HP is still the biggest seller of PCs, but it's not much of a player in other computer markets such as the portable realm. In terms of total devices shipped, Samsung is now the market leader growing nearly 100% to take top spot with a solid 21.8% of the market. Apple is next on 15.1%. Lenovo is a surprising third at 7%, with HP now down to 4.6 from a previous 7.4%. HP doesn't have a smartphone and its tablet range is sparse so it makes it hard to compete in the smart-connected space. And things won't get much better since the pundits are expecting another 100% jump in smartphone and tablet sales, rising to an overall 70% share of the market. I'm not convinced, though, that tablet sales are going to increase all that much more in what may already be a saturated market; any new entrants will probably get in with the less expensive Chinese products.
Apple is getting into a lot of trouble with their iOS 6 mapping application that is sending people hours out of their way when used for basic navigation, even to major landmarks such as a large town in Australia. Like the iPhone 5, this application was rushed to market in an attempt to save money and to distance Apple from Google and Google Maps. Apple is, of course, rushing out updates as fast as it can, but it takes a long time to validate detailed maps for everywhere in the world. With the current warnings, the bottom line is: either don't use it or else cross-check with one of those ancient paper maps.
The latest crazy trademark application from Apple involves defining the shape of a leaf. After going after the square, Apple is now trying to trademark its leaf, the one in its corporate logo that looks like a sharp-cornered oval, or any standard leaf shape that someone might draw. The idea of giving sole ownership of a basic shape, as a single element of a more complex logo, to a single company is, of course, absurd, but that is what the US Patent Office seems to be doing with its time these days. To make matters worse, the application covers non-Apple areas like jewellery, footwear, educational material and, for some reason, even the paper packaging for audio tapes. I guess the circle, the word "core" and the colour yellow will be next on the list.
A while back I wrote about QR (quick response) bar codes, two-dimensional barcodes that smartphone owners can scan to take them to (usually) marketing websites. Enter the cyber criminal who, with the aid of stickers, can quickly change posters in busy locations like shopping malls and airports in order to direct people to websites that are far from safe. You can't tell if a QR code is safe or not just by looking at it; you only find out when you go to the link _ by which time it may be too late. So check whether what you're thinking of scanning is actually a sticker and use a QR reader app to get the decoded site first in order to visually check the destination before activating your browser.
John McAfee, the man who gave us the well-known anti-virus product, has sold the rights for a film about his life. I neither use nor recommend McAfee _ or Norton, for that matter _ any more. They were both good in their day, but have evolved into products I don't like and no longer trust to protect my computers. McAfee, in recent years, has become a kind of Howard Hughes figure, but without a Spruce Goose. I don't see the attraction of a movie about McAfee's rather bizarre escape-and-evasion story.
What if you wanted to insert a phone in your brain, or implant one in your hand like in the latest Total Recall movie? Professor John Rogers has been busy working at the University of Illinois on flexible electronics. By which I don't mean the new screen that'll be part of the Samsung Galaxy S4. I'm referring to electronics that can interface with people or, more particularly, their living tissue. Rigid electronics are no good; they need to be flexible. You also need a brain/machine or skin/machine interface of some kind. Up to now neuroscientists have been using tigid wire and silicon to make such interfaces, but this has caused problems. Skin and body tissue both stretch naturally, so the trick is to bond silicone to rubber and turn it into an accordion-like wire which has the ability to stretch and contract. Add, say, some magnesium and you can build complex circuits that can be stuck to the skin without using glue, are non-toxic and will stay in place for a couple of weeks.
One example is a circuit that can be attached to a person's neck in order to "read" vocal commands that are then translated to drive, say, an artificial arm. Some students have already built and tested such a device and used it to control video games. A similar gadget was mounted on a person's hand to fly a quadricopter. While this kind of technology is still in its infancy, the progress made to date has been encouraging and where this goes from here could be quite exciting. We might see developments in the next few years, even. I'm not sure how far we are from, say, adding extra memory to our brains, but the future certainly looks interesting.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author
- Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer