Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mozilla releases Firefox 4 app for Android

Tabbed-browsing

Mozilla's Firefox 4, the latest release of one of the Web's most popular browsers, is now available as an Android app.

The Firefox 4 app hit Google's Android Market on Tuesday and includes a few features designed to connect desktop or laptop browsing to smartphones and tablets.

Start-page-screen Users can sync their browsing history, bookmarks, tabs and passwords on every computer, smartphone and tablet they have -- as long as they have Firefox installed.

The Firefox 4 app can even launch websites on an Android device right where a user left off on the Firefox 4 browser at home. This feature, for example, could be used to find directions on a website on a home or work computer, then pull up the same site and information on an Android phone.

In typical Firefox fashion, Mozilla has added plug-in "personas" that allow users to change the colors and even add images to the toolbars in the browser.

Firefox 4 for Android (versions 2.0 and newer) also features an "Awesome Screen" that enables one-tap access to bookmarks, history and a user-curated list of search engines.

Twitter integration, tabbed browsing, search for text on a Web page and saving images from websites to a PDF format are other included features.

And Firefox 4 for Android is also available in more than 10 languages as of launch day.

Mozilla, being the open-source and nonprofit community of programmers both paid and volunteer that it is, also released a Firefox app for Maemo on Tuesday. Maemo is a Linux-based open-source operating system for Nokia devices.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by NEWS · 0

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why a fall iPhone 5 release could be brilliant for Apple

iphone 4

Don’t expect to see the iPhone 5 until this fall, according to the The Loop and several other sites with insider Apple sources.

If true, the news would be a pretty major change for Apple, which has traditionally announced new iPhone models early in the summer. But I don’t think a fall delay would be the end of the world for Apple — in fact, it could end up being one of the wisest decisions Apple has ever made.

Here’s why:

LTE - There’s just about zero chance that the iPhone 5 would include support for LTE 4G networks if Apple was aiming for a summer release. Instead, that schedule would point to an LTE 4G iPhone coming in 2012. Apple isn’t in a rush to get to 4G (remember that the first iPhone only supported 2G networks), primarily because it doesn’t want to get stuck with first-generation LTE chipsets that are power-hungry and take up lots of internal space.

But if Apple aims to get the iPhone 5 out for the fall, it’s a different story altogether. The company may be able to take advantage of newer LTE chipsets that are smaller and more efficient. Also, by that point in the year both Verizon and AT&T will have extended their LTE 4G networks to cover more of the country.

Obscene anticipation – If you thought the typical wait for a new Apple product whipped gadget geeks into a frenzy, prepare for a hurricane of iPhone 5 news, rumors and anticipation if Apple delayed it until the fall. By this point, we’re used to our typical new iPhone fix in the summer. Without it, we’ll be shaking like addicts desperate for our next hit.

Let’s not forget that Apple just released the Verizon iPhone in February — delaying the iPhone 5 to the fall would serve to build up more anticipation than a spring release, which likely wouldn’t have as much impact.

Coordination with iPad 3, iTunes/MobileMe cloud services - With several rumors pointing to an iPad 3 coming this fall as well, offering the iPhone 5 at that point would be a clever one-two punch for Apple. They would both serve as flagship devices for iOS 5 (which is also rumored to come this fall), and Apple could even offer incentives to buy the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 together.

The release of a new iPad and iPhone at the same time would also sell the power of Apple’s upcoming MobileMe and rumored cloud-based iTunes services. From what we know so far, Apple is working on allowing users to stream media, instead of storing it physically on their devices. That sort of universal access to media would definitely appeal to users rocking both the iPhone 5 and iPad 3. (Then again, the features will most likely be available to most older iPhone and iPad models as well.)

VB Mobile SummitCalling all mobile executives: This April 25-26, VentureBeat is hosting its inaugural VentureBeat Mobile Summit, where we’ll debate the five key business and policy challenges facing the mobile industry today. Participants will develop concrete, actionable solutions that will shape the future of the mobile industry. The invitation-only event, located at the scenic and relaxing Cavallo Point Resort in Sausalito, Calif., is limited to 180 mobile executives, investors and policymakers. We’ve pretty much finalized the invite list, but have a few spots left. Request an invitation.

Monday, March 28, 2011 by NEWS · 0

Nintendo 3DS Components Cost Just USD 101

Nintendo 3DS Components Cost Just USD 101

Do you know that Nintendo's 3DS handheld gaming console actually costs just USD 101, even though it sells at a cost of USD 249.99? According to a preliminary estimate by UBM TechInsights, this is the total estimated cost of the hardware that goes into making the 3DS, as reported by Eurogamer.





That being said, it cannot be discounted that the extra cost of USD 149 can be accounted for by the money being spent in several years of research and development as well as general labor, packaging and distribution costs. Nintendo follows a strategy similar to that used by Apple when it sells its gadgets for a higher cost right from the start, unlike Microsoft and Sony, who are known to sell their consoles at a loss and then making up for those losses from the software sales.


by NEWS · 0

Rs 15,000-tablet PC from HCL Info

HCL Infosystems is all set to launch its range of made-in-India tablet PCs, with prices starting from about Rs 15,000. A formal announcement is expected this week, a source familiar with the development said.

"The Android-based HCL ME Tablets will be available in 7-inch and 10-inch screen sizes and three price points" Rs 14,990, Rs 25,790, and Rs 32,990.

The entry-level HCL ME AE7 comes with 800 MHz processor, 7-inch display, memory specification of 256MB DDR2; NAND Flash 2GB (in-built), Micro SD card for expandability up to 8GB besides 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi support. The mid-level HCL ME AM7 and the top-end HCL ME AP10A are more feature-rich.

HCL is betting on a local application store to woo buyers, and is also in talks with various telecom service providers for bundled solutions. Initially, HCL ME Tablet will be launched in Delhi NCR and over the next fortnight it will be rolled out in other

HCL Infosystems is all set to launch its range of made-in-India tablet PCs, with prices starting from about Rs 15,000. A formal announcement is expected this week, a source familiar with the development said.

"The Android-based HCL ME Tablets will be available in 7-inch and 10-inch screen sizes and three price points" Rs 14,990, Rs 25,790, and Rs 32,990.

The entry-level HCL ME AE7 comes with 800 MHz processor, 7-inch display, memory specification of 256MB DDR2; NAND Flash 2GB (in-built), Micro SD card for expandability up to 8GB besides 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi support. The mid-level HCL ME AM7 and the top-end HCL ME AP10A are more feature-rich.

HCL is betting on a local application store to woo buyers, and is also in talks with various telecom service providers for bundled solutions. Initially, HCL ME Tablet will be launched in Delhi NCR and over the next fortnight it will be rolled out in other parts of the country.

But, in a market saturated with tablets such as Samsung Galaxy, Olive Pad and Dell Streak besides the iconic iPad, can ME tablet create a buzz? Tech expert Mr Kishore Bhargava feels that low price points alone are not enough to excite the market. It's about features, look and feel as well. A possible downside he feels is that the product is based on Android 2.2 and not Android Honeycomb, the new version of the mobile operating system designed for tablets.

"Also the base memory is low," Mr Bhargava opined.

An HCL Infosystems spokesperson, however, says, "Let us wait for the announcement. We have to be competitive in the market and we are sure that the standard globally available products will not work in India as they would need customisation for Indian users."

parts of the country.

But, in a market saturated with tablets such as Samsung Galaxy, Olive Pad and Dell Streak besides the iconic iPad, can ME tablet create a buzz? Tech expert Mr Kishore Bhargava feels that low price points alone are not enough to excite the market. It's about features, look and feel as well. A possible downside he feels is that the product is based on Android 2.2 and not Android Honeycomb, the new version of the mobile operating system designed for tablets.

"Also the base memory is low," Mr Bhargava opined.

An HCL Infosystems spokesperson, however, says, "Let us wait for the announcement. We have to be competitive in the market and we are sure that the standard globally available products will not work in India as they would need customisation for Indian users."

by NEWS · 0

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Microsoft offers $7.5M for 666,624 IPv4 addresses

Microsoft has agreed to pay $7.5 million to purchase a block of 666,624 IPv4 addresses from bankrupt Canadian telecom equipment maker Nortel in a move that some see as a signal of the increasing value of IPv4 addresses.

Last week, Nortel filed a motion seeking approval for the sale from the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. If the deal is approved, Microsoft would assume control of the IPv4 addresses, currently owned by Nortel, for about $11.25 a piece.

About 470,000 of the addresses will be available for immediate use by Microsoft, while the remaining will be released to the company at the end of the bankruptcy proceedings, according to court documents filed in connection with the proposed sale.

News of the proposed deal comes just weeks after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that it had handed out its last block of IPv4 addresses, and that any supplies remaining with regional registries would soon run out.

Some have speculated that a black market for IPv4 addresses will form as their supply begins to wind down and more organizations are faced with the costs and risks involved in a migration to the IPv6 protocol.

ICANN and regional registrars have noted that the remaining IPv4 addresses will go to entities that demonstrate an immediate need for them.

The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) has put in place new rules that allow companies to forecast their address needs for only three months at a time instead of the previous one year period.

Microsoft's plans to purchase Nortel's entire block of IPv4 address in this environment has prompted some discussion among members of the North American Network Operators' Group NANOG).

Some posters on the group's mailing list speculated that Microsoft was buying the addresses in order to resell them at a later date. "They can only get them for free from ARIN if they can document an immediate demand," one poster on NANOG noted.

"Perhaps they don't have an immediate demand, and are simply stockpiling addresses for later use post ARIN depletion? Or perhaps they hope to make a profit then by selling them to someone else," the poster noted.

Others wondered how Microsoft could purchase the address block when ARIN polices required that the blocks be returned by Nortel to a common pool where others could use it. One poster noted that the "recipient organization has to show justified need," in order to get the blocks.

In one post on NANOG, John Curran, the CEO of ARIN, appeared to suggest that the organization would be willing to go to court to explain IPv4 allocation policy.

"ARIN will indeed administer the policy as adopted, and will explain it as necessary in various courtrooms," Curran noted. It could not be immediately verified if the poster was indeed Curran.

Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2009. Since then the company has been selling its assets in a bid to try and raise money to pay off creditors.

According to court documents, Nortel began attempting to sell the IP numbers in late 2010 after it realized their potential value.

The court appeared to acknowledge the value of IPv4 address when it noted that limited supply of IPv4 addresses offers an "opportunity to realize value from marketing the Internet Numbers, which opportunity will diminish over time as IPv6 addresses are more widely adopted."

Nortel received inquiries from 80 potential buyers and signed non-disclosure agreements with 14 of them as part of its preliminary efforts to find a suitable buyer.

The company received final bids from four purchasers this January and settled on the Microsoft offer in March because it represented the highest and best offer the court documents noted.

Domain Incite, a blog that covers the domain name space, noted that the $11.25 per address that Microsoft has agreed to pay is more than what one would expect to pay.

"Remember, there's no intellectual property or traffic associated with these addresses -- they're just routing numbers," Kevin Murphy, the blog's editor, noted.

Based on that price, the total value of the entire IPv4 address space is in excess of $48 billion, he noted.

Microsoft did not respond immediately to a request for comment.


Thursday, March 24, 2011 by NEWS · 0

Nintendo hails 3DS midnight launch success

Nintendo UK hailed its midnight Nintendo 3DS launch a success this morning, as thousands of gamers across the UK finally got their hands on its brand new handheld console.

The platform holder held an official launch event at London's Old Billingsgate in the lead-up to launch, where BRIT award winner Plan B, rock band Hadouken and girl group Parade performed alongside live comedy from Russell Kane.

The evening then quickly focussed on launch events running along London's Oxford Street, where Steet Fighter producer, Yoshinori Ono was in good spirits, mingling with the crowd and challenging those in the 400-strong queue to a bout of Super Street Fighter IV 3D (he mostly won).

At the front of the official line was 22-year-old Marwan Elgamal - the same man who claimed the UK's first Wii - who told CVG he'd been queuing for the best part of a day for the prize of being the UK's first Nintendo 3DS customer.

"I've been queuing since 1am, so probably about 22 hours," he said. "I just love Nintendo so much and the 3DS is amazing so that's why I'm here - I really want one. I've been a Nintendo fan since I was born - my favourite series is the Legend of Zelda."

Hundreds of customers swarmed London's shopping capital at GAME, HMV, Currys and more for a chance to get their hands on the device, and it's unsurprising that Nintendo was quick to hail the UK launch a success.

"I tell you what, I'm not feeling very strong because I've been on my feet all day running around stores, being at the event, but it's all been fantastic," Nintendo UK GM, David Yarnton told CVG. "I don't feel the pain at all because there are so many people here excited to get the Nintendo 3DS. We're really happy with the response.

"I've been down to GAME and they had a lot of people queuing down there as well and we know all over the country almost a thousand stores are opening at midnight. We've had something like 140,000 pre-orders which is a record number. It just shows that people who have sampled and read about it are really looking forward to it."

He added: "Actually the really great thing about the event is I've actually picked up about 15 new Mii characters (laughs) so It's been great. Hopefully the public can now help me with the StreetPass Quest!"

UK marketing manager, James Honeywell added: "I agree, it's been fantastic. The fans have turned up, come out late at night and clearly this is something they're very passionate about. We feel really good about it, hopefully they feel really good about it, and hopefully they really enjoy the product."

Down the road from HMV, specialist retail giant GAME reported similar midnight launch success, with GAME Group marketing director Anna-Marie Mason encouraging those who missed out on the launch time madness to come down and pick up a system of their own.

"It's been a really good evening and there's been genuine excitement all day," she told CVG. "People have been queuing from really early on this evening and it's turned into a really good event.

You can see the mixture in the queue is what we expected; hardcore gamers plus mass appeal, so it's been a really good evening.

"We've been really, really impressed by how much people know about the device before they've even played it - they've really done their homework - and as soon as we let people through the doors to try demo units that's when the excitement started to build because it sounds really cheesy, but they genuinely didn't believe their eyes."

Mason told CVG she's confident stock will hold out and those that didn't make it out this morning should come down and sample "a turning point in gaming".

"I think genuinely, not being here at the start, if you're really into your games you really missed a bit of a turning point in gaming tonight," she said. "Get out this week and get one because what this machine is capabile of doing is truly brilliant for gaming."

by NEWS · 0

Facebook Questions relaunched as limited public beta

After nearly a year of private beta testing, Facebook has released a new version of its Questions feature. The new release is available in a limited public beta, and while it will become available much more broadly than the private beta, right now it’s still only offered in English.

Questions now takes the focus off public inquiries (a market already dominated by various Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers and Quora). Instead, it focuses on soliciting recommendations from friends. Facebook argues that while multiple places on the Internet allow you to ask questions to the general population, very few allow you to get responses directly from your friends, and so that’s what the social networking giant is focusing on.

All questions are still public, and answers by all users to the same question are listed on the same page. The difference is that each user gets a personalized view of the responses, ranked by what their friends voted on. Think of each answer as an anonymous poll where your friends’ answers are emphasized.

Users can either add their own response, or just check a box to agree with answers already given by others. Specific places or products can be quickly included by linking to the appropriate Facebook page. Users can still ask open-ended questions on the service if they want to, but the News Feed will mostly highlight requests for advice from friends.

The updated version will first be rolled out to current testers. When they start asking questions, the feature will automatically be pushed to their friends. This is what I mean by “limited” - it’s not just offered to a select few beta testers, but it will mainly spread through the networks of friends on the site. That being said, if you don’t want to wait for one of your friends to ask a question on their profile in order to use the new feature, you can get opt in yourself by navigating to facebook.com/questions.

“Like many of our products, Questions originated as people began using Facebook in a new and unexpected way,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “People would update their status with a question, and their friends would answer in the comments. We saw this and began thinking about how we could make this interaction more useful. Over the summer, we began testing Questions with a small group of people, and today we are beginning to roll it out to everyone.”

by NEWS · 0

Firefox 4 improves tabs and speed

Mozilla released the latest version of its flagship Web browser Firefox this week. Given that Google Chrome releases a new version of its browser every six weeks, it may seem as if Firefox has been slowing its pace. Not exactly, although Firefox 4 was delayed by a few months.

Firefox 4 is a major upgrade to version 3.6. The first thing you will notice is the user interface changes. Of note, tabs for each open page are now along the top of the window rather than underneath the address bar. Mozilla claims this will save on screen real estate since it meshes the tab and title bars together.

My favorite tab-related addition is app tabs. Users now can have Firefox pin tabs permanently to the left side of the tab bar so they are always open and updating in the background. I set one up for Gmail, Facebook and Twitter and now want the feature in all browsers.


Photo
Photo

Aesthetics aside, Firefox 4 feels much faster compared to the previous version both in page rendering and interface responsiveness. I used to be a heavy Firefox user, but switched to Apple's Safari as Firefox began to feel bloated and unresponsive. Those lags and delays are nonexistent in 4.0, which makes Firefox feel its lean former self.

I don't believe in hard benchmarks for browser tests at this point because as long as you are using the latest version of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome or Safari, pages are going to load quickly with only milliseconds in differences between them all.

The one thing that can speed up Firefox is its support for hardware acceleration. Traditional browsers have relied on a user's CPU to render pages, but browsers are starting to shift some rendering tasks to a machine's dedicated graphics processor. This can speed up the rendering of text and images on Web pages.

Firefox Sync is another feature Mozilla "borrowed" from Chrome. You now can sync your bookmarks, settings, passwords, browsing history and open tabs across multiple computers so you won't be missing anything whether you are using Firefox at work or at home.

If you are a Safari or Chrome user, there is no reason to switch unless you are a browser junkie.

If you are using any version of Microsoft Internet Explorer other than the just-released 9.0, I'd look at Firefox as an alternative.

If you still are running Internet Explorer 6, run, don't walk, to Mozilla's website and download Firefox.

Even Microsoft is recommending people stop using IE 6 at this point.

by NEWS · 0

Google Android 3.0 "Honeycomb": Open source no more

In a disappointing move, Google has restricted access to the tablet-oriented version of Android, also known as Honeycomb. Version 3.0 of Android, which many have called a fork of the mobile OS (and now it looks like they were right), is now closed source, with access only going to OEMs and specific developers. While Google claims that they don’t want people experimenting with the OS on smartphones for which it wasn’t designed, one has to wonder if there aren’t other motivations for the move.


A shortcut that certainly goes to the heart of whether Android truly is “open source.” In fact, it goes right to the heart of whether Android’s “openness” is a competitive advantage any longer when independent developers can’t get at the source code for Honeycomb and design the next great thing in the tablet space. I wouldn’t have to work too hard to argue that tablets are actually quite a bit more interesting in terms of potential use cases than phones, but those interesting use cases will require specialized software and interfaces. No open source, no brilliant new medical device, no drastically improved e-reader, no new approach to the legal pad, no whatever that requires developers to take a deeper dive than merely creating an App.

Android is frequently compared to Microsoft Windows when PC clones took off and hardware simply became a commodity. Google prefers to call Android the Linux of mobile operating systems. Unfortunately, that’s hardly a title they can claim when they close source code at their convenience.

Google claims they wanted to avoid having developers create a bad user experience. How about a caveat along the lines of, “Hey, we know this is open source, so whatever you can do to get the cool UI enhancements and great features working on phones woud be much appreciated. We don’t recommend hanging your hats on it as a smartphone platform, but that’s just us.” It would probably offend open source sensibilities far less than closing the code when it makes good business sense for Google and its OEM partners.

I’m a big Android fan. I’m even a Mac user and I still dig Android. But, aside from its awesome integration with the Google tools I use all the time, I dig it on principle. If I ever find a reason to get a tablet, it’ll be an Android tablet. Those principles of openness are what keep me from even giving a sideways glance at Verizon iPhones or the very slick iPad 2. But if those principles go away, I might as well fully buy into the Mac ecosystem. Or, perish the thought, jump on the WebOS bandwagon (tiny little bandwagon that it is).


by NEWS · 1

Fake SSL Certificate Incident Highlights Flaws in DNS: Comodo CEO

Security industry professionals should be focusing on the vulnerabilities in inherent in the DNS infrastructure and not that Comodo Security incorrectly issued certificates, says Comodo CEO Melih Abdulhayoglu.


The key take away from the incident where nine fraudulent SSL certificates were issued for popular Web sites was not the fact that the certificates were issued, but that the DNS infrastructure is not protected, Comodo Security said.

A day after it was revealed that a Comodo Security partner had been compromised and attackers issued valid digital certificates for certain Google, Yahoo, Skype, Microsoft and Mozilla domains, Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO and chief security architect of Comodo came out swinging against critics of his company. The core problem wasn’t that certificates were issued fraudulently, but that the attackers “clearly” had control of the DNS infrastructure.

“Breaches will happen,” Abdulhayoglu told eWEEK. “But the issue is not the breach on one account on a certificate authority, because without control of the DNS infrastructure, they couldn’t do anything with it.”

Comodo had said in its incident report that the attack originated from an IP address assigned to an internet service provider in Iran and that one of the issued certificates for Yahoo’s login page was tested using an Iranian server. Based on these two events and the fact that the Iranian government has been known to attack other encrypted communication mechanisms to snoop on its own citizens, Abdulhayoglu was confident the attack was sponsored by the Iranian government and the targets were the Iranian people using those sites.

“This is my opinion, I don’t have proof,” Abdulhayoglu said.

The certificates were all issued to the communications infrastructure, not “PayPal, a bank or a financial organization,” which is what a typical cyber-criminal would care about, he said. It was clear that a man-in-the-middle attack would have allowed the Iranian government to view what dissidents were reading and saying using these sites, especially considering the recent turmoil in North Africa and the Persian Gulf region, Abdulhayoglu said.

He also noted that in Iran, as far as he knew, all the internet service providers and telecommunications company were state-owned and domain name services are maintained by the ISPs. Ergo, the state controlled the DNS and in this case the attackers had access to the infrastructure, Abdulhayoglu said.

If Comodo had not detected the breach immediately and responded quickly, the attackers would have succeeded, Abdulhayoglu said. However, Comodo has multiple layers of security and there was no way the breach would have remained undetected long enough to successfully use the certificates, according to Abdulhayoglu.

When told about Sophos security analyst Chester Wisnewski’s comment that the fact that Comodo detected and swiftly resolved was a “fluke” because the attackers created a new account, Abdulhayoglu unequivocally said, “He is utterly wrong.” However, he declined to discuss the details of security in place to detect breaches.

Jacob Applebaum, a security researcher with the non-profit Tor Project, noted that certificate issuing authorities do not properly vet the identities of the applicants and that was a weak leak in the chain of trust. Brian Trzupek, Trustwave’s vice-president of managed identity and SSL concurred, noting that certificate authorities “usually only undergo automated validation where a human review does not occur.”

Abdulhayoglu pointed out that may be the case for other certificate authorities who were “fly by night operators offering certificates for $10,” but Comodo requires a lengthy process that requires applicants to verify their identity and domain ownership, such as submitting a notarized letter.

Abdulhayoglu has been championing a standard since last fall that could have prevented this incident from happening in the first place. His proposal, if adopted, would have put the control of the DNS in the hands of the domain owner. In this instance, if someone had requested a certificate, the certificate issuing authority would have been required to verify with the domain-owner (which is known based on previous transactions) to verify the certificate should be issued. The request becomes a two-way communication, according to Abdulhayoglu.

This is the first time Comodo witnessed a “state funded” attack against the “authentication” infrastructure, said Abdulhayoglu and Comodo will update its threat model to be aware of future state-level attacks.



by NEWS · 0

Bing Mobile Updated: Improved HTML5 Features, App Search & More

Microsoft’s Bing team announced some significant changes and updates to Bing For Mobile. The core changes include better HTML5 support, better and faster image search, real-time transit and directions, iPhone app search, improvements to shopping, weather and movie search results.

The new interfaces and features currently work on all smartphone browsers that support HTML5, so that includes iPhone and Android devices but currently excludes Microsoft’s own smartphone, the Windows Phone 7 until they add HTML5 support later this year.

Bing Mobile Search Updates:

Transit Directions and Real-Time Transit
Image Search with sliders and orientation support
Shopping improves access to shopping questions answered, comparison shop, and discover product details and user reviews
Added Weather Autosuggest and Instant Answers to the search bar
iPhone apps search added when you search using an iPhone
Movie search includes time and nearest theatre, along with reviews, synopsis, trailers and additional information
Here are two video demos of the changes:

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=msn%20video&from=sp&vid=df7beb2a-af58-4526-9f70-7a21d67c7f2d&src=FLCP:sharebar:embed" target="_new" title="Bing for Mobile Browse Experience Gets Even Better">Video: Bing for Mobile Browse Experience Gets Even Better</a>

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=msn%20video&from=sp&vid=22de5e2d-a70e-412b-adbf-51b0f507fecf&src=FLCP:sharebar:embed" target="_new" title="The Bing for Mobile Browse Experience Gets Even Better">Video: The Bing for Mobile Browse Experience Gets Even Better</a>

Source:  Bing Mobile Updated: Improved HTML5 Features, App Search & More

by Technology · 0

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.7


Apple has released Mac OS X 10.6.7 update. According to the company, the update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac. It also reportedly fixes the 'hard freeze' issue reported by some users.

Here's what the update has:

* Includes all the improvements in the previous Mac OS X v10.6.1, 10.6.2, 10.6.3, 10.6.4, 10.6.5, and 10.6.6 updates.

* Includes Safari 5.0.4.

* Includes RAW image compatibility for additional digital cameras.

* Resolves a window resizing issue with X-Plane 9 on Macs with ATI graphics

* Addresses an issue with MacBook Air (Mid 2010) computers that could cause a kernel panic.

* Address issues in the AirPort driver for certain devices.

* Improves brightness on external displays and projectors.

* Addresses an issue where DVD Player may display black video on some Macs using the 64-bit kernel.

* Addresses an issue with some NEC displays in which the screen may appear black when connected to a Mac Pro (Mid 2010).

* Resolves an issue in which some Multiple Master (MM) fonts were missing from Mac Pro (Mid 2010), MacBook Pro (15-inch & 17-inch Mid 2010), and iMac (Mid 2010) computers.

* Addresses various issues with MacBook Air (Mid 2010) computer performance.

* Resolves an issue in which clicking the Updates tab in the Mac App Store could cause the Mac App Store to become unresponsive.

* Fixes a problem opening an afp:// URL that points to a file, and changes the AFP mount path to conform to previous Mac OS X releases.

* Includes the ability to repair certain issues that may prevent hardware RAID volumes from mounting.

* Fixes a rare issue in Mac OS X v10.6.5 that could cause user accounts to disappear from the Login window and System * Preferences after putting the system to sleep.

* Improves the reliability of dragging files or folders to the Trash when using an NFS home directory.

Source:  Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.7

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 by Technology · 0

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spice Popkorn Projector M9000 Launched

Spice has just launched a new type of mobile phone at an affordable price it can project images on the screen. The Spice Popkorn Projector M9000 mobile comes with an inbuilt projector, allowing you to project the phone s contents on a large screen. You can therefore project presentations, movies, pictures or even live TV, thanks to the analog TV chip inside the phone, which can receive free terrestrially broadcast TV channels.



The M9000 has a Document Viewer, which lets you view various office document formats such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and even PDF on the handset. The mobile also sports a laser pointer, which is very useful while making presentations, though we think that the projector and laser pointer cannot be used at the same time.




Basic phone features include a 6 cm (2.36 inch) 262K color QVGA screen, dual GSM SIM, quad band capability, WAP, GPRS, EDGE, JAVA, 3.2 MP camera, support to play various video formats including 3GP, mp4, AVI, FLv, RM and RMVB, MP3 player with FM radio and stereo Bluetooth and support for up to 16 GB T-flash memory card. With dimensions of 119.2 mm x 50.3 mm x 17.35 mm, this candy bar phone weighs just 123 g.

The Spice Popkorn M9000 is priced aggressively at just Rs.6,999.


Source: Spice Popkorn Projector M9000 Launched

Monday, March 21, 2011 by Technology · 0

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Galaxy S LCD Shown off on Samsung India Website

After much waiting, it seems that the Galaxy S with it's Super LCD display is now here on an official basis. We’ve seen it in the gray market stores and these store owners were even able to dish it out at the price it was expected at i.e. Rs. 19,990. Although Samsung hasn’t yet issued a formal Press Release for the device, Samsung India’s website has it plastered all over the place.

Be careful with the image, that's a super expensive phone!

Launched on the QT


It’s not very dissimilar from the previous model, but to recap, here’s what it has to offer -

  • 4-inch S-LCD (Super Clear LCD) with a 480 x 800 pixel resolution
  • 3G, EDGE/GPRS, Wi-Fi with DLNA support
  • GPS with A-GPS support
  • Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, USB 2.0
  • 5 megapixel autofocus camera featuring face and smile detection, auto stitch panorama, Geotagging, HD video recording
  • FM radio
  • 4GB of internal storage and micro SD card support up to 32GB


Samsung has thrown in Swype as an input option and their TouchWiz UI (version 4.0) running on top of an Android Froyo edition. The Galaxy S LCD is equipped with a 1 Ghz processor so speed should not be an issue. Video playback support includes files in DivX and XviD formats and the camera will also feature 720p video recording capabilities.

We’re still waiting for an official announcement but, rest assured, it’s here nevertheless.

Sunday, March 20, 2011 by NEWS · 0

AT&T to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion

ATT-Mobile.jpg
The world's largest M&A deal so far this year could run into trouble with US antitrust officials who fear that fewer wireless players could drive up prices for consumers


NEW YORK/FRANKFURT: AT&T Inc plans to pay $39 billion for Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile USA to create a new US mobile market leader, but the pricey purchase is likely to attract intense antitrust scrutiny over potentially higher customer bills.

The deal gives AT&T, the No. 2 US mobile service often criticized for its poor network performance, additional capacity to expand and meet ever increasing demands for videos and data from devices such as Apple Inc's iPhone.

For Deutsche Telekom, the deal offloads an asset that was declining in profitability and provides it with funds to pay down debt and buy back shares. The German telecom operator also gets an 8 per cent stake in AT&T as part of the deal, becoming its largest shareholder and retaining some exposure to the US market.

The deal leaves smaller rivals like Sprint Nextel scrambling to figure out their next step. Sprint also held talks to merge with T-Mobile, the No. 4 US mobile service.

Sprint complained that the deal would dramatically alter the wireless industry, which it said would be "dominated overwhelmingly" by two companies that have almost 80 per cent of US wireless contract customers.

But the world's largest M&A deal so far this year could run into trouble with US antitrust officials who fear that fewer wireless players could drive up prices for consumers. T-Mobile USA now offers some of the lowest wireless services rates.

The deal will add 34 million customers to AT&T's current 96 million, giving it a combined market share of an estimated 43 per cent from 32 per cent, putting it well ahead of Verizon Wireless' 34.5 per cent share.

"It's just nuts," said David Balto, an antitrust attorney and a former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission. "When you look at healthy and unhealthy markets, this is at the top of the list of unhealthy markets."

One analyst pointed out that the two top US operators -- a larger AT&T and Verizon Wireless -- will account for nearly three out of four mobile subscribers after this deal, which could lead to higher bills.

US Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee, said his panel will take a close look at what a "loss of competition will mean for people who increasingly rely on wireless phone service to connect to friends, family and the Internet."

"Consumers have borne the brunt of the increasingly concentrated market for mobile phone service," Kohl said.

Hopeful
AT&T, however, is betting big that the deal will be approved. It has agreed to pay an unusually high breakup fee of $3 billion and to give T-Mobile USA wireless airwaves if regulators reject it.

AT&T said it expected regulators to require it to sell some assets as a condition of approving the deal, which it hopes to complete in 12 months.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told reporters on a conference call that AT&T had done its "homework" on the regulatory front and boasted that the deal could generate savings of more than $40 billion.

"This is a unique opportunity." said Stephenson. "It's rare you have a transaction where the synergies are greater than the price paid."

The companies have been talking for months according to sources familiar with the situation. Stephenson reached out to Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann in December, according to one source, who said he drove the process from the AT&T side.

The substance of the deal came together over the last month, and the companies had a handshake agreement a week ago, the source said.

Deutsche Telekom looked at different options, including an IPO and a deal with Sprint Nextel before settling on the AT&T deal, a second source said. A Sprint, T-Mobile deal would have been difficult as they use different technology.

The transaction, which is Stephenson's first big acquisition since he took over as CEO, will give AT&T much needed spectrum, or wireless airwaves, to provide the capability to support surges in the delivery of video, games and entertainment to smartphone and mobile devices.

Stephenson said the company had to "think differently" to address an expected eight-to-tenfold increase in demand for wireless network capacity in the next five years.

Stephenson is paying a steep price for the deal. The deal values each subscriber at $1,147. At that valuation, Sprint would be worth $57 billion, almost four times its current value.

Deal terms
The purchase price includes a cash payment of $25 billion with the balance to be paid using AT&T stock. AT&T has the right to pay more cash as part of the purchase price by up to $4.2 billion.

As part of the deal, which was approved by both companies' boards, a Deutsche Telekom representative will join the AT&T board. AT&T can increase the cash component so long as Deutsche Telekom retains at least a 5 per cent equity stake in it.

Deutsche Telekom is expected to use 5 billion euros to buy back shares and 13 billion euros to lower its debt, said another source with direct knowledge of the deal discussions. The source said no other deals are planned in the medium term.

AT&T said that it will finance the cash portion with new debt and cash on AT&T's balance sheet. AT&T will not assume any T-Mobile USA debt and that the deal would add to earnings, excluding non-cash amortization and integration costs, in the third year after closing.

Representatives from the US Federal Communications Commission and Sprint declined comment as did officials from Verizon Wireless, which is owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc.

by NEWS · 0

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Kyocera Echo Selling in April

















April 17th marks the date that the Kyocera Echo goes on sale (online). The Echo is an intriguing device because it sports two screens, which makes it unique in design, and quite different from the typical smartphones which are currently on the market. Both screens for the Echo measure 3.5 inches, and the extra screen can be used for many things. For example, the screen can be used to look at pics and video, while information is accessed on screen 1. Or, the second screen can be used as a virtual keyboard; having two screens on a smartphone can really come in handy.





The Kyocera Echo will be running on a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor. The phone is pretty standard if you ignore the fact that it has two screens. It includes a 5 MP cam with flash, zoom, and autofocus, which allows for 720p HD videorecording. It comes with only 1 gig of memory, which might be an issue for some folks, but the microSD allows for up to 8 additional gigs. Extras include a proximity sensor, accelerometer, GPS, a light sensor, and a digital compass.



One major potential issue with the Echo is that battery life will probably fare poorly due to the two screens sucking up energy. The phone will come with a second battery, but that just indicates the company’s own anxieties about the smartphone’s battery. However, the phone has multiple modes, one of which allows you to conserve energy by using only one screen (Single Screen mode). Another mode is Simul-Task, which allows for running dual apps. The third mode is Optimized Mode, which cleverly works with both screens. For example, if you are opening an email, the display will be on the top screen and a keyboard will be on bottom.

What are your thoughts on the Kyocera Echo? Will you be buying one, or do you feel nervous about the battery life?


Kyocera Echo Smartphone from Sprint : Sprint and Kyocera introduced the first dual-touchscreen Android Smartphone, Kyocera Echo from Sprint. The Kyocera Echo is new Android Smartphone that features two 3.5-inch WVGA touchscreen displays connected by a patent-pending "pivot hinge" that enables the two displays to operate independently, side-by-side or combined to form an oversized 4.7-inch (diagonally) integrated colour display. Until now, a single screen Smartphone could only be used to complete one task at a time, even with limited multitasking capabilities available on some Smartphones.
Kyocera Echo

Kyocera Echo
The Kyocera Echo second screen provides the ability to do two things at the same time - send an e-mail on one screen while surfing the internet on the other screen, watch a video on one screen while texting on the other, comparison shop online with one internet site on each screen and much more. In its closed position, Kyocera Echo handset is a pocket-friendly, single-display smartphone. When opened, Kyocera Echo Smartphone reveals a revolutionary new platform for wireless multitasking and gives users new level of versatility in Android.

Echo

Kyocera Echo Features
• Sprint's 3G network and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
• Wi-Fi hotspot capability, supports 5 wireless connections
• 5 Megapixel auto-focus camera with flash and digital zoom
• 720p HD camcorder function
• Corporate and personal (POP & IMAP) e-mail
• Instant Messenger, Google Talk and text messaging
• Digital Multimedia player
• 3.5 mm stereo headset jack
• Stereo Bluetooth 2.1 (+ EDR)
• HTML internet browser with Google Search
• 1 GHz Snapdragon processor (QSD 8650 Android)
• 1 GB onboard memory / 8GB microSD for card slot
• Voice and text prompts in both English and Spanish

Kyocera

Kyocera Echo Smartphone
"Sprint is proud to launch the most powerful Android Smartphone available today and the new Kyocera Echo Smartphone adds to that legacy with industry-leading technology that will change the way our customers use their Smartphones," said Dan Hesse, CEO at Sprint. "Today's busy schedules often demand that we do at least two things at once. The Kyocera Echo is the first Smartphone that allows us to do a different task on each of two screens while also providing a tablet-like, larger screen experience that easily fits in a pocket when closed."

Kyocera Echo Smartphone

Kyocera Echo charging cradle
The new Kyocera Echo Android Smartphone comes packaged with a spare battery (1370 mAh) and a low-profile charging cradle. Along with charging the spare battery independently of the Kyocera Echo mobile phone, the charging cradle also can tether the spare to Kyocera Echo Smartphone as an external power supply.

Kyocera Echo Android Smartphone

Kyocera Echo Android Smartphone
The Kyocera Echo Smartphone supports Google features including Google Maps, Google Talk, Gmail, Synchronization with Google Calendar, and access to Google Goggles to search with pictures instead of words. With Sprint, Kyocera Echo Smartphone users have access to Sprint Zone, providing one-stop wireless account access, phone tips, news, a list of top apps plus TeleNav GPS Navigator, Sprint TV and Movies and many more.

Kyocera Echo

Kyocera Echo Software Development Kit
A Software Development Kit (SDK) and developer guide for the Kyocera Echo Smartphone will be available before the launch on the Sprint Application Developer Program (ADP) internet website. The developer guide will provide details on developing for a dual-screen Android 2.2 Smartphone. It also will provide information on how to take advantage of Kyocera Echo's unique hardware and software capabilities on the Sprint Network. The Sprint ADP has been providing tools for third-party developers since Sprint first launched the Wireless Web on its cell phones in 2001.

Kyocera Smartphone

Kyocera Echo price
The Kyocera Echo Smartphone will be available this spring for $199.99 with a 2 year service agreement or eligible upgrade and after a $100 mail-in rebate in all Sprint retail channels, including the Web and Telesales. An optional charge of just $29.99 per month turns on Kyocera Echo's mobile hotspot feature, connecting up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as laptops, gaming devices and digital cameras, at 3G speeds anywhere on the Sprint 3G network (All pricing excludes surcharges and taxes).

Kyocera Echo review

Kyocera Echo review availability
As soon as we receive a Kyocera Echo test sample, we will publish a photo gallery with high resolution pictures, followed by an extensive Kyocera Echo review.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 by NEWS · 0

Is the HTC Incredible S in India already?

The HTC Incredible S was launched at the Mobile World Congress last month, along with the Desire S and the Wildfire S. Now it seems the phone is in Indian retailers’ hands already, if reports from AndroidOS.in are to be believed.




Incredible turnaround time?

The phone is yet to be launched officially by HTC, but the Desire HD hasn’t been either, and that phone has been available with retailers for months now. So there is a case to be made for the Incredible S going the same way. Anyway, take this with a pinch of salt because the source seems to be a retailer posting up a picture of the Incredible S and announcing its availability via Twitter. You can check out the tweet here.

The price seems to be a very reasonable Rs. 27,500 which, for the specs the phone boasts of, is a pretty good price. Let’s hope we hear more about this and soon.

HTC Incredible S specs:

* 4-inch S-LCD Capacitive Touchscreen
* 3G, Wi-Fi, A-GPS, DLNA
* Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP and EDR
* 8 Megapixel camera with autofocus and dual LED flash
* 1.3 Megapixel secondary camera
* 1 GB internal memory expandable up to 32 GB
* Stereo FM radio with RDS
* 3.5 mm audio jack

by NEWS · 0

Apple iPad 2 and Motorola Xoom: Tested, Rated, Compared (Video)

iPad 2 vs. Xoom
With the recent releases of the first Honeycomb tablet, the Motorola Xoom, and Apple's second-gen iPad 2, the tablet landscape is finally starting to get interesting. We've tested and reviewed both tablets, and the iPad 2 fared better than the Xoom did. Across the board, tech journalists seem to agree: Despite some less robust specs, the iPad 2 is just more graceful than the Android 3.0, Honeycomb-powered Xoom, which, currently, is the only real competition facing the iPad. But the Xoom is a very solid tablet, and has several features that the iPad 3 designers should take a close look at. With this in mind, let's take a quick look at how the Xoom—and Honeycomb—measure up against the iPad 2 and iOS in some key areas.



Cameras
The Xoom features a front-facing, 2-megapixel camera and a rear-facing 5-megapixel lens. It doesn't take masterpiece photos, but the Camera app is loaded with settings and shooting modes you'll find familiar if you've ever messed around with a typical point-and-shoot camera. It captures video in 720p, and the video can be edited in the editing app, Movie Studio. While not as intuitive as iMovie, Movie Studio works fine, and the video quality from the Xoom generally looks better.

The cameras on the iPad 2 are…well…an improvement over no cameras at all in the first iPad, but that's about it. The front facing, VGA-quality camera shoots low-resolution footage that's fine for video chats, but the rear-facing camera offers less than a megapixel of resolution. Stretch those images across the iPad's 9.7-inch screen, and you are looking at some pretty grainy, noisy shots. Only very bright lighting improves things. The iPad 2 shoots 720p video, which looks higher quality than the photos it shoots, but is still no replacement for the footage a typical point-and-shoot can capture.

While the Xoom clearly takes better images, the iPad 2 has better apps built around its camera. The graphics prowess on display in Photo Booth, for instance, as the iPad distorts real time images according to your touch, is quite impressive—and a clever way to downplay image quality. The Camera app itself is pretty barebones, with fewer features than Android's app, but iMovie, which, to be fair, costs $4.99 versus the free Movie Studio on the Xoom, is a much more intuitive and fun video editing app. From a hardware angle, Xoom has the clear edge, but the iPad 2 has the slight edge for camera-related apps.


by NEWS · 0

Acer Aspire One D260-1270








The netbook shelf is a crowded place these days, and it can be tough for buyers to see the difference among the various 10-inch, Intel Atom-powered netbooks out there. Thanks to a few above average specs, like a 320GB hard drive and a long lasting battery, the Acer Aspire One D260-1270 ($399.99 direct) stands out among a crowd of look-alike products.

Design

The small size and portability of netbooks has led manufacturers to adopt a bit of an accessory mindset when designing their netbooks, sprucing up the cheap plastics with bright colors and eye-catching patterns. While the D260 line uses lots of color, these netbooks are a little more mellow than the blaring colors of the HP Mini 210-2000 ($599 direct, 3.5 stars). Available in black, silver, burgundy, and in our case aquamarine, the D260-1270 manages to be stylish and sophisticated, embracing color in a way that won't drive potential buyers away.



The molded plastic chassis is fairly light, with a system weight of 2.65 pounds. The touchpad is seamlessly molded into the palmrest, differentiated by only a subtle ridge on either side and a combined right and left button running along the bottom. Multitouch gesture support lets you scroll with two-fingered swipe, rotate photos with a twist of the wrist, and zoom in and out with a pinch to adjust content for the smaller screen.

The keyboard has Acer's distinctive floating tile design, the same found on the Acer Aspire One AOD255-1203 ($329.99 street, 4 stars), which looks slick but always makes me nervous that it will collect every crumb and speck of dust that comes near it. The keyboard is the same 93% that's found on many netbooks, but full-sized keyboards can be squeezed on to a 10.0 inch model, as also seen on the AOD255. If you're used to typing on the slightly smaller keyboards found on other netbooks you'll be right at home, but coming from a full sized laptop will make this keyboard feel a bit cramped.


The 10.1-inch, 1,024 by 600 resolution screen is common for this price range, and is more than adequate for enjoying online entertainment and basic productivity tasks. As a rule the speakers in netbooks are mediocre, and the pair built into the D260-1270 are no exception. The sound ranges from wimpy at lower volumes to a distorted warble at high volume, and provide no low end at any volume.

Features

The D260-1270 has a fairly common feature set for a sub-$400 netbook. The three USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, Ethernet port, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and a memory card reader are par for the course. Acer did, however, include a 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive. It's not the fastest around—the HP Mini 5103 ($650 street, 4 stars) has a 7,200rpm drive—but it's a step above the 250GB drives found in most $400 netbooks, like the Editors' Choice Samsung NF310-A01 ($399.99 street, 4.5 stars).

The D260-1270 also comes with its fair share of bloatware. Some of these are trial versions of other products, like a 60-day trial of McAfee Internet Security Suite, or a starter version of Microsoft Office that has only limited word processing and spreadsheet capability. Most of the other icons cluttering the desktop are specific services and Website links, like Skype, a NY Times reader, and links to eBay and Netflix.

Performance

Acer Aspire One D260-1270 The D260-1270 is equipped with the 1.5GHz Intel Atom N550, a dual-core processor made for netbooks, and is the same processor found in the HP 5103 and Asus EeePC 1015PEM ($370 street, 4 stars). Though it has a fairly common processor, it does benefit slightly from the 2GB of RAM that comes standard, which slightly improves performance over other netbooks on the market [[why? What do other netbooks come with?.

Performance scores are just a hair higher than similarly equipped competitors, thanks to the 2GB of RAM that come standard in the D260, scoring an overall SYSMark score of 43 and a Cinebench R11.5 score of 0.50. Most other Atom powered netbooks come with 1GB, and reflect this in their slightly lower scores, like those of the Samsung NF310-A01 (38, 0.48) or the HP Mini 5103 (42, 0.48).

However, Intel isn't the only game in town for netbook processors, and you'll see some better scores if you're willing to shell out a bit more money for a laptop with an AMD E-350, like the Editors' Choice HP Pavilion dm1z ($449 direct, 4.5 stars) which scored 59 overall in SYSMark and 0.60 in Cinebench R11.5.

The greatest benefit of the Intel Atom processor, however, is efficiency. When combined with the 6-cell (49Wh) battery, the Acer Aspire One D260-1270 lasted an impressive 9 hours 4 minutes in MobileMark 2007. The HP Mini 5102, with a 66WH battery, did better as it lasted 10:52 but . But the Samsung NF310-A01, with a similar 48WH battery, lasted only 7:05, 48Wh), and the HP 5103, which a 66Wh battery, lasted 8:40.

The Acer Aspire One D260-1270 manages to provide the full netbook experience, plus larger storage and longer battery life, and does it all for an aggressively low price. Though it's easily topped by the consistently better scores of the Editors' Choice HP Pavilion dm1z, the D260-1270 shows that even with several sub-$400 netbooks on the market, even small differences can make a system stand out.

Specifactions

Spec Data
Type Netbook
Processor Name Intel Atom N550
Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium
Processor Speed 1.5 GHz
RAM 2 GB
Weight 2.76 lb
Screen Size 10.1 inches
Screen Size Type widescreen
Graphics Card Intel GMA 3150
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 320 GB
Networking Options 802.11n
Primary Optical Drive External

by NEWS · 0

Android tablet war: Galaxy Tab vs. 'rooted' Nook Color




I like to highlight content from smaller sites, and have linked in the past to theunlocker.com, which is run by David Cogen, a student at Florida Atlantic University. The site has several videos related to "rooting" or hacking the Nook Color with custom firmware that allows you to turn Barnes & Noble's color e-reader into a full-on Android tablet.

Cogen recently put together a video comparing a Nook Color rooted with a Froyo (Android 2.2) hack with a Samsung Galaxy Tab that has very similar specs but includes front-and-back facing cameras and a 3G data option for those who want to pay the added service fees. The Galaxy Tab has a smaller footprint, whereas the Nook Color is slightly thinner.

If you're willing to opt-in to a two-year contract with a carrier (the Tab comes in Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular versions), you can get the Tab for as low as $250. But the unsubsidized version costs $500, which is twice the price of the Nook Color. When Samsung releases a $399 Wi-Fi-only Tab--it's coming soon--that will narrow the difference to $150.

In his video, Cogen points out that the rooted Nook Color isn't as stable as the Galaxy Tab (although the custom firmware continues to improve with each new release), but otherwise the two devices seem to perform pretty similarly. Some people will always prefer "official," company-backed products to so-called hacks (rooting the Nook does void your warranty), but the price delta here makes for an awfully compelling case to go the root route.


by NEWS · 0

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Microsoft to launch Internet Explorer 9 at SXSWi

Microsoft will be formally launching the next version of its Internet Explorer browser, IE9, at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi) on Monday--an interesting place to launch, given that the Austin, Texas, geek fest is packed full of the hordes who have long since ditched Internet Explorer for the decidedly hipper pastures of Firefox, Safari, or Chrome.

The new browser, which had its first and only release candidate land in users' hands in early February, will fully launch to the public at 9 Pacific time that night. In a blog post, Internet Explorer senior director Ryan Gavin described the browser as offering up "a more beautiful web."

On its release day, Microsoft is having a press briefing where Gavin said there are still "a few surprises left." Later that night, Microsoft will be throwing a party in Austin in celebration of the new browser, with hipster-friendly rock act Yeasayer headlining the event.

Among the new features in IE9 is a refreshed look with the browser taking up less space than previous versions of IE, as well as a way to pin sites to the Windows task bar. Sites can then program their pages to act more like desktop applications with things like notifications, and the Windows 7 Jump List feature, which can hop users to specific parts of a Web page.

IE9 also brings performance improvements, including faster start times and a new JavaScript engine called Chakra that Microsoft has proven to be faster at the WebKit SunSpider benchmark test than competitors like Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Safari. On the security side, IE9 also adds support for "do not track" through lists that users can subscribe to, as well as a way to filter ActiveX content from pages.

The new browser continues to be offered only to users of Windows Vista and Windows 7, leaving users of XP--which is the most popular OS at 45.3 percent of Windows users (according to W3schools)-- with IE8.

Thursday, March 10, 2011 by NEWS · 0

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

HP Says WebOS Will Land on PCs in 2012


HP claims all its PCs will ship with the WebOS mobile operating system in addition to Microsoft’s Windows sometime next year, according to a report.

That’s an ambitious plan, considering that HP hasn’t even announced a ship date for the WebOS-powered TouchPad tablet yet.

The purpose of the expansion to PCs would be to entice software developers to build apps for the WebOS ecosystem, according to Bloomberg, which originally reported the story. If WebOS is on HP PCs in addition to tablets and smartphones, third-party developers would have a bigger audience for selling apps.

“You create a massive platform,” Leo Apotheker, HP’s new CEO, said in an interview buried deep inside a wordy Bloomberg story.

In terms of apps, HP’s WebOS definitely has some catching up to do. Apple’s iOS is nearing 400,000 apps in the App Store, and Google’s Android has about 250,000. HP’s WebOS has 6,000 apps.

HP acquired Palm last year for the WebOS smartphone operating system. Last month the company introduced the first tablet running WebOS, dubbed the TouchPad. The 9.7-inch tablet is very similar to Apple’s iPad. HP has not announced a price tag or a ship date for the TouchPad.

It’s no surprise that HP has plans to roll WebOS into PCs as well. Research firm DisplaySearch found that in the fourth quarter of 2010, Apple surpassed HP for the No.1  spot in the “mobile PC market,” when you combine sales of Mac notebooks with the iPad. So with the iPad included, Apple sold 10.2 million, or 17.2 percent of, mobile computers during the fourth quarter of 2010. HP shipped 9.3 million notebooks.

Apple is taking a very similar approach with its PCs. Steve Jobs has said the next version of the Mac operating system, OS Lion, will blend traits of iOS into OS X. Ahead of OS Lion’s release,  Apple has launched an App Store for the Mac.

In other words, HP is basically mimicking Apple’s verticalized mobile strategy by cultivating and expanding on an in-house mobile ecosystem rather than solely relying on Microsoft, which has not yet announced a credible tablet strategy.

Original Source:  HP Says WebOS Will Land on PCs in 2012

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 by Technology · 0

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc headed to Optus, Vodafone Australia

The Xperia Arc might become the first new Xperia smartphone to be released in Australia (before the Xperia Play and Xperia Neo).

According to Gizmodo, the Arc will be released in Australia next month (April), with both Optus and Vodafone getting ready to sell it.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on how much the 9mm-thin will cost at neither of the carriers.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread – unlike many other recent Android smartphones, which are being launched with 2.2 Froyo. It features a 4.3 inch FWVGA display, HSDPA, Wi-Fi, GPS, barcode scanner, 8MP autofocus camera, HD (720p) video recording, and a 1GHz Qualcomm processor

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 by NEWS · 0

Samsung Unveils the Corby's Successor - Corby II aka S3850

Oh boy! That's one mobile which certainly turned heads with its snazzy and youthful design. You got that right, it’s the Samsung Corby we’re talking about here. And after what seems to be an eternity (two years feels a little long), Samsung has unveiled the beloved phone’s successor, the Corby II. Read on to find out what more the Corby II has to offer.



A slight heartbreak is that the Corby II doesn’t run on Android, but it’s supposed to have a TouchWiz User Interface. The SNS integration is retained with the Social Hub, which also adds SNS features in the user’s contacts, calendar and inbox. Let’s take a look at the specifications of the Corby II:

* 3.14-inch TFT capacitive touchscreen
* Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
* Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP
* 2 Megapixel camera
* Memory expandable up to 16 GB
* FM Radio
* 3.5 mm audio jack

The Corby II has an accelerometer sensor and supports quite a few media formats in the form of MP3, MP4, WMA, H.263, H.264 and a few more. The phone will also continue with it’s array of vibrant colors with the Corby II coming in Carnival Yellow, Candy Pink and Fashion White.

There’s no mention of the price but the Corby II should be launching this month starting from Germany, with other countries including India to follow. Stay tuned for the review soon.

by NEWS · 0

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ars reviews the Motorola Xoom

Motorola's Xoom tablet is the first device to ship with Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb, a highly anticipated new version of Google's mobile operating system. Honeycomb introduces a sophisticated new user interface that was designed for the tablet form factor—a major step forward for Android. Motorola has matched Google's software with a compelling piece of hardware that delivers great performance and reasonable battery life.

Although the Xoom has a lot to offer, the product feels very incomplete. A surprising number of promised hardware and software features are not functional at launch and will have to be enabled in future updates. The Xoom's quality is also diminished by some of the early technical issues and limitations that we encountered in Honeycomb. Google's nascent tablet software has a ton of potential, but it also has some feature gaps and rough edges that reflect its lack of maturity.

In this review, we will take a close look at the Xoom hardware, the Honeycomb user experience, and the Android platform's potential as a tablet operating system.



Hardware

The Motorola Xoom's impressive hardware specifications are sure to turn some heads. Much like Motorola's Atrix handset, the Xoom is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 2 SoC, which couples a dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with an 8-core GeForce Ultra Low Power GPU.

The Xoom's 10.1-inch capacitive multitouch display has a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1280x800 pixels. The device has 1GB of RAM and a roomy 32GB of internal storage capacity. In addition to the usual assortment of sensors—a gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, and ambient light detector—the Xoom has one unexpected addition: a built-in barometer, just in case you happen to be a tornado hunter.



Like most smartphones and tablets coming out now, the Xoom has a pair of cameras: a 2MP front-facing camera for video chat and a rear-facing 5MP camera with an LED flash. The Xoom's 24.5 Whr battery is rated for 9 hours of Web browsing and approximately 14 hours of standby time. During our tests, we got roughly 7 and a half hours during of battery life during mixed intensive use. The Xoom is launching on Verizon's network and comes with an EVDO-enabled CDMA radio. The device has also has WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.



Missing features

Although the Xoom was designed to support Verizon's new 4G LTE network, support for this network is not enabled out of the box. Consumers will have to ship the device back to Motorola to have it fitted with the necessary components. The 4G hardware upgrade will be available at no cost, but will take 6 business days to complete.

It's not clear yet exactly when Xoom buyers will be able to send in their Xoom to receive the upgrade, but Verizon says that it will be available "shortly" after the product's launch. Reports suggest that "shortly" means within the next 90 days.

LTE isn't the only hardware feature that's not working right out of the box. The Xoom's microSD card slot is also non-functional, due to software issues that are attributed to Honeycomb. Motorola says that the feature will be fixed soon in an over-the-air update. The Xoom's much-touted support for Adobe Flash is also absent at launch and will similarly be delivered in an upcoming software update.

Ports

The Xoom's microSD card slot and 4G SIM card slot are positioned back-to-back inside the top edge of the device. The slots are protected by a plastic insert and cover that can be slid out with a thumbnail. Motorola ships the device with translucent plastic placeholders in both slots.

A conventional miniaudio headphone jack is positioned near the card slot at the center of the device's top edge. Motorola doesn't provide headphones with the Xoom, but it worked well with standard earbuds and my Sennheiser HD-280 headphones. The bottom of the device has a micro-USB port, a mini-HDMI output, a port for the Xoom's charger, and contact points for the Xoom's dock.

The Xoom comes with its own proprietary power adapter. It has a very large two-prong wall wart that plugs into conventional power sockets. The prongs can be flipped down into the brick. The end that fits into the Xoom's charger port is a round plug like the kind you would find on a laptop charger, but much thinner. It doesn't appear to be possible to charge the Xoom via micro-USB.



Buttons and build quality

Unlike Android-based phones, the Xoom doesn't have the standard back, home, menu, and search buttons built into the device. These features are exposed through the Honeycomb user interface, obviating the need to integrate them into the hardware. This is a big win for usability compared to previous Android-based tablets like the Galaxy Tab, where we found ourselves accidentally hitting the capacitive buttons on the bezel.

The Xoom has a total of three hardware buttons integrated into its shell. A pair of volume buttons is conveniently located near the top of the left-hand edge. There is also a power button on the back side near the top-left corner on the same plastic plate as the camera. The power button is round, inset, and slightly concave. We didn't have any issues with hitting the buttons by accident on the Xoom.

The Xoom's build quality is very good. It has a smooth matte black finish on the backside that feels soft but not quite rubberized. The front has solid glass nearly from corner to corner. The glass covers both the screen and bezel, but the back part of the case creates a plastic lip around the edges of the screen. The lip is thicker than the one on the Galaxy Tab and is quite noticeable when you hold the device.

Dimensions and form factor

The Xoom is 9.8-inches long, 6.6-inches tall, 0.5-inches deep, and weighs approximately 1.6 pounds. The weight and depth are roughly comparable with that of the original iPad, but the Xoom has a more rectangular widescreen form factor.

The shape of the case is slightly tapered—when you hold it in portrait orientation, the top is a little bit thicker than the bottom. It feels pretty evenly weighted in landscape orientation and is relatively comfortable to use. When I hold it on each side, my thumbs can meet in the center of the screen, which means I can pretty easily reach user interface elements that are at the center.

I generally felt most comfortable operating the Xoom in landscape orientation and using it with my thumbs, but users with smaller hands might need to hold it with one hand and use an index finger. The device really feels like it was intended to be used in landscape orientation.

It's a bit less comfortable in portrait orientation. Due to the length, the way that the weight is distributed feels off when it's held vertically. You can get a better balance if you hold it near the top rather than near the keyboard when you use it in portrait, but it's still not great. The taper also makes it feel strange when held vertically.

The dimensions are excellent for video, but not particularly good for intensive reading. When I'm holding the Xoom in portrait orientation, I feel like only the top two-thirds of the screen are in clear focus for text readability and I have to re-angle it a bit when I start to get down to the bottom.

Whether the Xoom's 16:10 ratio or the iPad's 4:3 ratio is better is going to depend on what you are doing. The Xoom's aspect is better for video whereas the iPad's is arguably better for reading.




The relative awkwardness of using portrait mode on the Xoom isn't a huge issue, because most of the Honeycomb software seems to favor landscape orientation. One issue that's worth noting, however, is that a lot of the existing Android phone applications are designed to be used in portrait orientation. Until more third-party developers start making native Android tablet software, Xoom users will end up having to use portrait orientation more often than they might like.


Performance and reliability

The Xoom's performance is quite good. Animated transitions and other interactive elements of the user interface are very smooth—more fluid than many of the Android phones that we have tested. Applications start up quickly and there isn't a lot of latency when we switch between programs. The device's generous 1GB of RAM is enough to keep a lot running at the same time.

We used Quadrant and Linpack to conduct benchmarks of the device. Our quadrant score was 1,894. The performance was comparable to that of Motorola's Atrix, which is also powered by a Tegra 2. The score on Linpack was 36.576 mflops—also comparable with the Atrix 4G.

The results of the Quadrant benchmark

Our Xoom review unit was provided by Verizon and came with 3G enabled, so we were able to test it on the company's EVDO network. Browsing performance was excellent over WiFi and reasonably good over 3G. We had no trouble playing streaming videos or using other bandwidth-intensive features.

Although the Xoom performs well, its reliability leaves a lot to be desired. During a week of very heavy use, I had between 5 and 8 incidents of applications force-closing every day. The issue wasn't isolated to third-party applications—Google's own software crashed pretty regularly.

On one occasion, the Xoom hung and refused to wake up from a suspended state when I pressed the power button. This was particularly troubling because pressing and holding the power button didn't help at all and the device seemed totally unresponsive. I eventually asked a Verizon employee, who explained that, when the Xoom locks up, you can force a soft reset by holding the volume-up and power button simultaneously.

Android in general is not especially robust, but the stability issues I encountered on the Xoom seem worse than the relatively minor stability problems I've had over the past few years with my various Android phones. I imagine that the stability problems will be ironed out as Google improves the platform.

Software

The Xoom introduces Android's new tablet-friendly user interface. There are a number of differences in behavior and layout that distinguish it from the conventional Android smartphone experience, but it's still similar enough to be mostly intuitive to existing Android users. Significant user interface differences are apparent in Google's home screen, Web browser, messaging software, and the Android Market.

In addition to the significant tablet-related user interface improvements, Android 3.0 also introduces a number of compelling new APIs that will make it easier for developers to build native Android applications for large form-factor Android devices.

Home screen

Google has heavily reworked the Android home screen and application launcher to make them more suitable for tablets. The minimalist "holographic" design has a lot of transparency and glowing blue lines. The aesthetic appears to be loosely inspired by Tron Legacy.

Like previous versions of Android, Honeycomb's home screen consists of pages with application launchers and widgets. These can be arranged by users, but they snap to a grid. Honeycomb expands on those capabilities and offers an improved presentation and a lot more space to lay out items.

The Honeycomb home screen

Android phones with the stock home screen have a 4x4 grid for placing icons and widgets. The Xoom, however, has a more spacious 8x7 grid. This allows the user to have a lot more icons on a home screen page and also opens the door for more sophisticated widgets.

When the user is dragging around an icon or widget, the home screen will display hash marks that represent the structure of the grid. This visual cue makes it easier to see how much space you have for adding new items.

Honeycomb has introduced a new home screen editing tool that is more convenient than the previous menu-based system for adding new widgets and other items. You can open the home screen editor by clicking the plus button in the top right-hand corner of the home screen. The editor displays a gallery of home screen items in the bottom half of the screen and shows thumbnails of your home screen pages on the top half of the screen.

The home screen editor

You can drag an item from the gallery onto a specific home screen page. If you hover on a page, the editor will zoom in and give you finer-grained control over the placement of the item. The home screen editor gallery has tabs that you can switch between to peruse available widgets, application shortcuts, wallpapers, and special-purpose launchers.

Honeycomb also comes with an application drawer, just like previous versions of Android. The drawer, which can be accessed by clicking the "Apps" button in the top right-hand corner provides convenient access to all of your applications. Instead of a scrolling vertical list, the applications in the drawer are arranged into pages that you can you scroll through horizontally. The first or last column of icons on the previous or next page are displayed as outlines so that you can see that more are available.

The Honeycomb application drawer

The drawer also has navigation tabs at the top that you can use to filter the displayed applications. The "My apps" tab will show you only the ones that you installed whereas the "All" tab will show you all applications, including the ones that came with the device. You can click the little shopping bag icon in the top-right corner to open the Android Market.

When you long-press an icon in the drawer and start dragging, the software will display thumbnails of your home screen pages—just like the ones in the home screen editor—so you can add shortcuts directly from the drawer.

Dragging an application launcher onto a home screen page

One of the nicest features in the new launcher is easy support for uninstalling applications. Instead of having to open up the market or application manager to remove a program, you can just start dragging its icon and drop it on an "Uninstall" option that appears in the top-right corner during a drag event.

Lock screen

Honeycomb comes with a new lock screen interface. Instead of the conventional unlock slider that Android offers on phones, the new tablet lock screen has a lock icon in circle that must be dragged to the boundary of a larger circle. If the drag operation isn't completed, the screen will remain locked. The icon is positioned near the side of the tablet in landscape mode in such a way that it is most convenient to activate it by sweeping to the right with your right thumb.

The Honeycomb lock screen

The lock screen also displays a large clock, the current date, and the network and battery icons. You can see an envelope icon on the screen when notifications are present, but it doesn't show the notification messages on the lock screen. I'd really like to see Google enhance the lock screen to show notifications or read-only widgets of some kind—perhaps like the third-party WidgetLocker tool. It's unfortunate that the Android developers didn't take the opportunity to explore that kind of functionality when they created the new version of the lock screen.


Bottom panel

A notification panel is persistently visible along the bottom edge of the screen. The left-hand side of the panel has back and home icons that function like the equivalent hardware buttons on Android phones.

Right next to the home icon, you can see the task icon—a pair of overlapping rectangles. When the user taps the task icon, the software will show an overlay on the screen with thumbnails of the user's most recently activated programs. The user can tap one of the thumbnails to switch to the associated application.

Honeycomb's multitasking interface

The list of recent applications is limited to five when the device is held in landscape orientation and six when it is held in portrait orientation. This feature is roughly equivalent to the task switching display that appears when the user long-presses the home button on an Android phone.

Honeycomb's richer presentation for task switching makes better use of the available screen space, but doesn't really come with any improvements to the underlying functionality. Honeycomb's multitasking capabilities are comparable to that of previous versions of Android and still fall short of webOS or conventional desktop operating systems.

Third-party Android tablet applications are supposed to expose their menu actions through the new titlebar APIs that were introduced in Honeycomb, but there are still many existing phone applications that rely on the conventional hidden menu system that is used on Android phones. In order to retain compatibility with those applications, Google opted to supply a menu icon in the user interface that appears alongside the task switching icon in the notification bar.

The menu icon, which looks like a rectangle with six inner squares, only appears in applications that have menu items that aren't otherwise visible on the screen. When the user taps the menu icon, the application will show the relevant menu items as a grid of translucent buttons that are centered at the bottom of the screen.

A conventional Android menu activated in TweetDeck

The inconsistent menu placement between tablet and phone applications running on Android 3.0 is one of several minor usability blemishes that have resulted from Honeycomb's design changes. These issues aren't seriously detrimental to the quality of the user experience, but they detract from the software's predictability enough to be distracting, even to seasoned Android users.

The right-hand side of the notification panel has a digital clock and icons that reflect the current network signal strength and battery status. You can tap this region to expand it into a larger overlay that will show slightly more data. Any pending system notifications that haven't been dismissed will also be shown beneath the overlay. You can tap the overlay to expand a settings panel that can be used to adjust the most significant preferences.

The popup settings overlay

The contents of this settings panel allow the user to toggle airplane mode, get quick access to WiFi settings, toggle the screen orientation lock, adjust the screen brightness, and toggle notifications. You can also tap the "Settings" item at the bottom to get to Android's full settings application. The settings panel is convenient and well-designed. The screen brightness slider and orientation-lock buttons prove to be particularly useful on a tablet.

Web browser

Honeycomb comes with an enhanced Web browser with a richer and more tablet-friendly user interface, reasonable performance, and a nice assortment of new features. Thanks to the improved software, the Xoom offers a much more desktop-like Web browsing experience than the Galaxy Tab and other previous Android-based tablets.

The Honeycomb browser has a tabbed user interface, much like that of a conventional desktop browser. You can close a tab by tapping its associated X icon and you can create a new tab by hitting the plus icon in the tab bar. The browser appears to limit the user to a maximum of 16 open tabs at the same time. I never found myself hindered by that limit during regular use and only discovered it during a deliberate effort to see if there was a cap.

The Xoom's Web browser
The URL bar is hidden to conserve vertical space when the user scrolls down

The user can scroll through the contents of the tab bar by dragging it horizontally to the right or left. This makes it possible to have more tabs open than can be displayed on the screen. Unlike Chrome, the Honeycomb browser won't shrink the tabs as more are added to the tab bar, and in this respect it's obviously designed to be more finger-friendly than Chrome.

One of the new features introduced in Honeycomb's browser is support for incognito mode, which allows the user to avoid having their activity recorded or preserved by the browser. Because the Honeycomb browser doesn't support the concept of multiple browser windows, the incognito mode is exposed as a per-tab feature. You can create an incognito tab by selecting the relevant option from the browser's menu. The incognito tabs are signified by the same creepy stalker dude icon that is used in Chrome.

CuteOverload in Incognito mode

Another great new feature that brings Android's browsing experience closer to Chrome is support for bookmark syncing. You can enable this feature through the browser's settings panel and choose which of your linked Google accounts it will use for the syncing.

Setting up synchronization with Chrome in the Xoom's browser

There is also a slick new automatic Google sign-in feature that will allow the browser to automatically log you into Google services such as Google Reader or Gmail when you access them in the browser. This feature is optional and can also be configured to use any of your linked Google accounts, including a Google Apps account that is on a custom domain.

Although Android's Web browser has inherited some nice features from Chrome, it still doesn't share Chrome's superior rendering engine. It lacks Chrome's robust support for advanced Web features like some of the more complex corners of CSS3. I also noticed occasional rendering glitches that showed up during zooming. The browser's limitations could prove disappointing for Web developers who are pushing the boundaries of Web standards and rely on the latest HTML5 features (more on this later). In practice, however, such weaknesses won't be noticed by a majority of users during day-to-day browsing.

I was largely satisfied with the Xoom browsing experience. Pages load quickly, especially over WiFi. The sites that I visit regularly were displayed properly and worked as expected when I tested some of the more elaborate JavaScript features. JavaScript animations can be a bit sluggish in some places, like the feature marquee on the front page of Ars, but the browser generally performed well enough to meet my needs


Browser user-agent issues

As we discussed at length in our review of the Galaxy Tab, one of the biggest problems with Web browsing on an Android tablet is that the user-agent detection code on most websites isn't sophisticated enough to distinguish between Android tablets and smartphones. This is a problem because it means that most websites will show Xoom users a phone-optimized version that is poorly suited for the more desktop-like tablet.

On practically every mainstream website that I visited, I had to find a link to convert to the full view. Some of the websites where I encountered the problem include Wikipedia, GigaOm, and CuteOverload. It's especially frustrating on sites that don't remember the user's preference from one visit to the next.

The mobile version of Ars isn't very pleasant on a tablet

Standards support and limitations

As we recently discussed when we looked at Mozilla's criticisms of Internet Explorer, the criteria that Web developers use to judge browsers is often very different than the perspective of a regular end user.

Developers increasingly want to use Web technologies as a platform for building rich applications. Some of the latest and greatest Web standards provide really great features for creating Web-based experiences that rival the smoothness of native mobile programs. The high quality of the WebKit renderer on the iPad has opened the door for a lot of innovation in that area. Developers have been hoping that the work they are doing on next-generation Web applications for the iPad would be able to seamlessly transfer to Android-based tablets. Unfortunately, that's where the Xoom falls short.

Professional Web developers seem to be disappointed with some of the technical weaknesses of Honeycomb's HTML rendering engine. Sencha's Aditya Bansod wrote up a particularly scathing critique after evaluating the browser's performance and standards support. He indicates that the Honeycomb browser falls short of Apple's mobile version of Safari in some key areas, particularly in its handling of CSS animations. Bansod characterizes the Xoom's browser as being below production quality and contends that the browser's rendering engine is simply "not ready for prime-time" on a tablet device.

Bansod's specific complaints about the rendering engine's limitations are accurate, but it's important to remember that he's speaking from the perspective of a Web developer. The issue here isn't that the Android browser is failing as a day-to-day Web browser, it's that it doesn't support the kind of dynamic and visually sophisticated functionality that is needed to make mobile Web experiences that match the elegance and refinement of native applications.

In light of Google's vocal enthusiasm for using the Web as an application platform, it's a bit surprising that the company is so far behind Apple in supporting that vision on a mobile device. When I tested toolkits like JQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch on the Xoom, the gaps in the Honeycomb browser's rendering engine were painfully apparent. Animated transitions stuttered and certain visual elements were not rendered correctly.

Again, I want to emphasize that these rendering issues don't detract from the browser's adequacy at handling regular websites that users are likely to visit. This is solely about the rendering engine's potential to handle next-generation mobile Web applications.

E-mail

Unfortunately, Motorola doesn't bundle its own custom messaging application with the Xoom. Users will have to rely on Android's own native e-mail client, which leaves a lot to be desired.

The conventional e-mail client in Honeycomb has a sophisticated new tablet-friendly user interface and a number of much-needed new features, but it still suffers from extremely poor protocol implementations and exhibits a number of long-standing bugs.

The new e-mail application has a three-column layout that was designed for the tablet form factor. The application will typically display two columns at a time in landscape mode. In the main view, you will see a column on the left with all of the folders in your mail account. On the right side, there is a wider column that shows a list of messages in the selected folder. You can tap a folder to load its contents in the right-hand pane.

Viewing the contents of a folder in the Honeycomb e-mail client

If you select a message, the application will transition to a different view—the message list will be displayed in a left-hand column and the contents of the selected message will be displayed in a pane on the right. Items in the message list are accompanied by checkboxes that you can toggle to select multiple messages. This mechanism allows the e-mail client to support batch operations.

Reading an e-mail on the Xoom

The actual message view is very clean and well-designed. Information about the sender is displayed in a light blue banner at the top, with reply, forward, and star buttons. You can use a pinch gesture to zoom in or out of the message view. As you zoom, the text of the message will automatically be reflowed to fit the screen size. You can also drag or flick-scroll to pan the message contents in any direction.

One of the most grating historical weaknesses of Android's mail client has been the lack of support for moving messages between folders. Google has finally addressed that weakness in Honeycomb. When you select a message, you can move it by clicking the folder icon in the toolbar and then selecting a destination folder from the popup dialog. You can also move multiple messages at the same time using the batch selection feature.

Moving a message between e-mail folders

An even more impressive addition in Honeycomb is support for using drag-and-drop interaction to move messages between folders. When you long-press a message, a draggable overlay will pop out. When you drop it on one of the folders in the left-hand folder list, the selected message will be moved to the desired folder. This feature vastly simplifies mail triaging, an activity that Android's mail client has historically been unable to support in previous versions.

Moving a message between e-mail folders

Although the user interface of the new e-mail client is pretty good, there are still some long-standing usability problems that haven't been addressed. For example, the new version of the mail client still doesn't properly detect and display nested Maildir folders from IMAP servers. The mail client will display the flat folder names with the delimiter, which means that the end of the name will often be truncated for deeply nested folders.

In addition to those sorts of presentation issues, there are a number of more serious problems with the mail client's underlying IMAP protocol implementation. For example, deleting a message in the client will not delete the message on the server or cause it to be moved to a trash folder. Instead, it will simply mark the message as read on the server and hide it on the client. Due to issues of that nature, the Xoom's e-mail client simply isn't reliable—much like the default e-mail client in previous versions of Android.

Motorola, HTC, and many other handset makers typically ship their own mail clients on Android phones so that users won't have to suffer with the mediocrity of Google's poor effort. Motorola's mail client on the Droid X and Droid 2 is especially good and fills in a lot of the gaps, but it's not available on the Xoom.

Users who want an acceptable IMAP e-mail experience on the Xoom will have to install a third-party application, such as K-9. Unfortunately, K-9 hasn't been updated to take advantage of the Android 3.0 APIs yet and doesn't have a tablet-friendly user interface at this time.

Google's ongoing failure to provide decent e-mail support on Android continues to be a major disappointment in Honeycomb. Prospective Xoom buyers who care a lot about IMAP or Exchange e-mail support should probably pass on the Xoom or wait until third-party applications like Touchdown and K-9 have proper tablet interfaces.


Calendar and address book

The Xoom comes with the standard Google applications, including a calendar and address book that synchronize with the company's popular Web services. The user interfaces are simplistic, however, and didn't impress me very much.

The calendar application allows you to switch between day, week, and month views from the titlebar. In the week and day views, it displays a small month overview on the right-hand side and a switcher for filtering the user's individual calendars. There doesn't appear to be an agenda view of any kind, and you can't get details about an item by tapping it in the month view.

Viewing a week in the Honeycomb calendar application
Adding a new event to the calendar

Although Samsung's custom calendar application for the Galaxy Tab had some odd design characteristics, it felt a whole lot more functional to me. I especially like the way that the Tab's calendar application displayed the agenda view side-by-side with the full-month view in the calendar. The Xoom's calendar just doesn't match up on features and isn't even as nice as the regular Google Calendar Web interface. One nice touch, however, is that you can use pinch-zooming to expand or contract the size of hour blocks in day and week view.

The address book on the Xoom is also pretty simple, but it gets the job done and doesn't really lack any features that I need. It shows a scrollable list of your contacts in the the left-hand column and will allow you to select one to display more information in the right-hand column. You can click the pencil button in the titlebar to edit a contact, and you can filter with the built-in search box.

Viewing my contacts in the Honeycomb address book

The address book will automatically suck in your contacts from Twitter, Gmail, and other accounts. I follow hundreds of people on Twitter and don't really want that kind of clutter in my contact list. Fortunately, the application has a drop-down menu that lets you filter to see just one account. You can also create a custom view that filters out specific accounts.

Google Books

Google Books is an e-book reader that Google launched alongside its Web-based bookstore. Honeycomb comes with a special tablet-friendly version that looks good on large form-factor devices. The application has a simple 3D book cover display that allows you to select the book you want to read.

Viewing the books in my library on the Xoom

It will format the text as two pages side-by-side in landscape orientation and as a single page in portrait orientation. The text is clear and legible for comfortable reading. When the user is reading, the application hides all of the controls, including the contents of the notification area. You can flip pages by dragging to the left or right. It displays a slick 3D page-turning animation as you drag.

Reading Great Expectations in landscape orientation
Flipping a page in the e-book reader

Controls will appear when the user taps the screen. Text display settings can be accessed by tapping the letter button in the titlebar. You can adjust the brightness, text size, typeface, and line height. A slider along the bottom allows you just jump forward through the text.

Configuring the text settings

The e-book software is good, but could use a few more improvements. The biggest issue is the lack of support for side-loading books. It would be really nice if there was a way to read arbitrary epub files in the application. Due to the lack of this feature, users will still have to rely on third-party e-book software for reading books that were obtained from other sources. Unfortunately, Aldiko—my favorite e-book application for Android—has some rendering problems on the Xoom. I also had some trouble getting the Vintage Comics application to display properly on the device.

Aside from the lack of support for side-loading, my other complaints with Google's e-book application are very minor. I appreciate its effort to minimize on-screen distractions, but I'd really prefer it to not blot out the notification area. In particular, I want to be able to see the clock on the screen when I'm reading.

I think that Google's e-book software is pretty good, but the Xoom's weight and size detract from its suitability as a device for reading books. The awkwardness of holding the Xoom in portrait orientation for long periods of time is particularly problematic in that respect. If you don't mind reading novels in landscape, which is well supported in Google's own software, then it might not be an issue for you.

If you are an Android enthusiast and regard e-book reading as an important feature in a tablet, you might be better off getting a Nook Color and modifying it to run additional software. I personally prefer the Nook Color over the Xoom for reading novels and working through my Google Reader feed.


Music application

Google has developed a whole new music application for Honeycomb. It provides a slick 3D user interface that resembles the Cooliris-based photo gallery application that Google introduced on the Nexus One.

When you first launch the music player, it will show you a 3D stream of album covers representing new and recently played songs in the user's music library. As you flick through the stream, the albums will fly across the screen. The 3D animation is extremely smooth and fluid.

A stream of recent and new music

You can use the navigation menu in the application titlebar to switch between different views. For example, you can see a 3D wall with all of the albums in your library by selecting the "Albums" view.

The album wall

When you tap an album, the application will show you a list of tracks. You can tap a song to start playing it or you can use the drop-down menu to the right of the song to add it to a playlist. When a song is playing, the application will show the cover art and a seek slider that you can drag to jump through the song.

Listening to a song on the Xoom

The music application is a nice step up from the one included in stock Android. The 3D user interface is elegant, functional, and intuitive. It does a nice job of demonstrating the kind of user experience that can be delivered on Android when developers take advantage of 3D rendering.

Getting music onto the device wasn't as straightforward as I had hoped. Most Android phones have limited internal storage capacity and are built with the assumption that the user will store media on a microSD card. The Xoom, however, has lots of internal storage and, at the present time, no working microSD slot.

This is an issue because Android typically doesn't allow the user to mount the system's internal flash memory as a conventional mass storage device. You can't just plug the Xoom into a USB port to drag and drop your music onto the filesystem.

The Xoom uses the MTP protocol to expose the user-visible parts of the device's internal storage to a desktop computer. MTP tends to work pretty well-out-of-the-box on Windows, but Mac OS X users will need to install the Android File Transfer program. Unfortunately, no such application is available for Linux users. If you want to access the Xoom's internal storage through Linux, your best bet is to try mtpfs, a FUSE-based MTP protocol implementation.

Keyboard

Honeycomb introduces a new on-screen keyboard that puts additional spacing between the keys for more accurate text input. In landscape orientation, it is wide enough to accommodate full-handed typing. In portrait orientation, the keyboard is a pretty good size for two-handed thumb typing.

Honeycomb's on-screen keyboard

You can also sort of thumb-type in landscape mode, but I found that attempting to do so was a bit awkward. The landscape keyboard is really best-suited for use when the tablet is on another surface—like your lap or a table—and you don't have to hold it up while you are typing.

I was able to achieve a pretty good typing speed when I used the landscape keyboard with the tablet placed on the slightly angled surface of my desk. I can't quite touch-type on it, but it felt surprisingly close to using a regular keyboard. My typing accuracy on touchscreen keyboards tends to diminish at fast speeds, however.

On a real physical keyboard, you can feel the boundaries of each key and the space between them. This provides a lot of physical cues—which you don't have on a touchscreen keyboard—that help make typing more accurate. A common way to help compensate for the absence of those physical cues on a touchscreen keyboard is to increase the spacing between the keys, making it so that you are less likely to hit a boundary between keys or press two keys at once by accident. I think that Google got this right on the Honeycomb keyboard. The keys are large enough that they are easy to press, and they are spaced well enough to reduce mistyping.



Games

Although mobile platforms haven't been able to attract games that match the depth of dedicated console titles, casual gaming is an area where tablets have a lot of potential. I tested some of the most popular free Android games on the Xoom to see how it impacts the experience.

The review unit that I received came with a game called Cordy already installed. This proved to be a clever and engaging game with nice 3D artwork. Despite being set in a 3D environment, it plays like a screen scroller, which helped keep the controls simple. The player directs a little robot through the world and collects energy that can be used to unlock doors. The 3D rendering performance in Cordy is excellent on the Xoom. It's smooth as butter to play and very enjoyable.

Cordy, an Android game with nice 3D graphics

The free version that is available from the Market has a limited number of levels (I managed to work through the whole thing in one sitting) but they promise to make more available in future updates. I was pretty impressed with this game, though it took a bit of time to get used to the touchscreen controls.

One game that is a bit more graphically intensive is Dungeon Defenders, an odd fusion of ARPG and tower defense genres. It's also available on the PC and the iPad. The Android port has pretty good 3D graphics and felt quite smooth during gameplay. The game itself has a bit of a learning curve, so I didn't get very far before moving on to test other things.

A 3D wizard in Dungeon Defenders

In an effort to highlight games for Android that take advantage of the Tegra 2 hardware, NVIDIA has published a Honeycomb-compatible application called the Tegra Zone. There aren't many games listed in its directory yet, but it's worth watching. When you click the "Get It Now" button on one of the games, it will punt you over to the Android market.

NVIDIA's Tegra Zone application

In addition to these sophisticated 3D games, I also tested some of the classic Android favorites. Angry Birds plays well on the Xoom and looks great on the tablet's large screen. The most popular version of Solitaire for Android disappointingly didn't fill the whole screen.

Some of the classics like Paper Toss and Bonsai Blast simply expanded to fill the space. They were entirely playable, but didn't look very good due to the stretching. Bonsai Blast is still an awesome game and feels great on a tablet, so I'd really like to see it get some higher-resolution artwork.

Bonsai Blast stretched to fit on the Xoom

One of my favorite games to play on the Xoom is Glow Hockey, a simple table hockey game with glowing colors and trippy particle effects. It's a port of an iPad game, so it's not surprising that it's a good fit on a tablet form factor. It's designed to be played in portrait orientation, but it ends up being a lot more comfortable to play in landscape orientation on the Xoom.

Glow Hockey on the Xoom

After testing a variety of games, I can conclude that Honeycomb and the Xoom hardware are a good match for touchscreen gaming. The Xoom's excellent hardware-accelerated rendering and large screen make it particularly good for immersive 3D games like Cordy. If Android tablets can attract enough users who are willing to pay for software, I think it's very likely that the major commercial game developers will support the platform.

Third-party development

Android's rising popularity makes the platform attractive to a growing number of third-party application developers. Although the breadth and volume of the Android Market still trails behind that of Apple's App Store, Google is arguably making headway in its effort to augment developer mindshare and improve the Android Market experience.

Inspiring developer enthusiasm for Android tablets is one of the biggest challenges ahead for Google as the company works to build the platform's credibility on the tablet form factor.

During the process of writing this article, I discussed Honeycomb with several third-party Android application developers to see how they feel about the new version of Android and the opportunities that await them on new devices like the Xoom. The general attitude is one of cautious enthusiasm. There is a lot of excitement about the possibilities for building richer and more expressive user interfaces—particularly about the prospect of being able to build user experiences that incorporate hardware-accelerated 3D rendering.

Although several of the developers who spoke with me about Honeycomb are already prototyping new tablet-friendly versions of their applications, none of them were ready yet to have their efforts published on Ars. A preview of the Honeycomb SDK was first made available last month and the APIs were only finalized a last week, so it's not particularly surprising that third-party development efforts are still at an early stage.

There are a few challenges that have generated minor concern among third-party developers. The biggest barrier right now is the lack of clarity regarding best practices for building applications that work across form factors. It's going to take some time for developers to wrap their heads around the best approach.

Honeycomb's new Fragments system will help reduce the burden of building applications that work seamlessly across tablets and phones. Applications that rely on those APIs can currently only natively operate on devices that run Android 3.0, however. This posed obvious challenges for developers who wanted to take advantage of the new functionality. Fortunately, Google has published a static library that will help address the issue.

Another barrier to Honeycomb development that Google is working to remedy is the poor performance of the Android emulator. The emulator has always been sluggish, but it was still generally pretty usable with previous versions of the Android operating system. The emulator performance issues are greatly exacerbated, however, in Android 3.0. It's almost painful to do serious testing and debugging of Honeycomb applications in the emulator.

The launch of the Xoom is particularly significant for the Android application development community because it offers a real-world hardware environment on which third-party developers can test their Honeycomb software. It supports Android's USB debugging capabilities, so it's possible to deploy software directly to the device from the Eclipse IDE during development. Because it's a much more comfortable environment for testing than the sluggish emulator, it will hopefully make Android tablet development a lot more palatable.


Conclusion

The Xoom's impressive hardware specifications and ambitious feature lineup are intriguing, but the product falls short of its full potential due to a general lack of completeness. It feels like it was rushed to market and delivered to consumers prematurely. The number of headline features that are simply absent at launch is emblematic of the device's deficiencies.

If you will pardon the indulgence, I want to share a marginally relevant personal experience. The Xoom reminds me of a trip I took to Russia a number of years ago. The Russians have meticulously consolidated their nation's vast assortment of historical artifacts and cultural treasures into a single enormous collection, which is housed in a former palace in Saint Petersburg. The facility, which is known as the Hermitage, is easily one of the greatest museums on the planet.

It's an amazing museum, but there is a downside to putting everything of interest in one place. Everywhere else I went in Russia, at virtually every major historical site, the tour guide would have to explain that the items on display were artificial reproductions because the originals were all at the Hermitage. The explanation was repeated with such comical frequency at so many different places that it quickly became an inside joke among my fellow travelers in the tour group. After a week of seeing placeholders of where all of Russia's coolest stuff used to be, we finally got to see the originals (and much more) at the Hermitage.

My experience with the Xoom feels like a similar situation. The product has an extraordinary set of features, but the best are simply not available at launch. While I was testing the device and studying the documentation, I was confronted repeatedly with disclaimers which explained that various features will arrive later in updates. There are so many of these disclaimers that it soon became absurd. The device, in its current state, is like a parade of promising placeholders.

The Xoom's assortment of absent features will likely all be available this Summer, but the launch configuration feels like a beta release. Consumers who buy it today will have to send it back in for a week at some point before they can get the complete product. I think bringing it to market in this condition was a pretty dubious move.

As a reviewer, I'm finding it particularly hard to evaluate the Xoom. When I test beta hardware or software, I tend to give the manufacturer or developer the benefit of the doubt and focus on the product's potential. I'm tempted to approach the Xoom from that perspective, but I just can't rationalize that kind of leniency for a product that has been officially released and is selling for $800.

If you compare the Xoom against the iPad 2 today, there isn't much of a case to be made in favor of the Xoom. If you make the same comparison four or five months from now when the Xoom has all of its features intact, the story is going to look rather different. LTE and Flash are both desirable features that would make the Xoom look really appealing to a decent-sized mainstream audience.

It's worth keeping in mind, however, that the tablet market will be more competitive by the time the Xoom gets all its features. There are a number of Honeycomb-based devices launching in the near future, some of which seem a bit more polished. It's also possible that we will see the second wave of Android 3.x tablets arrive this summer. At that point, the platform will be more mature and the third-party software ecosystem for Android tablets will have had some time to evolve.

I have some confidence in Google's ability to address the stability issues and problems of that nature, but it's not really clear yet if Motorola will be able to roll those improvements out in a timely manner. Motorola's track record on updates is better than some of the hardware makers and it's possible that the lack of customizations will make it easier for the company to keep the Xoom updated. But there are still risks in adopting glitchy software when there are so few guarantees about when fixes will be available.

If you are looking for the best tablet available today, then look no further than Cupertino. If you are an Android enthusiast and you want a good tablet that runs the same software as your phone, you should wait a few months for everything to solidify before you decide which Android tablet you want. Don't jump for the Xoom just because it's the first—they rushed it out prematurely hoping to capitalize on exactly that.

The main legitimate audience for the Xoom today is third-party application developers. If you are a third-party application developer and you need to get your hands on real-world Honeycomb hardware in order to start working on your commercial Android software projects, then the Xoom is really not that bad a value.

Although this review has largely been negative, I want to make it clear that I'm not completely dismissing Android as a tablet platform. The basic elements we are seeing in Honeycomb are compelling, and there is a lot of potential under the hood. Android has a long way to go before it's competitive with iOS on tablets, but it could have a lot to offer when it finally catches up.

The Good:

  • Built-in software is more tablet-friendly than pre-Honeycomb Android tablets
  • It will eventually support desirable features like LTE and Flash
  • Plenty of RAM for multitasking and intensive Web browsing
  • Dual-core processor and NVIDIA GPU offer great performance for gaming
  • Good integration with Google's Web services

The Bad:

  • The software is not particularly stable or robust
  • Requires a proprietary power adapter and can't charge through microUSB
  • Users have to rely on the MTP protocol to manage media on the device
  • The built-in e-mail client has extremely poor protocol support
  • There are very few third-party Android applications designed for the form factor
  • The Google Books e-book application doesn't support side-loading content
  • Very few websites handle the Honeycomb browser's User-Agent string correctly
  • The browser's support for advanced CSS3 features lags behind Safari's

The Ugly:

  • The Xoom has to be shipped back to Motorola for the LTE upgrade
  • Key features like Flash and the microSD slot don't work at launch

Sunday, March 6, 2011 by NEWS · 0

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