HomeInsightsTech-Know – August 2012


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Building on the increasing popularity of watching TV on the internet, earlier this month Sky launched NOW TV, a commitment-free internet TV service. No more dishes (if your broadband is good enough)! NOW TV will offer Sky Movies, and later this year by Sky Sports, across a range of connected devices. Unlike the annual contracts required for its satellite service, NOW TV operates on a monthly subscription and pay-per-view basis. Sky is clearly hoping to add some of the 13 million UK households with no TV subscription to its existing 10.5 million subscriber base. The launch of NOW TV adds to the growing suite of internet TV and IPTV services which promise the change the way we watch our screens forever.


Apple users look away now. Steve Ballmer last month gave the world an extended preview of the all-new Microsoft Office 2013, which Ballmer claims has been completely reconfigured from the ground up so as to work equally well on both pc and mobile devices, and to synchronise between the two. The new version has been developed to co-incide with the release of Windows 8, expected in the autumn. Office 2013 contains the inevitable social networking elements, but with a business slant, and Word has been upgraded so that it can edit PDFs, while the embedding of YouTube videos has been made easier. The other applications, Outlook, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint, have also been given a complete upgrade and all will link with Microsoft’s cloud storage system SkyDrive.


The question on everyone’s lips following Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai, the cloud-based gaming service, was whether Gaikai would in the future only be available on Sony hardware. We appear to have the answer now, as beta-testing of Gaikai on Samsung’s high end connected TVs (LED 7000 and above) has gone live and all is well with the arch-nemeses. The deal, announced in early July 2012, valued Gaikai at USD 380 million and gives Sony access to the Gaikai cloud-based infrastructure, though it is not yet clear what use Sony will put it to. In the meantime, rumour has it that Microsoft is considering a little acquisition of its own: Gaikai rival OnLive. Will this lead to consoles becoming redundant and reliance on a combination of downloadable and streaming title games? The Gaikai deal certainly seems a nod in that direction.


Is Amazon expanding beyond e-readers and the Kindle Fire tablet to take on the smartphone market? Ongoing speculation has been boosted by reports that the behemoth online retailer is working together with Foxconn to produce a Kindle Phone. Amazon’s recent wireless technology patents buying spree is certainly a further indication of such a move. While Amazon has refused to comment, it has been suggested that an Amazon smartphone will be on the market by the end of the year. Alas, the Kindle Phone is all rumour for now, but it would undeniably be a logical move for Amazon, with its flourishing content ecosystem already in place and the third place in the smartphone market up for grabs, as Nokia and RIM continue to languish.


UK regulator Ofcom has finally set a date for auctioning off the 4G spectrum (which will enable superfast mobile broadband). In early 2013, the smart bet is on Everything Everywhere, Telefonica and Vodafone having a real bare-knuckle fight to lay claim to as much capacity on the 4G spectrum as each possibly can. During the auction (or bare-knuckle fight, if you prefer), chunks (not a technical term) of the spectrum between 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz will be up for grabs. Ofcom do not, however, plan to let the three incumbents have the whole spectrum to themselves and will be holding back part of the spectrum for a smaller operator, and the Gnome likes small operator. By Ofcom’s reckoning, mobile operators will start offering 4G services to customers by late 2013. The Gnome really just wishes that Ofcom would get on with it now, so he (like his Australian and American counterparts, who live in countries where 4G is widespread) can start streaming movies to his smartphone.


Launching your first original game after a smash hit like Angry Birds is a bit like being asked to follow up …well, Angry Birds. No matter how good the final result is, it’ll always be compared with the awesomeness that went before. This is the situation Rovio finds itself with the release of Amazing Alex, the developer’s first game since Angry Birds (a.k.a. the most popular download of all time). The Rovio developers have clearly worked on the basis of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Like Angry Birds, Amazing Alex features a range of physics-based puzzles: tennis balls bounce, but bowling balls (and gnomes by the way) do not – the idea being that as the eponymous star of the game you need to cause a chain reaction to achieve your goal. Before you know it, you’ll be dropping boxes from the ceiling and playing with AC helicopters. All very Newton. Final verdict: challenging, entertaining and with a good deal of the uniqueness and playability of Angry Birds.


Your iPhone will soon be taking over yet another function in your life. A group of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany have developed a new domestic power socket that connects by USB to the internet, which means that you will be able to turn things on and off at home (for example your iron, toaster and other high-powered equipment – ah yes and lights as well) remotely using your smartphone. A fascinating admixture of additional security with additional risk.


To create the party all you need to add is some guests and a cauldron of cocoa (gnomes don’t drink) and this fiendish device from Philips will do the rest. Monstrous 300W output from the speakers, integrated light display and fake twin “decks” to load up smartphones rather than vinyl. It’s unmemorably called the FWP3200D, and it’s on the market for just under £300.


Your last black market 100W tungsten bulb has gone ping after only three days in its lamp, and you contemplate a winter groping around in LED gloom reminiscent of a gnome’s burrow. Well, hope may be at hand. California company Switch Lighting has just announced the world’s first 100 watt-equivalent LED bulb. Apparently the problem until now has been getting the lumens up without overheating the bulb, and Switch solved the problem with a liquid cooling system that dissipates heat inside the bulb. Switch claims that the bulb produces the equivalent of 100W of light on just 16W of power (that’s like alchemy), is dimmable, and will last for around 20,000 hours.


US company FreedomPop (change the name guys?) is marketing a case for the iPod Touch that turns it (owzat??) into a 4G mobile phone, and once you’ve bought the case you get 1GB of wireless broadband free every month (in the USA). You can earn further bandwidth by recommending to friends, otherwise you pay for usage over the basic limit. The system relies on 4G Wimax and 4G LTE wireless internet networks to operate, so it may be a while before it’s available in the UK, and you may have another phone by then….

While the Gnome is used to shushing fellow cinema-goers, viewers of TDKR (The Dark Knight Rises, for those not in the know) will be encouraged to make some noise as Odeon and Lynx have paired up to feature the world’s first sound-activated advertisement. The advert will be trialled in five cinemas in the UK and will feature different scenarios depending on how loudly the audience cheers. The technology will be rolled out across libraries in the autumn – only joking!

© Wiggin LLP -10 August 2012