January 27, 2012

Reacting to Apple at CES 2012, part two: Samsung’s Galaxy Note

By Daniel Eran Dilger

Published: 06:05 PM EST (03:05 PM PST)
As noted in part one, the success of Apple’s MacBook Air has driven Intel to inspire its Ultrabooks initiative. Here’s a look at how the rest of the industry has chased Apple at this year’s CES, starting with Samsung and its fiercely independent new role as an Android licensee.

Reacting to Apple at CES 2012, part one: Intel’s Ultrabooks

Samsung’s Galaxy Note takes on the iPad, with a phone

Samsung had a huge booth with lots on display, from a refrigerator running apps to ultra thin, big screen SuperOLED HDTVs. The star of Samsung’s exhibit, however, was the Galaxy Note. It even got a huge banner blanketing the sprawling convention’s facade, and inside, the most visible signage in Samsung’s booth.

While Samsung has been chastised for “slavishly copying” Apple in its smartphone and tablet designs, the Galaxy Note is a new response to the iPad from Samsung, a mini-tablet that incorporates the stylus features that Apple’s Steve Jobs mocked five years ago as the wrong way to go about working with mobile devices.

Nobody can say Samsung is aping Apple with its stylus, and the pen-driven aspects of the Galaxy Note are central to its value proposition. Samsung even developed its own pen API and apps to make the stylus more than just a gimmick thrown in the box, and was promoting the device by hiring caricature artists to draw attendees using the device’s stylus.

Originally introduced in October, the Galaxy Note is a very large 5.3 inch screen smartphone that incorporates a stylus to perform Tablet PC-like features. Beyond the stylus, it also diverges from Apple’s strategy of clearly differentiating its iPhone and iPad as separate products optimized to perform different roles; the Galaxy Note acts as a hybrid placeholder in Samsung’s array of Galaxy-branded products that range from conventional smartphones to large screen smartphones to the Note to its small and large Galaxy Tab slates with screen sizes ranging from 7 to 7.7 to 8.9 to 10.1 inches.

Will Galaxy Note be the Palm Pilot to Apple’s iOS Newton?

At first glance, the Galaxy Note looks like a smaller, simpler iPad, evoking memories of how Palm’s 1997-era cheap, simple $ 300 Pilot rapidly took over the PDA market that Apple had originally coined with its $ 700 Newton MessagePad three years earlier. The difference today, however, is that the Galaxy Note isn’t cheap.

While the Pilot was less than half the price of a MessagePad, Samsung’s 16GB Galaxy Note is $ 760-$ 900 on Amazon, considerably more than the 16GB 3G iPad 2 (which Amazon sells for $ 550-$ 630). In large part, that’s because the Note incorporates all the features of a high end LTE smartphone, including an 8 megapixel camera and a “near Retina” 285ppi Super AMOLED 1280×800 display.

These features all add to the Note’s price but also enable it to double as a gigantic smartphone for a “no compromises” experience like that promised by Microsoft’s “optimized for everything” Windows 8 with Metro.

The Galaxy Note also packs on the full horsepower of a dual core 1.4 GHz Cortex A9 Exynos or 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (there are multiple hardware versions of the Note running SoCs with different graphics cores) and a full gigibyte of RAM, features that eat up battery life but are essential to running Android fast enough to feel responsive.

In large part, that hardware is necessary because the Note runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread from 2010, which lacks the hardware accelerated graphics of Google’s newer 2011 Android 3.0 Honeycomb and its successor from last month, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Even with all its horsepower, the Galaxy Note’s user interface still feels a bit sluggish even compared to a 2009 iPhone 3GS, despite being powered by chips with a faster clock speed than brand new iPhone 4S.

On page 2 of 3: Galaxy vs Android


DXG docks with cameras in them are of limited use

While making our rounds on the show floor at CES, we came across the DXG booth, which displayed an interesting piece of hardware: An iPhone dock.

No really! In what we originally thought was an interesting twist, DXG has some iPhone docks with cameras in them. Well that is certainly something we haven’t seen before, it doesn’t seem like anybody has done a dock with a camera in it. Let’s find out more!

Well, we tried. We kept asking about how the camera worked, and they said it worked with an iPhone. Then we asked what apps you could use it with (thinking Skype and FaceTime would be nice with a dock that might have a nicer camera than the iPhone front cam), and they said they have their own app that uses the camera. As far as we could tell, you can’t use these with anything but their own custom app.

After a variety of attempts to break through the language barrier failed, we took their sheet of product information and moved on. The only problem is that the models with cameras aren’t mentioned on the DXG site, nor in any printed materials. So we’re going off of the image you see below, which discusses the IVB-300.

DXG is also clumsily touting “dock+Peek” but we’ve no idea what that means. It could be referring to their app, which we never saw. But in the end the primary utility here appears to be motion detection, which will then trigger the camera to snap a pic or video, which can then be sent elsewhere via email or FTP. Useful? Perhaps. It’s too bad they spent all that money on a booth just to flub basic communications, however. It’s also entirely possible these will never make it to market, but we’ll keep an eye out for them.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Padlette, for those times you need a giant rubber band on your iPad

The Padlette solves one problem: How do you strap your iPad to your hand quickly using a big rubber band? Insofar as that one problem is concerned, the Padlette (patent pending) does a great job. You stretch the loops around the corners of your iPad and you’re able to slip your hand in between, securely holding the iPad with one hand.

How secure is it? I stood over a bed and shook my hand around but wasn’t too worried the iPad would fly off. In fact, you might be surprised how secure this thing is — the rubber sticks well to the iPad but won’t rip the hair out of your hand (I have moderately Hobbitish hand hair, YMMV). I suppose you could attach the iPad to a golf club or pole or use the Padlette to hold your magic wand between wizard duels, but that isn’t its primary purpose.

Anyway, the Padlette isn’t new, but they were at CES hoping to score some larger notice and distribution. There’s also a few versions of this, but frankly I couldn’t figure out why — they appear to be grippable in different ways? There’s the deefour, the deethree and the new yinyang, all using the same idea but with a different hole cut in the middle of the rubber band. I don’t think this would sell well in a Target, as it seems primarily suited to trade shows or teaching or somewhere you might need to hold the iPad safely in one hand. Which isn’t that often, frankly.

The Padlette comes in a variety of colors and costs $ 19.99 on Amazon. Oh, and it supports any full-size tablets for you cross-platform fans out there.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Fun Game: Will You Dare Step Foot Inside the Haunted Manor? Of Course.

Haunted Manor: Queen of Death

Every week Mac Games and More features a fun, casual game you can play over the weekend. This week’s selection takes you on a really spooky trip. Yeah, to boarding school! Wait, there’s more. You’ve been called back home and when you arrive, you find something shocking and scary… Download it now

Haunted Manor: Queen of DeathHaunted Manor: Queen of Death (adventure) – Sometimes creepy, horrific stories get even more creepy and horrific. A perfect example is Haunted Manor: Queen of Death, and gamers will love it – if they’re into that kind of thing. In the game, you’re away at boarding school in London and you receive a letter from your twin sister, Stella. You’re compelled to go home. Once you arrive you find that your family has been murdered–every last one of them except your sister. Don’t get too excited yet because while she IS alive, something is seriously wrong with her. She’s afflicted by some weird curse, so it’s your mission to find an antidote for her, as well as save your murdered family’s souls from being tortured in the afterlife. This is a special collector’s edition with a strategy guide, cheats and exclusive features.

Download it now

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Cult of Mac

A giant pulsing blacklight for your iPhone or iPod

This has been out for a while, but in the same booth where Engadget found the Watch Your Bag crapgadget there’s a giant blacklight dock that will pulse to the beat. Oh, and it has speakers. You can opt to leave the black light on if you want (no sync to music), or have it strobe. Naturally it’ll work with iPods as well, so you can practically set up a nightclub in an instant. Provided you don’t mind toting a 4-foot iPod dock around. At $ 149.99 from Sharper Image, I doubt these are flying off the shelves.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

TUAW visits Scosche at CES

Yesterday we got a chance to stop by the Scosche booth at CES. While we were there, we got to see all manner of items, from the just released to the recent but also pretty cool. Here’s what we saw:

Kelly’s top pick: A new car charger. Why? It has three very important features all in one convenient package! It is not only a dual USB charger, but both ports will charge iPads, AND it’s the teeny compact style that just barely peeks out of your power port. It’s coming soon, and when it does, I’ll be getting several.

Victor’s top pick: freedomMIC Bluetooth Wireless Microphone. Not only is it a wireless mic that is handy for recording nicer audio when you are shooting with your iPhone, but you can also use it as a remote to start and stop recording, or snap a still photo with your iPhone camera. If you use your iPhone for reporting (as I have done), you’ll find this mic super handy.

We saw a number of other neat things in the Scosche booth as well. We saw a case with two pieces for the iPhone that has a silicone sleeve to protect the back and front of the iPhone, and then an aluminum Element case style band that buckles around it (think springform pan) for extra protection (and aesthetic coolness). This was really neat to see and very sturdy to use, the latch was solid and it really did look sharp on the iPhone. Plus, unlike the Element, you don’t need a tool to get the metal band off.

Also there was a really interesting cable. I know, cables aren’t THAT interesting, and that’s true, until you see one cable transform from one you always have to carry into the other one you always have to carry. Since I basically only need two cables, it was nice to see them both in one. You take the 30-pin end and it lifts up and pivots over, unveiling a micro-USB end as well. Generally I only need to charge on micro-USB, and this way I can have the “emergency” iPhone cable as well without taking up another cable’s worth of space. It’s called the syncABLE Pro.

Speaking of iPhone cables, another nice thing to see was that Scosche has expanded on their line of flipSYNC cables, a compact cable about the size of a car alarm remote that unfolds into a USB charging cable. Now they have the clipSYNC which includes a carabiner-style clip to attach it to your bag, and also a flavor that has a battery in it and is still really compact.

One thing I personally liked a lot about their booth was all of the hands-on they had available. There were a lot of companies with things set up under glass or back on a wall where you couldn’t really get at them, so it was nice to get the chance to touch all of it and really see what it was like.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Ten One Design premieres Pogo Sketch Plus and Magnus iPad stand at CES

It’s always great to see the guys from Ten One Design at various trade shows and conventions we cover here at TUAW and seeing them again at CES was no exception. This time around, in addition to displaying the popular Fling joystick for iPhone and iPad, Ten One had two new products on display.

The first as the Pogo Sketch Plus stylus, which is an updating version of the popular Pogo Sketch featuring an all-new tip. Personally, I’m not a huge stylus fan (I agree with Steve Sande: “If you see a stylus, they blew it”), but I do agree that the Plus is more accurate and a little smoother than the previous version. I don’t know that it’ll convince you to use a stylus on the iPhone or iPad when you don’t already, but if you use another stylus or the standard Pogo Sketch, the new version is worth checking out.

Ten One was also showing off the Magnus, a new iPad stand they’re making. iPad stands are so CES 2011, but this one is actually pretty innovative: It includes a strong metal base outfitted with a magnet, so the iPad not only stands in place, but is held there with a magnetic charge (on the same edge that Apple’s Smart Cover uses to stay on. The design of the Magnus is really impressive — the iPad would fall over without that magnet, so the whole thing looks quite magical.

The Pogo Sketch Plus is available for $ 14.95, and the Magnus is available for $ 49.95. Of course, it only works with the iPad 2 and its embedded magnet.

Ten One also says the Fling continues to sell well. There are a few other joysticks out there, but Ten One says that no other competitors have borrowed the Fling’s patented twisty design yet. They did say that a few “counterfeit” copies have appeared, but not enough to cause issue with Ten One’s sales. We asked if there have been any major customer complaints yet, or any big improvements in the product customers have asked for, but they say that customers have been happy overall with the Fling. The only real issue so far? “It’s kid-proof, but not dog-proof,” says Ten One.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

The Most Talked-About Gadget at CES Was Probably This Ultra-Cool Fuji Camera [CES 2012]

The Most Talked-About Gadget at CES Was Probably This Ultra-Cool Fuji Camera [CES 2012]
The Most Talked-About Gadget at CES Was Probably This Ultra-Cool Fuji Camera [CES 2012]

My colleagues here at Cult of Mac, PR reps completely unrelated to Fuji or anything photographic, random showgoers whose snippets of conversation I intercepted — everyone seemed to be talking about it. Even the very air at CES seemed to be pulsating with the word “Fuji.” Of course, they were all talking about the enigmatic, neo-retro Fuji X-Pro1.

This camera isn’t for everyone. This is the prototypical enthusiast gadget, not really a daily driver. It’s a Shelby Cobra, not a Honda Accord; in other words, it’s stylish, difficult to live with, a blast to drive — and expensive.

How expensive? Fuji isn’t sure, but they told me it’ll probably be around $ 2000 — and that’s just for the body. Eek! Then again, the X-Pro1 is stacked with some deliriously cool features:

It’s a compact mirrorless camera that uses interchangeable lenses, like the Micro Four Thirds system outfits such as Olympus and Panasonic use; but unlike the smaller sensor of the Four Thirds, the Fuji has a larger APS-C sensor the same size as those used in prosumer Nikon DSLRs (Canon uses a very similar version).

Everything’s wrapped in a body designed to look and feel something like those old Leicas; even the three lenses available are all equipped with manually operated aperture rings that move around the lens barrel (in 1/3 stops) with nice, satisfying clicks.

The rangefinder-style viewfinder has a neat twist: it can digitally superimpose all the shooting data you could ever want over the real live view, including a dynamic level indicator and parallax lines. But it’s a hybrid: With the flick of a switch, it can also display a simulated electronic view that lets you see what the captured image will look like as you apply changes to it; exposure, depth of field, white balance can all be adjusted and simulated before the photo is taken.

And here’s where it gets really interesting. The Fuji Pro-X 1 can also simulate styles of different films (remember those?) and take images with several levels of dynamic range — essentially capturing an image with a wider range of exposure, a similar (but less powerful) effect to that achieved with HDR software. And all if this can be previewed with in the electronic viewfinder.

There’s more: HD 1080 video at 24 fps, a dynamic sweep panorama function and a dust reduction process.

But only three lenses will be initially available for the X-Pro1, a 35mm f/1.4, a 60mm f/2.4 and an 18mm f/2 (equivalent respectively to 52.5mm, 90mm and 27mm on a full-frame body). That’s not nearly a large enough selection to make this a practical shooter right off the bat. If Fuji ramps up the accessory options (and maybe lowers the price a bit), we could be looking at the first mirrorless to entice pros to make (a little) room in their gig bags for.

The Most Talked-About Gadget at CES Was Probably This Ultra-Cool Fuji Camera [CES 2012]

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Cult of Mac

Apple’s War On Amazon Starts Thursday

Apple’s War On Amazon Starts Thursday

Apple’s most direct competitor in the future won’t be Microsoft or Google, but Amazon.com.

With the release of the Amazon Kindle Fire, Amazon.com declared war directly on Apple’s core business model, which is to sell integrated solutions for the consumption and creation of digital content.

Starting Thursday, Apple strikes back.

My unified theory of Apple: It’s primarily a content consumption and creation company.

Apple devices do all the standard things that phones, tablets, laptops and desktops do, but Apple’s secret applesauce is that iGadgets are optimized on the low end for “consuming” content, and on the high end for creating it. Apple’s unique business model is to profit from the hardware, profit from the software and profit from the delivery of content to those integrated hardware/software devices.

If you understand this basic fact about Apple’s uber strategy of focusing on content, then it’s easier to predict what the company will do.

In a nutshell, Apple’s goal is to do for all content what it did for digital music — control it.

In order to control digital content, that control must be wrested from established players.

Music was easy, because the recording industry was naive and clueless. By the time they realized Apple was out to control their industry, it was too late.

Other media will be harder. The only way for Apple to take control of TV, movies, books, magazines and newspapers will be to destroy many of the companies that currently dominate those industries — by eliminating them and enabling content creators to sell their works directly to consumers via iTunes. It’s called disintermediation — the removal of intermediaries who stand between the Mac-using content creators and the iOS-using content consumers.

Fortunately, for Apple, the destruction of old-school intermediaries like TV and movie studios and publishing companies is going to happen anyway. The broad trend is in Apple’s favor.

We already have an idea about how Apple intends to control the future of video content. The rumored iTV, if successful enough, could put Apple in a position to dictate delivery, and also business models — a la carte, for example, instead of the prevailing cable model. TV is the one major content consumption device that isn’t made by Apple, and soon Apple will fix that. When they do, the iTV or whatever will ultimately cut out the cable companies and deliver everything over the Internet.

But what about publishing?

It turns out that the very company that has declared war on Apple is the same company that currently controls book publishing.

It’s pretty hard to imagine Apple putting up an Amazon.com-style bookstore and competing head-to-head with Amazon for print book sales. It’s not going to happen.

In fact, Apple did launch a bookstore that competes in a limited way with Amazon’s eBook offerings, and that hasn’t been exactly what you might call successful.

Amazon appears untouchable for book sales. But in fact that company is far more vulnerable than it appears.

Amazon sells two kinds of books (I’m oversimplifying for the sake of clarity). The first kind of book comes from the traditional publishing industry. Harper Collins does its thing, develops a book title and sells a hardcover edition and Kindle edition, then later a paperback and audiobook. Even though there are products consumable on iOS devices, namely eBooks and audiobooks, it’s still produced through traditional intermediators.

The second kind of book comes directly from authors. There’s no publishing company involved. Amazon offers the option of itself serving as the intermediator, offering publishing-like services, including design, editing and all the rest. Or authors can hire their own freelancers to do that work for them. Authors for this kind of book do their own marketing and distribution, and Amazon offers help with those efforts as well, for a price. This is the disintermediated model.

The dominant type of book on Amazon from a revenue perspective is the first kind, the kind produced by the traditional publishing system. The second kind of book is a much smaller business.

That’s today. Tomorrow, the relative importance of these two kinds of books will be reversed. Publishing without a publisher is the future of publishing.

Apple will never compete with Amazon.com in a soup-to-nuts online bookstore scenario, where the core competency is making deals with every book publisher in existence and managing incredible inventories of paper books. That’s not a business Apple wants to be in.

But the future of books — self-published authors selling electronic books to be read on digital devices. Well, that’s an Apple business.

In other words, Apple won’t compete with Amazon for the present of book publishing, but for the future.

And Apple has one massive advantage over Amazon.com in the world of self-publishing: A disproportionate percentage of authors use Macs.

All things being equal, authors would choose to work with Apple rather than Amazon.

And they’re not equal: Apple is already better than Amazon at creating the tools for creating books. Apple is already the hardware platform of choice for both designers and authors. Apple makes word-processing software and communications software. In fact, every aspect of the disintermediated book publishing model falls squarely into Apple’s core competencies.

I think Apple intends to slowly take control of the book publishing industry from Amazon by providing the leading tools and cloud infrastructure for authors to create and then market their books directly to readers.

Starting with the education segment of the publishing market. Which brings us back to Thursday’s event.

I think we can expect to see the beginnings of a system that connects textbook authors to students. Between those two Apple-using connection points lies writing, editing and other types of creative collaboration, design, layout, and more. The textbooks of the future will be cheaper and more frequently updated. They’ll be annotatable by teachers or customizable by school districts and universities.

Although Apple may initially partner with textbook companies, ultimately textbook publishers will be pushed aside because they’re too slow and inefficient.

In other words, I think Apple will begin the long process Thursday of reinventing the textbook industry as a stepping stone to eventually reinventing the entire publishing industry.

In addition to re-inventing the textbook industry, I think Apple will re-invent the textbook. The obvious way to do this is to integrate multimedia. Because textbooks will be conveyed as iOS apps, they’ll have video, and audio, worksheets, interactive quizzes, “flash card” functionality and much more.

Starting with textbooks makes enormous sense for Apple. The company has always emphasized the education market. Schools at all levels have taken to iPads in a massive way. Re-inventing textbooks to be read on iPads will be something welcome by students, teachers, school districts and universities.

As part of Apple’s effort both to serve the education market and also to clobber Amazon.com, I think Apple will announce sometime this year, possibly Thursday, a 7-inch iPad (widely rumored) and sell it at very low cost to undermine the attractiveness of the Amazon Kindle Fire.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if Apple offered new special discounts for bulk purchases of iPads to schools.

I believe that whatever Apple announces will be a step — larger or small — toward controlling the textbook market by enabling the disintermediation of the industry — the removal of publishers, printers and others from the supply chain.

One step is winning the customers — the schools, teachers and students. A second step is winning the suppliers: The writers, editors and others. And a third step is connecting the two with a publishing system that turns the content creator’s words, pictures, videos, audio, designs and other materials into a polished, marketable interactive eBook.

Despite the long goal of disintermediation, I think there’s a very good chance that publishers may be involved in Thursday’s announcement. One possible baby step is to convert existing textbooks into iPad apps and eBooks. That would be the quickest way for Apple to establish itself firmly in the market.

By the time Apple has transformed the high end of the textbook market, they’ll be ready to go after books in general, which will by then also be ready to go it alone without publishing intermediaries and will also be ripe for multimedia.

The familiarity with Apple’s publishing systems in academia by students, teachers and professors will ease their entry into the bigger publishing world. Writers tend to go to school. And this is yet another great reason to start the conquest of publishing with textbooks.

An alternative scenario is that in addition to a program to corner and reinvent the textbook market, Apple may also offer publishing tools for authors to sell iBooks to the general reading public as well.

But no matter what specific programs and products Apple announces Thursday, you can be certain that Amazon.com won’t like it.

Amazon has always been in Apple’s long-term path by selling electronic content in the form of Kindle books. They challenged Apple even more directly when they provided an alternative to iTunes with music, movie and TV downloads. But the aggressive launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet put them directly in Apple’s way as Competitor Number One.

Thursday’s Apple event has been billed as an “education” event. And I have the feeling that Apple is about to take Amazon to school.

Picture courtesy of MindShift

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Cult of Mac

Boxee explains dropping PC and Mac clients at CES

We found Boxee at CES’ ShowStoppers event this year, and when we cornered them to complain about dropping official PC and Mac support late in 2011, they were appropriately apologetic. Boxee’s Liz Dellheim said that yes, they’re sorry that they’ve abandoned that part of the company, and says that with just 20 people in their employ, and customers not connecting their PCs up to televisions that much anyway, Boxee just couldn’t justify that support any longer. Instead, the company will focus on providing software for televisions and set-top devices, which Dellheim said offer “a more complete Boxee experience” than having to run inside the OS of a PC or Mac.

That, and Boxee really wants to bring live TV to their service. Licensing that content for a standard PC client would be much harder than a more limited TV service, so Boxee decided to focus in on making the best set-top service they could, rather than being forced to support individual users.

So if you were a big fan of Boxee on your Mac, that’s probably the end of that. The client is still available on the website, but the company isn’t supporting the official release. Fortunately, as we described in the original post, there are quite a few alternatives to look out for.

There is one piece of Boxee software that will be running on an official Apple product: Dellheim confirmed that the Boxee Remote app for iPhone hasn’t been forgotten, and while no big updates are planned, the company will continue to include that bit of the Boxee ecosystem in future plans. It’s good to know that Boxee hasn’t completely abandoned us Apple fans, but yes, for now, the company prefers to build for its own hardware, not our computers.

TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog