Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Android Leads the Tablet Market

It wasn't long ago that the iPad was unquestionably the leader in the tablet market -- if not the entire market itself.

But the Android ecosystem has proven that it could catch up, thanks especially to entries that have debuted in the last two years -- namely Amazon's Kindle Fire brand and Google's own Nexus 7 series built with mobile OEM partners.

As further evidence of that, Strategy Analytics has published its second-quarter report for global tablet shipments.

The market intelligence firm found that Android accounted for 67 percent of worldwide shipments in the second quarter of 2013. Both iOS and Windows declined to 28 percent and 4.5 percent of the global market share, respectively.

While attributing Android's success to a more stable collective of hardware partners, Strategy Analytics' director of tablets coverage Peter King tried to put Apple's quarter into better perspective

Apple iOS shipments were 14.6 million iPads in Q2 2013 which declined 14 percent annually. In the same quarter a year ago the first Retina display iPads were launched which could partly explain the decline as there were no new models in this quarter. However, to compensate that, iPad Mini which was not available a year ago, now freely available was expected to take the figure higher than 14.6 million.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tablet Ownership Continues to Rise

Tablet ownership among U.S. broadband households jumped nearly 33% between 2011 and 2012 as competition for market share among Apple, Amazon, Samsung and Microsoft led to lower price points, according to new research from Parks Associates. Forty-eight percent of U.S. broadband households now own at least one tablet, with 22% reporting a tablet purchase in 2012.

Growing tablet adoption contrasts sharply with that for e-readers. Just 7% of U.S. broadband households purchased an e-reader in 2012, down from 9% in 2011, according to Parks’ “Tablets: Disrupting Mobile Computing and the Digital Home.”

Parks’ analysts expect tablet adoption will continue accelerating as original equipment manufacturers introduce more tablets across all price points. “Amazon has expanded the low end of the tablet market with the Kindle Fire, whereas Microsoft is making a credible push at the higher end,” commented Parks’ senior analyst Jennifer Kent.

“The software giant’s renewed focus on the success of the Surface Pro, after the disappointing traction of the more-limited Surface RT, will mean better options for consumers shopping for top-of-the-line tablets. Efforts by content providers such as Viacom, which offers apps and services to view its content on tablets, will also help drive wider tablet adoption by offering consumers more content options on mobile screens.”

The popularity of tablets poses an ongoing threat to demand for other consumer electronics (CE) devices such as PCs and e-readers, Parks added, noting that tablet purchases exceeded that for PCs for the first time in 2012 and is expected to do so again this year.

“The tablet is taking market share from other devices with overlapping functionality, but its continued growth depends on manufacturers’ ability to continue to carve out a niche that differentiates the tablet from other form factors while also complementing them,” Kent elaborated.

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Dell "PC"

Dell has started shipping its thumb-size PC called Project Ophelia to beta testers and is preparing to ship the final product in the coming months.

Ophelia looks much like a USB stick and it can turn any screen or display with an HDMI port into a PC, gaming machine, or streaming media player. The thumb PC runs on the Android OS and once it is plugged into an HDMI port, users can run applications, play games, watch streaming movies or access files stored in the cloud.

The final product will ship during the next fiscal quarter, which runs from August through October, a Dell spokesman said in an email. The device has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity options.

Priced at about $100, Dell hopes Ophelia will be an inexpensive alternative to PCs, whose shipments are falling with the growing adoption of tablets and smartphones. With more data now being stored in the cloud, Dell hopes the idea of a keychain PC will catch on, especially for those who do most of their computing on the Web.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

SCC- Part 4

By Bayle Emlein

Al & E's Autosounds
John Haynes, Senior Product Manager and Chief Bottle Washer at Al & Ed's reviewed the history of sound and navigation in cars. Then he proceeded to summarize emerging technologies:

1. Accident Avoidance Systems
    a. These devices warn of following too close, drifting out of your lane, objects in the blind spot, or hidden pedestrians in poorly lit circumstances. Since more than half of serious accidents are caused by these, they are more than worth the $1,000 they cost as an add-on. The price has dropped by half since John began showing them
    b. Parking-assist systems can be installed for about $250, depending on the vehicle.
    c. Back-up cameras are very important for avoiding a common cause of injury to children.

2. Vehicle Accessory Lighting
    a. Daytime running lights help others see your car better.
    b. There are legal, safe ways to upgrade the lights in your car so that you can get up to 40% better lighting.
    c. Do not use the HID bulbs, which are illegal because they blind other drivers.
    d. Interior lighting, such as footwell lighting, can make the interior of your care more pleasant. Lights on the doors can make getting out of the car in dark places safer.

3. Internet Connected Cars
    a. Stream movies, to the back seat.
    b. Have access to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. In a moving vehicle, these can be controlled by voice. Or an automatic message can be sent that the driver will get back to the caller.
Question: what do you use to clean a navigation/touch screen? Use a silicon-based cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Do NOT use anything with ammonia.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

War Games

Special to MCC from the West Coast bureau, and correspondent Bayle Emlein whom you probably don't want to meet in a dark alley in any reality or empire.

"Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. North America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press!" In the latest developments of World War II, 1C Company announces the Battle of Stalingrad. The latest in the IL*2 Men of War series is in early Alpha now and is promised before the end of 2013. The announcement of the game commemorates the 70th anniversary of end of the five-month Battle of Stalingrad with the final German surrender in February 1943. There are various scholarly theories about why both Hitler and Stalin were willing to commit whatever it would take to taking this city. The results of the battle significantly depleted the German Axis forces of resources and personnel, affecting their effectiveness on the Western Front and the final outcome of the war. Newly declassified documents added to developers' ability to create realistic and detailed scenarios. The graphics are stunning, particularly the depiction of the Soviet Ally, General Winter. The long, cold Russian winter affected food supplies and mechanical operations and makes a stunning backdrop for the battle scenes. New planes and vehicles add to the realism and sense of engagement that draw in players and keeps them engrossed. When planes are damaged or crash, they don't just uniformly explode. Instead, realistic damage is modeled.

Appropriately, the aircraft carrier Hornet was the venue for David Tractenberg's annual West Coast presentation of new game offerings from 1C, the Russian software giant. The Hornet fought for the last 15 months of the Pacific war, accounting for shooting down record numbers of enemy planes. Then she stayed active long enough to fish astronaut capsules out of the ocean. Now she is a museum where you can stand on the deck where Richard Nixon stood to welcome US astronauts safely home in a gesture designed to restate the balance of power in the Cold War and to associate his personal fortunes with this technological victory.

But what if the Cold War had heated up to the point of nuclear implosion? That is the premise of Nuclear Union, another offering in the IL-2 Sturmovik line. Developed by Best Way Strategy games and distributed by 1C, this post-apocalyptic survival drama takes place in an alternate world where the Cuban Missile crisis was not defused and all-out nuclear war has devastated the planet, including the still-existing Soviet Union. In the intervening half century, things have gotten tough--as have the remaining people and the mutants have had time to mature, as have the unusual fire arms that never went into mass production in the Soviet Union that avoided the nuclear holocaust. Look forward to Nuclear Union, which is in Alpha in July of 2013, to be in the hands of players by the 4th quarter.

The final offering of the show was another in the Sturmovik series: Assault Squad 2. Too early in Alpha to be playable, the stunning graphic effects will support the demand for quick tactical problem-solving on a multi-player platform.

The evening of product sampling was enhanced by the opportunity for guided tours around the museum/aircraft carrier. No single tour covered the entire ship. Instead, museum docents led small groups to areas that have been preserved and retrofitted with items from the Hornet's active days, including kitchen minutia.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Plustek Office Scanner

Plustek Technology Inc. (, a manufacturer of consumer, prosumer and professional imaging devices, announced today the launch of its Plustek SmartOffice PS456U, a departmental class 80 page-per-minute duplex-color document scanner with 8,000 page-per-day duty cycle.  The SmartOffice PS456U is expected to hit Value Added Resellers and retailers in September 2013.
Based on the fact that it offers the fastest speed for an A4 device, performs exceptionally well overall, and it is more cost effective than comparable models, Plustek’s SmartOffice PS456U has already won an Outstanding Achievement Award for “Value” from Buyers Laboratory Inc. (BLI).

“This scanner is exceptionally fast, has a high daily duty cycle and is much less expensive than competitive scanners,” said Mark Druziak, Plustek’s director of marketing and business development.  “Industries that would benefit greatly from the SmartOffice PS456U include: healthcare, financial, insurance, manufacturing, educational, and legal offices.”
The Plustek SmartOffice PS456U scanner has ultrasonic misfeed detection that ensures all documents are imaged correctly.  Robust paper handling, advanced image processing and a high daily duty cycle all add up to the perfect departmental scanning solution for document management, content management, and forms processing applications.
Key Features:
  •     High quality imaging and robust paper handling
  •     Scan documents and plastic cards
  •     Scan to searchable PDF with the touch of a button
  •     Scan speed up to 80ppm/160ipm
  •     Scans long documents up to 50”
  •     Scans plastic cards, insurance cards, license cards, and business cards up to 1.2mm
  •     100 page ADF capacity
  •     8,000 page-per-day duty cycle
  •     Single touch scanning
  •     LED instant warm-up technology
  •     New improved paper feeding
  •     Quiet operation
  •     Automatic advanced image enhancement
  •     Auto wake-up and continuous scan
  •     Ultrasonic multi-feed detection
  •     TWAIN, ISIS and WIA drivers
Sales/Purchase Information:
The Plustek SmartOffice PS456U is available from authorized Plustek resellers and Value Added Distributors NewWave Technologies and Ingram Micro. MSRP is $849.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Apple: I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!

The iFruit company may well be in as big a hole as we have predicted. Several experts on the Fox Business Network recently made statements that support our long standing prediction: Apple is no longer a cutting edge company.

The recent quarterly reports showing slowing sales of their big money maker, the iPad, are only one indicator. The biggest trend, in our opinion, is the lack of “buzz”. For many years the iFruit company depended on the lust of Fanz to guarantee sales of whatever they brought out next. It was the same plan MSFT used, just wait until our next version!! Boy, will it be great!!

The iFruit company and MSFT are companies that have passed their high points. They can no longer compete with the new innovators like Samsung, LG and Google.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Intel Tries to Catch Up

Upcoming Atom chips from Intel will appear in tablets priced as low as US$150, the company's CEO said Wednesday, vowing that Intel will not get caught flat footed again by "the next big thing."

Intel's low-power Atom chips are vital to its plans to recover ground in the mobile PC market, where sales of traditional laptops are falling and Intel has largely ceded the tablet space to rivals like Samsung Electronics and Qualcomm.

Speaking on his first quarterly earnings call for Intel on Wednesday, new CEO Brian Krzanich acknowledged Intel's missteps and said it can't afford to be caught off guard again.

"We've not always lived up to the standard we've set for ourselves," Krzanich said, admitting that Intel was "slow to respond" to the tablet market. There will always be "another big thing," he said, and Intel must be constantly "scanning" for it.

In the meantime, it's betting on two mobile versions of Atom to help it recover lost ground. One is Bay Trail, which will appear in touch-screen hybrid and tablet PCs in the second half of this year, at price points Intel hasn't been able to reach before, according to Krzanich .

Bay Trail will be offered in tablets priced at "$199 and below," Krzanich said. "Some you'll see even lower -- $150, and below that, as we go through the holiday season," he said. It wasn't clear if the cheapest tablets will ship in North America and Europe, however, or only in developing markets like China.

The other important Atom chip for mobile is Merryfield, designed to give Intel a bigger foothold in the smartphone market. Merryfield will ship by the end of the year, Krzanich said -- sooner than an Intel executive suggested back at the Computex trade show in June, though an Intel spokeswoman said Wednesday there has been no change in plans.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

MSFT has a BAD Q4 thanks to the Surface RT

Microsoft's fourth quarter earnings and sales missed expectations by a wide margin as the PC market slowdown and a writedown of Surface RT inventory painted a bleak picture.

The company reported fourth quarter earnings of $4.97 billion, or 59 cents a share, on revenue of $19.9 billion. The results include a $900 million inventory writedown for Surface RT that amounts to 7 cents a share.

Wall Street was expecting Microsoft to report fourth quarter earnings of 75 cents a share on revenue of $20.73 billion. For the year, Microsoft reported earnings of $2.58 a share on revenue of $77.85 billion.

MSFT issued these statements:

It's important to note that consensus analyst EPS estimates include the revenue related to the Office Upgrade Offer, but do not reflect the exclusion of the $0.07 EPS for the Surface inventory adjustment.

We believe most analysts will take an operating view and adjust for the $0.07 per share for the Surface RT write-down. For comparability to pre-release analyst estimates one could use our GAAP EPS of $0.59, plus the $0.07 per share for the Surface RT write-down, or $0.66 per share.

The size of today’s inventory adjustment primarily flows from the Surface RT price reduction we announced earlier this week.  The price reduction, increased distribution, and expanded channel availability are all intended to accelerate adoption and better position us for success over the long-term.

Monday, July 22, 2013

August ePub Issue

The August issue of our monthly ePub is being emailed out this morning. As usual there are many excellent articles and product reviews that should be of interest to everyone.

If you aren't a regular subscriber please email us or comment on this post and we'll add you to the list immediatly!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

SCC- Part 3

By Bayle Emlein

Microsoft  Windows 8

Microsoft stores offer personal training, virus removal and investigation, and help with shopping. 
Some services are free.

The focus of the presentation was Windows 8, which opens with a tiled interface. Swipe from the right border and you get a menu that is context sensitive to the tile that has focus. To prevent accidental closures, swipe all the way from the top border all the way to the way to the bottom with your finger or mouse. Tiles, which represent shortcuts, can be deleted by pulling the icon down about .25" and following directions on the menu that pops up at the bottom left of the screen. Want to keep your stuff safe when others use your device? Pull up that menu again and turn off the live tile. Get it back by going to Search to find the App you want and pull down a smidge to get that check and menu again.

You may find your desktop and icons changing a bit as Microsoft makes improvements based on user feedback.

Find you installed printer under the Devices charm. Charms are the icons that appear when you pull from the right edge of the screen. The Windows charm will get you back to the desktop screen.
The Settings charm helps the user control and manage the computer much more easily than with previous operating systems. Icons above the line refer to the open application, icons in the bottom section control the computer, for tings such as volume control and power management. Since some updates need the computer to restart in order to take to take effect, it is recommended that you shut down at least once a day.

With the able help of Rosemary Lloyd from the audience, the Microsoft team demonstrated other functions of the Search charm. One of the main benefits of Windows 8 over earlier operating systems is access to apps in the Microsoft store. Many are free or very low cost.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

SCC- Part 2

By Bayle Emlein

Tablet Panel

Cheryl Wester loves her little surface mouse. She also loves her keyboard with real keys. Most of all she loves her Surface Pro tablet. She feels that it is coming close to replacing desktop and laptop systems for her. It comes in 2 sizes and runs a full version of Windows 8. Be aware that the Surface RT runs only apps and not the full Windows range of programs. In addition to the mouse, she got a cable to connect to a projector.

Another gadget that Cheryl fell for is a document camera. She got the least expensive version she could find, the IPEBO P2V. For only $20 more, the next version does a lot more.

Barbara Morena talked about her original Kindle Fire. There are several versions of the Kindle. The Fire has WiFi and audio books. She gets free books through Amazon Prime and at her pubic library. The newer Kindle is slightly lighter and has longer reading time between charges. Barbara suggests going to and spending some time looking at all the options and comparing them with your needs and preferences. She particularly likes being able to change the background and font colors and the font size.

Roger Radcliffe added a few words about Apple's iPad. The first thing he noted is all the gadgets you "need" when you get a new device--cover, various ways of supporting and holding the iPad, screen cleaner. He likes the one he has from Cooper Products. He noted that a Kindle is one of the "apps" that can be run on the iPad. It has all the font features that the Kindle devices have. He does not see the iPad as a replacement for a desktop or laptop.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pentax Company Name Change

Effective August 1, 2013 Pentax Ricoh Imaging company will be changing their name to Ricoh Imaging Company. Here’s what the official press release said:

Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company was formed October 1, 2011 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Ricoh Company Ltd. to provide more consumer–oriented offerings to the market.

The company’s goal is to leverage the tremendous strength and awareness of the Ricoh brand along with the superior technical innovation of Pentax products to deliver a world- class consumer experience.

Both PENTAX and RICOH products will remain in the market to reinforce the company’s commitment to the business.

This really is a return to “normal”. For many, many years various companies have owned the Pentax trademark and made cameras under that name. In my youth I remember always using Asahi Pentax cameras and lenses, not just Pentax.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Southwest Computer Conference- Part 1

By Bayle Emlein

The 20th annual, to be exact. Times have changed, the venue has changed several times. But the format was still an optional field trip, followed by special group sessions starting Friday afternoon, a keynote and dinner in the evening; Saturday workshops and an evening vendor expo, Sunday morning workshops. Lots of give-aways and a raffle. I'm the happy owner of a new iPad Mini.

This year the playdate for user groupies moved from San Diego to Pomona. While a few folks from San Diego seemed to have decided that it's too far to drive and too short to fly, a number of people from Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties discovered a new gem had moved into their front yard.

What are the facets of this gem? Keynotes by folks working in various aspects of tech. A presentation from a nearby (in Los Angeles terms, i.e., less than a day's drive) Microsoft store, mostly focusing on Windows 8. Since I was taking these notes on my new Win8 laptop, every tidbit was music to my ears. Keynotes came from local folks actually still going into the shop and meeting daily with customers. For example, at first glance s presentation from Al & Ed's Autosounds does not look like it's appropriate for the mature, sophisticated audience that we are; representative John Haynes focused on what's new in safety innovations.
In addition to keynotes, there were 25 workshops presented in 7 sessions. My some magic of scheduling, There was one topic I really wanted to attend each session and only one session for which I was conflicted between two topics. You know the normal conference scheduling, in which all the topics you want are presented at the same time and then there are hours of nothing of special interest? I know it only too well. I particularly enjoyed Rosemary Lloyd's Windows 8 presentation: she followed up the Microsoft Store keynote and went into operational detail. Also striking a note of personal interest for me was the discussion of smartphones, with real live put-your-hands-on-it phones, by Jim Glass and Cheryl Wester.  

Another facet of the gem was the location itself. Since I fly to either San Diego or Ontario, the airport routine is pretty similar. However, the Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel at Cal Poly Pomona has a free shuttle service that got arranged when I made my reservation. The Kellogg Center is the practicum for the Hospitality Management program. Except for the supervisor, everyone seemed to be a student competing to be helpful and pleasant. The one person I identified as a supervisor was doing his best to demonstrate good hotelier skills. The only complaint I had about the food at the new site was the constant temptation to overeat. Oh, well. It's only for a weekend and it's for a good cause.

I'm already looking forward to next year's Southwest Computer Conference. It has developed the tradition of meeting for Fun in the Sun and Computers Too toward the end of June. If you're tempted, keep an eye on Wondering if you're enough of a computer user groupie to come? f you've read this far you definitely are.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Nomad Bag Review

By George Harding

Many of us have a laptop, which makes us mobile, but we need something in which to carry our laptop to keep it from being dropped, damaged or scratched, and to have a convenient handle.

Enter the Nomad bag from STC! Here is a perfect solution to all these problems. This bag provides a nifty laptop sleeve which fits most 15" laptops and has a protective interior so you don't get scratches on the screen.

That's not all, by a long shot. This is a beautifully tailored, strong shoulder bag with many pockets for storage of all your stuff. The exterior is a pleasing tan color (also comes in black and gray) and the quality construction is evident.

The outside has a zippered pocket in the cover flap which opens to provide 5 pockets, as well as a storage space for those things you may need to get to easily. At the top is a carrying handle or, if you wish, a shoulder strap with a comfy pad for your shoulder.

The backside has a zippered opening, from which you can extract the laptop sleeve. It's easier to get the sleeve out from the inside, though. The cover flap is fastened by two C-shaped metal fasteners that hook easily into two loops extending from the cover flap.

Inside is a wealth of opportunities to store stuff! As you lift the cover flap, there are two fairly large zippered pockets with two more pockets behind. Further inside is the laptop sleeve, a sturdy black zippered container for your laptop with padded interior and carrying handles for either end-wise or top wise carrying. There is also an outside pocket for papers.

In addition to the laptop sleeve, inside there is one large space for, perhaps, a folder, and a smaller adder pocket for a small tablet or smart phone.

This is one fine bag, fully equipped for any challenge to which you may wish to put it!

The manufacturer also offers many other products of a similar nature, designed to carry your laptop, mobile device and your stuff: backpacks, laptop bags and sleeves, and carrying cases for a whole range of devices.

Nomad Bag by SMT        
Price online from $86 to $130

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

MSFT Gets Desperate

MSFT is starting to get desperate. Sales of the Surface tablets remain sluggish so they’ve been forced to slash the price for the device. No matter how much they cut the price it still won’t be as good as rival products with Android OS or even iOS.

Here’s more on the story: Call it a back-to-school sale. Call it excess inventory clearance. Whatever you call it, Microsoft is stepping up its fire sale on its ARM-based Surface RT tablet/PC hybrids.

On July 14, as rumored last week, Microsoft and partners chopped the 32 GB Surface RT base price by to $349 (from $499) and the 64 GB model to $449 (from its original $599), at the Microsoft Store, Staples and Best Buy in the U.S.

That deal follows on the heels of steep Surface RT (and Surface Pro) discounting at some recent Microsoft conferences, including TechEd North America, TechEd Europe and the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). At WPC last week in Houston, many of the 15,000 in attendance stood in lines which occasionally lasted two hours to get a Surface RT device for $99 and a Surface Pro device for $399. Microsoft also launched a Surface RT discount for schools and universities (not for individual students) earlier this summer.

Microsoft execs have repeatedly declined to say how many Surface RTs the company had built and/or how many the company has sold since the devices were launched in October 2012. Some Microsoft watchers estimated the company had far too many Surface RTs produced, severely overestimating demand for the device which cannot run existing Windows apps.