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September 25, 2013 at 4:01 PM
RealNetworks has radically redesigned its venerable media player software in a bid to make it relevant and appealing in today’s era of connected mobile devices.
September 9, 2013 at 10:15 AM
It took more than a decade, but Microsoft has finally consolidated its various digital music ventures under one roof, with a standard jukebox and streaming music service for the phone, PC and Xbox platforms.
July 22, 2013 at 6:00 PM
It’s not the Consumer Electronics Show just yet, but the annual OSCON open-source conference in Portland is getting some sizzle from a shiny new gadget this year.
March 14, 2013 at 3:59 PM
Whether the S4 can maintain or accelerate Samsung’s growth remains to be seen. Earlier glimpses of the phone through various leaks showed a curved design similar to the S3, with gee-whiz features such as the tracking of users’ eyes to do things like pause video playback when users turn away.
Samsung is launching the phone at a much-hyped event in New York, which is webcast here.
Samsung mobile communications president, JK Shin, started by listing the S4′s highlight features.
January 8, 2013 at 9:08 AM
LAS VEGAS — Panasonic used the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show to present its plans to expand beyond electronic products into software and services, including business-to-business services.
But it’s still putting lots of effort into consumer gadgets, especially TVs.
President Kazuhiro Tsuga began his keynote today — the opening day of CES — explaining that it all starts with engineering.
“I am first and foremost an engineer. This is my training, my perspective and my passion,” he said, noting he started as an engineer at Panasonic in 1979.
“Some people think of engineers as rational and analytical. This is true. But we are also passionately driven to solve problems, to turn idealistic visions into useful realities,” he continued. “In fact most of us care quite deeply about making the world we live in better.”
None of the products Panasonic has made over nearly a century “would exist without the fundamtal expertise as an engineering company,” he said.
To figure out what to build, the company is spending more time listening to customers and has set up “lifestyle research centers” around the world, Tsuga said.
When it comes to TVs, consumers want the ability to customize their sets, according to Panasonic.
Tsuga demonstrated a new TV interface that recognizes a user and displays a customized interface. For Tsuga, the set displayed a background image of his favorite golf course in California and his apps across the bottom of the screen. Here’s one of the 55-inch Viera TC-L55WT60 sets that I found on the show floor.
Panasonic also announced what it called the world’s first large-screen 4K OLED set, which weighs just 27 pounds and is less than a half-inch thick. (Rival Sony also had a world’s largest 4K OLED in its press event Monday but the demo failed.)
Panasonic also outlined residential and energy-management products it’s working on, including cloud-connected appliances that it’s developing under a new partnership with IBM.
Consumers are also using Panasonic technology in eco-friendly vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Tesla cars, which use Panasonic batteries.
GM brought a Chevrolet Malibu Eco on stage during Tsuga’s keynote to highlight the company’s partnership on in-car technology, in which GM is using Panasonic’s app platform.
The coolest new product, though, was a jumbo Windows 8 tablet that Panasonic is introducing for business users. The tablet is around 20-inches diagonally and has ultra high def 4K resolution. Pricing and availability details weren’t provided, but I later found out that it will cost more than $1,500 and go on sale in the second half of this year.
Tsuga also outlined Panasonic business partners, such as McDonald’s — which uses its electronic systems in its restaurants — and United, which is using Panasonic’s avionics system to add fast Internet service and passenger entertainment systems to its planes.
Panasonic’s in-flight entertainment systems are also used in Boeing’s 787 and is expanding to more than 1,600 planes in 2013, the company said.
January 7, 2013 at 4:39 PM
LAS VEGAS — Microsoft may not be delivering the opening keynote or staging a huge booth at the entry to the Consumer Electronics Show, but it still has a presence on the show floor.
Like this bank of PCs that showgoers can use to check their email and schedules. It’s located near the men’s room in the central hall entryway.
November 5, 2012 at 9:15 AM
It turns out the old saying about Microsoft applies to Windows Phones, as well: Wait for the third version of its products because it takes the company a few tries to really nail it.
Maybe that’s why so few people bought Windows Phones when the new platform debuted in 2010.
Those who waited will be pleased with the new Windows Phones going on sale later this month, including potent new models from Nokia and HTC that I’ve been using.
The Lumia 920 offered through AT&T and the HTC 8X from multiple carriers are great phones that combine Microsoft’s elegant software with fresh and powerful hardware that will appeal to technophiles and first-time smartphone buyers.
They offer refreshing, modern alternatives in a market dominated by Google and Apple. But there are some trade-offs, particularly if you’re attached to iPhone or Android apps not available on Windows.
Both the Lumia and HTC have distinctive, colorful cases fronted by big, vivid displays. They have fast dual-core processors, 8-megapixel cameras (8.7 on the Lumia) and near-field communication radios that do tricks like sharing photos by tapping phones together.
The Lumia has a bit more technology packed in. Highlights include more-advanced photo capabilities and a free music service, plus the ability to wirelessly recharge by setting it on accessory charging pads.
But Nokia declined to join the cult of thinness with its new flagship.
The Lumia 920 feels stout compared with the more tapered 8X and the twiggy iPhone 5. You don’t forget which pocket is carrying this phone. In a pinch you could use the Lumia to hold down a tarp in a windstorm, or put it in the trunk for added traction on icy roads.
I expected the Lumia to be the hottest model in the new lineup, but the svelte 8X is stealing some of its spotlight, as well as its color scheme. The 8X has a grippy, rubberized back and sleeker case that feels better to hold and elicits more oohs and aahs.
Both are based on Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8. The moniker highlights the affinity with Windows 8 for PCs, which borrowed its touch-friendly, dynamic desktop interface from the phone software.
Microsoft has been making smartphones for eons, but it rolled out an entirely new platform that it called Windows Phone 7 in 2010.
Last year it released a big update in version 7.5, and now — with Windows Phone 8 — we’ve got the magical version 3.0.
Unfortunately for those who took the plunge earlier with Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, Microsoft won’t let them upgrade to 8. At least the power connectors are staying the same.
Microsoft’s platform still lacks the amazing variety of apps available on Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platform.
It’s unlikely to catch up before these phones are obsolete, but the number of apps should accelerate now that Microsoft has improved tools for app developers and made it easier to write apps for both Windows phones and PCs.
Meanwhile, the situation is partly compensated for by some excellent new apps developed by Microsoft and its partners that are available only on Windows Phone. They include photo apps that Nokia built to take advantage of the Lumia’s top-notch camera.
Windows 8 also has a new feature called “Kid’s Corner,” which lets parents create a kid-friendly sandbox on their device. When it’s activated — with a few swipes on the screen — kids playing with the phone can access only apps, music and videos selected by the parents.
Microsoft is adding a Skype app that will keep the phones continuously connected to the service, so you can make or receive calls through Skype or your wireless carrier. It wasn’t yet available on my review hardware.
Also coming is a new feature called “Data Sense” that will reduce data usage by compressing images, offloading some tasks to Wi-Fi and adjusting data usage as you approach the limits on your wireless plan.
Perhaps the best apps on Windows phones are the Microsoft online services that you can use to stay connected with friends and family, share photos and keep your digital life synchronized across different devices.
These have been there since the first version, but they’ve been improved — especially the online storage locker SkyDrive, which is really polished now. It also helps to connect to these services on the latest, 4G wireless networks.
Over the past week, using various flavors of Windows 8, I grew accustomed to having photos I took with the phones automatically backed up to SkyDrive so I could look at them at my desk or when using a tablet. Then it was a snap to email relatives a link to the SkyDrive folder containing our Halloween pictures.
Tapping the phones to share photos worked, but it was relatively slow.
Another feature, Microsoft’s “People” hub, collects your contacts and social-network pals. You can view their updates and tap their names or pictures to place calls or send email. New to Windows Phone 8 is the ability to create groups of contacts and “rooms.” You can invite friends or family to join a room where you privately share messages, calendars and photos.
All the new Windows Phones use Nokia’s great mapping software. The Lumia also has a gee-whiz augmented-reality app called City Lens that displays nearby attractions, shops, bus stops and other map items when you point the camera in their direction. These items are overlaid on the image of the streetscape that you see though the lens. It makes finding a coffee shop feel like a video game.
For now the Lumia 920 is exclusive to AT&T and uses its 4G LTE network. AT&T loads a default search page that doesn’t do justice to the software’s clean design.
UPDATE: AT&T announced that it will sell the Lumia 920 for $100 and the smaller 820 for $50 starting Nov. 9. Later this month AT&T will offer the 16 gig HTC 8X for $200 and an 8 gig version for $100.
LTE is great, but it’s a battery hog. The Lumia ran a full day on a charge, but Nokia needs to tune the power consumption further to catch up to the battery life of newer LTE Droid phones such as the Razr M, which can last multiple days with light usage. The Lumia’s charge messages can be misleading; one time it said I had 13 hours left, but the battery was dead a few hours later.
I can’t really compare the battery life on the 8X because I was using a foreign model on T-Mobile’s 3G network, though it lasted several days on a charge in that mode. HTC claims 14.7 hours of talk time and Nokia claims nine hours on a 3G network.
T-Mobile will begin selling the 8X on Nov. 14, starting at $150 for a 16-gigabyte version. Verizon soon will be offering the 8X starting at $200.
If you’re shopping for a smartphone this holiday season, I suggest at least taking a look at these phones to see the new direction Microsoft, Nokia and HTC are taking in phone design and technology.
September 10, 2012 at 9:43 AM
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Here are six more thoughts on Amazon.com’s Kindle launch — one for every new model the ambitious Seattle tech giant introduced at Thursday’s launch gala inside an airplane hangar here.
Don’t dismiss the rumors of a Kindle smartphone just yet.
It’s still early days for Amazon’s Kindle business, which could release phones and other wireless devices next.
Chief Executive Jeff Bezos dropped a huge clue when he described in detail the new 4G LTE modem Amazon developed for its Kindle devices.
The modem is just 2.2 millimeters — thin enough for a phone — and works with multiple bands of 4G LTE, not just those used by AT&T.
Would Amazon invest in a modem like that and then use it in a single device with a single carrier? I don’t think so, either.
Dave Limp, the vice president in charge of Amazon’s Kindle business, told me the modem will work with other carriers but “we’re starting with AT&T.”
“We had a lot of things going on, so we thought we’d simplify and start first and foremost with AT&T,” he said.
So does that mean the modem also will be used to make a phone? Limp sidestepped my question but didn’t say no.
“If I had a dollar for every different rumor that came out over the last two weeks … ,” he said. “I’m flattered that people are paying attention, but I think the six products we announced today is pretty good. We’re off to a good start.”
Amazon’s new Kindles may challenge the Apple iPad, but Google’s a closer competitor.
Both Google and Amazon are building devices to draw people further into their online services, where the real money and customer connections are made.
The LTE service offered with the upper-end Kindle Fire HD reminds me of the wireless service bundled with Google’s Chrome laptops.
Both Chrome and Kindle devices are built around online services. Connecting has to be cheap and easy to get people to embrace the concept. Google worked with Verizon Wireless to provide Chrome laptop users with 100 megabytes of free wireless access per month for two years, with additional data available for purchase a la carte.
Amazon worked with AT&T to provide 250 megabytes per month — plus 20 gigabytes of online storage — for $50 per year.
It’s not as revolutionary as the free 3G wireless bundled with some Kindle e-readers, but it’s an interesting new wireless option.
For data-hungry users, 250 megabytes seems pitiful. It’s not enough to watch a single high-def movie. But it’s probably fine if you mostly use the device at home or places with free Wi-Fi and want LTE service to occasionally check mail, maps or websites while on the go.
From the Kindle, you can sign up for additional data plans — 3 gigs a month for $30, or 5 gigs for $50. Or AT&T will happily add the device to one of its new shared data plans for customers using multiple devices.
I’ll bet more of these cheap-but-limited cloud-access plans are coming. Perhaps Microsoft will be next, offering access and cloud-storage bundles with Windows 8 systems.
Amazon doesn’t seem too concerned about a nasty patent fight with Apple.
Apple is busy waging war on hardware companies using Google’s Android software. The Kindle Fire line uses Android — version 4.0, heavily modified — but Amazon apparently hasn’t been put on notice.
This is what Limp said when I asked if he expected a patent suit from Apple:
“We don’t comment on unknown things.”
All the new Kindles have ads by default.
Instead of selling versions of the Kindle with and without ads, at different prices, Amazon decided to have all new models display ads by default. Ads can be permanently removed by paying an extra $15 on Fire models or $20 on the black-and-white Kindles.
Amazon’s stance evolved over the weekend. For a time it was going to make ads mandatory on the new Fires, but it decided Saturday to let buyers opt out, for a fee.
Amazon is reaching beyond consumers, aiming the Kindle Fire at business customers, too.
Company executives didn’t push this last week because it could cloud perceptions of the device, but they didn’t deny it’s a priority.
“We’ve got a great new mail application with best-in-class Exchange integration. We have a new calendar application, we have a new contacts application,” said Peter Larsen, vice president of Amazon’s Kindle tablet business.
“We also worked with third parties such as Cisco to make sure that their VPN [virtual private network] client is ready and waiting in our app store. Those are some examples of how we’re making it better for enterprise.”
There actually was a business reason for Amazon unveiling its new Kindles in a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport.
Larsen told a Los Angeles Times reporter that the company wanted to change things up. Previous launches were in New York, the hub of book publishing.
The new tablets “are really about entertainment — movies, apps, games, TV shows,” he said, and L.A. is still the entertainment capital of the world.
That, or somebody at Amazon received a half-price coupon for hangar rental on a Kindle “with offers.”
Here’s Amazon’s video of its Kindle press conference last week:
September 4, 2012 at 11:21 AM
If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, I suggest you wait a few weeks.
All sorts of new phones are surfacing this month, for those who want the latest model. Others may find deals as phone companies mark down 2011 and early 2012 models.
Every major phone manufacturer is releasing new models shortly. Some have teased the releases early and others have been pre-empted with leaked images.
Here’s a summary of what’s coming up:
Sept. 5 – Microsoft and Nokia are announcing new Lumia models — the 820 and 920 — built on Windows Phone 8 software. New features include wireless charging — using magnetic induction — and cases in gray, yellow and red, according to The Verge, which reports that the 920 will have 32 gigabytes of memory and a 4.5-inch display.
The same day, Google’s Motorola Mobility and Verizon Wireless are having an event where they are expected to launch the Razr M Android phone with a 4.3-inch display and dual-core processor.
Sept. 6 – Amazon.com is holding an event in Santa Monica that’s expected to feature the next Kindle Fire devices. There have been rumors of an Amazon phone surfacing as well, but that’s a longshot.
Sept. 12 – Apple’s expected to release the iPhone 5 at an event in San Francisco. Invitations to the event don’t say anything about the phone but show the number 5 in a patent-pending shadow effect. Early glimpses suggest the phone will have a larger screen but similar design to the current iPhone. The iPhone is likely to finally be available with 4G LTE wireless capability.
Sept. 19 – HTC is holding an event in New York, presumably to announce three new Windows 8 phones, which surfaced last month. The “leaked” images suggest that at least one of the models will have a Lumia-like color case, 8 megapixel camera and 4.3-inch display.
Early 2013: If you can wait until next year, a completely new BlackBerry dubbed “London” is expected. Images are surfacing this week, perhaps so Research In Motion won’t be left out of the current buzz around new smartphones.
Also coming out soon is a Samsung Windows 8 phone called the Ativ S. It was revealed by the company in August, but a release date wasn’t specified. Here’s an image shared by Microsoft:
June 18, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Be thankful that Samsung’s new Galaxy S III is fast, powerful and gorgeous.
I say that because there’s a good chance it will be your next phone.
Samsung has become the world’s leading phone-maker, surging past Nokia and Apple largely on the strength of the Galaxy S line, which debuted in 2010.
The third version goes on sale later this week on every major U.S. carrier, starting at about $200, plus a voice and data plan.
After testing a Galaxy S III on T-Mobile USA’s 4G network last week, I’ll bet it further extends Samsung lead. I found the phone hard to resist, despite software that’s not as elegant as the gleaming new hardware.
The Galaxy S III uses carriers’ latest 4G technology and has a ridiculous list of features, including most every new wireless trick for transferring files, photos and videos.
Samsung seems to have added every feature it could think of to be sure its flagship stacks up against any other phone in the store.
If you’re intrigued by the iPhone’s Siri voice-control system, for instance, a phone salesperson may suggest you check out the “S Voice” controls on the Galaxy S III.
No wonder Apple tried to block its importation with a patent lawsuit.
The Galaxy S III is a big phone, which won’t appeal to everyone. At times it felt like I was talking into a shaving mirror held against my cheek.
It’s basically a 4.8-inch diagonal screen, behind which Samsung stuffed a 1.5 gigahertz, dual-core processor, an 8 megapixel camera and a big battery.
Yet it’s just a third of an inch thick — about the same as a ballpoint pen — and weighs about 5 ounces. Overall it’s 5 3/8 x 2 3/4 inches.
It feels well balanced and light for its size. Curved edges make it look smaller than it is, and the glass face tapers smoothly into its frame.
There’s just one physical button on the front, a home button. It’s flanked by hidden, touch-sensitive “menu” and “back” controls.
The high-definition display uses Super AMOLED technology. In other words it’s strikingly vivid, though it’s a bit hard to see the display in bright sunlight.
The battery, which can be replaced by users, kept my test model running on a single charge for two days of moderate use. Samsung claims 11 hours of talk time and 463 hours of standby.
On T-Mobile, the phone uses an HSPA+ network with theoretical download speeds up to 42 megabits per second. On my bus commute, without all bars of reception showing, I saw download speeds of 9 to 11 Mbps and uploads above 2 Mbps, using Speedtest.net.
High-def YouTube videos played with no buffering on or off the bus.
Calls were clear and the phone keypad was large and easy to use.
There’s a fun mix of gesture controls, such as shaking the phone to slide icons around the screen, or tapping the top the case to jump to the top of a list of emails. But it may take awhile for users to learn them all.
Like other Android phones I’ve tested recently, the Galaxy S III comes packed with apps, including competing media stores run by the carrier, the handset maker and Google.
This doesn’t feel like a bonus. It’s more like a strip mall and contrasts with the minimalist hardware design. Buyers will need to set aside time to clear this clutter after they’ve figured out which of the pre-loaded apps are worth keeping.
You’d think Google and its partners would share credentials, so you only have to sign in once, when you first turn on the phone and link it to a Google account. But you’ve got to set up a separate account to use Samsung’s media applications.
I’m not a fan of Android’s interface, which still feels dated and clumsy compared with Apple’s iOS and Windows Phone. But people don’t seem to mind and buy more Android phones than any other kind. I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung announced a Windows version of the Galaxy S III, perhaps later this week.
Samsung is among the tech companies exploring ways to incorporate mobile devices into home entertainment, using them as auxiliary screens and remote controls. With the Galaxy S III, Samsung added multiple ways to get video and photos on the phone onto larger screens nearby.
Video and photos can be played back wirelessly on a networked PC or TV or via an HDMI cable. I wonder how many people will bother, since there are so many devices connected to TVs nowadays.
I didn’t have time to test the video sharing but was able to use a Samsung app for mirroring phone content on a PC over Wi-Fi. It worked fine, but required a Java download on the PC and the interface was clunky. It’s still easier to simply connect to a PC with a USB cable.
Many buyers may look past these advanced connectivity options and buy the Galaxy S III simply because it’s one of the best-looking phones in the store and loaded with most every gee-whiz feature they’ve heard of.
It will come in white and metallic blue finishes. T-Mobile hasn’t yet disclosed pricing but it will probably be comparable to Verizon Wireless, which has said its LTE version will start at $200 for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory and $250 for 32 gigabytes. T-Mobile’s sales begin Thursday.
Galaxy phones have been the best-selling models at T-Mobile for the last two years, according to the product manager, Brenda Fisher.
“Collectively they’ve done better than any other brand T-Mobile has sold,” she said. “Consumers just keep coming back for it.”
They’ll probably find that, on the third time around, the Galaxy’s even more charming.
UPDATE: Initial supplies of the Galaxy S III are apparently limited. T-Mobile’s releasing the phone in 29 markets to start on the 21st and will extend it to other markets “over the coming weeks,” a spokesman said.
T-Mobile’s also charging more than some for the phone. It’s charging $280 for the 16 gig model and $330 for a 32 gig model, after $50 rebate and with a “classic” voice and data plan. With a “Value” plan the phone’s up-front cost will be $230 or $280, depending on storage size – plus another $400 that’s paid in 20 installments of $20 per month.
T-Mobile is using the controversial CarrierIQ diagnostics technology on the phone. If you’re concerned about the privacy implications, uncheck the “diagnostics” in the settings menu:
Hay fever sufferers may want to change the default desktop image:
A photo I took with the phone:
Here are specs, as provided by Samsung:
Dimensions: 5.38″ x 2.78″ x 0.34″
Weight: 4.7 ounces
Battery standby time: Up to 12.5 days
Battery usage time: Up to 8 hours usage time
Battery type and size: 2100mAh
Platform: Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich
CPU / Processor: 1.5 GHz dual core
Display resolution: 1280 x 720 pixel
Main display size: 4.8″
Main display technology: HD Super AMOLED
User interface features: TouchWiz; Smart Unlock; Accelerometer; Motion Gestures; Smart Stay; S Voice; S Suggest; Kies Air; Pop Up Play; Share Shot; AllShare Play
Camera: 8.0 Megapixel
Front-facing camera resolution: 1.9 Megapixel
Digital optical zoom: 4x
Features: Auto Focus; Shot Modes, Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent; Camcorder; DivX; HD Recording; HD Playback; Video Share; Zero lag shutter; Burst Mode; Best Shot; Share Shot; Smile Shot; Buddy photo share
Audio features: Music Player; Compatible Music Files, 3GP, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, M4A, MIDI, MMF, MP3, PMD, QCP, WAV, WMA; Audio, Streaming; Ringtones, Polyphonic; MP3/Music Tones
Video features: Video Player; Compatible Video Files, 3GPP, H.264, MPEG4, WMV; Video, Streaming
Games and entertainment: Downloadable Content; Animated Wallpapers; Samsung Widget Gallery; Samsung Media Hub; Google Play Books; Music and Movies; Google Talk; Flipboard; T-Mobile TV
Productivity: Microsoft Office-compatible; Voice Memo
Messaging options: Email; Corporate Email; Picture Messaging; Text Messaging; Instant Messaging; Threaded / Chat-style Messages; Predictive Text (T9/XT9); T9 Trace
Connectivity features: Bluetooth; Bluetooth Profiles, A2DP, AVRCP, HID, HFP, PBAP, HSP, OPP, SPP; Wi-Fi; Wi-Fi Hotspot; HTML Browser; Flash; GPS
Internal memory: RAM (2GB), ROM (16GB
External memory/microSD Capacity: Up to 64GB microSD
Calling features: Speakerphone; Voice Recognition; Voicemail; Visual Voicemail; Text-to-speech; Music ID; Picture Caller ID; Multitasking; Call Restrictions; Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC), M3; TTY; Airline Mode
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