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Tag Archives: Latest Stories

Do you want more TV advertising, even if it's Google?

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Mid-May, Google announced a whole bunch of new products and services at its Google I/O event in San Francisco. The biggest surprise of the bunch was Google TV, a platform that Google’s developing to bring the richness of the Web to your TV.

This has of course been tried before for a vast number of years, but when Google talks, people tend to listen. The company is packed with clever and committed developers, and more than a small quantity of spare change to throw at its projects. It also doesn’t hurt that Google has a lot of goodwill amongst all of its clients. For the average consumer, Google’s products work well and are mostly free.

Free’s a nice price to pay, but it ignored a key element of how Google makes money and pays for that “free”, and that’s through targeted advertising. Every Google search is logged and analysed, and if you’re a user of Google’s excellent mail client, gmail, you’ll notice more specific ads turning up next to your mail as well. This does worry some privacy advocates, but it’s clearly the price one pays for free services. If you want it free, you pay with ads. It’s the model (more or less) that television (with the exception of state-run services such as the ABC) has worked on for more than half a century.

Bringing more ads to TV, though? That’s an interesting prospect, given one of the first things that most buyers of personal video recorders do is work out the best way to enable ad-skipping, whether that’s just fast-forwarding through the ads (a limitation of any “Freeview” branded PVR) or skipping them entirely. GoogleTV will be a combination of a hardware product and a software platform. At first in the US this year Google will launch a set top box built by Logitech, and Blu-Ray player and TV built by Sony with inbuilt Google TV. As yet, international plans (including Australia) point to 2011 as the earliest we might see GoogleTV here.

Google’s main product is still of course search, and the ability to search for TV-specific content easily from your sofa is pretty compelling. I put the question around ad-skipping and how to sell consumers on getting yet another box to chuck under the TV that’ll serve ads to them to Google’s product manager for Google TV, Rishi Chandra at a recent Google event. His response was rather telling about where Google’s priorities actually are.

Chandra’s take on advertising for end users (that’s you and me and everyone else presumably watching a Google TV) is that we’d prefer targeted advertising specific to our searches and our profiles. They’re more useful, he told me, and if the economics are right and they’re particularly targeted we may end up with less of them.

On the other side of the coin, while it’s possible to strip ads out of Web pages if you’re so inclined or fast forward the ads on the TV if you’ve pre-recorded it, don’t look for that kind of feature in Google TV. One of the benefits (to the advertisers) that Chandra highlighted was that users couldn’t skip the ads. They could ensure that the ads were played and were trackable. Google can help the advertising community with lots more specific data via Google TV. At the end of the day, Google’s actual clients are the advertisers that give the company cash by the barrowload.

It’s a difficult line that Google has to tread. Its money comes from advertising, and even online there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It still leaves me wondering if it’s going to be worth investing in a TV with inbuilt Google (or a set top box, Blu-Ray player or whatever) in order to be served even more advertising that I can’t easily ignore.


USB 3 has plenty of promise, but when will it deliver?

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I recently attended the launch of a line of Seagate external hard drives. By themselves, external hard drives aren’t much to get too excited about. Admittedly, backup is one of those tasks that everybody should do and precious few do properly, but there’s just no way  to make hard drives themselves exciting. Seagate’s attempt revolves around what it’s calling the GoFlex storage system. It’s basically a system of removable cables with different connection ends. Most of the drives ship with an ordinary USB 2.0 cable, but you can optionally buy Firewire, eSATA and USB 3.0 connectors.

It’s an interesting idea, but what really grabbed my attention and got me thinking was USB 3.0 specifically. Firewire and eSATA have their places, and they’re both significantly faster than the rather dusty USB 2.0 standard, but only USB 3.0 has the promise of both backwards compatibility and speed.

Quite a bit of speed, it should be said. USB 2.0 tops out at a theoretical 480Mbps, and a good bit slower in real world usage. USB 3.0’s promise is connection speed up to a theoretical 4.8Gbps. Again, we won’t see actual 4.8Gbps throughput, but even if USB 3.0 only manages a quarter of its potential, it’ll be much faster than USB 2.0. This has all sorts of knock-on implications, from the mundane matter of faster file copying through to data streaming, near invisible backup and seamless synchronisation of media devices.

There’s a problem, though. USB 3.0 requires two things to actively work. Firstly, you’ll need some kind of USB 3.0 storage device. As I write this, there’s one sitting just next to me. You wouldn’t spot it as USB 3.0 necessarily, but that’s due to the physical cabling being identical on first glance. This ensures backwards compatibility with older USB 2.0 only systems, albeit at USB 2.0 only speeds.

Backwards compatibility is a smart move, but the other part of the USB 3.0 puzzle is having a system that can actually take advantage of your investment in a USB 3.0 storage device.  USB 2.0 is everywhere, most notably in notebooks, which are quickly becoming the predominant computer model. If you want to add USB 3.0 to an existing desktop PC, there’s a number of available add-on cards. But for notebooks, there’s not such a wide choice. If your system has provision for a PC Express card you can update via a card, although there’s not a whole lot of choice right now. More problematically, PC Express isn’t widespread across notebook models, and notebooks simply aren’t built for the kinds of upgrades that can be applied to desktop systems. There aren’t any USB 3.0 capable notebook systems on the Australian market yet, and exactly when they’ll start to hit retail is still up in the air.

Most of us buy notebooks with the expectation that they’ll get at least three years service life out of them, especially if you’re buying for a small business and writing it off against tax. That could lead to a situation where USB 3.0 peripherals — and they’ll mostly be storage at first, as there’s little need for a mouse to use 4.8Gbps of bandwidth just yet — predominate, but few systems actually use them to their full potential.


iPad vs Kindle

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On the surface, Apple’s soon to be released iPad and Amazon’s already available Kindle appear to service the same market: eBook readers.

Amazon’s Kindle is available in two varieties. There’s the smaller screen US$259 6″ (15cm) Kindle, and the larger US$489 9.7″ (25cm) Kindle DX. Both have the same feature set, so the US$230 price difference just buys you more screen real estate. I’ve listed the prices there in US dollars because that’s what Amazon will charge you for them even though you’re shipping them to Australia. As such, depending on how the currency conversion goes, the price of the Kindle may fluctuate on a daily basis.

The local iPad prices have finally been set in stone. Pricing for the WiFi-only models starts at $629 (16GB), $759 (32GB) or $879 (64GB), while the 3G and GPS equipped version costs $799 (16GB), $928 (32GB) or $1,049 (64GB). As yet, unlike the iPhone, no carrier has said they’ll sell the iPad on a phone-style contract basis, but data plans have popped up starting at $20 for a 30 day expiry period. That’ll get you 1GB of usage from Telstra and 2GB from Optus. At the time of writing, Vodafone had yet to commit pricing, but it’s not a great stretch to suggest they’ll fall somewhere in line with Telstra and Optus anyway.

In the Kindle’s favour, the cost of the device includes lifetime wireless data access for browsing and buying books from Amazon’s Kindle bookstore. Pick a title, and pretty much anywhere in Australia it’ll be sent to your Kindle for quick and easy reading. In the US, the Kindle also offers limited web browsing, and will shortly offer Twitter and Facebook compatibility, but the “International” model doesn’t offer web browsing, so it seems unlikely we’ll get Twitter or Facebook either. The Kindle uses an e-ink solution that mimics the look of real paper — to a certain extent — and uses very little power. Charge your Kindle up, and it’ll last a number of weeks.

The iPad, on the other hand, uses a more traditional LCD display, as you’d find in a notebook or netbook. This has the downside that power consumption is much higher, but it’s readable by itself without any external light source. It’s also a much more capable device, somewhat akin to — but not quite like — a notebook or netbook. It doesn’t come with free lifetime data, but then what you can do with that data is far more wide reaching.

The iPad is somewhat akin to an iPod Touch with a touch of Frankenstein to it, and as such most iPod Touch/iPhone Apps will run on it, save those that need phone or camera functionality. It’s a more complete device in that it’ll handle a lot of simple computing tasks, but only one at a time. Like the iPod Touch/iPhone, there’s no multi-tasking capability out of the box, although the promised 4.0 iPhone software update due later this year may deal with some of those woes.

The iPad’s likely to be more expensive than the Kindle for the foreseeable future, although the difference between the Kindle DX and iPad 16GB isn’t that great after currency conversion and GST are taken into consideration. The Kindle hits the eBook market quite hard and with focus, and if all you’re after is an eBook reader, it’s the one to beat in single use terms. There are plenty of competitors in the wings. The iPad’s an eBook reader, but also quite a bit more, and it’s priced somewhat accordingly.


The Next Big Internet Trend – IPTV!

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The Internet is an extremely fast evolving medium. It is a place where an amazing number of trends are launched every year. Some trends go unnoticed, some achieve huge levels of publicity, while others completely revolutionize the way that things are done. Looking back over the past few years there have been many web trends that have literally changed the lives of millions of people. Web sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter have each provided us with new ways of being connected to friends. They allow us to socialize and network in ways that were unthought of just 10 short years ago.

Since new ideas arise all of the time online, knowing the next big trend in the Internet world can be extremely hard to predict. This is because in all corners of the globe there are handfuls of young people working away, night and day at computers hoping to be the one that wows the world with the next thing. Whether or not they succeed is dependent upon a host of variables. It is hard to predict. Of those things that are up and coming and that are publicly known Internet Protocol Television or IPTV looks to make a huge impact over the next year on the Internet world and the traditional broadcasting world. IPTV is gearing up to take the world by storm.

In many ways, the birth of IPTV is an obvious and natural transition for television. We have YouTube which invites the world to broadcast itself. It is hugely popular and many will tell you, including myself, they prefer to sit and watch YouTube videos online than regular TV. There is something fresh and enjoyably raw about the videos on YouTube that are good. Most importantly, these videos are broadcast exactly where I am at. Online! It is ideal, since I am already online networking, chatting with friends through messenger, even working! So, this is the most convenient place for me to be entertained.

When IPTV becomes available it will provide users with traditional television programming delivered through their computer and over Internet protocol (IP). In many ways, it is the next step in digital television. With IPTV, programs will be sent through the Internet to computers using packet-switched network infrastructure. This is the exact same technology that is used to send and receive emails and all other content found on the Internet.

The business mind always considers the question of what is the next big thing. Knowing the correct answer to that question could be hugely profitable for anyone that chooses to benefit from it. They could choose to develop that particular business idea themselves or they could choose to align themselves in such a way that they profit from the popularity of that industry when it takes off. IPTV has a lot of financial and moral backing so I am confident that it is a service that all of us will very soon be contemplating.


2010 Technology Trends

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2010 is upon us and unfortunately, the decade of the “noughties” has passed quicker than any of us could have anticipated. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that we were scuttling around trying to protect ourselves and our computer systems from the Y2K Bug? Amazingly a complete decade has passed since the now laughable problems of Y2K. In that time, huge strides have been made in the area of electronic gadgets and technology, especially when it relates to the Internet. I have compiled a short list of technology trends that are expected to hit us in 2010. This is by no means an exhaustive list but a “things to look out for in 2010” kind of list so read on:

Increased Use of Cloud Computing Technologies

Cloud computing is most likely a term that you have heard bandied about in magazines and technology programs. The average computer user will not know what it is, but basically it is a term that is used to describe a cloud of services that any business, person or entity might use to share information between people and computers. These services include things like data storage, computer power, file back ups, telephony, messaging and more.

In 2010, major tech companies plan to move forward with cloud computing initiatives and so it is very likely that businesses will also latch onto and make the most of what cloud computing can provide them. IBM, Cisco and EMC have all spoken publicly about boosting what they offer in the way of cloud computing.

A Switch from Netbooks to Smaller Mobile Devices

Netbooks skyrocketed in popularity over the past 3 or so years. Netbooks are said to be popular because of their mobility (they are extremely lightweight), their simplicity and the speed within which they can connect to the Internet. The downside to Netbooks, is that although quite small, they are not as portable as a PDA or mobile phone. 2010 is expected to introduce devices that will overtake Netbooks in popularity. These devices will be smaller than Netbooks yet slightly larger than PDAs. The Apple Tablet is one product that will be launched and various manufacturers are planning PC versions of the Apple Tablet.

The Availability of 3D Technology in the Home

Home entertainment manufacturers are planning to make 3D technology increasingly available in the home. An increasing number of 3D movies were released in 2009. These 3D movies will soon be offered on DVD and Blu-Ray for home audiences. Enjoying this technology and making the most of it will most likely require consumers to purchase 3D capable TV screens, along with the 3D versions of DVDs. Keeping up with this trend will require a considerable financial investment, so only you and your family can decide whether it’s worth it.


Blu-Ray Vs HD DVD

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The goal to improve upon DVD technology brought about a surprisingly fierce battle to produce “the product” that would replace DVD technology. This race was run primarily between HD DVD technology which was being developed by Toshiba and Blu-ray technology which was being developed by a conglomerate of contributors known as the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA).

What is Blu-Ray?
Blu-ray technology was developed by a group of developers and contributing companies so as to improve, and ultimately replace DVD technology. A major feature of Blu-Ray technology is that it uses an optical disc and so is not starkly different in appearance to a DVD. It also uses a blue laser to read the data on the disc. This blue ray allows for greater accuracy in accessing data and therefore allows data to packed much closer and tighter together. This means that Blu-ray discs can potentially hold more data than the original DVD.

What is HD DVD?
HD DVD or High-Definition/Density DVD is a technology that is no longer being developed. Like Blu-ray and DVD, it uses an optical disc which is capable of storing very large amounts of data. HD DVD technology made use of a blue laser as opposed to the red laser used in original DVD technology. Although HD DVD was a promising format, over time, it did not manage to gain popular support. This was true especially among manufacturers and retailers, the place where it needed it most. When the majority of the market chose to work with Blu-ray, the development of HD DVD was discontinued.

Blu-ray technology continues to increase in popularity and it is now positioned to be the technology that ultimately replaces the popular DVD format that we have become used to. Other benefits of Blu-ray technology are that it is backward compatible with DVD and CDs. This is excellent because users will be able to avoid having to re-format or re-record their entire CD and DVD collections. It also means that recording older discs over to the new technology will be much easier than has been with previous replacement technologies.


Recent News

One of the biggest tech news stories of recent months emerged when the US Department of Justice announced that it’s going to take search giant Google to court, alleging that it has violated antitrust laws in a monopolistic fashion. According to statements reported by the New York Times, “nothing is off the table” in terms

Apple recently launched its 2020 crop of iPhone smartphones, comprising 4 different sizes and models that will become progressively available over the next month or so. The realities of the COVID-19 Pandemic have meant Apple has had to stagger its iPhone 12 launch schedule, with the basic iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro going on

NBN Co recently announced that it’s spending some $3.5 billion dollars to upgrade parts of the nation’s Fibre To the Node (FTTN) network to full Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) over the next 3 years. While the NBN itself has been one massive political football, for better or worse, the practical reality of its near-finished

Virtual Reality, often shortened to VR is one of those “future tech” concepts, along with hoverboards, jetpacks and teleportation that we always seem to be just on the cusp of… but never quite getting there. However, unlike teleportation – which conventional physics suggests might be a bit of a non-starter – or the risky nature

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