If the buyer is on a budget, we’ll generally talk Android phones. If they don’t leave their home city much, we’ll discuss discount carriers such as Wind and Mobilicity. If a keyboard is a must, then it’s on to BlackBerry.
By Anick Jesdanun, The Associated Press - Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 6:49 AM - 0 Comments
Watch our site for live coverage of the launch at 1 p.m.
NEW YORK, N.Y. – After weeks of speculation, anticipation and a dose of hype, Apple is widely expected to announce a new smartphone at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Apple isn’t saying anything about the topic of the event, but the email invitation it sent to reporters contains a shadow in the shape of a “5” — a nod to the iPhone 5. It is being held in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, where Apple has held many product launches.
The new model is expected to work with fourth-generation, or 4G, cellular networks. That capability is something Samsung’s Galaxy S III and many other iPhone rivals already have. A bigger iPhone screen is also possible. The new model will likely go on sale in a week or two.
Apple Inc. also plans to update its phone software this fall and will ditch Google Inc.’s mapping service for its own, as a rivalry between the two companies intensifies.
In a related development, Google said Tuesday that it is releasing a new YouTube app for the iPhone and the iPad. The changes come amid the expiration of a five-year licensing agreement that had established YouTube as one of the built-in applications in Apple’s mobile devices.
By Peter Nowak - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
As numerous analysts have pointed out, this week could make or break Nokia as it shows off its new Windows Phone 8 devices at a press event in New York. “Make” is actually a strong word – “stave off death” is probably more appropriate.
The storied Finnish cellphone maker, in partnership with Microsoft, is benefiting from some good timing in light of the big setback handed to Samsung by a court two weeks ago. With the court siding with Apple in that epic patent dispute, Samsung and other phone manufacturers using Google’s Android operating system are likely to be slowed down in the near term, at least in the all-important U.S. market.
That gives Nokia, which essentially put all of its eggs into Microsoft’s basket last year, a window of opportunity. Wireless carriers are now especially inclined to push Windows phones, to prevent Apple and perhaps even Android from gaining too much power over them.
So far though, Nokia and Microsoft have failed to spark the imaginations of the buying public. Windows phones, despite promising a very different experience from iPhone and Android devices, have captured less than 4 per cent of the global market, according to Strategy Analytics. That’s compared to 17 and 68 per cent respectively for Apple and Google. (BlackBerry, by the way, has plummeted to just 6 per cent, according to IDC.)
By Jesse Brown - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
It took jurors three days to decide what an eight year old could have told you in seconds: Samsung copied Apple. Look at an iPhone, then look at a Galaxy. It’s obvious. But so what?
Though Apple was quick to describe the decision as a victory for its core values of “originality” and “innovation,” let’s remember some of the real values Apple is built upon. Steve Jobs, who once quoted (stole?) Picasso’s line about great artists stealing, was himself a wonderfully original thief. All of Apple’s innovations are slick remixes of pre-existing ideas, from the graphic user interface Jobs lifted from Xerox (which Bill Gates later copied from him) to the iPod, which Apple has acknowledged was basically invented by this British guy in 1979. Technology, like all of human culture, progresses bit by bit as we build on each other’s work. Patents are a regulatory system imposed on technology, intended to make sure that inventors get paid for inventing. But they didn’t work out for the British dude who invented the digital audio player, and they aren’t working now.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, August 17, 2012 at 1:42 PM - 0 Comments
The leading players in the global smartphone market have very different ideas about what the future should look like
Siri, the iPhone’s voice-activated “virtual assistant,” kicked off this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in June by cracking jokes about San Francisco’s weather, Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists and other subjects only software engineers could find funny (“How many developers does it take change a light bulb? None, that’s a hardware problem”). But it wasn’t long before Siri launched a few verbal jabs at Google, as well as the Asian manufacturing giants that now churn out millions of iPhone-esque devices to run on its Android mobile software. “I’m excited about the new Samsung,” Siri deadpanned in her digital twang. “Not the phone—the refrigerator. Hubba, hubba.”
Siri’s gentle ribbing masked a deeper fallout between Apple and Google, once strategic partners. Before he died, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that Android was “grand theft” of the iPhone concept. “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” he said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”
Many assumed Jobs was referring to the avalanche of patent infringement lawsuits Apple has launched against Samsung, HTC and others. But in recent months it’s become clear he had other plans too. At the same June developer’s conference, Apple unveiled a new mapping application that will replace Google Maps on the iPhone and iPad. Then, earlier this month, Apple revealed that iPhones and iPads would no longer ship with Google’s popular YouTube app pre-installed. Even Siri, though still a beta project, is considered by some to be an eventual replacement for Google’s ubiquitous search engine on future Apple machines. “Apple wants to cut the cord—any ties it has to Google,” says Kevin Restivo, a senior analyst with research firm IDC. “It’s a classic turf grab. The more control you have over the smartphone operating system and the user experience, the more lucrative it is.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, July 6, 2012 at 9:23 AM - 0 Comments
The new Galaxy smartphone charged Samsung Electronics Co. to a record quarterly profit of…
The new Galaxy smartphone charged Samsung Electronics Co. to a record quarterly profit of $5.9 billion, but executives still worry about the company’s performance in the jittery European market.
Samsung, the world’s largest maker of memory chips, mobile phones and flat-screen panels, does not seperate profits per division, but analysts believe that the jump in profits, up 79 per cent from the second quarter of 2011, is due almost entirely to the new Galaxy smartphone. The result, however, was shy of Samsung’s own forecast, resulting in the company trading at a two per cent loss yesterday in Seoul. The company has failed to keep up with demand for the Galaxy, causing delays in sales, and is in the midst of an intellectual property lawsuit with Apple that resulted in a temporary sales ban in the U.S.
Samsung’s biggest concern, though, remains Europe.
“Europe is our biggest consumer electronics market and we may have to initiate cost cuts and product price increases should the euro fall further from the current level,” an unnamed executive told Reuters. ”Our smartphones are flying off the shelves, with some outlets reporting 40-60 percent sales growth, but that’s distorting the overall trading outlook which is more challenging due to the weak global economy and a weak Euro.”
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM - 0 Comments
ClevrU is creating a class of international students by providing courses on smartphones
To hear Dean Pacey describe online learning is a lesson in how the Internet—despite its vastness—can actually be a very personal place. In fact, taking courses over a computer, he believes, has the potential to make education more intimate and effective than any typical class-teacher setting, which is often full of distractions. “When I go to university and I sign up for psych 100, I’m sitting with 1,500 other students with one talking head who I can’t hear and who may or may not speak English well at the front of the room,” he says. “How is that a rich experience?”
By comparison, Pacey imagines a world in which students in any country can pick and choose the courses they’d like to take over the Internet from the best international schools, many of which are in Canada. These courses would feature video lectures, online chats and news feeds related to the content, and would be delivered in whatever language the student preferred. Even more surprising: while the course content could be viewed on a computer screen or tablet, it would be designed, first and foremost, for smartphones—making the “classroom” entirely mobile and available anytime, anywhere.
Pacey is chief operating ofﬁcer at ClevrU, a Waterloo, Ont.-based tech firm, which is set to offer this innovative virtual education as soon as this summer. And the target audience is just as compelling: developing countries, where there are millions of individuals who want an education but can’t afford it or access it locally—and where smartphones are common. “Most people don’t have a desktop computer. Many don’t have a notebook. They may not have a house. But the one thing they will have is a feature phone that connects to the Internet,” says co-founder and CEO Dana Fox. “If you need an education, and you have a mobile device, you can now have what we have in Canada.”
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 10:51 AM - 0 Comments
A Kickstarter bonanza suggests the smartwatch is an idea whose time has come
Once upon a time, you carried your watch in your pocket. Then it migrated to your wrist. Now the same thing may be about to happen to the smartphone. In April, Vancouver native Eric Migicovsky used the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to request start-up money for the Pebble, a wristwatch that will connect to an iPhone or Android and display emails, messages, and apps. The Pebble instantly became a fundraising phenomenon, racking up more than $7 million in contributions, a Kickstarter record.
When it’s ready to ship, the Pebble won’t be the first smartwatch. It won’t even be Migicovsky’s first, since his California-based company, Allerta, already marketed the Inpulse, a watch that told you when your BlackBerry had a message. But according to Wired magazine, smartwatches “haven’t really caught on with mainstream buyers,” so no major investors wanted to put money in the Pebble. Migicovsky, who studied at the University of Waterloo before moving to the States, told the blog Reyhani Law that he went to Kickstarter only because he “tried the traditional route and it didn’t work.” The Kickstarter bonanza was the ﬁrst sign that the smartwatch is going mainstream.
What can a smartwatch do for you that a regular phone can’t? Well, for one thing, it spares you the need to reach into your pocket. Migicovsky said he came up with the idea for the Pebble “when I was cycling and I wanted to not drop my phone while riding.” The apps being developed for the watch are aimed at people who can’t hold a phone in their hands: there’s a GPS app for bike riders and a system for golfers to find their way around the course.
By Peter Nowak - Wednesday, February 22, 2012 at 2:27 PM - 0 Comments
The PlayStation Vita, which launches on Feb. 22, has been getting a lot of press over the past few weeks, for a number of reasons. On the one hand, with gaming hardware continually getting more powerful, manufacturers are slowing down the rate at which they release next-generation machines. Home consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are now into their seventh and sixth years, respectively, which is considerably longer than the previous generation (the original Xbox, for example, had a four-year run before the Xbox 360 arrived).
Sony’s next-generation handheld is also getting a lot of attention because it is being released into a vastly different world than its predecessors. Over the past few years, smartphones and tablets have arisen to become mobile gaming powerhouses, leading observers to speculate on whether the death of portable systems such as the Vita is nigh. I spoke with Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, on the topic last week and he, of course, doesn’t see it that way. Continue…
By Peter Nowak - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 12:38 PM - 0 Comments
Sony’s next-generation handheld video game system, the whimsically named Vita, officially launches on Feb. 22 after shipping out this week to those who pre-ordered it. It’s a very impressive and attractively priced device–you can read my full review here.
At the Vita’s launch party in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, I chatted with Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, about the Vita, PlayStation and game trends in general. The Vita, as it turns out, comes along at a time of major change in the gaming industry.
Smartphones and tablets have opened up an entirely new frontier for the industry, with people who wouldn’t previously be caught playing video games now idling away for hours on Angry Birds and the like. Nintendo, Sony’s traditional rival in the handheld market, has already felt the pain, as people turned away from the more expensive and involved software produced for such devices and toward cheaper and simpler mobile games.
By Peter Nowak - Friday, February 3, 2012 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
Remember when the iPad first came out and Apple touted it as the device that would fill the void between smartphone and laptop? The jokes came along pretty quickly about how long it would be till someone tried to squeeze something more into the space between smartphones and tablets.
Well, laugh no more because Samsung is going there.
The South Korean electronics giant is spending a pile of money on a 90-second commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl to promote its new Galaxy Note, a weird device that launches in Canada on all three big wireless carriers on Feb. 14.
By Jesse Brown - Monday, January 23, 2012 at 1:23 PM - 0 Comments
Now is the time for all the armchair CEOs to tell Thorsten Heins how to do his job.
RIM must focus on software and kiss developers’ asses. RIM must focus on hardware and create a SuperPhone. RIM must make a better tablet. RIM must ditch tablets entirely. RIM must stop trying to look cool and focus on business clients. RIM must get cool and target hip young clients. Opinions are like smartphones–every pundit has one.
By Davide Berretta - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 2:52 PM - 0 Comments
Away from the hype that surrounds some of the hottest Internet companies in Silicon Valley, scores of developers are tackling the lucrative, accelerating sector of technology for children. “Backpacks will slowly shrink… Textbooks will pretty soon be delivered on tablets,” says Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review, a publication that since 1993 has been tracking new releases and trends in this increasingly busy domain. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
The boom in technology designed around children’s needs was catalyzed by the launch of Apple’s iPad in 2010, says Buckleitner, a former teacher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. The tablet, he says, was the first reasonably priced device to bring together the must-have features of a blockbuster piece of hardware for kids: wireless Internet connection, powerful batteries, an App Store that has galvanized independent developers as well as those working within companies, and a large multi-touch screen.
“We knew that magic happens when you put touchscreens in the hands of children,” says Emil Ovemar, producer and co-founder of Toca Boca (which means ‘touch mouth’ in Spanish), a maker of games for Apple devices within Bonnier, a large Swedish media conglomerate with yearly revenues of almost US$4 billion. The work-and-play philosophy behind Apple devices seems to fit particularly well with the way children operate. “The most natural way to learn something is through play,” notes Ovemar.
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 28, 2011 at 12:52 PM - 4 Comments
South Korean tech giant now the world’s top smartphone maker
Samsung Electronics Co. overtook Apple Inc. as the world’s biggest smartphone vendor in the third quarter of this year. The South Korean tech behemoth sold 27.8 million smartphones between July and September, a 44 per cent jump in shipments, whereas Apple’s iPhone sales were at 17.1 million, a 16 per cent drop from the previous quarter. Samsung’s share of the global smartphone market is now at 23.8, compared to Apple’s 14.6 per cent. Analysts largely attributed the upset to Samsung’s decision to turn to Google Inc.’s Android software for its Galaxy smartphones, and consumers’ decision to hold off on new iPhone purchases until the October launch of the iPhone 4S.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 2:18 PM - 5 Comments
Here is an unnecessary thing for you to covet: Sphero, a robot ball you control with your smartphone, on it’s way this holiday season for $130 US.
What’s it good for? Who cares, it looks fun. You can guide the thing around with your finger, draw a path for it to follow, or use it in a small but growing library of games that blur the line between virtual and physical.
For example, golf. Take a swing with your phone in hand, and Sphero will react as if it had been smacked by an iron club. Orbotix, Sphero’s maker, is encouraging developers to come up with their own applications and games for Sphero, so who knows what the future might bring?
For starters, it’s a great way to mess with kittens and babies. Personally, I’d like to see a swarm of these beat the crap out of a Furby.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 8:10 AM - 7 Comments
A major network outage and investor unrest has Research In Motion vowing that it will fight back
With confidence in the BlackBerry platform waning and calls for a management shake-up growing louder, the last thing Research In Motion Ltd. co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie needed earlier this month was a network meltdown that left subscribers across five continents with spotty access to email for more than three days. It was perhaps a further bit of bad luck that the source of the outage was traced to RIM’s European headquarters in Slough, a dreary suburb of London that also happened to be the setting of the BBC TV series The Office, a sitcom about the pitiable lives of employees of a second-rate paper company toiling beneath a hapless manager played by Ricky Gervais.
Though RIM, based in Waterloo, Ont., is no Wernham Hogg (the name of the fictional paper firm in the TV series), the scramble by Canada’s tech superstar to diagnose, correct and explain the biggest network outage in its history left many observers shaking their heads. The disruptions began on Oct. 10 and immediately impacted users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America. RIM said the following day that the problem had been resolved, only to suffer more disruptions that eventually found their way to North America. The company later revealed that it had suffered a core switch failure in its network operations centre (a sort of central sorting facility for BlackBerry email), and that its backup systems had failed, too.
By the time Lazaridis appeared in a low-tech Web video (standing before a drab beige background) to issue a rare apology on Oct. 13, critics had already characterized RIM’s response to the crisis as inadequate. “The worldwide outages we experienced last week were unfortunate,” Lazaridis told a crowd of developers earlier this week at a BlackBerry conference in San Francisco, where RIM unveiled its new, next-generation BBX mobile platform. He added that RIM is studying what went wrong and is focused on “making this right” with customers.
By Peter Nowak - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 5:58 PM - 5 Comments
As many had speculated, Motorola has indeed dusted off the old Razr name for its new smartphone, unveiled here in New York Tuesday. In the U.S., where the handset maker has licensing rights with the Star Wars folks, the phone actually combines two of Motorola’s most successful brands—it’s called the Droid Razr. For the rest of the world, including Canada, it’s just the Razr.
If you’re into specification porn, Mobile Syrup has you covered. For our purposes here, suffice it to say that the phone is ridiculously light and thin, yet still sturdy, fast and powerful. I played with one briefly and was amazed at how light it felt in my hand. It’s got a steel core and Kevlar on the outside though, so it’s made not to break. Sadly, as a Motorola representative told me, it’s not strong enough to stop bullets (vests apparently have many layers of Kevlar while the phone only has one).
What I found most interesting during Motorola chief executive Sanjay Jha’s presentation was the mention of how the Razr will be aimed at corporate customers as well as the every-day consumer. The device can accommodate secure enterprise email systems and has remote wipe capabilities, which means it’ll probably pass muster with many businesses’ IT departments. Continue…
By Peter Nowak - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 12:26 PM - 5 Comments
Having just returned from a trip to New York on Sunday evening, I haven’t had much time to play with the week’s hottest new gadget —the iPhone 4S—but I have been able to formulate some initial impressions, especially in regards to its main new feature: the Siri personal assistant.
First, the basics. Yup, the iPhone 4S works as advertised. It’s faster, slicker and generally better than its predecessor, the iPhone 4. Some nifty additions to the operating system make things easier, like you can fire the thing up initially without having to connect it to your computer and you can share iTunes purchases between devices by turning on the iCloud storage option. Both options do a lot for eliminating cables and computers from the iPhone equation.
I particularly like the camera as well. The iPhone 4 had the best camera on any phone I’d tried so far and the 4S is yet another step up. Apple is continuing to strengthen the case for leaving the full camera behind and simply relying on a phone to take photos, at least in casual situations.
Much of the brouhaha over the new device, however, lies with Siri, the voice-recognition feature that can tell the user about everything from the weather to sports scores to scheduled meetings. Continue…