Category Archives: Technology

Windows Phone 8 Announced

While Microsoft has already made a huge impact this week at the Windows 8 Surface tablet announcement, but hasn’t stopped yet. At Wednesday’s Windows Phone Summit, the all-new Windows NT core found in Windows Phone 8 is the same Windows RT core in Windows 8. Sadly, existing Windows Phone devices like the Nokia Lumia 900 or HTC Titan II won’t be upgradeable to the new OS because the kernel requires specific hardware as well as security functions. Microsoft also announced Windows Phone “7.8”, which will be on the current Windows CE kernel and be offered to existing devices. This means that those devices will get many features of the new operating system, as well as the homescreen redesign. So what does all this mean for consumers?

We’ve already seen the first supposed Windows Phone 8 phones, and from those and all we heard we can draw some conclusions. According to the Verge, these devices from HTC, even the lower-end, all have at least dual-core processors, as well as chips which support NFC and LTE. This means that Windows Phones can be expected to offer superior hardware even in what would be at cheaper entry-level. For more info, check out the Verge’s post.

Below is a comparison of the Start screens of two Nokia Lumia 900 phones, one running Windows Phone 7.5 and the other, right, running 7.8. The difference is significant, and customizability has been seriously revamped. 

Now for the full feature breakdown:

  • DirectX and Direct3D support, Havok Technology Suite (the engine which powers Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Skyrim) as well as other gaming engines for a powerful gaming experience.
  • C++ native code support. This means developers can access the grassroots of the phone, utilizing all hardware. (This also puts developing potential on the level of other platforms.)
  • NFC support.
  • Multi-core processor support.
  • “Wallet” app offers integration of credit cards, gift cards, coupons, and PayPal, allowing in-app purchases and supporting NFC payments.
  • A variety of new theme colors along with the new Start screen. Live tiles can be made quarter tiles, regular tiles, or double tiles (there aren’t any in the picture).
  • HD Screens including 1280 x 720 (720p) and 1280 x 768 (720p and a higher pixel density) resolutions, as well as current 800 x 480.
  • Over-the-air updates eliminates reliance on a PC.
  • Integrate Skype and VoIP services, as well as developer access to this.
  • Camera API which allows the camera button to be linked to other apps.
  • Device encryption and secure boot.
  • Office 2013 apps.
  • App “sideloading” (meaning you can install apps not on the market).
  • Device “manageability compatibility” (we’re not sure what this means).
  • Removable microSD support and management.
  • Java in web browser is faster than the iOS 6 beta.

That’s what we know so far, so of course we’ll be waiting to see the final product which Microsoft delivers. There’s also rumor of Microsoft making their own device, like they’re making the Surface tablets, but we’re not sure this rumor holds water. All-in-all, I’m impressed with Windows Phone 8, but in order to make a market impact, a lot more people are going to have to be impressed first.

The following is an informative video, showing a brief history of Windows Phone, along with introducing the new Start screen.

The entire Summit presentation from Microsoft is available to be viewed, coming in at about 2 hours long. There’s got to be more we missed, so check it out.

Via: WPCentral  Source: Microsoft Channel 9The Verge

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Microsoft’s New Surface Tablets

Today in Los Angeles, Microsoft revealed their all-new line of Windows 8 tablets. The new Windows 8 tablets come with extremely thin case/keyboard combinations, along with a slick stand. They look to be  more portable than laptops and more functional than any tablets we’ve seen yet. Running Windows 8 and with all the bright cases, the 10.9″ tablets look great. Microsoft if making its own hardware, and the news-world drama which ensued was reminiscent of an Apple announcement.

The style is more than eye-catching!

Two devices were announced: a Windows RT version and a Windows 8 Pro version. This means that the RT version is running on ARM, so will be lighter, thinner, and cheaper, while the Windows 8 Pro version is traditional x86 architecture. This also means that some capabilities are limited, such as all features of Microsoft Office “2013”. The Windows RT version will come in 32 GB and 64 GB versions, while the x86 version will be 64 GB and 128 GB. The breakdown of the differences is in the chart below.

Here’s a promotional video which is pretty sweet, but not terribly informative:

We haven’t heard anything on prices yet, but we’re told they will compete with today’s ARM tablets and Ultrabooks accordingly. My guess on pricing is that Microsoft will be extremely competitive, but I would still expect to pay at least $299 for the Windows RT version, and a couple hundred more for the 8 Pro, but we don’t know until Microsoft discloses it. Plus, we can look forward to other devices coming from third-party OEMs like Samsung. All this and more is set to come Q4 this year.

Source: Microsoft

Measuring the Universe

This is a short video with a lot of good information on measuring the universe coming from . It has long been claimed by creation and intelligent design scientists that the universe is expanding, or at least seems to be. This video shows exactly why this is the case, along with explaining the methods which are used to estimate distances of celestial objects, though potentially light-years away. As far as astronomy goes, this will catch you up to speed on how modern tactics allow astronomers to distance the universe.

Sources: The Verge, Kottke.org

Origin: Royal Museums Greenwich

Apple Changes Everything Again with iOS 6, OSX Mountain Lion, and Retina Macbook Pro

Apple really sounded off announcements today at the first day of their Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. We saw a variety of new products soon-to-come including a new iteration of their mobile OS and desktop OS. Though the new features and devices are impressive, we have to question whether the changes and improvements will be enough to keep Apple at the prominent position it’s in. Our prediction? Yes.

So far, Apple has announced the next version of their iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad OS, iOS 6, bringing with it a variety of new features. Also, The successor to OSX Lion is officially Mountain Lion, revealed to bring more apps, more Airplay, GameCenter, notifications, and more. There was also considerable excitement over the new expensive but premium MacBook Pro, boasting a Retina Display screen and a body thin as the Macbook Air. The iPad will also receive Siri to boot, and Siri will have a host of improvements.

Here’s the feature breakdown:

iOS 6 – New features are interesting but somewhat uninspired.

  • New Maps app with “Flyover”, allowing users to see an aerial view with real images
  • GameCenter gets challenges
  • Deeper Facebook “integration” to accompany that of Twitter
  • “Do Not Disturb” disables ringer during specified hours
  • “Passbook” app unifies gift cards, coupons, tickets, and more

Mountain Lion –  Receives very iOS-like features.

  • All-new Safari with iCloud-syncing tabs to OSX and iOS devices
  • GameCenter support
  • iCloud with support for Documents
  • Voice-to-text
  • Notification Center
  • AirPlay (1080p streaming)

Siri – Can do stuff we thought she already could.

  • Launch apps
  • Give team, league, and player stats, scores, and standings
  • Give movie showtimes and read reviews along with actor information
  • Yelp business reviews
  • OpenTable reservations
  • “Eyes Free” feature coming with future car integration

It’s expected that we’ll see a couple other things at this year’s WWDC–and we should. We expect an Apple TV SDK as well as refreshes of the iMac and Mac Pro with Retina Displays. Despite the near overload of Apple’s announcements, we still have four days remaining of the WWDC conference. The question is: how much more can Apple change everything?

Sources: BGR, Apple.com

E3: The Tech

Though the yearly E3 convention is intended for video games, often times companies stretch the definition a bit and unveil new software and technology enabling new ways to play. Microsoft and Nintendo took the stage in this regard, though we did see a few other pieces of technology rear their heads. In all honesty, the concept of Xbox Smartglass looked an awful lot like the new features of the Wii U, given the tablet-console communication will enrich the gaming experience. The Wii U’s tablet integration has been awaited for a while now, but this does raise questions. That said, Microsoft has been keeping us on our toes in awaiting the “Three Screens Vision”, connecting the console, tablet or phone, and PC. It’s also important to note that both have their advantages. Xbox Smartglass will be available for Windows 8 tablets, Windows Phone, Android, and iOS as far as we know. In the keynote,  Marc Whitten mentions the use of the app on Android, so we can assume iOS as well. The Xbox website’s Smartglass page says that there will be an Xbox Smartglass app for Windows and Windows Phone, and that the “Xbox SmartGlass technology is available on other major platforms in the My Xbox app”. There is already an Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone and a beta for Windows 8 (since Windows 8 is in beta–download the latest iteration, Release Preview here). We also assume that there will be something along those lines for Android and iOS, perhaps with some limited features, though we have no details as of yet. The real deal here is that Xbox Smartglass is connecting “the devices you already own” for an enhanced experience not just gaming, but viewing movies or videos, and for browsing the web. All these features are briefly described in Xbox video below.

As far as the Wii U goes, I’m convinced that Nintendo has this technology pretty much in the bag. The integration that they demoed does look more refined than that of Smartglass, and, as of late, superior. That said, Nintendo has the advantage working with only one “tablet”, if the so-called “gamepad” could be described as such. As far as we know, the gamepad will have some abilities we associate with a tablet, like video-chatting, but the apps and services which will be available are uncertain. We can’t hardly blame Nintendo for this though, because so far as we’ve “heard” the gamepad should be in the $100 price range, limiting the hardware. Then again, if Amazon can do it, why can’t Nintendo? It’s important to note that the gamepad isn’t a tablet. And unlike the devices meant for Smartglass, the gamepad is not really a device outside of gaming purposes. Outside of gaming, we know the gamepad may have features like the 3DS currently has. Both devices will feature integration with the new MiiVerse “social network”, for which smartphone apps will also be available. Nintendo seems to be really going out of their comfort zone in order to try and bring customers what they want most, so kudos to them there.

We’ll admit there was some other technology that was there, but we’ll save you the trouble of it because it wasn’t all that special. If you’re interested on the “virtual reality” Doom 3 goggle gizmo, we recommend the article at the Road to VR blog.

Sources: Xbox.com, KCCI.com,

Can Smartphone Companies Keep Up With the Market?

How can you tell when a market is moving quickly? It’s a sure sign when some companies are falling behind, and worse–they don’t recognize it. Whether it be the hardware, the software, the tablet or phone, the market in cellular and mobile devices is growing at a very fast pace and becoming even more profitable than ever before.

As of early May, we can tell that its likely that about half of everyone in the U.S. who pays regularly for a phone has a smartphone. This is up from about 29% in October 2010. The growth of the smartphone industry has followed, growing significantly as well.

Here’s a severely obvious statement: The entire market in mobile is growing and has grown a lot. Facebook is continuing its unprecedented social network expansion, and Apple is continuing to set precedents with pioneer technology. They’re are growing rapidly, to put it mildly. Maybe a better example is Verizon, which has seen only further growth this quarter, as it has more than the past year. AT&T has exceeded profit expectations with record smartphone sales both 2011’s Q4 (4th Quarter) and Q1 this year. And that’s just in the US.

What’s new, then? Companies in the line of phone making, selling, and supporting are doing great with more smartphones, right? Not necessarily. It seems to be the strategy of many Android OEMs to pump out phones every month or two. But as we saw back in December, HTC was the first to discover that this hit-people-with-everything-you’ve-got method isn’t the most effective. As we go back to Economics 101, the demand, though growing rapidly, isn’t meeting that volume of supply. Without saying anything specifically about HTC’s future, balancing constantly improving and innovating in devices and getting that on shelves and making sure it actually get bought (or that there is sufficient demand) is difficult.

We’ve seen a lot of executive stepping up and stepping down recently anywhere from RIM to Best Buy. HP is reportedly cutting as many as 25,000 jobs as of Thursday. RIM got their new CEO Thornston Heins not too long ago, and is said to be adopting two new executive staff members from Light Squared and Sony. Best Buy has lost its chairman Richard Schulze and CEO Brain Dunn in a scandal, and is in need of a replacement CEO–along with a new strategy. They’re hoping to start this off by cutting 50-some stores, but while already looking at huge losses in revenue. And there are more examples of major rethinking in companies dealing with mobile products, and which are effecting companies’ strategies in the mobile market. The question for these companies and others is ‘Are the changes they’re making to adapt to this market enough?’.

The precedents that have been set recently with fast advancing technology such as quad-core CPU phones and LTE mean that consumers are continuing to expect greater things from manufacturers and developers. Apple could be argued to have largely brought on this age of smartphones, but the personal precedents they set raise the bar for everyone, themselves included. This means consumers expect them to deliver outstanding results as well. Because of these expectations, it’s more than a difficult market. New devices are coming out by the dozen, month-to-month, and companies have to continuously perfect products to keep up, let alone get ahead. If that wasn’t hard enough, companies have to juggle pleasing shareholders, which is far from an easy task. The strategies that companies have directly effect both their end product and end user, and the experience the user gets (UE or UX) can, overt time, come to directly reflect the share values of a company.

But this is like any other market, right? On the contrary, the vicious pace we’re seeing is more than just business competition. The competition for the best smartphone has been speeding forward at a pace which would cause many businesses strain. At this point, its nearly impossible for smaller companies to enter the game unless they have something which can make consumers think twice about their iPhone. We have seen some heads turned with Nokia’s new Windows Phone Lumia line, and considering the company has only reentered the US smartphone game a relative few months ago, the accomplishment is notable. It will be interesting to see if Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, Nokia, Sony, RIM, and others, all keep enough of a trusting and trusted userbase to keep on trucking. Can so many companies really keep up?

The answer, however, is difficult. On one hand, the heavy competition and difficulty in pleasing everyone could be a destructive burden that eventually beats out software and hardware giants alike. Yet at the same time, as the market grows, there should be room for more products.

In terms of shares, Apple currently appears to be greatly leading in its industry, to no one’s surprise, with share prices still climbing. Microsoft has been on a downward trend for years, but has had a small trend upwards very recently, though its shares are far below in value. It’s heyday was right around the turn of the century. Google looks tentatively to be trending upwards, growing rapidly, and though perhaps not at the pace of Apple, its share prices are far closer to Apple’s than Microsoft’s. That all said, Google and Apple have under 1 billion shares, while Microsoft has more than 8 billion, meaning that the company’s value could still be equal or higher. Ultimately, its difficult to tell who’s really on top. At least, right now.

Sources: Google Finance, Bits on NYTimes, Bloomberg Businessweek, BGR, Nielsen Wire, WPCentral, Forbes

Fall Update Overload: iPhone 5, Windows 8, Jelly Bean, And More

There’s a lot of stuff happening this fall. The updates, news, hardware, and tantalizing prospects of the future in consumer technology we’re all looking for are going to come “en masse” this late summer and fall. There are a number of updates and promises and rumors that we should see coming all around this time. Software from Apple, Microsoft, and Google–the big three, of course–are all launching new versions of their mobile OSs. This means not only devices to current phones we love and behold, but a whole new fresh round of devices. From everyone, hopefully. This unified release could lead to some serious competition. When everyone has their latest and greatest on the field, it will be even more crucial to get the public eye, to compete, and to win the individual’s checkbook. Here’s a look at a few of the things which we’re heading into.

  • iPhone 5. This phone may have been the most rumored device in history. This extremely-long-awaited phone could have some difficulty in competing in hardware to some Android devices like the HTC One X or Galaxy S III. The amount of time that Apple has made consumers wait for this phone will also mean the expectations will be extremely high. Larger screen? LTE? 1 GB RAM? Quad-core? Full HD screen? 20 MP camera? Built-in keyboard projector? … Apple released the iPhone 4 in June of 2010, but rumors do seem to be pointing to later fall. We’re just going to have to wait.
  • Windows 8.The only computer OS which is getting a major update is getting the most major update it’s seen in years. Microsoft is bringing its revamped and reinspired OS to tablets, PCs, and everything in-between. The shear number of products that should come with this release will probably be overwhelming.
  • Jelly Bean. The next iteration of Android is rumored to be coming this fall, but hasn’t truly been confirmed. (We should get more details this summer.) Supposedly, we’ll be looking at more tablet-friendly interfaces and some potential Jelly Bean notebooks. There was also word of a dual-operating system feature with Chrome, allegedly allowing you to dual-boot without having to reboot. Stay a little hesitant there.
  • Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7.5 “Tango” should be just around the corner for many users, if their carrier is willing to give it to them. New devices, however, have been limited by the hardware limitations of the current Windows Phone version. Windows Phone 8 is rumored to be a complete rebuilding of the OS, and will likely unify the experience with Windows 8 even futher, while allowing for more impressive hardware specifications.
  • iOS 6. If Apple continues to follow their pattern of releases, it is likely we’ll see a new version of Apple’s operating system, which should make way for the iPad following the 3rd generation iPad, and likely also the iPhone 5. Given that Apple has waited so long for the iPhone 5, it’s possible we’ll see something big with this update. The OS has been around for a long time now, looking practically the same. The features of iOS 5 enliven the experience, but a whole new homescreen redesign may be in order. Surprise us, Apple.

We’ve got a lot coming to us, but we should get peeks and leaks before we get our hands on anything. It’s going to be a wild ride this fall. Stay tuned.

via: AndroidCentral, Technorati

Also: Windows 8 Overview , Windows 8 Gallery

Windows 8 Gallery

The Verdict on Windows 8

It’s official. We are the 1,000,000th blog to talk about our ideas concerning Windows 8. The difference? We’ll bring you the very best bits of glorious geeky PC goodness that you want to know about the OS update. Where to begin? Metro is a hot topic  in the computer world today–if not the hot topic. The ideas about its success and shortcomings have come in quite the variety, too. Some of my own friends are not alone in saying that Windows 8 is the next Vista (in computer guru terms: an utter failure), and others say it will be as revolutionary to the computer industry as Windows 95. The GUI (graphical user interface) has been redone, but that’s not all. The internals have been given the same minimalist philosophy as the UI and revised for serious performance. This means we should see a little more bang for your processor, if you know what I mean. With Windows 8, your average junky netbook might not be limited to Windows 7 Starter anymore. Truth is, I’m using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview to right this post, and aside from one or two glitches to be expected in a beta, I’m impressed. But my opinion isn’t what counts, so let me get you up to speed. Microsoft recently announced that Windows 8 will come in four SKUs (or versions):

  • Windows 8, the package for the common consumer and their PC.
  • Windows 8 Pro, for those who want those extra features like file encryption, and the ability to host with the new Remote Desktop feature.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise, yes, only available to enterprises, is Windows 8 Pro with a few extra IT security and network management features.
  • Windows RT, short for Windows Runtime, refers to the new ability to, in short, run all your Windows 8, non-x86 apps, with a tablet-friendly, though still feature-rich, version of Windows.

The most significant difference between these versions is the architecture difference. Windows 8, 8 Pro, and 8 Enterprise are all based on the traditional x86 software architecture, while Windows RT is made for ARM, so it will be better for tablets. (Many call Windows RT “WOA”, short for Windows on ARM.)

What does this mean for the consumer? Microsoft’s goal is to make the answer to that question “not much”. The idea is that the experience of Windows 8 is constant between all the different devices and places which the new interface is seen and used. Problem is, this interface is completely new in the PC world, and to most people, the new Metro design is foreign. Aside from those using Windows Phone 7, Metro is a whole new design language to learn. Nonetheless, the world will learn all this fast if it gets in the hands as many people as have Windows 7 now. As for the SKU titles, the average Joe doesn’t need to know the difference, and Windows RT will likely be marketed as simply as Windows on a tablet.

One of the main concerns is the customizability of the OS. (No, I don’t think that’s a word.) While the traditional “Desktop” may be customized traditionally, the main Start screen is limited to a few designs and 9 colors. Three combinations are shown below.

Does this look customizable to you?

Another burning question is what Windows 8 means for enterprise. With a specialized SKU of the OS, Windows 8 Enterprise, Microsoft is obviously serving to the needs of the businesses of the world. Jeffrey Sutherland for the Building Windows 8 MSDN blog recently described plans for allowing non-company computers (buy-your-own, or BYO) to easily access a company’s programs and resources via a WOA management client (check it out at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/04/19/managing-quot-byo-quot-pcs-in-the-enterprise-including-woa.aspx). This means a company could allow employees to connect securely to an infrastructure of tools to work cooperatively, or a hospital could allow patients to log in and access apps or resources, such as a survey. (Yes, that was all you, Lowdermilks on the Metro Developer Show.) It’s features like these that could really make tablets on Windows 8 beneficial to business.

The revamp of the OS is significant, and it’s going to take a while for many to familiarize themselves and adapt, but in the end, I personally believe that the new graphics-focused UI, and the effort Microsoft is making to make Windows modern, will pay off. That’s my verdict.

 

via MSDN, the Metro Developer Show

You’ll probably also want to see our Windows 8 gallery.

Download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Ultrabooks vs. Macbook Air

Apparently, it takes a bunch of companies, a load of manpower, and a number of specially designed laptops to just begin to rival the Macbook Air. But is it even a rivalry yet?

We were promised last year by Intel that ultrabooks would be a significant portion of the PC market, but we haven’t quite seen that come to pass yet. That said, there have been a number of ultrabooks which are notable. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the ultrabook lineup was created to combat the new computer niche started by the Macbook Air, a niche no one knew they needed until Apple’s precedent. Of all the ultrabook we’ve seen and waited for in the last months, only a few have impressed enough to be a viable alternative to the Air. The main point that companies can beat Apple on is price, so it’s key that the manufacturers can get customers the biggest bang for their buck.

Below is a thorough comparison of the features and factors which come into play with the Macbook Air and the ultrabook competitors. See if you think the offerings of Sony, HP, Asus, and Samsung can stand up to Apple’s.

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