Sovan Mandal - Part 3

Sovan Mandal

is the senior tablet and tech corespondent for He brings a international approach to news that is not just applicable to the North American market, but also Asia, India, Europe and others. Sovy brings his own writing flavor to the website and is interested in Science Fiction, Technology and Writing. Any questions, send an email

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Mozilla has announced they have put an end to the Firefox for Windows 8 project just weeks of launching the beta version because there just aren’t enough testers who volunteered to test the new touch-friendly Metro avatar of Firefox. Mozilla also stated they are not going to risk launching what could be a buggy version of the browser. This applies to only the touch screen version of the popular browser, though the traditional desktop version continues to be available.

“In the months since, as the team built and tested and refined the product, we’ve been watching Metro’s adoption,” revealed Firefox VP Johnathan Nightingale in a blog post. “From what we can see, it’s pretty flat. On any given day we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1000 active daily users in the Metro environment.”

The touch-friendly version of Firefox was scheduled to be launched on March 18, but that obviously isn’t relevant any more. Mozilla stated they aren’t ruling out the browser in future and will be back in development once demand picks up.

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Amazon has come up with an update to its Kindle app for Android. The update doesn’t introduce any new fancy features but brings about some interesting enhancements to the existing set up. The changes include the introduction of several new fonts to choose from, along with easy access to the table of contents when reading a particular book. The update also promises faster cover loading along with automatic brightness control. The issue of using the volume buttons for page turning has also been overhauled so that it now allows for better and more refined control.

Overall, it’s a minor update, but it no doubt will allow for a better reading experience using the Kindle app. You can download Kindle for Android from the Good e-Reader App Store.

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The Transformer Book Duet was designed to offer the best of both worlds, Android and Windows. The device was first shown off at CES in Las Vegas and became one of the new computers that people started to obsess about.  Apparently, Google and Microsoft were not consenting bedfellows and made Asus cancel the device.

The Book Duet  Transformer hybrid laptop and tablet concept basically allowed users to switch between both Android and Windows with just the press of either a tab on the display or a special button on the keypad unit. The best thing with the entire set up was that there wasn’t the need for restarting the device each time one needed to switch OS.

However, with mounting pressure from both Google and Microsoft, Asus has caved to the pressure.  Microsoft said  that they have stopped supporting dual OS devices with a new policy.  Google basically said that they don’t want to give Microsoft a foothold into an industry where they haven’t had much success and want to stop the Redmond company from piggybacking.

Categories : Tablet PC News
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Microsoft is believed to be in a position of unleashing its popular productivity suite, the MS Office across iOS platform any day now. Experts predicts it’s no longer a matter of if, but when.   Microsoft stands the risk of losing market share of its Office software suite. The scenario in some ways is akin to BlackBerry holding on to making its BBM  to rival platforms for fear of denying its own smartphone range one of its biggest attractions.

Microsoft has been resistant to bringing a full version of their seminal Office system to touchscreen systems. The have basically alienated an entire new generation of users that have grown  up with iPads and Android tablets. Instead, most users gravitate towards less developed word processors.  These are either available free or charge a small amount and are less refined and elegant.

Overall, Microsoft has found itself at the crossroads of an important change in the computing industry that it helped shape years ago. However, its time they reinvent themselves and appeal to a wider demographic.  It is only a matter of time before the new Microsoft CEO pulls the trigger and establishes a definitive release date.

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The Corporation Primary School in Jurong West, Singapore, is in the process of setting up a digital library of its own. The new library will be a first of its kind in a school in Singapore and will initially host about 5,000 fiction and non-fiction ebook titles. The e-library is expected to launch by the end of this month and will be open first to the lower primary students before before reaching other patrons later.

Authorities believe will this appeal to the tech savvy students who’d like to read books off a device, and a digital library is expected to spur the habit of reading among the students from an early age. This will also save the students the trouble of traveling to the school library each time they are in need of a book or to renew. All they need to do is to log in to the school library system to download the book on a compatible device, which can be a smartphone or a tablet.

However, not everyone is convinced of the benefits of having a digital library in place. As some parents have stated, they’d rather not have their kids introduced to technology at such an early age as they feel it can be glaring to the eyes.

Read about kid’s tablet usage issues here.

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Microsoft has come up with a cheaper but more personal alternative to its Office 365 subscription plans. Office 365 Personal, as the plan has been named, will cost $6.99 a month or $69.90 a year but will only be applicable to a single PC or Mac, and one tablet device. This is in contrast to the five PC or Mac devices (and five mobile devices such as a smartphone and tablet) that the Office Home Premium caters to, but costs a higher $9.99 per month or $99.90 a year. The new Office 365 Personal plan will be made available sometime in the spring and comes as a welcome choice for single users. Meanwhile, in another development, Microsoft has also announced a change of name for Office 365 Home Premium to just Office 365 Home.

“We’re committed to delivering a great Office experience to all of our customers and believe that giving you a choice about the Office 365 subscription that fits your unique needs is one way we can do that,” Chris Schneider, a senior marketing manager at Microsoft revealed in a blog post.  “We’ll have more details to share closer to availability.”

Benefits and features more or less will remain the same, which includes access to the latest updates when those become available. Users will also have an hour of free international Skype calls every month along with 20 GB of free OneDrive (cloud) storage. There will also be the option to have the service for just one month, in which case it will cost just $7. Users can still opt for the internet free standalone version of Office which will cost them $140. While there will not be any updates available, it can serve customers well enough if all they need is just basic computing tasks done.

Meanwhile, experts believe the Office 365 Personal could also be the precursor to an Office for iOS version. This has been rumored for a long time now; maybe the next announcement will be an Office version for iPad.

Categories : Technology
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Amazon has increased its Prime membership fee, citing an increase in fuel and transportation costs. However, the new price structure is applicable to those whose term expires after April 17, 2014. Those whose membership expires before that date will still have the chance to renew their membership for $79. Those who need to renew after April 17 will pay the new annual rate of $99. Those who wish to enroll for the Amazon Prime service have until April 17 to save $20 in the annual subscription fee. Amazon Student Prime fees has also been increased from $10 to $49 a year.

“We are working to expand selection even further, as we develop additional fulfillment and transportation capacity to make the Prime program even more valuable to our members. Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same. If you consider things like inflation and fuel costs, a Prime membership valued at $79 in 2005 would be worth more than $100 today,” revealed Amazon.

The increase in Prime subscription cost does not come as a surprise, as Amazon had already warned of the move back in January, stating then that rates could be raised by as much as $40; thankfully, the actual increase was half that amount. This is the first time that Amazon has resorted to a fee hike since the Prime service was launched nine years ago. Over the years, the service has become immensely popular and proved to be one of the biggest revenue sources for the online retail giant. Amazon revealed a record 1 million+ Prime customer registrations in the third week of December last year, its biggest increase so far.

Prime services continue to be the same, which includes free two day shipping, access to 40,000 videos online, while also enabling members to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library that offers over half a million titles.

Categories : E-Book News, Technology
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Blackberry’s only attempt at a tablet device, the first gen PlayBook, has already lived its life though no replacement was ever made available. Now, almost three years later and with new management in place, we could finally see some movement taking placing here. Former CEO Thorsten Heins had virtually ruled out a PlayBook successor, at least for the near future. However, the earliest for such a tablet to become a reality will be not before 2015.

This timeline is understandable considering the mess that the company is in right now. Demand for its once famous BlackBerry line of smartphones has seen a sharp and steady decline and the company’s revamped OS, the BB10, hasn’t exactly fared too well. Under the circumstances, investing a whole lot of resource into developing a PlayBook 2 could prove to be suicidal, more so when the tablet market itself is showing signs of slowing down as it settles into a more stable state.

Still, designer TheJelen has come up with a concept design of what the PlayBook 2 could be like when it’s launched. Apart from bearing a striking resemblance to the iPad Air with its narrow bezels along the edges, the device otherwise offers some excellent specifications. This includes a 2.3 Ghz Snapdragon quad core chip that works in conjugation with an Adreno 330 GPU and a 4 GB RAM. The last bit is interesting as this will allow the tablet to run as many as 16 apps simultaneously. As for internal storage, the tablet will offer 34 and 64 GB memory options with a micro sd card slot to allow addition of another 128 GB.

This concept has a 10 inch display, a departure from the 7 inch display that the first gen PlayBook came with. The Super AMOLED will offer a scintillating resolution of 2048 X 1536 pixels. The tablet comes with a front and rear 2 and 8 megapixel camera complete with flash. As for its power, that will be derived from a 10Ah battery with a run time of 10 hours.

Despite the impressive spec sheet, to launch a device with these bells and whistles is one thing, but making it palatable for consumers is a completely different ballgame. Customers who part with the few hundred dollars will no doubt want to put those RAMs to use. In other words, the lack of suitable apps has plagued BlackBerry devices in the past and the problem could be repeated if corrective measures aren’t in place. Their recent move to allow BlackBerry World to accept Android apps is definitely a step in the right direction.

Categories : Tablet PC News
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With e-book consumption hitting high growth in India, a natural fallout has been a sharp rise in authors self-publishing their works. The benefits are all too obvious as the author gets to exert complete control over the entire publishing process, not to mention the often tedious chore of having to court publishers to get their works published otherwise. Authors have a lot to benefit on the financial front as well, what with the nearly 70 percent royalty that they earn against the 5-10 percent that traditional publishers generally offer. Indians authors may have woken up to this trend much later than their western counterparts, but are already making up for that by adopting self-publishing at a feverish pace.

Not surprisingly, sites that aim to help the not so tech savvy authors have also come up to assist authors with self-publishing. eBooks India provides the author with tips and tricks on ways to not only digitally publish their works but to also promote them; the latter is important so as not to end up lying buried underneath the pile of self-published titles. As Hiten Vyas, founder of the site puts it, one of the inherent positive qualities of his site is that it is updated daily with the latest trends witnessed in the field of self-publishing. Hiten being an author himself is also of immense help as well. The site covers fiction, non-fiction. and business writing. The site also covers the changing technological trends in the ebook industry, reviews of ebooks and ebook reading apps, and more.

“Self-publishing e-books is a lot of fun. However, it is hard work, takes persistence and dedication to succeed. When you decide to publish your own work, you take complete responsibility for everything, from writing, to editing, to creating cover designs, to uploading with self-publishing platforms and then marketing and sales. You also have to ensure that each step of the self-publishing process is done well. This means getting your work professionally edited and proofread and ensuring that the quality, look and feel or the e-book is equal to, or exceeds that of a title that has been traditionally published.

“With the right effort and patience, a writer will begin to see sales of his or her e-books. Having more titles to your name can help increase sales, as you leave your blueprint across more online retailers and websites and blogs. This enables more readers to find your work. Writing e-books in a series can also be useful. My own experience with writing a series are that many readers will end up buying all the titles in your series if they liked the first one they read,” said Hiten.

Self-publishing is being brought into the mainstream against the belief that this segment generally caters to those whose works have been rejected by the traditional publishers. A rough estimate pegs the number of manuscripts that print publishers get in a year at anywhere between 2000–3000, but only about 250 books are eventually published in the end. Self-publishing is the natural choice for those who have been left out.

It’s proved to be the other way around for some authors like Amish Tripathi, who chose to self-publish his first book, The Immortals of Meluha, after having being rejected by nearly 20 publishers. The tables turned once the book proved to be a raging success that led the publishers to make a beeline for Tripathi.

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Al Kutub is the latest site for the Middle-east all dealing with ebooks, but what makes Al Kutub different from the rest is that the site acts more as a search engine rather than actually hosting the digital books on its servers. It functions by initiating an online search for the requested title and procures it from multiple sources such as forums, sellers, or even social sites such as Facebook. It’s designed to display the ebooks using iframe technology, where Arabic language titles are shown in PDF format.

Users won’t be aware of where the ebook has been sourced from; they won’t even be served the link of the ebook source, which is a clever move as this will ensure users remain tied to the Al Kutub site. Nevertheless, the venture has already attracted a lot of attention, having garnered a subscriber base of more than 10,000 in just a span of 12 days. Mohammed Nemat Allah, who has been associated with Al Kutub for the past three years, has stated they plan to build a database of 120,000 or more titles, which will also include audiobooks as well. Nemat Allah is also confident that their business model is perfectly safe, claiming anyone who has issues with the books showing up on his site can go remove the ebook from the source site first.

Al Kutub has a four tier usage model where users won’t be charged anything for reading and downloading scanned copies. Soon users will be charged on a periodic basis for reading and downloading the books. Users will also have the option of placing an order for the paperback version of the ebook via Al Kutub. Lastly, users will be able to place an order for the paper version from Sour Al Uzbakiya, which happens to be a book hub in Egypt that hosts some of the oldest and rarest books from the region.

Al Kutub also has other ambitious plans which include launching a social networking service having its own messaging and notification center. There will be a reading group where members can engage in discussions pertaining to books. The site will also let users read or borrow content online, while making such activity (including comments) visible to everyone or set to private friends. Nemat Allah also revealed a plan to diversify to other languages such English, German, Spanish, and Chinese in future. The site is currently in its beta stages and the final version will be launched soon. An iOS and Android Al Kutub app will be made available.

Categories : E-Book News
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Here is another take on the concept of a smartphone offering an e-ink display. The Midia InkPhone made its debut at the CeBIT show with rumors of it being finally ready to hit the streets soon enough. We have been seeing the unique phone design from Chinese manufacturer Onyx for over a year now and it’s really good to see it emerge in its production ready avatar at last. Engadget has mentioned that the e-ink phone will be hitting streets in Germany and Poland where it will be cost 140 Euros, which comes to about $195.

As for the salient features of the device, the biggest of them all is the 4.3 inch e-ink display that it comes with. Also with a resolution is 800 x 480, images and texts are pretty sharp too. Then of course there is the energy saving attribute that e-ink display have come to be known for, which in case of the InkPhone stands at 2 weeks of usage on a single charge. This no doubt will be a boon for business users or for those who’d prefer to give up on some fancy features just to gain battery life.

The rest of the specs speak of a 1 Ghz Rockchip CPU, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. There is also a micros SD card slot, 1800mAh battery along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth. The device runs on Android 2.3 Gingerbread. There is no camera though, something that is increasingly becoming the biggest USP of modern day smartphone devices. The black and white display together with slightly less screen refresh rates compared to conventional LCD panels wouldn’t have made the InkPhone suited for photography in any case. Apart from photography, the other aspects that the InkPhone will be seen lacking will be its inability to playback video or game playing.

The InkPhone will however serve as an excellent mobile ebook reading device and should serve well to die-hard ebook enthusiasts. Being equally readable in direct sunlight will no doubt be another definitive plus for the InkPhone. E-Book reading apps such as the Kindle too works well enough with the InkPhone as should other popular ebook reading apps such as the Kobo, B&N and such. Overall, the InkPhone may not be a mass market device but should serve well in a niche market, which again could be big enough if the device work delivers what it promises.

You can pre-order this phone today at Shop e-Readers.


Categories : Smart Phones, Technology
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Android Promises SDK For Wearables

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With an already overwhelming presence in the mobile devices segment, Google now wishes to engage with consumers at a more deeper and personal level. The search giant made that amply clear at the SXSW with Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai announcing the launch of a SDK that will enable developers to make apps for wearables. Right now that seems to be applicable more to smartwatches and fitness tracking devices, though Pichai is envisioning the wearable segment to get more and more intimate in the coming years. Maybe we can have smart jackets in future, or even a smart device implanted under the skin to keep track of vital health parameters at all times.

Coming back to the present, Pichai promised the SDK will be made available in just about 2 weeks’ time. This will be accompanied with the way Google perceives the smart wearable segment to evolve in the next couple of years. The company also stated they will come up with a version of Android for use in smartwatch devices. The new OS variant will draw heavily from Google Now and search feature and is expected to be launched towards the end of this month. Google is also reported to be collaborating with LG Electronics in developing a smartwatch of its own in what surely is going to be the Nexus equivalent of a smartwatch device. The smartwatch is slated for launch in June during the Google I/O conference.

The above development is accompanied by similar efforts on part of Google to have its OS be seen in almost as many segments as possible. Back in January, Google had announced the Open Automotive Alliance the comprises of car makers such a GM, Hyundai, Audi, Honda Motors as well chipmaker Nvidia that looked for ways to implement the Google Android OS for use in the automotive sector.

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There aren’t any definitive signs of the Apple iWatch so far, but that hasn’t stopped designers from visualizing their own take on the purported smartwatch from the Cupertino company. Interestingly, a couple of iWatch renderings have appeared online and all of them are based on the traditional rounded watch face. These no doubt will act to hide the smart attributes the watch otherwise boasts of beneath its conventional design. Also, such  renderings comes as a break from the usual types we have seen so far, that are either the types of fitness bands with a curved display incorporated or with angular edges as seen with the Galaxy Gear 2 and such.

Argentine student Tomas Moyano’s concept is sans any external keys or sockets, making it perfect for use even in rain or dusty conditions. The device also does away with sound based notification systems, relying instead on vibrations to inform the users of any incoming notifications. The justification for such a design feature is that sound based notifications can be unreliable in a busy and noisy area while generating sounds loud enough can be energy sapping as well. Instead, vibrations can be a lot more reliable, more so for a device that is always worn around the wrist.

Moyano also visualized the iWatch as one that forgoes on a cellular connection of its own to better conserve power. In such a scenario, the iWatch will be entirely dependent on the mother device it is tied to. While still on power issues, the concept iWatch includes micro solar panels to re-charge on its own when outdoors, along with wireless charging options as well.

As for its features, the iWatch concept might include a map application to aid in navigation though it remains to be seen how that can be achieved with the tiny display that the smartwatch typically offers. The iWatch rendering also includes a heart-beat tracking monitor, along with an associated app believed to draw on resources likely to be built-into the next iOS 8 version.

Among the other features that Moyano visualized include a 1.2 megapixel iSight camera capable for recording 720p HD videos, M7 motion co-processor, along with pulsometer and temperature sensors. It has a 1.4 inch sapphire crystal display and a resolution of 200ppi. The device will also boast of GPS and GLONASS along with Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity.

In any case, the concept offers a fresh new perspective of an iWatch prototype.

Categories : SmartWatches
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