theEweekly Wrap: Rush hour, Orange and Google X
|Broadband demand||A study from comparison site Uswitch has revealed the peak times for broadband usage in the UK. The so-called broadband rush hour occurs between 7pm and 9pm, after most people get home from work. The time of lowest usage is between 2am and 3am. The study revealed that broadband speeds during rush hour are 35 per cent lower than the off-peak level, meaning many users could believe their broadband runs slower than it actually does.
This drop is more pronounced in some areas, with Weston-super-Mare and Evesham in Worcestershire enduring speeds more than 60 per cent slower in the evenings. The problem was particularly bad in rural areas, where the average speed is lower to begin with. The BBC reported that “from April next year providers will no longer be able to advertise maximum speeds for net packages unless 10% of customers receive them”, under new rules from the Committee of Advertising Practice. Earlier this year, Virgin Media’s ‘Stop the Broadband Con’ advertising campaign was stopped by the ASA for making “comparisons with identifiable competitors”.
|Orange aims low||Orange has partnered with Alcatel One Touch to launch three new mobile devices aimed at the developing world, said to be the first smartphones for under €100. The 908F has a full touch screen and will cost around £85; the 813F looks a little like a BlackBerry and will cost around £50; finally, the 585F (pictured) is a fully functioning smartphone with Qwerty keyboard for a stunning £34. The phones will be available in 2011 and early 2012 in Armenia, Botswana, Cameroon, France, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Moldova, Niger, Poland, Reunion, Romania, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia and Uganda – countries that have thus far seen limited smartphone uptake.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of these new devices is deep Facebook integration, including a big blue F button on each of the handsets. Furthermore, while Orange is rolling out bargain monthly calls and data plans to go with the phones, connecting with Facebook will be free and unlimited. As Mashable pointed out, this “positions Facebook as the de facto portal and lifeline to messaging, information and community” for a market of potentially millions of people. Yves Maitre, senior VP of mobile multimedia and devices at Orange, said: “We feel strongly that it is Orange’s role to enable customers to enjoy a digitally rich, connected life.”
|The other Google Labs||Sources at Google have apparently confirmed that the company has a secret development lab, referred to as Google X. The New York Times published a special report this week detailing the special facility in California’s Bay Area, with several spokespeople – who of course wanted to remain anonymous – detailing the weird and wonderful experiments taking place within. The lab’s engineers are researching a list of “100 shoot-for-the-stars ideas”; rumours include elevators to outer space, robot avatars, and kitchen appliances remotely controlled via the web.
The NYT also reported that the Google self-driving car (pictured with Brin, Page and Schmidt), born in the Google X labs and unveiled in 2010, could soon be manufactured on a commercial scale. Earlier this year the online Google Labs was shut down, much to the chagrin of the tech world. However, if these reports are true, it seems the fabled 20 per cent time is still being put to good use.