Google Quietly Dives into the Smartwatch Wars on a WIMM

Subject: Mobile | September 4, 2013 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: wimm, smartwatch, google, Android

In an effort to bolster its own trek into the much-hyped smartwatch market, Google has acquired android smartwatch developer WIMM Labs. This may be new news to you, but this stealthy acquisition occurred well over a year ago, with most of the world none the wiser—WIMM casually shuttered its operations and alluded to an “exclusive, confidential relationship”—until tech news company, GigaOM leaked the details of the merger .

Since GigaOM spoke up, there has been a deluge of activity to back their claim: Investment bank Woodside Capital Partners posted an image practically screaming that they had assisted with the merger, and a number of WIMM employees are updating their online profiles to state that they now work for Google. The purchase of WIMM labs will give Google a massive edge in the upcoming smartphone wars and here is how:

Like many manufacturers of Android hardware, WIMM has implemented a unique ecosystem exclusive to its devices, but unlike most other manufacturers, the WIMM Micro App Store features an independent third party developer program; this means that much like Google’s own Play Store—the primary Android marketplace—that anyone with a great app idea can build a Google smartwatch-ready app. This added capability doesn’t just mean a few extra apps for your smartwatch, though. It also will allow app integration, so that alarm clock set up on your Android smartphone or tablet will buzz on your watch, your calendar will literally always be on hand, and your highly important notes will always be accessible. The WIMM/Google Micro Apps will also operate with unique independence from their phone and tablet-bases cousins. A Google Smartwatch Micro App could, for instance, remotely control your smartphone, enabling you to make phone calls, play music, or power down the device.

The Micro App Store is important, but the hardware and personnel benefits that came with the WIMM acquisition should not be ignored; any patents that WIMM owned are now at Google’s disposal, and with other tech giants, such as Apple looking for a reason to sue anybody for “stealing their ideas,” and with those patent troll companies still being a drain on legitimate business ventures, the WIMM patent portfolio could go a long way in protecting Google’s interests from the legal sharks. Also, the wealth of knowledge about the Micro App Store’s inner workings will go a long way in streamlining the Play Store/Micro App Store app integration process.

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Image source: GigaOM

The WIMM acquisition proves that Google is dead serious about playing its hand in the smartwatch wars; consumers should be on the lookout for a “Google Nexus Smartwatch,” and seriously consider buying into the capabilities of such a device, and owning one themselves.

Source: GigaOM

IFA 2013: ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T Tegra 4 Powered

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 4, 2013 - 11:34 AM |
Tagged: TF701T, ifa 2013, asus

Among the ASUS announcements is their new Transformer Pad TF701T. Being a Transformer Pad, the TF701T is an Android Tablet which can be used alone or docked in a keyboard for extra battery life and USB 3.0 support -- or, of course, for a keyboard. The touch display is IPS-based, 10.1", and with a native resolution of 2560x1600.

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The other raw specifications include:

  • NVIDIA Tegra 4 T40X quad-core SoC.
  • 2GB DDR3L RAM
  • WiFi B/G/N (dual-band) with Miracast support
  • Bluetooth 3.0+EDR
  • Speaker with ASUS "SonicMaster" technology
  • 32GB and 64GB options
  • MicroSDXC port on tablet if you need more storage.
  • SDXC port on the dock if you need even more storage or, of course, to load pictures from a camera
  • USB 3.0 (on dock).
  • 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack.

I find it somewhat interesting that ASUS listed the Tegra 4 "T40X". It seems odd to declare a specific model if, unless I completely missed something, Tegra 4 is not announced to be binned in to multiple SKUs. This might suggest Tegra 4 will have more options than simply, "Get Tegra 4 or wait for Tegra 4i with the built-in Icera modem". Then again, it could be another case of over-description. Either way, it is something we will watch closely and report further on.

Pricing and availability information has not yet been released.

Press release after the break.

Source: ASUS

IFA 2013: ASUS X102BA Ultraportable Powered by AMD Temash A4-1200

Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 4, 2013 - 11:32 AM |
Tagged: Temash, ifa 2013, asus, APU, amd, a4-1200

The hits just keep coming from ASUS this morning with the announcement of a new ultraportable notebook with the ambiguous name of X102BA. Though the name might not be catchy the device itself is more interesting because of the hardware that is powering it, specifically an AMD Temash A4-1200 APU. 

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This marks one of the few highly visible systems being powered by the AMD Temash architecture and I will be very curious to its reception.  The APU itself is a dual-core part that runs at 1.0 GHz with integrated Radeon HD 8180 graphics that is more than enough for a modest Windows 8 working environment.  There is a quad-core variant of Temash available but ASUS decided to go with the dual-core option.  If you need more information on the new architecture that AMD created for Kabini and Temash (based on Jaguar CPU cores and GCN GPU cores) then you should see our coverage from their announcement back in May.

The rest of the specifications are a bit more tame, including a 1366x768 10.1-in 10-point multi-touch screen, USB 3.0, 802.11n WIFI, bundled Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 and a touted 2-second resume time. 

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Even though the battery life is only listed at 5 hours, the 2.4 pound weight makes the X102BA a very portable machine.  Plus you can get it in Hot Pink!

Click here to see the full ASUS X102BA press release!!

Source: ASUS

IFA 2013: ASUS Announces Transformer Book Trio with Haswell + Atom

Subject: Mobile | September 4, 2013 - 11:30 AM |
Tagged: z2760, transformer book trio, Transformer, ifa 2013, haswell, atom, asus

You want to hear about maybe the craziest device announcement you'll see all year?  ASUS just unveiled the Transformer Book Trio, a device they are dubbing a "three-in-one" that combines hardware from the Haswell architecture and an Atom Z2760 SoC to offer up a tablet, notebook and even a DESKTOP experience.

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The Transformer Book Trio is a detachable ultraportable notebook at a glance with a top portion that can be removed and becomes an 11.6-in, 1920x1080 IPS multi-touch screen based Android tablet powered by the Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core Clover Trail platform.  It includes 64GB of on-board flash storage.

When the display is docked to the keyboard the Trio can switch instantly between a Windows 8 and Android environment by pressing a single key.  Data is even shared between the two units via the tablet's 64GB of flash storage. 

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Here is where things get even more interesting: when detached, the base station of the Transformer Book Trio is not simply dead weight.  As quoted from the ASUS press release below: "With an external display connected via Mini DisplayPort or Micro-HDMI, the PC Station can be used as a self-contained desktop PC featuring Windows 8, which means two people, in two different places, can use the Transformer Book Trio at the same time."

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Crazy right??  There are more details and specifications below, after the break!  I have already inquired about pricing and availability and I'll post more information as soon as I have it!

Read the full press release on the new ASUS Transformer Book Trio!!

Source: ASUS

Corsair Announces High-Capacity, High-Peformance USB 3.0 Flash Drives

Subject: Storage, Mobile | September 3, 2013 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: usb 3.0, flash drive, corsair

FREMONT, California — September 3, 2013 — Corsair®, worldwide designer of high-perform­­­­­­ance components to the PC hardware market, today announced the immediate availability of three new USB 3.0 flash drive models—Flash Voyager GS, Flash Voyager Mini, and Flash Voyager LS.

Flash Voyager GS

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The Flash Voyager GS are large-capacity, high performance USB 3.0 flash drives housed in sleek, scratch-resistant brushed metal enclosures. Available in 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB capacities, the drives take full advantage of high-speed USB 3.0 interfaces reaching speeds of up to 285MB per second read and 180MB per second write, while providing full USB 2.0 backward compatibility for older systems. Their brushed metal housings resist scratches and fingerprints and can be attached to a key ring. Like all Corsair flash drives, they are compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, with no driver installation necessary.

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Flash Voyager Mini USB 3.0

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The Flash Voyager Mini USB 3.0 are tiny USB flash drives with full-size USB 3.0 performance. Their USB 3.0 interfaces allow for file transfer speeds that are dramatically faster than USB 2.0. For maximum compatibility, the drives fully support USB 2.0. At just 1.25” (32mm) long and equipped with a detachable key ring loop, the Flash Voyager Mini USB 3.0 drives are convenient and easy to take everywhere. The drives are housed in a slim, stylish, and durable brushed metal housing that protects data and resists wear and tear.

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Flash Voyager LS

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The Flash Voyager LS are high-performance USB 3.0 flash drives with a premium retracting design that protects their USB connectors and eliminates the need for a protective cap. They are small enough to attach to a key ring, and are fully backward compatible with USB 2.0. Their attractive brushed metal design resists scratching and fingerprints. They drives are available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB capacities.

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Source: Corsair

Lenovo Launches Premium ThinkPad X240 Business Ultrabook

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 3, 2013 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: x240, ultrabook, Thinkpad, Lenovo, ifa

Lenovo recently launched a new high end business ultrabook called the ThinkPad X240. The 12”  ultrabook is aimed at road warriors and business professionals that want high end hardware in a portable form factor.

The ThinkPad X240 is a 12-inch, 20.3mm (0.79”) thick, notebook that weighs less than three pounds (1.34kg). It has large trackpad, backlit keyboard, 720p webcam, Dolby Home Theater Advanced Audio 2 technology, up to a 1080p display, and full size ports. External IO includes VGA, Ethernet, a combo headphone/mic jack, SD card reader, HDMI out, and two USB 3.0 ports.

X240_Hero_01.jpg

Internal specifications include Intel Haswell processors with HD 4400 graphics, up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, and up to a 1TB hard drive. The system comes with a TPM chip and finger print reader and can be further configured with a 3G/4G LTE cellular radio, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and NFC radios.

The X240 also features Lenovo's Power Bridge technology which allows users to hot swap batteries while a 3-cell internal battery keeps the system powered up. When the 3-cell internal battery is paired with a removable 6-cell battery, Lenovo rates the X240 at 10 hours of battery life.

X240_Standard_01.jpg

The new ThinkPad X240 is portable and fairly powerful with battery life that business professionals value. Should the reviews hold up, it looks like a solid machine. It will be available around the end of October with a starting price of $1,099.

Source: Lenovo

HTML5 Popularity Growing as an Application Platform

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 1, 2013 - 09:39 PM |
Tagged: html5, app

Write once and run everywhere. Web developers, just a few years ago, would scoff and make some offhand comment about several versions of a major browser. The last couple of versions are adhering to standards even better than some other vendors. Applications which can reasonably ignore legacy versions, such as mobile apps embedding the rendering engine of their host OS, are able to reuse large chunks of code. Likewise, browsers have since refocused on performance and feature-parity with native platforms.

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Image Credit: Forrester via ZDNet

Forrester Research, as reported by ZDNet, conducted a survey of 478 North American and European mobile developers. Across all responders, 41% of man-hours are on average spent on native applications. 46% of man-hours are split fairly evenly between web apps and hybrid apps which contain both native and web components.

As such, more time is spent developing applications which take advantage of web standards, to some extent, than apps which do not.

The report finds enterprise applications are more likely to shift towards web technologies than consumer apps. This makes sense in two ways: enterprise software use default user interface elements and, to some extent, less tolerance for the platform owner unilaterally managing compatibility. I would also expect developers of consumer apps to be more concerned about performance and snappy response.

But web technologies are still getting better. Even Epic Games expects many Unreal Engine 4 titles to be handled directly by web browser -- even fully offline experiences. I mean, if you have ever designed a website, you have probably tested it within some random directory in your hard drive. Just because it runs in a web browser, does not mean it requires an internet connection.

It should, however, imply compatibility with other browsers. The curse and the blessing for web developers.

Source: ZDNet

A Linux powered laptop from System76 with all the trimmings

Subject: Mobile | August 27, 2013 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: linux, ubuntu, system76, Gazelle Pro

The component list of System76's Gazelle Professional laptop reads like a $1000+ ultrabook, a Core i7 4900MQ, 8GB of DDR3-1600, a 120GB Intel 520 SSD and 15.6-inch 1080p display.  Instead of Windows it ships with Ubuntu 13.04, part of the reason you can purchase the base model for $830.  Support for Haswell's HD Graphics 4600 is solid, with performance  far beyond the old HD Graphics 3000; the Ivy Bridge GPU can sometimes outperform Haswell but that will change as drivers improve.  Take a peek at the benchmarks in Phoronix's review.

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"System76 recently sent over their Haswell-based Gazelle Professional laptop that sports HD Graphics 4600, a fancy Intel SSD, 8GB of system memory, and a beautiful HD display. This Haswell Linux laptop has already been used for testing within a few Phoronix articles while now is a full look at this Ubuntu laptop along with some comparison performance tests."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: Phoronix

Block Second Generation GSM texts and calls

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 26, 2013 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: sweet justice, GSM, hack

[H]ard|OCP has stumbled upon some research even more wonderful than TV-B-Gone, a way to mod your GSM phone to be able to block the reception of phone calls and texts on cellphones using the same provider as you do.  No longer will idiots who are unable to watch a movie in the theater without constantly calling their friends to let them know what they think of it impinge upon your experience.  The hack essentially makes your phone respond to every query from the phone provider as being the target device for the call or text and thanks to a tweak to the software on the phones baseband processor the hacked phone responds to that query before the legitimate phone has a chance.  This will not work on 3G or 4G phones as it is only effective against GSM but the researchers who developed the tweak estimate that 11 modified phones would be enough to completely take down the ability of Germany's third largest provider to provide service in a single cell.

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"By making simple modifications to common Motorola phones, researchers in Berlin have shown they can block calls and text messages intended for nearby people connected to the same cellular network. The method works on the second-generation (2G) GSM networks that are the most common type of cell network worldwide. In the U.S., both AT&T and T-Mobile carry calls and text messages using GSM network."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Futuremark Gets Down To... Its... Business with VR-Zone

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | August 23, 2013 - 01:31 AM |
Tagged: Futuremark, AnTuTu, benchmarking

VR-Zone tossed the bees nest in a paint shaker and received a fairly sedate outcome.

A little background information is required. AnTuTu, a mobile benchmark developed by AnTuTu Labs, has been accused of inaccurate scores and bias towards specific hardware. Leaked BayTrail-T benchmarks, surpassing our expectations of Intel's capabilities, were harshly refuted based on AnTuTu's credibility. More recently, certain Samsung GPUs have been allegedly recorded self-overclocking during that benchmark but not elsewhere.

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Scene from Cloud Gate, latest Windows 3DMark.

Oliver Baltuch, president of Futuremark, accepted an interview with VR-Zone to discuss business and ethics in their marketplace. Futuremark is a direct competitor to AnTuTu and a household name in the benchmarking community. Being modest Fins, self-proclaimed, they did not wish to discuss whether AnTuTu was less honest than they are. Futuremark does disagree with AnTuTu's process, however, and has some suggestions for better results.

The design process for 3D Mark Android begun with 25 pages of specification proposal. Each vendor is given a chance to reply to that proposal and these responses are compared. Changes to the specification must be reviewed by a committee sitting between the financial department and the engineering department.

Baltuch made the point that all of their finances for the last five years, according to Finnish law, can be reviewed for about $7 USD. Despite being a private company, the law mandates no deals can be made in secret.

On the engineering side of things, drivers are approved only if they follow specific guidelines. Unapproved results will be removed from their website and leaderboards followed by a polite conversation with the manufacturer. Drivers are not allowed to identify their benchmarks intent on modifying settings due to that information.

Almost every benchmark they release gets negative responses from some upset vendor or vendors.

The relatively short interview is wrapped up with commentary on iOS benchmarks. Futuremark is nearing completion of their first benchmarking app. Apple disallows apps to exceed 60 frames per second, through vsync, which unnecessarily hinders benchmark scores. Working around this, Futuremark developed a method to render frames which are not displayed on screen to keep the processors from idling once at frame rate cap.

Ryan must love that idea...

This concept has, according to the interview, reached internal QA review and is expected to be released in a few weeks.

Futuremark develops benchmarks for x86 Windows, Windows RT, Android, and iOS. Scores are intended to scale linearly to their metrics and are designed to allow cross-platform performance comparisons.

Also check out our interview with Oliver Baltuch from last February discussing 3D Mark.

Source: VR-Zone