Categories
Hack

Using Gmail’s 2- Factor Authentication In Nigeria

Wikipedia defines Two-step verification (also known as Two-factor authentication, abbreviated to TFA) as a process involving two stages to verify the identity of an entity trying to access services in a computer or in a network.

For Gmail, what this means is that even if your password is compromised, no one can have access to your mails unless they also 2f1have access to your mobile line. Unless you add your laptop as a trusted device, everytime you log into your email account over the web, you will be required to also input a one-time code before gaining access to your mails.

Nice, isn’t it.

For Nigerians, the bad part. Curiously, Gmail does not support Nigerian mobile lines at all.

Fortunately, there is a way around this. Simply put, all you need do is get a valid US number that you can receive SMS on.

And How do you get this?

Heywire is the maker of a free consumer text messaging app available on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, with millions of users. It is also available on your PC using your browser. They give you a real US mobile number for free with which you can text or receive SMS from any mobile messaging service. The person you are texting or receiving SMS from DOES NOT need to have a HeyWire account, you can text them directly to their normal phone.

  • The app allows you to send free texts messages to mobile phones in 45 countries over WiFi or 3G – Excluding Nigeria of course.
  • However, you can receive text messages from any mobile line or bulk messaging services.
  • Text FREE from the Web: Go to app.heywire.com, login with your HeyWire number
  • 1 HeyWire account across all your devices — iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad & Computer
  • Text using Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, or LTE.

With this app, you can configure the 2-Step Verification for your Gmail account using your Heywire US number to receive your code.

2f2

Categories
Advertorial Entertainment

Deezer Music Service – Unlimited Music Downloads

A few weeks back, i wrote about Xbox Music, a Windows 8 app that gives you access to an estimated 30 million+ of songs to stream for free on your PC (Online or Offline mode), on the web and on your android & iOS tablets or phones .

This music service, however, has at least 2 major flaws;

deezer

  • The mobile apps does not have an offline mode. You can only stream music online – Data services required!
  • At US$9.99 monthly subscription fee, it is not competitive.

For those of us living in Africa – except, perhaps, South Africa – we have very limited music service options. Popular services like Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, Google Play Music and Amazon are just not available.

It was only by chance that i stumbled on this less known music service called Deezer. It boasts of a presence in a whooping 182 countries, including Nigeria. The first thing that struck me was the similarity in its song database and that of Xbox Music.

The following are what i will consider as the strengths of this service;

  • Seemingly similar song database to Microsoft’s Xbox.
  • A more affordable US$4.99 (NGN850) subscription fee per month, giving you access to 30 million+ music tracks including Nigerian hit tracks .
  • Offers mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms.
  • Offline music playback both on the desktop PC and on your mobile devices.

Fortunately, Deezer offers a 15 day trial. You have nothing to lose, why not give it a try?

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

iOS 7 vs Android Jelly Bean 4.2

How does Apple’s iOS 7 compare to Google’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean? We take a look at both to check the lay of the land.

Interface

Android’s interface has utilised a similar look and feel since version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (and to an extent 3.0 Honeycomb) which was introduced by Mathias Duarte. This comprises a black notifications bar and black or grey menu backgrounds, but the rest of the interface elements are largely either translucent, white or cyan throughout and use Google’s unique Roboto font. Google’s app icons use a very simplified art style, similar to vector art with bold, flat colours and some selective highlights and shading in some places.

Overall it’s very clean, cohesive and minimalist, which I rather like.

I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that with iOS 7, Apple has taken some ‘inspiration’ from Android for the new look. Admittedly though, in some ways it has gone one better. The top bar is no longer black and is now transparent, rather like Google’s persistent search bar widget. It actually looks nicer than Google’s black bar in my view.

The app bar at the bottom is no longer a reflective ‘pane’ for the apps to sit on and is instead another translucent section and this is distinctly different from Android – which doesn’t have a bar and simply features a grey dividing line.

Apple has revamped folders in iOS 7 which can now be packed full of app shortcuts and scrolled through. However, I don’t find the implementation as compelling as Android’s system. In iOS 7, tapping on a folder zooms you in on it and takes you, effectively, to a whole new homescreen. For me, this isn’t what folders are about and I think Android’s system where the folder expands over part of the screen as a temporary overlay is much better.

Apple’s app icons have been tweaked in a similar fashion to Google’s with that ‘flatter’ aesthetic which was rumoured. They still have gradient colours but there’s less shadowing, less gloss and everything is generally much more simplified. Text is also flatter with no shadowing underneath.

While it’s fair to say that Android has its share of bright and clashing colours I think Apple has taken it to a whole new level and there’s something very retina-searing about iOS 7’s colour scheme which, to me, sits at odds with that theme of soft white text and translucent menu elements. This was calling out for a more nuanced palette, in my opinion.

Multitasking

Multitasking has been completely overhauled on iOS 7 but to say it takes a leaf out of Android’s book is an understatement. It’s pretty much a wholesale copycat affair, complete with a scrollable carousel of active app preview panels of the kind we’ve seen since Honeycomb 3.0 and, importantly, the same ‘swipe-to-close’ gesture Android has been using since version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

It scrolls side-to-side in ‘portrait’ orientation (similar to Windows Phone 8, in fact) and the swipe to close is upwards, as opposed to Android’s up-and-down carousel and swipe to the side to close, but for all intents and purposes it’s the same setup with a slightly different skin (ie: Apple’s new ‘everything is translucent’ approach).

I really love Android’s multitasking so I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, it’s great to see that I can get that same interaction style elsewhere, but on the other: this isn’t the only way multitasking could’ve been implemented, as BlackBerry 10 proved. In fact, BlackBerry 10 has largely convinced me there are better approaches than Android. There is more than one way to multitask well.

As a result, Apple’s straight-up burglary is pretty shameful on all fronts –it’s blatant copying and is both unimaginative and unoriginal where the firm had a chance to show its creativity.

Notifications

Both iOS 7’s and Android’s notifications centres drop down from the top bar with a swipe gesture.

With Android you have a black background which you can just about see app icons behind. The clock appears bigger than in the closed bar and shifts to the left-hand side while a toggle on the right corner lets you switch back and forth Quick Settings menu. Individual notifications appear in little boxes and can be swiped away to dismiss.

On iOS 7 you have a translucent background, the top bar remains as it is on the homescreen and there are three categories at the top for ‘Today’, ‘All’ and ‘Missed’. Notifications appear as a continuous stream only separated by a small icon and text showing what app they’re relevant to, such as ‘Calendar’, for example.

Quick Settings

Quick Settings on Android can be opened by swiping down from the notifications bar with a two-fingered gesture and presents you with a grid of square button toggles for things like brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – there’s also a shortcut to the full-fat Settings menu.

Google’s take on the Quick Settings menu, something pioneered by third-party manufacturer UIs and launcher apps on its platform, was a long time coming from when the concept first emerged and still hasn’t quite lived up to what the ‘Android community’ came up with first, in my view. It’s not so instantly accessible.

Conversely, Apple appears to have actually done a really good job here. The ‘Control Centre’, as it’s called, swipes up from the bottom and continues the translucent theme.

You’ve got a standard set of toggle shortcuts for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the like, but more importantly an actual brightness slider, which is annoying absent from stock Android even now. There’s also a handy music player widget, er, thing, for any current track you’re listening to, a button for AirPlay and AirDrop and a set of shortcuts for calculator, flashlight and camera functions.

Core apps and services

iTunes Radio vs Google Play Music: All Access

One of Apple’s big announcements for WWDC was iTunes Radio, the much-rumoured music streaming service which expands on Apple’s existing iTunes setup to allow ‘featured stations’ of streamed content.

Google Play Music: All Access is pretty much exactly the same setup, as we wrote during Google’s announcement:

‘All Access has a wide-ranging catalogue of music using Google Play’s existing setup, but you can stream tracks instantly. It also features ‘expert curated’ genre lists showing iconic genre tracks and allowing you to discover new music.’

If you tap on a track to play it you can turn it into a radio station – All Access will pull in a ‘never-ending’ playlist of related tracks and stream them to your device. You can swipe to peek at what track is coming next or access the playlist completely – if there’s anything on there you don’t like you can swipe it away or you can re-oder the playlist as you like.’

iTunes Radio does include a few extra perks, such as Siri integration, as Apple’s Eddie Cue outlined at the launch:

‘Let Siri make your listening experience even more fun. Ask Siri ‘Who plays that song?’ or ‘Play more like this’ and Siri will make it happen. Say something like ‘Play Jazz Radio’ or ask for any of your existing favourite stations and genres. Shape your stations by telling Siri what you like and don’t like, or tell Siri to pause, stop or skip. You can also have Siri add songs to your Wish List to download later.’

Both services are coming in later then entrenched competitors such as Spotify and both have massive collections of licensed music to offer.

As usual, it’s simply a case of selecting one ecosystem or another to become entrenched in, and such a decision should probably centre around other software and hardware considerations more than anything else.

Like the iPhone’s design? Go with iTunes Radio. Prefer the Android interface? Pick Google Play Music: All Access. It really makes little difference.

Each is also initially only available in the US, however, and we’ll have to wait a little while before either makes its way across the pond.

Apple Maps vs Google Maps

In terms of updates for Apple Maps we were once again shown all the ‘amazing’ 3D stuff again. As far as more useful stuff is concerned Apple demonstrated how you can now select a location, find points of interest, see reviews for said POIs and share the location via social networking, messaging or to your phone from a computer. So far, so playing catch-up to Google Maps.

Apple didn’t really demonstrate much in the way of improved location data and accuracy though. Sure, there weren’t any gaping voids in the big-screen demonstration, but then, there wouldn’t be. For now, we know from experience that Google Maps is excellent, the standard by which others are measured, because the company has invested a lot of time, money and effort over the years to literally re-map a massive chunk of the planet, on the ground and in the air. Until more extensive use tells us that Apple Maps has caught up in this regard, I’ll continue to trust Google Maps first.

On a related note, Apple did explain how it was working with car manufacturers to integrate both Apple Maps and Siri voice commands into in-car systems. Quite how far-reaching this will be in terms of participating manufacturers and supported car models isn’t clear.

At first I’d guess this will have a US focus, but in any case given Apple Maps’ recent history I’m not exactly champing at the bit to have it guiding me while driving and I’m sure plenty of Australians can say the same.

Lock screen

As this side-by-side screenshot shows, the two lock-screen interfaces are alarmingly similar, right down to the stock wallpaper. Android got here first, of course.

In terms of functionality both offer the same deal. Notifications appear on the screen, you can access the camera from the lockscreen and both feature swiping gestures to unlock (although of course you can replace these with passcodes and the like.) Both also allow you to access their respective quick settings and notifications screens from the lockscreens with the same gestures you’d use on the normal homescreen.

Conclusion

As I’ve hinted at earlier in the comparison, it’s difficult in many ways to see iOS 7 as anything other than Apple playing catch-up to Android, while snagging a few choice morsels from Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 along the way.

In many respects that’s fair enough, but these things are not revolutionary in the broader sense – massive bonuses for people already entrenched in iOS, of course, but Apple and its followers are in no position to be crowing about revolutionising the smartphone space. Though that won’t stop them from doing so anyway.

But this is all politics, what about if you’re sat there wondering which platform to invest in? And to be clear, when I say invest, I really do mean invest – if you’re going to be buying films, music, games and apps on either of these platforms then making a switch later with your collection intact is going to be difficult at best and in some cases impossible at worst.

Such profound wisdom on which is the better long-term bet would require some kind of crystal ball and the clairvoyance to see where both companies and their ecosystems are headed, so I’m afraid I can’t help you there. I left mine at home.

What I can say is that I prefer most of Android’s overall aesthetic, mainly as the colours are less offensive to my delicate eyeballs, however I do also prefer iOS 7’s translucent menu elements and in particular the Control Centre has utterly schooled Google on how it should be done. I’d also reiterate that I don’t trust Apple Maps any further than I can throw it, and I’m rubbish at throwing stuff.

Both platforms have massive, thriving ecosystems packed with app and multimedia content, both also now have streaming services built-in and both have slick, multitasking-friendly interfaces.

You could argue you get more choice in terms of hardware on Android, that’s very true and in many ways is a good thing, but on the flip-side Apple doesn’t get treated to lots of annoying UI overlays sullying the experience and there’s one clear choice of the ‘best’ handset when it comes to the platform.

In short: ‘you pays your money, you takes your choice,’ as they say.

 

This article was first published on knowyourmobile.com by Paul Briden on 11 June, 2013

Categories
Gadgets

Why You Should Always Pay for Apps

So you just bought a smartphone or tablet, or received one as a gift. Congratulations! Now go buy some apps. No, not free apps. You, or a special someone, just spent, what, $200-plus on your new gadget? Plunk down $10 for some apps.

Mobile app development is one of the last businesses in America where one or two guys with a good idea can make it big, and where consumers can get a top-quality, original product for little money. Big-box stores have crushed the mom-and-pops. Most culture seems to be created by giant conglomerates. Kickstarter is out there, but it tilts the playing field in the other direction; it isn’t a store, it’s a gambling emporium.

Most transactions in our world are so dispersed along an endless supply chain that it’s impossible to figure out whom you’re actually paying for what. When you buy a toy at Walmart, how much of your $20 goes to the checkout girl? How much to the truck driver who delivered it, how much to the person who assembled it, how much to the person who invented it? There’s no way to know.

Digital media distribution has some of the same problems. I recently bought Brave on Amazon for $20. I assume about 30 percent of that went to Amazon, but of the other 70 percent, how much did anyone involved in creating the movie see? How much went to some incomprehensible financial derivative rewarding large Disney shareholders? Once again, no way to know.

I think one of the reasons media piracy is so rampant is that these media products have become so disassociated from any particular creator. Obviously, it takes a team of hundreds, if not thousands, to make a Brave. But that makes too many consumers feel that pirating Brave is a victimless crime, as the “creator” has become this inchoate blob listed on a stock exchange.

When you buy a toy at Walmart, how much of your $20 goes to the checkout girl?

REWARDING THE LITTLE GUYS

AppsPeer into the mobile app stores, on the other hand, and you see a lot of excellent stuff made by small businesses. Take the “top paid” list at Google Play. Along with the big names, you see apps from little studios like Mojang, LevelUp, and ZeptoLab. My wife loves World of Goo, by two-man game house 2D Boy. When you buy from one of those, you know your money is going to the creators. Even better: If they make money, they’ll probably make more apps.

I’m currently working my way through the Windows Phone 8 game Dragon’s Blade, and I paid 99 cents for the “DX” version so Nate, the creator, knows he has one more interested player. When you buy a bag of gold in the iPad game Silversword, 70 percent of the money goes to pay the rent of a guy named Mario. He lives in Germany. He writes code. He’s working hard to bring you an expansion pack right now. Why wouldn’t you want to participate in a transaction like that?

There’s even a perpetual collection of small-developer games going around, called the Humble Bundle. I don’t like the Humble Bundle for stupid reasons, mostly because I associate it with people who live in Brooklyn, have artisanal facial hair, and listen to electronic dance music. I should probably get over that.

If there’s a paid version and a free version of something, get the paid version. Remember: if you aren’t paying for a product, you are the product. Free versions are worse for you and worse for the creators. You agree to sell your personal data to advertisers. The creator gets some attenuated dribble of cash from the bottom of a complicated pyramid of interests. But when you buy the paid version, the creator gets direct cash and knows you’re interested.

If there’s a paid version and a free version of something, get the paid version.

This logic also holds when you’re buying an app from a company like Disney or EA that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies. By purchasing a paid app, you’re endorsing a clear, simple economics where you know how and what you’re paying. Free apps encourage companies to find invisible ways to “monetize” their users, from selling personal information to demanding perpetual, periodic in-app purchases. You’re still paying, you’re just rarely told how up front.

MOBILE PIRACY IS WORSE THAN DESKTOP PIRACY

If you pirate Android apps, on the other hand, you are scum. Yes, there are some outlier justifications: If you’re a subsistence farmer in India living on $2 a day and “Where’s My Water?” is not only an ironic statement of first-world problems, but the slim joy in your sun-blasted day, go for it. But I suspect you’re First World middle class, and you spent more than $1 today on something relatively worthless, like a bag of chips (or crisps, if you live outside the United States).

Mobile apps are so stunningly affordable right now, and the money usually goes so directly to programmers that you are taking food out of their children’s mouths for spite. Really, you can’t economize $2 in this week’s budget to reward someone for their labor? We’re not talking $600 Adobe software suites here. The only reasons to pirate a $2 app are if you’re below the United Nation’s global poverty line, or if you’re a complete jerk.

I understand that some people are hesitant to buy apps because they’re worried about quality. That is why we have reviews. PC Magazine has reviews, Amazon has reviews, the app stores have reviews, 148Apps has reviews, platform fan sites have reviews. Really. Do a five-minute Google search and you’ll find out how good an app is.

So go. Take that fresh iPhone 5, that new Kindle Fire, or that shiny HTC 8X and pick up a game or an app. It’ll be the best buy you’ve made so far this year, and one you can feel really good about.

Really, you can’t economize $2 in this week’s budget to reward someone for their labor?
Source : PCMAG
Categories
Mobile

Firefox OS: Another Lab Experiment?

There are now a good number of mobile OS out there, with many still considered as not more than lab experiments. The likes of Jolla and Tizen fits this description perfectly.

Jolla, in particular, has a tall order of competing with Research In Motion’s upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS, as well as the latest version of Windows Phone for the lucrative title of third most popular mobile platform globally, behind Apple and Google’s operating systems. How that pans out, time will tell.

The ambitions of some of these mobile OS can be considered humorous at best. Not to be considered a “kill joy”, why not let us , em, humour them.

The new kid on the block is the Firefox OS, still in its alpha release. My initial hands on with this OS left an Android taste in my mouth. Simply put, the experience was too familiar.

Why take my word for it? Firefox has been nice enough to allow a simulation of its new OS using a firefox browser. Follow the steps below to grab it:

  • In your Firefox browser, go to this link and click the download link for your OS. This will install the r2d2b2g Firefox OS simulator extension.
  • Click on the link for your OS and allow Firefox to install the software in your browser
  • After installing, the Firefox OS simulator dashboard pops up immediately. No need to restart your browser.
  • Enable the simulator by clicking the “stopped” button on the top left side of the browser. The button turns green and is labelled “running”
  • The Firefox OS simulator pops up immediately.
  • Enjoy!

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Operating Systems Compared: Which is the Right Choice for Your Smartphone?

Today, choice of a smartphone is not only governed by features and cool looks, but also by the OS that runs on it. Here we analyze and compare the major smartphone operating systems, including iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone.

iOS

It is said that Newton thought about the principles of gravity when he saw an apple falling from a tree. In the field of IT, Apple has always been almost game-changing. They have designed iOS to run only on devices marketed by Apple itself. This has both good and bad sides to it. The good side is that this brings in a sense of exclusivity and an aspirational factor when you own a iOS device, be it an iPhone or an iPad. Another factor that adds to this is that Apple hasn’t created too many variants of its products. There’s only the iPhone and iPad available in 2-3 configurations each. However, even the price for the base model is high enough for most buyers to consider.

The OS itself is easy to use and gives an extremely good user experience, thanks to the support for retina displays and a perfect touchscreen experience. On supported hardware, OS upgradability is smooth. The lack of Flash support hasn’t really deterred users from becoming fans of iOS (and Apple as a whole).

Where Apple does emerge as a clear winner is in the application ecosystem. This acts as a win-win for all three parties involved –the user, Apple and the developer. Apple follows a rigorous application approval process due to which the overall quality of available applications is bound to grow. Developers are given an easy way to track their application usage in detail, besides getting their share of the revenue. There is currently no support for external storage and this is one of the key reasons why Apple’s smartphone dominance in the US has not reflected to the same scale elsewhere. The built-in applications can work seamlessly with iTunes, which is by itself a very good product. Many C-level (top level) executives do use the iPhone as their business phone though, because it is very reliable.

BlackBerry OS

BlackBerry has a reasonably large range of devices to choose from and they are readily available in Nigeria. An entry level BlackBerry device costs less than thirty thousand naira and this has caused many casual users to explore the BlackBerry platform. While the built-in applications such as secure push mail and BBM have been huge hits and it has support for external storage, it’s application marketplace hasn’t been so successful. BlackBerry holds its own in the enterprise, where it is widely trusted to be secure for communication and collaboration.

Android

Thanks to the openness of the Android platform, the available device range for this OS is so wide that many models in the Nigerian market are cheaper than most feature phones, although still costlier than the basic phones. It has been reported to be not as easy to use as other mobile OSes though. Many term Android as a mobile OS for the geek. The widespread penetration of Android has also resulted in high fragmentation, and this is acting as a bane. OS updates reach different users in pretty different time-frames. That said, one of the key reasons Android has been so successful in Nigeria is that the OS supports sideloading apps out of the box. You can get Android applications from any source and install them. There are marketplaces from vendors such as Amazon. This makes it easy for the user to share applications and this seems to have caught on with Nigerian users, thanks to its affordability and external storage support. Users can themselves develop applications and install them on their device (as well as share them with others) without requiring to use any marketplace at all. The Android marketplace too is pretty large (although not as large as Apple’s) but due to the support for sideloading, malware is seen to be creeping into the Android marketplace and Google is reported to be taking efforts to curb the menace.

The built-in applications are obviously designed to work flawlessly with Google’s services such as Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. One advantage of the open architecture is that there are extensive sources of both professional and community support available for both users as well as developers. Jelly Bean holds promise as a mobile OS but given the current lack of uniformity in the distribution of Android upgrades, it will take time before it reaches the mass in sizable numbers. In fact, developers too have been having a hard time since they need to target multiple versions of Android.

Windows Phone Mango and Beyond

It was only after Nokia’s Lumia range of handsets were launched that users began to take note of the new mobile OS from Microsoft. New because it is radically different from Windows Mobile (the last version being 6.5.3), both on the surface as well as under the skin. Unlike Windows Mobile , Windows Phone was developed keeping the consumer in mind. Currently there are a few second generation devices available in the market which come with Windows Phone Mango pre-installed. Nokia’s Lumia range also brought a decrease in the entry barrier to a more acceptable price point for a wider user base.

Like most consumer-focused software developed by Microsoft, Windows Phone is absolutely simple to use. In fact, many reviewers even termed this as a negative point stating that the OS might seem too unappealing to advanced users. Upgradability is a big pain though. Not only was there no officially supported means of upgrading a Windows Mobile 6.5.3 device to Windows Phone 7, but also Windows Phone 7 devices will not be upgradable to Windows Phone 8! This has caused widespread frustration amongst owners of Windows Phone devices, both first-generation as well as those who only recently purchased one. This is quite a drastic change from the desktop scenario where your Windows Vista-capable PC can run Windows 8 as well with no hardware changes requireds (unless you want to use the touch-optimized UI full-time). Sideloading first-party applications requires the device to be `developer-unlocked`, else you can install applications and games only through the official marketplace. The marketplace too was launched here in India only after the release of Windows Phone Mango about a year ago, when Microsoft officially launched the OS here. Although most of the popularly used iOS and Android applications have been ported for Windows Phone as well, in terms of sheer numbers, the marketplace is pretty small compared to Android/iOS. It is expanding very fast though, thanks to initiatives by Microsoft for developers such as the `I unlock joy` program, which is specific to India. Currently no devices support external storage. In fact, until the second generation devices, there were even no devices with a front-facing camera. The built-in applications such as Internet Explorer 9 mobile, Office 2010 mobile (including not just Word, Excel and PowerPoint but also SharePoint integration, Outlook and OneNote) , XBox Live and Zune, combined with best-in-class social network integration, has been a killer app as a whole for Windows Phone.

Other notable choices

Nokia’s combination of Symbian, Maemo/Meego and QT are each by themselves worthy platforms but they are slowly losing market share. And while Samsung’s Bada has not exactly lost market share, awareness about it amongst consumers remains very low.

In conclusion

There are things to look forward to in addition to the already released Android 4.1 and iOS 6. Windows Phone 8 is set to hit the market soon as well as BlackBerry 10 most probably after a few months. There is no stopping the surge in sales of smartphones.

 

Reference : PCQUEST

Categories
Articles

Steve Ballmer – The Richest Employee

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who is worth about $14 billion, closes down restaurants to talk to people, has gone paperless, and truly believes that the only difference between Microsoft and Apple in the mobile market is that the iPhone maker made one right decision–choosing ARM chips for its smartphone, rather than Intel’s battery-hogging alternatives.

That’s about all you’re going to learn about the man in a sprawling seven-page profile from Businessweek. True to his desire to control how Microsoft is perceived by consumers, Ballmer let little go in the profile, and instead tried to keep positive about his company’s prospects in 2012, saying the tech giant will have “a reset moment” this year.

For Ballmer, 2012 could prove to be an important turning point in his career. This year will be the one where the world finds out if the Nokia partnership struck last year was a good one. It’ll also be the year to find out if Microsoft can make a mark in tablets and sell both consumers and enterprise users on a dramatically redesigned operating system, Windows 8. Perhaps most importantly, as Businessweek’s Ashlee Vance indicates in the Microsoft CEO’s profile, it’ll be Ballmer’s year to prove he has the right plan to break Microsoft out of what has become a long-term malaise.

Here are some other tidbits from Ballmer’s profile:

  • Vance met with Ballmer at a steakhouse in Bellevue, Wash., which he had closed down for the night. His security guards asked the reporter not to name the location.
  • Although Ballmer has been CEO at Microsoft for over a decade, he told Vance that people often forget he “got a new job three and a half years ago” after Bill Gates retired from day-to-day activities.
  • Ballmer acknowledges that Windows Vista was not Microsoft’s “finest hour” and it set the company back quite a bit.
  • Ballmer is serious about leveraging his company’s $8.5 billion Skype acquisition. In October, he met with 400 Skype engineers to get a better understanding of how the VoIP provider’s service works.
  • Microsoft’s retail store strategy is simple enough: put them near Apple stores. “We’ve got to beat [Apple] anyway,” Ballmer told Businessweek.
  • Although some of Microsoft’s products, like Windows Phone 7, have fallen short, Ballmer argues that his focus is the long-term. And in that regard, he thinks his company will win out.
  • According to Businessweek, Ballmer says Google is now taking on the role of “monopoly power” in the tech space, but acknowledged that in reality, the search giant might not actually deserve that title.
Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Windows 8 – Radically Different!

Many would say that Android devices have done very little in upsetting the supremacy of the iPad as the flagship Tablet device. But let’s face it, have they even done anything at all? Is Android the Messiah we are waiting for or is there another yet to come?

After a very brief romance with Android, i do not think the Android platform has what it takes, at least for now. Of course, that is just my personal opinion and i am sure i can easily be proven wrong.


Microsoft has officially unveiled its next-generation Windows 8 operating system, detailing how the company has “reimagined” the software to allow a single operating system to run on a variety of systems from tablets to desktops and Intel to ARM. The company’s new “Metro” user interface emphasizes touch-centered input and full-screen apps much like the iPad, but also supports full mouse and keyboard input with the familiar underpinnings of earlier Windows versions.

Perhaps most notable for Apple observers is Microsoft’s tablet effort with Windows 8, marking yet another significant effort to unseat Apple’s iPad from its dominating position atop the tablet market. It is just as versatile as any previous version of Windows (maybe more) and it is made to work with both touch-based gestures and/or keyboard and mouse-based actions.

Apple, unlike Microsoft, built its mobile OS off of the roots of the desktop and would theoretically have an easier time integrating the two. As of Lion and iOS 5, however, the two are distinct and show no immediate signs of getting closer other than minor interface elements. The Cupertino company’s attitude towards mobile is the polar opposite of Microsoft’s and envisions a “post-PC” world where Microsoft has been insisting the PC is still relevant. Microsoft’s bet on Windows 8, regardless of whether or not Windows Phone 8 merges, is that it can get buyers interested in tablets based on an identical interface in desktops and notebooks. Good move!

While Microsoft acknowledges that Windows 8 is a work in progress, the current tablet implementation still appears to be a somewhat rough integration of the Metro touch experience with more traditional desktop computing.

Questions, however, remain about architecture support, with the Intel-powered tablet running Windows 8 serving as a capable device but missing the benefits of ARM-based systems such as power efficiency. Microsoft promises that ARM support is an important component to the Windows 8 strategy, but the company is not yet able to offer hands-on time with such devices.

Timing remains a question mark. Microsoft still isn’t saying when Windows 8 will be released. But it’s widely expected sometime in 2012.

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Gadgets

What is Nokia Thinking?!

Really, i thought it was just me on my high horse but reading through Gizmodo, i realized it wasn’t just me! What exactly is Nokia thinking?!

The past few days has witnessed a lot of news on the internet about Nokia taking the wraps off its “new” LEGACY operating system, the “Belle” iteration of symbian phones, into the market. The newly introduced phones are the Nokia 700, 701 and 600. Expectedly, it is still the same solid Nokia quality phones, with the joker being the Near-Field communication (NFC) support incorporated into these devices. With the impending demise of the symbian platform, many are wondering why exactly Nokia is still churning out these phones, and worst still, they are far from being cheap! These factors make one wonder how well these phones would sell as the primary market of Nokia, Middle East and Africa, many do not have the purchasing power to buy these phones costing as much as $420! And with the Windows Phone 7 powered Nokia phones just around the corner, i seriously wonder why i would buy any of the “Belle” phones. Ummmh, it just might be that Nokia is trying to leverage on its recent increased popularity to make a last ditch effort to sell the symbian platform to the North American market. Well, only time can tell how successful they would be.

Categories
Gadgets Mobile

Apple is Taking All of My Money (and I’m Okay With That)

I’m trapped in an interesting quandary these days: Apple is taking all of my money, albeit in .99 cent increments at times, and I don’t find myself terribly concerned.

You see, I moved over to an iPhone 4 from a Motorola Droid X several weeks ago. While  I have a few Apple devices that i truly enjoy–my iPad, an Apple TV–I wasn’t fully assimilated into the cult of Apple. There was one lone hold out that kept me pure: my phone. In fact, when Verizon got the original Droid I was in heaven. Verizon FINALLY had a “smart” phone that put me on par with all of those Apple fanboys. Take THAT, iPhreaks! I now had a phone that could easily compete, and in many ways surpass, your beloved device. When I came to SmarterTools last year they even opened a Verizon business account solely to accommodate my desire to keep my Android device. Everyone else here uses iPhones, so I saw my commitment to Android as my one display of solidarity for “openness” and as a way to display my disdain for the heavy handedness and closed infrastructure of Apple.

Then, in October 2010 I was given a MacBook Pro as my work laptop. From there the lure of Apple became too powerful. With my MacBook and with the iPad I found that things just worked: no headaches, no learning curve, no hiccups or power issues or BSoD. I found myself looking at my beloved Droid X with something akin to disdain. It just wasn’t as easy, it didn’t “just work.” So, I made the switch when an iPhone 4 became available. (I even left Verizon for AT&T, which was absolutely the LAST thing I figured I’d do.)

All of this brings me back to my original point: with the move, I find myself actually buying apps–and not just for the iPhone, but for the iPad and even in the Mac App Store. I’m actually buying more software than I ever have in the past. With the Droid, I bought maybe two apps–one for viewing and editing Microsoft docs and a game. With my conversion to Apple, I’m buying things alarmingly quickly and without much second thought. When I brought this up to the CEO of SmarterTools, his first question was: “Why?”

At the time I didn’t have a good answer, but given some distance I think I DO know why. As I said before, it’s all so easy. Devices flow together nicely. I can go from OS X to iOS and don’t feel like I lose anything. It’s easy to modify a document on my iPad, then open it and continue to modify it on the MacBook Pro (seamlessly using Dropbox). In addition, things just work like you expect them to. Apps look like they should.

With Android, interfaces were sort of hit-and-miss. (This blog really hits the nail on the head when it comes to this phenomenon: Android Gripes.) And while I could move from my Droid to my PC, that transition was a bit more jarring. There was a difference in how things looked and how they performed when moving from Android to Windows. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I recognize it now. It’s even more apparent now that I go back and look at Android devices (my wife uses a Droid and a few of the developers at work have Xooms).

Easy… That’s about the best word for it. With Apple, things just seem to be so easy. It’s especially easy to spend all of your money on apps. If Android ever gets to this point in terms of reach and ubiquity–and to be fair, I think Microsoft is moving quickly in this direction with the way they’re integrating their hot properties (Office, Windows Live, etc.) into Windows Phone–all bets are off.

Will they ever get me to switch back? Maybe, but for now, I’m living the life of a fanboy and loving it.

 

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