Friday, August 27, 2010

E-reader fire sale?

If you're thinking about taking the plunge and purchasing one of the many e-readers (sometimes called e-book readers), you should know that competition is heating up. New models - some with color screens and other extra features - will be introduced over the next few months. For a discussion of what's happening read this excellent Computerworld article.

Tablet wars just beginning

While tablet computers have existed for years, they've had limited appeal - particularly for consumers. The Apple iPad released just five months ago exploded on the market and now every electronics company wants to produce an "iPad Killer". This quote from an excellent article on the tablet market is informative
It may be true that the 2010 holiday season belongs to the iPad for tablets and that laptop-minded customers are not ready yet for tablet PCs. But 2011 will be the year when the tablet wars begin in earnest, says [Tim Bajarin from Creative Strategies] and Microsoft can't afford to be late. 
While the article focuses on Microsoft, there is also good information about a number of other important tablet developments by major companies.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Comparing Apples and Androids

I've been thinking about this topic for some time and decided now that the back-to-school and Christmas shopping seasons are upon it's to time do it - and nothing represents the Christmas spirit like a shiny new Motorola DROID 2 running the Android 2.2 "Froyo" OS and including Flash Player 10.1, a 3.7 inch screen, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a five (count 'em five) megapixel camera, an 8GB microSD card and a 3G mobile hotspot feature (for an amazingly low $20 per month.) Am I right?

All kidding aside (you did know I was kidding?) I thought it would help to summarize what is happening in the major technical competition of our day - the battle between Apple and Android phones. I use an iPhone so my knowledge of the Android market is limited to what I read and hear from colleagues. Any comments you can add will be appreciated. First a summary of major points you need to know:

Apple - Simplicity is the key - If you want to walk into a store, pick up a phone, set it up and begin using it in an hour, buy an iPhone.
• Easy to setup and use
• Easy to select - only two models and one decision - 3Gs or the latest 4G (16GB or 32GB)
• One operating system - iOS
• One carrier - AT&T - for now
• Number of apps - Huge
• Well designed portal - iTunes Store
• One source of apps - Apple App Store
• Tightly controlled apps - security, viruses, etc.
• Small size - pocket or purse

Android - Vast array of choices and decisions - If you want a carrier other than AT&T, or a physical keyboard, a larger screen or other specific hardware features and want no restrictions on your apps, then buy an Android phone.
• Choice of vendor - HTC, Motorola, LG, Sony-Ericsson, Google, Acer, Samsung and others
• Multiple designs - Each vendor can design their own phones and most have more than one version resulting in nearly a hundred different Android phones available today
• Wide array of features that vary from model to model - larger screen sizes, more physical buttons, physical QWERTY keyboards, higher resolution cameras, customizable screen layouts, dedicated social network functions, etc.
• Multiple OS variations - There are currently five different Android operating systems in use (1.5-2.2) and each vendor can add their own user interface (UI) to the OS.
• Multiple app sources
• Unrestricted apps
• Number of apps - Huge
• Competition will cause prices to drop

There are of course many other smartphones available but Apple and the Android family are all the rage today. Apple defined the category with the iPhone 3G in 2008. Google changed the game by introducing an operating system that runs on many phones and dozens of companies seized on this approach. This is reminiscent of the PC wars in recent years - Apple versus the "PC".

While it is often stated that Apple lost that battle, remember that IBM - the other major player - failed in the business altogether due to brutal price competition. Contrary to poplar wisdom, IBM tried to stop others from making PCs but less than ten months after the IBM PC was introduced in 1981, the first clones were announced.

The current hoard of Android phone manufacturers might look like an army storming the Apple "castle". What should not be overlooked in this scenario is that the attacking warriors are also trying to destroy each other - not a pretty scene. Who will ultimately prevail as the preeminent Android provider (like the 1990s Dell or HP) is anybody's guess.

The variety of choices in Android hardware and operating systems is confusing for many people. These differences can cause serious problems for vendors as well as explained in this article by JR Raphael in CompterWorld. Raphael is normally a vociferous Android proponent.

A footnote about Apple: Rumors have circulated for years about another carrier for the iPhone. In the past these have sounded more like hopeful speculation for the "I hate AT&T crowd" and those with poor AT&T service but recently the rumors have coalesced into a strong possibility that Verizon will be a choice after the first of the year. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A fight to the death in the eBook wars

Early this year everybody was going to sell an ebook reader to compete with the Kindle. However, the introduction of the $500 iPad - also an ebook reader - changed everything. The IEEE Spectrum has a really good discussion of the latest developments in this fast changing field - who's in who's out and who's on the ropes. As the price wars continue, remember an ebook reader is only as good as its supply of books. As companies drop out of the race their devices could become $200 boat anchors. Whoops, sorry about the old cliche - boat anchors need to weigh more than a pound!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

More info about spotting dangerous web site links

 A reader ask for more information on this item from a previous post.
An address you see in an email message or web page may look legitimate but the link connected to that address may be entirely different. The button or words you click on are totally arbitrary and the underlying web address (the hyperlink) is what matters.
There are two easy ways to discover the real address of a clickable button or text phrase. You can "hover" over the item - move your mouse pointer over it without clicking - and see the real link displayed - usually at the lower left border of the browser window. You can also right click on the text or button and choose "copy the link" or "copy the shortcut". Then past this into your browser window address bar or any other document and see the actual link displayed. Both approaches - hover and copy/paste should also work with email messages that include links.

As mentioned in the earlier post, you should look closely at the Top Level Domain Name - which includes .com, .edu, .gov and country codes such as .us, .ch, .ru, etc.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why you can be robbed blind in Cameroon without ever going there

The country code for Cameroon is .cm and a common mistake is to type .cm instead of .com. If you accidentally type instead of, you will go to an entirely different site and could be tricked into providing the password for your account on a web page that is a perfect copy of the legitimate bank site you normally see.

"Phishing" is an attempt to trick you into providing personal information such as bank account or Social Security numbers to someone who will use it dishonestly. Modern techniques are very sophisticated versions of the "Nigerian official who wants to share $40 million with you" scams.

These are seductive since they appear to be messages from a source you know and they are addressed to you by name - not "dear friend". Often they are requests for you to update contact information and will appear to come from the address of a bank or store you deal with and will have the logo of the institution prominently displayed.

If you know only one thing about Internet addresses, you can avoid many of these plots. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A PC Defender - What do you think of his idea?

John Dvorak, a well known PC writer. has this to say when comparing desktop PCs to mobile devices "With my PC I can actually calculate, with accuracy, the trajectory of a rocket shot to the moon, and the amount of fuel it needs to get there. On my desktop." Is this something we all need to worry about? Read the entire article in PC Magazine.

Friday, August 6, 2010

iPad Wannabees - Bargin or Scam?

Online sites like eBay are offering iPad like tablets for less than $100. The devices are being sold under names like Apad and ePad, mostly from vendors in China. But buyer beware so read this article before you take the plunge.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What a Difference a Decade Makes

For many years Microsoft, Intel and Dell lead the league in the minds of investors. The following snapshot of stock prices over the last five years shows an entirely different story today.
The chart shows how stock prices of six leading technology companies have changed over five year and one year intervals. In the extreme cases Dell lost 66% for its investors and Apple gained 498%. The other two "big names" a decade ago - Microsoft and Intel fared only slightly better than Dell.