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Tech stories that caught our eye in August

Posted by Joe McNamara on 3rd September 2013

Google goes down for 5 minutes; internet traffic drops by 40% – 18th August

It’s the kind of headline that makes you think the human race has become a pathetic shell of its former self. Can’t you just imagine people all over the world waving their arms around in confusion when they tried to find out useless information by making search queries such as ‘bad guy Spiderman green goblin’ when the mush of their mind refuses to recover the name of a random actor immediately. Seriously, though, what it tells us apart from the fact we’re all doomed, is the menacing dominance Google has over the search and browser market. It also reveals a general unwillingness to solve problems when technology doesn’t work the way we’re used to. There are lots of search engines people could use in a temporary Google blackout – but 40% percent of people just turned off!

High-speed in-flight Wi-Fi possible by 2014 – 20th August

In the developed world, the skies seem to be the only place we haven’t managed to connect to a wireless or mobile network – not en masse at least. However, Ofcom assures us that this is set to change as it is proposing to license a new satellite system for aircraft, ships and trains. There are no commitments from individual airlines to provide such a service just yet, but considering the ‘always-on’ culture that envelops our working and social lives, it’s difficult to imagine that such a service won’t soon become a competitive advantage. So, watch out business flyers. You’ll probably be able to ‘work from plane’ pretty soon.

Gamescom 2013: The latest battle in the console war – 26th August

Gamescom 2013, held in Cologne, became that latest battlefield on which Microsoft and Sony fought for the hearts and minds of gaming enthusiasts and general consumers alike. In terms of general news, no major developments really took place, but there were some significant steps from a gaming perspective. Despite my initial and ongoing ill feeling towards the Xbox brand, I’d have to say that Microsoft edged this one. A free download of FIFA 14 is a wise move for two reasons: The PS3 outgunned the Xbox 360 in Europe where FIFA sales traditionally soar and for casual gamers, FIFA is quite often the only title they own. On the other hand, while PS3 continues to push the PS Vita hard and suggest that it will add to the gaming experience of the PS4 – one can’t help but feel that Sony is flogging a dead horse considering that smartphones and tablets have effectively but the handheld gaming market to the sword.

Vodafone and O2 turn 4G networks on – 29th August

EE’s monopoly of 4G in the UK has officially ended as Vodafone and O2 have begun limited rollouts of their own 4G networks in selected cities around the UK. Furthermore, Three plans to flick the switch on its own 4G network in December and has announced that current Three users will be upgraded from 3G to 4G free-of-charge. That could be the start of a price war, but Ovum analysts, Steven Hartley, has accused Vodafone, O2 and EE of being overly-cautious in their roll-outs of 4G, still positioning it as a premium service despite constant demand from consumers for super-fast connectivity. Either way,, 4G is spreading around the UK fast and operators will only get more aggressive with pricing plans.

Chip market looking good – 30th August

Bill Jewell, market consultant at Semiconductor Intelligence, has become the latest analyst to predict positive growth in the global semiconductor market over the next year. His predictions are based on a range of sources, including WSTS data showing 6% growth in Q2 from Q1 in 2013. The current forecasts for 2014 had a wide range indeed – with IDC looking at a conservative 2.9% and Objective Analysis forecasting a rate of over 20% growth. Taking an average of the serious forecasts available, Electronics Weekly reports that the current prediction for 2014 is a solid 9.4% – a positive rate given the current peak cycle of the semiconductor market.

Joe McNamara