Nokia World 2011 Preview: Can Nokia change the course of the European Smartphone market again?

I get excited about technology pretty easily, Nokia World 2011 has me more excited than usual. Recently, things have been quiet at Nokia. There have been the usual releases of handsets aimed at the developing markets, but other than that there has been a pretty resolute silence coming from the Finnish manufacturer.

After spending two weeks in the company of the N8 I was left feeling like I was ready for more. More of the famous Nokia build quality and excellent industrial design. More innovation, thought and user focus like I experienced in the old days using everything from a 5110 to an N95-8GB.

I’m excited because we simply MUST be about to witness the unveiling of the next generation of Nokia Smartphones. With Windows Phone 7 (7.5?) platform the time has surely come for Nokia to re-enter the smartphone market with a bang. Nokia handsets empower people all over the world, give them their connections to the rest of the world, and help them get their message out. I simply hope that Nokia can make a barnstorming return to the premium handset market with something big.

Good luck Nokia.

What are Cookies and why do you need to care? A guide to the new legislation for Marketing Managers

What are Cookies?

efficiently and perform certain functions. Due to their core role of enhancing/enabling usability or site processes, disabling cookies may prevent users from using certain websites.

Cookies are created when a user’s browser loads a particular website. The website sends information to the browser which then creates a text file. Every time the user goes back to the same website, the browser retrieves and sends this file to the website’s server. Computer Cookies are created not just by the website the user is browsing but also by other websites that run ads, widgets, or other elements on the page being loaded. These cookies regulate how the ads appear or how the widgets and other elements function on the page.

What changes have been made to the law?

The European Directive on which the UK Regulations relating to cookies are based has been revised. UK law has been changed to implement that changed Directive. A simplified version of the changes is described below.

The previous rule on using cookies for storing information was that you had to:

  • tell people how you use cookies, and
  • tell them how they could ‘opt out’ if they objected.

Many websites did this by putting information about cookies in their privacy policies and giving people the possibility of ‘opting out’. The new requirement is essentially that cookies can only be placed on machines where the user or subscriber has given their consent.

Nokia N8 extended test Part 3: browser performance

These days you can’t make a smartphone and expect it to sell (and perform well) without including a decent browser. The mobile web has come a long way since my first taste of it, the extremely limited WAP over GPRS as I had on my Nokia 6510, followed up by basic page rendering over 3G on handsets like the N95 and E61. Modern smartphones have a lot more to deal with in terms of complexity and content, and todays users expect a “proper” browsing experience, with all the features of a desktop browser available to them.

So after this trip down memory lane, discussing handsets of old, how does the N8 perform? The spec sheet seems to indicate that everything is in order claiming “Full web browsing of real web pages” and detailing support for HTML, XHTML MP, WML, CSS, Javascript and Flash Lite 4 and in my initial tests I was pleasantly surprised by the accurate approach to rendering pages from the N8. However, due to the comparatively low resolution of the screen, it can actually be quite difficult to “use” the browser with most pages initially rendering with only the top left corner of the content available without scrolling or zooming. This wouldn’t be a big problem if the experience of scrolling / zooming was more pleasant, but sadly the usually excellent capacitive display is slow to react to swipes when browsing complex pages and this leads to a less than pleasant overall experience.

Web standards compatibility

There is better news in terms of support for modern standards, with all of the standard pages I tested rendering correctly, and even some of the more advanced and complex pages rendering in a usable fashion. The currently in development jQuery Mobile is also compatible with the browser and has support at B-Grade level which the project describes as providing an “enhanced experience except without Ajax navigation features”. In reality this means that the N8 will be forward compatible (to an extent) with many of a new breed of websites and web apps that will support the fledgling standard as it grows in popularity, making it a safe bet for “normal users” (not me) who are likely to keep their handsets for the entire duration of an 18 or 24 month contract.

Speed

When considering the speed of browsing it is a bit of a mixed bag. Over 3G the handset performs OK, no better or worse than any other handset I have tested in terms of its radio performance and download speeds, but when you take the browser into consideration it becomes painfully slow rendering complex websites. Over WiFi the story is much the same, with the N8 getting to pages and starting to download quickly, but the rendering seemingly going on forever.

Wrap-up

Overall the N8 web performance is a bit of a mixed bag to say the least. From a technical perspective the browser performs well, rendering the vast majority of pages successfully, however, whether or not you still care what the site you are looking for has to say when it eventually finishes rendering is another matter all together. For users that only use the web occasionally and mainly live in messaging and email the N8 would make a solid companion, but more demanding (power) users should look elsewhere to a more modern phone OS with a more robust browser and a handset with more horsepower.

Flash support is a pleasant and welcome surprise, but this isn’t enough to let me feel confident recommending the N8 for anyone who intends to use the internet regularly on the move. A good effort, but one that feels a little left behind when compared with the current crop of modern smartphone browsers.

 

A little less mobile these days

June 2011 will forever be remembered by me as the month when I became a little less mobile. For 2 years my treasured and much loved 15″ MacBook Pro had been giving me sterling service as my main machine – quite simply the fastest, most well built and down right useful computer I have owned. The time had come for a change, and due to working in London and spending 2 hours on the train a day and an hour walking my trusty companion had to go, it was just too heavy. I tried to put off the inevitable by purchasing a rucksack style bag which helped, but as the weather warmed up – the chore of carrying the laptop to London and back every day just got too much – before I knew it my aluminium powder coated workhorse was on eBay and gone, and its replacement arrived, a 21″ iMac 2011 model.

Some might think it an odd move to switch to a desktop machine from a laptop that was used almost 100% away from home since it was purchased – but I thought this was a logical move. I knew a few things; my new machine had to be a Mac, it had to have a lot of storage (the 500GB drive in my MBP had been nearly full for a year now!), and it had to include the latest generation of intel processors (I wanted to be future proof). The new 2011 iMac had received excellent reviews from all the sites I usually read so I was in no doubt – this would be the machine for me. It arrived covered in brown cardboard and hope – all the way the Amazon depot, and I don’t regret it at all. It is blisteringly quick, and even faster soon when my 16GB RAM order arrives from Crucial – and it does everything I needed it to do without even breaking a sweat.

I do miss my laptop, and the iMac isn’t a replacement for it – it was never really meant to be. It is a great machine (and I will post a review of it when I can get the kids away from it long enough to use the thing) but I still need something portable for taking with me to meetings etc. I knew I wanted to get a MacBook Air 11″ but the storage options were too limited for me to use it as a primary machine. So here I am, loving the iMac, but feeling a lot less mobile these days – so Apple, do me a favour? Bring the new MacBook Air out on Wednesday so I can get mobile again. Getting by with my iPhone 4 just isn’t the same!

First impressions of Google+

So here’s the thing … I was until very recently a big time Facebook addict. I am useless at staying in touch with people and frequently get so into whatever project I am working on at the time that I completely forget to communicate with humans other than the ones I physically run into in the course of a day. Since 2006, Facebook has been solving this problem for me, and it has done a pretty good job.

I keep my friends list quite short (about 200) and by being reminded that people exist outside of my immediate vicinity I am able to at least keep up the illusion that I am a real human being and can function properly in life, without being constantly reminded to call / email / text message my friends and family.

But recently I have noticed a problem with Facebook. People are getting bored of it, and rather than seeing a constant stream of updates and photos, the tide is turning and I seem to be getting hit with more marketing material than ever before. Businesses are finally starting to understand how to operate on Facebook to get the attention of users, and sadly it is working. What used to be a site based on community, sharing photos and stitching up your mates by tagging them in photos where they are being sick off the back of a boat in Tenerife – has now become a constant stream of updates from my favourite websites and tech companies. Sad times, I’m sure you will agree?

Until last week, when wafting into the online world like a complete breath of fresh air comes Google+, a new social “project” from the dark overlords at Google. I’ve traditionally kept new Google products (and projects) at arms length, and made the best use that I can of their core offerings Gmail, Analytics and Search – but Google+ caught my eye. My feeling of apathy towards Facebook has been growing for some time, and by the time I eventually managed to get an invite to Google+, I was ready for something new in my online social calendar.

Google aren’t pitching G+ as a self contained social tool, but rather they are “adding some new stuff to Google to make sharing online more like sharing in real life.” – a pretty interesting approach to the online social world. The idea of augmenting all of the Google services with a “social layer” is one that is significantly different (at least in theory) to any of the competition, who seem to approach it in the opposite direction (closed community first, adding features as it develops).

So how good is Google+? Well the simple answer is – not bad. The interface is far superior to Facebook (IMHO) and the speed and performance of the site is certainly improved. In all fairness to Facebook, Google+ has far fewer users at this time and so you really would expect them to be able to make performance better. We shall see over time how this changes as more users sign up, if at all. At the moment, Google+ is exclusively filled with what the eloquent gents at the Angry Mac Bastards podcast would refer to as ‘New Media Douche-bags’, and although this has been noted by many, I’m inclined to agree. Only time, and real users, will tell if Google+ will be any good in the long run. At the moment it is far too much of a tech blogger sausage-fest for anyone to make any real judgements.

Also key to this will be the handling of business / commercial presences on the site. This, for the moment at least, is still being thrashed out at Google HQ – as no commercial entities are allowed to be a part of Google+ for now. At least everyone on there is a real human (if you class Robert Scoble as a human – I’m convinced he is a Rackspace cloud powered AI designed to make me want to spend more money) and the level of interaction and overall conversation seems to be pretty good. There are also some neat features (which have been covered to death on blogs far better than mine) such as Hangouts, Circles etc that give a fresh look and feel to the online social world.

So, Google+ has potential, let’s see what the real people think before we all jump ship. For now, I’m living in Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. So please come and say hello, I’ll probably get back to you but then again, I might forget.