Category Archives: Tech Companies

Chrome battery life on Mac

Chrome has turned into a battery life hog on pretty much every platform, it seems. Here's Jared Newman, writing about the bug which makes Chrome eat up your laptop's battery on Windows:

In a statement to PCWorld, the company noted that the bug has been assigned internally, and that the Chrome team is working to fix it—though only after Morris shined a spotlight on the issue. The long-standing bug report has been bumped up to priority one.

Not just Windows: in my experience, Chrome is a major battery hog on OS X, literally halving the life of my MacBook Pro compared to the latest version of Safari. Whether this is Chrome being wildly inefficient or just better code in Safari, I don't know, but it means that at the moment Chrome just isn't a viable option to use on the Mac.

Microsoft culture must change, chairman says

Microsoft culture must change, chairman says – Fortune Tech:

“I would argue that there are some attributes to Microsoft today that do look vaguely like IBM circa 1990. The Windows monopoly is in fact under attack, and therefore we’re going to have to change or think differently about the management systems and the associated culture of the company as time goes on.”

I hope this reflects Satya Nadella’s thinking too.

google_london

The best of Google

It’s easy to forget.

I’ve spent much of the day at one of Google’s UK offices, being trained in how to make YouTube channels work better, something that’s of great interest to my employer. Whenever I visit the offices, tucked round the corner from the windy, desolate obelisk that is Centrepoint, I’m reminded of what makes Google awesome: the people.

I’ve never met a Googler that I didn’t like. I’m sure there are some, but in many years of dealing with them I’ve just not met one that wasn’t clever, engaged, interested in what you had to say and most of all fun. That makes it sound like there’s some kind of clone factory churning them out, but it’s true: The Googlers I’ve worked with have been, to a person, great.

That’s one of the things that I think about when someone says to me that Google is evil. It’s not, at all, simply because the kind of people who I’ve met who work there have mostly been anything but evil. They’ve also been incredibly switched on to the compromises that you have to make in running a service which lives or dies by the results of advertising, and that depends on harvesting as much of the world’s data as possible.

The issue I have with Google is simply fear: not that the current crop of Googlers might do bad things with all the power we’re handing over to them, but that in the future some other Googlers will. If there’s one thing history proves, it’s that the more you centralise power, the more likely that power is to be misused in the future.

Meanwhile, though, I’ll just carry on enjoying the products. I’ll keep on being able to find pretty-much anything published in the last 20 years online with just a few keystrokes. That’s the kind of thing which, as a graduate student, I would have died for.

Picture by  Kasya Shahovskaya

No, really, this feature alone proves Samsung is a true innovator

Galaxy S5 Hands On: Samsung Galaxy S5 Review Part 1 | BGR:

“Chief among them is a novel new power-saving mode that only displays black and white, and restricts which apps can run.

When you’re nearing the end of a busy day and running out of juice, this feature is going to be amazing.”

AMAZING! I’m AMAZED! And if you’re not AMAZED you’re probably some kind of Apple fanboi.

Amazing!

A Mac and iPad user’s view of the Surface Pro 2

Back in 2003, the fully-fledged Windows Tablet PC was a pretty amazing machine. You could work on it (I wrote hundreds of thousands of words on my Acer C110, with its 9in screen and tiny keyboard). You could play games on it. You could read on it. You could do everything you could on a laptop and more. It cost more than a normal laptop, and the performance tended to be lacklustre compared to laptops of the same price. But it allowed you to do things no other laptop could do, from note taking using a stylus (with handwriting recognition which put the Newton to shame) to reading nascent ebooks in a much more natural way than on any other device. It was expensive, and clunky, but it worked.

Or at least, it worked for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for the rest of humanity, which – despite the constant promotion of the platform by Bill Gates – took one look at Tablet PC, went “huh?” and bought normal laptops instead.

Fast-forward to 2014 and Microsoft is still trying to sell people on the concept of the one-size-fits-all combined Windows PC and tablet. The company is so convinced this is the right way to go that it’s backing its hunch by building its own hardware, the latest of which is the Surface Pro 2.

Microsoft wants you to think of Surface Pro 2 as a “no compromises” PC that’s also a tablet. This is exactly the same line which Gates span in 2003, and unfortunately for Microsoft, it looks like being about as successful as marketing spin as it was ten years ago.

I’ve spent the last few weeks using Surface Pro 2 extensively. I’ve taken it on trips, where I might otherwise have taken my iPad. I’ve used it at home, instead of my MacBook Air, for everything from playing games to social media to business with Office. Although I’ve enjoyed the experience in some respects, the compromises Microsoft has been forced to make in creating something which supposed replaces both PC and tablet are probably more than I’m willing to put up with.

By being a tablet, Surface Pro 2 is a compromised PC: compared to laptops with equivalent performance it’s expensive, especially when you factor in buying a keyboard (£100 to you, sir!). It’s high-end ultrabook territory.

Compare it, also, to Apple’s latest iPad. The iPad Air weighs half as much (1lb vs 2lbs), has longer battery life, and will cost you $200 (or $79 if you want cellular networking, something that’s not even an option on Surface Pro 2). And that 64GB Surface Pro 2 will have a lot less space remaining after Windows has eaten into it than you’ll get with the iPad.

So what, exactly, is the point of the Surface Pro 2? Continue reading

The Plus in Google Plus isn’t quite this Plus

John Gruber in “The Plus in Google Plus”:

The conventional wisdom about Google is that they’re selling our privacy to advertisers. That’s no longer a fringe opinion — it’s the consensus. They’re breeding resentment.

The ironic thing is that they're not actually doing this. Google never, ever, gives your data to advertisers – it's way too valuable for that. What it does is give access to audiences, which is a very different thing.

Felix Salmon on Facebook and content

Felix Salmon, writing about the “Viral Math” which supports sites like Upworthy:

To put it another way: at the moment, Facebook assumes that people click on exactly the material that they want to click on, and that if it serves up a lot of clickbaity curiosity-gap headlines, then it’s giving its users what they want. Whereas in reality, those headlines are annoying. Curiosity-gap headlines are a bit like German sentences: you don’t know what they mean until you get to the end, which means that the only way to find out what your friend is saying is to click on the headline and serve up another pageview to Upworthy. (Or ViralNova, or Distractify, or whomever.) It’s basically a way of hacking real-world friendships for profit, and there’s no way Facebook is going to allow it to continue indefinitely.

I think Felix is underestimating Facebook here. Facebook doesn’t just know what you click on on-site: it’s also tracking what you do once you leave, and storing this data for further use. It’s entirely possible it knows how long you spend on content which you click on; it definitely knows if you quickly bounce back to Facebook. Given this, it’s hard to imagine it won’t factor this into what content it serves up to you, if not now, then in the future.

Google and Motorola: (One of) the biggest destructions of shareholder value in history

If the reports are true (and Matthew Panzerino certainly thinks they are) then it looks like Google is selling off Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for a bargain-basement $3bn. This would represent a loss of around $9bn in a little over two years. (Update: It’s official.)

Except there’s more money been flushed down the toilet than just the loss on the deal. There’s also around $1.5bn of losses, plus probably hundreds of millions of dollars of legal fees which have spent chasing Apple around patent courts – to absolutely no effect.

The entire farce has cost Google somewhere in the region of $11bn, even once it’s managed to get $3bn back from Lenovo, which is desperate for a brand it can use to crack the American market.

This would eclipse the $10.2bn deal (and $8.8bn write down) for Autonomy done by those masters of a poor acquisition, HP.

Imagine, for one second, Tim Cook making a huge acquisition and, two years later, taking a $10bn bath on it. How loud would be the calls for him to be fired? Will there be similar calls for Larry Page to step down? Not a chance.

Update: Here’s another way of looking at it. Google sells Motorola Mobility for $3bn, after selling Motorola Home to Arris for $2.35bn. Assuming that Google is holding on to all the patents, and that its valuation of $5.5bn is correct (highly unlikely), that all comes to $10.85bn – a loss of around $2bn on the price it originally paid. Add in losses and so on, and you’re probably talking about a $4bn loss. That’s not quite the $6.2bn write-off that was Microsoft’s acquisition of aQuantive, but it’s not far off.

If someone made a potato, Samsung would make a Galaxy Potato

GigaOm:

Another report in the Korea Times suggests that Samsung is also working on a pair or smart glasses designed to compete with Google Glass, tentatively dubbed Galaxy Glass. Samsung is reportedly hoping to launch these glasses by September at IFA, which might get them to market sooner than Google makes its Glass available at the consumer level. 

I’m trying to think of a new technology which has come out that Samsung hasn’t raced to copy. 

Nope, still trying… no. Can’t think of anything. 

Repeat after me: Chrome is the platform, Android (and iOS) is just the host

I’ve been saying for some time that Google’s longer-term plans for application development all hinged around Chrome. Native Android apps are silos: although Google has built tools which allow developers to make Android apps searchable (and thus a target for ad sales, and tracking) it’s much harder than with a native HTML web app. 

Building an app using native tools is also a dead-end: developers have to work harder to create a web-native equivalent. And web-native equivalents can be easily supported by advertising, supplied by… you guessed it… Google. 

Chrome Packaged Apps, on the other hand, are “native” web apps – and the web is Google’s true focus. So it’s no surprise that Google has released an early release which lets you bring Packaged Apps to iOS and Android. 

Chome is the development platform, not Android: Android is just the host, just like iOS is.