Monthly Archives: December 2009

Chris Nuttall

Some of the best gadgets are one-of-a-kind devices that can either be runaway successes with consumers and define a new category or become major flops.

In the tenth and last part of our series on the essential gadgets of the past year, we take a look at these unclassifiable gizmos – Paul Taylor sums up his best of the rest after the jump,  while Richard Waters reviews the mono-functional Twitterpeek and we republish our looks at the Livescribe pen and Qualcomm personal TV below. Read more

Richard Waters

In a world awash with smartphones, why would anyone want a mobile gadget that did only one thing?

Perhaps if it did that one thing really, really well – and if that thing was central to your life – there might be a case for it.

There may indeed be die-hard addicts out there who require a permanent, dedicated connection to Twitter, though I’m certainly not one of them. But if those people exist, they will certainly want something better than the TwitterPeek to get their fix. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Yet another “App Store” launched this week, but the new Livescribe Application Store is for a smart pen rather than smart phone.

The Livescribe Pulse has changed the way I make a record of interviews since I started using it 18 months ago. It’s a pen that records both my scratchy notes, with a built-in camera in the nib section, and the audio of interviews, with its microphone.

(This post was first published on November 22, 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

Qualcomm, which once produced its own handsets to try to win wider acceptance of its cell phone chips, is repeating the strategy with the announcement of a Personal TV product, aimed at boosting take-up of its FLO TV mobile technology.

The new handheld device is FLO branded, Frog designed and made for Qualcomm by Taiwan’s HTC. It will go on sale at US retailers during the holiday season for $249 and will require a monthly subscription of around $10.

(This review was first published on October 7, 2009) Read more

Chris Nuttall

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 sold 6.1m copies in the US alone in November, according to the monthly video game sales figures just released by the NPD research firm.

That’s three times the 2m in sales in November 2008 of the previous title in the series – Call of Duty: World at War. The game had already broken records with the biggest sales at launch on November 10 of any entertainment property, when around 3.5m units were shifted in the first 24 hours in the US. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The clutter of game accessories around the living-room TV continues to grow. Apart from the usual Xbox, PS3 and Wii controllers, there are the Guitar Hero instruments, some Buzz quiz-game buzzers, the Wii balance board, Mario Kart racing wheel, Lips and Singstar karaoke microphones and a camera in our set-up.

But wait! We’re missing a few more. Activision Blizzard came out with two late in the year that showed great originality, although disappointing sales figures to date suggest the public is suffering console accessorisation fatigue and is not willing to pay out large sums for the latest gizmos. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Social networking has always been more about making memories rather than friends for me.

Early social networks, such as Friends Reunited, brought back memories and photos of schooldays. Flickr then provided new ways of creating and preserving them in the present, with photos shared with family and friends. Read more

Chris Nuttall

There was a touch of the absurd about the grand unveiling of Sir Richard Branson’s tourist spacecraft in the Mojave desert of California earlier this week, reports John Gapper in today’s FT.

We gathered after dusk in a freezing wind to watch the Virgin Space Ship Enterprise (yes, really) trundle several hundred metres along a runway and come to a halt. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Pico projectors brought the big screen to small devices in 2009, with iPods, cameras and phones benefiting from the new technology.

Pico projectors exist in their own pocket format or are integrated into the device itself. They reached maturity as products this year, overcoming problems of poor battery life, resolution and luminescence, but they will always suffer from one key weakness. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The first reviews are out on Barnes & Noble’s eReader, the Nook. Like the device itself apparently, they don’t make for pretty reading.

The influential reviewer David Pogue, writing in the New York Times, accuses B&N of rushing the product to market before it is ready and says: “To use the technical term, it’s slower than an anesthetized slug in winter.”

Peter Svensson, AP Technology writer, begins his review equally unpromisingly: “I’ve been trying Barnes & Noble Inc.’s $259 Nook for a few days, and I’m not eager to prolong the acquaintance,” he says. Read more

Richard Waters

There was a strained, unreal air today hanging over Silicon Valley’s Rosewood Hotel, the newest addition to the local venture capital enclave on Sand Hill Road.

This was the setting for Tony Perkins’ annual Venture Summit – always one of the best places to check up on the mood of the Valley’s start-up financiers.

What made it unreal was an odd blend of gallows humour and expectant anticipation. Even in the worst of times, these professional optimists can still find something to look forward to: it’s spelled I-P-O. Read more

Chris Nuttall

It’s easy to get lost following all the turns in direction and developments in the satellite navigation field this year.

The sector has been rapidly commoditised by the inclusion of satnav in automotive dashboards and GPS-enabled mobile phones.

Google’s introduction of its free Navigation application for Android phones in October has also disrupted the sector – it makes TomTom’s $100 turn-by-turn app for the iPhone look decidedly expensive. Read more

Richard Waters

The quote most commonly attributed to ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky is that he skated to where the puck was going to be next, not where it was at the time.

Google has clearly taken this message to heart, to judge from the advances it showed off on Monday in the areas of mobile and real-time search.

What made this all the more striking was the contrast with Microsoft, which last week tried to whip up attention for Bing with a rare event in Silicon Valley to boast its own search innovations. Microsoft’s interest  seemed very much focussed on where the puck already is – though it still has some fresh ideas that suggest it should be able to put up a better fight in this latest round of the Search Wars. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Seagate, the world’s leading hard disk drive (HDD) maker, has finally introduced its first solid-state drive (SSD) in the shape of the 2.5-inch Pulsar unit.

Seagate is late to the game on SSDs – a potential threat to its traditional business – and its  first product will be aimed at the enterprise rather than consumer market. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Boxee, the internet entertainment service, has unveiled its first hardware box at a New York event, and it’s not your usual container.

The Boxee Box is an irregular-sided object with minimum video connectivity. It will be made by D-Link, best known for its consumer network routers. Read more

Paul Taylor

Laptops, particularly stylish “thin-and-light” machines, such as Dell’s Adamo ($, )*, Apple’s ultra-thin MacBook Air ($, ), and Acer’s Aspire Timeline ($$$, ), which has excellent battery life, are objects of desire and even envy among early adopters and the digerati.

Alternatively, consider a Lenovo ThinkPad X300 ($$, ), which is plain-looking but has a great keyboard and screen, or Toshiba’s Portégé R600 ($$, ), elegant and very thin. Ap­ple’s 13in MacBook Pro ($$, ) is good if you prefer OS X. Read more

Paul Taylor

Digital cameras come in all shapes and sizes. The most pricey – but also the most flexible – are big, bulky and power-packed DSLRs like Canon’s new EOS 7D ($, ♥)* or Nikon’s new D300 ($$$,), which takes awesome still and video images. I also like Panasonic’s mini-DSLRs, the Lumix G1A ($$$, ) and GFI ($$$, ) , which are both smaller than some fixed-lens cameras.

For a compact digital camera, Canon’s mid-range Powershot sx200is ($$, ) (pictured above) is a great choice along with fixed-lens superzooms like the FinePix S200EXR ($$$, ) . For the ultimate in pocketability, choose a supercompact like the Canon Powershot sd1100 IS ($$$$, ) or fun-packed Samsung TL225 ($$$,) for its dual-LCD screens. Read more

Richard Waters

Is there any reason you wouldn’t want to see search engine results that reflect your own particular interests and tastes?

That’s the question raised by Google’s announcement today that it will personalise all search results from now on unless users actively opt out. That means, as Danny Sullivan explains, if you tend to click on Amazon in the search results, Amazon is likely to feature higher in the results you see in future.

Developments like this quite naturally prompt a knee-jerk concern: Does this mean they’ll be keeping or using information about individuals in new ways? Isn’t this another step in the creeping erosion of online privacy? Read more

Chris Nuttall

EReaders are the hottest gadget category right now, judging by their lack of availability.

Sony warned us last month it could not guarantee deliveries by Christmas of its new Daily Edition reader, while Barnes & Noble has sold out of its Nook Reader.

Both companies may have suffered from running out of time in ramping up production for the holidays, rather than being overwhelmed by demand, but it seems that Amazon has benefited. It announced on Monday that the Kindle was the best-selling product on its website.

In the fourth in our series on the essential gadgets of the year, Paul Taylor summarises current choices after the jump, while in posts below, David Gelles gives his personal account of reading a digital book and we republish posts reviewing the Cooler and the current state of the market. Read more

David Gelles

Enjoying a book is a two part process.

The first involves the book as a physical object – a rectangular brick of paper with, one hopes, a nicely designed jacket. The colourful cover art catches the eye. The intriguing title captures the imagination. The size gives an approximation of its length, and the time it will take to read it.

The second involves the actual reading. Eyes fix on the text and methodically moving down the page, left to right, one line at a time. The book itself all but disappears. Attention is not with the physical object of the book, but with the story being told.

For the past two weeks I have forsaken good old-fashioned bound paper books. Instead, I have been reading exclusively on a Kindle 2, the popular e-reader from Amazon. Read more