Archive for January, 2010

Forget ubicomp, think sofacomp

January 21, 2010

Just before Christmas I took delivery of a WikiReader a small, handheld device that has the entire contents of Wikipedia stored on it. It’s a simple little thing – basically a souped-up version of those little electronic dictionaries that have been around for years. Hit the search key, type in a search term through the touch-screen keyboard on the black and white, 7cm square screen and it will display a list of options for you to select the right Wikipedia entry.

I decided to road test the device during the family Christmas. Obviously Wikipedia is always changing, but it seems to be stable enough for most articles (and you can order updated memory cards). In fact, it was a massive hit and saw near continuous action on the sofa. Whenever anyone had a question about a TV programme that was on, or an actor on the screen, or a word they needed the meaning of, or details of a place they were reading about in the paper, the cry went up to ‘pass the Wikireader’. Based on this experience I think the company in question may have a bit of a hit on their hands.

All this has helped my thinking around the endless speculation about Apple’s iSlate. If the device turns out to exist and if it is some kind of all-in-one tablet that provides access to a range of multimedia – e-books, films, music etc – then it could have a real place on the sofa. Who wants to get off the chair and head upstairs to log on to use the PC or fish the laptop out of the briefcase? The iSlate will just sit on the arm of the sofa. In our house at least, the WikiReader has shown the way. The next step in computing is to the sofa.

Microsoft opens up for the next ten years

January 5, 2010

For many Microsoft watchers 2009 was the year of Windows 7 – the latest version of their market-dominating operating system – and Bing, the company’s latest salvo in the continued battle with Google over Web search. But in the background, and little noticed by the media, the company has also been re-thinking how it makes software and these changes are likely to have a more long-term impact on the computer world over the next decade.

Bill Gates has moved on. Ray Ozzie is the new Software Architect and he has brought new ideas about cloud computing, software as a service and, whisper it quietly, open source software. It is the latter that has caused most surprise and in the process has split the free and open source development community. A number of moves made by the company in the last six months have left some in that community talking about a ‘sea change’ and others accusing it of simply using small forays into open source as another form of PR. With this in mind, Oxford University’s OSSWatch service commissioned me to research and write an in-depth article and this has just been published on their website. If you’ve got half an hour to spare before things get too hectic again why not have a look.