Don't believe the iPhone hype just yet

Has Apple launched its iPhone over here? Oh, no, it hasn’t. So why is everyone so excited about it?

Do we know when it will and who’ll have it? Not exactly on either – talk that O2 had the gig appears premature. But from what you’ve read, you’d think it was the latest bread-slicer incarnate.

Not so fast. Americans (some) may love Apple’s new ubergadget, but the reality is that when it comes to mobiles, they’re stuck somewhere in the 1980s.

They’ve not discovered texting to any great extent, and the idea of a gadget that can do video calls (not that anyone in the UK does, but you know what I mean) is out of Star Trek.

The iPhone isn’t much good for texting, from what I hear. And its mobile data runs on a sort of GSM-on-Red-Bull, (General System for Mobile Communications) rather than our faster GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). Europe’s going to be a tougher sell than the US: expect some sniffy copy come the autumn launch over here.

Still, it hasn’t stopped the ordinary phone being red-hot with people from rival companies who just want to, you know, chat a bit about their own products. Because of the what? The Apple what? Oh, no, just to talk, you know. Why? Oh, it just seemed like time to.

The introduction around the turn of this century of Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube left me cold; after all, they’re just games machines, and playing games is a pretty monomaniac pursuit. And while it might be a billion-dollar market, it’s one that’s usually without much in the way of news hooks.

But it’s been much more fun watching the follow-up match, which has been between the Xbox 360 – introduced in November 2005 – the Nintendo Wii (pronounced wheee!), launched last Christmas, and the Sony PlayStation 3, which limped out in March.

Whereas Sony owned the segment last time round, this time Nintendo is soaring towards the Xbox 360’s total sale, despite the latter having had 13 months’ start.

The PS3, meanwhile, is doing terrible business; its only value is as a Trojan horse to sell high-defintion Blu-ray DVD discs. (Oh, haven’t you? No, neither has most of the rest of the world. Which is another problem Sony faces.) Now the Xbox 360 has another problem: it keeps going wrong. People have had the ‘red ring of death”, where its power button just shows red, indicating that it’s turned up its toes. Microsoft insisted the failure rate was only three to five per cent. Users, some of whom had taken back two, three, four… up to 11 consoles, differed.

Now, Microsoft is putting aside about $1.1bn to extend the warranties to three years on all 11.6 million thus far sold. That works out to an expected failure rate of about 15 per cent (if you reckon it’s replacing the machines at full retail cost). What’s the precise reason for the failures? Unspecified. That’s as specific as Microsoft will go.

Interestingly, the head of the Xbox division, Peter Moore, has resigned ‘for family reasons'(Microsoft) ‘to join games makers Electronic Arts'(every other outlet). And Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft’s Entertainment Division (which includes the Xbox), sells off $6.2m of shares in May, a few weeks ahead of the announcement. (He can’t have been reading any of the forums where users have complained in the past year. Neither could he have known about the impending billion-dollar write-off.)

Anyway, amid all of this, would Microsoft UK, usually so ready to pitch anyone to talk about its products, put anyone up to talk to The Guardian about this? No – it just sent us a press release formatted in a version that none of our machines could read. Nice work, people.
• Dixons Store Group (owner of PC World, Dixons and Curry.digital) says it’s going to launch stores within stores selling only robots: ‘The robot will soon become a mass-market phenomenon,’according to PC World’s managing director Keith Jones.

• The Irish company Steorn abandoned its attempts to demonstrate its claimed ‘free energy’machine in London, complaining that the lights being used were too bright.

• More UK broadband users are angry with their internet provider this year. Compared with the same time last year, a quarter of users are dissatisfied with their broadband service – a rise of 10 per cent, according to YouGov. Most ire-inducing were Orange and TalkTalk.

Sadly for Charles Dunstone, chief exec of the latter, he can’t explain why – he seems to have lost the password to his blog (http://tinyurl.com/37qezm), which he hasn’t updated since September.

• Meanwhile, Orange has launched an offer where if you sign up for it for two years at PC World, you get a free (aged, but new) laptop. I dunno – I’d have thought you’d at least get a free robot that could dial the support number for you.

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