Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Boot up: chip spending, recommending Chromebooks, cheaper self-driving, and more

Historic buildings and sites risk list A Blue Danube bomb at the UK's first atomic bomb store on Thetford Heath, Barnham, Suffolk. (It’s historic.) Photograph: Keith Eldred/PA

A burst of 8 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

As in 2012, Apple and Samsung were the top semiconductor spenders in 2013 among original equipment manufacturers (OEM) making more than $1bn in revenue," said Myson Robles-Bruce, senior analyst for semiconductor spend and design analysis at IHS. "Apple was in first place with chip spending in 2013 of $30.3bn, outspending runner-up Samsung's $22.2bn by more than $8 billion. However, the South Korean electronics titan attained the largest spending increase on chips of any Top 10 OEM last year, up almost 30% from 2012 levels, compared to a smaller expansion of 17% on the part of Apple."

The data doesn't include chips that companies buy from their own divisions. (A lot of the Apple spending will be with… Samsung.)

David Gewirtz:

While our relative wasn't up to managing financial affairs, she still wanted to keep in touch with family and friends, write, use her Gmail account, keep her calendar, and more.

Denise is a pretty sophisticated PC user, but she's not a technician. Although she's installed RAM and drives into machines, she doesn't really have the technical chops to field strip a broken laptop in the field and set it back to rights.

She thought about going out and buying our relative a new Windows laptop. Our relative was familiar with XP and Windows 7, but had never seen Windows 8. Denise didn't have the time to go through the Windows setup and update dance I described above, train our relative on Windows 8, buy and install Start8, and all the rest. It just wasn't practical.

On the other hand, Denise had her Chromebook.

Chromebooks are driving into the big gap that Windows 8 has left.

Terence Lee:

a team in Singapore has successfully developed their own self-driving car prototype at under half the cost [of Google's] – just S$30,000 ($23,500) for two off-the-shelf Lidar sensors and an onboard computer which are mounted onto a conventional vehicle. That's like a Toyota to Google's Mercedes Benz, figuratively speaking.

The team, comprising of 12 researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), hopes to bring the cost down to S$10,000 ($7,800) eventually.

Singapore could really do with self-driving cars.

There is a new ubiquitous media brand on Twitter.

No, I'm not talking about Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media or BuzzFeed or The Verge, or any other investor-backed startup. 

I'm talking about @HistoryInPics, which, as I discovered, is run by two teenagers: Xavier Di Petta, 17, who lives in a small Australian town two hours north of Melbourne, and Kyle Cameron, 19, a student in Hawaii.

They've never met (and "copyright" is a new phrase to them - though you can see why they'd argue that they're not infringing, Twitter is). There are now lots of spoof accounts; @Historicalpics is quite fun.

Josh Bryant follows up on Naoki Hiroshima's Twitter ransom saga (Hiroshima still doesn't have his handle back):

Hi Naoki,

Just read your story about how your Twitter username was stolen. Sadly, the story was all to familiar to me, and mine has a couple implications that are far worse. Just thought I'd share the story in case you were interested.

I'm @jb on both Twitter and Instagram. So you can imagine my username is a very heavy target. It used to be primarily because of the Jonas Brothers but of course now it's all related to Justin Bieber. As you can imagine, with the marketing power behind his name, there's thousands if not more companies/hackers/etc… who'd love to get their grubby hands on it for profit.

Mitchell Ashley in November 2008:

Too many major players are in the mobile phone market, who have and will bring iPhone-like products to market over the coming months and years. LG has already done so with the LG Voyager phone, and now Microsoft's plans for Windows Mobile 7 OS have been leaked and described in considerable detail by Inside Microsoft blogger Nathan Weinberg.

With many features dubbed "iPhone compete", WM7 is all about effective uses of the touch screen, finger gestures, and additional motion gestures. Microsoft's put a lot of thought into how to make the mobile phone interface more intuitive and easier to use, even more so than Apple's iPhone.

Apple has never had a product, or a year, when it hasn't been "doomed to failure".

Dr Drang:

A couple of weeks ago, I got to do the kind of observation that user interface experts like to do. I was at a high school swim meet, in the stands a few rows behind a dad who was working on a touchscreen notebook computer between his son's events. In between my son's events and checking my email and Twitter, I could look down and see how he used the machine. What I saw is only one data point, but it represents real-world use, not the somewhat artificial use of a test subject who knows he's a test subject.

The action I saw again and again was him reaching up to touch a button or a menu, bringing his hand away, and then going back to touch the screen again because he missed the target. He was pretty patient about it, which suggests it was behaviour he was used to. Had it been me, I would have flung the damned thing into the pool.

This is exactly what [Apple software chief Craig] Federighi was talking about. Targets in Windows—which is what the man was using, of course—and OS X aren't designed to be hit with a finger. They're designed to be hit with the much more precise tip of a mouse pointer.

Expand the targets, and you lose space for content.

An estimated 12.3% (22.5m) of the notebook shipments in 2013 (182.7m) fit into the ultra-portable segment, according to market intelligence firm ABI Research. The year-on-year growth of ultra-portables reached 100% from 2012 to 2013.

That includes Apple's MacBook Air, which probably accounts for around 8m of those (Apple sold a total of 17m PCs in 2013). Ultrabooks are looking like something of a niche for Windows buyers. Total PC sales in 2013 were 315m.

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