Blog Archives

Sony’s Next PSN Challenge: Restoring Reputation

After weeks of downtime, governmental scrutiny and untold user fury, Sony has finally begun to restore PlayStation Network and Qriocity streaming media services. It’s not been an easy journey, either: it wasn’t just server failure that took the PSN offline, but a security breach that saw millions of consumer records snatched out from under Sony’s nose. With only the slightest publicly-released information to go on, systems experts have looked on in horror as Sony took a forced deep-dive through server strata, uncovering the flaws – in its data centers and its ego – that allowed the hack to take place. Still, Sony may find that restoring the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services were the easy part – rebuilding its ailing reputation may be far trickier.

Sony started slow with its apologies and its explanations, letting users stew as they waited for the bad news to unfold. While the company insists that it only reached the realization that credit card information had been lost a week or so into the downtime, gamer consensus seems to be that they’d rather have had an earlier – if tentative – warning than feel like the people paying the fees were the last to know. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Official: Xbox 360 Is the Best Console of This Generation

In the video game industry, there have always been debates among gamers over which company delivered the best hardware on the market. Years ago, that debate raged on between Sega and Nintendo fans. After Sega was knocked out of the market, the attention shifted to Nintendo and Sony.

Nowadays, we have our work cut out for us. We need to decide which console — the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3, or Microsoft Xbox 360 — is the best of this generation.

There are some who have supported Nintendo over the years that can point to several reasons their favored company should take that prize. They say that the Wii delivered a new style of gaming and changed the industry forever. Read the rest of this entry

Microsoft Offers App Migration Tool For iPhone to Windows Phone 7

In a bid to win over more developers, Microsoft is offering up a new app migration tool to make it easier to port over iOS apps to the Windows Phone 7 platform. The new API Mapping Tool lets iOS coders take programming calls and translate them to the equivalent classes, methods, and notification events in Windows Phone 7.

The API Mapping Tool is available with plenty of documentation, videos, and other resources to help guide along developers. The API works more like a dictionary that allows developers to pick out bits of code to be translated. Microsoft notes that there’s “no magic wand that will do the work for you,” but that the new API will make things less painstaking. Read the rest of this entry

Microsoft Courier style comes to tablets with Tapose app

If you are a CES hound as we are you might recall at CES 2010 Microsoft showed off an interesting tablet with two screens called the Courier. At the time the Courier debuted, the indication was that the thing would actually go into production. Microsoft dashed those dreams when it later announced it had no intention of producing the dual screen tablet. If you like that dual screen style and the things that it could potentially allow you to do, you might like the Tapose app that has surfaced.

This app comes from a couple of engineers who are reinventing the cool Courier dual screen layout and usability with an app for current tablets. The app doesn’t have the stylus capability that the Courier offered, but it does have the dual screen style. The Tapose app is being designed for the iPad right now and there are reportedly plans for an Android version too. The idea is that the user of the tablet could open two things at once.

For instance, one side of the screen can run a web browser, while the other side runs a document that the user is working on. The user would be able to drag and drop things from one side of the window to the other. That is very cool and I know it would be useful for anyone who uses the web to research and write a document. Tapose is apparently in alpha form right now and won’t hit the market until late summer.

[via TabletPCReview]

Ovi Maps, Nokia-branded app store coming to Windows Phone

In a recent blog post, Nokia reaffirmed its commitment to the Windows Phone ecosystem by offering us a glimpse at what is to come. The company’s CEO, Stephen Elop, has noted that Nokia has “shifted from a mode of developing” its strategy to one of “putting that strategy into action.” Part of the Finnish phone giants plans involve bringing some of Nokia’s strengths to all members of the Windows Phone family, and one of the most exciting Symbian ports will definitely be Ovi Maps. “Nokia will supply mapping and location-based services for the Windows Phone ecosystem, building on the success it’s experienced with Ovi Maps,” reads the blog post. The company also notes that a “Nokia-branded  application store” will be present on the company’s Windows Phone hardware. The CEO also went on to say that Nokia is hard at work in the hardware department, and quipped that his company would “define some of the future disruptions in our market.”

Microsoft adds Netflix support to Xbox 360 Kinect

Today Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb, also known as Major Nelson, announced that Microsoft has added Netflix support to the Xbox 360 Kinect accessory. Using Kinect, you’ll be able to browse your Netflix queue by waving your hands or speaking out loud, which means you won’t have to go searching for your Xbox 360 controller just to watch a movie. Controls include the ability browse, play, pause, fast forward and rewind, and you can perform any of those actions using your voice or gestures. Hyrb said the update is available now and that Kinect users should expect to be prompted to apply the patch the next time they launch Netflix.

Dell slates iPad business potential as Microsoft exec suggests tablet appeal short-lived

If you can’t beat ‘em, slate ‘em. iPad 2 demand remains sky-high, but that hasn’t stopped Dell from sniping at the Apple tablet with the suggestion that it had failed – and would continue to fail – to penetrate the enterprise market (and coming up with some spurious figures to try to illustrate that). Meanwhile, Microsoft is casting doubt on whether the tablet segment as a whole is going to stick around at all.

 

Speaking to CIO Australia, Dell global head of marketing for large enterprises and public organisations, Andy Lark, argued that “open, capable and affordable will win, not closed, high price and proprietary” and suggested that the initial burst of enthusiasm around the iPad was a short-term thing. The tablet’s price and the limitations of Apple’s ecosystem in working with other enterprise hardware, software and services are his primary criticisms:

“Apple is great if you’ve got a lot of money and live on an island. It’s not so great if you have to exist in a diverse, open, connected enterprise; simple things become quite complex. An iPad with a keyboard, a mouse and a case [means] you’ll be at $1500 or $1600; that’s double of what you’re paying. That’s not feasible.” Andy Lark, Dell

Still, it’s hard to see how Lark’s figures add up. Even taking into account the fact he was likely talking in Australian dollars (the iPad 2 begins at AU$579 in Australia) you’d have to be choosing some pretty expensive peripherals to reach $1,500-1,600. Even the top-end, 64GB iPad 2 WiFi + 3G (at $AU949) paired with Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard and a leather Smart Cover only comes to less than $1,130.

As for Microsoft, global chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie has admitted recently that “there’s an important distinction – and frankly one we didn’t jump on at Microsoft fast enough – between mobile and portable” reports SMH; however, the exec also casts doubts on whether tablets are likely “to remain with us or not.”

“Mobile is something that you want to use while you’re moving, and portable is something that you move and then use. These are going to bump into one another a little bit and so today you can see tablets and pads and other things that are starting to live in the space in between. Personally I don’t know whether that space will be a persistent one or not.” Craig Mundie, Microsoft

However, Mundie did not go on to say what exactly he believed would kill off tablets, whether that would be more capable smartphones, lighter and longer-running notebooks, or something else. Microsoft’s Windows 7 OS, while found on several tablets in the market, has failed to grab attention or market share away from the iPad.

Microsoft Windows 8 Tablet Demo Possibly In June

There are rumors that Microsoft could have its first offering of Windows 8 operating system by the end of June, which is Microsoft’s fiscal year end. The design is specifically for tablets and the new interface is rumored to take hints from Apple and parts of the Metro interface found in Windows Phone 7.

 

Many believe that Microsoft Windows 8 will have its first beta by September, but the company usually has at least one or more extra beta releases followed with at least one more candidate release. Microsoft is known for a three-year release schedule it adheres to for new OS and could have Windows 8 on tablets by the end of 2012, which would put it three years after Windows 7 shipped.

Microsoft has had a hard time cracking the tablet market with Windows and is far behind the leaders iOS and Android. The HP Slate was supposed to help Windows break into the market with a splash but its delay ultimately lead it to more niche sales. We will see if Windows 8 will help Microsoft gain ground in the booming tablet market.

[via Business Insider]

 

MWC 2011 Wrap-Up

Another year, another Mobile World Congress, and the unstoppable juggernaut that is the smartphone industry continues apace. SlashGear took its biggest team to MWC 2011 to-date, and still found more than enough to keep us busy in Barcelona. After the cut, the stand-out products, the key mobile themes of 2011, and how tablets are muscling in on smart mobility.

 

Phones

When you’ve got “Mobile” in your name you’re obviously going to have more than a few cellphones on show, and MWC 2011 didn’t disappoint. Perhaps more so than any year previous, we’d already seen at least some of the key device details in the run up to Barcelona, either via leaks – like the XPERIA Play – or through pre-launch teasers – like the Optimus 3D. Absent as ever is a sense of launch immediacy: specific release dates and pricing are in short supply, and none of the major exhibitors have managed to follow in Apple’s footsteps and push a device out the door only days or weeks after its official unveil.

HTC brought one of the largest smartphone ranges to MWC 2011, with a full five handsets including two with specific Facebook functionality. The HTC Desire SHTC Wildfire S and HTC Incredible S are all evolutionary rather than revolutionary, building on the successful releases of their predecessors, leaving the HTC ChaCha and HTC Salsa to win the bulk of our phone attention.

Maybe it’s the power of Facebook and the HTC hype machine, but the ChaCha and Salsa managed to whip up interest with little more than a dedicated (and, for that matter, non-user-assignable) hardware shortcut key and a hook into an updated HTC Sense. Even without explicit Facebook endorsement – though with a glowing if generic pre-recorded recommendation from founder Mark Zuckerberg – these look to be the two social networking devices to beat, as long as HTC can follow through on its promises to hit relatively budget pricing. Don’t underestimate how much of that solid start is the handiwork HTC has already put into Sense, however.

LG, meanwhile, looked to 3D for its cellular salvation, with the LG Optimus 3D packing a pair of 5-megapixel lenses and TI’s OMAP4 processor for Full HD 1080p recording and playback. With a glasses-free 3D display it’s probably stands the best chance of market success among 3D propositions, though most people we spoke to at the show threw in the telling caveat that “you can turn the 3D off and then the screen is great!”

Samsung hadn’t been discrete about the Samsung Galaxy S II, and its Sunday reveal wasn’t helped by a significant leak of specs and live photos after, we’ve been unofficially told, a huge mailing list of vendors, carriers, PR and other contacts were sent the details late on the Friday prior to the show. Still, the promise of a dual-core 4.3-inch smartphone still managed to impress, and with the Galaxy S before it setting sales records not only among Samsung’s range but in the US Android marketplace, we’ve only high hopes for the waifish successor.

 

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The scale of Sony Ericsson‘s launch was undermined somewhat by a seen-it-all-before feeling; over-saturation of the XPERIA Play and leaked previews of the XPERIA Neo (along with its similarities to the earlier Symbian-based Vivaz) left only the XPERIA Pro with any sense of surprise. We can’t help but be cautious over the PlayStation phone, too, with lingering questions about the usability of its touch-sensitive alternatives to regular analog sticks and whether gaming developers will jump on board Sony’s new platform. Hardware-wise, beyond the slide-out control pad there’s little to differentiate the XPERIA Play from rival high-end smartphones – it’s not even a dual-core – and much of Sony’s drive seems to center around regular Android games packing extra content on the gaming phone. Sales, though, will have to convince developers that the extra work is going to be worth it, and the NGP may not arrive soon enough to envelop the XPERIA Play in its halo affect.

Apple weren’t even at MWC, but still managed to be one of the most talked about brands among attendees (and exhibitors); the company even clinched the GSMA “best smartphone” award for the iPhone 4. There’s no doubt that the Cupertino firm is still seen as the benchmark by which rivals are judged, and on the smartphone front at least there’s not a huge amount of lateral thinking going on.

Nokia was another brand getting well discussed, despite not really having anything to bring to MWC beyond CEO Stephen Elop. We sat down with the ex-Microsoftie to discuss his play for the Windows Phone market and reaction to conspiracy theories, product differentiation and the Android menace. Word from the halls was that while the Microsoft/Nokia pairing was probably the most sensible one, there is still plenty of work to be done if either company want to turn their respective brands around.

That ambition isn’t helped by Android and the huge amount of attention the platform garnered at the show. Google had cleverly distributed Android pins around the dozens of exhibitors with Android products, leading to a baseball-card-style swapping frenzy as the rarer examples were hastily negotiated over. Android was at the top end and at the budget end, with low-cost firms like ZTE and Huawei showing exactly why Nokia is terrified of their entry-level appeal. Eric Schmidt turned up for a MWC keynote to demonstrate a new Movie Studio app for tablets, described Android as “the world’s fastest growing mobile platform” and stormed through an at-times challenging Q&A about monetization, Twitter and fragmentation.

 

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Tablets

As at CES 2011 before it, MWC 2011 wasn’t short on slates. Android again was the primary platform of choice, with a number of 3.0 Honeycomb models to choose from. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and LG Optimus Pad (aka the LG G-Slate) made their respective debuts, illustrating perfectly the difficulties OEMs have in differentiating their slates when Android’s prized “Google Experience” branding demands the software itself be left alone. Samsung picked portability and LG opted for 3D, but both managed to look underwhelming when compared to HTC‘s offering.

The HTC Flyer may not have Honeycomb out of the gate – it’ll launch with Gingerbread instead, with HTC promising a subsequent update – but its combination of custom software, OnLive cloud gaming, Evernote integration, beautiful 7-inch hardware and – prompting no small amount of controversy – stylus input option made it the stand-out slate of the show. Recognizing that not all tablet users are content with on-screen keyboards and the iPad content-consumption paradigm, HTC actually delivered on the marketing hyperbole with a unique proposition that we’re genuinely excited to try come Q2.

 

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4G

4G may now be the umbrella term for everything from HSPA+through WiMAX and LTE, but the confusion is only just beginning. While we don’t generally cover carrier infrastructure on SlashGear, it was tough to avoid the vendors and operators each trying to convince the MWC crowds that their own implementation of 4G was the way forward. We managed to borrow one of Novatel Wireless‘ rare Dual-Cell HSPA+ (DC-HSPA+) modems, promising downlink speeds of up to 42Mbps on Telefonica’s Spanish network; stand by for our full report on just what sort of real-world performance DC-HSPA+ delivered.

Next-Gen Chipsets

As always at MWC, spend any amount of time with the chipset manufacturers and you’ll soon start looking at the imminent device releases with disdain. Texas Instruments‘ OMAP5 promises to be vastly powerful by virtue of its dual ARM Cortex A15 cores – the company reckons the dual-core SoC will be faster and more power-frugal than a quad-core ARM A9 chipset – while NVIDIA threatened to overshadow its own Tegra 2 hype with the announcement of the Project Kal-El quad-core that will, almost unbelievably, be hitting products in the second half of 2011. Qualcomm too had quad-cores to talk about, with an update to its well-known Snapdragon line (that also threw in LTE support). Ben Bajarintook the multi-core message to task in a must-read piece of analysis.

That’s only the top skimming of the news from Barcelona this week, and you can find all of our Mobile World Congress coverage by using the MWC 2011 tag. There’s also plenty more coverage over at our sibling site Android Community. It’s was a strong showing from manufacturers and vendors, certainly, but then again it needs to be: Apple is expected to unveil the iPad 2 within the next month, and the iPhone 5 will be doing its best to reshape the smartphone segment midway through the year.

What was your favorite product of MWC 2011? Let us know which gadgets you’re excited about – and which you think don’t stand a chance – in the comments!

Windows 8 tablets “closer to competitive” than expected: ARM-based Win-slates in late 2011?

Microsoft’s tablet ambitions may reach fruition a lot earlier than previously expected, according to the latest leaks from the company, with Windows 8 based slates running frugal ARM chipsets tipped for as early as the end of this year. Business Insider‘s sources claim Microsoft has set around 1,000 engineers to work on ARM-based Windows performance, while a Morgan Stanley analyst has suggested the company is “closer to competitive than some realize.” However, even as the iPad picks up in enterprise adoption, Microsoft is still raking in cash based on the success of the Apple slate.

 

That, according to analyst Adam Holt, is because enterprise users demand virtual desktop support on their iPads for existing Microsoft installations. “Where iPads are being deployed, corporates are often leveraging virtual desktops to provision Windows and Windows apps” he suggests, going on to claim that “MSFT generally gets $100/device in this scenario.”

All well and good, but Microsoft will need Windows 8 to be a sales success if it wants a proper foot in the tablet market. The OS is expected to be particularly tablet-centric, and by shifting away from native support of just x86 processors the power limitations of Intel and AMD processors versus ARM-based chipsets – which are already competing on performance and graphics crunching abilities – the new Windows 8 models should be able to rival iOS and Android slates for battery life and multimedia as well.

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