Friday Grab Bag: FIFA World Cup Tiff and will Loon Fly?

Microsoft is looking at educational institutions in an effort to jump start sales, or at least adoption, of its Surface RT tablets. According to the company has started a policy of steep discounts to schools in an effort to push that platform’s acceptance.

How steep you ask? The tablet is available to schools and universities from now until August 31st starting at $199 for the 32GB model. Or you can go to the Microsoft store and buy the same model for $499. Such a deal.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 cheap in bundle deal
If you are in the market for both the LTE-capable version of the tablet and a smartphone then Samsung might have just what you need. It has teamed with AT&T to bundle its Galaxy Note 8 tablet for $199 when coupled with a new activation of select Samsung smartphones.

The tablet, normally $399, has Samsung technology designed to ensure its safe adoption in the business as well as the more traditional consumer friendly apps that are more commonly associated with tablets.

It is World Cup disqualifier time
At this time of year nations are putting their best foot forward in an attempt to qualify for next year’s World Cup, which will be held in Brazil. Along the qualifying route there are always a few feel good stories about nations that qualify — this is not one of them.

FIFA has just launched an investigation into player eligibility regarding athletes on both the Ethiopian and Tunisian teams, both of which had just advanced to the final round of the African World Cup according to the BBC. Sanctions will be forfeiting the match that the players participated in, if found guilty.

Google up in the air with Loon
Google is seeking to deliver Wi-Fi connectivity to the large portion of the world that is currently without by using a series of high altitude balloons that will have the ability to bounce Internet signals to each other and support users on the ground.

The company will be releasing 30 balloons in all, all over New Zealand’s South Island in an effort called Project Loon. Each balloon will rise to the stratosphere and be controlled to stay in the same spot. The initial effort will only provide Internet access with speeds that approximate 3G to roughly 60 people.

Sony Xperia Z finds a home
Sony released the Xperia Z a few months ago but if you rushed down to the local consumer electronics store to sign up for the smartphone and start enjoying all that it has to give you would have come home upset because it was not initially supported by any of the carriers. Well that has all changed.

According to Slashgear, you will now be able to get your hands on one courtesy of your friends at T-Mobile. However before you head on down, no delivery date has yet been announced.

FCC provides peek at next-gen Nexus 7
The FCC, via TechRadar, has published what looks like the features of the next generation Google Nexus 7 tablet, which appears to be manufactured by Asus, with a 1080p display.

Other features will include 2GB of memory, a switch from an Nvidia processor to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro as well as a move to a 5 megapixel camera rather than the 1.5MP in the older edition. Also included will be NFC, LTE and wireless charging.

Sony Unveils Latest Tablet-The Xperia Z (Non-Smartphone Version)

Sony released a smartphone at CES called the Xperia Z and has now followed that release up with its latest tablet offering, the Xperia Tablet Z as the company continues to battle for relevancy in the tablet space.

The tablet is a light, thin device that features a 10.-1 inch display with a 1920 x 1200 pixel high definition display, 2GB of RAM, and a 1.5GHz quad core processor. It will run the Android 4.1 operating system.

Included will be support for 4G LTE as well as NFC (near field communications) capabilities and weights a very light 495 grams and is 6.8 millimeters thick, making it slightly thinner than Apple’s iPad Mini. The case is waterproof and dustproof.

Other features include a microSD slot for memory expansion and an 8 megapixel camera that can automatically adjust its settings in low light and dark conditions to provide the best possible image. Overall storage capability and the frequency for the NFC have not been unveiled yet.

There are a number of questions that have yet to be answered about the device that received a very quiet launch that consisted of a simply press release in Japan. The two biggest questions are will it be released in the United States, or for that matter outside of Japan, and what will its pricing be? It appears that the tablet will be available this spring with pricing set at that time.

Still the move shows that Sony, despite some missteps in the tablet, and smartphone space, are not ceding them to Apple, Microsoft, Samsung or any other player without a fight. That will be good for the market as the increased competition will continue to help drive innovation in this space and provide new features and technology for users.

Mobile Sports Report TechWatch: New Kindles this Week?

It is sounding like Intel is finally landing a major, known customer for its microprocessors targeted at the smartphone space. It is being reported that Motorola Mobility and Intel will be making a joint announcement on Sept. 18.

Actually it had already been announced that they were working together but now we finally get to see the fruits of their joint labor. According to PhoneArena the companies are now starting to send out invites for the event.

Amazon to dump Google Maps
It looks like competition in the tablet business has lost Google another customer for its popular maps program. Apple has already shown that it will not be including Google Maps as a standard feature in its next generation iOS and now Amazon is following its example.

According to a report in Rueters Amazon will instead be using technology from Nokia Oyj as the mapping technology of choice in its next generation Kindle Fore, a device that could be available as early as the end of this week.

Sony launches upgraded tablet
Missed amid preparations for Labor Day last week was news that Sony upgraded its tablets and has rebranded them under the Experia name, the same as it uses for its smartphones. The company also recently showed a trio of Experia smartphones including the Experia T with a 4.6-inch display.

Delays on iPhone 5 due to lack of screens?
The Wall Street Journal via Electronista is reporting that Sharp, one of three display manufacturers tapped to provide displays for Apple’s next generation iPhone has been experiencing manufacturing issues.

This is not the first time that Sharp has had issues deploying next-generation technology, and it has hurt the company at its bottom line as its recent $1.2 billion loss testifies to. The lack of these displays could lead to a constrained supply of the phone when it is released.

Apple and Samsung agree on something
Apple and Samsung have agreed that any payment or bond that Samsung may need to make can be put off for at least a few months according to Foss Patents. It seems that since Apple buys significantly more than the amount of the fine from Samsung on a regular basis it sees no reason to burden its partners.

The author speculated that the issue also was influenced by the fact that with cases pending against each other in 10 countries it makes sense to waive posting bonds rather than being forced to do so in a variety of jurisdictions.

While the two are agreeing on some things at the same time Apple is seeking to add both the popular Samsung Galaxy SIII and the Galaxy Note to the list of eight other devices that it is seeking to have banned from import and sale in the United States.

Apple and Google in Patent talks
In some of the least secret talks in recent years, if true, Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and Google’s CEO Larry Page are having talks about how to settle the patent disputes that have been an ongoing bone of contention between the two companies, and in Google’s place the licensees of its Android operating system.

While neither side is admitting to the talks it has been reported by multiple sources that they talked via phone last week and have additional talks scheduled. It has been viewed that Samsung, Motorola Mobility and HTC, all of whom are fighting Apple in a variety of courts around the globe are simply serving as Google’s proxies in the battle.

Amazon to double its fun with two new Kindle Fire tablets
There have been reports for weeks that Amazon planned to beat Apple to the punch by delivering a next generation Kindle Fore prior to Apple’s expected release of a 7-inch iPad, commonly called the iPad Mini. Now reports are emerging that Amazon will release two new Kindles, and possibly by Friday this week.

Cnet is saying that the company will have a pair of 7-inch Kindles available on Sept 6th, and that contrary to some earlier reports Amazon will not be going with a 10-inch model to take on Apple and others in the larger screen format space.


Mobile Sports Report TechWatch: Nexus 7 Sells Out

Demand for the Google Nexus 7 tablet that went on sale last week has been very strong, with reports of online retailers selling out of the devices in the first few days that it was available, according to Reuters.

On sale since last Friday in most areas, the Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet that starts at $199 has sold out at a number of locations including Sam’s Club, GameStop and Staples. The popularity is particularly good for the company because while rival Amazon set records selling its Kindle Fire during the Christmas holiday season, this time of year is usually the doldrums for electronic sales.

There are a lot of rumors of a new iPad in the 7-inch format as well as new products from Amazon that will seek to steal Google’s thunder in this space but it looks like Google has established itself as a major player in the tablet space with the Nexus 7.

A nice piece in Wired breaks down the Nexus 7 and its leading rival, Amazon’s Kindle and shows where the primary differences are between the two. According to the article it costs $19 more to build a Nexus 7 than a Kindle, but the money looks to be well spent.

Apple aggressive about Samsung ban
Apple has been contacting US carriers and retailers and demanding that they follow the court order that bans select Samsung products. According to Foss Patents this news came to light via a Samsung filing that claims that the letters that Apple is sending to these parties over reaches and and contain incorrect information.

It has only been slightly more than a week since US Courts ruled that Samsung would ot be allowed to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the US. The Koss newsletter is siding with Apple on its interpretation of the order.

FujiFilm joins the fun — Sues Motorola over patents
Motorola Mobility now finds itself in the sights of FujiFilm as that company has filed a suit claiming that Motorola is infringing on four patents, according to PC World. The filing comes after a number of face to face meetings between the two companies.

The patents in question cover some interesting areas including the ability to capture color pictures with a cell phone and converting them into monochrome and a manner in which data is transmitted using wireless methods such as Bluetooth.

Apple returns to EPEAT
Apple, after making waves by having its products delisted from the EPEAT list of environmentally approved products the company has made an about face and now will continue to return to EPEAT after strong feedback from its customers.

Sony has new tablet in the works
Sony has admitted that it will be ready during the fall holiday season with a new tablet as the manufacturer continues to try and gain traction in that space. The company currently has several offerings in this space including the Tablet P.

It currently only sells devices that run the Android operating system and it will be interesting if it moves onto the Windows 8 platform when that is delivered later this year.

Sony’s SmartWatch allows Sports Viewing on the sly

Have you ever been stuck in a meeting when an important, or even not so important, game was on and you were missing all of the action? Well Sony may have a solution for that with its SmartWatch, a Internet linked wristwatch.

Much like a generation of school kids once hid transistor radios to listen to baseball games now they can actually watch them. The beauty is in its simplicity. No need for a second wireless contract to run the SmartWatch, it connects wirelessly to a user’s Android-powered smartphone and from there to the Internet and beyond!

The timepiece has a 1.3-inch screen and provides a vibration of alert flashes for incoming calls and text messages that are communicated from the smartphone via Bluetooth. The messages and caller information is displayed allowing the wearer to decide if they need to respond immediately or not.

The display, which also does function as a watch, has touchscreen capabilities and Sony claims that there are already apps that have been tailored specifically for the SmartWatch that are available at the Google

Sony sees this as much more an entertainment device than a communications one and specifically mentions that it is a great tool for watching live content and entertainment. It said that this is just the first in a planned series of devices that are designed to expand the smartphones reach.

I really like this, and with a $150 list price could see getting one just to while away the hours when I am sitting through a day of presentations at a conference, particularly if the conference has free Wi-Fi. Of course I have had a number of bosses that would frown on the use of such a device so you might not want to flash the watch around the office showing MLB At Bat 12.

A Two-Part Tablet? Sony Says Why Not?

Not sure how I missed AT&T’s introduction of the Sony Tablet P last week, but I did. While there has been a ton of news in the mobile world about a variety of products from the latest Pad to all of the products shown in Barcelona, the Tablet P is a bit different.

The reason for this is that it is a hybrid, but not like say, the Samsung Note that is a cross between a tablet and a smartphone. This is a hybrid because it is a tablet that folds in half. The clamshell form would seem to put it solidly in the notebook/netbook category, but is it one?

Not really but I think that many will view it as such, and tablets are still new enough that many will want one with what they view as the proper from factor, not a device that can be mistaken for a netbook.

The Tablet P is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core 1GHz processor with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage with an additional 2GB available using a microSD card. It runs the Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system. It has a 5 MP camera and can record 720p video

The key feature on the tablet is the display, which consists of two separate 5.5-inch touch screens with 1024 x 480 resolution. The device folds nicely into a small form factor and can be easily stowed, or at least easier than a 10-inch tablet can be. It basically has the size of a smartphone when closed.

The tablet has Sony Playstation certification and looks to be a solid game machine, but if that is what a user wants why not get a Sony PS Vita? A bit more feature rich it might make a nice backup device for a notebook user, but appears to lack the storage for that. The Tablet P looks like it just does not fit well into any one niche and it will be interesting to see if Sony can create one for it. Rightnow that is not the way I would bet.

The tablets are available now for around $500 from Sony’s official web site but AT&T is offering the tablet bundled with a Sony Ericsson Xperia Play phone for $299.99