My personal input of course, but for me - Music- and TV-wise it’s been a vintage year, pretty good for literature too, not so good for film though. There were a few trends in music with several artists self-publishing their albums and making them free to download - including my top rated ’The Weeknd’ (x2) which I was relatively late to latch onto, thanks to FACT Magazine for the introduction. Björk famously released interactive apps for each of her album tracks - I kind of agree a little with Pitchfork on this one - melody was sacrificed to art and science - her best in a while, but not nearly her best.
My tastes are famously eclectic and veer between Drowned in Sound, Popjustice, FACT-style dance electronica, Pitchfork, Q, MixMag, DJ, IDJ and Resident Advisor - possibly with a rather keen emphasis on the electronic / dance varieties. There’s not too much guitar-based music here, but plenty of pop and electronic and a smattering of Hip Hop and R&B:
2011 Albums of the Year - Top 30
House of Balloons; The Weeknd [Trip Hop / R&B] - Chill Wave R&B-infused Hip Hop with great production and melodies
Thursday; The Weeknd [Trip Hop / R&B] - More of the same...
Nostalgia, Ultra; Frank Ocean [R&B / Hip Hop] - A kind of soulful chilled out largely sung hip hop
Glass Swords; Rustie [Dubstep / Electronica] - Modern, eclectic, mostly instrumental dancefloor electronica with roots in Dubstep
Electronic Dream; Araabmuzik [Electronica / House] - A great mish-mash of contemporary club sounds with a chilled-out edge
Oh Land; Oh Land [Pop / Electropop] - Lush, delicate melodic electronic pop
Vanbot; Vanbot [Pop / Electropop] - Bright and melodic electronic pop - like Robyn’s little sister
On A Mission; Katy B [Dubstep / UK Funky] - Slick, melodic vocal UK dancefloor-inspired grooves
21; Adele [Bluesy Pop / Soul] - The finest mainstream pop release for nigh on 2 decades - heartwrenchingly soulful
Ritual Union; Little Dragon [Electropop] - Really cool, slightly quirky electronic pop
Perfectionist; Natalia Kills [Pop / Electropop] - Almost the perfect pop debut, chock-full of catchy hooks, with superb production
Mirrorwriting; Jamie Woon [Digi-Soul / Dubstep] - More consistent and affecting for me than James Blake’s debut - lushly soulful
Ceremonials; Florence and The Machine [Indie Pop] -
It’s almost the end of the year now, and I’m happy to say that I still find my chosen keep-fit activity thoroughly exhilarating and most importantly - fun! It’s pouring with rain today, but I’m still looking forward to going out - such is the amazing protective environment provided by my superb clothing and equipment - but more of that later. I started this activity back on January 9th, and each day I try to venture out for an hour circuit around Hyde Park - as often as I can. Most days I’ve done in a row is 13, most weeks I manage 4-5 days.
I recently compiled my all-time top 10 movies, and it’s amusing to see that Saturday Night Fever - which starts and ends with John Travolta strutting / striding out to music, features prominently in my top 10. Nordic Walking as I do it, is a kind of rhythmatic strutt to music - typically House Music of some variety (more of that later too!), and usually Electro-House or Trance for the faster BPM. In summer months I occasionally mix in Italo Disco when the heat is at its most intense and I don’t need the vigour of the faster pace.
If you like walking briskly to music and watching people and scenery as you move, then Nordic walking could well be your perfect keep-fit activity too. I am so luck to have Hyde Park as my back garden - the mix of flora, fauna and people is ever changing and always interesting; obviously there’s a lot less people around in the winter months. I’ve been out so far in temperatures ranging from 0 to 30 degrees, and have equipment to suit every conceivable eventuality - the key parts of which I will list below.
A driving force for me to update to the new iPhone 4S was its increased 64GB memory capacity, as I use it so much as a music player, particularly on my walks. Nordic Walking is still very much a minority sport in the UK, and it’s very rare that I encounter other Nordic Walkers on my circuit - I’m far more likely to see those Nordic Roller-Skis, which don’t really have the all-round flexibility I require.
I’ve learnt this year how important stretching and warming up / down exercises are, even though I don’t always heed my own counsel. All my equiment is now truly tried and tested, and I’m so pleased that I ended up with what I believe is the best in each area - high quality, weather-proof, durable,
Mary Portas has just submitted her report of 28 recommendations to the government on how to tackle the declining fortunes of our High Streets. A lot of what she says makes some degree of sense, but a number of the policies seem somewhat defeatist and totally against smart, small independent retail businesses.
I have lived in various parts of this land, in towns and cities of varying sizes, and I have witnessed first-hand the changes to our local High Streets, and I have slightly different answers and recommendations for how the High Street should tackle the current issues.
To start off with, we need to be aware of the full spectrum of key considerations for shopping:
Price - Online is best obviously, Malls and Supermarkets are usually cheaper than city-centre retailers too
Range - Again Online is best - most choice at the best prices, next come the larger retailers, and again the High Street typically comes last
Availability - It’s usualy easiest to find availability online, then in larger shops - depends on size of Town really as to what is available on the High Street
Convenience - This largely depends on where you live, but Malls are usually located where they are easy to get to - and have free parking, whilst town centres are more congested and you have to pay for parking - if you can find a space; online of course is always at your fingertips - there are other factors here including weather and transport / traffic congestion in your area
Facilities - Here the Malls come into their own really - Multi-screen cinemas, restaurants, amusements, all the shops and various family-friendly amenities and services all under one roof - antiquated town centres with poorly tended toilet facilities and spaced out amenities cannot compete, of course online comes with its own home comforts
Service - It largely depends on who you do business with - but increasingly you get better service online - better loyalty schemes, better packaging, and increasingly more delivery options, now with more flexible locker collection solutions (like Collect+ and ByBox), as well house-sitters (courtesy of WaitingIn.co.uk) if you need someone to wait in for a furniture delivery or similar while you’re at work (last year 800 million hours were lost by customers waiting for deliveries; 8 million individuals took time off work)
It’s that time of year again when pop pundits do their best to predict who’s going to strike it big next year.
There’s no real suprises on the BBC Shortlist, certainly not in the inclusions, but there may be a question as to why Lana Del Rey has been edged out by Lianne La Havas and Ren Harvieu - I for one certainly think Lana is doing more interesting things vocally and melodically than those two.
I was never that bowled over by Nicki Minaj - sure she’s done some mean raps / flows, but for me she’s not nearly as consistent as say her predecessor Missy Elliott, nor quite as interesting as NME’s favourite newcomer Azealia Banks, who is a little potty-mouthed for sure, but is fresh and dynamic, and somehow more genuine and arresting than Ms Nicki.
One of my favourite albums this year has been Frank Ocean’s ’Nostalgia, Ultra’; in particular the ’Novacane’ track - slick, laidback, mature hip hop, superbly produced - he certainly deserves a high place on this listing.
Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) has been a very busy boy this year, co-producing a number of records, including nu-metallers Korn’s latest album, as well as numerous remixes and own productions. Skrillex’s ’Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ EP came out last year, but has been on fairly regular rotation for me this year on my iPhone jukebox. I love this kind of Dubstep / Electro House hybrid sound, which some naysayers are unfortunately trying to denigrate by calling it brostep - obviously they don’t like to dance!
A$AP Rocky - rough and ready, urban US grimey hip hop (Not UK grimey!), some great tracks (e.g. Palace) but does not quite rise up to the lofty heights of Azealia Banks or Frank Ocean - who are superior in the rap category
*Azealia Banks - smart, witty, innovative flows with clever changes in tempo
I must admit that I used to be a huge fan of Blockbuster Video Stores, and if there was one next door to me, I would probably still use it, as they still have by far and away the best range of movies, have the earliest release dates, and their price point is only £2.99. Apple iTunes currently has downloads only - you can start viewing progressively at 10-15 minutes in, but it’s not streaming, this is at £3.49 for standard definition, and £4.49 for high definition where available (Older films are at £2.49 and specials at £0.99). LoveFilm has a subscription service also at £5.99 per month, with some films only available on subscription, and new films are typically at £3.49, with older ones at £2.49 - on a par with iTunes. The issue for me on LoveFilm is that it’s overly fussy and overly complex - giving you different options to rent DVD, watch online, sign up for subscription, buy on Amazon etc. Moreover, beyond the optional subscription it offers no great advantage over iTunes as it pretty much has the same fairly slim selection of films which are largely made available for rent a week or two after Blockbuster.
HMV has gone against the grain by launching at a higher level one tier standard price of £3.99 - it’s not clear yet as to what the quality of the stream is though. For HMV you can of course download to watch, as well as stream directly. Again, browsing through their library - there are still enormous holes in the catalogue, although I could find some films here that were not listed on iTunes or LoveFilm.
The point is that the old format - DVD - which is ’Blockbuster’ really still has by far and away the best selection and the best price. Online video has the advantage of convenience
We’ve heard it several times now - that with the growth of Social Messaging - email is on its way out! However, for me if anything - email is on the way up! I have various Social Media subscriptions which all come to my inbox - from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. - all my receipts, including those from the various Apple stores - as well as all my key bills and statements, these are all now notified electronically via email!
I really don’t understand what these Social Media types propose is going to happen to all that content! As far as I’m concerned, there are lots of different kinds of communications platforms - each for very specific purposes. If you need to send smallish attachments, then email is still a decent format, if you need to send something larger, then any kind of message with a Dropbox URL in it will do. There’s lots of clever ’Messenger’ type services now, like Apple’s ’iMessage’ - which provides free Blackberry style text messages to its customers.
On a daily basis, I make use of iMessage / SMS, Forums, Message Boards, Group Chat, Comments and Ratings, Skype and Google Talk. For me the biggest significance has been in the Disqus-type comments systems, very much like Affino’s Comments and Ratings - this means that the discussion element is very much aligned to the content, whereas with Forums - they are usually divorced from the content, and very quick to go off-topic.
As far as the statistics go, the number of email messages being sent is still on the way up globally. Messaging / iMessaging / SMS is simply just replacing other forms of communication - like the more traditional phone call, as they are more cost effective and more expedient. You don’t expect the person on the end of the line to available 24/7 - so sending an SMS is far better than leaving a voicemail - that said, many people do both!
A lot of people used to do proper blogs, then they got bored / lazy and switched to tweets, now they’re even lazier and just do comments and re-tweets. It would be interesting to know the proportion of original to recycled / regurgitated content in the twittersphere.
Of course people like Mark Zuckerberg have vested interests in their platforms, and will make broad sweeping statement to push home a point, much like Steve Jobs used to do in his heyday. For sake of
According to the 2010 overall figures for Digital Ad Spend, courtesy of Darren Herman, of the circa $64 billion Worldwide 2010 Digital Advertising Revenues, Google is responsible for nearly half, i.e. $29 billion or circa 45.7%.
The revenues of the 5 biggest; i.e. Google + Yahoo + Microsoft + Facebook + AOL is equivalent to nearly 64% of the total market share of Online Advertising or two-thirds.
Most of these big players of course own a number of digital properties:
In comparison, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt II which is the record daily film box office, took $91 million on its first day. Music sales are not recorded on a daily basis typically, the best data we have is in terms of weekly sales statistics. It’s somewhat strange to report that the one week sales record goes to *NSYNC’s ’No Strings Attached’ album which shipped 2.4 million units in its first week back in April of 2000. In terms of digital sales, it would seem that Lady Gaga’s ’Born This Way’ would have the current record of first week 662,000 unit digital sales, contributed to in no small part by a special 99 cent deal on Amazon.com - which shifted 440,000 copies in just 2 days.
Lil Wayne currently holds the US iTunes record of circa 300,000 units of ’Tha Carter IV’ downloaded in the first 4 days. Coldplay’s ’Xylo Myloto’ holds the international iTunes record - across all 35 stores, achieving in excess of 500,000 downloads in its first week.
It’s somehwat heartening to see that the most liquid / profitable entertainment medium is no longer music or film, but games. I would go one step further and highlight software overall - in terms of apps and programmes. The digital economy is now truly gigantic, and Apple and Android are capturing an ever bigger share of the gaming marketplace. That said, Call of Duty MW3 is an old-fashioned console game, shipped mostly in hardcopy format.
I have always hinted that the music and film industries would eventually copy the most successful parts of the gaming economy. Sure gaming suffers piracy and blackmarket copies of its titles, but the size and scope of many of these games means enormous data, which does not make for easy downloads; a lot of games also make use of hardware peripherals which make it difficult for pirates to replicate the whole experience. One of the key reasons that the movie industry has got so heavily behind the 3D format is also because of the fact that it’s more difficult to replicate that experience via illegal means.
In an article I wrote a while ago about the Icelandic economy, I highlighted the success of
The latest Ars Technica browser usage figures show that Internet Explorer has dropped below 50% market share for the first time - for combined browsing platforms (Desktop + Mobile)
Combined Browser Market Share October 2011
Worldwide Desktop Browser Market Share October 2011
Worldwide Mobile Browser Market Share October 2011
Here at Comrz we are an even split between Chrome and Firefox, with development preferring to work on Firefox because of its still superior developer toolset, whilst we others prefer the speed and elegance of Chrome.
We all know why IE figures have remained so high - thousand of poorly run institutions and archaic public services still tend to be running very old versions of IE - it’s quite surprising just how many of these PCs are on IE6.
I’m not sure the mobile figures entirely stack up here either - there are currently nearly as many Android handsets in global circulation as iPhones, of course several Android users favour Dolphin and Skyfire, but the Android browser figure does seem unusually low.
By now I am of course an iPhone user of many years, and as you may have read on my other blogs, don’t see myself switching to Android or Windows Mobile any time soon. As far as desktop browsing goes though, I can’t see anything better out there than Chrome - Google Chrome revolutionised the web browser in a very subtle way when it was first introduced back in September of 2008, and all the major browsers have since been busy copying Chrome’s
The latest market research by Strategy Analytics reveals that Samsung is currently in the lead for Smartphone unit sales for the 3rd Quarter of this year. Many analysts correctly reason that the masses were waiting for the launch of the iPhone 5, which turned out to be the iPhone 4S. Selling more than 4 million units in its first weekend, it is likely that Apple will be top again by the end of the year, but that should not diminish Samsung’s achievement with its all-conquering Galaxy range.
In many commentators opininons, the Galaxy SII is still the current best smartphone out there, its Super Amoled Plus screen being superior to the more recent Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note, and it is blessed with a better camera (8.0MP) as well as superior features in some areas. The Galaxy range comes in a huge variety and is available on pretty much every network, at a relatively reasonable price. It’s not long before the Galaxy SIII is launched, which should put Samsung significantly in front of its competitors - specs-wise.
Global Smartphone Shipments Q3 2011
Current Global Total Mobile Phone Handsets Market Share
Apple of course is doing very well, but it’s not single-handedly bossing the phone world as many of its fans ardently believe. All these lawsuits and counter-suits show that Apple is nervous about Android, and particularly about Samsung - who is also one of its major suppliers! Every one was trailing Apple in terms of smartphone innovation, but the tide does seem to be turning somewhat - as Apple innovation is slowing, and Android and Windows innovation is conversely accelerating, and in some cases leap-frogging Apple.
The hardware and platform sides though are really just 1/2 the equation, with the