Tech Week-ness: 12-16 August

So after a week long break, we’re back with another post around a couple of the tech stories from the week. Enjoy! 

 

Welcome to The Hyperloop!

No it’s not the latest ride at Thorpe Park, nor is it a summer blockbuster. This is transportation.

It’s one of those stories that if it was published on April 1st, you’d look at it with suspicion, yet here we are in August contemplating just how cool it would be if it was actually built. Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes, transported in an almost Futurama-style way, but a lot faster.

 

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Inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk (a Sci-Fi name if ever there was one) unveiled his concept of Hyperloop to the world’s media earlier this week, claiming that by using magnets and air cushions, capsules carrying passengers could get up to speeds of 760mph, almost the speed of sound. All this and it would only cost $6bn to build and passengers would only have to pay $20 a ticket. Sounds ideal right? Well there are skeptics, naysayers or spoilsports if you will, that question the infrastructure costs. Funnily enough the technology isn’t being called in to question, just the cost and ability to actually build the Hyperloop and perhaps, with my sensible hat on, I can agree.

 

San Francisco and LA lies precariously on the notorious on the San Andreas Fault Line. Earthquake territory. People in California will tell you that they’ve been due a big one for a while now and while we all hope that isn’t the case, Sod’s Law dictates that if the Hyperloop does get built, that the big one will happen during the maiden voyage. Trying to imagining traveling on the Hyperloop during a big earthquake doesn’t even bear thinking of. It would be a catastrophe.

From a financial point of view, if America can build this for $6bn, then what the hell are we doing spending $68bn (£43bn) on a high speed rail network that would travel at a fraction of the speed?! To be fair I think Musk might be slightly optimistic on how much this would cost to build and to run. It would certainly shoot past the $6bn mark pretty quickly. Maybe I’m being too cynical, maybe it might be possible and in which case, Elon, forget San Francisco to LA and the risk of earthquakes, come over to Blighty and build the Hyperloop from London to Edinburgh, with an offshoot to Manchester. Our current transportation systems are blighted by the wrong type of drizzle, the occasional inch of snow and plagues of wet leaves. You Sir, would be a revelation.

 

 

Blackberry wants to be picked before it rots

 

Let’s face it, this has been on the cards for a while now, Blackberry has released a few handsets that were the new hope of turning the company around, it even rebranded from RIM to Blackberry, but unfortunately it just hasn’t happened and it’s now “gathered a Special Committee to explore strategic alternatives that specifically does not exclude the possibility of a sale.       

 

Perhaps some will say that it’s never really recovered since it suffered that major outage back in October 2011 and failed to communicate things clearly to it’s user base, who up until then had remained unwaveringly loyal. Some might argue that the company took too long to react to an iPhone world that now adored apps and just seemed to think everything would be ok, Blackberry users would stay loyal, after all, they love their QWERTY keyboards. Well, yes they did and some still do, but the iPhone changed the mobile world and for a time, Blackberry ignored what was happening around it. It was around this time that Blackberry’s core audience seemed to shift, in the UK at least, from well-to-do-businesspeople and corporate users to teenagers. As something that could have perhaps help Blackberry in its turnaround, it has taken it too long to recognise that shift and now it appears that it could be paying the ultimate price. It’s a shame because something like the Z10 and Q10 are exactly what the company needed five or so years ago. Today, neither device makes a good claim for why an iPhone users should trade in to secure one.

 

The question now is who is a likely suitor for the once valued $80bn Canadian company? And will it be a hardware partner to help resurrect the brand, or will it simply be a fire sale and condemn Blackberry to the history books like Palm?