Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

Sony Plans a 4K Fest for CES

December 9, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Sony may not use the term “4K” 4,000 times during its CES press conference and keynote. But it will surely come close. The electronics giant is betting heavily on the next big-screen technology to help reestablish Sony’s name as the kind of brand that consumers aspire to buy. “We’re [going] after the premium consumer out there,” said Sony Electronics president Phil Molyneux. The term 4K refers to screens with a resolution of 3,896 by 2,640 pixels, a significant step over today’s high-definition displays, but one that will take time to be affordable and widespread. (For more on that and other emerging TV technologies, check out this piece that my colleague Lauren Goode did from last year’s CES.) Sony already has televisions and video cameras with that resolution, and it is planning to expand into other areas, likely 4K smartphones and computers. “It’s clear people will want to generate their own 4K content,” Molyneux said in a briefing with reporters on Sunday. As for specific new products, Molyneux said we’d have to wait for CES. Molyneux said Sony is also working hard to drive down prices for the TVs and camcorders that can capture and display 4K content

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Plantronics Says It Can Be a Wearable Computing Company, Too

December 6, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Look at Plantronics’ online catalog and you’ll see a lot of commonplace products: Telephones, speakerphones and a long list of headphones, earbuds and headsets for everything from music to gaming to telemarketing. But CTO Joe Burton thinks the company needs to “shift to mobility … [and] away from normal phones.” It needs, he said, to make itself a competitor in wearable computing. I know; I was skeptical, too. Hang in there. As it turns out, even though “normal phones” are still its bread and butter, Plantronics has been experimenting for the past few years, loading its headsets with sensors like the ones you might find in a smartphone or, say, Google Glass. And with these sensor-laden hardware experiments, the company has been reaching out to third-party developers over the past few months through a secondary website, PLT Labs , to develop conceptual hardware and software . And some of these sensor-headsets are already out in the wild. At Cisco’s call center, Burton said, once a customer support rep puts on a phone headset, a motion sensor registers that it is being worn and the rep is automatically added to the call routing queue. If near an active webcam, he or she is put in the special video support queue. One of Plantronics’ internal experiments also piqued my interest. The company has hacked an Xbox to let the motions of a headset wearer leaning from side to side control a motorcycle racing game. In other words, Oculus Rift-esque motion tracking on a gaming console based on sensors connected to the body rather than the one-step-removed Kinect camera. As I wrote last month , the gaming startup Mind Pirate says wearables becoming as ubiquitous as cell phones is an “inevitability,” and believes it can help shape their future: Rather than trying to solve consumers’ problems, the idea is that entertaining apps will validate new categories of devices for consumers, which you could argue was a big chunk of the mobile story as well. Getting in front of games for devices like Google Glass may mean helping to figure out just what, exactly, a world of omnipresent games would look like. By contrast, Burton maintains that Plantronics’ chances at breaking into wearables may stem from the converse of that idea. That is, the company already has a history of convincing people to put stuff on their heads. He broke sensors down into four types: Near you (e.g. in your phone); on you (e.g. via a Fitbit clip); touching your body (e.g. an activity tracker on your wrist); and touching your head.

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Instagram to Hold December 12th Event in NYC

December 5, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Instagram has invited reporters to a press event on December 12th in Manhattan, according to reports from CNet and TechCrunch . The invitations do not specify what the event will focus on, though a recent report from GigaOm suggests it could be a messaging service .

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BlackBerry Desperation Campaign Continues

December 5, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Interim CEO and Executive Chairman John Chen is going to turn around BlackBerry just the way he turned around Sybase. This according to Prem Watsa, BlackBerry’s largest shareholder and the latest company mouthpiece to sound off in a campaign to proclaim to the world its longevity in the face of what appears to be a fast dwindling lifespan. In a Wednesday interview with Reuters, Watsa called Chen an outstanding leader, one who is certain to reinvigorate BlackBerry. With the $1 billion in financing that Watsa’s Fairfax Financial has provided it, the dilapidated smartphone pioneer’s turnaround is all but assured. “[BlackBerry is] company that deserves to exist and with John Chen it will,” Watsa said . “It’s got lots of cash, it has a long runway for John to make sure that the company is successful.” Watsa certainly sounds optimistic about BlackBerry’s chances under Chen

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Dell Tablets at Bargain Prices

December 4, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If you’re thinking of getting someone a new, name-brand tablet for the holidays, but blanch at spending base prices of $229, $399 or $499, Dell is hoping you’ll look its way. The computer giant, battling an industrywide slump in PC sales, is once again making a push into tablets and one of its weapons is low pricing. Dell has had little success in tablets. But it introduced this fall a family of four Android- and Windows-based slates called Venue models. I took a close look at one model, the seven-inch Venue 7, which, at $150, is the least expensive new major-label tablet I’ve seen at the standard 16-gigabyte base memory level. (There are a few year-old models, or models with less memory that cost somewhat less.) To understand how low $150 is for a name-brand, 16GB tablet, consider that the market-leading Apple iPads start at $499 for the 9.7-inch iPad Air, and $399 for the iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch Retina display. Even the latest seven-inch models from Google and Amazon, known for aggressive pricing, start at $229. In fact, mostly because they adopted better screens, the 2013 models of the iPad Mini, Google Nexus 7 and top-of-the-line seven-inch Kindle Fire actually rose in price from the 2012 models. So, what exactly do you get from a $150 name-brand tablet? The answer: You get a lower-quality device with weak battery life, which might suffice for a first-time tablet buyer with a tight budget. The Venue 7 is a relatively chunky black plastic tablet running Google’s Android operating system, that’s available via Dell’s online store. It operates over Wi-Fi only, though a cellular version is planned for next year. It cannot be ordered with more internal memory than 16GB, but it has a slot for a memory expansion card. This tablet has a big brother, the Android-powered Venue 8, with similar specs, that starts at $180, still a good price. On the plus side, I found the Dell Venue 7 to be fast enough not to be annoying. Common apps like Gmail, the Chrome browser, the Kindle reading app, Google Maps, Twitter and Facebook all worked fine for me. Videos played smoothly. But buyers of this tablet aren’t getting the latest or best technology. The processor, an Intel Atom, and the version of Android used, Jelly Bean 4.2.2, are last-generation editions, though Dell says it hopes to offer an upgrade to the latest version of Android next year

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One of the Year’s Most Addictive Mobile Games Doesn’t Seem Like a Game At All

December 2, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

It’s inevitable: When I tell people I write about videogames, someone almost always asks, “What should I play?” Since I’m not a reviewer, there are plenty of games I haven’t played, but I always have at least one game on my phone ready to be shown off; recently, that game has been an unusual one. Clumsy Ninja , which game studio NaturalMotion first demoed at Apple’s iPhone 5 event in September 2012 , finally made it to Apple’s U.S. App Store a few weeks ago, and since then it’s been on a tear. “This is not designed to be a hardcore monetizing game,” NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil told me in a pre-launch interview. Well, oops? It is monetizing well — so well, in fact, that it broke into the top-25 iOS grossing apps chart within three days of its launch. At the time of this writing, it peaked at #14 overall on Tuesday and has been hovering between the high teens and low 30s since then, according to App Annie (registration required). (As for what that means in real money terms: According to one report from Distimo, the top-10 grossing apps make at least $47,000 per day . Even if the app never crosses the magical top-10 barrier, that’s still a lot of dough.) So why does Clumsy Ninja monetize so well?

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You Spent $1.2 Billion Shopping Online on Black Friday

December 1, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If you take an increase in the rate of holiday spending as a suggestion of good economic news, then there’s a lot to like about the new numbers from comScore, the research firm that tracks the digital economy. According to research out today, consumers shopping online spent $1.2 billion buying stuff on Black Friday . It was the, the firm says, the first billion-dollar-plus day of the holiday season so far. On Thanksgiving Day, consumers spent about $766 million online, up 21 percent from 2012. Compared to last year, it’s a 15 percent improvement, or $156 million higher than the Black Friday 2012 total of $1.04 billion. Now, that’s a tricky comparison, owing to the fact that Thanksgiving fell rather late on the calendar this year versus last year

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So You Got a New iPad. Here’s Some Free Stuff to Read.

November 30, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If, like me, you took advantage of the rare deals offered on a new iPad yesterday, then you’re probably playing around with the new device today, and finding interesting things to do with it. Magazine publisher Condé Nast has a suggestion for you, and is offering a rare deal of its own: A free download of the current issue of the iPad edition of its many magazine titles, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair*, Vogue, Bon Appetit and Architectural Digest. Between the iPad and the iPhone editions , you’ve got very little excuse for that “stack of old magazines you don’t have time to get to” problem. And with the holiday season looming, who couldn’t use something to read on the plane, the train, or while taking a badly needed break from an overdose of family? To get them, go to the iPad’s Newsstand app, and download the app for one of Condé’s titles. Once there, click on the promotion, which is hard to miss. The same deal also applies to the Google Play version of the magazine apps available for Android tablets. It’s running through Dec. 2. * It’s worth noting that my AllThingsD colleagues Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka are both contributors to Vanity Fair.

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Bitcoin, Schmitcoin — Tech Stocks Also on a Frothy Run

November 29, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

While the stock market was only open a half-day today, it was still a solid one for Internet stocks as the market enters its final month of 2013. Most showed gains yesterday, with Apple, Amazon and Twitter all up almost two percent. But that does not tell the story of how well shares of tech companies have been doing throughout the year — most are up significantly, seeing big jumps. For the year-to-date, most well-known issues are up, including: LinkedIn, up more that 95 percent; Facebook, up over 76.5 percent; Yahoo, up 83 percent; Amazon, up 57 percent; Google, up close to 50 percent; and even perpetually stagnant Microsoft, up close to 43 percent. Apple lagged, up only 4.5 percent, and Twitter remains below its November IPO price, down 7.4 percent. Even suffering Groupon and Zynga did well, up more than 86 percent and 84 percent respectively. The past three months have not been as strong, though, with Amazon leading the pack with a 38.6 percent rise. It was followed by Yahoo, up 35.3 percent; Google, up close to 34 percent; Facebook and Microsoft, up close to 14 percent; and Apple, up just over 13 percent. LinkedIn declined just over seven percent in the period, not a surprise, given its spectacular rise since it went public in mid-2011. What the rest of the year and 2014 will bring is anyone’s guess, of course, but there are expected to be a spate of IPOs in the first half of the new year, most notably China’s Alibaba Group, whose stellar performance should continue to boost Yahoo’s stock.

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Pay Attention, Snapchat! China’s WeChat Messaging App Does E-Commerce Well.

November 29, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

American messaging services could learn a thing or two from WeChat. The mobile-focused app is massively popular in China and spreading quickly abroad; of the 270-million-plus regular users of the service, about a quarter of those are outside of mainland China . Aside from its wide user base, WeChat’s biggest success looks to be in its bottom line: In-app purchases. Take WeChat’s recent experiment with the fast-growing Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi . The two companies teamed up to offer a limited number of Xiaomi’s latest flagship phone, the Mi-3, inside the WeChat app exclusively.

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