|February was a month of big announcements and breakthroughs. The 35-dollar computer went on sale – not every man’s toy but certainly an interesting project, it comes with a less advanced 25-dollar version for those among us who are really tight. Belgian medics have successfully implanted a titanium jaw manufactured on a 3D-printer, making an 83-year old woman very happy and a little scary. Speaking of walking cyborgs, Google have finally shown a prototype of every geek’s dream: working Terminator glasses. A month after Polaroid unveiled the rather unusual gadget of a phone camera, Nokia has struck back with a 41-megapixel camera phone. Finally, Taiwanese tablet makers have proven that humour is not a universal language by resurrecting Steve Jobs to advertise their products.|
The Good: Super Bowl 2012
If you are not a sports fan or American, you may not even know what the Super Bowl is. But in the United States, the championship game of the National Football League is the game of the year. Due to the sheer size of the country, the event cannot be compared to, say, Britain’s Premiership finals; it is more like a UEFA Euro final that takes place annually. The Super Bowl has traditional favourites, outsiders, rivals and legends. It is by far the most watched broadcast event in the world: 111.3 million viewers tuned in this year, almost three times as many as the last Academy Awards.
The number of tweets poster per second during the game has tripled since 2011 to reach an all-time record of 12,233 this year. According to Trendrr, the social insight company, the overall number of tweets aired throughout the game has risen five times in a year, a testimonial to the ever growing popularity of social media tools. Considering the hype, the price tag of $3.5m for a 30-second ad slot (up from roughly $3m in 2011) is expensive but understandable. Those who don’t care about American football but like advertising know that these ads are usually worth watching.
The Bad: CBS Outdoor and London Underground
London is one of the four fashion capitals of the world. Together with Milan, New York and Paris, it is known for gifted newcomers as well as established players. London Fashion Week is a biannual event that attracts buyers from top retailers, international media and tourists. While the first two shouldn’t have much trouble getting behind the well-guarded gates, most of the guests of the capital can only take pictures of the glamorous ticket holders from behind the fence. The good people at CBS Outdoor clearly have a big heart: they arranged a live feed from the fashion shows to be broadcast across 60 cross-track screens on the London Underground. Sounds good? Sure. Good idea? No. Health and safety aside (it’s not a brilliant idea to distract people surrounded by high voltage rails and running trains) the effective work of London Underground depends on quick passenger flow; efficiency beats entertainment by a mile here. May be next time CBS could just organise an open air theatre?
The Ugly: Office 365 v Gmail
The silver lining in the cloud surrounding this month’s Microsoft news is the operating system’s new logotype. It is simple, neat and geometric. The trademark symbols seem to double in size with each iteration since XP but maybe Microsoft has reason to doubt peoples’ knowledge of its logo’s protection.
The same day Microsoft was celebrating a facelift, Google got into serious trouble over ignoring the privacy settings of the Safari users. Basking in schadenfreude, Microsoft has quickly put together a Googlighting video thrashing the rude, shameless and incompetent Gmail in a manner similar to that of the Gmail Man clip aired at the end of January. The fact that Internet giants ignore user privacy is a serious problem that should without a doubt find its way to courts. Broadly speaking, the complaint applies to Google the same extent it does to Facebook, Amazon, and probably a number of other companies dependent on contextual advertising. Considering the role the trespassers have grown to play in our lives, even President Obama felt obliged to step in. In short, internet snooping is deplorable and Google’s promises to get better will not repair the reputation of the company that once promised not to be evil. However, ill taste aside, Microsoft’s attack was a poor move for several reasons. First of all, the company is not exactly without sin in the matter. Secondly, as pointed out by Forbes, the latest video is a parody of a TV show that originally ran from 1985 to 1989, it comes across as a private joke between the dull servile men at Microsoft and mature corporate America, instantly alienating young individual users. Lastly, Microsoft, an established patriarch that has been an IT follower for decades, has arranged a public mud-fight with Google, a new wave challenger, an epitome of the American dream that has become a blue chip in a decade. The crude videos may have cost Microsoft more clients than the privacy scandal has cost Google.
Apple sold more iOS devices in 2011 than Macs in 28 years
The headline says it all- the popularity of the iPhone supported by sales of the iPad and iPod Touch have transformed a computer company into a home technology giant that has, yet again, become the world’s most expensive company in equity valuation, breaching the £500bn barrier at the end of the month. The growth was backed by rumours that Apple, the company whose value has grown 46 times in the last decade and almost a third since the beginning of the year, may pay dividends for the first time in its history.
Google ready to acquire Motorola
All the cash and market support Apple enjoys at the moment couldn’t come at a better time: in mid-February the European Commission and the US Department of Justice gave the green light to Google’s $12.5bn acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Considering the bitter, and partially successful, fight over smartphone patents that Motorola has led against Apple for years, with Google’s backing, the rivalry is likely to reach a whole new level. Bearing in mind that the relative novice in mobile technology, Google, doesn’t hide the fact that the primary goal in acquiring the company that manufactured the first mobile phones is the portfolio of 17,000 current and 7,500 pending patents, the courts around the world are likely to get very busy as soon as the deal is sealed.
Sony Ericsson is no more
Ten years and several cult models later, on 16 February 2012, Sony Corp. has announced the full acquisition of Sony Ericsson. One of the pioneers of the industry, Ericsson will no longer produce mobile phones, whilst Sony will try to gain some of the market back with the rather promising Xperia line. Back in the day, Sony Ericsson caught on to the trends of the noughties – colour displays and mobile photography, its T610 model, half-cast in aluminium, became enjoyed cult following amongst a generation of loyal fans. The company took advantage of Sony’s other brands, offering Walkman and Cyber-shot mobiles that were a step closer to multimedia gadgets than many of their rivals. For obvious reasons, the overwhelming success of the iPhone has delivered a serious blow. To make things worse, Sony Ericsson settled on the wrong operating system. Leaving Symbian for Windows Mobile in 2008 was a decision that determined the company’s future. If Sony Ericsson had waited a year and become one of the first to support Android, I would probably have had to research another topic for this digest. Looking forward, Sony will try to follow Apple in creating a technologic ecosystem, uniting its smartphones, laptops, tablets and TV sets. Considering its gift for sleek design and the fact that Sony Mobile has inherited Ericsson’s patent portfolio, the company may indeed have a future.
A masterclass in deception
Breathtaking as it may be, magic is not a science. Many years ago I was assisting a semi-respectable magician during one of his shows. I have to admit, contrary to the popular belief, even after learning the pith of the deception, the swiftness of gestures and the boldness of trickery were astonishingly impressive. To get a professional magician to talk about his trade is understandably hard, to corrupt someone as prominent as Teller – nigh on impossible. Fortunately for us, after seemingly being taken aback by the attention of the scientific community, the great magician volunteered.
No place for serendipity
How big are the cities we live in? How big are they for us? A social experiment conducted in the early 1950s suggested that our habits limit our urban horizon to a few well-beaten paths. The efficiency of our lives, supported by a plethora of tools – optimal route finders, information finders, people finders allows us to get what we want as quickly as possible. Technology makes it so easy to find exactly what we want, we have no time to appreciate the things we didn’t really want. Amazon doesn’t allow us to stumble upon a brilliant book we would have never picked up; Google maps doesn’t leave us wandering the streets to find a new cafe or a tiny theatre or an adventure. Optimisation doesn’t leave space for the random, for chance, for serendipity.