Tuesday, October 26, 2010

3-D Television or television for 2 ?

3D Television is hot. To talk about...
Despite getting the impression from magazines, exhibitions and showcases that 3-D  is coming fast to all of us, I have not actually seen one in the shops. And certainly I do not know anybody who has one. And most reviews I hear or see all mention the fact that it is 'just not really there'. The 3-D images do not look 'real', and most televisions suffer from 'shading' or contrast problems. And the fact that everybody has to wear 'electric sunglasses' probably does not help either.
Anyway, technology will improve fast and we'll probably see some decent screens at a reasonable price level by the end of next year. What I have not seen yet is a different application that might be more interesting to a lot of people: dual view. 3-D televisions repetitively show two different images. And the 'shutter glasses' just cover one eye at the time in so each eye sees only a slightly different image, thus creating the 3-D effect. But what if you fed the TV with two completely different programs and have the shutters cover both eyes at the time ? This way your wife can watch episode19745 of  'As the World Turns' while you are watching tonight's major league football match !.
(Yeah, I know you would both have to wear a headset as well, but I suppose that could be integrated in the glasses.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Touch with the Tablet (or why I DO like the Archos 7 )

Two years ago I was one of the first to buy a 'small form factor computer', the EeePc 4G. Almost hard to believe nowadays with the omnipresent Netbook, it was the ultimate gadget at that time. The idea that you could have a fully functional PC with a solid state disk, a 7" screen and keyboard for only €250,- was just too exciting. However I've been struggling with the so-called 'use-case' ever since. To be honest, the keyboard is just too small and too flaky for decent typing, the screen is too small for real work and even playing YouTube videos is almost too much for it's little processor.
Today the Tablet PC is what the Netbook was then. Tablets in all shapes and sizes are already released faster than you can read their reviews and the expectation is that the real flood will start in second half of 2010. Combined with the explosion of smartphones, touch based UI's are suddenly everywhere.
Of course there is no doubt that the iPad is the ultimate touch tablet. But I have this aversion towards computers that you cannot program yourself.And I don't like paying €100,- bonus just for the name, so there is a chance I will never own one. So along comes the cheap Archos 7 Home tablet. An Android based 7" touch tablet with 2 Gig internal memory and about 10000 times the processing power required to send a rocket to the moon.. All that for just €150,-! Actually there are a bunch of (even cheaper) Chinese tablets on the market like the iRobot / aPad, but they look cheap even on the promo-movies and most reviewers admit they are probably a bit too cheap. And of course there are 100 different tablets 'to be released soon/next quarter/beginning next year'...At least Archos is a well known French company with a solid reputation for building good media players and their model is available now !.So I guessed it could never be that bad and at least you get what is specified.

And I'm not disappointed.

First: it looks great. It has got a solid 'brushed aluminium'-look on the base and a nice black edge. The formfactor is really good. It's really comfortable to hold with both hands while scrolling with your thumbs.
iPaq 3800 - Palm Vx - Back to the future of touch...
The screen is pretty good too. At 800x480 resolution is just big enough to comfortably view websites without much scrolling. The colours are bright, the image is crisp and the brightness is good enough even when it's used outside (provided it is not too sunny). And the resistive touchscreen is.. ehm.. well...OK. This touchscreen is the usually the core of all negative reviews of the '7'. But I'm used to my Palm Vx, iPaq PDA and Garmin NĂ¼vi GPS so resistive touchscreens come natural to me. It's what you're used to. And I'm sure if the iPhone was your first touch experience you'll be disappointed with the Archos.
But I am not.
Although I'm not really sure whether it is the 'touch tablet experience' itself or the device I like. I've been using it for a few weeks now and I find myself regularly checking e-mail, reading websites, e-books and even comics. When fully charged it can be on standby for two days so I can just pick it up, touch it and check the latest news, local weather or just read some Dilbert strips. And I can even program it ! Using the Android scripting layer you can write Ruby, Perl or Python scripts, right on the device. Not that I will probably ever use it to write any productive code but it's just the idea that you can do it makes me feel at ease.
Anyway, if you're looking for a reasonably priced 'first try' tablet and you're not spoiled already by any Apple product it's worth checking out.

UPDATE(27/10/2010): Much to my surprise Archos recently released a firmware upgrade for the 7 HT . And somehow they managed to really improve the touchscreen response so it is actually pretty good now !

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Too late for Windows Phone 7

Things change. Some things change fast. Computer industry changes faster and mobile phone trends change at light-speed or beyond.
Just a few months ago I was excited to learn about the the upcoming Windows Phone 7. The demo's are awesome and it really looks like Microsoft is serious about building a real phone OS. They actually gave up on backwards compatibility with the Windows Mobile OS (codename Dinosaur..) and chose a combination of the Silverlight and XNA. Technologies that are both targeted at rich content and game development. And they are giving the development tools away for free. Anyone can start building apps using the free Visual Studio Express . All very exciting.


The first Phone 7 devices will not hit the market before September 2010..
And that is much too late. Googles Android has just hit release 2.2, making it an almost mature phone OS, and they will probably have release 3 by the time the first Windows phones are released. Development tools for Android are also for free, and maybe not as slick as Visual studio, Eclipse with the Android SDK comes pretty near. And it definitely beats the almost arcane development experience for the iPhone. But what is most important: the phones are already there. Some of the coolest phones of this moment (like the HTC Legend or Samsung Galaxy) run Android, and it is rumoured that the sales of Android based phones has just recently surpassed those of the iPhone. Which again makes clear how fast things are moving in mobile land. With the iPhone, Blackberry and Android firmly established when Windows Phone 7 arrives I give Microsoft very little chance of succeeding.

 And did I mention thinks change fast ? I just found that Paul Graham (who is supposed to know) mentioned in his essay of November last year:

The only credible contender [to the iPhone]  is Android. But Android is an orphan; Google doesn't really care about it, not the way Apple cares about the iPhone.

I don't think that is true anymore...