Data is continually emerging about the performance of online retailers in the final quarter of 2012. Monetate's latest release of its ECommerce Quarterly Report (EQ4 2012) for example, reveals several important trends and includes analysis of key performance indicators including conversion rates and average order value by both device and inbound referrers.
Some of the more noteworthy insights include:
: The Expanding Ecommerce Window :
During the last holiday season, ecommerce conversion rates plummeted after “Free Shipping Day” (Dec. 17) even though retailers continued free shipping promotions beyond the date. Monetate suggests that a consumer “doubt gap” on shipping has emerged, presenting an opportunity for retailers to prove to consumers they can deliver the goods in a shorter window, extending shopping opportunities.
: The Mobile Issue Remains :
On Christmas Day 2012, according to Monetate's data, almost one-third of all ecommerce traffic came from smartphones (16%) and tablets (15.6%). Just a year earlier, less than half of that amount of traffic (14.5%) came from smartphones (6.4%) and tablets (8%). Monetate suggets that online business which do not tailor their web experience for smartphones and tablets run the risk of alienating (or losing) customers.
: Smartphone Conversions Rise :
Conversion rates on smartphone devices remain low (1.2% compared with 4% for tablets), yet smartphone traffic hovered over 10%. These numbers point to consumers using smartphones primarily as “retailer prompted research” tools; this sets the stage for retailers to get more creative in driving the smartphone experience through to conversion.
“One of the most telling insights from the EQ4 2012 is the Christmas Day device data,” said Kurt Heinemann, CMO, Monetate. “On Dec. 25th, 15 percent of all ecommerce traffic came from tablets, whereas the average tablet traffic percentage in December was about 10 percent. This reveals the mobile is increasingly the device of choice. When consumers have leisure time and any device at their disposal, they reach for the tablet or smartphone. Ecommerce had better be paying attention to this trend.”
By Ken Burke, Founder and Executive Chairman, MarketLive
The numbers don’t lie. Tablets are taking over e-commerce.
The latest indicators of the tablet phenomenon surfaced over the 2012 holiday kick-off weekend. Data captured across several MarketLive merchants revealed the following statistics:
**Tablet traffic accounted for 8-19 percent of total shopping traffic from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday
**Total sales from tablet devices ranged from 7-17 percent, with iPads representing a disproportionate 94 percent majority
**Tablet shoppers converted as much as 38 percent higher and average order sizes were up to 15 percent greater
Tablets also figure prominently in pre-sale consumer activities. More than half of tablet users have looked up product and price information, searched for store location, or read customer reviews at least once in the last month and 17 percent have done so almost daily. Unfortunately, with respect to their tablet experiences, more than 40 percent of tablet users report that they regularly experience problems such as site crashes, functionality breakdowns and formatting issues.
So if you’re looking to boost sales, optimizing your e-commerce site for tablet users could give you just the edge you need. Admittedly the tablet landscape continues to evolve rapidly and is not without a few challenges brought by the growing array of new devices. Still, deploying a few key optimizations to tailor your online shopping experience for tablet visitors, without committing to native app development or to a complete, responsive design influenced re-platform, is an efficient, winning approach. What follows is a few of the recommendations for tablet optimizations.
The Need for Speed
The bar is high. According to Compuware, more than two thirds of tablet users expect websites to load just as quickly, or quicker, than they would on a desktop computer – in two seconds or less. A challenge, since tablet access is often via 3G or slow, public Wi-Fi networks. However, following a few basic development guidelines can rev up your site’s performance across all devices and networks:
• Make sure all page images are highly optimized. Consider using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to help.
• Limit the number of animations on each individual page.
• Reduce the number of ‘Include’ files.
The Significance of Swipe
Tablet users expect to be able to use their fingers to swipe, zoom and pinch. If key areas of your site aren’t swipe-able these visitors are more likely to abandon out of frustration. Presenting a slightly modified, swipe-friendly experience to these visitors is one of the most important tablet optimizations you can make:
• Modify featured content. Swipe-friendly features keep users browsing and shopping. Replace static feature areas and button controlled sliders with scrolling, swipe-able content.
• Update product carousels. On the desktop, product carousels are a great way to showcase top-selling products and special product assortments using a minimal footprint. Detect tablet visitors and switch from button to swipe control for improved satisfaction and increased exposure.
• Adjust alternate views. On your product detail pages, make it easy for users to switch between alternate images with a simple swipe.
“Tap-Ability” and Finger-Friendly Design
Good gesture-based interface design recognizes that tablet users “tap.” The easy click precision of the mouse arrow is almost impossible with finger access, so some of the most effective tablet optimizations you can tackle are to make sure key areas are “tap-ready:”
• Be “fat-thumb” friendly. Make buttons large and bright. Replace tightly clustered, small text menus with well-spaced buttons or larger text links, separate long category lists into small groups, and always be sure to surround all clickable elements with ample white space. These tactics improve click accuracy and activity and are proving equally successful as desktop enhancements.
• Replace hover interactions. The hover states used in navigation drop-down menus, button designs and to bring up quick view and “more info” windows can be extremely effective on desktop sites but can be almost impossible to control on many tablets. Often completely unsupported, they can result in frustrating click errors as tablet visitors make repeat attempts to open and close hover content. Instead, use fixed place buttons and links to invoke drop-downs and modal windows. Tip: don’t forget to incorporate large, finger-friendly visual cues including large close buttons to facilitate easy, accurate window exits.
• Create “tap-ready” order options. Replace product configuration drop-downs, such as color, size and other order options with “tap-on, tap-off” design elements. Color swatches, boxes with sizes inside and other picture-based elements are efficient and effective.
(Example: large, easy-tap buttons in a tablet-ready, accordion checkout.)
Save Typing, Save Sales
Consumers generally prefer to use tablets over mobile phones for online shopping, yet one in five finds tablets as cumbersome as phones when it comes to entering information (Forrester Research). The right adjustments to search and forms will mitigate many tablet abandons and directly impact conversion and sales. Prefill or suggest content to limit typing wherever possible, and when there is no alternative:
• Help site search users with predictive, “type ahead” search suggestions.
• Prefill forms anywhere possible.
• Always invoke the appropriate keyboard for each field, e.g. alpha for name fields, numeric for zip code fields, etc.
• Make form fields large enough and long enough for the text required.
• Deploy clickable plus/minus signs for quantity adjustments.
• Use drop downs when there’s no other alternative.
(Example: This merchant's leverages good site search, improving the customer experience.)
If You Build It, Will They Come?
What is your best option for implementing a tablet strategy? Should you modify your laptop/desktop website for tablet visitors? Re-platform using responsive design techniques? Build a special tablet application? At present, the prevailing approach seems to be adopting a wait-and-see attitude to gain a clearer understanding about the primary needs, expectations and behavior of tablet shoppers. Most consumers surveyed by Forrester within the last year still generally prefer the “traditional” site during their shopping experience.
One already proven certainty is that a modest, immediate investment in an improved tablet experience can have a measurable impact on satisfaction and sales, and many of the same optimizations even enhance your desktop site effectiveness. Whether not to you decide to ultimately invest in building a separate app for tablet users, or to update your platform around responsive design, it’s still vital to start optimizing for tablet traffic as quickly as possible.
About the Author:
Ken Burke is the Chairman, Founder, & Chief Evangelist of MarketLive, Inc. Ken founded MarketLive Inc. as Multimedia Live in 1995 with $500 in start-up money. Under his guidance it has grown into a leading provider of e-commerce software and related solutions. Ken is the developer of the MarketLive Intelligent Selling System, MarketLive's enterprise-class e-commerce application designed to optimize selling opportunities, build relationships with customers and give merchants control over their online merchandising. Ken is the author of "Intelligent Selling: The Art & Science of Selling Online."
Tablets seem to be the new focus of paid search, at least according to a new report from digital ad management platform provider Marin Software.
The U.S. Online Advertising Quarterly Report reveals that the share of paid search spend on iPad and tablet devices increased 40 percent quarter over quarter. This is due to an increased adaption of the devices by consumers, as well as the result of favorable performance metrics of advertisements on tablet devices.
According to the report, Q2 saw the share of paid search clicks resulting from mobile devices in the U.S. increase from 14 to 18 percent – while smartphones accounted for 10 percent of paid search clicks, tablets accounted for 8 percent. Additionally, share of clicks on tablets grew 33 percent quarter over quarter.
The report also reveals that paid search ads on tablet devices continue to show positive performance levels, especially compared to ads on desktop and laptop computers. For example, the cost-per-click (CPC) for paid search ads running on tablets is 18 percent lower than that of ads running on traditional computers, while the click-through rate (CTR) for paid search ads on tablets is 42 percent higher than ads on traditional computers.
"Right now, advertisers are getting the best of both worlds on tablets. The combination of high user engagement and favorable ad performance characteristics is a win-win for marketers," says Matt Lawson, Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships at Marin Software. "To capitalize on the window of opportunity savvy advertisers will become more device conscious, implementing campaigns directly targeted at tablet users. Revenue acquisition management platforms like Marin Software will be key in facilitating advertisers' cross-device campaigns."
More than 60 million Americans are predicted to own a tablet by the end of this year, which makes it no surprise that merchants have already noticed tablets driving a larger amount of their Web revenue.
In fact, a recent survey from Shop.org and Forrester Research reveals that 49 percent of retailers claim that their average order value from a tablet is now higher than traditional Web sales, while 28 percent of retailers claim that they are seeing about the same average order value from tablets as their website.
According to the survey, many smartphone and tablet users are discovering their websites because of search and email – with 8 in 10 retailers claiming that search and email are the top two drivers of a company’s Web traffic from smartphone and tablet devices. Additionally, retailers report that, on average, 20 percent of emails opened in a campaign are opened on a mobile device.
The survey also shows that merchants have become more comfortable with QR codes, with three-quarters of retailers offering their customers some type of barcode scanning option.
“Retailers have been apprehensive about committing to bigger mobile commerce and advertising budgets because consumer behavior and the device landscape are changing so quickly,” says Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. “E-Commerce on desktops and laptops took time, too. But eventually, we expect that retailers will grow their mobile marketing budgets to address the fact that the mobile channel has unique aspects, like location-triggered messaging, that can be compelling ways for brands to connect with shoppers.”
Motorola’s Xyboard tablet line is just about everything I wished the Motorola Xoom had been when it was released not even a year ago.
The Xoom, Motorola’s first attempt to build an iPad-competing tablet, was critically acclaimed when it launched last February. It even won the Best of Show award at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
But the Xoom, which sported a 10.1-inch screen, was a bit too heavy (1.6 pounds) and much too expensive (launching with an $800 price tag), and the 3G and 4G models were available only through Verizon. The 4G capabilities were also delayed about seven months, and when they did arrive, Xoom owners had to mail in their tablets to get a 4G hardware upgrade.
Thankfully, in the Xyboard, it seems Motorola has made up for most (but not all) of its missteps with the Xoom.
For one thing, the Xyboard prices are more acceptable.
The Wi-Fi-only version of the Xyboard starts at $399.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $499.99 for the 10.1-inch model. The Verizon-exclusive 4G version, known as the Droid Xyboard, starts at $429.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $529.99 for the 10.1-inch model — that is, as long as you sign a two-year data plan along with the tablet. (All four of the prices named are for tablets with 16 gigabytes of storage.)
Both the 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch Xyboards have touch screens with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
The Xyboard 10.1 is thin and light, and physically felt much more competitive with Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, the two high-end tablets against which I think the Xyboard 10.1 will be competing most for consumer dollars. The Asus Transformer Prime tablet, a tablet I haven’t yet tried, is likely be in this category as well.
In my time testing the 4G-equipped Droid Xyboard 10.1, it was clear more than just the pricing strategy was different with Motorola’s new tablets.
Inside, the Xyboard 10.1 is fitted with a 1.2-gigahertz dual core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM, which powers the tablet to speedy performance that lived up to its price tag.
In the front and rear are 5-megapixel cameras, which shoot detailed photos and 720p video out back too. They aren’t as sharp as some 5-megapixel cameras I’ve seen on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Apple iPhone 4 and Nokia Lumia 710, but they’re far better than the lackluster cameras in the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab.
The Xyboard 10.1 is just 0.35 inches thick and weighs 1.32 pounds, making the inclusion of such high-resolution cameras and a rear LEG flash all the more impressive. It also has dual stereo speakers in the back, which sound good for a tablet (better than speakers on the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1) but don’t replace a good set of headphones.
The displays on the Xyboard 10.1 were another high point, responding to touch input quickly and rendering websites, apps and videos sharply, clearly and brightly. Unlike the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Xyboard has a mini-HDMI port built in, so it’s easy to hook the tablet up to a TV set.
The Xyboard 10.1 is also compatible with a stylus (sold separately) that works well for taking notes and simple sketching. Motorola has preloaded the tablet with is own Floating Note and Evernote apps, which both work well.
I do have a major complaint with the Xyboard’s inability to let a user rest his or her palm on the tablet while using the stylus. Anyone who draws regularly knows that your hand often rests on the surface you’re drawing on. The need to raise your hand above the screen makes the Xyboard basically unusable as a drawing tool for long periods of time. The Xyboard isn’t going to replace artist tablets such as Wacom’s products.
The Xyboard 10.1 is covered in a water-resistant nano coating. For the sake of testing, I poured liquids on the tablet and easily whipped the device on, and it worked with no problems. I still wouldn’t recommend dropping the Xyboard into a bucket of water to see how it holds up, but the water resistance makes a lot of sense. I would love to see this feature on more tablets and hopefully phones too.
The edges of the Xyboard 10.1 and 8.2 are coated in a grippy rubberized material that is comfortable to hold while surfing the Web, watching videos or reading an ebook for a long period of time.
But this thoughtfulness of design didn’t carry over to the power and volume buttons, which are on the back of the tablet and nearly flush with the surface. The result: I frequently flipped around the Xyboard to see the buttons I wanted to use. After a while, I did get somewhat used to this, but the buttons are among the least convenient I’ve found on a tablet. This was a problem on the Xoom as well.
I averaged about seven to eight hours of battery life out of the Xyboard 10.1, which is good for a 4G tablet. But charging from an almost depleted battery took about three or four hours, which is much longer than I would like.
Verizon’s 4G service was fast, but unless you plan to use the Xyboard outside with no nearby Wi-Fi signal, opting for the Wi-Fi-only version makes a lot more sense to me, and it would save you from having to pay at least $30 a month in data-plan charges for the next two years.
All in all, the Xyboard has some quirks and some forward-thinking features that, in my opinion, place it ahead of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as a daily-use tablet running Google’s Android Honeycomb operating system. THe Xyboard is due for an upgrade to Android Ice Cream Sandwich, which I’m excited about. But for now, Honeycomb is a solid OS for a tablet.
If I had to choose an Android tablet to own, I’d choose the Xyboard 10.1 over the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is a fine piece of hardware in its own right. The Xyboard 10.1 feels as though it’s made with better materials — the Galaxy Tab has a plasticky feel, and the Xyboard’s speakers and cameras are higher quality as well.
What really prevents the Xyboard from topping the iPad 2 as my favorite tablet is the app selection found on Android. This isn’t Motorola’s fault — it seems to be a side effect of Android tablet sales being much smaller than iPad sales. With low Android tablet sales across the board (in the last three months of last year, Motorola sold 200,000 tablets while Apple sold 15.43 million iPads), developers largely have not designed apps specifically for Android tablets.
It’s a shame because even apps that could be considered essential, such as Twitter’s own Twitter app, don’t work as well on Android tablets as on iPads. On the Xyboard and the Galaxy Tab, the Twitter app is simply a stretched-out version of the Android phone app. The experience is far from ideal and it sure isn’t pretty.
Other apps designed for the large screen, such as news reading app Pulse and Amazon’s Kindle reading app, look and work great on Android tablets, but these experiences are few and far between.
Until developers start treating Android with the same attention and care that they do iOS, great hardware like the Xyboard 10.1 will be hamstrung by inadequate apps.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Pouring water on the water-resistant Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
The consumer electronics maker reported the low tablet sales and negative earnings on Thursday in its quarterly earnings report. The loss came on revenue of $3.44 billion in the fourth quarter. A year earlier, the company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $80 million on $3.43 billion in revenue.
For the full year, Motorola reported a loss of $249 million on $13 billion in revenue, up from an $86-million loss on $11.5 billion in revenue in 2010.
Product shipments are also down year over year for the fourth quarter. Motorola shipped 10.5 million phones and tablets (all of which run Google's Android operating system) in the last three months of 2011, down from 11.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.
In 2011 as a whole, Motorola shipped 42.4 million mobile devices, up from 37.3 million devices shipped in 2010.
Motorola also said it remains "energized by the proposed merger with Google and continue to focus on creating innovative technologies." The Google takeover is still awaiting approval from regulators in a number of countries, but Motorola said it expects the $12.5-billion deal to "close in early 2012 once all conditions have been satisfied."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Motorola's Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet on display at Motorola Mobility's booth at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: David Becker/Getty Images
Apple sold a record breaking 15.43 million iPads in the last three months of 2011, which means a lot of people are starting to use tablet computers. And with last week's news that Apple is planning to bring textbooks to the iPad — well, that's a lot more people who may start to use tablets, too.
But, do they know how to use them safely?
A new study published by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with researchers at Microsoft (a long-time Apple rival), is the first of its kind to examine the physical effects on the head, neck and shoulders of spending time staring at a tablet.
The good news is that it is not all bad news. The researchers found that people are more inclined to move around and shift positions when they use a tablet compared with people who are sitting at a desktop computer. That's definitely good. However, tablet users that hold the device almost at their lap, or rest the tablet in a case on their lap, are putting a lot of strain on the neck muscles — much more than someone using a laptop or desktop computer.
"If you think about your position when you are hunched over looking down, your head is hanging out over space, so you are using your neck muscles to support the weight," said Jack Dennerlein, director of the Harvard Occupational Biomechanics Laboratory, and lead author of the paper.
Definitely not good.
In the paper, published earlier this month in the peer reviewed "Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation," the researchers identified four ways that people use tablets — the lap-hand (holding the tablet down at your lap), lap-case (resting the tablet in a case on your lap), table-case (resting the tablet in its case on a shallow angle on a table) and table-movie (resting the tablet at a steep angle on a table).
They concluded that the best position is the table-movie position because it is the only position in which the user's posture approached neutral. All the other positions put a lot of strain on the user's neck muscles.
Dennerlein said those who use tablets should make sure to move around as much as possible — "Don't get stuck in one position!" he said. The next most important thing is finding a good case that allows you to prop up your tablet at the most comfortable angle. He added that companies that distribute tablet computers to their employees should make sure to give out cases as well, in order to prevent injuries.
Next up, Dennerlein and his team plan to tackle the effect of tablet computing on the arms and wrist.
One additional note: When we reached out to Apple to see if they had any comment on the ergonomics on using the iPad, a spokesperson pointed us to a large section on ergonomics on Apple's website. The section is impressive, but the suggestions and diagrams are all related to desktop computers, and the site did not have any recommendations on how to most safely use a tablet. We called the rep to see if we had missed anything, but we didn't hear back by press time.
Photo: A model looking at her iPad in a position that the Harvard study says is bad for your neck. Credit: Markus Schreiber / Associated Press
Microsoft's Hotmail service now has a Kindle Fire app.
OK, this may not be as exciting as Google releasing a Gmail app for Apple's iPhone, and there is still no native Gmail app for the Fire. But the Hotmail app for the Fire should be a worthwhile release for many owners of Amazon's popular 7-inch tablet due to the addition of Exchange Active Sync.
Unlike Amazon's included email app on the FIre, which merely downloads your messages via POP3, Microsoft's Hotmail app will synch emails, contacts, folders and subfolders, said David Law, Microsoft's director of Hotmail product management, in a blog post.
While the free Hotmail app for the Fire is technically an Android app, the version for Amazon's tablet is different from the standard Hotmail Android app used by more than 3 million people, Law said.
The differences between the Fire Hotmail app and the standard Android Hotmail app have to do with the changes Amazon made to Android to create the Fire-specific operating system it runs on its tablet, which as we've noted before is unlike any other version of Android out there.
"Because the Kindle Fire uses a different implementation of Android, we needed to make some updates to our previous Hotmail app for Android to ensure it worked well," Law said. "Now that we've finished the work and the app is ready, we're excited to give customers a great Hotmail experience on the Kindle Fire."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of the Hotmail app listing in Amazon's Appstore for Android. Credit: Microsoft / Amazon
Apple just reported its best quarter of all time, as covered by my colleague David Sarno here on the Technology blog.
The Cupertino tech giant reported a boost in sales of iPads, iPhones and Mac computers (but not iPods), pushing it into a record quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion and $13 billion in profit for the first quarter of the company's 2012 fiscal year.
Let's take a closer look at Apple's huge numbers for the quarter ended Dec. 31, which showed strong holiday sales and sent shares in the company up 8% after the markets closed Tuesday.
Cash balance — One major number to note from Apple's earnings report, as mentioned in its earnings call, is that the company has a cash balance of $97.6 billion, up from $81 billion a year ago.
That's a massive amount to be sitting in the bank and it's a sum Apple will spend in part on developing new products that will help it remain competitive against rivals such as Samsung, Sony, HTC and Motorola.
Revenue — Apple racked up $46.33 billion in sales in the 14-week quarter, which is up from $26.74 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
Profit — The tech giant reported a $13-billion profit last quarter, which is more than double the profit the company reported for its first fiscal quarter of 2011.
IPhones — Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones in the last three months of 2011, which marks 128% growth from a year earlier, when the company sold 16.25 million iPhones.
IPads — Sales of the ever-popular Apple tablet grew 111% when compared to the year-earlier quarter, with 15.43 million iPads sold for the company's fiscal 2012 first quarter versus 7.33 million iPads sold in the first quarter of 2011.
IPods — The iPod isn't dead yet, but it is on the decline. Apple sold 15.4 million iPods last quarter, down 21% from 19.45 million iPods sold a year earlier.
Mac computers — Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop PCs — which includes MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Minis and the Mac Pro — saw a 26% increase in sales from the year-ago quarter, with 5.2 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2012 and 4.13 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2011.
"Portables," which would include the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, made up the majority of Macs purchased, with 3.71 million units sold last quarter, up from 2.9 million sold a year ago. Apple sold 1.48 million desktops last quarter, up from 1.23 million sold a year earlier.
Looking ahead, Apple said Tuesday that it is projecting it will record about $32.5 billion in revenue in the second quarter of its fiscal year.
[Updated: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Apple's profit for the first quarter of its fiscal year was $6 billion. Apple reported a $13 billion profit last quarter and recorded $6 billion in profit a year earlier.]
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple Store in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
For the second time, a Netherlands court has denied Apple its request for a ban on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, whose design Apple says illegally copies the iPad's.
The Samsung victory, first reported on the blog Foss Patents run by patent expert Florian Mueller, came Tuesday in The Hague, where an appeals court ruled that the Samsung device — which runs on Google's Android operating system – doesn't steal from the iPad's patented design.
The Dutch court's decision, which upheld a lower-court ruling made in August, is another setback for Apple in its worldwide patent battle against South Korea-based Samsung.
Last month, a U.S. district court in San Jose denied Apple's request for a ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 before a July trial on Apple's lawsuit in that court. Also in December, a temporary ban on the Samsung tablet in Australia expired. The dispute is set to go to trial in Australia in March.
Apple last week filed two new patent suits against Samsung in Germany, seeking a ban on 10 Samsung phones and five tablets.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Netherlands. Credit: Robert Vos / EPA
Sony's PlayStation Vita has got me intrigued.
As much of the gaming world has moved toward smartphones and tablets, I've wondered if consumers (or myself as a gamer) would take to new handheld consoles the way they did with the Vita's predecessor, the PlayStation Portable.
But after spending a few minutes with the Vita in my hands at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, my interest has piqued.
If you've played video games on the PlayStation Portable, which affectionately became known to most as the PSP, then the Vita will look very familiar at first glance. Joysticks and buttons are placed to the left or right of a nice, wide display and the graphics produced by the system are detailed and sharp.
But unlike the PSP, there are many features of the Vita that better equip Sony's handheld formula for competition in a smartphone-riddled future. On the front of the Vita is a 5-inch OLED touchscreen and a similarly sized touch panel can be found on the back of the device.
I played a bit of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, one of the titles that will launch with the Vita during its U.S. release on Feb. 22, and the game used traditional controls and the touchscreen. And switching between the different control options was intuitive and easy.
The Vita can also be used as a controller for Sony's PlayStation 3 home console, which could bring touch controls to even more games if developers embrace this feature. Though I didn't get to spend a long time with Uncharted or the Vita, the potential for some really creative game-play options was obvious.
The Vita will also run a number of smartphone-like apps, including apps for the photo-sharing site Flickr and video-streaming service Netflix, local-discovery app FourSquare and social networks Facebook and Twitter.
There are also two cameras on the Vita, one on the front and one on the back, and in the few test shots I snapped on the CES showroom floor, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Photos didn't seem to be high quality and colors were washed out and not sharp. Sony wouldn't say what the resolution of the cameras would be for the U.S. release of the Vita, but the Japanese version (which went on sale on Dec. 17) featured VGA-quality cameras in front and back with a resolution of 640-by-480 pixels, which is about the same as an Apple iPad 2.
We'll be getting a review unit of the Vita in a few weeks, and I'll reserve final judgement for then, but after my hands-on time with the system, there's a lot to like and a few things that I'm not so excited about (aside from the camera). One of them is the pricing of Vita's new proprietary memory cards.
The Vita will sell for either $249 in a Wi-Fi-only version or $299 for a 3G/Wi-Fi model that runs on AT&T's network. AT&T is offering no-contract data plans for the Vita of $14.99 for 250 megabytes of data per month, or three gigabytes for $30. Games (on a new card format and not the UMDs found in the PSP) will sell for about $9.99 to $49.99, according to Sony. All of that seems to be pretty fair pricing in my opinion.
However, memory cards for the Vita — which you will definitely need if you want to store any apps, downloadable games, movies, music, photos or any other content on the Vita — are sold separately.
A four-gigabyte memory card will sell for $19.99. Not bad. An eight-gigabyte card will sell for $29.99 and a 16-gigabyte card will sell for $59.99. Getting a bit higher. And, a 32-gigabyte card will sell for a whopping $99.99.
It seems a bit painful to think you may end up spending an extra $100 after plunking down as much as $300 for a Vita, but this is the current reality, depending on how much stuff you'd like to store in the device. Ouch.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The game Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the Sony PlayStation Vita. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Ad management platform Marin Software released findings from its Quarterly UK Online Advertising Report. If you’re looking to get the most value out of your ad spend, it is towards mobile and tablet devices you should look.
Mobile and tablet users accounted for 12 percent of all UK paid search clicks in December 2011 according to Marin, Which represents a 49 percent increase in click share as a percentage of the total since October 2011. Over the same period, search share on these devices increased 29 percent to 7.5 percent of total search advertising spend. When volume of searches outpaces spent, clicks on campaigns are typically less expensive – and that’s a good sign.
"In December 2011, we saw search marketers allocate a larger portion of budgets to mobile devices than ever before," said Matt Lawson, Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships at Marin Software. "However, the budgets for mobile search advertising still lag user adoption of devices. Given this gap, we expect mobile search to see continued investment as advertising dollars chase consumer behaviour in 2012. Marin Software enables clients to be more efficient in their mobile marketing initiatives, offering advertisers a powerful, intuitive platform for managing desktop and mobile campaigns within a single interface."
NEWS ANALYSIS: Alongside Apple stating that iBooks 2 and textbooks on the iPad would reinvent the textbook as we know it, the iPad-maker announced Thursday that it would also attempt to reinvent book-making by way of an app called iBooks Author.
The Apple-developed app, available as a free download from the Mac App Store, (ideally) makes it easy to make books for the iPad. But together, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author are moves to capture the future of education and self-publishing, and to continue to build on the success Apple had under the late Steve Jobs.
If you've ever used Apple's Keynote or Pages (or Microsoft's PowerPoint or Word) apps, then you should be able to hit the ground running in iBooks Author. There are templates for different types of book layouts, and adding the interactive 3-D models, photos, videos and diagrams that Apple demoed iBooks 2 textbooks on Thursday is as easy as clicking and dragging a built-in widget — provided you've already produced the video, photos, diagrams and models you want to use.
Want to see what your book looks like before you publish it to iBooks? Just connect your Mac to an iPad by way of a USB cable and you can preview the book on the tablet.
The aim of the iBooks Author app is to make it easy to get these impressive multimedia elements, as well as questionnaires and other educational materials, into a page of text and published as a book on the iPad as easy as possible — whether you're a self-publisher looking to write your first book, a teacher whipping up something quick for a special class, or a publishing powerhouse like the textbook trifecta of McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Before his death, Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he believed Apple could disrupt the $8-billion-a-year textbook industry. Jobs said in Isaacson's book, titled simply "Steve Jobs," that the iPad was the tool to make transformation in the textbook business a reality.
According to the book, Jobs' idea "was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple."
Jobs told Isaacson "the process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt … but if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don't have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money."
In announcing the iBooks 2 and iBooks Author products, Apple is beginning to bring a piece of Jobs' long-term vision to fruition. The company also noted Thursday that there are currently about 1.5 million iPads being used in schools and more than 20,000 education apps sitting in its iOS App Store.
But make no mistake, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author aren't just about textbooks. The two new apps are working together to entice students, teachers, educational institutions to embrace and buy the iPad in bigger numbers than they already have.
On Thursday, in announcing the new products, Apple made no mention of new discounts on iPads for students or schools — though Apple has offered such discounts in the past on Macs and even created special versions of the iMac for schools. Apple even built the now-defunct eMac line specifically to sell to schools.
Apple wants us to ditch the paperback and hardcover textbooks in favor of an iPad and digital downloads, that much is obvious. But the company also wants the iPad and Macs to become to go-to devices for educational institutions and publishing houses.
Although Apple's iTunes is the world's most popular online music storefront, Amazon is the world's largest seller of e-books. By adding a level of interactivity to books that Amazon and others simply can't match, and by making it easier to publish a book and sell it in the iBooks app directly from iBooks Author, Apple has made a move to challenge Amazon and its Kindle e-reader and Kindle Touch tablet as the preferred platform for self-publishers and digital textbooks.
In a statement announcing iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, Apple said as much (without naming Amazon and other e-book rivals such as Google and Barnes & Noble).
"iBooks Author is also available today as a free download from the Mac App Store and lets anyone with a Mac create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books and more, and publish them to Apple's iBookstore," Apple said.
The apps are also a challenge to Adobe, a company Apple has been known to partner with and feud with from time to time. Adobe's Creative Suite, Digital Publishing Suite and Touch Apps, available on both Windows PCs and Macs, are some of the most popular tools used by publishing houses and self-publishers looking to create a book, whether an e-book or a book before it heads to print.
Though capable of producing many different types of content for a broader range of devices, Adobe's software can cost thousands of dollars, while Apple's iBooks Author app is free.
Apple on Thursday also released an iTunes U app, which allows teachers from kindergarten to the university level to stream video of their lectures and post class notes, handouts, reading lists, etc., all within the app.
Previously, iTunes U was a podcasting service for college professors who wanted to put up video or audio of their lectures. Now it is one more reason for a teacher to consider an iPad and a Mac as tools to reach students at any grade level. And like iBooks Author, the app is free.
In my opinion, Apple is one of the best companies out there at providing lower-cost products that pull consumers into an ecosystem of apps and gadgets. It's one of the reason the company has so many cult-like followers.
For many Apple fans, their first purchase was an iPod or iPhone. With those purchases comes buying apps, music, movies and TV shows from iTunes. And for many, later comes a MacBook or an iMac computer. This strategy is repeating itself with iBooks 2 and iBooks Author.
First, get students and teachers to use more iPads in school by offering affordable and engaging digital textbooks. With iBook textbooks capped at a price of $14.99, I have to wonder whether or not textbooks will become shorter and more narrow, and thus students and teachers we'll have to buy more of them. Second, make it easy for anybody to produce their own iBooks (textbooks or otherwise) and then sell those books in the iBooks app, luring in aspiring authors. When those students, teachers and authors go to download music or a movie, set up a cloud storage service or buy a laptop, a phone, a new tablet — maybe someday a TV — what brand will be at the top of minds? Apple.
iBooks, iBooks Author and iTunes U, together are a move to fend off Google, Amazon, Adobe and other competitors in determining the future of education, publishing and book reading. Together, the launch of these apps is an attempt to not only maintain but also expand Apple's current success into the company's post-Jobs future.
Photo: Apple's iBook Author app on an iMac, and an iBook and an iPad. Credit: Apple
Apple promised to reinvent the textbook and offer a new experience for students and teachers by way of an update to its iBooks app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch on Thursday.
The app update — which Apple is calling iBooks 2 and is already released to the iOS App Store — will allow for textbooks to be sold through the popular app, which in the past sold novels, nonfiction and poetry, but not textbooks.
All textbooks sold through the free app, which is available only to Apple's i-devices, will be priced at $14.99 or less — a stark contrast to the high-priced paper books that fill college bookstores.
But the main allure might not be the price as much as the interactive features iBooks textbooks can offer.
Apple, which announced the iBooks update at a press event in New York at the Guggenheim Museum, said the iBooks textbook exceeds paper texts in terms of engagement, calling it a durable, quickly searchable book that offers easy highlighting and note-taking as well as interactive photo galleries, videos, and 3-D models and diagrams.
Digital textbooks can also offer immediate feedback with questionnaires at the end of chapters and automatically create flash cards of glossary terms for a student to study.
Apple said the move makes sense given that more that 1.5 million iPads are used in schools. "Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
One thing not mentioned by Apple on Thursday was any sort of program that would offer iPads at a discount to students, teachers or schools.
Apple also said there are more than 20,000 education-focused apps available in the iOS App Store.
The tech giant has enlisted the heavyweights of textbook publishing — Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt — to sell textbooks through iBooks 2. Combined, the three companies make 90% of textbooks sold in the U.S. Smaller publishers such as DK and the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation will be publishing to iBooks 2 as well.
Just as iBooks does with other types of books, textbooks will offer a free preview of a few pages or even a chapter before a purchase is made.
EO Wilson is also publishing a new book through iBooks 2 called Life on Earth, and the first two chapters of the new title will be free with more chapters coming as they are written.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: Textbooks for sale in iBooks 2 on an Apple iPad. Credit: Apple
If you already have AT&T service, your contract and bill will be unaffected.
The new plans roll out Sunday, the Dallas-based company said Wednesday.
AT&T's current smartphone data plans come in three flavors: 200 megabytes of data for $15 a month, two gigabytes for $25, or four gigabytes for $45. As of Sunday, those plans will be scrapped in favor of a new trio: 300 megabytes of data for $20 a month, three gigabytes for $30 or five gigabytes for $50.
In the new pricing structure for tablets, the nation's second-largest mobile carrier will increase the price on only the top two tiers of data. So the 250-megabytes-for-$15 plan will remain in tact for tablet owners, and the new options will be three gigabytes of data for $30 a month and five gigabytes for $50.
Although the plans are more expensive, the adjustment offers more gigs for the money — essentially tacking on an extra gigabyte of data for $5 a month in the top two plans.
"Customers are using more data than ever before," David Christopher, AT&T's chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: AT&T logo. Credit: Lisa Poole / Associated Press
Apple rumors — they seem to work readers, writers and editors up into a frenzy producing an echo of reports around the Internet. These blips of salacious speculation seem to spawn anew multiple times each week and, from time to time, they also fail to line up with one another, instead butting heads in contradiction.
The latest example of such conflicting rumors is the recent reports published on the pending release of what the tech media has dubbed the "iPad 3," Apple's eventual follow-up tablet to the hugely successful iPad 2 of 2011 and first-generation iPad released in 2010.
Late last week, as many tech reporters were hustling to keep up with wacky gadgets and the evolutionary advancement of TVs, smartphones and tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Bloomberg News reported that Apple's next iPad would go on sale in March with 4G LTE connectivity (the first two iPads have Wi-Fi or 3G), a faster processor and a higher resolution touch screen.
Bloomberg didn't mention when it believed Apple would unveil the iPad 3, in its report, which cited three anonymous sources that reportedly have knowledge of Apple's plans.
Aside from the March-debut nugget of information, the rumored iPad 3 specs have been reported and re-reported countless times since Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad 2 on March 2, 2011, ahead of the tablet hitting U.S. stores on March 11, 2011.
On Tuesday, the Japanese website Mackotakara reported that the unveiling of a so-called iPad 3 along with an update to Apple's iOS 5 operating system would take place in February. According to PCMag and Apple Insider, Mackotakara cited an unnamed Asian supplier and an anonymous source in the U.S. for its report.
So, do the Bloomberg and Mackotakara reports line up or contradict? When is the iPad 3 coming — February or March?
In all likelihood, only Apply really knows when it will launch its next iPad. And Apple, which is known to reschedule its events and product launches up to the last minute, isn't saying. The company never comments on speculation about its product launches.
But it could be that both Mackotakara and Bloomberg are right? Maybe (and yes, I'm speculating here) the iPad 3 will be unveiled in February and go on sale in March?
Apple introduced the original iPad on Jan. 27, 2010, but it didn't go on sale until April 3, 2010.
Complicating matters is the Taiwanese website DigiTimes (which has a reputation for publishing inaccurate tech rumors). The DigiTimes has reported that the iPad 3 would be released sometime this month — but the site has also said its unnamed sources have also said the iPad 3 may arrive in March or April.
Well, here's one thing you can count on: Whenever Apple's next iPad is released, the Technology blog (and the much of the tech reporting world) will have plenty of coverage of the eagerly anticipated new tablet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Apple iPad 2. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is again at the center of buyout rumors and this time the speculated buyer is consumer electronics giant Samsung.
Among other possible suitors believed to be interested in RIM are Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon, which sent shares in the smartphone and tablet maker up as much as 10% in December when the rumor mill was churning.
On Tuesday, after the website BGR published a story that stated Samsung was the "front runner" to purchase RIM, stock in the Canadian company rose $1.30, or 8.04%, to $17.47 per share.
"Research In Motion is currently weighing every single option it can think of in an effort to reverse a negative trend that is approaching a boiling point for investors," BGR said. "Reports that RIM is currently in talks to license its software to other vendors are accurate according to our trusted sources, though we have been told that RIM is most likely leaning toward an outright sale of one or more divisions, or even the whole company."
RIM officials were unavailable to comment on the BGR report on Tuesday.
The negative trend mentioned by BGR is a well-documented slide at RIM that didn't relent in 2011. In December, RIM recorded a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory after the tablet failed to live up to sales expectations since its launch in April. Every model of the PlayBook was also cut to $299 in a move to entice consumers.
With sales of the PlayBook slow, no wireless carriers have stepped up to offer a 3G or 4G version of the BlackBerry tablet as RIM had originally planned.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Research In Motion's senior manager of brand marketing, Jeff Gadway, discusses new BlackBerry technology in a presentation at the company's "BeBold" event at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10. Credit: Eric Reed / AP Images for BlackBerry
Apple has reportedly filed another patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung in Germany, this time calling for a sales ban on 10 smartphones it says violate its design rights.
Filed in Dusseldorf Regional Court, Apple's suit — which calls for a ban on the Galaxy S II, Galaxy S Plus and eight other models — isn't the only front in the ongoing international patent battle between the two firms, reports said Tuesday. Apple also filed a suit against five Samsung tablets "related to a September ruling" that imposes a sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, according to a Bloomberg report.
Apple alleges that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 copied the design of the Apple iPad in a way intended to confuse customers. After sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were halted in Germany, Samsung released the re-designed Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which the Dusseldorf court said in December is different enough from the iPad that "it is unlikely to grant an injunction" against the new design, Bloomberg said.
"An appeals court also voiced doubts about the reach of Apple's European Union design right that won the company the injunction against the Galaxy 10.1," the report said.
For now, Apple's new smartphone suit against Samsung is set to "come before the court in August and the case against Samsung's tablets will follow in September," according to PCWorld.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, it is. Apple and Samsung have been suing and counter-suing each another across Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Australia for months, each alleging patent infringement over the design and operation of their respective phones and tablets.
According to the news site ArsTechnica, the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung has caught the attention of the European Commission, which is conducting an antitrust investigation with the two companies regarding the suits.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in The Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency
New televisions, laptops, all-in-one desktops and a "Stream Player" set-top box that can add Google TV software to any HDMI-equipped television set — Vizio had a lot of announcements to make at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show.
A bit more quietly, the Irvine company also previewed a new tablet that it says will launch this year as a follow-up to the 8-inch Vizio Tablet that launched late last year.
Vizio let us get a few minutes of hands-on time with its new tablet, but details on what the device would be made up of were few and far between.
The new tablet sports a 10-inch touch screen and front and rear cameras, and it felt a bit lighter than the current 8-inch model.
Rob Kermode, a senior product manager at Vizio, said the company was declining to say anything about the tablet's price or release dates or about what processor, how much RAM, how much storage or what screen resolution the tablet would be.
In my short time using the tablet, I felt a step up in performance compared with its 8-inch predecessor. The device reacted faster to my touch, launched apps more quickly and seemed not to stutter as much when it handled simple tasks such as playing animations Vizio has programmed into the operating system.
The prototype tablet was running Google's Android Honeycomb software with Vizio's VIA Plus user interface over the top of it, which looks very similar to the version of Android Gingerbread found on the 8-inch tablet. Kermode said Vizio was looking into Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android, but wouldn't promise that the new tablet would ship running that OS.
To see the new tablet in action, check out our video from CES in Las Vegas above.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas
Photo: Vizio's 10-inch tablet. Credit: Vizio
Pick. Thrash. Wail. Let out your inner Jimmy Page, Jack White or Yngwie Malmsteen — with an iPad.
The Guitar Apprentice app and controller from Ion Audio, which we looked at during the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, aims to help students learn the basics of playing guitar before they drop some cash on a full guitar and amp setup. Although playing iPad guitar isn't as sexy as the real thing, this might reduce the number of Squier Strats and practice amps languishing in the closets of frustrated students who never pegged down barre chords.
The most obvious comparison is with the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band video games, but Guitar Apprentice offers a more complex setup than the video game controllers, with buttons simulating the six strings on each of 14 frets on the neck, in a body similar to the classic Gibson SG. LEDs on the frets light up to show basic note or chord patterns, and students strum or pick simulated strings on the iPad screen. Effects such as delay, reverb and flanger are also available to customize distortion effects.
Guitar Apprentice is one in a series of music learning app-and-controller sets from Ion Audio, which also includes Piano Apprentice and Drum Apprentice, as well as Drum Master, which comes with a full-size electric drum kit. The plastic instruments connect to the iPad, and each shows students where or how to play, lighting up frets, piano keys or drum pads as appropriate. Teachers also appear on the apps to present basic lessons to users.
Apps are Core MIDI, which enables integration with other music apps such as GarageBand. The app and controller, when released, are to have a retail price of $99.
Just keep in mind: Although the frets on the controller are designed to simulate fretting real guitar strings, it doesn't look like the app will alleviate the sore fingers students will have if they ever move up to a real guitar.
– Armand Emamdjomeh
Photo: The fret board on the Ion Guitar Appretice. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
A Motorola smartphone with Intel inside is due to arrive in the second half of 2012, the two companies announced at the Consumer Electronics Show.
The phone will be the first product of a multi-year agreement that will extend to not only smartphones but tablets too, Intel said.
Although the firms didn't disclose much about what the device would look like, how much it would cost or what it wouldd be called, Intel did say that the first of its processors used by Motorola would be the new Atom Z2460.
No word yet on which carrier the handset will make its way to either, but in a meeting Tuesday night, Motorola Chairman and Chief Executive Sanjay Jha said the new phone would run Google's Android operating system.
Hopefully that means the first Motorola and Intel smartphone will be running Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Atom Z2640 is a 1.6-gigahertz processor with integrated graphics capabilities and low power consumption, Intel said in a statement.
The partnership is an important one for both companies, especially Intel. Motorola currently uses processors from both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, two chip suppliers that have found a lot of success in the smartphone and tablet market. Intel's mobile chips, meanwhile, have had a tough time catching on with hardware makers as many have chosen processors from rivals.
Though Intel, the world's largest processor maker, has so far failed to match its dominant positon in the laptop and desktop market on the mobile side, a deal with Motorola might help boost its influence in smartphones and tablets — particularly if Google's $12.5-billion purchase of Motorola Mobility is approved by federal regulators.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas
Images: (Top) Intel's smartphone reference design and (bottom) its Atom Z2460 processor. Credit: Intel
Move over Segway, and make room on the road for the Board of Awesomeness.
Chaotic Moon Labs' Kinect-controlled motorized skateboard zoomed through the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, showcasing a quirky mashup of technologies — one that hopefully won't end with the rider getting a mashed-up head.
By attaching a Samsung tablet to the Kinect, the Austin, Texas-based software laboratory set out to "make Kinect do everything it's not supposed to do," which includes helping accelerate a skateboard and its rider to 32 mph.
It did it by creating an electric skateboard with the Kinect as a built-in gesture sensor, so the rider can accelerate by pushing his hands forward, and slow down by pulling them back — a little bit like skateboarding with an invisible steering wheel.
The board has giant all-terrain tires, as well as an 800-watt electric motor, so you could probably skateboard up San Francisco's Lombard Street if you needed to. (Note to readers: Don't.)
The brain of the conveyance is a Samsung tablet powered by the new Windows 8 operating system, which you better hope doesn't crash — because if it does …
– David Sarno in Las Vegas
IRobot, the company that cribbed its name from the annals of sci-fi greatness, rolled out a drone at the Consumer Electronics Show designed to help engineers and developers explore how to get robots to do what we want, as well as things we never thought of but soon won’t be able to live without.
At first glance, iRobot's Ava looks like a Roomba vacuum cleaner jury-rigged with a Microsoft Kinect and an Apple iPad tablet. And, indeed, on a closer look, it is. But according to the company's brochure it is much more. It has a “comprehensive sensor arrays (laser, sonar, and 2-D/3-D imaging)…” The whole concept is that it is a development platform for the various technologies that make robots cool (or scary), so it is a very simple robot by itself, but it has the potential to do many thing you would expect from an autonomous robot, and possibly some you wouldn't.
The brochure also include some images of things you might want have your Ava do, like collaborative work, caregiver support, mobile kiosk or security. Mostly it shows things that you can already do with an iPad, but now it has legs of its own.
Other cool features include touch-sensitive skins, autonomous charging, speech recognition and omni-directional motion as well as Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity.
The idea is that if you’re the guy who designs robotic claws, or facial recognition software that allows a robot dog to follow its human boy to the bus stop in the morning and pick him out of the crowd of kids getting off the bus at the end of the day, the first thing you need before you can really get down to business is a robot. One that actually works. This can be somewhat of a barrier to entry for roboticists who don’t work for DARPA or Michael Bay.
Ava can move independently, navigating through crowded rooms using its sensor array, or it can just follow you around, all while being aware enough of its surroundings to stay out of trouble while it tags along. That might not sound like a lot, but a lot of different technology is needed to make that happen.
– Tim French
Sports fans are familiar with the yellow first-down line that appears on the television screen while watching football games, but tech companies now want to bring augmented reality technology to everyday consumers.
Known as AR, augmented reality is a view of a physical, real-world environment that is altered by overlaying the image with digital photos, videos or text.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Sunday, Autonomy — a tech company that was acquired by Hewlett-Packard last year — was showing off its AR platform, Aurasma. Lauren Offers, director of marketing at Autonomy, held her business card in one hand and used her iPhone's camera to point at the card with her other hand. On the screen of the iPhone, a video of the rep appeared in which she introduced herself. Later, Offers pointed her phone at a physical copy of GQ magazine; that issue's articles and photos began appearing on the smartphone's screen over the live image of the magazine's cover.
With AR technology, a consumer simply uses a camera-equipped smartphone or tablet to point at an object to get information — aim at a jar of pasta sauce, and recommendations for what kinds of wine to pair it with will appear over the real-life image of the jar; point to a house for sale, and information about its asking price, number of bedrooms and contact info will pop up on the screen.
Aurasma's technology "allows smart devices to see, recognize and understand real-life images and objects in much the same way as the human brain does," the company said in a news release. "Aurasma then uses this fundamental understanding of the real world to seamlessly augment the scene with virtual content such as videos, animations and 3-D objects called 'auras.' No bar codes, visual tags or special glasses are required for Aurasma to work."
Autonomy has already tagged thousands of buildings in London with AR technology. If you're standing outside Buckingham Palace and point your smart device at it, for instance, dinosaurs will appear to come out of the building. The company has also tagged everyday items such as a $20 bill — point your phone or tablet at the image of the White House on the back and its elements will come to life: the building appears to turn white, the little flag grows in size, the numbers wiggle and appear to float.
"It's changing the way we access information," said Tamara Roukaerts, head of marketing for Aurasma. "You blend off-line and online: this is the beginning of the outernet; it's actually woven into the real world. And that's how you want your information."
In a recent Times article, my colleague Shan Li wrote that about 6 million AR apps were downloaded in 2010, according to ABI Research — still a small fraction of the overall app market. But the number is projected to increase to 19 million downloads in 2011 and balloon to nearly a billion by 2016. The firm forecasts the mobile AR industry will see $3 billion in global revenue by 2016, up from $87 million this year and $21 million in 2010.
More than 2 million users have downloaded Aurasma and Aurasma-enabled apps since its launch six months ago. The Aurasma app is available for free on the iPhone3GS, 4, 4S, iPad2 and Android devices.
Aurasma will be competing in the final of the CES Mobile Apps Showdown at the Wynn on Thursday.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
"It underscores just the magnitude of this marketplace," said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Assn. "When you're talking about a market of 3 1/2 billion people that all want TVs, that all want phones, that's a huge market opportunity…. I don't know when we're going to hit $2 trillion, but with the pace of growth in these emerging economies, it probably won't take long."
As people around the world buy more tech gadgets, the industry is entering the second phase of the digital revolution. Consumers should expect the newest devices to become even more seamless in their lives; tech companies will be keenly focused on rolling out new smartphones and tablets that are multifunctional and can replace old-school products (sorry, camcorders).
Those findings were shared in two back-to-back news conferences Sunday during the media preview day at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the first on the state of the industry and trends to look out for at CES, and the second on global market figures.
Tech experts told an overflow crowd of reporters — nearly all of them clicking away on laptops and tablets and snapping photos on their smartphones — that they expected slower growth in tech spending in developed countries like the U.S. but an explosion of spending in countries such as China and Brazil. One "sweet spot" in emerging markets will be low-cost smartphones; LCD televisions are also expected to do well.
Among the big trends expected to be seen at CES include devices that are geared more toward personalization and customization, said Shawn Dubravac, the Consumer Electronics Assn.'s chief economist and director of research.
He said he expected to see 20,000 new products launched during this year's show, one of the world's largest consumer electronics trade shows. Many of the products will be smartphones, and phone makers will be aiming to make the "pocketable devices more and more like full-fledged computers," Dubravac said.
Also expected at CES: 30 to 50 new ultrabooks, or super-thin and light laptops, as PC makers try to take share away from Apple's popular MacBook Air.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Photo: An ice sculpture at CES Unveiled at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Rumors of a new quad-core "A6" processor for Apple's next iPad and iPhone have been circulating for months, and on Friday a bit of information came to light that will fuel the speculation.
The code for Apple's iOS 5.1 beta operating system, which developers can access for testing before the software is released to the public, hints at compatibility with quad-core CPUs, according to a report on the website 9to5Mac.
The report — by Mark Gurman, who has also delved into a bit of iOS app development — says iOS 5.1 beta describes three different processor variations, making reference to "/cores/core.3," as well as "/cores/core.0," which identifies a single-core CPU, and "/cores/core.1," which identifies a dual-core processor.
Based on Apple's naming convention so far, Gurman says, ".cores/core.3" would refer to a quad-core chip. The speculation is that such a quad-core processor would be called the A6 and be used in the expected iPad 3, following Apple's dual-core A5 (used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S) and single-core A4 (used in the first-generation iPad and the iPhone 4).
"Apple leaving references to quad-core chips in the iOS 5.1 beta is notable because iOS 5.1 is the software currently being tested against the third-generation iPad," Gurman wrote. "We cannot conclude that due to iOS 5.1 including quad-core processor references, Apple's next-generation iPad and iPhone will include a quad-core chip, but it seems reasonable based on Apple starting with a single-core chip in 2010 and moving to dual-core in 2011. A quad-core chip in 2012 would fit the pattern."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Reading on a first-generation Apple iPad. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
Barnes & Noble said Thursday that it is evaluating the possible sale of its growing Nook e-reader and tablet business, which hit a record level of sales over the holiday season.
"We see substantial value in what we've built with our Nook business in only two years, and we believe it's the right time to investigate our options to unlock that value," said William Lynch, Barnes & Noble's chief executive, in a statement. "In Nook, we've established one of the world's best retail platforms for the sale of digital copyright content. We have a large and growing installed base of millions of satisfied customers buying digital content from us, and we have a Nook business that's growing rapidly year-over-year and should be approximately $1.5 billion in comparable sales this fiscal year."
"Between continued projected growth in the U.S., and the opportunity for Nook internationally in the next 12 months, we expect the business to continue to scale rapidly for the foreseeable future," Lynch said.
Shareholder's weren't particularly pleased Thursday with the idea of spinning off Barnes & Noble's Nook business into a separate company or selling the Nook unit altogether.
Shares of the New York-based company fell about 20% on the news of a possible spin off, which also came alongside word that the bookstore chain also expects "full year losses per share to be in a range of $1.40 to $1.10."
Holiday sales at Barnes & Noble retail stores rose 2.5%, to about $1.2 billion, over the last nine weeks of 2011 when compared with the same period in 2010. Meanwhile, during that period, sales of Nook devices and digital content rose 43% from a year earlier.
The company also said it was "in discussions with strategic partners including publishers, retailers, and technology companies in international markets that may lead to expansion of the Nook business abroad."
As for how long Barnes & Noble will take to decide just what it will or won't do with its Nook unit, the bookseller isn't saying.
"There can be no assurance that the review of a potential separation of the Nook digital business will result in a separation," Barnes & Noble said. "There is no timetable for the review, and the company does not intend to comment further regarding the review, unless and until a decision is made."
Barnes & Noble didn't release specific sales numbers for Nook devices, or for the sale of Nook e-books, apps and other digital content, but it did say that even in that segment of its company there is some mixed performance.
For the last nine weeks of 2011, digital content sales grew 113% from the same period 2010 and overall sales of Nook devices were up 70% from a year earlier, setting a new holiday record for the company.
But sales of the Nook Tablet "exceeded expectations, while sales of Nook Simple Touch lagged expectations, indicating a stronger customer preference for color devices," Barnes & Noble said.
[Updated 5:19 p.m.: Barnes & Noble fell Thursday $2.32, or 17%, to close at $11.23 per share.]
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
When it comes to rumors, Apple is currently unmatched by any other consumer electronics brand in the amount of hype and speculations its products generate.
And it can be argued that the iPad and iPhone are the top devices when it comes to spawning Apple rumors, many of them never panning out to be true and many conflicting with one another along the way — no wonder Apple always declines to comment on speculation.
With the iPhone 4S now a few months old and a next-generation iPhone (rumored to be called the iPhone 5) not expected until later this year, most of the hype over the last few months has been focused on the expected iPad 3 and the possible iTV project underway.
Here's a rundown of the current iPad 3 rumors that have been popping up around the Web recently:
The longest standing rumor about the next iPad, which many believe will be called the iPad 3, is that it will feature a high-resolution screen that will put the tablet on par with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S' retina display.
So, what's a retina display? That would be any screen that has a dpi (dots per inch, which is a measure of how many pixels can fit in a square inch) of 300 or greater. The name retina display is used because such a dense screen should allow pixels to be indistinguishable from each other to the human eye at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches away.
The first-generation iPad and the iPad 2 both feature a 1,024-by-768 pixel resolution touchscreen. In August, the Wall Street Journal reported the rumor that the iPad 3 would have twice the resolution of the first two models, upping the ante to 2,048-by-1,536 pixels with a 326 dpi.
It should be noted that the iPad 2 was, before its launch, at one time rumored to be outfitted with a retina display as well, but that didn't pan out.
Industry analysts have gone on to make the retina display prediction for the iPad 3 as well. Of the rumors out there, this one might make the most sense for Apple as its rivals are releasing tablets with higher resolution screens and the retina display on the iPhone 4 and 4S has been met with widespread approval by critics and consumers.
One screen size or two?
Another widespread rumor has been that the next iPad would be offered in not just one screen size, but possibly two sizes with the current 9.7-inch being complemented by a new, smaller model. That smaller iPad has been rumored to have a screen of a few different sizes, but a persistent rumor is that 7 inches would be the choice.
This is an idea that has also been shot down by a number of analysts and tech pundits and the late Steve Jobs shot down the idea of a 7-inch iPad as well, stating that, at that size, "the screen is too small to express the software," as reported by the website AppleInsider.
Quad-core A6 processor
The first-generation iPad ran on Apple's 1-gigahertz, single-core A4 processor. The second-generation iPad ran on a 1-gigahertz, dual-core A5 processor. The iPad 3 is rumored to included a new CPU that is expected to be called the A6.
The A4 and A5 were built by Samsung and that isn't expected to change (despite Apple and Samsung's ongoing patent battle), though there are reports that A6 production might take place in Austin, Texas.
The first two iPads were either available in Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi and 3G models. So far, each of the five generations of iPhones produced by Apple have all been 3G phones as well. But much of the mobile world is moving over to 4G networks.
Verizon's 4G LTE network has been up and running for about a year. AT&T is just getting started with its 4G LTE network and Sprint's network is under development with T-Mobile's 4G LTE service in planning stages.
The iPad 2 is currently only available in its 3G variation with AT&T and Verizon service. Rumors as to a Sprint-compatible iPad are circulating, as are rumors that the iPad 3 will connect to 4G LTE networks.
The tech news website CNET has reported that the iPad 3 might make use of Qualcomm's LTE Gobi 4000 chip and as noted by Wired in an iPad rumor roundup of its own, Qualcomm 3G chips are used in Apple's iPhones.
So, when will the iPad 3 (or whatever the next iPad will be called) actually make its debut and arrive in stores? That, like everything else, is up for debate.
Apple, so far, hasn't said anything about the next iPad, but usually the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant releases its products on something resembling an annual cycle. The first-generation iPad arrived in U.S. stores on April 3, 2010. The iPad 2 hit U.S. stores on March 11, 2011, not quite a year later.
Going off of the release dates of the iPad 1 and 2, a good guess might be that the iPad 3 could arrive in this year in March or April. However, Apple runs on its own schedule, as evidenced by the iPhone 4S going on sale Oct. 14, 2011, when the iPhone 4 first hit U.S. stores on June 24, 2010.
The most recent rumor, originating with the often-inaccurate DigiTimes, was that the iPad 3 will arrive earlier than the first two iPads and have a January 2012 release date — a rumor that, while popular among tech writers, was shot down by the Apple-centric website the Loop. The DigiTimes had also previously reported rumors stating that the iPad 3 could arrive in March or April — conflicting its own reporting.
Of all the rumors that have made their way around the Web, the iPad 3 launching on Jobs' birthday as some sort of tribute to the deceased Apple leader seems to me to be the most far-fetched.
What do you think? Any of these rumors seem off-base or accurate by your guess? What rumors not listed above have you seen out there? Are there any features you may or may not have seen rumored that you'd like to see in a production iPad.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Top photo: Media members look at Apple's iPad 2 after its unveiling at an event in San Francisco on March 2, 2011. Credit: David Paul Morris / Bloomberg
Research In Motion may reportedly relieve its co-chief executives, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, of their positions as co-chairmen of the company's board of directors.
The move comes amid shareholder pressure calling for new leadership, according to the Financial Post, a Canadian newspaper.
The shareholder pressure is due in large part to a rough 2011 for RIM in which the smartphone and tablet maker dealt with declining market share, earnings results below expectations, shrinking stock prices, multiple product delays, employee layoffs, service outages, a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook tablet inventory and takeover rumors.
Among those under leading consideration to take over as the head of RIM's board is Barbara Stymiest, who joined RIM's board in 2007 and is the chief operating officer of the Royal Bank of Canada's Financial Group, the Financial Post said in its report.
If Lazaridis and Balsillie are removed from their shared chairman posts, the move reportedly wouldn't change their roles as co-CEOs.
Regardless of what happens, it's clear 2012 will be a major year for RIM as it is looks to rebound from 2011 and release its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, which has been under development for months.
BlackBerry 10 will be introduced on a new line of BlackBerry smartphones that will favor touchscreens over full physical keyboards and enable users to run Android apps alongside native QNX and BlackBerry 10 apps, apps developed using Adobe's AIR software and HTML5.
The new operating system, which was supposed to launch in early 2012 but has been delayed to later this year, will also run on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Top photo: Mike Lazaridis, Research in Motion's president, co-CEO and co-chairman. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Bottom photo: Jim Balsillie, co-CEO and co-chairman of Research in Motion. Credit: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet has hit a new low price — $299 for every model.
Yup, that’s $299 for the PlayBook regardless of how much storage you buy it with: 16 gigabytes, 32 gigabytes or 64 gigabytes.
RIM made the temporary price cut, which ends Feb. 4, on its BlackBerry online store. If you’ve been waiting to buy a PlayBook, this might be the time to go for it — though it was offered as low as $199 on Black Friday.
Normally, the 16-gigabyte PlayBook sells for $499, the 32-gigabyte model for $599 and the 64-gigabyte unit for $699.
RIM officials weren’t available on Tuesday to say just what prompted the price cut, which can fairly be described as a fire sale of sorts. But it is well known that the PlayBook hasn’t lived up to RIM’s sales expectations since its launch April.
Last month, RIM took a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory. The PlayBook also has yet to entice wireless carriers, as none has offered a 3G or 4G version of the BlackBerry tablet as RIM had planned.
The dramatic price cut follows what was a difficult 2011 for RIM with multiple product delays, layoffs, service outages, shrinking market share, disappointing earnings results, sliding stock prices and takeover rumors.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Mike Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive officer of Research in Motion, speaks about the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet at BlackBerry’s DevCon in San Francisco on Oct. 18. Credit: Beck Diefenbach / Reuters
Sony has cut $100 off the price of its first tablet, the Tablet S, in a move to entice consumers to its Android slate.
Those who buy a Tablet S also receive a free 180-day trial of Sony's Music Unlimited service, as well as five free rentals from Sony's Video Unlimited Service.
Through the end of January, the company is offering up five free downloadable "Classic PlayStation" games in its PlayStation Store app for new Tablet S owners as well.
The price drop, as listed in Sony's online store, pushes the Tablet S down to $399.99 with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage or $499.99 for 32 gigabytes of storage.
The dual-screen Sony Tablet P, which made its debut alongside the Tablet S as a prototype in April, still hasn't been released or given a launch date, although the tech giant promises it is on the way.
The Tablet S features a 9.4-inch touchscreen with 1280 x 800 resolution and a wedge-like shape that makes the slate feel something like a rolled magazine in the hand. A Wi-Fi Internet connection is needed for use.
The device also has a 5-megapixel camera in the rear and a 0.3-megapixel camera up front, 1-gigabyte of RAM and a dual-core Nvidia Tegra2 processor. The tablet runs on Google's Android Honeycomb operating system, but Sony has promised an update to the newer Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
Image: A Sony Tablet S running Sony's Video Unlimited service. Credit: Sony
Like the Xoom tablets before them, Motorola's two latest Android tablets, known as the Droid Xyboard 8.2 and Droid Xyboard 10.1, sit on the high side of tablet prices.
Thankfully, Verizon has dropped the price of the Xyboards by $50 — as long as you sign up for a two-year data plan for your device as well.
When the Xyboard line launched earlier this month, the Xyboard 8.2 (with an 8.2-inch display) was priced at $430 with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage or $530 for 32 gigabytes of storage, on a 4G LTE contract.
At launch, the Xyboard 10.1 (with a 10.1-inch screen) rolled out in three storage options and three different prices on contract. A Xyboard 10.1 with 16 gigabytes of storage fetched $530, a 32-gigabyte model sold for $630 and a 64-gigabyte unit ran $730.
With the $50 across-the-board price cut, the Xyboard 8.2 starts at $380 and the Xyboard 10.1 starts at $480, each with a two-year data plan.
While the price is lower and undercuts the Apple iPad (which is the best selling tablet on the market), it's still on the higher end of current tablet prices.
As noted by The Verge, which first reported on the price drop, it isn't clear whether or not this price drop is a permanent move or a temporary cut. Verizon is currently running a $50-off 4G LTE tablet promotion that ends Saturday. Verizon officials weren't available for comment on Friday morning.
If you're looking for a Xyboard and don't want to take on the two-year contract, the price of the tablets won't be receiving a price drop. Instead, the Xyboard 8.2 starts at $599.99 and Xyboard 10.1 starts at $699.99 free of contract.
Aside from the different prices, screen sizes and storage options, the Xyboards are largely the same. The tablet line runs on Google's Android Honeycomb operating system, although an upgrade to the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system is said to be in the works.
Regardless of screen size, the Xyboards feature a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash, a front-facing camera for video chatting, and micro USB and HDMI ports. Unlike the Xyboard 8.2, the Xyboard 10.1 can also make use of a stylus.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: The Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. Credit: Motorola/Verizon Wireless
The Kindle Fire tablet has, since its launch, sold more units than any other single item on Amazon.com.
But just how many tablets sold would that be exactly? Amazon isn't saying. As is the company's typical stance with its Kindle products, the Seattle company isn't offering up specific sales numbers.
Instead, on Thursday, the world's largest online retailer issued a statement saying that "2011 was the best holiday ever for the Kindle family as customers purchased millions of Kindle Fires and millions of Kindle e-readers."
As noted by our sister-blog Jacket Copy, so far this month, the Kindle Fire tablet and the Kindle and Kindle Touch eReaders, have sat in the top three spots for most sold items on Amazon.com, with the Fire ranking first, the Kindle Touch in second and the standard Kindle in third.
The retail giant also said that the Kindle Fire is the item most often found on Amazon.com wish lists too.
Without exact sales numbers, it's tough to judge just how well the $199 Kindle Fire is selling or whether or not it will reach analyst estimates of 5 million tablets sold before the end of the year.
Despite Amazon's continued stance on not disclosing how many Kindle Fire tablets it's selling, many analysts still project that the device will become the second-best selling tablet behind Apple's iPad.
Amazon also said that this Christmas Day was the "biggest day ever for Kindle book downloads" and that the No. 1 and No. 4 best-selling Kindle eBooks released in 2011 "were both published independently by their authors using Kindle Direct Publishing," Amazon's digital publishing platform.
"We are grateful to our customers worldwide for making this the best holiday ever for Kindle," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and CEO, in the statement. "And in a huge milestone for independent publishing, we'd also like to congratulate Darcie Chan, the author of 'The Mill River Recluse,' and Chris Culver, the author of 'The Abbey,' for writing two of the best-selling Kindle books of the year."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
With a stylus and a 5.3-inch touch screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note has prompted the question, is it a phone or a tablet?
For about 1 million people in Asia and Europe, what it's classified as may not matter much.
Samsung said in a statement posted to the photo-sharing site Flickr that it has shipped more than 1 million Galaxy Notes globally and that "worldwide sales of Galaxy Note are also on the rise in Europe and Asia including France, Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan."
The Korean tech giant didn't disclose specific sales numbers, but said that the "rapid global sales of Galaxy Note are notable since it is creating a new market for something between smartphone and tablet pc."
The device has been released thus far running a modified version of Google's Android Gingerbread operating system, but Samsung has said that the Galaxy Note will be updated to Android Ice Cream Sandwich in the first quarter of 2012. Samsung has yet to offer up a U.S. retail price.
So what do you think? Is the Galaxy Note just a big phone? Or is it really a new class of gadget? If so, what should it be called — maybe a phoblet or a tabone? Sound off in the comments.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: D.J. Lee, executive vice president of Samsung, unveils the Galaxy Note at Berlin's IFA mobile trade show in September. Credit: Odd Andersen / AFP/Getty Images
AT&T Inc. has officially completed its $1.9-billion purchase of wireless spectrum licenses owned by San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc.
The deal gives AT&T the ability to offer service on wireless spectrum that covers an area of more than 300 million people nationwide, with more than 70 million of them in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
The nation's second-largest wireless carrier announced the closure of the purchase Tuesday in a short statement on its website after the Federal Communications Commission approved the purchase Friday.
The FCC's sign-off on the purchase followed AT&T's decision last week to drop its attempted $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA, the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S.
Until the AT&T backed off its bid to buy T-Mobile, the FCC was reviewing both the spectrum deal and the takeover together — a move that was expected to push any possible approval into next year.
AT&T's new wireless licenses applies to the 700 MHz spectrum, which the FCC described in its approval of the deal as "underutilized" by the telecommunications industry.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo credit: Lisa Poole / Associated Press
Sony has announced that its tablets, the Tablet S and Tablet P, will receive upgrades to Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system.
The tech giant, however, isn't yet saying when Ice Cream Sandwich will hit its tablets, of which only the Tablet S is on sale.
The Tablet S, which features a tapered shape resembling a rolled-back magazine and a 9.4-inch touch screen, went on sale in September at a price of $500.
Meanwhile, the Tablet P — a clamshell device with two 5.5-inch touchscreens and a hinge running through the middle of the displays that allows it to close on itself, screen to screen — was announced in April but has yet to hit stores or even get a solid release date.
Both devices currently run Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but that will soon change, Sony said in a forum posting on its website, as first reported by PCMag.com.
"We're happy to confirm that an update to Android 4.0 will be available for Sony Tablet," Sony said in a statement posted to its company forums. "Details including timing will be announced in due course, so please stay tuned."
Sony also said in the forum posting that it recently released a software development kit for the dual-screen Tablet P to help aid developers looking to create apps specifically for that device.
The company has previously stated that Ice Cream Sandwich, the first version of Android designed for use on both phones and tablets, will be heading to 11 Sony Ericsson smartphones next year as well.
Image: Sony's Tablet S, left, and Tablet P. Credit: Sony
LG has detailed its Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich plans and 11 of its smartphones are due for the update to the latest Google mobile operating system.
The updates will begin in the "second and third quarters of 2012, which will be followed by a global rollout," LG said on its company Facebook page on Monday. "During the second quarter of 2012 upgrades will begin for the following smartphone models: the LG Optimus LTE, Prada phone by LG 3.0, the LG Optimus 2X, the LG Optimus Sol, the LG my Touch Q and the LG Eclipse.
"These upgrades will be followed by upgrades for the following smartphone models during the third quarter of 2012: the LG Optimus 3D, the LG Optimus Black, the LG Optimus Big, the LG Optimus Q2 and the LG Optimus EX."
Not all LG Android phones will get the upgrades. Noticeably absent from the list was AT&T's recently released LG Nitro HD, T-Mobile's LG G2X and the LG Thrill 4G.
However, these phones may yet get the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade since they are rebranded versions of phones that are scheduled for updates. The Nitro HD is a rebranded version of the Optimus LTE, the G2X is a redubbed Optimus 2X, and the Thrill 4G is a renamed Optimus 3D.
Also missing from the list was the dual-screen LG DoublePlay and T-Mobile's LG MyTouch, which is largely the same phone as the MyTouch Q but without the MyTouch Q's sliding keyboard, and G-Slate tablet.
Officials at LG were not available Tuesday to comment on the upgrade status of the Nitro HD, G2X, Thrill 4G, DoublePlay, T-Mobile MyTouch and G-Slate.
"The exact start dates can vary by market, as each country can have different requirements, depending on the carrier and the smartphone model," LG said in its statement. "Further details on the ICS OS upgrade, including their exact start dates, will be released prior to their commencement."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The LG Nitro HD smartphone, available from AT&T. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
So, you got a new iPad for Christmas? Congratulations! You've totally been wanting one of those. But you also may be feeling overwhelmed. Your new iPad can be a digital recording studio, an alarm clock, and it can help you study for the Bar exam. So where is an iPad novice to begin?
Right here! We've put together a list of some our favorite iPad magazines, games, and books to help you get started with your new super-sleek super computer.
1. Get yourself some apps: Apple says it has over 140,000 apps in its store, and its adding more every day. That sounds like a lot to sift through, but do not panic. Trust in the wisdom of the masses and take a look at Apple's top-10 list of apps across various categories. Start by downloading a few free apps to see what you like. Some basic ones are Netflix, which lets you stream movies and TV shows right on your iPad, and Flipboard, which will arrange your Twitter and Facebook feeds in a magazine-style format.
2. Check out Apple Newsstand: The magazine publishing industry is hoping that tablets like the iPad will breathe new life into its faltering business, which is why major publishers like Conde Nast and Hearst are pouring resources into the iPad versions of their magazines, packing them full of photo galleries, how-to videos and animated spreads. Martha Stewart Living, Wired, Sports Illustrated and The New Yorker are all definitely worth looking into in iPad form. You'll find them all in the Newsstand app that is preloaded on your iPad.
3.Explore iBooks: This is another app that comes preloaded on the iPad. According to Apple, there are 700,000 titles in the store. Again, don't panic. Either search for a book you've been wanting to read or check out the best-seller lists if you don't know where to start. Publisher's Weekly just gave a great review to a poetry book app called Chasing Fireflies: A Haiku Collection. A lot of people love Penguin's Amplified ebook series version of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." Our three-year-old can't get enough of "The Monster at the End of This Book" and "Miss Spider's Tea Party."
4. Want to play games? You'll find a dizzying number of them in the app store, but here are a few suggestions from the L.A. Times tech desk to get you started: Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. And for those who want a real 3D game experience, tech blogger Nathan Olivarez-Giles says Infinity Blade is the best.
5. Talk to friends: We gave you a few places to start, but the easiest way to find great apps is to talk to people who already have an iPad and can tell you what they enjoy most.
Image: A customer tries out the iPad 2 at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York in March. Credit: Emmanuel Dunland / AFP/Getty Images.
The disappointing news seemed to be coming after Samsung announced which of its Android devices would get the Ice Cream Sandwich update on Tuesday, while leaving the popular Galaxy S and first-generation Galaxy Tab off the list.
In its post, the South Korean company says that the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab won't be upgraded because the two devices lack the necessary hardware, namely not having enough RAM and ROM, to power Ice Cream Sandwich after Samsung puts its TouchWiz user interface changes over the top of the software.
The argument seems understandable for the sluggish performer that is the first Galaxy Tab, which launched in U.S. stores November 2010. But the Galaxy S, which launched in June 2010, isn't a performance dud by any means, with a 1-gigahertz processor, 512-megabytes of RAM and either 8 or 16 gigabytes of built-in storage.
As noted by The Verge, the Galaxy S has the same internal hardware found inside the Samsung Nexus S, which has been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.
So why is the Nexus S getting Ice Cream Sandwich and not the Galaxy S? The reason, according to Samsung, is that the Nexus S runs a pure version of Android with no third-party changes to the operating system, while the Galaxy S has to maintain TouchWiz and other carrier-specific software additions as well.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Taking a photo on the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Credit: Los Angeles Times
The Federal Communications Commission has approved a $1.9-billion AT&T purchase of wireless spectrum licenses owned by San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc.
The purchase gives AT&T control over licenses that, according to the FCC, "cover more than 300 million people nationwide, including more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco)."
The FCC's decision on the spectrum deal was set to be delayed into next year as the regulatory agency was reviewing both AT&T's proposed Qualcomm purchase and the proposed $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA together — that was until AT&T dropped its T-Mobile plans on Monday.
In its approval of the Qualcomm deal, the FCC stated Thursday that AT&T cannot use the spectrum in a way that would negatively impact other carriers using or roaming on nearby wireless airwaves.
The FCC said that, given that AT&T is the largest phone company in the U.S. and the second-largest mobile carrier, concerns of competitive harm were looked at, but any resulting harm wouldn't "outweigh the public interest benefits of this transaction," the FCC said in the order.
In fact, the FCC said it hopes the purchase will prod AT&T and its rivals to use the "underutilized unpaired 700 MHz spectrum" for mobile service, "thereby supporting our goal of expanding mobile broadband deployment throughout the country."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo credit: Lisa Poole/Associated Press
Haven't gotten that holiday shopping wrapped up just yet? Amazon.com, the world's largest online retailer, has plenty of stuff to sell and on Thursday launched a Best of Digital store full of items it recommends.
As the name would suggest, the items for sale in Amazon's Best of Digital store aren't physical goods. The store, which is a section of Amazon's website, has for sale mp3 music files, not CDs; downloadable movies, not DVDs or Blu-ray discs. Apps, games, magazines, e-books (for Amazon's Kindle e-reader, of course) and software for home PCs are on the list as well.
Launching such a store after the start of Hanukkah and so close to Christmas might seem like odd timing, but "historically, Christmas Day is the largest day of digital sales on Amazon.com, followed by Dec. 26," Amazon said in a statement.
"Last year, from Christmas Eve through Dec. 30, Amazon customers purchased over three times more digital content, including Kindle books, magazines, movies, TV shows music, and digital games as compared to the weekly average for the year," the company said.
Not at all a coincidence, all the digital items (except for the PC software) for sale in the Best of Digital store can be read, watched, listened to, played and used on Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet.
"With the introduction of Kindle Fire this season, millions more customers will be shopping for new digital content," Craig Pape, Amazon's director of music, said in the statement. "This year we're making it easier and more convenient than ever to get all the content they want."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of Amazon's Best of Digital store. Credit: Amazon.com
Hasbro, the toymaker that owns the popular Transformer's brand, is suing consumer electronics manufacturer Asus over its latest tablet, the Transformer Prime, alleging that consumers might get confused and think the toys and tabs are somehow related, when they're not.
Also worth noting, one of the main characters in the Transformers toys, cartoons and movies goes by the name Optimus Prime.
Officials at Asus and Hasbro were not available for comment on Thursday, but Hasbro said in the PaidContent report that the suit was a move to protect its Transformers brand.
"Hasbro continues to aggressively protect its brands and products and the specific actions we are taking today against Asus underscores yet again Hasbro's willingness to pursue companies who misappropriate our intellectual property for their own financial gain," the company said in the report.
— Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Top image: The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime and its keyboard dock. Credit: Asus
Bottom image: Optimus Prime as depecited in the Transformers movies. Credit: Hasbro/Paramount Pictures
For the first time, the Super Bowl, arguably the biggest U.S. sports event of the year, is going mobile.
On Feb. 5, the National Football League will stream Super Bowl 46, taking place at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, to smartphones and tablets using Verizon's NFL Mobile app (available on Apple's iOS and Google's Android).
Don't have a Verizon Wireless smartphone but still want to see the big game over the Web? The Super Bowl will be streaming at NFL.com and NBCSports.com.
And, as is the norm, the Super Bowl will be broadcast live on regular ol' TV on NBC. As noted by our colleagues over at The Times' Fabulous Forum sports blog, a record 111 million people watched Super Bowl 45 the old-fashioned TV way last year.
"The live NFL.com and NBCSports.com coverage will come from NBC’s TV coverage of the games," NBC Sports said in a statement. "Complementing that stream will be a number of extra features to enrich the viewing experience including additional camera angles, in-game highlights, live statistics and other interactive elements."
But, of course, the NFL is looking to reach more viewers and looking to mobile gadgets to do so. And that's not all. The NFL, NBC and Verizon will also stream wild-card Saturday, on Jan. 7, the playoffs and the Pro Bowl on Jan. 29.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screenshot of NFL.com. For the first time, the Super Bowl will be streamed live online and to Verizon phones and tablets. Credit: NFL
For the Kindle Fire, Amazon's first tablet and a hot-selling item, the update promises to improve the responsiveness of touch navigation and the speed of actions on the device, such as loading webpages in the Fire's Web browser.
However, the biggest new feature might be the ability for users to edit what shows up in their "carousel" of recent apps and content displayed on the Fire's home screen.
Before the update, a Fire user couldn't remove any items — books they've read, games and music played, movies watched or websites visited — in their carousel.
The ability to remove items from the carousel was a highly requested feature and in this case, Amazon was pretty quick to deliver — the Fire was released Nov. 14.
The iOS Kindle app updates the user interface for periodicals and text books, with access to the same selection of more than 400 magazines and newspapers that are offered on the Fire, Amazon said in a statement.
For the first time, Amazon is also offering "print replica textbooks" to iOS Kindle app users, which allow for full-color pages and the ability to zoom in and out or take notes as needed, the company said.
And the update also now makes the Kindle iOS app a PDF reader as well, Amazon said, which will allow users to view their own documents — a feature offered by iBooks for some time now.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Google's Android, the world's most widely used mobile operating system, keeps on growing and is activated on more than 700,000 smartphones and tablets each day.
Andy Rubin, Google's senior vice president of mobile, who oversees the Android operating system, announced the latest Android statistic in one quick sentence on his Google+ page and on Twitter, writing:
There are now over 700,000 Android devices activated every day
Later, Rubin added on Google+:
…and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don't count re-sold devices), and "activations" means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.
Last week, the research firm NPD Group said that Android's share of smartphone sales in the U.S. grew to 53% from January through October, up from 42% in 2010.
Since January of this year, Android has been the most widely used mobile operating system worldwide as well.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screenshot of Google executive Andy Rubin announcing on Google+ that the Android mobile operating system has passed 700,000 daily activations. Credit: Andy Rubin/Google
A factory explosion at an Apple supplier in China has left dozens injured and sparked concerns about whether iPad supply would be affected.
The blast took place over the weekend at a Riteng Computer Accessory Co. factory, owned by Apple supplier Pegatron, in Shanghai's Songjiang district, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The Chinese government is investigating the cause of the explosion and has ordered safety checks at the plant, the AP said.
Chinese media reported that 61 people were hurt in the explosion and that more than 20 had to be hospitalized, though none of the injuries were considered life-threatening, the AP said.
Apple officials were unavailable for comment on the explosion Tuesday, but company spokeswoman Carolyn Wu told the AP that "our hearts go out to the people who were hurt in Songjiang. We are working closely with Pegatron to understand the cause of this accident."
Pegatron told the AP in a statement that the blast was the result of "dust collection equipment."
Forbes magazine reported Tuesday that the explosion could produce shortages of Apple's big-selling iPad 2 tablet, noting that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami earlier this year and an explosion at Apple supplier Foxconn last year also resulted in difficulties for iPad production.
Apple has faced criticism in the past for troubles at its suppliers' factories. Foxconn, which also supplies products for many other top consumer electronics companies, has also recently dealt with employee suicides, prompting Apple's then-COO (and current CEO) Tim Cook to visit Chinese factories in person over workplace concerns.
The iPad, like many other Apple products, makes use of aluminum and, as the AP noted it its report, aluminum dust is "highly combustible."
Photo: The Apple iPad 2. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
Samsung said Tuesday that upgrades to Google's new Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system are due early next year for its lineup of Galaxy smartphones and tablets.
That should be welcome news to owners of Galaxy devices who might feel a bit behind after last week's launch of the new Galaxy Nexus phone, the first device to run on Ice Cream Sandwich.
All of Galaxy phones and tablets for sale will receive the software upgrades, Samsung said in a blog post. The Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note phones will be updated in the first quarter 2012 "and other Galaxy devices will soon follow," Samsung said.
Older Galaxy devices no longer on sale, such last year's original Galaxy Tab, aren't set to receive the upgrades.
Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, is the first version of Android designed to work on both smartphones and tablets and adds many new features such as "face unlock," which removes the needs for passwords to unlock a phone by enabling the phone to recognize its owner's face looking at the screen.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul on Oct. 13. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters
Apple landed a potentially major victory against HTC on Monday after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in its favor and found that some of HTC's Android smartphones and tablets violated one of its patents.
In its ruling on the patent dispute between Apple and HTC, the ITC also handed down a ban on the importing of specific HTC Android devices that goes into affect April 19, 2012.
The decision doesn't specifically call for an import ban on phones running newer versions of Android such as 2.3 Gingerbread, 3.0 Honeycomb or the new 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Most newer HTC phones and tablets run on Android Gingerbread, and some (such as the HTC Rezound) are due for upgrades to Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
In its complaint to the ITC, Apple accused HTC of violating a number of its patents, each of which are older than smartphones themselves.
But the ITC found HTC in violation of only one of Apple's patents — patent 5,946,647, which Apple was awarded in February 1996 and covers the "system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data," or basically a patent for handling the actions that take place in the background when you do something as simple as tapping a link in an email to open it in a Web browser.
In an emailed statement, HTC lawyer Grace Lei said that the company was pleased that the ITC found that it wasn't in violation of all the patents Apple accused it of infringing. As for the one patent it was found to be in violation of — patent 5,946,647 — HTC said it would alter its use of Android to avoid the problem.
"We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it," Lei said. "However, the 647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon."
Apple officials were not available to comment on the commission ruling Monday.
From here, the ruling still has to be approved by the ITC's president, who has 60 days to sign off on the decision or veto it.
If the decision sticks and the import ban comes to fruition, HTC will still be able to sell whatever it has in the U.S. before April 19 of next year. The Taiwanese company also has until Dec. 19, 2013, to import refurbished devices "to be provided to consumers as replacements under warranty or an insurance contract (whether the warranty or contract is offered by HTC, a carrier, or by a third party)," the ITC said in its ruling.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The HTC G1, left, and Apple iPhone 4S smartphones. The G1 was one of a number of HTC smartphones found to be in violation of an Apple-owned patent. Credit: Eric Risberg / AP
A day after Amazon said it would provide an over-the-air software update to its tablet one month after its release, customers say they're still miffed and note that the update won't fix the device's hardware issues, which include its small screen, lack of external volume controls and a poorly placed on/off button.
And interestingly, some buyers are viewing the need for a software update as an admission from Amazon that its first tablet is far from perfect.
Dan Karagozian of Glendale said he bought five Kindle Fires on Friday as Christmas presents after debating between Amazon's device and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet.
Now he's having second thoughts. The 53-year-old said he was enticed by the device's cloud feature, price and content offerings, but was upset that no one from Amazon mentioned to him that a software update was needed when he called customer service before placing his order. He called the update a "red flag."
"Yes? No? Who knows," he said about whether he made the right buy. "I think I made a good choice, but again, when the update stuff starts coming out, it makes you wonder."
Another Kindle Fire buyer wrote an email to me saying she was having a bit of buyer's remorse.
"I bought mine as soon as Amazon offered it, and received it on November 16, which means I have two days remaining to decide whether or not to keep it," the Huntington Beach resident said.
Ralph Kaye, a reader from Torrance, said he and his wife were worried about buying a Kindle Fire because of rumors that Amazon may release a 2.0 version as soon as next spring to make up for the flaws in its first-generation model.
"I would not feel very good about buying a machine which will be an older model in a couple of months," said Kaye, 69.
But despite concerns from shoppers and some analysts, other tech industry watchers are more bullish. In a note to investors Tuesday, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini said she expected the Kindle Fire to make Amazon an even more prominent company and predicted Kindle Fire sales would reach 6 million units in its first quarter of release.
"In our view, the company's evolutionary cycle will continue at a frenzied pace, and it is only over the next few years that we will truly be able to see the value that can be derived," she said. "Add to this the introduction of the Kindle Fire (U.S. only) in November of this year, where we expect 50% conversion rates, and that will only further engrain Amazon into its customers' minds."
Despite the Kindle Fire's flaws, Bellini noted that shoppers have rapidly adopted Amazon's first tablet — a feat that "does not surprise us."
"While the Kindle Fire certainly doesn’t have the breadth of functionality of the iPad (no camera or microphone, shorter battery life and less memory), it does a few things very well, which just happen to be the few actions that users utilize the tablet form factor most often for, in our view," she said.
How do you like your Kindle Fire? Are the negative reviews making you reconsider a Nook Tablet or causing you to shell out for Apple's iPad? Check out some Times reviews of various tablets below.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: A Kindle Fire at a Best Buy store in Los Angeles in November. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times
A spokeswoman for the Seattle e-commerce giant said the update would be available in less than two weeks and would improve performance and touch navigation. It will also give customers the option to edit what items display on their carousels — a landing page that shows what users have been up to on their tablets. Currently, all recent activity — including books read, games played, television shows watched and websites visited — are shown on a user's carousel.
"Kindle Fire is the most successful product we've ever launched –- we've already sold millions of units and we're building more to meet the strong demand," Amazon spokeswoman Kinley Pearsall said Monday. "As with all of our products, we continue to make them better for customers with regular software updates."
The Amazon Kindle Fire was released last month amid speculation that it would become an "iPad killer." But early reviews for the 7-inch tablet have been mixed, with users complaining about the small screen size, lack of external volume controls, finicky touch screen and lack of privacy. Some tech analysts have said Amazon's tablet effort was not good enough and expect the company to release a better version within months.
Nonetheless, research firms have estimated that the Kindle Fire will become the No. 2 bestselling tablet globally behind Apple's iPad in the fourth quarter, thanks to its $199 price and Amazon's trusted brand name.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg
Amazon's Kindle Fire is reportedly due for its first software update, partly in response to complaints about the performance of the hot-selling new tablet.
The retail giant, which has in the Fire a sales hit, is looking to improve the Web-browsing speed of its first tablet, among other things, according to a report from the New York Times.
"In less than two weeks, we’re rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire," Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener said in the report.
As well as the speed of its Silk Browser, the software update should improve the responsiveness of the Fire's multitouch navigation and users will also be able to edit the Carousel of recent items they've used on the device, the New York Times said.
The Fire's last software update came about a month ago and since the Fire first shipped about a month ago, a significant number of consumers have complained to Amazon about the performance of their devices, and some have returned the new gadget because they were so unhappy with it, the report said.
Amazon doesn't disclose its sales or return numbers for the Fire, or any other Kindle devices, but reviews (myself included) did have a number of performance complaints with the 7-inch tablet. However, research groups have estimated that already, the Kindle Fire is the second-best selling tablet in the U.S.
The report also echoes the rumors that Amazon is working on a new Kindle Fire, possibly with a larger screen size, that could launch in the spring.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Amazon.com employee holds the Kindle Fire tablet at the device's unveiling in New York in September. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg
Motorola's two latest Android tablets, exclusive to Verizon Wireless, went on sale online Friday; the Droid Xyboard 8.2 and the Droid Xyboard 10.1.
The two screen sizes come with different prices.
The Droid Xyboard 8.2 has an 8.2-inch display and sells for $430 with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage or $530 for 32 gigabytes of storage. Each price is based on signing a two-year 4G LTE data plan with Verizon.
The Droid Xyboard 10.1, with a 10.1-inch screen, is offered in three storage options and three prices. A 16-gigabyte Xyboard sells for $530, a 32-gigabyte model sells for $630 and a 64-gigabyte unit runs $730, again with a two-year Verizon 4G contract.
While the Droid Xyboards went on sale online Friday, the new tablets actually land in stores Monday, Verizon said in a statement.
Aside from the differing screen sizes and storage options, each of the five variations of Droid Xyboards will run on Google's Android Honeycomb operating system, although an upgrade to the soon-to-arrive Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system will come later.
The Droid Xyboards also all feature a screen resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera with an LED flash, a front-facing camera for video chatting, and micro USB and HDMI ports. The 10.1-inch models also can be used with a stylus.
For a limited time only, Verizon said, those who buy a Motorola Droid Razr smartphone from Verizon can get a $100 discount off a Droid Xyboard tablet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: The Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet. Credit: Motorola/Verizon Wireless
Hewlett-Packard said it will make its WebOS software available to the open-source community and Chief Executive Meg Whitman said in two separate interviews that there are plans to create new WebOS hardware — including tablets.
The announcement is the latest reversal for HP after the company indicated over the summer that it was going in a different direction. In August, then-CEO Leo Apotheker said HP would ditch its smartphones and TouchPad tablet computers and was considering spinning off its PC operations. Two months later, HP said it would keep making PCs under new CEO Whitman (Apotheker was fired shortly after his August announcement).
On Friday, the Palo Alto tech giant said that it planned to continue to be active in the development and support of WebOS, and that by combining the platform with the development power of the open-source community, "there is the opportunity to significantly improve applications and Web services for the next generation of devices."
The WebOS platform offers several benefits to the ecosystem of Web apps, HP said, including allowing developers to easily build applications using standard Web technologies. For device manufacturers, it provides a single Web-centric platform to run across multiple devices.
"As a result, the end user benefits from a fast, immersive user experience," HP said.
The announcement sparked speculation that HP would get back into the tablet business, and in interviews with the Verge and TechCrunch, Whitman said the company planned to roll out new devices in the future, probably in 2013.
TechCrunch also obtained an internal email Whitman sent out to HP staff announcing the WebOS news. In it, the former California gubernatorial candidate thanked employees for their efforts "under very difficult circumstances during these last couple of months."
Of WebOS, she said in the memo: "Together, we have an opportunity to make it the foundation of a new generation of devices, applications and services to address the rapidly evolving demands of both consumers and enterprises."
So far, HP hasn't seen much success with its TouchPad tablets. The company had high hopes for the device as a rival to Apple Inc.'s iPad and for its smartphones, both based on the WebOS software that the company picked up in acquiring Palm Inc. last year. But neither the tablet nor such phones as the Palm Pri, Pixi and Veer have caught on with consumers, and after Apotheker's departure, HP was forced to slash TouchPad prices to $99, which spurred sales.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was named chief executive of HP in September. Credit: Jose Luis Villegas / Reuters
Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet is back on sale in Australia after a temporary sales ban on the competitor to Apple's iPad expired on the device due to a patent lawsuit between the two companies in that country.
The lifting of the sales injunction is a win for Samsung, since it finally can start selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 after the South Korean tech giant voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August and an Australian court order made the ban official in October.
Samsung, however, won't be able to sell the Galaxy Tab until next week as it wasn't allowed to import shipments of Galaxy Tab 10.1 into Australia as a part of the sales ban, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Apple and Samsung are suing each other over alleged patent infringement related to technologies used in their respective tablets, and the expiration of the ban is the latest development before the dispute goes to go to trial in March.
But as we've reported the clash in Australia is just one part of a larger international patent battle between the two consumer electronics heavyweights that cover touchscreen technology, the look and feel of products and even how the devices connect to the Internet.
Apple and Samsung are suing one another in the U.S., France and 30 other European countries, as well as Japan. And in other countries, the litigation has spread to encompass Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones, other Galaxy Tab tablets (all products that run Google's Android operating system), and Apple's iPhone and iPad products.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency
According to a Citi analyst, Apple is prepping a next-generation iPad — likely called an iPad 3 — for a February release.
Such a device would be similar to the iPad 2, but include Apple's high-resolution retina display technology found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S by doubling the iPad 3's screen resolution, said analyst Richard Gardner in a research note first reported on by Business Insider and PCMag.
Gardner reportedly said that "several sources" told him that Apple could launch the iPad 3 as early as February, which would put its debut ahead of the first two generations of Apple's tablet.
The first iPad hit stores in April 2010 after being unveiled the month before, and the iPad 2 was unveiled and released in March 2011.
The analyst also said that "there do not appear to be any significant technical hurdles remaining" to prevent the launch of a high-resolution iPad, which contradicts previous reports that fitting such a dense screen into an Apple tablet was one of the reasons Apple iPad 2 maintained the 1024 x 768 resolution of the first iPad.
Both the first iPad and iPad 2 displays have a pixel density of 132 pixels per inch (or ppi).
Apple's iPhone 4 and 4S have what is classified as a retina display, with a resolution of 960 x 640 resolution, and a 326 ppi. Any display with a ppi of 300 or greater is said be so dense that pixels are indistinguishable from each other to the human eye at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches — and thus, those displays can be dubbed retina displays.
Tablets with higher screen resolution have been released by Apple rivals and more are on the way, but nothing close to a retina display tablet has surfaced yet — though Samsung has been working on it for months.
Among the most anticipated iPad competitors coming soon is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, which features a screen resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
Gardner also estimated that Apple would sell about 12 million to 13 million iPads in the final three months of this year.
The major sales competitor to Apple's iPad is widely considered the Amazon Kindle Fire, which boasts much lower specs than iPads and Eee Pads. The research firm IHS iSuppli has estimated that Amazon will ship about 3.9 million Kindle Fire tablets before the end of the year.
In the past, Apple normally released new generations of its products about a year apart, though the iPad 2 did arrive 11 months after the first iPad, and recently the tech giant waited 16 months before releasing the iPhone 4S after the iPhone 4.
Apple is currently the leading tablet seller worldwide, with an estimated 65% share of the market.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A man uses his Apple iPad to take a photo of Pope Benedict XVI outside the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, southeast of Rome, on Aug. 28. Credit: Andreas Solaro / AFP/Getty Images
The HP TouchPad isn't dead yet. While Chief Executive Meg Whitman and the top brass at Hewlett-Packard Co. decide what to do with WebOS, the tech giant is reportedly set to sell one last batch of TouchPads at the fire-sale price of $99 on EBay.
The last time HP marked its lone consumer-minded tablet down to $99, the company did so in an effort to unload the slow-selling slates after Whitman's predecessor, Leo Apotheker, decided to abandon WebOS and WebOS devices such as the TouchPad and the Pre smartphones.
Officals at HP were unavailable for comment Wednesday night on the reported EBay sale.
The TouchPads that will reportedly hit EBay will all be refurbished units and they'll hit the online retail and auction website at 6 p.m. Dec. 11. A TouchPad with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage will sell for $99, and those with 32 gigabytes of storage will be available at $149, the reports said.
HP employees will have a chance to buy the refurbished TouchPads on EBay — and not on HP's own online stores or anywhere else — before the sale goes live to the public, TechCrunch said.
"In an effort to give HP employees first chance at a very limited supply of refurbished TouchPads, there will be a short delay between when the product is posted live for sale on EBay and when the general public is notified of the sale," the memo reportedly said.
HP will also be selling "an optional three-piece accessory bundle with a case, charging dock and wireless keyboard for $79.
TouchPads will be limited to two per EBay user "sold on a first come, first served basis," the reports said.
So, who's excited about possibly buying a tablet with probably little or no app or manufacturer support?
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A Hewlett-Packard TouchPad tablet running apps on its WebOS operating system. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Research In Motion's next BlackBerry smartphone and tablet operating system won't be called BBX after all.
Instead, RIM is going with the name BlackBerry 10 after a Federal Court in Albuquerque issued a temporary restraining order against the Canadian company, banning it from using the name BBX, which is a trademark of the New Mexico-based software firm Basis International.
Basis sued RIM in October over its use of the BBX name and rather than continue to fight the suit, RIM announced via Twitter on Wednesday that it's moving forward with its new operating system under the name BlackBerry 10.
#BBDevCon Asia Keynote: BlackBerry 10 is the official name of the next generation platform that will power future BlackBerry smartphones!^BZ
Basis uses the name BBx — note the difference in capitalization — as branding for its Business Basic eXtended line of software developer tools. The BBx tools are used to build applications that can run on a number of operating systems that use the Java programming language, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, Apple's iOS and Mac OS X, and Google's Android, according to Basis, which says it trademarked the name in 1995 but has been using it since 1985.
RIM's formerly-known-as-BBX operating system has been under development for months and will be the first OS from the company to run on both smartphones and tablets — an approach taken by Apple's iOS and Google's new Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The OS now-known-as-BlackBerry-10 is based on QNX, the current operating system found on the slow-selling BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. RIM recently announced a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory.
BlackBerry 10 will usher in increased touchscreen-based controls to new RIM phones and the OS will enable BlackBerry devices to run Android apps alongside native QNX and BlackBerry 10 apps, apps developed using Adobe's AIR software and HTML5 apps.
The software is expected to arrive on new BlackBerry phones and the PlayBook tablet early next year.
— Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of Research In Motion's message on Twitter announcing that its BBX operating system has been renamed BlackBerry 10. Credit: Research In Motion / Twitter
Google's Android Market has passed 10 billion app downloads, a major milestone for the world's most widely used mobile operating system.
"One billion is a pretty big number by any measurement. However, when it’s describing the speed at which something is growing, it’s simply amazing," said Eric Chu, director of the Android Developer Ecosystem, in a company blog post. "This past weekend, thanks to Android users around the world, Android Market exceeded 10 billion app downloads — with a growth rate of 1 billion app downloads per month."
The massive number is even more impressive when considering the fragmentation found on Android, with companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Yahoo hosting Android app stores of their own, in addition to independent app stores such as GetJar.
Apple passed 15 billion downloads from its App Store in July, noting that there are more than 200 million iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users worldwide.
More than 200 million Android smartphones and tablets have been sold and about 550,000 new Android activations take place each day, Google has said.
To celebrate passing the 10-billion-download mark, Google and a number of developers are offering selected apps for 10 cents for a limited time, Chu said.
"Starting today for the next 10 days, we'll have a new set of awesome apps available each day for only 10 cents each," he said. "Today, we are starting with Asphalt 6 HD, Color & Draw for Kids, Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro, Fieldrunners HD, Great Little War Game, Minecraft, Paper Camera, Sketchbook Mobile, Soundhound Infinity & Swiftkey X."
Each day, until the 10-day period is up, Google will offer another 10 apps for 10 cents each, as listed on the Android Market.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A screen shot of Google's Android Market. Credit: Google
Samsung chalked up a victory in its ongoing patent battle with Apple when a federal judge ruled against a proposed sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S.
Apple had requested a ban similar to the temporary injunction placed on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, but the U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday decided that such a move wasn't necessary before the dispute goes to trial in July, according to Bloomberg Businessweek
Australian's ban on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is set to lift on Dec. 9, with the patent battle there headed for trial in March.
The two consumer electronics titans are involved in a running legal war over the rights to technologies used on tablets and smartphones in more than 10 countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, France and Italy, and with more than 20 lawsuits filed between the two companies.
So far, sales of Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones have been temporarily banned in 30 European countries, and Germany has placed a preliminary sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 7.7 (all devices which run on Google's Android operating system). Samsung went so far as to redesign and then re-release the German version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, but Apple requested a new ban of that tablet in that country as well, according to the Times of India.
When Apple and Samsung aren't fighting to keep each other's products off of store shelves, the two are actually business partners. Samsung, for example, manufactures Apple's A4 and A5 processors found in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPod Touch, among other components, such as flash memory, inside of i-devices.
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency
The Kobo Vox tablet feels like a missed opportunity.
Over the last year, the scrappy Canadian e-reading company has released the impressive Kobo Touch eInk eReader and polished its Kobo Reading Life apps into worthy rivals to Amazon’s Kindle apps and Barnes & Noble’s Nook apps on tablets and smart phones.
The company is in the process of being purchased by Japan’s equivalent to Amazon, the massive online retailer Rakuten. Despite Kobo’s largest U.S. retail partner, Borders, closing its doors, it seemed that Kobo was akin to a promising, aspiring prizefighter on the brink of being ready to challenge the heavyweight champs of e-reading, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
With the Vox, Kobo has taken a step back, delivering a product that doesn’t come close to its rivals and one that doesn’t match up to the quality I expected given how much I like the Kobo Touch and Kobo reading apps on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS devices.
On paper, the Vox looked like a smart move, selling for $199.99 and featuring a seven-inch touch-screen with eight gigabytes of built-in storage — that’s the same included storage and price as the Fire and the same as the Nook Color (the Nook Tablet sells for $249). Just as the Nook Color and Nook Tablet do, the Vox features with a MicroSD card slot, which can accommodate a card of up to 32-gigabytes in size, if you don’t mind buying one.
Like the Fire and the Nook, the Vox runs a modified version of the Android Gingerbread operating system, designed by Google with phones, not tablets in mind.
But unlike those two others, Kobo has only made minimal changes to Gingerbread, most noticeably pinning reading-related functions to the bottom of the Vox’s Android home screens.
I was hopeful Kobo would deliver a competitive product, but instead I found myself disappointed at just about every turn in using the Vox.
The hardware, from the outside, isn’t bad looking. The back of the Vox is great to hold on to, with Kobo’s signature quilted pattern rendered in a soft and grippy plastic. On the review unit I tested, a light-blue rim of plastic sat between the back of the Kobo and its 1020 x 600 pixel resolution display.
It’s nice to see a company take a bit of risk design-wise, especially when compared with the boring looks of the Kindle Fire. The Vox is also offered with lime-green, pink and black rims.
But once I turned on the device, it was mostly downhill.
The Vox starts up slow, and I failed to ever reach the seven-hour battery life Kobo claims for the Vox. I usually got about four or five hours of battery life, but there were about four times in my week of testing that the device would shut itself off when falling below an 80% charge (a couple of those delays struck when we were shooting the above video).
When the Vox was up and running, it did so sluggishly. Loading apps, menus, Web pages; checking email; opening e-books; turning pages in e-books — everything took place slowly. It felt as though the Vox was always a step, or a second or two, behind my touch input. The display also fails to match the clarity, brightness, color range or viewing angles of the Fire and the Nook Tablet.
Snappy, speedy, responsive — these are not words I would use to describe the Vox. Too often I found myself staring at a rotating gray circle waiting for something to load. This complaint can partly be attributed to lower-end internal specs, such as an 800-megahertz processor and 512-megabytes of RAM, but if tuned enough with the right software, such hardware shouldn’t be so slow.
Kobo has a solid selection of books available for sale, more than 2.3 million titles. Major new releases are often available at a price that meets or beats those of Amazon or Barnes & Noble. But unlike Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kobo has no app store — instead directing users to purchase apps from the independent online app store GetJar.
Like Barnes & Noble, but very much unlike Amazon, Kobo has no storefront for music, movies or TV shows, either.
Although I like the hardware of the Nook Color and Nook Table, and I like the software and Web services of the Fire, I can’t say that I’m happy with either the hardware or software offered by the Vox. At the same price as the Fire and the Nook Color, the Vox seems overpriced and more in line with tablets that sold for about $130 to $150 a year ago.
I wanted to like the Vox, but I didn’t. Instead, the Vox feels like a prototype, not a fully finished product ready for the masses. And that left me flatly disappointed.
Photo: The Kobo Vox tablet, on top of an Amazon Kindle Fire and a Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
It's been a mere two weeks since its much-hyped launch, and Amazon's Kindle Fire has already shaken up the competitive tablet market. The 7-inch device is expected to surpass all other iPad rivals to take second place in the global media tablet business in the fourth quarter, according to information and analysis provider IHS.
The e-commerce giant will ship 3.9 million Kindle Fire tablets during the last three months of the year, IHS said, giving Amazon a 13.8% share of global media tablet shipments. That exceeds the 4.8% held by No. 3 Samsung.
Of course, the Kindle Fire still lags well behind the No. 1 tablet, Apple's iPad 2, which holds a 65.6% share of the market.
IHS said the Kindle Fire's "rapid ascent will help fuel the expansion of the entire market," with the additional shipments adding a 7.7% increase to the firm's forecast of total media tablet shipments this year.
"Nearly two years after Apple Inc. rolled out the iPad, a competitor has finally developed an alternative which looks like it might have enough of Apple's secret sauce to succeed," Rhoda Alexander, senior manager of tablet and monitor research for IHS, said in a statement. "The production plans make it clear that Amazon is betting big on the product."
IHS now predicts that global media tablet market shipments will total 64.7 million units in 2011, compared with the previous forecast issued in August of 60 million. The total shipment level represents 273% growth from 17.4 million units last year.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Emile Wamsteker / Bloomberg
Research In Motion said Friday that it will take a $485 million loss on its unsold BlackBerry PlayBook tablet inventory, sending shares in the company down about 8% in day trading after the announcement.
The news is the latest setback for the PlayBook and RIM as a whole, which has had a rough year so far with multiple product delays, no carriers offer up a 3G or 4G version of the PlayBook, layoffs, service outages, shrinking market share, disappointing earnings results and sliding stock prices.
"As previously disclosed, RIM has a high level of BlackBerry PlayBook inventory," the Canadian company said in a statement. "The Company now believes that an increase in promotional activity is required to drive sell-through to end customers. This is due to several factors, including recent shifts in the competitive dynamics of the tablet market and a delay in the release of the PlayBook OS 2.0 software."
The significant loss, which is technically called a pre-tax provision, will allow RIM to expand its marketing push around the PlayBook in a bid to boost sales, the statement said.
But while the PlayBook has been painfully costly for RIM so far, the company said it isn't planning on giving up on that tablet market.
"RIM is committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook and believes the tablet market is still in its infancy," Mike Lazaridis, RIM's co-CEO, said in the statement. "Although a number of factors have led to the need for an inventory provision in the third quarter, we believe the PlayBook, which will be further enhanced with the upcoming PlayBook OS 2.0 software, is a compelling tablet for consumers that also offers unique security and manageability features for the enterprise."
Lazaridis said that the response to PlayBook sales promotions so far have shown a "significant increase in demand across most channels."
Still, the numbers are small compared with the sales of competing tablets. RIM said in its statement that it sold about 150,000 PlayBook tablets to retailers in the quarter ended Nov. 26 "and sell-through to end customers, based on RIM's internal data, was higher than this amount."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet from Research in Motion. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
Samsung was set back again, temporarily, as an Australian High Court put back in place a sales ban on its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in an ongoing patent lawsuit the South Korean company is involved in with Apple over tablets and phones.
This go-around, the temporary sales injunction is on for just one week as High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon blocked the overturning of the ban through Dec. 9, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek.
"A stay for one week will cost Samsung, in effect, one week's trade," but lifting the ban would probably "be injurious to Apple," Heydon said, according to the Bloomberg report.
The reinstatement of the preliminary sales injunction, which was overturned on Tuesday, will delay Samsung's plans to get the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which many see as the Apple iPad's current top competitor, onto store shelves as consumers are ramping up their holiday shopping.
Samsung has said it plans to give up on releasing the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which runs Google's Android operating system, in Australia if it can't sell the device there before Christmas.
Katrina Howard, a Samsung lawyer, told Heydon in court that "even one day can make a difference" and that holiday sales were crucial for the company. Samsung has no doubt already missed many sales opportunities for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 because of its suit with Apple — the sales ban has been officially in place since October, but Samsung voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August.
Apple and Samsung, which are suing each other over alleged patent infringement on the technology used to make their respective tablets, are set to go to trial in Australia in March to settle their dispute.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul, South Korea on Oct. 13, 2011. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters
Microsoft on the iPad: So far there isn't much of that happening outside of the Bing app.
But that might change next year, according to a report from the Daily, News Corp.'s e-magazine delivered each day to Apple's iPad.
According to some unnamed sources of the Daily writer Matt Hickey, Microsoft is prepping iPad-versions of its Office suite of software.
"With the iPad making up over 80 percent of the tablet market and millions of people worldwide using Office, that could mean big bucks for the tech giant based in Redmond, Wash.," Hickey wrote in his report. "In addition to an iPad-ready version, a new edition of Office is expected for OS X Lion sometime next year."
Microsoft's current Office for Mac offering, Office 2011, lacks the ability to take advantage of new features found in Mac OS X Lion. "A Lion version, likely available via the Mac App Store, is widely expected," the report said. "Windows, too, is due for an update, with Office 2012 currently in beta form."
If Microsoft were to challenge iWork on the iPad (and maybe even iPhone) with Office, apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint could go head-to-head with Apple's own productivity apps.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Apple's Numbers app for the iPad. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
An Australian court has lifted its temporary sales injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, landing the Korean company a win in its patent battle against Apple in that country.
No doubt, Samsung has to be pleased with the reversal of the preliminary injunction, given that the holiday shopping season is in full swing.
This is just the latest development in the Australian patent battle between the two tech giants, which is set to go to trial in March.
And as we've reported, the Australian dispute is just one piece of the puzzle. The patent battle between the two companies is raging in the U.S., France and 30 other European countries, as well as Japan, and has spread to encompass not only the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but also Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones, other Galaxy Tab tablets (all products that run Google's Android operating system), and Apple's iPhone and iPad products.
The suits and counter-suits cover disputes over touchscreen technology, the look and feel of products and even how the devices connect to the Internet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is displayed in Seoul last month. Credit: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images
Research In Motion announced on Tuesday that it will soon launch software that will bring security and management features once only found on BlackBerrys over to Android and iOS phones and tablets.
The new tools, which RIM is calling BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, will allow businesses to set up and control Apple's iPhone and iPad, as well as smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system, as they have done for years with BlackBerry phones and more recently, the slow-selling PlayBook tablet.
"We are pleased to introduce BlackBerry Mobile Fusion — RIM's next generation enterprise mobility solution — to make it easier for our business and government customers to manage the diversity of devices in their operations today," said Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president of enterprise product management and marketing, in a statement.
"BlackBerry Mobile Fusion brings together our industry-leading BlackBerry Enterprise Server technology for BlackBerry devices with mobile device management capabilities for iOS and Android devices, all managed from one web-based console," Panezic said. "It provides the necessary management capabilities to allow IT departments to confidently oversee the use of both company-owned and employee-owned mobile devices within their organizations."
In announcing Mobile Fusion, RIM touted itself as "the leading provider of enterprise mobility solutions with over 90 percent of the Fortune 500 provisioning BlackBerry devices today," a nod to its still-large market share of the business market for smartphones.
But the Canadian company also acknowledges that when it comes time for consumers to buy phones and tablets for themselves, they're increasingly choosing rival devices and then bringing those gadgets into the workplace.
"The enterprise market for smartphones and tablets continues to grow in both the company-provisioned and employee-owned (Bring Your Own Device or BYOD) categories," RIM said. "BYOD in particular has led to an increase in the diversity of mobile devices in use in the enterprise and new challenges for CIOs and IT departments as they struggle to manage and control wireless access to confidential company information on the corporate network. This has resulted in increased demand for mobile device management solutions."
Among the features RIM said Mobile Fusion will offer for Android and iOS phones and tablets is the management and configuration of devices, as well as security features such as remote locking and data wiping, the creation of multiple user profiles on shared devices, app management and control over how a device connects to the Internet, among other settings.
While some would seem to love having an iPhone or an Android that's as secure and easy to manage at the scale a large business would require, others such as ReadWriteWeb has asked if RIM isn't "shooting itself in the foot with Mobile Fusion?"
GigaOm described RIM's stance with Mobile Fusion as "If you can't beat iOS and Android devices in the market, you might as well secure them."
Currently, Mobile Fusion is in "early beta testing with select enterprise customers," RIM said. But the company is accepting "customer nominations for the closed beta program which will start in January." The commercial rollout of Mobile Fusion isn't expected until late March.
— Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPhone 4S. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters