Latest industry insights

Computex 2013

Whilst some tech companies appear to have reduced their reliance on trade shows, switching from making big bang launches at major trade events to more private, but well-publicised affairs (think Samsung S4 launch at the Radio City Music Hall earlier this year), the Asian Techfest Computex 2013 is reportedly in a rude state of health. Computex is still going as strong as ever after 30 years at its home in Taipei. Described as Asia's biggest computer show, Computex, takes place in early June this year, with more than 1,700 exhibitors set to show off their latest products. The event is expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors and 40,000 buyers all on the look-out for the hottest tech trends. This time round PC makers are expected to be using the show to unveil a vast array of new products in an attempt to offset decline in sales of personal computers, with Acer, ASUS announcing new product range additions, amongst others. Watch this space for more news on this shortly. In the meantime, here’s a link to the main conference host site: http://www.computextaipei.com.tw/

All eyes on Apple and Samsung

Hot on the heels of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 eye scroll technology and its filing at the patent office for ‘Eye Pause’ comes the news that Apple has recently filed a patent to read eye movement. According to the application, "An electronic device may have gaze detection capabilities that allow the device to detect when a user is looking at the device." And, it continues… "When the device detects that the user has looked away from the device, the device may dim a display screen and may perform other suitable actions.” The device may pause a video playback operation when the device detects that the user has looked away from the device. The device would then resume video playback operation when the person looks back at the device. Clearly the battle for mobile supremacy (and I include tablets within that definition) shows no sign of abating any time soon and why would it, as long as ultimately we as users benefit from well-defined, usable and performant device enhancements.

Creating immersive and engaging experiences - Comic style

‘POW!’ ‘BAM’ That’s how I describe the impact that reading Scott McCloud’s amazing book, “Understanding Comics - The Invisible Art”, is currently having on me. Cultural context, a raft of underlying psychological principles, visual narrative, semiotics…and the list goes on, all of which contribute to creating a wholly immersive and engaging reader experience are covered in this incredibly insightful text. For those who don’t know, this book is a work of genius and is presented in a comic style wholly appropriate format given the topic under discussion. So far (and I’m about half way through the book), the book has focused around comics as a physical, paper-based medium and the techniques used by comic creators (that’s visual and textual story tellers) to create a sense of physical progression through this inherently static print medium. If you’ve not read it, you should do so, so I don’t want to spoil your potential future enjoyment by explaining any more here, however… This got me thinking. What about interactive comics and what impact might these have on the medium? In particular, how this may influence the immersive experience a reader may have with the story and the ability of this interactive experience to place the reader further at the heart of the unfolding narrative? So, a short while later, with this heightened awareness and as a by-product of searching for something else, I was therefore intrigued to ‘chance’ across an article on DC Comics. ‘Bang’. An incredible fact hit me straight between the eyes. DC Comics are currently reporting average monthly digital comic downloads of over 1 million. For those who don’t know, DC comics is home to an impressive away of comic book super book heroes, some of whom have made it to the silver screen; Batman, Spiderman. Well, that goes some way to explaining the popularity and associated download activity mentioned earlier, but it doesn’t stop there. Apparently, DC have announced an interesting evolution in their digital comic experience, meaning their readers will now be able to swipe through dynamic layers within a single panel, as well as influence the story line or follow individual characters within the overall comic narrative. For the digital publishing arm of the company which didn’t exist three years ago, that stat is pretty impressive. Equally interesting is the fact that digital downloads don’t appear to be having any adverse effect on print sales, the classical ‘cannibalisation’ effect as they say. In actual-fact print sales are up 10% plus at the last count. Let’s hope that trend continues and I’m not made to eat my words. I can’t wait to read the next instalment. As they say, the story continues…

Microsoft ‘Re-start’

Now for a shift of digital to physical affordance with this one folks. If you’re a Windows 8 user, you might be excited to learn that the ‘Start’ button is set to make a come back to a desk near you shortly. “A desk?”, I hear you say, “Yes, that’s right, as you’ll need to fork out for a new mouse to use it.” So, it looks like Microsoft have spotted an opportunity to monetise the reinstatement of a button in a physical form, which, it claims, will also provide access to a range of advanced functionality. The new mice (I think two are planned) are due to go on sale shortly. It’s not currently clear if Microsoft will re-instate the digital version on its next refresh, ‘Windows Blue’. Whilst Microsoft has sold more than 100 million Windows 8 licenses since October, making it roughly on a par with Windows 7 at the same post-release point three years ago, Microsoft’s main challenge is how it can adapt to a declining PC user base. Microsoft executives have expressed a shift in company thinking towards periodic software updates, rather than waiting three years or so between big releases of the past - anyone remember Vista? Establishing itself in the highly lucrative tablet market is an absolute must and Microsoft clearly have a lot to do to leverage its presence in this rapidly growing market, where its current offering, Microsoft Surface, accounts for less than 2% of the market. Given a recent Morgan Stanley study which found that 61% of people shopping for tablets consider “Microsoft Office” to be the single most important software feature, Microsoft’s decision to instate Outlook in its application set when Windows version 8.1 is released for the Windows RT tablet will constitute some sort of step in the right direction. The question is how big a step alone is this likely to turn out to be. Needlesstosay, I’ll be following them closely on this journey, including any the twists and turns which lie ahead.

Fear of online banking anyone?

Finally, for those of you with a fear online banking, it appears you’re not alone. Interesting research released this week, courtesy of a financial research body, has advised that recent research involving 2,000 participants reported a higher level of fear or angst shown towards online banking (26%) than those expressing a corresponding fear of spiders (25%). Well, I guess whilst they both have the ‘web’ in common. Unfortunately, due to level of information released, I’m not clear as to the reasoning, if any, behind this stat. Namely, whether this relates more to a fear of using web to manage one’s personal finances or is more or equally attributable to a more holistic fear of financial affairs in general, of which online banking is the ever widening lens through which people conduct a large proportion of their financial affairs these days. A comparative review of how a level of fear may impact someone’s propensity to use the service would also be really insightful, this would help to ascertain if people are using online banking for convenience or other reasons whilst still harbouring significant inherent fears as to the fact they’re using it at the same time. Sounds like I’ll have to do some more research myself and potentially update you at some point in the future.