Has Sony's trash-talking finally killed plasma TVs?
By Adam TURNER
Why is plasma TV dying when it still puts most LCD TVs to shame?
The Sydney Morning Herald recently republished a Mashable story which asked Why has plasma display technology fallen so far out of favour with TV buyers? I was surprised that Sony's long anti-plasma campaign didn't get a mention.
When it comes to trash-talking the competition, Sony could make Muhammad Ali blush. Sony's standard tactic is to declare itself the victor before the fight has even started, as it did in the war between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Sony shouted "HD DVD is dead" so often that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sony has also spent the last five years trash-talking plasma, starting right after it got out of the plasma market to focus on LCD.
"The LCD versus plasma debate is over," claimed Sony Australia deputy managing director Carl Rose back in January 2007. "Consumers and retailers alike are showing their increased understanding of which technology is best for a future that's in high definition."
That was bullshit then and it's bullshit now. At the time Pioneer's Kuro plasmas were considered by many to be the best televisions money could buy. Pioneer lost the marketing war and pulled out of plasma, but Panasonic snapped up its engineers and they picked up where they'd left off.
Today the picture quality on a decent plasma TV from the likes of Panasonic will blow anything else out of the water in the same price range. Shop around and you'll find yourself a 50-inch 1080p Panasonic plasma for around $1200, but you'll get change from $1000 during a sale. Now see what you'll get for the same money in LCD. To match the size and picture quality of that 50-inch plasma you can forget cheap and nasty CCFL-backlit LCD televisions. You'll need to spend around double on an LED-backlit LCD to come close to matching the picture quality of a good plasma. You can see the difference with your own eyes, at least you could if you could trust the retailers to set up the televisions properly.
Even when OLED TVs finally take off, plasma is still going to offer the best bang for your buck for quite a while. There's nothing wrong with plasma, it's only dying because Sony keeps saying it's dead.
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Why should users pay for developers' mistakes?
By Stephen WITHERS
For many years, I've been of the opinion that software bug fixes (which includes patches for vulnerabilities) should be kept separate from feature changes. That is, you shouldn't be required to purchase an upgrade for a piece of software in order to receive patches needed to make it work safely or 'as described'.
I'm not too bothered when free updates deliver fixes and improvements in one go, but that's probably because (as far as I can recall) I've never been in a situation where I've been unable to apply such an update due to an incompatibility with another essential piece of software.
So I was very pleased to hear that Adobe backed down from its initial stance that the only way for its CS5 customers to get a fix for a TIFF-related vulnerability was to upgrade to CS6 at considerable expense. Instead, patches for the CS5.x versions of Illustrator, Photoshop and Flash Professional will be made available in due course.
Similarly, though less thoroughly, Apple this week broke from tradition and released a security update for Leopard to at least partially address the Flashback malware and a second to discourage the continued use of old and vulnerable versions of Flash.
What we may need is legislation to ensure that software developers continue to deliver bug fixes - especially those with security implications - for the useful life of their products. They take our money upfront, and I believe that imposes certain responsibilities which they have tended to avoid. (Just to be clear, I don't think those responsibilities include accommodating subsequent changes to other companies' products, such as providing compatibility with a new major version of an operating system, or with hardware that wasn't on the market at the time the program was sold.)
The problem is defining 'useful life' in this context. I'm inclined towards a fixed number of years after the last sale of a given version, as other rules (such as supporting version n-1 or n-2) can easily be manipulated by the vendors.
My feeling is that five or six years is probably about right. These days, we consider software expensive if it costs $2000 - yes, I'm thinking of you, Adobe! But spread over five years, that's less than $8 per week, so it doesn't seem too unreasonable if the program is left to 'wear out' after that period.
But maybe it's too late. We might not all like the idea of software subscriptions (whether the programs are delivered for use on our hardware or offered as a service from data centres that could be anywhere in the world), but there does seem to be an inexorable move in that direction.
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Dear Nokia: Form factors won't save you.
By David BRAUE
Not too many years from now, business-school textbooks will offer unflinching assessments of the fall from grace that characterised the decline of Nokia, which has bet the farm on a Windows Phone 7-based smartphone strategy that is working with critics but may or may not bear enough commercial fruit to put some heft under its flailing wings.
It’s amazing, really: once the undisputed king of the mobile, Nokia has been reduced to promising that its strategy to save itself will depend on its ability to develop different form factors. You know, so you can do completely different things than you can already do today.
Surely, a company that spends billions on R&D each year, as Nokia does, must realise that a statement like this can only go so far? New form factors are all well and great, but if you think you’re going to provide the kind of revenue uptick that Nokia needs with a smartphone you wear on your head or a wraparound tablet that doubles as a heart monitor, you’ve got another thing coming.
The only really new, significant form factor we’ve had in the past few years has been the iPad, which revolutionised tablet computing. Oh, wait a second: tablet PCs have been around since the late 1990s.
It must have been the smartphone, then – the touchscreen device brought to the mass market by Apple. You know, back in the early 1990s. Which it killed off because it wasn’t selling enough to support its flagging revenues.
For the head of Nokia to argue that newer, cooler devices will save its skin shows just how misguided the company has become. After years of getting whipped by Apple, Nokia still hasn’t figured out that it’s an engineering company that needs a content solution – and not just new devices – to save its hide.
History has now shown that the only thing that could help Nokia’s smartphones was to ditch its sagging Symbian operating system for something people actually liked to use. To complete the transition, Nokia will need to partner with some sort of content provider – the likes of Sony, or Bertelsmann if they want to stick with a fellow Eurozone firm – to build a compelling value proposition that consumers might actually care about.
Because the one thing Apple figured out a long time ago is simple: consumers buy devices for the sexy, but they stay for the content. Keep them happily immersed in more music, TV and movies than they can watch, and you’ve got them hooked.
Or, wait. Hold on, I’ve got it: haptic computing. Nokia will revolutionise the world by developing a smartphone that works without the use of hands, levitates alongside you wherever you are, and transcribes text messages by remotely reading your brainwave activity. It will drive your car, do your taxes, advise you how to dress for the weather, and look after your children.
Actually, the iPad is pretty good at that last one too. Back to the drawing board with you, Nokia.
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Where's Sherlock? The Mystery of the MIssing Lens Caps
By David HAGUE
You know how for some oddball celestial reason that there is somewhere in the universe that half a pair of socks gravitates to? Or where rogue coat hangers hang out? Or the tops off pens, potato peelers and the caps off the toothpaste go?
I have this problem with some of my video gear. Well not some, one thing specifically and I cannot fathom why or how.
I applaud the person who integrated the lens cap into the body of the camera but this of course does not apply to many types other than compacts. dSLR cameras in particular seem to have the ne'er-do-well versions that simply go feral when they get the urge.
I KNOW I don’t put them in strange places or am forgetful, it’s just not in my makeup. I have never lost or locked in my car keys for example and have little sympathy for those that do.
But give me a camera with a loose lens cap, and as soon as I take it off, you can almost guarantee its immediate absence from the current plane of time and space.
Does anyone else have this issue? How do you deal with it (or a similar problem)? Are single socks and lens caps somehow strangely genetically related and at birth have a primeval urge to run away together?
It’s got me stumped.
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Beware the lure of Dropbox
By Ian GRAYSON
If you're not yet using Dropbox, you probably know someone who does. The cloud data storage service has become a popular way for on-the-move business types to access information on multiple devices since its launch in 2007.
It's popularity stems from the fact that the service (and others like it) fill a real need. If you use a notebook PC, a smartphone and perhaps a tablet, how can you easily access files created on one device from the others? Dropbox is the answer.
But this convenience also causes problems for businesses. How can they maintain the security of their data when employees are using a free cloud service to shunt it around? Rather that sitting on corporate servers, suddenly reports, accounts and other sensitive data can be accessed from anywhere (and potentially anyone).
It's a question with no easy answer. Some companies will opt to simply ban the service (good luck) while others will opt for employee education about when and how it should be used.
Some large firms are likely to create their own Dropbox-like service for employees, giving them the freedom they need without compromising security.
As usage of these services continues to grow, all companies will have to come up with a policy that works for them. What is your workplace policy when it comes to Dropbox?
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