iPhone OS refresh, NHS IT woe, ID cards' fool's gold and virtual helpers

Stories of the month - April 2010
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

Stories of the month - April 2010

April's top stories are a veritable smorgasbord of tech issues - from big and expensive IT projects such as the programme to revamp NHS IT, to the everyday IT that keeps a freight and logistics business ticking over, to a whole heap of Apple-flavoured goodness and much more besides.

First up last month saw more headaches for the £12.7bn NHS IT project as a key supplier failed to hit a major project deadline. The Lorenzo patient administration system was due to go live at the end of March in hospitals in Cumbria but supplier CSC failed to hit the delivery deadline. It may not be the biggest story to break on NHS IT but it's yet more evidence of the death by a thousand cuts that's looming over the project.

From waiting to, well, rushing - last month witnessed the spectacle of the government marshalling its MPs to ensure a contentious piece of legislation was railroaded through parliament in the few short days before dissolution ahead of the general election. The Digital Economy Bill proposed to tackle online piracy by, among other measures, threatening broadband subscribers with disconnection if they are suspected of copyright infringements. Controversial doesn't even begin to cover it.

For the inside track on what is now UK law, follow the link to read our Cheat Sheet on the Digital Economy Bill.

Another popular story in April took readers inside freight and logistics company the Stobart Group. silicon.com reporter Tim Ferguson talked to the company's IT director Vince Sparks who discussed how the business has dealt with a flurry of acquisitions and the resulting tech legacy - from migrating to a central datacentre and email system, to virtualisation and WAN optimisation. Click here to read the full interview.

From virtualising IT to taking on an virtual assistant - an individual located in another country, ready to give you a helping hand with all your quotidian chores. If the logistics of running your day to day admin don't appeal, freelance websites such as oDesk.com and Elance.com offer help with finding someone who will do the job for you for a fee. Never considered outsourcing your diary before? Follow this link to find out more.

They say all that glitters is not gold - and all that looks golden is not necessarily doing what you think it is, according to this intriguing tale on ID cards. It seems the gold-coloured contact plate on the current generation of ID cards cannot be used to carry out electronic transactions. In fact, it's mostly just there for show. A shiny piece of gold that looks good but does nothing? In any other scenario we'd surely have to call that bling...

Also out last month, news of the rise of Windows 7 - now installed on one in 10 of the world's PCs, according to Microsoft.

ID cards

It only glitters: The ID cards gold-coloured plate is just for show
(Photo credit: Chris Beaumont/silicon.com)

But of course no month would be complete without a fresh smattering of news, rumour and scuttlebutt on the subject of Apple...

News that the UK launch of Apple's iPad tablet is being delayed again certainly got the readers clicking. "Late May" is the latest likely landing time for the company's latest shiny gizmo in Blighty. Needless to say, silicon.com will keep you posted.

Also making the headlines last month: Apple CEO Steve Jobs once again donned black polo neck and blue jeans to take a turn on what is very much a world stage nowadays, to show off a developer preview of the next iteration of iPhone OS: 4.0.

Coming in June, the OS update brings a much sought-after feature to Apple's handsets: multitasking, or at least Apple's version of it. iPhone users will be able to switch between apps by essentially freezing one app while using another - so not true multiprocessing then as Symbian fans will point out.

Apple also announced a brand spanking new ad platform known as iAd, an e-book reader app aimed at tackling Amazon's Kindle and a social network gaming platform aimed at raining on Microsoft's X-Box Live parade. Follow this link for more on iPhone 4.0, including Jobs' admission that current-generation iPhone users will need to upgrade their hardware to get all the new features.

silicon.com's resident Apple expert, Seb Janacek, also gave his verdict on the iPhone feature set in light of iPhone 4.0 in this popular column: Lost and found - the missing features of the iPhone.

Still on an iPhone-related theme, an IT skills story got readers hankering for bygone days of tinkering with transistors and messing around with soldering irons.

What sparked this bout of nostalgia? According to Cambridge academic Dr Robert Harle, Apple's iPhone could be bad news for computer science.

The assistant director of research at the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory, told silicon.com that when it comes to nurturing the next generation of techies, the rise of gadgets such as the iPhone is doing nothing to spark kids' interest in what goes on "under the hood".

"We have a generation growing up that's extremely comfortable with technology - no problem using it. But they don't seem to be that interested in understanding it," Harle told silicon.com. "I have a sneaking suspicion this is partly because we've got to the stage now with computing, computer science, IT... that it's now such a black box, such a complex thing that you can't really fiddle in the same way as people used to."

As many readers pointed out, this is not the first time a technology has caused a few collywobbles for the future of the industry. It's a debate that will doubtless run and run...

silicon.com Stories of the Month - April 2010

Editorial standards