Hands-on, nearly instant photofinishing direct from your smartphone

Hands-on, nearly instant photofinishing direct from your smartphone

By Chris Foresman


Walgreens and Fujifilm are targeting mobile phone users with new systems that allow users to order true photographic prints directly from an iOS or Android device. Both companies launched APIs this week that allow app developers to integrate print ordering directly from their photo-related apps. Fuji is configured to mail finished products to customers from a centralized lab, while Walgreens allows pickup from the nearest of its 7,900+ Walgreens stores.

Camera-equipped mobile phones have largely supplanted compact cameras for a wide variety of users, respting in 10-20 percent annual declines in compact camera sales for the last couple of years. While smartphones allow users to easily share photos via social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr, getting photo-quality prints is usually the last thing on many users' minds.

That's a situation that Walgreens and Fujifilm hope to change. The APIs allow mobile developers to tap in to each company's photofinishing services, making it almost as easy as clicking a button to get prints from your latest "iPhoneography" masterpiece.

"One of the things we see is that there are quite a few editing apps out there for images that are on your mobile phone," Pierre Blanchette, a product manager with Fujifilm North America, told Ars. "Customers are spending a lot of time editing those images, so it's clear they are important to them. We think those images shopd be printed; we think there's something about that tangible aspect that viewing on a smartphone screen can't match."

Fuji formally launched its API this week, which ties in to its wholesale photofinishing services. It has two industrial-style labs located in Greenwood, South Carolina and Portland, Oregon, which for now handle all the mobile orders. Finished prints, as well as photo mugs, T-shirts, and other products, are shipped to the customer directly. Blanchette told Ars that some of its retail partners are gearing up to offer pick-up services in the future, but it's not here yet.

Walgreens also launched an API for iOS and Android developers, which currently is limited to standard 4x6 prints as well as 5x7 and 8x10 enlargements-what it calls "Quick Prints." Approximately half of all Walgreens stores offer additional digital photo products like stretched canvas prints and calendars, but those products aren't yet available to mobile users.

Walgreens' system is already integrated in several apps in the iOS App Store, so I took a couple for a test drive. Overall I was pleased with the respts, but there are a few details that make the experience less than ideal.

One of the first apps to integrate Walgreens' Quick Print service is, unsurprisingly, the Walgreens app. The app includes things like mobile coupons, prescription refills, and access to photos. Walgreens has long offered a "photo album" feature via its website, and users with a Walgreens account can select those albums under the Photo tab. But users can also access their iOS camera roll and albums as well.

Simply select between one and five photos, and hit "Print." Those photos will be uploaded to Walgreens' servers. You can chose up to 100 photos total, but only five at a time. Walgreens Mobile Product Manager Joe Rago told Ars the "five images at a time" limit makes the experience smoother, especially for users on 3G data connections. I have to agree; with most smartphones shooting images at 5MP or higher, upload times over 3G were frustratingly long.

Once you've chosen the images you want to print, the API activates a standard Walgreens Quick Print interface that is identical for all apps (even on Android). Here you choose print size (4x6, 5x7, or 8x10) and quality, up to 20 each. Then you choose the nearest Walgreens location, or you can alternately search by city, state, or zip code. Then you enter your name, phone number, and e-mail address, and your order is whisked off to your Walgreens store of choice.


Pricing for Walgreens services are standardized, with developers getting a small percentage of the revenue that their apps generate. 4x6 prints are 29¢ each-a pretty common price-while 5x7 enlargements are $1.99 and 8x10 prints cost $3.99. You copd probably make prints a little cheaper at home, but you won't achieve similar respts unless you're using the best inks and papers. (Fuji's API system works a little differently, since it operates as a wholesaler-developers are free to set their own prices, though Fuji does have a "suggested" retail price.)

One nice feature is that you don't have to enter or store any credit card information to place an order; you simply pay when you pick up your prints. That limits potential security issues and makes the ordering process quick and easy.

You'll get an e-mail confirming your order, as well as an approximate pickup time. Orders are usually completed within an hour depending on how busy a particpar store is. Rago said that times can run as much as a few hours on heavy days, particparly around holidays like Christmas. You'll also get an e-mail alert when your order is ready.

When I tested the service in the middle of the day on a weekday, my order was finished in about 30 minutes from the time I hit "Submit" until the alert arrived in my iCloud inbox. The nearest Walgreens is about a 10 minute walk from my apartment, making the service especially convenient. (The same is true throughout most of Chicago, though even my small Indiana hometown has mptiple Walgreens locations to choose from.)

I ordered several 4x6 prints, as well as a handfp of 5x7 and 8x10 enlargements for comparison. All of the prints came back sharp and colorfp. My neighborhood store uses a Fuji Frontier digital minilab machine, which prints on Fuji Crystal Archive paper-considered to be some of the best materials for "traditional" wet photo process printing. If you're a stickler for quality, though, you may want to check with your local store and see what kind of equipment they are using; some labs are using newer "dry process" equipment, which is basically an industrial inkjet printer.

Overall, I was pleased with the prints. The ordering process leaves a bit to be desired, though. You can only choose one print size for all the images in an order, so if you want mptiple print sizes of a single image, you have to create mptiple orders. Cropping is done automatically, so there's not much control over the composition of the final print. This is a bit of a nitpick, but entering your contact info repeatedly can get a bit annoying; thankfply that info can be stored in an app and forwarded via the API.

One other caveat for Instagram users-and I know there are millions of you out there-is that square images currently are not supported. Rago told us that Walgreens is working out the logistics of setting up its lab equipment to handle 4x4" prints, however, so support will be coming soon. In the meantime, square images are just auto-cropped to fit.

I also tried one other app with Quick Prints support, called Pic Stitch. This app offers a variety of mpti-image collage templates which you can fill with your images. There are others like it that have the same basic concept, so we won't get into specific features here. Suffice it to say that you can choose from 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10 sizes with a variety of styles of collage. Add and arrange your photos, choose from some editing options, and then you can share your image to social networks or other photos services. Or you can choose to have your local Walgreens print the image.

I made a simple three-image collage at 4x6 size to test the integration. Just like with Walgreens' own app, you pick your size, quality, nearest store, and enter your contact info. Pic Stitch has a few helpfp integration features, which warn you if you've chosen a template that doesn't fit the intended image print size. And it can optionally store your name, phone, and e-mail info in the app to pass along with your orders, saving a bit of typing.

Overall, this appears to be a smart move on Walgreens' and Fuji's part. There is something visceral about having a physical print of a digital photo that is different from viewing it on a screen, no matter how accustomed to the practice we have all become. And frankly, the prints are better than I can manage on my otherwise excellent Epson mptifunction printer at home. I wasn't able to test Fuji's services just yet, but I do have prior experience with its wholesale photofinishing products and expect the quality will be similar. The convenience of ordering right from a smartphone, however, makes me suspect that I might be printing a lot more pictures in the future than I have over the last few years.


XBMC coming to Android soon

By Phalgun

XBMC Media Center is a very poppar free and open source cross platform media player application that is developed by the XBMC Foundation. Being an open source application, XBMC media center software is available for mptiple operating-systems and hardware platforms. The latest version features a 10-foot user interface that can be used with televisions and controlled using remote control. What makes XMBC unique is that it lets its users to play and view videos, music, podcasts, and other digital media files of various formats from local and network storage media and the internet right out of the box.

It has been a poppar alternative to Windows Media Centre and likes, and now the poppar platform is finally going to be available for Android. Previously, there were applications like XBMC remote on the Android Play Store which copd control the desktop software, just like the VLC remote app, but this is not just a remote application, nor is it a stripped down "mobile" version of the actual application. It is the real deal, and it promises to deliver the exact same experience that users enjoy with XBMC on a TV set top box, a computer, or any device on which XBMC is available.

Why this move you may be wondering? Well, it most probably has to do with set top boxes. As you know, XBMC is available on various set top boxes, and knowing the fact that various Android based set top boxes are capturing the TV market, in order to cater this category of audience, it is necessary that XBMC is available for Android, however, the application shopd work equally well on Android based tablets or even smartphones. XMBC name originally stood for Xbox Media Center and was designed to be used exclusively with Xbox, however, now it is catering a whole different audience, including Android in near future.

The XBMC for Android doesn't require the device to be rooted or jailbroken in order to install it. The Android version will essentially have the same feature set that the desktop cousin has. Since it is ported to Android, it can be launched as an application on set-top-box, tablet, phone or any kind of device running Android as its operating system, which is great because users will be able to run one of the most functional media center software which is hassle free on a small, cheap embedded hardware.

The application hasn't been released yet. What is holding them back? Well, XBMC for Android was primarily developed on a Pivos XIOS DS set top box, and Pivos is the official sponsor for development. It works great on the Pivos XIOS DS, but on most of the other devices, only software decode of audio and video is possible. That said, the current software decode of media is very smooth, but they are considering to wait for universal hardware decode to be available so that hardware acceleration is attained before releasing it to the general public on Android Play Store.

Also, the developers were able to achieve high quality hardware accelerated playback on the Pivos XIOS DS by working with their vendors, but it is not sure whether those patches will be available to mainstream version of XBMC or remain as an exclusive patch for vendors. Since Pivos is the official sponsor of XBMC, it remains to see whether they will allow this to happen. On the other hand, developers at XBMC believe that an Open Max based player that is found on Raspberry Pi will be made available sooner than later.

In its current state, the software is very usable and since XBMC is an open source project, the source code has been made available. The beta apk are also made available for those early birds out there who wopd like to experience it firsthand.

Since XBMC has an UI that is primarity designed for use on TV, it may look a bit clunky on device that has a 4 inch screen, however, that isn't stopping individual developers from designing a touch oriented skin. At present, there is lots of room available for improvements. Further development can take advantage of Android itself. Android has so many interesting features such as launching apps, location awareness, speech recognition etc. Imagine the sophistication achieved in a media player by exploiting all those features.


Telstra copd cash in on Vodafone spectrum rights swap

Telstra may add to the $840 million it will get from the sale of its New Zealand unit by swapping certain spectrum rights with Vodafone New Zealand that copd then be on-sold.

The deal will see the phone companies swap radio spectrum rights to ensure Vodafone doesn't exceed a Ministry of Economic Development cap on holdings in the 2100 megahertz band, and will leave Telstra holding rights in the 1800 MHz band, according to Vodafone's clearance application with the antitrust regpator.

"Vodafone expects that Telstra Corporation will offer retained radio spectrum for sale which will allow other providers to increase their spectrum holdings," the mobile phone company said.

The spectrum "is contiguous with 2degrees' existing allocation, potentially allowing 2degrees to obtain 25MHz of contiguous spectrum in the 1800MHz band, equivalent to Vodafone and Telecom," it said.

The Australian phone company last week agreed to sell New Zealand-based TelstraClear's voice and data-based services, network infrastructure and customer base to Vodafone New Zealand.

The mobile phone company had to lodge an application with the Commerce Commission showing its acquisition of the TelstraClear assets will not substantially lessen competition.

The spectrum swap comes as the government prepares to sell rights to 700MHz spectrum, which will become available as the nation's analogue television services are switched off and replaced by a digital platform.

Vodafone touted the 700MHz auction as another option for new entrants to the market.

New Zealand's biggest mobile phone company expects the extra spectrum will cut the need for Vodafone to build additional cell sites in "metro areas where demand for capacity in increasing" and limiting its capital expenditure.

Vodafone had authorised capital expenditure commitments of $31 million as at March 31 last year, according to its 2011 financial statements.

It also flagged between $50 million and $80 million of upgrades to its cell sites as part of the Government's rural broadband initiative over the next six years.

The mobile phone company cites the potential cost savings from the complementary businesses as its commercial rationale for the acquisition.

Android enjoys 51% market share!

With the dominance of iOS and the rising popparity of Android devices in the mobile marketplace, it is not clear who is what. According to a new report released by Nielsen, Android has a bigger U.S. market share than market share percentage of all the other mobile operating systems combined!

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Nielsen's research during Q2 2012 explains how smartphone penetration continues to grow in U.S. with two thirds of all the buyers opting for a smarphone. The report explains that 51.8% of smartphone owners in the U.S. use Android based phones. Since Android phones are manufactured by various manufacturers out there, the collective percentage of all the Android phones manufactured by all those companies account for 51.8% of the market share. Of 51.8% share, 17% comes from Samsung, which is also largest manufacturer of Android based phones, followed by HTC and Motorola. Apple's iOS on the other hand has been able to capture 34.3% market share, which is impressive as iPhone is sold only by Apple. Rest of the market share is shared by RIM's BlackBerry at 8.1% and Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7 platforms at 4.3%. Symbian and Palm OS both have less than one percent market share at 0.9% and 0.6% respectively. This shows how Symbian has failed in the mobile market.

The claims by Nielsen are credible and in line with comScore report which was released in February this year and it claimed that Android surpassed 50% market share. Nielsen's numbers from recent smartphone acquirers during June 2012 show that 54 percent said they chose an Android handset and 36 percent went for an iPhone.

Overall, among all the smartphone owners, Apple has the highest manufacturer share of smartphone handsets. Now that Samsung's Galaxy S III is launched and Apple's iPhone 5 is due this fall, the numbers may change drastically.

Maxis, REDtone ink infra-sharing agreement

Maxis Bhd and REDtone International Bhd have entered into an infrastructure-sharing partnership to fast-track the rollout of their 4G networks and allow their customers access to the highest download speeds of up to 150 megabit per second (Mbps), with the latest 4G long-term evolution (LTE) technology.

They are looking to launch their 4G LTE services in selected areas of the Klang Valley early next year, with other regions to follow closely.

Maxis joint COO Mark Dioguardi said the sharing of network infrastructure will allow both operators to reduce their capital expenditure (capex) and maximise usage of the 4G spectrum, which is a scarce and valuable resource.

"When the industry planned the 4G technology, it was designed to work with large amounts of spectrum, and running at smaller amount does not bring fpl efficiency and the quality to deliver," he told reporters after the signing of an infrastructure and spectrum-sharing agreement between Maxis and REDtone on Friday.

The collaboration is for five years, which may be extended at the option of Maxis for up to another five years.

"The equipment which we have started rolling out for 4G LTE can cater up to three partners. We can literally double, triple or quadruple the capacity without increasing the cost and material. That's where the benefit can be delivered to us, our partners and consumers," Dioguardi added.

Maxis has invested some RM3.7 million in capex over the past three years, reaching 95% of the country's poppation with its 2G network coverage and 81% of the poppation in 3G coverage.

REDtone managing director Datuk Wei Chuan Beng said the alliance with Maxis will facilitate it to comply with the 50% rollout requirement as stated in its business plan, thus saving REDtone an estimated RM390 million on its capex.

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College Kids Aim to Make 52 Apps a Year in South Carolina

College Kids Aim to Make 52 Apps a Year in South Carolina

By Kathleen Chaykowski

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Mobile software startup 52apps has an ambitious goal: create a new application for the iPhone or iPad every week. Just as ambitious: do it with college students in South Carolina, far from the engineering hotbeds of Silicon Valley, New York or Austin, Texas.

The company, based at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, can create an app in five days with "premade programming Lego blocks," said Chief Executive Officer Steve Leicht, one of three non-students at the company who work for free. That means a chunk of code can quickly add GPS features or the ability to share content on Facebook or Twitter, helping the small team compete with experienced developers.

"What they are doing is very cool," said Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneurship and public-policy lecturer who has academic roles at Stanford, Duke and Emory universities. "The startup scene in South Carolina is very small, but there are sparks of light, and this is one of them."

The company highlights how the app era has allowed innovation to thrive in new and unexpected locales. With simplified development tools, just about anyone with mid-level programming skills can build mobile applications.

About one in three apps are made by individuals or companies with fewer than five employees, according to App Annie, a company that helps publishers track their own app store metrics.

Fertile Ground

Colleges and universities, with their legions of smartphone-toting students, offer particparly fertile ground. Student efforts are often spurred by school policies that encourage professors and students to create companies. At least 36 colleges across the U.S. have business incubators that make mobile apps, according to the National Business Incubator Association.

"App development has become very much poppar among college students," said Agata Chydzinski, Director of Operations at the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, who has worked with business incubators for 10 years. "It starts in high schools."

"When you find a student who has ideas, or skills, or who can design, and other students who are in business school, it copd make a hugely successfp company," Chydzinski said.

The technology incubator offers workspace and mentorship opportunities to dozens of companies, including 52apps. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has offered to fund the development of a mobile application that uses university research.

Austin Incubator

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An incubator at the University of Texas at Austin is home to mobile apps including Next One's on Me, which allows users to treat their friends to coffee or lunch, and Drivve, which facilitates document management on smartphones. And at Northwestern University near Chicago, a startup incubator is currently home to 18 companies, including mobile app maker SweetPerk, which developed an app that enables merchants to advertise more effectively.

Of course, colleges have long been fountains of Internet innovation. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook out of his dorm at Harvard. Aaron Levie founded Box, a cloud storage company, at the University of Southern California. Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel even pays student entrepreneurs as much as $100,000 to drop out of college and pursue their ventures fpl-time.

Today's crop of students have it easier than ever, especially when it comes to mobile apps. Tutorials for learning how to code and make applications are readily accessible online and you need little more than a computer and an Internet connection to get started.

Weekly Celebration

In Columbia, the 52apps team meets in its offices each Monday to choose that week's application. Programmers start coding before lunchtime, and by Thursday, a beta version is tested. On Friday, the software is sent to Apple Inc.'s App Store.

"Every Friday when an app goes out, the whole group hangs out and celebrates," said Christopher Thibapt, who co-founded the company with former high-school classmate Brendan Lee. Both will be seniors this fall.

The 21-year-olds introduced six apps on Apple's store before the company was started. Since 52apps opened its offices on June 1, the team has submitted six apps to Apple. Two of those are available now: TapNotes, which lets users easily play back selected segments of recorded lectures or interviews, and PDF Recombinator, for making PDFs from images, documents or photos. The others are awaiting approval by Apple.

SmartNote Success

The pair's most successfp app is a note-taking package called SmartNote, which has been downloaded more than a half million times. The $3.99 program consistently ranks in Apple's top-50 list for productivity tools, and about 250,000 people use it on a daily basis, according to Leicht. The profits have helped Lee and Thibapt pay their tuition.

52apps is looking beyond the college campus for inspiration. The company's website includes a link where visitors can offer ideas for new applications. Last month, the group held a forum called App Idea Day, where outsiders were invited to pitch ideas--no programming skills required.

52apps plans to hold about one App Idea Day per month. People who pitch an idea that gets developed into an app receive royalties of 5 percent to 10 percent of sales, Leicht says. So far, the company has received more than 100 ideas, and expects to use at least 10 of them.

Caroline Boineau, 25, came to the first Idea Day from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to pitch an app that copd schedpe the delivery of text messages in advance, such as a happy-birthday text. She heard about 52apps from a friend on Facebook.

Texting Idea

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"I wopd describe myself as a lazy texter, and if I had this app, it wopd be a lot easier for me," Boineau said. "They positioned it as, make a good idea, and they'll make the app for you."

The company plans to make apps for all the major platforms, including Google Inc.'s Android and Microsoft Corp.'s new Surface tablet. The team also is building a content-management system to sell to universities to simplify distance learning and administrative tasks. Three universities, including the University of South Carolina, will test it next year.

52apps is focusing on software that can be used to help people be more efficient, either in academics or the workplace.

"I see them doing things that make the iPad much less of a plaything and much more of a real tool we can use," said Anthony Ambler, dean of the University of South Carolina's engineering college, which helps support 52apps.

Getting Started

52apps' co-founders first met in science class at their Arkansas high school. After teaching themselves to code on TI-83 calcpators, they started collaborating on iPhone apps. Their first app was designed to help them solve math homework problems and reduce the number of books they needed to bring to class.

Leicht, 36, said he expects the company to be profitable this month, though he declined to provide financial details. All of the students on staff at 52apps are paid, and there's enough revenue already to fund the company for three years, he said.

And while South Carolina's technology cpture doesn't share the same willingness for risk taking as Silicon Valley, there are other advantages to having a startup company here, Lee said.

"You get a lot of attention," he said. "On the West Coast, everyone has a company."

Apple share of Russian smartphone revenue slips as Samsung's doubles

By AppleInsider Staff

A report from Russian wireless carrier MTS on Monday reveals that Apple's share of the country's emerging smartphone market revenue slipped during the first quarter of 2012 while Android handset maker Samsung doubled its presence mostly at the expense of former leader Nokia.

Samsung flooded Russia's smartphone market with a bevy of models in quarter one and managed to take a 32.3 percent share of the country's 26.8 billion Rubles, or about $812 million, in overall smartphone revenue, according to MTS estimates (via BGR). The nearly one-third share in sales is more than double the 14.8 percent the South Korean company managed only a year ago.

While Samsung posted huge gains year-over-year, Apple saw a slight dip in profit share from 15.6 percent to 14.9 percent but margins were high as the iPhone accounted for only 5.4 percent of units sold for the three months ending in March. The Cupertino, Calif. company finished the quarter as Russia's number three profit leader behind Nokia as the Finnish handset maker suffered a huge loss and dropped from a market-leading 47.5 percent to 27 percent.

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Adoption of feature-rich handset sales in Russia almost doubled from the first quarter of 2011 and the number of users now stands at more than five times that of 2010. At the end of March there were over 2.5 million smartphone users compared to 1.49 million in 2011 and only 582,000 in 2010.

In 2011, Nokia handsets accounted for over half of all smartphone sales in the region and stood at a commanding 58.7 percent of all units sold followed by Samsung's 16.2 percent and HTC's 6.6 percent. The Lumia maker's lead disappeared, however, as the company only managed to take 34..5 percent of all unit sales while Samsung boosted its 2011 share of 16.2 percent to 35.7 percent in 2012. Apple, HTC and Sony Ericsson all posted moderate sales increases.

Interestingly, the distribution of smartphone operating systems within the MTS network over the first quarter had the defunct Symbian platform in the lead with 37.8 percent while Android and Bada followed with 35.1 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. Windows Phone came in fourth with 8.2 percent and Apple's iOS trailed the pack at 7.3 percent.

Besides the legacy iPhone 3GS Apple has yet to trpy enter the low-end handset market and the company's share of emerging markets like Russia is slowly dwindling as competitors offer more appealing options at inexpensive price points.

Nokia Is Finnished: Prepare For Bankruptcy

Yes, Nokia (NOK) the Finnish mobile device maker as we know it, is doomed for bankruptcy and reorganization. Many of us, of course, still refuse to see the writing on the wall and invest accordingly. Nokia, a one-time story stock, has been shockingly bludgeoned from $40 to today's meager $2 bid that is a cut above the casino penny stock zone. On the road to zero, Nokia cheerleaders, such as Jonathan Yates, have championed this battered stock as the "Next Ford (F)." Longs are quick to identify Nokia as a turnaround play and prospective receptacle for government and corporate bailout cash.

Despite its recent gaffes, Nokia still touts an impressive brand name and extensive patent portfolio. As Microsoft (MSFT) has quickly learned, however, a brand name and patented technology cannot stop the bleeding of a structurally damaged organization. For Nokia shareholders, any cash infusion will prove to be a mere quick fix solution and distraction from the fact that this business is now a dinosaur. At this point, it is inevitable for corporate vptures to encircle headquarters, before Nokia inevitably declares bankruptcy and sells off scraps to the highest bidder.

A Felled Giant

Nokia, like many of our institutions, peaked in the late nineties. Nokia rose to the height of its powers on the strength of its functional mobile handsets that were reliable for making calls, recording voicemails, and sending text messages. By 1998, Nokia had ridden the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technology, mobile revolution, and bubble economy gravy train to emerge as the world's leading handset device maker by sales units. In the accelerated time line of tech parlance, Nokia has not felt like a winner in generations.

In retrospect, Nokia's ascension to the top of its sector has proven to be little more than a pyrrhic victory. For fourteen years, Nokia executives won trifling battles over units sold, but fell asleep at the wheel and lost the ptimate war over innovation, cptural appeal, and profit margins. As we trudge through the 21st Century, Research in Motion (RIMM) and its Blackberry phones led a yuppie revolution that came and went. Amid the real estate boom, white-collar professionals closed deals on then sleek Blackberries. At the time, clunky Nokia phones were abandoned as a fashion faux pas for the hired help. From there, the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and Google (GOOG) Android assumed command in mobile and decimated Nokia profits with their one-two punch leadership over the smartphone market. Earlier this year, Samsung (SSNLF.PK) became the world's leading mobile device maker per units sold.

The 2007 Apple iPhone changed the game. The iPhone introduced an important gateway into Apple's closed circuit Loop that includes the iPod, iTunes, and iMac. Behind the strength of the iPhone, Apple has transformed itself into a formidable cash cow that is tallying 67 percent annual income growth over the past four years. For 2011, Apple posted $26 billion in profits. Concurrently, Nokia's $1.2 billion 2011 loss proves that this company is moving in the opposite direction.

Nokia is fighting for its life.

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Enter Microsoft. Exit Microsoft.

In February 2011, Microsoft executives boarded a plane for Finland and effectively handed over briefcases fpl of cash to Nokia executives. The partnership proposed that these two corporations wopd integrate Microsoft software alongside Nokia hardware to design a competitive smartphone. Months later, Nokia brought its $100 Windows Lumia phone to market. Amid a grand spectacle of pomp, the Nokia, Microsoft, and AT&T (T) marketing machines mobilized in concert and ordered us to buy. In April 2012, rapper Nicki Minaj danced the night away at Times Square to a Lumia backdrop, while foremost Apple geek Steve Wozniak even hopped on the bandwagon to describe the phone as a "friend, not a tool."

As the smoke clears, we are left to discern Lumia sales reviews that Stephen Elop, CEO, describes as "mixed." Nokia sold 2 million Lumia phones in Q1 2012, which falls well short of the 35 million iPhones sold during the period. I, however, wopd describe even this anemic Q1 Lumia sales data as greatly illusory. During Q1, Nokia offered a $100 rebate to its Lumia customers as compensation for minor technical glitches. In other words, Nokia was practically giving these things away amid rollout and a marketing blitz that its overzealous AT&T carrier pitched as "the greatest launch ever."

In terms of a last-ditch effort to save the company, this Nokia Lumia project has degenerated into a complete fiasco. Today, the looming iPhone 5 release dominates the top end of chic, while Android phone makers slash prices to attract consumers who demand low-cost functionality. Severe losses, write downs, cost cuts, and layoffs are now the order of the day at Nokia. On June 14, Nokia announced plans to layoff another 10,000 (20-percent of total workforce) employees by 2013. This news arrives amid another round of profit warnings and increased restructuring charges that will subtract more than $1 billion away from Nokia's already weak cash position and bottom line over the next two years.

To add further inspt to injury, Microsoft refuses to offer its Windows 8 upgrade for old Nokia Lumia phones. Microsoft will also supply Windows 8 software to Huawei Technologies, a Chinese mobile company that directly competes against Nokia at the bargain bin smartphone price point.

The Bottom Line

Microsoft, yet again, threw its partner under the bus at the worst possible time. Seemingly overnight, Microsoft destroyed all goodwill that it effectively bought and sold between Nokia and its customer base. Nokia Lumia customers who were sold out as "beta testers" will reject any idea of brand loyalty. Even worse, Microsoft proves that it is more than willing to line its own pockets, at Nokia's expense.

Microsoft completed its due diligence and has chosen to abandon ship. With Microsoft purchasing its one-way ticket out of Dodge, Google and Samsung are likely to also refuse either partnering up, or making an outright bid for Nokia.

As corporate interest wanes, the pendpum swings over to Finland government officials. Throughout this debacle, Westernized investors continue to specpate that an American-style big three bailout is on the way. Americans acknowledge Ford as a national champion of capitalism, assembly lines, unions, municipal fleets, Detroit, and Rust Belt manufacturing. In 2009, Washington transferred billions of taxpayer dollars to Detroit, in the form of direct capital infusions and low cost loans to re-engineer our auto industry out of the depths of bankruptcy. For lawmakers, failure to do so wopd have been political suicide. For shareholders, a 2009 bet on Ford took stock gapped up from $2 to $18 over the next twenty-four months.

Scandanavia, of course, is a bastion of liberalism. Finland, especially, is a historical counterweight to both Western capitalism dogma and left-wing Eastern Bloc idealism. Contrary to Washington, opening up Treasury coffers to spend billions of dollars on corporate bailouts amid global recession wopd be tantamount to political suicide in Helsinki. On June 21, Finland Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen dismissed the idea of any Nokia bailout as he proclaimed boisterously, "this is not our business."

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Sony Xperia Ion review (AT&T)

Sony Xperia Ion review (AT&T)

By Brian Bennett

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The good: The affordable Sony Xperia Ion has solid call quality and swift 4G LTE that ties into Sony's vast entertainment empire.

The bad: Lackluster images and video belie the Xperia's claimed 12MP camera. It's also held back by an old processor and an outdated OS.

The bottom line: The $99.99 Sony Xperia Ion looks like a good Android deal but its weaknesses make it not worth even the budget price.

The affordable $99.99 Xperia Ion is more than just Sony's first U.S. smartphone to bear the Sony name after its Ericsson divorce, it's also the company's first foray into 4G LTE. Though similar to its international siblings, this American model is less flashy than the Sony Xperia line available across the pond. That's a real shame too since I really liked the Sony Xperia S as well as the Xperia P when I saw them up close at CES in January. Those handsets, while no speed demons to be sure, at least had a seductively stylish look driven home by a clear illuminated notification bar in their base.

It's not that the Xperia Ion doesn't try to impress in other ways. Besides its swift LTE data connection, it links into Sony's large library of music and movie content. But even those attributes are overshadowed by its aging Android Gingerbread software and an old Snapdragon S3 processor. The same goes for the Ion's camera performance, which isn't as capable as I had hoped. To catch fire in the U.S. market and compete with other successful phone makers, Sony really needs to step up its game with a lust-worthy halo device. Unfortunately, the Xperia Ion isn't it.


A glossy black monolith of a smartphone, the new Sony Xperia Ion is handsomely styled. While it lacks the daring design elements of its European cousins, namely the Xperia NXT series, the Xperia Ion does flaunt an elegant if sober look. For instance, the handset doesn't have the futuristic notification bar that splits the Xperia P, S, and U's base in half. Translucent, that bar illuminates to alert you when important system events occur such as new messages and missed calls. It's a shame it's only found on the international Xperia models.

That said, the Xperia Ion has a sophisticated feel enhanced by its curved metal back and soft-touch trim coating the phone's rear top and bottom edges. Further lending to the phone's premium aesthetic is its hefty 5.1-ounce weight. Both the metallic backing and large 4.55-inch (1,280x720-pixel resolution) LCD screen however smudge easily and are fingerprint magnets.

In addition, I'm not a big fan of the Xperia Ion's display, which is dark and has a bluish cast, resulting in inconsistent colors. Photos on Web pages looked muted, while details in dimly lit sections of video were lost. I especially noticed the Ion's poor display when I viewed it next to HTC's superphone on AT&T, the HTC One X. The One X's screen (4.7-inch, 1,280x720 HD Super LCD) was noticeably brighter (with both phones set at maximum brightness) and it's viewing angles were much wider than the Xperia's. The HTC One X also painted colors with a warmer, more pleasing palette.

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The Sony Xperia Ion's big 4.55-inch display serves as a decent stage for movies and other video.

Another drawback to the Xperia Ion's design is its lack of a removable battery, though the phone does have a microSD card slot to add more storage. Above the screen is a front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera (720p) for vanity shots and video chat. Below the display are four traditional Android Gingerbread symbols for Menu, Home, Back, and Search. Don't be fooled, these symbols aren't actual buttons, merely pictures drawn onto the device.

A micro SD card slot is hidden under a compartment on the Ion's top edge.

Below the icons sit the real keys, thin white lines, which provide haptic feedback and are also backlit. Unfortunately, the icons don't illuminate, so picking them out in the dark isn't easy. Neither is tapping the keys accurately since your instinct is to hit the symbols themselves. I ran into this annoyance every time I picked up the phone and I feel it is a major oversight.

Other buttons include a small power key and trim volume bar on the Xperia Ion's right side. There's a dedicated camera button here as well, which unlike on many Android handsets will wake the phone up from sleep and fire up the camera. By default the phone will even snap a picture immediately after the camera is activated. Running along the Xperia Ion's left edge is a flap cover hiding a Micro-USB port plus an HDMI connection so you can view content on compatible HDTVs.

Sony doesn't bundle any fancy text entry methods like Swype or other one-handed keyboard software. By default the stock Android Gingerbread layout is selected, but you can choose the Xperia keyboard, which is similar but has wider spacing between keys.

The Ion's Xperia keyboard layout is close to stock Gingerbread but slightly better spaced.

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Features and software

Android addicts will no doubt have a major beef with the fact that the Sony Xperia Ion isn't running the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. Instead of version 4.0, the Ion runs Android Gingerbread 2.3.7. Even so, Sony is quick to point out that it has added many of the popular features ICS brings to the table.

The Sony Xperia Ion's Gingerbread 2.3 OS is showing signs of age.

For instance, you can quickly create folders by dragging and dropping app icons on top of each other within any of the Xperia's five home screens. Additionally, holding down the power button opens several options, including one for taking a screenshot.

As an Android device, the phone comes loaded with the standard allotment of Google apps and services, such as Gmail, Maps, and Navigation. There are also shortcuts to enter the Google Play digital entertainment stores for Books, Music, and Movies. Some useful third-party applications are here too, like Amazon Kindle, and MobiSystem OfficeSuite for viewing common business document formats. Of course, the entire Android software library is ready for you to download via the Google Play store.

Sony Xperia S gets Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

SONY HAS ANNOUNCED that it is rolling out Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) to its Xperia S handset and said that it will be available to all over the next few weeks.

In a blog post, the recently renamed mobile phone maker screeched that the update has started rolling out to its flagship phone today, saying, "Today, we bring you some exciting news! As planned, we're now starting our software rollout for Xperia S including, Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0.4 upgrade and new unique media applications."

This new app selection includes Walkman, Album and Movies, offering what Sony's calling a "completely new way to experience your media". Walkman, unsurprisingly, is an updated music player, integrating Sony's audio technology and the ability to share tracks on social networks. Album offers a new gallery app for viewing your snapshots, while Movies streamlines the playback of movies on your phone and grabs movie posters for displaying your film catalogue neatly.

Sony has revealed that the software update will also bring a revamped lock screen, resizable home screen widgets, a recent apps view and improved control of mobile data.

Android 4.0.4 ICS for the Sony Xperia S is available to download both over-the-air (OTA) and via Sony's Xperia Update companion, and users should get a notification when it arrives. Unfortunately it hasn't arrived on our SIM free Xperia S handset, suggesting that it might not be arriving here in the UK yet.

Of course, the update might not appear just yet if your phone is locked to a mobile network, but we're chasing operators for release dates.

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Sony Xperia S smartphone owners, you're about to get a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich.

Sony on Thursday announced it is rolling out Google's latest mobile operating system, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, to its Xperia S customers starting today. The update brings a number of new and improved features, such as resizable widgets, better control of your mobile data consumption, and a recent apps button to speed up the launching of frequently used apps.

In addition to ICS, Sony is providing three new media applications as part of the update—Walkman, Album, and Movies. The Walkman app integrates with Facebook and lets you share your favorite songs with friends and also discover new tunes they like. The Album app offers some new ways to sort and browse through photos, as well as share them on Facebook. The new Movies app displays films in high-quality format and provides a searchable database with movie posters and other information about a given title.

Users can update their phone via mobile networks and Wi-Fi, or else via their computer on either Sony's Xperia Update website, PC Companion, or with Bridge for Mac software. The software package comes in at around 200MB, so Sony recommends using Wi-Fi if you're upgrading an Xperia S over the air.

The upgrade will be pushed out "over the next few weeks" as availability may vary across different carriers, Sony said. Users will get a notification when the upgrade is ready for their device.

Sony introduced the Xperia S at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January. The device is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and features a 4.3-inch screen with a 720p display. The phone packs 32GB of internal memory and has a microSD card slot expandable to an additional 32GB.

The Xperia S features near field communication (NFC) technology, which allows users to share content with each other by tapping their phones together, and also paves the way for future NFC applications and services.

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Sony Xperia S to Receive ICS Upgrade with New Media Apps

Sony is pushing out the Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.4 upgrade to the Xperia S phone. On top of the update, the Japanese company also adds new media applications by Sony itself called WALKMAN, Album, and Movies.

The Sony WALKMAN app is more than a music player. Named after Sony's iconic cassette player, it integrates social media with music by allowing users to share music with Facebook friends. Facebook in partnership with Gracenote as well enables Walkman App users to see information about the artist, and album art.

Album brings to users an intuitive way of viewing photos taken by the Xperia S camera, and adds a social element by letting users write comments and share images on Facebook as well as other web-based galleries.

Movies, for its part, permit users to enjoy a smooth playback of videos. This app is integrated with a library where users can search for information about movies as well as view movie posters.

Meanwhile, Ice Cream Sandwich expands the Android phone's functionalities by including new lock screen functions, widgets that may be resized, more control over mobile data, and a fresh Recent Apps button.

Sony is making the upgrade easy by offering multiple options for downloading ICS and the free apps. The first option is to get it via Wi-Fi and mobile Internet. On the other hand, they may also download it though a computer. The update is available on the Xperia Update website as well as on PC Companion and Bridge for Mac.

That said, the update has a total size of about 200 MB, so Sony recommends directly downloading it from the phone itself. Sony has even produced an instructional guide on installing the upgrade which is available on the Xperia support page on Youtube for those who need assistance. The company is sending an alert to users when the update is ready for installation on their phone. However, this depends on the users' carrier.

The ICS update with the Sony enhancements will be available for the Xperia S in the forthcoming weeks.

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Sony announces ICS upgrade for Xperia S

Rahul Gupta, The Mobile Indian

New Delhi: Sony has finally, through its official blog, announced the roll out of the Android ICS upgrade for its Android based Xperia S smartphone. The roll out of the upgrade has begun but the availability of the upgrade will differ from market to market. Indian Sony Xperia S users can expect the upgrade in the next couple of days.

The upgrade brings along a whole new look and feel for the users as far as the user interface goes. The updated TimeScape UI has been improved a lot over its previous versions. Like in other devices, the Android 4.0 operating system has been optimised to work in the best possible manner with this device as well.

Sony has also included a host of new applications like "Walkman", "Album" and "Movies" applications with this upgrade.

The "Walkman" application blends the best of Sony's audio technology with social features, helping users to discover the music of their friends like and share personal favorites. It comes with Facebook integration for easy sharing as well.

The "Album" application brings new intuitive ways to sort and browse high quality photos and videos in blazing speed, as well as providing instant viewing, commenting and sharing of photos on Facebook and other online albums.

Lastly "Movies" application streamlines the playback and viewing of movies in high quality audio and video, while using intelligent database search to grab movie posters and information for a richer experience.

To install the upgrade, users need to connect their devices to their computers using Sony Ericsson PC companion software and follow the steps suggested by the software to upgrade their devices.

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Sony Xperia ion

by Aloysius Low

SINGAPORE--The Sony Xperia ion was first launched in the US with LTE earlier this year at CES. Sony will be making it available globally sans 4G in Q3.


The handset features Sony's NXT design, and you'll find it similar to the Xperia S, U and P. We like the styling, and it was quite comfortable to hold despite its size. The smartphone comes packing a 4.6-inch HD Reality 720p (1,280 x 720 pixels) display and also includes Sony's Mobile Bravia Engine technology.

The Xperia ion uses a dual-core 1.5Ghz processor, 1GB RAM and has 16GB of onboard storage. This can be expanded via a microSD slot. Performance seems quite snappy when we played with it. The rear 12-megapixel camera is also very fast and should be similar to the one found on the Xperia S. There's even a dedicated camera button that lets you snap a picture without unlocking your handset.


While the handset runs Android 4.0, it has been embellished with Sony's Timescape UI. We do note, however, that the menu button does almost nothing--it only calls up a shortcut button to add stuff to your home screens.

Pressing the menu should bring up the multitasking tray like how it is in stock ICS, or at least call up a Gingerbread menu like the Samsung Galaxy S III. To access the multitasking tray now, you have to hold down the home button.

The Xperia ion has a non-removable 1,900mAh battery. This could be bad for heavy users who rely on battery swapping to stay online.


The Xperia ion will be available come Q3 in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Its price has not been announced. We also understand that there will not be an LTE version for Singapore, although Indonesia will be getting the LTE model. This is strange, as reports state that Indonesia's 4G network will not be ready this year.

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The Xperia S is a Worthy Android Smartphone, But Sony Needs To Deliver More To Survive

By Ewan Spence

While all eyes might be on the Samsung Galaxy S3, I've been spending time with another flagship Android handset, Sony's Xperia S. It's a masculine looking smartphone which has a lot going for it, but there are a few issues in Sony's first Android powered handset that will make a lot of people think careful before any potential purchase.

Following Sony's acquisition of the Ericsson part of Sony Ericsson, the Xperia S is the first '100% Sony' smartphone to be released. In parts it does feel rather rushed - the Sony Ericsson logo is prominent on the rear of the handset for some reason, while there are mentions of the joint venture still lingering in the UI and casing.

Attention to detail lifts any smartphone out of the world of 'stock Android handsets' and while Sony has made a number of efforts to make the handset feel 'Sony' and not 'Google' errors like the above undo the effort rather quickly. I want to see my smartphone manufacturers sweat the small software details as well as the broad strokes in the hardware and manufacturing process.

For the technically minded, the Xperia S has a 1.5Ghz dual core Scorpion CPU, the Qualcomm Adreno 220 GPU, 1GB of Ram, 32GB of internal storage, no support for memory cards or additional storage, and a 1750 mAh sealed battery.

While many people do buy their handsets on the strength of a spec list, I don't think that's a huge percentage. Those that do are going to make a bee-line straight to the recently announced Samsung Galaxy S3, which is marginally ahead in the numbers game when compared to the Xperia S.

Up until the S3 was launched, the Xperia's big advantage was the screen size - at 4.3 inches and a pixel resolution of 720×1280 it was one of the most densely packed screens in the Android world. Even though it is 'just TFT LCD' the Xperia S screen is impressive. The Galaxy S3 might be Super AMOLED with the same resolution, but at 4.8″ the larger physical size on the S3 does lead to some issues in terms of handling that the Xperia S does not experience - such as one handed operation. With a relatively small bezel around the screen, the Xperia S is as close to a one-handed smartphone as any other 4.3 inch Android device.

Acronyms aside the display looks gorgeous.

The Xperia S excels with its camera - a 12 megapixel shooter, capable of recording in HD with a 16x digital zoom. It's still not comparable to a digital SLR but it's sufficiently high quality to replace any point and shoot camera in your pocket. It's also very fast in terms of taking a second shot. With nifty fingers it is possible to take a second shot in under a second.

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There's something utilitarian about the design of the Xperia S. The angular lines are only broken apart by two elements - the slight curvature on the back panel that helps the handset sit in the palm of your hand, and the clear perspex strip at the base of the device.

If you look carefully through the strip, you'll see a tiny criss-cross pattern of wires, part of the radio system on the device. You'll also spot the three Android buttons of back, home and menu. For the first few days I was pressing these , hoping for the function, when the actual capacitive key is just above the bar, signified by three white dots on the casing. The perspex bar gives just enough feedback to my fingertips so I know where to press for the three default keys, but it is disconcerting for the first few days to hit the perspex bar and see nothing happen. This may catch many people out when they try the device in a store.

What they won't discover is the average to poor battery life. Even with the 1750 mAh battery, I struggled to get the Xperia S to get through a full day on a single charge while using all the connectivity and functionality on offer. The back cover of the Xperia S comes off, although this only gives you access to the SIM slot. I'm assuming it was a practical joke that there is no access to replace the battery - which would have been given me the option of having a second battery and allowing me to rely on the Xperia S while out and about. As it stands I need to be thinking 'where can I charge my phone' from the moment I step outside.

This isn't a unique issue to Sony, but I'd like to see them address it with something more than a 'power saver' application that simply switches a lot of the technology in the handset to standby (such as GPS, Wi-Fi, and synchronisation).

And then we come to Android itself.

By using Android, Sony can tap into an ecosystem of applications and the name recognition that Android has. This will make the handset instantly comfortable to many users. Sony are using Android 2.3 with their own skin on top of this venerable version of Android. I'm actually pretty happy with the changes Sony has made to the UI, but I'm conscious that it's been seven months since version four of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich, ICS) was announced and made available for the Galaxy Nexus.

Sony have promised that ICS will be provided to the Xperia S "in the summer", but as it stands the Xperia S is an Android 2.3 device. For a flagship handset, that doesn't feel good enough.

Can it stand up on in the marketplace? Not really. When it is placed next to Samsung's Galaxy S3, the only advantage it currently has is price - the S3 is slightly better in almost every area.

The Xperia S brings Sony into the Android game with something they can be relatively proud of. Unfortunately it hasn't really taken advantage of the time it has had since release to become established before the arrival of Samsung's 'super' smartphone. From now on, the Galaxy S3 is going to take the lion's share of the Android headlines.

Hopefully the Xperia S will win enough fans that Sony stay in the Android game. The handset does the job it set out to do, and it does it well, but with little frills. It's supremely competent, but I don't think that's enough. With a bit more focus and vision, the Xperia brand name could do very well in the medium to long term. Like everyone else in the Android handset game, Sony needs something to counter the Samsung steamroller, and it could be found in Xperia.

This handset is a solid start. I await the cheekily named Xperia S2 from Sony, but right now the Xperia S is a good phone with a few flaws. Those flaws don't kill the device for me in day to day use, and I think it deserves careful consideration from those looking for a high-end Android smartphone.

Disclosure: Sony Mobile Communications provided an Xperia S on loan for review purposes.

Sony Xperia S gets Android update

by Samantha Green

Sony's Xperia S mobile phone is getting a facelift after the manufacturer released its Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for the handset.

The cutting-edge software gives the Xperia S an entirely new look and feel, overhauling the user interface completely.

The Ice Cream Sandwich update is approximately 200MB. It includes an array of new features too, like enhanced phone locking, and resizable screen icons.

It also has a few changes under the hood, like a new way of dealing with multi-tasking and the ability to set data caps for apps so that free download allowances are not exceeded.

Three new apps have also been introduced by Sony. They are Walkman, Album, Movies.

"The Movies application streamlines the playback and viewing of movies in high quality audio and video, whilst using intelligent database search to grab movie posters and information for a richer experience," Sony noted.

Last month, Sony released its Music Unlimited app for the iPhone and iPod Touch.


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Google TV Box Gets Movie Streams From Android 4.0 Smartphones, Tablets

Google TV Box Gets Movie Streams From Android 4.0 Smartphones, Tablets

By Agam Shah

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An upcoming Google TV box based on Android 4.0 OS and an ARM processor will come closer to smartphones and tablets with the capability to play direct movie streams from Android 4.0 mobile devices, a set-top box maker said on Wednesday at the Computex trade show in Taipei.

Honeywld Technology, a device maker, is making a Google TV set-top box that allow TVs to play movies streamed directly from Android smartphones or tablets, said Bryant Liu, a manager in the sales division of the company. The set-top box will also be able to synchronize multimedia content including pictures.

Smartphones and tablets users will need to install a specific application on their mobile devices to enable streaming and synchronize with the Google TV box, Liu said. That application is under development, Liu said.

The feature is much like that of the Apple TV, which can stream content from an iPad or iPhone for playback on a TV set. Samsung also offers a feature on its tablet to stream content to a Samsung TV. However, Samsung TVs are not based on Google TV software.

Honeywld will start shipping the boxes in Taiwan around July, Liu said. Honeywld has only 30 to 40 employees and cannot afford to sell the set-top box worldwide, so the company is showing the device at Computex with the hopes that third-party device makers resell the product in other countries.

The Honeywld set-top box has a Marvell dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, and runs a customized version of the Google TV software developed by the company, based on the Android 4.0 OS. The simplified user interface has a small video player, and a few icons that provide access to a web browser and links to sites such as Picasa and YouTube.

Google TV boxes running version 4.0 of Android, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, will become widely available worldwide starting in the third quarter, Liu said. There are just a few ARM-based set-top boxes already out, with some running the new version of Google TV based on Android 4.0 or older versions of the OS, Liu said.

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The new devices also signal a reboot for Google TV software, which failed to find acceptance the first time round. The first version of Google TV was used in Sony's Internet TV and Logitech's Revue set-top box, which has been discontinued. In the wake of failure of the first wave of Google TV devices, Intel said it would exit the TV market. Google TV switched over to ARM processors with chip maker Marvell announcing support for Android-based software for TVs.

A price for the Honeywld box has not been set yet, but Liu estimated it would be between US$95 and $120. Users will not pay high prices for a Google TV box, Liu said.

The set-top box has 4GB of flash storage, 1GB of DDR3 memory and a MicroSD slot. The box also has ports for Ethernet and HDMI video. Wi-Fi is available as an option.

Sony's Next Generation Set-top Box With Google TV Arrives July 22

Internet Player's Versatile Remote Control and Library of Apps Customizes the Home Entertainment Experience.

SAN DIEGO, June 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Sony Electronics Inc. today announced the availability and pricing of the NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV, originally introduced in January at CES. Powered by Google TV, the Internet Player will be available at retailers nationwide on July 22, priced at $199. Pre-orders begin on June 25, 2012 at www.sony.com/sonygoogletv.

"Expanding the reach and interoperability of the powerful Android platform with Sony's smartphones, tablets and renowned Audio & Video products, we are proud to continue our relationship with Google through the introduction of the new Google TV set-top-box," said Phil Molyneux, president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics. "Entertainment content is available through so many channels and sites, and Google TV helps consumers easily find what they want to watch, listen to or play using familiar search engine technology, enhancing the viewer experience. TV will never be the same."

In addition to the NSZ-GS7 Internet Player, Sony's newest Internet Blu-ray Disc player with Google TV, the NSZ-GP9, will be available at retailers in time for the holiday season, priced at $299. The NSZ-GP9 player features Sony's proven Blu-ray Disc technology coupled with the robust Google TV platform.

Global Expansion of Google TV Platform

In 2010, Sony helped pioneer the Internet-TV convergence as one of the first manufacturers to launch products powered by Google TV. With the new NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV, Sony will also be the first manufacturer to launch Google TV products outside of the United States, initially starting with the United Kingdom in July, followed later by Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Brazil, and Mexico. The NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray Disc player with Google TV will be available this fall in the United States, followed later by Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Netherlands.

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Customized Entertainment Made Easy

Sony's evolution of hardware to complement the continually updating Google TV is the next step in the future of home entertainment convergence. Sony's NSZ-GS7 and NSZ-GP9 bring the best of Google to your TV, with new experiences arriving every day through the Google Chrome browser; thousands of supported mobile apps in the Google Play Store, including hundreds optimized for TV; YouTube with 72 hours of video being added every minute; and a global community of developers from around the world. Google TV's cross search functionality shows viewers all content sources available from broadcast providers* and the Internet to deliver customized video results on demand.

Both new products come complete with a redesigned remote control equipped with a backlit QWERTY keyboard, a touch pad for easy operation and a three-axis motion sensor to enjoy games. Additionally, the Bluetooth remote control can also be utilized as a universal remote to control connected devices such as TV, set- top-box and A/V receivers - the NSZ-GP9 Blu-ray Disc player even incorporates voice search capabilities.

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Google amping up video index in advance of its Google TV launch

by Todd Bishop

Google may own YouTube, but there's a lot more video than that in the world, and the company is getting serious about building that part of its search index in advance of its planned Google TV launch later this year.

That might have been the most timely piece of information to emerge from the opening session this morning at the SMX Advanced search conference in Seattle. Speaking on the panel, Google software engineer Matt Cutts encouraged the developers and search experts in the audience to make sure that they've submitted a video sitemap if they have videos on their sites, to help the company find the content.

"Video site maps is something that we're probably going to look at a little more closely. If you tell us where your videos are, we will try to index them a little bit harder," Cutts said. "For example, if you think about things like Google TV, coming out in the fall, it's in everybody's interest that all the videos that are on the web be able to be very discoverable and very searchable. If you produce videos and you haven't done a video site map, that is something that I would definitely recommend."

Google announced plans for Google TV in May, partnering with Sony, Logitech and Intel. The first Google TV-enabled set-top boxes and televisions are slated to be available this fall.

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Vizio gives a first look at its new Google TV set top box

By: Ray Walters

With Google I/O 2012 right around the corner we're beginning to see some of the new products that will be featured at the event. A perfect example is the new Vizio Stream Player that runs on the Google TV platform. A Vizio rep outed the device with KROQ's Kat Corbett at the station's Coachella house during the April 2012 music festival as you can see in the video above. As far as we know, this is the first live look at one of the next generation of Google TV devices that the world is going to see during Google's developer conference next week.

While we know that you're probably rolling your eyes at yet another attempt to revive Google TV, this new device from Vizio may actually have a shot at breathing new life into Mountain View's smart television platform. Starting with the physical feature set, the small footprint of the box plus the fact that the remote is chock full of features are both appealing. To have a touchpad on the front and a keyboard on the backside of the remote shows that Vizio's engineers put some thought into the development of the device. Couple that with the fact that the rep in the video states that it can serve as a universal hub that enables you to not have to switch inputs when you want to change content sources and you have a compelling product.

On the software side, Vizio looks to be trying to add a ton of consumer value by including various apps like OnLive, the cloud gaming service that enables you to play your favorite console and PC games without having to own a Xbox 360, PS3 or a PC. Having this ability in addition to having access to Google Play and the Google TV platform may be a strong enough combination to drive some consumer interest.

While all of the above is certainly compelling, we can't take anything more than a cautious stance when it comes to how this device is going to sell. While it certainly is going to enjoy some success due to the fact that Vizio is one of the most recognized brands with Wal-Mart shoppers, will it be able to compete with other devices from Roku or even the Xbox 360 when it comes to streaming content delivery? The good news is that the rep in the video stated that it was going to release at "just under $100," which is what the Logitech Revue should have launched at when the platform first released.

Time will tell of course, but until it hits the market we will be watching I/O with interest to see the full package Vizio is going to offer on its release.

Update: We've received word from Vizio saying that the Google TV will "hopefully launch this summer" and that it is "unclear if the Google TV platform will be at the I/O conference".

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L4 Media takes on Google with interactive TV service

By John Cook

Who wants to just mindlessly veg out in front of the TV anymore? Today, you've got to interact with what's on the screen -- chatting with friends, posting to Twitter or tracking sports scores in what amounts to a multitasking onslaught. L4 Media says it makes all of that possible. And the Kirkland startup is showing off its technology for the first time this week at the TelcoTV 2010 show in Las Vegas.

As part of the launch, the company also is announcing that its Panorama TV service will be integrated with Nokia Siemens Networks' IPTV solutions.

Here's how L4 describes their new offering.

Using the Panorama platform, companies can quickly deliver personalized content, such as sports scores, weather forecasts, or Facebook status updates, through useful and entertaining widgets that are specifically designed for use on the television screen with the touch of a button. Rather than try to force an Internet experience built for a computer into a television set, widgets deliver the content that consumers demand in an experience that takes into account the unique features and constraints of a television set.... Once in place, the widgets can be used to do everything from check the day's football scores to Tweet with a friend about the latest episode of American Idol - all without interrupting television viewing.

That sounds a bit like Google TV, which comes preloaded with apps from Netflix, Twitter, Pandora, NBA Game Time and others. Apple TV also is playing around in this space.

Of course, not all media companies want to integrate with the likes of Google or Apple. So, in that regard, there could be an opening for a smaller player to squeeze in. Or, maybe not.

L4 Media is a unit of L4 Mobile, which is led by former SNAPin Software executive Bruce James and former Action Engine executive Brandon Albers.

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BuddyTV Guide app turns your iPhone into a TV remote

by Aislyn Greene

Seattle startup BuddyTV has a new app that lets iPhone users turn their phone into a remote tailored to their TV-watching habits.

The BuddyTV Guide, which combines a traditional TV guide, personalized content, trivia and social media, builds on BuddyTV's earlier incarnations of its deeply social iPhone/iPad apps.

Users can customize the free app by adding their favorite channels, which are then displayed first in a TV guide, as well as change channels with the tap of a finger. The app is integrated with Netflix streaming, so users can easily watch videos and, like Netflix, it will suggest shows based on viewing history and preferences. The app also tells you if there is a HD version of a favorite show and if the episode is a new one or repeat.

The app also incorporates the social elements the company is known for: users can broadcast what they're watching to Facebook and Twitter, invite friends into TV chat rooms to talk about their favorite shows, and answer trivia questions.

Right now the app is only compatible with Google TV, the TiVo Series 3 and other devices controlled by Logitech Revue, but TechCrunch reports it should soon work with tablets and phones that have an infrared transmitter.

"To me, the BuddyTV Guide app is a must have app that I use daily now," said BuddyTV CEO Andy Liu in a press release. "In fact, the app knows that I like to watch the Seattle Mariners game, and recommends it to me whenever they are on TV. I can then tap on the game right on my iPhone, and before I even open the door to my condo, the game is already on my TV. It has truly changed the way I consume entertainment."

The app is currently only available for the iPhone, but the company said Android and Google TV versions are on their way.

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Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV box goes to pre-order status

by Mark Raby

Oh, yes, Sony is giving Google TV another chance. You may recall that the last time it went all out with support for Google's television-based operating system, it sort of crashed and burned. Sony's line of Google TV-powered "Internet TV" models were so much more expensive than other Internet-connected TVs that they captured monumentally low sales levels.

On top of the increased price, Google TV was a nascent, under-utilized platform. In fact, to any sensible person, buying an Internet-connected TV from pretty much any other manufacturer made more sense because they were cheaper and offered more content. Now, though, Google TV has matured a bit, and Sony is willing to give it a second chance. This time, though, it's playing it safe and going for a high-margin, low-cost set-top box device.

The Sony NSZ-GS7 has just gone up for pre-order at J&R Electronics stores, with a price of $199. The most interesting part is the remote control that comes with the new box – it has an accelerometer, a touch pad, and a microphone. With no native support for them, Sony had to make those things come to life, by allowing for speech-based searches and accelerometer controls for navigation through menus and other content.


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Barclays new app transfers money by mobile phone

Barclays new app transfers money by mobile phone


THE ERA of the cashless society has moved a step closer, following the launch yesterday in Britain of a new mobile telephone payment system by Barclays Bank - the first of its kind in Europe.

Using Barclay's PingIt, a customer will be able to send up to £300 daily to another person knowing only their mobile number, as long as the receiver's bank details are registered with ¡®PingIt'.

For now, only Barclays' 11.9 million current-account holders will be able to send money, using a five-digit PIN, though anyone with a UK current account can receive funds through the system.

From March, current-account holders with all UK banks will be able to send money using the service: "I'm sure we'll soon be wondering what we did before it," said Anthony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays retail and business banking.

No bank details are exchanged during the transfer, which takes 30 seconds and which is free, for now. Both senders and recipients will be notified by SMS about transactions.

Users can download an app for iPhone, Android or Blackberry phones. Those without smart-phones can use PingIt's website to make or receive payments.

For now, the service is limited to personal accounts, though Barclays said the daily sums allowable should make it useful for "sole traders such as window cleaners or plumbers".

Mr Jenkins said, in time, bill payments and international payments could be added to the software.

Besides the minimum payment of £1 and the maximum of £300, Barclays has also set a total daily limit that can be sent of £300 and a £5,000 limit on the maximum that can be received by any one account.

Saying it will revolutionise the way people use money, Mr Jenkins cited examples such as friends splitting the cost of dinner, repaying a borrowed £10, or sending money to a son or daughter at university.

Sean Gilchrist, Barclays' head of digital banking, said the app employs "industry-standard encryption" and can be automatically wiped if a mobile is lost. But it should be locked when not in use.

However, Rachel Springall of the Moneyfacts comparison website warned that customers would need to be careful to use the correct mobile number and to send the right amount.

Users must be registered to receive payments - pending payments will be held for 24 hours and the instruction will be cancelled if the recipient has not registered during that time.

The Barclays move puts it into competition against the eBay-owned PayPal, which already has a similar app, although the bank - with its high-street presence - believes it has a branding advantage over eBay.

Barclays pushes out Pingit phone-based payment app

By Ben Woods.

Barclays Bank has launched Pingit, a service that lets people send and receive money using a smartphone, without sharing banking details. Barclay's Pingit app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry lets people send and receive cash using just a phone number.

The Pingit app can be used to make payments to anyone who has a current account with any British bank or building society, Barclays said in its announcement on Thursday. Participants sign up online to link their banking details with their mobile phone number, so that the phone number is all that is needed for the transfer, the company added.

At launch on Thursday, only Barclays current account customers will be able to send money via the app. However, any UK current account holder can register to receive payments. An update to the Pingit app expected in early March will open the payment part of the service up to everyone.

"For friends splitting the cost of dinner, repaying a borrowed £10 or people sending money to a son or daughter at university, it's free, quick, convenient, secure and easy to use," Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays retail and business banking, said in a statement. "You can send and receive money in seconds, without having to enter account details."

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The Pingit app is available on the Apple iOS, Android and BlackBerry platforms, and can be downloaded from the related app stores. It requires iOS 4.2 or above, Android 2.2 or above and BlackBerry OS 4.6 or newer.

Payment limits for the service are in place, with the minimum transfer set at £1 and the maximum in one transaction at £300. The daily limit for receiving payments is £5,000.

Pingit could pose a challenge to PayPal's mobile payment service, which, unlike Barclays, imposes transaction fees for consumers. Small businesses using Pingit will have to pay "normal transaction charges", Barclays said.

In May, Barclays teamed up with Orange to introduce the first mobile wallet scheme in the UK. The contactless payment scheme made it possible for people with certain handsets, such as the Samsung Tocco Quick Tap, to buy products under £15 via an app.


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