Nokia to Rebrand all its Navigation & Mapping Services to “HERE.” [NEWS] #MWC2013


Nokia Here and Now

MWC, Barcelona:

Nokia is taking one more step to push its mapping and devices services as a standalone business. Today, the company announced during the handset maker’s press conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it would be rebranding all of its Nokia-branded mapping and navigation services as “HERE” going forward.

The Here suite comes pre-installed on the Lumia 520 and includes HERE Maps, HERE Drive and HERE Transit — a public transport guide “that you can use even in unfamiliar surroundings” Nokia’s design chief Marko Ahtisaari said today. You can pin your home location on it as well — and use that as the base for all the data. “These personal experiences are meant to help you spend more time engaging in the world around you rather than navigating your smartphone,” he said.

The company is also adding more functionality and integration into HERE, by integrating it with Sight — an augmented reality service that lets you take pictures of places to help you initiate maps and navigation functionalities. “We want to bring Sight and Location to more and more applications,” he noted.

The move is a sign of how Nokia continues to keep advancing its mapping business as a standalone effort, and as a revenue stream that may grow through partnerships with others, while it continues to exist as a suite of services for Nokia devices themselves. It could also be a sign that so far that effort has not had as much traction as Nokia would have hoped — perhaps because of the association with Nokia.

[ Image Credit: Engadget ]

Yesterday, Nokia was revealed as one of the launch app makers for the Firefox OS platform. Mozilla and its partners are taking a route (a gamble, some might argue) not focused on native apps but HTML5-based web apps to fill out content for the new smartphone platform.

This also follows along with Nokia’s intention, when it first launched the HERE brand for maps last year, to make the service available via APIs both for other Windows Phone handset makers as well as developers on Android and other platforms.

In an Interview yesterday, CEO of Nokia Stephen Elop noted the importance of Nokia’s navigation and mapping efforts and how it’s part of Nokia stepping back from being a strong brand in all cases — quite a sea change for the company.

“Instead of hearing us talk about Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive, you’ll here us talking about HERE Maps and HERE Drive but we’ll also be talking about those capabilities, or some of those capabilities being taken across a broader collection of Windows Phone devices, beyond Nokia devices,” he said.

Lets see Do we Hear about HERE in Future or will or still be called Nokia Maps, Nokia Drives. Post your opinions as comments below.

[-via TechCrunch]

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 which comes with a Hovering S Pen ! #MWC2013


Samsung-galaxy-note-8

MWC 2013, Barcelona:

Samsung’s newest Note, The Galaxy 8.0, an updated, larger Galaxy Note from Samsung was inevitable. Given the undeniable popularity of mid-size tablets it’s no surprise the Korean electronics giant would want to strengthen its grip in a category it helped create. It was just three short years ago that Samsung introduced the Galaxy Tab and now, three Notes later, it’s ready to perfect the one-handed experience. With this new Note, the company’s culled the best of what’s around its Galaxy into an 8-inch form factor, housing a 1,280 x 800 TFT display, Exynos 4 Quad with 2GB RAM (clocked at 1.6GHz), TouchWiz-skinned Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2 OS, S Pen (and suite of associated apps), as well as radios for HSPA+ and WiFi into that familiar, lightweight plastic body.

Hardware View:

But that extra inch alone isn’t the Galaxy Note 8.0’s main attraction. Samsung’s wisely made use of the additional screen real estate to bundle two extra features. Building upon market research that indicates over 80-percent of tablet use takes place within the living room, the company’s partnered with Peel for its Smart Remote app, a visual programming guide with remote control functions baked-in that comes pre-loaded on the tab. And, in keeping with its portrait oriented design, the Note 8.0 also incorporates what the company calls “reading mode,” effectively optimizing the slate’s display for comfortable e-book use.

If you’ve spent any amount of time with the Note II, you’ll know what to expect from the Note 8.0 as its external design is incredibly similar. You get the same all around plastic build — ringed here with metal — ports for microSD and micro-SIM, 3.5mm headphone jack and physical home key. But where the Note 8.0 strays is one of its key improvements: users can now effect the capacitive menu and back buttons using the S Pen.

Admittedly, it takes a bit of retraining to get used to — you’ll want to use your finger out of habit — but it’s a wonder Samsung took so long to implement something so crucial. So, you can officially hang up that gripe right now. The S Pen comes with a functionality which can be named as “Hovering.” Samsung’s S Pen stylus has been upgraded to work both on the touchscreen of the Note 8.0 as well as with the physical navigation buttons, and Samsung is also extending the functionality of the pen in other ways. And the Air View feature, where users can initiate previews by hovering their pen over something without touching the screen, is now getting expanded to third party apps. The first of these is a new version of the Flipboard social newsreading app, where users can select and expand a tile by hovering the pen over a selection.

At 338 grams (11.9 ounces), the Note 8.0’s not much heavier than the iPad mini and as it’s made to be held one-handed, you shouldn’t feel much wrist strain with extended use. We were able to comfortably grip the entire back of the 7.95mm thick tablet, which measures 210.8mm x 135.9mm (8.3 x 5.4 inches), in our hand while navigating with the S Pen in the other. The Note 8.0’s back is non-removable, but that bit’s rendered moot by the accessibility of the microSD and micro-SIM slots on the tablet’s left edge and a sealed 4,600mAh battery.

With a 1.6GHz Eynos 4 Quad CPU and 2GB RAM under the hood, you’d expect the Note 8.0 to showcase nothing but brisk performance. Unfortunately, that didn’t appear to be the case as there were occasional moments where the tablet seemed toslightly hesitate before executing actions — things like dual window view for multitasking or simple app launches. This being the tablet’s official unveiling, it’s quite possible the model we handled could still benefit from software optimization. So, we’ll refrain from passing definitive judgement until a final review unit is in our hands. Apart from that, viewing angles held up well and display brightness shouldn’t pose a major issue outdoors in bright sunlight. Though, it is weird to see a Samsung product without an AMOLED screen — this one’s TFT.

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Reading mode and Smart Remote are clearly the Note 8.0’s two biggest software features, but to make the tab just a bit more alluring, Samsung’s pre-loading two other applications suited to the Note 8.0’s form and function. Out of the box, users will have access to an S Pen-optimized version of Flipboard which enables Air View hover functionality and headline previews from the main tile page (up to three, in our experience). Also, as a first for Android and Samsung, Awesome Note (a cloud-based annotation app previously available only on iOS) has been integrated into the device as a free service, exclusive to the OEM for one year.

With the Note 8.0, Samsung is also ushering in a couple of new developments on the apps front, in addition to the new version of Flipboard.

In keeping with Samsung’s original vision of the Note acting as a kind of organizer and productivity device — more screen than a phone for planning; but smaller than a tablet to make it portable — Samsung has scooped an exclusive on a new Android app launch. Awesome Note, a note-taking that lets you track progress and make lists across different categories, has up to now only been available for iOS devices, where the full edition of the app for iPad retails at $4.99.

Now developers Bird are releasing an Android version, and while this will also be sold as a paid app in the Google Play store, Samsung will be bundling it as a free app on the Note 8.0 “for at least a year,” according to Michael Lin, marketing manager, Samsung Electronics.

Other apps that will be preloaded on the device include the newest version (2.0) of Chat-On, Samsung’s cross-platform, cross-media group and direct messaging service; Reading Mode that modifies the screen brightness for reading; and Smart Remote, Samsung’s universal remote control and electronic program guide, playing into the fact that nowadays a lot of consumers (80% in the U.S., claims Samsung) use a second device like a tablet while watching TV

We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the global version of the Note 8.0 also packs HSPA+ 21 connectivity (850/900/1900/2100MHz). So, yes, you will be able to hold it up to your head and make voice calls however silly that may look. Of course, it’s more likely that prospective users will want to pair the tab with earbuds and thus reduce the risk of public humiliation. But this voice call perk won’t be heading stateside. Samsung’s confirmed to us that, as of now, the US market will see a WiFi-only variant and its specs could change slightly, too. An LTE variant is also on deck.

Details on pricing and regional release dates are still be announced. Just don’t hold your breath for that news to come this week. What we do know for certain is that there’ll be two storage configurations — 16GB and 32GB — for the global unit’s launch sometime this second quarter. So while you wait for the Note 8.0 to make its slow crawl to market, check out the demo video and feel free to drop in your comments below.

[via Engadget, TechCrunch]

#Apple Entering into the Gaming Industry. [INFO]


Apple entering the gaming industry  has been a topic of discussion for a long time. Some people think they already made their move and it’s still playing out. Some people think they are yet to drop the bomb. Most oversimply the issue.

There’s a funny thing, though, about the way proponents of Apple (I say this without denigration) cheer-lead their champion. In a lot of ways, there’s already an Apple in the games industry: it’s the Games Industry. Apple is filling the position in the games industry that Android fills in the mobile world.

Part of what makes it problematic to discuss is that is that it’s really difficult to disentangle content from platform these days, both in mobile and gaming (and mobile gaming, for that matter). The complex network of relationships, channels, and emerging methods for distribution make practically every comparison apples to oranges.

I’m not going to unravel that knot just now. I’ll get to the nut of the issue instead of dancing around it.

One of Apple’s greatest strengths, something that it understood early and has exploited continuously, is the value of the premium platform — including hardware, of course. They were always, and remain, the premium choice in consumer tech. As others have put it, this moots certain comparisons: you can’t, they say, compare a Ferrari to a Toyota. And that idea is not without legitimacy.

So it’s funny when the opposite seems to apply for the games industry. There’s already a premium product out there: the triple-A games produced by huge studios like Ubisoft, EA, Valve, and so on. The Xbox 360 and PS3, and soon the Xbox 720 and PS4, or whatever they’re called, have always been and will continue to be the premium platform — something that has worked well for Apple elsewhere, and something they’ll never be in the games space.

Why? Here’s that content-platform thing again. Apple simply isn’t a triple-A platform for games. Sure, there are great games on it, good-looking games, expensive games. And millions of people play them. But let’s not kid ourselves.

Notice that almost everything relating to the success of games on iOS is in terms of numbers downloaded and hours played. In like wise, one could say that YouTube is far more of a success than Hollywood, based on viewer hours. In a way, it’s true! But what is iOS’s Godfather? What is its Shadow of the Colossus? Angry Birds and Infinity Blade are arguably is the closest thing to either. Talk about comparing a Ferrari to a Toyota.

In the other corner is a premium platform with exclusive, popular content — the very thing Apple was when Android entered the scene. And now Apple is playing the scrappy underdog, eating up all the low-end users, winning on volume instead of quality. It’s the same strategy that provokes such venom against Android! Thousands of options, barely differentiated, priced to sell, with wildly varying quality, except for a few high-end flagship items – am I talking about Android handsets or the games in the App Store? Hard to tell, isn’t it?

And of course, that’s a recipe for success, as either Apple or Google can tell you. But again, as either can tell you, it’s hardly a recipe for total domination. For that, one must control the vertical and the horizontal.

All the same, it’s funny to see the bottom-up strategy of the App Store and Android reviled one moment and then praised the next.


So far, so obvious. But the unknown creeps in when you consider how platforms may evolve over the next five years — which is about what we can realistically expect for the life of the next consoles, with increased entropy due to changing markets.

The platform/content thing enters again, bringing with it quite a bit of uncertainty. How long is Call of Duty and its ilk going to remain a console exclusive? It’s practical now, and I’m willing to speculate that it will be practical two years from now. After that, things get more hazy.

The way people acquire and play games is changing in a serious way. Will the next consoles have huge hard drives to store downloaded games? Will they stream them over high-speed internet? Will they integrate with smartphones? Will they use discs? Will they allow used games? Will they replace your set-top box? Will they be open to hacking? The answers to the questions are maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, and that’s hilarious. And there are a lot of other questions that will need to be answered before we can really start making predictions.

What about Microsoft, whose long-term three-screen plan is in serious jeopardy? What about Sony, which is in many ways falling to pieces (not in all cases a bad thing)? What about Google, which is a total wildcard? What about the publishers, who know which way the wind is blowing but can’t abandon ship yet?

There are too many variables to say with any kind of assurance how things will be in a few years. Apple will continue to make its play for the living room, but supplanting the consoles is out of the question (not that many have advanced this notion). But it isn’t going to enter the space in a way that requires them to abandon the last five years of app and device development, and they’re not going to compete directly against an opponent that offers a product they can’t hope to match. They may like to lead the charge, but they’re no Leeroy Jenkins.

 

BlueStacks – Rumored to bring Android Apps To WindowsRT Devices, Hits 5Million Installs.


new-bluestacks-logo

It appears that BlueStacks isn’t just a flash in the pan. The Silicon Valley-based start up, which makes software that allows users to run their Android apps on Macs and PCs, said today that it has passed 5 million organic installs through its homepage. Vanity stats like this are annoying, yes, but what’s notable is that BlueStacks hit this milestone in under eight months. And the news comes on top of its recent partnerships with AMD and Asus, which have announced their intention to pre-load BlueStacks’ technology on over 100 million units.

In September, BlueStacks announced a partnership with chipmaker AMD, which brought its app catalog to AMD-powered Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines through the launch of its new app store, AppZone. As Sarah pointed out at the time, much like AppUp, Intel’s app store for PCs that “has been optimized to run on Intel-powered Ultrabooks,” with AppZone, the chipmaker optimized BlueStacks’ technology for AMD GPUs and APUs.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the chipmakers began implementing the startup’s technology, as AMD was the lead strategic investor in BlueStacks’ $6.4 million series B raise in October of last year. The round brought the company’s total investment to $15 million and saw AMD join investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Ventures, Citrix and Qualcomm.

It’s unusual for software makers and manufacturers like Citrix, Qualcomm and AMD to show up on the same roster of investors, yet, as Sarah said, it was a demonstration of an eagerness among investors to leverage the Windows ecosystem as a platform to run Android apps.

The partnerships with AMD and Asus and its backing from Qualcomm also set the stage for BlueStacks to team up with additional manufacturers to pre-install its technology on PCs. The big-picture goal for the startup is to help bring the some 750K Android apps to each and every one of the billion-plus PC users out there. It’s a sizable opportunity, another part of the reason investors (and chipmakers) are eager to test the waters.

BlueStacks’ technology allows users to run graphics-intensive Android apps on desktop PCs via its patent-pending “Layercake” technology, which initially enabled Android apps to be compatible with x86-based PCs, followed by Macs, and now includes those developed for ARM processors — Angry Birds Space and Fruit Ninja being two familiar examples. (More on this below.)

The company has been looking to build a developer platform, as well, and has been partnering with the makers of apps like Fruit Ninja, SliceIt!, Townsmen, Evernote, StumbleUpon and Barnes & Noble (Nook). The main selling point being that developers don’t have to modify or port their apps to run them on PCs, which means less heavy lifting for those who have already developed apps for Android.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 3.08.44 PMTo this point, HandyGames CEO Christopher Kassulke let it slip last night at Mobile Gaming Europe that HandyGames will be launching their uber popular Clouds and Sheep as a PC game using BlueStacks. And the more big app development houses begin signing on, the more BlueStacks thinks that it’s helping to create a crack in the wall between mobile and PC gaming.

But here’s what could be most exciting for developers (and users) looking at developing for (or buying) Windows mobile devices. The newly released Windows RT, for those unfamiliar, is a special version of Windows 8 built for mobile (specifically ARM) devices — so, really, tablets. If somehow you haven’t noticed, Microsoft has been pushing its new Surface tablets pretty aggressively since their initial release in late October, partly manifesting through that snappy, percussive ad campaign you’ve probably seen by now on the tube. The main mobile OS being offered by the Surface? Windows RT.

As of now, consumers can buy a number of ARM-powered Windows RT devices, and there are more coming. But Surface currently has the highest profile among these tablets and devices, yet, the problem is that they’re not selling as well as Microsoft would have hoped. According to Tech Report, MSFT’s initial order of 4 million Surface devices has been cut in half thanks to slow sales.

Leaving the device itself out of it, probably the biggest reason for this boils down to apps. Compared to iOS and Android, few developers have built native apps for Windows 8. Even if consumers want to buy the Surface, many would rather opt for an Android or iOS device, because they offer far more access to the apps we’ve all grown accustomed to using on a daily basis.

So, naturally, rumors have begun to mount that BlueStacks’ next project will be to make its tech available to Windows RT users. As evidenced in this forum, hilariously, it appears that Microsoft salespeople have even begun to suggest using BlueStacks if users want to buy a Windows device and get access to Android apps.

The Droid Guy was one of the first to pick up on the BlueStacks, Windows RT rumors, as a BlueStacks team member recently divulged in a separate forum that the company was in the process of bringing those 750K+ Android apps to Windows RT. BlueStacks Engineer Deepak Sharma, via The Droid Guy: “We are considering offering BlueStacks for Windows RT next year.”

BlueStacks team members approached by TechCrunch would not confirm that this is in fact happening, but from what we’ve been able to gather from other sources, it seems there’s a good chance this could happen in early 2013.

However, as The Droid Guy points out, Microsoft’s Windows Defender could pose problems in this regard, as it could force BlueStacks to release its own app on the Windows Store, which, knowing Microsoft, would likely be disapproved. Until then, BlueStacks works well with Windows 8 Pro-based tablets and devices, but if BlueStacks is able to produce an ARM version of its technology, this could be a big boost both for the startup and for those looking for access to a viable app platform on their new Windows device.

With support for both ARM and Windows 8 Pro, developers could significantly increase their distribution without having to develop native apps for Windows devices — great for them but, again, not something that Microsoft is likely to get too jazzed about.

For more, find BlueStacks at home here.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 3.10.26 PM

(-via TC)

World’s Thinnest Ultrabook by Acer Revealed.


Acer Aspire S5

Acer revealed details on Thursday about its razor-thin, elegantly-designed Aspire S5 ultrabook device, which will become the world’s thinnest ultrabook computer.

Weighing in at just 2.65 pounds, the Acer Aspire S5 Ultrabook is just 0.44 inches at its thinnest spot and 0.59 at the thickest. Ultrabooks — which are ultra-slim laptops typically under 0.8 inches thick – have become increasingly popular among manufacturers and consumers, giving on-the-go users a lightweight, full-computer alternative.

 it’s only 15mm at its thickest point. It’s a black, magnesium-alloy and brushed-metal 13.3-inch laptop, weighing 1.35kg (2.97 pounds) and featuring Acer’s Instant On technology that brings the computer back from sleep in 1.5 seconds. It also uses Acer Always Connect, which lets users manage data on their computers even when the machine is asleep — the S5 can be woken up from a smartphone, and will immediately log into email and social network accounts. There’s a Thunderbolt port inside, capable of 20Gbps speeds, along with USB 3.0 and HDMI ports — all are hidden below the S5’s hinge, and can be accessed by pressing Acer’s new MagicFlip key. The computer is powered by an Intel Core processor (though Acer didn’t reveal which one), has SSD storage, uses Dolby Home Theater audio, and has a PowerSmart battery pack that Acer says will have a life cycle three times longer than normal batteries.

The Aspire S5 may be super thin, but it touts a series of powerful specs, including a super-responsive third-generation Intel Core i7 processor and a 256GB solid state drive. With a 13.3-inch widescreen LED-backlit display (1366 x 768) and a 1.3 megapixel HD webcam, the device makes viewing and taking pictures and videos a visually-rich experience.

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The S5 will start shipping in the second quarter of this year, though pricing was not announced. Its Thunderbolt support means this must be an Ivy Bridge machine, meaning we won’t be seeing it until at least May or June.