A look at Microsoft’s Windows 8 teaser video

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Google image search seems really cruel to Steve Ballmer so we got one where he looks happy to be nice.Microsoft have released a new video, embedded below, demoing what is now being called Windows 8. Microsoft had refused to name the successor to Windows 7 until recently when Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer recently naming the new OS at the CES conference in Las Vegas. The video continues the trend of naming the new OS as Windows 8, and has been compared to Windows Mobile. Now that the name has been floated though, it is unlikely that Microsoft will deviate from the name.

The video walks the viewer through a raft of changes and new features. These changes include a new interface, including the new Start Screen which appears to replace the traditional Desktop and Start button common synonymous with the Windows platform. The interface appears to follow the trend of recent OSs which seems to be optimised for tablet and/or mobile devices. This design slightly deviates from the likes of Apple iOS and Windows mobile 7 in that Windows 8 uses tiles with live data rather than static icons. It’s a nice evolution and will likely spawn copycat upgrades to other OSs. A nice add-on is the thumb centric redesign of the on-screen keyboard, although it’s likely to take some getting used to.

The availability of multiprocessing of applications, coupled with the OS being designed to work with an array of hardware platforms will likely make it a strong competitor for the likes of the iPad and Android tablets. The multi-platformed approach allows users to avail of cheaper hardware rather than being locked into a single vendor (unlike Apple); although this has traditionally meant that compromises had to be made to avoid a reoccurrence of a Windows Vista magnitude.

Microsoft also promises that Windows 8 will be backwards compatible with older applications, although it’s likely that we will finally see a push away from any remaining XP legacy applications. This of course, is no bad thing but will likely hamper industry deployment as it will likely adopt a wait and see approach to the new OS. After-all, W3schools reports that as late as May 2011, Windows XP usage was still higher than Windows 7, although the gaps was closing fast.

One of the biggest changes seems to be the application integration and how files are shared between applications, the OS and the file system. This is a growing trend with Apple recently embedding Twitter into its iOS. However, I remain unconvinced of its long term integration due to likely security concerns.

Microsoft are promising several more videos over the next twelve months which may suggest a 2012 release of, at the very least, a beta. It would seem likely that Microsoft will attempt to replicate the success and early buzz generated by the public availability of the Windows 7 release candidate with this new OS as it strives to remain relevant and competitive in an increasingly diverse OS market.

Personally, the biggest disappointment had to be the lack of any mention of the rumoured Windows 8 app store. Here’s hoping that we will see this and much more in future videos. For the moment, it’s a good start and I’m eager to see more.

Sport will be the key driver for 3D TV growth

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Rafael Nadal looks way more awesome in 3DWith UPC having followed Sky into the 3D TV field, Emmet Ryan looks at how sport rather than movies will prove the biggest driver in developing the home market for this technology.

Moving slowly

The biggest obstacle facing 3D TV from the start has been the lack of people using it. It remains an issue but sport has the potential to fuel growth far more than movies. Looking at the take for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the opening weekend in the US only saw two thirds of its gross come from 3D screens. This may sound like a big number but it’s actually worryingly low. Larger theatres in cinemas are equipped for 3D and the bulk of the screenings would have been in these on the opening weekend. This means that the guts of a third of movie-goers actively chose to go to a 2D showing on a smaller screen so as not to pay the premium associated with 3D films. The gimmicky use of the technology by films lie Pirates has a limited appeal, special effects are a great sauce but you need a good steak for people to buy into 3D.

Films which have focussed on adding depth with 3D and improving the overall picture have showed where value can be gained from this technology. Tron Legacy, a film light on plot but heavy on picture quality, showed just how much better the overall viewing experience can be. They remain limited however in their ability to win over audiences in the home market. Event viewing of DVDs or 3D downloads is not a huge driver and 3D films on TV suffer from the viewing habits of casual users, with a tendency to flick around and see what’s on. There’s an impracticality which can’t be overcome. One sector can overcome this handicap and, fortunately enough, it’s also best placed to sell the wow factor of the technology.

Just as expected

Two weeks ago I went to UPC’s showcase of the French Open in 3D. As I previously wrote, sports where the came gets closer to the action have the potential to sell this technology. The semi final from Roland Garros, between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, served as a solid indicator of this. The combination of Tennis taking place in a relatively small environment with the proximity of the shot to the action provides that kind of depth sports fans appreciate.

All the clichés about getting closer to the action really are valid as fans want to have a better feeling for what’s happening. It provides more intimacy and a sense of involvement, rather big emotional triggers with a market that advertisers and television manufacturers love. Live sport outperforms all other forms of television when it comes to stickyness, viewers tend to go out of their way to watch the broadcast when it is shown and are less likely to switch channels*. UPC have started their 3D roll out by focusing on event viewing, the types of sport events where people will go out of their way to set aside time to watch something. Expect more of this in the coming months as major events are targeted to sell the technology.

*This, incidentally, is also why ads for products aimed primarily at women are often shown during Boxing broadcasts. While most of the target viewers may be male there’s a greater chance that female viewers will see ad than during more female-targeted programming as there is less of a chance that the channel will be changed.

Good timing

Growth of the 3D TV market may have been slow to date but it is showing signs of picking up. According to UPC the 3D TV market currently accounts for 6 percent of all new sales but that is expected to rise to between 15 and 20 percent by year end.  Focusing on specific major sporting events and ensuring that venue viewing, primarily pubs, is promoted will help spread interest in the technology. The biggest handicap remains Football. While comfortably the most viewed sport it is also one that isn’t terribly improved by the technology. Exploiting the sports that do benefit on occasions when casual viewers tune in will therefore be vital for long-term growth.

Due to the technology aspect of this story it can also be found on our sister site Villa81.com.

The curious case of Microsoft’s Skype purchase

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Tony Bates of Skype speaking at an announcement of the purchase by Microsoft.After a longer than expected hiatus, Ger Healy returns with to blogging with my comments on the biggest news in tech this year. On 10 May, Microsoft confirmed its acquisition of Skype for an impressive figure of $8.5 billion. While regularity approval is still outstanding on the deal, it is planned that Skype will become a new business unit within Microsoft and will be lead by its former CEO, Tony Bates. This blog post will examine likely reasons behind the purchase and the impact that will have both for the consumer and on the IT industry as a whole.

The deal represents the single largest acquisition (fiscally) that Microsoft has ever completed, although it still pales in comparison to the reported $44 billion that they offered for Yahoo! some years ago. While $8.5 billion may seem like a significant figure for a company this isn’t making a profit (more on that in a moment), an article in the Wall Street Journal has suggested that Microsoft would have had to shell out much more if Skype hadn’t been based in Luxembourg with its lower tax. In essence, Microsoft saved themselves a fortune by completing the deal outside of the US. For one thing they didn’t need to repatriate the money from its holdings outside of the US and lose 35 percent in the process.

With all of this in mind, the most important question remains unanswered – what will Microsoft actually do with Skype? Microsoft have said that they won’t comment until they have received regulatory approval, but a few ideas immediately come to mind. Microsoft already has a number of applications that could integrate quite nicely with Skype and its VoIP technology - Outlook, Windows Live Messenger, Lync, even Xbox and Windows Mobile to name but a few. It must be asked if Microsoft intend to carry on with both Live Messenger and Skype. I suspect that they’ll be merged together at some point in the future.

The question remains how Microsoft will generate a profit from Skype. Skype is continuing to make a loss and its paid user base is only 5 percent, (although this did see a 19 percent growth last year). It is highly unlikely that Microsoft would risk alienating the 500 million odd users by removing the free services. After all, Microsoft have a history of supporting unpaid use of its products – Hotmail, Windows Live, Office Live and an assortment of free applications, e.g. SyncToy. During the press conference announcing the deal, Bates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, made several references to advertisements and this will likely be their main emphasis in the near future.

So should users be happy. In a word; probably. Microsoft really needs to lay their cards on the table before we truly know but initial thinking on this suggests that the free service will continue although probably ad-supported and the delayed feature enhancements will now come thanks to the financial backing of Microsoft. Time will tell on this one, but I’m backing this move to be a success.

Ultimately this deal went through for three reasons. Firstly, the aforementioned integration with its existing application. Simply put, Skype fits into its ‘push to the cloud’ philosophy of recent years. Secondly, the brand name. Skype has a significant presence and this can be leveraged to push the likes of Lync further. Only Google (’to google’) and Apple (’i…’) have a stronger presence in the conscience of the average user. Finally, this move will also help Microsoft maintain a market lead over the likes of Google, (GChat), Facebook and Yahoo! and with market share comes profit.

The Weekly Record: ‘World Cup’ champion crowned and Infor announces partner network

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

FIFA Interactive World Cup Champion Francisco CruzHP launch new TouchPad, virus scam bad people strike again, and more in our barely plausibly titled round-up of technology news.

HP has announced that the Wi-Fi version of HP TouchPad will be available in Germany, France and UK & Ireland starting from the first week of July.  HP TouchPad will be available direct from HP, selected retailers, and commercial resellers with the option of either 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage for €479  and €579 respectively. “What makes HP TouchPad a compelling alternative to competing products is webOS,“ said Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager, Palm Global Business Unit, HP. “The platform’s unmatched features and flexibility will continue to differentiate HP products from the rest of the market for both personal and professional use. This is only the beginning of what HP’s scale can do with webOS.”

IT security and data protection firm Sophos is warning Windows users about the latest fake anti-virus attack, which tricks users into installing malicious software by posing as a Microsoft security update. Affected users will see an almost exact replica of the real Microsoft Update page - the only difference being that the bogus page appears while surfing with Firefox, whereas the genuine Microsoft Update site requires Internet Explorer. Sophos has found that fake anti-virus attacks have become more sophisticated and professional in their appearance, convincing more innocent computer users into making bad decisions. The firm said the use of high quality graphics and professional interfaces means that there is a risk that more users are likely to fall for the scams. The use of the Microsoft Update disguise takes advantage of the monthly ‘Patch Tuesday’ security updates that Microsoft regularly issues, and that users are encouraged to install to defend their computers.

Business software firm Infor has announced the Infor Partner Network, a global network of people, systems and services designed to deliver the highest quality support for channel partners. Infor partners will benefit from the program’s commission rates, new performance bonuses, a comprehensive training and certification program, and a market development funding program geared towards helping partners invest back into their businesses. Infor’s Vice President of Global Alliances and Channels, Jeff Abbott, has set a goal to double Infor’s channel revenue over the next three years and the IPN is a key enabler of that aggressive growth. “The Infor Partner Network takes our commitment to partners to the next level by providing the training, resources, support, and financial investment to help our current and prospective partners rapidly build profitable and sustainable businesses,” said Abbott.

And finally…Portugal may have suffered an early exit at the 2010 FIFA World Cup last year but they are home to a champion of their own in the beautiful game. Francisco Cruz restored pride to the Iberian nation with victory at EA’s FIFA Interactive World Cup 2011. The 16 year old came out on top in a field of 24 finalists, overcoming Colombia’s Javier Munoz in the tournament final at the Mayan Theatre in Los Angeles.

We know this site hasn’t exactly been a hive of activity in recent months, we are working to improve that. Why if you are very good there might even be a phone review up on Monday. Keep your eyes peeled.

The Weekly Record: Siemens call for more energy savings and Meteor have a new phone for students

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Um here's a shot of Katie Taylor because nobody sent us a good image this week.Speaking at the Smart Cities Summit in Croke Park this week, representatives of Siemens said Ireland could achieve energy savings in its buildings of up to 50 percent. The IT giant added that it can be achieved with little or no capital investment cost to the exchequer and should be made a priority by Government. “We estimate that over €1 billion of energy is used by our buildings, with over 90 percent of that energy imported,” Liam Mulligan, Siemens’ head of Mobility and Sustainability. “In Dublin energy consumption of our residential buildings is 350kWh per sq metre, far higher than the 30 city average of 250kWh. During the boom years a significant number of buildings were built cheaply with little or no consideration for energy efficiency or sustainability. Some of them are appalling from an energy perspective.”

Atlantic Bridge has announced the sale of portfolio company Nanaotech Semiconductors to Gennum Corporation for $34 million, with a potential additional $6 million if certain revenue targets are achieved by Nanotech over the next 12 months. Nanotech is a semiconductor company focusing on analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits for the fibre-optics communications marketplace. Since its initial investment in 2004. This is the fourth exit transaction for the Atlantic Bridge I portfolio, out of a total of 12 investments, and the second exit transaction in the last six months. Atlantic Bridge has now achieved successful portfolio exits to strategic buyers in North America, Europe and Asia.

Just Mobile, a company that insists on spelling its name with all-caps but we’ll ignore that, has announced a new offer of free calls and texts at any time of day for its customers to any Irish mobile network or landline so long as users top up by €18 a month. Just Mobile’s products are available nationwide in over 650 Spar, Spar Express, Eurospar, Mace and XL outlets. Their products will soon be available from 109 Topaz outlets.

Telecommunications company Airspeed Telecom is expanding its network, adding an average of one new high site a month representing an investment of €975,000 in the past year. The network expansion is part of a multi-million euro long-term investment plan by AirSpeed Telecom. The new high sites developed by AirSpeed Telecom in the past year are located in Dublin, Donegal, Cavan, Tipperary, Mayo, Cork and Westmeath. These high sites facilitate the connection of business and Public Sector customers to a core fibre backbone via a radio link.

And finally…This one makes me a bit nostalgic as I remember phone offers were mad when I started college but they almost disappeared by the time I did my masters. Students who switch to Meteor this April will get a free Samsung Cobble phone and if they top up by €20 per month, they will get another €20 free from Meteor. “Students are particularly value conscious and have to budget carefully during the academic year,” said Meteor’s Prepay manager Susan Brady. “Meteor’s call plans already give them the best value possible, but with this offer, they can get the added benefit of doubling their call credit and the peace of mind of always having a back up phone.”

Have a great weekend.

The Weekly Record: 3 get gobbling, Sony Ericsson launch a phone, and all that’s fit to write

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Three launched their 'All You Can Eat' data packages last weekAfter an unfortunately extended hiatus, the Weekly Record returns with some interesting business news and a tale of someone taking to YouTube to sell their house.

Mobile operator Three Ireland has launched new data tariff called ‘All you can eat’ for consumers to eliminate excess data charges for smartphone users. Smartphone customers on Three can add the package to their Flex Max price plans at no additional cost. Three’s aim is to give customer as much data as they can consume without feeling the financial pinch. “All You Can Eat data is aimed at giving customers peace of mind when using the internet on their mobile handset. By eliminating potential bill shock, they can enjoy the full smartphone experience freely without worrying about the cost,” said Eoin MacManus, commercial director at Three.

In related news Three have also revealed a new handset range produced in conjunction with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). The series of themed handsets come emblazoned with the FAI logo. Handsets in the range include the Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy Europa, and Samsung Galaxy Ace.

Lillies Bordello was the venue midweek for the launch of the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY a new phone that is aimed squarely at gamers.  The slide out game pad reveals a direction pad, two analogue touch pads, two shoulder buttons and the four PlayStation standard Playstation buttons: circle, cross, square and triangle. The Xperia Play is loaded with 6 games and there are 86 games available for download from launch.  The phone is free on contract from Carphone Warehouse.

Business software firm Infor has launched its new product Workspace. This is a new consumer grade user interface designed to revolutionise the experience of doing business using enterprise applications. Built on Microsoft SharePoint, Infor Workspace blends a common user interface, in-context collaboration and business intelligence.  The role-based user experience allows users to access business functions with real-time decision making using a common look-and-feel.

And finally…Normally for this section I have to go trawling the internet to find a quirky or particularly cool story to write a few witty lines. Occasionally however their are weeks when the quirky story get delivered right to my mailbox. Such is the case with Jillian Godsil, one of the PR contacts who regular sends us items for this column. Ms Godsil is looking to sell her house in Shillelagh in Co. Wicklow, the problem is that Ireland doesn’t really have a property market and Shillelagh is a tad remote so using conventional means to find buyers would be expensive to say the least. What’s that, did somebody say YouTube? Yes indeedy, Ms Godsil has turned to video-sharing giant to sell her house and it’s generating quite the buzz with several media outlets (much bigger than this one) picking up the story. I really must ask though, if you aren’t trying to break some sort of zany world record why would you bother using YouTube for anything? Have a good weekend.

The Weekly Record: Digital Media Awards approach, Dana Strong takes charge at UPC, and Infor work with Ferrari

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

The DMAs were going for some kind of legendary Roman look but Mark Little refused to wear a toga.UPC have announced Dana Strong as their new CEO, IT Force secure €400,000 in deals but first the Satellite Broadband Digital Media Awards are coming up and supplied an amusing photo.

The Satellite Broadband Ireland Digital Media Awards are on this coming Friday 11 February at the creatively named Convention
Centre Dublin. I judged a couple of categories so you can expect plenty of photos of me in a tux appearing on this site in the coming weeks. CKSK Studios lead the nominations with a whopping 22 nods, Agency.com has 11 nominations, Cybercom received 7 nominations, and ICANN got 6 nods. Mark Little, formerly of RTE now running Storyful, is presenting the show which is using ‘Legends will be Born’ as it’s slogan. As a fan of Project Runway however I must take some issue with their attempt to play up that element in the launch photo they sent us. The golden laurel wreath on Madeleine Derer in the photo above is the only element that really hints at that but Tim Gunn and Michael Kors would surely be disappointed by the efforts of Little and Kevin Ryan of Satellite Broadband Ireland. Poor hustle boys, show some swagger next time.

Dana Strong is the new chief executive of UPC Ireland, taking charge from 1 May 1st. She succeeds Robert Dunn, who has been appointed as managing director of UPC Netherlands. Strong joins UPC Ireland from AUSTAR, where she was chief operating officer since 2002. AUSTAR is a satellite subscription TV provider to over 760,000 customers in regional Australia.

IT Force secured €400,000 in new virtualisation deals, comprising  €200,000 in Citrix virtualisation software and hardware deals and €200,000 worth of support contracts and services, in 2010. The firm, which is a partner of DataSolutions, ann has seen a strong expansion in its virtualisation business in the year to 31 December 2010. In this time its virtualisation business grew 35 percent including €400,000 in new business from eight clients. “Organisations seeking more flexible, people-centric computing that can be run at a lower overall cost, has been at the root of this growth. Citrix virtualisation solutions enable easy migration to complete virtualised desktops, applications and data from any location, using any device. This enables more productive and mobile virtual work styles and helps IT adapt quickly to business changes, moves, growth, M&A and other initiatives,” said Joe O’Reilly, sales director at IT Force.

Business software firm Infor has extended its relationship with Ferrari, which has decided to migrate its information systems based on Baan IV to the latest version of Infor ERP LN.  The migration project is expected to be completed during the summer. “Ferrari is a manufacturing icon, long held as the standard-bearer in quality production and class,” said Enza Fumarola, vice president, Southern Region ERP Sales EMEA, Infor. “The migration of its operations to ERP LN and the extension of Infor’s partnership with Ferrari will enable us to play a large role in the company’s continued excellence and growth through the support of all production stages - from production planning to process management, cost and quality.”

Now it’s time for your regular dose of doom. IT security firm Sophos is advising computer users to be wary, following the discovery of a widespread malicious spam campaign. Cybercriminals are currently sending out the spam messages - which come attached with a malware infected .zip file - with titles such as ‘Post Express Service. Get the parcel’ and ‘Post Express Service. Number of your parcel’, all followed by random serial numbers. The message body of the emails ask users to print a mailing label which leads to users receiving a Trojan Horse instead. As always, Villa81 advises you to not open any mails or attachments unless you can trust the sender.

A team of scientists at Tyndall National Institute, UCC have made the world’s first junctionless transistor even smaller. The transistor is the building block of the microchip. The development of the world’s first junctionless transistor by Tyndall’s Professor Jean-Pierre Colinge had already sparked off huge interest amongst the leading semiconductor manufacturers around the globe when it was published in Nature Nanotechnology. The announcement was made as part of the programme of events taking place for Nanoweek which ran until yesterday. “The semiconductor industry was excited by the development of the junctionelss transistor as it could represent simpler manufacturing processes of transistors. Considering that there are approximately 2 billion transistors on a single microprocessor, any improvement in the performance or structure of the transistor is always hugely significant fir the semiconductor industry. Once we had developed the junctionless transistor our attention went towards making it even smaller. We have succeeded in making it at 50 nanometres, which is 20 times smaller than the transistors that were published in Nature Nanotechnology”, said Prof. Colinge.

And finally… My wariness towards 3D has eased somewhat after watch Tron Legacy twice so with thatt in mind this is a good time to learn that LG will unveil the LG Optimus 3D, the world’s first 3D smartphone, at Mobile World Congress. The LG Optimus 3D aims to address the lack of 3D content available in any medium. The smartphone will feature a dual-lens camera for 3D recording, a glasses-free LCD panel for 3D viewing and connectivity options such as HDMI and DLNA for 3D content sharing anytime. If you find yourself in Catalonia in a week or two then  further details and a live demo of the LG Optimus 3D will be offered at Booth #8B178 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona from February 14 to 17.

The Weekly Record: Sky announce changes, LittleBigPlanet2 arrives, and €5m deal for SBI

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Murray from Flight of the Conchords is barely relevant to this piece.Satellite Broadband Ireland secured a big contract, Sony launched a game but first it’s time to talk about the telly.

Those of you who’ve seen all those ads for Sky Atlantic with Dustin Hoffman won’t be all that surprised by our opening item. Sky has confirmed a number of changes to its Electronic Programme Guide (EPG). Taking effect from 1 February, the changes include 33 channels in Sky’s HD pack will swapping positions in the EPG with their Standard Definition (SD) counterparts. This change will only affect Sky+HD subscribers. Other channels, including MTV, Universal, and SyFy will move to high profile slots while Living will be rebranded as Sky Living.

Business software firm Pegasus Software has launched Opera 3, the next generation of its flagship Opera software. Opera 3 is designed to eliminate the need to run separate finance, CRM or service systems in organisations. The integrated software encompasses financials, supply chain management, business intelligent tools, CRM and a whole lot of other stuff. Really I’m not going to list off everything. Pegasus has included a new rental option for Opera 3.

The IE Domain Registry (IEDR), the managed registry for Ireland’s official internet address dot-ie has reported that the total number of dot-ie domains grew by 12.9 percent net in 2010 to 153,419. New registrations for the final quarter of 2010 were marginally up by 0.7 period on the same period in the previous year to 8,593 bringing total new registrations for the year to 36,587, making it the strongest performing fourth quarter in the IEDR’s ten year history. Total 2010 registrations are down slightly on 2009 by 1.3 percent.

IT security firm Sophos has found that social media users are becoming increasingly susceptible to attacks from cybercriminals. Sophos reports that the number and diversity of attacks grew steadily throughout 2010. A study by the firm found that 40 percent of social networking users have been sent malware such as worms via social networking sites, a 90 percent increase since the summer of 2009. Sophos also reports that 67 percent say they have been spammed via social networking sites, more than double the proportion less than two years ago, and 43 percent have been on the receiving end of phishing attacks, more than double the figure since 2009.

Business software firm Infor has announced its Epiphany Shopping Advisor product is now available for purchase. Pricing is variable, based on the customer’s integration requirements, deployment scale, and existing customer relationship management (CRM) IT infrastructure. Shopping Advisor is designed to be used by retailers managing their own e-commerce sites, as well as e-commerce service providers managing a portfolio of sites for a diverse client base.

Satellite Broadband Ireland (SBI) has secured a €5 million deal with Eutelsat Communicationsto sell broadband services via KA-SAT, the world’s most powerful commercial satellite. The initial 3-year broadband utility contract will allow SBI to sell Eutelsat’s next-generation Tooway satellite broadband service, with download speeds of up to 10Mbps and upload speeds of up to 4Mbps. SBI will start to deliver the service in Ireland and plans to expand across Europe. KA-SAT forms the cornerstone of a new European communications infrastructure which includes eight main satellite gateways across Europe, including one in Cork, connected to the internet by a fibre backbone ring.

And finally… LittleBigPlanet 2 launched nationwide yesterday on PlayStation 3.  LittleBigPlanet 2 will provides updated ways to play and share, including a revamped graphics engine, a fresh storyline,  and added accessories and equipment for Sackboy.  Along his adventure, the stitched together character will have access to new equipment to aid him on his journey, including a grappling hook, power gloves, a magic bag, and more, all anchored by a fresh storyline . Players will also have the opportunity to add customisable Sackbots (robot Sackboys) to their creations. These interactive, programmable characters bring the game to life and allow users to record animations and voiceovers with them, as well as customise sizing and clothing for each individual or group of Sackbots. Of course we just hope they get Murray from Flight of the Conchords to do one of their ads again.

The Weekly Record: Ireland isn’t spamulicious, Tennis players team up with Sony Ericsson, and Gamestop roll out the giveaways

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Maria Sharapova at the launch of Sony Ericsson HotShotsIt’s been a busy week with some product launches, news about spam, and plans to make Tennis players better at social media all announced.

We begin with some number crunching this week as IT security firm Sophos has published the latest Dirty Dozen of spam relaying countries, covering the fourth quarter of 2010. The United States increased its lead at the top spot, accounting for 18.6 percent of all spam messages.  The UK decreased its percentage of total spam output compared to the third quarter last year, dropping from 5 percent to 4.54 percent and remains in fifth place. Sophos said the spam being distributed is becoming more malicious. Traditional subject matter such as adverts for pharmaceuticals continue to be a concern, with some 36 million Americans reported to purchase drugs from unlicensed online sellers and more messages are spreading malware and are attempting to phish user names, passwords and personal information. Ireland ranked 53rd in the listings, accounting for 0.30 percent of spam.

Microsoft has announced the arrival of its new LifeCam Studio, featuring sharp HD video with a true 1080p sensor. Microsoft’s newest LifeCam complements Windows Live Messenger 2011, which will offer HD video calling in a 16:9 widescreen format so that everyone in the video call can easily be seen.  Microsoft’s first webcam with a 1080p sensor, the LifeCam Studio’s 1080p sensor is more than twice as large as the 720p HD sensors on the market and lets more light in so individuals experience a high standard of video in virtually any lighting condition. There’s no price for Ireland available yet but LifeCam Studio is available here and costs £89.99 in the UK.

GameStop has launched a €1 million euro trade-in bonanza. The retailer is offerin trade-in credit on a huge range of games including Donkey Kong Country Returns (€40 credit), Gran Turismo 5 (€35 credit), Assasins Creed Brotherhood (€32 credit), Kinect Sports (€28 credit), Call of Duty : Black Ops (€35 credit), F1 2020 (€30 credit), Super Mario Bros Wii (€30 credit), Wii Party (€28 credit), Super Mario Galaxy 2 Wii (€28 credit) and Super Mario Bros DS (€25 credit). To avail of GameStop’s trade-in bonanza, gamers should bring unwanted games to one of GameStop’s 56 stores nationwide before 28 January and exchange them for credit towards new purchases. The retailer also offers cash & store credit for music CDS (Albums), DVDs, mobile phones and games consoles.

This next sentence is quite a mouthful. Provident CRM, the exclusive Irish partner of SugarCRM, the Cupertino developer of commercial open source Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, has announced it has successfully implemented SugarCRM in the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). In simple terms this will help the semi-state body to manage communication with its 200 industry clients. Under the agreement Provident CRM customized BIM’s instance of SugarCRM so that its users are able to record key information with a fisheries perspective, and provided implementation services so BIM’s legacy data was imported correctly.

Sony has launched a new clip on monitor that aims to give DSLR camera owners a bigger, better view of their footage while shooting HD video. The CLM-V55 is a portable video monitor featuring a high-resolution WVGA LCD panel.  The clip-on screen tilts and swivels to any angle for comfortable framing in any position. The CLM-V55 is loaded with pro-style features to help photo enthusiasts and videographers shoot HD video footage with their interchangeable lens digital camera. The CLM-V55 LCD video monitor by Sony is available from March 2011.

And finally… With the Australian Open kicking off on Monday, Sony Ericsson has announced the launch of Xperia Hot Shots, a new-format entertainment show to be streamed online and on mobile handsets. The series, airing from March, will follow the lives of six globetrotting, aspiring stars of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) as they strive to build their profile both on and off the court and gain a support deal with WTA sponsor and leading entertainment brand, Sony Ericsson. The series gives a behind-the-scenes look at the girl’s lives off-court and will offer an insight into the world of these players and their journey towards superstar status. The participants will have exclusive access to the worlds of music, film, gaming and fashion, allowing them to grow their online fan base. The premise of the show is a fully interactive programme, streamed on YouTube that will see the girls using their Sony Ericsson Xperia handsets to film their own content, share it and interact with their fans on Facebook and other social networks. “I’m excited to be here at the launch because I think it’s great for the players, the sport and viewers alike. Sony Ericsson is bringing entertainment to the game as only they can,” said Maria Sharapova, a former world number 1. “The show will provide an opportunity for the players to attract new fans in a way that has never been done before. I wish I’d had access to this when starting out as it brings entertainment in to our world of tennis, as well as a chance to interact with fans.” There’s no word as yet on who will be involved but visitors to Action81.com will know we’re hoping that Sony Ericsson are smart enough to include the slightly bonkers social media innovator Andrea Petkovic.

The Weekly Record: Iomega answer Bonnie Tyler’s call and Firefox overtakes IE

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

The Iomega Superhero Backup and Charger gives us an excuse for some geekery and cheese this weekWe’re finally back from an extended Christmas break with news about O2 giving away credit, Sony launching a new phone and a chance for me to reference Footloose.

Mobile operator O2 Ireland will give away over €10 million worth of free credit in the first six months of the year.New prepay customers joining the O2 network and O2 customers upgrading their phone can avail of €20 free credit every month until June when they top up each month by €20. The offer also includes two free cinema tickets. The offer is available to all customers who move their number to O2 prepay from another network or purchase a new prepay connection in January. Existing prepay customers will be able to avail of a €5 free credit offer between January and March. Every time an O2 Prepay voice customer tops up by €20 or more in one go, they will receive €5 credit instantly.

Firefox overtook Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) to become the number one browser in Europe in December 2010 according to StatCounter. The firm’s research arm StatCounter Global Stats found that in December, Firefox took 38.11 percent of European market share, compared to IE’s 37.52 percent.
“This is the first time that IE has been dethroned from the number one spot in a major territory,” said Aodhan Cullen, chief executive of StatCounter. “This appears to be happening because Google’s Chrome is stealing share from Internet Explorer while Firefox is mainly maintaining its existing share.”
Google Chrome in third place is gaining market share in Europe and has grown to 14.58 percent compared to 5.06 percent in December last year. In North America IE still retains a clear lead in the browser market with 48.92 percent followed by Firefox on 26.7 percent, Chrome on 12.82 percent and Safari on 10.16 percent.

Dell has agreed a €100,ooo deal to enable Irish web hosting firm LetsHost.ie to offer cloud hosting in both the shared and virtualised server markets.  The company worked with Dell to build its offering on EqualLogic and PowerEdge servers  The deal provides LetsHost.ie with the storage backbone to power its cloud hosting offering. LetsHost.ie can replicate data across multiple data centres, providing security and availability of customer data.

Amongst the many launches from CES in Las Vegas this week was the announcement from Sony Ericsson of the Xperia arc smartphone. The Android based device is the first of a new generation of Xperia smartphones to be announced in 2011. The Xperia arc is just 8.7mm at its thinnest part, has a 4.2” multi-touch screen and an 8.1 megapixel camera.

Canon has introduced a brand new line-up of imaging products, launching five new cameras and ten new camcorders. Following 2010’s expansion of Canon’s video range, both professional and consumer camcorder lines are further enhanced. The new range includes the professional XA10, as well as a raft of consumer models, including the LEGRIA HF G10 – the first of a new LEGRIA HF G-series. New, enhanced HD models have also been launched into the LEGRIA HF M-series and the LEGRIA HF R-series, while the LEGRIA FS400 series launches as Canon’s smallest-ever standard definition camcorders.

And finally… There’s good news for iPhone users as Iomega has launched a new dual backup and charger that automatically protects an iPhone user’s contacts and photos while recharging the batter. Every time you charge your phone, the wonderfully named Iomega SuperHero Backup and Charger will automatically back up contacts and photos on an iPhone or multiple iPhones. The device is particularly useful if users lose their phone as it allows them to restore their contacts and photos to a new iPhone by docking it in the SuperHero and selecting the restore button.  More importantly this gives me an excuse to include this video.

That song was of course originally used in Footloose for a game of chicken involving tractors, no joking, but in order to live up to the lyrics a man would need to be the entire Justice League of America. Enough of that tangent, back to the charger. The new Iomega SuperHero Backup and Charger for iPhone is now available worldwide for €69.90.