iPhone 5 Due in September: 10 Reasons This Smartph
iPhone 5 Due in September: 10 Reasons This Smartphone Is Worth the Wait
By: Don Reisinger
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NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple's iPhone 5 is scheduled to hit store shelves next month. Apple fans and mobile market pundits have been speculating about when it will arrive for Monday. But when it finally does hit the market, you can bet it'll be worth the wait.
Apple's iPhone 4S is getting a little old. The device's dual-core processor doesn't quite hold up against its powerful, quad-core competitors. Furthermore its design, while still nice, is starting to look long in the tooth, compared to the latest models that have reached the market in recent months. Apple's iPhone simply needs a refresh.
Luckily,Apple plans to offer up a new iPhone next month, according to reports. The updated model, which has yet to even be confirmed much less named by Apple, will more than likely ship with iOS 6. Better yet, it'll have an improved processor, and according to nearly every rumor out there, a 4-inch screen, dwarfing the 3.5-inch display currently available in its iPhone 4S.
By the look of things, the next iPhone is going to be a major step up over the iPhone 4S. And with any luck at all, it'll come in at the same $199 price with the usual two year wireless carrier contract, making it all the more worthwhile a purchase.
Today, though, there may be many folks who are ready to buy a new smartphone. There are plenty of Android handset makers that would be more than happy to help them make that purchase. But even smartphone shoppers ready now to make that final decision would be well advised to consider waiting for the next iPhone. Chances are it'll be worth the wait.
Read on to find out why:
1. It'll come with a better processor
Although it's tough to say if the iPhone 5 will come with the long-rumored quad-core processor or the dual-core A5X chip found in Apple's new iPad, it's not a stretch to say that it'll definitely come with a better processor than is currently built into the iPhone 4S. What that means is the next iPhone will deliver better performance and offer up a vastly improved user experience. Who can get upset with that?
2. That larger screen is coming
There's little doubt that Apple will be delivering a larger screen in the iPhone 5. Apple's competitors are nearly all offering displays larger than the iPhone 4S' 3.5-inch screen, making it a near-necessity for Apple to respond. Look for a 4-inch display to come to the iPhone 5.
3. 4G LTE is the new standard
Now that Apple has finally brought 4G LTE to its iPad, it would only make sense for the company to follow suit with its next iPhone. With 4G LTE, consumers and enterprise users can connect to faster networks, creating a superior wireless connection and browsing experience to what's currently available in the iPhone 4S. Waiting for 4G LTE to come to the iPhone is definitely worth the wait.
4. The Galaxy S III isn't an iPhone
There are many high-quality Android-based devices on store shelves, but the best of the bunch is the Samsung Galaxy S III. While that might seem like a fine alternative to the iPhone 4S, it likely won't be able to hold up against the iPhone 5. With that in mind, it might be best to wait for Apple's handset rather than go with what will likely be trumped in the next few weeks.
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5. Apple's current iPhones are lame ducks
If customers really can't wait to get another smartphone, buying the Galaxy S III or one of Apple's current iPhones might do the trick. However, it should be pointed out that Apple's iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S are lame ducks with features and components that will soon be outdated. There's nothing worse than buying an Apple product, only to have it replaced in a couple of weeks.
6. Windows Phone 8 won't do the trick
Those strongly considering a Windows Phone 8 device will need to wait at least a couple of months before they can get their hands on that operating system. Right now, most Windows Phone 8 devices are expected to be announced in September and likely hit store shelves in October or so. Considering Apple's iPhone 5 will likely launch in September, those looking for a new device sooner rather than later would do better to jump on Apple's handset rather than wait for Microsoft's operating system to launch.
7. RIM is struggling to survive
There was a time when RIM's BlackBerry devices were considered a reasonable alternative to Apple's iPhone. Nowadays, however, that's simply not the case. RIM is dead in the water. And it's a mistake to either own one of the company's products or buy one of them at any point in the future. It's much better to wait for the iPhone and get a device that will still prove relevant for at least the next two years.
8. For the enterprise, it's the only move
Looking around the mobile market, it's hard to find a single device besides those fading RIM handsets that will be as welcome in the enterprise as the iPhone over the next few years. The device is what employees are increasingly bringing into the office as the BYOD craze continues and companies are warming to the idea of supporting it. The iPhone 5 might just be the most popular Apple handset to ever hit the enterprise.
9. Remember Apple's support practices
Getting a new iPhone now or sticking with what you have might prove troublesome down the road. Apple is notorious for requiring its customers to update and after a couple of years, stops supporting certain devices. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the iPhone 3GS and iOS 6. Keep that in mind when deciding whether to buy a new iPhone.
10. What iPhone isn't?
Let's face it: Apple's iPhone is the top smartphone in the world. And with each new launch, Apple delivers something new and exciting that proves worth the wait. With the iPhone 5 just a month away, according to reports, it would only make sense to wait and once again take advantage of Apple's updates.
AT&T 'clearing schedules and ordering all hands on deck through October' in preparation for iPhone 5 launch in late September
+Major Apple announcement scheduled for September 12 in San Francisco
+New iPhone expected to hit store shelves just weeks later
+AT&T rumoured to have ordered 'all hands on deck' and pushed back regional training event to accommodate new iPhone's debut
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Like many other Americans, AT&T is gearing up for the highly-anticipated iPhone 5 launch next month, moving to counter the flood of demand for the device.
The iPhone 5 is set to be unveiled during an Apple press conference in San Francisco on September 12 and go on sale just weeks later.
Apple's last iPhone model, the 4S - which introduced voice recognition system Siri, a new camera and a faster operating system - was introduced in October 2011.
A separate source told the website that a regional training session slated for the first week of October has now been pushed back.
The new iPhone is expected to have a larger 4 inch screen and a more powerful battery than current models.
Some tech insiders believe the iPhone 5 will have a rounder, curvier look than the 4S. Others say it's unlikely that Apple will go back to the rounded 'look' it abandoned before.
It is also believed to be so the new handset can include LTE, a high speed '4G data network giving far faster speeds than current iPhones.
Other rumours surrounding the iPhone point to a larger 4-inch display at a resolution of 1,136 x 640, along with a new two-tone back panel.
While the iPhone 5 launch is highly anticipated, Apple has also come under fire over reports of a smaller dock connector that would force owners to buy an adapter for use with their current dock.
It was revealed last week that Apple was trying to boost its declining sales by matching the $50 discount currently offered by Sprint on all models of the iPhone, dropping the price of the iPhone 4S drops to $150 from $200 when you sign a two-year contract.
A 32GB goes down to $250, 64GB too $350 and the iPhone 4 goes right down to $50.
But you won't find the offer advertised anywhere. This is one of those rare occasions when it's not who you know, but what you know that counts.
The discount will only be applied if you mention the Sprint sale, at which point $50 drops off the total bill.
And it doesn't apply online either, only in store.
Rumours about the technology giant are not exactly rare, but this one, first reported by MacRumours, is for real.
In fact it's likely it was started by Apple itself, in a bid to boost sales after rumours of the soon-to-be-released iPhone 5 saw sales slump.
Would-be-buyers are thought to have put their credit on hold to await the arrival of the next-generation phone, thought to be announced in mid-September.
Cheap Shares, but HTC Deal Is a Hard Sell
By Yun-Hee Kim
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Speculation is rising that HTC Corp. could become a takeover target. But given its sliding market share and murky outlook, the Taiwanese smartphone maker could be a risky bet for any acquirer.
Some analysts contend it would make sense for Chinese smartphone makers such as ZTE Corp., Huawei Technologies Co. or personal-computer-maker Lenovo Group, which is investing heavily in smartphones, to snap up HTC to build up scale, especially outside of China, as they transition to the high-end smartphone market on which HTC has long focused.
HTC has a wide global distribution network and close relations with major operators, making it a "tempting takeover or merger target," said Neil Mawston, executive director at market research firm Strategy Analytics.
Moreover, the shares are cheap. With its share price down more than 50% this year, HTC is cheaper than its peers, trading at more than eight times its forecasted 2012 earnings, compared with 14 times for Apple Inc., 9 times for Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and 16 times for ZTE, according to FactSet data.
But HTC's low valuation and its mostly Android-based product range isn't enough in the fast-moving smartphone sector, where a hit product one year could become obsolete the next.
"It's tough to make deals happen in this space unless you have real intellectual property," said Nikhil Eapen, head of telecommunications, media and technology global banking at Citigroup. He noted that when Google Inc. bought Motorola Mobility Inc. for $12.5 billion in May, it acquired 17,000 patents.
HTC has less than one-10th of that filed with U.S. Patent and Trademark office.
"Potential buyers of HTC could come from telecoms, computing or consumer electronics...but any takeover would be risky because mergers in the mobile-device industry do not have a great track record," Mr. Mawston said.
Showing how difficult it is to integrate a mobile-phone company, Google said Monday it is laying off 4,000 of Motorola Mobility's work force. Earlier this year, a decade-old mobile joint venture between Sony Corp. and Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson of Sweden called Sony Ericsson was dissolved, after the tie-up racked up steep losses and didn't come up with compelling smartphones to compete with Apple and Samsung.
Still, HTC needs to do something. Its share of the global smartphone market has almost halved in the face of competition and weaker demand in the U.S. and Europe, to just 6% of the global market in the second quarter, from 11% a year earlier, according to Strategy Analytics. It has already warned that third-quarter earnings will decline significantly, and falling earnings are cutting into its ability to to develop and market new phones.
If a Chinese company could get Taiwanese regulatory approval to buy HTC, it could accelerate efforts to move into the high-end segment, where smartphones typically cost more than US$400 each.
Huawei is one Chinese maker of phones that is trying to make that switch to higher-end models. Lenovo is spending about $800 million on a new base to house the development, production and sale of mobile products, a relatively new market for it.
Lenovo spokesman Derrick Koh declined to comment when asked whether Lenovo is reviewing an acquisition of HTC, though he noted that "M&A continues to be an important part of our growth."
Spokesmen for HTC and Huawei declined to comment.
For HTC, finding a strong partner will be critical as rivals in the West are quickly aligning themselves with software partners, because features such as apps as well as facial and voice recognition are becoming battle grounds.
HTC has shifted its sales focus to China and India. But without a strong product pipeline in place and its earnings fast deteriorating, analysts say HTC is likely to fall farther behind its rivals. Just this month alone, eight brokerages have reduced their rating on the stock to "sell" or "hold," highlighting that even at a cheap price, HTC could soon become like BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, which is scrambling to stay afloat.
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Apple study reveals carrier loyalty to be main rea
Apple study reveals carrier loyalty to be main reason for Android buys
By Chris Burns
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There's an Apple internal study out there, and revealed today by Samsung, that says your choice of an Android smartphone was likely made because you're loyal to your mobile carrier. In this study, Apple asked consumers back in 2010 why they purchase an Android device. One of the least chosen answers, believe it or not, was that these Android lovers wanted "the latest technology."
Also near the bottom for consumers in this Apple-run study was that people chose Android because it had turn-by-turn GPS navigation. This study very well may have been part of the reason why Apple's version of Maps (Google Maps powered though it was) has thus far not had turn-by-turn navigation onboard. Another of the least-chosen answers to the question was that people "wanted the latest and greatest smartphone."
Up near the top you'll see that this study found - far and away, actually - that consumers purchasing Android devices did so because they "wanted to stay with [their] current wireless service provider." This answer had 48% of those surveyed answering that yes, this was a reason why they chose an Android smartphone or tablet - more likely a smartphone is what they were speaking about given the year, but the iPad was certainly right at the back of their minds as well.
* Wanted to stay with current wireless service provider: 48%
* Trusted the Google brand: 36%
* Preferred larger screen: 30%
* Preferred the Android market for apps (Gmail, Google Docs, Google-Voice): 27%
* Wanted better integration with google services: 26%
* Wanted the latest and greatest smartphone: 26%
* Wanted turn by turn GPS navigation: 25%
* Wanted the latest technology: 25%
Those who trusted Google's brand were next with a 36% agreement rate and 30% of responders said they preferred a larger screen, and that this was why they chose Android. Right in the middle of this list was the question of whether their choice of Android was due to them preferring the Android Market (now called Google Play) for apps, these including Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Voice as examples - this answer has a 27% share.
Keep in mind again that this study was done internally at Apple in 2010, while the original iPhone was released in 2007. The first Verizon iPhone wasn't released until 2011 - this being the first non-AT&T version of an iPhone here in the United States. Take from that what you will!
Apple vs. Samsung trial reveals sales numbers
By Ben Kersey
Apple and Samsung are currently duking it out in court over various patent infringement allegations, and as part of the proceedings the two companies have had to submit detailed sales numbers for their smartphones and tablets. Apple normally reveals how many iPhones and iPads it has shipped during its quarterly earnings results, but this is the first time we're getting a closer look at some of Samsung's sales numbers along with detailed breakdowns in the United States.
Information submitted by Samsung indicates that between June 2010 and June 2012, 21.25 million phones were sold in the United States, generating a total revenue of $7.5 billion. The best selling Samsung smartphone is the Galaxy Prevail, a prepaid device available on Boost Mobile, shifting a total of 2.25 million units. Samsung's range of Galaxy S II devices across all the US carriers sold 4.1 million units combined.
Samsung's range of Galaxy Tabs didn't seem to do nearly as well. They sold 1.4 million in total, generating a much lower revenue of $644 million. That contrasts sharply with Apple, with the company selling 34 million iPads in the United States since 2010, generating $19 billion in revenue. The company also managed to shift 85 million iPhones and 46 million iPod touches for a combined revenue of $60.3 billion.
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The thrust of Apple's legal argument is that Samsung directly copied elements from the iPhone for its range of Galaxy smartphones, from the design of the handset to the app icons. Apple argues that consumers are confused as a result, with previous evidence suggesting a large number of Samsung Galaxy Tab returns at Best Buy stores were a result of customers not being able to distinguish the product from an iPad.
Apple offered licensing deal to Samsung, wanted $30 per phone
By Eric Abent
Apple and Samsung may currently be duking it out in the court room, but a freshly-surfaced Apple presentation from 2010 shows that the iPhone maker tried to strike a licensing deal with Samsung long before the jury became involved. Apple, as many of you already know, is taking Samsung to court over allegedly copying the iPhone in its own devices, but this new presentation shows that Apple tried to resolve the dispute by offering to license its patents to Samsung. Given the fact that Apple is currently suing Samsung for $2.5 billion, it seems that negotiations didn't go so well.
AllThingsD reports that Apple patent licensing director Boris Teksler referenced the October 2010 presentation during his testimony yesterday. The presentation shows that Apple was asking for $30 on each Samsung smartphone sold (dubbed "advanced mobile computing device" in the presentation), and $40 for each Samsung tablet. If Samsung had agreed, Apple was projecting that it could have made $250 million from the licensing deal in 2010, a figure which can hardly be considered chump change.
Apple was willing to give Samsung discounts on royalties too, seeing as how it considered Samsung a "strategic supplier." For instance, Samsung could have enjoyed a 20% discount if it chose to cross-license its own patent portfolio to Apple. Phones using an Apple-licensed OS were good for a 40% discount, and phones that didn't use proprietary features - Apple references the Samsung Blackjack II in its presentation, which has a physical QWERTY keyboard - would have qualified for another 20% off.
Samsung, obviously, wanted nothing to do with this licensing deal, and Teksler said in his testimony that none other than Steve Jobs and Tim Cook were driven to confront Samsung executives about the similarities between the Galaxy S and the iPhone. Hopefully Samsung made the right choice in turning down that licensing deal, because if it loses this case, it could end up owing Apple a lot more than it would have been paying in royalties. Samsung is set to begin calling its own witnesses to the stand on Monday, so keep an ear to SlashGear for more information on this high-profile trial.
Apple patents licensed to Microsoft while Samsung declined
By Chris Burns
It seems that one of the bigger stories to come out of the Apple vs Samsung trail over the past few days has gotten just a bit more complicated, as the patents Apple offered to Samsung several years ago - the same that are on trial now - were also offered to Microsoft. As Apple's director of patent licensing and strategy Boris Teksler noted in the case, Microsoft and Apple have had a long-running cross-licensing deal going in which all of the patents in the case at hand were and are included. With that deal came "specific rules" in which both companies are not allowed to make "clone" products.
In this Microsoft / Apple licensing deal, Teksler notes that "there's a clear acknowledgment that there's no cloning", this same sort of deal having been offered to Samsung some years ago. Samsung objected noting that Apple had made no mention of their design patents when they met with them at this licensing deal several years ago. Apple responded with the idea that some of those patents were still pending at the time, with several having only been granted years later.
Teksler also noted that Apple never planned on offering up everything they had, "clone" clause or not.
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"We were clear we weren't offering a license to everything. We had yet to discuss some what we termed 'untouchables,' if you will. … We wanted to get properly compensated for that which was infringed, and with respect to our unique user experience. That's exactly what we were trying to do with this presentation." - Teksler
This is one of the last points of "attack" Apple will be able to go on as Samsung's side of the trial, if you will, begins this week. Apple's segment was essentially played out throughout the week previous to this one, while Samsung will call witnesses and experts to the stand Monday through Friday. Stay tuned as it all goes down right here on SlashGear!
Windows Phone 8 hardware to compete with Android's best. Maybe
By Marco Chiappetta
Images and specifications of the supposed successor to Nokia's Lumia 800 suggest that the initial batch of Windows Phone 8 devices are going to go head-to-head with some of the more powerful Android-based smartphones on the market.
Microsoft has already disclosed quite a few details regarding Windows Phone 8. The biggest news was that Windows Phone 8 would use the NT Kernel, but Microsoft also disclosed that its upcoming mobile OS will support multi-core processors, higher resolutions, NFC, customizable home screen tiles, and sport seamless SkyDrive integration, among a number of other details. The first device shown publicly running Windows Phone 8, however, was clearly a prototype design vehicle that would never hit retail. It was thick and bulky, with sharp edges and a relatively large bezel.
Some details of a reported Nokia-built device have recently emerged, though, that shed more light on the direction Windows Phone 8-based hardware is headed.
The leaked pictures of Nokia's supposed first Windows Phone 8 device seems to show a smartphone with a 4.5-inch to 4.65-inch screen. It's difficult to say for sure, but holding a sampling of smartphones in my own hand, with my fingers in the exact same position as the person in the leaked image, lead me to believe the phone is similar in size to the HTC One X, which has a 4.7-inch screen. The amount of overhang over the pinky is the clearest indicator of the phone's size.
Based on my highly scientific hand-modeling method, I estimate that the Nokia device in the picture appears to be much bigger than either the HTC Touch Pro 2 (3.6-inch screen) or HTC Inspire 4G (4.3-inch screen), and somewhat larger than a Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket (4.6-inch screen). Unless the person in the photo has tiny hands, the phone in the image is likely much larger than the Lumia 800 (3.5-inch screen), which the upcoming Windows Phone 8 device is obviously modeled after. The resolution of the screen hasn't been reported, but in light of competing offerings with similar screen sizes, a 720P resolution is a possibility.
Other leaked details suggest the phone will have a Qualcomm dual-core SoC, an external MicrsoSD card slot, and support for NFC and LTE. Based on those details, the phone is most likely powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, which also happens to be used in the two most powerful Android-based devices currently on the market in the U.S.: the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X. Clock speeds and memory capacity weren't reported either, but I suspect Microsoft and its partners are going to make the spec sheets for the initial batch of Windows Phone 8-based devices comparable to anything the competition has to offer. Speeds of 1.5GHz+ and at least 1GB of memory are safe bets.
Although Windows Phone 7 didn't need (or even support) multi-core processors and performed very well with only 512MB of RAM, I had suggested in this very blog that Microsoft's hardware partners would want to bolster the specifications of their next-gen devices to make them appear more competitive, at least on paper. If these initial indicators hold true, it seems Microsoft partners - or at least Nokia - are going to do just that. We'll all know for sure in a few more weeks.
I can't help but miss Google Now on the HTC One X
By Taylor Martin
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If you've been following my weekly Official Smartphone Rankings(TM) each week, you've likely discovered that I absolutely love the HTC One X. It has been my #1 choice since it launched back in May, and not even the Samsung Galaxy S III has been enough to sway me in any other direction. It is my top choice in phone, and it's there to stay for the foreseeable future.
From the inside out, I love what HTC has done with the One series; they dug deep to get back to their roots and focus more on what matters, quality over quantity, performance and durability.
Granted, there are some aspects of each One device that could definitely be improved upon (like the cameras, for instance). I explained back in June that there is no perfect 10 consumer device … and there may never be one, for all we know. In my opinion, however, the HTC One X is the closest thing to perfect for me and my needs. I prefer its S-LCD2 720p display over the HD Super AMOLED on the Galaxy S III. I prefer the unibody design over a cheap, lightweight and flimsy plastic chassis. And I can live with Sense UI, whereas TouchWiz has always been one of my least favorite Android customizations.
While I could definitely go for some more storage space and battery life at times, I thoroughly enjoy the One X and have been, for the most part, content with it since day one. (I say "for the most part" because the first unit I received had a dud battery. Ever since replacing it, I have been thoroughly happy with it and its battery life.)
That said, last month, I asked whether software or hardware is more important. I explained that I have had a terrible time choosing between the Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean and the One X with Ice Cream Sandwich, Sense-flavored. The consensus I came to back then was that software ultimately won. While I would much rather choose the hardware on the One X, I found myself erring on the side of the Nexus due to its stock Android 4.1 software.
When I started the Voice Input Challenge, though, I chose to carry three handsets: an iPhone 4S, One X and a Galaxy Nexus. I typically only carry two phones with me every day. But I wanted to actively try the two different Android phones since there were some pretty significant changes in dictation software between Android 4.0 and 4.1. After the challenge, I kept my primary AT&T SIM in the One X and started leaving the Galaxy Nexus at home when I set out for the day. (There is simply no need for a third line. A second line is excessive, I will admit. But a third? That's above and beyond, and it's not even convenient.)
Almost immediately, I started to miss one feature of the Galaxy Nexus and Jelly Bean: Google Now.
To be fair, the One X has voice search, which I have been using quite often. But that's not the problem. The problem is that it's not as easily accessible from anywhere within the operating system (a la slide gesture up from the home button), and it's not as feature-packed as the automated personal assistant service dubbed Google Now.
To quickly access Google Now on the Galaxy Nexus or Nexus 7, you simply slide your finger up from the home button. Google Now appears and immediately gives you any pertinent information based on time, location, any of your upcoming appointments and the other various things it has learned about you. I don't get that on my One X. I don't get automatic traffic reports for my commute home every day. I don't get weather updates each time I go for a Google search. And I don't get results nearly as fast or in such a consumable, easy-to-understand (card) format.
It may seem like a petty complaint. But I seriously miss Google Now when I'm using my One X. I have become attached to how quick and painless Google Now and the Google voice search in Android 4.1 are. Over the weekend, Evan asked, "If you had to choose, would you pick Google Now or Siri?" The fact that I'm consistently switching back to an older phone to continue using Google Now while I have had Siri at my side all along and haven't cared to use it is a pretty clear testament to where I stand. And it should serve well as a testament to the power of Google Now.
To be clear, I could hack and mod my One X to retrofit it with Google Now. But that's neither the point or something I'm willing to do at this time. The point is: I have one of the newest Android smartphones available and there will likely be another four or so months before the One X (or any other high-end Android phone, for that matter) officially receives the Jelly Bean update. And thus, it will be the same amount of time before I have Google Now officially on my One X. That's a shame considering the usefulness and potential of Google Now.
I'm not sure what I will end up doing in the end, but I still find myself trying to balance the two devices on a single line. Carrying three devices every day is not the answer and neither is switching back and forth every couple days. But I'm having trouble coping without Google Now. And likewise, I'm having trouble settling with the hardware of the Galaxy Nexus.
Google Now may not be one of my favorite Android features … yet. But the power of voice input is definitely one that is continually growing in importance, and Google Now is undoubtedly one of the more impressive context aware voice search utilities to surface of late.
Tell me, ladies and gentlemen. Is voice search all that important to you? Do you find yourself growing attached to Google's voice search? Siri? Google Now? Do you miss your voice search of choice when it's unavailable? Have you changed phones (or respective software) just to get a taste of the latest voice input tech?
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The 3 secret ingredients to Android success
The 3 secret ingredients to Android success
By JR Raphael
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We knew it was coming, and today it begins: Google is finally starting to put its stamp on Motorola Mobility.
The first steps in the Motorola makeover are somewhat bittersweet: Google revealed this morning it'd cut 4,000 jobs from Motorola's existing workforce in order to better focus the company on "innovative and profitable" high-end devices. It's likely the first of many changes we'll see following Google's acquisition of Motorola earlier this year.
As Motorola's new focus falls into place, I thought it'd be a good time to look at what helps certain Android manufacturers succeed while others struggle. Samsung is dominating the smartphone market, eclipsing other phone-makers both within Android and beyond -- so what's it doing that everyone else isn't?
The truth is that Samsung's Galaxy S III isn't insanely better than HTC's One X -- the two phones are pretty equally matched, and in many respects, the One X actually has the upper edge -- yet the GSIII is selling like hotcakes while HTC is watching its profits plummet.
So what lessons can Motorola take from Samsung's success? Creating quality products with enticing designs is a given; HTC has done that as much as anyone and still isn't thriving. Here, then, are the secret ingredients Samsung is using that other Android manufacturers haven't figured out. Listen closely, Motorola.
It may seem obvious, but if you make one high-end product your primary focus, it's going to have a better chance of standing out from the pack and succeeding. Samsung certainly makes a lot of phones beyond the Galaxy S III -- it had somewhere around 94 gazillion different models, last I counted -- but none of them gets anywhere near the level of love and attention the flagship GSIII phone receives.
Even before the Google acquisition, Motorola said it was going to stop flooding the market with new devices every other week and focus instead on a small group of "core" products. Its then-CEO made that declaration last January; Motorola then proceeded to launch a whopping 27 devices over the course of 2011. Something doesn't add up.
New Google-migrated CEO Dennis Woodside seems set on actually living up to the company's previous promise: Woodside says he intends to ship only a few key products per year, making sure each one pops for its standout hardware features.
That's focus. But that's only a third of the battle.
You know what really sets the Galaxy S III apart from the One X? The fact that you can find it almost anywhere you look.
Samsung's managed to get its flagship device on all the major U.S. carriers, and that's an enormous win. The notion of carrier-exclusive smartphones is both dated and dumb; it benefits the carriers while limiting choice for consumers -- and limiting potential for manufacturers, too. As mobile technology grows increasingly advanced and important to our lives, this sort of one-sided arrangement looks increasingly ridiculous.
The One X may be a damn fine phone, but if someone isn't on AT&T in the U.S., it isn't an option. And that kills an awful lot of its opportunity for success. Ubiquity and focus go hand in hand: If you make a single high-end device your priority, you're going to do everything you can to make sure everyone can get it.
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This last ingredient may be the biggest of all -- and for whatever reason, it's one Android-focused companies have by and large failed to grasp.
I'm talking about marketing. If there's one area in which Apple consistently excels (well, nearly all of the time), this is it: From its lavish and secretive "special events" to its massive (and massively effective) ad campaigns, there's no denying the iGang's success in this realm.
Why do you think so many people -- consumers and tech writers alike -- religiously repeat phrases like "magical," "revolutionary," and "it just works"? Those are all key marketing phrases Apple's worked hard to hammer home, both in ads and in presentations. Now, countless people chant them as mantras without even realizing they're regurgitating carefully constructed marketing messages. In reality, Apple stuff often doesn't "just work" -- but at this point, that's almost irrelevant.
With its Galaxy S III launch, Samsung strived for a similar sort of controlled impression. From prelaunch buzz to a lavish launch event and Olympic-sized promotional push, Samsung has done everything it can to make sure its phone is seen as the hot new device to own right now. And by most appearances, its efforts have paid off. Do you really think, for example, that every non-Android-focused tech writer legitimately concluded the Galaxy S III was hands-down the best Android phone available -- no ifs, ands, or buts about it? Probably not. But they sure as hell thought that's what they were supposed to think. And that's what solid marketing can do.
From the marketing itself to the mainstream media coverage it influences, Samsung has molded public perception of its product in a way no Android device has done since the original Motorola Droid. The company's message is everywhere. That makes all the difference in the world.
Put it all together...
When you combine these three ingredients -- focus, ubiquity, and marketing -- you've got a recipe for success. These three things are what set Samsung's Galaxy S III apart from other equally impressive phones like the HTC One X. It's not just the technology; it's how it's presented.
If Motorola can achieve the kind of focus, ubiquity, and marketing Samsung has delivered -- while putting out the kind of top-notch smartphone experiences it's perfectly capable of providing -- there's no reason it can't match or even surpass Samsung's level of success. Heck, maybe our friends at HTC can watch what happens and learn a thing or two as well.
In the end, Android is all about choice and diversity, and healthy competition among multiple manufacturers is a key part of that equation. I'm optimistic Motorola can re-establish itself as a prominent player in the game -- and that other skilled but struggling device-makers can follow its lead.
Your move, Motorola.
Nokia's Asset Sales: Every Little Bit Helps
By Saibus Research
We previously published a series of reports analyzing Nokia Corporation's (NOK) struggles. We actually considered investing in it 10 years ago when we purchased our first cellular phone, which was a Nokia. We can't repeat enough how Nokia has seen a reversal of fortune since 2006. Should it have retained its sponsorship of the Sugar Bowl college football bowl classic? Should it have hired Catherine Zeta Jones as spokeswoman when T-Mobile declined to renew her contract? Should it have sold Nokia Networks to Siemens (SI) instead of acquiring Siemens's telecom equipment business? Was it a mistake for Jorma Ollila to tap some lawyer to succeed him as CEO and President in 2006? Citigroup (C) had a larger than life CEO (Sandy Weill) just like Nokia and it tapped a lawyer to succeed Weill, just like Nokia did with Ollila? Should Ollila have taken more proactive steps to arrest Nokia's decline after he stepped down as CEO in 2006 but remained as Chairman from 2006-2012? Did Ollila stick around too long as CEO? In hindsight, we are wondering if Sandy Weill stuck around too long at Citigroup and if he should have sent a certified letter to James Dimon in Chicago nine years ago during Dimon s Midwestern Exile that simply said "Dear Jamie, Please come back. All is forgiven. I'm sorry if I hurt you in any way. Sincerely, your old buddy Sandy". Coincidentally, Ollila was a former Citibank banker as well as Sandy Weill and Jamie.
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Did Nokia spend too much of its research and development resources on the research side and not enough on development? Despite spending $40B for research and development versus $10B for Apple (AAPL) over the last decade, Nokia has been in its own lost half-decade since 2006. When we reconsidered investing in Nokia in February, the stock price had declined significantly from when we were looking at it in 2002. Then again, Nokia's fortunes had taken a similar decline as well. When we were looking at it in February, those aforementioned questions we enunciated here were some of the many questions we had with regards to Nokia's prospects. While Nokia has bounced off its lowest reached around the time it released its Q2 2012 results, we find that the company still has a lot of question marks hanging over it like a Sword of Damocles.
Because we are a progressive, fair-minded, objective and independent research firm, we pride ourselves on taking a fair and balanced approach to investments. We even like to quote John Maynard Keynes's alleged famous quote about how when the facts change, he changes his opinion. Regardless of whether Keynes said it or if it should be attributed to another economist, we think it's a useful quote to incorporate into our research and analysis. In addition to Keynes being the father of Keynesian economics, he was alleged to have been skilled in managing money and was an early influence to Warren Edward Buffett himself. While we think it is too early to declare that Nokia has turned itself around, we can certainly take note of when good things happen to otherwise poor performing companies.
As everyone knows, Nokia announced on August 9th that it sold 500 of its patents to Vringo (VRNG), a company that provides a range of software products for mobile video entertainment, personalization and mobile social applications. Because Vringo is an early development stage start-up that has lost $43M since its inception and since it only had $3.6M in the bank as of March 31st, it had to issue 9.6M shares at a price of $3.25 per share in order to pay the $22M price for those patents. The deal is scheduled to close on September 14th 2012. Also, as part of the deal, Nokia will get 35% royalties from Vringo to the extent that the revenue generated from Vringo's new patent portfolio exceeds $22M. The Patent Purchase Agreement provides that Nokia and its affiliates will retain a non-exclusive, worldwide and fully paid-up license (without the right to grant sublicenses) to the portfolio for the sole purpose of supplying (as defined in the Patent Purchase Agreement) Nokia's products. The Patent Purchase Agreement also provides that if Vringo brings a proceeding against Nokia or its affiliates within seven years, Nokia shall have the right to re-acquire the patent portfolio for a nominal amount. We're pleased that Nokia isn't afraid to monetize its patent portfolio in order to help bolster its liquidity resources. The market was pleased as well as shown by Nokia's share price increasing by 9.36% on September 9th. We are disappointed that Nokia is probably more likely to realize value for its stakeholders by selling off its patents than by competing in the mobile device business against Apple (AAPL) and other device makers. We think it goes back to Nokia's culture of heavy investment in research and lack of resources and interest devoted to execution and development. We are absolutely shocked, shocked that Nokia outspent Apple 4-1 on research and development and yet Nokia and Apple have seen a reversal of each other's fortunes.
Nokia also announced that it agreed to sell its Qt software business to Finnish IT services firm Digia Oyj. Neither company disclosed the value of the deal and analysts surmised that it was a fraction of the $150M Nokia paid for Norway's Trolltech in 2008. Qt software is used by 450K developers to make software applications with a graphical interface for 70 industries. Qt software was a central part of its strategy until 2011 when it decided to swap its own smartphone software for Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone and the Lumia smartphone series. Digia had previously purchased the Qt commercial licensing agreement last year and will now own. This deal is also expected to close in September as well as the patent sale. Once Digia takes control of the rest of the Qt software business, it plans to enable the Qt software development platform to be used in Google's (GOOG) Android, Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating systems.
As Nokia is expected to make €1.9B in restructuring charges over the next 2 years, we believe it was prudent for the company to prune its non-core assets in order to aid with the restructuring in order to make it a more mobile and agile mobile device vendor. The Qt software development platform was largely used for Symbian (AKA the Burning Platform itself) and was made redundant when Nokia jumped into the cold foreboding waters of Microsoft's Windows Phone Platform.
In conclusion, we see the asset sales as a positive factor for Nokia. We're not ready to say that the company has turned itself around. We have seen a number of missteps by Stephen Elop since he has become CEO of Nokia. We believe that the performance of Nokia will be extremely binary based on its dependence on Microsoft and the Windows Phone Platform. At least Nokia did the right thing by holding its annual Nokia World Event on September 5th, one week before Apple. We believe that there is a significant level of execution risk in Nokia's shares due to its reliance on Microsoft and the Windows Phone 8. If Nokia mishandles this product launch the same way it handled the retirement of Symbian and the introduction of Windows Phone 7, it will sink into irrelevancy like the BlackBerry.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.
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Additional disclosure: Saibus Research has not received compensation directly or indirectly for expressing the recommendation in this report. Under no circumstances must this report be considered an offer to buy, sell, subscribe for or trade securities or other instruments.
Electronic Arts: New Windows central to mobile games
By BLOOMBERG NEWS
Electronic Arts Inc., the second- largest U.S. video-game maker, is in talks with Microsoft Corp. to bring mobile games to the next version of Windows as it sees the operating system as central to its handset strategy.
"We're working very closely with Microsoft to understand what their views on gaming navigation are," Chief Operating Officer Peter Moore said in a phone interview. "Anything that allows more platforms to be adopted quickly that have a gaming element is good for Electronic Arts." The Redwood City, California-based company is counting on games on phones and tablet computers as well as Internet-based games as it tries to reduce reliance on boxed retail products. The mobile version of Windows 8, due later this year, is also central to Nokia Oyj's plan to revive smartphone sales amid competition from Apple Inc.'s iPhone and devices running Google Inc.'s Android software.
Nokia plans to announce its new line of smartphones using the Windows Phone 8 operating system as early as next month and offer them for sale before the year-end holiday shopping season, a person with knowledge of the matter said this month.
Moore was speaking before the annual Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany, this week, where Electronic Arts will show a new version of city-building simulator "SimCity" as well as updates to its "FIFA Soccer," "Medal of Honor" and "'Need for Speed'' titles. He said the company is on the lookout for more acquisitions after purchasing game makers including PopCap Games Inc. and Playfish Inc.
''We're in a very strong position with our balance sheet and we're never afraid to use it if the opportunity arises," Moore said. "We're always looking at opportunities for us to strengthen our development capabilities, maybe our IP and maybe our technology backbone" including middleware and network technology.
Up for some rough and tumble
By LEE SUCKLING
Motorola's Defy is a revelation in mobile technology for New Zealanders - it is dustproof, scratch resistant (with Corning Gorilla Glass), and can be completely submerged in water. It beacons a new trend in mobile technology, as manufacturers finally realise that most of us are clumsy and struggle to keep our phones in pristine condition.
There is also a market of consumers that needs rugged phones more than the average Kiwi - tradesmen. Increasingly prominent in Christchurch, contractors and those who work outdoors in temperamental environments need mobile phones that can withstand drops, knocks, and splashes. However, the new Defy isn't quite enough, says one Cantabrian consumer.
'The market has now been completely dominated by smartphones which are internet and entertainment-focused, but [manufacturers and networks] have completely forgotten about those of us that still work in talk- dominant environments,' he told Fairfax Media.
For this consumer, the Defy doesn't suffice - he is still worried about having an exposed screen. 'There have been several phones in the past - the Sanyo 7050, for example - that are of flip (clamshell) design and are ideal for the kinds of work we do because they are truly 'rugged' by complying to US Military Standard 810.'
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The old 7050 has been available through Telecom and can sometimes be found on Trade Me. However, it should be noted that the use of "compliant to US Military Standard 810" is deceptive. While this standard can be obtained to provide test procedures, there is no MIL-STD- 810 compliance agency to officially certify any consumer product, meaning phone manufacturers use the claim as an unwarranted marketing tool.
However, those in need of the toughest of tough phones have other options.
New Zealand mobile networks offer a couple of suitable alternatives to the Motorola Defy (and Defy+), which retail at $599 from Telecom and 2degrees.
On Telecom, there is the option of the house-branded Telecom R54 ($249), which is independently certified with IP54 protection, the International Protection standard of shock, dust, and water resistance.
Withstanding splashes, dust and mud, the phone's internal circuitry is safe, and the battery cover is even locked down with a screw.
Vodafone offers the Samsung B2710 ($199), which is IP67 certified - heralding almost complete protection from the elements, so it is all-but-absolutely safe in environments such as dusty building sites.
It's also submersible in up to one metre of water for up to 30 minutes. Unless you actually want to drive over your phone with a truck or throw it into a lake, this model should meet the requirements of most tradesmen.
Some consumers may be wondering which rugged phones are in use by New Zealand's military and emergency services, and how such can be obtained.
NZ Police and the NZDF have confirmed primary communication from field staff is Radio Technology (RT), not cellular phones. For the police, mobile phones are just a secondary option. 'We don't issue 'rugged' phones to staff - just standard models,' says Grant Ogilvie, of the police. 'Some staff might obtain a protective casing for their work phone, and some may have a personal phone which is of the 'rugged' variety.'
New Zealand networks are understandably reluctant to import phones for individual customers, so if there is a very particular model available overseas that you want, you can buy it online yourself from an international website.
This does come with certain risks around compatibility to New Zealand networks, though. While you won't need to be a tech genius to configure a phone yourself, you will need to be somewhat savvy, although Vodafone's model- specific configuration section of its website makes it as straightforward as possible.
Vodafone will also configure an international phone in store for a fee. Consumers should beware, however; there are some issues that can't be resolved with some phones from selected countries. Problems can include dropped/missed calls and call quality issues, delayed text messages and PXT problems.
With few models on New Zealand shelves, and the expectant risk around buying online from overseas, the alternate option is to buy a parallel import. Parallel imported phones are all configured to Vodafone and 2degrees networks, and selected models are configured to Telecom's XT. These imports also come with warranties and refund policies, so are a good option for Kiwis to get the ideal mobile to suit their purpose.
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Lenovo Intros ThinkPad X1 Carbon, T430u Ultrabooks
Lenovo Intros ThinkPad X1 Carbon, T430u Ultrabooks
by Kevin Parrish
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In addition to announcing its first Windows 8 tablet, Lenovo revealed on Thursday the ThinkPad X1 Carbon for the high-end Ultrabook market, and the ThinkPad T430u for the small business Ultrabook market. Both are slated to arrive sometime this month, starting at $1,299 and $779 respectively, through business partners and www.lenovo.com.
Lenovo is calling its new ThinkPad X1 Carbon the "world's lightest" 14-inch Ultrabook, packing a 14-inch display within a 13-inch form factor. Forged from carbon fiber, it features a backlit keyboard, a multi-gesture glass surface touchpad, an HD face-tracking camera, dual array microphones and Dolby-tuned audio.
"Business-ready with Intel vPro technology, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is among the first Ultrabooks to offer true corporate-level security and manageability," Lenovo said on Thursday. "For expansion capabilities and to manage unsightly cables, users can dock it via Lenovo's new USB 3 Dock. Additionally, Lenovo offers a variety of Service and Support packages such as custom imaging, extended warranties and accidental damage protection."
Starting at $1,299, the Ultrabook offers up to 3rd-generation Intel Core i7 processors, up to 6.3 hours of battery life, up to a 256 GB SSD, and up to 8 GB of RAM, depending on your budget. There are also options for a fingertip reader, TPM and BIOS encryption, mobile hotspot network sharing, and various ports including one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, a mini-DisplayPort with audio, and a 4-in-1 SD card reader.
As for the ThinkPad T430u, this Ultrabook "powers the business and personal computing needs" of today's small-to-medium businesses. Starting at $779, it's configurable with a unique combination of Nvidia GeForce graphics and 1 TB of storage. It also features the Lenovo Solution Center for Small Business, which includes Intel Small Business Advantage that provides hardware-based capabilities to improve productivity and enhance security.
"This diagnostic center helps users self manage backup and recovery, passwords, Internet connections, anti-virus software, firewall settings and devices," Lenovo said.
Business owners can configure the Ultrabook with up to a 3rd-generation Intel Core i7 CPU, up to 1 TB of HDD or 128 GB SSD capacities, and up to 8 GB of RAM. It comes with an integrated Intel GPU, but there's the option for adding Nvidia's GeForce GT620 1 GB discrete graphics. The Ultrabook also features a 14-inch HD display, Dolby Home Theater v4, and up to 7.1 hours of battery life.
Lenovo said the new Ultrabook sports robust security features including BIOS Port Lock and a USB Blocker. It also offers superior Web conferencing with a face-tracking 720p HD webcam, dual-array microphones, and keyboard noise suppression. RapidBoot 2.0, Mobile Hotspot capabilities, and a variety of ports round out a nice business package.
In addition to the two Ultrabooks, Lenovo is calling on all app developers to create a specialized catalog well-suited for Windows 8.
"The Lenovo Developer Program, the company's first worldwide software developer program, will create a specialized catalog of apps that take advantage of unique features of Lenovo's devices designed for Windows 8," the company announced. "The program takes advantage of the unique Lenovo capabilities across the company's PC+ devices, from laptops to tablets to smart phones and smart TVs. It also gives developers access to Lenovo tools and technologies, development support and an easy way to deploy and merchandise their apps with revenue opportunities in the Windows Store and other platforms."
Developers can pre-register for the Lenovo Developer Program starting today at www.Lenovo.com/dev.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 With Stylus Coming in October
By: Michelle Maisto
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Lenovo introduced the ThinkPad Tablet 2 at an Aug. 8 event celebrating "20 years of innovation." Robust and business-ready, the tablet features a 10.1-inch display, an Intel processor, Microsoft Windows 8 and a stylus topped with the telltale ThinkPad red dot.
Lenovo celebrated the 20th anniversary of its ThinkPad line by introducing the ThinkPad Tablet 2, a 10.1-inch tablet that's Lenovo's answer to the Microsoft Surface, if not also the Apple iPad, and announcing the creation of a developer program for applications specialized for Lenovo devices.
The Tablet 2 will ship in October, following the introduction of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, which the tablet will run.
"This is the tablet that the industry has been waiting for," Dilip Bhatia, vice president and general manager of Lenovo's business unit, told journalists at a Aug. 8 event at New York City's Museum of Modern Art, which features an early ThinkPad in its permanent design collection. Lenovo bought the ThinkPad line, along with all of IBM's PC division, in 2005.
The ThinkPad Tablet 2 weighs just over a pound, measures 9.88mm thin, runs an Intel Clover Trail processor, has embedded 3G and the option of 4G, a full-size USB port, a microSD slot, a mini High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port and+slid into a corner of the device+a stylus. This could almost go unnoticed, were it not for its distinctive, ThinkPad red-dotted tip.
"And it's not a fake-finger pen; this is a real pen," said Bhatia. "Truly, this tablet is designed for professionals and designed for real life."
Samsung, which in a now-crowded tablet market has established itself as the No. 2 player behind Apple, reintroduced consumers to the stylus with its Galaxy Note, an either sort-of-tablet or overly large smartphone with a 5.3-inch display. The Note sought to make the stylus cool, both by making it smarter and easier to use and tying it to applications that both complement it and enable users to add greater personalization to their content.
Samsung may have reintroduced mobile users to the stylus, but its boast-worthy features, said a Lenovo spokesperson at the event, are capabilities that Lenovo styluses have had since 1992.
In June, Microsoft potentially alienated partners such as Lenovo when it stepped out of its role as software maker and introduced the Surface tablet. And indeed, Acer CEO J.T. Wang has been quoted by the Financial Times as saying that it will "create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction."
Roger Kay, principal analyst with EndPoint Technologies told eWEEK, "The Surface set the bar for non-Apple tablets. But there's a question about what the Surface really is; is it just a way to stimulate the industry?"
If so, it seems to have worked. While Microsoft will launch a consumer-geared version of Surface in October, the ThinkPad Tablet 2 is ready for business and will even be able to run existing apps. It can be docked and attached to peripherals, as well as connected to a portable keyboard.
"Who's going to use this? Everyone. The use cases are tremendous," said Bhatia. He added, "This is a fantastic time in the industry."
A little lost behind the excitement surrounding the Tablet 2 was the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, a sub-3-pound Ultrabook that fits a 14-inch display into a 13-inch laptop design. According to Lenovo, it's the world's lightest 14-inch Ultrabook, made of a carbon fiber that's "200 percent stronger than anything out there," said Bhatia.
It will go on sale in August, Lenovo officially confirmed, at a starting price of $1,299.
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As for the Lenovo Developer Program, it's the company's first such worldwide effort and is focused on creating a catalog of specialized apps that "take advantage of unique features of Lenovo's Windows 8 products," the company said in a statement.
The program, Lenovo added, will take advantage of the company's range of devices, from laptops and tablets to smartphones and televisions. Lenovo plans to offer developers support and "an easy way" to deploy and merchandise their apps.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 Missing the Only Spec That Counts
By Tony Bradley
Lenovo has revealed it's planned Windows 8 Pro tablet--the ThinkPad Tablet 2. It seems to have reasonable specs for running Windows 8, but Lenovo failed to provide the key information that everyone is really interested in: the price.
The ThinkPad Tablet 2 boasts an Intel Atom processor (although Lenovo didn't provide any more specific details about exactly which one(s) it plans to offer) in a 10.1-inch tablet a mere 0.39 inches thick and weighing in at only 1.3 pounds. The ThinkPad 2 will also have a micro SD memory card slot, mini HDMI and USB 2.0 ports, and a docking connector, along with a 2 megapixel front, and 8 megapixel rear camera.
Impressive? Who knows. Specs don't matter in the real world. Rivals of the iPad have been beating the Apple tablet on paper since the tablet wars began, yet almost none of them have delivered a tablet experience even remotely close to what the iPad has to offer.
As if that's not bad enough, most of the iPad rivals have had retail price tags on par with the iPad--or even higher. If the base iPad is $500, and an alternate tablet with better specs that beats it on paper retails for $600 it seems like a reasonable comparison. The continued success and dominance of the iPad, and the anemic sales of all competitors suggests otherwise, though.
There are two reasons rival tablets have to be more aggressive with pricing. First, there is a perception that Apple products are expensive. The iPhone, iPad, iMac, MacBooks and other Apple gear have earned some sort of badge of elitism. The current reality doesn't seem to support the theory any more, but in the mind of consumers Apple products are expected to cost more, which makes a rival tablet retailing at the same price as an iPad seem expensive by comparison.
The second+as mentioned above+is that it's about experience, not specs. How responsive is the touchscreen display? Are there quality apps available to do what you need to do? Does it work smoothly and seamlessly with your other devices and data? There are competitors finally able to rival Apple in this area, but most tablets fall short.
That isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, though. It's OK to miss the mark a bit on the performance of the tablet as long as it's reflected in the most important spec: the price. Someone who pays $500 for an iPad competitor may be disappointed, but if that same tablet only cost $300 it could be a tremendous bargain.
Look at the success of the Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7. Granted they're smaller tablets so you'd expect them to cost less anyway, but both are solid illustrations that a reasonable tablet priced right can be a huge success.
That brings us back to the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. How will it compare against the Microsoft Surface? We're not sure yet. Will it perform? We won't know until we can use one in real life and get some hands on experience with it. Should you buy one? There's no way to answer that until we have both hands on experience, and a price.
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It looks compelling. But, it will be much more desirable at $400 or $500 than it will at $1000, so without a price it's virtually impossible to judge.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review
The good: Incredibly light for a 14-inch laptop, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is ruggedly built, and has a better keyboard than any ultrabook-style laptop, even Apple's MacBook Air.
The bad: For such an expensive laptop, battery life is just so-so. Consumer-friendly options such as HDMI are missing.
The bottom line: The business-oriented Lenovo ThinkPad X1 has a few quirks, but is otherwise a very impressive business-oriented ultrabook with strong crossover potential.
Lenovo, keeper of the venerated ThinkPad brand, was one of the first Windows laptop makers to directly take on Apple's MacBook Air, with its 13-inch ThinkPad X1. This was before Intel had begun publicly branding thin laptops with its trademarked ultrabook tag, and the rules for this new class of thin laptops were still in flux. We called that original X1 "an appealing middle ground for business road warriors," but also said, "It's not as sleek or as light as a MacBook Air -- not by a long shot."
Lenovo's ultrathin ThinkPad is reborn as a 14-inch ultrabook, the X1 Carbon. When we first spotted the X1 Carbon at a Lenovo press event earlier in 2012, I thought it might not depart enough from the original. The name was nearly the same (not even called the "X2"), and it looked a bit thinner, but not all that much evolved from last year's X1.
Getting an opportunity to test and review the final version of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon makes a big difference. Lenovo previously stated that it would be the world's lightest 14-inch laptop at 3 pounds, and in the hand, you can definitely feel it. This is clearly a premium product, thanks to the light weight and the carbon fiber lid.
The components are standard, with a third-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics, and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). That's a fairly standard loadout, and available in some very affordable laptops. But no one would describe the X1 Carbon as affordable. It starts at $1,399, and our review configuration is $1,499 (with a mobile broadband modem). More expensive builds, with faster processors and a 256GB SSD, cost up to $1,849.
Of course, you get a lot of extra features that may help justify the higher price: Lenovo's industry-leading keyboard, a revamped glass touch pad that works better than any Windows touch pad I've tried, a suite of Lenovo-branded security and support apps, and IT-department-friendly features like Intel's vPro technology. On the down side, battery life, an area Lenovo normally does very well in, was merely adequate, at a just over 5 hours.
Even though this is still a business-targeted ThinkPad, it's also one of the most satisfying ultrabook laptops I've used this year. It's expensive, especially compared to much of the ultrabook competition, and has a handful of quirks, but if you're willing to make a sizable investment, it's the ultrathin 14-inch ultrabook to beat.
Design and features
While the design is familiar, the X1 Carbon is much thinner than the original X1, and the front tapers to a sharper edge. The top cover is made of carbon fiber, typically found in only the most expensive laptops, as is the system's internal roll cage, a stiff latticework that protects the laptop but adds minimal extra weight.
The matte-black look is universal enough that I doubt it'll ever look truly dated, but there's also not much forward-thinking about the aesthetics, either, considering PC makers (plus Apple) have been churning out ultrathin systems for some time. It's the weight that really sells the design. On the table, it looks like a standard, very thin 14-inch laptop, but pick it up, and it feels surprisingly light. Despite having a bigger screen and bigger footprint, it weighs just about the same as a 13-inch MacBook Air.
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The keyboard retains the modified island-style keys used in the first X1, a look that comes from Lenovo's consumer line and that is slowly making its way into ThinkPad models as well. It's also backlit, which is a feature every travel-oriented laptop should have. As with other island-style Lenovo keyboards, the individual keys have a slightly convex curve at the bottom. I've found that bit of extra surface area makes typing easier, and mistakes less frequent. Lenovo refers to the shape created by the keys and the space between them as the "forgiveness zone."
Many thin laptops have shallow, clacky keys that are better than typing on something like the iPad's virtual keyboard, but often not by much. Even on this slim chassis, the keys have excellent depth and solid, tactile feedback. It's definitely the best ultrathin laptop keyboard I've used.
The touch pad is a bit of a departure from the usual Lenovo style. Instead of a touch pad with separate left and right mouse buttons below, it's a one-piece click pad with a glass surface, similar to what you'd get on a MacBook or Dell XPS. Lest you think we're going too far off the beaten track, there is still a second set of mouse buttons above it, and a traditional Lenovo ThinkPad trackpoint nestled between the G, H, and B keys.
The slick glass surface is a welcome change from the normal sluggish feel of so many Windows touch pads, and the overall feel of navigation and multitouch gestures is much more responsive than the norm. Many touch pads have a matte finish, with varying degrees of finger drag, but the glass surface here is surprisingly slick and friction-free.
A separate touch-pad settings menu, called UltraNav, allows you to tweak the behavior slightly, including adding a trackball-like momentum feature (which just made mousing very imprecise), and designating one corner as a tap-to-right-click zone (as opposed to having to push down on the lower right corner). I didn't see the touch-pad option I wanted most, which was to use a two-finger tap anywhere on the pad as a right click (as found in OS X), but you can set a two-finger click to do that.
The display is excellent, with a matte finish on the 14-inch, 1,600x900-pixel-resolution screen. I've seen more high-end laptops lately add a full HD 1,920x1,080 screen. On a 15-inch system, it works, but on a 13-inch it's too much, making text and icons too small. On a 14-inch, you could go either way, but I'd lean toward 1,600x900, as seen here, as the sweet spot. The screen is bright and colorful, despite the lack of a glossy coating. My colleagues and I almost universally prefer matte screens, and are generally disappointed to only find them in business-targeted laptops.
You may never use this feature, but it's interesting to note that the screen folds nearly 180 degrees back, lying almost flat. There have not been many times I've wished my laptop would open wider, but I suppose there have been a handful.
The Lenovo X1 Carbon's speakers get surprisingly loud, and a Dolby Home Theater v4 software package lets you tweak the EQ and other sound settings a bit. But it's still not going to turn this into the sound system for your next house party. Besides, people don't buy ThinkPads for their great speakers -- but they do buy them for the microphone and Webcam, as used in videoconferencing. Using the handy built-in videoconferencing app, you can set the mic's pickup pattern, turn on face tracking on the camera, and even send an image of your desktop as your outgoing video feed.
Connections and configurations
This is a business laptop, at least on paper, so some consumer-friendly features, such as the HDMI port, get jettisoned. Somewhat surprisingly, Ethernet gets downgraded to a USB dongle as well. While nearly every other current laptop offers two or more USB 3.0 ports, the X1 has one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0. A handy "airplane mode" switch on the left edge turns off all the system's radios if needed.
There are four X1 Carbon configurations available from Lenovo. The least expensive, at $1,399, includes an Intel Core i5-3317U and 128GB SSD. The $1,499 model we reviewed has a slight processor bump to a Core i5-3427U, and adds a 3G mobile broadband antenna. For $1,649, the same model adds a 256GB SSD, and the most high-end model, at $1,849, pairs that 256GB SSD with a Core i7-3667U CPU.
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These are all on the expensive side, especially considering that all use Intel's integrated HD 4000 graphics. Another point worth noting, on our review model with its 128GB SSD, the system only had about 50GB of free space left, after accounting for the operating system, Lenovo's custom apps, and a backup partition.
Matched up against other 13- and 14-inch ultrabooks with low-voltage Intel processors, the X1 Carbon performed as expected, falling behind slim systems with slightly faster Core i7 CPUs. Acer's Core i5 M5 14-inch ultrabook was a close comparison, although that system costs significantly less. ThinkPads sometimes take a small performance hit from having Lenovo's custom setup and security apps running the background, but in anecdotal use, the system felt quick and responsive when surfing the Web, playing HD video streams, and working on office documents. A current-gen Intel Core i5, even the low-voltage version, is more than enough computing power for all but the most demanding of users.
If you're thinking of kicking back and playing some PC games during your next meeting, the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics aren't going to be much help. There are no discrete GPU options in the X1 Carbon, but I have seen a couple of ultrabooks that offer that, including the Asus Zenbook UX32VD (but it's still the exception to the rule). Still, HD 4000 will work in a pinch for older games, or some current games (Portal 2, for example), if you turn the resolution and quality settings down.
Travel-oriented business laptops, and ThinkPads in particular, typically emphasize long battery life, as do ultrabook laptops. The performance here fell short of the hype, and the X1 Carbon ran for 5 hours and 9 minutes on our video playback battery drain test. That's not exactly unacceptable, but it's not quite enough for all-day computing. Lenovo includes its own battery and power management app that can help extend that time by tweaking various internal settings. But, the ultrathin bar has been set very high by Apple and others, so I expected more from the out-of-the-box experience. This laptop includes Lenovo's Rapid Charge feature, which can charge a battery up to 80 percent in about half an hour.
Service and support is especially important for mission-critical business laptops. Lenovo goes beyond the standard one-year mail-in warranty you get with most consumer laptops, offering diagnostic and recovery tools in its built-in ThinkVantage software, and priority phone support. The X1 Carbon is not available to order or customize on Lenovo's Web site yet, but prerelease spec sheets provided by the company indicate that a three-year warranty is standard. We'll update the details when the exact warranty and extension details are available.
At first glance, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks a lot like other ThinkPads, but in the hand it stands out as very light and portable. The excellent keyboard shows up other ultrabooks, and the rugged build quality is reassuring. With a slightly boosted battery and maybe a lower starting price, this could be a serious contender for my all-around favorite thin laptop.
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MacBook Pro review 15inch Retina screen is revolut
MacBook Pro review: 15-in. Retina screen is revolutionary
By Ken Mingis
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As the old saying goes: Seeing is believing.
Having used Apple's newest 15-in. MacBook Pro -- the slimmed-down version with the super-high-resolution Retina display -- for several days now, I'm a believer.
The now-top-end MacBook Pro, which starts at $2,199, represents a serious leap forward in screen technology. Words don't really do the 2880-x-1800-pixel screen justice, but let me try. It's stunning, amazing, unparalleled, hyper-sharp, crystal clear, film-like, bright, saturated, radical and mind-blowing.
If you've seen an iPhone's 3.5-in. screen in the last two years or the new iPad's 9.7-in. one, you have a good idea of what the MacBook Pro screen looks like. Only it's much, much larger. That makes this more than an evolutionary laptop update; it's a revolutionary change.
Oh, and the rest of the hardware is nothing to sneeze at either, given that there's no hard drive -- the storage is a flash-based solid-state drive (SSD) -- and the processor is the latest Intel Core i7 processor. The combination makes for an extremely fast laptop.
Think of it this way: If a 17-in. MacBook Pro (now discontinued) mated with a MacBook Air, this would be the offspring, offering up the best of its parents' abilities and the blow-your-eyes-away Retina display.
The MacBook Pro line-up
The $2,199 Retina model comes with a healthy 8GB of RAM (which you can double for another $200); a 256GB SSD; the aforementioned Core i7 chip running at 2.3GHz; an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip for day-to-day graphics needs and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics chip with 1GB of video RAM for more intense uses like video work and gaming (or running three external monitors). It also offers two high-speed Thunderbolt ports; two USB 2.0/3.0 ports, one on each side; an SDXC card slot and an HDMI port, which makes it easy to connect to your home entertainment system.
There's a catch, though. If you need more than 256GB of storage, you'll have to buy the pricier $2,799 MacBook Pro, which also offers a faster 2.6GHz i7 chip. That particular model, the same one Apple provided for this review, has 512GB of SSD storage. You can bump the processor to 2.7GHz for $250 (not necessary, in my book) and/or increase the storage to a 768GB SSD for $500 (really stretching the budget). And if you just won the lottery, you can check the option list for 16GB of RAM and spend another $200.
Cost out the door for the ultimate MacBook Pro? A mere $3,749.
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For the more budget-conscious, the "basic" model should more than serve your needs, as long as you're judicious about how many movies, music files, photos and documents you need to keep on hand at any given moment. (I've been using a 17-in. MacBook Pro with a 256GB SSD for a couple of years now and still have room left.) This is where being able to store files in the cloud, whether through Apple's iCloud sync-and-storage service or a third-party operation, comes in handy.
If you liked the old, chunkier 15-in. MacBook Pro and just want a faster processor and more storage options, the 2.3GHz Core i7 version goes for $1,799, and the 2.6GHz model sells for $2,199. More importantly, on those models you can still upgrade the storage and RAM yourself. (More about this expandability issue below.)
But if I were about to spend $2,199 and had to choose between the two MacBook Pros -- one with Retina display, one without -- I'd figure out a way to make the Retina version work. It's lighter, thinner, and it has that stunning screen.
The Retina display
In case you're wondering, a 2880-x-1800-pixel screen has more than 5 million pixels. That's more than you're looking at on the 27-in. iMac or even a high-end HDTV -- and when you pack those pixels into a 15-in. display, you get a level of sharpness and seriously rich color saturation heretofore unseen.
As soon as this MacBook Pro arrived, a co-worker called up photos from a recent trip to Greece. We both marveled at how good they looked, particularly given the subtle vibrancy of the colors. The same is true when viewing high-definition videos. Video looks as luscious as film. And text is impossibly sharp in text documents.
Best of all, you have a choice of resolutions, depending on how strong your eyes are and how big or small you want on-screen elements to look. The standard resolution out of the box is 1440-x-900 pixels, the same as other 15-in. MacBook Pros. But apps that haven't been updated to take advantage of the new technology can look a little pixelated at that resolution, especially with text.
Since I love, love, love higher resolutions, I immediately switched to the highest available: 1920-x-1200 pixels, the same as on my 17-in. MacBook Pro. At that resolution, everything looks sharp, whether the app has been updated or not. Yes, menu bars and screen icons get a little smaller, but the trade-off is worth it.
You can also drop the resolution to 1024 x 768 pixels, or 1280 x 800, which could be useful for someone with impaired vision, since doing so makes everything on the screen larger. All of the resolution options are detailed in the Displays preference pane; pick the one you want and the change takes about a second, no logging out or restarting required.
One resolution not readily available, ironically enough, is 2880 x 1800. It can be done, if you want to download a third-party utility and run it. (Switching back to an Apple-supported resolution is as easy as opening the Display preferences pane and choosing one of the options there.) But on-screen icons and text are awfully small at that resolution.
Although Apple markets this screen as a Retina display -- its term for a screen where your eye can't discern individual pixels -- the pixels-per-inch (ppi) count is actually lower than the screens on the iPhone and the new iPad. The MacBook Pro Retina display offers 220ppi; the iPad, which was unveiled in March, delivers 264ppi; and the iPhone packs those pixels in the tightest, with 326ppi. Since you tend to view a laptop or tablet from further away than the iPhone, the difference isn't noticeable.
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The new display also shows less glare than before, which is important if you're outdoors or in an office with bright overhead lights or sunny windows.
One thing that's missing: the optical drive. Ever since Apple unveiled the first MacBook Air in 2008 sans a built-in drive, it seemed natural that the company would eventually follow suit with its other laptops. I'm surprised Apple waited this long. So don't be surprised if other MacBook Pros are similarly downsized over the next year or two, shedding not only the drive, but the weight. This particular model weighs less than 4.5 pounds and is noticeably thinner than past models.
(If you're someone who burns CDs and DVDs, you can get an external drive for $79 that connects via USB. You can also opt for a non-Retina-display MacBook Pro, which got a speed bump in the latest update, but retains the optical drive and weighs in at 5.6 pounds.)
In fact, by dumping the optical drive, Apple was apple to make the MacBook Pro just 0.71 inches thick -- about the same as the MacBook Air at its widest point. The lighter weight is obvious as soon as you pick it up; it's like picking up an Air, though it doesn't taper at the front edge like the Air. With the lid closed, it looks like an earlier 15-in. MacBook Pro that's been run over by a steamroller.
Surprisingly, the keyboard (lighted, as before) feels firmer than those on earlier models, and the brushed aluminum chassis feels even more solid.
Other changes -- some obvious, others less so -- include:
A completely expected move to Intel's "Ivy Bridge" family of processors. The newer chips are slightly faster and more energy efficient than their predecessors and are built using a 22nm process.
Two Thunderbolt ports, which effectively replace the now-discarded FireWire 800 port and the Ethernet port; adapters are supposed to be available this month if you have older FireWire peripherals or need to use an Ethernet cable.
A new and thinner MagSafe 2 magnetic power port (which means, of course, that older cords won't work with this one).
New, high-dynamic range speakers (they sound great) and dual microphones designed to reduce background noise and work with the upcoming Dictation feature in OS X Mountain Lion.
A non-user-replaceable 95 watt-hour battery that Apple says should hold a charge for seven hours. If you look at the internal photo of the MacBook Pro posted by Apple (see below), you can see how much space the battery takes up. I didn't get seven hours on battery power when testing this model. Doing a combination of light word processing and Web surfing over Wi-Fi, I got just under five hours before needing a charge (though I did have the brightness all the way up). Your mileage will vary.
A relocated power button -- it's now part of the keyboard where the no-longer-needed eject key used to be -- and a tweaked bottom chassis, which now incorporates numerous slots for better ventilation and cooling.
A few words about speed
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Not long ago, every computer manufacturer (and owner) used processor speed for bragging rights about who had the fastest hardware. But with the advent of multi-core chips, outright GHz measurements have faded as an absolute benchmark. Don't get me wrong; new owners still run tests to see how new processors compare to their predecessors. But processing speed is only part of the equation, and as dual-core processors have given way to quad-core chips -- chips that can now offer virtual cores and hyperthreading -- apples-to-apples comparisons are even more nuanced.
In particular, the move to flash memory for storage has had a major impact on how fast modern computers are. This is certainly true of the new MacBook Pro.
To get an idea for how this laptop stacks up, I used two different benchmarking apps, one to stress the 2.6GHz processor, the other to test the read/write speeds of the 512GB SSD. Both yielded noteworthy numbers, especially the SSD.
Using Geekbench to test the Core i7 processor, I found that the MacBook Pro turned out a score of 12030. That score represents several benchmarks rolled into one: processor integer and floating point performance, as well as memory and memory bandwidth. (For comparison purposes, my 2011 MacBook Pro has a Core i7 running at 2.2GHz and returned a score of 10128.)
I was even more impressed with the performance of the flash storage. Using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, I tested the I/O speeds of the on-board SSD, which is connected directly to the MacBook Pro's motherboard. Since it doesn't face any kind of SATA bottleneck, the read/write speeds I saw were almost double those of a typical consumer SSD. Where consumer drives tend to produce I/O speeds of 200 to 250MBps, this MacBook Pro delivered a write speed of 400MBps and a read speed of 448MBps.
That explains the fast boot-up time (nine seconds from start-up chime to desktop) and the virtually instant wake-from-sleep when you lift the MacBook Pro lid. (Again, for comparison purposes, the aftermarket Intel SSD in my own MacBook Pro could do no better than read speeds of 280MBps and write speeds of 163MBps.)
Expandability concerns and buying advice
Shortly after Apple unveiled the Retina MacBook Pro, hardware repair firm iFixit pronounced it the "least repairable" laptop ever. Ouch. The reason: This model can't be upgraded. You can't add a new hard drive or even boost the RAM once you buy it. Apple used non-standard screws and even glue to put it together, meaning companies like iFixit or users are dependent on Apple to fix anything that goes wrong.
Apple clearly wants owners to view their laptops not as a starting point for future upgrades, but as an intact appliance -- albeit a stylish and powerful one -- that needs no improvement. In the same way you don't open up a new DVD player and start tweaking the internal hardware, you can't do that with your new laptop.
Many buyers won't care; but for the geekier set, this could be a showstopper. Heck, I added the SSD in my own 17-in. MacBook Pro and doubled the RAM to 8GB. However, concerns about upgrades wouldn't stop me from buying this new laptop any more than it would stop me from getting an iPad or iPhone.
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It's certainly a paradigm shift, and Mac fans have already protested loudly on various message boards. My advice: Get used to the change. Apple seems to be moving in this direction and will almost certainly do the same thing with its other laptops.
With that in mind, you'll need to be extra cautious when choosing your hardware. If you think you'll need more than 256GB of storage -- the only amount offered in the $2,199 model -- you'll need to consider the pricier MacBook Pro. Think you'll want 16GB of RAM in a couple of years? Better get it now when you order (though I expect 8GB is more than enough for the foreseeable future).
So should you buy this laptop? If you're interested in embracing the future of display technology, then yes. Apple has taken a giant leap forward with the Retina display -- and it's your only option if you want 1920-x-1200-pixel resolution. (The 17-in. model is no more.)
However, if you're a hardware-upgrade fan, then no. You'll likely be happier with a non-Retina MacBook Pro. But even that is likely to be simply a holding maneuver, given the direction Apple is taking.
The good news? You have time to decide. The Retina MacBook Pros sold out so quickly that there's currently a three- to four-week shipping delay. That alone indicates just how popular this model is likely to be.
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Sony's Gaikai Acquisition Could Shake Up the Indus
Sony's Gaikai Acquisition Could Shake Up the Industry
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By Chris Pereira
The deal rumored to be announced at E3 has now gone through.
Many believe the future of the games industry is in cloud gaming, where the game you're playing is run on servers located at a datacenter (as opposed to the console/handheld/PC in your home) and streamed to a screen -- a TV, computer, phone, tablet, etc. Should that prove to be the case, Sony has ensured it will be prepared by acquiring cloud gaming company Gaikai for $380 million. It's a deal which has numerous implications, the most intriguing of which is what the cloud's implementation will be in the PlayStation 4 and how that potentially negates the need for another PlayStation console to ever be released.
Back in May it was reported that a deal between Sony and either Gaikai or OnLive would be announced at E3. It's possible that was the case, and due to the particulars still being worked out, an announcement could not be made as planned; the press release Sony Computer Entertainment sent out last night notes the deal still has to go through closing conditions and the usual regulatory stuff. Those should be no issue at all, and knowing the deal is with Gaikai enables us to now better brainstorm what things could look like down the road.
The official announcement gives no indication of where things are headed except to say SCE will "establish a new cloud service, ensuring that it continues to provide users with truly innovative and immersive interactive entertainment experiences." That doesn't tell us much of anything, leaving us to contemplate the possibilities like in May.
Most likely Gaikai will not have a significant presence on PlayStation 3. With the PS4 reportedly coming later next year, it would make sense for cloud gaming to instead be a key aspect of the new console. That does not mean PS3 owners won't see anything new; cloud demos are among the most straightforward benefits to gamers, and something that seems like it could be implemented without too much trouble. Gaikai's existing service is best known for allowing games to be demoed right from within a browser, whether it be on a retailer's website or even Facebook. It's easy to see this sort of service being brought to both the PS3 and Vita (and the PS4, down the line), either through a dedicated app or perhaps as part of the PlayStation Store itself.
The ability to sample a portion of a game immediately without having to wait for it to download is an enticing concept, and the beauty of Gaikai is a demo does not have to be specifically put together by the developers. The Facebook demo of Saints Row: The Third, for example, simply allows the first 45 minutes of the game to be played without any hassle. Publishers could still build a demo if they so wish, or they could opt to make the entire game available for a set amount of play time. As I noted back in May, streaming demos would be especially welcome on Vita, a system which lacks internal storage and uses pricey proprietary memory cards. Whether they are embedded right into the PlayStation Store or accessible through the browser or a Gaikai app, the ability to sample any game without delay is the sort of thing that could give the system a boost at a time where it's facing increased competition not just from the 3DS, but also mobiles phones and tablets.
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Backwards compatibility is another area bolstered by the cloud. Think of a PlayStation 4 capable of streaming any PS1, PS2, PSP, and possibly even PlayStation 3 game. Because the burden for running these games is placed on Gaikai's servers and not your own console, the existing need to include the appropriate hardware to run older titles (such as the PS2's Emotion Engine being included with early models of the PS3) would no longer be the case. It's a stretch to assume the entire library of PlayStation titles being offered on such a service due to rights issues, yet the desire of publishers to make money off of their back catalogs should not be underestimated, particularly if Sony and Gaikai make it easy to offer those games up.
When the cloud gaming deal was first rumored in May, I thought PlayStation Plus subscribers would eventually be given access to full versions of streaming games. Instead at E3 Sony announced a regular rotation of PS3 games that subscribers could download and keep for as long their subscription is active. Shifting this aspect of the program from downloads to streaming games in the future seems like a natural way to go, both because it will avoid the unpleasantness of downloading such a huge amount of data and because it gives Sony more control over how and when those games are played.
In addition to (or in place of) this, Sony might even offer a standalone subscription service that grants instant access to a larger number of streaming games, almost like a videogame version of Netflix's Watch Instantly service. Not everyone may like the idea of paying to play games they will only have access to when their subscription is active, but the availability of a premium service that grants access to hundreds of games from multiple PlayStation systems sounds like a nice bullet point for Sony to have when it comes time to sell gamers on the PS4.
There are other possible benefits for Sony in making this deal, such as saving gamers the trouble of ever patching their games. I've also heard the idea of Internet-connected kiosks in stores that allow customers to sample every game on PS4 or Vita with the push of button, which would be much more effective than the limited offerings seen in kiosks presently.
There is some bad news in all of this, although just how it will affect you may vary. As I mentioned with the idea of streaming games for Plus users, Sony would gain a great deal of control over how games are played. Selling or buying used games would be impossible with streaming games, nor would it be possible to borrow games from friends. The latter issue could be covered to some degree by streaming demos, although many would hate losing the ability to have a physical copy of a game in-hand that they could do whatever they please with. Gamers take issue with the occasional game that requires an Internet connection to play; all streaming games would invariably require a constant, stable connection to the Internet.
The solace for those who shudder at the thought is the fact that the PS4 will undoubtedly offer disc-based games (just as we know the Vita will continue to offer downloadable and card-based games). Cloud gaming will, at least initially, be presented as an optional way of playing games, and in some cases it may still manage to be of use to those who despise always-online requirements. Imagine being able to continue playing any PS3 or PS4 game on your Vita while on the go. The issue of how the lack of L2/R2 buttons are handled aside (mapping them to the rear touch pad is one possibility, albeit not an ideal one), that would be a big step forward from the current situation where this can be done with the occasional game.
Eventually, though, cloud gaming could prove to be the sole method of distribution for games. In theory, the PS4 could be the last console you ever have to purchase. While its hardware will age over time, it will always be capable of handling streaming content, so as advances are made in technology and new games require higher-end hardware, Gaikai's servers could be upgraded to handle that demand. So although the first portion of the PS4's life will operate similarly to the current generation, by the time 2020 rolls around we might see games requiring hardware exceeding the PS4's capabilities offered to PS4 owners exclusively as streaming titles.
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Even if cloud gaming is implemented in the PS4 right out of the box, there will probably be no need to worry about missing out on games as a result of having a poor Internet connection. While we've been seeing many games offered exclusively as downloads this generation, publishers know there is a difference between consumers with Internet connections capable of downloading a title and those with Internet connections capable of providing a competent streaming game experience. (Some Gaikai demos work with 3Mbps connections, but generally 5+ is desirable.) At this point in time, few have access to the kind of connections necessary to play a streaming game that is indistinguishable from one that is played locally. However, between advances by ISPs and Gaikai improving its technology, that may no longer be the case a decade from now and publishers could feel more comfortable offering streaming-only games. (It remains questionable how viable streaming games will be for those with bandwidth caps).
We likely will not be hearing about specifics on how Gaikai will be taken advantage of for some time; certainly its PlayStation 4 presence won't be revealed until the system itself has been announced, meaning those details may not come out until next year's E3. There are a lot of other questions that still need to be addressed, too, such as how Sony will handle Gaikai's partnerships with competitors like LG; will it use those existing deals to let consumers sample games that can only be played in full on PlayStation 4 or Vita? At the very least, Kaz Hirai, with his new "One Sony" initiative, would presumably like to see Gaikai's technology leveraged outside of the PlayStation systems.
Whatever the case may be, this Gaikai deal stands a chance of dramatically changing the gaming industry and the way new consoles are released in order to keep up with technological advances, not to mention the pressure it puts on Microsoft not to fall behind in the cloud space. Whether it manages to do that with an OnLive acquisition or something else, it should be incredibly interesting to see where things go from here.
Galaxy Nexus no longer available to purchase from Google Play website
In April, Google started selling unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphones from its own store, for $399 a pop. Six days ago, the price dropped to $349. Now, however, the phone is listed as "coming soon" on Google's website. We're not sure whether Google is simply updating the boxed handsets to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, obeying a preliminary injunction in federal court to stop sales, or applying a software patch to avoid said ban. Or, maybe the company just ran out of handsets due to early Android 4.1 adopters and those hoping to get a Galaxy Nexus assuming they'll be banned? No matter the reason, you can't buy a Galaxy Nexus directly from Google right now. We've reached out to Google for clarification and will update when we hear back.
iPad mini rumor resurfaces
The iPad mini rumor that has apparently been circulating since 2009 is back in another round of speculation.
The latest version comes courtesy of multiple sources. Firstly, NPD DisplaySearch said that production is "likely imminent" for a 7.85-inch tablet while a Chinese-language Web site reports that this smaller iPad will use an IGZO display made by Sharp.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg has added fuel to this rumor with a new report that pegs a future announcement in October. The iPad mini "will have a screen that's 7 inches to 8 inches diagonally", but lacks a Retina display. Instead, it will have a similar screen resolution as the older iPads. The iPad mini will, however, be expected to be priced around that of Google's new 7-inch Nexus tablet.
With Google and Microsoft both making moves in the tablet space with the Nexus and Surface, it's not surprising that rumors about the iPad mini have resurfaced. However, these two companies lack Apple's retail presence, which could hinder their efforts to make their tablets mainstream.
The breadth of its App Store also favors the Cupertino-based company, though Android is rapidly catching up--going by the latest numbers, Google's platform is just 50,000 apps shy of Apple's.
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Tablet shipments to overtake notebooks in 2016, NPD says
Tablets may indeed herald the coming of a "post-PC world," but that world won't arrive for another few years, NPD said on Tuesday. According to the latest NPD DisplaySearch figures, tablet shipments in 2016 will top 350 million units, putting them ahead of notebook shipments for the first time ever. NPD projects that tablet shipments will have a compound annual growth rate of 28% over the next five years as the total number of shipments rises from 121 million in 2012 to 416 million in 2017. Notebooks, meanwhile, will see shipments grow from 208 million in 2012 to 393 million in 2017.
Tablet Shipments to Surpass Notebook Shipments in 2016
Total Mobile PC Shipments Exceed 800M Units by 2017
SANTA CLARA, CALIF., July 3, 2012-Tablet PCs, such as Apple's iPad, are expected to be the growth driver for the mobile PC market over the next few years. Tablet shipments will surpass notebook shipments in 2016, according to the latest NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report. Overall mobile PC shipments will grow from 347M units in 2012 to over 809M units by 2017.
While notebook PC shipments are expected to increase from 208M units in 2012 to 393M units by 2017, tablet PC shipments are expected to grow from 121M units to 416M units in this period, for a compound annual growth rate of 28%. A key driver for tablet PC growth is adoption in mature markets (including North America, Japan and Western Europe), which will account for 66% of shipments in 2012 and remain in the 60% range throughout the forecast period. Tablet PC shipments into mature markets will grow from 80M units in 2012 to 254M units by 2017.
Source: NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report
"Consumer preference for mobile computing devices is shifting from notebook to tablet PCs, particularly in mature markets," said Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. "While the lines between tablet and notebook PCs are blurring, we expect mature markets to be the primary regions for tablet PC adoption. New entrants are tending to launch their initial products in mature markets. Services and infrastructure needed to create compelling new usage models are often better established in mature markets."
Source: NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Mobile PC Shipment and Forecast Report
Building upon convenience-oriented features including instant-on capability, long battery life and extreme portability, tablet PCs are expected to evolve in form factor and performance, making them a compelling alternative to notebook PCs. Tablet PCs are expected to incorporate multi-core processors, increasingly stable operating systems, growing app libraries and higher resolution displays.
In addition, notebook PCs are also evolving to meet the challenge from tablet PCs. Thinner form factors, higher resolution displays and touch functionality features are expected to increase. The notebook PC market will remain the largest part of the mobile PC market during the forecast period, accounting for 60% of mobile PC shipments in 2012, declining to 49% by 2017.
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Sergio Pininfarina, Designer of Sports Cars, Dies at 8
Sergio Pininfarina, whose design firm created the rakish and elegant auto bodies of some of the most popular, and fastest, cars ever made by Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Fiat, died on Tuesday at his home in Turin, Italy. He was 85.
His death was confirmed by a spokesman for Ferrari, where Mr. Pininfarina was a board member for many years.
Mr. Pininfarina took the reins of the company in 1961 from his father, Battista, who founded it under the name Carrozzeria Pinin Farina in 1930 and then rebuilt it virtually from scratch after Allied bombers destroyed its plant along with the rest of Italy's industrial base in World War II.
The younger Mr. Pininfarina, who brought a flair for marketing as well as design to the family business, scored his first successes in collaboration with Ferrari, the racecar maker known for its lucrative business in rich men's toys.
Convinced that a new consumer market was emerging, Mr. Pininfarina urged Ferrari to let him design two auto-body prototypes for a new 12-cylinder racecar-quality vehicle under production in early 1960s.
The first, known as the 250 GTO, was an extremely expensive racecar built mainly for sheiks and movie stars. (Of the 39 cars built in 1960, one sold recently for $35 million.) The second was a production model, known as the 250 GTE, a slightly powered-down version of the original, sold for $15,000. And though it cost a small fortune, it became one of Ferrari's first big sellers.
The success led to one of Mr. Pininfarina's best known Ferrari designs, the Dino series of midengine cars produced from 1968 to 1976. The Dino's bug-eyed front, grading gently to a curvaceous rear end, became a signature of the Italian look in sports cars. Designed to compete with the stark line of the new Porsche 911, the Dino series propelled Ferrari and Mr. Pininfarina into the mass-market car business.
"Ferrari would not be Ferrari without Pininfarina," said Michael Sheehan, founder of the online Ferraris' collectors newsletter, Ferraris-online.com. "Ferrari built the machines, and basically Pininfarina clothed them."
Mr. Pininfarina's firm worked with many other carmakers over the last 50 years, including some in the United States. The Pininfarina stamp - an "f" surmounted by a crown - has appeared in millions of cars by Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Bentley, Volvo and Peugeot. But for most of that time Mr. Pininfarina was, in effect, the design department of Ferrari. Only a handful of car models made by Ferrari were designed by other companies.
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For a while, Mr. Pininfarina stood as the chief custodian of Italian styling in cars. His firm designed prototypes for models that sold about 50,000 units a year by the mid-1980s, compared with about 500 in the early 1960s, and the success gave him freedom to design not only "affordable" cars but high-end and even one-of-a-kind vehicles for the very wealthy.
"I am a lucky man, because I design cars for a few people," he said in a 1981 interview with The New York Times. "So in my life, I always design what I like. I sell cars to people who like that kind of car."
But by 2000, the landscape of car making had changed considerably. A shift in the market toward economy and fuel efficiency reduced the base of Mr. Pininfarina's carmaker customers, and shifted his firm's work toward Asia and the market for subcompacts.
In a 2000 interview with The Times, Mr. Pininfarina described the trajectory: "We have gone from being tailors to selling to consumers," he said.
By 2008, the family had lost control of all but a small share of stock to creditors, though family members continue to operate the firm.
Mr. Pininfarina was born in Turin on Sept. 8, 1926. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from the Polytechnic University of Turin in 1950, and became the firm's managing director in 1961. His father died in 1966. He turned over control of the company to his son Andrea in 2001. After Andrea's death in a motor scooter accident in 2008, Mr. Pininfarina's younger son, Paolo, became head of the company.
Besides his son, he is survived by his wife, Giorgia, and daughter, Lorenza.
A courtly and stylish man of wit and charm, Mr. Pininfarina taught car body design at his alma mater for several years, and was often invited to speak to engineering and design groups in the United States. On one visit in 1981, an interlocutor asked, "What makes a good design?"
He replied with a long list of criteria, including "good harmony, classic style, proportion, grace - and honesty," adding with a small smile, "Then, if you have good taste, the battle is won."
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Flashback Malware Puts Apple in Security Spotlight
Flashback Malware Puts Apple in Security Spotlight: Experts Weigh In
By Howard Baldwin
Increased market share coupled with Apple's lack of transparency are largely to blame for an uptick in Mac security problems, say experts.
It was a busy week for Apple malware hunters fighting the Flashback Trojan horse, which has infected between 270,000 and 600,000 Macs. A bevy of tools to find and remove the malware debuted this week. And two days after promising to release a detection and removal tool, Apple finally offered its own fix.
Flashback Malware Puts Apple in Security Spotlight: Experts Weigh InNow, as the dust settles on what is considered to be the largest Mac malware threat to date, experts have started pointing fingers at Apple as being partially to blame for the scope of the Flashback malware infection. They argue that if Apple were more transparent about security issues--and if it had promptly released a Flashback fix--the extent of the damage could have been smaller. Also contributing to the magnitude of the infections is a boost in the number of Mac OS users, they say.
"When the installed base [of an OS] is 10 percent or less, the bad guys don't care," says Peter James, spokesperson for Mac antivirus and security product vendor Intego. The bigger the user base, the more attractive the target, he says. Web analytics firm NetMarketShare.com estimates that the Mac installed base has jumped to 13 percent in the United States, and research firm Gartner says that Apple has become the fastest-growing U.S. computer maker--overtaking Acer and Toshiba--over the past year.
Apple's Image of Invulnerability--Gone
Perhaps surprisingly, James and other security experts say that Apple needs to look to Microsoft when it comes to handling OS security breaches. For years Apple has mocked Microsoft for its track record in dealing with Windows malware, viruses, and weekly patches. Now the tables have turned, says Larry Ponemon of the Ponemon Institute.
Flashback Malware Puts Apple in Security Spotlight: Experts Weigh InPonemon and others say the Flashback Trojan horse is the final nail in the coffin for Apple's stellar security image. He says that although Microsoft juggles a much larger number of threats, it does a better job of warning customers and delivering fixes.
We have heard dire "Macpocalypse" warnings before. Last year Apple's sterling security image was tarnished with the advent of the Mac Defender malware program. Before that, in 2006, the focus was on the Leap.A virus, the first ever virus for Mac OS X. (For a great short history of Apple Mac malware, check out NakedSecurity.com's timeline from 1982 to 2010.) But this time, security experts insist, Apple's security bragging rights are gone for good.
Mac Security Experts: Full Disclosure
It's worth noting that Mac security software sales jumped as Flashback infections began to dominate tech headlines. That fact has prompted many vocal critics to point out that it's in the self-interest of Mac antivirus companies to be critical of Apple's security measures.
But a brief timeline of Flashback, security experts say, illustrates their point. The underlying Java vulnerability that Flashback exploited was publicly known, and patched by Oracle, in February. On April 3, Apple released a Java security bulletin pointing to the Oracle patch, and declined to disclose, discuss, or confirm the infections. On Tuesday, Apple acknowledged the existence of Flashback and said that it was developing software to detect and remove the malware. On Thursday, it released the Flashback malware removal tool.
What Apple Can Learn From Microsoft Security
First off, there is no disputing that Microsoft, having the dominant OS, faces far more security threats than Apple does. You can argue all day about how secure Apple's flavor of BSD Unix is versus Microsoft's Windows, but the difference is Microsoft's transparency. As PCWorld's sibling publication Macworld puts it: Apple has a good security record, but "it still has some work to do in terms of its reputation for security."
Flashback Malware Puts Apple in Security Spotlight: Experts Weigh InMac OS users unfamiliar with Windows may be surprised to learn that Microsoft regularly schedules the rollout of security fixes on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month. But for IT managers and consumers, knowing what's at risk and when a fix will be available is vital for minimizing exposure to threats. Microsoft also issues critical patches as they become available for exploits.
The system is not perfect; coupled with Windows Update, however, it offers a first line of defense against malware, exploits, and viruses.
Mac OS also automatically checks for software updates every week, and you can change that setting for more-frequent updates. But it's Apple's legendary wall of silence and foot-dragging on deploying fixes that have placed it in security experts' crosshairs.
"When problems and vulnerabilities exist, Microsoft provides information quickly," Ponemon says. Microsoft, he notes, has been good at communicating, sometimes to the point of being annoying. "Apple hasn't done as much to communicate with its users," he says.
Apple's iron grip on information and the release of fixes has been a nagging issue for years. In 2008, for example, Apple took over four months to patch a DNS vulnerability.
"Why Apple did not deploy these fixes before Mac users were victimized by criminals is unclear," wrote Chester Wisniewski, a security researcher for UK-based vendor Sophos, in a blog post about Flashback.
Brian Krebs, of Krebs on Security, says that more threats are on the way. "We can expect an evolution of threats against Mac users that will largely mirror those that Windows users face: that is, via the exploitation of vulnerable browser plug-ins, such as Adobe Reader, Flash, and most definitely Java."
Apple's Flashback fix, deployed Thursday, mitigates Java flaws. "As a security hardening measure, the Java browser plug-in and Java Web Start are deactivated if they are unused for 35 days," Apple says.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
The bigger problem, say some observers, is correcting the perception that the Mac platform is invulnerable. That notion has fostered a laissez-faire attitude toward security among Apple customers, says Intego's Peter James.
For years Apple has promoted the idea that Macs are far less vulnerable to malware and viruses than PCs are. As part of the "Get a Mac" television ad campaign in 2006, actor John Hodgman (as the PC) says, "Last year, there were 114,000 known viruses for PCs." And Justin Long (as the Mac) replies, "PCs, but not Macs."
Mac users are faced with new threats that require new security precautions, James says. "They're faced with threats they've never seen before."
System administrator Steve Mallard says that many of the student Mac users for whom he provides help-desk services live in denial. Mallard, an IT manager for several state universities at the Tennessee Technology Center in Shelbyville, Tennessee, says students come to his staff with Mac problems and don't believe that their computers have been infected until shown the evidence.
Over the past few years, Mallard says, he has seen the percentage of infected Macs brought in by students jump from 1 to 15 percent.
"Even though the Mac OS is more secure, its users don't have the awareness," Intego's James says. "Educating users to the risks that they face is one of the most important things Apple can do, the same way you teach your kid to cross at the green light."
Dual-focus contact lens prototypes ordered by Pentagon
By LJ Rich
The Pentagon has put in an order for prototype contact lenses that give users a much wider field of vision.
The lenses are designed to be paired with compact heads up display (HUD) units - glasses that allow images to be projected onto their lenses.
Much bulkier HUDs are already deployed by the US Army and Air Force to superimpose data about targets and other status updates over users' views.
The tech could help troops enhance their awareness on the battlefield.
The iOptik system's developer, Innovega, told the BBC it had signed a contract earlier this week to deliver a fully-functioning prototype to the Pentagon's research laboratory, Darpa.
The US Department of Defense had previously funded part of the Washington-based firm's initial engineering work on the project.
"The new contract gives us an immediate opportunity to start prototyping and demonstrating elements of this new system," Innovega's chief executive Steve said.
The lenses work by allowing the wearer to focus on two things at once - both the information projected onto the glasses' lenses and the more distant view that can be seen through them.
They do this by having two different filters.
The central part of each lens sends light from the HUD towards the middle of the pupil, while the outer part sends light from the surrounding environment to the pupil's rim.
iOptik contact lens
By building two filters into each lens, close-up and distant light sources are both in focus
Watch more about how the iOptik system could transform how we see the world around us
The retina receives each image in focus, at the same time.
"Normally, for example, with a camera you focus on something distant or something close - but you focus on a particular spot," said Mr.
"By wearing our contact lens you automatically have this multi-focus, or dual-focus, and you are doing something that humans don't usually do."
The chief executive said he also hoped to license the technology to be sold to the public.
One suggested application would be to allow users to watch what appear to be big-screen 3D movies on their glasses - with a different image projected to each lens.
Other potential uses include augmented reality eyewear similar to that teased by Google in its recent Project Glass demo, and a device to offer gamers a more immersive experience.
The lenses are still going through clinical trials as part of the US Food and Drug Administration's approval process, but Mr said he was confident the tech should be available to the public towards the end of 2014.
However, one eye expert suggested that a similar technique had proved problematic when used to treat post-surgery cataract patients.
"Two superimposed images tend to be degraded and lower in contrast," said Prof Gary Rubin from University College London's Institute of Ophthalmology.
"I question whether a multi-focal contact lens is the right solution.
"If you're walking around with a heads up display on, the image projected on the lens could mask your peripheral or central vision. And if it's magnifying the image or changing the way it moves when your eyes move, you could get motion sickness."
You can see more on this type of wearable technology on Click on the BBC News Channel at 1130 on Saturday and Sunday in the UK, and worldwide on BBC World News this weekend.
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Is this the first ambient reality app that works?
Is this the first ambient reality app that works?
By Molly McHugh.
Highlight is a "sixth sense" for finding connections with people who are already around you. In a one-on-one with Highlight creator Paul Davison, we explore this new, exploding market and talk about where Highlight goes from here.
It's safe to say that Highlight has stolen SXSW. The app has single-handedly taken a firm grip over a yet-to-be-defined new social genre: it's called SoMoLo (social, mobile, local), ambient social, ambient local, or even just the vague and all-encompassing "ambient reality."
Whatever you want to call it, SXSW Interactive week has been a springboard for Highlight - and that's putting it very, very mildly. "It's been huge," creator Paul Davison tells me. (Full disclosure: I obsessively checked Highlight to see when he arrived at our meeting place). "At the same time, [SXSW] creates this artificial state of ubiquity, because everyone here is using it."
They most certainly are. During my hour-long conversation with Davison, who formerly worked for a structured database company called Metaweb (acquired by Google in 2010), I watched the app reveal some 20+ others in the coffee shop using Highlight. Davison even pointed out someone a table away showing the app to a colleague. "That's so awesome!" he laughs.
Everywhere you go at the show, you see heads downturned toward their phones - which is nothing new for what many call "Spring Break for nerds." We're all furiously checking in to everything and checking out everyone there. But this year, Highlight has been the location and social discovery app of choice.
Before talking about Highlight's updates and momentum, we discussed this sudden attention to SoMoLo (or whatever you want to call it). "It's a number of things coming together," Davison says. "Smartphones are everywhere, Facebook is ubiquitous, all this data is in the cloud and it's all highly recognizable, the ability to run mobile apps in the background is fairly new, push notifications, battery life is just now barely good enough and it's only getting better."
As is Highlight. A few updates have really fine-tuned the simple application, which uses your smartphone's location data and your Facebook account to find people who have similar friends and interests, and happen to be in your general vicinity.
"The main thing we added was ability to see who's nearby right now," Davison says. Before you would see someone who was nearby moments ago - it wasn't necessarily clear if they were still near you or had just left. Now at the top of the activity you see people who are still there, and people who have left are time-stamped and fall under those currently around you.
The new app also features the option to search for someone specific, the ability to follow someone on Twitter, or friend someone on Facebook immediately from within the app, and a redesigned, cleaner navigation dash.
But the biggest change, appropriately, is the ability to Highlight someone: The idea is like bookmarking a person you think is interesting or want to mentally note. "We thought about that a lot," says Davison. "Highlight is so passive, and there's no currency - no friend adding, which is what everyone wants from a social application. In most cases, a follow is a person saying, 'I'm consuming content generated by you. I want your content.' And that makes sense for most social products.
"But for us, the people are the content. Feed is determined by who's around you. So following doesn't make sense. At the same time, there's room for interaction. We wanted something really lightweight. It sort of serves - and I hate saying this - like a 'poke' or a 'nudge.'"
Davison says there was much discussion about the visibility of a Highlight. They are completely public: you see it, the highlighted person sees it, everyone who ever sees your profile sees it. Ultimately, it was decided that making this information entirely public kept the app close to it goal of connecting - not individuating - users.
"Privacy is a huge thing and we think about it all the time," Davison tells me. "This sort of thing is just new and if people have anxiety about it then that's okay, because it's unfamiliar. It happened with the Web before... it happened with Facebook. The ability to share information with the people around you in this really sort of ambient way is new. And the reason that seems weird is that we haven't been able to do it before. We're not used to that level of openness and sharing."
Regarding the ill-fated Color, Davison says he "thought the ideas behind it were really cool, and I still do. It's a similar concept and it was intended to be a way to help you learn about the people around you. I feel like with these sorts of products the details matter a lot. User interface, interaction, tiny differences." He also references the app's other insurmountable problem. "With hyper-local, there's been this tremendous problem of getting users. You open up the app, no one is there, you have a bad experience with it, and you'll never use it again."
Color was based on actions - users taking pictures, he explains. And he's right, there's no passive way to use the app. Highlight is attempting to avoid this particular issue by encouraging a browsing experience and telling people to get out of the app: The welcome screen gets your info and then tells you to close the app until later.
The other elephant in the room concerning Highlight is battery life. Running an app in the background is power consuming - but maybe not for long. According to Davison, every new release of Highlight improves battery life, and it should cease to be a problem in less than a year.
Davison seems to have this same confidence - almost ambivalence - toward every obstacle in Highlight's way. "It's all do-able. All solvable," he says about any every potential hangup.
"What we have right now is this tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of where we know we can take this and it's really exciting," he says. "The app is going to get smarter. There's all this math that's going to make it better and better."
And that's where I offered him my Highlight wish list - the idea that you could message everyone using the app within 900 square feet simple questions like "What Wi-Fi network is working best for you?" or "Is anyone going uptown and want to share a cab?" (these are clearly SXSW issues) even earned me a high five. I also complained about not being able to edit my photo, which didn't format correctly, and he says facial recognition technology or a photo edit tool could be implemented to fix this.
At the moment, Highlight is small - two people, including Davison, to be exact. So the building will come fast and furious. And listening to Davison, it sounds like the sky is the limit. "It's going to change everything - there's a reason so many [developers] are doing this: It's a really big deal," he says. "There have been all these moments happening - someone in the room who knows your sister, or someone you have 46 friends in common with. That's always been true but we haven't had the technology to discover them."
But now we most certainly do, and it isn't going to stop. Davison talks about building a function so Highlight knows when you're traveling, and can identify people on the train or bus with you, or knows when you're away from home to notify you if someone who happened to go to the same high school as you is nearby. The instances of what this thing can do (or will soon do, as Davison insists) are never-ending, really. He sums it all up nicely: "We're building the sixth sense."
The real test comes now. We're all leaving SXSW, and with it the company of fellow app nerds among us. But if Highlight can use this spotlight and keep user engagement, then we could be poised for the next big step in the social evolution.
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