Archive for July 1st, 2012

Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire

Google has introduced its own Android tablet Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 has good hardware compared to the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire has been on the market for more than half a year.  Amazon will likely introduce a Kindle Fire 2 soon. Nexus 7 has quad core processor, HD screen, front facing camera for video chats and the Nexus 7 is thinner and lighter than the Kindle Fire.

Amazon, Apple, and Google have cloud-based music services and app stores where companies sell you content. Amazon’s services work better on Amazon devices and the same is true of Google services. Amazon uses the Google Android software to power the Kindle Fire, but the company has chosen to limit the Android functionality of the device. This means Amazon Kindle Fire users can’t access the Google Play app market from their devices. I probably wouldn’t buy the current generation of Kindle.

There are lots of rumors floating around that Kindle will announce its next iteration of the Kindle Fire this summer. There are all kinds of rumors around that Apple may launch its own 7 inch tablet.

Nexus 7: ***** (5 Stars)

Kindle Fire: **** (4 Stars)

 

Areeb Majeed is the CEO of HackingTag Security. He writes for his blog TechInUs. You can add him as a friend on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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Trends Microsoft should keep in mind for the next Xbox console

Want to know something amazing? The Xbox 360 has been around nearly twice as long as the original Xbox, and we’ve yet to hear a hint from Microsoft about its next console. Instead, the hardware manufacturer is happy to keep moving along for another year with Halo 4, Gears of War: Judgment, and even more Kinect games, secure in the knowledge that the Xbox 360 is among the company’s most successful products.

To be sure, Microsoft is in a much better place now than seven years ago. After four years of running an unprofitable second to Sony, Microsoft was more than ready to move on from what the company had openly described as a test bed. In fact, Microsoft was so desperate to get its console to market that the company was willing to ignore technical problems that would go on to cost them more than a billion dollars. And much as that hurt, Microsoft (if not its customers) would probably still say that the headstart was worth it.

Important as that heardstart was though, what really pushed the Xbox 360 over the top was Microsoft’s ability to benefit from prevailing trends while addressing the problems with its original console offering. The controller ended up being refined to perfection, online capabilities were significantly expanded to keep pace with the market’s growth, and downloadable games were legitimately emphasized on a console for the first time. The only real blind spot in Microsoft’s grand plan – aside from those aforementioned technical troubles – was the potential for wooing the casual audience, which Nintendo neatly exploited with its mainstream success, the Wii.

Come 2013, Microsoft will be looking to continue reducing that blind spot while exploiting the latest trends with a new Xbox console. Already, reportedly leaked documents are offering a glimpse of what is to come, including full support for cloud gaming. Of course, your mileage may vary as to whether or not those documents are real. With that in mind, here are a few more trends that Microsoft might want to keep in mind for the future.

The Subscription Model is Evolving Fast
Microsoft has profited handsomely from Xbox Live’s subscription model to this point, even giving the service a price hike in 2010. But while Microsoft has been able to rest on its large, entrenched userbase to this point, things are changing fast. Fast enough that the company might want to seriously reconsider its model come the beginning of the next generation.

At the forefront of this shift is PlayStation Plus, which has successfully evolved into a very appealing premium service. For less than a Gold membership, PS Plus offers a host of benefits, including a rotating list of retail games like Warhammer 40K: Space Marine and Infamous 2. That’s on top of the fact that the basic service supports Netflix streaming and online play. Though still not as user-friendly as Xbox Live, it’s a very nice bargain.

With free entertainment options proliferating rapidly, and the PlayStation Network pushing harder than ever, now is a good time for Microsoft to reconsider its online business model. Microsoft doesn’t neccessarily have to match Sony’s model point for point, but it sure would be nice to get a handful of free games on a rotating basis. If nothing else, it would take away some of the sting of having to pay $60 per year for the right to be insulted repeatedly online. Also adding to the pressure is Nintendo’s assurance that the Wii U’s online offerings will be free. Nintendo has started the trend of the next-gen, and it’s pricing its services at the low, low price of free.

Downloadable Games Are More Important Than Ever – Particularly Indies
When the Xbox 360 was first released, downloadable games were still something of a novelty. Then Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved quickly became an industry obsession and carried the Xbox 360 lineup through the initial disappointment of Perfect Dark Zero and all the way into The Elder Scrols IV: Oblivion and Gears of War. Downloadable games have only become more important in the intervening years, eventually outgrowing the artificial limits imposed on them. Now Microsoft not only offers a huge catalog of XBLA titles, but a large number of popular retail games as well. That trend is expected to continue well into the next generation, possibly even supplanting traditional brick and mortar outlets as the preferred way to buy games, as many argue it has on PC.

Microsoft can continue to benefit from the steady growth of downloadable games by taking a few lessons from Steam. Among them, Microsoft needs to do a better job of highlighting great content on the main page, particularly in the case of indie games. Cthulhu Saves the World is but one game that saw a substantial sales boost simply by virtue of jumping over to Steam. With indies continuing to grow in popularity thanks to a strong community of developers and initiatives like the Humble Indie Bundle, indies are more popular than ever. But a lot of people are buying those indie games on Steam simply because those titles are more visible. The huge number of bargains and sales probably don’t hurt either.

So long as Microsoft streamlines their online store and introduces more events along the lines of ‘Summer of Arcade,’ the company is probably fine. But if Microsoft is smart, the company is marking the ever-growing popularity of inexpensive software, and thinking about ways to build upon that trend.

Mobile Connectivity is Exploding
During its E3 2012 media briefing, Microsoft introduced SmartGlass, which may be seen as a response to Sony’s push on PS3 and Vita connectivity and Nintendo’s Wii U. Whether you feel those comparisons are overblown, it’s clear that mobile connectivity will soon be a part of all console gaming experiences. One day soon, almost everything will be connected to your smartphone or tablet, and that will go as much for your next-gen Xbox as your television or computer.

What Microsoft has shown of SmartGlass so far is a good start. While it won’t support nearly as many games as the Wii U at launch, it boasts a strong range of features, including integration with services like HBO Go. Microsoft can still go further though. Using SmartGlass, it should be possible to send pictures, videos, and other media to the television with a single swipe, for instance. It should be possible to stream games from the tablet onto the television without having to plug in the HDMI cable. And, of course, asymmetric multiplayer should be heavily supported (imagine playing a game with a tablet and the Kinect).

There are many more possibilities, of course. But the bottom line is that mobile integration is only going to become more common in the years to come. Ideally, it should be a big part of the next Xbox.

Users Will Expect Even Greater Social Functionality
When the Xbox 360 was unveiled in 2005, YouTube was a month old. Facebook had been around barely a year. Twitter didn’t even exist yet. That Microsoft knew enough to include social components like achievements and party chat out of the box demonstrates a certain amount of prescience on their part. But Microsoft will need to go still further with the next-generation Xbox.

Rather than trying to find new and interesting ways to clutter up Twitter feeds though, Microsoft would do well to take a page from the Nintendo 3DS and its emphasis on ‘collecting friends.’ One possibility is to have the avatars of everyone met playing games online pass through a minigame in the vein of the exceptionally cute StreetPass Quest, with coins being used to purchase freemium items from the Avatar shop. Sure, it may sound a bit silly to you, but people eat that stuff up. Take a look at your friends feed sometime, and note how many people dropped real money on an RC Car or a lightsaber for their virtual Xbox 360 character.

As with the mobile integration (which can undoubtedly play a role here), social functionality can take any number of forms. The 3DS StreetPass is one example, as is the Autolog introduced in Need for Speed. But regardless of how the company goes about it, Microsoft will want to go in knowing that it’s one feature that people will be paying close attention to.

The Kinect Will Continue to be Relevant
This is good news for Microsoft, even if it will make some of the gaming faithful wince. The utter failure of Steel Batallion: Heavy Armor certainly didn’t do much to help the peripheral, which has mainly subsisted on Harmonix’s outstanding Dance Central series to this point. But like it or not, the Kinect is popular, and it will definitely live on into the next Xbox console.

The reason for the Kinect’s continued success may be found in three simple words: families love it. For Microsoft, that opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Families can justify a next-gen Xbox purchase as a sound investment if it offers a nice selection of streaming services, complete Kinect support, and plenty of age-appropriate software for the kids (and don’t forget Halo 5 through Halo XX for Mom and Dad).

Some may argue it probably needs a Blu-ray player to be really be a done deal, but it’s at least 75 percent there at this point – enough that Nintendo should probably be looking over their shoulder as it fights for top spot as the family’s go-to entertainment system.

The fact is that Microsoft has been building to this for a while. The Kinect allows Microsoft to market the next-gen Xbox as the all-in-one box that the company wanted it to be from the beginning – a center for television, movies, and games that includes heavy mobile integration and a hands-free interface.

For Microsoft, at least, that’s the future. And you know, Microsoft may be right.

Auhtor Bio: Kat Bailey is a freelance writer based out of San Francisco, California. Her work has been featured on multiple outlets, including GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, gamesTM, and GameSpot. You can follow her on Twitter at @the_katbot.

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Civilization V: Gods & Kings demo now on Steam

Who can afford to blindly purchase games they think may be good? Not in this economy, buster – free demos are a necessity. Today, a demo for Civilization V: Gods & Kings is available for download on Steam.

Gods & Kings launched earlier this month – we enjoyed it – and is currently available as a $29.99 expansion. Of course, you must already own Civilization V to play.

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FB, Twitter make girls ‘appear more aggressive’

LONDON: Are social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter changing the way girls speak and making them appear more aggressive?

Experts believe the language used by young women is becoming shorter, sharper and more “to the point”, with less time to deliberate carefully over their words, The Telegraph reported Saturday.

The change, it is claimed, has resulted in teenage girls seeming curt, straightforward and even aggressive when speaking to one another and adults.

The adapted language is believed to be the result of quicker communication on Facebook, Twitter and in emails. It is more noticeable in girls than boys because they communicate more frequently, it is claimed.

Marie Clair, from the Plain English Campaign, told the Daily Mail newspaper the appearance of curtness is “not intentional”, but pointed out the use of the internet meant youngsters had less time to choose their words carefully.

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Making calls least popular smartphone function

LONDON: Mobile phones began life as machines built for talking – but now, actually making calls is one of their least popular functions.

Smartphone owners now spend just 12 minutes talking on their phones a day – but spend two hours using the gizmos, Daily Mail reported Friday.

Texting – formerly one of the reasons people became addicted to phones – is now less popular, with users spending just 10 minutes sending messages.

In terms of time spent, British users spend more time surfing the internet, checking social networking sites, playing games and listening to music.

The study of 2,000 smartphone users marking the launch of the Samsung found we spend almost 25 minutes a day surfing the internet.

Mobile phone users also spend a further 17 minutes checking and updating social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the Mail said.

In comparison, just 12 minutes is spent actually talking to someone on a phone call, while sending text messages accounts for only 10 minutes of use a day.

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BYOD top concern for enterprise mobile security

NEW DELHI: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) might be a cool idea both for employees and companies, but security remains a top concern.

The concern is increasing with the rapid proliferation of consumer mobile devices, changing the traditional IT environment in enterprises, with 90% of enterprises having deployed mobile devices, with smartphones being most widely deployed, according to a survey by Gartner. Eighty-six percent of enterprises surveyed said that they plan to deploy media tablets this year.

Respondents came from organizations with 500 or more employees and an in-house data center in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Russia, India and China and Japan. The survey was conducted in October through November of 2011.

The survey centered on the deployment status of, and plans for mobile device adoption; bring your own device (BYOD) policy and investment in data centers and adopting technology drivers, including hosted virtual desktop (HVD) for enterprise mobility.

“Healthy growth in smartphone and media tablet shipments over the next five years will enable a much higher level of IT consumerization than is currently possible,” said Chae-Gi Lee, research director at Gartner, in a release. “Enterprises should recognize this and look to ‘mobile enable’ their IT infrastructure for employees to meet the growing demand for mobile device use in the enterprise IT environment.”

A further impact of consumerization is the proliferation of BYOD in enterprises. Gartner’s survey found that many enterprises are allowing personal mobile devices to connect to the enterprise network.

BYOD demand was higher in the BRIC countries where more Gen Y employees are working. With the proliferation of BYOD, there are security issues for enterprises to consider before they invest in mobile computing. According to the survey, the top issues were ‘use of privately owned devices’ and ‘deployment of new enterprise mobile platforms’.

Enterprises should focus on mobile data protection (MDP), network access control (NAC), and mobile device management (MDM) tools to support their BYOD and new enterprise mobile platform efforts. These technology factors are essential to establish a standard mobile platform for enterprises.

Many enterprises surveyed indicated that they provide technical support for personal devices – 32% of smartphones, 37% of tablets and 44% of laptops. However, the results around technical support varied significantly between regions, with 28% of respondents in non-BRIC countries receiving technical support for connecting personal devices versus 44% in BRIC countries.

“Mature countries consider BYOD programs as bringing with them both legal and technical issues, whereas emerging countries only see technical issues. For instance, mature regions are more concerned with security and data privacy regulations for immature MDM than emerging regions,” Mr Lee said.

In BRIC countries, employee turnover can be high in some sectors, leading to more theft of devices and data. BYOD and virtualization can reduce those enterprise losses. There are definitely plenty of gains in BYOD and the quicker companies get around security issues, the better it will be.

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Wickr gives Apple messages top grade protection

SAN FRANCISCO: Celebrity scandals fuelled by leaked text messages or emailed images have inspired a new application to give users of Apple gadgets uncrackable communications that can be made to self-destruct.

The Wickr app has been downloaded thousands of times since the software crafted for iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices hit the virtual shelves of Apple’s online App Store on Wednesday.

The San Francisco-based startup behind the software is working on versions of Wickr for smartphones or tablets powered by Google-backed Android software.

“We think communications should be flipped on its head,” said startup co-founder Nico Sell, a key behind-the-scenes figure at the infamous Def Con hacker gathering that takes place annually in Las Vegas.

“Now by default, all our personal and business communications are traceable,” she explained. “We think that by default your communications should be untraceable.”

Wickr was billed as a secure social network where people could send text or voice messages as well as pictures or snippets of video with security in place to thwart snoops.

Wickr encrypts files end-to-end and, unlike typical email services, so no copies are left to linger on computer servers used to route messages.

Wickr messages and their contents are set to self-destruct, with senders getting to decide how long files continue to exist after being opened.

“After you view a message or picture, the application erases the forensics on the phone so no one could go back and find a trace of that,” said co-founder Robert Statica, an engineering professor specialising security technology.

“If someone wants to recover the data forensically, all they will get is garbage.”

Statica, who teaches at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, was at a San Francisco cafe with Sell last year when talk turned to headline-grabbing stories about athletes or film stars vexed by exposed text or email messages.

“We were laughing so hard that we almost got kicked out of the cafe,” Statica recalled. “Before we left, we decided that (Wickr) was the way to go.”

The startup’s founders include military network security veteran Kara Coppa and computer crime investigations specialist Christopher Howell.

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Samsung to fight block on sale of Galaxy Nexus

SEOUL: South Korea’s Samsung vowed on Saturday to “take all available measures” to fight a US court’s decision to block American sales of its Galaxy Nexus smartphones made in collaboration with Google.

US District Court Judge Lucy Koh on Friday granted Apple’s request for an injunction blocking US sales of the smartphone, a model that aims to challenge the iPhone.

“Samsung is disappointed, as the court’s ruling will restrict American consumer choice in the smartphone market,” said the world’s largest smartphone maker in a statement.

The company said it was working closely with Google to resolve the matter.

“Samsung will continue to take all available measures, including legal action, to ensure the Galaxy Nexus remains available to consumers,” it added.

Friday’s ruling was the second victory for California-based Apple this week in a fierce and complex patent war with the South Korean consumer electronics giant.

On Tuesday, the same judge barred the sale of Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer, saying that Apple had presented “a strong case” for the injunction.

Both Galaxy devices are powered by Android operating software that Google makes available for free to gadget makers, and Nexus is the Mountain View, California-based technology company’s own branded line.

The injunction won’t go into effect until Apple posts a $95.6 million bond with the court, which would secure payment of damages to Samsung if it were to win the case.

Galaxy Nexus launched in the United States in April and Google gave the smartphones to developers at its annual conference in San Francisco this week as part of a “tool kit” to create applications for the Android mobile platform.

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