Pebble takes second step in smartwatch space


Pebble has brought out its second generation smartwatch with the $249 Pebble Steel Watch, a more fashionable, and expensive version of the original $150 Pebble offering from last year. The watch is being shown at the current CES International trade show in Las Vegas.

The Steel Watch will be available in either a brushed stainless or black matte finish as the company develops a look that would not look garish on an executive. It replaces the plastic cover with Gorilla Glass and comes with both steel and leather straps.

The battery life is good for between 5 and 7 days and it is waterproof to 5 meters. The company has added a tri-colored LED and as with the earlier model will run both the Android and the iOS operating system. Scheduled to ship at the end of the month the move coincides with the launching of the Pebble Appstore, a place where users can easily find apps designed to run on the device.

Pebble, the Kickstarter favorite, wow the market when its funding effort went massively over the amount that the company founders were seeking, something that slightly harmed the company, at least public relations wise, by forcing it deliver the product late because it needed to build significantly more than it had expected in its early run. Not that this is not a problem that most startup companies would kill for.

Pebble was certainly one of the groundbreakers, if not the groundbreaker in the wearable computing technology with mainstream devices that connected a watch with a cell phone to bring data to your wrist. There were already sports specific devices that did some of the same features in areas such as golf and running but none that seemed to serve as a pure extension of your mobile phone.

That started a land rush by larger mobile developers to lay claim to this space as well, with Samsung, Apple, Google, Sony, Dell and others delivering products, planning to or simple becoming part of the rumor mill that they have one in the works.

Samsung, Qualcomm and Sony have already brought out products with the Samsung Gear, Qualcomm Toq and the Sony SmartWatch and I am sure this year we will see a wave of additional devices introduced to the market, much like how the tablet space exploded a few years ago. A number will be simply me-too devices while others will take the time to create truly differentiated offerings.

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.

Major League Baseball teams with Qualcomm to Boost Ballpark Wireless Service


MLB, like all major sports, and for that matter any large venue for sports or entertainment, seems to always have a connectivity problem but unlike many others which seem to have patchwork solutions MLB is actively addressing the issue.

The league’s Advanced Media arm (MLBAM) has teamed with wireless equipment developer Qualcomm in a multiyear effort that will first seek to survey the needs of mobile fans and then look at developing a plan to implement the mobile network technology needed to meet those needs.

They are entering a very fast moving space, where it is still hard to predict what the growth and demand will look like. You need only look at some of the numbers that Baseball has provided to see this. Two years ago fans were primarily looking for downstream data flow, that is downloading e-mails checking voicemail.

That has change so that now the primary need is for upstream connectivity, so that twitter, Facebook updates, Instagram photos and a host of other social media needs can be served. Also these types of files are often much larger than the simple text messages downloaded two years earlier. However the growth has been strong for data flowing in both directions, a 50% increase in downstream and a 300% increase in upstream per year over the last two years.

MLB in fact helps create demand for wireless in its parks. It has a range of apps that allow fans to do everything from find images of themselves in the stands as well as post that type of photo to upgrading your seats while at a game.

The range of services now at ballparks range considerably, and even after this effort is over will still have a good deal of variance since it appears that not all teams will be participating.

The deal is a first for Qualcomm in that in the past it has never had a direct relationship with a sports league. Its Engineering Group will provide in-ballpark assessments of select parks and develop a comprehensive plan for wireless access that will include Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G services. The effort is expected to take two years.

It will be interesting to see if the experts can accurately foretell the future and if the installations will meet with future needs. The San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park is continually undergoing enhancements and growing pains as fans mobile usage continues to grow. But at least during the recent World Series it held up, while Comercia Park’s network collapsed under the strain of social commenting at games.

Wi-Fi Whispers: Giants Double Wi-Fi Access Points, Add Charging Stations at AT&T Park

SFG_ATT_parkThe San Francisco Giants are making a case for keeping thier unofficial title of having the best wireless networked ballpark by doubling the number of wireless access points and adding mobile-device charging stations at AT&T Park for the 2013 season.

Already easily one of the best un-wired sporting arenas, the home field for the 2012 World Series champs isn’t resting on its tech laurels. According to an email from Giants CIO Bill Schlough, “the Giants and AT&T Wi-Fi Services are more than doubling the number of access points at the ballpark (760) to stay ahead of demand from our increasingly connected fan base.” Schlough said the Wi-Fi network at AT&T Park hosted 980,000 gameday connections during the 2012 season, up 90% from 2011. Total data usage, Schlouh said, increased by 140 percent over the previous year, with more than 16 million megabytes sent over the AT&T Wi-Fi network during the Giants’ regular and playoff seasons.

To better serve fans who probably burn out batteries sending tweets and Vine videos, the Giants and AT&T are helping make sure nobody has to crouch down by a concourse wall, looking for an outlet mid-game. According to Schlough, fans at AT&T Park will have access to more than 400 mobile device chargers throughout the stadium, with 10 mobile kiosks capable of charging 16 devices each. And perhaps most importantly, the Giants will keep their highest-paying customers well-charged, with four device chargers in each suite.

Schlough also gave us a Giants’ point of view on the announcement last week about Qualcomm and Major League Baseball “working together” to bring more Wi-Fi networks to MLB parks. While we cynically tweeted that such deals don’t mean much without monetary figures attached (I mean, the best way to bring Wi-Fi to the ballparks that don’t have them is to BUILD NETWORKS), Schlough said the Qualcomm deal would only help build better networks.

In an email reply to a question about how the Qualcomm-MLBAM deal might affect the Giants, Schlough responded: “We’ve actually been working with Qualcomm and MLB Advanced Media to benchmark the work that AT&T has done here with our Wi-Fi and 3G/LTE DAS networks, in hopes that this we can A) identify specific areas within the ballpark to be targeted for continued improvement and B) potentially serve as the model that other ballparks can follow.”

Charging stations sound like another good step in the fans’ direction. Now if only airports and convention centers would follow suit.

Xirrus Brings Wi-Fi to Liverpool FC

Our friends at Xirrus scored another big stadium deal for their new-era Wi-Fi networking gear, bringing wireless services to Anfield Stadium, the home of the club since its formation in 1892. Here’s a good writeup on the deal from TechWorld. We are guessing the ability for Xirrus’s antennas to cover more space and provide more capacity per access point was a selling plus for the ancient Anfield Stadium; here’s the official press release about the win.

ExteNet Bags Four Major Carriers for Barclays Center DAS

On the DAS (distributed antenna system) front the folks at ExteNet Systems scored a major win for their network at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. ExteNet, which builds DAS networks to improve in-building cellular connections, signed agreements with the big 4 U.S. wireless carriers — AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and MetroPCS — for the Barclays DAS, meaning that all the carriers will pay ExteNet to help bring better signals to their customers inside the arena.

Signing all four is a huge win for ExteNet, whose strategy of building “neutral DAS” networks and then acting as the middleman seems to be paying off not just for ExteNet, but also for cellular customers. By picking ExteNet, Barclays is putting the fan experience above the potential income of a single-carrier “exclusive” deal. Let’s hope more stadiums think of ExteNet and other neutral DAS players first, instead of deals that leave two thirds of the cellular users without better connections.

Intel Will Have Major Smartphone Push in Barcelona


Intel will continue its aggressive efforts to penetrate the smartphone processor space and will be highlighting its latest processor family that is designed for that market at the upcoming Mobile World Congress.

It has already started to see some traction in recent months as it gained a major partner for the Asia Pacific market with its relationship with Acer as well as smaller deals in Africa. The deal with Acer has that company now offering the Acer Liquid C1 smartphone that is powered by Intel’s Atom Z2420 processor.

Looking forward to the show in Barcelona on February 25 to 28 Intel will be looking to show off its range of smartphone technologies highlighted by the Atom Z2420 processor, a chip that it has designed specifically for emerging markets.

That processor is just the start of a range of new chips expected from the company this year for the smartphone space. It showed an update to its current Atom Medfield family at the recent CES show with the Bay Trail-T processor and is expected to launch its Merrifield line later this year. It has so far seen some solid benchmarks that have been posted online.

Intel still faces a tough battle in this space, one that it has been trying to gain a substantial market share for the last decade. Qualcomm and others have had a big lead in providing chips to the mobile market. Qualcomm has even surpassed Intel recently in market cap, making it the most valuable semiconductor company.

While Intel is still a much bigger company what has been driving Qualcomm is its success in the mobile space, one that Intel is still fighting for. It should get a bit of a boost when the second half of Microsoft’s Surface family of tablets, the Surface Pro arrive, since they are powered by Intel chips.Still it is increasingly important to Intel to establish itself as a major player in the mobile space as the PC market has matured and is no longer seeing robust growth.