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Intel Looks To Android To Boost Tablet Business

April 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Its becoming more obvious lately that Intel and Microsoft are no longer joined at the hip. Intel is trying desperately to make a dent in the tablet market, and with Windows struggling on those devices, Android is where it’s at.

Intel hopes to see its processors used in 40 million tablets this year, and 80% to 90% of those will be running Google’s Android OS, CEO Brian Krzanich said on Tuesday.

“Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace,” Krzanich said during Intel’s quarterly earnings call.

Most Intel-powered tablets running Android today use the older Medfield and Clover Trail+ chips. More Android tablets running the latest Atom processor, called Bay Trail, will ship later this quarter.

That’s not to say Intel is abandoning Windows — far from it. It’s just going where the market is today. Krzanich said he expects Windows to “grow and gain traction,” and more Intel-based tablets running both Android and Windows will be shown in June at the massive Computex trade show in Taipei.

The first Android-based Bay Trail tablet, the DreamTab, was announced in January, but it hasn’t shipped yet.

Intel is chasing ARM, the U.K. company whose processor designs are used in most tablets today, including those running both Android and Apple’s iOS.

The 40 million Intel tablets that will ship this year will give the company 15% to 20% of the tablet market, Intel CFO Stacy Smith said on the earnings call.

Intel is providing discounts and development funds to tablet makers to reduce the cost of using its chips. It’s looking for growth with the white-box Chinese tablet makers, which are expected to ship up to 130 million tablets this year.

Intel chips are available in some tablets now priced under $99, but most will be priced between $125 and $250, Krzanich said.

Microsoft hasn’t made much of a dent yet in Google’s and Apple’s share of the market, but IDC estimated last month that Windows would have 10.2% of the tablet market by 2017. Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard have launched Windows 8 tablets with Bay Trail, and Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 2 uses an Intel Core processor, but the tablets haven’t sold well.

 

 

 

Intel Shows Off New Hybrid Laptop Geared Towards Schools

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Intel unveiled a laptop-tablet hybrid with Windows 8.1 for the education market, where Chromebooks and tablets are also vying for customers.

The Intel Education 2-in-1 hybrid has a 10.1-inch screen that can detach from a keyboard base to turn into a tablet. Intel makes reference designs, which are then replicated by device makers and sold to educational institutions.

The 2-in-1 has a quad-core Intel Atom processor Z3740D, which is based on the Bay Trail architecture. The battery lasts about eight hours in tablet mode, and three more hours when docked with the keyboard base, which has a second battery.

Intel did not immediately return requests for comment on the estimated price for the hybrid or when it would become available.

Education is a hotly contested market among computer makers, as Apple pushes its iPads and MacBooks while PC makers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo hawk their Chromebooks.

Some features in the Intel 2-in-1 are drawn from the company’s Education tablets, which also run on Atom processors, but have the Android OS.

The 2-in-1 hybrid has front-facing and rear-facing cameras, and a snap-on magnification lens that allows students to examine items at a microscopic level.

The computer can withstand a drop of 70 centimeters, a feature added as protection for instances in which children mishandle laptops and let them fall. The keyboard base also has a handle.

The screen can be swiveled and placed on the keyboard, giving it the capability of a classic convertible laptop. This feature has been drawn from Intel’s Classmate series of education laptops.

The 2-in-1 has software intended to make learning easier, including tools for the arts and science. Intel’s Kno app provides access to 225,000 books. Typically, some of the books available via Kno are free, while others are fee-based.

 

 

Can Micro-Consoles Compete With True Gaming Consoles?

April 15, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

With Amazon’s Fire TV device the first out the door, the second wave of microconsoles has just kicked off. Amazon’s device will be joined in reasonably short order by one from Google, with an app-capable update of the Apple TV device also likely in the works. Who else will join the party is unclear; Sony’s Vita TV, quietly soft-launched in Japan last year, remains a potentially fascinating contender if it had the right messaging and services behind it, but for now it’s out of the race. One thing seems certain, though; at least this time we’re actually going to have a party.

“Second wave”, you see, rather implies the existence of a first wave of microconsoles, but last time out the party was disappointing, to say the least. In fact, if you missed the first wave, don’t feel too bad; you’re in good company. Despite enthusiasm, Kickstarter dollars and lofty predictions, the first wave of microconsole devices tanked. Ouya, Gamestick and their ilk just turned out to be something few people actually wanted or needed. Somewhat dodgy controllers and weak selections of a sub-set of Android’s game library merely compounded the basic problem – they weren’t sufficiently cheap or appealing compared to the consoles reaching their end-of-life and armed with a vast back catalogue of excellent, cheap AAA software.

“The second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail”

That was always the reality which deflated the most puffed-up “microconsoles will kill consoles” argument; the last wave of microconsoles sucked compared to consoles, not just for the core AAA gamer but for just about everyone else as well. Their hardware was poor, their controllers uncomfortable, their software libraries anaemic and their much-vaunted cost savings resulting from mobile game pricing rather than console game pricing tended to ignore the actual behaviour of non-core console gamers – who rarely buy day-one software and as a result get remarkably good value for money from their console gaming experiences. Comparing mobile game pricing or F2P models to $60 console games is a pretty dishonest exercise if you know perfectly well that most of the consumers you’re targeting wouldn’t dream of spending $60 on a console game, and never have to.

Why is the second wave of microconsoles going to be different? Three words: Amazon, Google, Apple. Perhaps Sony; perhaps even Samsung or Microsoft, if the wind blows the right direction for those firms (a Samsung microconsole, sold separately and also bundled into the firm’s TVs, as Sony will probably do with Vita TV in future Bravia televisions, would make particular sense). Every major player in the tech industry has a keen interest in controlling the channel through which media is consumed in the living room. Just as Sony and Microsoft originally entered the games business with a “trojan horse” strategy for controlling living rooms, Amazon and Google now recognise games as being a useful way to pursue the same objective. Thus, unlike the plucky but poorly conceived efforts of the small companies who launched the first wave of microconsoles, the second wave is backed by the most powerful tech giants in the world, whose titanic struggle with each other for control of the means of media distribution means their devices will have enormous backing.

To that end, Amazon has created its own game studios, focusing their efforts on the elusive mid-range between casual mobile games and core console games. Other microconsole vendors may take a different approach, creating schemes to appeal to third-party developers rather than building in-house studios (Apple, at least, is almost guaranteed to go down this path; Google could yet surprise us by pursuing in-house development for key exclusive titles). Either way, the investment in software will come. The second wave of microconsoles will not be “boxes that let you play phone games on your TV”; at least not entirely. Rather, they will enjoy dedicated software support from companies who understand that a hit exclusive game would be a powerful way to drive installed base and usage.

Moreover, this wave of microconsoles will enjoy significant retail support. Fire TV’s edge is obvious; Amazon is the world’s largest and most successful online retailer, and it will give Fire TV prime billing on its various sites. The power of being promoted strongly by Amazon is not to be underestimated. Kindle Fire devices may still be eclipsed by the astonishing strength of the iPad in the tablet market, but they’re effectively the only non-iPad devices in the running, in sales terms, largely because Amazon has thrown its weight as a retailer behind them. Apple, meanwhile, is no laggard at retail, operating a network of the world’s most profitable stores to sell its own goods, while Google, although the runt of the litter in this regard, has done a solid job of balancing direct sales of its Nexus handsets with carrier and retail sales, work which it could bring to bear effectively on a microconsole offering.

In short, the second wave microconsoles will enjoy all the advantages their predecessors did not. They’ll be backed by significant money, marketing and development effort, and will have a major presence at retail. Moreover, they’ll be “trojan horse” devices in more ways than one, since their primary purpose will be as media devices, streaming content from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix and so on, while also serving as solid gaming devices in their own right. Here, then, is the convergence that microconsole advocates (and the rather less credible advocates of Smart TV) have been predicting all along; a tiny box that will stream all your media off the network and also build in enough gaming capability to satisfy the mainstream of consumers. Between the microconsole under the TV and the phone in your pocket, that’s gaming all sewn up, they reckon; just as a smartphone camera is good enough for almost everyone, leaving digital SLRs and their ilk to the devoted hobbyist, the professional and the poseur, a microconsole and a smartphone will be more than enough gaming for almost everyone, leaving dedicated consoles and gaming PCs to a commercially irrelevant hardcore fringe.

There are, I think, two problems with that assessment. The first is the notion that the “hardcore fringe” who will use dedicated gaming hardware is small enough to be commercially irrelevant; I’ve pointed out before that the strong growth of a new casual gaming market does not have to come at the cost of growth in the core market, and may even support it by providing a new stream of interested consumers. This is not a zero-sum game, and will not be a zero-sum game until we reach a point where there are no more non-gaming consumers out there to introduce to our medium. Microconsoles might do very well and still cause not the slightest headache to PlayStation, Xbox or Steam.

The second problem with the assessment is a problem with the microconsoles themselves – a problem which the Fire TV suffers from very seriously, and which will likely be replicated by subsequent devices. The problem is control.

Games are an interactive experience. Having a box which can run graphically intensive games is only one side of the equation – it is, arguably, the less important side of the equation. The other side is the controller, the device through which the player interacts with the game world. The most powerful graphics hardware in the world would be meaningless without some enjoyable, comfortable, well-designed method of interaction for players; and out of the box, Fire TV doesn’t have that.

Sure, you can control games (some of them, anyway) with the default remote control, but that’s going to be a terrible experience. I’m reminded of terribly earnest people ten years ago trying to convince me that you could have fun controlling complex games on pre-smartphone phones, or on TV remote controls linked up to cable boxes; valiant efforts ultimately doomed not only by a non-existent business ecosystem but by a terrible, terrible user experience. Smartphones heralded a gaming revolution not just because of the App Store ecosystem, but because it turned out that a sensitive multi-touch screen isn’t a bad way of controlling quite a lot of games. It still doesn’t work for many types of game; a lot of traditional game genres are designed around control mechanisms that simply can’t be shoehorned onto a smartphone. By and large, though, developers have come to grips with the possibilities and limitations of the touchscreen as a controller, and are making some solid, fun experiences with it.

With Fire TV, and I expect with whatever offering Google and Apple end up making, the controller is an afterthought – both figuratively and literally. You have to buy it separately, which keeps down the cost of the basic box but makes it highly unlikely that the average purchaser will be able to have a good game experience on the device. The controller itself doesn’t look great, which doesn’t help much, but simply being bundled with the box would make a bold statement about Fire TV’s gaming ambitions. As it is, this is not a gaming device. It’s a device that can play games if you buy an add-on; the notion that a box is a “gaming device” just because its internal chips can process game software, even if it doesn’t have the external hardware required to adequately control the experience, is the kind of notion only held by people who don’t play or understand games.

This is the Achilles’ Heel of the second generation of microconsoles. They offer a great deal – the backing of the tech giants, potentially huge investment and enormous retail presence. They could, with the right wind in their sales, help to bring “sofa gaming” to the same immense, casual audience that presently enjoys “pocket gaming”. Yet the giant unsolved question remains; how will these games be controlled? A Fire TV owner, a potential casual gamer, who tries to play a game using his remote control and finds the experience frustrating and unpleasant won’t go off and buy a controller to make things better; he’ll shrug and return to the Hulu app, dismissing the Games panel of the device as being a pointless irrelevance.

The answer doesn’t have to be “bundle a joypad”. Perhaps it’ll be “tether to a smartphone”, a decision which would demand a whole new approach to interaction design (which would be rather exciting, actually). Perhaps a simple Wiimote style wand could double as a remote control and a great motion controller or pointer. Perhaps (though I acknowledge this as deeply unlikely) a motion sensor like a “Kinect Lite” could be the solution. Many compelling approaches exist which deserve to be tried out; but one thing is absolutely certain. While the second generation of microconsoles are going to do very well in sales terms, they will primarily be bought as media streaming boxes – and will never be an important games platform until the question of control gets a good answer.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Wi-Fi Problems Plague Apple-Samsung Trial

April 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

There’s a new sign on the door to Courtroom 1 at the federal courthouse in San Jose, the location of the Apple v. Samsung battle that’s playing out this month: “Please turn off all cell phones.”

For a trial that centers on smartphones and the technology they use, it’s more than a little ironic. The entire case might not even be taking place if the market wasn’t so big and important, but the constant need for connectivity of everyone is causing problems in the court, hence the new sign.

The problems have centered on the system that displays the court reporter’s real-time transcription onto monitors on the desks of Judge Lucy Koh, the presiding judge in the case, and the lawyers of Apple and Samsung. The system, it seems, is connected via Wi-Fi and that connection keeps failing.

“We have a problem,” Judge Koh told the courtroom on April 4, soon after the problem first appeared. Without the system, Koh said she couldn’t do her job, so if people didn’t shut off electronics, she might have to ban them from the courtroom.

In many other courts, electronic devices are routinely banned, but the Northern District of California and Judge Koh have embraced technology more than most. While reporters and spectators are limited to a pen and paper in courts across the country, the court here permits live coverage through laptops and even provides a free Wi-Fi network.

On Monday, the problems continued and Judge Koh again asked for all cellphones to be switched off.

But not everyone listened. A scan of the courtroom revealed at least one hotspot hadn’t been switched off: It was an SK Telecom roaming device from South Korea, likely used by a member of Samsung’s team.

The hotspot was switched off by the end of the day, but on Tuesday there were more problems.

“You. Ma’am. You in the front row,” Judge Koh said sternly during a break. She’d spotted an Apple staffer using her phone and made the culprit stand, give her name and verbally agree not to use the handset again in court.

As a result of all the problems, lawyers for Apple and Samsung jointly suggested using a scheduled two-day break in the case to hardwire the transcription computers to the court’s network.

The cable wasn’t installed.

“I believe there were some issues, We’re attempting to install it,” one of the attorneys told IDG News Service during the court lunch break.

So for now, the problems continue.

The clerk opened the day with an appeal to switch phones off, “not even airplane mode.”

That still didn’t help.

The transcription screens failed at 9:09 a.m., just minutes into the first session of the morning.

 

Amazon Rumored To Launch Smartphone In Time For Christmas Season

April 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon.com Inc is making plans to unveil its long-rumored smartphone in the second half of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people briefed on the company’s plans.

The Internet retailer would jump into a crowded market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The company has recently been demonstrating versions of the handset to developers in San Francisco and Seattle. It intends to announce the device in June and ship to stores around the end of September, the newspaper cited the unidentified sources as saying.

Amazon has made great strides into the hardware arena as it seeks to boost sales of digital content and puts its online store in front of more users. Amazon recently launched its $99 Fire TV video-streaming box and its Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets already command respectable U.S. market share after just a few years on the market.

Rumors of an Amazon-designed smartphone have circulated for years, though executives have previously played down ambitions to leap into a heavily competitive and increasingly saturated market.

Apple and Samsung, which once accounted for the lion’s share of the smartphone market, are struggling to maintain margins as new entrants such as Huawei and Lenovo target the lower-income segment.

To stand out from the crowd, Amazon intends to equip its phones with screens that display three-dimensional images without a need for special glasses, the Journal said.

Amazon officials were not immediately available for comment.

 

Lenovo Says More Low-priced Android Tablets Coming In May

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

More lower priced Android tablets ranging from $129 to $249 are coming from Lenovo.

The new Tab A-series tablets, which will ship next month, have screen sizes ranging from 7-10 inches and are designed for Web surfing and home entertainment, Lenovo said. Other than screen sizes and weight, the tablets have mostly identical features.

The cheapest tablet in the lineup is the Tab A7-50, which weighs 320 grams and starts at $129. The TAB A8 weighs 360 grams and is priced starting at $179. The Tab A10 is much heftier at 560 grams, but has a larger battery that offers a Wi-Fi browsing time of eight hours, Lenovo said in a specification sheet.

All the tablets have screens that can display images at a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. The tablets have Android 4.2, code-named Jelly Bean, which will be upgradeable to version 4.4, code-named KitKat.

Common features also include Wi-Fi b/g/n, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and an SD card slot for up to 32GB of expandable storage. The tablets have a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear camera. Another feature is integrated 3G mobile broadband, though Lenovo did not say whether it was included in the price or is optional.

The tablets will ship in the U.S. Lenovo did not immediately provide information about shipment plans for other countries.

Lenovo offers a range of tablets for Android and Windows 8.1, with models starting at $99. The company is trying to create brands around Android-based Yoga tablets, which are being promoted by actor Ashton Kutcher, and ThinkPad tablets, which run on Windows.

 

Intel Laying Off 1500, Shutting Costa Rican Operations

April 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Chipmaker Intel, grappling with a dwindling PC market, is shutting its assembly and test operation in Costa Rica and eliminating 1,500 jobs.

The closure of the site, which is a significant contributor to Costa Rica’s exports, falls within a larger plan announced by the chipmaker earlier this year to cut spending as it attempts to grow beyond PCs into the mobile market.

“It’s being closed and consolidated into our other operations throughout the world,” spokesman Chuck Mulloy said of the assembly and test operations in Costa Rica.

During the next two quarters, Intel will move assembly and testing from its site in Heredia, where it has been present since 1997, to existing sites in China, Malaysia and Vietnam, Mulloy said.

Costa Rica President Elect Luis Guillermo Solis met with Intel executives on Tuesday morning and they assured him the decision had nothing to do with the election of his new government on Sunday, according to a statement from Guillermo’s office.

“The decision bears no relation to the election of the new Costa Rica government or the market conditions for…potential foreign investment,” the statement said.

Intel will continue to have over 1,000 engineers, finance and human resources employees in Costa Rica and do some research and development there. The chipmaker expects to add another 200 “high-value positions” in Costa Rica later this year, Mulloy said.

Intel dominates the PC chip industry, but it has been slow to adapt its processors for smartphones and tablets, markets now dominated by rivals such as Qualcomm Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The cuts in Costa Rica are consistent with Intel’s announcement in January that it would reduce its global workforce of 107,000 employees by about 5 percent this year, Mulloy said.

Also in January, Intel said a newly built factory in Chandler, Arizona, originally slated as a $5 billion project that in late 2013 would start producing Intel’s most advanced chips, would remain closed for the foreseeable future while other factories at the same site are upgraded.

 

Will Raspberry Pi Go Industrial computer This Summer?

April 10, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is readying an industrial compute module that will go on sale in early summer.

James Adams, director of hardware at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, said that the upcoming Raspberry Pi Compute Module is a complete Raspberry Pi system that fits it on a 67.6x30mm board.

It is a computer within a computer that is aimed at the Raspberry Pi hobbyist market of people that want to build their own PCB. Less able designers will be treated to a separate Compute Module IO board.

The module board includes 512MB of RAM, a BCM2835 processor and a 4GB eMMC Flash device.

“The Flash memory is connected directly to the processor on the board, but the remaining processor interfaces are available to the user via the connector pins. You get the full flexibility of the BCM2835 SoC (which means that many more GPIOs and interfaces are available as compared to the Raspberry Pi), and designing the module into a custom system should be relatively straightforward as we’ve put all the tricky bits onto the module itself,” said Adams.

“So what you are seeing here is a Raspberry Pi shrunk down to fit on a SODIMM with onboard memory, whose connectors you can customise for your own needs.”

The kits and cards will go online from resellers RS Components and Element14 this June, he added. Bulk orders of 100 will have a unit cost of $30. Individual orders will also be accepted, but they will incur a higher charge.

Adams said that all profits will be plowed back into charity, which is the foundation’s way. Last week it announced a “you raise it and we’ll match it” $1.7 million investment fund for educational projects.

Courtesy-TheInq

HTC First Quarter Losses Steeper Than Anticipated

April 8, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Taiwan based mobile phone maker HTC Corp posted a first-quarter loss that was bigger than analyst estimates, after ineffective marketing resulted in weak sales of its former flagship model.

The HTC One spent its year at the top of the product line receiving rave reviews but was undermined by advertising widely criticized as confusing, sending the company’s market share into freefall.

HTC was once a firm third to Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, selling 10 percent of smartphones globally two years ago, but it ended 2013 with a market share of just 2 percent, showed data from researcher Strategy Analytics.

The company started 2014 by booking a net loss of T$1.88 billion ($62.06 million) for January-March. That compared with a mean loss of T$1.59 billion estimated by 18 analysts polled by Reuters, and profit of T$85 million logged a year earlier.

Revenue fell 22.6 percent to T$33.12 billion, the company said in a statement on Monday.

HTC, however, broke 28 months of on-year revenue declines with a rise of 2.16 percent in March, and said it expected to return to profit in the second quarter thanks in part to the late-March release of its upgraded flagship, the HTC One M8.

Shares of HTC have fallen 38 percent over the past year, compared with a 12 percent rise in the Taiwan Stock Exchange Weighted Index. Ahead of the release, they closed up 3.6 percent versus the benchmark’s 0.1 percent loss.

The former contract manufacturer released a series of mid-range smartphones in recent weeks, predicting cheaper phones in emerging markets will help it return to profit this year.

It has also launched a partnership with search engine giant Google Inc to manufacture smart watches.

But it is the new flagship HTC One M8 that the company hopes will help it reestablish itself as a challenger to market leaders Apple and Samsung.

“The M8 is good, but it’s not as revolutionary as the previous flagship,” said Yuanta Securities analyst Dennis Chan. “Everyone is watching the second quarter to see how it sells.”

Tech website CNET.com awarded the phone four and a half stars out of five, calling it “a stunning sequel” to last year’s HTC One – a phone whose equally strong reviews were not matched by marketing and so did not translate into strong sales.

The new flagship could be in for a similarly rough sales ride as smartphone growth globally is likely to slow this year to 19 percent from 39 percent in 2013, and taper off over the next few years, showed data from researcher IDC.

As smartphones mature and technological upgrades become more incremental, analysts say even more importance will be placed on marketing and brand image – an area Chairwoman Cher Wang admitted HTC “didn’t do well” last year.

To distinguish itself to trend-conscious consumers, HTC must learn from Apple, whose innovative brand image and marketing strategy has won plaudits, said Taipei-based brand consultant Mark Stocker.

“Mimic them, but figure out what your brand stands for,” said Stocker. “If Apple is Mercedes Benz, try to make yourself BMW.”

 

Can The Amazon Fire TV Compete In The Gaming Space?

April 8, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

With Fire TV, Amazon has launched its first box to deliver games to the living room. The $99 Android-based hardware features a quad-core processor, a dedicated GPU and a separate gaming controller for $40. Moreover, Amazon will bring exclusive games to the Fire TV through its first-party team at Amazon Game Studios.

Similar to other microconsoles, the games on the digital store will be either free or quite cheap to purchase, which Amazon hopes will make it attractive to the masses. Amazon has an army of resources and while other microconsoles have failed to become mainstream, it would be foolish to doubt Amazon’s potential. Should dedicated console makers like Sony or Microsoft be concerned? The majority of the analysts GamesIndustry International spoke to didn’t think so.

Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter called the announcement a “nonevent,” saying Amazon “will not be a player.” DFC Intelligence’s David Cole agrees.

“Short term they don’t have a reason to be concerned but long term it could be an issue. The main focus of the box is streaming video. The issue is video is 1) a much bigger application than games and 2) much easier to do. It is clear games are at best currently a distant after thought for Amazon in terms of the Amazon box. The type of games they are looking at are more in the realm of tablet/mobile/casual products, which are really no substitute for what the dedicated consoles provide,” he said.

“So I think right now it is a rounding error in the game industry but that could change if Amazon decides it wants to make a big investment in the space. However, the reality is you really have to very directly target gamers and Amazon right now is only half-heartedly doing that.”

Indeed, hardcore gamers won’t be passing up the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One for an Amazon Fire TV anytime soon, said independent analyst Billy Pidgeon: “Hardcore games enthusiasts won’t be satisfied by this or any other inexpensive television-connected device. Still, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are increasingly competing for individual and family entertainment time with interactive entertainment, video and audio available in the home on multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets as well as multimedia boxes that connect to television sets.”

Pidgeon conceded that “as more devices can offer games and media, consoles’ appeal for the mass market (an important factor in mid-to-end cycle console adoption) is in steep decline.” He added that if anyone should be worried now, it should be Apple and Google.

“Apple and Google have been the main contenders for online media transactions, but Amazon has the motivation, the focus and the distribution to move Fire TV quickly into lead position. Apple has competition issues with media providers and Google is behind in online retail and user experience. Amazon’s entry into connected TV could energize the competition and speed household penetration,” he said.

Asif Khan, CFO of Virtue LLC, wasn’t wowed by the Fire TV announcement either. Even with exclusive games – and now Amazon has hired some heavy hitters in Clint Hocking and Kim Swift – he’s not convinced that Amazon can disrupt the console market.

“We knew that Amazon was going to enter the games industry, but I am not sure who is going to feel compelled to buy it with a controller that costs 40 percent of the device. The success of the device as a gaming alternative will likely depend on the software that Amazon’s gaming studio can create, but we have seen with Nintendo’s Wii U flop that first-party content is not enough to get consumers to buy a device,” Khan noted.

“There is chance that Fire TV can make some waves if Amazon’s partners continue to bring games to the device, but in my opinion this product will achieve limited success,” he continued. “It feels like all of Apple’s competitors have now shown their cards in anticipation of the upcoming Apple TV refresh. We have seen Xbox One, Chromecast, and now Fire TV. None of these products have wowed consumers and ushered in a new age of how we interact with TVs. This announcement by Amazon today just has me even more interested in what Apple is going to announce this year. Clearly the set top box market has a lot of players and Amazon has a chance to contribute something to that increasingly crowded space. With that being said, I do not think the Fire TV is a game changer for video game consoles. It is a set top box that also plays games, with the potential of asymmetric gameplay.”

If the analysts seem overly negative, perhaps they are forgetting about Amazon’s web services. The back-end technology could make a difference, said IDC research manager Lewis Ward, who believes Amazon is “absolutely” a contender in the console space.

“Anybody in high tech or in content that sees Amazon jump into their bread and butter market and isn’t concerned about what Amazon might be able to do should have their head examined,” he commented. “Let’s put it this way: Fire TV is by far the most viable microconsole platform out there. Couple that with Amazon’s back-end streaming, storage, and game-hosting platforms and developer tools and you’ve got a serious threat to casual home-based console gaming in particular, at least in North America and pockets of Europe in the next few years.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

Americans Concerned About Personal Privacy Erosion, Says Survey

April 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The personal data gathering abilities of Google,Facebook and other technology giants has sparked growing unease among Americans, with a majority worried that Internet companies are encroaching too much upon their lives, a new poll showed.

Google and Facebook generally topped lists of Americans’ concerns about the ability to track physical locations and monitor spending habits and personal communications, according to a poll conducted by Reuters/Ipsos from March 11 to March 26.

The survey highlights a growing ambivalence towards Internet companies whose popular online services, such as social networking, e-commerce and search, have blossomed into some of the world’s largest businesses.

Now, as the boundaries between Web products and real world services begin to blur, many of the top Internet companies are racing to put their stamp on everything from homeappliances to drones and automobiles.

With billions of dollars in cash, high stock prices, and an appetite for more user data, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are acquiring a diverse set of companies and launching ambitious technology projects.

But their grand ambitions are inciting concern, according to the poll of nearly 5,000 Americans. Of 4,781 respondents, 51 percent replied “yes” when asked if those three companies, plus Apple, Microsoft and Twitter, were pushing too far and expanding into too many areas of people’s lives.

This poll measures accuracy using a credibility interval and is accurate to plus or minus 1.6 percentage points.

“It’s very accurate to say that many people have love-hate relationships with some of their technology providers,” said Nuala O’Connor, the President of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet public policy group which has received funding from companies including Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

“As technology moves forward, as new technologies are in use and in people’s lives, they should question ‘Is this a fair deal between me and the device?’”

Fears about the expanding abilities of tech companies crystallized when Google acknowledged in 2010 that its fleet of StreetView cars, which criss-cross the globe taking panoramic photos for Google’s online mapping service, had inadvertently collected emails and other personal information transmitted over unencrypted home wireless networks.

Yet many Americans remain ignorant of the extent to which Internet companies are trying to extend their reach.

Google is one of the most aggressively ambitious, investing in the connected home through its $3.2 billion acquisition of smart thermostat maker Nest. Google is also investing in self-driving cars, augmented-reality glasses, robots and drones.

Almost a third of Americans say they know nothing about plans by Google and its rivals to get into real-world products such as phones, cars and appliances. Still, roughly two thirds of respondents are already worried about what Internet companies will do with the personal information they collect, or how securely they store the data.

 

Dell Unveils 11.6-inch Rugged Laptop That Doubles As A Tablet

April 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Dell unveiled a new 11.6-in. screen rugged laptop that has literally has a twist — the screen can rotate 180 degrees to turn the device into a tablet.

At first, the Latitude 12 looks like a laptop. But within the display panel, the screen rotates 180 degrees and the laptop turns into a tablet once placed on the keyboard.

The new Latitude 12 laptop is part of a new Rugged Extreme line of laptops, which also includes the Rugged Extreme 14. The new laptops are robust and can withstand six-foot drops and remain protected from extreme weather conditions.

The laptops have hard covers that add a layer of protection, but also make the products heavy. The Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme weighs 2.72 kilograms with a four-cell battery, while the 14-in. counterpart weighs 3.54 kilograms with a six-cell battery and no optical drive.

The laptops can also withstand solar radiation, “explosive atmosphere” and weather ranging from -20 degrees to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees to 63 degrees Celsius), according to specifications provided by Dell. The products are targeted at field workers like emergency responders and the military, and will compete against Toughbook rugged laptops from Panasonic.

The Latitude 12 rugged laptop has a starting price of $3,649, while the Latitude 14 begins at $3,499. The laptops will ship next month.

The hybrid design in Latitude 12 has been borrowed from the company’s XPS 12 Ultrabook Touch, which has a 12.5-inch screen that can similarly flip to turn the laptop into a tablet. The resistive touch screens on both laptops can show images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.

The laptops will have storage options of up to 512GB solid-state drives. Users can configure the laptop with Intel’s latest fourth-generation Core processorscode-named Haswell. The laptops will come with either Windows 8.1 or 7, or Ubuntu Linux operating systems.

Other features include support for up to 16GB of DRAM, Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet through a connector. The laptop also has USB 3.0, USB 2.0, VGA and HDMI ports. Mobile broadband and docking are available as options.

 

 

Microsoft Announces Give Away Of Windows For Tablets, Phones

April 4, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft Corp announced plans to give away its Windows operating system to makers of smartphones and small tablets for consumers as it seeks to make more of an impact on those fast-growing markets and counter the massive success of Google Inc’s free Android platform.

Microsoft’s, plans which were unveiled at its annual developers conference in San Francisco, is an attempt to broaden the small user base of mobile versions of Windows, in the hope that more customers will end up using Microsoft’s money-making, cloud-based services such as Skype and Office.

Up to now, Microsoft has charged phone and tablet makers between $5 and $15 per device to use its Windows system, as it has done successfully at higher prices for many years with Windows on personal computers. Hardware makers factor the cost of that into the sale price of each device.

That model has been obliterated in the past few years by the fast adoption of Google’s Android system for phones and tablets, which hardware makers quickly embraced and now accounts for more than 75 percent of all smartphones sold last year. Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad account for most of the rest of the mobile computing market.

By contrast, Windows-powered phones held only 3 percent of the global smartphone market last year. Windows tablets have only about 2 percent of the tablet market, according to tech research firm Gartner.

Microsoft’s move to make Windows free for some consumer devices bucks a central tenet of Bill Gates’ original philosophy, that software should be paid for, which led to Microsoft’s massive financial success over the last four decades. But analysts said it is a realistic reaction to the runaway success of free Android.

“Microsoft is facing challenges on the mobile and tablet fronts and need to change their strategy to move the growth needle, this is a good and logical first step,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets.

Windows will be free for companies making phones and tablets with screen sizes under nine inches for the consumer market. A license fee will still apply for business devices.

It comes a week after new Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella unveiled new versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel applications for Apple Inc’s iPad. A year’s free subscription to Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 service will be offered on the new devices running the free Windows, Microsoft said.

Both moves show that Microsoft is now more interested in gaining market share for its cloud-based services such as Office on any platform or device, rather than its traditional approach of putting Windows at the center of everything it does and extending its influence from there.

In the new era of mobile computing, Nadella acknowledged Microsoft’s underdog status.

“We are going to innovate with a challenger mindset,” said Nadella in a question and answer session at the developer conference. “We are not coming at this as some incumbent trying to do the next version of Windows, we are going to come at this by innovating in every dimension.”

 

Intel To Offer Exclusive Content For Devices Built Around Its Chips

April 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

After trailing ARM in the mobile processor market, Intel plans to change strategies by creating exclusive content for devices built around its chips.

More details about the exclusives will be shared during the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China. But Intel’s software chief Doug Fisher said the U.S. chipmaker wants to work “hand in hand” with vendors to develop unique content within a game or product.

The partnerships could even result in building entire software products exclusive to Intel chips, he added.

The company is trying to distinguish itself, as ARM chips remain the most commonly used processors in smartphones and tablets. Over the last four years, Intel has responded by building more power-efficient mobile processors, and optimizing Google’s Android OS for its chips.

“That’s not sufficient, we want to differentiate,” Fisher said in an interview on Wednesday. One area in which the company said it can excel is graphics, creating more detailed backgrounds in games. Another is in better multi-tasking for Android devices.

Intel is poised to make a breakthrough in the mobile processor market, Fisher said. The company has the goal of shipping 40 million Intel-powered tablet devices in 2014, four times more than the previous year.

To help bring more Intel-powered devices to the market, the U.S. chipmaker is tapping China’s tech hub of Shenzhen, a major center for electronics manufacturing. On Wednesday, Intel announced it would establish a center in Shenzhen devoted to helping vendors create mobile devices with the company’s chips.

Intel will also fund Chinese product development on tablets, smartphones and wearables with $100 million from its venture capital arm.

One area where Intel is noticing some innovation is vendors bringing Android to larger devices, including PCs. But Fisher said it’s still too early to say whether Android PCs have a future, given that Google is also pushing notebooks running its Chrome OS.

“We don’t care as long as it runs on Intel,” he added.

 

Latest Move By FCC Could Mean Faster Wi-Fi

April 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

U.S. regulators are opening up spectrum that may lead to Wi-Fi services with speeds of one gigabit per second and faster.

The Federal Communications Commission on Monday voted unanimously to open up an additional 100MHz for Wi-Fi-enabled devices in the 5GHz band of spectrum, and remove indoor-only restrictions on Wi-Fi devices and increase the amount of power they can use in the 5.15 to 5.25 GHz band of spectrum. The restrictions had been in place to protect Globalstar, which provides mobile and fixed satellite services in that area of spectrum.

Globalstar had raised interference concerns about new Wi-Fi devices operating in the spectrum, but general counsel Barbee Ponder said last month that the company did not object as long as its services could be protected.

“This change will have real impact, because we are doubling the unlicensed bandwidth in the 5 GHz band overnight,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said.

The new spectrum will help Internet users get higher Wi-Fi speeds and should ease congestion in crowded areas, the FCC said. But the unlicensed spectrum will also give innovators more spectrum with which to experiment, Rosenworcel said.

“The power of unlicensed goes beyond on-ramps to the Internet and off-loading for licensed [mobile] services,” she said. “It is the power of setting aside more of our airwaves for experiment and innovation without license. It is bound to yield new and exciting developments. It is also bound to be an economic boon.”

The FCC’s decision moves the U.S. closer to ending an old debate about the value of licensed spectrum versus unlicensed spectrum, added FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

“In 2014, licensed and unlicensed spectrum are more complementary than competitive,” he said. “They are less oil and vinegar and more peanut butter and jelly. Wireless carriers are using Wi-Fi to offload more than 45 percent of smartphone traffic to fixed networks.”

The FCC action will allow so-called unlicensed national information infrastructure (U-NII) devices to operate in the spectrum. U-NII devices now operate in 555MHz of spectrum in the 5GHz band, and are used for Wi-Fi and other high-speed wireless connections.

U-NII devices create Wi-Fi hot spots and wireless home local area networks to connect smart phones, tablets and laptops to the Internet, and are used by wireless ISPs to provide broadband service to rural areas, the FCC said.