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Authored by Jolie O'Dell of Mashable, and can be found here: http://is.gd/7KFu6f
According to information leaked from an anonymous Verizon employee, Motorola’s Xoom, a tablet running the long-anticipated Android Honeycomb, will sell for $800.
We got a good look at Xoom during CES this year. It is unique for several reasons.
First, it, along with the Droid Bionic and a lineup of other smartphones, is one of the first Verizon 4G LTE devices.
Second, the tablet is one of the first that will be running Honeycomb (Android 3.0), the tablet-specific fork of the Android mobile operating system. While we’ve seen Android tablets running version 1.6 and even 2.2 (Froyo), this will be the first instance of an intentional and elegant Android approach to the tablet form factor.
In addition to the new OS, Xoom features a 1080p screen resolution, front- and rear-facing cameras (2MP and 5MP, respectively), an HDMI output, and an accelerometer.
Motorola also says the device “delivers console-like gaming performance on its 1280×800 display, and features a built-in gyroscope, barometer, e-compass, accelerometer and adaptive lighting for new types of applications. It also features Google Maps 5.0 with 3D interaction and delivers access to over 3 million Google eBooks and thousands of apps from Android Market.”
The first 3G and Wi-Fi-enabled Xoom units should be available around the end of Q1 2011, and according to new reports from Android Central, the minimum advertised price for the units will start at $800 — a hefty price tag compared to other gadget options currently on the market.
A leaked preview of upcoming Android 3.0 release (aka Honeycomb) dropped last week on the Android developers’ YouTube channel. We certainly noticed, and of course the scrutiny of the drastically different UI began shortly thereafter.
Google’s official preview video (above) provides us with the most in-depth look we’ve seen of the OSsince Google’s VP of engineering Andy Rubin gave us a sneak peek of it in December. It’s too preliminary to make any absolute judgments, but from what little we’ve gleaned from the video, there are a number of pretty big changes. It’s a complete interface makeover.
The most notable change is Google’s emphasis on Honeycomb being “built entirely for tablets,” rather than a scaled-up version of an existing, smartphone-optimized Android OS release.
After Apple’s runaway success with its 2010 debut of the iPad, expectations on tablet offerings from competing companies in 2011 have been high. And at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there was certainly no dearth of new tablet debuts. Estimates of the number of new tablets showcased at CES ranged in the 50s to the 80s. From what we understand, the Honeycomb operating system has been designed to take advantage of the tablet shape in particular.
What hasn’t been made clear yet, however, is whether or not Honeycomb will be a tablet-exclusive version, or whether it will also be available for phones.
Android UI director Matias Duarte speaks to the issue, however effusively, in an interview with Engadget: “What you see in Honeycomb is absolutely the direction for Android,” Duarte says when directly asked about portability.
It’s a non-answer, and I doubt we’ll know more until closer to the time that “Ice Cream,” Honeycomb’s eventual successor, is released.
From what we can see in the new video, Duarte’s influence on the new UI is palpable. He came to Google in May from HP-owned Palm, where he developed the webOS interface for Palm devices, seen below:
Duarte’s scrollable page widgets from the webOS interface above are reminiscent of those seen on Honeycomb in the recent video from Google:
The Rubin demo screen shot and the screen above grab from Google’s leaked video share the same minimalist aesthetic, even more so than “Froyo” version 2.2 seen on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab (an OS which Duarte had no part in creating).
Surface area is obviously greater when moving from a 4-inch smartphone screen to that of a 10-inch tablet, and the scrollable Gmail, calendar and browser bookmark widgets sitting side-by-side simultaneously make good use of the increase in screen size.
Another stark difference: the complete lack of physical buttons on the device itself. “With Honeycomb,” says Duarte in the Engadget interview, “you don’t need to have physical buttons.” Note their complete absence in the wide shot of the Xoom:
Instead, physical navigational buttons have been replaced with on-screen versions of themselves, as seen in the arrows in the Xoom’s bottom left-hand corner, while the full app menu is still accessible in the upper right-hand corner:
But manufacturers aren’t beholden to buttonless devices. “Our partners can take that and do what they want with it,” Duarte says in the Engadget interview. “If somebody feels that, for their application, physical buttons are absolutely the right thing to do? Great. They can do that.”
Other app demos in the video seemed relatively straightforward, with heavier emphasis on their tablet application. Google Books leverages the tablet’s shape for page-turning and reading purposes, much like opening an iBook on the iPad. Gmail interactivity remains similar to its “Gingerbread” application — scrollable inbox, no-frills white-and-gray color scheme — but is now separated into two columns for navigability’s sake.
Google isn’t saying much about Honeycomb, outside of what’s been shown in the video, and after recent rumors circulating about the release of Honeycomb successor-to-be Ice Cream, it’s doubtful that the company will begin to talk until it’s good and ready.
Until then, our eyes will be glued to YouTube for the next leak.
Authored by Mike Isaac of Wired.com
Photos: Courtesy of Motorola and Palm
Once again we bring you the best audio book bestsellers of this month. Enjoy.
Authored by Kit Easton of FastCompany and can be found here: http://is.gd/kthZV. Kit can be followed on Twitter here: @kiteaston
A clutch of recent Apple patent actions can easily be combined to tease features we may see in this year's iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Better speakers, facial recognition and a way to stick your credit card chips into your iPhone are in the mix.
iPad Speaker, Camera Patents
One of Apple's recent patent applications tackles one of the iPad's existing criticisms--its speaker performance isn't exactly optimal. That's because while the iPad does have a pair of speakers, notionally good for stereo sound output, they each pour sound through one corner of the device's frame--destroying any stereo effect. It's a necessary sacrifice thanks to the fact the iPad's designed to be used horizontally, vertically or at a random angle. This is what the new patent tackles.
As the more technically minded out there may have guessed, Apple's solution to the problem involves a distributed array of speakers in each corner of the iPad, with on-the-spot re-assignment of left and right audio channels to particular speakers depending on which way up the iPad's held. In this arrangement, your left ear would hear left-channel sound and your right ear the right channel no matter which way round you held the iPad. The patent explains how an array of either three or four speakers would suffice, along with the relevant audio processing chips aboard a future model.
One neat part of the patent is that the device could use smart image recognition--as well as data from the built-in orientation sensor--to work out which way the iPad's being held. There could also be touch recognition input to help the iPad decide how it's being held, and the iPad could try to work out the location where it's being used. As well as suggesting that the device would be very proficient at quick channel-mapping onto speakers, this raises the intriguing possibility that the iPad 2, or 3, could recognize users automatically.
And there's one more neat fact here: The patent explains how tweeter and bass speakers could comprise the multi-speaker array, transforming the iPad into a more serious hi-fi media player. But from what we can see, Apple's suggesting the tweeter speakers could be concealed behind the screen. And since we think we know that the iPad 2 will have a large rear-facing speaker port in one corner (good for bass, which also needn't necessarily be in stereo) we wonder if this is actually how the iPad 2 will have better sound.
iDevice "SIM Tray" For Digital Credit Card Chips
One other hot tech we expect Apple to build into its iPhone (and possibly iPod Touch) for 2011 is near field communication wireless payment systems. We know how the radio part of this tech works, and we can make educated guesses about the apps Apple would construct for it along with how it might be secured in software, and to the ID of the phone owner. But what we weren't sure about was how Apple would persuade credit card companies to let it incorporate their security and card number protocols into an iPhone.
Now we have a hint: Another new Apple patent suggests an iPhone (or iPad, etc) could get a second SIM tray-like port on one side, into which you'd slip the little golden chip segment from a modern credit card. The neatness of this idea is impressive: All the credit card makers need do is slightly modify their existing cards so you could pop-out the chip in the same way you do when you get a new cell phone SIM card delivered (which does come in a credit card-shaped plastic carrier, if you remember). All the security and ID and--more importantly--control over card numbers and distribution to customers--would remain with the card issuer, disrupting their business model less than other solutions would.
It's good for Apple, too, as all the iPhone would have to do would be parse the chip every time the iPhone was waved over a wireless payment pad, and send the signal over a short-range encrypted radio channel, effectively acting as the middleman.
Since we suspect the iPhone 5 will have a similar glass (or possibly ceramic, or plastic) back to the iPhone 4--and this design is nicely radio-transparent for NFC needs--we're wondering if this is exactly how this year's iPhone's NFC credit card tech, or iWallet, may work.
Authored by MG Siegler of Techcrunch and can be found here: http://is.gd/khkNC
Breaking news: old school publishers seem hell-bent on insuring their content doesn’t catch on in the red-hot tablet space. A story in the Wall Street Journal this evening details how Google, Apple, Amazon and others are all racing to try to do deals with major publishers in order to set up their “digital newsstands”.
Of course, all of this has been going on for months now as publishers seem to be aware that tablets (okay, really just the iPad so far) are actually taking off this time, and they’d be wise to get on board. The problem, naturally, is that they want to be on board on their terms. And those, naturally, are old school terms. In other words, out-of-date and somewhat sleazy terms.
Here’s one main blurb of the WSJ piece:
Apple is planning to share more data about who downloads a publisher’s app, information publishers can use for marketing purposes. According to people familiar with the matter, Apple would ask consumers who subscribe to an iPad version of a magazine or newspaper for permission to share personal information about them, like their name and email address, with the publisher.
Some publishers remain unhappy with this arrangement because they think few customers would opt to share such data, according to these people.
So what the publishers seem to be demanding is that Apple opts users into sharing information without telling them. Or, to put it another way, “make it opt-out or we opt-out”. Classy.
Of course few customers would opt-in to sharing such data. Because who the hell wants to be marketed to relentlessly just because they signed up for a magazine subscription? No one. Except that’s the way the magazine subscription model currently works. Not because it’s a good model, but because in the days before technology started destroying print, people were naive enough not to realize what was going on. Obviously, the publishers would like to transition that happiness in slavery to the tablet space.
And while Apple doesn’t appear to be biting on that at this time, the publishers apparently are turing their sights towards chief rival Google. From the piece:
In recent weeks, these people say, Google has told publishers it would take a smaller slice on any sales they make of Android apps than the 30% cut Apple typically takes on iTunes sales. Google has also proposed giving publishers certain personal data about app buyers to help with marketing related products or services.
It’s not clear if in the Google scenario this would be opt-in (like Apple is proposing) or opt-out. But if Google wants to secure these deals ahead of Apple, it’s pretty clear what they’ll have to do. Hopefully they won’t do that.
Apple is also apparently on the verge of a new feature in iTunes that would allow for publishers to offer simple content subscription services. This too has been rumored for some time, and makes a lot of sense. After the initial interest wore off, it seems that most magazine apps are dwindling in sales numbers. The reason for this is obvious: they’re far too much money and too much of a pain to download. To get Time each week, you have to pay $4.99 each time. There is no subscription option. Others, like Newsweek, do have a subscription option, but it’s a bit convoluted. And others, like the Wall Street Journal, have an option (their own) that’s even more convoluted.
In order for the digital newsstand idea to work, it has to actually be a newsstand. As in, a centralized place where you can find and buy anything you’re looking for with a few easy clicks. You know, like iTunes. The stand-alone app model isn’t working for this content. But the publishers are wary of iTunes because they don’t want to give Apple the 30 percent cut, and, more importantly, they want that subscriber data.
And so we appear to be where we were a few months ago, at a stalemate. Talking to Google about a rival newsstand seems like a good bargaining tool, but the Android platform still doesn’t have a tablet that’s nearly as popular as the iPad. Amazon has the popular Kindle device, but it’s in black and white and doesn’t exactly seem like the future of magazine content consumption. You can be sure that Apple will want something like this digital newsstand in place by the launch of the iPad 2. And as they like to do, they’ll probably launch it even if they only have a few publishers on board.
And there will be some on board. Because they stand to lose a lot more than Apple does if they don’t get their content to hit on the iPad.
No money? No problem! The world of craptablets has grown significantly over the past dozen months, and you won't find us encouraging anyone to add another to the pile. But AOC has actually managed to make a fairly decent name for itself over the years, albeit one in the LCD industry.
In fact, this here company claims to be the world's largest manufacturer of LED / LCD monitors, but it's tough to say how that type of expertise will translate in the tablet arena. The newly launched Breeze bucks two screen size trends and splits the difference -- there's an 8-inch touchpanel here, complete with an 800 x 600 screen resolution and a row of physical keys along the right edge.
You'll also find a Rockchip processor, an outdated copy of Android 2.1, not to mention a USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm headphone, inbuilt speaker, 802.11b/g WiFi, 4GB of internal storage space, a microSD card slot and a battery that's supposedly good for up to 12 hours of audio playback or (six hours of video). We're still waiting to hear back on what type of CPU is under the shell, but for under $200, we're going to hazard a guess that it's not the quickest silicon in the shed. Anywho, it'll be splashing down at "major retail chains" later this month, likely going toe-to-toe with Augen for your bargain-bin bucks.
Original by Darren Murph of Endgadget.com
The book-seller Borders may become the first casualty of a changing publishing industry. According to reports, the company has been delaying payments to book publishers in order to help refinance its debt.
Borders is the second largest book retailers in the U.S., after Barnes & Noble, but even so, Borders says "there can be no assurance" that these refinancing efforts will be successful in keeping the company afloat.
Electronista likens Borders' downward spiral to that of Circuit City, noting the similarity between the companies' "lack of faith" from suppliers who no longer trusted credit from the chain. According to the blog, Borders has lost $74.4 million in its most recent quarter and has lost money in most every quarter for the past two years, save during the holiday season when sales helped prop up profits.
It isn't simply a downturn in the economy or in the publishing world that has put Borders in trouble. Unlike Barnes & Noble and Amazon, Borders has not built its own e-reader hardware. The company has partnered with Kobo, a spin-off of Canadian publishing company Indigo Books & Music, and offers a branded Borders e-bookstore and reader but only via the Kobo software and hardware.
As e-books have exploded in popularity, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have found themselves well placed, and there have been rumors of Borders buying Barnes & Noble, in no small part in order gain a share of the lucrative e-book business.
If Borders does go belly up, the results could have a ripple effect on the e-book industry. Kobo would clearly suffer by losing its major partner, a shame as Kobo is one of the few supporters for open-formats for publishing. But there seems to be plenty of other companies - Apple and Amazon - that have the (DRM) e-books ready to deliver.
Blog piece by Audrey Watters of ReadWriteWeb.com.
NosaDigital is an online store that provides electronic and audio books. NosaDigital sells fiction and non-fiction for both book formats. NosaDigital also deals in eBook readers as well as MP3 players, and iPods.
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