Tag Archives: tablets

Engadget Leaks MS Courier Tablet

Nilay Patel has posted on Engadget a preview of the excruciatingly long awaited Microsoft Courier tablet. It could well give Apple’s iPad a run for the money.

” We’re told Courier will function as a ‘digital journal,'” writes Patel, “and it’s designed to be seriously portable: it’s under an inch thick, weighs a little over a pound, and isn’t much bigger than a 5×7 photo when closed. That’s a lot smaller than we expected…The interface appears to be pen-based and centered around drawing and writing, with built-in handwriting recognition and a corresponding web site that allows access to everything entered into the device in a blog-like format complete with comments…Most interestingly, it looks like the Courier will also serve as Microsoft’s e-book device, with a dedicated ecosystem centered around reading.”

No news on price or release date except a vague “Q3/Q4”. Below is a video demo. For the full Engadget article click here.

RC

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Heads Up, Apple! Avalanche of Slates Hurtling Your Way

Saving up for that iPad? Maybe you should check out the JooJoo first.

JooJoo? That’s one of a host of tablets in one stage or another of development or release. In fact, in the next year or two we’re going to have more tablets than a hypochondriac’s medicine chest. Some compare favorable to Apple’s iPad in price, power, specs and features. If you’re willing to do a little comparison shopping it might be worth waiting and sitting out a dance or two before making your choice of slate or tablet.

Gizmodo has made it easier to do that shopping with a post called Slate Showdown: iPad vs. HP Slate vs. JooJoo vs. Android Tablets & More

Here’s the short version:

The iPad has the most storage, cheap 3G, the time-tested iPhone OS and its mountain of apps, and a serious amount of Apple marketing juice behind it. But it’s also famously lacking features common to the other tablets, such as webcam and multitasking (only first party apps like music and email can multitask). The Notion Ink Adam is perhaps the most interesting of the bunch, with its dual-function transflective screen from Pixel Qi: It can be either a normal LCD or, with the flick of a switch, an easy-on-the-eyes reflective LCD that resembles e-ink. Its hardware is also surprisingly impressive—but it remains to be seen if Android is really the right OS for a 10-inch tablet.

The Dell Mini 5 and forthcoming Android edition of the Archos 7 tablet are two of a kind, almost oversized smartphones in their feature sets. Is an extra two or three inches of screen real estate worth the consequent decrease in pocketability? Perhaps not. And finally, there’s the maligned JooJoo, formerly the CrunchPad, a bit of an oddball as the only web-only device in the bunch. It doesn’t really have apps, can’t multitask, and pretty much confines you to an albeit fancy browser, sort of like Chrome OS will. The JooJoo is also the only tablet here to have no demonstrated way to read ebooks.

If you want to read about any of these in detail, click on the links below.

Apple iPad: [Gizmodo]
HP Slate: [Gizmodo, GDGT; Tipster]
Fusion Garage JooJoo: [Gizmodo]
Notion Ink Adam: [Slashgear]
Dell Mini 5: [Gizmodo, Gizmodo]
Archos 7 Android: [DanceWithShadows, Gizmodo]
Lenovo IdeaPad U1: [Lenovo, Gizmodo, Gizmodo]
Archos 9: [UMPCPortal, Archos]

By the way, do you know the difference between a slate and a tablet? Nobody does – the terms seem to be interchangeable, but the Gizmodo guy likes “slate” if for no other reason than “tablet” is overused.

RC

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App.Edu – Classroom Apps for Everything But Shooting Rubber Bands

Two representatives of Aptara, the digital solutions company, have offered a terrific scenario of a typical school room of the future in which everybody’s using a tablet. It’s just what we imagined when we first laid eyes on a tablet back in 2003.

Here’s the opening passage of Aptara’s scenario developed by John Ott and Eric Freese:
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Welcome to class. Take your new tablet— your only textbook this semester— out of your backpack. It’s about the same size, but lighter and thinner than your old textbooks. It’s also battery-powered, similar to a big touch-screen, like your iPhone.

Use that touch-screen and download the first chapter of your first lesson. That’s right—your lesson is an app. Plug in your earbuds and tap the screen to begin the introductory video.

Cool, the presenter is that famous scientist from the cable show…

Now the video goes into full documentary mode; scenes from real life. Major ideas from the lesson appear as text at the bottom of the screen; so do vocabulary words. Now the presenter is back and he’s working out a big idea step-by-step on the whiteboard…

Video over. Time to read…
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Has anyone figured out the flaw in this projection? Consider: with digital technology you don’t have to go to class – because there’s no class to go to. You can “attend” school in your bedroom, living room, dorm room, bathroom or car.

Digital technology is the great disintermediator. Among the things it disintermediates is place. There is no school room, at least not one with geographical coordinates. It exists in the cloud. In Gertrude Stein’s immortal phrase, there is no there there. Unfortunately, Stein used it to characterize Philadelphia, but it’s the mot juste for a virtual school room.

University trustees had better begin thinking about discounting tuition for students auditing classes from their bathrooms…

Aptara’s complete article can be seen on the Digital Book World website, and if you haven’t signed up to receive DBW’s newsletter, do log on. You’ll be at least one light year more informed than your neighbors.

Richard Curtis

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Inkling Cuts Textbooks into Inexpensive Bite-Sized Morsels

“There are lots of schoolkids in the world,” writes Tyler Cowen on the Marginal Revolution website.

We were thinking the same thing. In fact, we were thinking it a decade ago when we leaped into the e-book space: the medium is perfect for textbooks. But education had to wait for hardware and software to catch up.

It’s caught up.

Hardware: Apple will lead the way. “The superior Apple graphics, colors, and fonts will support all of the textbook features which Kindle botches and destroys” says Cowen in My predictions about the iPad. “In the longer run the iPad will compete with your university, or in some ways enhance your university. It will offer homework services and instructional videos and courses, none of which can work well on the current iPhone or Kindle.

Platform: We’ve been reading up on a San Francisco startup called Inkling. “Stacked with pedigreed veterans of Microsoft and Google, Harvard, MIT and Stanford,” writes Paul Boutin of VentureBeat, Inkling surfaced after Apple’s iPad launch with $1 million to seed development of software aimed not just at student’s learning needs but their pocketbooks as well. The company is working with a number of textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill and Pearson.”First, they’ll port their existing tomes onto Apple’s iPad as interactive, socialized objects. Then, they’ll create all-new learning modules — interactive, social, and mobile — that leave ink-on-paper textbooks in the dust.

Inkling offers color, interactivity, highlighter capability, social network sharing features, talking text and dynamic quizzes. And all of this delivered lightning-fast. “The iPad’s A4 chip is even faster than the Android G2 that gets geeks so excited,” says Boutin, “so rich layouts and interactive illustrations run quickly.

“But the real breakthrough,” he writes, “is in pricing. Instead of a $180 textbook, learning modules built with Inkling will be priced individually on iTunes, just as music and TV shows are. Instead of buying all 50 chapters of a 1,200-page biology book, an instructor can create a customized bundle of only the modules students will actually use. Pricing hasn’t been determined yet, but it’s likely to be a few dollars per unit — much cheaper than current textbooks.

Are you listening, students? Modular bundles so cheap they’re not worth ripping off!

Here are some details from Inkling’s “About” page:

  • Interactive figures. Inkling lets you directly manipulate objects to explore them. Want to know if two molecules bond? Use your fingertips to pull them together and see what happens.
  • Custom spine. Inkling organizes content based on your assignments. It shows you everything you need to do, all at once, no matter where the content is from. It’s like a custom textbook, just for you.
  • Reader. When it’s time to read a traditional textbook, Inkling does an amazing job. Dog-ear your pages, skip from chapter to chapter with gestures, and jump from figure to figure with your finger.
  • Quizzes. Measure your progress with interactive tests that deepen your understanding of the content.
  • Note following. Ever borrow a classmate’s notes? Borrow them in realtime with Inkling NoteSync™. Annotations, highlights and comments from your friends show up alongside your own, instantly.
  • Device sync. Want to finish up a reading while waiting in line? Anything you’ve got on your iPad appears right on your iPhone or iPod touch, too.

Look for iPads utilizing the Inkling platform on campuses as early as next fall.

Richard Curtis

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Apple Delivers a Cool Tool

After a gestation longer than an elephant, speculation characterized by preposterous fantasies, and a delivery witnessed by millions, Apple finally brought forth a bouncing baby iPad. Not since the Essenes have such Messianic hopes and dreams been cherished, and whether they will be fulfilled remains to be seen after technicians take it apart and consumers render their verdict. Nevertheless, it seemed difficult for tech pundits to resist the temptation to kneel before it.

Here for instance is what Gizmodo’s blogger had to say:

  • The guts: It’s a half-inch thick—just a hair thicker than the iPhone, for reference—and weighs 1.5 pounds…It’s also loaded with 802.11 n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a 30-pin iPod connector, a speaker, a microphone, an accelerometer and a compass.
  • It’s substantial but surprisingly light. Easy to grip. Beautiful. Rigid. Starkly designed. The glass is a little rubbery but it could be my sweaty hands. And it’s fasssstttt.
  • Apple didn’t really sell this point, but it’s the single biggest benefit of the iPad: speed. It feels at least a generation faster than the iPhone 3GS. Lags and waits are gone, and the OS and apps respond just as quickly as you’d hope. Rotating between portrait and landscape modes, especially, is where this new horsepower manifests in the OS.
  • iBooks: It’s an optical illusion, but just seeing the depth of pages makes the iBook app feel more like a book than a Kindle ever did for me. The text is sharp, and while the screen is bright, it doesn’t seem to strains the eyes—but time will tell on that.
  • Pictures: Pinch, zoom, whatever—like we said, it’s fast—the photo app is faster that iPhoto performs on my aging Core2Duo laptop.
  • Apps: Apps can play in their native resolution, or be 2x uprezzed for the screen. How does it look? An ATV game we tried actually looked pretty good—limited more by its base polygon count than the scaling process itself. Bottom line: it’s about as elegant solution as Apple could have offered, even if that graphics won’t be razor sharp.
  • Browsing: Over Wi-Fi, Gizmodo loaded quickly. The 9.7-inch screen is an excellent size for reading the site. You can pinch zoom, but you won’t need to. Of course, on such a pretty web browsing experience, not having Flash makes the big, empty video boxes in the middle of a page is pretty disappointing. Put differently, the fatal flaw of Apple’s mobile browser has never been more apparent.

For these features and many more, the $499 price is universally acclaimed to be a huge bargain for this seamless blend of computer, game and movie player, e-book readers, and more. As to the battery, about which many expressed the gravest skepticism, Apple claims it will run for ten hours even with intense use such as movies. If you don’t like what they’re showing on your flight to Australia, load your iPad up with half a dozen films and you’ll be there in no time.

To see Gizmodo’s hands-on test-drive, click here. You can also view an absolute feeding-frenzy of comments, blogs, tweets, and eructations. Be careful not to stick your hand in there: it will be bitten off.

As for e-books and newspapers, Publishers Weekly‘s Calvin Reid writes: “The device was demoed with newspaper content from the New York Times and supports video and audio embedded in the content. Most importantly, the iPad will support the ePub e-book standard and Apple has developed its own e-reader software, iBooks, and will also launch an iBookstore. E-book pricing is reported to be in the $15 range.” If you plan to write a book on iPad instead of reading one, there is both a virtual keyboard (left) and a pull-out.

Now that iPad is born there doesn’t seem to be much left to live for. But we will carry on as best we can, comforting ourselves with the knowledge that the Apple has scaled a pinnacle from which the view of the digital future is truly intoxicating.

Richard Curtis

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Apps

The other day we reported that Apple-watchers have taken to calling the imminent tablet The Unicorn because of all the magical properties being attributed to it – and because, of course, no one has seen it. If only there were a fly on the wall of Apple’s Cupertino headquarters, a fly with a particularly sensitive transmitter…

In fact we have one. It’s a company called Flurry Analytics. Flurry has developed tools that gather from app developers information about applications they are working on. Jenna Wortham, writing about Flurry in the New York Times, reports that “Flurry can generate reports about the location of an application’s users, for example, or how long it took a user to complete a game level.

It turns out that Flurry picked up some feedback from about 50 devices on or around the Cupertino campus and came to some conclusions about what we’re going to find under the hood of Apple’s tablet when we finally get our hands on one for a test drive.

Check Flurry’s chart below and you’ll see that the top three apps downloaded from Cupertino are for games, entertainment and news/books, followed by lifestyle, utilities, music, photography, travel, finance, social networking, weather and miscellaneous.

That games and entertainment are the # 1 and #2 apps should not surprise us, especially when one considers that the tablet’s larger screen will enable more than one user to play games on it. But the third one, news and books, raises an eyebrow in view of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s declaration that nobody reads anymore. It sounds as if people are going to be reading newspapers and illustrated books big time on the iSlate, Unicorn or whatever it’s called.

For more speculations on the Apple tablet, read Jenna Wortham’s A Playland for Apps in a Tablet World. The speculation should end later today when Apple’s formal announcement puts us all out of our misery. But if that Flurry fly on the wall of Apple’s lab is transmitting accurate information, Apple’s announcement should be anticlimactic.

Richard Curtis

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Is Apple Tablet Real or Mythical?

When Kassia Krozser referred to the forthcoming Apple tablet as the “Apple Unicorn” I emailed her to ask if she knew something that no civilian outside of Apple knows. Or was it a joke? If it was a joke it was a damn good one.

It’s a joke. Someone started referring to the tablet as a Unicorn because no one had ever seen it but everyone was ascribing magical properties to it.

I fell for it because “Unicorn” happens to be a splendid name for an e-book reader, especially compared to the litany of dumb ones we have been reciting for the last year or two. “The name has, oddly (or not), found traction in all sorts of media,” Kassia writes, “and there’s even a Unicorn hashtag on Twitter.”

Of course, if the name of Apple’s tablet truly turns out to be Unicorn the joke would be on Apple. But right now, Las Vegas money is strongly behind “iSlate”. Forty-eight hours or so from now we’ll all know.

Richard Curtis

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Apres Kindle Le Deluge. A Guide for the Perplexed

Scorecard here! Can’t tell yer e-book readers without a scorecard!

That seems to be the consensus of bloggers covering the recent Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas. Inspired by the success of the Kindle, Sony eReader, and Nook, a host of would-be Kindle-killers and Nookslayers has flooded the marketplace with lookalikes, playalikes and costalikes. Consumers who’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a second generation of e-readers are now shaking their heads in confusion. Huffington Post has produced a handy-dandy guide for the perplexed with photos and thumbnail descriptions of each device. Just click here, then go the red navigation bar and click “Next” to view a complete array of current e-book reader choices. It may answer your questions. Or it may leave you as mixed up as ever.

So…with so many gadgets to choose among and factors to compare, is there a simple single decisive criterion to guide us home? In fact there is: Content. All things being more or less equal, you can’t go too wrong selecting a reader with a rich library or store of books, magazines, newspapers and other publications.

A case in point is a device displayed at the Consumer Electronic Show called the Skiff Reader. Dan Nosowitz, Gizmodo’s reviewer, gave it high marks for beauty, slimness, weight, screen size and functionality: “I just got a chance to play with the big-screened, touchscreened Skiff Reader, which is targeted at periodicals. It’s incredibly thin, incredibly light, and they’ve even got a color screen prototype—Kindle and Nook should be scared.”

They should be scared but they won’t be for one simple reason: Skiff does not have a store or library of content behind it. “Kindle and Nook waltzed into this world with massive and well-known stores behind them,” says Gizmodo, “and the Skiff is creating one from scratch. They’ve got a lot of publishers behind them, but the store right now is pretty bare. Of course, since it’s not out yet, this may all be a moot point—but I wonder if their scrappy little store can compete with Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Wilson Rothman, blogging for Gawker, states the case for content even more bluntly in a posting titled There Are Officially Too Many E-Book Readers. A lot of consumers, he writes, “will buy some $100 reader, then wonder why they can’t borrow books from their friend who has a Nook, or can’t get the same stuff that’s sold on the Kindle.”

Rothman also raises a very important point: if the new breed of cheap e-book readers doesn’t carry legitimate content, customers might turn to file-sharing pirates for it. “Cheap e-ink readers will essentially be targeted at people with libraries of pirated books,” he says.

What’s a consumer to do? Rothman seems to be urging us to wait a little longer until full color, multitouch tablets reach the marketplace. “E-ink is an interim technology, a stopgap measure to keep our attention till we have full-color video tablets (slates?) whose batteries last for ‘days’.”

Rothman’s bottom line? “Go Kindle, wait for a cheap-as-hell reader, pray for a slate, or buy a book. A real paper-and-ink book.

Richard Curtis

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Will iSlate Battery Carry the Load?

We hate to rain on iSlate’s apotheosis, but some of us are wondering about battery life.

A portable computer is only as good as its battery. A blogger with the handle of “Andrew”, writing for TabletPCReview.com, said that “Whenever we review notebooks one of the questions that always needs to be answered is, what’s the battery life like on this tablet? We all know manufacturers overstate the quoted battery life for a system, probably because they test for battery life under ideal conditions for getting a high number. For example, wireless off, processor underclocked, system idle, LCD brightness set to low, no DVD and so on. So when your notebook with a quoted 5 hour battery life actually gets three hours, you’re left wondering what happened to those other two hours the manufacturer got?

Andrew wrote that in 2007, but the fundamental issues have not changed since then.

A January 26-scheduled announcement by Apple, which few pundits believe could be about anything else than the imminent release of a tablet-sized computer/e-book reader, has created nearly messianic frenzy. A New York Times columnist said that some are calling the device a “Jesus tablet”. But at least one authority, physicist Eric Hellmann, thinks we should look under the hood before declaring January 26th a religious holiday.

Hellman, whose popular blog Go To Hellman covers the e-book scene, has speculated on the device’s power source. “The design problem is the battery,” he recently wrote. “Assuming that the iSlate is a multimedia device implies that it’s not an e-ink device. It’s going to have a screen not so different from an iPhone screen, and that will consume power. That will in turn require a battery proportional to the iPhone battery, and batteries are what cause iPhones to be reasonably heavy for their size. The Kindle works as a book-replacement because it’s light enough; I’m guessing the iSlate will be a more of a tv than a book.”

Apple will undoubtedly imbed a state of the art battery in its tablet, but when you consider the load that a tabet will have to pull – movie and game videos, photo archives, videocam, multitouch screen, full color e-books, magazines, newspapers, music, plus countless juice-draining apps, to say nothing of the demands of the tablet’s own operating and processing system, you have to wonder whether Apple’s battery, or anybody else’s at this moment in history, will be able to do the job without adding an unacceptable weight burden.

Knowledgeable insiders confirm these concerns. When a website named islate.org posted some allegedly leaked specs (you can read them here), one commenter wrote that “for as thin as the device is intended to be, there is no possible way it’ll run a HD, 2Gb RAM, and a Core 2 Duo processor. Factor in the large multitouch screen and you could expect a battery life of about 15-minutes with those specs, AND it’d be too hot to handle AND weigh a few pounds. No way.”

There will undoubtedly be a stampede to snap up the iSlate, but the coolheaded will scrutinize the specs before committing to the hefty – rumored at $1000 – price of a device that, if you believe some iSlate evangelists, embeds nothing less than the spiritual hopes and dreams of humankind within its fragile case.

Richard Curtis

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Can a Tablet Save Your Soul?

Back in October we wrote up the design for an absolutely astounding rollup tablet PC of the future. We were so knocked out by it that we titled our blog I Want One Today! and you may too after viewing the demo. But you’ll have to wait for the Orkin rolltop, for (as far as we know), it’s pure fantasy.

Though we don’t think that Apple’s soon-to-be-announced iSlate will be nearly as cool as Orkin’s, some commentators such as David Carr of the New York Times have succumbed to iSlate frenzy. In his “Media Equation” column Carr gushes about the rumored qualities of the iSlate: “I haven’t been this excited about buying something since I was 8 years old and sent away for the tiny seahorses I saw advertised in the back of a comic book.”

The title of his article is A Savior in the Form of a Tablet, and he says that for some tabletphiles the iSlate represents “the second coming of the iPhone, a so-called Jesus tablet that can do anything, including saving some embattled print providers from doom”.

We need to keep our heads a about this. First of all, we’re not sure Apple’s product will actually be called the iSlate, and for all we know Apple has booked an auditorium at the end of January to announce that it has discovered an app for the common cold.

We certainly don’t believe that the iSlate is the path to personal salvation. We do firmly believe however that tablets will put the e-book business over the top as colleges adopt them as standard equipment for their student bodies, and we’ve been saying that for years.

Perhaps you too are developing tablet frenzy. If you haven’t yet, you may after you click on the video in our original posting below.

Richard Curtis
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Earlier today we predicted that five years from now there’ll be a tablet PC under every student’s arm. We were wrong. It won’t be under their arms. It will be suspended from their shoulders. Or at least it will be if PC manufacturers are smart enough to adopt Orkin Design’s Rolltop, astoundingly “rolled out” and then rolled back up again in the demo video below.

A writeup says, “The device of the flexible display allows a new concept in notebook design growing out of the traditional bookformed laptop into unfurling and convolving portable computer. By virtue of the OLED-Display technology and a multi touch screen the utility of a laptop computer with its weight of a mini-notebook and screen size of 13 inch easily transforms into the graphics tablet, which with its 17-inch flat screen can be also used as a primary monitor. On top of everything else all computer utilities from power supply through the holding belt to an interactive pen are integrated in Rolltop. This is really an all-in-one gadget.”

We don’t know anything about the designer, but visit Orkin’s wonderland website for exquisite futuristic household designs (check out the barstools particularly). And some beautiful sculpture, too.

RC

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