MonthApril 2005

Will Wippit whip Sony at the ‘iTunes for movies’ game?

I know that Sony has now completely (well sort of completely) reverse-ferreted on the ‘iTunes for movies’ quote of a couple of weeks ago. But it looks like Wippit, which does the legal P2P music downloads game, is going to do it for them.

My latest analysis at Netimperative looks at prices, formats, and why this matters – and why the film industry is letting this little British company do it now.

Browsers, and search terms

I got asked to put up the browser summary here. Actually, I won’t, not in full. It’s really long. But here’s how it breaks down (by number of page requests):

Internet Explorer: 33% (of which IE6: 23%. IE5: 8%. IE4: 2%).
Mozilla 22% (which I assume includes Firefox, though it doesn’t seem to identify itself… unless that’s Mozilla/1, in which case it’s 17%. Or if it’s “Netscape (compatible)” then it’s 11%).
Safari: 21%.
Googlebot, MSNbot, Technoratibot: 6% total (about equal between Google and MSN).
Opera: 3%.
Nothing else above 1%; though “others” (90-odd) make up 27%. That’ll be comment spam, at a guess.

And here is what people are looking for when they come here. I guess putting this list here will make it more likely they’ll come…

reqs: search term
—-: ———–
25: charles arthur blog
21: charles arthur
10: spin bunny
6: ipod analysis
5: dashboard widgets
5: the apprentice tv
4: amphibious cars
4: powerreg.exe
4: stop the bid
4: g4 fan club
4: ntl hell
4: charlotte ricca smith
3: developing dashboard widgets
3: what will happen to hackney marshes
3: itunes gift certificate
3: fungible
3: the apprentice uk bittorrent
3: ebay phishing scam
3: g4 the x factor
3: pictures of jonathan ansell g4
3: dell a940 error 0502
3: paul.smith screensaver
3: get me email contacts addresses of travellers for the year 2005
3: dashboard widget
3: dell hardware error 0502
3: steve mcgann
3: the apprentice
3: the apprentice on tv
3: crosscountrybank
2: jim wightman

They’re all here – use the search field over on the right if you want to track them down. (Though I’ve no idea what the Dell hardware error thing is about, offhand.)

Two things for Mac users: John Siracusa on Tiger; and DEVONagent

OK, briefly.

First, John Siracusa has written another unbelievably in-depth review of Tiger over at Ars Technica. The man is a giant of geekdom but damn, when he does a review, the damn thing stays reviewed. Unlike some people I could mention.

It’s not trivial, it’s not short, and you may emerge realising that writing a Unix-based operating system with a pretty GUI actually takes real work by smart people. But that’s good, right?

Secondly, I’ve just downloaded and started using DEVONagent, having noted various people talking about it (try Tidbits, John Naughton, and the Mac downloads page, which quotes the publicity that it

overcomes all the shortcomings that make Google & Co. such a pain for serious research. More than 50 plug-ins for search engines, scientific databases and research tools, predefined search sets you can use right away and a clean, easy to use user interface make DEVONagent the #1 tool for finding information on the web for the Mac.

DEVONagent is much more than just an interface for web search engines. It helps you searching, collecting and organizing information with a powerful and flexible search architecture, a simple to use built-in archive and perfect integration with DEVONthink. DEVONagent creates perfectly tailored summaries, acts as a fast and lean web browser, supports news feeds like RSS and shows all items of interest in a separate drawer. It can’t be easier to look for information on the web.

The remarkable thing being that it’s right. I think I’ll be stumping up the licence fee on this one sharpish. Mac OSX only, I’m afraid (to steal from John Naughton).

Firefox encroaches on IE.. slowly, slowly…

According to this Register story, Firefox now has 10.28 per cent of the browser market on business web sites (from a survey of 168,000 – can anyone say if that’s statistically valid from a sample of tens of millions?).

IE, meanwhile, has fallen to an 83.7 per cent share.

What Firefox has done is remarkable. Though of course it can’t be finished yet, if it’s going to fit my first prediction for 2005. Although someone quoted in the story does think Firefox could hit a 25 per cent share next quarter.. Come on, come on, I need a good hit rate..

There’s a whole lot of searching going on

My article this week for The Independent looks at Google’s new “local” search, at last in the UK – along with maps, SMS and also now on the .com site, a “history” feature.

Interestingly Yahoo! has today added a “search history” feature, as part of its “My Yahoo!” customisation options. (Talk about your bad timing – had they done it a week ago they’d have been in the print article.) And of course Ask Jeeves has had such a feature for quite some time now.

For a comparison – though perhaps slightly out of date now, given the most recent changes – of what search engines offer what, see this posting. (Where would we be without them?)

There’s also some discussion on the Guardian/Observer blog about the limitations of Google UK maps. However, I still think it’s something of a threat to Streetmap and Multimap – as much as anything because it’s a lot faster, though Streetmaps Ordnance Survey output has always been attractive for anything that’s outside a city or town. Especially if you were taught (at the point of a stick) how to read maps.

How the iPod moved from “exclusive” to “inclusive” – yet kept its ‘cool’ branding

Something which I realised the other day is that the iPod has achieved something very subtle, in marketing terms, and yet nobody has remarked on it (not that I’ve noticed). Until now.

Back in January 2004 the Guardian ran a story on the invasion of the iPoddies (which noted that it had been “the must-have Christmas present of 2003”). That was before the launch of the iPod mini; iPods then were still those big things, and very pricey, yet it was a sort of exclusive club. (The article’s well worth re-reading, actually. It’s an interesting piece of then-zeitgeist.)

At that time, seeing someone wear an iPod was still a slightly unusual thing. White earphones? iPod user! Ooh.

Whereas now you walk along the street and every few steps there’s another person wearing those white tendrils. In just 12 months – well, perhaps more, perhaps more like 18 months or two years – the iPod has gone from being something that only the cognoscenti knew about (though they lauded it to the skies), to something that even the postman has. (Yeah, spotted one today.)

Yet at the same time the iPod hasn’t lost its cool. You don’t look at the person walking along and think “they’ve got an iPod! Eugh!” in the way that, say, seeing a chav wearing a Burberry hat makes you pause before you pulled on your Burberry raincoat the next morning. If you’ve seen a chav with an iPod, did it make you want to give up your iPod? Bet it didn’t. (Chav readers can move along here..)

Partly that resistance to brand-debasement must be due to the brilliant silhouette adverts, which have a sort of aspirational quality – remember Phil Schiller’s comment at last year’s Apple Expo? – and partly too to the way that Apple has segmented (oops) the market, so that it now offers something iPoddy all the way up the price range; that’s driven the inclusivity thing, so that everyone can have one.

But why is it still cool? Why isn’t it debased? I think that the core – damn! – reason why the iPod has kept its image, even while everyone from George Bush upwards has one, is that it remains *your* iPod. It’s as cool as you are; it’s a sort of electronic pet that loves you, that says “what a fantastic choice of music!”, which rewards you by playing songs that you really like. They say – well, someone said, but who knows? – that “Every man is Napoleon to his dog”. Meaning that dogs look to you as the great conquering hero, even if you’re just some Pooter. Same for the iPod. Everyone’s iPod tells them they’re cool. Because we all know that our taste in music is the right one, don’t we?

Ryanair’s “ban” on phone chargers: not really staff bullying, but very subtle PR

I think that this story, about Ryanair banning staff from using mobile phone chargers in the company (which would cost it £28.60 per day if every one of its 2,600 staff charged their phone each day) is not, as it might appear, a story about the evil empire of Michael O’Leary. Well, it sort of is. But what’s really going on is more subtle.

What it really is, much more, is a piece of marketing. This ban won’t make any direct difference to Ryanair’s profits, and O’Leary surely knows it.

However it will reinforce the company’s image in the public consciousness as a really tight-fisted, tightly-run organisation. “Wow, they won’t let their staff charge their phones! They must run on fresh air! They must be really cheap!” Thus a carrier in a cut-throat market, which is aiming to push out its close rival easyJet, manages to get a story in the national media which completely ignores all its rivals, while focussing attention on its own organisation.

You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty sharp marketing. Stelios must be fuming.

It’s the same technique used by the supermarkets as Christmas approaches, when stories about how chickens/cucumbers/Christmas trees grow faster/bigger/wider when you play Beethoven/Black Sabbath/Christmas carols to them abruptly appear in the tabloids and even some of the more credulous nationals. And has anyone ever checked the story out for themselves? Are you kidding?

Oh, dammit, kudos where it’s due

In the light of other things I’ve written here, I guess – for the sake of fairness, and accuracy – that I should acknowledge a couple of things about Paul Thurrott’s more recent series of things about Tiger.

To wit: first, he’s done well to get hold of a copy of the OS (perhaps the GM, or a build just a couple of versions short of it).

Second, the explanations he’s been giving of new features such as those in Mail, and his points about the interesting calculation of Tiger’s “200 new” features, are valid. He’s good at explaining new twiddles, like Mail version 2’s method of dealing with photos or the nifty-looking “burn folders” feature.

The latter, of course, are the sort of thing that you’re good at when you write books explaining stuff to people ve-ry sim-ply. Not quite the same as getting a perspective on where something fits in the wider picture, which I still think he’s rubbish at. Nor, indeed, keeping any sort of perspective on anything (as in his daft defence that Microsoft first used the phrase “it just works” – with Windows 95, because that OS did right? ..right? I mean nobody ever described it as “Plug-and-Pray”.. um.). “Industry analyst” isn’t a phrase I’d use in a hurry about him.

But, you know, might as well get it said. Since I feel sure I’ll do a Tiger review once it’s released.

Can 3G provide the platform for loyalty – or vice-versa?

This week’s column for Netimperative examines the interesting question of whether putting loyalty cards onto 3G phones (or any phones, come to that) will improve customer loyalty to retailers, banks and so on; and whether in a symbiotic way it might give 3G a leg up to wider acceptance.

Of course a lot of people are using the 3G network already – but not that intensively, and not for serious applications. What I hear is that rather than using it for serious, head-down things like location services, people would rather watch a music video or a football goal. Amusing ourselves to death, as ever.

Jim Allchin vs SecurityFocus: safety in numbers, or in niches?

Interesting to contrast Jim Allchin’s comment to David Kirkpatrick:

[he] looked at my Apple PowerBook and smugly pointed out that the number of copies of Windows sold this year will be more than all the Macintosh computers used worldwide. By the end of 2005, he proudly noted, over 730 million people will be using Windows. “Business is good,” he said

(Interesting question: if people could *choose* which operating system, or had to, when they bought their machine, which would it be?)

Contrast that with the remark at the end of this deep-sighing column from SecurityFocus about the fact that while there’s a ton of Trojans, viruses and keyloggers for Windows, there still isn’t a virus for OSX (reprinted – if that’s the word – at The Register):

I should have also prefaced this column with the disclaimer that most SecurityFocus staff use OS X in some way or another, if not at work then at home, so we’re somewhat biased. After covering multi-platform security news all day long, from WiFi penetration testing to intrusion detection and honeypots, at the end of the day it’s nice to use a system that’s not on everyone’s radar for a change. Let’s keep it that way.

I guess one could say that Microsoft has 90+ per cent of the PC market – and virtually all the virus and spyware market. I did get asked by someone earlier this week what antivirus software she should use on her still-new iBook G4. I’m still not sure she believed me when I said “none”. Well, how can you protect against a threat that’s not there?