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Bill Bennett

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Tag: Microsoft

The world’s largest software company has repositioned for cloud computing offering software-as-a-service as well as cloud services. Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Office productivity software are important mainstays.

Android hits 81% smartphone market share, Windows grows

IDC Research’s latest smartphone market share figures (Story now offline) make interesting reading. Android and Windows Phone are all up. While iOS, Blackberry and the rats and mice are down.

Android continues to dominate with an 81 percent share of new phone shipments. The OS is on four out of five phones sold. However IDC points out with the exception of Samsung, few of the Android brands manage to register meaningful market share – most account for less than one percent of all phone sales. Unit market share is not always the most important measure of success.

Apple’s iOS saw its smartphone market share drop despite a sizable increase in the number of phones sold. IDC says this may reverse now the 5S and 5C models are on sale – the data is for the period before Apple announced the new models.

Perhaps the most interesting figure is the rise of Windows Phone, while still relatively small, it seems Microsoft and Nokia are finally getting traction.

Top four operating systems Q3 2013  

Operating System

3Q13 Shipment Volumes

3Q13 Market Share

3Q12 Shipment Volumes

3Q12 Market Share

Year on year change

Android

211.6

81.0%

139.9

74.9%

51.3%

iOS

33.8

12.9%

26.9

14.4%

25.6%

Windows Phone

9.5

3.6%

3.7

2.0%

156.0%

BlackBerry

4.5

1.7%

7.7

4.1%

-41.6%

Others

1.7

0.6%

8.4

4.5%

-80.1%

Total

261.1

100.0%

186.7

100.0%

39.9%

 

Windows XP – time to move on

Windows XP
Windows XP

Windows XP is now eleven years old. It is the most successful operating system in history. XP remains the world’s second most popular operating system – around 25 percent of the world’s computers still run the software. Windows XP remains popular with organisations that have large IT departments.

XP scores with its fans because it demands little in the way of hardware. It performs well on any computer built in the last decade.

Windows XP is mature, robust and relatively secure. Microsoft was slow getting its replacement out, so there were three sizable upgrades or service packs to plug all the gaps. This makes it popular with corporate IT departments, they see it as relatively easy to support and even easier as a development target.

Users happy with Windows XP

Until now there’s been no compelling reason to move on from XP. Windows Vista was flashy, but demanding on hardware and offered little real advantage over XP. Windows 7 corrected these problems. It was a sensible upgrade for individuals, but failed to tempt the bulk of XP users who were happy chugging away with their existing applications.

If you chose not to upgrade from XP to Vista and Windows 7, you will have saved close to NZ$500 – at consumer prices. That’s money that possibly could have been better spent on hardware or applications.

What’s more, moving to a new OS is disruptive. Updating drivers and applications can be both painful and expensive. I had to buy a new scanner after the upgrade to Windows 7 because the old hardware wasn’t supported. There are applications sitting in my cupboard that won’t run on anything post-XP.

Now Windows 8 has arrived. It is faster and more secure than XP. It works better on the latest hardware, it more suited to today’s cloud applications and, if you want a touch screen, Windows 8 is the only way to go.

And with upgrades to Windows 8 Pro at NZ$50 a pop, it represents good value.

Microsoft promises to continue support for XP until early 2014, after that you’re on your own.

Companies should wait until their next upgrade cycle before moving and, possibly, consider adding touch screens at the same time. Individuals and small business owners may as well jump now, that NZ$50 upgrade price is for a limited time.

One word of warning. Make a complete back-up before upgrading and set aside a whole day for the transition. The update only takes minutes, re-installing applications, recovering data, tweaking the system and finding your way around will take hours.

Apple, Microsoft sue Google, Android phone makers

Last week Rockstar Bidco, a group of phone makers including Apple and Microsoft, filed a suit against Google and Android phone makers for infringing five of its patents.

The patents were acquired from the wreckage of Nortel for US$4.5 billion after a bidding war. Google lost that auction. The winning consortium includes Apple and Microsoft as well as BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony.

Now, as expected, the patents are being used against Google and its Android partners. The defendants are Samsung, LG Electronics, HTC, Huawei, Asustek, Pantech and ZTE Corp – pretty much everybody who is anybody in the Android world.

Rockstar patents certainly not worthless

Because Google also bid billions for the same patents, it’s going to find it difficult to argue they are worthless.

All Things D has the main news story and a copy of the litigation document.

Yes it’s a mess.  And yes, it shows there’s something rotten with the entire patent system. As John Gruber at Daring Fireball points out, don’t feel sorry for Google. It is just as bad.

So what?

What does the patent action mean in practical terms for phone users like you and I?

Rockstar’s action hangs on five patents that revolve around matching search terms with advertising and user data. In other words, serving personalised advertising. This is central to Google’s business model. Apple, Microsoft and their partners are attacking the core of Android.

Should the Rockstar consortium win, Google will probably have to pay damages. Phone makers may have to halt sales – at least temporarily. It’s possible a settlement will include changes to Android. This could, in turn, mean forced upgrades and even some loss of functionality. Maybe even breaking some apps. All of this will be a short-term disruption.

It could also mean paying licence fees to Rockstar. This will undermine Google’s free-OS-and-apps-in-return-for-advertising business model. It will almost certainly make Android a more expensive option for phone makers. Google may just make advertisers pay more to target Android users.

There’s little chance Google and it’s partners will take this lying down. There could be protracted litigation. If they have any means to retaliate, you can rest assured they’ll be firing their weapons in the coming days. One possibility is less Google support for non-Android operating systems.

Nokia Lumia 625, big orange phone at a good price

Review by Bill Bennett for Scoop Techlab

Nokia Lumia 625

A Nokia Lumia 625 is sitting on my desk. You can’t miss it. The phone is bright orange. The kind of orange that would match a high visibility safety vest. It makes the phone hard to lose.

Once your eyes adjust, you realise the day-glo case isn’t the only thing that makes the Lumia 625 stand out: It has a big screen. The display is larger than any I’ve seen on a Windows Phone 8 device. It is a particularly large screen given the smartphone’s $500 price.

The display measures 4.7 inches diagonally. That’s a little bigger than Nokia’s other smartphones. It compares with 4.5 inches on the $1150 Lumia 1020 and the $1000 Lumia 925.

The display is also bigger than the 4 inch screen sported by Apple’s $1050 iPhone 5S, although at 5 inches across the diagonal the $1000 Samsung S4 is larger.

Big screen, fewer pixels

The catch is the Lumia doesn’t have anything like as many pixels as those other phones: just 800 by 480. That’s roughly 200 pixels per inch which is a lower pixel density than you’ll find on more expensive smartphones. You can buy Android phones at roughly the same price as the Lumia 625 with a higher pixel density.

Giving the phone fewer pixels is not the only display compromise Nokia made to get the price of its phone below $500. Unlike Nokia’s more expensive Lumias, the 625 doesn’t have the ClearBlack technology that makes the screen easier to read in sunlight. And the colours are less saturated. They look relatively washed out compared with the Lumia 920 or 1020 displays.

Which in turn means photos don’t display as sharp, movies look a little blurry and text is not so beautifully presented.

Away from sunlight this is less of a problem than you might imagine. That’s because although there are fewer pixels to form characters on-screen, the slightly bigger size means text is still easy to read. It helps that Microsoft uses special fonts for Windows Phone 8 that are easy to read in all circumstances. You’ll find email and text-based apps are easy enough to read, poorly designed web pages can pose a problem.

An OK camera

It would be silly to put a high-resolution camera on a smartphone with a relatively low resolution screen. While Nokia didn’t drive all the way to the bargain basement for the 5 megapixel camera in the Lumia 625, there are no fancy optics like the more expensive Nokias.

So let’s spell this out before we go any further. If taking and viewing high quality still pictures and video are your thing, the Lumia 625 is not for you. Likewise if you expect to read a lot of text on screen or work outside in bright sunlight, it would be worth investing in a more expensive phone.

On the other hand, if you want an affordable modern smartphone that does all the important things to an acceptable standard, the Lumia 625 is a good choice. It does have two things going for it that sets it apart from the competition: decent software and 4G compatibility.

Nokia Lumia 625, a 4G handset for $500

Only a limited number of handsets work on the Vodafone and Telecom NZ 4G networks. If Nokia’s Lumia 625 isn’t the least expensive 4G handset in New Zealand, it is certainly a contender. That’s increasingly important now that Vodafone’s 4G network is reaching across the country and with Telecom NZ’s 4G network about to go live. I didn’t get to test the phone on 4G – although I will as soon as my 4G Sim arrives.

Whether you like the Windows Phone 8 software or not is partly a matter of taste and partly to do with how you plan to use a smartphone. I don’t aim to revisit the debates on these matters, but I want to make three points:

• First, Windows Phone 8 is a reliable and stable smartphone operating system. After an adjustment from whatever you used before, you’ll find things always work in a predictable and consistent way. In my book it is a better choice than Android for everyone except people who like to tinker with their software and settings.

• Second, If you use Windows computers or work for company that has a lot of Microsoft software, life will be relatively easy. The phone comes with a version of Office and connects to Skydrive where you can quickly get at files.

• Third, it’s true there are fewer third-party apps in the Windows Phone store than in Apple’s iTunes or the Google Play store. On the other hand, there are surprisingly few essential apps that are either missing or don’t have a reasonable alternative.

What else?

Inside the case you get 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU and the Adreno 305 GPU. Unless you’re something of a smartphone geek, these are unlikely to mean much. What they tell me is there’s more than enough power to do most things you buy a smartphone for. It certainly doesn’t feel underpowered or slow – but that’s after only a few hours. I’ll revisit the Lumia 625 after spending more time with the device to talk about some of the practicalities of everyday use.

I like that the Nokia Lumia 625 has a slot for MicroSD memory – that’s a nice bonus. On the other hand, the Ram is a measly 512 MB, so I guess I won’t be doing much multitasking.

Finally, the case is, well, plastic with curves. It feels nice in the hand and while it is noticeably lighter than the Lumia 920, at 160g it is still fairly hefty for a modern smartphone.


Content Note: This post has been enabled by Telecom NZ , but the thoughts are my own. Scoop TechLab is a project of Scoop Independent Media www.scoop.co.nz. It is edited by Scoop Editor Alastair Thompson.