Archive for June 21st, 2012
The next triple pack treatment is that much closer to being announced. Amazon UK has leaked some box art for the Ubisoft Xbox Live Hits Collection , which places Beyond Good & Evil HD , From Dust and Outland on one retail disc. It’s a bittersweet proposition, since we all remember what happened the last time Ubisoft put Beyond Good & Evil on a disc. If this all seems familiar, it’s probably because just about the same thing happened back in January. The emergence of the box art, visible to the left, lends more credence toward this being a real official thing we can buy on this planet with our human money. The new anomaly is that the Amazon UK listing , which prices the triple pack at £17.99, only lists it for Xbox 360 – no PS3 version can be found. Even though we expect the boilerplate response from Ubisoft, we’ve still asked for more information.
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WASHINGTON: Even with its highly publicized launch of a new tablet computer, Microsoft is expected to have little impact this year on the fast-growing market, a research firm said Wednesday.
ABI Research expects Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows RT-based tablets to account for only 1.3 percent of 2012 global shipments.
This is because there is a dearth of products using the existing Windows 7 operating system and the new Windows RT and Windows 8 operating systems are likely to hit the market in October.
Microsoft, which has been largely absent from the tablet market dominated by Apple’s iPad, said this week it would launch its own branded tablet his year called Surface. But many details and pricing were not revealed.
“The obvious ‘low hanging’ market opportunity for Microsoft’s Surface tablets is with business buyers that have an installed base of Windows PCs,” ABI said.
“Microsoft may face an uphill battle by throwing its hat into the mobile computing tablet ring.”
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer described the iPad challenger — complete with a built-in stand and ultra thin covers-cum-keyboards in a range of colors — as a tablet that “works and plays.”
The Surface features a flip-out rear “kickstand” to prop it up like a picture frame and can be combined with a 3mm-thick Touch Cover that, when opened, acts as a keypad so tablets could be switched into “desktop” mode.
SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook’s US user numbers dwindled in May from April and March, according to data compiled by research firm comScore, in the latest sign that growth may be leveling off at the No. 1 social network.
Last month, Facebook attracted 158.01 million unique visitors in the United States, edging lower from 158.69 million in April and 158.93 million in March, comScore said.
Keeping users coming back — or combating fatigue — is crucial for all social media services, analysts say. Facebook is consistently trotting our new features, including the “Timeline” interface rolled out this year, and more are expected with the deal to acquire popular photo-sharing app Instagram.
ComScore has changed how it counts users, making year-ago comparisons harder. Under its old methods, comScore previously said Facebook had 157.22 million visitors in May 2011, which would make Wednesday’s data a year-on-year increase of just 0.5 percent.
The changes comScore made generally reduce user numbers, so in an apples-to-apples comparison, user growth would look slightly bigger, a comsScore spokesman said.
Users spent an average of 380.8 minutes, or more than six hours, on the site in May this year, up slightly from 378.9 minutes in April.
In April last year, as measured under comScore’s old techniques, users spent 374.9 minutes on the site.
Facebook was heavily criticized for the handling of its initial public offering in May, and critics have also questioned the efficacy of its ads.
One oft-cited reason for buying Facebook stock was the company’s rapid growth.
The company’s shares debuted at $38, but dipped well into the $20s before recovering some ground in recent weeks. On Wednesday shares closed at $31.60, down about 1 percent.
About two out of five people polled by Reuters and Ipsos Public Affairs said they used Facebook every day. Nearly half of the Facebook users polled spent about the same amount of time on the social network as six months ago.
NEW YORK: Until I started watching videos on Samsung’s new Galaxy S III phone, I never thought of the iPhone’s display as small.
The Galaxy’s screen measures 4.8 inches (12.2 centimeters)diagonally, compared with 3.5 inches (8.9 centimeters) for the iPhone. That translates to a display area that’s nearly twice the size. Yet the Galaxy is thinner and lighter.
Apart from that, the Galaxy shares the iPhone’s curvy and shiny design, along with a center button that wakes up the device from power-saving mode or takes you from whatever you’re doing to a home screen.
Unlike the iPhone, the Galaxy runs on faster 4G cellular networks (AT&T markets its iPhones as 4G, but the network is based on older technology). The Galaxy also comes with a new wireless technology called near-field communications, which can be used to share files and make purchases.
Pictures taken with the Galaxy were sharper and had better light balance than those with the iPhone, based on a handful of test shots I took. The Galaxy’s tool for measuring data usage _ for those of us no longer on unlimited plans, surpasses what comes with the iPhone.
All that makes the Galaxy a strong contender to Apple’s popular device.
I understand the comparison isn’t entirely fair. The iPhone 4S is about eight months old, and there’s a new model expected this fall. Last week, Apple previewed changes to the phone’s operating system, promising improvements to its Siri virtual assistant, a mapping service with voice navigation and more.
But the reality is the new Galaxy is available now _ not in September or October.
All four national wireless companies and regional carrier U.S. Cellular will sell the Galaxy, which runs the latest operating software from Google, a flavor of Android known as Ice Cream Sandwich.
The basic model with 16 gigabytes of memory will cost $200 with a two-year contract through AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. That’s comparable to the iPhone’s $199. A 32 GB model will cost $250, which is cheaper than a comparable iPhone at $299. T-Mobile will charge at least $30 more than others, though it may still be cheaper overall with lower monthly data fees over two years.
The Galaxy phones will be available in white or blue. AT&T will also have a red version this summer, but it won’t carry the 32 GB model. Availability starts this week, though dates vary by wireless company.
Now back to Galaxy’s screen.
The Galaxy shines when displaying widescreen video. That’s because much of the display’s increase is in width rather than in height when the phone is held on its side, or landscape mode. The iPhone wastes some display real estate to make wider videos fit. There are unused strips of black above and below those videos.
When watching a foreign movie through a Netflix app, the Galaxy’s larger screen makes the subtitles much easier to read. I can read them fine on the iPhone, but my eyes kept zeroing in on the text to do so, making me miss the action.
The colors on the Galaxy also appeared richer, thanks to a screen that uses organic light-emitting diodes, rather than a standard LCD.
All that video can deplete your data allowance in no time.
On the iPhone, the tool for measuring data usage isn’t easy to find. You have to choose “General” in your settings, then “Usage,” and then “Cellular Usage.” There’s info there on the amount of data sent and received, but no total. You have to remember to manually reset the counter each month on the day your billing cycle starts.
On the Galaxy, “Data usage” is the third item from the top under “Settings.” You can tell the phone when to warn you that you’re about to reach your cap for the month. You can also automatically disable data usage when you’ve reached a pre-specified point to avoid extra charges. You don’t have to do any math to get the total used, and the counter automatically resets each month. You can also see which apps use the most data.
Before I go further, I’ll say a few things about where the iPhone still excels.
_ The iPhone has more software from outside parties, extending the device’s functionality. Many apps are written only for the iPhone and other Apple devices. Versions for the Galaxy and other Android phones sometimes come months later and lack all of the features.
_ The iPhone works better than Android devices in corporate settings. Android, for instance, lacks the tools needed to access Wi-Fi at my office or the corporate email system (though some might consider that a plus for Android).
_ The iPhone has Siri, the virtual assistant that hears your voice commands and talks back.
The Galaxy introduces a voice assistant, but she’s best described as Siri’s forgotten stepchild. The Galaxy couldn’t find an Indian restaurant just a block from me, and she gave me the name of a doctor when I asked for Thai restaurants. The Galaxy also lacks Siri’s attitude and sense of humor.
Me: “What is the best smartphone?” Siri: “Wait, there are other phones?”
The Galaxy replied with the grammatically incorrect and boring, “Opinion vary but I think Samsung Galaxy is the best of them all.”
Here’s where the Galaxy prevails:
_ As with other Android devices, the Galaxy syncs well with Google services. By signing into a Google account, names, emails and phone numbers from my Gmail contacts are automatically transferred to the phone. The same happens with calendar entries. Apple uses a separate contact and calendar system, not the one I already use through Google.
_ You can remove the plastic back cover to switch the battery or insert a microSD card for additional storage of up to 64 gigabytes. The iPhone’s battery can be replaced only by a technician, and there’s no slot for more storage.
_ Both devices have two cameras, including an 8 megapixel one in the back. The Galaxy’s front-facing camera does more than take pictures: When you’re reading something, the camera will see your eyes glued on the screen, so your phone won’t switch to power-saving mode. The iPhone’s screen will start to dim if you don’t touch it periodically.
_ If you’re texting a friend and find it easier to discuss something by phone, the Galaxy will automatically call that person when you put the phone by your ear.
_ When watching video stored on your device, there’s a “pop out” feature that lets you watch in a smaller window while doing other things such as email and Facebook on the phone.
_ The Galaxy’s near-field communications technology offers a preview of the future. One day, it could be common like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With it, I’m able to share photos and video simply by tapping the backs of two Galaxy phones together. I’m also able to make purchases at a handful of stores by tapping the phone to the merchant’s NFC reader, as long as I have credit cards set up through the Google Wallet app.
Alas, Google Wallet isn’t so useful until more merchants accept it, and the app is only available on the Sprint model of the Galaxy.
Basic sharing features, which let you swap small files, work with some other late-model Android phones. If you tap two Galaxy phones together, you can quickly transfer really big files, such as videos and photos.
All Galaxy models except T-Mobile’s will be able to use so-called fourth-generation, or 4G, networks. T-Mobile doesn’t have a 4G network, but its 3G network is almost as fast as a 4G network (and indeed, it calls its network “4G”).
Current iPhones don’t work with 4G technology, though the AT&T version says it does because it uses an upgraded 3G network, much like T-Mobile’s. The iPhone coming this fall is likely to support “real” 4G, using a technology called LTE.
The next iPhone will also have an Apple-designed mapping service with turn-by-turn directions spoken aloud. It’s one of the rare instances where the iPhone will play catch-up to Android, which has had Google’s voice navigation app built-in since 2009.
If you’re an iPhone owner looking for a new phone, I’d wait a few months and make a comparison then.
If you’re an Android user looking to switch to an iPhone, the Galaxy offers enough reason to stick with Android. You’ll miss out on the cachet of owning an iPhone or the joys of chatting with Siri, but you’ll get a solid device with the latest technologies.
SAN FRANCISCO: It knows who you are. It knows what you like. Now it wants to make it easier for you to buy things, in your own currency.
Facebook on Tuesday signaled its ambitions to grow as a payment platform, with changes to how its users can buy goods and services without leaving its site. It was also a clear indication to Wall Street that the company was pushing to make more money. Concerns about the company’s revenue prospects have held its shares back since its disappointing public offering last month.
Until now, Facebook has had its own virtual currency, called Facebook Credits, which is used mainly to buy virtual goods in games like FarmVille. Facebook took a 30 per cent cut from those sales, bringing in a hefty 15 per cent of total revenue last year.
The changes announced on Tuesday are meant to encourage companies beyond game developers to sell their wares on the Facebook platform itself. They could also keep Facebook users on the site longer and harness more data about what they buy.
The changes announced are twofold. First, Facebook users will be able to subscribe to services that require monthly payments. In the past, the service allowed one-time payments only. Second, users will be able to pay for things on Facebook in their own currency, rather than credits, which is vital for Facebook because it is a global network.
“By supporting pricing in local currency, we hope to simplify the purchase experience, give you more flexibility and make it easier to reach a global audience of Facebook users who want a way to pay for your apps and games in their local currency,” Facebook said in a blog post for app developers.
The new system will allow users to plug in their credit card information once and store it on Facebook, just as they could to buy Facebook Credits. But now, with one click, they will be able to buy whatever is on offer, priced in their own currency: a magazine subscription in euros, say, or games in Indian rupees.
Currently, there isn’t much to buy on Facebook, though companies such as Spotify will be able to take immediate advantage of the monthly subscriptions and seamless payments.
The changes will begin next month, the company said, and are meant to work on mobile devices as well. They are a nod to the Apple iTunes model, where users pay in dollars and cents, not a whimsical currency. And they show how Facebook is seeking more revenue from sources other than advertising.
“They are showing us we care about driving revenue, and I think that’s great,” said Michael Pachter, an equities analyst with Wedbush Securities. “That’s what investors want to see.”
New York Times News Service