Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Supermarket swipe - Tesco enters the tablet arena with Hudl

It is blackberry season at the moment, but whilst they are in abundance in our hedgerows their namesakes are proving not so fruitful (wanting to use the phrase blackberry crumble!) in the pockets of gadget fans. Meanwhile, Apple has reported nine million units of its new iPhones were sold in the first three days of launch, despite reports of problem ‘hacking’ of the fingerprint scanner.

So, whilst the faltering of Blackberry and the success of a new iPhone didn’t come as huge surprise, I wasn’t expecting to watch Rory Cellan-Jones showing off a new Tesco tablet on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning.  Yes there has been a lot of talk about the supermarket entering the tablet world for some time now, but what did shock me was the spec of the new Hudl device.

Sure, it doesn’t have the screen resolution of the Nexus 7 or the app store of Apple, and it certainly doesn’t win out in the looks department with its chunky bezel, but at £119 it does have a lot going for it. Firstly it has expandable storage and an HDMi out (a big bugbear of mine as I impatiently wait for the UK release date of the Google Chromecast). What is more, it doesn’t slap you in the face with Tesco content, giving you a pure Android (Jelly Bean) experience, unlike the Kindle Fire. Yes the Tesco content is there, but clearly and discreetly via a ‘T’ icon.

What is more with Clubcard vouchers and good discounts via Tesco Direct, the chances of anyone actually paying the RRP are slim. We are yet to get our hands on one and I am sure those of use with tablets won’t be rushing to buy a new one, but for those who have yet to enter the world of tablets (there are still a few out there) and with Christmas just 13 weeks away, this could be a winner.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Music For The Masses

In case it escaped your attention, this week Apple announced the launch of two iPhones, the 5S and the 5C, which are essentially a variation on the same theme as all iPhones that preceded them.  Arguably it was the launch of iTunes and the iPod back in 2001 that was Apple’s finest hour.

Whether you use iTunes, another of the digital music stores, or the likes of Spotify, it is fact that we have never had it so good when it comes to the quantity of music at our fingertips.  Thanks to the late Steve Jobs, the iPod and all subsequent incarnations has  given us the record collections we could only dream of when we were younger. It was the efforts of Ray Dolby that made it possible for us to listen to our music, whether at home, or in the cinema, in the highest quality. So, it was with much sadness that we learnt of the passing of Mr Dolby at the age of 80.

Both Steve Jobs and Ray Dolby both made a monumental contribution to music and have enriched the lives of all music lovers, regardless of the genre you choose to listen. It is the passion and drive of people such as these that makes working in the world of technology such an exciting place to be. So, whilst it is true I am not overly excited about the latest iPhone launch, I do appreciate how spoilt I am to have that view.  Technology innovation moves at such a fast past, however, it also seems that our expectations of it are evolving at an even faster pace.   

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The enigma of women in technology

Several years ago, Simon Hewitt (one of our top bloggers here at MCC International) visited Bletchley Park for a new business meeting. The meeting went well, but we were both particularly interested in looking around the museum, getting up close to the Enigma machine and discussing old war films.

This week, the National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park has opened the Google-sponsored Women in Computing Gallery. The event acknowledges the important role of woman in technology past and present (and I hope future). Given their huge contribution during the Second World War, it is the ideal place to showcase technological achievements.

The exhibition is particularly significant as over the years the ‘face’ of technology has on the whole been male, of course there are a few exceptions (you are probably now thinking of either the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, Carly Fiorina, or the President and CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer). However, look beyond the figureheads and you will see a very different picture. In fact, I would say that the technology PR, marketing and journalist community in the UK is fairly evenly split. In fact here at MCC International it is an exact 50/50. However, traditionally the spokespeople that we typically push to the fore have been men, although this is beginning to change, albeit slowly.

Of course, there are sometimes some amusing incidents, and I recall being at a trade-show and watching from a safe distance a senior spokesperson (a man) from a company that shall of course remain nameless, being put through the technological mill by a reporter (a woman), as he got it very wrong and assumed her level of expertise was based on the height of her heels and the length of her skirt!

Back in the 1980s, I very much doubt I would have got a girlfriend by talking about my Sinclair Spectrum and prowess playing Double Dragon (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!), it was a language that only boys shared, however, times have changed. Technology and more specifically computing has proliferated in to all of our lives. Sitting on the train in the morning you will see just as many women playing Temple Run as men, and all of us want the latest tablet and smartphone for both function and fashion. Yes some of us will be more concerned about colour choices of the new iPhone 5C, whilst others will fixate on the pros and cons of the Snapdragon processor in our Android tablet, but that isn’t a gender specific argument.

It is great that this exhibition is celebrating these often unsung heroes of the tech world, and if you get the chance, do pay a visit to Bletchley Park. There is a huge talent pool in the UK tech sector, both male and female and hopefully we will see the balance redressed higher up the corporate food-chain.
Earlier this year, research from Cranfield University showed women held 17% of the board positions among the companies listed on the FTSE 100, then just a few weeks ago it was suggested to much chagrin that this was due to women’s ineptitude at competitive sports such as chess. If this is the case why is it that the top three highest scorers on my friends list playing Minion Rush are woman, and I can’t get near their rankings for love nor money! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Have a break, have an Android KitKat

Well if we thought last week was exciting to be in the world of tech this week has trumped it and then some and it is only Wednesday!

Yes, we are still fixated on the new Nexus 7 and the ease at which iTunes downloads can be transferred on to it!  Although our attention is also turning to the LG’s plans to take on the device in the 7inch tablet space. However, the big news of this week began breaking on Tuesday when Microsoft announced that it would be buying Nokia’s mobile phone business. When two organisations of this size combine it is always going to grab the headlines, but you cannot help but think of two tech giants whose best days are sadly behind them, only time will tell.

Today sparked debate in the office when Android announced that its new OS would be called KitKat, tying in with the chocolate bar which most of us had in our school packed lunch. We all like the statue Google has unveiled, but is it the start of multi-million pound bidding wars for organisations beginning with L, and is this co-branding a good thing.  As a marketer I have to say yes. However, we are looking forward to Android WagonWheel, in the distant future.

It has also been good news for ebook users this week with Amazon announcing its Matchbook scheme which will allow customers who buy printed books to get a copy of the digital version for free, or at a discount. This is something bookworms have wanted for some time and signs pointed to this earlier this year when they started to offer the instant digital download of an album when you ordered the CD.

Finally, you can never ignore the needs of Apple fans and things started to hot up this week when they confirmed 10th September as launch day for the new iPhone 5s. But will they launch the expected low-cost iPhone 5C? What colours can we choose from? And, how will iOS7 fair? All these questions will be answered in just a few days.