Is the iPhone 4 an improvement?

From the Daily Telegraph in Australia:

I’ve been using the iPhone 4 for nearly a week to make calls, send and receive emails and surf the web from various places around the city and suburbs.

Is the antenna an issue? No it’s not. Have I dropped calls? No, I have not.

Have I noticed an impact on the device’s performance? No.

Is the iPhone 4 an improvement over the iPhone 3GS? Absolutely.

This article also included the following sentence:

If reception is an issue where you live you will probably experience difficulties no matter what smartphone you use.

which essentially says to me that Apple should not be saying “We’re as bad as other smartphones” but rather “We’re just as good”. The current slew of videos showing that other smartphones have reception issues just ring of sour grapes.

I am looking forward to testing a iPhone 3GS versus an iPhone 4 next week, both on the 3 network.

Jonathan Gems on the abolition of the UKFC

I got this from the PleasedSheep forum:

Dear Oscar Tapp-Scotting

Thank you for your email. I and others welcomed the abolition of the UKFC not so much because it was a way for the government to save money but because the UKFC actively suppressed British Cinema.

You must be aware that, apart from a portion of UKFC funds going into ‘educational projects’ (i.e.wasted), and a small cosmetic portion going to a few rare and already-financed British films, most of the funding went to Hollywood film companies to induce them to shoot their films at British production houses.

The British film community felt coruscating spasms of pain every time a government official bragged about the ‘success’ of the so-called British film industry when what was being referred to were successful American films that had been partly made at British production houses. We all remember seeing Tony Blair, for example, in the House of Commons, claiming that the success of the Harry Potter films (Warner Bros) were due to “his” policies and represented a success for British films when, in reality, they demonstrated the humiliating failure of British films.

In a newspaper interview the patriotic J.K. Rowling announced she would not ‘go Hollywood’ but would sell the rights to her Harry Potter series to a British film company. She didn’t know there were no British film companies capable of financing and releasing the Harry Potter films. Later, she had to sell her rights to Hollywood or not see the films made. She had no choice.

Another recent ignominy was the drubbing received by Channel 4 when it made the excellent low budget film “Slumdog Millionaire” only to be forced to give it away to foreign studios in order to see it released. All the profits went to these foreign studios, not Britain.

And this is an old story. The film “1984” (which I co-wrote) starring John Hurt and Richard Burton has been seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. This was a British film financed by Richard Branson (Virgin Films) that was released in only one cinema in the UK. Why only one? Because Britain’s cinemas are controlled by Hollywood and the Hollywood cartel was threatened by Richard’s intention to start a British studio, so made sure to strangle it at birth.

In most years, about 99% of the films shown in UK cinemas are foreign films. (About 95% are American; 3% from other countries and 2% indigenous.) There is no nation in Europe whose film culture has been so thoroughly wiped out as ours has been.

Back in 1970, Britain still had its own cinema. We had three major studios: Associated British Pictures, British Lion, and The Rank Organisation. Between them, they produced and released between 30 and 40 films a year. In those days, we had home-grown stars like Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, Dirk Bogarde, Alec Guinness, Vanessa Redgrave and Norman Wisdom – and a plethora of character actors. For example, John LeMesurier (best known for Dad’s Army) appeared in over 100 British films.

Today, to become a star, a British actor must go to Hollywood. To write movies, a British writer must go to Hollywood. To direct movies, a British director must go to Hollywood. Okay, there are a tiny few exceptions – such as directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. But their films were made by British TV companies until they stopped funding films in the early 90’s since when their films have been made by French and Spanish studios.

By helping to fund American films, the UKFC suppressed any chance of a revival of British Cinema, which is why it’s good news it has been abolished.

We have tremendous talent for filmmaking in this country. But most of that talent has left (or wants to leave) this country because there is no real film industry here. Sometimes people are confused because American-financed production companies (such as Working Title) have offices in London and purport to make ‘British films’. In truth, Working Title, and other such production companies, are part of the Hollywood industry. Their business is done in LA and their films are owned and controlled by Hollywood studios.

Why did British Cinema disappear 40 years ago? Simple. Protections were removed. Without protection British Cinema could not compete with Hollywood so it disappeared.

Britain is the only country in Europe that does not protect its film industry.

In the past, when Norman St John Stevas – Arts Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government – lobbied to bring back protections, he was told ‘no’ on Free Market grounds.
This was puzzling because the American film market has never been free. It has always been closed to foreigners. No French, German, Spanish or Scandinavian film company is allowed to release a film in America. No British film company is allowed to release a film in America. And yet we allow America 100% access to our domestic market. Hardly fair, is it?

When we finished “1984”, we could not release it in America but were allowed to sell it (at a loss) to a Hollywood studio. Richard Branson lost £3 million but the film went on to make a fortune for MGM.

The solution:

Write and pass a bill reserving, say,15% of the UK film market for UK films. This is what’s done in other countries.

How it works is the government decrees that (say) 15% of all the films shown to the public in cinemas are indigenous. Cinema owners – to retain their licenses – must show that, each year, 15% of their screen time has been devoted to British films. This is not a lot to ask. Hollywood will still control 80% of the UK market.

The French government reserves 12.5% of France’s film market for French films. Although done for cultural reasons, it has created a very lucrative industry that releases over 100 movies a year – in spite of the fact that roughly 80% of the screen time of French cinemas is devoted to Hollywood movies.

When, in 2003, the Spanish government reserved 20% of its domestic market for Spanish films, there was (unsurprisingly) a boom in Spanish filmmaking and now there are three robust Spanish movie studios not only releasing Spanish films in Spain but also selling them world-wide and earning foreign currency.

I urge Jeremy Hunt to take up the standard and champion British films. The restitution of protections will revive British Cinema, give us back our own indigenous cinema and improve our balance of payments. Not only would this be of ineffable value culturally but would, I think, be a vote-winner.

There is no rationale for not protecting British films. After all, terrestrial British television is protected. The percentage of foreign material permitted on the BBC and ITV channels is limited
to 40%

Please promote this policy to Jeremy Hunt. And I’m sure David Cameron would see the sense in it.

Once again, many thanks for delivering us from the treasonous UKFC. (Hm…UKFC – looks like an anagram, doesn’t it?)

Best wishes,

Jonathan Gems

Now, go and read the comment below that post. Some insightful stuff on how to create a ‘cluster’ of digital media.

Time for a new CEO in Redmond

From Electronista:

Developing a Windows-based alternative to the iPad is a “job one urgency” at Microsoft, company chief Steve Ballmer said today during the annual Financial Analysts Meeting.

“Apple has done an interesting job,” he said. “They’ve sold more than I’d like them to sell. We think about that. So it’s our job to say: we have got to make things happen. Just like we made things happen with netbooks, we have to do that with slates. […] Not one size fits all. Been to too many meetings with journalists struggling to set up iPads for notes.”

Excuse me? What the hell did you do for netbooks? Netbooks were all Linux and your response to that was cutting your OS to bits and just reacting to it. And now Netbook sales are tanking. Taking the credit for Netbooks shows a dangerous level of delusion about your reactions to market churn.

Time for a new CEO.

iPhone vs Android: software lock-in and halo effect

From CNNMoney.com

77% of iPhone owners say they’ll buy another iPhone, compared to 20% of Android customers who say they’ll buy another Android phone.

I’ll address these as the result of two separate things.

SOFTWARE LOCK-IN
Software lock-in on the iPhone is high for most people. Once you’re in there with Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies and any of the other paid-for iPhone apps, you’re going to suffer from an unconscious lock-in. This hasn’t really occurred on Android initially because of it’s slow adoption but more recently because it’s still not possible to actually be paid in many countries if you’re a developer which is slowing adoption as well. And because the good paid apps aren’t there, normal people aren’t buying them which is again reducing the lock-in.

Software lock-in (essentially meaning the ability to transfer your software to other similar devices but not other platforms) is working well for iPhone but is currently worthless on Android. Software lock-in is not a bad thing in itself – it can’t be used as an argument for or against any mobile platforms because all of them practise lock-in – but it has an effect.

For example, this is my page of folders on iOS:

Lock-in

Every one of those folders is an incentive to stay with iPhone. Primarily because there’s some good fun in there but also because my kids are really happy to be distracted by lots of different colourful games when we’re waiting in the car or during a long journey. Therefore I get additional lock-in pressure from my kids.

HALO EFFECT
In the office where I’m based there are six people. When I started there, one had an iPhone (me!). The others had a variety of Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices. Now, two years later there are five iPhones and one Android device in use. (One of the individuals went to HTC Magic running Android from Blackberry and since then has had a iPhone 3GS and is now on an iPhone 4.) The one Android device left here in the office is a HTC Hero still running Android 1.5. I would describe this as a Halo effect. Different to the common Halo effect (easily described as the effect of buying one device with an Apple logo meaning you buy a lot more), this is showing that experiences with the device are leading to others buying the device. This is partially related to software lock-in; people are interested in getting the same software as you.

For the record, the one Android device will apparently disappear from this office when the contract ends. This is not a good trend for Android.

I, myself, have bought each iPhone as it has been released (I’m still waiting for my iPhone 4 to arrive) but despite my interest in Android, I’ve yet to buy any hardware. This is entirely because the hardware churn in Android is extremely rapid which means there never seems to be a good time to buy. With the iPhone, you know there’ll be a new model every June but with Android, there’s a new model with slightly tweaked specifications coming out every month or so. And some of them have Android 2.1 and some have earlier versions of the OS but I’m expecting Android 2.2 – hence my reticence to buy now. The minimum specifications for Android seem to be rising and some features (such as the ballyhooed Flash) do not run on sub 1 GHz devices so this is again putting me off – 1 GHz has become the new minimum and currently shipping devices don’t seem to be exceeding this. Where’s the high end device?

All of this contributes to a ecology where Android is selling briskly (helped by Buy One, Get One Free tricks – also used by RIM but never by Apple) but that people are not returning to Android as a whole. It’s something that Google needs to resolve. And Nokia needs to respond as well – though they may have sold 10x the number of handsets as Apple, Apple is making more than 10x the amount of profit (creating a factor of nearly 100 difference between the companies). iPhone with it’s singular presentations (ignoring the current ‘legacy’ iPhone 3GS still being sold) is a clear marketing position. Nokia still produces dozens and dozens of different models. This is why iPhones in cafés are so recognisable but it’s so hard to identify the market share for any other individual model of phone. This contributes to the Halo effect I mention above. You can easily spot people using iPhones (and due to the dearth of ringtones, hear them). How about the frequency of spotting any other model or brand of phone?

Mobile Digital Interactive Storytelling – call for papers

Call for papers:

Until recently a location’s memory could mainly be accessed through media surrogates, such as books, drawings, film or audio files, or through face-to-face encounters with people who were able to knit people into the rich but hidden experience fabric of a place. The integration of low cost pervasive and personal technology in the form of mobile devices and augmented reality into our everyday life starts to change our expectations about how to perceive the world around us.

We are now able to leave traces of our emotional or intellectual experience as virtual attachments to any location. As a result we expect that any place, indoors or outdoors, reveals itself to us by confronting us with connection, context, and uncommon perspectives. Yet, any exploration is in itself an experience and so we desire that the revelation is compelling and enjoyable on an individual and group level. We expect to experience the world around us as a continuous, flexible, and networked exchange of ideas that are routed in where and who we are and how these intrinsic facets of our experience are connected to those of others.

I would love to spend some time putting together something for this. Perfect synthesis of my work and my hobbies.

Books

Today I retrieved four massive bags and two boxes of books from my parents house and unpacked them onto shelves. They’ve been living in those bags and boxes for as long as I can remember. Most of them since my first house.

The new bookshelves in my office.

And still plenty of space on the shelves. Still got a good amount to come though – but I can always build more bookcases.

An App for the Apple Store? Or your Store?

Apple launched the iPhone 4 Free Bumper or Case programme yeterday with little hoopla. You download a free app, verify your iTunes account and pick one of the cases they have pre-selected. iLounge has a great review of the cases on offer.

This app is, if you think about it, an Apple Store app. Not an iTunes store app or an App Store app, but one where you can order physical goods using your iTunes ID. Apple spoke recently about there being 150 million credit cards linked to iTunes accounts and this provides an easy way for Apple to verify identities, ship to paying customers and establish an interesting precedent.

Apple currently takes 30% of all purchases and while this may work for digital content (where the cost of distribution is trending to zero), there’s no way that a company which ships physical product (atoms) could afford to give away 30% to Apple. This means that third parties who ship atoms have to establish their own stores and provide their own merchant accounts. If Apple could facilitate the selling process (albeit for a much smaller fee), then I think they could quickly gain a presence in the shipping of physical items.

On the other hand, they may leave that to Amazon or eBay to manage.

If, on the other hand, you fancy an App for your own physical store (presumably selling boutique atoms), you should probably get in touch. I don’t develop apps (and am not associated with any companies which do) but I have some friends in some of the best iPhone development contracting companies who have done some astounding work and can provide some good references.

Vocation

Dictionary.com:

Vocation
n.

  1. A regular occupation, especially one for which a person is particularly suited or qualified.
  2. An inclination, as if in response to a summons, to undertake a certain kind of work, especially a religious career; a calling.

[Middle English vocacioun , divine call to a religious life , from Old French vocation , from Latin voc?ti? , voc?ti?n- , a calling , from voc?tus , past participle of voc?re , to call ; see wek w – in Indo-European roots.]

Thesaurus.com:

Main Entry: vocation
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: life’s work
Synonyms: art, business, calling, career, craft, do*, dodge*, duty, employment, field, game, handicraft, job, lifework, line of business, line*, mission, métier, nine-to-five, occupation, office, post, profession, pursuit, racket, role, thing*, trade, undertaking
Antonyms: entertainment, fun, pastime

I was reading The Top Idea in your Mind by Paul Graham and it was that which started to spur me on to my earlier blog post (Food for Thought).

I think everyone should search for their vocation; a type of work which moves them to more than just financial remuneration but also provides a deep level of satisfaction. Code4Pizza works because, like with The Top Idea in your Mind, it is not bogged down in money thinking.

I listed the dictionary and thesaurus entries above because I find some of them curious. The thesaurus equates a vocation with a “nine-to-five” and considers it the opposite of “entertainment, fun”.

And this is wrong.

Your vocation is your fun. It’s your reason to get up in the morning. I am reminded of a few lines from Stop All The Clocks by W H Auden:

…my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

This is your vocation, your calling, an irresistible summons. It’s the one idea that you can’t get out of your head in the shower. It’s the thing you think about as you drive into work, what you muse about as you push the trolley around the supermarket, what you doodle when you’ve a paper and pen and you let your mind wander.

JFDI

Food for Thought

The title of this blog post is the most accurate description possible.

It’s not every day that you are inspired by something, especially not what would be called a “industry move” but sometimes these items can inform you of really cool stuff that is happening out there and that’s where you can find inspiration.

I’ve been playing with Code4Pizza for a while now. Code4Pizza is founded on the idea that people are essentially good – a pretty wacky idea.

codeforpizza is a nonprofit idea to encourage young techies to build their own careers by providing computers, mentoring, internet access, learning materials and pizza. CodeForPizza is initially based in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Now, so far we’ve managed to attract some of the best and brightest of Northern Ireland’s indigenous tech sector and they’ve worked on processing bus and train data with the help of Translink and I’ve been putting together some more projects which are essentially for the public good.

So, what inspired me today?

Former IFP head, Michelle Byrd, has been named co-president of Games for Change, a global advocate for making and supporting digital social impact games. Byrd will serve along with Asi Burak, who recently joined Games for Change as Executive Producer and was previously co-founder of Impact Games, creators of the “PeaceMaker” and “Play the News” platforms. Byrd and Burak will work together on the strategic vision of the organization and will jointly oversee all programmatic initiatives. Byrd will take the lead on institutional relationship and partnership efforts, along with fundraising, business affairs, financial management, and communications strategy, while Burak will take the lead on curation, development, and execution of programs and services “to raise the production, quality and influence of social impact games, and serves as a spokesperson for the organization.”

This organisation, Games For Change, tackles the real world problems of human rights, public health, poverty, the environment, global conflict and the economy.

I started Code4Pizza for similar reasons and my plans for a gaming company are also similar – bringing the impact of designers and developer grey muscle to some of the work needed for lasting social change.

I am somewhat encouraged by the ConDem’s BigSociety ideas

The plans include setting up a Big Society Bank and introducing a national citizen service.
The stated priorities are:

  • Give communities more powers
  • Encourage people to take an active role in their communities
  • Transfer power from central to local government
  • Support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises
  • Publish government data.

The opposition are obviously opposed and there are fears that it is just a smokescreen for proposed cuts and a swathe of privatisation but the release of government data and the empowering (and presumably funding) of charities, social enterprises and co-operatives is a good thing.

I’m not 100% sure that there will be adequate delivery of this without organisations like Code4Pizza. You need to have a group of folk who are lighting the path for others by creating initial projects to start things off. These pathfinder projects need to have their own impact as well as building a framework for others to participate. You need buy-in from local educational establishments (to provide an unending supply of placement students (across many disciplines) to provide the heavy lifting and also provide themselves with experience and a portfolio which they may choose to bring to an employer or establish their own business.

Food for thought. Code4Pizza feeds people, entertains them for an evening with good company and has a social purpose. It serves to provide a focal point for community development and social engineering. It ticks the boxes of digital inclusion and entrepreneurial spirit. What a bloody brilliant idea. Maybe Martha Lane Fox will come over and talk to us.

I’m toying with the idea now of turning it into a proper social enterprise. I’d like your views. And your help.

DIGITAL CIRCLE STEERING GROUP ELECTIONS

From Digital Circle

The Digital Circle is a collaborative network funded by InvestNI under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The big news this month with Digital Circle is that the nominations for the elections for the Digital Circle Steering Group are now open. Each Steering Group is elected for one year so the next group will be responsible for steering the Digital Circle through its most exciting and challenging year.

We would personally like to thank all the past elected steering
group members over the last two years for their support, their hard work, their selfless ability to make decisions and take calls for the good of the entire industry. They are Adrian Lennon (Being), Davy Sims (DavySims), Gerard McBreen (Fable), Russell Moore, Martin Neill (NoMoreArt, AirPOS), Andy McMillan (BUILD), Aidan McGrath (Aetopia) and Kevin Traynor (Sonic Academy). All of them are contactable through the Digital Circle membership list.

The Steering Group represents the industry when working with our colleagues in other sectoral groups and organisations such as Momentum, NIScreen, NISP CONNECT, HALO, The Arts Council, IntertradeIreland and
Invest Northern Ireland.

At this point we are requesting nominations for the five steering group positions. Steering Group nominees must be members of the Digital Circle, involved in the business of Digital Creativity in all forms. Please consider individuals who would have the time and drive to contribute to the industry as a whole and who can represent the sole trader, the small business and the larger business in the digital media sector. They should have an interest in the four pillars of Digital Circle: investment and funding, skills and training, innovation and creativity and export and internationalisation.

Please send any nominations to Matt Johnston via email and he will contact the nominee and ensure they are willing and able to stand for election. Nominations will close on Friday the 6th of August and the elections will run from Monday the 9th of August until Friday the 20th August.

We’re looking for a few good men and women…