Mobile World Congress under way – phablet anyone?

Today’s Slaw post:

The wireless industry has a trade show this time each year in Barcelona.  Cellphone manufacturers announce their newest tech at the show. 

Phablets are a big trend.  Several are included in this CNET slideshow of phones that were introduced.  Phablets are smartphones with screens between 5 and 7 inches that are half way between a phone and tablet.  So think of them as either smartphones with huge screens – or small tablets that can make phone calls.

Many people ridicule phablets by saying that you would look stupid holding it up to your ear to make a phone call.  But the reality is that (a) a significant number of smartphone users don’t use them for voice much, and (b) it is easy to use them as a speaker phone or a Bluetooth or wired headset if you want to make a call.  There may indeed be a significant market for phablets for those who don’t want to carry around both a full size tablet and a smartphone.

This year included the announcement of new  operating systems.  With the hold that Apple, Android, Blackberry and Microsoft have on phone OS’s, that may be a tough sell.

Digital shift puts analogue in museums

For the London Free Press – February 25, 2013 – Read this at

Over the last decade, we have been in the midst of an extraordinary technological revolution: the switch from analogue to digital.

Though this shift has been rapid, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology and devices that are bound to change our lives.

A few short years ago, it was unthinkable that every household would not have a landline telephone. Now, the landline represents one of the final staples of the analogue world. It’s likely that no one under the age of 25 will ever have one.

In the corporate world, desktop phones are facing the same doomed fate as companies try to become more efficient and productive. The use of programs such as Skype for long distance telephony is one example.

Traditional business phone technology suppliers are being replaced in the digital world by companies such as Microsoft, whose Lync product offers integration of traditional phone use with other platforms such as e-mail and document management systems.

The shift from analogue to digital television appears to be almost complete. Big box tube TV’s and rabbit ears have been replaced by sleek and thin HDTVs and PVRs, giving the consumer access to hundreds of channels and endless content on demand.

With the possibilities offered on the Internet, these changes have forced traditional telephone and TV providers to increase their investment from not only controlling the distribution of content but to owning and controlling the content itself. For example, two of Canada’s biggest corporate rivals, Bell and Rogers, did the once unthinkable and became partners in the ownership of the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The move to digital has led to possibilities such as unified communications where different communication modes can be consolidated on almost any platform in almost any location using a myriad of different devices.

Consumers are starting to expect that if they purchase certain content it be freely available on all of their devices. For example, movie fans who subscribe to Netflix or hockey fans that subscribe to the NHL’s Gamecentre Live expect to be able to access these services at anytime and anywhere whether it’s on their televisions, computers, tablets, cellphones, or gaming devices (such as PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii).

The Internet of things will mean more devices will talk to us and with each other. And wearable computing is here — such as the Pebble watch, and Google’s project glass.

The Pebble Watch is a ground-breaking device that uses interface of a wristwatch as a control and display device for a smart phone. Google’s Project Glass will integrate smartphone technology into eye wear and operate through voice commands.

The digital revolution is still in its infancy. More interoperability and uses will develop The direction communication and the consumption of information and entertainment will take is clear — but details are not.

How not to demo your product to a law firm

Today’s Slaw post:

I was involved recently in a demo of a product that a vendor was trying to sell to our firm.  I won’t identify the product or vendor, because this is not about the product itself.  The vendor did two things that did more harm than good.

The first problem was the vendor’s approach.  They were quite proud of the product, and launched directly into its advanced and cutting edge features.  But they ignored the basics.  So anyone observing the demo who was skeptical of the product in the first place, or not comfortable with change, or felt the cutting edge features were not necessary would be turned off right from the start.

A much more effective approach would have been to start with: “Our product has some advanced features that can make your practice easier and more efficient, but let’s start with the basic functions to show how easy it is to use every day.” 

The second problem was that the demo was done in part by a person who used their computer to remotely control a second computer that contained the software being demoed.  That technology works, but is never as efficient as using the computer directly.  So delays and glitches caused by the remote aspect are perceived to be problems with the product.

Blackberry fans rejoice

Todays’ Slaw post

As you are no doubt aware,  RIM Blackberry finally brought its new operating system and a new phone to market this week.  The first phone, the Z10 does not have a keyboard – a first for Blackberry. 

So will this save Blackberry?  My take on early reviews is that Blackberry fans will like the new phones, and they will probably result in fewer people trading for iPhones, Android phones or Windows phones when their Blackberry terms expire.  But it probably won’t result in a mass of people giving up their iPhones, Android phones or Windows phones for a Blackberry.

The practical reality is that all 4 of these smartphone platforms are good products.  Phone buyers tend to be passionate about their brands, and often somewhat irrational in their decision making.  The best phone always doesn’t win. For example, the new Windows phones are very highly rated but don’t seem to get the attention they deserve.  Some people make a big deal about the number of available apps for particular types – but the real issue is whether the right apps are available to suit your needs. 

For Blackberry’s sake, I hope this does mark a turnaround.

For the record, I have an Android phone, an iPad, and use Windows systems both at work and at home.

Is a smartwatch in your future?

My latest Slaw post:

Many people don’t bother wearing watches any more because its so easy to check the time on our phones.  But that may change as watches move from just telling time to being a display device that works with our phones.  A Datamation article entitled 5 Tech Trends That Will Bring Back the Wristwatch explains why.

The 5 trends:

  • Multi-screen functionality where devices work together
  • Wearable computing
  • Voice interaction
  • eInk displays that are thin and consume very little power
  • Bluetooth 4.0 that consumes very little power

See, for example, the Pebble watch, a Kickstarter project that is now shipping.  I’ll take a black one, please.

CES this week

Today’s Slaw post:

The Annual Consumer Electronics Show is underway in Las Vegas.  Despite some commentary that the show is old or outdated, it occupies floor space equivalent to 393 basketball courts and attracts 150,000 people. 

The tech press, such as CNET, is of course there in droves. 

Some of the interesting things so far include:

Laptops that convert, flip, slide roll, …

Next generation Intel chips that boost ultrabook performance and battery life

Massive 4K (very high resolution) TVs

Flexible screens

Internet of Things gadget makers announced the creation of the Internet of Things Consortium to promote their emerging industry and discuss best practices.

Continued movement towards the smart home and smart TV

3D printers

A 1 TB flashdrive


Gadget Nirvana

My latest Slaw post:

Apple announced a new iPad mini yesterday as expected, along with upgrades to several other products. Surprisingly, an iPad 4 is now available, just a few short months after the iPad 3 was introduced. Apple is a master of innovation and marketing, and somehow manages to make evolutionary changes to its products seem revolutionary.

But they are not the only game in town.

Microsoft has an event on Oct 25 to launch its Surface tablet, on Oct 26 to launch Windows 8, and on Oct 29 to launch Windows Phone 8. Early reviews show they are solid products. I find these new Microsoft products interesting. The Surface tablet has a lot of features that will make it easier and more seamless to use than an iPad. Corporate IT departments will love them. But iPad users may be slow to switch, as many of the apps we use with the iPad are not yet available. For example, iPad users using apps like pressreader, newsstand or flipboard won’t switch until those are available for Microsoft products.

Not to be outdone, Google also has an event on Oct 29 where it is expected to launch its next generation Nexus smartphone, new tablets, and an update to its latest Jelly Bean software.

For the record, I use Microsoft PC’s, an iPad, and a Google Nexus phone. They are all good products, even though each one has subtle advantages and disadvantages. Each one also has its fans and detractors to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to know how realistic either positive or negative reviews are. For example, there has been some criticism that the Windows 8 surface RT tablet operating system won’t run full office software – just pared down versions. But that is the nature of the tablet beast – and is the same approach taken by Apple and Google.

Apple announces iPhone5

Today’s Slaw post:

Apple just announced the new iPhone 5. Some of the features Apple is touting:

Thinner and lighter – apparently the world’s thinnest smartphone. A bit taller than before, which give a bigger screen (close to 16:9)and better colour. Apps designed for the current screen size will be letterboxed like a TV.

It includes LTE for most major US and Canadian telcos. (Apparently no NFC, though.)

It has a new, faster, more energy efficient CPU (the A6), and longer battery life.

Of course an improved camera.

Enhanced audio.

A new, smaller “Lightning” connecter replaces the current Apple connector. (It’s about time. They will no doubt make a lot of money selling adapters.)

New iOS6 operating system, including updated Siri voice command.

Comes in black and white.

Price the same as for the 4s.

Pre-orders start Friday. Shipping on Sept 21 in US, Canada, and several other countries.

On Sept 19, iOS6 available for iPad and iPhone 4

For more detail and commentary, check out the tech press, including and

No doubt Apple will sell the iPhone 5 in huge numbers. But the competition is fierce, particularly with the latest Android Jelly Bean OS phones, and the new Windows 8 phones.

Just for the record, I’m sticking with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus for now – even though it is extremely frustrating that the Jelly Bean OS has not been pushed out to it it. (Apparently that is a Samsung issue, not a carrier issue.) Apple has set the expectation that new OSs will be available for existing devices at the same time they are released to new devices. That’s something that Apple’s competitors have not yet got right.

Phone & tablet wars continue

My latest Slaw post:

Apple fans will already know that Apple has scheduled an event for next Wednesday. While Apple did not specifically mention the iPhone 5, it is rather obvious from the invitation.

Rumour has it that the iPhone 5 will be available September 21.

This comes on the heels of the jury decision in the US that awarded Apple a billion (yes, that’s a “b”) dollars in damages against Samsung for violating Apple patents. No word yet on whether it will be appealed, but given the amount of the damage award, and what the decision could mean for the future of Android phones, it would be surprising if it is not.

No matter how that shakes out, though, Android phones will survive and thrive.

The phone and tablet market is not just an Apple v Android race. Microsoft’s new Surface / Windows 8 products will be a compelling choice, especially for business use. Windows 8 hardware will blur the line between tablets and notebooks. Microsoft’s goal is to bring a similar look, feel, and experience accross all devices, whether it be a phone, tablet, notebook, or desktop. Windows 8 products are coming to market in late October.

The good news for consumers and business is that competition in this market is alive and well, and the technology keeps improving. Each has its fans and detractors, and each has pros and cons for different situations – but none of these are bad choices.

Wearable computers, augmented reality, and gesture control

My Slaw post for today:

On average, the typical lawyer does not use cutting edge technology, and even if we do have the latest smartphone or tablet, we generally don’t push the envelope for its use. It is worthwhile though (at least for those of us who might be described as tech geeks) to think about how we might better use the tech we have now, and what might lie ahead. For example:

Microsoft announced in November a modified version of the Kinect that is designed to work with PC’s, rather than the XBox. So Minority Report like gesture control can now be used, for example, to control presnentations in a board room or conference hall.

The New York Times reported yesterday some speculation that Google might be working on Google glasses for sale later this year. The concept is that the glasses will provide a display to stream information to the wearer’s eyes. And its not just a display. It is rumoured to include data connections, sensors, a camera and GPS – essentially a smartphone in a pair of glasses. For a taste of what this might do, take a look at Google Goggles.