Google teams with NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports for March Madness promo

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Google is seeking to make waves during the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament in an effort that teams the Internet giant with the NCAA and its broadcasting and software development partners Turner Sports and CBS Sports.

The effort will revolve around Google’s social network application called Google+, a rival to industry leader Facebook, and it will be interesting to see if Google publishes the results from the effort. You constantly see Facebook listed as an almost default player in this type of event and a major push by Google into sports and other avenues will make for an interesting fight.

The effort actually started on Selection Sunday but will run the length of the tournament. A wide range of NCAA March Madness digital products will be flowing through Google’s pages including NCAA March Madness Live™, the Capital One March Madness NCAA Bracket Challenge™, the NCAA On Demand YouTube channel and the NCAA March Madness Google+ page.

However Google has taken steps to help steer fans who might not be aware of the effort or who might need a gentle reminder of the tournament on a daily basis. It has teamed with its partners to feature March Madness related search insights in Google Trends. This means that fans using Google for search and looking at what is trending will see the topics and teams from the tournament that are popular on Google Search.

Other efforts by the partnership include such features as Turner integrating Google sign-in technology into the NCAA Bracket Challenge game. Fans that follow up from seeing information in the Google Trends can go to a “Google Bracket” that will rank teams throughout the tournament based on Search interest.

Google has also created a number of “Google+ Hangouts” that are related to March Madness. These are social networking microsites where fans can discuss related issues and share photos, among other tasks. The Google+ Hangouts On Air enables fans to interact with Turner Sports and CBS Sports on-air talent and can be entered either from NCAA.com/hangouts or the NCAA March Madness Google+ page.

Google+ has seemed to be an afterthought to many, although any program that counts its membership in the hundreds of millions should be taken seriously. However this could help promote the company into a more mainstream awareness position with the sporting public at large, or it might just be like a 16 seed and go one and done. Game on, Google.

Friday Grab Bag: 3D tablet, Dodgers ruled social media in 2013

It just would not feel like a week has gone by unless there was another iPhone or iPad rumor, and it looks like we will meet that goal once again. While we have already mentioned the possibility of a hybrid iPad this week now comes the possibility of a iPhone phablet.

According to Yahoo there may be one as soon as May, in a line that will be differentiated from the iPhone family. That family should get its next member, now called the iPhone 6, sometime later in the year, it reported.

Google Glass rival coming into focus
Once Google made huge headlines with its Google Glass concept rivals have been shooting at the company touting alternative offerings, and among that pack has been Taiwanese manufacturer ChipSiP that this week showed a prototype effort called Smart Glass.

The Smart Glass looks much like Google Glass, runs a full Android 4.2 operating system and features a 1.2Ghz dual core processor with 1GB of RAM as well as 4GB of storage. ChipSiP, which is an original device manufacture (ODM), expects one or more of its partners to start shipping glasses this year priced in the sub $1,000 range.

Hampoo tp deliver 3D tablet
The latest version a glasses-free 3D tablet has been shown this week by developer Hampoo that said it will release the unmanned tablet later this month to an as yet unnamed price. The display has a 1920 x 1200 resolution and a built-in software conversion engine can render 2D into 3D images without glasses.

Other features include the Android 4.0 operating system, a 1.5GHz TI OMAP4470 dual core processor with 1GB RAM, 16GB storage that can be doubled via an optional MicroSD card and the ability to run 1080p HD movies.

MLB a money making machine
Have you ever wondered how baseball always manages to give players multimillion dollar contracts that are guaranteed while the NFL, always seeming crying poor, usually only guarantees the first year or so?

Well Forbes does a real nice job breaking down how much money baseball actually rakes in, and how it spreads a good deal of it around so that while it is not an entirely level playing field, it is as close as it will likely ever come.

Dodgers ruled sports social media
While the Los Angeles Dodgers may have failed to reach the World Series last year with the team’s $200 million payroll it did reach several other milestones including having the team’s home park, Chavez Ravine, as the most “checked-in” sports venue.

In led the league in 2013 in growth on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram, according to MLB, and was the fourth most checked-in site overall in the world. And as a minor thing it lead MLB in attendance with 3,743,527 fans.

An interesting year in review of ESPN
Ever wonder why some stories that seem relatively inane or trivial gain so much momentum on ESPN? Or wonder what is actually going on at the World Wide Sports Leader? Well Deadspin has put together a pretty interesting year in review for the network.

One of the more interesting pieces is how by having all of its different talking heads repeat something on all of its different channels it can blow something way out of proportion, and the example of that was its big Colin Kaepernick story.

Will sports help Apple win the indoor location market?

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A few months ago Apple, Major League Baseball and the New York Mets showed off iBeacon, a technology that is embedded in Apple’s iOS 7 operating system and how it can be used for indoor location services.

If you are not too familiar with iBeacon that is not surprising, Apple really has not publicized the technology that much since it was rolled out as part of the iOS7 release last September. It is an indoor positioning system that is designed to enable a facility to push notifications, coupons and other material to enabled iOS mobile devices. It is built around a low powered version of Bluetooth technology and has the advantage of being very precise and essentially serves as an indoor GPS, but with a much greater degree of accuracy.

The advantages for a sporting facility are obvious. It can track where a user is and send them discount coupons when they are in front of a souvenir shop or a two for one hot dog offer when they are at the food stands. Facilities can see where fans visit and where they do not and customize both their offers to the fans, and the layout of the retail outlets to better meet fans usage models.

It is no surprise that MLB’s Advanced Media group, which has been very aggressive in delivering apps that both engage fans when they are in attendance and when they are not, would be interested in this technology. It has the potential to help increase sales while also enabling fans to take an unescorted but informative tour of ballparks such as Fenway and hear all of the history of the park.

After that announcement it seemed the technology fell off the radar but last week Macy’s said that it will use the technology to send alerts to shoppers when they enter stress over the holiday season at select stores via an app called Shopkick.

Apple delivered its own version of maps a while ago and emerged with egg on its face as the maps were in some cases very inaccurate and rival Google and others made fun of Apple’s efforts. A shakeup later Apple seems to have the map app working well and according to this piece from Mobile Marketer Apple has taken 23 million users from Google in the maps space, but still trails Google’s impressive lead in that space.

However indoor is a different area and Apple could be heading to a lead there, in part because of the effort by sports leagues to add enhanced networking capabilities to their facilities. In addition they have a great deal of familiarity developing for Apple’s platform as apps for Apple’s iOS are often the first to appear for sports leagues and fans can already use them to locate hot dog stands and swap seats, among other uses. An app that does significantly more would simply fit in with the fans already established mindset of using a mobile device to assist them in a facility.

Fans can get upset with the lack of access at a stadium when using a mobile device and all major US sports leagues are expanding and enhancing their Wi-Fi networks. Since teams want a return on investment aside from fan satisfaction this presents them with a solid opportunity.

I suspect that come next year we will be seeing an influx of apps not just from Apple developers but also Android and Windows 8 seeking to take advantage of the new networking and connectivity capabilities of stadiums and it will be interesting to track which ones are using indoor positioning as a feature since it certainly appears to present a solid advantage to its users.

Nokia delivers tablet as market continues to diversify

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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.

Emetic latest with low cost tablet

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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.

Friday Grab Bag: MLB Looks at iBeacon

In the last few weeks Microsoft has been very good at starting rumors with its vague comments about potential new directions and the latest is that it might be looking at delivering a Phablet that runs the unpopular Windows RT operating system.

As reported by Slash Gear, Microsoft vice president Terry Myerson speaking at the company’s financial analyst meeting last week said that the distinction between a phone and a tablet is blurring and that has seen the growth of the Phablet space.

Google’s Balloon idea about to pop?
Much has been made about Google’s plan to launch a series of balloons to provide Wi-Fi-around the globe in an effort called Project Loon. Now Per Lindstrand has come out against the program calling it ‘a waste of time.’

If you are unfamiliar with Lindstrand he was Richard Branson’s partner as they sought to fly a balloon around the world. He said that he expects the balloons to eventually all gather at the North or South Pole.

MLB gives iBeacon a trial run
One of the features in Apple’s recently released iOS 7 operating system is something called iBeacon. It is a technology that is designed to address the shortcomings that GPS suffers from when used indoors.

Now MLB has demonstrated the potential of the technology for use at ballgames and has the potential to bring fans to within 10 feet of their destination, not within the ½ mile that is how much a GPS can be off. No word yet if it will incorporate it in its At the Ballpark app, but keep an eye out next season.

Wall Street misses on Apple iPhone sales
The day that Apple released its latest generation iPhones the naysayers were out in force. The company has lost its mojo, CEO Cook is not inventive enough, the new phones are a dud and on and on as the stock, which had soared prior to the rollout started to sink.

The market put sales of the new phones in the 6 to 7.5 million range and just a week later Apple is breaking the 10 million unit barrier and phones are on backorder. In addition the company told Wall Street to expect quarterly earnings to be at the high end of the range it had previously announced. Mojo rising I guess.

Intel invests in Google Glass rival
Recon Instruments, which has been making wearable technology for some time has announced that Intel has come on board as a significant investor, although the sum has not been revealed. Recon makes Heads-up Displays for sports.

Recon has a number of partners including Oakley and has been shipping, and selling the devices at a number of outlets worldwide, including Apple Stores. Recon said that so far it has shipped over 50,000 devices.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 ship date set from Sprint
Sprint has announced that it will be shipping the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on Oct. 4. So fans of the very popular phone can start getting in line soon. The real good news for many will be that it comes with an Unlimited Data Guarantee for life.