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Apple Announces New iPad with Retina Display, Quad-Core Graphics and 4G LTE Support, Available March 16th

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Apple’s CEO Tim Cook took the stage in San Francisco this morning to announce the next version of the iPad, as well as iOS 5.1 and a new AppleTV. The new iPad features a retina display and a faster processor. The wireless version will now support 4G LTE networks for significantly faster download speeds while on the go. The design of the new iPad looks virtually identical to the iPad 2 and the name, it seems, is "the new iPad."

The new AppleTV now supports 1080p playback and also comes with an updated user interface.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more updates.

iPad: Retina Display, Faster Processor, Better Camera

The central focus of today’s event, of course, was the next version of the iPad. Apple, in Cook’s words, wants to “redefine the category that Apple created with the original iPad.”

As expected, the highlight of the new iPad is a high-resolution display – the kind Apple likes to call a Retina Display. It features a 2048×1536 resolution (that’s 3.1 million pixels at 264ppi) and is, according to Apple, the “most ever in a mobile device.” Apple also notes that the new display also offers significantly better color saturation.

Inside the iPad, a new A5X processors now offers quad-core graphics performance that is, according to Apple, four times as fast as a comparable NVIDIA Tegra 3. It's worth noting that this is still a dual-core processor, though. Just the graphics chip is now quad-core.

The new iPad will also features a significantly better camera (5 megapixel, IR filter, face detection, etc.). The new camera will allow you to shoot video in 1080p. Maybe even more importantly, the camera software now uses stabilization to ensure your movies aren’t too shaky.

The new iPad will be 9.4 mm thin and ways 1.4 pounds. It will retail starting at $499 for the 16GB version. It will be available on March 16th in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. It will go on sale world-wide on March 23rd.

The iPad 2 will remain available for the time being, starting at $399 for the 16GB WiFi version.

4G for the iPad

Surprisingly, the new iPad will also offer support for 4G LTE wireless networks. These next-generation networks offer faster download speeds, though until now, Apple had been somewhat conservative about moving to these faster networks as there has generally been a trade-off between battery life and speed. Apple, however, says that this new version will offer the same battery life as the previous 3G iPad (10 hours of battery life, 9 hours on 4G).

The 4G version is coming to Verizon, AT&T in the U.S. and Telus, Rogers and Bell in Canada. Prices for the 4G iPad will start at $629.

The 4G version of the iPad will, it is worth noting, also support regular 3G networks.

Users will also be able to turn the 4G iPad into a personal hotspot – if the carrier supports it.

Apps: Updated iApps – Including a New iPhoto for iPad

In addition to the new hardware, Apple also talked about the app ecosystem for its tablet. Cook, of course, couldn’t help himself and had to take a stab at Android. Specifically, he noted how Twitter on a Galaxy Tab “looks like a blown-up smartphone app” while the iPad version was clearly designed for a tablet.

In addition to talking about third-party apps, Apple also announced new versions of its own productivity apps (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) for the iPad and the next version of Garageband, the company's music-creation app. iMovie, too, is getting and update with advanced planning and editing tools. It's not clear if any of these updates will also be available for first-generation iPads.

New in Apple's line-up is iPhoto for iPad, which completes Apple's lineup of iApps that are currently available for OS X. 

New AppleTV & iTunes in the Cloud

iTunes in the cloud, which was mostly focused on music until now, now offer support for movies as well. Users will be able to re-download any of the movies they have purchased on any device. These movies will be encoded in 1080p.

The reason for this is that Apple’s latest version of the AppleTV, which the company also announced today, finally supports 1080p as well. The new AppleTV also features an updated interface that makes use of the extra pixels. Just like the old AppleTV, this new version will cost $99. It will be available next week and you can pre-order starting today.

Siri Comes to Japan

In addition to all of this, Apple also today announced that Siri, it’s voice-enable personal assistant, is coming to Japan as part of the company’s iOS 5.1 update (which is also rolling out today).

The Post-PC World

Cook also used his presentation to talk about Apple’s vision of the post-PC world. In his view, it seems, the iPod started this trend, followed by the iPhone and, of course, the iPad. “Apple,” he said,”has its feet firmly planted in the post-PC future.” These devices, according to Apple, made up 76% of its revenue last year and the company sold a total of 172 Million of them. Just in the last quarter alone, Apple sold 62 million iPads.

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10:42 am


Hands-On With OnLive’s Windows 7 iPad App: Nice Tech Demo, Not That Useful Yet

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Earlier this week, we reported that OnLive was about to launch an iPad app that lets you stream a remote, OnLive-hosted Windows 7 desktop to your tablet for free. The free app appeared in the iTunes store earlier tonight and we got a chance to put its through its paces.

Given OnLive's core competency of streaming high-end games across the Internet, it doesn't come as a surprise that streaming a relatively basic Windows 7 desktop doesn't pose much of a problem for the company. Everything runs very smoothly. While there often is some perceptible lag – especially when scrolling through documents or using multi-touch gestures to zoom in and out – it's never so bad as to become a dealbreaker.

OnLive Desktop - Windows 7 on the iPad

Word, Excel and PowerPoint – But No SkyDrive Access and No Browser

So here is what you get with your free account: access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint (the 2010 versions), as well as the ability to sync documents from your desktop. Given that OnLive's business plan depends on selling you additional storage, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise that the productivity apps are pretty locked down. You can't access date your stored in Microsoft's cloud on SkyDrive, for example. Office's "Save & Send" option has been disabled to prevent this.

The free version also doesn't include access to a browser. This will come in the paid versions versions, according to OnLive, but those won't be available for a while.

You do get 2GB of free storage on OnLive's servers, though, as well as Mac and Windows apps to sync folders from your desktop to OnLive.

More Caveats

Here are a few other caveats: the free plan, which is the only one available right now, only provides "as-available" access to your desktop. Access depends on availability, so don't use this as your only option for giving that important presentation. Paid accounts, which will launch later this year, will give you priority access, but apparently won't come with a service guarantee either.

Nice Tech Demo – Not Very Useful (Yet)

For now, then, the OnLive desktop is a nice tech demo. It's clearly the child of a transitional period where we can't do everything we would like to do on our tablets yet. Editing documents isn't one of those things, though, thanks to a growing number of native apps for the iPad and while many will surely install the app just for the sake of it, I venture to guess that the free version won't find too many regular users anytime soon. In the enterprise, there may just be a niche for this, though, but only once administrators can deploy their own apps on these remote desktops.

The OnLive app also clearly shows that Windows 7 wasn't developed with tablets in mind. It works alright, but feels like a chore compared to iOS or Android.

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8:31 pm


OnLive Goes Beyond Gaming: Announces Cloud-Based Windows 7 Desktop for the iPad

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Here is some unexpected news from CES: OnLive, the company best known for streaming video games over the Internet, just announced that it will release a new iPad app later this week that will give users access to a virtual Windows 7 desktop with access to Word, PowerPoint and Excel, as well a browser (which we assume will be Internet Explorer). The free app will offer 2GB of storage. OnLive also plans to launch a pro version for $9.99 per month with 50GB of cloud storage. According to PC Magazine, the company also plans to launch an enterprise version in the future that will allow customers to run their own applications.

Given that OnLive generally pushes for more graphically demanding content through its network, running Windows 7 should prove to be rather easy for the company's engineers. The app will officially launch on Thursday, though sign-ups will launch later today.

OnLive already has some experience with the iPad, thanks to its OnLive Viewer app, which allows you to watch games others are playing on the service. OnLive full gaming app, though, is currently only available on Android, but the iPad version should launch soon as well.

How Useful is a Windows 7 Desktop on an iPad?

It'll be interesting to see how much demand there is for a service like this beyond the first surge of people who will inevitably just want to try the app for the sake of it. Given that the latest versions of Microsoft Office allow users to save their content to Microsoft's own LiveDrive service, moving data in and out of the virtual Windows 7 instance should be easy. It's not clear how much else you can do with the app beyond editing office documents, though, and given that you can already edit office documents with the help of iPad apps like CloudOn, it remains to be seen how useful this service will be for mainstream users, especially given that Windows 7 isn't exactly optimized for tablet use.



10:35 am


Kindle for iPad Gets Updated Digital Magazine Experience, Support for Print Replica Textbooks

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Amazon today launched a major update to its iOS Kindle apps. While the iPhone and iPod touch apps gets some interesting new features, though, the most important updates are for iPad owners. iPad owners now get access to an updated magazine experience that is also available on Amazon's own Kindle Fire tablet. In total, Amazon offers 400 of these magazines and newspapers, including Martha Stewart Living, Food Network Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Popular Science. Most of these magazines also come with a free 14-day trial.

Kindle magazines ipad

Print Replica Textbooks

The iPad app is now also able to display "print replica textbooks." These feature the rich formatting and layout of their print editions and offer support for notes, highlights, zoom and pan, as well as a linked table of contents. For Amazon, this is a significant move, as it tries to get a stronger foothold in the lucrative textbook market – an area where the basic Kindle was supposed to shine but was never able to make a significant impact.

All iOS Devices: Send-to-Kindle

While these features aren't available on the smaller iOS devices, all of the current iOS Kindle apps (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) now offer support for Amazon's Send-to-Kindle service and the ability to open PDFs from Mail or Safari by transferring them from iTunes or by sending them to a Send-to-Kindle email address.

 



4:12 pm


5 Million Downloads Later, Fotopedia Launches “Wild Friends”

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Fotopedia has made a name for itself as one of the premier iOS publishers for photo-based books on iOS. Founded by Jean-Marie Hullot, the former CTO of NeXT and Apple’s Applications Division, the company has now seen over 5 million downloads of its free and paid apps. Today, Fotopedia is launching its newest app, Wild Friends, in cooperation with Wild Wonders of Europe, the largest photography-based conservation communication initiative in the world. Available for free, Wild Friends features Fotopedia’s trademark high-quality photos and slideshows. In total, the app features over 2,400 photographs from sixty-nine photographers.

As the name implies, the app features images of “arctic foxes, chamois,dolphins, humpback whales, imperial eagles, monk seals, puffins – as well as less familiar creatures such as the wisent, the saiga antelope and the ghost shark.”

Fotopedia seal ipad

Normally, though, a digital coffee table book like this (and the company’s earlier apps) would be relatively static object. With this newest app, though, Fotopedia is introducing a new feature called Visual Stories, which will present a new story from one of the photographers (with accompanying photos, of course), every day.

While some of Fotopedia’s other apps are paid apps and others, including the beautiful Fotopedia Japan app, are available for free and are monetized through relatively unintrusive ads, Wild Friends doesn’t feature any third-party ads, though it does advertise the company’s other products at times.



4:47 pm


It’s Time for Apple to Allow Real Browser Competition on iOS

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Yesterday, Google launched its redesigned search app for the iPad. It features a smart, innovative design and could, with just a few extra features like bookmarks, easily become the best browser alternative to Safari on iOS. The reality, though, is that while Apple allows browser apps like the Dolphin Browser that use iOS’s built-in WebKit framework or Opera, which renders all the content on its own servers to get around Apple’s rules, none of these can be used as the default browsers on iOS. Whenever you click on a link in an email, for example, you can’t set iOS to open Opera instead of Safari. Because of this, there is almost no incentive for users to even try a third-party browser on iOS, as the system will constantly route them to Safari anyway.

Apple’s Own Browser: Adequate but not Innovative

Apple’s own browser is perfectly adequate, but as the Google app shows, users are missing out on innovations on all levels, including interface design and faster access to modern web standards on their mobile devices.

Safari on the iPad, for example, uses the same way to handle tabs as on the desktop instead of using a design that really makes use of the iPad’s touch features.

Third-Party Browsers Can’t Compete Unless Users Can Make them the Default Choice

The Google search app shows that interesting, touch-centric browser interfaces are possible. For Google, of course, search is the central metaphor for browsing the web, but you could just replace the current search screen at the center of the app with bookmarks and links to web apps and have a great browser app.

Mozilla was late to the mobile browser game, but now it’s doing a few creative things with Firefox on Android (and lets you use plugins, for example). Opera, too, is constantly pushing the envelope with its mobile browsers. iOS users, however, are more or less cut off from all of this innovation. Sure, you can install interesting apps like Dual Browser or Atomic Browser, but chances are, you will never use them because unlike Android, you can’t switch the default browser away from Safari on iOS.

Will Apple Ever Relinquish Total Control over the OS?

Apple, of course, wants to keep total control over your iOS experience. For most apps that are alternatives to built-in iOS apps (email, streaming music, to-do lists etc.), it doesn’t really matter that other apps can’t be set as the default. For browsers, though, it’s really the only way they will ever get widespread use.

Locking the browser down made sense for Apple in the early days of iOS, when apps weren’t even on the roadmap yet. Now, however, this policy feels more like it stifles innovation than that it protects users.



4:57 pm


Amazon Adds More Apps for Kindle Fire and Consumer Interest is High – Is It Time for Apple to Start Worrying?

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Amazon today announced that its new $199 Kindle Fire, which will go on sale next week, will feature apps from Facebook, Netflix, Rhapsody, Pandora and Zynga. Several thousand more apps will follow next week. Until now, there really wasn’t much of a market for tablets, there was really only a market for the iPad. Clearly, that’s changing very quickly, though. With Amazon and Barnes & Noble getting into the market, their cheaper (and smaller) tablets could hurt Apple’s position as the dominant tablet player.

While Samsung, Acer, Blackberry, Toshiba and all the other manufacturers weren’t able to sell any appreciable numbers of their tablets, things are finally looking up for Android tablets – though none of the current manufacturers are likely to play a major role during this year’s holiday season.

Just two years ago, it didn’t seem as if consumers would ever warm up to tablets, but Apple clearly showed that there is a lot of interest in these devices. With the backing of major brands like Amazon and B&N, the $199 Fire and $249 Nook Android tablets now stand a chance to challenge Apple’s early lead. The new tablets are, after all, significantly cheaper than Apple’s iPad 2. More importantly, though, the fact that there is already an existing software ecosystem for these new tablets out there will give shoppers the confidence that they aren’t losing much by choosing Amazon or B&N over Apple.

iPadVsAndroidTablet69% of Holiday Shoppers are Interested in Buying a Tablet this Year – And They are Considering the Small Android Tablets

According to a new study by consumer electronics review site Retrevo.com, 69% of U.S. consumers are interested in buying a tablet this holiday season (or are at least interested in learning more about them). Out of these, 44% would consider a 7” Android tablet and another 44% say they don’t know enough about Amazon’s tablet to make a decision yet. The Nook tablet was announced after this study ended, but chances are there will be similar interested in it as well.

In Retrevo’s study, slightly more respondents said they are planning to buy a Kindle Fire over the iPad (12% vs. 10%). That’s all very much within the margin of error and when it comes to making an actual purchase, these intentions often count for very little.

One interesting sidenote: a third of respondents in the Retrevo study thought the Kindle Fire was just another eReader from Amazon.

Given these numbers, I think Apple will have another great season for the iPad, but the cheaper, smaller Android tablets now stand a chance to take a major bite out of Apple’s market. Consumers who wouldn’t have considered a Samsung tablet will likely take a close look at the Fire or Nook tablets now and may just opt for these instead of paying more for an iPad.



6:48 pm


Ford Updates its MyFord Touch Interface: Easier to Use, Faster and Less Distracting

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Ford today announced a major upgrade to its MyFord Touch user interface that allows drivers to control virtually all aspects of their cars infotainment system with the help of voice commands, a touchscreen and dedicated buttons on the dashboard. The earlier MyFord Touch system, which was available on a number of 2011 and 2012 model year cars, has a reputation for being overly complex and slow. The update the company announced today greatly simplifies the user experience and also offers a major performance boost, resulting in faster screen redraws and a more fluid user interface. Ford also enhanced compatibility with Bluetooth smartphones (which now offers iPad support as well), improved the voice recognition experience and upgraded the turn-by-turn navigation system.

The new system will make its debut on the 2013 Ford Escape, Flex and Taurus. Current owners will be happy to hear that Ford plans to send them a USB stick with the software upgrade by early next year. This upgrade will be free and installing it will be as easy as plugging the USB driver into the car and waiting for the install to finish.

I got a chance to test the new system out during a trip to Ford’s headquarter in Dearborn, MI last week (see disclosure below).

myford_touch_redesign_1

Driven to Distraction: MyFord Touch 1.0

With SYNC, Sync Applink and MyFord Touch, Ford was at the forefront of the auto industry to bring voice recognition, touch screens, apps and connectivity to its cars at a time when most of these features were only available in luxury cars. At the same time, though, while these new systems helped to drive sales, the company’s reputation has suffered somewhat over the last year or so as these advanced systems turned out to be somewhat too complex, distracting and cumbersome for many drivers.

Smarter User Interface

As Ford user interface design engineer Jennifer Brace told me last week, Ford conducted a number of user clinics with current MyFord Touch owners over the course of the last year and tried to address their main concerns with this update.

The new interface does away with most of the clutter that made the old one hard to use. While it keeps the same basic layout with four quadrants of the screen (Entertainment, Climate, Navigation and Phone), every single screen has been redesigned by Ford’s engineers to make using the system more intuitive. The whole system now features simpler graphics, larger fonts and just focuses on providing more glancable information to the driver without unnecessary distractions.

Other design upgrades include more obviously pressable buttons, a move towards a more standard icon set (think magnifying glasses for zooming in and out and a gear icon for changing your settings etc.), and more 3D landmarks in the maps app as well as easier to read street names.

Faster

Besides sprucing up the interface, Ford’s engineers also worked on making the whole experience faster while keeping the same hardware. Indeed, as Ford told me, the 2013 model year cars the updated system will make its debut on will actually feature the exact same hardware as the old models (partly in order to ensure compatibility for current owners). The speed updates – which are quite significant when you see the old and new software side-by-side – are solely based on optimizing the software.

The video blow explains the update and new features in more detail:

Disclosure: Ford provided this author with transportation to its Dearborn, MI headquarters, as well as lodging and meals.



5:01 am


Study: Tablet Users Love to Read the News, Still Reluctant to Pay for It

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Consuming news ranks, according to a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, among the most popular things adults in the U.S. do with their tablets. Reading news sites and watching news-related video is about as popular as sending and receiving email, for example, and more popular than using social networking services. As the news industry struggles to find viable business models in this new world, though, one number that stands out is the fact that only 14% of U.S. adults have paid for news directly on their tablets.

According to this report, though, 23% of users also have “a subscription to a print newspaper or magazine that they say includes digital access.” This brings the total number of those who have paid access to news on their tablets to over 30% (assuming there is some overlap here, too). Only 21% of respondents were willing to pay $5 for news access, though, and 10% would pay $10.

Apps vs Browsers | Project for Excellence in Journalism  PEJ

It’s worth noting, though, that this data was gathered before the launch of iOS5. Some early data suggests that the Newsstand feature Apple built into its new operating system could boost sales for news-related apps. It remains to be seen if this is a real trend or just driven by curiosity as users try out this new feature, though.

More Data About Tablet Users

According to the Pew study, about 11% of all U.S. adults now own “some kind of tablet.” More than 80% of those who owned tablets said they owned an iPad, by the way. 2% didn’t know the brand of their tablet.

Other interesting data points: [list]

  • tablet users tend to be more highly educated and have a higher household income than U.S. adults overall
  • tablet users consume more news than the average U.S. adult and prefers reading news over watching it
  • only 21% of users mostly use apps to consume news.
  • those who download a specific news app mostly do so because they like the brand of the news organization (84%) and aren’t deterred by negative reviews [/list]

The Pew team put together a handy infographic with all the main data points from this study:

 

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4:36 pm


Instapaper 4.0 Brings Redesigned Interface, Wikipedia Support and Search to its iPhone and iPad Apps

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Instapaper,  the popular distraction-free offline reading app for iOS, was probably among the first few apps I installed on both my iPhone and iPad and it has never left their respective homescreens since. Today, its developer Marco Arment launched version 4 of the app. It’s available in iTunes now and brings numerous new features that both new and existing users will appreciate. Among these are a redesigned interface , the ability to multi-select articles to archive, delete or move them in bulk, the ability to look up words in Wikipedia and support for footnotes from most websites.

The new design, which is most noticeable on the iPad, moves away from the list view and towards a more grid-like display of your saved articles. According to Instapaper’s developer, this makes for a more touch-friendly interface. The navigation options on the iPad are also now always in the left sidebar.

On the iPhone, the changes are a bit more subtle, but regular users will appreciate that the top status bar is now off by default, giving you more space for your articles (there is an option to turn it back on, though). With the status bar gone, though, you can obviously not check the time while you’re reading. To do so, you have to click on the Actions button in the lower toolbar, which will let the status bar slide back in for a moment.

More Social

Instapaper now also lets you connect your Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts to pull in all the articles your friends have shared on these services. Until now, Instapaper only showed articles your friends liked on these services when they were also Instapaper users. It’s worth noting, though, that these links aren’t downloaded in the text-only view by default, but that you actually have to open up the actual website in the app first and tap the “Read Later” button before they are saved. This will likely make publishers happy, as they can still count ad impressions, though it may confuse the app’s users a bit at first.

Paid Search

One interesting new feature is also the ability to search through the articles you have already downloaded. This is a paid feature, however, available through in-app purchasing and Paypal. This new features costs $2.99 per 3 months.

But There’s More…

Other minor updates include better support for displaying the names of authors and publications, support for Wikipedia definitions, footnotes (though, arguably, only a few websites really use them), and an app directory that showcases Instapaper-compatible apps.

There are, of course, a number of smaller tweaks as well. You can find a full list here.



3:35 pm


Kindle Fire: A Minor Threat to the iPad, Major Threat to Other Android Tablets

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Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet runs Android, has a nice screen, is fast, cheap ($199), features an innovative browser, and – thanks to being an Android tablet at heart – offers support for thousands of apps out of the box. I doubt, however, that it’s a major threat to the iPad. The tablet manufacturers that should be very worried however, are those who are also in the Android business, including Barnes & Noble with its $249 Nook Color. The reason for this, I think, is Amazon’s superior ecosystem and the low, low price.

Before the Kindle Fire, There Was No Android Tablet Market

My basic theory of the tablet market until now was always that there really wasn’t one – there was only an iPad market (I must have picked this idea up from someone, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I first heard it). The Android tablets on the market today are about as expensive as Apple’s iPad, but consumers just don’t want them at that price point. In terms of hardware, they are often comparable with the iPad, though the software still lags behind in some areas.

When you talk about tablets to mainstream users, though, all they think about is the iPad. That may be due to Apple’s brand and smart marketing, or the failure of the other manufacturers to position and price their devices in the right way. The result so far has been very clear, though: Apple can barely keep up with demand and the others couldn’t find buyers.

The Kindle Fire: Let The Android Tablet Price Wars Begin

At $199, however, the Kindle Fire could change this. I doubt it will hurt the iPad (though it may siphon off some users), but it will hurt the other Android tablet manufacturers.

The Fire is a pared-down tablet – no doubt about it. It’s small, doesn’t feature a camera, and there is no optional 3G connection either. It’s a perfectly capable tablet, though, and does the things most users want to do on their tablets: surf the web (with the fast new Silk browser, that shouldn’t be a problem), read books, read magazines and watch movies and TV shows. All of this, Amazon is giving users for a price nobody else can currently match. There may not be a camera on the Fire, but I don’t think that’s a dealbreaker for many potential buyers. It does what most consumers want to do with their tablet and at $199, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon ended up with supply issues ahead of this year’s holiday season.

What About the Nook?

As a 7” tablet from a company known mostly for selling books, the Kindle Fire also obviously competes directly with the $249 Nook Color from Barnes & Noble. The price difference here may only be $50, but I doubt B&N will sell a lot of Nooks (even if they reduce the price to $199, too) given that Amazon’s ecosystem is vastly superior to B&N’s.

Will Users Want a Basic 7” Tablet?

The tablet market outside of the iPad world is still young. It still remains to be seen whether consumers will really take to smaller tablets. I have no doubt, though, that many will look at the full-price competition from Samsung, Acer and others and buy the $199 Amazon tablet instead (and maybe a basic $79 Kindle as a stocking stuffer as well).



4:58 pm


Amazon Announces $199 Kindle Fire Tablet, $149 Kindle touch 3G, $99 Kindle touch and $79 Kindle

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Amazon today unveiled its long-rumored tablet: the Kindle Fire. Based on Android, but with a custom-designed user interface, the Kindle tablet will cost $199 and go on sale on November 15. It’s available for pre-order now. The company’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos also announced a new version of the Kindle eReader: the Kindle Touch. This device uses the same E-Ink display as the regular Kindle, but uses some basic multi-touch capabilities instead of the regular Kindle’s keyboard and buttons.  Pricing for the Kindle touch will start at $99 with support for Amazon’s Special Offers. If you don’t want to see Amazon’s ads on the device, you will have to pay $139. The version with support for 3G will set you back $149 with Special Offers and $189 without. Finally, Amazon is also launching a very basic Kindle model without touch or keyboard for $79 with special offers and $109 without.

As far as we can see, the current Kindle models with keyboard will remain on the market for the time being.

Kindle Fire

kindle_fireAmazon’s tablet doesn’t quite rival the iPad in terms of basic features. There is no 3G, no camera and no microphone, for example. It does, however, come with a 7” multi-touch capable 1024×600 glass display, a dual-core processor and 8GB of built-in storage.

Amazon promises about  8 hours of battery life of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback (assuming the wireless is off). It should take about 4 hours to fully charge the device.

Amazon, of course, is also using its current library of books, magazines and videos to market the device. The Kindle Fire will have easy access to all of Amazon’s products. The company is also expecting to see special interactive editions of numerous magazines (including Vanity Fair, Wired, and GQ) for the Kindle Fire.

As far as standard Android apps go, the Kindle Fire will support Amazon’s own Android App Store, which currently has about 10,000 apps in it.

As far as the specs go, the Kindle Fire is comparable to the Nook Color in most respects (the screen size, weight and battery life are virtually identical, though the Nook only has a single-core processor). The $199 price point sets it apart from its competition, though. The Nook Color costs $249.

Browsing with Amazon Silk

silk_browserOne surprising feature of the Kindle Fire is the new built-in Silk browser. With Silk, Amazon is rethinking how a browser should work in the age of cloud computing (though one could argue that Opera Turbo already pioneered some of its technologies). Silk uses Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing network to offload a lot of the computing necessary to render a page. Amazon will also pre-load pages it feels sure you will visit next. The browser also keeps a persistent connection to the EC2 network open so that it can respond to new requests faster.

The New Kindle Lineup:

(click on image to see a larger version)

new_kindle_lineup



3:45 pm


Tonara: Disrupting the Sheet Music Business One Note at a Time

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Using the iPad to display sheet music isn’t newTonara, however, adds some much-needed functionality to these scores which its competitors just can’t mach: it listens to you while you play and automatically flips pages. The Israel-based company competed in TechCrunch’s Disrupt Startup Battlefield last week, but despite its great presentation, the competition’s judges didn’t think there was really a market for a smart sheet music app. I beg to differ. I think Tonara will set the benchmark for 21st century sheet music apps for those of us who play piano, violin, flute or other polyphonic and monophonic instruments (indeed, its flexibility is what makes it so great).

Getting Started

So how does it work? Once installed, the app comes with a number of pre-loaded scores on it already (mostly classical), but also features an in-app store for buying new scores for between $0.99 and $2.99, depending on their length. Then, you simply open up the score and start playing. Tonara uses the iPad’s microphone to follow along and a moving bar keeps tap on where in the score you currently are. Make a mistake and stop? Tonara will notice and just let you pick up from anywhere before that point.

Check out the video below for some of the more advanced features, including the ability to record sessions, how to use the metronome feature and a brief walk-through of the advanced settings:

Some Small Issues, But More Than Worth a Try

I’ve tested the app extensively over the last few days and highly enjoyed the experience. The store could benefit from some additional diversity, though. It’s mostly out-of-copyright classical music right now – which is perfectly fine, of course – but Tonara hopes to get some sheet music publishers on board so it can offer a wider range of scores.

With regards to how well it works, I would say that it’s great about 90% of the time. Sometimes, though, the cursor moves ahead too fast and sometimes it can’t find my place in the score again after I stop and correct myself (something that happens a bit more often that I’d like to admit).

Still, if you are a musician, I can only recommend this app. It’s a great first release and will only get better as the app matures.



5:01 pm


United Airlines Pilots Go Paperless With 11,000 iPads

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We have seen a number of airlines trial iPad-based electronic flight bags. A regular flight bag, the one you see pilots pull behind them at the airport consists of all the necessary ground maps, in-flight charts and manuals they need to get you safely from one point to another – that’s 12,000 sheets of paper in total. Now, United is the first airline to completely switch to iPad-based flight bags for all of its pilots. By the end of the year, all United and Continental pilots will have switched to iPads loaded with Jeppesen’s Mobile FliteDeck software. This software, by the way, is freely available in the app store for anybody, though you have to pay a subscription fee to get access to all of Jeppesen’s data.

FliteDeck only launched in July, so United is definitely on the cutting edge here. It’s interesting that United chose to go with the iPad-based Mobile FliteDeck, as the company is only marketing this product to general and business aviation customers. For commercial customers, the company offers FliteDeck Pro, which runs on Windows-based tablets PCs.

To get an idea of what Mobile FliteDeck looks like in practice, here is a short introduction video from Jeppesen:

In total, United expects to save about 326,000 gallons of fuel by using iPads instead of heavy paper manuals. On an airplane, after all, keeping every extra pound up in the air costs money.

It’s worth noting that United is relatively far behind when it comes to bringing WiFi to its fleet, so chances are that your pilot will actually use the iPad for its designated purpose and won’t be watching YouTube videos. It’s also worth noting that these tablet-based systems are really just stop-gap solutions, as both Airbus and Boeing, as well as various third-party manufacturers offer built-in electronic flight bags that integrate with the airplane’s existing screens and avionics systems. Chances are, if you are flying on a modern Airbus today, for example, your pilots have a full keyboard to access all this data as a built-in solution already.

 

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3:26 pm


Skype WiFi Comes to iOS: Get Online for $0.06 Per Minute

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If you’re a frequent traveller, you know how much of a hassle paid WiFi networks can be. For a while now, recent Microsoft acquisition Skype has been trying to make things a bit easier by giving its users the ability to pay for WiFi access with the money they already have on their Skype accounts. Even better, Skype WiFi access is metered by the minute, so you don’t have to pay for an expensive hourly or daily pass just because you need to send an email from your laptop. Prices start at $0.06 per minute, though may be higher depending on the provider. Until now, Skype Wifi was only available for Windows machines and Macs, but starting today, you will also be able to use Skype’s new Wifi app for iOS to get online.

Once opened, the Skype WiFi app simply recognizes that you are on a network that supports payment with Skype credits (there are about a million of these worldwide). Once you sign in, you simply click the “Go Online” button and start using the Internet. Just remember to also go back to the app and click “Disconnect” before you get on your plane or leave that coffee shop in Rome.

Skype ios app wifi

For travellers who don’t want to pay roaming costs while abroad and who just want to get online quickly at the airport to download a book or magazine before a flight, this app could come in very handy. There are no caps on data usage while you are online and you only pay for the time you were actually using the WiFi. Once online, you can also use Skype to make phone calls.

For most people, this is probably a cheaper option than paying for a daily pass, though frequent travellers are probably still better off with monthly data plans from Boingo and similar companies. In order to give people a chance to try Skype WiFi, access will be free anywhere Skype credit is accepted “from Saturday 20th August 00:00 till Sunday 21st August 23:59 BST for a maximum of 60 minutes.”

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3:41 pm