Tablets, phablets and rumors at CES


Tablets have already taken the market by storm, essentially killing PC growth while moving into ever increasingly different areas of our lives. A host of new or possible tablets are making the rounds this week at the International CES show in Las Vegas, and here are a few of the more interesting ones.

There are major names involved in some of the news, and some that you may have never heard of before, or never considered in context with tablets, like Audi. Yes Audi has a tablet, although it functions as an extension of a car’s entertainment and directional equipment.

The Audi Smart Display is one of the first fruits of the recently announced Open Auto Alliance and it is a tablet designed to be used with the cars’ in-vehicle infotainment system. The 10-inch tablet will allow passengers to control a car’s connected features including navigation, telephone, audio and other features. Expect this to be the first of many announcements over the next year from car manufacturers in this area.

Among the big names Samsung again stood out, even if you pay no attention to the 105-inch television with a curved screen or director Michael Bay’s melt down at the press conference! The company expanded its tablet lineup with an additional four offerings, and a phablet. They are the 12.2-inch Galaxy TabPro, a 12.2-inch, 10-inch and 8.4-inch TabPro products as well as the latest Galaxy Note phablet, called the Galaxy NotePro and available in a 12.2-inch format..

Count Panasonic in with its Toughpad FZ-M1, a 7-inch format tablet that will be running the Windows Pro 8.1 operating system. Designed to be used in the field in situations a good deal more rugged than more traditional models it has a sealed designed to keep out dust and moisture and has been designed to withstand falls of five feet. It has an Intel i5 Core, a 1280 x 800 resolution display, 128GB SSD that can be upgraded to 256GB supports Wi-Fi up to the ac standard and has a 5MP rear camera. Last year the company used the show to deliver a pair of ToughPads

If you are looking for a tablet that will help keep the kids occupied during a long cross country trip, or when you are watching the first full season of Boardwalk Empire you might want to take a gander at the Kurio 7x 4G LTE tablet unveiled at the show. Designed to be kid friendly the device is part of a pair of announcements from Techno Sources and KD Interactive, the other being a phone targeted at children.

Probably the best rumor from the show is about a possible hybrid iPad that Apple is supposedly working on. Actually the rumor started prior to the show but it has heated up a bit since it first made the rounds. What Apple is purportedly working on is an iPad that uses the iOS operating system in tablet mode and then when docked to a keyboard it would run Apple’s PC operating system OSX.

Another more or less confirmed rumor is a stylus using tablet from Asus, the VivoTab Note 8 that will run on the Windows 9.1 operating system although complete details on the device are still lacking.

I suspect that after the deluge at the show, and probably several major real announcements down the road this year, new tablets will be greeted much the way new PCs were in the past, interesting but hardly worth flying people across the country for. That spot will most likely be filled by the emerging class of wearable computing devices such as Samsung Gear and Google Glass.

Already at the show Sony announced that it was planning on expanding its wearable offerings come spring with several, as yet unnamed, offerings in its SmartWear Experience lineup. They will be based around a component that it calls the Core.

Intel is also fanning the flames with a “Make it Wearable” challenge that will award $1.3 million in cash and prizes to developers that create wearable devices that help advance computing to become even more wearable, I mean connected.

Apple delivers a range of new tablets, OS and computers

Photo via Gizmode

Photo via Gizmodo

As expected Apple delivered new iPad tablets, a new version of its personal computer operating system and updated its desktop and portable computer line while taking a new road on software updates for its PC lineup.

The latest generation iPad now has a new name, iPad Air, and it comes in thinner, by 20% over older versions, and lighter, at 1 lb vs. the 1.4 the old version tipped the scales at. It is powered by the recently introduced A7 chip, that also powers its latest iPhone 5S as well as featuring the M7 chip for motion sensing. Among its new features are dual microphones for better audio capture and MIMO for better wireless connectivity.

They will be available in either Silver/White or Space Gray/Black with the starting price for a Wi-Fi only 16GB model at $499 and with cellular at $629 and they will be available Nov. 1. The iPad 2 will continue being sold for $399.

The iPad mini also come in for a rebuild, and will also now be powered by the A7 processor and have MIMO antennas for better connectivity. The big new feature for the mini is an upgrade to the higher definition retina display, giving its 7.9-inch display 2048 x 1536 resolution. The price of the original iPad mini will drop $30 to $299 while the new models will start at $399 and will be available sometime next month.

It has been three and a half years since Apple delivered the iPad to very mixed reviews, where people made fun of the name and questioned if tablets would have staying power considering their poor performance in the past.

It has become cliché to say the tablet market is heating up. It is now hot when local grocery stores and book stores now offer some form of tablet. The market has grown rapidly from one where eReaders were considered pioneering to one where people ponder if they need a third tablet for home. Apple said that it has sold over 170 million and there are 470,000 apps for the platform.

The market research firm Pew Internet has recently reported that 34% of U.S. adults own a tablet, and that number grows to 43% when you count in the ones that own an eReader. This represents a 10% jump in ownership in 1 year.

On the operating system side Apple showed Mavericks, the latest updated desktop and portable computer OS, replacing OSX. It comes with 20 improved or new apps including iBooks and Maps. One interesting app is iCloud Keychain that saves and synchs passwords with credit cards.

The OS supports more memory for graphics means better game support and performance and extended support for integrated graphics. Computers sold from 2007 and forward can support the operating system.

There are plenty of enhancements in the new OS but the one that might grab the most notice is its price: it’s free. This will be an interesting move. Microsoft traditionally made a good deal of money selling upgrades. Then Google came along and subsidized its Android OS via ads.

It also updated its MacBook Pro with faster graphics, longer battery life and faster flash storage and retina displays. They start at $1,299 while the 12-core professional level Mac Pro was also updated and it starts at $2,999.

Apple Shows iOS7, OSX and iTunes Radio at WWDC


Apple’s annual World Wide Developer Conference opened today at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and the company’s CEO Tim Cook took center stage to talk about what the company’s near term plans are and to drop hints about what it might do in the long run.

There had already been a host of hints about what the company would discuss, focused primarily on the software side with a new iOS and a new OS for computers online. The questions people had were about a possible music service and if there was going to be any solid news about hardware such as next generation iPads and iPhones.

The issue that Apple increasingly faces at this event, and for that matter at any event at which it makes an announcement is that there is a sense of over anticipation among the company’s fans and it is increasingly hard to have blockbuster after blockbuster announcements

Apple opened the show with its usual retail update and one set of numbers really stands out of you are an app developer looking at this platform. Apple has 575 million online accounts and it has paid app developers $10 billion over the last five years, reportedly that is 3X more than all of the other platforms combined. The company’s game center has 240 million users. 600 million iOS devices sold.

Mac sales are up 100% in the last year, compared to only 18% for PCs. The company introduced its latest upgrade to its computer operating system, OSX Mavericks. It has, as expected a host of new features including CPU optimization, compressed memory that enables apps to start much faster, iBooks, Maps, and the ability to merge multiple windows.

The operating system is available now for developers and for the general public this fall. There is also a new line of MacBook Airs with a huge increase in batter life due to using the Haswell processor, all available now while a sneak peak at forthcoming Mac Pro desktops was also provided.

The company showed iWorks for iCloud that enables users to create and format documents in your browser, and it supports drag and drop. It is in beta now and should be available by the end of the year.

The latest mobile operating system, iOS 7 was also introduced at the show. It starts out with a basic new look with redesigned icons and what is referred to as a flatter look. That is just on top, it has been redesigned to have distinct layers of functionality that help with order and establish a hierarchy.

An interesting twist is that in the future you will be able to get iOS in your future car as at least 12 automakers have agreed to integrated the OS by the end of next year. It can get maps, make calls and play music, just as you would expect.

A few of the new features include multitasking supported by all apps, folders now support multiple pages so they can store more apps. New access to Control Center, you just simply swipe up from the bottom of the device as well as faster access to Wi-Fi. It has the ability to judge apps that you use more, or use at specific times of day to enable them faster.

New organization and added filters for photos and it can now share video with iCloud. New updated version of Siri of course including a male voice, information from Twitter, Bing and Wikipedia has been integrated.

iTunes radio was introduced and is built into the music app, with features such as one tap purchase of songs and the ability to share music with friends and create your own stations. Another new iTunes feature is that it will no longer notify you when apps need updating, it will just do it automatically.

Other software news was that the new iOS 7 will be supported by iPhones 4 and later and iPad 2 and later. There are 1,500 new APIs for developers and the final release of the operating system will be this fall.