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 Upgrades Tablet Offering with Xperia Tablet Z


Sony has enhanced its tablet offerings with the Xperia Tablet Z that it debuted last week at the Mobile World Congress. Somehow this one flew under the radar last week, but it looks well worthwhile to recap since it looks like Sony has made major steps towards relevancy with its latest tablet offering.

While Samsung and Hewlett-Packard seemed to grab most of the attention for their tablet introductions the Sony offering is also one to take note of, and is a move to establish the company in the 10-inch space.

The Xperia Tablet Z features a 10.1 inch display that has 1920 x 1200 resolution capable of full 1080p HD. The tablet is water resistant and is powered by Qualcomm’s quad core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor. It has 2GB of RAM and can have a maximum of 64GB storage with an optional microSD card in the Wi-Fi version.

The tablet will be available in cellular and Wi-Fi only versions with the 16GB Wi-Fi models. The company’s press release did not give prices but it was reported elsewhere that the with the 16GB Wi-Fi models would be available for $499 and the 32GB model for $599, both from a Sony Store.

The tablet runs Android Jelly Bean 4.1 and will be upgradable to 4.2. It will include a pair of cameras, a 8MP rear camera as well as a 2MP HD front facing camera. For sound it includes the Sony S-Force Front Surround 3D and Sony’s Clear Audio+ mode capability.

The tablet includes other Sony technologies as well including its One-Touch functions to transfer content from tablet to either a TV, speaker or phone by touching them together. In addition it has a universal remote feature that enables it to remotely control Sony TV’s and other Sony built devices.

A key selling point of the tablet is weight, and while that may not seem obvious just looking at the raw numbers, it could end up being a top selling point. The smaller 7-inch tablets have been making strong inroads in terms of sales over the last six months or more. Many users I have talked with state that the weight of a 10-inch device simply is too much for one hand and they do not want to use it with both in many usage scenarios.

The Xperia Tablet Z is approximately a quarter pound lighter than the Nexus 10 and 2 mm thinner. It weighs 495 grams or 17.5 ounces and is 6.9 mm thick, thinner and lighter than the most recent iPad as well which is 9.4 mm thick and weighs 652 grams.

It seems like it will be much better accepted in the market than the unique Tablet S that Sony previously released. However there are tablets that have better features in individual categories such as display resolution, so a user will still have to make tradeoffs when purchasing one. However it appears that Sony has pushed itself into the space where it will be considered with other top offerings.

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.

Polaroid Makes a Strong Move into Action Cams

Polaroid has expanded its presence in the growing sports action cam space with the addition of a trio of offerings that are designed to meet a wide range of uses and price points as the company moves more strongly into this space.

This is an interesting space, with these cameras used in place of smartphones at one end of the device spectrum and more dedicated camcorders at the other end. Often housed in at least water resistant cases and more durable than a phone or a tradition camera they are for users that wish to record their latest skiing, skateboarding, diving or off road biking experience.

The 1.6 ounce entry level XS7 has the ability to take 720p high definition video or still images at 1MP, 3MP and 5MP and has a 2-inch full color screen so that users can view video and images that they have just shot with the camera.

Its case is waterproof up to 30 feet and it, as with all of the new action cams, comes with mounting brackets that enable it to be used on top of a helmet or on a bike’s handlebars. The $69.99 camera supports Micro SD cards with capacities up to 32GB.

Moving up a step is the Polaroid XS20 that also captures 720p video as well as 5MP still images. It is waterproof to 65 feet so it can be used on dives and other more water based activities. Its three hour battery gives a user more time to record their activity while it is designed for use in all lighting environments including low light due to its 8 built-in LED lights. The $99.99 camera can even act as a security device due to built-in motion sensors.

The Polaroid XS100 is the high end offering and can not only record in 720p but also 960p and 1080p video as well as record 3MP, 5MP and 16MP still images. It has an ultra wide lens that can provide 170 degree coverage and while in camera mode it has adjustable frame rates like burst shooting mode, time lapse and fast and slow motion.

Polaroid is a well recognized name in imagery and has an established track record delivering quality cameras so it will be interesting to see how well it is accepted in this space.

There are some well established players in this space led by GoPro, which has deals that bring it into the forefront such as its relationship with ESPN’s X Games. Others are moving into the space such as Sony with its Bloggie Sports Camera. However Polaroid is a well recognized name in imagery and has an established track record

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.