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.

Samsung Starts the Clock on the Smartwatch Battle


Samsung the first among the major consumer electronics players to take the wraps off of its smartwatch with its unveiling yesterday of the Galaxy Gear smart watch as that space takes a major step forward becoming a reality.

The Galaxy Gear features a 1.63-inch display and is designed to connect to a Galaxy phone providing e-mail alerts and news routed from that device. However it is more than a glorified pager as it also features a 1.9 megapixel camera that will enable point and shoot photography. It has a built-in microphone that can be used for composition of memos, emails, calendar appointments and more.

One of the areas that early smartwatch pioneers have worked to cultivate has been in the exercise and training field and the Galaxy Gear is designed to compete in that space as well and will support a number of popular apps in that space such as RunKeeper and Life360 and can function as a pedometer.

Last but not least the Galaxy Gear also serves as a wristwatch and includes several face options and will come preloaded with 10 different clock options and more choices will be downloadable via Samsung Apps. It will be available in six colors that will be available at launch: Jet Black, Mocha Gray, Wild Orange, Oatmeal Beige, Rose Gold, and Lime Green. The company said it would ship on September 25th and it will listed at under $300.

There has been a great deal of talk over the last year about smartwatches-which companies will or will not release one, when that will occur and if this means the death toll to the smaller players such as Pebble that have been working to pioneer this space.

Apple has been another of the players that have been rumored to be in development in this space, and recently Google announced made a major move into the space (which actually closed last year) with its purchase of WIMM Labs, a company that first showed its smartwatch design in 2011. Expect others to follow suit in the near future.

It will be hard to predict how this space will pan out. Will the devices be viewed as a fad with a fast adoption rate and an equally fast abandonment rate? Remember a few years back when the race in smartphones was to see who had the smallest form factor? Then as apps started to make them multifunctional they went to larger and larger formats, and now the phablet space is a huge one with oversized screens.

Watches will have small displays. They are good for quick updates and alerts and a surprising range of other features, but they also duplicate everything that is on a smartphone, and so will the majority of users want to carry two pieces of hardware when they have one that already does all of the tasks and more?

It will also be interesting to see if their is a backlash like there appears to be for Google Glass. Will casinos ban smartwatches and how will they do that?

Google’s Latest Nexus 7 Raises the Bar on Tablets


Google has introduced its next generation Nexus 7 tablet this week and has incorporated a host of enhanced features as it seeks to maintain the popularity of its top selling 7-inch tablet, which already has a 10% Android market share.

The tablet, built by Google partner Asus, weighs in at slightly more than half a pound (0.64lbs with Wi-Fi, 0.66 lbs with LTE) and runs the Jelly Bean 4.3 operating system. Among the features in the latest Jelly Bean release is parental control features as well as support for the newest energy efficient Bluetooth technology.

The screen is a standout item on the latest Nexus 7 with support for 1080p high definition video that equates to 1920 x 1200 resolution and includes new stereo speakers. The tablet is powered by a Qualcomm snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB of memory and the company said that you get 9 hours with active use from its battery.

The tablet has a pair of cameras with a 1.2 megapixel fixed focus front facing one and a 5MP auto focus rear facing camera. It sports dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 with 4G LTE available as an option.

The Nexus 7 comes with two basic storage capacities, a 16GB model and a 32GB version. The company said that the tablet will be shipping in the US by July 30 with an entry level price of $229 and $269 for the high end model without 4G LTE, and then will start a global rollout.

The company has also delivered a product called Chromecast, a $35 USB dongle that enables you to stream video over Wi-Fi to smartphones, laptops and tablets. It plugs into a television’s HDMI port, you then load an app onto the receiving device and then chose what to watch. Initially Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music and Google Play Movies are all supported.

It will be interesting to see what Apple and Samsung have in store to combat Google in terms of pricing and features when their next generation 7-inch products hit the market.

Friday Grab Bag: ESPN’s Open Coverage, Dell Smartwatch?

The Guardian is reporting that Dell could be the latest to throw its hat into the ring with a smartwatch offering. Dell’s global vice president of personal computing told the paper that it was exploring ideas in the wearable computing space.

With Apple, Samsung, Google and just about every major player in consumer electronics and/or computing it is no surprise. The Kickstarter success story Pebble and its smartwatch has to be something that everybody is watching. The company was oversubscribed as it sought funding with $10 million pledged and an exclusive deal with Best Buy with a preorder of 85,000 watches.

ESPN to broadcast The Open Championship
If you are hoping to catch a few rounds of the 142nd Open Championship, golf’s oldest major, you are in luck as ESPN will be broadcasting all four days next week from July 18-21.

The network will be reaching out to fans not only via live television broadcasts and encore presentations but also live radio, and a range of digital offerings for computers, tablets and other mobile devices. It will also be using digital technology to enhance its broadcasts with technologies such as Flight Tracker.

[Editor’s note: You can also follow via The Open’s own app, online at The Open’s website and on social media like twitter. Go to The Open website for all info.]

Microsoft to slash Surface RT prices?
The Verge is reporting that Microsoft will be cutting the price of its entry level 32GB Surface RT tablet down to $350 with the version with the Touch Cover keyboard will be $450 as will the 64GB Surface RT without the cover and $550 with the cover.

The news comes as reports are also emerging that the company has an additional two more Surface tablets on the drawing board that it will release sometime in 2014. ZDNet reported that a recently seen Microsoft roadmap includes the tablets as well as a host of additional offerings from the company ranging from an Windows Office App Store to enhanced Skype support.

Apple Store hits 5th Anniversary
The Apple App Store, now no longer a pawn in a patent battle, also had other news this week as it celebrated its 5th year in business providing apps and tools, initially for the iPhone but now also includes apps for the iPad as well.

The success for the store can be seen in the fact that the number of apps it offers has grown from 500 at birth to approximately 900,000 now. There has been over 50 billion app downloads in the five years.

Google updates maps app
Most people I know use Google Maps on a regular basis and they will be happy to hear that not only has the company updated the program but made it faster as well, a common complaint. The company has made the Android updates available now with iPhone and iPad updates coming soon.

It has navigation features that include warnings for bad conditio0ns on a trip including accidents, offline map saving and better exploration features according to an early review in The New York Times.

Lenovo’s 7-inch A1000 Here-Can it Challenge the Nexus 7?


Being King of the Hill means that everybody is always trying to knock you off and the latest to challenge the Nexus 7, one of the most popular 7-inch tablets is Lenovo with its A1000, a 7-inch tablet that it originally introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

In many ways this has been a very slow rollout and in others a very swift one. The company quietly made the tablet available for sale this week, without the fanfare that often accompanies a major release, particularly one that is going up against well established rivals.

On the other hand it was first shown almost a half year ago, many of its details were released as it went through the FCC approval process a few months back and preorders began a month ago, so any observer knew that the day when it would be available was rapidly closing in.

The A1000, which starts at $151 from the Lenovo web site is powered by a MTK 8317 dual core Coretex-A9 processor and runs the 4.2 Android operating system. It has a 7-inch display that has 1024 x 600 resolution and includes 1GB of RAM, a 16GB hard drive and supports an additional 32GB microSD storage card.

The company touts its multimedia features and notes that it is optimized for music with dual stereo speakers, Dolby Digital Plus audio enhancement among its features. The company said that the tablets will be available within the week.

It seems that the Android developers all have Google’s Nexus 7 as the target of choice. HP’s Slate 7 is also touted as a strong rival; with most articles talking about HP’s offering all mention Google. Still it is better to be at the top fighting off competition rather than trying to fight your way there. It will be interesting to see what levels Google tries to being its next generation offering.

Fourth of July Early Grab Bag — NBA Draft Numbers, Facebook stealing user info?

The Facebook Android app has apparently been downloading users’ phone numbers to Facebook’s servers upon installation and initial launch, regardless if the app is used or if the user even has a Facebook account, according to Norton, the antivirus company.

Facebook has told Norton that it has deleted the numbers from its servers and that it will release a updated version of the Android app that will prevent that from happening in the future. I guess the question I have is that it certainly seems intentional, and with all of the other privacy concerns facing the company why did they not stop this earlier?

Apple patents “iWatch”
It appears that the long rumored Apple watch may actually be real and coming closer to a consumer electronics store near you. Multiple sources are reporting that the company has applied for the “iWatch” trademark.

Apple execs have hinted that a wearable computing device could be in its future but have so far not yet come out and said that the company is indeed working on something along these lines.

MLB Embraces the Military with ticket program
Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) has teamed with GovX, an online military and government discount shopping destination for U.S. Armed Forces and government agency personnel with the purpose of allowing teams to create privileged ticketing programs and recognition events specifically for active, reserve, retired and veteran U.S. Military as well as those who serve and protect including police, fire, EMS and related federal, state and local government employees.

GovX will first create a verified ticketing system for the targeted groups and then work with individual teams to create programs for the military and first responders.

Google Glass adds voice commands and enhanced browsing
Speaking of wearable computing Google has added a web browser and has enhanced the voice commands for its Google Glass platform. The Glass, which is attached to a smartphone, can now both alert a user to incoming text messages and read them to the user or display them for the user to read.

The web browser will, among other things, enable users to view web page n multiple formats including zoom and look around, a feature that is controlled by head movement.

Yahoo buys video sharing firm Qwiki
As the battle for embedded features escalates among social media players Yahoo has taken another step forward with its deal to acquire Qwiki, a company that has created a mini-video sharing format that will rival the increasingly popular Vine app.

The deal is the second major one that the company has made in recent weeks, following its $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr in May. The terms for the Qwiki deal have not yet been announced.

ESPN had second best viewership for NBA Draft

Depending on which article that you read at the site ESPN had its second best viewership NBA Draft with the 2013 draft, or it was tied for best, or maybe both. This release says that Nielsen rates it as the second best for the broadcaster, with an average viewership of 2,999,000.

This release said that the draft broadcast was tied for the top rated since 2003. I suspect that as the numbers were examined they arrived at the second place standing.