Steve Jobs
With Steve Jobs’s medical leave of absence giving reporters something to do on a slow news day, tech blog ReadWriteWeb (via NYT) adds to today’s Apple buzz with a stab at what the upcoming iPhone 5 features could be.

Jobs’s email, sent on a day with U.S. stock markets closed, has given investors reason to a sell a stock up nearly 40% in 6 months a frustrating delay. But could the iPhone 5, reportedly in testing on Apple’s Cupertino campus, keep the momentum going at Apple?

RRW put together a list of notable features that iPhone 5 might showcase this summer:

Near Field Communications (NFC)
Already included on the Nexus S, it looks like NFC is a feature that every superphone will have going forward. A nice feature in theory, its usefulness will depend on the availability of kiosks and checkout counters that can handle NFC payments.

iPhone 5 becomes intelligent
To all those lusting over the Verizon iPhone, this feature might be worth waiting for this summer. RRW speculates that with the acquisition of Siri, a personal mobile assistant app powered by a ‘DARPA-funded artificial intelligence project,’ the iPhone 5 could bring a native feature that competes with Android’s voice search. In addition, since Siri can integrate with other 3rd party apps and services, RRW suggests:

You would then have a whole new interface for locating and launching apps – a search engine of sorts, even, where the focus isn’t on what app name you need to find (as iPhone’s native search does today), but on what action you need to take.

“Cloud iTunes”
A killer feature that’s arguably missing from the present iPhone. When are we getting a subscription music-streaming service? Maybe it’s time.

RRW mentions facial recognition as another possible feature, and ends the report wondering whether Apple can deliver this “magical” phone without Jobs’s hands-on management presence. If all these features come to fruition, then yes, we may have a magical phone on our hands. Apple’s M.O. of making updates incrementally (see iPhone 2G -> 3G -> 3GS -> 4G evolution) makes it likely only a few of the features listed above will come to fruition. However, despite Apple’s M.O. with updating products and Jobs’s leave of absence, I believe the possibility of killer features like “cloud iTunes” and enhanced AI services will produce another must-have product coming from one of the best management teams in the world.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab

After considerable buzz, Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab is out and reviews for the device are pouring in.  From what I can gather, the reviews are a mixed bag, with some saying its useless to others praising it as a nice option. Here’s a quick overview of some of the notable reviews:

NYT‘s David Pogue:

…the Galaxy doesn’t feel like a cramped iPad. It feels like an extra-spacious Android phone. And the payoff is huge.

Wired:

A minitablet that is designed to go everywhere you do.

but

[i]n use, the Galaxy Tab performs well, but is not exemplary. It feels snappy enough, but longish load times can sometimes be tiresome, and webpages invariably loaded more slowly than the iPad…

WSJ‘s Walt Mossberg:

It’s different enough from the iPad, yet good enough, to give consumers a real choice.

Mossberg notes, however, that sluggish performance with web browsing and flash sites caused some hiccups.

Gizmodo:

A pocketable train wreck. […]
The Tab feels like a grab bag of neglect, good intentions and poor execution.

I don’t believe the iPad’s reviews were this mixed, but I do remember there were a few critics.  In the end, it really didn’t matter what reviewers thought because consumers took to the iPad instantly.  Likewise, it remains to be seen how consumers will react to the Galaxy Tab’s mix of compact size and oversize Android experience.  I’m intrigued to see how a 7-inch tablet feels in the hand, and whether it’s a cramped user experience, or just the right size.

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Scalia FTW?

November 4, 2010


You know something strange is going on when Antonin Scalia weighs in on your side.  The video game industry found itself in that very position while arguing against California’s ban on selling violent video games to minors. As the New York Times reports, the justices struggled to determine how to apply the First Amendment to gaming:

The law would impose $1,000 fines on stores that sell violent video games to people under 18. It defined violent games as those “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a way that is “patently offensive,” appeals to minors’ “deviant or morbid interests” and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

“What’s a deviant violent video game?” asked Justice Antonin Scalia, who was the law’s most vocal opponent on Tuesday. “As opposed to what? A normal violent video game?”

“Some of the Grimm’s fairy tales are quite grim,” he added. “Are you going to ban them, too?”

Are depictions of violence protected by the First Amendment?  A majority of the court appeared willing to extend protection, with Justice Alito being the most vocal dissenter.  Surprisingly, Justice Breyer argued the government should be allowed leeway to help parents protect their children from “gratuitous, painful, excruciating, torturing violence upon small children and women.”

Kotaku.com’s Stephen Totilo laid out the ramifications of upholding California’s law:

A decision in favor of California would make video games the only type of media content in the United States that can be illegal to sell to children based on severity of violent content, a decision that would affirm that games have distinct affects on a young audience that other forms of entertainment do not — or that that the speech in games is not seen meriting the same protection as that in other media.

Expect a decision some time before the court’s summer recess in June 2011.

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Under Construction

October 8, 2010

In the process of moving stuff over from the old blog to this one. More content to come…

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When sifting through all the noise concerning the iPad’s impending launch, people usually fall into two camps – either they believe the hype or they don’t. I tend to see why some aren’t falling for the notion of the iPad being a gamechanger – for example, there’s no multitasking, it may be hard to type on and use as a creative device, and some say it would be very uncomfortable to use for an extended period of time. I for one am actually believing the hype – and here’s why.

Back in the pre-iPhone days of mid-2007, many thought the iPhone wouldn’t be the all-conquering, must-have smartphone it turned out to be (I admit I had my doubts as well). The gamechanger in the iPhone’s case, as many have mentioned, was the app explosion. It was hard to see the app craze coming – unless you jailbroke your iPhone in the beginning and noticed that it wasn’t just some featurephone, but a handheld computer. Likewise, I fall into the same thinking when it comes to the iPad – the apps could make it something entirely new, something so compelling that even non-techies can’t ignore it. One only has to check out this recent macrumors post showing promising apps like Mixr and iMockups to get a bit psyched about the possibilites. Am I going to pick one up on launch day? If I had the disposable income I would, but I think the smart play is to wait for a possible price cut, a front-facing camera, and multitasking capability. What do you think?

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As any frustrated iPhone owner will tell you, the voice quality on it is no better than using two cans with a string attached. And its quite horrific when you have to use your iPhone as your main contact number (freelancers, job hunters, those without a landline at home). So when I read David Pogue’s recent piece on a new app called Line2, it caught my attention. Says Pogue:

“Line2 gives your iPhone a second phone number — a second phone line, complete with its own contacts list, voice mail, and so on. The company behind it, Toktumi (get it?), imagines that you’ll distribute the Line2 number to business contacts, and your regular iPhone number to friends and family. Your second line can be an 800 number, if you wish, or you can transfer an existing number.”

But the kicker here is this 2nd number can work independently on Wifi, so you can route calls through a crystal clear, high-bandwidth connection and avoid AT&T’s hiccups. Could be a game-changer, and as Pogue and others have mentioned, can help you sidestep AT&T service and turn an iPod Touch into a Wifi cell phone. Cool stuff, I’m going to try it out and see if its legit…

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