Week In Tech Reviewed

Omar Gallaga, technology-culture reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, discusses Microsoft's launch of Windows 7, Finland's new law making broadband access a right, and eco-friendly cell phones.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

For more on the latest tech news, I'm joined, as we are most Mondays, by Omar Gallaga. He covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman. Welcome back, Omar.

Mr. OMAR GALLAGA (Reporter, Austin American-Statesman): Hi, Michele. Good to talk to you.

NORRIS: Well, it sounds like we have a grab bag of news today and we start with Microsoft. I guess this has been a big week for Microsoft. Tell us why.

Mr. GALLAGA: Yeah. They are launching Windows 7 on Thursday. This is the most recent version of the venerable Windows operating system and kind of a do-over for them. They did not get a lot of love in early 2007 when they launched Windows Vista, which, you know, since then has taken shots from all sides for its interface, for being a little bit intrusive when it comes to security features. So, this new version, Windows 7, which ranges in several versions that start at $119, all the way up to $299, it's sleeker. And for people that sort of held off, that stuck with Windows XP like I did, it's definitely worth the upgrade in my opinion. Although it's going to be a lot of trouble for people with older hardware, who never made the jump to Vista.

NORRIS: Microsoft has had a lot of trouble with security issues. Did they solve that problem?

Mr. GALLAGA: Well, it's a new operating system. It's going to have security holes. They've been issuing a lot of patches. Last Tuesday, they issued a giant security patch. They're going to be plugging away at that for some time. But a lot of the other features that I've been impressed with with Windows 7 - just it's speed, how stable it is. I haven't had any - a single crash with it since I've been using it for the last three or four weeks. And they are going to be doing, you know, pretty big publicity blitz. They've got an episode of "Family Guy" coming up that will feature Windows 7. They are opening the first of many Windows retail stores. The first one will be in Scottsdale, Arizona. So, for Microsoft, yeah, it's a very big week. They've got a lot riding on this and this time out, they've got a much better product to sell than they did with Windows Vista, it seems.

NORRIS: Now, another Microsoft related item I want ask you about: Researchers for the company developed a camera to help people with Alzheimer's and dementia. But I understand the camera's going to be sold to the average consumer sometime next year, moving, I guess, beyond the R&D phase to the consumer phase. Tell me about that.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right. They have a product called SenseCam that was actually developed in the U.K. by Microsoft's research arm in Cambridge. And it is a camera that's worn around the neck with a lanyard. Now, when it senses movement, it takes a photo and the memory that it has onboard can store many thousands of low resolution photographs. And where Alzheimer's comes in is that people suffering with Alzheimer's could carry this around with them and it would be able to track their movement and show where they've been and who they've been in contact with.

NORRIS: Sounds a little bit like Big Brother though, doesn't it?

Mr. GALLAGA: Well, it's - you know, you can always it off.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: It's just something that kind of you carry around your neck and -but for people, obviously, who are bloggers, who want to document their everyday movement, you know, doing life-casting or life-blogging as they call it, this would definitely be a useful tool.

NORRIS: Cell phone companies are starting to push eco-friendly products for their Prius-driving, NPR-listening clientele, I understand.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Which companies are going green?

Mr. GALLAGA: You know, this came to our attention last week. I got some information from Sprint about something they're doing with the Audubon Society to introduce birdcall tweets for your cell phone as ringtones. We can hear the Baltimore Oriole…

(Soundbite of bird)

Mr. GALLAGA: …or the Carolina Wren.

(Soundbite of bird)

Mr. GALLAGA: As we kind of started looking into that, we also found other ways that wireless companies are getting in to the eco-friendly market. Sprint introduced a phone that is actually made of corn called the Reclaim. It's actually made from a corn based bio-plastic and 80 percent of its parts are recyclable. And not to be outdone, T-Mobile has a cell phone called the Renew, whose plastic is made from recyclable water bottles.

NORRIS: Omar, let's go broad, if we can. There's tech news, I understand, out of Finland.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right. In Finland, a law was recently passed making broadband Internet access a legal right for all citizens. This would go into effect next July and it would guarantee that every person in Finland, which has a population of about 5.3 million, would be guaranteed to one megabit per second broadband speeds, that's definitely not…

NORRIS: So, wait a minute. The right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and broadband access.

Mr. GALLAGA: Yes. The right to Internet access and this is actually just a first step for that country. They actually want to get it up to 100 megabits per second, which is very fast Internet access - much faster than most people have here - by the end of 2015.

NORRIS: Well, Omar, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

Mr. GALLAGA: Thanks so much. And we'll have links to all of these on the All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech, including something called Sockscriptions - subscriptions for socks on the Web - just to kind of whet your appetite. We'll have a separate blog entry for that.

NORRIS: Omar Gallaga covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman.

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