Google Is 7; Asteriod Impacts; Blackberry 8700 – A Teenage Tech News Review

Google's Seventh BirthdayHappy Birthday!
Here’s a news item that probably slipped through the mesh, as it was quite low-key: Google is now 7 years old! This came as a bit of a shock to me in a way, and it probably will to you too: Nowadays, I would find it impossible to live and work as I do without Google. In fact, this one corporation has a pretty good monpoly on my life. I use Google on my mobile to find anything from street directions to the meaning of the word “vehement”. I get my email from them, and of course I use it to browse the Internet. It’s hard for me to imagine, then, that seven years ago, people managed to survive without Google.

Google as it was seven years agoI found a screenshot of what Google used to look like on the Internet archive, and although it does obviously look a little old-school, it’s still much the same interface-wise as it is today:

That was at a time when Google was still hosted on the Stanford University servers and had a staff of two. All I can say is that they’ve come a long way.

For me, this is a reminder that I am a part of the generation that has grown up at the same time as consumer technology: The children of tomorrow will grow up taking things like Google and the Internet for granted, and will never be able to experience a world without technology, and so will never fully appreciate it. I personally don’t think that technology will continue to evolve as fast as it has done so far, simply because I don’t think that there is anywhere for it to go. Off the top of my head, there isn’t anything that I can think of that I would really like, but can’t have, because it’s simply not technically possible. Still, time will tell, and I suppose in 70 years time I will be the one saying to a group of grandchildren while they mock me: “In my day, we had to look through books to find what we wanted you know!”

There’s a fascinating history of Google available on their corporate history page here.

Asteroid impactIt’s in Space, it’s got to be cool. Oh, actually, no nukes, so forget it
In a development reminiscent of the movie Deep Impact”, scientists have revealed a few ideas about what to do in case of an imminent asteroid impact. Their ideas just aren’t as cool as those in the movie though in my opinion: I mean, come on, you need a few nukes in there to make it look cool! Ah well, never mind, I just hope that in case of there being any danger of an impact, the scientists responsible will find some way of saving us. There have, afterall, been a fair few objects that have come close in history, and the dinosaurs can surely (or rather not) testify that sometimes, these things do actually hit Earth.

The new Blackberry 8700“Batman’s Blackberry”, but I still want one!
The story on the new Blackberry 8700, due to be released “in the neighborhood of December of this year or very early 2006,” hit this week. Having previously reviewed a Blackberry 7100v, I am very keen to have a play with the new phone. Apparently, it sports a 312mhz processor, which will hopefully make the browser a viable option for browsing anything but the most minimal of Web pages. We shall see, now all I have to do is get my hands on one ;-)

Admittedly, the styling does remind one of a phone tailor-made for Batman, but then it’s kinda cool anyway, and the screen looks like it’s going to be great! The screens on the 7100 and the 7200 were already some of the best seen on mobile phones, and so I have high hopes for the 8700. I bet Robin’s already got one, lucky sod! The rest of us will have to wait until December.

Playstation: Emmy Awarded

Playstation Emmy AwardedSony’s Playstation has been awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Technology and Advanced New Media for pioneering the 3D polygonal-based gaming experience, by the US National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS).

Now for those who don’t know, there are a ton of Emmys – and why not. The entertainment industry is not only massive and expanding, but there are a huge number of people involved in the creation process, many of whom would go unnoticed without awards like this by those outside the industry, as so much attention is paid to those who appear on screen. The PlayStation’s award falls under the Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards, being presented in Princeton today.

Playstation Emmy AwardedYou can imagine that the awarding of this will make steam come out of the ears of those on the Xbox team at Microsoft

“Emerging technologies in digital media play an important role in the way in which people consume in-home entertainment, and gaming in particular has been a consistent source of innovation in recent years,” said Seth Haberman, Chair of Video Gaming and Technology Awards panel for NATAS. “We felt that the advent of PlayStation exemplified a significant shift in the direction of the gaming and are pleased to recognize Sony Computer Entertainment for its contribution.”

Many of those who’ve been playing games on the PS & PS2 will wonder why it’s taken so long for something as significant as the Playstation to come to the attention of this Academy. The PS is, after all, ten years old.

Playstation Emmy AwardedIs it only the cynical that would think that the timing of this award has anything to do with the wider entertainment business (read film) getting more closely involved with creation of film license games? Or even that they’ve finally woken up to the fact that the amount of money spent on video games out-sizes that spent on film.

Our long held view is that both TV and film are in big trouble when games develop to the point where their characters are given ‘back stories’ and the intelligence to apply them to during interaction in game play. Why would you want to watch TV when you could be in it?

A big congrats to all those involved in the creation of the Playstation. Ken Kutaragi must be a very happy man.

Mobile TV’s Business Case Yet To Be Proven

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVIndustry experts at the inaugural mobile TV show in London today couldn’t agree on the best way forward for this emerging technology.

After two days of debate, the jury’s still out.

While yesterday’s event focused on infrastructure, today’s focused on content, and how to pay for it.

Claire Tavernier, Fremantle Media, (pictured right) thought it most likely that content producers would launch their own channels rather than go with pay-per-view clips or advertiser-funded models.

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVHyacinth Nwana, (pictured left) speaking for Arqiva, and Jeremy Wright of Enpocket, both saw advertiser funded content – whether programming or entertaining video ‘spots’ – to be the key driver.

Riccardo Donato, Channel 4, said the broadcaster was hedging its bets, with branded content available via both mobile operators’ portals and Channel 4’s own ‘off-portal’ wap site.

Some speakers reported on recent trials.

Business case yet to be proven for mobile TVEirik Solheim of Finnish state broadcaster NRK, (pictured right) said their mobile TV trials had seen some success with pay-per-view.

BT Livetime’s Emma Lloyd, whose ongoing trials with Virgin Mobile and Digital One started in July, said peak consumption came when participants travelled to and from work (not surprisingly). Users were watching an average 10-15 minutes per sessions.

It was revelaing that throughout a day filled with many case studies, not a single speaker would reveal revenue figures.

Clearly it’s early days in this fledgling industry, but with such shyness of the financials, it doesn’t bode well.

Samsung Go Memory Mad, Investing $33Bn

Samsung Go Memory Mad To Invest $33BnBlimey, Samsung have announced that they are planning to invest $33 Billion in memory chip production over the next 7 years, Reuters is reporting.

By expanding its production lines in its main semiconductor fabrication site near Kiheung, and its seperate site at its Hwaseong semiconductor plant, by eight fab lines and one R&D, it should reach its target by 2012.

Samsung currently a major supplier of memory chips to much of the industry including Apple, for their iPod, Sony Corp.’s PlayStation Portable and Dell. This move marks confidence in their increase in demand as more devices become user memory storage over hard disc.

Samsung Go Memory Mad To Invest $33BnEarlier this month Samsung got a lot of attention when they announced a 16G-bit NAND flash memory chip that will lead to removable memory cards of up to 32Gb, when 16 of them are gathered on a single card.

Samsung originally entered the semiconductor business in 1974, and with this move they are hoping to reach $61 billion earnings from total semiconductor sales by 2012.

Reuters report

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TV

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVThe UK production and development community is in danger of losing out to competition from overseas if it doesn’t wake up to the potential of mobile TV, said Mark Selby, Nokia’s Global Vice President for Multimedia, (pictured right) at the inaugural Mobile TV forum in London today.

“There is already activity in many other markets,” he said. “The UK is perceived as a technology capital by the rest of Europe, but it could lose this advantage. Its approach to mobile TV is being seen as luddite.”

Nokia has staked its claim on DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting for Handhelds) as the best technology for future delivery of mobile TV services. DVB-H is a one-to-many technology; it’s cost effective and provides what could be seen as highly attractive content to consumers (ie. like existing broadcast TV channels).

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVBut many claimed that the lack of spectrum is holding DVB-H back in the UK.

David Harrison, senior technology advisor at Ofcom, (pictured left) also speaking at today’s conference, confirmed that no new spectrum would begin to be available until the start of analogue switch-off in 2008. [Ed: Following that they’re keen on a spectrum auction, see below for further information on their current proposal]

Harrison’s comments left the floor wide open for Glyn Jones, Operations Director, Digital One, (pictured below right) to remind the audience that there is an alternative to DVB-H – Digital Multimedia Broadcast (DMB). There’s no coincidence about his comments – Digital One owns the spectrum for it.

UK Risks Being Left Behind In Mobile TVDigital One owns the UK’s only nationwide commercial DAB multiplex – but the capacity allocated for DMB is minimal.

The word in the halls over coffee was that recent events such as London winning the 2012 Olympics and the London tube bombings, are causing the UK Government to re-think its mobile TV strategy. Mobile TV could have a positive use in mass crowd control, telling people what to do should another terrorist attack happen.

In the next 12 months, Nokia will be hoping for a change in policy.

Spectrum Framework Review: Implementation Plan – Interim Statement
Digital One

Lumix LX1 Goes On Sale … Or Does It?

Noon: Panasonic Lumix LX1 Goes On SaleBibs were hastily donned to soak up the undignified rivers of drooling dribble that appeared in the office when Panasonic first announced the latest addition to their high quality Lumix digital camera range, the LX1, back in July.

It wasn’t just the stunning looks, manual control, image stabilisation and crisp wide-angle 4X Leica zoom lens that set our saliva organs into ungainly overdrive – we loved the fact that this was the first camera to feature a 16:9 aspect ratio, using the full 8.4-megapixel sensor.

The 16:9 aspect ratio closely approximates the natural wide field of view of the human eye meaning its dimensions will fill a widescreen TV perfectly.

Noon: Panasonic Lumix LX1 Goes On SaleThe camera can also shoot in 3:2 and the more conventional 4:3 aspect ratio, with a switch on the lens barrel making it easy to switch to the format best suited for the composition on a shot-by-shot basis.

Boasting an impressively wide zoom range of 28 mm to 112 mm (35mm equiv), the LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens should prove ideal for indoor photography, architectural and landscape shots.

Recovering alcoholics and compulsive wobblers will love the optical stabilization system (OIS) that does a great job of steadying the camera at slow shutter speeds and producing sharp images where other cameras would fail.

Noon: Panasonic Lumix LX1 Goes On SaleIt’s no mean feat to fit an effective stabilisation system into a 4.2 by 2.2 by 1.4 inches camera, and users should find it an invaluable feature for low light photography – small cameras can be notoriously hard to hold steady at slow shutter speeds.

As well as a comprehensive selection of 14 scene modes, there’s manual controls offering a choice of apertures between f/2.8 and f/8 (adjustable in 1/3-stop increments) at the wide-angle position and f/4.9 to f/8 at the telephoto end.

Shutter speeds can be selected from 8 seconds to 1/2,000 second (60 seconds to 1/2,000 second in manual mode).

Noon: Panasonic Lumix LX1 Goes On SaleSensitivity can be set to ISO 80, 100, 200, or 400, with the built in pop-up flash offering coverage up to 13.1 feet in wide-angle mode and 7.5 feet at the telephoto position.

Photo enthusiasts will appreciate the manual focus feature which uses a joystick to fine-tune focus on an enlarged portion of the image, with the same joystick being used to change shutter speed and aperture in manual or shutter/aperture priority mode.

In line with its high end aspirations, images can be saved in JPEG (choice of two compression ratios), TIFF and raw file formats.

Noon: Panasonic Lumix LX1 Goes On SaleThe Leica lens can focus down to two inches in macro modem with focus switchable from spot to single-point, three-point, or nine-point autofocus zones.

For manual and automatic shooting, there’s evaluative, centre-weighted and spot metering available.

Wannabe Spielberg’s will be tempted by the camera’s particularly impressive movie mode, offering an astonishing ultra-high-quality 16:19 Wide VGA film-clip capability, capturing 848×480 sound movies at a smooth 30fps.

Sadly, there’s no optical viewfinder on offer, so all framing and viewing of images – and camera fine tuning – is taken care of via the a sharp and bright 207k 2.5-inch LCD on the back panel.

Noon: Panasonic Lumix LX1 Goes On SaleIn shooting mode, this presents a wealth of optional information including a handy alignment grid dividing the screen into vertical and horizontal thirds.

With its beautiful looks, enthusiast pleasing feature set, world’s first 16:9 aspect ratio and pin-sharp Leica lens, Panasonic look to be on to an absolute winner here – but where is the thing?

Apart from a few, quickly scooped-up, silver versions of the camera appearing online and in central London, most stores are reporting that they are “awaiting stock”, with no news of the drop-dead gorgeous black version that we’re keen to get our paws on.

A few reviews have cropped up on the web – usually in strange languages – with the excellent offering some pre-production samples that looked mighty fine to our eyes

Worryingly, a promised review on has been “delayed due to technical difficulties” – or, as the author explains elsewhere – because the camera “kicked the bucket.”

We hope that that these problems are just pre-production glitches because we’ve rarely seen such a tempting looking camera.

As soon as we get our hands on one, we’ll have a review for you. Soon, we hope!

Lumix LX1

Call forwarding and more added to PC Skype v1.4

Call forwarding and more added to PC Skype v1.4Skype has today announced a new version of their Windows release of Skype.For the first time, several more functions are added to make Skype both a more serious communication tool, and at the same time, more frivolous.First the serious side. v1.4, which has been in beta since August, includes call forwarding for when you aren’t sitting by your computer, or if you’re a little more advanced, you’ve dropped out of WiFi range on your handheld version. If Skype finds you unreachable, you can set it to forward your calls to up to three landlines, or mobiles. The forwarding for the person initiating the call is free, with the Skype user paying for the privilege from their SkypeOut minutes.We see the Real Excitement is around the ability to forward calls from one Skype ID to another, giving the ability to have more than one Skype ID. Until now this had to be handled by all sorts of complexity of running two versions, separate from each other. Calls forwarded to another Skype ID are free.What the significance of the whole of Call Forwarding? Your SkypeIn number, or Skype ID becomes your first point of contact, something we’ve seen before with Unified Messaging (UM). UM didn’t set the world alight when it came to techy attention 2-3 years ago, but Skype has timed this perfectly, realising that people are now ready.Call forwarding and more added to PC Skype v1.4Personalisation
Personalise Skype allows, in Skype’s words, “callers to easily express themselves with original pictures, sounds and ringtones for as little as 1 euro ($1.20).” Quite why people need to fall back on pictures, sounds and ringtones to express themselves on a service that is all about communication is a little beyond us. Perhaps we’re not the target market.We suspect the allure of the global ringtone market being forecasted to grow to $5.2 billion in 2006, and ringtones now accounting for over 10% of the $32.3 billion worldwide music market (Arc Group) gives us a strong clue as to the reason it’s being offered.We’ve had a good look over the new version of the software and can’t find out where Personalise Skype is configured. Perhaps they’re bringing it on later.Quite how this will work will the add-on handsets that are currently on the market is unclear, but we suspect they will continue to have a single tone to alert of all calls.Call forwarding and more added to PC Skype v1.4Skype users love it
Skype has taken this release to tell the world how much Skype users love it, and how frequently they call on it. The figures, from an unnamed, independent study, are as follows

Skype is used once or several times a day by 76% of its callers, far surpassing the usage levels of traditional IM-based voice calling services. Callers also recognized Skype’s leadership in sound quality – 72% of Skype users consider call quality to be good to excellent. Skype callers are more international, with 85% communicating with people living abroad. Skype’s broad base of early adopters are eager to embrace new features, with 79% interested or very interested in receiving calls from landlines, and 73% interested or very interested in adopting call forwarding, key innovations unique to Skype.

Other goodies
We’ve noticed a couple of other additions, not highlighted by Skype themselves. A marketing line appearing on the Skype player just above the box to type in phone numbers has appeared. And a feature previously achieved via a plug-in has hit the main product – Auto pause for music playing on WinAmp appears – we don’t recall seeing previously.As the world-and-his-wife knows, Skype sold to eBay recently for a _huge_ amount of money.Strangely, when we first clicked on ‘Check for Updates’ on one of our copies of PC Skype, we received the message that we had the latest, despite it running v1.3x. Checking again later we were offered looks like another serious upgrade to the Skype family. Another step forward to world domination.Skype

SanDisk ‘Gruvi’ TrustedFlash: Content On Memory Carts

SanDisk 'Gruvi' TrustedFlash: Content On Memory CartsSanDisk have unveiled their “fingernail-sized” new TrustedFlash cards, a technology that embeds Digital Rights Management (DRM) and decryption technology into memory cards, and also includes a subscription manager enabling the cards to be used for digital subscription music services.

Speaking at the CTIA Wireless show, SanDisk Chief Executive Eli Harar said, “We think this will be a disruptive technology, but will enable a whole new world of opportunities in the mobile market.”

“Today content is locked to play back on one device. Now we have the freedom to enjoy content on whatever device consumers want to use,” he added.

Harar stated that the TrustedFlash card would act like current SD cards, with the technology able to be extend into on-demand content such as feature films and online games.

Despite their speck-like proportions – a mere 18 mm long and 2g in weight – the cards can offer enough storage space to hold thousands of DRM-protected MP3, films, photographs or games.

The “Gruvi” (what?!) cards use the micro SD card interface so they can be slotted into mobile phones, GPS devices, MP3 players and computers.

Users of the card could, for example, buy a video online, view it on their home PC, save it to the TrustedFlash card and then slap the card into their PDA/smartphone for watching on the move later.

SanDisk 'Gruvi' TrustedFlash: Content On Memory CartsSanDisk are also hoping that content providers like music companies, film suppliers and mapping data companies will ship preloaded Gruvi cards with the content protected against copying by TrustedFlash.

The first batch of cards using TrustedFlash will be preloaded with the Rolling Stones’ new CD “A Bigger Bang,” due for a November release with the 265MB card costing $39.95 (£22, €33) – What?!? How Much?!?

The Stones’ release will also hold four additional albums that can be unlocked for an extra fee.

SanDisk hopes that the new cards – expected in the UK by Christmas – will eventually reduce the costs of buying music.

Pedro Vargas, SanDisk’s director of mobile entertainment, said that the price was justified by the extra capacity and flexibility on offer, and that he expected prices to drop over time.

In the future, the cards could be used to play content from subscription music services such as Yahoo Music and Napster.

Subscribers could download the DRM-protected songs onto the chip and play them back on any suitably equipped MP3 player, with the DRM continually checking the subscription status (so if the subscriber hasn’t kept up with their payments – whoosh! – no more music!)

SanDisk are producing the new cards in capacities ranging from 256MB to 4GB and expect them to debut in October followed by a complete rollout to be completed by March 2006.


BT’s IPTV To Launch Summer 2006

IPTV To Launch Within Year: Enhanced TV ShowBT will roll out IPTV in ‘late summer 2006’, according to Andrew Burke, CEO, BT Entertainment, (pictured right) speaking at the Enhanced TV Show in London today.

Developed in partnership with Microsoft, BT’s new set-top box technology will combine a digital terrestrial television receiver with a broadband receiver, allowing the viewer to move seamlessly between the two signals.

BT’s revenue will come from enhanced services, such as a VOIP facility to dial up friends while watching a football match, or the ability to build your own personal schedules.

Burke didn’t reveal whether the set top box would be entirely new, or an add-on to existing Freeview boxes, nor would he say whether BT aims to first convert existing DTT customers or target its marketing efforts elsewhere.

IPTV To Launch Within Year: Enhanced TV ShowElena Branet, Senior Marketing Manager at Microsoft TV, (pictured left) said IPTV would allow viewers to use picture in picture channel surfing, see caller ID on their TV sets, or watch TV while messaging a virtual community of friends and family. She said that basic IPTV would be possible with a minimum connection speed of just 1.5 MB.

Branet fought off a suggestion from fellow speaker, BSkyB’s Jim Harrison, that the new IPTV platform would not be interoperable across devices; assuring that it would be open to another operator’s instant messaging system, for example.

IPTV To Launch Within Year: Enhanced TV ShowAlso at the show, David Bainbridge, MD of Yes, Yoo Media, (pictured right) said trials of a new product, ‘Broadband TV’ would start on ntl in October. Not to be confused with IPTV, this is a solution to help content creators repurpose content across platforms – working with cable TV, IPTV and 3.

Enhanced TV Show & Mobile TV Forum
Microsoft TV

V3x: Motorola’s 3G RAZR: More Details

Motorola's 3G RAZR V3x: More DetailsMotorola have offered more details about their forthcoming 3G RAZR V3x slim flip phone.

Surprisingly not as slender as the hugely popular original RAZR, the new V3x packs in dual cameras, a hefty two megapixel camera with an 8x zoom and macro mode for photography, and a VGA camera for 2-way video calling.

The sleek housing has fattened up a bit to accommodate the 3G gubbins, and comes with two vivid colour displays.

Motorola's 3G RAZR V3x: More DetailsThe onboard Bluetooth chip supports wireless stereo sound through Motorola’s Bluetooth Stereo headphones and other compatible hands free wotsits, with up to 512 MB of removable optional TransFlash memory.

There’s support for playback of AAC+, MPEG4, WMV, WMA, MP3 and Real Video/Audio media files, with progressive downloading to view media files on demand.

The handset will include a new service called SCREEN3 giving users “zero-click access” to news, sports, entertainment, and other premium content on the go, providing a handy source of revenue for mobile operators.

Motorola's 3G RAZR V3x: More DetailsMotorola have also included an advanced speaker-independent voice recognition which lets users state a number/name and be connected without all that pre-recording palaver.

The Motorola RAZR V3x is expected to be available in Q4 2005 with pricing to be announced around that time.

Motorola's 3G RAZR V3x: More DetailsMeanwhile, as Motorola’s phones scoff the pies, rival NEC has launched the World’s Thinnest Folding Camera Phone, a feather-untoubling slip of a thing.