Boot up: Windows Phone rumours, Google Now's spear, iPhone US sales, and more
(Guardian Web Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A burst of 10 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team
Windows Phone 8.1 rumours emerge >> SuperSite for Windows
Paul Thurrott outlines various things he has heard (single-source) about Windows Phone 8.1. The one that seems to have people worked up is this:
No more Back button. Aping the iPhone navigation model, Microsoft will apparently remove the Back button from the Windows Phone hardware specification with 8.1. The Back button just doesn't make sense, I was told: Users navigate away from an app by pressing the Start button and then open a new app, just like they do on iPhone. And the "back stack" is ill-understood by users: Most don't realize what they're doing when they repeatedly hit the Back button.
Links to UX/UI studies of the use of the Back button welcomed.
Google Now: the tip of a very long spear >> John Battelle's Search Blog
These [Google Now] cards are extremely important to understanding where Google is heading with not only search, but with all of its various services (the card interface is now incorporated into Google's "knowledge graph" search results, Google+, Gmail, and Google Maps, among many others). First, the cards "know" things about me – most critically my location, but also my search history, my calendar and contacts, my browsing history, key links in my Gmail, and more. They show up based on what interests and needs that Google believes will be most important to me. In essence, they are very tangible expressions of Google's pivot from being a company that answers search queries, to being a company that anticipates your most important questions in real time, and answers them before you ask…
Google Now supplants the need to open an app by surfacing cards – cards that magically turn into just the information you need, when you need it – *without having to go to an app to get it.*
As Battelle points out, that has big implications.
Google embraces iOS to please developers >> CITEworld
In the provision of "backend as a service", aka BaaS:
Google could have just stuck with offering the backend services for Android. But there's good reason for it to add support for iOS. Most developers create apps at the very least for both iOS and Android. Making it easier for them to run both apps on Google services makes developers more likely to choose Google rather than a competitor.
Speaking of competitors, there are plenty in the space. The BaaS market blossomed over the past year but that caught the notice of the big cloud providers. Now Microsoft and to a lesser extent Amazon Web Services also offer backend services, in competition with the startups.
Deal with it: Tablets are here to stay >> TechRepublic
Research by analyst Ovum found that 17.6% of the employees it surveyed had already been provided with a tablet by their employer, up from 12.5% in 2012: but of the respondents who owned a tablet themselves, 66.7% used that device at work.
As the proportion of tablet owners increased from 28.4 percent of staff in 2012 to 44.5% in 2013, this means a rapid increase in the number of personal tablets also being used at work.
Richard Absalom, analyst for consumer impact technology at Ovum, said companies need to accept the reality: "The message for businesses is that people will be bringing them in anyway whether you have planned for it or not," he told TechRepublic.
He said some workers can be more productive with tablets – for example retail workers or field engineers. There are also some niche usages where tablets can replace paper, for pilots or doctors for example, and this will drive some enterprise deployments.
HP requiring most employees to work at the office >> AllThingsD
Computing and technology services giant Hewlett-Packard, which appears to be taking a page from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, has quietly begun enacting a policy requiring employees to work from the office and not from home.
While it hasn't yet reached the level of a company-wide directive with the same jarring effect as a new policy put in place by Yahoo earlier this year, HP employees are being told by bosses that if they can work at the office, they should work at the office.
Should edicts of this sort be taken as a sign a company is in trouble?
Panasonic to exit plasma TV panel business by end-March 2014 >> Reuters
Panasonic had been widely expected to back out of the unprofitable business, but the exit comes sooner than predicted and underlines [Panasonic chief] Kazuhiro Tsuga's determination to weed out weak operations as he focuses on higher-margin products to end years of losses at the consumer electronics conglomerate.
Panasonic's TV division has been a major contributor to the electronics company's combined $15bn (£9bn) net loss in its two latest financial years. Its TV business posted an operating loss of 88.5bn yen ($913m) in the last financial year.
Superseded by LCDs.
LG starts producing flexible, curvy displays you can STROKE >> The Register
Originally, the LG's curved smartphone was due in 2014, but sources told Reuters that it would attach the displays on the phones by November in order to fight off its largest South Korean rival.
While LG Display's screens will be fixed to curved surfaces – they'll be permanently bent into a curved phone rather than being freely bendable – when someone sits on them or squeezes them, they'll flex rather than snap.
You wait ages for a phone with a curved screen to come along... (Thanks #uncollective for the link.)
Samsung's Galaxy Round is the first phone with a curved display >> The Verge
The potential benefit of this screen technology isn't quite clear yet, but Samsung is touting a new feature called "Round Interaction," which allows you to look at information such as missed calls, battery life, and the date and time when you tilt it on a flat surface with the screen off.
(Thanks #ImKieran for the link.)
It's tough competing with the iPhone >> Tech.pinions
Based on all the data I am seeing from demand and sales trends, it is hard not to conclude that iOS will overtake Android in the US in the near future – possibly as soon as the end of the calendar year. But perhaps the most important thing about the iPhone's share in the premium devices sector is that other competitors have only been able to made weak inroads against it. Samsung, for example, has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars in US-based marketing, yet its share of the premium market has peaked and been trending downward on weaker-than-expected sales in 2013.
The Samsung point is surprising. (This is US-only.)
BlackBerry named one of world's top 100 most innovative organizations of 2013 >> Techvibes
BlackBerry got some rare positive recognition. Thomson Reuters recognized the smartphone pioneer as one of the world's top 100 most innovative organizations of 2013.
It is BlackBerry's first appearance on the list. BlackBerry is the only Canadian company on the third-annual list, next to 45 US companies. According to Thomson Reuters, BlackBerry's innovation was "driven by a 38% surge in patent filings between 2010 and 2011, and 17% growth in patent filings between 2011 and 2012."
"Now in its third year, the Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators study provides further evidence that innovative organizations—those that secure global patent protection for their intellectual property, continue to push the envelope with new technologies and invest more in R&D—are those that outperform the S&P 500 on virtually every measure of business success," noted David Brown, managing director, Thomson Reuters IP Solutions.
Up to a point, Lord Copper.
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