2/11/2006

BROWSERS AND BLACKBERRIES

My Webwalk column in the Herald looked at the various add-ons available for Firefox and Internet Explorer. With the two major browsers now pretty much identical in functionality these add-ons will become much more important in determining which browser become's the web surfer's primary choice...

Also see my story about the debut of the new Treos with Windows Mobile 5.0. I'm currently trialing the v750 and will file a report once I've sorted out MS Exchange hosting.

Peter Griffin: Browser wars - IE7 and Firefox 2.0 virtually equal
Thursday November 2, 2006
Life has just got a little easier for the world's web surfers with the release of the shiny new Internet Explorer 7 and equally good-looking Firefox 2.0 web browser.
I've been playing with the early release version of IE7 for months and really like it. Microsoft's popular browser was in dire need of a major overhaul, and that is exactly what it got. Security features are beefed up, the toolbar design improved, and Microsoft finally adds tabbed browsing, a feature available to Firefox users for years that lets you have several web pages open within one browser window for easy access.
Firefox, which maintained technical superiority over IE6 with regular upgrades, shot back this month with some tweaks to what was already a fairly comprehensive web browser. The single best new feature of Firefox is an inline spellcheck which will ensure you send literate messages when typing into web forms, blogs and webmail applications. You can download a comprehensive dictionary that is in written in "British" English.
The new antiphishing features help prevent you from falling victim to attempts by fraudsters determined to steal your personal information.
IE7 has both antiphishing protection and an inline spellcheck, so the playing field has been well and truly levelled.
After all the upgrades and redevelopment, Firefox still has a slight edge technically, but the average web browser user isn't going to notice. As Internet Explorer and its erstwhile competitor Firefox close the gap in functionality, what will ultimately determine which browser web surfers choose to use most of the time? It's the browser extension.
Microsoft and Mozilla, Firefox's developer, have the same idea when it comes to the web browser. They want to make the browser the primary point of contact with the web services you use on a regular basis.
Rather than surfing to a website, you can install icons on your browser's toolbar which connect you directly to your service of choice. Search Google and Wikipedia directly from your browser toolbar. Access file-sharing networks and organise your web bookmarks by clicking on the browser toolbar.
There are thousands of browser add-ons for both IE and Firefox. Many are free and take a lot of time and hassle out of web surfing.
With the weight of the Mozilla open-source developer community behind it, Firefox has no shortage of extensions. One I've been tinkering with recently is Foxytunes, a media player that sits at the bottom of Firefox and interacts with iTunes or Windows Media Player to access your music collection and stream content from the web. You don't have to interrupt your web surfing to change the tune.
LinkedIn puts a button on your toolbar that immediately connects you to this business networking service which is very popular in the US. There are only occasional references to New Zealand and Australia, so LinkedIn will be of limited use to you unless you want offshore contacts. But it's a good idea and a localised version would be popular.
A neat little add-on called DejaClick remembers the clickable web links on a page in an easy-to-access format. It's a great research tool for extracting links from web pages.
Torrent Search connects you from within Firefox to numerous peer to peer file sharing networks which avoids the need to open another application. Wordwiselookup acts as a dictionary and encyclopedia, a handy reference tool for checking facts, and KeyScrambler encrypts passwords entered through the browser so keyloggers can't steal them.
Microsoft has a similarly strong mix of add-ons for Internet Explorer. IE Autologin and Free Password Manager Plus allow you to safely store your numerous passwords so you don't have to keep entering them into your browser.
Yoono, which is available to both IE and Firefox, lets you search and share common-interest topics with other Yoono users - a networking and research tool of sorts. Calorie Count gives you nutritional information on your toolbar and lets you monitor how many calories you're munching.
More technical web surfers will appreciate Greasemonkey, which allows you to tweak the code behind web pages to change their format to suit you using DHTML.
All of these add-ons are free and typically only 100 to 500 kilobytes in size so make for quick downloads.


Palm gets a hand from Microsoft
Thursday November 2, 2006
Reviewed by Peter Griffin
It started the handheld computing revolution in the 1990s, but lost its advantage to eager competitors.
Now Palm is relying on former rival Microsoft to help it try to regain the dominance it once had.
Both Vodafone and Telecom this month launch, for the first time, devices from smart phone maker Palm which operate not on Palm's software, but on the Windows Mobile platform.
Palm has launched a charm offensive on mobile carriers the world over in a bid to bypass the popular Blackberry smart phone in favour of its Treo device, which acts as a phone and device running versions of popular Windows programs.
The Blackberry's addictiveness among executives, who use it to constantly stay in email contact, has earned it the nickname "Crackberry". Its rivals have geared their businesses up to try to beat it.
But Palm is one of several competitors hedging its bets. It has signed a marketing deal with Blackberry maker Research In Motion and the Blackberry Connect software now runs on the Treo.
Microsoft, too, is under pressure in the smart phone space, from the Blackberry and the Symbian platform used by Nokia.
In Europe, Microsoft's market share in smart phone operating systems fell to 16.9 per cent in the three months to September 30, down from 18 per cent in the same period last year, according to research company Canalys.
But in Asia Pacific, Microsoft is already the dominant player, holding 55 per cent market share in the third quarter, with Windows Mobile growing faster than other operating systems. Symbian held 16 per cent market share in the same period, Blackberry had 14 per cent while Palm's own software accounted for only 2 per cent.
Palm's sales director for New Zealand and Australia, Geoff Anson, said the Treo was a device that mainly appealed to business users but that all-you-can-eat, US$20 ($30) a month mobile data plans had made it popular with consumers in the US.
"The cost, return on investment and usability of data are the main drivers, plus, people just want one device that does everything well."
The Blackberry, he said, did not do that and its proprietary design meant it wasn't flexible for handing third-party software programs.
"We all know what happens to proprietary solutions. Anyone got a Wang word processor handy?"
Telecom is launching a Windows-based Treo, the 700wx, which uses Telecom's high-speed data network and sells for $999 on open term.
The 750v is being sold by Vodafone for $1299 on an open contract.
Microsoft solutions specialist Mark Bishop said any company running Microsoft Exchange Server could push email out to its employees' Windows-based mobile devices.
Small businesses and home users could instead use a hosted Exchange service.

The Treo
* Acts as a phone and runs popular Windows programs.
* Also runs Blackberry Connect software.
* Telecom and Vodafone are both offering versions of the device.


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