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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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February 8, 2013 7:08 PM

Review: Microsoft's Surface Pro

Posted by Brier Dudley

In some ways Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet, going on sale Saturday, is a radical new device.

It's the first full-blown PC made by Microsoft and one of the most potent tablet computers on the market now, especially at a starting price of $899 for a 64-gigabyte model. I've been testing a 128-gigabyte model that lists for $999.

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It's a strong debut for Microsoft's PC-making efforts, especially for a company that usually takes three tries to really nail a new product.

With its usual naming panache, Microsoft is officially calling it the Surface with Windows 8 Pro. Everyone else calls it the Surface Pro.

The 2-pound, half-inch-thick slab contains an Intel Core i5 processor, a solid-state hard drive and 4 gigs of RAM. That's faster and more powerful than most new desktop and laptop PCs. Yet the tablet still starts up in about 12 seconds, which is less than half the time it takes my iPad.

The Surface Pro also has a memory-card slot, USB 3.0 port and a digitizer that lets you use a stylus for more precise input on its 10.6-inch, high-def touch screen, which also tracks 10 contact points at once.

Then there's the ability to install and run most PC applications -- from iTunes to business apps -- as well as the growing selection of apps built just for Windows 8.

For business users, the list of features and computing capability make the Surface Pro a more logical choice than an iPad or Android tablet.

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For everyone else, it's liberating to have a decent, modern tablet that you can use like a PC, without being tethered to a restrictive app store.

Yet in other ways the Surface Pro is a little underwhelming, especially if you've seen the parade of Windows tablets that have been released over the past decade.

The Surface Pro may be the latest and greatest, but it also shows why it has taken so long for the PC industry to get this far: It's hard to build a device that's an open platform -- yet secure -- and uses standard Intel hardware still not ideal for mobile computers.

Battery life is a challenge with the Surface Pro. It doesn't last a full workday without recharging, unlike tablets that are based on less powerful, phone-type processors, such as the Surface RT tablet Microsoft began selling for $499 in October.

Microsoft is sensitive about the battery life issue, and I suspect that's why the company declined to build in cellular radios to connect Surface tablets directly to 4G wireless networks. LTE radios are battery hogs, but Microsoft needs to add them anyway for road warriors who are coming to expect built-in broadband in their mobile devices.

The Surface Pro looks nearly identical to the lower-powered Surface RT. It's a handsome, modern design with a sturdy magnesium case.

Some may be turned off by the new device having a design they've seen before. Others may enjoy knowing that with the pro model they've got more horsepower hidden under the hood, like driving a sedan with a supercharged V-8.

The pro version is a bit thicker than the RT version, a half-pound heavier and has its memory-card slot in a more convenient spot on the side of case, instead of hidden under the built-in kickstand. It has full 1080p, compared with the RT's 720p resolution, but it's hard to notice the difference on an 11-inch screen.

The pro also comes with a stylus that snaps into the battery-charging slot. The stylus is a nice addition and works with Wacom inking technology built into the tablet. But I didn't trust the magnet to keep the stylus attached, and grew tired of unsnapping it several times a day to plug in the charger. Microsoft needs to offer a docking station that lets you leave the stylus attached while you charge.

That extra half-pound was noticeable when toting the pro on the bus or holding it up in bed, for an extended period, but it still weighs less than a laptop.

Also noticeable were the fans required to cool that Intel processor.

Microsoft cleverly designed the fans to blow heat away from you, depending on how you're holding the tablet, but it couldn't eliminate the fans' noise. At my office this low whirring was imperceptible, but when I played Solitaire late at night on the tablet it sounded like a tiny UFO was hovering over my bed.

One thing that was not noticeable was the amount of disk space on the device. There has been a flap over the available space on Surface Pro devices, which have large system recovery partitions.

This might be a concern for some on the 64-gig model. On the 128-gig version that Microsoft loaned me, there are 78 gigs available plus a 7.8-gig recovery partition. If you need massive storage on your tablet you may need to change the partition, use the memory-card slot or consider another device.


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Of bigger concern is the dual-mode desktop. To me, the Surface Pro suffers more from the split personality of Windows 8 than its little brother, the Surface RT.

With the RT, Microsoft followed the Apple model and created a "walled garden" device like a smartphone, that only runs only preapproved apps designed for its new tiled desktop. There are trade-offs: You give up some liberty and privacy in return for convenience and simplicity.

It's convenient to sign in once on an RT or iPad, for instance, and have your signature apply to all the apps loaded on the device.

Microsoft is taking all PCs this direction with Windows 8, which prompts users to sign in. On the Surface Pro, I signed in to Windows, then still had to repeatedly sign in to Xbox Live, Office and various other apps and services. I prefer the open-platform approach of a PC, but on a tablet I expect the convenience of a single sign-on.

The Surface Pro, like other Windows 8 systems, straddles the old and new Windows modes in other ways. It runs new Windows 8-style apps that you get from Microsoft's app store on the modern, tiled desktop. You can also tap the screen and flip to a traditional Windows desktop.

You do an awful lot of flipping back and forth, especially if you're using the Surface Pro mostly for PC apps. This back and forth is almost instantaneous, but it gets tiresome.

It's also disorienting for people trying to figure out what's a PC and what's a tablet. This is getting harder now that we have two flavors of Windows 8 tablets on the market-- one that's a "real PC" and one that's just a Web tablet.

The constant flip-flopping between tablet and desktop modes in Windows 8 mirrors this confusing state of affairs, and makes it harder for people to figure out what's going on. Eventually it may not matter - categories will blur together and every surface may be a computer. Meanwhile Windows 8 will remind us that we're in a transition period.

The Intel processor in the Surface Pro is powerful. I was able to run games from Valve's Steam service, even though it warned me that the system may not have enough graphics oomph, and output them to a TV set.

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But it runs hotter than the RT; after five minutes playing a game its case felt like it had been sitting in the sun.

I mostly used the Surface Pro with the $130 "Type" cover with a thin keyboard. A keyboard is almost mandatory for people who type a lot, which brings the entry-level price to $929. The thinner, colorful, $120 "Touch" covers for Surface tablets are neat, but I can't type fast on them.

The covers work well when the Surface is set on a flat surface. On a lap they flex a bit and can partly separate from the tablet, losing connection.

This raises the question: Are you better off buying a Surface Pro or a laptop? There are some exciting $800 to $1,100 laptops available now that are just as thin as the Surface; some even convert into tablets.

But if you've been waiting for a powerful tablet that works like a PC, Microsoft delivers with the Surface Pro.

Comments | Category: Gadgets & products , Intel , Microsoft , Review , Surface , Tablets , Windows 8 , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 21, 2012 6:00 AM

Black Friday sales: For America's 37 percent who dare

Posted by Brier Dudley

The 47 percent and 1 percent are yesterday's news.

This week it's all about the 37 percent -- the hordes of Americans who will brave outrageous crowds in search of a deal on Black Friday, the craziest shopping day of the year.

This year 37 percent of American adults will go shopping for deals on Black Friday, according to new research from the Consumer Electronics Association, one of multiple reports this week attempting to quantify the frenzy.

CEA expects the long weekend -- through Cyber Monday -- will see 60 percent of American adults do gift shopping. It's predicting that consumers will spend an average of $218 over the four-day frenzy, up from $159 over the Thanksgiving weekend last year.

Through the full holiday season, retail sales should grow 11 percent, with an average of $842 spent on gifts, the group predicts.

Of the gift budget, $252 will be spent on consumer electronics, up slightly from the $246 average spending on gadgets predicted last year.

Altogether 76 percent of gift-giving adults plan to buy consumer-electronics products this year, according to the group's annual holiday study.

Tablets are the most desired gifts this holiday season. But people are more likely to receive a smartphone instead.

Pity the poor consumers..

They'll still do pretty well, though, according to CEA's research.

It's predicting that smartphones will be the most popular gadget given as a gift this this year, followed by tablet computing devices, laptop computers and DVD/Blu-ray players.

People are so enchanted by tablets, they'd rather have one than money or even peace and happiness.

Here are the most wanted gifts overall by adults, according to CEA's research:

-- Tablet computer
-- Money
-- Peace/happiness
-- Smartphone
-- Notebook/laptop computer

Adults' most wanted gadgets are:

-- Tablet computer
-- TV
-- Phone
-- Smartphone
-- Notebook/laptop computer

But they may have to settle for something less -- perhaps an iTunes or Amazon.com gift card?

Some 77 percent of adults plan to give a gift card this year, including 26 percent planning to give cards for digital music and 20 percent for electronic books. They're hoping someone else bought you a tablet or e-reader.

Comments | Category: Gadgets & products , Tablets , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 19, 2012 9:55 AM

Review: Nintendo's Wii U delivers double-screen fun

Posted by Brier Dudley

With Sunday's launch of the Wii U, Nintendo is once again disrupting the rec room with an unusual new machine designed to advance the notion of video entertainment.

Exploring its capabilities will keep buyers and game developers engaged for years.

The Wii U's signature feature is its GamePad controller, a wireless tablet with a 6.2-inch touch screen flanked by buttons and joysticks.

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Having this second screen can add a fun new dimension to games.

But after trying the console with a stack of launch titles over the past week, I think it will take time for some developers to figure out the right mix of what to display on the TV and the auxiliary screen.

In the meantime, the Wii U is still a nice option for people looking for a high-definition game console that will appeal to a broad range of players. Nintendo gave the system enough horsepower to run most premier games, whether or not they take full advantage of the GamePad.

The Wii U starts at $300 for a white model with 8 gigabyte of storage. A $350 deluxe version has 32 gigabytes of storage and comes with "Nintendo Land," a collection of a dozen starter games.

All versions of the Wii U support 1080p video, which finally gives Nintendo parity with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3. There are 29 packaged Wii U games available at launch, including top-tier action titles such as "Assassin's Creed III" and "Call of Duty: Black Ops II."

The Wii U is the first in a new generation of consoles that will arrive over the next year, including new models of the Xbox and PlayStation. All are likely to use multiple screens, and the next wave of games will be designed with this in mind.

On the Wii U, some games keep you focused on the GamePad screen, and others are mostly played on the TV. Most have you glance back and forth, using the tablet to navigate, aim or select weapons, for instance.

This new approach reflects the way people tend to have a phone or tablet at hand while watching TV nowadays. At work, in the car, everywhere you turn there are multiple displays to navigate and monitor the flow of information in our lives.

Including a tablet with the console may help Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft stem the loss of players who are turning toward inexpensive games on mobile devices and social networks.

The addition of touch screens will help consoles continue their evolution from game machines to hubs of entertainment and communication in the living room. A tablet with an on-screen keyboard works better than a game controller or TV remote if you want to send a text message or choose a movie from an online video store.

For Nintendo, this may be a more radical interface than the motion-controllers that debuted with the original Wii in 2006. They were quirky, but generally tracked familiar motions like swinging a bowling ball, a bat or a sword.

I found the Wii U to have a notable learning curve because it doesn't feel as natural to divide your attention between the GamePad display and the TV. This might be because I was trying multiple games with different screen mixes.

As a guy who juggles the remote, a tablet and a phone while watching TV, I thought I was pretty good at multitasking.

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But Wii U action games such as "Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge" and "Madden NFL 2013" put my advanced couch-potato skills to the test as I tried to focus on the TV and the GamePad while madly pushing buttons and tapping the display. My technique -- or a software bug -- caused "Madden" to completely freeze the Wii U at one point.

Among the action games I tried, Ubisoft's "ZombieU" and Warner Bros. "Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition" made especially good use of the small screen to display maps and sonar for locating enemies and manage collections of tools and weapons.

Nintendo, with its own games for the Wii U, has done the best job so far of figuring out how to have fun with multiple screens.

On its "New Super Mario Bros. U," the player using the GamePad can help other players get through the game. Tapping the pad can add bridges or bump aside enemies, for instance.

This is a great way to even things out between players with different skill levels, as long as they don't fight over who gets to use the GamePad. For now the system only works with a single GamePad; other players use standard Wii remotes.

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"Nintendo Land" introduces a variety of GamePad controls. You blow on the microphone to activate an elevator in "Donkey Kong's Crash Course," you flick the screen to shoot throwing stars at targets on the TV in "Takamaru's Ninja Castle," and you simply rotate the tablet to steer a car in "Captain Falcon's Twister Race."

In "Luigi's Ghost Mansion," one player uses the GamePad to guide a ghost through a haunted house. Other players use Wii remotes to navigate through the house displayed on the TV set.

Multiplayer games require a combination of the GamePad and Wii remotes. Remotes have to be paired with the GamePad, which can be a little tricky, and I never could get a remote to work properly on "The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest" game in the "Nintendo Land" suite.

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A big promise of the Wii U is its ability to play some games and watch streaming video on the GamePad, separate from the TV.

Unfortunately, the Wii U's wireless system wasn't strong enough to let me roam with the GamePad beyond the room with the console. It lost signal in the adjacent room, so I couldn't continue a game in the kitchen or bedroom. Maybe that's just as well.

The GamePad has the potential to be a truly great TV remote control, especially for navigating online video services. Apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Amazon.com are preloaded on the system.

But Nintendo wasn't able to finish these features in time for the console's debut, and it will activate them through software updates over the next month. (UPDATE: The Netflix app was activated over the weekend and works very well, with full search of the catalog via the GamePad and smooth 1080p output from the console.)

I wish Nintendo had gone a bit further and enabled the Wii U to also play DVD movie discs, so the device could replace the DVD player. Instead the Wii U uses proprietary discs with a thick, durable-seeming coating.

Another cornerstone of the platform is a new social network called Miiverse, which connects players online. It will be used to set up multiplayer games, share hints and tips on games and chat while watching TV shows and other video content.

Miiverse was not activated in time for my review, but Nintendo said it will be running at launch.

Assuming the video and networking features work as promised, Nintendo has produced an exciting successor to its groundbreaking Wii that should thrill buyers and inspire game developers to explore the GamePad's potential.

UPDATE: Miiverse, the web browser and other connected features went live as promised over the weekend.

It takes a little time to set up Miiverse accounts for users of the system, which are linked to Nintendo accounts, each of which require handles and passwords. Then you can participate in online forums where games are being discussed and send messages or doodles drawn on the GamePad to others.

During activation there's a lengthy advisory message encouraging people to be respectful and not post inappropriate material. We'll have to see whether the Miiverse maintains the positive, family friendly vibe that Nintendo has cultivated with its brand, and how aggressively the company moderates the network.

It's also an opportunity to activate parental controls, which are simple to manage though there aren't many options to tailor controls. You can set access to games based on their ratings, but access to video services and the browser is either on or off.

The Mii U's browser is fast and easy to use and is a handy way to display web pages on the TV. You control the browser on the GamePad and outputs the page on the TV in full screen, without any browser controls visible.

Both the basic and deluxe versions of the Wii U come with an HDMI cable. They can also use the original Wii's sensor bar - that receives remote signals - which is a nice touch and means Wii owners upgrading to the Wii U don't have to peel the old one off their TVs.

Here's a look at a few of the parental control screens:

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Here's the TV remote control capability that's launched with a "TV" button on the pad. Still to come are interactive TV features and the ability to control a DVR; the Wii U will initially work with TiVo boxes but Nintendo's hoping to get other set-top box companies on board:

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Here are the system specs, as listed by Nintendo:

Price: $299.99 for Basic Set, $349.99 for Deluxe Set.

Size: Approximately 1.8 inches high, 10.6 inches deep and 6.75 inches long.

Weight: Approximately 3.5 pounds.

Wii U GamePad: The GamePad incorporates a 6.2-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio LCD touch screen, as well as traditional button controls and two analog sticks. Inputs include a +Control Pad, L/R sticks, L/R stick buttons, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R buttons, ZL/ZR buttons, Power button, HOME button, -/SELECT button, +/START button, and TV CONTROL button. The GamePad also includes motion control (powered by an accelerometer and gyroscope), a front-facing camera, a microphone, stereo speakers, rumble features, a sensor bar, an included stylus and support for Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality. It is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and weighs approximately 1.1 pounds (500 g).

Other Controllers: The Wii U console supports one Wii U GamePad controller, up to four Wii Remote (or Wii Remote Plus) controllers or Wii U Pro Controllers, and Wii accessories such as the Nunchuk, Classic Controller and Wii Balance Board. In the future, the Wii U console will support, depending on the software, two Wii U GamePad controllers.

CPU: IBM Power-based multi-core processor.

GPU: AMD Radeon-based High Definition GPU.

Storage: Wii U uses an internal flash memory (8 GB with the Basic Set; 32 GB with the Deluxe Set) for data storage. It also supports external USB storage.

Media: Wii U and Wii optical discs.

Video Output: Supports 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i. Compatible cables include HDMI, Wii Component Video, Wii S-Video Stereo AV and Wii AV.

Audio Output: Uses six-channel PCM linear output via HDMI connector, or analog output via the AV Multi Out connector.

Networking: Wii U can be connected to the Internet via a wireless (IEEE 802.11b/g/n) connection. The console features four USB 2.0 connectors - two in the front and two in the rear - that support Wii LAN Adapters for a wired Internet connection.

Wii Compatibility: Nearly all Wii software and accessories can be used with Wii U.

Energy Efficiency: Wii U utilizes specially designed power-saving features to lower its energy consumption.

Wii U Retail Set Options:

Basic - $299.99
8 GB internal memory for storage
Wii U™ console (white)
Wii U GamePad (white)
Wii U AC adapter
Wii U GamePad AC adapter
High-speed HDMI cable
Sensor bar

Deluxe - $349.99
Nintendo Land game
32 GB internal memory for storage
Wii U console (black)
Wii U GamePad (black)
Wii U AC adapter
Wii U GamePad AC adapter
High-speed HDMI cable
Sensor bar
Wii U GamePad cradle
Wii U GamePad stand
Wii U console stand

Here's a close-up image of the GamePad provided by Nintendo. We'll have to see if it ships the TVii capability shown in the rendering before football season ends:

Comments | Category: Digital TV , Digital media , Gadgets & products , Microsoft , Nintendo , Review , Tablets , Video games , Wii U , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 7, 2012 2:23 PM

Paul Allen releases app -- for iPad

Posted by Brier Dudley

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is enthusiastic about Windows 8 tablets but a new entertainment app he's releasing this week is coming first to Apple's iPad.

Allen is releasing an app called Fayve, which helps users choose movies and TV shows by sorting through recommendations generated by streaming-video providers and Facebook friends.

The free app is scheduled to be released on iTunes on Thursday. Versions for Windows and Android devices are being developed and should be released soon.

Allen has invested in many entertainment ventures, including Ticketmaster, Dreamworks and independent movies. He also restored the Cinerama theater in Seattle.

A spokesman said Allen isn't trying to make money at the moment with the app. The first priority is "to get it in the hands of movie buffs and TV hounds and get their feedback on it."

"This is connected primarily to Paul's interest in media. He is a huge media consumer and has always enjoyed keeping a large collection of a wide variety of media," spokesman Erik Davidson said via email. "He realized it would be useful to have a tool that could filter through the masses of content and find good content based on a person's existing preferences. He thought this would be useful for himself and decided to build something others could use as well."

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Comments | Category: Apple , Apps , Billionaire techies , Digital media , Entrepreneurs , Microsoft , Paul Allen , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 29, 2012 2:11 PM

Apple iOS chief Forstall leaving in shakeup

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apparently there has also been a storm in Cupertino, Calif.

Apple today abruptly announced a reorganization of its executive ranks that includes the departure of Scott Forstall, head of its iOS mobile software group.

Forstall will be an adviser to Chief Executive Tim Cook until he leaves the company next year.

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Forstall -- who grew up in the Silverdale area, interned at Microsoft and still has family in the area -- was a close protege of and possible successor to Steve Jobs before Cook's ascendancy.

A BusinessWeek profile in 2011 called Forstall "the sorceror's apprentice" and said he "may be the best remaining proxy for the voice of Steve Jobs, the person most likely to channel the departed co-founder's exacting vision for how technology should work."

The story noted that Forstall is named on about 50 Apple patents, including a key one in 2009 that named him, Jobs and other employees as co-inventors of a touchscreen device controlled by finger commands.

More recently Forstall's group has come under fire for glitches with the launch of iOS 6, including a faulty mapping program that led to a rare apology by Apple.

Apple chose to release the news on a day it would have the least effect on its stock, which has lost some of its momentum since September and following the launch of the iPad mini last week. It announced Forstall's departure and the executive shakeup during the storm-related closure of Wall Street.

Also leaving in the shakeup is John Browett, head of Apple's retail business, after less than a year in the position. Cook will directly lead the group while a replacement is sought. Browett was hired in January from British consumer-electronics retailer Dixons.

Executives Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi are being given additional responsibilities.

Ive, head of industrial design, will now also lead human interface design, a position giving him more authority over software as well as hardware.

Federighi will lead iOS in addition to OS X software development. Cue will add Siri and Maps to his online services group. Hardware engineering chief Mansfield will lead a new "technologies" group that will work on wireless products and semiconductors.

"We are in one of the most prolific periods of innovation and new products in Apple's history," Cook said in a release. "The amazing products that we've introduced in September and October, iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini, iPad, iMac, MacBook Pro, iPod touch, iPod nano and many of our applications, could only have been created at Apple and are the direct result of our relentless focus on tightly integrating world-class hardware, software and services."

The release didn't provide any information about Forstall's next career move and the company has not yet responded to a request for more details.

Forstall, a Stanford graduate, joined Apple in 1997 through the acquisition of NeXT, a computer company that Jobs founded after he resigned from Apple in 1985. Forstall was one of the original architects of the OS X operating system and its Aqua user interface.

Forstall rose to become senior vice president of iOS software and part of the small circle of executives that guides the company. Last year he was paid a salary of $700,000 plus a 100 percent bonus of $700,000, plus stock awards, and received a raise to $800,000 for 2012.

Here are a few images I took of Forstall at the side of Jobs during the iPad 2 launch in March 2011:

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October 23, 2012 10:24 AM

Apple unveils thinner iMacs, new iPads, MacBook Pro

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple is trying to spoil the party in Seattle, announcing new PCs and a mini iPad ahead of Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 on Friday and Amazon.com's launch of its 10-inch Kindle Fire next month.

WIth the PC industry gearing up for a major refresh around Windows 8, Apple hopes hoping to lure buyers with new models of its desktop and portable computers. But while Apple's new hardware is gorgeous, it's also very expensive, which will limit its chances of taking over the desktop and laptop PC market that's still dominated by Microsoft.

A new version of the desktop iMac unveiled today is 80 percent thinner than the current model. Apple also is offering it with a hybrid hard drive -- combining a spinning hard drive with flash storage -- similar to what Windows PCs have been using to boost performance.

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(SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 23: Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller announcing the new iMac during the event at the historic California Theater on October 23, 2012 in San Jose, California. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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The base model iMac with an i5 processor, traditional hard drive and 21.5-inch display costs $1,299 and ships next month. The base 27-inch model is $1,799 and ships in December. They no longer have DVD drives. (Apple is livestreaming the event to users of iOS, and it's being blogged by Apple's selected group of reporters.)

Apple refreshed its MacBook Pro line by adding models with high resolutoin "Retina Display" technology. A 13-inch model with USB 3.0 ports, a Core i5 processor and 256 gigabytes of storage but no DVD drive starts at $1,699. A 15-inch model starts at $2,199.

The new version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro - the best-selling Mac - is 20 percent thinner (0.75 inches thick) and nearly a pound lighter, at 3.57 pounds.

Apple is aiming at Amazon.com with a new version of its iBooks store and reading app. Despite the hype of previous versions they failed to get much traction against Amazon's Kindle platform, which also runs on Apple devices.

Apple also is trying to deflect the new challenge of tablet computers running Microsoft's Windows RT software that will debut on Friday, including Surface models made by Microsoft.

Its biggest weapon here is an updated model of the iPad announced today -- its fourth-generation -- with the same exterior but a faster processor and wireless radios. It starts at $499 or $629 for a model that connects to wireless phone networks. The starting price of the previous-generation "iPad 2" remains at $399.

As widely expected, Apple also unveiled an entirely new, smaller iPad -- the iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch display -- that's a defensive move against the successful 7-inch Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7 tablet. It's about a fourth less heavy than the full-size iPad and has a slightly more squared-off design.

The iPad Mini is also less resolutionary than the bigger iPads, with less than HD 1024 by 768 resolution, but it still runs the same apps. Its case is 5.3 inches by 7.87 inches and 0.28 inches thick, and it weighs two-thirds of a pound.

Apple declined to compete on price, perhaps counting on its brand cachet and slightly bigger screen to lure buyers from competing pads in the space between smartphones and full-size tablets.

The iPad Mini will start at $329 -- which is $130 more than the starting Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7. The $329 model has 16 gigabytes of memory and Wi-Fi; a version that works on phone networks starts at $459. Wi-Fi versions ship starting Nov. 2.

Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs famously dismissed 7-inch tablets, saying they were destined to fail, but he's no longer running the company.

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(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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Comments | Category: Amazon.com , Apple , Apps , Gadgets & products , Google , Microsoft , PCs , Tablets , Windows 8 , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 22, 2012 10:19 AM

Windows 8 spurs new PC designs: Flip, slide and jumbo

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you're going to buy a new computer in the next year or two, the decision will be more complicated.

It also will be more fun, with all sorts of new models that will make you think differently about what a PC is, what it does and how it works.

A catalyst for this change is the radical new design of Windows 8, which works equally well on a touch-screen tablet, a traditional laptop or an all-in-one desktop PC.

Helping things along are tiny processors that enable PC makers to build full-power machines in cases less than an inch thick.

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New hardware designs were pushed by Intel, which seeded the market with prototype designs developed largely in Oregon. Microsoft also developed prototypes and decided to build its own tablets to raise the bar and showcase its platform.

The PC industry had to do something because lots of people were starting to think the most exciting option for their next computer was an Apple iPad.

Looking ahead, I'll bet computer shoppers will be more intrigued by the new Windows-powered machines that will go on sale starting Friday.

Even the expected arrival of a mini iPad this week won't be enough to keep people away from the new and different PCs and Windows-based tablets.

That is, if shoppers aren't too confused by all the options they'll face, not to mention the hurdle of learning a new operating system. The thinnest and funkiest new touch-screen computers will cost more than old-fashioned PCs, which also will come with Windows 8.

A PC tower and monitor -- or a lower-end, standard laptop -- may still be the cheapest options for a Windows 8 computer. The next step up will be to systems with a touch-screen display, which is especially nice with Windows 8, but not mandatory.

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PC makers are building new "all-in-one" desktops around Windows 8, including designs that finally will approach the sleek case design of Apple's iMac. (Here's my review of a Sony all-in-one with an early version of Windows 8, which talks about the learning curve for new users; at left is HP's Spectre One.)

Windows 8 will bring a flood of tablets that may look similar but have big differences. Some will be full-power PCs that run most software made for Windows. Others will be iPad-like "Windows RT" models based on smartphone-type processors that run only new programs designed for the platform. The latter includes Microsoft's own line of Surface tablets.

Dozens of thin, new laptops are coming. Intel is aware of about 70 new models in the works that are thin and potent enough to carry its "Ultrabook" brand. That's in addition to the 70 or so models with Windows 7 that launched since the summer.

Then there are the crazy new Windows 8 hybrids and convertibles PCs that flip, fold and slide into different shapes.

This is just the beginning. Even more hardware changes are likely in mid-2013, when Intel will launch new processors requiring PC makers to design another wave of new machines.

For starters, here's a quick guide to some of the different Windows 8 PCs on their way to the showroom. They say the rainy season is a good time to shop for convertibles, so let's check out some of the new models:

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The Jumbo Tablet: Sony calls it the Vaio Tap 20, but it's really a humongous tablet with a 20-inch diagonal touch-screen display (top photo and above). On its stand, it's a nice all-in-one PC that tilts back to use like an easel. Removed from the stand, it runs on a battery and can be carried around the house or used to play digital board games. It starts at $880 and comes in black or white.

The Ferris Wheel: The Dell XPS 12 (below) is called a "Ferris wheel" design by Intel because of the way its display rotates. Dell calls it a "flip hinge touch-screen display." Spin the screen, fold it flat and your laptop becomes a 12-inch tablet. It starts at $1,200.

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The Channel Slider: The touch-screen display on Toshiba's Satellite U925T tilts back and slides forward in a channel, covering the keyboard and turning it into a 12.5-inch, widescreen tablet with an Intel Core i5 processor and 128 gigabytes of solid-state storage. It starts at $1,150.

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The Surf Slider: Sony also has a "channel slider" called the Vaio Duo 11, but it calls the convertible mechanism a "Surf Slider." It starts at $1,100.

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The Twist: Laptops with screens that twist and flop down over the keyboard to form a tablet have been offered since Windows XP Tablet Edition debuted a decade ago. New models are being offered with Windows 8, including the Lenovo Twist S430u, with a 12.5-inch screen and starting at $849.

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The Tent: Lenovo has drawn kudos for its Yoga laptop with a 360-degree hinge that folds the display back until it becomes a tablet. You can also fold it around 300 degrees and pitch a "tent" that stands up by itself. A Windows 8 version with 13.3-inch screen starts at $1,099. An 11.6-inch version with the more-limited Windows RT software will start at $799 and arrive in December.

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Microsoft's future may hinge on Windows 8, and your next computer may be all about the hinge.

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July 23, 2012 10:19 AM

Wireless bills biting into consumer spending?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's my theory on the ominous decline in consumer spending, the widening crack in the economy that suggests leaner times ahead.

When the Commerce Department reported the spending slowdown last week, unemployment and stagnant wages received the blame.

But I think there's another reason Americans are cutting back: They're trying to pay their enormous bills for wireless phone service.

Consumers may be spending less overall, but they're still trading up to smartphones with more expensive service plans. Those who already own smartphones are adding iPads and other gadgets that increase their monthly bills.

These gadget sales aren't turning the economy around, but they're doing wonders for the wireless industry.

A few days after the consumer-spending news, Verizon Wireless said half of its customers are now using smartphones. It also surprised analysts by reporting that it's now making $56.13 per month per customer, up about 4 percent from last year.

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AT&T may bring even more surprises Tuesday when it reports earnings.

Broadly, global wireless revenues should reach $1.5 trillion this year, tripling over the past decade, according to Chetan Sharma, an Issaquah-based industry analyst.

"Astronomical" sales of data -- largely since the iPhone's debut in 2007 -- have more than offset declines in voice and message services, he noted in a report last week.

AT&T -- the largest beneficiary of the iPhone effect -- saw data sales grow from $689 million in 2004 to $22 billion in 2011, he noted.

To maintain profit margins and keep a handle on surging data usage, the leading carriers have moved from unlimited data plans to tiered plans.

Now, to encourage the use of multiple devices, AT&T and Verizon are rolling out shared-data plans. This new billing approach may bring the average monthly revenue per smartphone user to $90 or more.

The cost per gigabyte may go down for some, but the carriers will do fine. That's because overall usage continues to grow as people use faster, higher-resolution devices to access more video and other content via wireless networks.

Sharma expects carriers will see strong growth in data-access sales for several years. He believes this will peak in three or four years, after which the industry will look to services and applications for its next wave of growth.

So will industry sales triple again over the next decade?

"I wouldn't be surprised," Sharma said. "There's a tremendous amount of growth left in the developing markets."

Where this money will come from is the big question.

Households typically spend around $1,000 a year on technology, including their phone, cable and Internet bills. In general, tech has taken about 4 percent of disposable income over the last decade, Sharma said.

As people spend more on wireless, they reallocate and cut back on things like wired phone service, he explained. Consumers are now spending about 43 percent of their tech budgets on wireless and he expects that to reach 50 percent early next year.

"The spend on cable and Internet is growing but slowing, and the majority of the growth is coming from the spend on cellphones -- that is, on both voice, as well as data," Sharma said.

This has to be consuming a larger share of Americans' disposable income. Consider the new Verizon and AT&T plans. For smartphones, they charge a minimum of $90 to $95 per month, with 1 gigabyte of data access. That's close to $1,200 per year.

Yet if wireless costs are affecting overall consumer spending, this isn't yet apparent in national spending reports, according to economic consultant Joel Naroff in Holland, Pa.

Naroff said spending on services isn't rising much. In fact services -- which includes real estate and health care, and accounts for about 65 percent of spending -- is seeing weak increases.

"More than likely it's putting pressure on people's budgets and they've cut back in other places," he said.

New devices and online services will also encourage people to spend even more on wireless data services in the next few years.

Apple's "retina display" technology started a race toward devices with higher density displays, which consume more data. Just around the corner is ultrahigh definition video with 4,000 lines of resolution.

The push toward online "cloud" services also will increase wireless data usage.

As people embrace online services that store and stream content, they'll depend even more on carriers to provide constant, fast service. And it's going to cost them.

I've been thinking about this while testing new Android phones that come preloaded with Dropbox, a service that automatically uploads photos and videos to an online storage locker.

It also struck me when testing Microsoft's upcoming version of Office. By default, it stores copies of all files online in the SkyDrive storage service, though Microsoft has also built it in a way that minimizes the amount of data that's transferred.

A bigger concern is the potential cost of streaming video services like Netflix, which uses up to 2.3 gigabytes per hour to stream a movie in high-definition. That means watching one could cost $60 if you're streaming it over AT&T and you've used up the data allocated by your "Mobile Share" wireless plan.

That would definitely lead to reduced consumer spending in my household.

Comments | Category: 4G , AT&T , Broadband , Gadgets & products , Netflix , Phones , Sprint , T-Mobile , Telecom , Verizon , Windows 8 , iPad , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 11, 2012 10:19 AM

Apple gives Macs latest Intel chips, high-res Pro laptop

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple just announced that its Macs are getting the latest Intel processors, the third-generation Core series that Intel announced last week during the PC-focused Computex conference in Taipei.

With dozens of new Windows PCs coming to market this year with Windows 8, Apple upped the competition a bit in the post-PC era by also announcing a new MacBook Pro (shown) with a thinner case and Retina Display technology. It starts at $2,199.
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Apple laptops are also getting USB 3.0, which is becoming a PC standard. The new MacBook Pro doesn't have Ethernet or FireWire jacks, though; instead Apple's offering dongles to connect those cables via its optical Thunderbolt ports.

These are nice upgrades to the trend-setting MacBook Air especially, which now starts at $999. But don't stop the presses just yet.

UPDATE: As previewed by Tim Cook a few weeks ago, Apple's integrating Facebook into the new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6, surfacing today and releasing this fall. The Siri voice assistant is coming to the iPad, and Apple's working with carmakers (other than Microsoft buddy Ford ...) to enable Siri to work via an iPhone docked in the vehicle and sync'd with dash controls.

Also being added to the mobile OS is "Passbook," a sort of wallet for storing loyalty cards and tickets, similar to a feature in Google Wallet that keeps various accounts stored on Android phones.

Apple also unveiled a new mapping system with navigation and location information. It was built in-house, to replace the Google maps the company has been using on its devices.

(I'm not attending Apple's event at its developer conference in San Francisco but am watching some of the live blogs.)

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June 7, 2012 5:41 PM

E3: Q&A with Nintendo exec on Wii U, iPad, Facebook and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

LOS ANGELES -- Will Nintendo's new Wii U compete with the iPad as much as other game consoles, and will its Miiverse social network challenge Facebook?

And can the console win over hard-core gamers without "Call of Duty" -- or could the blockbuster action game be coming to the Wii U after all?

Those are some of the question I pitched at E3 to Scott Moffitt, the guy in charge of selling and marketing Nintendo hardware and games.

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Moffitt joined Nintendo of America as executive vice president of sales and marketing last year. Earlier he was at PepsiCo and Henkel Consumer Goods, handling brands like Mountain Dew, Right Guard and Dial.

Nintendo of America is based in Redmond, but Moffitt works from its marketing office in Redwood City, Calif.

Here are edited excerpts of our chat:

Q: Why is there no Wii U pricing information yet? Is it because you want another round of coverage when the price is announced, or have you not decided the price yet?

A: It's not that we haven't settled it. As is typical with past Nintendo console and hardware launches, we tend to try to announce the pricing and exact SKU information closer to launch. What we've said is the Wii U will be launching this holiday period and we'll make that kind of information available as we get closer to launch.

Q: How does Nintendo define the holiday season?

A: Holiday season really begins October, November, December, but of course the bulk of the sales begin Black Friday weekend, right after Thanksgiving.

Q: Do you see consumers this Christmas choosing between a $399 iPad and a Wii U, or will the Wii U be more head-to-head with other consoles?

A: I believe the competitive consideration set would include our friends from Microsoft and Sony more so than iPad devices. There's just limited gaming you can do on those devices if you really are a gamer that cares for deep, immersive gaming experiences with true button control.

So I do believe our true competition is the other consoles. But I'd say what we're offering is quite different and quite revolutionary so I think we'll compete with ourselves a bit.

Q: Are your primary buyers going to be Wii owners upgrading?
A: I think your early buyers are people who love early technology. And that probably is very broadly defined as active gamers that really want the newest, latest, greatest technology in gaming and are very intrigued by the second screen controller, which we call the Wii U, and all the interesting things it enables in home entertainment.

Q: So do you expect a slower build-up with mainstream consumers?

A: No, I think there will be a lot of current Nintendo fans also in that early rush to wait in lines and buy the Wii U. So I think current Nintendo fans that love our franchises and love playing Mario games they know they can only play on our systems will be lining up to buy it. Certainly Wii owners will be intrigued by what this has to offer as well.

Q: Your peers at Sony have told me they saw the PlayStation 3 as the upgrade for Wii owners. What will Wii U buyers be upgrading from?

A: The Wii U is intended for a broad audience. Nintendo's always been about expanding the gaming audience. The potential buyers are very broad. As we showed with Wii, when you bring interesting, new types of gaming the appeal can be quite broad. Once again, we're going to be able to transform the gaming experience, but it goes far beyond gaming. With Wii U there are three pillars to what Wii U offers.

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Certainly the integrated, second-screen controller transforms the way people play games. It will transform the way they connect with each other, with Miiverse. It will also transform the way they experience entertainment in the home. It's connected automatically to the internet, to your game console and you have the controller. That seamless connection creates lots of interesting entertainment possibilities as well as game possibilities.

Q: You have some new games for hard-core gamers but I didn't see "Call of Duty" or "Battlefield" for the Wii U. Can you get the core gamer if you don't have those titles on there?

A: E3 for us is all about games. We're focusing on that first pillar of the three pillars of what E3 can offer. Over 20 games were unveiled. That's a pretty broad lineup. But I can assure you even more games will be coming during the launch period so if there's a favorite game that gamers like, I think there's a good chance it will be coming to the platform. .... I would expect that gamers will see an immense array of first- and third-party content at launch.

Q: That's interesting. You're coming after the core strongly during what's going to be a big core season, with big titles coming out and the other consoles positioned for core gamers. Will most of your sales be to the family audience?

A: I wouldn't say that. I think Wii U is intended to reach a very broad audience. There's a lot that a core gamer will really appreciate in the system when they get into it and they see a game like "Batman Arkham City.

Yes, it's a game that was released last year but when you see how you can play it differently and what new kinds of experiences are available when you play it on the Wii U game pad. It really opens up and we think, could make it the preferred way to play some of those core games.

Q: How are you going handle parental and family safety issues around the Miiverse social network? Will there be age restrictions on its use?

A: There will be traditional parental family controls, as you'd expect with that. The Miiverse, we really haven't talked much about that yet, but it's a really interesting idea that will transform social connections both within game play and beyond game play with broader entertainment.

When you power up your system, you'll see this Mii plaza with not only your Mii but also the Miis of your friends and your neighbors and other people you're gaming with, but other people from your region or across the world. You'll see where they're congregating, which indicates their preferences for gaming or other entertainment.... We think it will enable fun interaction with households across the country and with gamers of all abilities.

Q: Will it be open to players under 13 years old?

A: It's open to gamers of all ages but you can set your parental controls, your parental restrictions, as you like.

Q: Will there be any bridges between Miiverse and say Facebook or Twitter?

A: We haven't announced anything in that area yet.

Q: Will you do more things wth the network and online services, for instance online storage and photo sharing?

A: We haven't announced any of those capabilities yet, but I think you're imagining several possibilities that have already been thought about.

We've also thought about how would you connect this new Nintendo network with your 3DS, your handheld gaming system, so you could certainly imagine lots of ways to connected all your gaming devices and enable some of the functions you're talking about. But that's not ready, that's not going to be announced at launch.

Q: Will the Miiverse become the primary way people connect online with friends and family, or is it intended to supplement other networks and message systems?

A: It's not meant to replace things people are doing on Facebook or other things. It's really not a competitor for those. It's a game-centered network. So it's meant to be a place to share gaming and entertainment content so it really inverts what Facebook does.

Facebook is a broad social network, it has a gaming aspect to it. This starts with gaming and enables some of the communication and interaction that consumers have become accustomed to with these other social networks.

Q: How will you benefit from having pole position in the next generation of game consoles?

A: I think Nintendo tends to launch new consoles when the technology and when the imagination is there to create something new that enables a richer and more interesting game experience. We don't have a set clock when we want a new console or a new piece of hardware to come out.

When we feel we have something that can elevate game play and transform the experience, that's when we'll bring it out. But certainly I would imagine being first will influence consoles that come from other manufacturers.

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March 15, 2012 11:45 AM

Peek inside Apple's new iPad, plus early reviews

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you've been dying to see what's on the inside of Apple's new iPad, gadget repair firm iFixit has the goods.

Taking advantage of the time difference in Australia, iFixit flew an executive from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to Melbourne, where he was first in line at a Telstra store to buy the new iPad. Then he cracked it open, using a heat gun, guitar picks and other tools.

Here's the big reveal of the iPad's A5X processor, manufactured by Apple's frenemy Samsung:

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Here's the higher resolution screen, also apparently made by Samsung. During this procedure iFixit could "hear the cries of 3,145,728 pixels being removed from their homes inside the iPad 3."
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Here's the bigger battery:
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For external perspective, Apple's preferred reviewers posted their first takes on the new iPad last night.

Walt Mossberg noted that it's thicker and heavier than the last iPad and is no longer the thinnest and lightest tablet. But "despite these trade-offs, its key improvements strengthen its position as the best tablet on the market," he wrote. "Apple hasn't totally revamped the iPad or added loads of new features. But it has improved it significantly, at the same price."

Mossberg loved the "spectacular" display but said iPad 2 owners "shouldn't feel like you have to rush out to buy the new one. However, for those who use their iPads as their main e-readers, and those who use it frequently while away from Wi-Fi coverage, this new model could make a big difference."

David Pogue at the New York Times said the new screen is "very, very sharp" but it doesn't make much difference for apps that haven't been rewritten for the higher resolution display:

In most apps, text is automatically sharpened, but not in all of them. After enjoying the freakishly sharp text in Mail and Safari, you'll be disappointed in the relatively crude type in, for example, the non-updated Amazon Kindle app. (Amazon says that a Retina-ready update is in the works.)

Similarly, high-definition videos look dazzling. This is the world's first tablet that can actually show you hi-def movies in full 1080p high definition. But Netflix's streaming movies don't come to the iPad in high definition (yet, says Netflix), so they don't look any better.

The iPad's 4G LTE connection is "really, really nice" Pogue said, but he's not encouraging iPad 2 owners to rush out and upgrade, either:

The new iPad doesn't introduce anything that we haven't seen before, either in the iPhone or in rival tablets. There's no Steve Jobs "one more thing" moment here; Apple just took its white-hot iPad and added the latest screen, battery and cellular technologies.

If you're in the market for a tablet, here's the bright side: For the same price as before, you can now get an updated iPad that's still better-looking, better integrated and more consistently designed than any of its rivals.

And if you already have the iPad 2, here's an even brighter side: At least this time around, you don't have to feel quite as obsolete as usual.

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November 10, 2011 11:00 AM

Tip of the day: Don't call 911 for iPhone tech support

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's the lesson learned by an Illinois man, accused of calling 911 five times to complain about his malfunctioning iPhone, according to this report.

There's an Apple Store about 16 miles from the town of Bristol where he was arrested, but it probably wasn't open in the middle of the night.

Maybe he should have just waited - Apple today released iOS 5.0.1, the promised update that fixes bugs affecting iPhone battery life. Macworld said it also includes security patches, fixes to iCloud file syncing and improved Australian voice recognition.

G'day, mate!

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August 30, 2011 1:33 PM

HP to build more TouchPads -- the Kin edition

Posted by Brier Dudley

Hewlett-Packard flip-flopped today, saying that it's going to produce more TouchPad tablets after all.

The company abruptly announced on Aug. 18 that it was killing the TouchPad product line after dismal early sales. But sales picked up after the price was cut to $99, from $499, to clear out remaining inventory.

That prompted HP to announce today that it's going to produce "one last run" of TouchPads, which may be available in a few weeks. Pricing wasn't disclosed.

An excerpt of the announcement:

Despite announcing an end to manufacturing webOS hardware, we have decided to produce one last run of TouchPads to meet unfulfilled demand. We don't know exactly when these units will be available or how many we'll get, and we can't promise we'll have enough for everyone.

HP said a "limited quantity" will be produced during the quarter ending Oct. 31.

I wonder if the company is also trying to appease the Taiwanese factories that were stuck with parts of perhaps another 100,000 TouchPads, according to a DigiTimes story. It said HP was going to honor its commitments to its Taiwanese partners, who also manufacture its computers.

The DigiTimes story said the parts were for a 7-inch model of the TouchPad that wasn't released before HP scuttled the line.

It reminds me of the way Verizon reintroduced Microsoft's short-lived Kin phones last fall, before they all ended up at the Dollar Store.

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June 22, 2011 10:10 AM

New iPhone in September, new iPad in testing, apparently

Posted by Brier Dudley

A strong voice joined the chorus saying that Apple will release the iPhone 5 in September. Bloomberg's reporting that the device is coming with a more powerful chip and an 8 megapixel camera, up from the current 5 megapixel version.

Apple's also testing a new iPad with a higher resolution screen like the one used in the current iPhone, the report said.

It cites "two people familiar with the product" and said Apple declined to comment.

But the report comes as a wave of competitive new phones are being released, some for the fast new wireless networks that Apple hasn't yet enabled the iPhone to use.

Firmer reports about the new iPhone create uncertainty among phone buyers considering recently released phones, and cast a shadow over Microsoft's Windows Phone launch and new Nokia hardware coming later this year.

The Bloomberg story said the phone will look similar to the current iPhone. It suggests more common hardware between the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone 5 will use the A5 processor that's used in the iPad 2, while the tablet device is getting a display with resolution similar to the current phone.

The report also said Apple's working on a smaller, lower-priced iPhone aimed at overseas markets.

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June 20, 2011 9:45 AM

Review: B&N's simplified new Nook

Posted by Brier Dudley

Newer, faster phones and tablets are appearing every month, even every week, it seems.

But if you spend too much time grazing through this multicore, high-def smorgasbord, everything blurs together on your plate. The phones look like tablets, the tablets look like each other, and they all have the same basic set of apps.

Maybe that's why I like the new Nook reader from Barnes & Noble, a squarish puck of an e-reader that went on sale earlier this month for $139.

For starters, it doesn't look like yet another touch-screen Web tablet.

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It's a single-purpose reading device with a stripped down interface, which is kind of refreshing. It also helps stratify the jumble of tablets available nowadays.

The Nook is among a batch of high-quality, $100 to $130 reading devices with 6-inch screens and Wi-Fi connections. Others include Amazon.com's latest Kindle and the Kobo eReader Touch that's allied with Borders.

From $180 to $380 are readers with larger screens and 3G wireless service. Then from $499 to $900 are color Web tablets like the Apple iPad and Android-based devices. By fall there should be more glimpses of tabletlike Windows 8 PCs that will probably cost $700 to $1,500 when they go on sale.

As these categories and device capabilities become clearer, people won't wonder as much about whether they need a Kindle or an iPad. They may decide they need both -- an e-reader for books on the go, and a color tablet for magazines, the Web and other digital media.

That's what Barnes & Noble is counting on, at least. Its lineup now includes the $139 Nook and a $249 color version that runs Web apps.

"We think people are going to have a Nook Color and a Nook," said Michelle Warvel, creative director at Barnes & Noble.

That influenced the design of the new Nook, which has fewer features than the original, which tried to do everything at once. Released in 2009, it was a hybrid with an e-Ink display above a narrow color touch-screen.

Now, "our goal is to have a portfolio of products," Warvel explained. She said the simpler Nook was designed for the "pure reader."

Amazon probably is going in the same direction. It's expected to release color Web tablets based on Google's Android software later this year. They'll tap its Kindle bookstore and online music and video services, and complement its black and white Kindles, which will continue to have superior battery life and readability.

This must be what it felt like to be car shopping 100 years ago. At first there were all sorts of crazy horseless carriages, but soon it settled into sedans, coupes, trucks and motorcycles.

The new Nook is a cycle in this lineup. It's about the size of an outstretched hand, weighs 7.5 ounces and has a ridged, rubberized back.

You turn pages by tapping a side of the screen, by using a swipe gesture or by pressing hard buttons on either side of its rubbery frame.

The Nook is easy to hold and feels tough enough to toss into a bag or a backseat. I found that it didn't suffer after I carried it in a back pocket and sat upon it repeatedly.

The trade-off for this portability is that the screen is pretty small. It displays only a few paragraphs at a time, which is OK for books but awful if you're trying to get through a newspaper or magazine.

For reading books, it's on par with the latest Kindle, which has the same e-Ink "Pearl" display technology and screen size. Both claim battery life of up to two months on a single charge.

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A key difference is the Nook's touch-screen. Amazon executives have said in the past that they haven't used touch-screens because they require extra layers of material, which obscures the text a bit. I bet, though, Amazon will eventually add it.

The Nook's text quality was fine, but sometimes letters seemed a bit raggedy, creating a pulp-fiction effect that I kind of liked.

Warvel said B&N extended the number of pages displayed before the screen refreshes itself, a process that creates a flashing effect.

Users of the first Nook were distracted by flashes between pages so the new model, with standard text, flashes every five or six pages.

Having a touch-screen means the Nook doesn't need a physical keypad like the Kindle -- it just displays one on the screen when needed -- and can have a smaller case.

But it takes a little getting used to the Nook's mix of controls. It's also not obvious that you can do things like tap the center of the screen to call up controls for font size.

It's also easy to hold or tap too long and zoom past multiple pages. A few times I also had trouble unlocking the device, which you do by sliding a finger across the bottom of the screen. During a week of testing the device froze once; I had to reboot by holding the power button on the back.

There's no browser, but the Nook has social-networking features so you can share quotes from books with friends on Twitter and Facebook. There's no camera, so it's probably safe for randy politicians. You can also "lend" certain books to friends with Nooks.

The device is compatible with digital books loaned by some libraries, including Seattle's. But it's a multistep process -- you connect the Nook to a PC and transfer books via a USB cable. I tried this with several books and never found them on the Nook.

Another concern with e-readers in general is how they lock you into a particular service. If you've bought digital books for the Kindle, you can't read them on the Nook and vice versa.

Frankly, I still prefer actual books. It's easier to flip back and forth through real pages, which are also more relaxing after working with a screen all day.

But the avid female readers in my house took to the Nook like none of the other tablets I've brought home. And pretty soon I was able to lose myself in a novel on the little gadget -- so I stopped wondering where the library books went.

Comments | Category: Amazon.com , Digital media , Kindle , Nook , Review , Tablets , e-readers , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 16, 2011 12:00 AM

Smith & Tinker back with Marvel iOS superhero game

Posted by Brier Dudley

Smith & Tinker, a once high-flying Bellevue game startup, is resurfacing this week with a new Marvel superhero game for Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

"Marvel Kapow!" features characters such as Thor, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America. Players uses touchscreen gestures such as flicks to slash enemies with Wolverine's claws or shoot them with Spidey's web.

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Smith & Tinker was started in 2007 by Jordan Weisman, a former Microsoft creative director. The company raised more than $29 million from a-list backers including Paul Allen and a group of venture capitalists.

The money was mostly used to develop a line of handheld game players aimed at young boys and built around a sci-fi monster game called Nanovor that launched in 2009.

That project was dropped last year after a restructuring that eventually cut the number of employees from around 55 to under 10. A recent check found Nanovor gear for 99 cents at Amazon.com, although the game's no longer supported.

Weisman remains on the board and contributes to creative work but the company's now led by Disney veteran Joe Lawandus. The company also relocated from Bellevue to space near the downtown Seattle waterfront.

"We've had a pretty interesting ride over the past few years," Lawandus said.

Lawandus said the company still has enough cash to build at least one more game based on Marvel characters. The company last year reached a licensing deal with Disney, Marvel's owner, that enables it to build casual games based on all characters in the Marvel universe.

"We're super excited about what we think tablets can bring to the mobile gaming space," he said, adding that the company is trying to reach big audiences with the brands used in its games.

"Marvel Kapow!" is available through iTunes in free versions with seven levels and advertising, or ad-free versions with 26 levels and additional characters that cost $1.99 for iPhone and iPod or $3.99 for iPads. Later the company may develop versions for Android and perhaps Windows, he said.

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May 16, 2011 11:25 AM

Smartphones, iPad getting external hard drive

Posted by Brier Dudley

Putting a new spin on mobile devices, Seagate today announced an external hard drive for iPads and smartphones.

The palm-sized gadget has 500 gigabytes of storage capacity, a wireless radio to sync with mobile devices and a claimed five-hour battery life.

"With the growth of the tablet and iPad markets and the larger volumes of high-quality media now being consumed, there is a clear need for access to content that is not plagued with the challenges of streamed video over the Internet," Seagate Vice President Patrick Connolly said in a release. "The unfortunate fact is that these popular new mobile devices are hampered by their limited storage capacity while one of their primary functions is that of media consumption."

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Seagate will begin selling the GoFlex Satellite drives in July for $200. That's more than double the price of a standard 500 gig external drive, which lacks the wireless capability and battery.

Maybe it pencils out for iPad users racking up data overage fees or paying for big cloud storage lockers.

Seagate's device might be perfect for the family that travels with a car full of iPads. It streams to three devices at once, so the family could take a huge collection of movies and music along and not have to worry about preloading a selection to each device. If you've already dropped $1,500 to $2,500 on three iPads, the $200 price probably isn't a big deal.

But for individual smartphone and iPad users, the device seems like a step backward, mobility-wise. I guess they're already toting around chargers so they may as well stuff a hard drive in their pocket as well.

Prepare for a return of the fanny pack.

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May 9, 2011 10:07 AM

"Angry Birds" iPad's killer app?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Spreadsheets and word processors persuaded people to buy early PCs. Messaging and mobile browsers did the same thing for smartphones.

If you haven't bought an iPad or tablet computing device yet, maybe it's because you're not yet hooked on "Angry Birds."

The addictive slingshot game is the killer app for these touch-screen gadgets filling the gap between smartphones and portable computers.

People buy tablets thinking they'll use them instead of computers, but most don't. They end up playing "Angry Birds."


Last week a Nielsen survey said most tablet owners are using their PCs as much or more than they did before buying their tablet. Earlier, the firm said games are the most downloaded mobile application, and the best-selling app, is "Angry Birds."

The game, made by a small Finnish company called Rovio, has been downloaded more than 140 million times, and at least 40 million people per month are playing. They're collectively spending more than 200 million minutes per day tapping and flinging birds across the screen, trying to knock down a series of structures built by obnoxious pigs.

"Angry Birds" was originally designed for the iPhone in 2009, but it's best on a tablet, where you can see more of it and have more room to control the aiming.

"It's certainly the most dominant game on tablets. There's nothing close to it, I believe," said Rich Wong at Accel Partners, a Silicon Valley venture firm that backed Facebook and invested in Rovio in March.

It makes you wonder if Microsoft hooked up with the right Finnish company to resuscitate its mobile business. Maybe it thought Nokia was behind the birds.

After handling more tablets than an Egyptian librarian, I've come up with a shopping guide, for those willing to spend $250 to $800 for the best "Angry Birds" experience.

Motorola Xoom, $599-$800

"Angry Birds" is prominently featured on the Xoom packaging, and the game works well on the device.

The Xoom's 10-inch screen is a good size for displaying both the launch area and target structure, even on upper levels with passages, outbuildings and stashed explosives on the far right side of the screen.

Although it's the first Android tablet with a dual-core processor, there wasn't a noticeable difference in loading. Nor did it reduce the wait time between levels.

On a bus, the Xoom's considerable heft steadies the device enough to play on bumpy roads.

The Xoom did cause one embarrassing birds incident.

During a discreet session Friday, before my deadline, the app abruptly froze. When I restarted it, it launched with the mute button off. There was no warning of this changed setting, and I was busted by the loud theme music.

Frantically tapping the screen and pressing the power button didn't stop the telltale flute. It took forever to power off, and paused to ask "are you sure?" before it stopped.

Otherwise, the Xoom scored well in the "quick exit" test. I could close the game and pretend to be working with a single click.

Barnes & Noble Nook Color, $249

After updating the Nook's operating system, you can download the original version of "Angry Birds."

The Nook market offers only the original "Angry Birds," for $2.99. Later versions and the free, ad-supported ones aren't available yet.

The Nook is the most economical option for tablet birding and doubles as a browser and electronic book with a 7-inch touch screen.

It also fits in a large pocket and weighs just less than a pound. However, this portability made it difficult to hold the device steady on the bus, where I experienced a number of misfires and errant shots.

Resolution on the Nook didn't seem as crisp as on higher-end tablets. I could see jagged edges on the blades of grass.

The Nook fared the worst in the "quick exit" test, requiring six clicks to exit in the middle of a game.

Apple iPad 2, $499-$829.

The iPad's big, bright screen is terrific for "Angry Birds" and provides plenty of room to aim.

Action is crisp and Rovio seems to put extra sparkle into the iPad version, highlighting edges of structures, for instance.

Both free and paid versions are available from iTunes, where the latest version of the game is the best-selling paid app. Two earlier versions are in the top 10.

There are a few niggles, though. The iPad version takes it upon itself to adjust the horizontal scroll mid-game, which gets annoying.

Also, every time you start a game, the iPad suggests creating or signing in to an account with Apple's "Game Center" service. There isn't an obvious way to disable this nagware, so you have to hit "cancel" every time. Then you get a message saying that "Game Center" is disabled, and you have to hit "OK" to start playing. This reminds me of Windows Vista.

It takes one click on the iPad to exit a game, return to the home screen and appear to be working.

BlackBerry PlayBook, $500 to $700

The PlayBook is a pocketable, 7-inch touch-screen device that's widely available. But "Angry Birds" is not yet available on the BlackBerry market. An emulator that will run Andoid apps is being developed.

T-Mobile G-Slate, $530.

The G-Slate has an unusual 9-inch widescreen display format that's particularly well suited for "Angry Birds."

However, the screen also partly cuts off the information displayed on the Android Market, including the "more" button listing additional version of "Angry Birds" available from the store.

Like the Xoom, the G-Slate is based on Google's new Android 3.0 software.

Currently, only free versions of "Angry Birds" are available for Android but paid versions are expected later this year.

Loading the game via T-Mobile's 4G network was significantly faster than it was on the Xoom over Verizon Wireless' 3G network, but the Xoom should be upgradeable to 4G before new "Birds" are released.

It takes a single click to exit a game and return to the home screen of the G-Slate.

Dell Streak 7, $200-$450.

The Streak has a 7-inch screen that's just a hair smaller than the Nook, but overall the device is smaller and fits easier in a pocket for portable play.

It's more like a computer than a Nook, and both its launch area and target can be displayed at a reasonable size. That makes the game more enjoyable than on a smartphone with a 3-inch or 4-inch screen.

However, the Streak resolution isn't as crisp as the larger tablets and the device would re-size the game between levels, requiring a tedious extra pinch to get the game properly aligned in the screen.

The re-sizing isn't a game-breaker, but these little design decisions lead to wasted time that adds up fast.

Seriously, how do they expect us to get any work done with these things?

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May 5, 2011 12:22 PM

iPads not displacing PCs, consoles yet, report finds

Posted by Brier Dudley

Nielsen today released a report on how U.S. consumers are using their iPads and other tablet computing devices.

The research suggests that the risk to the PC industry from the iPad is there, but awfully overstated. It also makes me wonder how pleased buyers are with their expensive new tablets.

The majority of people told Nielsen that buying a tablet hasn't led to a reduction in how often they use PCs, netbooks, portable media players, game consoles, smartphones or connected TVs.

A tiny number of tablet buyers said they've stopped using their computers since their purchase - 2 percent said they're no longer using their laptop, 3 percent stopped using their desktop and 5 percent stopped using their netbook.

But a greater number of people said they've been using their computers more since they bought an iPad or other tablet. Nielsen found 22 percent are using their netbook more often, 13 percent are using their laptops more and 9 percent are using their desktops more since buying a tablet.

Can you imagine the conversation between spouses in those households? "Why did you have to spend $800 on that thing, honey? You're just spending more time on the plain old computer ..."

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We'll have to see what the next few installments of the survey say about computing trends. So far it sounds like tablets are being used as computer accessories more than computer replacements.

It would be helpful if Nielsen provided information on whether tablets are meeting buyers' expectations. How many buyers thought they were getting a computer replacement?

The survey says 68 percent of people who bought tablets are using their laptop the same or more since the purchase, and 72 percent are using their netbooks the same or more.

Were they expecting the tablet to take the place of other gadgets in the home?

Of those that had another e-reader, like Amazon.com's Kindle, 72 percent said they're using their e-readers the same or more since buying a tablet, and 89 percent said they're using their Internet-connected TVs more since buying the device.

Then again, these are people who bought a tablet when they already had computers and perhaps a Kindle, Web-connected TV and game consoles. Maybe they just don't have much time for their latest toy.

About a third of tablet buyers said they're using their computers less or not at all. Nielsen provided a few reasons why, after asking tablet buyers why they're using the new device for things they used to do on a laptop or desktop.

Here are the reasons, which should be a roadmap for PC makers designing their Windows 8 machines:

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April 13, 2011 2:13 PM

PC sales tumble, worst showing in years

Posted by Brier Dudley

The big two PC research firms both said first quarter PC sales were awful. Gartner and IDC had predicted it would be a slow quarter and it turned out to be worse.

Events in Japan and the Middle East were factors, as were the economic situation and Apple's iPad. But mostly people are doing fine with the PCs they have and aren't in a rush to upgrade, apparently.

"While it's tempting to blame the decline completely on the growth of media tablets, we believe other factors, including extended PC lifetimes and the lack of compelling new PC experiences, played equally significant roles,'' Bob O'Donnell, IDC vice president, said in the release.

IDC said global PC sales fell 3.2 percent compared with the first quarter of 2011, much worse than the 1.5 percent growth the firm had predicted. In the U.S., shipments fell 10 percent from the high demand seen in recent years.

Gartner said global sales fell 1.1 percent, below the 3 percent growth it had predicted. It blamed the decline on weak demand for consumer PCs.

"Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics," Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst, said in its release. "With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs."

Corporate spending on replacement PCs kept the market from "one of the worst declines in recent history," Gartner said. It expects the corporate replacement sales to continue into late 2011 or the start of 2012.

IDC said spiking fuel and commodity prices were also a factor -- you may hold off on that new PC when a tank of gas costs $75 -- and sales in China cooled after big growth in 2010.

Both firms said HP held its position as the world's biggest PC company. IDC puts Dell in second place, followed by Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba. Gartner puts Acer in second place, followed by Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba.

In the U.S. market, Lenovo is bumped from the top five by Apple, which is fourth or fifth place with 8.5 percent to 9.3 percent market share depending on which research firm you ask.

Here's Gartners rank of the top global PC makers:

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April 6, 2011 10:19 AM

Apple iPad 2 as ultimate remote control? Someday, perhaps

Posted by Brier Dudley

Ever since the first rumors of the iPad began, I've been curious about its potential to become the ultimate remote control.

This seemed more likely when Apple gave the iPad 2 the ability to stream video to an Apple TV adapter and share media with computers running iTunes on a home network.

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Streaming media is one of the killer apps for mobile devices. You've been able to do this with music for a while, and Netflix and Hulu are taking it to the next level with video, getting people comfortable with paying $10 per month to have anywhere access to huge video libraries.

Amazon.com just launched a "locker" service for streaming, storing and buying music and RealNetworks is preparing a similar service called Unifi that also handles photos and video.

Apple, Google and Microsoft are also working on new online media services that will probably appear over the next year.

I think there's a huge opportunity for iPads and other tablets to become the control panels for these services. Their touch screens, browsers and fast wireless seem made for finding movies, beaming them onto a TV and checking messages from the couch during slow parts.

Apple's starting to put these pieces together with the iPad 2 and its latest Apple TV that connects TVs to home networks. They work well together, but the combination is underwhelming, and the iPad is still better for directly consuming content.

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In other ways, the iPad 2 is a wonderful gadget. I'm still not sure I'd buy one -- I've been using a loaned unit from Apple -- but I can see why others will.

If you're in the market for a Web tablet, it's hard to recommend anything other than the iPad. It defines the category and set expectations for silky performance, elegant design and an endless supply of applications.

The iPad 2 starts at $499 for the basic Wi-Fi version. If you want to connect on the road, you'll want one with 3G wireless capability on either AT&T or Verizon networks. They range from $629 to $829, depending on storage capacity, but supplies have been tight since its March 11 debut.

New to the device are basic cameras and a more powerful processor. At 1.3 pounds and 0.34 inch thick, it's noticeably lighter and nicer to hold with more curved edges than the first version.

But it still has a few oddities that prevent it from becoming a laptop replacement. They include the lack of a back button, memory card slot or USB port. I also find the keyboard and cursor system awkward.

Those things aren't an issue for casual browsing and entertainment. But combined with the closed nature of a device that has to be managed through Apple's iTunes, they put the iPad in the category of computing accessory versus essential computing tool.

Still, the iPad 2 is dramatically nicer to use than similar devices I've tried recently, including the Android-based Motorola Xoom with a 10-inch screen.

The Xoom (below) has been called a contender but I found its "Honeycomb" software interface to be confusing and raw.

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Even the Xoom hardware isn't quite done; to get it to work on Verizon's 4G LTE network, buyers of the initial units will have to send them to Motorola for an upgrade that will take about a week. Unlike the iPad, the Xoom has a slot for a memory card, but it can't be used without the hardware upgrade.

This is too geeky for most users and too much of a hassle for an $800 device. (There's now a Wi-Fi only version for $599.)

The iPad is a hit, but my sense is that most consumers are intrigued but not yet convinced they need one or that it's worth the price.

I'm guessing that will change if prices come down and if Web tablets come to be seen as handheld consoles for managing online media.

For the iPad to become this über remote, Apple has to let it work as well with other services as it does with iTunes. Its "Remote" app also has to improve.

You can use an iPad to control an Apple TV, play media libraries stored on a home network and access Netflix and iTunes to rent and play movies. You can use its keyboard to search for a title, for instance.

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But navigating Apple TV's menu with the iPad is not great. It's done with gestures -- flicking a finger across the pad's screen to move the "cursor" around the menu on the TV. (In the picture at left you can see the navigation screen; the TiVo remote is just for comparison.)

This is harder than it should be. While flicking across a mostly blank iPad screen, you have to watch the TV to see what you're doing. It's like a coordination test and it's easy to select the wrong thing with an errant tap.

Several companies offer remote apps and even infrared adapters to control a TV and other devices with an iPad. They generally depict a remote control on the iPad, and you tap its buttons to make things happen.

It's handy to stream content from the home network, but I wish Apple would also accept the DLNA networking standard used by most PCs, game consoles, networked receivers and some phones. Then you'd be able to stream media directly from those devices without first putting it in iTunes.

You can theoretically play streaming videos on the go if you have an iPad with 3G wireless. But this barely worked for me.

Over AT&T 3G, Hulu stalled and Netflix downgraded the quality -- to compensate for the connection -- to the point it was unwatchable.

Video streaming worked well on Wi-Fi, but I wish the Netflix app let you select a movie on the iPad and play it through a connected TV, similar to how Netflix works on a PC. That would be a step toward making the iPad into a great remote, for Netflix users at least.

Still, there are other reasons to buy an iPad. I'd buy one if I spent my days in business meetings, traveled all the time or was facing an extended period in a medical facility.

But I'll probably wait until a 4G model comes out. Then I'll start wondering about 5G networks. Hopefully, the trusty laptop and pile of remotes in the living room will hang in there a little longer.

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March 10, 2011 10:04 AM

iPad 2 review roundup: Nice but not perfect

Posted by Brier Dudley

The first batch of iPad 2 reviews are out, ahead of its debut in retail stores at 5 p.m. Friday.

Apple's latest gadget swept away a few of the usual suspects, but not all.

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They noted a modest performance improvement from the new processor and praised the new design, but said the new cameras on the front and back of the iPad 2 aren't that great. I'll write about it soon; it apparently takes longer for review units to reach Seattle.

A quick roundup:

Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD said the new design feels "much airier" and the weight reduction was "noticeable when carrying around the device." Yet the new design "makes it harder to plug in cables and accessories."

"I didn't find the speed difference on iPad 2 to be dramatic, but it was noticeable. Apps launched and ran a bit quicker and the whole device felt very snappy," he wrote.

Mossberg's testing found the iPad 2 had an hour less battery life than the first iPad and the new iPad cameras "take mediocre still photos" and "are disappointing." (The headline on his review: "iPad 2: Thin, Not Picture Perfect")

It's still "the best tablet for average consumers," Mossberg said, but he chided Apple for crippling its browser so it won't play Adobe Flash video and for not enabling the device to use the new and faster 4G wireless networks.

Mossberg doesn't advise iPad owners to race out for the new version "unless you are desperate for the cameras or feel you are laboring under the greater bulk of the original model." He also noted that the first iPad is now on sale for $399 while supplies last.

David Pogue of the New York Times gushed more overt the redesign, calling it transformative:

"There are no new features except two cameras and a gyroscope. I mean, yawn, right?

And then you start playing with it.

My friends, I'm telling you: just that much improvement in thinness, weight and speed transforms the experience."

Motorola's new Xoom Android tablet, by comparison, "looks obese," he said.

Pogue said using the camera on the tablet's big screen is "a treat" despite Apple's "baffling" choice to use a camera that only takes 0.7 megapixel stills.

Sorting through the AT&T and Verizon data plans for the iPad "require a graduate degree in forensic accounting" but the new HDMI adapter "works automatically and effortlessly."

USA Today's Ed Baig said the iPad 2 "makes what was already a splendid slab even better, even if the overall upgrade is relatively modest."

Baig noted that Apple didn't improve the screen resolution, enable 4G wireless or include a USB port or SD memory card slot.

"But these are nitpicks," he said, lauding Apple for keeping the price the same - $499 to $829, depending on storage and wireless options.

The cameras are fine for FaceTime videochats but pictures Baig took indoors in low light were grainy. Baig's testing found the battery life "fell a little short" of Apple's 10 hour claim - he got 8.5 hours while continuously streaming movies at full brightness.

Streaming movies from an iPad to an AppleTV adapter using AirPlay wasn't good for Baig. Streamed movies "were slow to start and occasionally froze" but it could be a network hiccup, he wrote.

"The iPad 2 doesn't deliver everything on your tablet wish list. But when it comes to the ever-evolving state of the art, iPad 2 is second to none," Baig concluded.

Here's Mossberg's video:

Here's Baig's video:


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March 7, 2011 9:50 AM

Q&A: Epic co-founder on iPad 2's gaming potential

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- One of the most enthusiastic people at last week's Apple iPad 2 launch was Mark Rein, co-founder and vice president of Epic Games.

Epic, based in Cary, N.C., is known for full-bore, action blockbusters, such as "Gears of War" on the Xbox. Its "Unreal" game platform is also widely used by other studios to build games on multiple platforms.

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Apple has highlighted Epic's work on "Infinity Blade," a high-definition fantasy title released in December for the iPhone and iPad.

Rein (left) said the iPad is on its way to becoming a game console, with the new version coming Friday having a dual-core processor, improved graphics system and a new accessory for connecting the device to a digital TV.

"For us, it's like Christmas," he said, when we talked at Apple's launch event.

Here's an edited excerpt of our conversation:

Q: I've heard a lot about the iPad being great for casual games. Will this power boost make it better for hard-core action games as well?

A: That's what "Infinity Blade" was -- the first core, triple-A game designed specifically for these environments. So we already think it is.

It means that now, even [with] the casual experiences, you'll be able to make those look even better. Even "Angry Birds" could take advantage of having more computing power.

Q: When will games appear that take advantage of the new iPad's increased power?

A: I don't think it will take very long. "Infinity Blade" (below) will already run faster and better because of this, and we can now turn up the texture detail and turn on some of the effects that we'd turned off on iPad because iPad was a more challenging development environment than iPhone, given the higher resolution screen.

An iPad has 20 percent more pixels on the screen than an iPhone 4, yet the CPU [central processing unit] and GPU [graphics processing unit] in the iPad were introduced before the iPhone 4, so the iPhone 4's more powerful and has more features.

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Now this leapfrogs that again, and gives plenty of power to take advantage of the full resolution of the machine.

Q: If you bought the game for an iPad 1, then upgraded to an iPad 2, would you have to buy a new version of the game to get the improvements?

A: No, we will just adjust the game to take advantage of what it can do, the same way we adjust the game for iPhone 4 and 3GS. For us, it's just settings.

Q: Will game developers take advantage of the new HDMI adapter for displaying iPad content on a big TV screen? Could that make it more like a handheld console?

A: Yes, absolutely. I've been actually saying that since the first iPad came out: This is a great way to play games.

It's going to get more feasible -- your game console could be a tablet you walk around with, and you use it as a controller in your home game experience. Or eventually you'll put this down, you'll pick up a DualShock [game controller], this will talk wirelessly or through HDMI to your TV, and you'll play.

That's the future, and Apple has clearly made a big step toward that with their digital [AV] adapter.

Q: Does the iPad 2's processor have enough oomph for big-screen games?

A: I hate to say it, but there are game consoles you buy today that you connect to your TV that don't even hold a candle to this.

Q: Are you talking about the Nintendo Wii?

A: I didn't say a name. This is now more powerful than the first-generation Xbox. This is probably more powerful than a PlayStation 2 or a PlayStation 1 for sure. This is on the road to that, if it's not already.

You can set this down, connect it in and get like a PlayStation controller -- a controller that has Bluetooth -- and away you go. I'd love to see where we could use a controller and play the hard-core experiences on these because that would be great. Especially with a stand, you just stand the thing up and play.

You know, like Microsoft's Kinect -- there's a camera in here and some pretty good processing horsepower. You could make a "Dance Central" game for this thing. The possibilities are getting better and better every year.

Q: Are you going to release Epic's "Bulletstorm" on the iPad now?

A: Would "Bulletstorm" or "Gears of War" be on here? The IP [intellectual property] could be, but I don't think that we'd make that kind of dual-stick type game unless this thing spawned dual sticks -- you know what I mean?

It's just a different experience, what you do for this and what you do for a game console.

The really best experiences for [the iPad] are ones that are really designed for what you do on a touch screen.

But I play "Call of Duty" on it, I like shooters on it. It can be all things.

If you want to be super successful, you have to make the thing that people really want to play on this instead of a game console.

Q: So when will Epic open a Seattle office?

A: When we buy Microsoft.

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March 3, 2011 10:48 AM

Report: Apple offering $100 rebate to recent iPad buyers

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's giving $100 back to people who bought an iPad in the two weeks ahead of yesterday's iPad 2 launch, according to a Cnet report.

With the release of the iPad 2, the company cut the price of the remaining first-generation iPads by $100.

Cnet's report said customers who bought online must call to get the refund, and those who bought in stores need to bring in their receipt.


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March 3, 2011 10:20 AM

Tablets slam mobile PC demand, sales slowing, Gartner says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Research giant Gartner slashed its influential PC sales forecast today, saying that sales will be much slower than expected in 2011 because of growing interest in smartphones and tablet devices such as the iPad.

Gartner cut its 2011 forecast of PC sales growth to 10.5 percent, down from 15.9 percent. It's expecting 387.8 million units to be sold.

Weakness in China's mobile PC market is a factor, but there's "a general loss in consumer enthusiasm for mobile PCs," Ranjit Atwal, Gartner research director, said in a release.

Mobile PCs were key to the industry's growth over the last five years, with average growth rates approaching 40 percent, but all sorts of devices can now be used to connect wirelessly to the Internet, it noted.

Gartner had thought mobile PC sales would continue to grow as consumers bought their second or third systems but it's now thinking that enthusiasm for alternative devices will "dramatically slow home mobile PC sales," George Shiffler, Gartner research director, said in the release.

Shiffler said, "we now believe that consumers are not only likely to forgo additional mobile PC buys but are also likely to extend the lifetimes of the mobile PCs they retain as they adopt media tablets and other mobile PC alternatives as their primary mobile device."

Gartner's now expecting home mobile PC sales to grow less than 10 percent a year in mature markets from 2011 through 2015.

Some consumers are buying tablets instead of PCs. But the bigger issue is that consumers are holding off PC purchases because they're curious about tablets and waiting to see what's available during the rest of 2011.

Corporate sales of PCs will continue to see double-digit growth in 2011 and 2012 as older PCs are replaced around the world but even in this market, some purchases are being delayed as buyers consider whether to buy tablets instead.

Gartner said mobile PCs have lost their cachet as a fashion accessory and aren't living up to their mobility promise.

"The current 'cool' device is the smartphone, and now PCs will soon have to do battle with media tablets when they are launched in large numbers in the second quarter of 2011," the release said.

"Up to now, the appeal of mobile PCs has been their portability. But mainstream mobile PCs have not shed sufficient weight, and do not offer the all-day battery life, to substantiate their promise of real mobility. These limitations have become all the more apparent with the rapid spread of social networking, which thrives on constant and immediate connections. In short, all-day untethered computing has yet to materialize, and that has exposed the "mobile" PC as merely a transportable PC at best."

So when is Microsoft launching that new, more mobile version of Windows?

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February 28, 2011 10:30 AM

Call me Gadget: White iPad spotted, plus Verizon Windows Phone

Posted by Brier Dudley

This is going to be a big week for gadget news.

Apple is headlining it with the iPad 2 that it's unveiling Wednesday in San Francisco. The early line on the device is that it's slimmer, more powerful and has a camera.

A new leak at 9to5mac.com says there will be a white version of the iPad, based on a white bezel that surfaced in China.

Also appearing today is an image of an HTC Trophy smartphone running Windows Phone 7 on Verizon Wireless.

Verizon hasn't yet said when it will carry WP7 devices, and its executives have talked down Microsoft's mobile effort, but the phones were still expected to arrive soon.

Engadget's report on the Verizon WP7 Trophy also says it has copy-and-paste capability.

If that's not enough, more hints that Apple may offer lower-cost iPhone options were floated in a Bernstein Research report that was picked up by Forbes blogger Eric Savitz. It quoted Apple CFO Tim Cook saying the company is planning "clever things" to serve the lower-end, prepaid cellphone market.

Comments | Category: Apple , Gadgets & products , Microsoft , Windows Phone , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 15, 2011 1:15 AM

Facebook phones, Flyer Tablet and more from HTC

Posted by Brier Dudley

Remember those rumors about a Facebook phone?

It turns out HTC and Facebook spent several years developing two of them that are being announced today in Barcelona.

HTC worked with Facebook to integrate the social network into the phones, adding a dedicated Facebook key with the "F" logo that pulsates when you're doing something shareable on the phone.

When taking pictures, you can press F to upload them to Facebook, for instance, or when using Google Maps, you can press it to share your location.

"HTC has brought Facebook to these two new devices in an innovative way enabling people to connect and share easily whenever they want, wherever they are," Henri Moissinac, head of Facebook's mobile business, said in the release.
ChaCha_3views.jpg
Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC North America in Bellevue, said Facebook's logo appears on the special key but "we will not brand this as the Facebook phone or anything."

Mackenzie said the "ChaCha" model with a 2.6-inch touchscreen and exposed keyboard will compete with the BlackBerry Curve.
HTC Salsa.jpg
The second model is a touchscreen-only phone called the Salsa, with a 3.4-inch screen.

They'll be available in the second quarter, at prices to be announced later.

UPDATE: AT&T is going to carry the phones, perhaps exclusively, according to Ina Fried.

Both are based on version 2.4 of Google's Android software and have Facebook integrated into the HTC Sense interface.

When calling or receiving a call from a Facebook friend, the software displays friends' latest status and photos and alerts you if their birthday is coming up.

HTC's also announcing a tablet computer, the "Flyer," that will go on sale in the second quarter. It's intended to be a high-end device, with an aluminum housing, a 7-inch diagonal touchscreen, a 1.5 gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 32 gigabytes of RAM and HSPA+ wireless capability.
HTC Flyer.jpg
It's launching with Android 2.4 but will be upgradeable to the upcoming "Honeycomb" version of Android that's optimized for tablets.

HTC designed a new version of its Sense interface for the larger screen of a tablet, with a carousel for navigating icons and widgets.

The Flyer also comes with a stylus for taking notes on the device. Mackenzie said this is needed in part because it's a more polite way to take notes than typing on a tablet or laptop during a meeting.

HTC is playing up the Flyer's media capabilities. It will feature HTC's new "Watch" video download service and come preloaded with the OnLive streaming game service, taking advantage of a $40 million investment HTC is making in the Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup.

The Flyer also has a 5 megapixel camera plus a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera for videoconferencing.

The price of the Flyer and bundled services such as OnLive will be announced later, Mackenzie said.

Also being announced is a new version of HTC's Desire model, with an aluminum unibody design; the Incredible S with a 4-inch screen (up from 3.7-inches on the previous Incredible); and a lower-end Android phone called the Wildfire S that's intended to be a more affordable smartphone sold for $100 or less by wireless carriers.

The Desire S, the Incredible S and the Wildfire S in four flavors:

HTC Desire S.jpg

HTC Incredible S.jpg

HTC Wildfire S.jpg

Comments | Category: Android , Facebook , HTC , Phones , iPad , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 9, 2011 8:48 PM

HP's TouchPad, WebOS and Microsoft questions

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday outlined a billion-dollar bet to reshape its huge personal-computer and mobile-device business to be more like Apple, using an in-house operating system rather than Microsoft Windows.

It's a blow for Microsoft to have its largest customer -- and the world's largest PC maker -- reject Windows for its new push into the fast-growing mobile-device business.

But shoppers may benefit from the increased competition and new options coming later this year.
Thumbnail image for hp event lineup macarthur.jpg
HP plans to release two phones this spring and a tablet computer in the summer, all based on the latest version of the WebOS software the company acquired when it bought Palm last April for $1.2 billion.

HP's tablet -- the TouchPad -- joins a flood of tablet computers to be released this year, including new versions of Apple's iPad, devices running Google's Android software and Windows-based tablets from Dell and other major PC makers.

Research firms forecast more than 50 million tablet computing devices will be sold this year. Gartner expects 64.8 million will be sold globally, rising to 154 million in 2013.

"These things are proof that the future is really wide open when it comes to growth and opportunities in the mobile space," Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs said during the HP event.

The TouchPad was the highlight of a splashy media event in a waterfront pavilion Wednesday morning.

Yet HP made clear it was launching more than a few devices. It was presenting a new platform it expects to rival Windows, Android and Apple's iOS software used in the iPhone and iPad.

The company aims to build the largest community of connected devices in the world, creating a big draw for software developers, according to Steven McArthur, senior vice president for applications and services.

"Virtually no other company could credibly put forward such a goal," said McArthur, a former president of Expedia.

HP emphasized that the WebOS platform can be pushed through its vast network of customers, partner companies and retail outlets. The Palo Alto, Calif., company has more than a billion customers and distributes its products through 88,000 stores around the world.

It's going to count on wireless phone companies to help move the TouchPad, though. Verizon and others will start selling the device in summer for a price somewhere below $800.

The 1.6-pound TouchPad has a 9.6-inch diagonal display with 1,024 by 728 resolution and a front-facing camera for videoconferencing. It's powered by Qualcomm's newest dual-core, 1.2 gigahertz Snapdragon processor and will come with 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage.

It will be available first with Wi-Fi and later with 3G wireless service through multiple carriers.

The new phones include the tiny Veer, about the size of a credit card with a 2.6-inch screen. It has 8 gigabytes of storage, a slide-out keyboard, HSPA+ wireless and an 800 megahertz Snapdragon processor. It will go on sale in "early spring."
IMG00679-20110209-1310.jpg
"Never before has a smartphone done so much and felt so little," said Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and now an HP senior vice president.

Rubinstein also showed the Pre3, a larger phone with a 3.6-inch diagonal screen, slide-out keyboard and HSPA+ and EVDO rev. It runs on a 1.4 gigahertz Snapdragon processor and will be available this summer.

Rubinstein said that with WebOS, the company aims to transform how people think, feel and connect to different devices and services. Devices running the software stay synchronized with online services and can integrate multiple providers of e-mail and online calendars, for instance.

To use all the features, though, users will need both a TouchPad and a WebOS phone.

For instance, the demonstrations Wednesday showed how messages coming into a Pre phone can be answered on a tablet. Web pages being browsed on the tablet -- such as a restaurant's website -- can be shifted to a Pre phone by tapping the phone against the tablet.

Todd Bradley, HP's executive vice president for personal systems, said the company is bringing memorable new experiences comparable to the first time he heard the whisper of an electric car.

"We should all witness these firsts as often as we can in our lives. If you think about it, creating those experiences for a living is what the technology industry is all about."

The phones and tablet had been expected, but Bradley added something extra when he announced the company also plans to extend WebOS to desktop and laptop PCs.

Executives provided no details of when WebOS PCs will arrive and said the company will continue to produce Windows-based PCs also.

Microsoft declined to make executives available to discuss HP's move but a spokesman provided a statement: "HP is a valued Microsoft partner, and we continue to work closely with them on many new products that bring great experiences to our mutual customers."

In January, Microsoft disclosed the next version of Windows will run on the tiny, integrated hardware platforms used in smartphones and the latest tablet computers, including the Qualcomm hardware HP is using for its WebOS devices.

But the new version of Windows may not arrive until late this year or in 2012.

HP looked into different operating systems when it began developing slate-type tablet computers five years ago, according to Chief Technology Officer Phil McKinney.

It decided the best approach was an operating system designed from the ground up for mobile devices and one that could be tailored for tablets.

"There are operating systems appropriate for the job," McKinney said.

That approach is similar to that of Apple, which develops its own hardware and software, and has led the emergence of mobile computing devices since its iPhone was first released in 2007.

HP also may have decided it was simply cheaper to develop its own operating system and developer platform, instead of paying to license the multipurpose Windows.
IMG00671-20110209-1147.jpg
It's a challenge to lure developers to a new platform, especially when they're already stretched developing applications for multiple platforms and devices, but HP has already landed a few big ones.

Time Inc. showed TouchPad versions of "Sports Illustrated" and "People" magazines that are expected to be ready -- along with Fortune magazine -- when the device launches.

HP also worked with Amazon.com on a TouchPad version of Kindle that supports the Kindle's new "collections" feature for managing libraries of Kindle books.

(This is an expanded version of my blogging live from HP's event)

Comments | Category: HP , Microsoft , PCs , Tablets , Windows 7 , Windows 8 , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 9, 2011 8:48 PM

HP's TouchPad, WebOS and Microsoft questions

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday outlined a billion-dollar bet to reshape its huge personal-computer and mobile-device business to be more like Apple, using an in-house operating system rather than Microsoft Windows.

It's a blow for Microsoft to have its largest customer -- and the world's largest PC maker -- reject Windows for its new push into the fast-growing mobile-device business.

But shoppers may benefit from the increased competition and new options coming later this year.
Thumbnail image for hp event lineup macarthur.jpg
HP plans to release two phones this spring and a tablet computer in the summer, all based on the latest version of the WebOS software the company acquired when it bought Palm last April for $1.2 billion.

HP's tablet -- the TouchPad -- joins a flood of tablet computers to be released this year, including new versions of Apple's iPad, devices running Google's Android software and Windows-based tablets from Dell and other major PC makers.

Research firms forecast more than 50 million tablet computing devices will be sold this year. Gartner expects 64.8 million will be sold globally, rising to 154 million in 2013.

"These things are proof that the future is really wide open when it comes to growth and opportunities in the mobile space," Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs said during the HP event.

The TouchPad was the highlight of a splashy media event in a waterfront pavilion Wednesday morning.

Yet HP made clear it was launching more than a few devices. It was presenting a new platform it expects to rival Windows, Android and Apple's iOS software used in the iPhone and iPad.

The company aims to build the largest community of connected devices in the world, creating a big draw for software developers, according to Steven McArthur, senior vice president for applications and services.

"Virtually no other company could credibly put forward such a goal," said McArthur, a former president of Expedia.

HP emphasized that the WebOS platform can be pushed through its vast network of customers, partner companies and retail outlets. The Palo Alto, Calif., company has more than a billion customers and distributes its products through 88,000 stores around the world.

It's going to count on wireless phone companies to help move the TouchPad, though. Verizon and others will start selling the device in summer for a price somewhere below $800.

The 1.6-pound TouchPad has a 9.6-inch diagonal display with 1,024 by 728 resolution and a front-facing camera for videoconferencing. It's powered by Qualcomm's newest dual-core, 1.2 gigahertz Snapdragon processor and will come with 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage.

It will be available first with Wi-Fi and later with 3G wireless service through multiple carriers.

The new phones include the tiny Veer, about the size of a credit card with a 2.6-inch screen. It has 8 gigabytes of storage, a slide-out keyboard, HSPA+ wireless and an 800 megahertz Snapdragon processor. It will go on sale in "early spring."
IMG00679-20110209-1310.jpg
"Never before has a smartphone done so much and felt so little," said Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and now an HP senior vice president.

Rubinstein also showed the Pre3, a larger phone with a 3.6-inch diagonal screen, slide-out keyboard and HSPA+ and EVDO rev. It runs on a 1.4 gigahertz Snapdragon processor and will be available this summer.

Rubinstein said that with WebOS, the company aims to transform how people think, feel and connect to different devices and services. Devices running the software stay synchronized with online services and can integrate multiple providers of e-mail and online calendars, for instance.

To use all the features, though, users will need both a TouchPad and a WebOS phone.

For instance, the demonstrations Wednesday showed how messages coming into a Pre phone can be answered on a tablet. Web pages being browsed on the tablet -- such as a restaurant's website -- can be shifted to a Pre phone by tapping the phone against the tablet.

Todd Bradley, HP's executive vice president for personal systems, said the company is bringing memorable new experiences comparable to the first time he heard the whisper of an electric car.

"We should all witness these firsts as often as we can in our lives. If you think about it, creating those experiences for a living is what the technology industry is all about."

The phones and tablet had been expected, but Bradley added something extra when he announced the company also plans to extend WebOS to desktop and laptop PCs.

Executives provided no details of when WebOS PCs will arrive and said the company will continue to produce Windows-based PCs also.

Microsoft declined to make executives available to discuss HP's move but a spokesman provided a statement: "HP is a valued Microsoft partner, and we continue to work closely with them on many new products that bring great experiences to our mutual customers."

In January, Microsoft disclosed the next version of Windows will run on the tiny, integrated hardware platforms used in smartphones and the latest tablet computers, including the Qualcomm hardware HP is using for its WebOS devices.

But the new version of Windows may not arrive until late this year or in 2012.

HP looked into different operating systems when it began developing slate-type tablet computers five years ago, according to Chief Technology Officer Phil McKinney.

It decided the best approach was an operating system designed from the ground up for mobile devices and one that could be tailored for tablets.

"There are operating systems appropriate for the job," McKinney said.

That approach is similar to that of Apple, which develops its own hardware and software, and has led the emergence of mobile computing devices since its iPhone was first released in 2007.

HP also may have decided it was simply cheaper to develop its own operating system and developer platform, instead of paying to license the multipurpose Windows.
IMG00671-20110209-1147.jpg
It's a challenge to lure developers to a new platform, especially when they're already stretched developing applications for multiple platforms and devices, but HP has already landed a few big ones.

Time Inc. showed TouchPad versions of "Sports Illustrated" and "People" magazines that are expected to be ready -- along with Fortune magazine -- when the device launches.

HP also worked with Amazon.com on a TouchPad version of Kindle that supports the Kindle's new "collections" feature for managing libraries of Kindle books.

(This is an expanded version of my blogging live from HP's event)

Comments | Category: HP , Microsoft , PCs , Tablets , Windows 7 , Windows 8 , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 9, 2011 8:48 PM

HP's TouchPad, WebOS and Microsoft questions

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday outlined a billion-dollar bet to reshape its huge personal-computer and mobile-device business to be more like Apple, using an in-house operating system rather than Microsoft Windows.

It's a blow for Microsoft to have its largest customer -- and the world's largest PC maker -- reject Windows for its new push into the fast-growing mobile-device business.

But shoppers may benefit from the increased competition and new options coming later this year.
Thumbnail image for hp event lineup macarthur.jpg
HP plans to release two phones this spring and a tablet computer in the summer, all based on the latest version of the WebOS software the company acquired when it bought Palm last April for $1.2 billion.

HP's tablet -- the TouchPad -- joins a flood of tablet computers to be released this year, including new versions of Apple's iPad, devices running Google's Android software and Windows-based tablets from Dell and other major PC makers.

Research firms forecast more than 50 million tablet computing devices will be sold this year. Gartner expects 64.8 million will be sold globally, rising to 154 million in 2013.

"These things are proof that the future is really wide open when it comes to growth and opportunities in the mobile space," Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs said during the HP event.

The TouchPad was the highlight of a splashy media event in a waterfront pavilion Wednesday morning.

Yet HP made clear it was launching more than a few devices. It was presenting a new platform it expects to rival Windows, Android and Apple's iOS software used in the iPhone and iPad.

The company aims to build the largest community of connected devices in the world, creating a big draw for software developers, according to Steven McArthur, senior vice president for applications and services.

"Virtually no other company could credibly put forward such a goal," said McArthur, a former president of Expedia.

HP emphasized that the WebOS platform can be pushed through its vast network of customers, partner companies and retail outlets. The Palo Alto, Calif., company has more than a billion customers and distributes its products through 88,000 stores around the world.

It's going to count on wireless phone companies to help move the TouchPad, though. Verizon and others will start selling the device in summer for a price somewhere below $800.

The 1.6-pound TouchPad has a 9.6-inch diagonal display with 1,024 by 728 resolution and a front-facing camera for videoconferencing. It's powered by Qualcomm's newest dual-core, 1.2 gigahertz Snapdragon processor and will come with 16 or 32 gigabytes of storage.

It will be available first with Wi-Fi and later with 3G wireless service through multiple carriers.

The new phones include the tiny Veer, about the size of a credit card with a 2.6-inch screen. It has 8 gigabytes of storage, a slide-out keyboard, HSPA+ wireless and an 800 megahertz Snapdragon processor. It will go on sale in "early spring."
IMG00679-20110209-1310.jpg
"Never before has a smartphone done so much and felt so little," said Jon Rubinstein, the former CEO of Palm and now an HP senior vice president.

Rubinstein also showed the Pre3, a larger phone with a 3.6-inch diagonal screen, slide-out keyboard and HSPA+ and EVDO rev. It runs on a 1.4 gigahertz Snapdragon processor and will be available this summer.

Rubinstein said that with WebOS, the company aims to transform how people think, feel and connect to different devices and services. Devices running the software stay synchronized with online services and can integrate multiple providers of e-mail and online calendars, for instance.

To use all the features, though, users will need both a TouchPad and a WebOS phone.

For instance, the demonstrations Wednesday showed how messages coming into a Pre phone can be answered on a tablet. Web pages being browsed on the tablet -- such as a restaurant's website -- can be shifted to a Pre phone by tapping the phone against the tablet.

Todd Bradley, HP's executive vice president for personal systems, said the company is bringing memorable new experiences comparable to the first time he heard the whisper of an electric car.

"We should all witness these firsts as often as we can in our lives. If you think about it, creating those experiences for a living is what the technology industry is all about."

The phones and tablet had been expected, but Bradley added something extra when he announced the company also plans to extend WebOS to desktop and laptop PCs.

Executives provided no details of when WebOS PCs will arrive and said the company will continue to produce Windows-based PCs also.

Microsoft declined to make executives available to discuss HP's move but a spokesman provided a statement: "HP is a valued Microsoft partner, and we continue to work closely with them on many new products that bring great experiences to our mutual customers."

In January, Microsoft disclosed the next version of Windows will run on the tiny, integrated hardware platforms used in smartphones and the latest tablet computers, including the Qualcomm hardware HP is using for its WebOS devices.

But the new version of Windows may not arrive until late this year or in 2012.

HP looked into different operating systems when it began developing slate-type tablet computers five years ago, according to Chief Technology Officer Phil McKinney.

It decided the best approach was an operating system designed from the ground up for mobile devices and one that could be tailored for tablets.

"There are operating systems appropriate for the job," McKinney said.

That approach is similar to that of Apple, which develops its own hardware and software, and has led the emergence of mobile computing devices since its iPhone was first released in 2007.

HP also may have decided it was simply cheaper to develop its own operating system and developer platform, instead of paying to license the multipurpose Windows.
IMG00671-20110209-1147.jpg
It's a challenge to lure developers to a new platform, especially when they're already stretched developing applications for multiple platforms and devices, but HP has already landed a few big ones.

Time Inc. showed TouchPad versions of "Sports Illustrated" and "People" magazines that are expected to be ready -- along with Fortune magazine -- when the device launches.

HP also worked with Amazon.com on a TouchPad version of Kindle that supports the Kindle's new "collections" feature for managing libraries of Kindle books.

(This is an expanded version of my blogging live from HP's event)

Comments | Category: HP , Microsoft , PCs , Tablets , Windows 7 , Windows 8 , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 8, 2011 12:21 PM

Tablet frenzy continues: Dell unveils Windows 7 model

Posted by Brier Dudley

After launching a series of tablets based on Google's Android software, Dell today gave a sneak peek at a Windows 7 model coming out in a few months.

The device is aimed at business customers - but will be sold to consumers as well - and has a 10-inch diagonal screen, Intel's latest processors and an iPad-like design.

That's based on various reports from an event in San Francisco today where Dell announced 39 new PCs for 2011. Most are updated laptops and desktops.

This must be new PC week. Hewlett-Packard on Monday announced its new touchscreen desktops and today announced its new laptops. On Wednesday HP's also showing off its WebOS operating system, presumably with new consumer tablets.

There are also several rumors floating around about Apple unveiling the next iPad this week.

Dell's going to start selling its Windows tablet in May, according to PC Pro's report, but I wonder if the mockup was rushed out to get ahead of the HP news.

The device shown today was a non-functioning demo unit, with a decal instead of a working display, according to Cnet's blog from the event, which has a good picture of the tablet here.

Dell's also going to develop a 10-inch Android tablet, joining the 5-inch and 7-inch "Streak" models now carried by AT&T and T-Mobile.

During Dell's presentation, an executive said big companies want a Windows tablet that fits into their IT plans. Android can also fit, he said, but more want a Windows version, according to Cnet's report.

Get ready for a bunch of tablet announcements as PC makers start building devices based on Intel's "Oak Trail" system and launch them in time for the graduation and Father's Day sales season.

Comments | Category: Android , Dell , Microsoft , PCs , Tablets , Windows 7 , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 7, 2011 2:09 PM

Amazon updates Kindle, adds real page numbers

Posted by Brier Dudley

A software update is adding some much-requested features to Amazon.com's latest Kindles.

A preview version of the software can now be downloaded manually (here's the link to the new Kindle software, version 3.1) before it's rolled out later to the latest-generation Kindles and Kindle 3G models.

New features include real page numbers that correspond to the pages in print editions. This will especially help Amazon in schools, where I've talked with teachers who gave up on Kindles in part because the device's odd page numbering system didn't track to printed books used in the classroom.

It may take awhile for real numbers to proliferate, though. Amazon said it's adding them to Kindle editions and so far has them in "tens of thousands" of volumes.
amzn-publicnotes.gif

Amazon is also adding a "public notes" feature that lets Kindle users choose to make their book notes and highlights public, sharing their thoughts "with friends, family members, colleagues and the greater Kindle community of people who love to read." I wonder how fine-grained the sharing feature will be -- for instance, can a teacher share highlights just with students in their class, or family members share only with each other?

That's one of several Web commerce features coming to Kindle. Amazon is also adding "Before You Go ...," a webby feature at the end of Kindle books designed to prompt users to rate the book, share a message about the book with a social network, get tailored suggestions of other books to buy and see more books by the same author.

The notes and "Before You Go" features may pull more Kindle readers back into Amazon's digital Web, but it could turn off some who just want to read books on the Kindle.

The update is also bringing a "new and improved" layout for newspapers and magazines. It will give readers a snapshot of news "and helps you decide what you want to read first," Amazon said in its release.

Here are screenshots of "Before You Go" and the paper layout:

amzn-beforeyougo.gif

amzn-papers.gif

Comments | Category: Amazon.com , Kindle , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 2, 2011 9:18 AM

T-Mobile mocks Verizon, adds G-Slate to tablet fray

Posted by Brier Dudley

It may be overshadowed by the scintillating announcement of Verizon's latest mobile billing options, but T-Mobile today is announcing a new tablet computing device based on Google's new Android "Honeycomb" software.

T-Mobile G-Slate_font angle.jpg
The G-Slate is supposed to be released this spring at a price T-Mobile isn't disclosing just yet. Built by LG, the device has an 8.9-inch diagonal, 3-D capable touchscreen.

It also has a rear-facing stereoscopic video recorder that captures 3-D, 1080p video - the kind that requires special glasses for the 3-D effect. The 5 megapixel camera also takes regular video and stills, and there's a front-facing camera for video chats over T-Mobile's network.

Inside there's a dual-core Nvidia Tegra processor with full Adobe Flash support, plus 32 gigabytes of internal memory, a gyroscope, accelerometer and adaptive lighting.

It's one of the first tablets using Honeycomb, which Google's going to talk up at a press event today at its Mountain View headquarters.

T-Mobile was the first carrier to release an Android phone, and the G-Slate is among a handful of Android devices its announcing this week.

It's also jabbing Verizon, mocking it for offering the iPhone only on its slower network.

The company's position, according to a statement relayed by a spokeswoman's message, is "why upgrade your smartphone and downgrade your network? It's no fun having a great device running on slow network."

T-Mobile today also began selling the Dell Streak, a small tablet with a 7-inch diagonal touchscreen, 16 gigabytes of internal memory and cameras on the front and back, capable of video chat and 1080p video recording.

The Streak costs $200 with a two-year service plan or $450 by itself. Monthly plans range from $25 per month for 200 megabytes per month (for current customers; $30 per month for others) to $40 per month for 5 gigs a month ($50 for new customers).
streak.jpg

T-Mobile today also announced that it's going to offer the Galaxy S 4G this month, a version of Samsung's popular Galaxy smartphone with radios capable of downloading at speeds up to 21 megabits per second on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network.

It's coming preloaded with the movie "Inception" to showcase its video capabilities.

The company's being coy about the Galaxy price as well, perhaps hoping for another round of stories when that crucial detail is disclosed. But it will be a non-starter if it costs much more than $200 Sprint is charging for its Galaxy - dubbed the Epic - that runs on its 4G WiMax network.

Galaxy S 4G from T-Mobile_front (1).JPG

Comments | Category: 4G , Android , T-Mobile , Tablets , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 27, 2011 10:59 AM

Google Android Honeycomb images: Your next tablet?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here are a batch of screenshots that Google posted of "Honeycomb," the new version of its Android operating system designed for tablet computing devices.

It looks like Android 3.0 is a big step toward a PC operating system, if your next PC will be a tablet.

The first Honeycomb tablet to go on sale will be the Motorola Xoom, which was unveiled at CES and will be available in late February. It has a 10.1-inch diagonal touchscreen, dual-core Nvidia Tegra processor and a camera that takes 5 megapixel stills and 720p video.

By summer there should be all sorts of Honeycomb tablets fighting for shelf space at wireless stores with the new iPad, Windows 7 tablets and Hewlett Packard's Topaz WebOS device.

Google's Honeycomb screenshots show new features of the system, but device makers may customize things so the final product may look different. The screenshots were released with a developer preview and tools released Wednesday.

Here is the new user interface designed especially for tablets:

home_hero1.jpg

The new tabbed browser, with improved zooming and a log-in feature to automatically sign into Google sites and sync bookmarks with Google's Chrome browser:

newbrowser.jpg

New camera controls; there's also a "gallery" application for viewing albums:

cameracontrols.jpg

Developers can build better home screen widgets, with tools for flipping through 3D stacks of content, and touch gestures to scroll and flip through content:

widgets.jpg

Google redesigned the Android keyboard for the larger screens of tablets (versus phones, which Android initially targeted). The system also lets users select words by pressing the screen, then dragging little handles ("bounding arrows") to highlight a text block:

newkeyboard.jpg

Here's the Xoom image Motorola released a few weeks ago. Word on the street is that this will cost $800, without a phone plan attached:

XOOM_dyn_L_horiz_YouTube_CES-1.jpg

Lastly, here's the Google Honeycomb preview video released earlier:

Comments | Category: Android , Chrome OS , Google , PCs , Phones , Tablets , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 20, 2011 10:57 AM

Video: Eighth grader behind hit iPhone game

Posted by Brier Dudley

How can you resist a video interview of the Utah eighth-grader who wrote Bubble Ball?

Since the game for the iPhone and iPad was released Dec. 29. it's been downloaded more than 2 million times, topping the list of free iTunes apps.

The boy, Robert Nay, has more poise than Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg.

Take that, Tiger mom.

Comments | Category: Apple , Apps , iPad , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 13, 2011 3:24 PM

Report: New iPad, iPhone losing home button

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple rumors are a dime a dozen, but Boy Genius Report is pretty convinced that the new iPads and iPhones coming out later this year won't have a home button.

The one physical button on the front of the gadgets would be replaced by on-screen touch controls, using the multitouch capability in a new beta version of the iOS software, according to the report based on an "Apple source."

This may provide room for a bigger display and/or front-facing camera. It could also reduce Apple's manufacturing costs.

Removing the button would also be an opportunity for Apple to demonstrate its expertise in interface design. It would be a challenge to remove the devices' most obvious and consistent control and continue to improve their usability, but the pull of minimalism is strong for some.

From the BGR report:

In addition to the home button disappearing from the iPad, we're told that this change will make its way over to the iPhone as well. Our source said Apple employees are already testing iPads and iPhones with no home buttons on the Apple campus, and it's possible we will see this new change materialize with the next-generation iPad and iPhone devices set to launch this year.

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January 12, 2011 2:46 PM

PC sales grew 3% as iPad, consoles and Asia take toll

Posted by Brier Dudley

The big two PC sales reports came out today from IDC and Gartner, with both research firms saying that sales were up about 3 percent during the holidays.

Both firms had predicted around 5 percent growth in the fourth quarter, but consumers were being more thrifty and weighed the iPad and game consoles against PC sales. Sales also slowed in Asia, outside of Japan.

The reports hint at what investors will hear from the big PC companies when they report earnings later this month. Intel reports on Jan. 13 and Microsoft on Jan. 27.

For the full year, PC sales were up 13.8 percent according to Gartner and 13.6 percent according to IDC.

Hewlett Packard remains the world's biggest PC vendor despite a 1 percent drop in sales. Both firms estimated HP has a roughly 19 percent share of the market globally and 29 percent share in the U.S.

Dell and Acer are second largest globally. Gartner gives Acer the edge, with 12.7 percent market share in Q4, while IDC gives it to Dell, with 12.1 percent.

Lenovo is third, followed by Toshiba globally.

In the U.S., Apple is the fifth largest with 9 percent of Q4 PC sales, according to IDC, or 9.7 percent according to Gartner.

Here are the global stats -- choose your vendor:

IDC global.jpg

gartnerww.jpg

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January 10, 2011 10:25 AM

CES: Next Windows tablets aimed at Android more than iPad?

Posted by Brier Dudley

(Today's column from CES, on Microsoft's Windows and tablet news ...)

LAS VEGAS -- Here at the Consumer Electronics Show, you can see every TV set, iPhone accessory and cellphone ever imagined.

There are thousands of products in more than a million square feet of exhibition space, packed with more than 140,000 people.

But what's really hard to find are people who understand what Microsoft is up to with its mysterious pronouncements at the show about the next version of Windows. It took me four days to come up with a few guesses.

I'm talking about the centerpiece of Chief Executive Steve Ballmer's keynote -- the show's grand opening event, where thousands come to hear what's next from a company straddling the computer, phone and entertainment industries.
Ballmerkeynote.jpg
Ballmer used the spotlight to present hardware test beds running the next version of Windows on the tiny processors used in phones and Web tablets.

Ballmer also touted the Xbox and Windows Phone 7 with flashy demonstrations.

But his Big Deal was a demonstration of this new software and hardware running Office, Quicken and a high-definition video clip in Windows Media Player.

This probably would win the blue ribbon and scholarship offers at a university computer-science fair. It also sent various messages to Microsoft's industry partners and competitors. But it seemed strangely out of place as the opening spectacle at CES, where most people couldn't understand the semaphore and Microsoft refused to explain the flags.

Microsoft was so reserved and calculated with the presentation, you were left feeling that the company was keeping the cool new stuff under wraps, and using CES to check off a milestone in its secret release schedule.

In years past, Microsoft set the show's tone. Bill Gates used to open the event with bold predictions about software and PC technology spreading into TVs, refrigerators and Web tablets. His keynote usually had a funny video or two, perhaps a celebrity appearance and a few exciting prototypes.

This year Ballmer showed Microsoft is making an important move. It's extending Windows to the minuscule hardware used to produce phenomenally thin and light mobile Web devices. The hardware is primarily based on the ARM architecture that's dominant in smartphones and Web tablets.

A lot of people think Microsoft missed this boat and will never get past the iPad's wake. The bigger competition, though, may be Google and its Android operating system, which was powering nearly all of the new tablets and smartphones debuting at the show.

Either way, Microsoft's big investment into ARM is "a huge, but necessary, step for the company as it works to re-engage with the booming mobile device space," IDC analyst Al Gillen said in a research note.

What's a little strange is that Microsoft already has versions of Windows that run on ARM. The Windows phone software runs on ARM; its mobile Windows CE software has run on ARM since 1996.

But Ballmer made it clear at CES that Microsoft intends to put the full version of Windows on mobile devices coming in 2012 and beyond. He said customers expect "the full range of capabilities from any device" and Windows "will be everywhere on every kind of device without compromise."

Once again, Microsoft is insisting that the full version of Windows be used on what it considers to be primary computing devices.

That gives the devices the benefit of Windows' support for all sorts of programs and hardware. But it can also put a heavy load on the system, affecting performance and battery life.

By pushing "big Windows" onto tablets, Microsoft is saying it considers these devices to be full-powered computing systems, with the capabilities of a laptop. Not just a tablet for browsing and running Web applications.

This pronouncement comes as the definition of Web tablets, and portable computers, is in flux.

Consumers and the industry are still trying to figure out the mix of computing devices we'll use to work, play and communicate.

Microsoft is taking a different path than Apple, which opted to produce a slimmed-down version of its operating system for the iPhone and the iPad. Its mobile operating system has fewer capabilities, but works well for the hardware.

The bigger competition appears to be the Android, which Google gives away free. Android is already overtaking the iPhone and is now aimed at the iPad with a refined version for tablets coming out later this year. Google demonstrated the upgrade at CES, and it looks like it could also become a competitor to Windows 7 and Apple's OS X.

Microsoft has to make some bold moves, because its execution hasn't kept up with its vision for mobile computing.

Early on, the company saw the potential for tablets and smartphones. The first Windows tablets launched in 2002, nearly a decade before the iPad, and its ultra-mobile, handheld PCs launched a year before the iPhone.

Yet ultra-mobile PCs were held back in part because Microsoft opted to use the full version of Windows. Hardware at the time wasn't powerful enough and was too expensive.

Sales were poor and PC makers turned to netbooks.

There were hints Microsoft figured this out. After the iPhone cleaned its clock, the phone group rebuilt its unwieldy operating system, sharpened its focus and unveiled Windows Phone 7.

Windows 7 was also supposed to be better for tablets, with the ability to remove more components and lighten the system, and improvements to touch controls.

But, for tablets, Microsoft's biggest partners are turning from Windows. Dell's new Streak tablet runs Android on ARM, and Hewlett-Packard's next tablets run its own operating system.

It seems Microsoft, with the strategy Ballmer discussed the other night, is moving to reverse that.

But even if it makes full Windows work well with devices, huge obstacles stand in its way -- if my tour of the international section of CES is an indication

A walk through the crowded stalls where Chinese and Taiwanese companies hawk every gadget imaginable, from flashlights to holographic video players, suggested Asian factories are gearing up to produce millions of Android tablets this year.

Last year, this zone was full of netbooks; before that it was iPhone and iPod knockoffs. This year every other company seemed to offering Android tablets, most with ARM processors.

But after talking to one of the manufacturers, I'm not counting on a flood of Windows ARM (WARM?) tablets at the 2012 CES.

The issue isn't hardware support or the software's capability as much as price, according to William Hsaio, deputy general manager of Hopeland Digital in Shenzhen China.

Hsaio hadn't heard of Microsoft's plan for the next version of Windows to run on ARM. But he said it won't matter when he can get Android free.

"Windows? Too expensive for our market," he said. "One license costs $30, $40. That's huge money."

(UPDATE: After this was filed, I heard from a veteran Microsoft engineer who shared a few thoughts. He said it could turn out to be more like Apple's approach after all - taking a legacy operating system to new processor architecture, with more constrained computational abilities, and leaving legacy applications behind.

Deep changes in Windows to make it run well on mobile hardware could result in new efficiencies and responsiveness that would also improve things on Intel x86 architecture.

Maybe we'll learn more about what's meant by "full power" Windows on mobile hardware at Microsoft's Mix conference in April or a developer conference later in the year.)

Here is Ballmer's keynote:

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January 7, 2011 4:14 PM

CES: Windows 7 tablet anyone?

Posted by Brier Dudley

There are plenty of Windows 7 tablets to challenge the iPad if you look hard enough at CES, or live in Asia.

I guess people won't have to wait for Windows 8 on ARM processors after all.

Here are a few of the Windows 7 tablets on display here and there, among the dozens and dozens of Android tablets.

The Moneaul M-Pad that will cost $400 to $600 in Korea. It's based on Intel's Atom N455 processor, has an SD slot, 10-inch touchscreen and 16 or 32 gigabytes of memory.
IMG_0775.JPG

The Padows 20 also has a 10-inch screen, Intel N455 and 16 or 32 gigs of memory. It also has an accessory keyboard. Wholesale, it's $280 FOB in Hong Kong from Shenzhen Jumper Computer Technology Co. Ltd.
IMG_0643.JPG

Is that an iPad, or a Padows 20?
IMG_0645.JPG

Intel showed HP's Windows 7 Slate 500. Steve Ballmer - who unveiled the Slate during the previous CES - didn't mention the device this year:
IMG_0598.JPG

One reason Windows tablets are a tougher sell is because there are relatively few accessories compared to what's available for the iPad. I think about 5 percent of the booths are displaying iPad accessories, but this one deserves a special award:
IMG_0663.JPG

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January 4, 2011 2:09 PM

CES 2011: Lenovo relaunches LePad, a Windows 7-Android combo

Posted by Brier Dudley

Say bonjour -- or ni hao -- to the LePad, a Windows-Android hybrid tablet launched today by the giant Chinese PC company Lenovo.

The hybrid, first unveiled at last year's CES but which didn't go on sale, is basically a laptop with a detachable display that functions as a standalone "slate" running Google's Android operating system.

When the display is docked with the rest of the laptop, it runs Windows 7 on an Intel processor.

Lenovo said it will begin selling the system in China in the first quarter for about $1,300. The tablet is also going to be sold by itself for around $520.

The detachable tablet reminds me of the one on the $350 HP printer I reviewed last month, but the LePad display is bigger and more powerful. It's a 10.1-inch diagonal screen with a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor inside. It weighs under 2 pounds, is a half-inch thick and runs eight hours on a battery charge.

"Our IdeaPad U1 and LePad truly fit today's mobile lifestyle," Liu Jun, senior vice president of Lenovo's Idea Product Group, said in a release. "Use the lightweight slate when you're mobile, and then simply slide it into the U1 base when you need to create and edit content. Consumers shouldn't have to adapt their lifestyle to technology, and this product definitely delivers twice the functionality and fun in one device."

A spokeswoman said the design was fine-tuned over the last year and Lenovo developed an Android application store for the Chinese market with apps customized for the LePad. Similar slate products and the U1 will come to the U.S. "sometime later this year."

Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid with LePad Slate.jpg

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January 4, 2011 11:30 AM

CES 2011: Tablet sales doubling, iPad dominates, report says

Posted by Brier Dudley

Sales of tablet computing devices will double in 2011 to 24.1 million units, and keep climbing through 2015, according to a report issued today by Forrester Research.

"Of those sales, the lion's share will be iPads, and despite many would-be competitors that will be released at CES, we see Apple commanding the vast majority of the tablet market through 2012," analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said in a blog post today.

Epps said tablet buying will be more like sales of MP3 players or iPhones than PCs. They are primarily lifestyle devices that people will replace more frequently than computers.

In other words, we think a significant number of first-generation iPad buyers will buy iPad 2 when it comes out this year -- many first-gen iPads will end up entertaining the kids in the back of the car while Mom and Dad get the shiny new (likely Facetime-compatible) model.

As for Android tablets, Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook, Microsoft's Windows-based tablets, and tablets that run on HP's and Nokia's platforms, they'll take a backseat to Apple, but in a market this big, there's room for more than one player. By 2015, 82 million US consumers -- one-third of US online consumers -- will be using a tablet, and not all of them will be iPads.

Here's a chart from her blog:

forrestertab1.jpg

Here's another from her report, via Mary Jo Foley's blog, where I first saw the report:

fortab2.jpg

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December 29, 2010 5:08 PM

Video: Early peek at Windows tablets debuting at CES

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Ballmer's getting scooped.

Asian computer makers are letting news of their Windows 7 tablets trickle out ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show, when Ballmer's expected to show more Windows-based rivals to the iPad during his Jan. 6 keynote.

MSI gave Taiwanese journalists a sneak peek at the Windpad 100W that it's going to present in Las Vegas next week.

Here's a video taken by Netbooknews.com, which had a reporter at the preview event in Taipei. They said the 10-inch tablet running an Intel Atom Z530 chip is about the same as the one MSI unveiled in June. It has an HDMI port, memory card reader, two USB ports and a 32 gig solid-state drive.

New tablets based on Intel's Oak Trail platform will appear in March, according to the report.

Asus is also jumping the gun with preview glimpses of its Eee Pad, a handsome convertible laptop/tablet based on Windows.

Here's the Asus teaser video:

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December 13, 2010 3:27 PM

Microsoft iPad challengers surfacing in January

Posted by Brier Dudley

Curious timing: Goldman Sachs issues another report saying the iPad and tablets are hammering Microsoft, then anonymous sources tell the New York Times that Windows 7 tablets are part of Steve Ballmer's CES keynote.

The Times piece says Ballmer will show Dell and Samsung tablets running Windows 7 and may even give a peek at a device running Windows 8.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment, saying "we are not talking at all about CES."

Ballmer already said these devices are coming. He told analysts in July that Microsoft's big push into tablets will come in early 2011 with the release of new Intel hardware for mobile devices.

One of the analysts he was talking to was Goldman's Sarah Friar, who is unlikely to be convinced by a whispery blog entry saying "wait until January!"

Still unanswered are key questions about the next generation of Windows tablets: When exactly will they go on sale, and how much will they cost?

If they're $1,000, they'll die the same quick death as Microsoft's ultra-mobile PC concept, which debuted on Samsung hardware in 2006. The device Ballmer will show in January is "similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin," according to "people familiar with the device" who spoke to the NYT.

An appearance at CES doesn't mean the devices will go on sale in January. The show is really for retailers to see products that they'll carry later in 2011.

Hewlett-Packard, for instance, waited until late October to finally, and quietly, take orders for the Win7 Slate PC that Ballmer showed last January. HP was a special case, though, as it's trying to build consumer tablets on its own operating system now.

I'm curious to see whether the "Windows 7" operating system on the tablets will be the full-blown version or stripped-down versions designed for consumer-electronics and portable devices.

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October 26, 2010 2:43 PM

BN's Nook evolves into Android tablet

Posted by Brier Dudley

Another entry into the great holiday tablet battle came today from Barnes & Noble, which announced a color, touchscreen version of its Nook reading device.
nookcolor_lendme.jpg
The bookseller expects to begin selling the "NOOKcolor" on Nov. 19 for $249. It has a 7-inch diagonal touchscreen that displays 16 million colors. Inside, the device has a Wi-Fi radio and 8 gigabytes of memory. It's 8 by 5 inches overall, 0.48 inches thick and weighs 15.8 ounces.

Although it's built around the Nook electronic bookstore, which competes with Amazon.com's Kindle business, the color Nook is also aiming up-market, at the iPad and upcoming Android tablets.

The device is being pitched as a media consumption tablet, with the ability to browse the Web, play games, send e-mail, participate in social networks and store and play digital music. Or read.

Barnes & Noble noted that the NOOKcolor is based on Google's Android operating system -- Version 2.1. The store is inviting Android developers to build Nook applications, although they won't be able to directly transfer Android apps to the Nook because it has a custom interface and controls.

The new Nook also syncs with Google's Gmail, so you can use Gmail contacts with social features, including a feature that lets you lend e-books to friends with Nooks.

The Nook's upgrade may get Amazon to speed up work on a color Kindle, or perhaps even push Apple to lower iPad prices.

But it could use a better name. Some might wonder if the NOOKcolor is radioactive.

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October 22, 2010 10:41 AM

HP unveils Windows 7 "Slate 500," downplays iPad challenge

Posted by Brier Dudley

As promised in January, Hewlett-Packard has released its Windows 7 Slate computer before the end of the year.

The Slate 500 is the highly anticipated slatelike computer that Steve Ballmer presented during the opening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show just before Apple launched the iPad.

HP kept the buzz going for a while last spring with teaser videos poking fun at the iPad's inability to do things like run Adobe Flash, but then it suddenly went quiet about the Slate, around the time it bought Palm and said it would use Palm's operating system in consumer devices.
HP Slate 500_Image 6.jpg
HP today began taking orders for the $799 Win7 device, which it's aiming at business users.

HP now seems to be trying really hard to downplay its potential as a consumer device for browsing media like the iPad. It's no longer teasing the iPad about Flash or talking up the full computing capabilities of the Slate 500.

The Slate 500 is listed among business computers at HP's website, and the description makes it sound relatively dull. It's being pitched not as an exciting alternative to the iPad, but as a productivity device capable of running enterprise applications.

Does HP think the biggest competition is really the business tablets from RIM and Cisco, or is it keeping things low-key until it releases consumer tablets based on the operating system it acquired with Palm?
HP Slate 500_Image 1.jpg
Here's how it's describing the long-awaited Windows 7 tablet:

"The HP Slate 500 is the ideal PC for professionals who don't usually work at a traditional desk, yet need to stay productive in a secure, familiar Windows environment. The HP Slate 500 is also intended for those who use custom applications built for Windows."

What happened to the "perfect storm of innovation" stuff HP was talking about in January?

More interesting are the specs HP provided.

The Slate 500 is based on Intel's Z540 Atom processor, which runs at 1.86 gigahertz, and has up to 2 gigabytes of DDR2 RAM. For storage it uses flash memory units with up to 64 gigabytes of storage.

It's built around an 8.9-inch diagonal multitouch screen and has 802.11 b, g and n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0. The device weighs 1.5 pounds and is 0.58 inches thick. It's overall case is 9.2 by 5.9 inches.

Unlike the iPad, the Slate 500 has a USB 2.0 port and an SD memory card slot for directly loading and transferring files. It also has a built-in 3 megapixel camera, a front-facing VGA webcam and built-in microphone and speakers.

HP says the device's battery lists "up to 5+ hours." Applications preloaded on the device include Adobe Reader and a "Slate Camera" application from HP.

The device comes with a stylus and a dock, but not much of a drumroll.

HP Slate 500_Image 2.jpg

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October 14, 2010 10:08 AM

Verizon selling iPads, no iPhone yet

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple and Verizon are pouring jet fuel onto the crackling rumors about an upcoming Verizon iPhone.

The companies today announced that Verizon will sell Apple's iPad in its network of retail stores starting Oct. 28.

But Verizon's not handling the 3G wireless capability built into upper-end iPads. That service is still provided by AT&T, which also has the apparently dwindling exclusive U.S. rights to carry the iPhone.

Verizon instead will sell the iPad in bundles with its MiFi wireless hotspot device. They'll be priced from $630 to $830. Verizon's also offering an iPad data plan for the MiFi that costs $20 per month for 1 gigabyte of data, $35 for 3 gigs and $50 for 5 gigs, plus $10 per gigabyte overage fees. Verizon will also sell WiFi-only iPads.

"We're thrilled to be working with Verizon Wireless to get iPad into the hands of even more customers this holiday season," Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, said in the release. "iPad allows users to connect with their apps and content in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before, and together with Verizon Wireless we're offering an easy way to stay connected wherever you go."

Simultaneously, AT&T announced that it will begin carrying the iPad in its stores on Oct. 28 as well. Cook's apparently not quite as thrilled by that deal, though. His comment in the AT&T release:

"We look forward to expanding the reach of iPad allowing even more customers to experience the magic of iPad for themselves. As we approach the holiday season, we are very happy that customers will now be able to buy iPad Wi-Fi + 3G at AT&T stores."

Apple's been making lots of deals lately to extend the reach of its tablet device, which will face intense competition this holiday season and in 2011 from new tablets running Google's Android software and Windows devices. Apple recently made deals to sell the iPad in Target and Wal-Mart stores, although apparently it won't be discounted in them.

Verizon's not just another retail outlet because of the intense speculation and anonymously sourced stories coming out about Apple working to develop a Verizon version of the iPhone in early 2011, ending the exclusive deal AT&T had since the phone's debut in 2007.

Verizon and AT&T will also soon be selling an Android-based tablet made by Samsung.

The tablets may draw more customers into their stores this holiday season, although the iPad is on its way to becoming as prevalent on store shelves as the iPod.

At the very least, Verizon's probably thrilled to have a way to sell its MiFi units for $130 (that's about how much more the iPad costs when bundled with a MiFi unit).

Verizon gives the puck-sized MiFi units away to people who sign up for two-year data plans, and the device is facing lots of competition from similar mobile hotspots available on faster networks such as those operated by Sprint/Clearwire and T-Mobile.


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October 5, 2010 1:21 PM

Ballmer says Windows tablets by Christmas

Posted by Brier Dudley

Santa Ballmer's going to put a Windows tablet under your tree this year, according to a Reuters report on the Microsoft CEO's speech at the London School of Economics.

An excerpt:

"You'll see new slates with Windows on them. You'll see them this Christmas," he told an audience of students, staff and journalists at the London School of Economics.

"Certainly we have done work around the tablet as both a productivity device and a consumption device," he said.

The news follows the bombshell Goldman Sachs report lambasting Microsoft's response to the iPad.

But really the arrival of a Windows tablet this holiday seasons is right on schedule, following Steve Ballmer's unveiling of the Hewlett-Packard Slate at the Consumer Electronics Show last January. HP at the time said it would start selling the Windows 7 device in late 2010.

In recent weeks HP has been letting slip that it's going to be shipping a Windows tablet soon, before it releases one based on the Palm software it acquired.

Meanwhile, analysts are jostling to predict how many iPads Apple has sold so far, ahead of the company's Oct. 18 earnings report. Fortune mag has a roundup of the estimates, which range from 3.8 million to 6 million.

About 350 million PCs are expected to be sold this year globally.

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September 20, 2010 11:14 AM

HP's two-fer: Printer plus Web tablet/e-book, $399

Posted by Brier Dudley

Are Web tablets and e-books becoming commoditized already?

Hewlett-Packard's throwing one into the box with a new $399 all-in-one inkjet printer it's calling the Photosmart eStation.
The printer includes a Web browsing tablet with WiFi and a 7-inch diagonal screen. It's pre-loaded with applications including Facebook, a music player, Barnes & Noble's eBookstore and Yahoo mail, search, weather and messenger.

When it's not being used around the house, the tablet sits in a dock on the printer and works as a control panel and digital photo frame.

The Android-powered tablet apparently doesn't let you load applications. It sounds like a new version of HP's Dreamscreen lightweight tablet/photo frame that appeared in 2008, more than the full-fledged slate computers that HP's expected to release later this year. But this one comes in a printer bundle for under $400, and it may be good enough for some people.

HPprinttablet.jpg

Here's a video from Laptop magazine, trying out the eStation:

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August 17, 2010 10:14 AM

Report: Apple prepping smaller iPad -- the mini pad? -- for holiday

Posted by Brier Dudley

More reports are surfacing about a smaller iPad that Apple could launch by the end of the year.

The device will have a 7-inch diagonal touchscreen, potentially making the device small enough to fit into a purse or large coat pocket and closer in size to Amazon's standard Kindle, which has a 6-inch screen.

First generation iPads have a 9.7-inch diagonal screen.

Taiwan's Digitimes last week reported that the 7-inch iPad will be released in the first quarter of 2011, along with an improved version of the 9.7-inch model with a new processor.

A smaller iPad would be more portable and presumably cheaper and lighter, improving its odds of being chosen by people shopping for an electronic reading device.

Already the success of the iPad and the Kindle are snuffing out competition from other electronic reading books, Ars Technica noted in a story listing recently scuttled slates. They include the Hearst-backed Skiff and Plastic Logic's Que.

A new iPad screen size will add another complication for the application developers who were key to the iPhone's success, although it's nothing compared with the array of Android devices emerging this year.

In the meantime Apple's lined up a key iPad distributor. The company reached a new deal with China Unicom, the government-controlled phone conglomerate that's China's exclusive iPhone carrier, to sell the iPad as well.

I wonder if we'll start hearing gripes about Unicom's coverage and capacity, unless that's a capital offense.

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August 11, 2010 11:00 AM

Dell Streak: $549, or $300 with two-year AT&T contract

Posted by Brier Dudley

A few people have asked me about Dell's Streak, the minitablet/maxiphone that surfaced in Seattle in May.

You could say it's the latest version of the Origami ultramobile PC that Microsoft and Intel began developing about five years ago, but it runs Android software on Qualcomm hardware.

dell-streak-navigation-screen.jpg
The company Tuesday finally announced that the Streak will be available to the general public on Friday for $549, or $300 with a two-year AT&T contract. It's a few weeks late and $50 more than Dell said in June.

Like most big phones today, it's based on a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm with 3G, Wi-Fi (b, g and n) and Bluetooth radios. It works with HSDPA networks (such as T-Mobile's) that provide up to 7.2 Mbps downloads. It has a 5 megapixel still and video camera with a dual LED flash, plus a front facing VGA camera.

Here's a Dell video showing it in action:

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August 4, 2010 9:22 AM

Clearwire releases iSpot 4G for iPhone, iPad

Posted by Brier Dudley

Kirkland 4G broadband provider Clearwire today announced a special version of its mobile hotspot for people using Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The iSpot is a puck modem similar to 4G Sprint Overdrive, but it's white and "made exclusively for Apple mobile products," Clearwire said in its release.

The iSpot also supports more simultaneous users - up to eight devices can connect at once via WiFi, versus the five with the Overdrive.

Clearwire's selling the iSpot for $100. An introductory data plan costs $25 per month and provides unlimited data at speeds of 3 to 6 megabits per second, with bursts up to 10.

Strangely, the iSpot will only support Apple devices with a $25 per month plan. Higher priced plans are available to open the hotspot to all WiFi devices, similar to the Overdrive. A spokesman said the device limits access to Apple devices by filtering MAC addresses, allowing only devices in the range used by the Apple products.

iSpot_Hero_StandAlone_white_R1(2).jpg

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August 2, 2010 9:42 AM

Microsoft's iPad: Wi-fis and bigger GBs, please

Posted by Brier Dudley

(Today's column ...)

Have you seen that hilarious (and profane) YouTube cartoon - done after work by a Best Buy employee - about a woman shopping for an iPhone 4?

No matter how many ways the clerk explains that they've only got the more advanced HTC Evo, she keeps saying "I don't care, I want the iPhone 4."

Believe it or not, a troupe of Wall Street jokesters and tech journalists acted out the Web sensation last week in Redmond, during Microsoft's annual Financial Analyst Meeting.

To make it fresh, this chorus substituted "iPad" for "iPhone 4" and cut the f-bombs.

Seriously, it was the highlight of the day.

With apologies to the creator of the "iPhone4 vs HTC Evo" video, here's how it went down.

Chorus: "iPad! Where is the iPad?"

Continue reading this post ...


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June 28, 2010 1:58 PM

Kindle for Android app released by Amazon.com

Posted by Brier Dudley

Amazon.com today announced an Android version of its popular app that continues to extend its Kindle reading and book-shopping software beyond its Kindle e-reader device.

The Android Kindle app comes as Amazon and Google, backer of the open-source device platform, are increasingly competing in digital media and cloud computing services, wooing the same consumers, publishers and developers.
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After you've registered with Amazon, you can use the Kindle Android app to search and browse around 620,000 books available in Kindle editions, sample the first chapter of books free, access your Kindle library online and synchronize the last page read between Kindles and other devices running the Kindle app.

The Android app uses touchscreen controls to turn pages with taps on the side of the screen or flicks.

Still to come, though, is the ability to purchase Kindle books from within the Android app and full text search.

Also not there yet apparently are multimedia features that Amazon.com on Sunday added to its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch applications.

Those Kindle apps can now play digital books with embedded audio and video clips, such as "Bird Songs" and a special version of Rick Steves' "London by Rick Steves" that includes Steves narrating walking tours.

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June 16, 2010 5:43 PM

E3: Epic's Cliff B on Kinect, "Gears of FarmVille" and women

Posted by Brier Dudley

LOS ANGELES -- The interview with Cliff Bleszinski, design director of Epic Games, was supposed to cover "Gears of War 3," the next version of the Xbox 360 hit.

But he took a few other shots.

North Carolina-based Epic sold more than 12 million copies of the first two versions of "Gears," an ultra bloody, military-themed shooting game.

"Gears 3" goes on sale in April, extending the run of "big three" shooting games for the Xbox that begins with "Halo: Reach" on Sept. 14 and "Call of Duty: Black Ops" on Nov. 9.

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Bleszinski outlined improvements, such as the ability to attack enemies with a chainsaw and then kick them toward other enemies where they explode, so "you get more deaths that way."

Then the influential and outspoken developer touched on a few other topics while holding court with a handful of reporters in Microsoft's treehouse-like pressroom elevated above the E3 show floor. Here's an edited sample.

On the Xbox Kinect:

Continue reading this post ...


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June 2, 2010 11:16 AM

D8: Kno tablet for students unveiled

Posted by Brier Dudley

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Kno, a Santa Clara, Calif. startup, unveiled a dual screen tablet for students at the All Things Digital conference.

The Kno tablet weighs 5.5 pounds, has dual 14-inch color touchscreens and pairs with an online platform that's supported by higher education publishers, the founders said in their demonstration.
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The device looks like an Apple laptop without a keyboard, and it will function in laptop mode by using one of its screens as a touch keyboard. The two screens are connected by a fabric material similar to what's used for seatbelts, instead of a hinge.

It also has an iPad-like interface, displaying thumbnail-sized icons for applications and books on the device. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios but not 3G cell coverage, and the battery life is expected to be at least six hours.

Kno expects to begin selling its tablets this fall. It's not yet disclosing a price but it will be less than $1,000.

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May 26, 2010 5:24 PM

Amazon plans for color Kindle: Sooner rather than later?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Jeff Bezos may have spoken too soon.

He told Amazon.com shareholders on Tuesday that a color Kindle is "still a long way out" and the displays he's seen aren't good enough yet.

But a few blocks away at the Society for Information Display conference, members of his Kindle team may have discovered what looks like a perfectly good color display material.

They liked LG's 9.7-inch electronic paper display material so much, according to an LG engineer, they asked the Korean company if Amazon's Kindle group could be the first customer..

"Amazon had so many people come to our booth," said David Park, team leader of LG Display's advanced color electronic display research group. They "said they want to be the first customer."

Also visiting the booth were people working on the competing Nook reader for Barnes & Noble, Park said.

Park said he's expecting products with the 9.7-inch display to appear on the market starting in October.

LG's material is brighter and weighs less than competing technologies, he said, and it outputs 65,000 colors.

Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said plans haven't changed since the shareholder meeting.

"We don't speculate on future plans, but nothing's changed from what Jeff said," he said.

LG's 9.7-inch color displays were created with textbooks and comic books in mind, Park said. He contends electronic books are better for textbooks than devices like the iPad because they are easier on the eyes for extended reading and they won't be used for playing games.

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LG also is making a similar sized black and white version that will be used on the Skiff reader coming to market later this year.

A 19-inch version that's designed for electronic newspapers was also being demonstrated, but Park said it won't come to market for a few years.

Here are two images of the 9.7-inch color electronic paper display and a shot of the 19-incher.

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May 24, 2010 10:42 AM

SID confab: 3D surging: iPad "cannibalizing" Kindle, netbooks

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's iPad is "cannibalizing" sales of e-readers like the Kindle and Nook and netbooks, DisplaySearch analyst John Jacobs said this morning at the SID conference in Seattle.

Jacobs predicted 10 million iPads and other slates will be sold in 2010.

The research firm expects "slates will take a healthy bite" out of the e-reader market.

But that's still just a fraction of the growing market for devices with displays in the range of 4" to 12.5" -- including slates, e-books, netbooks, mobile Internet devices, game players and portable DVD players. Jacobs said that market will see 40 million to 80 million units sold per quarter.

Jacobs followed Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow, who talked up the potential of 3-D in TVs and other devices, including Sony cameras and computers.

Sony surveys found that 38 percent of consumers will buy a 3-D TV within a year and 67 percent say their next TV will be 3-D, Glasgow said.

Content will be key to uptake, he said, noting Sony efforts such as its work with sports broadcasters (he played a 3'D clip from the Masters during the speech) and upcoming Sony 3-D movies, including "Spiderman 3D," "Men in Black III" and "Green Hornet." Glasgow said the 3-D business aims won't distort the movie's artistic development, saying that Sony's mantra is that the "technology must serve the story."

But a 3-D preview of "Resident Evil Afterlife" -- a movie coming out in September -- had all sorts of 3-D tricks like martial arts throwing stars spinning toward the viewer.

Glasgow called on the display industry, gathered in Seattle, to follow three principles:

-- "Don't let inferior quality own the marketplace."
-- Work together and with broadcasters and cable and satellite companies to adopt a set of 3-D standards "that makes sense for consumers."
-- Companies in the business are going to have to put effort into educating consumers about the benefits of 3-D.

Meanwhile, Sony expects the 3-D TV market to grow to 100 million units globally over the next three years.

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May 24, 2010 10:37 AM

Displays of the future: Smart, bendy, 3D and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

(Today's piece, keyed to the Society for Information Display conference in Seattle ...)

Talk about gazing into the future.

Imagine ultra high-definition TVs not much thicker than a millimeter.

How about electronic books made with plastic screens that flex like a magazine?

Or perhaps a display that lets you touch a virtual version of yourself on the other side of the glass?


Continue reading this post ...


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April 29, 2010 2:03 PM

Microsoft won't deliver Courier tablet

Posted by Brier Dudley

I guess I'll stop looking for Courier tablet prototypes left on barstools at the Overlake Azteca.

Microsoft told its now-favorite gadget blog Gizmodo that the prototype touch-and-pen ebook/notebook won't go to market.

Gizmodo was given a glimpse of the project last September, around the time iPad buzz was heating up. I wonder if it was leaked by developers trying to keep the project alive inside Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices group.

Its report today said Microsoft executives decided Wednesday to stop supporting the project.

I wonder if there's a connection with HP's decision yesterday to use the Palm operating system for upcoming tablet computing devices. Was Courier an engineering demonstration for HP and other computer makers?

Whatever the plans were for Courier, spokesman Frank Shaw drove a nail into its coffin with a statement to the blog:

At any given time, we're looking at new ideas, investigating, testing, incubating them. It's in our DNA to develop new form factors and natural user interfaces to foster productivity and creativity. The Courier project is an example of this type of effort. It will be evaluated for use in future offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time.

Here's a screenshot from Gizmodo's first report on the Courier, in which it called the iPad challenger "astonishing."

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April 26, 2010 10:12 AM

Rhapsody adds offline play to iPhone, iPad app

Posted by Brier Dudley

Rhapsody released a new version of its app enabling iPhone and iPad users to store and play music from its online music service, even when the devices are offline.

The app lets subscribers store a Rhapsody playlist on the device. By the end of June, it should let people also download individual albums or tracks, the company said. (A workaround in the meantime is to create a playlist for a particular album and download it to the device.)

From the announcement, by Jon Maples, product lead:

Here's how it works: say you've built the perfect road-trip playlist (mine includes all of Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Night Music Club, a bunch of Joe Strummer and Clash songs, plus a smattering of "Weird Al" Yankovic). Simply launch your Rhapsody app, open the playlist and click the Download icon. You'll need either a 3G or WiFi connection to do this initially, but once the songs are saved to your device, you can rappel into the deepest crevices of the Grand Canyon and still be able to play them back.

Rhapsody's initial app for the iPhone was downloaded more than 1.5 million times since its debut last fall. It lets subscribers stream music from Rhapsody's 9.5 million-track library to connected devices. Android and BlackBerry versions are coming later this year.

Whether or not subscription music services like Rhapsody catch on, the app's ability to stream digital music to mobile devices showed how far along wireless networks have come. Now the download feature is demonstrating the sophistication of today's digital-rights technology and content-licensing schemes.

The app is free but requires a $10 per month subscription supporting a single mobile device. Up to three devices are supported with a "premier" plan that costs $14.99 per month.

It's optimized for the iPhone screen. It works on the iPad but an iPad-specific version that looks better on the larger screen is still in the works.

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April 15, 2010 11:47 AM

More iPad challengers coming, from Toshiba

Posted by Brier Dudley

There will be plenty of options for holiday shoppers looking for tablet computing devices from major computer companies.

In addition to the iPad and Hewlett-Packard's Slate, Toshiba will be selling similar devices based on Windows 7 and another line based on Google's Android software, according to a Reuters story quoting Jeff Barney, general manager of digital products for Toshiba America.

Toshiba is looking at a variety of form factors for its slate PCs, including a dual-screen model running Windows, and one with a roughly 10-inch screen, he said.

"We definitely see a place for the slate, we see there's a market there. It'll be expansive like netbooks, it won't be cannibalistic," he said.

Toshiba could really shake it up if they include the Intel WiDi technology that's on some of its laptops, enabling them to beam high-def video onto a nearby TV.

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April 8, 2010 11:43 AM

Steve Jobs: Apple may serve 1 billion ads a day to iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

Multitasking on the iPhone and iPad is a nice addition to the platform, but I think the jaw-dropper at Apple's news event this morning was the mobile ad platform called iAd that Steve Jobs unveiled.

Both additions were expected but the ambition and scope of iAd was surprising.

It's a huge potential market for the company if users accept the advertising that may soon be woven deeply into their Apple devices.

"The average user spends over 30 minutes every day using apps on their phone," Jobs said, according to Engadget's live blog at the event. "If we said we wanted to put an ad up every 3 minutes, that's 10 ads per device per day. That would be 1 billion ad opportunities per day."

Users may benefit from more free apps supported by ads. Maybe that will offset any resentment about immersive ads on a mobile device for which they pay monthly fees to use, and temper app price escalation that came with the iPad.

Apple's going to take 40 percent of the revenue from iAds that it's going to sell and host. In response to a question, Jobs said developers can use other ad systems besides iAd, according to the Wall Street Journal's coverage of the event.

I wonder how it's going to work to have multiple systems feeding ads into the apps. Will other ad systems have the same access the new ad serving and display capabilities Apple's building into the operating system without paying the 40 percent?

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April 5, 2010 4:56 PM

Details leak on HP's "iPad killer" -- $549, Win 7, 1080p

Posted by Brier Dudley

A convincing looking slide comparing the specs of Hewlett-Packard's upcoming "Slate" tablet with Apple's iPad appeared this afternoon on Engadget.

If accurate, HP is going to undercut Apple with a more powerful tablet device, but Apple already has the mindshare. I mentioned the Slate in Sunday's column on the iPad.

The slide says the Windows 7-based Slate will cost $549 for a 32-gig model and $599 for a 64-gig. Apple's iPads with the same capacity cost $599 or $699.

HP's device will have a 1.6 gigahertz Intel Atom processor, compared with the iPad's 1 GHz processor, and it will support 1080p and have a USB 2.0 port and SD card slot. It's a bit smaller than an iPad but weighs the same, at 9.2 by 5.7 inches, 0.57-inches thick and 1.5 pounds.

But the iPad has double the battery life -- 10 hours vs. the Slate's 5 hours -- and the Slate strangely only has 802.11b and g Wi-Fi and not the faster "n" flavor that the iPad includes. The Slate also supports a mobile broadband card, presumably 4G.

HP highlighted the ports -- which the iPad lacks -- in a teaser video it released this morning:

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March 31, 2010 6:17 PM

First iPad reviews appear, mostly thumbs up

Posted by Brier Dudley

As expected, Apple gave the New York Times' David Pogue , USA Today's Ed Baig and the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg an early crack at the iPad for reviews that just appeared.

The device, of course, goes on sale Saturday starting at $499. The chosen few apparently loved it, but had a few quibbles.

Both Mossberg and Pogue found the iPad battery life better than Apple's promised 10 hours, with Pogue getting 12 hours of video playback and Mossberg more than 11.

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Mossberg agrees with Steve Jobs, that it's a revolutionary device:

After spending hours and hours with it, I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades.

With an iPad on hand, Mossberg found himself using his laptops less and less.

My verdict is that, while it has compromises and drawbacks, the iPad can indeed replace a laptop for most data communication, content consumption and even limited content creation, a lot of the time. But it all depends on how you use your computer.

If you're mainly a Web surfer, note-taker, social-networker and emailer, and a consumer of photos, videos, books, periodicals and music--this could be for you. If you need to create or edit giant spreadsheets or long documents, or you have elaborate systems for organizing email, or need to perform video chats, the iPad isn't going to cut it as your go-to device.

Pogue split his review in two, praising it as a wonderful new gadget for non-techies, while ripping its shortcomings from the geeky perspective.

The iPad is so fast and light, the multitouch screen so bright and responsive, the software so easy to navigate, that it really does qualify as a new category of gadget. Some have suggested that it might make a good goof-proof computer for technophobes, the aged and the young; they're absolutely right.

From the geek perspective, Pogue said Apple's selection of digital books for the iPad is meager and its on-screen keyboard is "horrible" when the device is upright and "just barely usable" when it's turned 90 degrees.

There's no multitasking, either. It's one app at a time, just like on the iPhone. Plus no U.S.B. jacks and no camera. Bye-bye, Skype video chats. You know Apple is just leaving stuff out for next year's model.

The bottom line is that you can get a laptop for much less money -- with a full keyboard, DVD drive, U.S.B. jacks, camera-card slot, camera, the works. Besides: If you've already got a laptop and a smartphone, who's going to carry around a third machine?

Baig called the iPad "a winner" that is "rewriting the rulebook for mainstream computing":

The first iPad is a winner. It stacks up as a formidable electronic-reader rival for Amazon's Kindle. It gives portable game machines from Nintendo and Sony a run for their money. At the very least, the iPad will likely drum up mass-market interest in tablet computing in ways that longtime tablet visionary and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates could only dream of.

Here's the quickie iPad review I wrote after trying it at the January launch event.

Here's USA Today's video that ran with Baig's review:


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March 29, 2010 3:02 PM

WSJ: New iPhone this summer, plus one for Verizon

Posted by Brier Dudley

As if Apple needed any more buzz the week before its iPad goes on sale, the Wall Street Journal today is reporting that a new iPhone is coming this summer and Apple's preparing a CDMA version of its hit phone for Verizon Wireless.

It credits "people briefed on the matter" and received no comments from the companies.

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February 26, 2010 11:22 AM

Analyst: Apple iPad will be hit, lower cost iPhones coming

Posted by Brier Dudley

People are underestimating what a hit Apple's iPad will be, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty.

In a note to clients today, Huberty predicted Apple will sell 6 million iPads this year -- way more than the 3 million to 4 million consensus estimate.

Huberty believes "recent negative sentiment" since the iPad unveiling have set Apple's stock up for a bounce after the device launches in March and new iPhones appear in June.

She reiterated her target of $250, up from the current $205 (the stock's up about 3 percent today).

The report predicted new iPhones coming in June will have new capabilities, perhaps including new gesture controls, and lower cost of ownership -- suggesting a lower device price and perhaps lower service plan options.

From her comment on the iPad:

We expect Apple to ship its first iPad and announce additional content deals in late March to better than expected demand. We see the iPad targeting the sub-$800 consumer notebook market, which equates to 30M annual units just in the US (120M globally). We expect iPad points of distribution to expand through CY10, both in the US and International markets, which could add 500K-1M units from channel fill alone.

From her comment on the iPhone:

"We expect Apple to launch new iPhones in June that offer both a lower total cost of ownership and new functionality, potentially including gesture-based technology. As we've highlighted in the past, the cost of device + service plan is currently the biggest barrier to incremental demand in both mature markets like the US and emerging markets like China."

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February 11, 2010 9:40 AM

Bill Gates: Apple iPad not as great as iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

Apple's iPad is "nice" but it's nowhere near as great as the iPhone, Microsoft chairman and former chief tablet enthusiast Bill Gates told Bnet's Brent Schlender.

Part of his quote:

"So, it's not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone where I say, 'Oh my God, Microsoft didn't aim high enough.' It's a nice reader, but there's nothing on the iPad I look at and say, 'Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.'"

Gates was more enthused about a demonstration of the Hayden Planetarium's Virtual Universe that he saw this week at the TED conference, calling it "very cool" in a Twitter post yesterday. Maybe if Apple could get the vritual universe on a pad ...

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February 4, 2010 4:13 PM

Feds: Google book settlement still bad, more work needed

Posted by Brier Dudley

Google and book publisher and authors have improved their class-action settlement but not enough to avoid antitrust troubles, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a filing and news release this afternoon.

The key quote in the filing:

"Although the United States believes the parties have approached this effort in good faith and the amended settlement agreement is more circumscribed in its sweep than the original proposed settlement, the amended settlement agreement suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation."

The Justice Department liked changes that removed Google's "most favored nation" status but said the settlement as revised would still give the search company an unfair advantage.

It said in the release that "the amended settlement agreement still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity, thereby enabling the company to be the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats."

Today's filing sets the stage for a Feb. 18 hearing before a federal judge considering whether to approve the agreement, which was originally reached in 2005 after a fight over Google's efforts to digitize the world's books.

Other critics of the agreement have lined up in recent months, giving the judge plenty to consider.

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February 4, 2010 8:54 AM

iPad lament from Microsoft's former e-book boss, in NYT

Posted by Brier Dudley

Dick Brass, who led Microsoft's efforts to develop e-reader technology a decade ago, couldn't take it anymore.

The now-retired executive wrote a long, thoughtful essay outlining how Microsoft's culture stifled creative work, including some that was later mirrored in successful products from Apple.

Brass, a former journalist now living on San Juan Island, launched Microsoft Reader with ClearType rendering technology in 1999, eons before the Kindle and iPad. But, he revealed in his essay published today in the New York Times, it fell victim to internal turf wars in Redmond.

An excerpt:

Although we built it to help sell e-books, it gave Microsoft a huge potential advantage for every device with a screen. But it also annoyed other Microsoft groups that felt threatened by our success.

Engineers in the Windows group falsely claimed it made the display go haywire when certain colors were used. The head of Office products said it was fuzzy and gave him headaches. The vice president for pocket devices was blunter: he'd support ClearType and use it, but only if I transferred the program and the programmers to his control. As a result, even though it received much public praise, internal promotion and patents, a decade passed before a fully operational version of ClearType finally made it into Windows.

Brass defends Microsoft against its haters:

The company's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, has continued to deliver huge profits. They totaled well over $100 billion in the past 10 years alone and help sustain the economies of Seattle, Washington State and the nation as a whole. Its founder, Bill Gates, is not only the most generous philanthropist in history, but has also inspired thousands of his employees to give generously themselves. No one in his right mind should wish Microsoft failure.

But he concludes by saying that its "dysfunctional corporate culture" is snuffing out its creative spark.

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January 28, 2010 12:07 PM

Apple iPad: Steve Jobs, MLB and more pics

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's a quick little gallery of some iPadalooza pics I sent earlier to Twitter. This will be my last iPad post for awhile, promise.

Steve Jobs perusing his new bookstore:

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The MLB app for the iPad will stream live games to the device and display stats and other information. But will you be able to order beer like you can on the Nintendo DS?

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Fake Steve Jobs - in red - finally getting his hands on an iPad:

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Chasing Jobs, just like America:

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January 28, 2010 8:11 AM

Apple iPad: Father of Microsoft "Origami" slate PC weighs in (updated with video)

Posted by Brier Dudley

The launch of Apple's iPad is bittersweet for Otto Berkes, a Microsoft manager who led the company's earlier effort to develop a handheld, wireless, touchscreen slate computer.

Microsoft's "Origami" project surfaced in 2006 and gave early definition of a new category of devices between phones and laptop computers. It led to the Ultra-Mobile PC category that never caught on after early models were priced over $1,000 and the device was caught in the Windows Vista turbulence.

Berkes, who now works in Microsoft's entertainment and devices group, shared his thoughts on the iPad on his personal blog, where he said the iPad is nicely designed but won't be the last word on the slate computer. He also posted a photo of Bill Gates displaying a handheld device in 2004 that points toward yesterday's arrival of the iPad.

A few tidbits:

Apple gets credit on execution and good packaging of available technology. That said, their thin slate is an unsurprising product in the context of an evolutionary timeline that spans decades of innovation and effort chasing the slate computing dream.

On the size of the iPad:

As a device, the iPad seems somewhat large and ungainly to me. With the 7"-display-based Haiku/Origami, I aimed for greater mobility in the tradeoff between mobility and display real estate. Not having a way to write on a pure slate device the size of piece of paper also seems pretty unnatural to me. One of the iPad demos shows a legal-pad background for note-taking, but then you have to use the on-screen keyboard. Say what? There's a real cognitive disconnect there. Of course, display size is highly subjective (hence the many variations in laptops) as is the relative importance of stylus functionality for different users and uses. There is plenty of room for continued development of and innovation with the slate form factor, and it will be interesting to see how the industry responds to Apple's interpretation.

UPDATE: Here's a video with Otto outlining the history of Microsoft's ultra-mobile PC effort:

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January 27, 2010 3:12 PM

Apple iPad: Bad name choice?

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's legendary reality distortion field couldn't protect its new iPad from the sanitary napkin jokes.

The Wall Street Journal pounced on the story, noting:

Jokes about the sanitary napkin connotations of iPad's name abounded at offices and on the Internet. "But does it have wings?" tweeted one user. "They decided to call it the iPad? was iTampon taken?" wrote another.

Fast Company's headline: Apple's iPad Name Not the First Choice for Women. Period ...

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January 27, 2010 2:47 PM

Apple iPad: Hands-on first impressions

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- After spending some time with the long-awaited Apple iPad, I see why it starts at $499.

At that price it seems like a very nice accessory for a wired home, where it would become a shared Web kiosk and media browsing device, tapping into the home's wireless network.

Instead of waiting to use a shared computer to check e-mail, you could just grab the iPad. Especially one that's docked with the $69 accessory keyboard, taking the place of iPods that a lot of people keep on the kitchen counter.

It's also the perfect iPod for middle-aged consumers who may squint at previous iPods' small screens and have trouble with their small buttons and controls.

The device looks and feels just like a big iPod Touch. It's solid and smooth, but the bigger expanse of screen had me wondering how well the device would resist being sat upon and dropped off of sofas, where it's probably going to get most of its use.

The iPad also has a little bit of that "too light to be true" feeling of the MacBook Air --- as though you're holding a piece of glass supported by a few wafers of metal and plastic. The iPhone seems sturdy in comparison.

Younger buyers with an iPhone may wonder what all the fuss is about, and it's not going to be a must-have device for anyone happy with their iPhone, iPod touch or laptop.

Flicking through photo galleries is fun and pictures look great on the device, although it's pretty similar to the photo handling applications that come with touchscreen PCs.

Controlling iTunes is nice on the device -- so nice I think it's going to hurt sales of touchscreen media control systems like the Sonos and Logitech's Duet system. The iPad can function like a remote control for computers running iTunes in the home, but you can't stream media directly from the device. There are no connectors for plugging one to a TV, although Apple's offering a VGA adapter intended mostly for business uses, such as making presentations.

Books on the device are pretty to look at and have a high-def, glistening feel. Pages of text are about the size of a mid-size paperback and it's a breeze to slide your finger across the screen to turn them.

I didn't have time to immerse myself in a book -- there were 20 devices in a room with 250 journalists and analysts at a time jostling to try one -- but I wonder if the books are too bright and crisp to comfortably read for a long period of time. The bookshelf interface seemed awfully similar to the Library application built by Seattle's Delicious Monster software company.

Games were a little underwhelming, but it could be a nice device for casual and social games like "Bejeweled" or digital Scrabble.

Electronic Arts' "Need for Speed" iPhone game looks great when enlarged on the iPad. It has sensitive enough accelerometers to control the racing game by tilting the device, but if I was at home I'd put down the iPad and play the game on a console connected to a TV.

Newspapers on the device are nicer than on a phone or Kindle but pretty similar to how they appear on a computer. The demo units I saw only had papers' Web pages and not the special iPad versions that the New York Times and others are developing.

The killer iPad application for newspapers may be their puzzle pages. Crosswords, Sudoku and the Jumble will work great on the touchscreen device, especially if they could be zoomed to a larger size for the middle-aged readers thrilled to have an iPod they can use without reading glasses.

Comments | Category: Apple , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 27, 2010 12:41 PM

Apple iPad: Steve Jobs sees "giddy" press

Posted by Brier Dudley

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's Steve Jobs must be expecting positive news coverage of the iPad computing device he just unveiled.

"I haven't seen Walt this giddy in a long time," he told a few employees clustered around him in the demo room afterward.

Jobs was apparently referring to the Wall Street Journal's influential technology columnist, Walt Mossberg, who was elsewhere in the room.

Comments | Category: Apple , iPad |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.