Monday, September 30, 2013

Android Tablets Take the Lead

Tablets running Google's Android operating system have overtaken those running Apple's iOS in terms of shipped devices, according to new figures from ABI Research. ABI finds that, during the second quarter of 2013, Android-powered tablets also approached Apple's iPad in terms of total revenue. The Android platform's success in the tablet market is likely an outgrowth of the increasing popularity of devices manufactured by Apple's chief rival, Samsung.
ABI found that overall tablet shipments dropped 17 percent sequentially, but they grew 23 percent year-over-year. The study also found that 7-inch tablets now make up the majority of tablet shipments. ABI measured the iPad mini at 60 percent of Apple's total iPad shipments, and 49 percent of iPad-related device revenues for the quarter.
That latter figure represents a shift in the tablet market and in Apple's fortunes. The smaller iPad mini, while still sold at a premium price point, pulls in less revenue for Apple per unit. Apple's average selling price (ASP) for tablets, ABI found, is rapidly approaching the market average, dropping 17 percent, while the rest of the market's ASP rose 17 percent.

Apple has long dominated the tablet market, which was stagnant before the introduction of the iPad. The past year, though, has seen Apple's market share in the tablet segment continuing to decline, even though the company still makes the most money off of the segment.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why we love Olympus PEN cameras

We have been strong advocates of the Olympus PEN series of digital mirrorless-interchangeable-lens-cameras (MILCs) for several years now. Recently we have had a couple of experiences that reminded us just why we love them. 

On our visit to the left coast recently we used quite a few old Minolta lenses using adapters. Each of them had strong points and several have made it into our permanent stable of lenses. The best of the bunch have proven to be the REALLY ancient Minolta Tele Rokkor QE 200mm f/5.0 from the early 1960s and the superb Vivitar Series 1 90mm f/2,5 Macro lens from the mid-1970s.  Both are Minolta MC/MD mount lenses and they have adapted  to the world of digital imaging perfectly. 

In addition, all of the PEN lenses we have used, including wide-angles and quite a few zooms, have all preformed wonderfully. I can honestly say that we have never used an Olympus lens that was less than great!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bad news for Blackberry

Every day there seems to be more bad news for Blackberry.

The latest news is that Blackberry has reported a Q2 loss of $1billlion. Considering the fact that no one wants to buy their new phones and several retailers have stopped selling them, we don't see how they can continue much longer.

Earlier this week we heard that the current CEO has a Golden Parachute of over $55 million. That sounds more like an incentive to have the company die soon rather than fight to keep it alive.

We'll miss you Blackberry. Only a couple of years ago (in 2009 you had over 50% of the market) you were the 800 pound gorilla in the room and now you're a tiny niche player.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Firefox OS Preview

APC announces a Preview Release of Firefox OS running on APC Paper and Rock. Complete, buildable source codes are available on GitHub.

In order to speed up development, free APCs will be rewarded to developers that fix a known issue. A full list of issues is available here.

“I think APC's potential is really great. It helps app developers, like myself, because it's much easier than coding in a system-specific language,” said Joshua Smith, student and Mozilla User Advocacy volunteer from New York. “It truly is a responsive OS that brings the web to your computer in new ways."

APC is updatable over-the-air so new updates will be pushed often. This Preview Release is a first glimpse at a fundamental redesign of the PC. We invite you all to take part and give us feedback.

“Throughout development of APC we have learned from our experiences to continually improve APC. The emergence of Firefox OS provides us with a better path to reach our goal,” said Richard Brown, VP of International Marketing, VIA Technologies Inc. “Mozilla's mission to promote openness, innovation and opportunity on the web, aligns with our vision for APC creating the perfect combination to deliver the best of the web to desktops everywhere. We couldn’t be more excited about the future.”

Pricing & Availability
Firefox OS is available as a free download and runs on both APC Paper and Rock.
APC Paper, with its unique recycled cardboard case, is available in limited quantities for US$99 plus shipping, while APC Rock is available for a price of US$79 plus shipping through the site.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Nvidia Tegra Tablets

Nvidia has announced through a blog post its latest tablet platform, Tegra Note, featuring internally developed Tegra 4 processor with a 72-core GeForce GPU, quad-core Cortex-A15 CPU and a fifth battery-saver core.

The Nvidia-designed tablet, which will be brought to market by its partners, is selling for US$199, but compared to its Tegra 4-based siblings such as the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Slatebook 10 x2, Toshiba's 10-inch Excite Pro and Microsoft's Surface 2, which run between US$450-500, the Tegra Note's price is much friendlier to consumers.

In addition, the tablet comes with a stylus-based input technology, DirectStylus. Nvidia has also bundled the technology with apps for related applications such as stroke-based note taking.

The tablet also comes with other technologies and features such as PureAudio for audio output, cameras and TegraZone gaming services.

With the Tegra 4, the tablet is also capable of running over 10 hours of HD video playback, according to Nvidia.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New MSFT Surface tablets

Did you hear the massive yawn yesterday? It was the sound of the whole world reacting to the new MSFT Surface 2 Tablets.

The new Surface 2 products have faster and thinner hardware and updated software. But they are still MSFT tablets.

MSFT keeps trying to challenge the iFruit company but with products that lack the magic that iProducts still have. Whether  the new Surface 2 products will actually succeed, or even sell slightly better than their predecessors, will have to be seen. My prediction is that iPads and Android tablets will continue to dominate the market for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 23, 2013

October ePub

Our October ePub issue has been emailed out and it is awesome! It’s loaded with great reviews and articles and is well worth your time to read it.

If you aren’t a subscriber just let me know and we’ll add you to the list.

Blackberry Sale

It looks like Blackberry has finally found a buyer. 

The rumor mill says that Fairfax Financial, an insurance group, is buying Blackberry for $4.7 billion. BB has been searching desperatly for someone to acquire them and it looks like they may have finally found someone.

Why on earth is Fairfax buying BB? I have no idea! It makes little or no sense to me but what do I know.

Good luck in the future Blackberry. You were once the 800 pound gorilla and now you're insignificant.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Monthly ePub Delay

We would like to apologize to all of our regular readers. We usually publish our monthly ePub issue on the 20th but due to unforeseen circumstances we are delayed this month.

Please look forwad to the next issue which will be out this week. As always, it will have some great articles and is well worth your time to read it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

iOS 7 Update

Online Apple forums are awash with confusion, frustration, ignorance, and desperation as thousands of existing iPhone and iPad users trying to update and use iOS 7, which was released yesterday. But there are also plenty of jubilant posts about successful downloads and flawless operation.

By their very nature, support groups are intended to help with problems. So it's hard to form a clear idea from just reading these posts of how the total number of iOS users updating to iOS 7 are actually faring.

After hours of working, or trying to, with iOS 7, some users are drawing strong and stark conclusions.

Ultimately, to me, iOS7 is a large collection of arbitrary changes that bring no new real functional advantage over the previous configuration, and the interface itself is just plain ugly," posted jw1950, at the MacRumors forums, describing himself as a long-time user of multiple iOS and OS X products, after downloading iOS 7 to his iPad. "Instead of a slick looking dock, we now have a solid opaque rectangle that the docked icons lie flat on. Instead of sophisticated dimensional icons, we now have 8-bit-style flat color images. I am NOT loading 7 on my iPhone...It's made my deliberations over whether to upgrade to a 5s come to a full stop."

Friday, September 20, 2013

New iPhones

The Fan Boyz and Gurlz are all atwitter today. They are standing in long lines in order to spend way too much money in order to have the latest iToy. What a joke!!

Personally I'll stick with Android phones that have more capability and cost much, much less. I guess this is a sign that I'm not one of the minority of people who have bought into the iHype. Just because it comes from the iFruit company it isn't necessarily better.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V

First-day sales of “Grand Theft Auto V” topped $800 million worldwide, surpassing the record set by “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” last November.

The debut was the biggest ever for the company or for “Grand Theft Auto,” New York-based Take-Two said yesterday in a statement. It also beat the $500 million reported for the last “Call of Duty,” which publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) said then was an opening-day record.

The fast start is outpacing projections for as much as $1 billion at retail in the first month. Revenue from the first two weeks of “Grand Theft Auto” alone may exceed estimates for all of Take-Two during the quarter that ends in September, according to Michael Olson, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis, who has a buy rating on the stock.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the launch,” Chief Executive Officer Strauss Zelnick said yesterday at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in New York.

Take-Two rose as much as 7 percent to $18.45 in extended trading. The shares gained 1.2 percent to $17.20 yesterday in New York, bringing the advance this year to 56 percent.

“Our initial forecast of 14 million units by the end of the September quarter now appears very conservative,” Olson wrote in a research note. He said the game could sell as many as 25 million units by the end of March.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

iOS7 Downloads

You may have to wait a few more days — perhaps a little longer depending on store supplies — until you can get your hands on the latest Apple smartphones. But existing Apple device users can now download and upgrade to the latest major mobile software version.

Apple opened up its servers for users to download the new software just after 1 pm ET on Wednesday.

The latest software version is is compatible with iPhone 4 handsets and later, iPad 2 tablets and later, and iPod touch (5th generation) devices. (And don't forget to backup first.)

iOS 6 and earlier users can upgrade over-the-air (on compatible devices) by navigating to "Software Update" in the "General" section of the device's settings. Past experience suggests while these downloads will be slow as millions of users download the software at the same time. Also, because the size of some of the files are huge, downloading over a Wi-Fi connection is recommended. Due to its size, you may have to delete some content from your device.

Alternatively, Windows and Mac users can connect their compatible iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches to the latest version of iTunes 11.1 (which must be installed to use iOS 7), and upgrade by selecting the "Check for Upgrade" button in their device's summary window.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hmmmm, what's up?

Nokia has delayed the launch of a large-screen "phablet" device, originally planned for late September, following a deal to sell its handset business and license patents to Microsoft, a source said on Monday.

Nokia had planned to announce new devices including a phablet, a smartphone with a screen larger than 5 inches, to revamp its lineup of Lumia smartphones which use Microsoft's Windows Phone software, according to sources familiar with the plan prior to the Microsoft deal.

One of the sources said the launch event, originally scheduled to take place in New York late this month, has been pushed back by several weeks. Reuters could not confirm a new date, and a Nokia spokesman declined to comment.

Nokia and Microsoft are still operating as separate companies as the 5.44 billion euro deal, which was announced on September 3, has not yet closed. But Chief Executive Stephen Elop, who was hired from Microsoft in 2010 to turn the company around and is returning to his former company after the deal closes, has stepped aside to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Under Elop, Nokia struggled to close the gap with Samsung Electronics and Apple in smartphones, although it has stepped up its pace of product launches in the past year. Market leader Samsung has led the way in phablets, proving wrong early critics who said they were too clunky. Apple has become the top seller of tablet devices.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Free Game from G5

Starting today, September 16th through September 22nd, G5 Games is giving away a FULL version of Hidden Wonders of the Depths for the iPhone and iPad! A Siren's voice calls you to reclaim fabulous treasures and you cannot resist her. Piece by piece you bring the collection to her in this exciting action puzzle game that combines unique match-3, mahjong and hidden object gameplay with more than 200 delightful and fantastical locations. Hurry to download it at no charge to you!
Your underwater journey starts with a task to clear a path to the chest for a cute little crab. Your main goal is to reclaim fabulous treasures, get vibrantly-hued fish and help the crab to build a home for the charming mermaid. You'll have to make sets of at least three tiles in a row to remove starfish, sea anemones, turtles or pearls from his way. Destroy stones, unchain pieces, collect crystals and unlock powerups as you progress. Mahjong-style amusements, where you'll have to pair identical bricks to collapse them, jigsaw puzzles, where you'll be generating magical cards, and hidden object scenes, where you'll need to find all items within a limited time, provide a compelling diversion from match three levels and prolong the playtime.
Visuals are catchy in a colorful way, with vibrantly-hued fish swimming in the background and boards full of objects that wiggle to provide additional charm to the game. Time and lives limits, no hints and mind-bending puzzles add appealing complexity to the game, and you'll love the challenge as you push forward.
Hidden Wonders of the Depths is developed by ERS Game Studios and published on iOS by G5 Entertainment.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

M-Edge Trip Case Review

By George Harding

I have a Nexus 7 tablet that has a pretty sturdy frame, but I wanted better protection for it, both from scratching and from drops.

I received for review the Trip case from M-Edge for my tablet. It’s really nice!

The cover is fabric, while the interior is microsuede. The cover is a bright red fabric the company calls twill. It’s a very sturdy material that will last for years, probably longer than the Nexus 7!  The company says the fabric is treated with Scotchguard

It is pleated on the front, so as to provide a support for the back when folded around. The back is notched about half of its width, which is used with the front to provide an upright or slanted stand for the tablet.

On the interior there is firm leather binding to hold the tablet in place. The whole case is fastened with a blue elastic strap that keeps the front cover from opening.

One feature that’s unique is the automatic hibernating when the cover is closed. There is no mechanism to do this; rather, the tablet “sleeps” when the cover is closed.

There are few buttons on the Nexus 7, but each is easily available in the Trip Case.

This is a very nice product which fits my tablet perfectly and protects it against the foibles of my mishandling, should that occur. I highly recommend it.

Price about $35

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Olympus Mirrorless dSLR

To stem the red ink on its loss-making camera division, Olympus Corp has decided to rely on a format that so far has been a flop outside Japan.

The company on Tuesday released the "OM-D E-M1", a mirrorless model Olympus says is the first of its kind to compete on quality with traditional single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras.

Olympus is now hoping the E-M1, priced for the pro market at 145,000 yen ($1,500) for the body alone, will help it boost mirrorless and SLR sales by 24 percent to 7.3 million units to allow its camera business to finally break even for the first time in four years.

The new model is the successor to Olympus's E-5, its last flagship SLR released in 2010. Executives are saying there are no current plans to develop more SLRs and the new camera likely signals the company's exit from a market that is dominated by Canon Inc and Nikon Corp.

The E-M1 illustrates Olympus's dedication to the mirrorless format, heralded at its inception as a
happy marriage between the size of a compact camera and the picture quality of an SLR. But the format has so far failed to connect with consumers outside of Japan, with most seeing it as an awkward compromise.

Most consumers prefer smartphones for taking snaps when weight is an issue and opt for pricier SLRs when quality is a priority.

Research company IDC originally projected the mirrorless segment to grow 31 percent in 2013 and to more than triple by 2017. But dramatically poor sales earlier this year prompted the company to change its forecast to a 1.2 percent drop this year and expansion of just 24 percent by 2017.

Olympus admits that its overseas marketing has been lacking so far.
"This is the kind of product that we have to carefully explain to individual consumers. It's not just a point-and-shoot that you can leave out on the shop floor and it sells by itself," Olympus President Hiroyuki Sasa said at the product launch in Tokyo.

Tech bloggers who had been invited to test-drive the E-M1 in advance were effusive about the camera on Tuesday, praising its retro design, image quality and compatibility with all Olympus lenses, a first for the company's mirrorless models.

But some criticized the camera's sluggish autofocus, a fault that has plagued mirrorless models and disqualified it for sports photography, thus barring it from a chunk of the pro market that Olympus is attempting to capture.

Last year, the company's camera division lost 23.1 billion yen ($231.99 million) as compact camera sales shrank by a third and it shifted 6 percent fewer interchangeable lens camera sales, mostly mirrorless.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Two More Bite the Dust (Almost That Is)

This week two more phone makers bit the dust. Panasonic is getting out of the business in Japan and Blackberry is desperately doing everything they can sell off their phone assets so they can get out of that business ASAP.

.It should be clear to most people that the iFruit company and Samsung are the two uber-powers in the Smartphone arena and everyone else is fighting over scraps.

Other companies like LG, HTC and Huawei can still compete and in a couple of years, who knows, everything could change. After all, it was only a few years ago that Blackberry was the invincible 800 pound gorilla. It’s a fast changing world and all you need to be a big time player is to make a product that gets people’s attention.

After all, the new iPhones are pretty pedestrian but Apple still has that bling and they’ll sell a ton of them. It’s not about who’s best, it’s about who has the best marketing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New iPhones- Much Ado About Little

The iFruit company has finally announced their new iPhones. I’m sure all of the FanBoyz and Gurlz will be ecstatic and rush out to spend their parent’s money to have the latest bling toy from Apple. Personally, I’ll happily stick with far superior products using Android OS. Here’s more:

Apple announced its new iPhone, the iPhone 5s, during an event at its Cupertino, California headquarters on Tuesday.

The iPhone 5s will be the same size as its predecessor, the iPhone 5, with a 4-inch screen. Big screens are all the rage these days, and Apple is rumored to be working on phones with larger screens, but physically, the iPhone 5s looks very similar to last year's model.

The phone includes Apple's new A7 64-bit chip, and Apple describes the 5s as "the first 64-bit smartphone in the world." Phil Schiller, the company's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said that the device's CPU and graphics are twice as fast as the iPhone 5. The chip also packs a series of other performance and graphics enhancements. In addition to the A7, the phone includes the M7 motion coprocessor. The M7 "continuously measures motion data" from the phone's accelerometer, gyroscope and compass.

The iPhone 5s was announced alongside the lower-cost iPhone 5c. Together these models will replace the iPhone 5 in Apple's lineup. The company will continue offering the iPhone 4S as well, with an 8GB model available for free with a two-year contract.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Never mind

As Emily Litella used to say regularly on Saturday Night Live: Never Mind!

The Microsoft course reversals -- such as the reintroduction of a Windows Start Button and the cancellation of the "Always On" requirement for Xbox One -- are continuing.

The latest 180, announced by the company on September 9, is that MSDN/TechNet subscribers and volume licensees are going to be able to get their hands on the Windows 8.1 release to manufacturing (RTM) bits early, after all. In fact, Microsoft is making the RTM versions of Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro available to those groups today, September 9, starting at 10 a.m. PST. Microsoft also will be releasing the RTM version of Windows Server 2012 R2 to MSDN/TechNet and volume licensees today.

The Windows 8.1 Enterprise SKU will be available to MSDN/TechNet and volume licensees before the end of September, officials said today. The RTM version of Windows 8.1 RT still isn't going to be released early. (Windows 8.1 RT has leaked to the Web, however.)

Microsoft's decision, reiterated a couple of weeks ago, was to withhold the RTM bits from everyone until October 18, the official "launch" of the product. This unprecedented move resulted in outcry from many -- especially developers. Some devs maintained they needed the RTM bits to make sure their current Windows apps work with the soon-to-be-released update to Windows 8. (The devs also need the RTM version of Visual Studio 2013 to get their updated Windows apps ready. The near-final but not-yet-RTM version of Visual Studio 2013, the Release Candidate build, is available to developers today, as well.

Why the change of heart around early access? Microsoft execs say they heard loud and clear that the original decision not to provide partners with the RTM bits early made for "a big challenge" for those preparing for 8.1 availability. (I'm not quite sure why it took expected, vociferous complaints for Microsoft management to realize this, but at least they are responding.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Kidz Gear Headphones

By Robert Sanborn

Seems like a couple of years ago, it was April 2010, I had received a couple of pairs of headphones from Kidz Gear, and immediately thought they were something special as they were specifically engineered to limit the volume that could blast through the headphones that kids use.  You can read that review here:  

Fast forward to last month when they won a prestigious 2013 NATIONAL PARENTING PUBLICATIONS GOLD AWARD (NAPPA).  As an older lover of rock and roll who also is having some difficulty with hearing, something like this is long overdue for these folks. Congratulations!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Wrist Devices

The new wrist devices that are being introduced by Phablet makers may well prove to be another big fad that flops. I am reminded of the 3-D TV push of a couple of years ago. The floor at CES was awash with them. Everyone was predicting that by now conventional TV would be a thing of the past and everything would be 3-D. Boy were they wrong!

My prediction is that wrist devices will be a huge flop. The market they are aimed at, the under 30 crowd, doesn't wear a wrist watch today and they won't wear one next year. Keep trying I fruit company, Google, Samsung and everyone else. The Next Big Thing is out there, it just isn't wrist devices.

Friday, September 6, 2013

TechNet Cancellation

Microsoft's decision earlier this year to shut down its TechNet subscription service was sudden and unpopular among some of its most loyal customers. An online petition to "Continue TechNet or create an affordable alternative to MSDN" now has nearly 11,000 signatures.

This week Microsoft addressed some of those concerns. No, the governor hasn't shown up with a last-minute reprieve for the program, which stopped accepting new orders on August 31. But Microsoft has made a few changes that address some of the complaints from those soon-to-be-ex-TechNet subscribers.

First, any existing subscriber with an account that is set to expire between September 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014, will get a free 90-day extension of their subscription benefits. The stated purpose: "to help ensure customers have more time to plan for the transition to our other offerings."

Second, Microsoft announced that some older software packages will be made available on the TechNet Evaluation Center.

One of the bigger pieces of feedback we heard was that some people subscribe to TechNet Subscriptions primarily do so to access older product, to prep for migration and do app compatibility testing.  TechNet Evaluation Center houses trial software for our most recent releases and preview/betas -- we're adding prior versions to help enable this migration and testing from products still in mainstream support.  Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and others are available now and we'll be adding additional products in over time.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related announcement, a Microsoft spokesperson told me the company would be contacting members of its Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) program. For years, MCTs have been given a free TechNet subscription to help them prepare course materials and help with their training needs. That group was most affected by the sudden end of the longstanding program, and none of Microsoft's proposed alternatives made sense for them.
In response, Microsoft announced that it will be contacting MCTs directly in the next few weeks. Their existing TechNet subscriptions will be extended  for 90 days without charge and will be replaced shortly with "a new solution that will provide access to non-time bombed software for instructional/training purposes." Details aren't yet available.