Tuesday, September 9, 2008

* Be Bold, says Research In Motion

RIM has announced the BlackBerry Bold business 3G/Wi-Fi smartphone with twice the screen resolution and a StrongARM processor that's twice the speed of current models. Oh, and a "leather-like" back, apparently. RIM's press release says:Crafted from premium materials, inside and out, that radiate elegance with a dramatic presence, the BlackBerry Bold is designed to give business professionals and power users unprecedented functionality and performance in an intuitive BlackBerry smartphone. It is the first BlackBerry smartphone to support tri-band HSDPA high-speed networks around the world and comes with integrated GPS and Wi-Fi, as well as a rich set of multimedia capabilities. From its lustrous black exterior, satin chrome finished frame and stylish leather-like backplate, to its stunning display, sophisticated user interface and newly designed full-QWERTY keyboard, the BlackBerry Bold smartphone is a symbol of accomplishment and aspiration. . "The new BlackBerry Bold represents a tremendous step forward in business-grade smartphones and lives up to its name with incredible speed, power and functionality, all wrapped in a beautiful and confident design," said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO, Research In Motion. There's also a Flash taster, and Reuters has a story. Laptop has a brief hands on report.................

* Gizmodo says Don't buy an iPhone

This week's Apple iPhone update may have bricked a few hacked phones, but this is the least important part of the problem. What probably upset many more early adopters was the way Apple wiped out their applications, reducing their phones to the "official" software. This sent out a very clear message: The iPhone is for dummies. It's not for gadget freaks, who only represent a tiny minority of the market. The Gizmodo gadget blog has therefore changed its iPhone recommendation to Don't Buy. It says:Screw the unlock for a second. Let's talk about the those third-party apps. While my 4GB iPhone is a brick, and the 8GB phone, which I kept on a totally legit AT&T contract, is now stripped down. Programs like the faux-GPS, IM clients, Flickr Upload, and NES emulator -- what did they ever do but make the iPhone far better than the stock original? They made it far more competitive with open-platform superphones like the Nokia N95, to which I will now be switching.As someone remarks in a comment to the post, Gizmodo has gone from "Jesus Christ himself owned one of these (prove he didn't)" to "It's crap, don't buy it" in the time it took to update firmware.The interesting question is whether Apple cares. It's stopped being a computer company and become a consumer electronics company, and while most computer companies love hackers and geeks, consumer electronics companies hate them. They want absolute control of their products. They don't want people messing them around.In fact, this has always been Steve Jobs's aim. The Apple II -- designed by Steve Wozniak -- was an open system, for its day: it had expansion slots, so you could take the lid off and use it for thousands of applications that Woz had never even imagined. The Mac, developed under Steve Jobs's control, was a closed system. It was intended to be an appliance, like a washing machine, and Jobs quipped that there were no user groups for Maytags. It was only after Jobs was kicked out of Apple that the Mac was opened up with the Mac II, launched in 1987. (The Mac II was like a standard PC: it didn't have a built-in monitor, and it did have expansion slots.)After the Second Coming, when Jobs resumed control of Apple, he dramatically reduced the number of models and launched the iMac. Since then he has consistently moved the Mac line towards locked-down systems more and more like the 1984 original. (You don't like the limited built-in graphics? Tough.)Everything about Steve Jobs's history and character says "it's my way or the highway." He demands absolute control. That hasn't worked very well in the computer industry but it's standard in the mobile phone business. Now Jobs has finally moved into an industry where control freakery is the norm, why would you expect him to give it up?

* When using a mobile can cost your life

With the levels of mobile phone ownership at record highs in the UK, most of us take ownership of a phone for granted. Even when you travel around less wealthy places around the world, the mobile is everywhere - and much more important to many people than computers or internet access.But some places are still a dead zone for the mobile. We've seen recently how the Burmese junta closed down communications, but one prime example is North Korea, where the repressive regime bans mobiles and sends teams to patrol the border with China and catch those who try to use phones illegally.This snippet from military news website Strategy Page has more:North Korean police have increased the use of German cell phone signal detectors, to find and arrest those illegally using cell phones near the Chinese border.It is possible to get a signal there, and the government sees this as a major security leak. People can say whatever they want using Chinese cell phone service, and the government is determined to stop this phone traffic.There are believed to be dozens of the German detectors in use, with teams (consisting of several dozen secret police agents) moving through neighborhoods and hauling away those found with cell phones.Many North Koreans who use mobiles to contact the outside world bury them near the border and make calls at prearranged times (here's an illuminating piece from a couple of years ago). It's sobering stuff.

* Nokia increases market share in mobile phone business

"Worldwide sales of mobile phones to end users in the third quarter of 2007 reached 289 million units, a 15% increase from the same period last year," says Gartner, Inc.Nokia's mobile phone sales to end users totalled 110.2 million units reaching a market share of 38.1% in the third quarter of 2007. This quarter, Nokia not only exhibited the highest year-on-year market share increase, but also raised operating margins thanks to effective cost management and global distribution strategy. This was achieved despite the average price of its phones falling from €90 to €82. Other points to note are the success of the Korean manufacturers, Samsung and LG, and the sad decline of America's Motorola. Gartner says:Motorola's sales into the channel remained weak and, with limited surplus stock, sales to end users were not enough to maintain its No. 2 position. Motorola's market share dropped 7.6 percentage points from the third quarter of 2006, relegating the vendor to the No. 3 position. "Motorola today is a pale version of the company it was a year ago," [Carolina Milanesi, research director for mobile devices research at Gartner] added. Although the Razr2 was well received and accounted for 900,000 of the overall sales, Motorola needs a much stronger portfolio to return to its former market share. Gartner reckons sales of mobile phones in Western Europe reached 47.2 million units, with 45m sold in North America, 24.5m in India and 13.1m in Japan. Average penetration in Western Europe is 115%: everywhere except France, there are more mobile phones than people.

* First real OLPC deployment is in Uruguay

Ivan Krstić reports that "This week, Uruguay became the first-ever real, non-pilot deployment site of OLPC XO laptops. And I was there to hand out the first one." He says:The OLPC deployment here is being run as part of Proyecto Ceibal (Ceibo is the national flower of Uruguay), a presidential initiative to equip each child with a laptop. The Ceibal offices are housed in a Montevideo complex called LATU, or Laboratorio Tecnológico del Uruguay, which is a public/private sector cooperative technical lab now responsible for much of Uruguay's technical certification and quality control programs, as well as serving an incubator role for various engineering and technical projects.

* Nokia is thinking green with Eco Sensor concept phone

Nokia has already done a "greener" phone with the Nokia 3110 Evolve model, but it also has a "futuristic Nokia Eco Sensor Concept" phone, reports Unwired View. It says:Nokia Eco Sensor concept includes a wearable sensor unit that will house a number of optional sensors to monitor environment, health and local weather conditions, a dedicated mobile phone and a set of dedicated mobile software applications and services.The carrying strap made from solar cells will power the sensor unit and all the devices will "talk" to each other via low power near field radio technologies.Concept phones are like concept cars: not designed for production. But the Eco shows the sort of things Nokia is considering for future products. And with the baby boomer population now entering old age, it's probably right on the money with the idea of incorporating health monitoring.

* Celio Redfly a companion for Windows Mobile phones

Celio Corporation has developed a remote display system so you can send the screen of your Windows Mobile phone to a bigger display. It's available for licensing. Now Gizmodo has a photo showing a Redfly Mobile Companion ($499), which provides just such a display, along with a keyboard. What else it provides remains a mystery, but Gizmodo compares it to the Palm Foleo, which was discontinued before it was launched.It will be unveiled at next week's CES so I'll try to track it down and see....As well as Palm's failure, Microsoft proved unable to get Mobile Companion computers to sell a decade ago, and five years ago, Microsoft's Mira project -- like Redfly, but providing a remote display for Windows PCs -- also flopped. So the omens don't sound good.Actually, there's no reason why you can't plug a standard PC keyboard and monitor into a Windows Mobile phone, if the phone supplier provides the sockets or a suitable accessory. Toshiba tried that five years ago with the e740 Pocket PC, and I liked the idea (Super PDA could replace the PC). That also failed to take off.....The ability to operate a mobile phone from a standard Windows laptop might be useful, but it gets less interesting every day, as Wi-Fi becomes more and more widely available.* but I've reduced it from 218K to 37K. Am I behind the times or does size still matter?

* Lies, damn lies, and Steve Jobs keynotes

Apple boss Steve Jobs is the king of snakeoil salesmen, and his Macworld Expo keynote included a great example of manipulation. Check his chart of US Smartphone Marketshare, for example. Yes, the green Apple segment (19.5%) really is bigger than the Other segment (21.2%), which is also out of order, by size.Someone must have figured out that you could make Apple look better by putting it at the front, by tilting the pie chart backwards, and possibly by moving Other. Job is famous for his attention to detail, so did he really not notice? Or did he say: "Hey, great idea"?Another great piece of deception is deciding to illustrate market share by brand. Anybody who wanted an honest appraisal of the market would look at it by operating system, because there are several operating sytems used by many different smartphone suppliers. The leading ones are Symbian, Linux, and Windows Mobile.

* Readius phone with foldaway 5-inch screen

"A Dutch company has squeezed a display the size of two business cards into a gadget no bigger than other mobile phones -- by making a screen that folds up when not in use," reports Reuters.Have a look at the three photos to see how it works.Polymer Vision says the Readius is already in production, but they won't tell you the price.Shiny Shiny has YouTube video of a prototype from last February's 3GSM show.

* HTC Shift ultramobile may reach the UK, at long last

If you have actually been waiting for HTC's take on the ultramobile PC (UMPC) form factor then The Register points out that it "will be available from online retailer Expansys on 19 February, for a device-only price of £885 (€1185/$1720)." Yes, "more than three times the price of an Eee"!The communications features are quad-band GSM/GPRS/Edge, 3G HSDPA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0. If you've forgotten what the "shift" bit is about, the machine has a second processor that provides PDA (ie PocketPC) functions. However, the world of mobile gadgets has changed such a lot in the past year, It has probably missed whatever opportunity it had.

* India's Spice unveils a mobile with a built-in optical drive

In Barcelona, Tech Digest has had a look at Spice's Movie Phone, which is expected to go on sale in India this summer, with photos. Stuart Dredge says:The phone has a 2.8-inch screen, and its headphone jack doubles as a TV-Out port for connecting to a big-screen TV. But it's that optical drive that makes it stand out - you slot the tiny discs into a tray that pops out from the back of the phone - much like loading UMDs into a PSP.You can fit a two-and-a-half hour film onto one of the discs - and a bit more if the compression is tweaked. The 40 films that'll be available at launch are mainly Bollywood movies, and Spice told me they're readying 1,000 more through deals with studios. The films will be sold in mini DVD-like cases for the equivalent of $5.The phone uses the Vmedia disc format (FAQ) with drives developed and manufactured by Panasonic Communications in Japan. The same drives are expected to appear in other phones and small devices, including home players. Longcheer Technology is doing a handset for sale in China. Note: dual layer 2GB discs and recordable drives are on the way.Sure, you can put a movie on an SD card. However, small optical discs can ultimately be manufactured in large volumes for a few pence/cents each.I've pasted a bit of the official press release below:

* Nokia will bring Silverlight to its mobile users

"Nokia today announced plans to make Microsoft Silverlight available for S60 on Symbian OS, the world's leading smartphone software, as well as for Series 40 devices and Nokia Internet tablets. Adding support for Silverlight will extend opportunities for developers to create rich, interactive applications that run on multiple platforms in a consistent and reliable way," it says in a press release.Silverlight is also coming to Windows Mobile (as was revealed last May), but at the moment I don't know what will appear when.

* Flash Lite and Reader LE for Windows Mobile phones

"Adobe Systems Incorporated today announced that Microsoft has licensed Adobe Flash Lite software, Adobe's award-winning Flash Player runtime specifically designed for mobile devices, to enable web browsing of Flash Player compatible content within the Internet Explorer Mobile browser in future versions of Microsoft Windows Mobile phones. Microsoft has also licensed Adobe Reader LE software for viewing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) documents including email attachments and web content. Both Adobe products will be made available to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) worldwide, who license Windows Mobile software," says an Adobe press release.This has been rumoured recently, and now it's confirmed. It would be interesting to know the dynamics of the negotiations, but I imagine Steve Jobs's Adobe-blocking strategy on the iPhone helped.

* Verizon wins in US wireless auction; Google loses

The US government has been auctioning wireless spectrum, which has aroused more interest than usual because Google decided to bid (though, as it turned out, it wasn't bidding to win). Either way, the winners and losers have now been announced. And according to AP:AT&T Inc and Verizon Wireless, the nation's two biggest cell phone carriers, bid a combined $16 billion of the record $19.6 billion pledged in the auction, according to an AP analysis of the results. Verizon Wireless bid $9.4 billion while AT&T Inc bid $6.6 billion.Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture with the UK's Vodaphone Group -- "won nearly every license in the consumer-friendly C block." But not everything went to the titans. AP says: "One new entrant, however, Frontier Wireless LLC, which is owned by EchoStar Communications Inc, won nearly enough licenses to create a nationwide footprint." There's an official statement from the FCC (PDF).A separate AP story says Losing Wireless Battle May Be Google Win, adding:Google arguably would have been in an even better position in the mobile market if it controlled its own wireless network, especially one with the potential power the C block figures to offer. The 700 megahertz spectrum, to become available in February 2009, is expected to provide better wireless access because the frequencies travel long distances and easily penetrate walls.But the time and money that would have had to be invested in the C block probably would have represented another millstone on Google's sagging market value, which has already plunged by $80 billion, or 37 percent, so far this year.

* VistaPerfection for the iPhone

VistaPerfection is an iPhone theme created by Spec Works. Just Another iPhone Blog says: "It's a Summerboard compatible theme that gives your iPhone that unmistakable 'I'm a PC' feel -- and has a very complete set of customization elements." More pictures and installation instructions are at, it could prove popular in the general area of Redmond....

* N-Gage games die with your phone

All About N-Gage says: "This week we had something rather nasty confirmed to us by Nokia: when you upgrade to a new phone, the only way to keep your N-Gage games is to buy them all over again." And as it points out:This is in stark contrast to Nokia's Music Store service, which does let you move your music library to a new phone. Why does Nokia treat a 10 euro album differently to a 10 euro game?The site says: "Nokia's customer care department told us that they can only transfer games if a phone is replaced at a repair centre under the terms of its guarantee. Nokia will not transfer games simply because you've bought a new phone."It is, of course, an anti-piracy measure, but it would obviously be better for users if game code was locked to a user account rather than to a specific phone. Most users change their phone every couple of years.Still, it's a useful reminder that DRM (Digital Rights Management) systems basically mean you have no rights. BBC News has covered the story in Gamer anger at Nokia's 'lock in'.

* Africa goes mobile

Mobile phones charged while you wait (Image courtesy of from its Mobile GalleryAfrica now has 300 million mobile phone subscribers and "a penetration rate fast approaching 30%," according to an article in the latest Receiver, Vodafone's online magazine. Many more people use them, of course, because they work as pay phones. If you need to make a call, you can hail a boda boda. Ken Banks, the author, writes:Mobile phones are attached to bikes (two and three wheelers), and even boats, and taken to where the business is. In Uganda these bikes, known locally as boda bodas, are hooked up with spare batteries and desktop mobile devices to create what are affectionately known as 'Bodafones'. I met the owner of one on Kampala Road last summer, and got talking to him through the universally accepted language of English Premier League football.Some mobile phone functions can be more useful in Africa than Abingdon, such as the ability to work as a torch. Charging phones is more of a problem, though the arrival of cheap solar panels should help solve that.One service that would be (maybe is) useful in the UK is'Call Me', which allows Vodacom subscribers in South Africa to send up to five messages per day, free of charge, requesting a call back from the receiver. Services such as these have emerged in response to consumer behaviour, users who would have previously 'flashed' the person they wished to speak to by ringing their phone once and hanging up. 'Call Me' formalises the process, helps minimise network traffic through fewer prematurely disconnected calls.Most parents with teenagers are probably familiar with the idea.Banks "graduated from Sussex University in Social Anthropology and currently divides his time between Cambridge (UK) and Stanford University in California on a MacArthur Foundation-funded Fellowship". He says:A lot of the research, often the catalyst for these new devices and services, is increasingly led by fellow anthropologists - notably Jonathan Donner at Microsoft Research and Jan Chipchase at Nokia, both of whom spend considerable amounts of their time studying mobile phone use in the field and, in Jan's case, working his way through a fair number of bicycles in the process

* Nokia to buy Symbian, make it open source

Symbian was spun off from Psion as a way of making it independent, and a number of companies own pieces, including Sony Ericsson, Panasonic, Samsung and Siemens. However, Nokia is now offering to buy the 52% of Symbian that it doesn't already own, for €264 million, and says it will make the system open source. Nokia says:The acquisition is a fundamental step in the establishment of the Symbian Foundation, announced today by Nokia, together with AT&T, LG Electronics, Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone. More information about the planned foundation can be found at of the reasons for the move is to "to unite Symbian OS, S60, UIQ and [DoCoMo's] MOAP (S) to create one open mobile software platform."According to Symbian's press release:"Establishing the Foundation is one of the biggest contributions to an open community ever made," said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia. "Nokia is a strong supporter of open platforms and technologies as they give the freedom to build, maintain and evolve applications and services across device segments and offer by far the largest ecosystem, enabling rapid innovation. Today's announcement is a major milestone in our devices software strategy." Symbian is by far the world's leading smart phone software platform, with more than 200 million devices sold. Around 18.5 million were sold in this year's first quarter. The move looks as though it's positioning Symbian to compete against Google's Android, and at the same price: free. However, it's hard to know how much of a threat Android represents when there are no Android phones. Motorola has tried hard, but so far, Linux has been a failure in the mobile phone market.

* World's fastest txter?

The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human."Technology-obsessed Singapore may have claimed a fresh world record Monday for punching in the fastest mobile phone text message after a competition that demanded a flair for dexterity, and considerable geekiness.," reports AP."Student Kimberly Yeo, 23, managed to type a fiendishly complicated 26-word message [above] on her phone in 43.66 seconds, organizer Singapore Telecommunications said in a statement Monday."

* ARM -- The silent monopoly

"Imagine a company that controls more than 80 percent of its segment of the cell phone market and has 40 percent of the digital camera market. Now it wants to expand its reach in consumer electronics. Many would consider it predatory--even a monopolist," says a CNet commentary."Somehow, though, Cambridge, England-based ARM just doesn't give people the willies the same way behemoths like Microsoft or Intel do. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone spouting 'ARM is evil! EVIL!!!' in a chat room."

* BT heads new fixed-mobile alliance

"Six telecommunications giants in Europe, Asia, South and North America have formed an alliance to encourage convergence between mobile and fixed-line services, Switzerland's top operator Swisscom revealed. British Telecom will head the Fixed-Mobile Convergence Alliance (FMCA) in the first year, alongside the Swiss firm, Korea Telecom, Brasil Telecom, Canada's Rogers Wireless, and NTT Communications in Japan, Swisscom said in a statement Wednesday" reports AFP

* 3G iPhone reception problems add to trail of woe

Some people who bought the new iPhone 3G have been complaining about poor 3G performance and lots of dropped calls. When it has problems with the 3G signal, it's supposed to drop back to the 2.5G system (Edge) used by the original iPhone, but it seems it doesn't always work.The complaints are not new -- CNet reported iPhone 3G network issues frustrating early adopters on July 23 -- but they have been growing, and neither Apple nor AT&T seems to have a grip on the problem. This week, CNet reported Apple, AT&T mum on iPhone 3G issues, saying:Repeated attempts over the past week to get Apple and AT&T to even acknowledge the uproar -- if not the issues specifically -- proved pointless. Apple didn't even attempt to answer the questions, deferring inquiries to AT&T, which declared that there were absolutely no widespread problems with the iPhone 3G on its network.Some people think it may be an AT&T problem. In a Wired story -- What's Wrong With the 3G in iPhone 3G? -- David Nowicki from Airvana argues thatwhen AT&T deployed its 3G equipment, the company put it on its existing transmission towers. Those towers were spaced based on the requirements of earlier, 2G technology, which has a longer effective range than 3G. That means that on the edges of any given cell, 3G reception is going to be much worse than comparable 2G or 2.5G (EDGE) reception. However, iPhone users in other countries have also had problems, including Australia. One article there -- iFail: Will Apple be forced to recall the iPhone 3G? -- points out: "my last Nokia was 3G nearly three years ago and worked".In the Netherlands, T-Mobile blames Apple (the original page is here). But if that's true, you can take your pick of the possibilities, which include poor 3G reception (claimed by a Swedish researcher) and faulty chips. The iPhone's 3G problems follow on from the launch activation problems, software problems (apparently fixed by a software update), some GPS issues, the MobileMe cockups, and cracks appearing in some new iPhones.If you have one, how's yours?

* Ofcom reports on how we communicate now

Today, the print Guardian devoted most of page 3 to the new Ofcom report, with a story by Richard Wray that you can read online at How we watch now: tune in, log on, call up.I can't see a link to the original report, but it's The Communications Market 2008 (August).Some of the Telecoms highlights are as follows:* By the end of 2007, there were almost 74 million mobile connections serving a population of 60 million in the UK. This was an increase of 3.7 million connections since the end of 2006. The total number of mobile connections increased by 48 per cent in the five years from 2002.* Seven out of ten people with a mobile phone and a landline use their mobile to make calls, even when they are at home. One in ten people with a landline at home said that they never use it to make calls.* We are a nation of texters. In the UK, nearly 60 billion text messages were sent in 2007 - an increase of 36 per cent since 2006 and up by 234 per cent since 2002 when we sent 17 billion texts. The average mobile phone user sent 67 texts per month from each mobile compared to 53 texts per month in 2006.* The majority of children have access to the internet and most have a mobile phone but they use them in different ways. Boys aged 8-11are twice as likely to use the internet every day than girls of the same age (45 per cent compared to 22 per cent). Meanwhile girls aged 12 -15 are more likely to use a mobile phone than boys of the same age (74 per cent compared to 65 per cent).* Instant messaging is more popular than email amongst children with 62 per cent of 12-15 year old sending an instant message, compared with 43 per cent of them sending an email. Adults prefer to email - 80 per cent of adults sent an email compared to 34 per cent who used instant messaging.You are, of course, welcome to discuss these and other points below....

* Steve Jobs says Apple will fix iPhone app crash bug

Apple Insider reports that one of its readers has received a one-line message from Apple CEO Steve Jobs about iPhone users being locked out of their third-party applications by a crash bug on startup. It says:"This is a known iPhone bug that is being fixed in the next software update in September."

* HTC announces S740 -- a Touch Pro without the Touch

Taiwan's HTC has done well out of making Pocket PCs (eg the Compaq iPaq) and Windows Mobile phones (eg the XDA) for sale under a wide variety of names. Its latest model, the 3G/quadband HTC S740, is aimed at the people who do lots of texting and email on the move. The main feature is a slide-out keyboard that gives you a little machine with a horizontal 2.4 inch screen. It also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, a MicroSD expansion slot, and a 3.2 megapixel camera. The size is 116.3 x 43.4 x 16.3mm, and it weighs 140g.It's basically a slightly-slimmed down version of the HTC Touch Pro, except for not having a touch screen with a TouchFlo interface.HTC reckons it will be available in the UK next month, and doesn't mention a price. However, the SuperGPS shop reckons it's due in October and it's offering the black UK version SIM-free for a penny under £500. Expansys doesn't have a price, but it offers the Touch Pro for slightly less than that. Since you're getting a smaller screen and giving up the touch interface, I'd have thought the HTC S740 needed to be noticeably cheaper. However, some people may think that saving around 2mm of thickness and 25g is worth while.

* UK mobile at a glance

Jack Schofield / Business / Mobile phones ......
Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has launched a consultation on Mobile citizens, mobile consumers (PDF), and if you want to have your say, you have to do it by November 6.
Incidental to this, Ofcom also offers "The mobile sector in 2007 at a glance":*
Number of network operators: 5* Number of mobile connections: 74 million* UK mobile retail revenues: £15.1bn* Number of mobile voice calls: 115.6 minutes per month per subscriber* Number of SMS and MMS messages sent: 59.1bn* Average time spent texting and calling per mobile connection: 10 minutes per dayAverage usage for voice calls, then, is just 3.8 minutes per day....

* Nintendo

"I Nintendo live for ever, or die trying" - Mario Marx.
Poor Nintendo. Those clever little handheld games in the 80s: small, orange, plastic "Game & Watch" devices that opened up like a book. A gorilla threw barrels down at you while you leapt about a beeping LCD world. Then came the NES Game Console, followed by the highly successful Game Boy. After that, things began to go wrong: the Nintendo 64 and its successor, the GameCube, failed to penetrate what was now an enormous market. The oldest video games company of them all was in trouble: Donkey Kong and the Mario Brothers seemed destined to go the way of Atari and Sega, Pong and Sonic the Hedgehog, while the big boys would be left to slug it out with their PlayStations and Xboxes. That was Sony and Microsoft's plan, and no one doubted it would be so. Nintendo, as a games brand, was about as hot as Waddingtons.
And then came its "seventh generation" offerings, the DS and the Wii (pronounced "wee"). The assumption made by Sony and Microsoft was that awesome processing power, state-of-the-art graphics, smooth animation and voluminous storage would make their big beasts market leaders. Nintendo staked all on cheaper devices that stressed a personal relationship between player and machine. The DS was all about a highly portable, stylus-driven environment, while the Wii – well, the Wii changed the rules completely.
The DS and its more streamlined successor, the DS Lite, reached out to women and the middle-aged, and managed to do this without alienating the core gaming audience. Games for teenage girls, games for sudoku-playing commuters, "brain trainer" games for fortysomethings – whole new audiences were being reached, and the units sold in their millions.
My DS Lite is pink. There was so much demand earlier this year that they couldn't be had for bribes, sexual favours or worse. Unless you accepted girly pink. The moment you open it, you are taken back to the old Game & Watch days but can see why the DS has succeeded so well with the middle class, the middle-aged and the Hello Kitty/My Little Strawberry Shortcake Pony set. You set up in a twinkle and then play on two screens, one of which accepts stylus input and touches.
As well as being backwardly compatible with the Game Boy Advance, there are hundreds of DS-specific games to choose from, some available on all platforms, such as Lego Star Wars; others proprietary and particular, such as Mario Kart. Fashion Dogz, Hannah Montana: Music Jam and Imagine Girl Band look after the all-important little girl sector, while Call of Duty, Race Driver: Grid and endless sports implementations show that your classic boy gamer isn't left out either. He will prefer the versions on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, of course, but Nintendo's whole strategy is to encourage crossover. Adults are turned on to the joys of shoot 'em ups and RPGs, the young discover Space Invaders and Scrabble. That's the theory, and more than 100m units sold make it hard to disprove. The DS is nothing like as feature rich as the PlayStation Portable, but it isn't trying to be. The philosophy seems so counterintuitive at first blush: surely today's digital devices demand the Swiss Army knife approach? If the DS has a touch screen, speakers and controls, then it should offer USB connections, AV and HDMI in and out sockets, memory cards, MP3 and movie playback, Wi-Fi and texting. Convergence is all, no? Well, we humans can be so ornery. A simple pocket knife can be more appealing and usable than a bristling Victorinox, and a dedicated little games machine like the DS can engage us far more than the sleek power of the PSP. You can feel admiration and even awe for the big power boxes, but for the DS you feel affection - and that, in marketing terms, is worth a whole heap more.
Next wiik, wii'll take a wii look at Nintendo's other phenomenally successful platform...

* Dork talk

However uninterested you may be in technology, it is likely that you use a voicemail system. If you have a mobile, then it will probably be the one provided as standard by your network. You dial 121, or 123, and dance the ghastly Menu Minuet until you're done. The Apple iPhone has introduced a patented "visual voicemail" system, which presents a list of onscreen messages enabling you to play them in whichever order you like, but for 15 years that has been it so far as innovation goes.
But now we have SpinVox, a most extraordinary service that takes your voice messages, translates them into text and then sends them to you as either email or SMS text message. Or both.
Here's how it goes. I call you up, but you are out, or busy, and I am played your outgoing message: "Yodi, this is Dork Talk Reader, sorry I'se not in, but like leave a message after the tone, innit, and I'll be in your face laters." I leave my message: "Sorry to miss you, darling Dork Talk Reader. Do call back when you have a moment. I have momentous news. I guarantee it will rock the foundations of your world. Toodle-pip." Now, if you, Dork Talk Reader, are a SpinVox subscriber, within minutes or less you will get a text as from my number that looks like this, inverted commas included:
"Sorry to miss you darling dork talk reader. Do call back when you have a moment. I have momentous news. I guarantee it will rock the foundations of your world. Toodle (?) pip" - spoken through SpinVox <*n> where <*n> refers to the number assigned to the message. You can call a SpinVox number (which will replace your old network voicemail number) and press *n to hear my message the old-fashioned way.
What is so magical and satisfying about the whole process is how astonishingly good the SpinVox engine is at rendering into accurate, grammatical, punctuated text even the most slurred, heavily accented or rapid-fire speech. In the example above it questioned the "toodle" but the word is spelt correctly.
Subscription is quick and easy. You are given a new voicemail number, which can replace the old one on your speed dial. One's first use of the system is naturally to try to trap it into mistakes. I caught it rendering Miranda as Meranda - it did at least know it was a proper name, however, for it gave it a capital letter. Happily for the Lynne Trusses among you, the "it's" was correctly rendered, and I have found it spot-on when transliterating phrases like "I've sent a message to their centre where they're collected. Its accuracy is great, it's amazing." It works out the difference between "they're" and "their", and "it's" and "its", and can distinguish by context such homophones as "sent a" and "centre". It even got "He went out into the mist and missed" spot-on. Now that's clever.
It might not immediately strike you as useful, but once you have experienced a day where you don't have to dial in to listen to messages, but can just glance at them, you will never want to go back. After all, the option is still there for listening to the voice. You can trial it for free, and then texts cost between 20p and 30p, according to the package ( Brilliant and British.
Not everything brilliant is British, however. Ever been annoyed about desirable products that are available only in the US? I recommend which ships American goods around the globe. For us there's VAT and import duty, plus the website's handling surcharge, but the dollar still being relatively weak, transactions can work out cheaper as well as making available droolworthy gizmos and doodads that can't be found here. I had a Chumby delivered to my door ( won't deliver outside the US): it's a soft, squashy Wi-Fi internet device that loads customisable widget or gadget style programs. Through it will cost about £120, plus whatever Revenue & Customs adds on. An American would pay the equivalent of £90 - but then, they haven't got the wonder of SpinVox, so nah.

* Can 3's Skype phone ever be a must-have?

I had a cold call from BT recently offering me a cut of £2 a month on my broadband package plus free phone calls at weekends and in the evenings if I signed up for a fresh yearly contract. Since inertia would have made this happen anyway, I signed up. This at least shows that inflation isn't going up everywhere. Thanks to fierce competition, improving technology and the growing influence of "free" or very cheap calls from new web start-ups, telephone inflation is falling. The exception is using data from abroad for music or videos where roaming charges are still usurious.The ultimate vision is of cheap handsets using wireless hotspots to route calls through the internet to anyone in the world with a Wi-Fi connection. And all for free after paying a monthly fee to an internet service provider. This is already possible with some phones. The snag is that, like fax machines, it is not much use having one until everyone you want to talk to has one as well.There is an added problem. Skype is the runaway success of web telephony, even though it is mainly used for calls between computer users. It is free for all basic voice and video uses, but is proprietary and so far can't communicate with rivals using open standards such as Truphone, the first web phone company to put an app on Apple's iPhone.Truphone is impressive, but I also have a soft spot for 3's Skype phone, which is the only phone so far that employs Skype technology. This is because when I first tried it a year or two ago it worked straight out of the box, which hasn't happened with any other web phone - though they are getting better. Once I had typed in my login, all my existing Skype contacts (which are stored on the web) were on the screen and I had an hour's free chat with a friend using Skype from his computer.I had a similar experience with 3's new Skype phone, which hits the shops this week. It employs 3's global 3G network to originate and terminate calls while using the Skype network to route them around the world. This means that if you have a family scattered around the world - or run a small business - you could buy everyone a Skype phone for Christmas and gossip almost endlessly for nothing without needing Wi-Fi.The cost is only £69 for the handset - plus, if you want to use the Skype facility, a pay-as-you-go tariff of £10 a month. Not bad. The phone can also be used as a modem (or dongle) automatically by attaching a cable from it to the USB port of your laptop (PCs only) so you could use your computer abroad without incurring those ludicrous roaming charges.Other functions are also easy to use. A single button on the right side of the handset activates a "carousel" of services on the screen such as Google, web feeds, Facebook (which worked well), messages plus a "Quicklinks" button giving access to more sites from eBay to the BBC or music. There is a 3.2 megapixel camera and media player all packed into a device weighing less than 100g.Niggles? The keyboard didn't suit my fingers and it was tricky to bookmark new sites - not that you need them with so many embedded - and it takes at least six separate clicks to send each photo to a laptop via Bluetooth. But these are small gripes when you remind yourself that it costs only £69 outright (or free on a contract).Sales of 3's first model have been expanding fast from a small base, but are still only a bit over 100,000 units - a minnow in an ocean of giant fish. It is hoping that word of mouth will eventually propel it to a tipping point where people want to get one because their friends have one. This is a very tough market to crack, but it is a very cost-effective product. It would be a tragedy, however, if we end up with two competing systems - Skype versus all the non-proprietary ones - which don't talk to each other.

* Richard Wray,

Richard Wray,
Philip Makinson, at industry experts Greenwich Consulting, said mobile wallets had fallen down in the past because of the number of people needed to make any system viable.
"It requires cooperation, not just between handset manufacturers and network operators but third parties such as Visa or Mastercard and banks and retailers. To reach critical mass you really need to have at least three of the big operators to be involved or there is not enough in it for the likes of Transport for London or Nokia," said Makinson.
Several of the UK's five mobile phone networks are understood to be interested in mobile wallets.
"There does seem to be consumer demand for it, people are saying they want to carry less stuff around with them," said Makinson.
The results of the O2 trial show that people like using a mobile phone to do more than send texts and talk.
Nine out of 10 of O2's testers were happy using NFC technology, with convenience, ease of use and the status of having such an innovative device cited as benefits of the service.
Top of the testers' wish list was using their mobile phone as an Oyster card, with 89% saying they would use it. The trial showed that having Oyster on a mobile phone led users to make more journeys on public transport.
More than one in five who used pay-as-you-go Oyster on their mobile phone reported that they made more journeys on public transport during the trial. More than two-thirds of users said they found it more convenient to use their phone than a standard Oyster card.
More than two-thirds of testers also said they would be interested in having the Barclaycard Visa payWave feature on their mobile.
Crucially for Nokia, the world's largest handset maker and one of the companies involved in the trial, 87% of the testers said the ability to use Oyster on a mobile phone was likely to influence their choice of phone

* NEW YORK (Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) is seeing some signs that customers are slower to upgrade their mobile phones than before, Chief Executive Paul Jacobs said on Wednesday in an interview with cable television network CNBC."We're seeing some evidence there's a lengthening of replacement cycles," Jacobs said, explaining that customers appeared to be holding onto their phones for longer in developed markets such as Japan and South Korea.Jacobs said consumers tend to keep the same phone anywhere from a year to two years depending on the region.(Reporting by Sinead Carew, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)