Archive for Technology
Blackberry Mexico has confirmed that the new Blackberry 10 operating system will be hitting the Playbook in the next few weeks. This will insure that many of the most popular apps such as Netflix and Instagram will finally be available.
Blackberry 10 is the latest operating system that hit the Z10 and Q10 smartphones. It took years of development to ready it for a commercial release and is the last hope of Blackberry to remain relevant in the hardware world.
Many top executives at Blackberry have claimed they have no plans to make anymore tablets, as they see them as a dying technology. Instead, the company is betting on licensing out BBM and their BES technology out to Apple and Android developers.
Still, the Playbook crowd is tremendously loyal to Blackberry and the fact that BB10 is finally going to hit it, will breath new life into it. This will insure that thousands of apps will be able to run on it.
“The Internet of Things” is the new mandate from Qualcomm, as the company transitions its Mirasol technology from tablets to wearable tech and smartphones. Many industry analysts wrote off Mirasol e-Paper technology as dead, but this couldn’t be further from the truth, as Qualcomm as updated the screens for a new breed of devices.
SID Display Week 2013 just kicked off in Vancouver and I had a chance to catch up with Jesse Burke, who is the new public face of Mirasol. He explained that Mirasol technology had an existing roadmap and that it has deviated from it in small ways to brave a new frontier of wearable technology. There were three new products showcased at the vent, such as a smartwatch, a secondary screen for a phone, and Mirasol technology as the main display on new smartphone.
One of the big adjustments to Mirasol across the board was fitting everything on a single screen. In the past, Mirasol had two different layers of screen for its line of tablets that came out a few years ago, including the Bambook Sunflower and the Kyobo. This gave the user a more washed out approach to images and colors and the tradeoff was great battery life. Qualcomm managed to merge the two layers, producing rich and vibrant color.
The Mirasol smartwatch was the main attraction at SID and had a 1.2 inch screen and lasts a few weeks before needing a re-charge. The intention behind this product is not just to tell the time, but to be an extension of your digital life. On average, we reach for our smartphones almost 100 times a day, to check Twitter, Facebook, messages, and missed calls. The watch will ping you with Google Now updates, Facebook Home, and other essential apps. Mainly, it will serve as a secondary screen that will assist you in staying on top of all the action, without constantly referencing your bulky phone. Currently, Qualcomm is shopping this technology to various vendors, and we will likely see something happening towards the end of 2013 and mid 2014.
Smartphone screen technology is a huge focus for Qualcomm right now and the opportunity is ripe for Mirasol to sweep in and gain some market share. The average phone has a better life of 12-24 hours, depending on your use. Mirasol will extend this up to six times, which amounts to hefty savings over LED and OLED screens
There were two phone displays shown at SID, one was a fully featured smartphone, using Mirasol, and the other was a second display screen on the back of the phone, that draws parallels with the upcoming Yota. The smartphone had sported a 5.1-inch panel with a stunning resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels and 577 ppi. This phone is in the RND phase and is not commercially available yet. It is likely we will have to wait until 2015 to really see it in action. The second display was on the back of the phone, and mirrors the watch in terms of form and function. It allows you to have a secondary screen with dedicated apps running on it. Useful, but it remains to be seen if multi-screen smartphones are viable with your average consumer.
The 2013 edition of the Google I/O event was without any fancy hardware launches, something that many analysts had predicted. There wasn’t even a new Android update announced, which analysts were definitely expecting. Many are now suggesting that Google I/O might just have returned to the way it used to be, with the focus back on developers instead of the products or the consumer oriented approach it had developed in the last few years.
However, that does not mean it has been all about boring lectures or discussions that exclude the consumers. Rather, Google did have some nice features to announce, some that are sure to have industry wide ramifications. Mentioned below are some cool features that the Google I/O 2013 has yielded.
Google Play Music All Access: It’s the answer to the likes of Spotify, Rdio, or even the upcoming Apple’s iRadio. It combines your personal music tracks to the millions present in Google Play Music so you can have what is best described in the words of Chris Yegra “radio without rules.” The system is also programmed to find stuff that you might like based on your listening preferences. Users will also have the option to create personalized radio stations based on songs or artists they like, or just through a specific genre. The song list can be pulled up with a single tap, and if All Access’ recommendations are not to your liking, you can remove them from the list with a single swipe of your finger. The service is priced quite conveniently at $9.99 per month, after month long free trial period. Or for those who just can’t wait to hop on to the All Access bandwagon, Google will reward them with a subscription fee of $7.99 per month before June 30. In the end, Google’s ability to strike a deal with the big time music labels before Apple is quite impressive.
Maps: This is another area where Google has put in a lot of effort. This has led to the map being more informative and detailed than ever before. When you search for a place, Google not only pulls up the map, but also provides you with useful recommendations for the area. A pop-up also provides you with a 360 degree view of the place you have searched. Videos can be accessed right from the map, which is now transformed into an interface. Also, the maps are now more personalized so that users will be able to highlight areas or create landmarks as per user’s choice. And once you have clicked on a suggestion or landmark, a new map pops up to show related attractions as well. The map’s navigation features have been enhanced, as it now provides not only driving directions to a place you have selected, but also walking and biking directions, including public transit. Users are also warned of traffic jams and will be provided with alternate routes to avoid them.
Google Now: This has been a cool addition to the Jelly Bean package and now it has become even smarter thanks to the Knowledge Graph based search that has been fine-tuned even further. As such, the Google virtual assistant will be able to answer not only questions you have directly asked, but will also anticipate details that you may want to know about. This was demoed at the conference by asking Google Now the population of India. In such a scenario, Google Now will not only answer the query but will also furnish details of how the population compares with other related countries and so on. The virtual assistant will also accept voice commands for tasks like setting reminders and so on.
Photo Tools in Google+: Google has introduced some cool photo editing tools to its two year old social networking platform Google+ in a bid to rake up some excitement around it. Among the features introduced is Highlight, which can identify if the pictures are hazy or overexposed, identify landmarks, or even find faces sporting a smile. The Auto Enhance feature eliminates noise from low light images while also softening wrinkles. Auto Awesome is another cool feature that can identify a photo scene and provide corrections accordingly. In short, it is designed to automatically make a photo awesome.
Lastly, while Google was expected to launch a slew of hardware, which includes next gen versions of Nexus 7, Nexus 4, or even a new Chromebook, the lone hardware announcement during the conference was the Samsung Galaxy S4 running the stock Android version. The S4 will reach markets towards end June, but is priced a hefty $650.
The 2013 edition of the Google I/O Conference may not have been about fancy hardware launches or even a new iteration of Android (both of which were hotly anticipated), but that does not mean there weren’t any important or interesting announcements made. There is the very interesting new feature that Google launched aimed primarily at the educational sector. Google Play for Education marks an entirely new addition to the Google Play Store and comprises of apps aimed at making learning a fun filled experience for the kids.
Not surprisingly, the Google Play for Education section also integrates Google+ groups, and the inherent benefit is that a teacher can push a single app to all their students to form a particular group in a single push. As long as the teachers create the groups and direct the apps, Google will have the app delivered to all the devices in that group.
Google stated that the apps that have been included are those that have been recommended by teachers, which adds a lot of pedigree to the Play for Education section. It also allows the apps to be purchased via the school’s (or even a school system’s) billing account rather than via a single person’s credit card. That does make a lot of sense, considering any apps purchased will be paid for by the school authorities rather than having to use an individual’s credit card and reimbursing them later, thus saving a lot of hassle.
Lastly, Google also has stated the new Education segment won’t just be limited to apps, but will also comprise of books and videos as well. All of which will be organized by genre and the intended age group. Overall, it’s a nice move that will help students and teachers make the best of digital tools in furthering the cause of education.
If you have been longing for a way to chat with your peers that are hooked on to their Android or iOS devices using the Blackberry Messenger, here comes your moment under the summer sun. The company, during the Blackberry Live 2013, made the announcement, though it will depend on Apple and Google approving such a move.
“For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service. BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We’re excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community,” revealed Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President, Software Product Management and Ecosystem, at BlackBerry.
The service will only be limited to chatting in the initial stages, but will grow to include other aspects as well. These include BBM Voice, BBM Video, and also BBM Channels during the later stages. The latter is a new addition which is described in the company press release as a “social engagement platform within BBM that will allow customers to connect with the businesses, brands, celebrities and groups they are passionate about.”
The service will continue to be free, and the other usual goodies associated with BBM chats will also be present. These include the trusted Delivered and Read statuses, depicted as D and R, which has come to be trusted by users as a surefire means of knowing when their messages have been delivered and read.
So it’s now up to Google and Apple, and once approved, the BBM chat app will be available at both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store as a free download.
Amazon announced back in February that it was intending to launch a new virtual currency program, called Amazon Coins. This allows the public to forgo using traditional greenbacks and instead using coin stacks. If you tend to use the Amazon Android Market or have a Kindle Fire, this is something you may want to look at. You can buy in-game features, enhancements, or just use your coins to buy a paid app. All existing Amazon users now have 500 free coins, which carries a monetary value of $5.00. You can purchase more coins with various incremental values, and get discounts the more you spend. App Developers are encouraged to integrate coins into their Amazon apps and will earn 70% commission on any in-app or app purchase customers make with coins.
“Today we are giving Kindle Fire owners $5 worth of Coins to spend on new apps and games, or to purchase in-app items, such as recipes in iCookbook, song collections in SongPop, or mighty falcon bundles in Angry Birds Star Wars. And with discounts of up to 10% when you buy Coins, this is a great way for customers to save money when they buy apps, games and in-app items,” said Mike George, Vice President of Apps and Games at Amazon. “We will continue to add more ways to earn and spend Coins on a wider range of content and activities-today is Day One for Coins.”
“Today we are giving Kindle Fire owners $5 worth of Coins to spend on new apps and games, or to purchase in-app items, such as recipes in iCookbook, song collections in SongPop or mighty falcon bundles in Angry Birds Star Wars. And with discounts of up to 10% when you buy Coins, this is a great way for customers to save money when they buy apps, games and in-app items,” said Mike George, Vice President of Apps and Games at Amazon. “We will continue to add more ways to earn and spend Coins on a wider range of content and activities-today is Day One for Coins.”
Amazon Appstore developers will earn their standard 70% revenue share when customers make purchases using Amazon Coins. No Coins-specific changes are required for developers with apps and games currently in the Amazon Appstore. Developers not yet in the Amazon Appstore should submit their app today through the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Portal (https://developer.amazon.com/welcome.html).
Amazon Coins is the latest offering in an array of services that make Amazon the most complete end-to-end ecosystem for building, monetizing and marketing their apps and games. These capabilities include:
The ability for app developers to use Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) technology platform for their infrastructure needs. Building blocks such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon DynamoDB allow developers to focus on what differentiates their app rather than the undifferentiated heavy lifting of infrastructure.
App submission for distribution to nearly 200 countries globally enables developers to reach millions more Amazon customers worldwide.
In-App Purchasing on Kindle Fire, Mac, PC and web-based games. This enables developers to sell virtual items in their apps and games while allowing their end users to simply use their Amazon accounts to make the purchase.
GameCircle, which includes capabilities like Achievements, Leaderboards, Friends and Whispersync for syncing games across devices, and leads to better engagement with games.
Game Connect, which lets developers list their virtual goods for sale on Amazon, increasing discoverability of their games and making the purchase of virtual goods as easy and convenient as possible for customers, leading to increased monetization for developers.
Some inquisitive sleuthing by the folks at Android Police with the Google Glass app ‘MyGlass’ codes has come up with unexpected results. The information included codes that pertain to real-time and turn-based multiplayer games. This was the biggest indication of something like Apple’s Games Center coming from Google, and is confirmed just days ahead of the Google I/O conference.
All of it points out to a new addition to the Google Play Store dubbed “Play Games.” All of the finer details are missing at this point, though from what we do know now, the prospect of being able to save game progress in the cloud does seem awesome. Then, of course, there will be active syncing across all devices, which will ensure you will be able to catch up with the game regardless of the device. Other cool aspects of the game include matchmaking, achievements and goals, player invites, leaderboards, and scoreboards for tracking progress, as well as many other features.
Google’s plans seem pretty exciting, and many believe Play Games could be better than the iOS Games Center, which in itself is quite comprehensive. Expect the full details from the Google I/O conference, which kicks off this Wednesday.
Major bookstore chains such as Barnes and Noble, Chapters , Waterstone’s, and many others have gravitated towards selling toys to make up for slower book sales. Toys are not just for the big players in the industry, but many indie bookstores are finding that offering children’s toys is bringing new customers into the shop. Indie bookstores have great resources to find e-readers, ebooks, and the traditional book, but where do they look to find toys?
Indie bookstores are finding themselves needing to diversify out of selling just books and following the trends of the major bookstores. Booksellers who are interested in adding or expanding their toy offerings are recommended to check out the major toy awards lists for ideas. Many of the top booksellers often look at the ASTRA Best Toys for Kids, Mensa Select, and The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval. If you want to actually get some solid hands-on time with the toys before you invest in them, indie booksellers are recommended to visit the the ASTRA and Toy Fair shows.
What are the the big toy trends for 2013 for indie bookstores? HABA Lilliputiens‘ new line of of high-end soft toys with a wholesale cost from $6.50 to upwards of $30 were going to be big this year. The Learning Center is finding great success with the Magformers and Magna-Tiles product line. Also, Hogwild Poppers and Pocket Disc round off the best recommendations for small bookstores.
Toy selling is not just reserved for the big stores like Barnes and Noble, who only got into the game in 2010. They aren’t just for comic book stores, either, though they have been selling models, toys, and action figures for decades. Indie bookstores are strongly encouraged to start offering children’s toys to offset the demand for books and the strong competition in the ebook segment. Honestly, for as many book shows that I visit, selling toys is never on any speaker’s list and you would be hard-pressed to find any professionals actually talking about it. Most just tend to lament that digital books are cannibalizing the small bookstore, but in order to compete, you have to look at alternative revenue sources. It is important for stores to look at the success of the chains and European bookstores and adopt those strategies into your own book shop.
SID Display Week is going to be kicking off in our own backyard May 19-24, 2013 in Vancouver. Good e-Reader will be live on the scene looking at some of the innovative new display technologies that may find themselves on e-readers and tablets in the near future.
A number of major companies will be in attendance, such as Apple, Dell, HP, and Motorola. International system integrators also have a strong showing, including LG, Samsung, and Sharp. Many senior technical staff will also be attending to talk shop and network.
Good e-Reader will be attending Display Week for a number and of days and we are making ourselves available for interview and meeting requests. If you would like to give us a private demo and talk about some of the new things you have cooking, please send me an email and we can talk!
Hotels are starting to adopt tablets more and more into the business and guests are starting to benefit. In our last article we talked about a recent survey of 53 hotels across the USA found that 82% of guests who had access to the in-suite tablets used them an average of 11 times per stay. Of the guests who used the hotel in-room tablets, 41% ordered in-room food, 21% requested a wake-up call, and 7% called for a housekeeper, according to the study by Intelity. Many guests who were surveyed said they would visit the same hotel again during their travels, because hardly any hotels actually make them available to their guests.
One of the best examples of a hotel adopting tablets is a high-tech boutique hotel called CitizenM, in London. The hotel forgoes the traditional concierge. Instead, guests check themselves in and out on touch computer screens. In each room, a personalized Samsung Galaxy tablet greets guests and lets them control everything from the blinds to the lights on the tablet. Internet access is free and there’s no password. Netflix movies can be watched on the TV from the tablet for no charge. CitizenM says it wants to make guests feel like they’re at home.
Today, we are going to look into each aspect of tablet integration in the traditional hotel and make suggestions on how they can easily be implemented into the existing structure without a ton of investment.
Tablets at the Concierges
Often the concierges need to know the lay of the land and point out local attractions and must see events. Tablets can benefit this sector because they don’t need to carry around bulky maps or outdated pamphlets. Digital tablets can give guests the ability to utilize Google Maps on how to get to a particular destination. Often digital is the best way to go because maps and guidebooks often get outdated very quickly, new restaurants pop up all the time and digital is the way to go.
InterContinental Hotels was the first hotel network to supply their concierges with tablets in April, 2010 in order to provide rapid response to their clients’ requests.
I would recommend not only to outfit your front-end staff with with tablets but to make them available in the hotel lobbies. There is plenty of out of the box Guide software that would inform the guests of local area activities and businesses, including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, spas, and retail stores. Each station would contain a tablet with touch screen technology that allows hotel guests to navigate through activity categories, find where they want to go, and make the most of their time in the city. This is perfect for high-traffic hotels and give guests a chance to interact with a person for advice if they want, or figure things out on their own.
Tablets at the Bar or Hotel Restaurant
More hotels are starting to employ digital menus instead of the more tangible editions. The digital edition allows the hotel to update their menus more often, and cuts down on printing and design. The big buzzword in the hospitality industry is being Eco-friendly. There is nothing more most cost effective and good for the environment then going digital. Hotels can simply make a web version of their menu and have it pop up by default, the tablet locks the customer into only the web-browser and prevents them from accessing any other part of the tablet.
Hotels can update their menus on-demand by making simple front-end web-adjustments, without the need to rely on complicated programing. Drink specials, seasonal specialties, and chefs recommendations often change often, having outdated menus limits a hotel in appealing to their guests. This is also perfect for boutique hotels that have wine tasting sessions and the bottles often change.
I would recommend that hotels invest in a good pedestal and tethering system. This would allow guests to easily interact with the tablets and would prevent theft, but also make them look stylish.
Tablets in the Hotel Rooms
Many hotels are starting to adopt tablets in their boutique hotels, because fewer rooms have a lower overhead than a larger hotel with hundreds of suites. I would recommend if an established hotel is looking to get into offering tablets in the rooms that they be made available in select rooms that are geared towards VIP guests. Guests can gain access to the same data the main concierge offers.
If a hotel is more connected or wired, the tablet would allow customers to adjust the room temperature, air conditioning, order room service, or automatically checkout. They could let the maid know their room is available to be cleaned and even access Netflix and other streaming services on their television to cut down on cable costs. Obviously, most hotels are not really wired too well and it would warrant an investment in a solid wireless solution.
I would recommend that if a hotel wanted to make tablets available in the rooms that you adjust the wording in the check-in document, so that it is clear that if they abscond with it, the cost of the device and software is billed directly to their credit card. Hotels can also charge extra fees to have them in their rooms. Normally $9.99 per day is the industry standard and free for VIP clients.
“For a lot of hotels, it’s an extension of the kiosk mentality,” says Michael Planey, a travel technology analyst. “The app economy is about giving people control of their own environment.”
LeapFrog has added a new dimension in its efforts to make fun, educational products for kids. The LeapReader is essentially a pen that is designed to aid in the reading and writing efforts of kids. LeapReader can be used to write, but only on a special LeapFrog Writing Paper. Seeing as kids generally tend on write on just about any surface during their initial learning phase, having a special place to focus that impulse may help save some of your furniture and wallspace.
The pen can be considered an advanced development of the Tag Reading System that will cease to exist after this summer. Also, much like the Tag Reader, the LeapReader is compatible with its own set of books from the LeapReader library. LeapFrog has ensured the new pen is also compatible with books from the Tag Reader Library to create a wider application of the new pen. When passed over the text of a compatible book, the pen will read aloud the words. However, the pen can also be used for other items available at the LeapReader library, which includes maps and audiobooks.
As for the pen itself, it’s large and chunky, which might not be the best fit among its intended clientele, kids of the age group of 4-8 years. One of the sides houses the media control panel while the top of the pen hosts the headphone jack. Along the top and just above the media control center is the speaker. Also, the media control panel is illuminated, which provides a nice cool touch to the device.
The LeapReader also includes an USB port, which can be used to connect the pen with a PC for downloading games, books, and such. The pen comes with rechargeable batteries and offers 256 mb of storage, which is good enough for 175 songs or audio for 40 books.
As for its availability, LeapFrog has stated the pen will be ready for shipping in the US starting July for just $50. The price is inclusive of a sample book along with three free apps as well. The company hasn’t stated when it will launch the LeapReader in other countries worldwide. The company already has a number of kid specific tablets in the market, such as the LeapPad, which are well received in the market.
A few months ago Apple fired the first salvo in filing a patent for the ebook page turn. It caught the eyes of many developers and companies making Android and iOS apps, in that they might soon have to license the technology from Apple. Samsung obviously could not let Apple get away with monopolizing the animated page turn and filed its own patent for a different way of handling it.
The essence of the new patent is to give users the experience of a real book. Generally it is difficult to give a user a sense that manipulating an ebook is similar to manipulating a real paper book. For example, when detecting user input information about turning pages, the conventional method and apparatuses for displaying an ebook immediately change from a currently displaying page to another page, or scroll a current page in a direction corresponding to the input information to change from the current page to another page. That is, this changing scheme is not really similar to turning a paper page, but is more like browsing a web page. The new patent really kicks it up a notch and gives you a real book experience within the digital edition.
Obviously, the new Samsung patent is way more involved than the Apple one, in terms of technology employed. Apple basically tried to patent the animated page turn, but Samsung goes a step further. They document the entire faux page turn, including peaking at the next page. The race to patent technology in relation to ebooks is heating up.