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2014: What to watch – the wearable era.

25 Mar

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2014 is set to be a big year in the technology industry. Since the beginning of the tablet era in 2010 we haven’t had a revolutionary new product category that has really hit it off. 4 years later, we are getting a glimpse of how technology will continue to integrate into our lives.

Smart watches are by no means a new category, they’ve been around for some years now in the form of the Pebble Smart watch or the Galaxy Gear. But neither of these have been big successes, in fact, they’ve been seen as a massive failure. I guess the biggest question is why haven’t they taken off yet, and whats to say that they ever will?

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There are two fundamental issues with the current portfolio of smart watches:

  1. They do not integrate as efficiently as they could do
  2. They really don’t look great

For a Smart Watch to be successful, it firstly has to integrate into our lives without any fuss. We want it to be easy to use and have all the information we need readily available for when we need it. Such as todays meetings, the weather, our contacts and our messages. All in a format that is easily readable on the fly.

Secondly, it needs to look good. But at the same time satisfy a varied number of consumers. Watches, more often than not are fashion accessories (when not being used to tell the time). So if they look bulky, clunky and ugly they aren’t going to sell. But making a generic look that appeals to the mass is a difficult hurdle to overcome. Customisation is key, both physically and digitally.

The Android Wear announcement last week brings a completely new competitor to the table, the first serious player in the smart watch market. The videos shared of the Moto 360 have set a high bar for what could be a game changer for wearables. The previews show a beautiful and elegant interface that shows off everything that a smart watch should be.

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The Moto 360 also demonstrated another important variable for the wearable era: health monitoring. Personally, this will be a massive selling point for me. I currently use the Nike + app on my phone for running and I have always had an interest in getting a Nike Fuelband. With leaked screenshots of Apple’s iOS 8 health book app, it seems that this year’s technology announcements will be very health orientated.

I think that this is a fantastic opportunity for encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Smart phone manufacturers can harness the power of a device that millions of its customers already have, and couple it with a new peripheral that can change the way people live their lives.

The same way the iPhone revolutionised the mobile phone market back in 2007, the Smart Watch era will change the way we access our most important data on the fly, whilst at the same time keeping tabs on our body to improve our fitness without us even realising.

Watch this space.

 

 

XBOX THRE… ONE

21 May

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Well. Microsoft, you surely know how to do a press conference don’t you? Instead of bothering with all the stats, the conference got straight to the point. Less than five minutes in and we had visuals on the console. Sony, take note – customers like to see the product you are trying to market.

Some may think that Sony’s choice not to release the design of their console was all a strategic plan to build up the hype. I do not agree, the design of the PS4 has not yet been revealed for one of two reasons:

  1. Sony have not yet finished the design of the PS4, they are either struggling with the design or taking their time to make sure it is perfect. Either way they are slacking behind.
  2. They have chosen to wait to see what Microsoft produced, and to try and produce something better.

Judging by the short teaser that Sony released on Monday (following confirmation that Microsoft would in fact show the look of their new console today), Sony panicked. Realizing that the attention would be drawn away from the PlayStation, and in an effort to bring the attention back, they released a teaser that still really doesn’t give much away about the design.

It is all a bit strange.

If you had read my previous blog The Next-Next Generation of Gaming I predicted that there would be no new major features to this console, and this has proven true. What Microsoft have done, is taken what they already have, and built it all into one unified polished system. We already had voice commands and hand gestures through Kinect on the 360, but this seemed to be a main focus of the event for the XBOX One. It is clear from the event that the Kinect integration is deeper than it was with the XBOX 360, with added features such as smart switching.

The added processing power also helps run more intensive commands through Kinect providing more accurate responses and more capabilities. The graphical processing power is going to make a huge difference between the consoles, from what they have shown it is set to look incredible, but so will the PS4’s graphics.

  • Biggest benefit to the XBOX ONE: Exclusivity. Microsoft seem to have very strong links with EA and Activition, and as a result they are getting content exclusively for XBOX. In a console war where both sets of consoles will have similar features. This is a huge benefit.
  • Biggest Downfall: No backwards compability. A truly unified system would allow you to play old games on the console, getting rid of the need for a second (old) console. They are totally going against their own marketing campaign in not offering this feature.

All in all a bery well polished presentation for a very (seemingly) polished system. Lots of nice new little features such as the smart swtiching (saves having to annoyingly switch between tv and xbox using input changes) and easy and fast swtiching between games, movies and music. We have also finally got ourselves a blue-ray player, this is a massive feature for me as I have no standalone blue-ray player. Hardware specs seem promising, a massive 8GB RAM, which is a huge jump from the 512MB in the XBOX 360.

This product has to be the only recent release that Microsoft has got right. The XBOX seems to be the only product in their catalouge that is of any success. Keep it up guys.I wonder how much this is all going to cost? Either way, take my money please Micrsoft.

- DC

Facebook Home to pave the way to new mobile ecosystems?

18 Apr

Facebook Home was announced a few weeks ago and it has caused a stir within the online community, with a lot of mixed views on the idea. Whether it will be a success remains to be seen, but it shows clues to the eventual fate of our mobile operating systems.

When smart phones first launched (using the original iPhone as an example) the Application Store did not exist, we had several built in applications that without a jailbroken device we were forced to stick with. It wasn’t until a year later when the app store was launched, that we began to see the development of 3rd party applications that are now available in their hundreds of thousands (775,000 as of Jan 2013).

In recent years we have began to see some of these 3rd party applications being deeply implemented into the operating systems, on iOS it began with twitter, then Facebook joined the ranks. While not a complete integration it allowed you to tweet and post straight from the operating system, removing the need to open the application. This move in my personal opinion is good, it increases the compatibility between the operating system and 3rd party applications, but I still tend to open the app myself to make posts.

Facebook Home takes this a step further, instead of taking an operating system and building an application into it, Facebook have taken an application and built an operating system around it. Keeping Facebook as the primary focus of the OS.

By doing this, Facebook can control what a user primarily sees on the device, and push relevant content their way (they can also push advertisements if they please). This is great for people who’s lives primarily revolve around Facebook, but these days that is a decreasing amount of people. For people who don’t want their phone covered in Facebook related content, or who just want to be away from social media, Facebook Home wont be a welcome addition.

Following the announcement of Facebook there have been rumors that Facebook and Apple are in deep talks to bring this kind of integration to iPhones. The iOS operating system has not had a major update in some time, it’s signature application based layout has stuck with it since the beginning, and it is starting to get a bit stale, maybe we will see something new and fresh come WWDC this summer?

What is all this moving towards? I cannot see application driven devices being around for much longer, it’s only a matter of time before all the major applications will be built into the OS from factory install, eventually make installing applications completely redundant (or at least purging all those crap applications that are clogging up the app store). Having a deeply integrated system is better in terms of reliability, it cuts out the need for a third party so compatibility issues aren’t as much of an issue, but it might give too much power to mobile phone manufacturers. We all know that Apple are already power hungry, to remove third parties from the OS would be a dream come true for them.

Take a watch of the video below, if something like this was to be successful, deep integration of these applications into devices will be needed.

 

- DC