Links: porn (ch)users, Fire Phone, moody ring, and more

A selection of 7 links for you. Use them wisely.

96pc of web users ‘opt to see porn’ — Telegraph

Rhiannon Williams:

The vast majority of broadband customers are choosing not to opt in to porn filters that prevent access to adult content, despite Prime Minister David Cameron’s insistence they are vital to protect “our children and their innocence”.

Only 4% of new Virgin Media customers have signed up to the parental controls, alongside 5% of BT and 8% of Sky newcomers, according to a new report by Ofcom
In the second of three reports examining the approaches the ‘big four’ internet service providers (ISP) are taking to implement the filters, Ofcom found that TalkTalk’s take-up rate was 36%, having offered parental filtering services since May 2011, two years prior to the government initiative.

Filed under “government initiatives that were successful in providing a choice that people completely ignored.”

Amazon Fire Phone review — The Verge

David Pierce:

The Kindle Paperwhite is what the Fire Phone should be, a device perfectly suited to its task with subtle improvements lurking behind every corner. And who knows? Maybe in seven more years we’ll have the smartphone equivalent. But this Fire Phone is more like that first Kindle: a device with so many features, so many ideas, that it has either forgotten or ignored what it’s supposed to be for. Dynamic Perspective and Firefly are impressive technological achievements with bright futures (if by some miracle Amazon can get its developers on board), and the Fire Phone is a remarkably efficient shopping machine. But it’s not a very good smartphone.

Nod ring lets you control gadgets with a wave of the hand >> Gadget Lab — WIRED

The stainless-steel ring is packed with motion sensors, a Bluetooth 4.0 antenna, and a pair of processors. According to Nod co-founder and CEO Anush Elangovan, the ring uses a Bluetooth Low Energy connection for all its needs; early prototypes of the ring included tests for NFC and Wi-Fi Direct chips, but those were too power-hungry and big.

Because of Bluetooth 4.0’s energy-efficiency, the Nod ring is able to squeeze an entire day’s worth of battery life out of a mere 23-mAh battery–essentially a rechargeable watch battery. The ring can also connect to Wi-Fi-controlled devices by using a smartphone as a Bluetooth gateway. Nod says the ring is designed to be worn all day–you can wear it while you’re in the shower or taking a swim, just as long as you don’t go below 170 feet.

It was sounding so good until it got to the bit about “entire day”. That should not be the horizon for a wearable’s battery life.

Now you can unlock your Moto X with a digital tattoo — The Official Motorola Blog

Made of super thin, flexible materials, based on VivaLnk’s eSkinTM technology, each digital tattoo is designed to unlock your phone with just a touch of your Moto X to the tattoo, no passwords required. The nickel-sized tattoo is adhesive, lasts for five days, and is made to stay on through showering, swimming, and vigorous activities like jogging. And it’s beautiful—with a shimmering, intricate design.

It’s another step in making it easier to unlock your phone on the go and keep your personal information safe. An average user takes 2.3 seconds to unlock their phone and does this about 39 times a day—a process that some people find so inconvenient that they do not lock their phones at all. Using NFC technology, digital tattoos make it faster to safely unlock your phone anywhere without having to enter a password. 

So much more convenient than those “fingerprint” things. Those only stay all the.. oh wait.

Chrome’s been eating your laptop’s battery for years, but Google promises to fix it — PCWorld

Google is just now responding to a bug in Chrome for Windows that may have been sapping users’ batteries for years.

Chrome’s battery drain problem was brought to wider attention by Forbes contributor Ian Morris, who noticed that Chrome for Windows was using considerably more power than other browsers.

The issue, he wrote, is that Chrome doesn’t return the system’s processor to an idle state when it’s not doing anything. Instead, Chrome sets a high “system clock tick rate” of 1 millisecond, and leaves it at that rate, even if the browser’s just running the background.

By comparison, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only ramps up the tick rate for processor-intensive tasks such as YouTube, and otherwise returns it to the default rate of 15.625 milliseconds. According to Microsoft, setting the tick rate consistently at 1 millisecond can raise power consumption by up to 25% depending on your hardware configuration.

This bug wouldn’t be too surprising if it was introduced in a recent update. But according to Morris, the first report of it popped up in 2010, and a more recent bug report in Chromium has been racking up new comments since November 2012.

World domination first, bugfixes second. Quitting Chrome is definitely an easy way to gain battery life.

Google, Roboto and Design PR —

Khoi Vinh:

There’s essentially no news in this article other than, “Google has revised Roboto using some recent best practices of type design.” And yet the Mountain View company has been able to spin that non-story into a story that claims that the company is fundamentally reinventing typography. I’ve seen the same publicity gears at work again and again over the past year, whether it’s about material design, Google’s card metaphor usage, their maps redesign, or even the narrative of how the company is integrating design itself.

The idea that Google actually is fundamentally reinventing typography has been thoroughly debunked elsewhere. So it’s an effective piece of PR.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 reaches End of Life status on September 14th. — Evleaks

As in “Microsoft’s Mobile Devices division won’t be making any more”, not “the existing devices won’t be supported”. The 1020 didn’t sell – the camera is fantastic, but people who want a fantastic camera buy a DSLR. People who want a smartphone, well, for the most part they aren’t buying a Lumia if they can afford what the 1020 cost.

Linking: sound, Intel’s results, digital generations, Apple-IBM

A selection of five links for you. Use them wisely.

There’s life above 20 kilohertz! A survey of musical instrument spectra to 102.4 kHz — Caltech

Trumpets and even violins make noises well above hearing range, and if you have the right equipment then people can tell a difference in playback. Maybe Neil Young is right after all?

Intel beats estimates, raises forecast on improved PC market — Re/code

Chipmaker Intel said on Tuesday that an improved PC market helped it to deliver quarterly earnings that exceeded its initial estimates. The company also hiked its full-year sales outlook.

Intel reported second-quarter earnings of $2.8bn, or 55 cents per share, on sales of $13.8bn for the three months ending in June.

The company raised its expectations last month, saying it expected sales to be about $13.7bn, up from its original April forecast of $13bn. At the time, the company said that the improved health of the business PC market was largely responsible for the improved outlook.

OK, so the business PC market – in line with business generally – is up. But part of the driver of that business PC market growth has been the end of life of Windows XP – launched in October 2001. Vista was released in 2005, so there’s a long time to wait for the same uplift.

Oh, but there’s also this:

After essentially missing out on the early days of the tablet, Intel has set an ambitious goal of powering 40m tablets this year, the bulk of them likely to run Android. The company also sees a growing business in selling laptops running Google’s Chrome OS.

Intel’s mobile unit, though, posted quarterly revenue of $51m, down 83% year on year and off 67% from the first quarter. (CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement that Intel remains on track to hit that goal.)

Mobile is barely a pimple on Intel.

And here’s another thing: try finding any correlation between Intel’s revenues in its PC Client group (which is separated out from its Data Center group, Internet of Things group, Mobile, and Software & Services revenue) and worldwide PC shipments, either in the same quarter or for the succeeding quarter.

You won’t find it. It’s about 0.33 – where perfect correlation is 1, and “it’s random, man” is 0. Given that Intel provides the processors for the PC business, you’d expect to see it hovering at least around 0.75.

But the “PC Client group” revenues are both microprocessors, and “motherboards and other chips” – where the latter seems to inject enough variability (read: noise) into the data that it overwhelms the signal.

Digital Generation Gap — Tech.pinions

Bob O’Donnell on a study of 2,500 people from around the world; this takes in about 1,000 respondents in the US and UK:

As expected, the younger you are, the more you use your smartphone. The older you are, the more you use your PC. The degree of differences between age groups and the nearly perfect tracking with age was somewhat surprising however. Of course some of this has to do with using the devices we are most comfortable with. Younger people have grown up with smartphones and older people grew up using PCs. However, there’s also a difference in the type of activities and the amount of time spent on them between the different groups. Some of the activities older people do are arguably better suited to PCs and vice versa.

A big unanswered question is, how will this chart look in 5 years? Will the 18-24 year olds maintain this split of device usage as they age into the 25-34 group (and so on), or will their likely shifting of activities as they get older adjust their device usage? (Of course, there’s also the strong possibility we’ll have more device categories to add to the mix in 5 years, but that’s a topic for another column.)

This is part of why commenters get so grumpy when you talk about a shift away from PCs towards smartphones and tablets: they’re all on PCs.

Apple and IBM forge global partnership to transform enterprise mobility — Yahoo Finance

The new IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions will be built in an exclusive collaboration that draws on the distinct strengths of each company: IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities, with the power of more than 100,000 IBM industry and domain consultants and software developers behind it, fused with Apple’s legendary consumer experience, hardware and software integration and developer platform. The combination will create apps that can transform specific aspects of how businesses and employees work using iPhone and iPad, allowing companies to achieve new levels of efficiency, effectiveness and customer satisfaction—faster and easier than ever before.

As part of the exclusive IBM MobileFirst for iOS agreement, IBM will also sell iPhones and iPads with the industry-specific solutions to business clients worldwide.

Well that might goose iPad sales a little. It’s all in the execution, of course. You can see two scenarios: IBM executes this incredibly well, and Microsoft and Android devices find themselves effectively locked out of the enterprise market for tablets and phones.

Or IBM screws it up, and it’s all just the same as it was before.

One could expect it will be somewhere in the middle – which still isn’t good for Microsoft and Android OEMs. Nor, indeed, BlackBerry.

Top 10 smartphones in May 2014 – Galaxy S5 fails to displace iPhone 5s — Counterpoint Technology

According to Counterpoint’s channel survey across 35 countries, Apple’s iPhone 5s continues to be the bestselling phone in the world, a spot that many expected to be taken by Samsung’s Galaxy S 5. The highly anticipated Galaxy S5 comes in at second place but still a quite distant number two in terms of (sell through) unit sales. The iPhone 5c shipments continue to decline but Apple continued clearing excess inventory for the iPhone 5c during the month. Apple iPhone 5c sales put it behing Samsung’s last year’s flagship Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note III.

The top ten goes
Apple (5S)
Samsung (S5)
Samsung (S4)
Samsung (Note 3)
Apple (5C)
Apple (4S)
Xiaomi (M3)
Samsung (Galaxy S4 mini – a cut down version of last year’s flagship)
Xiaomi (Hongmi Redrice)
Samsung (Galaxy Grand 2 – a 2013 phablet, lower-priced, 5.25in screen).

The key point is that the iPhone 5S is doing the same numbers that the iPhone 5 was last year. Now, that might not be encouraging – that’s stalled growth, right?

But Samsung is selling fewer S5s than it was selling S4s last year. That suggests that the premium market for Apple is still staying the same, while that for Samsung is falling away. Or did it overshoot the market in terms of features it provided with the S3 or S4?

What if… Nokia, Microsoft, Elop, Nokia X and sidegrading

Photo by Alessio Jacona. Licensed under Creative Commons.

I’m continually fascinated by the reactions engendered by Stephen Elop. He is blamed, variously, for

– killing Maemo
– killing Symbian
– destroying Nokia
– destroying the mobile business Microsoft bought from Nokia
– not doing enough to get Windows Phone to take over the world

Possibly he has kicked a cat at some point too, which would never do.

Latest in these is Om Malik’s furious outpouring, in which he says

The very fact that a middling executive could be brought on for a turnaround of Nokia, and compete with the iPhone/Android onslaught with absolutely zero turnaround experience was one of those decisions that has confounded me and I continue to blame the Nokia board for shooting itself in the head. On his watch, Nokia essentially eviscerated. Android might have been a better decision, but he went with Windows Mobile. The stock tanked, market share shrank and like proverbial Lord Mountbatten he was part of the last days of the Nokia Raj.

(Minor fact point – he went with Windows Phone, not Mobile, which was dead by then.)

Let’s set the scene first. Nokia ruled the smartphone business in 2009, but that business was tiny compared to what it is now. More important, the ground was shifting under Nokia’s feet. The arrival of the iPhone, and more importantly Android, and – more importantly than both – of their respective app stores meant that the whole smartphone game was changing. Nokia didn’t have capacitative multi-touch, and didn’t grasp the potential for “a computer in your pocket”, even at the iPhone’s high price.

So by mid-2010 Nokia was in deep trouble, which many of its board had realised for some time. That’s why they sacked their then chief executive and headhunted a new one. Stories have emerged that Elop was their second choice – after an unnamed American exec at a big company (Tim Cook?).

Decisions, decisions

What were Elop’s choices? In order: stick with Symbian; go with Maemo; go with Android; fork Android; go with Windows Phone; try to license something else.

Symbian was already a dead dog (see my review of its flagship N8).

Maemo simply wasn’t ready, and would have had to try to build an ecosystem from scratch with virtually no developer support – which Nokia would be unlikely to mobilise on its own.

Google Android. I asked Elop about this last year (at the launch of the Lumia 1020 – a phone that despite its amazing camera has sold so poorly it might as well have been hand-delivered.) He said:

“I’m very happy with the decision we made,” he said. “What we were worried about a couple of years ago was the very high risk that one hardware manufacturer could come to dominate Android. We had a suspicion of who it might be, because of the resources available, the vertical integration, and we were respectful of the fact that we were quite late in making that decision. Many others were in that space already.

“Now fast forward to today and examine the Android ecosystem, and there’s a lot of good devices from many different companies, but one company has essentially now become the dominant player.”

Of course, the manufacturer was (and is, for now) Samsung, which the advantage of component manufacture. I believe Elop was also tipped off by then-CEO Steve Ballmer that Microsoft would begin patent lawsuits against Android manufacturers to generate revenue and raise their costs, and hence make Windows Phone no less attractive.

What Ballmer overlooked was that the network effect which worked so well for Microsoft in the 1990s, attracting developers! Developers! Developers! to the Windows desktop platform would work against it in mobile, where iOS and Android were attracting people who thus pushed Windows Phone – a new, still-developing platform in 2010/2011 – to the back of their development queue. (And Windows Mobile had to die; it was unsuitable for the modern world, just as Symbian was. Microsoft wrote Windows Phone in record time, but it was still too late.)

Forked Android. I’m unsure whether Elop looked at the idea of forking Android (that is, using AOSP and adding a la carte services). Nokia had a map company; for search it could have gone to Microsoft, which was (still is) desperate to get mobile search share for Bing; and then it could have looked around for other providers for other services.

The big question in such a scenario would be apps, of course, and the question of what Google might do with the Android code that made up AOSP in the future. But I don’t think such considerations occupied peoples’ minds very much. Smartphone sales in China were still a tiny business, comparatively, because they hadn’t quite achieved economies of scale.

I think that the “what if Nokia had picked up AOSP?” question is the really interesting one – so if anyone knows if that option was examined (I forgot to ask it of Elop) then do get in touch.

Nokia at Microsoft: oh dear

Now he’s back at Microsoft, Elop is chopping tons of jobs. I wonder if this is entirely his idea. Ballmer very much wanted to buy Nokia’s mobile business; Elop would have been keen to sell.

But I think Satya Nadella is shifting Microsoft away from devices towards services, and towards platforms.

That, however, is why I find the killing off of the Nokia X puzzling. It’s “Nokia on forked/AOSP Android”. I’ve previously said that Microsoft should just give up on Windows Phone, and adopt AOSP, because it has all the pieces in place. Nokia actually did do that – but now it’s dead.

This just makes no sense. If Microsoft is a platform company (as evidenced by Nadella’s first public performance being to unveil Office for iPad, then it should be building and enabling platforms.

Now, Windows Phone is definitely a platform. The trouble is, it’s not a very big platform. It’s as big, in terms of users, as Mac OSX – about 70m users worldwide.

But there’s one key difference: OSX has captured top-end users, willing to splash out around $1,000 on computers which cost much more than the average. By contrast, Windows Phone’s best-selling phone is the Lumia 520, a low-end pay-as-you-go phone that has done well in terms of numbers but really hasn’t captured any noticeable user revenue. (In fact, Microsoft generates more revenue from Android patent licences than Windows Phone.)

Further, the desktop/laptop installed base is smaller than the smartphone installed base (about 1.5bn v 2bn), meaning that Apple has a (slightly) bigger share there. Windows Phone is not a success.

Android, however, is a success. And tons of Chinese companies have made AOSP a success – using it to build platforms where they offer search and maps (Baidu) and e-commerce (WeChat etc). Lots of developers are comfortable writing apps for AOSP and Android.

Microsoft though is ditching Nokia X (which phones will be sidegraded to Windows Phone – that’s going to be interesting for the users) – abandoning the chance to build its own native platform and exploit Google’s power in the market to hoist itself upwards. Instead, it’s going to plough on with Windows Phone.

No USP, no reason to be

That’s hopeless. Windows Phone has no USP. Consider: BlackBerry has its enterprise-grade security. (Governments and defenceniks still love it.) The iPhone has the Apple brand and user experience. Android has any size, shape and price you want. Windows Phone has… no native YouTube app? Fewer apps overall? It lacks many of the enterprise features that iOS 7 has (and that will increase when iOS 8 arrives), so what is the reason for getting it?

I really don’t know what Microsoft’s mobile strategy is any more. It’s clearly making the same mistake it keeps making: trying to fight people on the ground where they’re strongest. That worked once – over browsers. But Microsoft had a big advantage then: it had Windows. If browsers had been a “fair” fight, who knows if Netscape or Internet Explorer would have won.

John Kirk makes this point very well in “Microsoft is the very antithesis of strategy“: Microsoft keeps sieging cities when it should be diverting rivers. (Want the people to come out of that city they’re holed up in? Cut off their water, or alternatively drown them.)

In search, Microsoft tried to take on Google head-on, five years late, playing catch-up on basic technology and infrastructure, instead of finding other ways to exploit search. Google keeps diverting rivers – Chromebooks have forced Windows licence prices down; Google Docs has forced cuts in the price of Office; ad-supported email has destroyed the paid-for Hotmail model (it used to exist, honest). Google diverts rivers. But Microsoft can’t see a city – mobile, search, browsing – without wanting to lay siege to it.

Mobile is just more of the same – and just when it looked like it had a chance to make the water flow the way it wanted with the Nokia X, Microsoft is killing it.

Don’t expect things to improve. Maybe someone though could ask Stephen Elop if he ever considered whether Nokia could have forked Android (or built on AOSP) rather than going with Windows Phone.

(Since you’re wondering, I’m on holiday. But I thought this might be fun to do.)