Google’s mobile strategy (Android) is spot on

It’s not often that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) launch a new software development kit with a $10 million prize for developers and a video explanation / press release from one of it’s founders. Yet that is exactly what has happened today with Android’s offical SDK release.

Before you read on, you should probably watch Sergey Brin’s YouTube video.

There has been a lot of fanfare with this latest announcement, but it’s easy to see why; the stakes are huge. By 2010, just over 1 billion people will have access to a computer, but around 4 billion will have access to a mobile phone, with over 1 million new subscribers every day! Google know that the potential for advertising to this vast market is enormous. They already lead the way with their contextual and search based adverts, but with mobile they will be able to target them to location as well.

Now I must admit that I’ve not been particularly enthusiastic about Internet on mobile phones until this year. Previously devices were clumsy to use, access speeds were slow, data transfer was expensive, and sites optimised for the small screen were few and far between.

However fast forward to now and we have flat rate data packages, phones that can cope with complex websites as easily as your desktop browser can and pioneering new interfaces such as the Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) multi-touch technology. The prospects for the Mobile Internet are looking up.

And this is great news for Linux. I think Android will do for Linux on mobile phones what Ubuntu has done for Linux on the desktop. If Google’s powerful brand can help get handset makers to write drivers for their hardware then the community as a whole will benefit.

The scope for software developers is enormous. By the end of next year, most handsets will have built in GPS and Android developers will therefore be able to craft a wide range of innovative location based applications. Think free sat-nav and local business enquiries via Google maps!

So, have Google missed out by not launching a single “gPhone”, and focusing on a software platform instead? In my mind, not at all. Linux’s growth is due to its open source nature and the fact that it can run on an enormous range of hardware, and I think Android will benefit from the same.

If Android will run on a mobile phone, then why not run it on a PC as well? Say hello to Google OS.

Army fly UAV Spy Plane with Xbox 360 Controller

I was just watching an Army Jobs advert on Channel 4, and it showed them piloting an unmanned aerial vehicle with an Xbox 360 controller.

Army UAV Xbox Controller

I wondered whether this was just for TV, but it seems that US marines have also been spotted controlling an SUGVs (small unmanned ground vehicle) with an XBox controller.

It would make a lot of sense as the XBox 360 controller:

  • Uses a common USB interface
  • Has drivers available for Windows, OS X and Linux
  • Has been extensively tested by millions of gamers
  • Is perhaps one of the greatest game controllers ever built

So why reinvent the wheel? You can see the full advert below…

Update 29th April 2008

I wrote to Army under the Freedom of Information act to find out if it really was an XBOX controller, and here is their reply.

Army Recruiting and Training Division
Trenchard Lines
Wiltshire SN9 6BE
Telephone:    01980 615065
Facsimile:      01980 615078

D/ARTD/1/3/12/1 75017 

29 April 2008

Mr P Manders 

Dear Mr Manders,

Thank you for your email of 8 April to the Ministry of Defence regarding an Army 
Recruitment Video.  I have been asked to reply.

The highly sophisticated mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) shown in the advert 
is the Desert Hawk 3 which is currently deployed on operations in Iraq.  Desert 
Hawk 3 is a portable UAV surveillance system which provides aerial video 
reconnaissance.  The equipment can be used for a variety of tasks, such as force 
protection for convoys and patrols, route clearance, base security, reconnaissance 
or target tracking.

The system used to control the planes has been adapted by Lockheed Martin and 
although the controller used by the soldiers to fly the plane is very similar to a 
Microsoft Xbox 360 controller, it is not the same.  You will see that there is no 
Microsoft wording on the controller nor a wired headset port. 

The advert demonstrates that the skills and abilities that an individual develops in 
their life prior to joining the Army may have a critical application within the British 
Army on operations today. 

I hope this is helpful.

Yours Sincerely 

Jodie C Spreadbury

iPhone UK TV ads begin

I’ve just seen my first UK iPhone ad on Channel 5, but I expect to see a lot more as we count down the days to the November 9th launch.

iPhone UK advert

The ad was demonstrating how you can access full size web sites natively on the iPhone and it certainly did whet my appetite for one. However, I think I’m going to wait until next year for the iPhone 2 (which should have 3G connectivity).

2500 litres of biofuel a year tax free

I don’t know how it evaded my attention at the time, but somehow it did. Back in June, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs simplified rules for producers and users of biodiesel such that if you produce (or use) less than 2500 litres per year you are exempt from fuel duty, and from the requirement to fill out monthly returns.

This translates to a potential tax saving of £708.75 (28.35p duty per litre x 2500), and makes using vegetable oil as a diesel substitute a whole lot more attractive.

Vegetable Oil as a Biofuel

My friend Jake is currently trying out a blend of 20% vegetable oil, 80% diesel in his unmodified VW Polo and has so far driven 600 miles with no side effects!

Since Vegetable oil is about £0.55 per litre (compared to over £1 a litre for diesel), even this 1:4 mix is saving him around £4 per tank.

Google assembles army against Microsoft-Facebook alliance

Earlier this week Techcrunch revealed that Google were about to launch a new social network project called OpenSocial. Rather than push out yet another social platform, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) have decided to stick to their strengths and core mission, that is; to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Open Social Homepage

With OpenSocial they are building a set of common APIs that will allow developers to create applications that will work with any social network. I think this is a killer move, as it will mean that Google is involved no matter which social networks are the current fad, just like Google is involved in search no matter which websites you end up visiting.

Developers are likely sign up on mass to this new utility (just as they have with Google Maps) as it means their applications will be available to all networks without them having to write specific code for each one, and they can code in standard Javascript/HTML rather than having to learn another markup language such as FBML.

As of yesterday, OpenSocial received backing from MySpace, adding to e Orkut, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Ning, Hi5, Plaxo, Friendster, Viadeo and Oracle who have all also said they will participate. Given that Facebook’s API was one of it’s key advantages over MySpace, suddenly Microsoft’s investment seems even more expensive.

More innovation from 3 with 3 Skype Phone

Three have launched some impressively innovative features in the last year or so and they’ve continued this trend with the arrival of their new Skype Phone today. Looking back we’ve had…

3 X Series

First there was X-series that allowed free unlimited internet access on your mobile to services such as ebay, skype, Google, sling box, messenger etc…

3 Mobile Broadband

That was followed by Mobile Broadband, allowing laptops and computers to connect via a USB modem to the Internet over a 3G wireless connection. Their 2.8mbps download speed and £10 per month price point meant that this service was competitive with traditional fixed line broadband services such as ASDL and cable modems.

3 Like Home

Three’s new roaming product is arguably the cheapest on the market, at least if you are phoning home from a country where Three operate. Calls and texts back to the UK from Austria, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Hong Kong and Ireland are deducted from your inclusive minutes just like a normal call.

and now… 3 Skype Phone

The Skype Phone gives free mobile Skype calls to anyone using the handset including their pre-pay customers (as long as they top up £10 per month). According to their FAQ, this works with their 3 Like Home service, allowing free skype calls abroad when roaming on the Three network.

The Skype Phone is free on all pay monthly contracts (from £12 per month), and £49 on pay as you go. It has a 2 megapixel camera, and comes with a 256MB microSD memory card.

3 Skype Phone

It was a good day for Three’s owner, Hutchison Whampoa (0013.HK) with their shares up 8.43%.

Microsoft pays a premium to get some Facebook

OK so this is old news now, but it just dawned on me how much Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) paid for a bit of the Facebook pie. First, let’s put things into perspective:

Investor Site Unique visitors
(GigaOM Sep 2007)
Traffic Growth
On previous month
News Corp MySpace 68,449,000 +0.1% $580 million
Google YouTube 47,486,000 +5.8% $1.65 billion
Microsoft Facebook 30,601,000 -9.3% $15 billion
($240 million for 1.6%)

These figures are from Comscore, and I believe they cover US traffic only, yet they illustrate the sort of value that Microsoft got when compared to other similar acquisitions by News Corp and Google.

Facebook is definitely growing faster in some places such as the UK where it is now nearly the size of MySpace, however I think a lot of that growth could be from the novelty factor; when you first sign up you’re addicted for a few weeks whilst you add all your old school friends, but then the novelty wears off. Personally, I used Facebook a lot more initially and now that has tapered off such that I now check it once per week or less.

It’s clear to me that Microsoft has paid well over the odds to stop Google getting yet another gain in ad inventory as it did by buying into AOL, YouTube and DoubleClick and by striking an advertising deal with MySpace. What’s not clear is how well Microsoft will be able to sell Facebook’s audience to their adCenter advertisers.

Mark Zuckerberg

Whatever happens, Mark Zuckerberg is happy!

Leopard + WordPress = Ultimate Blogging Tool

In the last 24 hours blogging has become a whole lot easier for me. The reason for this is that I upgraded both my laptop and my blog yesterday evening. The MacBook was taken from OS X Tiger to Leopard and my blog was switched from Blogger to WordPress . The combined Leopard/Wordpress blogging platform makes writing a blog (and embedding images such as screenshots) a breeze. In this post I will show you the steps required to take some screen grabs and then upload them to WordPress.

Take a screenshot

The two main screenshot commands you will most likely use are Command-Shift-3 which takes a grab of the entire screen, or Command-Shift-4 which allows you to select an area of the screen to capture. Both commands will save the the resulting image on your desktop.

Screenshot of Blog Homepage

Resize an image

Once you have made some screenshots you may want to resize them. Double click on the image and it will open up in the Preview utility. Click on the view menu as shown below.

Screenshot of Preview View Menu

On the view menu select adjust size, this will open an options window.

Screenshot of Preview Resize Options

For this post I have resized all my images to have a common width of 400 pixels. Leave the scale proportionally and resample image options checked, then click OK.

Save as JPEG

By default, the screen shot function will save your images as PNGs. Sometimes they are quite large files, so I like to save them as JPEGs instead and adjust the quality down a few notches to result in a smaller file size. Just click File > Save As to bring up the saving options.

Screenshot of Preview Save Options

Uploading to WordPress

Finally, now that the images have been prepared we can upload them to WordPress. On the Write Post page, you will see an upload as shown below.

Screenshot of WordPress Image Uploader

Simply click browse to select the image you want to upload from your desktop, then give it a title and/or description and press the upload button. Once the image has uploaded you will be given a few options on whether you want to display the full image or a thumbnail, and whether you want the image to have a link. Since I had resized my images to 400 pixels, I wanted to display the full image so I selected full size with no link. Then you just press send to editor and the appropriate image code is sent into the main editing text area.

And that’s it!

Switching from blogger to wordpress

I took the plunge tonight and converted my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I have been wanting to do this for a while; the main reason being that I find Blogger’s post editor incredibly frustrating. It refuses to automatically convert new line characters to BRs no matter which mode I use, which means I always have to go through and add them manually after each paragraph.

Anyway, the migration process was made very easy by the fact that WordPress provide some comprehensive import tools that go out and retrieve all your old blog posts and re-assemble them within wordpress.

Wordpress Blogger Import Tool

The only slight hiccup was that I had to briefly convert my Blogger account from an ftp based account to a blogspot hosted account in order for WordPress to do the import. This is a simple option in the Publishing settings on Blogger.

OS X 10.5 Leopard – First Impressions

In this post I will talk a little about my first impressions of Leopard after upgrading my MacBook from Tiger this evening.

As a converted Mac fan (NASDAQ: AAPL), I pre-ordered Leopard the very same day that Apple spammed e-mailed me about it. That was a week or so ago, and sure enough it arrived in the post this morning, like clockwork, on the day of Leopards official release. So far so good….

The install process was amazingly simple. Once in OS X, I stuck in the CD, clicked an install button and then after confirming my admin password, it restarted the computer and began installing. Initially it said it would take 4 hours, but the time remaining quickly came down and in the end it only took about 40 minutes. However, I was surprised that they didn’t use this time to take you on a tour of some of the new features.

Once you’ve rebooted after the install, the improvements to the OS could be described as a collection of subtle improvements dotted with a few new core features (such as Stacks, Time Machine, Spaces and Quick Look).

Some of the small changes I have noticed so far are…

New wireless networks drop down

The new drop down for selecting a wireless network now shows you whether the networks are secure or not with a padlock icon:

OS X 10.5 Leopard Wireless Networks Dropdown

Preview image resize / resample options

Now when you open an image in preview, you have the option to resize it. I’m pretty sure this is a new feature as I have always wanted to be able to do this!

OS X 10.5 Leopard Preview Image Resize Options

Bluetooth Dropdown Menu

You’ll notice now in the bluetooth dropdown menu that you can see your paired devices and immediately click through to browse or send a file to them.

OS X 10.5 Leopard Bluetooth Menu Options