Research in Motion has New Identity as BlackBerry 10 Arrives


Research in Motion’s comeback attempt starts today with the long awaited release of its next generation smartphone, the BlackBerry 10, a device the company is hoping will be the cornerstone of a revival in its fortune.

You have to give the company credit, it is not launching the new phone in a half hearted manner with events in New York City, Toronto, London, Paris, Dubai and Johannesburg and its executives have informed the world that RIM no longer exists and that it will now be known as BlackBerry.

BlackBerry introduced a pair of phones, the BlackBerry Z10 which has an all touch interface and the BlackBerry Q10 that has touch features but also includes a physical keyboard.
The company originally made its name as a supplier of a phone that served as a top flight business tool and it has not abandoned its roots, although it has also taken major steps in providing features that general consumers demand as well.

Some of the highlights of the platform include a new fast browser that supports HTML5. The BlackBerry Storefront now features 70,000 apps for the BlackBerry 10 family, and while a far cry from the millions available for iPhone and Android platforms it is a good start. The phones also come with some very popular apps now pre-installed including Facebook and Twitter.

The BlackBerry Hub (BBH) is a place to manage work and personal e-mail and social media. It features a messaging app called the BlackBerry Messenger that includes call and voice chat features and a program that is designed to separate your work apps and data from personal content and keep them secure. There is a host of additional features, some smply enhanced from previous versions, included on the new phones.

The company desperately needs a winner here as its woes have been well documented as the once undisputed leader in first smartphones for businesses has witnessed a steady erosion of its sales and market share followed by its revenue and profits following the same downward spiral.

At the same time its rivals are keeping the pressure on BlackBerry. In what is becoming a common game of one-upmanship Samsung picked today as the day it also unveiled one of its latest smartphones, the Galaxy Express 4G.

Apple, one of the other major powers in the smartphone space has been regularly updating its iPhones on a regular basis and the Internet is full of speculation of a new iPhone 5s, iPhone 6 and cheap iPhone or a mixture of all of the above. But you can be sure that the company has an aggressive rollout plan to attempt to maintain its position in the market.

Microsoft Moves Windows 8 into Smartphone Territory

Microsoft continued its move into a more digital, mobile software provider today with the debut of its Windows Phone 8 smartphone operating systems, offering a very much revamped OS along with a number of its partners’ latest offerings.

Microsoft is looking to leverage changes it has made in its operating system , with its Windows 8 OS introduced just last week, and will now be providing a similar look and feel with the same technology core used in both platforms.

The look and feel of the OS appears to be very different from what is offered from its rivals- no static icons but rather what Microsoft is calling Live Tiles, a technology that has the apps that you use in a tile format.

The nice thing about Live Tiles is that a user can customize the startup page and place the apps and functions that they want right there, rather than being stuck with a large number of predetermined apps.

A key attribute of many of the apps is that they are live, that when you look at the phone or start it up an app such as Facebook will be up to date, even if it is still in lock screen mode.. They are also sizable with three formats and you are provided with 20 options for colors.

Microsoft has also been working on developing a much healthier app ecosystem, an area that it has received criticism in the past. Its Windows Phone Store now has 120,000 apps including most of the top rated. In the future it will have Pandora, the leading Internet radio service, in early 2013 with one year of ad-free music.

There is a feature called Data Sense that helps prevent you from going over your data plan by automating and in some cases delaying tasks. It can compress images, or defer tasks until free Wi-Fi is available. It can monitor how much data apps use and inform you when you are nearing the limit. This is used in conjunction with carriers and Verizon is expected to be the first to support it.

One clever piece of software is it’s “Kid’s Corner” an app that enables children to play games on the phone without deleting information, ordering apps or calling Peru.

Along with the Windows Phone 8 OS, Microsoft had a trio of partners delivering new phones. There will be several options available from Nokia, Samsung and HTC, that will go on sale in November at AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon in the U.S., as well as at carriers and retailers around the world.

The move comes just hours after Google announced an update to Android, now at 4.2, along with a new Nexus phone and a revamped Nexus 7 and a new Nexus 1 tablet. Apple had a new iPhone out a few weeks back and a new iPad Mini last week.

I think that, depending on real world performance when the phones are available, Microsoft has a strong story simply because all of its products- PC OS, tablet OS and smartphone OS are compatible with each other and using Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud service a user can start projects on one device and finish them seamlessly on another- a compelling usage model IMHO.

New GoPro App Turns Phone Into Camera Remote Control

If you are a fan or user of the GoPro mobile cameras, you now have a potentially cool new toy — the new GoPro smartphone app, which lets your phone act as a remote control for the company’s mobile HD Hero2 cameras.

The short video above does a great job of showing you what’s possible with the new app. Here’s some verbiage from the official GoPro announcement page:

Features include full control of all camera settings, live video preview to your smartphone or tablet for easy shot framing and more. The GoPro App also gives you access to our Photo and Video of the Day posts keeping you in touch with the latest radness from GoPro.

GoPro also notes that you need a software update to both the HD Hero2 camera and the Wi-Fi BacPac to use the app, all available from this page.

Looking for NBA Games? BuddyTV wants to Guide You

One of the challenges to following sports playoffs is that the games are often carried on multiple channels, sometimes overlapping time slots and sometimes not- the question is where is the game? Well BuddyTV Guide is seeking to solve that question.

BuddyTV Guide is a free app that has been available for some time for Apple iOS and Android owners, but it has added a feature that targets fans of the current NBA playoffs and should enable them to more easily follow the various contests.

The app has added an “NBA Playoffs” feature that will enable users to find all of the games from now until the end of time, or rather until the NBA Championship end. It has automatic updates and is designed to use local airtime and channels so no worries about thinking a game starts in ET and it is not.

The nice thing about this feature in my mind is that as teams are eliminated and advance the listings automatically update themselves so that they are always current. This brings to 4 the number of curated lists at BuddyTV, the others are Most Popular, Watch List and Upcoming all of which update automatically each time a user logs in.

The NBA Guide brings to 4 the number of curated lists at BuddyTV, the others are Most Popular, Watch List and Upcoming all of which update automatically each time a user logs in.

At a basic level BuddyTV Guide is designed for a user to log in to their cable, sync it with the app and then program in your favorite shows and channels. You can have it not follow channels that you are not interested in as well. It will also make recommendations based on previous viewing history and favorites.

The smartphone can act as a remote control and is also compatible with a range of additional devices including AT&T U-verse receivers, DirecTV DVRs, Sony Internet TV with Google TV, Logitech Revue, TiVo Series 3, TiVo Premier, and any devices controlled by Google TV and Samsung Smart TVs.

There are other solutions to finding games such as NBC’s local channel finder for the NHL playoffs, but that is an online feature rather than a phone app, which is a bit more convenient.

I like this and hope it is a trend of the future. Some leagues, particularly the NFL are relatively easy to know when and at what time the games are played while others such as, well pretty much everybody else has a much more varied schedule that is more difficult to follow.

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.

Mobile World Congress Wrap-Phones Galore!

The Mobile World Congress which started earlier this week in Barcelona is finally wrapping up, with thousands of press releases, a dozen or so keynotes and lots of gossip, rumors and even a brief appearance by Occupy Wall Street Protesters.

We are only interested in a few categories of products of the many that were unveiled, primarily the smartphone and tablet platforms as well as some of the programs and apps that have been introduced, so we will only be giving a brief overview of all of this week’s action.

Asus has kept its foot to the accelerator and has added another tablet to its growing lineup, this time the Transformer Pad Infinity. The highlight of the product is the 10-inch Super IPS+ touch screen display that has 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution and a 178 degree viewing angle.

It will be available with two different processors powering the Android 4 device- e available running Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz dual-core S4 processor for the 3G/4G configurations or NVIDIA’s 1.5GHz quad-core Tegra 3 CPU in the Wi-Fi only models. The company also added the Transformer Pad 300 to its lineup as well.

Samsung led off with a pair of tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Tab 2 10.1. The Galaxy Note brings the company’s S Pen stylus to the big screen 10-inch display while the Tab 2 10.1 looks like it will be an entry level offering.

Huawei has delivered what it touts as the first 10-inch quad-core tablet, the MediaPad 10FHD Entertainment tablet that is powered by a Huawei 1.5GHz quad-core processor, runs Google Android 4.0 operating system and has a 10-inch, 1920 x 1200 IPS high definition display screen. It has an 8 megapixel rear automatic-focus camera and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera and memory storage of 2G RAM.

One of my favorite items is not even new. Introduced last year, but not delivered and now upgraded in regards to features is the Asus PadFone. I like it because it really seems to adequately serve as two different products, a smartphone and a 10-inch tablet/ small PC computer.

It comes with a 1.5GHz Snapdragon dual core processor, 1GB RAM and an 8 megapixel rear camera. It is its docking ability that separates it from the crowd. T can dock into a -10-inch tablet that resembles the company’s Transformer lineup of tablets, and the resulting tablet in turn can be docked with a keyboard. It seems to have it all. No pricing has been announced but it should be available in April.

Huawei has also moved its quad core processor into the smartphone field with the Ascend D Quad offering that features a 4.5-inch display also running Android 4.0 operating system and using the company’s proprietary power management technology to give it 30% longer battery life.

LG was of course present and making itself known with the quad core LG Optimus 4X HD. Using a Nvidia Tegra processor the phone features a 4.7-inch display (remember when smaller was better in phones?). The company also said that it will be delivering a stylus style phone that will compete with the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Want 3D without needing to wear glasses? Then LG has the phone for you in the Optimus 3D Max which has the ability to record video in 3D. It features a 4.3-inch display with a 1.2GHz dual core Snapdragon processor and a 5 megapixel camera.

Samsung also expanded its offering here with the Samsung Galaxy Beam. The highlight of this phone is in its ability to serve as a projection device, it has a nHD projector capable of projecting an image with a maximum of a 50-inch diagonal.

Intel has gained an ally in establishing its technology in the smartphone space with a partnership with Indian startup Lava. Lava has launched its first Intel-powered smartphone, the Xolo X900. The first two phones in this lineup will use lower end Intel chips including the Atom Z200.

The company, which entered the market as a budget phone provider will move to a higher tier later when it uses Intel’s 1.6GHz Z2460 processor in future offerings. Intel also revealed that Orange will be offering phones powered by Intel’s Atom processors to its United Kingdom and French customers.

Back in the thick of things is Sony, looking to reestablish itself as a player in this space with out its former partner. It had a pair of dual core offerings, the Xperia P and Xperia U. Both are running Android OS 2.3 but should be upgraded in the near future. They have the ability to connect to Sony’s Entertainment Network and are designed for power graphics.

Nokia has been all over the place at the show, with a total of five different phones. The two that we will mention are the Lumia 6100, a mid-market Windows Phone device and one running its soon to be cast off Symbian operating system, the PureView 808, that features a 41 megapixel camera sensor. Aside from the other three entry level phones the company also had a range of new apps for its handsets.

ZTE had a pair of phones, a Windows Phone in the ZTE Orbit and an Android powered ZTE Era.

Elsewhere at the show

In other news Microsoft has teamed with Good Technology have entered into a strategic partnership in an effort to move the Good for Enterprise app from Good onto Windows Phone devices. The program helps ensure security when accessing corporate data by encrypting email.

Nokia, a key Microsoft partner in the smartphone market has already said that it will support Good for Enterprise solution on its Lumia phones that run Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 operating system.

Microsoft also released the consumer preview version of Windows 8, which is available now as a free download. There are plenty of new features including the ability to store settings and files in the cloud, has a feature to speed navigation and a new user interface. Microsoft has also opened its Window Store for apps.

Other security players were also present at the show. Symantec made a big push with a range of announcements including new versions of Symantec Mobile Management, Symantec Data Loss Prevention for Tablets and Symantec Data Managed PKI Services. The company is looking to enhance its position in the Windows Phone, Android and Apple iOS markets.

The show set a new attendance record with 67,000 visitors and 1,500 exhibitors and will be forced to move to new, larger quarters next year.