July 29, 2014

Nokia delivers tablet as market continues to diversify

nokia

Nokia has introduced its Lumia 2520 tablet, a $499 offering that will run Microsoft’s Windows RT 8.1 operating system and is destined for the consumer marketplace, a space that is already saturated by the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple and Samsung.

The Lumia 2520 futures a 10-inch 192 x 1080 display and is powered by Qualcomm’s 2.2GHz Snapdragon 80 processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB of internal storage with an expansion slot that enables the addition of 32GB more.

The tablet has a 6.7 megapixel rear-facing camera ad a 2 MP front-facing camera and an app that it has included called Storyteller that enables users to plot their photos on a map. The tablet is expected to be available later this quarter.

The company has included other technology brought over from its handset division and with that and its use of a different processor is differentiating its offering from the Microsoft Surface 2 that was also introduced this week.

That is an interesting move by the company since Microsoft is in the process of buying Nokia’s handset business for $7.2B and will get the tablet business as well, if and when the deal closes next year. So now it will have two similar, yet slightly different offerings for the same market segment.

I can understand Nokia wanted a product that helps generate revenue in the time between now and the closing of its sale but it seems that both parties would have benefited if it had focused elsewhere, no matter how nice the Lumia 2520 is.

The move by Nokia comes as tablet prices continue to drop and the number of players continues to grow. One of the surprising moments in Apple’s rollout of its new iPads this week was that one of them was actually more expensive than the last generation.

According to market research firm ABI, as reported in Mobile Marketer, tablet prices have been dropping and will continue to do so. Apple had been falling from its premium priced spot and its recent move was an attempt to move back into that space.

The report went on and discussed how the high end is pretty well saturated by existing manufacturers and that most new products in that space simply enhance existing features rather than add bold new capabilities. However it pointed out that there are several market segments that are currently underserved by developers.

Those spaces include the educational and business markets. The business segment is one of the last strongholds of the PC but that dominance is slowly changing, mostly driven initially by the BYOD (bring your own device) movement.

So with these large and relatively unexploited markets available why did the company make a “me too” offering that will compete with Microsoft and others in the heavily competitive consumer space? It will also be competing with them in the business and education markets but since those spaces appear to have the most room for growth it seems that they present the best opportunity for Nokia to establish itself.

Microsoft beats Apple to market with latest generation tablets

winpro

Microsoft has unveiled its newest lineup of Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets at the same time as Apple but unlike Apple, which will not ship for several weeks, Microsoft will have its tablets ready for market now.

The Surface 2 (the renamed Surface RT) and the Surface Pro 2 both underwent some major adjustments as second generation products, with many of the alterations shared by both platforms. They both have longer battery life, enhanced display resolution and more processing power.

The Surface 2 features an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, which has helped it double its battery life to 10 hours. The tablet has an upgraded display that has a 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD display now renders 1080p video.

The USB 2.0 port has been upgraded to USB 3.0, its camera resolution has also increased, with a 3.5-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear camera. The Surface 2 is available in 32GB and 64GB configurations and starts at $449.

It should be noted that the Surface 2 is designed to run a version of Windows 8.1 RT so that older Windows apps will most likely not work on the platform and a user would need to purchase all new apps from the Microsoft Windows Store.

The Surface Pro 2, which runs the standard Windows 8.1 operating system and is generally backwardly compatible with older Windows apps is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, which along with other changes will provide a longer battery life than the first generation. It has a 10.6-inch 1920 x 1080- display.

The Surface Pro 2 comes in 64GB and 128GB versions with 2GB f RAM starting at $899 and with 4GB of RAM and in 256GB and 512GB configurations with 8GB of RAM for power users.

Microsoft has continued to aim the Surface family at the business professional with the Surface Pro 2 and at the home consumer with the Surface 2, positioning both as more than simply tablets but as full desktop replacements and has expanded the accessories that are available for the tablets so that the needs of both markets are met.

There are keyboard covers for both tablets, as in the past but the neat change is that they are now backlit so that a sure could type in the dark if they wanted. The Touch Cover starts at $120 and the Type Cover at $130. They are sold separately from the tablets. Next year a $200 Power Cover, that includes a built-in battery will also be added to the lineup.

The two tablets also come with some limited time offers as well. Customers who purchase either device will receive one year of free Skype calling to landlines, unlimited Skype Wi-Fi on their Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 for one year, and 200 GB of free SkyDrive storage for two years.

In the last year Microsoft has made some headway in the tablet space and it seems as the market continues to fracture into additional segments its position as a desktop replacement, with its high capacity storage capabilities, will help create a distinct personality for its products. One question it will face is will its OEMs stay on board if they are competing with Microsoft?

LG ready to ship high-end G Pad tablet

lg gpad

The fall tablet rollout continues as LG delivers the details of its LG G Pad 8.3 as the company seeks to establish itself as a contender in the small to midsized tablet space with an offering that should start hitting stores later this month.

The tablet, originally shown at IFA in Berlin last month, has an 8.3-inch display with 1920 x 1200 resolution but LG worked hard to keep the bezel small enough so that the tablet could be easily used in one hand. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.7GHz quad-core processor.

It features 2GB of RAM as well as 16GB of storage that can be expanded to 64GB via a microSD card It has a 5MP rear facing camera and a 1.3MP front facing camera. It runs on the Android 4.2.2 operating system release.

The company plans to release the tablet in the U.S. in the upcoming weeks according to reports and then follow that up with a European launch. It is expected to be first available next week in Korea but pricing for the U.S. model has not yet been announced.

The release of the G Pad 8.3 puts the company directly in competition with the growing number of developers cashing in on the demand for the smaller than 10-inch tablets with high quality smaller form factor offerings.

One of the top complaints against the 10-inch and larger models is that they are too cumbersome to use with one hand and need steady support for use, something that is not an issue with the smaller models.

Apple’s new iPads are expected later this month, the actual date of introduction is still a point of speculation at this time. Others that have refreshed already include leaders such as Amazon and Google.

Then of course there are lower cost models, usually ones with a lower resolution screen, less storage and fewer other bells and whistles, which does not mean that they have no role in this market, just not in a heads-up competition with the top of the line offerings.

There is also the growing corporate space where much larger storage is seen as a must. It will be interesting to see how the market segment breaks out going forward and if one tablet will suffice to work in all spaces or if it will be broken down by both size and market segment, with different leaders in the differing areas.

NBC clarifies ‘Old Mac’ problems for Sunday Night Football streaming: Newer OS required

If you are still wondering why you can’t see NBC’s streaming broadcast of its Sunday Night Football games on your Mac, I now have an answer: It’s because you’re running an older operating system, older than Mac OS version 10.7.5.

After a special-to-MSR telephone confab with some technical folks on NBC’s staff last week we quickly rooted out why I was able to see the banners and home page of the Sunday Night online broadcasts but not the live video player: According to the NBC folks, my older iMac and its 10.6.8 version of MacOS isn’t technically up to snuff for the special player NBC is using for the Sunday night show.

New error message shown by NBC's Sunday Night Football online to older Mac users. Credit: NBC.

New error message shown by NBC’s Sunday Night Football online to older Mac users. Credit: NBC.

Mind you, my not-that-old desktop does just fine showing every other NBC online offering, including the recent live broadcasts of the America’s Cup sailboat races, or the London Olympics. And for those I can use the browser of my choice, usually Chrome and sometimes Firefox. But because of the NFL’s recent deal with Microsoft, NBC is forced to use a different video player for its Sunday Night Football broadcasts. Though they aren’t completely blocked for Mac users who want to watch, they must have a machine with MacOS 10.7.5 or higher, and can only use the Safari browser. I will spare you the HTML5-related details why this is so, to only say that if you have a Mac and you want to watch SNF online, you need to upgrade your OS, make sure you have Safari 6.0.5 or higher, and turn off any ad-blocking utilities.

Is it worth the pain for you to upgrade your OS? I have no idea how you’d exactly go about doing so, I’ve looked at a few online tutorials but really it’s just not worth it for me (I think there is also a $19.99 charge from Apple for the software). I don’t blame NBC here, I actually can’t praise them enough for marshaling some pretty impressive resources to find the root of the problem for our humble little outlet and our devoted, passionate readers. After our inquiries, NBC also started showing the error message above to users of older Mac platforms, so they wouldn’t wander in the dark questioning their own sanity, like I did for the first few weeks of the season.

Instead I point the finger at the Shield and at Microsoft, for forging some deal that alienates some users solely so that the NFL can spend some more Microsoft cash, and so Microsoft can strike a blow against Apple that it can’t do in open competition. Bravo. Fan first, you know.

If I may editorialize a bit, I would say that the NFL gets away with cutting these bad-for-fan deals (like the exclusive deal with Verizon for NFL Mobile) because it’s so big and powerful that it can. What other entertainment outlet would cut a deal that would only allow 1/3 of the U.S. mobile phone customer base to watch their product? And what about when that service goes kablooey and there’s nobody explaining why? And the Microsoft deal, which cuts off older Mac customers from Sunday night football now and who knows what else in the future, is just another greed-driven strategic ploy that only benefits the NFL and Microsoft, and does nothing for fans.

It will be interesting to see what happens as the NFL moves more toward an MLB-type offering for online video and highlights, a move that we foresee even though we don’t have any solid evidence of it yet. Will the NFL cut deals to restrict access to selected hardware or software platforms? Is this a return to the bad old days of browser cutoffs? Is there a Net Neutrality argument in here somewhere?

Extreme thoughts, maybe, but who would have thought that in 2013 we’d see an entertainment outlet as popular as the NFL limit the capabilities of one technological platform versus another simply because it was paid to do so? And not just once, but several times? Aren’t we paying enough for football as it is? Or should we just get used to paying more, because we have no choice and apparently no seat at the table?

Emetic latest with low cost tablet

ematic

Ematic has joined the tablet fray with an 8-inch Android-based offering as the market continues to heat up in the short term and Android tablets overtake Apple’s iPad in market share, just prior to Apple’s expected revamping of its own tablet offerings.

The Ematic 8” Pro Series tablet is a low cost alternative to many of the rivals in this space be they running Apple, Android or Microsoft operating systems. The 8-inch tablet has a $130 price tag, putting it under almost all rivals in this space.

The tablet runs the Android 4.1 operating system (Jelly Bean) and features an 8-inch 1024 x 768 resolution display with 1GB RAM, an ARM 1.6GHz dual core processor with 8GB of storage that is expandable to 32GBs via a microSD card. It comes with 5GBs of cloud storage and there is also a 2MP back and 0.3 MP front facing cameras. For those that want to stream to a television it has HDMI output.

The competition in the tablet space has been fierce and is expected to stay that way, at last now that new platforms are here or on the way. Amazon and Google have both recently refreshed their offerings and Apple is expected to do so later this month.

Sales slowed in the last quarter, attributed to lack of new models from the major players, according to research firm IDC.

However once you have one tablet a second one often makes sense and I can see the low cost providers starting to surge as they offer a great deal of what the larger, better known players offer. Into this space developers such as Ematic should find a sweet spot.

NBC’s Sunday Night Football Fails Continue for Mac Users; UPDATE: Problem Diagnosed

UPDATE, 9/30: After a quick call with NBC’s tech folks Monday the problem was discovered: Due to new HTML5 code NBC is using that is specific to its Sunday Night Football broadcasts, Mac users need to have MacOS version 10.7 or higher installed to see the player. Like many users who haven’t been able to see the Sunday Night online broadcasts, my machine is running Mac OS 10.6.8. There is no workaround, so to watch Sunday Night Football on a Mac you will need to upgrade your OS, which costs $19.99. Here is a link to Apple support spelling out the details, if anyone has done this recently and wants to share the steps, send me an email and I will print it in a separate blog post.

Until someone explains to us why this is happening, we’re going to keep reporting that it appears that online streaming of NBC’s Sunday Night Football isn’t working for a lot of people with Apple Macintosh computers.

Just teasing! The program never really begins.

Just teasing! The program never really begins.

An NBC spokesperson this week had promised to put us in touch with someone from their technical team, but we never got another message back, so another Sunday night we are stuck without football on our computer. What’s even more ironic tonight is that for the first time some video did appear — but it was just an ad for Google Chrome, which of course, NBC doesn’t support this football season if you are a Mac user. You need to use Safari. But for us and several folks commenting to our site, it still isn’t working. For me, the Google ad played and then the screen went back to black.

Instead of Sunday night football, this is what I see. Anyone else having these problems? Add a comment, maybe we can get NBC to realize something ain't right.

Instead of Sunday night football, this is what I see. Anyone else having these problems? Add a comment, maybe we can get NBC to realize something ain’t right.

At first I thought there might be some error on my end but I checked my configurations with the FAQs on the NBC site and my machine is up to speed. Plus, I am able to watch plenty of non-NFL coverage, including the excellent coverage of the final race of the America’s Cup. Great stuff, live on my computer. But for some reason the NFL broadcasts aren’t working.

I’m going to lay the blame here at the feet of Microsoft, since it is apparently the Microsoft-NFL deal that is responsible for the disabling of Macintosh computers. Didn’t Microsoft once lose an antitrust suit designed in part to keep it from using its economic might to squash competing technologies? Someone get me Google’s legal team on the line.

Arrgh, now we're back to the super fail screen.

Arrgh, now we’re back to the super fail screen.