Author Archives: jeremyfd

Google Glass: GLASSHOLES RETREAT

I think Google Glass was doomed within days of the wacky device being announced. It didn’t take long before spoof videos were appearing on YouTube (my favourite the one about the man on a date using Glass to get ahead).

Ridicule is a cruel destroyer of ambition.

It’s a bit like cabin fever. Lock someone up in a confined space with no change of scenery or opportunity to get out, and very soon they go stark, staring bonkers. I can imagine the scene in a secret lab with limited access and no windows where whoever was allowed to develop the Glass idea locked themselves up securely and convinced themselves that talking to a pair of spectacles on your head was going to be The Next Big Thing.

If that wasn’t enough, the thinking went further into the realms of fantasy and believed that the public would beta test the device, and even pay $1,500 for the privilege.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and looking back it’s easy to see why Glass failed. But if only the minds at Google had used some intelligent foresight, they would have realised that while wanting to get connected is good, Glass was a daft idea and should have been strangled at birth.

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IoT & Wearables: capturing the consumer in 2015

Excitement is building in the IT retail markets around two areas: the Internet of Things, and Wearables.  In both these areas, there are vanguard products already available on the market today that indicate a huge potential for sales.

Wearables are dividing into two categories, “single-function” and “smart” devices. The “single-function” typically will be the mass products, as they can be cheap and do one job well. The “smart” devices such as Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S are the high end multi-function devices, and are creating new markets for IT retail products by crossing over into the luxury goods category. With the right branding, these have the potential for huge sales coupled with good margins.

With the Internet of Things, the possibilities for IT retail are also substantial because each solution  – almost by definition – requires a multiplicity of single integrated devices. Instead of buying one sensor to control multiple legacy devices, if we take lighting as an example, products such as Philips Hue have light bulbs with integrated controllers where the consumer is obliged to buy multiple units. Start thinking other functions just in the home such as central heating, and the possibilities for expansion of IT in a retail environment are becoming larger by the day.

Of course, predictions have been made in the past, but ultimately all depends on manufacturers not only exciting the imagination of the consumer and getting them to swipe their credit cards, but also hitting the right price point.

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Wearables – are we going back to basics?

Earlier this week, an article on Venturebeat highlighted the release of the Ditto, a new, no-gimmicks wearable device by Simple Matters. Weighing only 8 grams, this little device easily slips into your pocket and via a Bluetooth connection alerts you to messages and calls via a powerful vibrator motor inside.

For less than £20, this pod serves as a remote vibrating notification device for your phone and determines via a companion app (iOS or Android) what you consider important to be important alert type.

Powered by a standard watch battery, Ditto lasts four to six months with primary users likely to be women who keep their phones in their purses and would probably not wear any of the smart watches due to the way they are designed to date.

Talking of watches, one of the reasons why wristwatches are still being used since the 1880’s is because they do one job very well: they tell the time.

Another key to the wristwatch’s longevity is something we take for granted: we can tell the time with a simple flick up of the wrist, then a sharp downward glance, and it’s all over in a flash. And yes, we can do this while driving.

The new breed of wrist-borne wearables does both of these jobs very badly.

In the first place, they do more than tell the time, and in fact are touted as handling a multitude of tasks. But as the number of tasks increases, by definition the complexity of the device increases, which surely means their usefulness declines.

Why? Because the major attribute to getting the information from a wrist-bound device – the wrist flick and quick glance – has disappeared. To get information from a smart wearable device other than that already on display, not only does the user have to look at a screen for an extended period of time, but to get any other information from the deceive means that the other hand has to be used to activate whatever motion is needed to scroll, click or wind one’s way through the menu and options.

Maybe there is a bigger marketplace for no display, no lights, no gimmick wearables like the Ditto?

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Uber virgin deflowered

I like to know what I’m doing. Some may say this borders on the OCD spectrum. Others will agree with me, and know that planning is the key to happiness, and minimising life’s surprises is a worthy goal. So when it comes to getting taxis to catch planes or be picked up from airports, the knowledge that it’s booked, that the company you’ve chosen will arrive on time, is priceless and is critical in smoothing all journeys.

I’d heard lot about Uber, but the thought of arriving at the airport without a confirmed taxi reservation home, without knowing that you’ll see that Addison-Lee board with your name on it, makes me break out in a cold sweat of uncertainty. There is nothing worse than the feeling of not knowing, the gut clenching fear as you head towards the unknown.

And that’s the way I felt on my flight back from Milan to Heathrow Terminal 5. I’d used my normal Addison-Lee service on the way out to Heathrow, but was dithering about trying Uber on the way back. Don’t worry, said my son – an avid Uber user –  just get out of immigration and customs, fire up the app and choose the level of service you want. Simple.

I cleared immigration, exited to the arrivals hall in Terminal 5, whipped out my iPhone 5 (encased in the Morphie battery pack, in true OCD style I had to make sure I had enough juice for the journey) and got the Uber app running. I chose the “Exec” option as I don’t like the Toyota Prius, but that’s another story. Uber told me that I had a driver ready in 3 minutes. I had his name, make of car and registration number. A few seconds after that, I got a call from the driver asking where I was. Within minutes, I was safely mounted in the passenger seat of a very smooth and very comfortable Mercedes, heading home. Brilliant, it worked. As soon as I got to my destination, up popped an email telling me how much I’d spent, and how long the journey took.

The journey home was as instructive as the booking experience. I learned that Uber takes 20% of the fare, that my fare was a fixed price, and most importantly that the driver was very happy working with such a “professional company” as he called it.

What I know is that Uber worked, brilliantly, and at a price far less than I normally pay for the same service. I don’t think black cabs are being that affected in London, but Addison-Lee and the mini-cab trade in general… be afraid. The pundits are right. Uber is a game-changer.

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The world’s thinnest tablet: the Apple iPad Air 2 – will you be buying one?

Apple made a nod towards tablet pricing pressures with the extended range of iPad Mini’s last week. With Android devices seemingly two a penny and prices falling through the floor, the inclusion of a $249 entry level iPad mini is a smart move. It gets the Mini almost to stocking-filler prices in terms of what Apple previously offered, and it means there is now almost an iPad to suit every pocket.

The launch comes as tablet sales across Europe declined by 10 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2014. Despite iPads making up the majority of 7.9-inch and 9.7-inch tablet sales across Western Europe with 88 per cent and 98 per cent respectively, both models suffered steep declines

There is some savvy thinking going on and you can see the luxury retail brand brainwork in the background. It may not be at the level of an Armani t-shirt, but it’s definitely looking to Armani jeans. Keep the brand exclusive and desirable, but make it a tad more accessible while keeping the halo model reassuringly expensive, just as Apple have done with the new iPad Air 2. Apple last week claimed that it had created the world’s thinnest tablet with the iPad Air 2. Thinner than a pencil at just 6.1mm thick, available in gold colours and featuring a Touch ID sensor built into the home button, it makes a desirable purchase for all existing and future Apple fans.

Just like previous models, the iPad Air 2 will come in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB configurations, priced from £399, £479 and £559 respectively. Pre-orders for the new tablets started last week and Apple said it would be shipping these by end of this week.

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The iPhone 6 and 6Plus – just what we expected and thank goodness we did get the two screen sizes!

It did not start well. I switched on the TV, fired up the Apple TV, and me and my wife settled down with a cool glass of Pino Grigio to watch Tim Cook and gang reveal all at Apple’s Flint Center event.

The broadcast started. But what was that in the background? Simultaneous translations mixed in with Tim Cook’s opening. Bedlam.

I can’t watch this, said my wife, it’s awful.

Suddenly the Apple TV stopped. Black screen and message Content Not Available – Try Again Later. Then a TV test screen appeared, and a few seconds later the broadcast started again, but with the translation. From the beginning.

I dumped my glass of wine and  fired up my iPad mini, got the broadcast going on Safari, but still the multiple sound track. OK, let’s try the big guns, so I junked the iPad and switched on the MacBook Pro.

Same problem.

I’m watching TV, said my wife, this is a total waste of time.

Not the best start to the world’s most anticipated product launch from the world leader in making technology accessible to the masses.

But it was worth the wait and multiple restarts on the live stream. The iPhone 6 and 6Plus – just what we expected and thank goodness we did get the two screen sizes.

Apple Pay, long rumoured but the scope surprises. Getting all the partners lined up is an amazing achievement.

But the jewel in the event’s crown has to be Apple Watch, exceeding all expectations with stunning designs, and the brilliantly simple and elegant Digital Crown controller. The user interface looks easy and intuitive. And what a slam dunk with the three model ranges and optional straps. They have the market covered and at surprisingly accessible price range.

At a stroke Apple have redefined the category, which is what they do best, and just what they needed to do today. Phew!

And I’m joining the queue for the iPhone 6plus, and putting my iPads out to pasture. Can’t wait!

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When I’m 64…

I turned 64 this year and corny as it might sound, I really did listen to myself hum the iconic Beatles song. I remember when it first came out, and it was mind warping to sit back within myself and realise that I was there when the song was created, and had now arrived at a point in my life that I could not even consider when I was in my teens. “Will you still need me”… the catchy tune and poignant phrases are so relevant today as I face moving ever closer to my 70’s, and beyond.

I suppose that must be a bit how Apple could be feeling these days, with the imminent launch of whatever it is they will launch on September 9th, but will probably be the iPhone 6, and if we’re  lucky some game-changing giant-sized iPads, and perhaps even something Apple we can strap to our wrists.

The future, however, is uncertain. It’s one thing to have a single killer product in a relatively new area that you can dominate, than fighting to compete with a host of imitators all doing it at much lower prices, while still searching for the “next big thing”.

In a previous blog I already mused about my future and Tablets: with a larger smartphone screen, will I need the iPad mini or for that matter any iPad at all. As far as new areas go, I think unless a wearable can read your blood pressure and sugar levels and use this to accurately monitor your health in a meaningful way, then I’m not interested in knowing how much I toss and turn at night and how many steps I walked that day.

Yes, September 9th will be a turning point for Apple, there’s no doubt about it. And unless the company can come up with some game-changers, it may not be long before they too might be humming the Beatles song, and wondering how to get people to need them, as they get older.

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