Archive for June 27th, 2012
TAIPEI: Google Inc will soon unveil a tablet co-branded with Taiwan’s Asustek Computer Inc and priced to compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire device, an Asustek executive said on Wednesday.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which runs a version of Google’s Android operating system, sells for $199. Through it users can access Amazon content including books, music and video.
“It’s targeting Amazon. The Kindle is based on Google’s platform but with its own service, so Google has to launch its own service, too,” said the executive of the device.
Google has its own store for apps called Google Play, but does not have anything like Amazon’s service.
It was earlier reported that Google would launch a tablet at its developer conference this week, taking direct aim at Apple Inc’s iPad, citing two people familiar with the matter. One of the sources said the 7-inch tablet would showcase new features of Android.
The Asustek executive, who did not want to be named as the planned device has not yet been made public, declined to give details on its price, specifications or launch timetable. Rumours that the search engine giant planned to launch a tablet at its annual developer conference have circulated on tech blogs for weeks.
Google declined to comment.
Apple’s iPad had a 68 per cent share of the market in January-March, according to data from IDC. Amazon had a little over 4 per cent, lagging Samsung Electronics and Lenovo. Microsoft last week introduced its own line of tablet computers, marking a major strategic shift for the software giant as it struggles to compete with Apple and re-invent its aging Windows franchise.
Google has previously worked with hardware manufacturers HTC and Samsung to produce co-branded Android mobile phones under the Nexus brand. This would be its first such tablet device.
Asustek shares gained 2.6 per cent in Taipei, outperforming a 0.6 per cent gain on the benchmark stock index.
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SAN FRANCISCO: Zynga Inc unveiled a social network for gamers dubbed “Zynga with Friends” on Tuesday, hoping to wean itself from a longstanding, symbiotic relationship with Facebook Inc, while becoming a major Internet destination.
The company founded by Mark Pincus will also provide programming tools to help third-party developers devise online and mobile games based on its own software, expanding its slate further beyond mainstays such as “Farmville” and “Mafia Wars.”
“We’re opening our doors today and opening Zynga Partners for Mobile. We are inviting developers from all over the world to come and join our network,” said David Ko, chief mobile officer.
Zynga wants to create an ecosystem with “best-in-class mobile developers and best-in-class mobile games,” Ko said.
Zynga shares closed 5 percent lower on Tuesday as investors saw little in the announcement – which included the planned social network, as well as some new, casual games – to drive strong long-term growth.
The stock has lost a third of its value this year on concerns about its dependence on Facebook for the lions’ share of its revenue – on a platform experiencing slower growth.
The new social network “is a natural step in the right direction,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Robert W Baird. “It might help them become less dependent on Facebook but … they will continue to remain dependent on Facebook for quite some time.
“One area where they may have disappointed people is, they are not showing any games in development that target a more core gamer, or so-called mid-core gamer. That’s something where we’ve seen a lot of growth for Facebook, and that’s potentially a missed opportunity for Zynga.”
A SOCIAL BEVY
On Tuesday, executives took the stage at their San Francisco headquarters to unveil a bevy of interactive features for its Zynga.com website, as it tries to develop a stand-alone network that can hook existing gamers.
The company is launching “Zynga with Friends” soon on the Internet and for mobile users, hoping to connect players across its entire game portfolio, which also includes “Cityville.”
Zynga General Manager Manuel Bronstein said the platform eventually could have as many as 290 million users with some 2.8 billion daily social interactions once it is rolled out, but he did not specify a time frame.
The company is also trying to boost mobile usage, targeting a small but faster-growing wireless device gaming market that is quickly becoming a crucial battleground for so-called casual or social gaming.
Zynga also announced a new title, “Matching with Friends”, to boost its offerings for mobile phones.
The company said it will also team up with Atari SA to develop games, but did not elaborate. Zynga executives said they will provide developers a set of “application programming interfaces” – APIs – to make it easier for them to craft games using Zynga’s software.
The company’s stock fell about 5 percent to close at $5.76 toward on Tuesday.
SAN FRANCISCO: Google on Tuesday said it was dabbling with getting computers to simulate the learning process of the human brain as one of the unusual projects for researchers in its X Lab.
Computers programmed with algorithms intended to mimic neural connections “learned” to recognize cats after being shown a sampling of YouTube videos, Google fellow Jeff Dean and visiting faculty Andrew Ng said in a blog post.
“Our hypothesis was that it would learn to recognize common objects in those videos,” the researchers said.
“Indeed, to our amusement, one of our artificial neurons learned to respond strongly to pictures of… cats,” they continued.
“Remember that this network had never been told what a cat was, nor was it given even a single image labeled as a cat.”
The computer, essentially, discovered for itself what a cat looked like, according to Dean and Ng.
The computations were spread across an “artificial neural network” of 16,000 processors and a billion connections in Google data centers.
The small-scale “newborn brain” was shown YouTube images for a week to see what it would learn.
“It ‘discovered’ what a cat looked like by itself from only unlabeled YouTube stills,” the researchers said.
“That’s what we mean by self-taught learning.”
Google researchers are building a larger model and are working on ways to apply the artificial neural network approach to improve technology for speech recognition and natural language modeling, according to Dean and Ng.
“Someday this could make the tools you use every day work better, faster, and smarter,” they said.
Dean and Ng conceded that there is a long road ahead, since an adult human brain has around 100 trillion connections.
Google X Lab headed by company co-founder Sergey Brin is known for its work on innovations such as a self-driving car and “Terminator” film style glasses that provide Internet information about what is being seen.
LOS ANGELES: Yahoo is ditching its provider of on-demand music, Rhapsody, for a similar service provided by Swedish subscription-music service Spotify.
The changes to the Yahoo Music site are expected to be complete by early Wednesday. Spotify’s rollout across the rest of Yahoo will take longer. Rhapsody had been a Yahoo partner since February 2008.
Yahoo visitors will soon be able to hit a play button and have songs play without leaving the website, while the previous incarnation required users to navigate away from the page, said Yahoo spokeswoman Lisa Goodwin.
Yahoo Inc. will also create an app for the Spotify platform that will provide original content like artist profiles.
Spotify is free on computers but users who pay $10 a month can choose songs for playback on mobile devices.
Cost: Rs 19,999
Rating: 4 Stars ****
Specifications: 3.7-inch touchscreen (800 x 480 pixels), 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB + microSD, 5MP rear camera, Android 4.0, 115 grams
Positives: Unibody construction, fantastic display, great camera, outstanding audio output
Negatives: Average battery life, no front camera, no TV-out, only 1GB storage accessible for user
NEW DELHI: For the One V, HTC chose to go with unibody metal construction, which not only makes the phone sturdier but also makes it look much better than the usual glossy phones. Taking a cue from the design of the HTC Hero and Legend, the One V also has a pronounced lip. The battery is not user removable while the SIM and microSD slot are under a small slide-out cover on the lower half of the device.
Up front you have a beautiful 3.7-inch display with excellent touch response and sharp output – quite like the more expensive HTC One X. In fact, the One V also has the same Sense 4.0 interface as the One X, which, in our opinion, is one of the best user interfaces for Android.
Where performance is concerned, the One V is great for day-to-day use, but it isn’t meant for power users and serious multi-taskers. We felt a slight sluggishness creep in when a lot of apps were running in the background – a common issue with many Android smartphones with 512MB RAM. Also, out of the built in 4GB storage, only 1GB is user accessible. Multimedia audio output is fantastic thanks to the integrated Beats Audio technology.
The 5MP shooter on the rear takes beautiful images in daytime as well as in low light situations. Because it has a similar camera interface as the One X, the One V is also capable of shooting images quickly in burst mode, simultaneously shooting images and videos and has many photo effects to play around with. Video recording is top notch as well and can be done at 720p HD resolution. The 1500mAh battery lasts just a day, similar to most other Android smartphones Overall, HTC’s One V is a great option if you are looking for a sub Rs 20,000 smartphone. It scores on looks, build quality, display, multimedia performance and camera quality. For about the same price, you can consider LG’s Optimus L7 (Rs 19,000) that runs Android 4.0 on a similar hardware but offers a larger 4.3-inch display, NFC connectivity, front camera and a larger 1700mAh battery.
Reading a review for a cellphone today will see you confront stacks of technical jargon. ET offers a quick guide, some associated terms and some of the more important considerations
Today, we have displays of different sizes and compositions, each one claiming to be better than the other.
Associated Terms: AMOLED, LCD, Super LCD, Retina, PPI, ClearBlack. What you need to know: Bigger displays might look better but also drain battery life. And while we recommend going for the highest resolution screen within your budget, do remember to check if the apps you want to use support that resolution. As for the AMOLED vs LCD debate, we advise you to trust your eyes to ‘see’ which one works best for you. As a general rule, AMOLEDs are brighter and produce richer colours, but LCDs render text better.
The processor is the engine that drives your phone. As phones become more powerful, processors are getting into dual core and quad core territory.
Associated Terms/ Figures: Dual Core, Quad Core, 800 MHz, 1/1.2/1.5GHz, Snapdragon, Tegra, Intel, Qualcomm.
What you need to know: A faster processor with more cores will work better, but what you need to keep in mind is whether the operating system and apps on your device are actually designed to use the extra power. If you’re only looking for good web browsing, social networking and some casual gaming, a single core 800 MHz processor will do nicely too.
The RAM allows the phone to run multiple applications simultaneously and do various tasks in the background.
Associated Terms/ Figures: 256 MB, 512 MB, 768 MB, 1 GB.
What you need to know: While some operating systems need more RAM, others will function smoothly with lesser amounts. For instance, you’ll see a lot of new Android devices with 1 GB of RAM, but most Windows Phone devices run fine at 512 MB and many Symbian devices work fine at even 256 MB. It is not really about the amount of RAM but about the OS of your device.
Once considered a luxury in smartphones, the camera is now an integral part of smartphones.
Associated terms: 3.2/5/8/12/41 Megapixels, Auto Focus, Shooting Modes, HD video, LED/Xenon flash.
What you need to know: There is a whole lot more to any camera than megapixels. The quality of the lens, the camera software and the presence of options like autofocus and different scene settings make a world of difference – so much so, that many 5MP cameraphones outperform 8MP ones. If you want to take loads of photographs, check for features like auto focus/touch focus, xenon flash, face detection, macro mode and red eye reduction.
The battery (with a capacity expressed in mAh or milli ampere hour) determines how long your phone keeps working on a single charge. As phones get bigger, so do their batteries.
Associated terms: Li-ion, mAh, removable, non-removable
What you need to know: While battery life varies a lot depending on how you use a phone, a phone with a battery that has a high mAh count will generally offer better backup. Operating systems like Symbian and BlackBerry also tend to manage battery life better than the likes of Android and iOS. As for the ‘removable vs non-removable’ issue, we have not seen it making a major difference – unless you plug your phone in several times a day, necessitating a battery replacement before you actually need to change your phone.
There are various wired and wireless technologies embedded today on mobile devices to connect them with other phones, tablets, televisions or various accessories.
Associated terms/figures : USB On-The-Go, HDMI, Bluetooth 2.0/2.1/3.0, Wi-Fi.
What you need to know: Whenever you look at the device connectivity options in a phone, check the fine print to see if there are any limitations. For instance, iOS and Windows Phone devices generally do not let you send files over Bluetooth. Also see if any accessories are required to make the most of this connectivity and if they are bundled with the device – HDMI cables and USB On-The-Go adaptors are two examples.
Mobile Internet Connectivity
Phones are no longer used to just make calls and swap texts. Almost every smartphone now comes with some sort of Internet connectivity via the operator’s data services.
Associated terms: HSPA, HSDPA, 3G, 3.5G, 4G, GPRS/EDGE.
What you need to know: Being able to access the Web on your handset is useful, but check if you actually have access to the form of network that the device supports. For example, the 4G-enabled HTC One X and the new iPad will not work with Indian 4G networks. The slower (and cheaper) GPRS/EDGE connections often suffice for basic browsing and email.
The operating system of a phone is the software that makes the phone work, handling basic tasks like calling, texting as well as more complex ones like mail and Web browsing. It works in a similar way like Windows and Mac OS do, on a computer.
Associated terms: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Symbian, BlackBerry OS
What you need to know: Most operating systems offer similar functions and features – e-mail, social network connectivity and support for basic functions like calls and texting. Operating systems like iOS, Windows Phone and Android come with tile or icon-driven interfaces that minimise the use of menus. Symbian and BlackBerry still use menu-based systems. Whatever be the option, try to opt for a platform which is regularly updated, adds new features, is easy to use, and of course offers access to the apps you need.
Apps, or applications are bits of software that let you do a host of tasks, from browsing the Web to playing games to tweaking images.
Associated terms: Apps, applications, app stores, marketplace, developers.
What you need to know: If you like to download lots of apps on your phone, pay a visit to the app store of the device you are interested in and check if it has the kind of apps you are looking for. Most app stores feature regularly updated lists of the most popular, top rated and new apps – these lists can give you a better idea of the kind of apps being released for a device.