Apple touchscreen tablet: technology’s worst-kept secret

25 January 2010 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

Apparently, in two days’ time (on Wednesday the 27th of January 2010), at a press event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, Apple is going to launch a brand new touchscreen tablet. Last week the company sent out a broad and vague — “come see our latest creation” invitation to the press. According to Steve Jobs, Chief Executive of Apple, the tablet is going to reshape books, newspapers and television businesses much the way the iPod revamped the music industry.

Although no concrete facts about the existence of Apple tablet (quite possibly ‘iTablet’ or ‘iSlate’) have been leaked to the press, at least apart from what is reported by The Wall Street Journal, all sorts of rumours have been spread all over the Internet. For example, Wired speculates that the tablet will serve as an e-reader for magazines, newspapers and books, but it will also offer the general-purpose functions seen in the iPhone, such as gaming, viewing photos, web surfing and using apps. Its appearance is described as a 10- to 11-inch iPhone or iPod Touch, it will run a substantially expanded version of the iPhone OS, it will have a new non-QWERTY interface and it will support Wi-Fi and and 3G data connections just as do the iPhone, iPod Touch and all Macs. Also, the presumption is that Apple will sell access to book, newspaper and magazine content via iTunes.

The cost of Apple’s new creation is evaluated to range from as low as £300 to as high as £1250, with most speculation focusing on the £500 to £600 range. The tablet is supposed to fill in the price gap between the iPod Touch (£250) and the lowest-priced MacBook (£650).

At least in the US, prognosticators believe the tablet will be supported by AT&T and Verizon networks. It is presumed that there may be two devices, one with the HSPA+ processor designed for AT&T and the other one with EVDO processor designed for Verizon, or quite possibly the tablet will be equipped with the Qualcomm processor which allows to connect with any network.

Following the release pattern of the iPhone, which was unveiled by Steve Jobs in January 2007 but not sold until June that year, the tablet could also be sold around June time 2010 or maybe even earlier. But that is not the only thing the company is likely to announce. Updates to the MacBook line and the iPhone OS are also likely to be on the ticket. So, watch this space!

Sir Berners-Lee’s latest venture for the UK government

21 January 2010 by Anna Mieczakowski  
Filed under News and views

Today, BBC News informs us about a launch of a new website, data.gov.uk, which will give the public access to more than 2,500 sets of government-held non-personal data, ranging from traffic statistics, exam results, house prices, local amenities and services to crime figures. The primary objective of this site, as said by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, is to “unlock new ideas for delivering public services, help communities and society work better, and let talented entrepreneurs and engineers create new businesses and services”.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt from the University of Southampton in June 2009 to oversee this project and open up the official data to the general public. Sir Tim justified the launch of the new site to BBC News by saying that “Government data is something we have already spent the money on… and when it is sitting there on a disk in somebody’s office it is wasted”. Likewise, the third collaborator on this project, Stephen Trimms, Minister for Digital Britain, believes that data.gov.uk “is a tremendous opportunity for UK firms to secure better value for money in service delivery and to develop innovative services which will help to grow the economy”.

A beta version of data.gov.uk has been running since September 2009 and so far has been tested by more than 2,400 developers. Like the iPhone, the software for the site will be left as ‘open source’ so that people can develop applications for it. Currently, the site has 19 applications created using the data feeds, including ‘FillThatHole’ for reporting potholes across the UK, ‘mycounciltax.org.uk’ for finding out how much council tax you pay for your property and ‘UK House Prices’ for looking at property market trends using Land Registry data.

The creators of data.gov.uk work tirelessly with departments, agencies and local authorities to release even more data and add more functions to the site all the time. For example, one of the key data sets they are trying to include is geographical location from the Ordnance Survey (OS), which currently is only available free of charge to small-scale developers. It is planned that this data will be released to public from April 2010.

Others, including US President Barack Obama and London Mayor Boris Johnson, launched similar sites such as data.gov, which offers feeds from various departments including the US defence department and Nasa and an online data warehouse with more than 200 data sets relevant to life in the British capital.