Twelfth in a series. Microsoft rolled out Office for iPad this week, and it's excellent. Like Apple iWork, it's not a single app but rather three individual apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint (an updated OneNote is available too). You need an Office 365 subscription to get the most out of it, as without one you can only view documents.
Other featured apps this week include a modern remake of Little Big Adventure (a classic game from the nineties), a touch typing tutor, a drawing app for children, a sweeping and rather too addictive Game of Thrones RPG, a Captain America tie-in, and a group text messaging app.
Microsoft made Office Mobile available for free since launch, on both Android and iOS. But, in order to take advantage of its features, users had to tie the app to an Office 365 subscription. So it was free, but not void of additional costs.
Yesterday, Microsoft launched Office for iPad and announced a subscription is now no longer necessary to get the best out of Office Mobile, which was just updated on both platforms to reflect this decision. While this only applies to home users -- which means a subscription is still needed for non-personal (commercial) use -- it is certainly a welcome change. But, it also means Windows Phone just lost one of its most important advantages over its main rivals.
Battery life continues to be the weak spot of mobile devices. Smartphones, tablets and laptops can quickly run out of juice, rendering them useless in mere hours. In places with access to the power grid the battery can be easily recharged, but that may not be the case in other locations. I often find myself in this position while traveling. Tethering makes it even worse.
Road warriors can turn to external batteries, which usually pack a decent charge, but also see a noticeable degradation in performance over time. BatteryBox is a new entry in this market that is touted to keep power-hungry devices running for many hours in one go, while never losing capacity.
Last week in the UK, the announcement of the new budget for the country was closely watched as citizens kept an eye on whether they'll be paying more for beer and whether taxes are going up or down. There's a lot to talk about in George Osborne's 2014 budget, but this is not the place to discuss most of what it involves. One thing is of interest for technology enthusiasts, though. The cost of digital downloads -- meaning ebooks, music and apps -- could be set to rise as the chancellor (the guy holding the purse strings) closes a tax loophole.
At the moment, companies offering digital downloads are able to avoid paying taxes in the UK by routing them through another country where taxes are lower. This is not a new technique, and there is nothing illegal about it. It is a loophole that has been exploited for many years, but now plans are afoot to close it off. What is this likely to mean? Well, it should come as no surprise that, ultimately, it's probably going to lead to higher prices for people in the UK.
Apple has rarely been first to market with a product -- it did not build the first MP3 player or tablet, but it does have a history of revolutionizing those markets, as it did with the smartphone. There isn't anything wrong with stepping into an existing market and bringing along fresh and innovative ideas. In fact, it has worked out quite well for the company over the years.
However, more recent history shows that Apple can also lose the markets, as both tablet and smartphone have fallen behind rival Android, which entered the scene later. Openness plays a part in this -- a multitude of devices to choose from, along with more customizable options, is a big deal when compared to a closed system with one device released annually.
On Sunday, while perusing my music collection by album, I came across lots of new -- or rather, old and forgotten -- tracks purchased before Apple took iTunes DRM-free. My excitement at discovering, and downloading from the cloud, these long lost songs cannot be understated. That is until finding them not to be what I expected. Rather than crisp, 256kbps DRM-free files, iTunes delivered 128kbps protected-AAC tracks. What the frak? Apple is supposed be done with digital rights management for music.
That iTunes Match provides access to this older music, even if DRM-protected, is a benefit. Thank you, Apple, for providing an affordable means for recovering lost or deleted music. What confuses me: Being given the older, lower-quality, locked files when higher-bitrate DRM-free alternatives are available from Apple's store. I don't have an answer why this morning, but I do have some suspicions. Perhaps you're smarter than me or better at finding solutions in online support forums.
I have no idea what 12-year old kids are interested in -- I am guessing Justin Bieber and Instagram; lord only knows. However, as a tech-guy, I always have my eye on what smartphones and tablets people are using in public. From my observations, iPhones and iPads still reign supreme for tweens. And so, it is not surprising that 12 year old Victoria asked her dad for an iPad Mini.
While many kids are whiny brats nowadays, she took a more responsible approach and created a presentation as to why buying it is a good idea. Her father, rather than simply giving in and buying it, instead tweeted Microsoft to give it a chance for rebuttal. Microsoft responded to her presentation in epic fashion.
Not a good week for Microsoft this week. Things kicked off as Mozilla shunned the Windows Store by opting to stop development of a modern version of Firefox and then things got a little awkward following the investigation of an employee involved in leaking information about Windows. The company then came under fire for accessing the email account of an individual, despite its claims that "Outlook and Hotmail email are and should be private".
There was better news as an LTE version of Surface 2 went on sale opening up a new income stream for the company and new mobile computing opportunities for customers. More good news for users came when OneNote was not only released for Mac, but also made free for all platforms. Mihaita wasn't overly impressed with the Mac version, though.
Eleventh in a series. Apple rolled out a cheaper 8GB version of its iPhone 5c this week (in selected territories) and also replaced the aging budget iPad 2 with the newer, 4th gen iPad with Retina Display. The replacement iPad, which is available everywhere, is priced the same as the iPad mini giving potential buyers an interesting purchasing dilemma.
Featured apps this week include one of the best looking games yet released for iOS, an app which claims to boost your fitness in just four minutes a day, one which will help you avoid people you don’t want to see, and a game which could help find a cure for cancer.
OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But wearable devices are really struggling to get off the ground, at least in the UK. All of the excitement that surrounds smartwatches that can be used to read email, VPN into a home computer, check vital stats, set off The Bomb, or tell the time (imagine!) -- maybe a couple of these are a little far-fetched -- seems to be little more than manufacturers' fluff and guff. The wheels of the marketing machine have been whirring away furiously, but it has had very little effect. With a population of approaching 65 million people, only a very tiny proportion of the nation has seen the need to invest in a smartwatch -- below 1 percent in fact.
Figures from Kantar World Panel show that a lowly 0.9 percent of UK consumers have put their hard-earned money towards a smartwatch. Other statistics to come from the research are of little surprise. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of smartwatch owners are male, and 56 percent are aged under 35. There are a small number of names associated with smartwatches, and the spread is fairly evenly distributed. At the top of the heap is Samsung with a 32 percent share, followed by Sony with 21 percent and Pebble with 18 percent. There is obviously a leader, but with the numbers being so low, percentages are very easily swayed.
The NSA story isn't new. Scratch that. It's not really a story; it's a saga. Just when it seems safe to feel that there can't possibly be any more revelations to knock us sideways... oops... there's another little surprise for you! Just a week ago, I argued that Google's encryption of Chinese web searches amounts to little more than a PR exercise, designed to try to get the disgruntled user back on its side. This is not something that is related to the NSA revelations. When we found out that the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo (to name but a few) had been handing data over to the US government, all of these companies were falling over themselves to appear to be doing everything they could legally do to let their customers know what had been happening with their data.
Of course, it's not just the UK that has this problem, although that’s certainly where the attention has been focused -- the UK had (or possibly has) its own Optic Nerve program which was used to spy on webcam chats. The story we have heard time and time again is that these companies did not know what was going on. That the government had been collecting data without their knowledge. There were concessions that in some cases, FISA requests had been received but there were limitations on what could be publically revealed. Each company tried to outdo the others by appearing to reveal as much data as it could as quickly as humanly possible.
Apple’s iPhone has been getting lighter (and thinner) with each iteration, and while most of us view that as a good thing, UK based healthy living brand Desirablebody.co.uk has a different opinion, believing much, much heavier phones could help us get fitter.
"In the 80s carrying around a mobile phone meant carrying some serious weight -- and that could sometimes be a mini workout all by itself," Fitness Manager, James Finlayson states. So Desirablebody.co.uk has introduced a case that takes mobile phones back to their roots and transforms the iPhone into a dumbbell. No, seriously.
Nothing on the internet is safe these days. Even point-of-sale systems in stores we regularly shop in can be accessed and stolen from -- witness Target to name only one recent high profile example. However, when it comes to computers, some users see Apple as more secure. While that may be a result of simply being less targeted, there is also nothing that the company can do to protect people from themselves.
Security firm Netcraft, which boasts customers that include British Telecom, Microsoft and Cisco, has detailed a sneaky new attack. EA, the popular game maker, has had one of its servers compromised so it can host phishing attacks that target Apple IDs.
Even though Windows 8.1 is not Microsoft's most-popular PC operating system at this point -- Windows 7 takes that title -- Apple has decided it should be the only choice users of the new Mac Pro can have in Boot Camp.
This may come as a surprise, considering Windows 8.1's low adoption among PC users, but the company's decision is to be expected. Boot Camp gradually drops support for older versions of Windows in newer Macs, as shown by the software's support page.
It’s fair to say the iPhone 5c hasn’t been a major success for Apple so far. Rumors prior to its launch suggested it would be a cheap iPhone, and while it is more affordable than the flagship 5s, it certainly isn’t "cheap". Those low cost expectations coupled with the actual price have affected the iPhone 5c’s sales -- with many buyers preferring to spend a little extra to get the 5s.
That might change soon though, as Apple has rolled out an 8GB variant of the iPhone 5c, making it available across Europe and China from today.