This week, we take a look at a new report that reveals there are now a billion PCs across the globe. We also reveal Microsoft's decision to discontinue Windows XP and Nokia's surprising decision to open source Symbian.
And that's not all. We investigate plans to turn off analogue radio in the UK, a new e-reader with a lot of potential, and examine how influential a single journalist can be.
There are now a billion PCs in the world, says Gartner
Gartner analysts now estimate there are over a billion installed PCs worldwide, and claim that at a consistent growth rate of just under 12 percent annually, the PC population will reach two billion by early 2014.
The churn of PCs being broken up, recycled or dumped directly into landfill is a big worry for the green technology movement. “We forecast just over 180 million PCs, or approximately 16 percent of the existing installed base, will be replaced this year,” said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner. “We estimate a fifth of these, or some 35 million PCs, will be dumped into landfill with little or no regard for their toxic content”.
Download the full Gartner report 'Forecast: PC Installed Base, Worldwide, 2004-2012' to read more about environmental concerns, as well as some revealing data showing comparative growth of PC numbers in mature and emerging markets.
Windows XP gets its marching orders
It's official. Microsoft is finally committing XP to the dusty archives of 'ghosts of operating systems past.' After 30 June Microsoft will stop distributing XP as a stand-alone product to retail outlets and will no longer be providing PC manufacturers like Dell and HP with Windows XP to preload on new PCs.
For those not ready to fully embrace Vista, Microsoft says it will continue to offer technical support for XP until 2014. Also, it was announced earlier this year that Microsoft will continue to make XP for ultra-low cost PCs (ULPCs) until 2010.
Having already delayed the phasing out of XP last year, Microsoft has clearly cottoned onto the fact that not everyone is ready to let go - 'We love that you love Windows XP. We've seen it on our website, in e-mails and through independent online petition drives… But our commitment to innovation sometimes means making tough choices. This is one of them' says a spokesperson on the Microsoft website.
US Media News
Leonard Downie announced this week that he will retire from his role as executive editor of the Washington Post on September 8th this year. Downie has held the position for the past 17 years. Downie joined the paper in 1964 as an intern and has served in a variety of roles. No replacement for Downie has been announced as yet.
A new blog aimed at technology and business leaders was launched this week. TechCrunchIT is focused on profiling products and companies in the enterprise technology space, and promoting an understanding of emerging and existing enterprise technologies. Steve Gillmor and Nik Cubrilovic will be serving as co-editors of the blog.
Erin Kandel is leaving her role as an associate editor for Computer Shopper. Sean Portnoy, executive editor at the publication, now covers laptop-related information, while associate editor Les Shu will cover MP3 players, phones, headsets, GPS and other mobile products.
Greg Enright has resigned as editor of CIO Government Review and ComputerWorld Canada to join CanadianBusiness.com as the homepage editor. CIO Government Review is aimed at IT decision-makers, program managers and senior government executives in Canadian federal, provincial and municipal governments. ComputerWorld Canada is a publication for IT managers and professionals who are responsible for enterprise-wide and line-of-business applications.
UK Media News
The former head of the prime minister's digital PR operation, Jimmy Leach, has been appointed editorial director at the Independent. At Number 10, Leach oversaw the launch of the Downing Street petitions website, YouTube channel and podcast service. Prior to joining the Independent Leach served as director of digital at public relations agency Freud. In his new role he will be responsible for creating and developing the content of Independent.co.uk and building the website's audience. Leach will begin his new role on July 1st, the same date as new editor Roger Alton.
IT PRO, Dennis Publishing's enterprise IT news and reviews site, has recently been overhauled. The revamped website went live last week.
Computer Weekly has also undergone a redesign. Key elements of the new look include a full picture on the front cover, news analysis articles that put business and technology events in context, and greater emphasis on technology issues.
UK government to switch off analogue radio?
A UK government body this week proposed that analogue radio signals be turned off, and that all radio stations go digital by 2020. The idea is to free up the analogue spectrum for other uses, but it could meet with stiff opposition: it will render the millions of radios in the country obsolete, including those that are built into alarm clocks, cars and hi-fi systems. The Digital Radio Working Group is said to represent all sides of the industry, but I bet radio manufacturers in particular are salivating at the possibility of the switchover.
This news comes in the same week that a report from MPs found that people are still buying analogue television sets, even though they will not work beyond 2012 when the analogue TV signal is switched off. Half the goggle boxes bought in 2007 were analogue, and won't work without additional equipment once the UK goes digital. I can't help wondering if the sales form part of an elaborate tax-dodge: it will be difficult for the BBC to demand its licence fee for television sets if users can show they cannot receive TV programmes and the sets can only be used for playing computer games and watching DVDs.
Digital technology will create new opportunities for increasingly niche broadcasters, but there is such a thing as too much choice. The electrical waste caused by artificially rendering such basic technologies obsolete is far worse than the possibility that somebody will go without a channel dedicated to coin collecting.
All bow to Mossberg
For years now Walt Mossberg has been touted as one of the most powerful people in the tech industry. This is especially impressive when you consider that he isn't really in the tech industry, but is, in fact, a writer. Mossberg is the lead tech writer for The Wall Street Journal, writing product reviews so influential that he's been called “The Kingmaker” by Wired. A recent empirical study conducted at the University of Southern California was done to test just how much power Mossberg has over the success of the products he reviews (PDF download available on this page).
The researchers tracked Mossberg's weekly columns in The Wall Street Journal from 1991 to 2001 and measured his reviews of tech products against the company's stock performance. As predicted, there was a correlation; however the weight of his influence was a bit surprising. The results show that when Mossberg reviewed a product negatively the tech company's stock averaged a $200m loss and when he reviewed a product positively the company had a $500 million average gain. This is remarkable.
From a marketing perspective it is a frightening concept to think that one person can have so much influence over a company's success. But fortunately, the conclusion of the study supports a different notion - high quality products will receive better reviews. We could all start sending gift baskets to Mossberg now hoping for positive reviews (although his ethics statement likely frowns on this), but instead why not make sure the product is of a quality that Mossberg, and any consumer, will review positively. Either way, it's pretty startling to realize that one product review could make the difference of $700m for a company.
Nokia buys Symbian in last-ditch effort to not be crushed by
News broke this week that Nokia has bought the remaining shares of the Symbian operating system for $410 million and, surprisingly, has open sourced it under the Eclipse license. The Symbian Foundation has been formed to manage the software, comprised of many prominent members, including AT&T, LG Electronics, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone.
The purchase of the shares is not unexpected, but a company the size of Nokia acquiring a company to open source its software is. The goal of this is for Nokia to try to create a platform that will attract developers and lower costs.
Google Android has been worked on in the open source community for longer and it will also be ready far before anything has come out of the Symbian open source efforts. With a head start, a larger development community and the backing of a titan in Google, Android is poised to have a tremendous edge in the mobile open systems space. Nokia is trying to maintain relevancy, and being able to offer its products at a lower cost because of the open source development may give it an edge on its competitors and provide some competition in the mobile market.
However, I can't help but feel this effort is like trying to erect a new building right before a hurricane is due to arrive. Yes, the plans may be nice, and maybe if everyone works tirelessly it could work, but there's a good chance that even with all that effort, the building's still going down.
New e-reader looks flipping good
Despite the best efforts of Amazon and Sony, it's fair to say that e-book readers have not really taken off. As New Scientist correctly points out, current digital book reading devices just aren't as easy to use as proper books. Despite all the snazzy digital ink, super-storage, and download capabilities, it's still impossible to compare different documents, or turn pages in a way that feels natural. However, a clever new e-reader may change all that.
Developed by researchers at Maryland and Berkeley Universities, the prototype features two screens. The screens can be opened and closed, which simulates physically turning pages, and can be separated to share or compare documents. The two screens can be put back to back, with pages turning as the user flips the device.
Testers of the device apparently report that feedback has been very positive. It does appear as if the device is a bit heavy at the moment, but hopefully this will be fixed if it ever gets released.
Although in its early stages, the device is looking extremely promising. If it's as natural and intuitive as it sounds, this could be the first e-reader to achieve mass market appeal.
Website of the Week
With Dave Wilby
Howcast is like YouTube, only with a lot more practical advice and hardly any happy-slapping at all. Created by ex-employees of both Google and YouTube, Howcast is a huge silo of user-generated 'How-To' videos providing practical demonstrations of all manner of useful skills, from putting up shelves or making a compost heap, to growing a lawn across your colleagues' keyboards while they're on holiday.
The content is free, engaging, endearingly homespun and a lot of fun. Dry subjects are tackled with plenty of humour and yet still turn out a lot more informative than you might have first guessed. If you're allergic to reading manuals, find it hard to take advice from real-life people, but love watching online videos and getting all your knowledge from 't'internet', Howcast was built just for you. Also, if you're a budding director, producer or presenter, Howcast provides a friendly, accessible platform for meeting like-minded filmmakers. This is how it all works!
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