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Posts Tagged ‘Differentiation’

Switched On: Extra Sensory Perception

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.

At Intel’s CES 2012 press conference, the giant chipmaker justified calling thin notebook PCs “ultrabooks” by noting how the devices would increasingly be characterized by more than their thinness.


The integration of sensors has become so core to the modern smartphone experience that their absence would make using such devices untenable.

Most of that differentiation was based on plans to integrate the kinds of sensors that have become commonplace in smartphones and tablets, sensors that can detect location, motion, orientation and proximity. The integration of sensors has become so core to the modern smartphone experience that their absence would make using such devices untenable. Imagine if we had to manually reorient a display every time we wanted to play a game or take a photo or if we had to avoid activating a button with our cheeks when holding a phone against them.

But as Switched On discussed in taking on how screen size affects form factors, what is a limitation of form factor today may not hold true tomorrow. Already, of course, smartphones can tap into remote intelligence for applications such as remote camera viewing or unlocking of doors via services from home security companies such as ADT and Vivint. From around the world, you can even remotely start a vehicle using the Viper SmartStart app. But there are increasing opportunities for smartphones to act on information from sensors that are not embedded into their shells.

Continue reading Switched On: Extra Sensory Perception

Switched On: Extra Sensory Perception originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 18 Mar 2012 17:30:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Dear Microsoft: You’re doing it right

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Late last summer, I wrote an article titled Dear tablet makers: You’re doing it wrong in which I shared my view on what I believe to be one of the biggest problems currently facing tablet vendors. In this article, I postulated that most Android tablets failed to make a splash because, in a nutshell, they bring nothing new to the table. Of course Android offers a vastly different user interface and user experience as compared to Apple’s market-leading iPad, but in terms of true differentiation — unique and desirable features offered to tablet buyers that cannot be found on the iPad — Android tablets have historically been lacking.

This problem, I believe, stems from the early days of Android tablets. Everything has been rushed. The first round of Android tablets ran Gingerbread and, as far as user experience is concerned, it was a disaster. Hindsight is 20/20 and I have spoken off the record with executives at several consumer electronics companies who expressed remorse after having rushed these slates out the door. What’s done is done, however.

Unfortunately, the trend continued with early Honeycomb tablets. Android 3.0 offered the first Android experience that was created specifically for tablets. The UI was designed for larger displays and it was vastly improved compared to Gingerbread. But it still felt rushed.

BGR stated as much on a number of occasions, such as in our review of LG’s T-Mobile G-Slate. “Android 3.0, or ‘Honeycomb’ as Google affectionately calls it, is a stopgap build of the Android operating system,” I wrote at the time. “I am not implying that this version of the Android OS is a poor effort on Google’s part, I’m simply stating that it seems like a rushed effort intended to tide us over while Google prepares to put its best foot forward.”

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is still not the answer. While the UI has been further refined and new features have been added, ICS still fails to offer a truly differentiated experience. Of course Android affords a number of features iOS does not, and of course it provides flexibility that Apple’s closed platform never will, but true differentiation that appeals to the mass market is still not a part of the picture.

As it turns out, the few Android tablets that do offer some differentiation, such as Asus’s Transformer, have been well received. Unlike many of its rivals, Asus took it upon itself to create unique features where there were none. Rather than simply build a shell for Google’s tablet OS, Asus built a convertible slate that docks with a keyboard to create a netbook of sorts. Asus may have jumped the shark with its new Padfone tablet/smartphone hybrid, but the company clearly recognizes that acting as nothing but a vessel for Google’s platform and slapping on a thin UI layer is, for the most part, and exercise in futility.

At its core however, the user experience afforded by Android tablets — the look, the features, the apps, the hardware — does not deviate enough in the eyes of the general consumer. And with a few exceptions, namely Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet, Android tablets can’t beat the iPad in terms of pricing, either. Imagine the IWC Big Pilot and the Archimede Pilot XL were available at the same price. Which would you buy?

And so Microsoft is doing what Google and its Android partners have not: Microsoft is building a unique experience.

I spent about a week with Windows 8 on a reference tablet before Microsoft unveiled the Consumer Preview edition of its upcoming operating system at Mobile World Congress, and I was impressed. The Redmond-based software giant has plenty of work left to do, and I expect Windows 8 to still be a work in progress when it launches to the public later this year. Microsoft is doing a lot of things right with its next-generation OS though, and the unique Metro user interface is just one way Microsoft will distinguish its tablet experience from Apple’s.

In my earlier piece, Dear tablet makers: You’re doing it wrong, I noted that there are many ways tablet vendors might separate their slates from the iPad. I gave just one brief example, but it is one I feel could have a big impact on sales if positioned properly and marketed well: sharing.

Tablets are expensive, especially when one considers the fact that in most cases, they are a third wheel for the consumer. Today’s media tablets can’t replace a PC for many users, and they certainly can’t replace a smartphone or feature phone. For those without expendable income — most people fall into this category — a $400, $500 or $600+ tablet that can be shared between every member of a family might be far more appealing than a tablet that that can only be used by one person if privacy is at all a concern.

Personal computers support multiple user accounts. This is not a new concept. Each user can log in to a PC with a unique user name and password in order to be greeted by his or her own desktop configuration and programs. And unless there are some hackers in a household, personal files belonging to one user are not accessible to others.

This concept should have been carried over to tablets from the beginning, but Microsoft’s Windows 8 will be the first mass-market example of multi-user support. In fact, as Microsoft revealed on Monday, the company plans to take things a step further — apps purchased from Microsoft’s app store by one user on a Windows 8 machine can then be downloaded for free by other users.

Windows 8 is not a media tablet killer and it most certainly is not an iPad killer. It’s not supposed to be. Microsoft’s next-generation OS may be the first platform to approach the tablet market the right way, however. Start with a solid foundation, focus on the user experience and a wide range of capabilities, and differentiate. This is how a new platform might find success in the tablet market moving forward, and it is the road Microsoft appears to be taking.

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Eric Schmidt: There is differentiation in Android, not fragmentation

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Eric Schmidt says differentiation not fragmentation in Android

At the Consumer Electronics Show, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt spoke about the idea of fragmentation in Android. Schmidt argued that while there is a “differentiation” between Android devices, it isn’t the same as fragmentation. “Differentiation is positive, fragmentation is negative,” said Schmidt. “Differentiation means that you have a choice and the people who are making the phones, they’re going to compete on their view of innovation, and they’re going to try and convince you that theirs is better than somebody else.” Schmidt defined fragmentation as having an app that runs on one device but not another, with Android this is not the case 99% of the time. The differentiation between devices comes from the various skins that manufactures lay over the Android operating system. ”We absolutely allow [manufacturers] to add or change the user interface as long as they don’t break the apps. We see this as a plus; [it] gives you far more choices,” said Schmidt. While everyone who buys an iPhone receive the same user experience, Schmidt doesn’t think the same is necessary with Android. ”It’s not required that everyone use the same interface,” Schmidt said. “People are free to make the necessary changes. What’s great is if you don’t like it, you can buy the phone from someone else.” Android is all about choice, not every consumer is looking for a slide-out keyboard, a 4.65-inch display, or a dual-core processor, the different manufactures allow you to find a device that is perfect for you. Though those specifications sounds pretty good to me.

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Zalman reportedly entering the graphics card market, merging GPUs with cooling solutions

Saturday, December 10th, 2011
Recently leaked slides suggest Korean computer outfit Zalman will soon jump into the ever-expanding graphics card market, initially partnering with AMD on its Radeon series. Known best for its quiet computing technologies, the company’s move to infuse GPUs with cooling solutions could enhance the performance of the cards, making overclocking a lesson in simplicity. The slides only show the AMD 6870, 6850, and 6770, but it’s feasible more models will appear when official news is released. Given AMD’s many board partners, differentiation is important to remain competitive and on their payroll — graphics cards and their overheating habits is Zalman’s cup of tea. Hopefully this brings more innovative products in the coming future (heck, we’ve already got GPU / NIC hybrids), perhaps as early as CES. Check past the break to view the specifications breakdown for the aforementioned cards.

Continue reading Zalman reportedly entering the graphics card market, merging GPUs with cooling solutions

Zalman reportedly entering the graphics card market, merging GPUs with cooling solutions originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 11 Dec 2011 01:15:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Switched On: Between a Nook and a hard place

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.

In the 1988 comedy Coming to America, a blatant McDonald’s rip-off named McDowell’s draws the legal ire of the empire built by Ray Kroc. In explaining his pathetic defense that includes noting that McDowell’s uses golden arcs instead of golden arches, the eatery’s manager notes that while both the Big Mac and his Big Mick both include the 1970s jingle-immortalized ingredients of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, the McDowell’s flagship burger bun has, in fact, no sesame seeds.

This state of differentiation isn’t a far cry from what characterized some of the earliest 10-inch Honeycomb devices — a few fractions of an inch of thickness, a higher-quality display, a full-sized USB port, an hour or two of running time and some bundled apps constituted how many of the tablets asserted their competitiveness. Of course, there was the ASUS Transformer Prime with its keyboard add-on and its follow up, the Eee Pad Slider, which finally brought an integrated one. But whether it’s been from a lack of of options for manufacturers or disadvantages of the overall Honeycomb approach, larger Android tablets have made limited inroads versus the similarly sized iPad and are now going after it more aggressively on price.

Continue reading Switched On: Between a Nook and a hard place

Switched On: Between a Nook and a hard place originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 20 Nov 2011 17:35:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Android still king of the US smartphone hill, Motorola facing a market nosedive

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

In other obvious news, Android and iOS continue to sit pretty atop the US smartphone market, according to a recent NPD study. The current titans of the mobile industry both saw their pieces of the OS pie increase in Q2 of 2011, putting Andy Rubin’s green robot in the lead with 52 percent and Apple at 29 percent. Newly adopted webOS, and Microsoft’s WP7 and Windows Mobile all managed to cling to their respective 5 percent shares with no yearly change, leaving only BlackBerry OS to experience an 11 percent decline. But the real meat and potatoes of the report focuses on Google’s soon-to-be in-house partner: Motorola. Despite the rosy picture painted by recent acquisition talks, the company appears to be facing tough competition from Android OEM rivals, and the wireless market as a whole. In regard to overall mobile phone share (read: dumbphones, et al.) and smartphone-only, Moto saw a 3 percent year-to-year decline, with its biggest loss coming from Android unit sales — a 50 percent drop to 22 percent of the market. Will the rosy glow of Mountain View “help inspire new paths to differentiation” for Moto, or are we just looking at a repeat of the “RAZR era?” While you ponder these pressing questions, head past the break to read the full report.

Continue reading Android still king of the US smartphone hill, Motorola facing a market nosedive

Android still king of the US smartphone hill, Motorola facing a market nosedive originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 23 Aug 2011 17:09:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Google’s Motorola buy could spell trouble for Android partners

Monday, August 15th, 2011

By now, you’ve no doubt seen the news: Google intends to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. What this will do is not only give Google access to Motorola’s vast patent library consisting of nearly 25,000 patents, but it will also give Google an end-to-end hardware and software strategy with smartphones, tablets and even with Google TV. The thing is, Google didn’t need to buy Motorola. Google could have just licensed the patents from Motorola. Google bought Motorola because it felt like control of the Android experience was slipping away. It’s apparent that one Nexus-like device from Google a year won’t be enough — MOTOBLUR has probably given Andy Rubin ulcers — and it’s apparent that a company that’s leading in many areas of the smartphone arena wants to control that entire experience. Open or not, it is Google’s, after all. Smartphones and tablets are also going to be the biggest categories in technology for the foreseeable future, and if you think Google is just going to play around with that, well, you obviously haven’t seen the company’s recent moves. Read on for more.

HTC, Samsung, LG, and other manufacturers are probably pissed. Regardless of any protection they might receive from Google owning Motorola’s patent library, and regardless of recent official comments, they are now not only competing with one of the best Android device vendors, but also with Google itself. The end result? You’re going to see HTC, Samsung and LG continue to buy up as many Beats-like companies as possible to further differentiate their Android experiences, because they’re not going to have anything else to offer pretty soon. There are only so many ways to physically differentiate a touchscreen device, and with Google in control of its own hardware, software and services, differentiation could become the key to other partners’ survival  the Android ecosystem.

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Dear tablet makers: You’re doing it wrong

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Needham analyst Charlie Wolf issued estimates on Monday that put Apple’s iPad atop the mountain of forthcoming consumer tablets for a full decade. Wolf sees the tablet market climbing to 233 million units sold in 2020, and he thinks Apple will own 60% of the market at that point in time. Apple is on a tear right now, of course, and estimating that Apple will dominate the smartphone or tablet market moving forward is becoming akin to estimating that the sun will rise tomorrow. At the same time, there is a broader picture being painted by all of these analyst forecasts, and it is this: the tablet market is going to be big, and Apple’s competition isn’t doing what it takes to make a dent. My thoughts on the market follow below.

I have argued on numerous occasions that there is no tablet market right now, only an iPad market. Consumers continue to show remarkable interest in a shiny large-form Apple device that can be had for as little as $499. The fact that it is a tablet, I believe, is secondary to the fact that it is a comparatively inexpensive Apple device that is a pleasure to look at and a pleasure to operate. Yes, it’s a tablet, but a $500 Apple netbook might have seen similar rapid adoption. Beyond the iPad, consumers have exhibited little interest in tablets and the explanation is simple: why should they? What compelling reason is there to look at any of these tablets over Apple’s burning hot iPad? What exciting, unique functionality do they offer? What do these tablets provide in the way of differentiation beyond an overcomplicated user experience, an “open” operating system and Flash support?

While the market is still in its infancy, we can likely already say at this point that slapping Android on a slate and shoving it out to market simply isn’t an effective strategy. We’ve only seen a few Android success stories play out so far, with tablets like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and ASUS’ Eee Transformer shipping in the millions. And with Apple selling more iPads in a month than most Android tablets do in a quarter — or even a year — it’s getting to the point where something has to change.

But there can be a tablet market, and there will be.

I still say that tablets are useless (and yes, RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook is still my favorite among them). This will change, however. Repeated cold and lukewarm launches will either push vendors out of the tablet space or open their eyes. Consumers don’t need oversized smartphones. I’ll type these all-too important words a second time: slapping Android on a slate and shoving it out to market simply isn’t an effective strategy. The real problem might be that OEMs are looking at Android wrong. What might happen if vendors stop rushing duds out to market and actually concentrate on using Android as a platform rather than a complete solution?

Look at how well HTC is doing with its Android smartphones; four consecutive months with record revenue speaks volumes. HTC makes fantastic phones and it has solid relationships with carriers around the world, but the company’s Sense suite also plays a huge role in the success of its devices. All of HTC’s most successful smartphones feature Sense, and this is anything but a coincidence.

Vendors have to take this concept a step further with tablets. Five steps further, even. Use Android as the groundwork for a unique tablet offering with unique functionality and differentiating features that consumers actually want. Flash support and “true multitasking” aren’t getting the job done. Don’t just toss Honeycomb in a slim case and rely on marketing to sell a device — features should sell the device, too. Android is a fantastic chassis with a powerful engine, but it’s not going to hold the road without four wheels and it’s not going to draw any attention without a sleek, aerodynamic body.

And there is plenty of room to innovate in the tablet space, which is still less than a year-and-a-half old. One quick example: sharing is caring. It is unfortunate that the iPad doesn’t feature multi-user support, but it is unforgivable that Apple’s competition hasn’t jumped at the opportunity to throw this feature into the mix and let families share a single device while maintaining the privacy of each individual user. $500+ is a lot of money to spend on one person. Just as families often share desktop computers now, so too should they have the option if sharing a tablet. Selling one device to five people isn’t as appealing as selling five devices, of course, but I would argue that a feature like multi-user support would open far more doors than it closes.

Amazon is the company to watch right now. When it finally does release the tablets we’ve been waiting on for months, I believe the experience will be vastly different than the experiences afforded by the current crop of Android tablets. As we discussed on a recent BGR podcast, Amazon has multiple value-added products that it can integrate deeply into its tablet experience. The Kindle book store, music downloads, streaming movies, cloud storage and streaming services, and of course an immersive shopping experience can all combine to provide a total package that simply isn’t available with other Android tablets. Looking forward to 2012 and 2013, I also think Microsoft has the potential to make a huge splash in the tablet space with Windows 8. Convertible form factors and a truly full-featured operating system could usher in an era where the line between tablet and notebook no longer exists. The post-post-PC era, if you will.

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Linux Foundation announces MeeGo Smart TV Working Group, Intel, Nokia and others sign on

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
The future of MeeGo may not look quite as bright as it once did, but there’s plenty of folks still committed to it, and the Linux Foundation is now starting to place an increased emphasis on one area in particular: smart TVs. To that end, it’s just announced the formation of the MeeGo Smart TV Working Group, and it’s already signed up quite a few companies as members, including Intel, Nokia, Nokia Siemens, Sigma Designs and others. Not surprisingly, there’s not much more than some generalities at the moment, but the working group has committed to meeting twice a year (the first meeting is next month), and it’s promising to “begin defining software components providing platform standardization,” while also encouraging “competitive differentiation within the TV market segment with tools such at Qt.” Full press release is after the break.

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Linux Foundation announces MeeGo Smart TV Working Group, Intel, Nokia and others sign on originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 23 Mar 2011 14:03:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Motorola XOOM review

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The Motorola XOOM isn’t the first Android tablet, but in a way it kind of is the first Android tablet. It runs Google’s latest OS designed exclusively for tablets, and the difference between Honeycomb and earlier versions of Android on a tablet is night and day. The XOOM is a beautiful 10.1-inch device powered a dual-core processor, dual cameras, loads of memory, and it’ll soon be 4G-capable on the nation’s most reliable network — who could ask for more? I’ve been testing the Motorola XOOM for a few days, and I’ve definitely put this sleek new slate through the paces. Hit the jump for BGR’s full review.

Hardware / Design

The Motorola XOOM is wrapped in high quality materials including soft-touch aluminum, Gorilla Glass and sturdy plastic, and it feels extremely solid. It’s slightly (literally a few grams) heavier than Apple’s iPad, though it feels a tad heavier because it’s a bit thicker in the middle. What’s very interesting about the XOOM, and most announced tablets that are running Google’s brand new Honeycomb OS, is that there isn’t a ton of hardware differentiation since all menu keys are now soft keys in the operating system. Motorola has definitely added some useful customizations to the XOOM, however. For example, I love phones that have LED notification lights and Motorola’s XOOM does it up in style with a little glowing notification bar. It’s a very small — maybe 1/4-inch — white strip on the top part of the right side, and it’s awesome. In addition to the notification bar, Motorola has a “privacy indicator” (read: red LED) that lights up next to the front-facing 2-megapixel camera to let you know it’s on.

As far as specifications go, the Motorola XOOM zooms (sorry). It touts a spec brigade you could only dream of a year or two ago: a 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 10.1-inch WXGA 1280 x 800 resolution display, a 5-megapixel rear camera with 720p video recording, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, HDMI 1.4 out, 32GB of built-in storage, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, an accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope and even a barometer. The tablet also includes a microSD card slot, though it doesn’t function yet. Motorola tells us it will be enabled with an OTA software upgrade at some point in the future. Additionally, the Motorola XOOM will be fully upgradable to 4G for free for all customers, but we’re hearing users will need to ship your unit somewhere as opposed to walking into a Verizon Wireless store and having the upgrade performed there. This hasn’t yet been confirmed, however.

There are volume up and down keys on the left side of the tablet, a 3.5mm headset jack on top, a microUSB port, mini-HDMI out port, and… a charging port. That’s right, the Motorola XOOM is unable to be charged via traditional microUSB chargers or USB, and requires it’s own proprietary charger you have to lug around. The accessories that are available with the XOOM — such as the Standard Dock ($59.99)and Speaker HD Dock ($149.99) — will oddly charge the tablet through the microUSB port, however. The unlock / power on / off button is on the back of the device, and while it’s not the end of the world and I was able to locate it pretty quickly most of the time, it’s definitely not as easy as having it right in front of you.

Also of note, the battery on the Motorola XOOM is incredibly good. In standby mode, the tablet can go for days and days, and in my testing it came very close to matching the iPad in normal usage.

Random annoyance: in daily use, when picking up the XOOM, I can hear a weird clicking sound that comes from the back of the device. It’s extremely faint, though worth mentioning because it’s annoying. It’s possible that it’s just my review unit.

Display

The Motorola XOOM’s display is swathed in Gorilla Glass and is very bright (especially in manual mode; I noticed the tablet tends to err on the side of being too dim than too bright most of the time with auto-brightness enabled), and colors are rich. Text generally looks good, though pages rendered in the Web browser looked a bit blurry and unclear — and that includes photos as well as text. The touch sensitivity on the device was exceptionally good in my tests. It’s responsive and very accurate. Motorola seems to be using a new capacitive layer that’s different than the one it uses on its smartphones, and though we couldn’t get a photo of it due to lighting (it’s barely visible), you can faintly see little copper triangles overlaid on the display.

The black plastic bezel surrounding the display on the XOOM is a decent amount thinner than the bezel on an iPad, and while I like the idea of a thinner bezel, it makes holding the tablet in one hand pretty difficult due to the XOOM’s weight and thickness. I’m not saying the XOOM is thick and heavy, I’m just saying that the limited surface area to grip with your thumb makes one-handed use a tad uncomfortable.

OS

You can almost think of Android 3.0 Honeycomb as a brand new operating system for all intents and purposes, though it does run existing apps pretty well. As far as the UI goes, it’s dark and much more unified than any previous Android release. The home screen has five pages that form a sort of virtual wall of five boxes that are swipeable to the left and right. There’s an ever-present Google search button and voice search button in the upper left corner, and in the upper right corner is the button to open the apps drawer along with a button to add app shortcuts, widgets, or change the wallpaper of your home screen.

Navigation in the new OS is done exclusively using soft buttons that take a little getting used to. One plus is that they rotate with the display so they’re always in the same position (the bottom right), though not everyone will be a fan of these, we think. There is one button that didn’t make the cut in the transition to soft keys and that’s the menu button. It’s been removed because there is a menu button in the upper right corner in apps, and while it’s a little strange at first, it definitely works as part of the tablet experience as a whole.

Gmail and other apps with the two-column layout look and work incredibly well, and are desktop-grade in my opinion. Switching to the browser, and well, it’s pretty much like having a full-fledged Chrome browser on your tablet. Your bookmarks sync effortlessly, the browser renders pages very quickly. Adobe Flash support doesn’t ship on the device, contrary to the XOOM’s advertised specs, though it will be coming in the near future (10.2 instead of 10.1 in a couple weeks, most likely).

Notifications have been redone, and honestly, I’m a bit sad. I loved the drop down shade setup in Android, though I can see how it might not be that practical on a 10-inch tablet. Growl-like notifications now appear in the lower right corner of the device and will stack up on top of each other as they appear. Following each initial notification, messages then reduce to small icons that represent each message in the status bar. You can quickly get rid of notifications by tapping the “X” next to each one, and the remaining ones will fall on each other to fill any resulting gaps.

As much as Google’s OS has improved, I still found the software a bit clunky to use at times — not because of a lack of processing power or RAM, but because it’s not always as straight forward as alternative platforms. It’s almost as if Google decided to try and pack as much in as possible to advance the tablet category forward, yet I;m not sure it has succeeded entirely. I want a tablet that’s powerful and that works as it should with minimal effort, and I kind of feel like Honeycomb is a bit scattered for my taste.

Conclusion

I’m not sure how much better an Android tablet can get right now — and this is the first one we’ve reviewed here at BGR. The Motorola XOOM packs a serious punch, and doesn’t have room to store an ice pack. I love that Motorola has been pushing forward with innovate ideas and concepts, most notably with the ATRIX 4G, and the XOOM isn’t an exception. It features great hardware, impressive specifications, and the latest Android OS designed just for tablets. There are many things to rave about with the XOOM, though there were some annoyances and frustrations that stemmed from Google’s OS for the most part and not from Motorola’s hardware.

Tablets are the new craze, and while they are selling, I personally still don’t see a huge need to have a tablet. As a toy used to discover new and incredible apps, and to use for 20 or 30 minutes a day to read and catch up on Twitter or do some emailing, sure. But the XOOM definitely can’t replace a laptop. I think that the Motorola XOOM is a great product, I’m just not 100% sold on Honeycomb at this point as an operating system. I don’t believe it’s very innovative, and I don’t find it to be any better than alternatives in terms of ease of use, intuitiveness, or wide availability of apps. With that said, the Motorola XOOM goes on sale tomorrow in the U.S. for $599 with a two-year service agreement, and I’m sure plenty of people will thoroughly enjoy it despite the aforementioned shortcomings.

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Intel CEO Paul Otellini flip-flops, says he ‘would’ve gone Android’ if he were Elop

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

It’s hard to say if Intel CEO Paul Otellini was simply misquoted the first go ’round, or if he really had a change of heart in the course of 48 hours. Either way, the most recent quotes coming from the highest of highs at Chipzilla paints a very different story than the one we first heard, and it’s beginning to look like Intel and Microsoft may eventually wage some sort of war — even if it’s one that remains strictly at the software level. Reuters is reporting that Otellini had this to say when questioned about Stephen Elop’s decision to select Windows Phone 7 as the future of Nokia’s handset business:

I wouldn’t have made the decision he made, I would probably have gone to Android if I were him. MeeGo would have been the best strategy but he concluded he couldn’t afford it.”

That contrasts starkly with comments made just days ago, where he was quoted as saying that he would’ve made “the same or a similar call” if found in Elop’s shoes. Continuing on the topic of differentiation, Otellini noted that “it would have been less hard on Android, [but] on MeeGo he could have done it.” That said, he’s confident that Intel “will find another partner,” noting that carriers “still want a third ecosystem and the carriers want an open ecosystem, and that’s the thing that drives our motivation.” Now, the real question: which Paul can be believed?

Intel CEO Paul Otellini flip-flops, says he ‘would’ve gone Android’ if he were Elop originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 19 Feb 2011 06:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Differentiation by assimilation: Nokia plays follow the leader

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The deal has been rumored for months, but before today, it was hard to believe. The world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, Nokia, announced a strategic partnership with U.S. based software company Microsoft that will drastically alter the trajectories of both companies in the smartphone market place. As part of the deal, Nokia will begin to phase out the Symbian and, to a lesser extent, MeeGo mobile operating systems, and instead adopting Microsoft’s new Windows Phone for future smartphone products. In return, Microsoft will benefit from the Finnish company being heavily invested and deeply involved in the success and progression of the Windows Phone OS.

The two companies will share marketing resources, software expertise, and industry contacts to wage war against Apple and Google in the smartphone space. But is this deal equitable? The way we see it, Microsoft gets to have its operating system pimped by the largest phone OEM on the planet and Nokia… well, they get to be reliant on Microsoft for the majority of their smartphone operating system code-base. So what has happened here? The deal has only been official for a few hours, but it looks like the benefits for Microsoft far outweigh those for Nokia, no? Nokia, with a third-party smartphone operating system in its future, is starting to look a lot more like HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and LG than the company we once knew. Is that such a bad thing though? And could it turn out to be profitable for the proud company from Finland? Hit the jump to read our thoughts.

The strategy Nokia has chosen is certainly an interesting, albeit fairly commonplace, one: differentiation by assimilation. That is, the company is looking to make its offerings stand out in a market place where, concurrently, at least four other major hardware manufacturers will be offering devices running identical software. Nokia’s former executive vice president of mobile solutions, Anssi Vanjoki, once likened Nokia adopting Android to someone who pees in their pants to keep warmThe temporary relief from the cold gives birth to a bigger problem in the end. So what makes Microsoft and Windows Phone different from Google and Android? Nokia’s new CEO and former Microsoft executive, Stephen Elop, has already said that his company will have the ability to completely customize Windows Phone, but probably won’t. Android pushers, often to the chagrin of many end-users, differentiate their offerings via heavily customized phone interfaces (to be called “experiences” if you believe the marketing speak). But, according to Mr. Elop, that doesn’t appear to be the plan. So what will be unique? Don’t get us wrong, Nokia makes excellent hardware — check out our review of the N8 if you need further proof – but is that enough to rest on? Can the company gain both U.S. and global market share while pedaling the wares of others? It’s possible, but it’s a huge gamble. There are close to 112 million Symbian smartphone users that, in the next few years, will be forced to move platforms… and that move could be away from Nokia. Forcing users off of a platform, without a clear succession path, seems like a recipe for disaster.

We’ve longed for the phone maker to invest more heavily in software, but this just feels like the easy way out. The Nokia software experience, when compared to the experiences offered by other platforms on the market, was poor… but it was Nokia’s experience. Symbian, with all of its strengths, weaknesses, and shortcomings — for better or worse — was how Nokia differentiated itself. The software is always the differentiator. Ask Apple. Why do people pay $2,000 for a MacBook Pro when you can buy a PC equivalent with more horsepower for $400 less? Because it’s pretty? No. Because they want to run Mac OS X. That’s the differentiator. Why are the Motorola XOOM and BlackBerry PlayBook getting so much media attention? Because of the hardware? No, because they will be among the first devices to run Android 3.0 and the QNX inflicted version of RIM’s BlackBerry software. There are other dual-core tablets with nearly identical specifications available now. The software is what makes these two tablets special.

Now don’t get us wrong, being the same can be profitable. The move to Android has created a huge boom for companies like HTC, Samsung, LG, and Motorola, who ran to Google and Android after their smartphone chops were undermined by Apple and the iPhone back in 2006. Mr. Elop was not shy about saying that cuts to Nokia’s heavy operating budget are on the way. Downsizing the research, development, engineering, and support staff working on Symbian — for starters — will definitely help the company’s bottom line. But it also means giving up control — the ability to adjust the corporate compass accordingly as technology changes and evolves. After all, what’s best for Windows Phone and U.S. based Microsoft may not always be what’s best for Nokia in Finland.

We admit that we’ve been calling for Nokia to take drastic measures with its smartphone division for years. The company needed to do something to globally compete with Apple and, to an even greater extent, Android. Today, that drastic move has been made. What we fear, however, is that with this move Nokia has lost its identity. It is no longer a leader, but a follower. A company that, for the foreseeable future, will have the success of its smartphone division fully hedged against the success of Microsoft. It certainly will be interesting to see how this partnership plays out, in the weeks, months, and years ahead. In the mean time, all we can say to Nokia is onnea.

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Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc vs. LG Optimus 2X… fight!

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Android is our future, the stat mavens all agree, but for all its rapid growth, Google’s OS still suffers from a shortage of top tier differentiation. This has in part been down to LG and Sony — two of the world’s biggest phone makers — spending the majority of 2010 watching the battle for Android supremacy from the sidelines (the X10 disqualified itself when it announced it neither knew nor cared what Froyo was). 2011 might just be the year of redemption for both, however, as LG will soon assault the European market with a pair of truly desirable and powerful Android smartphones in the Optimus 2X and Black, while Sony Ericsson’s well leaked portfolio of new Xperias includes the Arc, Neo and Play, each one of them coming with Gingerbread preloaded. We’ve wrapped our mitts around a pair of these high-hope devices, one from each manufacturer, and photographed the living daylights out of them sat side by side.

We humbly submit that the Xperia Arc looks and feels far more refined than LG’s admittedly well designed Optimus 2X. The Arc’s curvature seriously makes it feel like the thinnest phone we’ve ever handled and its weight is also dramatically, unreasonably minimal. Another note of import is that the 2X comes with a 4-inch screen whereas the Arc offers a more generous 4.2-inch display, yet their overall dimensions are nearly identical. All in all, we’d hardly object to having either one in our pockets, but the Arc wins it for us in terms of aesthetic appeal. Of course, the Optimus 2X has a dual-core Tegra 2 heart beating within, it’s not all about looks, though in the case of this hands-on comparison, it kind of was. We’ll have a full review of LG’s handset in the coming days, while Sony Ericsson promises the Xperia Arc will land in Europe by the end of March. You can see more of the prototype unit we got to handle in the gallery below and there’s a video comparison of the two Android newcomers after the break as well.

Continue reading Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc vs. LG Optimus 2X… fight!

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc vs. LG Optimus 2X… fight! originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 04 Feb 2011 13:41:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Amazon.com working on streaming service to combat Netflix

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

According to an unconfirmed report in The Wall Street Journal Monday, Amazon.com is in the early stages of developing a subscription streaming service that will compete with Netflix’s “Watch Instantly.” Citing anonymous sources, WSJ reports that the service will look to undercut Netflix’s offering, though no other points of differentiation were mentioned.

Amazon.com Inc. is developing a Netflix-like subscription service that would offer TV shows and movies, according to people familiar with the matter. That service would be included as a bundle with its Amazon Prime shipping service, which costs $79 a year, those people said.

Amazon Prime gives members free two-day shipping on all Amazon.com orders. It also offers overnight shipping for $3.99 per item. Lumping in streaming movies and TV shows for free with this unrelated service would be a peculiar move at best, though it would mirror Netflix’s original strategy, in a way. Though the company recently launched a streaming-only plan for $7.99 per month, Netflix first introduced Watch Instantly as a free add-on for its DVDs-by-mail service. At $79 per year, Amazon.com’s service would be $17 less expensive per year than Netflix’s least expensive streaming package.

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Motorola CEO talks smartphones, tablets and 4G; alludes to Q1 Verizon iPhone launch

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha delivered a keynote yesterday at the Credit Suisse 2010 Technology Conference, and it was quite a doozy. Topics covered included the future of Motorola’s smartphone business, tablets, 4G and even a new competitive threat coming soon to Verizon Wireless. Here are some highlights:

  • Motorola Mobility will separate from Motorola Solutions with $3.5 billion, no debt, no pension liabilities and 16,500 patents already in its portfolio. In other words, Jha is very excited about the future of Motorola’s mobile business.
  • Motorola Mobility will definitely participate in the tablet space, but it will continue to focus the bulk of its efforts on smartphones. The company will release both 7-inch and 10-inch tablets in the near future, and it views both product ranges as being “quite meaningful.”
  • Motorola will focus on software differentiation with its tablets, targeting the enterprise, international and retail market places. Jha views retail as a big opportunity for tablets.
  • Where smartphones are concerned, Motorola will continue to focus on top-tier and mid-tier devices — mid-tier devices have sold in greater volume internationally, while top-tier phones found success in the U.S.
  • When asked about 4G smartphones, Jha responded, “I will have 4G devices in the marketplace early next year.”
  • In discussing Q1 2011 guidance, Jha said first quarters are always down for Motorola and Q1 2011 will be no different. Jha also said, however, that there will potentially be a new “competitive dynamic” developing at Verizon Wireless — Motorola’s premier carrier partner in the U.S. — in the first quarter next year that could have a significant negative impact on Motorola’s first quarter. It certainly doesn’t take a decoder ring to figure out that he’s talking about the Verizon iPhone.
  • Despite the aforementioned speed bump, which could no doubt be huge, Jha is confident that Motorola Mobility will deliver profitability for the full year as it continues to diversify its product portfolio to combat the threat of a potential Verizon iPhone.

Hit the read link to listen to Jha’s complete keynote.

Thanks, ckeegan

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Entelligence: Is Android fragmented or is this the new rate of innovation?

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Entelligence is a column by technology strategist and author Michael Gartenberg, a man whose desire for a delicious cup of coffee and a quality New York bagel is dwarfed only by his passion for tech. In these articles, he’ll explore where our industry is and where it’s going — on both micro and macro levels — with the unique wit and insight only he can provide.

A few weeks ago I sat down with the father of Android, Andy Rubin. Andy’s a super smart person, having done stints at Apple, General Magic, WebTV and Danger before starting the Android project. We talked about a lot of things, and we particularly spent time discussing Android fragmentation. I’ve written in the past about my concern that the Android platform is fragmenting much like desktop Linux has over the years, and the potential for the platform to turn into a patchwork of devices and vendor specific modifications that bear little relationship with each other. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my conversation with Andy, and I’ve rewritten this column more than a few times as a result.

Today, there are at least five different versions of Android on the market. Many of them are highly customized to allow for new features and device differentiation, but that same customization also makes it harder for vendors to update them to the latest versions. New releases and versions of Android are often outdated by newer versions in the span of just a few weeks. For example, the Nexus One when released was capable of running apps like Google Earth that devices such as the Droid could not, because it ran Android 2.0, not 2.1.Tablet vendors complain their Android offerings lack features such as Android Market because Google forbids them to install the marketplace app, forcing them to create proprietary alternatives. It would appear Android is indeed fragmenting — but perhaps there are other forces at work.

When I spoke with Andy, he pointed out there are several classical symptoms of platform fragmentation. First, older APIs no longer work and break in new releases. Second, multiple application marketplaces offer different applications that lack uniformity across platforms. Both of these are true when you look at desktop Linux. Neither are true of Android.

Continue reading Entelligence: Is Android fragmented or is this the new rate of innovation?

Entelligence: Is Android fragmented or is this the new rate of innovation? originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 22 May 2010 20:21:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Samsung to announce Galaxy S smartphone, content initiatives this week

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

We’ve just received a veritable cornucopia of information around Samsung’s supposed announcements out at CTIA this week — and seeing how this is the biggest wireless show the US has to offer, you might imagine that the reveals are fairly US-focused while still hanging onto some global relevance. Here’s what we know:

  • The company’s so-called “Smart Life” philosophy for smartphone design and differentiation — something we’ve heard referred to as S Life in the past, including here at CTIA — will be formally introduced. It won’t so much be a product or a smartphone platform (as far as we can tell) so much as an overarching strategy.
  • A 1GHz applications processor will be announced as the “new standard” in Sammy’s premium smartphone segment for 2010; in all likelihood, this is the Cortex A8-based core announced in the middle of last year.
  • A huge content push will be announced (US market mercifully included) with full-length movies and shows that are “optimized” to take advantage of the company’s new Super AMOLED displays. You’ll also see some book and magazine deals get struck for straight-to-mobile delivery, but it sounds like we won’t get the straight dope on how it’ll all work (and who’s involved, exactly) this week.
  • Kicking off S Life from the hardware side will be the Galaxy S, Samsung’s big phone announcement for the week. As far as we can tell, it’ll be an Android device taking advantage of Super AMOLED and the company’s homegrown 1GHz core — and it’ll be available in the US this year.

That’s all we’ve got so far, but Sammy’s mobile prez J.K. Shin has a keynote tomorrow morning along with an event immediately afterward, so we expect to get this fleshed out in the next day or so. Stay tuned!

Samsung to announce Galaxy S smartphone, content initiatives this week originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 22 Mar 2010 18:09:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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