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The Apple Watch Is Now A Hulu Remote Control

A number of mobile app publishers are still trying to figure out their strategies related to Apple’s first wearable device, the Apple Watch. While many opt for background apps that push relevant information when needed, Hulu’s entry into the Apple Watch space instead sees the company turning the Apple Watch into a remote control that lets you control video playback across a number of streaming media players, including, of course, Apple TV.

In Hulu’s case, the new Watch app lets viewers play, pause and rewind shows (jumping back 10 seconds) by tapping on their wrist, plus toggle captions on and off. For now, the app works with Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, and the PS3 and PS4. On Apple TV, users will first have to launch a Hulu stream on their iPhone, and then will be able to use the Watch app as a remote. For the other platforms, the app will connect to any existing device that’s already streaming Hulu.

Using the Apple Watch as a remote control of sorts isn’t an entirely out-of-left-field idea – after all, one of Apple Watch’s built-in apps is a music app that lets users control their favorite songs and playlists right from the watch’s small screen.

Apple’s app makes sense as it allows you to make quick adjustments to your music or its volume while exercising. But Hulu is apparently betting on the fact that Watch owners want to use their Watch as a remote control – instead of say, the one that came with their device or even Hulu’s own iPhone app – when viewing content on the big screen.

Whether or not Hulu viewers actually do want a remote control on their wrist remains to be seen. That being said, the launch is indicative of the level of experimentation we’re seeing from today’s companies who are now attempting to figure out how to make an Apple Watch app a part of their more comprehensive mobile offerings for consumers.

Even Hulu admits that its app is more about testing the waters with regard to Apple Watch.

“The Hulu application on the Apple Watch is the perfect opportunity to explore the Apple Watch OS and experiment with ways to integrate the Hulu experience into the popularity of wearable platforms,” a company blog post noted.

Notably, Hulu also let an intern build the Apple Watch app – which is nice, of course, but also may speak to the level of importance it has assigned to its Apple Watch experimentations.

As for me, I’m waiting for a future when Apple Watch apps become smarter, more location- and context-aware, and more personalized to my needs. For example, it would be great if a Watch app like Hulu’s could be automatically triggered to launch the remote control interface when it detected I was streaming Hulu on my big screen TV via a supported media player. It could then push notifications about what to watch based on what content is about to expire, or what new episode has just arrived from a favorite show. And it would let me simply tap on my wrist to play back that recommendation. (A girl can dream, right?)

But hey, I guess a remote control app is a good first step.

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Your Apple Watch Will Soon Control Your Volvo

Caption: Volvo On Call app in the Apple Watch. Volvo

Skip Article Header. Skip to: Start of Article. Volvo On Call app in the Apple Watch.Volvo On Call app in the Apple Watch. Volvo

Premier Inn integrates Apple Watch with its customer app

The latest company to join the Apple Watch app bandwagon is Premier Inn, whose customers can use an Apple Watch to control the heating, lighting and entertainment systems in the chain’s showcase hotels.

The Whitbread-owned hotel chain launched a range of hotels last year known as Hub by Premier Inn. Hub hotels are based in city centres and provide digital services.

premier-inn-290.jpg

The one in Covent Garden, London, now enables guests to control settings in their room via an Apple Watch. The service is also available via Google Pay for Android users.

The app was designed and developed by mobile banking software company Monitise in its Monitise Create innovation unit. The supplier is best known for its mobile financial services apps, but a recent strategic review has seen the company focus on growth.

Monitise is expanding beyond its financial services bedrock. In January 2015, Monitise put itself in the shop window, announcing that it could benefit from being part of another business.

But in March the company decided to continue operating as an independent company rather than seeking to be taken over. The company’s chairman Peter Ayliffe said he was confident that the business is at a point in its development where the prospects for delivering long-term value are excellent. 

“The feedback from third parties re-affirms that we have a uniquely strong technology platform, a talented and highly respected management team, and a deep well of support among staff, partners and clients for what we are seeking to achieve,” he said.

Companies are hurrying to develop applications for the Apple Watch following the extensive publicity enjoyed by the launch of the wearable device.

Being first to market allows organisations to capitalise on first-mover advantage and show they are ahead of the pack, sending a clear signal to the market and customers that the company is an innovator. Among those that have already launched apps for the Apple Watch are Ocado and Booking.com.


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Apple MacBook (2015) review: Slimmer and lighter than Air

The slimmest, lightest Apple laptop currently available High-quality Retina display Fanless design runs cool and quiet Sturdy, yet elegant constructionSingle USB-C interface for connectivity and charging Modest performance and battery life Expensive

It is, perhaps, a sign of the times that the slimmest and lightest laptop that Apple has ever produced has been almost completely overshadowed by the launch of the endlessly hyped Apple Watch. However, Apple’s Mac computers — and particularly its MacBook laptops — have sold consistently well in recent years, regularly posting double-digit increases in sales at a time when the wider PC market seems to be in steady decline.

Apple’s new MacBook is certainly a significant release, providing a major redesign for a long-neglected member of the Mac lineup. It’s a wonderful piece of design, but it also turns Apple’s existing laptop range on its head. It relegates the former flagship MacBook Air to the role of entry-level laptop, and establishes a new category of premium ultraportable devices that Apple, with typical modesty, describes as “the future of the notebook”.

The 12-inch MacBook measures just 3.5-13.1mm (0.14-0.52in.) thick and weighs 0.92kg (2.03lbs). Image: Apple

Prices for the new MacBook start at £1,049 (inc VAT; £874.17 ex. VAT), which buys you a dual-core 1.1GHz-2.4GHz Intel Core M-5Y31 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage. For £1,299 (inc. VAT; £1,082.50 ex. VAT) you can step up to 1.2GHz-2.6GHz Core M-5Y51 and 512GB storage, while £1,419 (inc. VAT, £1,182.50 ex. VAT) secures a further speed bump up to the 1.3GHz-2.9GHz Core M-5Y71. The new MacBook is only available with a 12-inch Retina display with a native resolution of 2,304 by 1,440 pixels, and there’s no option to upgrade the memory beyond 8GB.

That’s expensive, but still in the same price range as ultraportable rivals such as Lenovo’s Yoga 3 Pro (which, incidentally, beat Apple to the punch with a slimline Core M laptop by several months). But, as always with Apple, those numbers only tell half the story, and you need to spend some hands-on time with the new MacBook in order to appreciate its strengths and weaknesses.

The extent of the redesign that new MacBook has received is illustrated by the fact that this 12-inch laptop manages to be both slimmer and lighter than the 11-inch version of the aging MacBook Air that’s still on sale. The 12-inch MacBook measures just 3.5-13.1mm (0.14-0.52in.) thick and weighs 0.92kg (2.03lbs), compared to 3-17mm (0.11-0.68in.) and 1.08kg (2.38lbs) for the 11-inch MacBook Air. The MacBook Air also has a chunky metal border around the screen, which results in a total width of 300mm (11.8in.) for the screen panel, whereas the edge-to-edge glass panel of the new MacBook reduces the width of the laptop by almost 20mm to just 280.5mm (11.04in.).

The build quality, of course, is immaculate. The aluminium chassis of the MacBook looks smart and elegant, but feels very sturdy and provides good support for both the screen and the keyboard panels. There are no internal cooling fans either, so the MacBook is virtually silent when running.

new-macbook-keyboard.jpgThe ultra-thin keyboard uses a new ‘butterfly’ key hinge mechanism, while the trackpad is a ‘taptic’ Force Touch unit. Image: Apple

The pressure-sensitive Force Touch trackpad has already made an appearance on the recently updated MacBook Pro, but the new MacBook also benefits from a redesigned keyboard that uses a ‘butterfly’ hinge mechanism under each key to reduce the thickness of the keyboard while still providing a firm response that feels comfortable when typing quickly. And, taking a leaf out of the iPhone’s book, the MacBook is now available in three different colours: traditional silver; a darker ‘space grey’; and a gold model that might be a little too ostentatious for business users seeking an air of cool professionalism.

new-macbook-colours.jpgThe new MacBook comes in Apple’s now-familiar colour choices: Silver, Space Grey and Gold. Image: Apple

Another key difference that sets the MacBook apart from the MacBook Air is the new Retina display. The 12-inch display boasts a resolution of 2,304 by 1,440 pixels (226 pixels per inch, or ppi), compared to just 1,366 by 768 (142ppi) for the 11-inch MacBook Air, and 1,440 by 900 (131ppi) for the 13-inch model. In fact, it’s only 250 pixels short of the 27-inch display on my office iMac.

The Retina update is long overdue, but the image quality is undeniably impressive, with bold colours, strong contrast and excellent all-round viewing angles. There are Windows rivals that can beat its resolution, of course (including the 3,200-by-1,800 [282ppi] display on the 13-inch Yoga 3 Pro), but the Mac operating system handles these ultra-high resolutions more effectively than Windows. The Display control panel within OS X provides a number of ‘looks like’ options that scale text and graphics in order to enhance visibility. By default, the MacBook display ‘looks like’ 1280 by 800, which is quite easy on the eye, but you can increase or decrease this simulated resolution to suit whatever applications you use in your work. Some people may still prefer to work on a slightly larger screen, but if lightweight portability is your priority then the new MacBook is hard to beat.

But, as always, there’s a trade-off between portability and performance. Even with a Turbo Boost option that can increase clock speed to 2.4GHz, the entry-level 1.1GHz Core M processor with its integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU delivers only modest performance. To be fair, its GeekBench 3 scores of 2489 for single-core performance and 4633 for multi-core are comparable to those of Lenovo’s similarly configured Yoga 3 Pro, but they’re slightly lower than the less expensive 1.6GHz Core i5-based 13-inch MacBook Air.

The new MacBook will still be perfectly adequate for routine web browsing, email and running Microsoft Office, but if you’re thinking about more demanding tasks such as photo- or video-editing then you’ll need to look at the more powerful Core i5/i7-based MacBook Pro range.

The real strength of Intel’s new Broadwell processors is their power-efficiency, and we’ve seen impressive battery life from a number of Broadwell laptops recently. However, the slimline design of the new MacBook means that there’s only room inside it for a relatively modest 39.7Whr battery to power the high-resolution Retina display.

Apple claims nine hours of web browsing for the new MacBook, but we only got 6 hours and 40 minutes of streaming video from the BBC iPlayer during our tests. That’s respectable enough (and comparable to the battery performance of the Yoga 3 Pro), and you can probably squeeze another couple of hours out of it for more casual web browsing. However, the high-resolution Retina display clearly affects battery life, and there are plenty of laptop rivals that can match that performance. The MacBook Air may have a more modest display, but it can handle 10 hours of streaming video with no trouble at all and is still worth considering if battery life is your main priority.

new-macbook-side.jpgApart from the headphone jack, the only interface on the new MacBook is a USB-C port: you’ll have to buy optional adapters to get extra connectors. Image: Apple

new-macbook-dangle.jpg Image: Apple One other factor that allowed Apple to reduce the size of the MacBook so dramatically. Apple says that the new MacBook is designed for ‘a wireless world’ — which is one way of saying that it has virtually abandoned physical interfaces and cables for external connectivity. A single USB-C port on the rear left corner is used to charge the MacBook, the only other connector being a headphone socket on the opposite left-hand corner. There’s no video output, and the new MacBook has even abandoned Apple’s own high-speed Thunderbolt interface.

The assumption is that all other peripherals and network connectivity will be over wi-fi (802.11ac) or Bluetooth (4.0). This, of course, is nonsense — as we discovered as soon as we tried to install our test files off a USB memory stick. Fortunately, Apple does supply a number of USB-C adapters for those of us that still use cables to connect to monitors, hard drives and other peripherals. There’s a basic USB-C-to-USB adapter, which allows you to connect a single USB device to the MacBook. However, you can’t charge the MacBook while you have a USB device plugged in with that cable, so it makes more sense to opt for one of Apple’s Multiport adapters instead. There are two available: both include a USB-C port to charge the MacBook and a conventional USB 3.0 port for peripherals, and either HDMI or VGA for an external monitor. There’s no Ethernet adapter available from Apple, but third-party manufacturers such as Belkin have already announced plans to plug that particular gap.

Apple provided these adapters with our review unit, and they proved essential in order to perform routine tasks such as transferring files from a hard drive and charging an iPhone that was connected to the MacBook. Unfortunately, none are included with the MacBook, and Apple charges £15 (inc. VAT) for the basic USB adapter, and a thumping £65 (inc. VAT) for the Multiport units. Most users will need at least one of these accessories and it’s unforgivable that Apple doesn’t at least throw in the basic USB adapter free of charge.

The new MacBook’s lightweight, slimline design certainly has that special aura of elegant functionality that always overcomes objections to Apple’s high prices. And while the limited connectivity may deter business users who need to connect to wired office networks and other peripherals, we suspect that those issues are likely to fade in coming months as USB-C becomes more widely adopted.

However, the new MacBook’s portability does come at the cost of performance and battery life. If weight is your main concern when travelling with your laptop, then this MacBook is in a class of its own. But if you value battery life or raw power then you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

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As iOS 6 debuts minus YouTube, video apps fight for attention

Support from Apple and a changing YouTube could give apps like Squrl and ShowYou the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.

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Squrl's app searches for videos across a wider range of sites than YouTube's does.

Squrl’s app searches for videos across a wider range of sites than YouTube’s does.

When Apple users start upgrading to iOS 6 this morning, it’ll be missing an app that’s been baked into the operating system since the release of the first iPhone: YouTube. For the first time, consumers will have to search for a video app on their own — and that has developers eager to get their attention.

Most consumers will doubtless start by simply downloading the YouTube iPhone app thatGoogle released last week. But for now, that one’s iPhone-only — an iPad version is months off. In the meantime, makers of other so-called video discovery apps are pouncing on a rare opportunity to gain users in large numbers.

They’re launching new versions to capitalize on YouTube’s sudden absence. They’re courting the tech press to get the word out. And they’re hoping users will follow. No one expects these apps to dethrone YouTube. But they’ve never had an opportunity like this before — and might not have another for ages.

Also in their favor: Apple is doing its best to help them along. Last week the company updated its App Store to showcase a wide range of video apps on the store’s “Featured” page, in a collection called “TV Time.” Notably, as we reported last week, YouTube was left off that list — while discovery apps like SqurlShowYou and Vidyou get prominent placement.

“Now all users will be faced with at least making a decision,” said Mark Gray, co-founder and CEO of Squrl.

All these apps make use of YouTube’s content, piping videos into their app using APIs. The value they add lies in the way they organize and surface videos to people looking for something interesting to watch — something that YouTube seems to be growing less interested in over time.

Building a better search
The question is whether, over time, users come to prefer a kind of universal search app to YouTube’s, which has become more narrowly focused on channels and subscriptions. Spend some time playing with apps like Squrl and ShowYou, and it’s easy to make a case for the former.

Squrl, which launched last year, launched a redesign today aimed at making finding easier. In addition to YouTube, it searches Netflix, Hulu, Ted, Vimeo, AOL and Blip.TV. You can also connect accounts from Twitter and Facebook to Squrl; it will collect all the links shared there over the day and show them to you whenever you’re ready to see them.

The app uses algorithms to track your video-watching habits and to suggest things it thinks you’d like to see. It also tracks videos that are trending across the Web.

In short, it finds videos in places that didn’t even exist when YouTube was created in 2005. YouTube remains the top video search engine, handling billions of queries a month. But it won’t find videos across the range of popular sites that have sprung up in YouTube’s wake, like Hulu, Netflix and Vimeo. Squrl and its fellow apps will.

For your basic cat videos, YouTube search will more than suffice. But what happens when you’re looking for a TV show or movie and aren’t sure which service it’s available on? Or when a video you thought was posted to YouTube is actually hosted on Vimeo?

As high-quality video migrates onto an ever-increasing number of platforms, YouTube search could become less useful. The need for an app that searches more broadly will only increase.

YouTube’s app is evolving to emphasize channels over user-generated content.

A changing YouTube
There’s a second factor that could play to the advantage of apps like Squrl: YouTube is changing.

The original iOS YouTube app, designed by Apple to Google’s specifications, shows us the YouTube we used to know. It prominently features the most-viewed videos of the day, along with a serendipitous assortment of “featured” videos.

It’s an app, in other words, that is built for discovery.

Now pull up the new YouTube app. Mostly what it will show you is the channels to which you’re subscribed. Occasionally your feed will include a recommendation based on other videos you’ve watched. But open the sidebar and YouTube’s focus on channels becomes clear: all your subscriptions are stacked on top of one another. “Popular” videos are buried at the bottom of that list, with no option to see the most viewed videos of the week or all time.

YouTube launched its channels initiative last year in an effort to attract viewers and advertisers that it couldn’t reach with the user-generated content that made the site famous. It invested $150 million in 100 or so channels, and in June said it would spend $200 million more.

The Wall Street Journal reported that YouTube already recouped its initial investment with advertising revenue generated from the project. But the new channels have been slow to produce breakout stars. Many of the site’s most-viewed channels rely on established stars and brands — and fewer than 20 channels are doing even 1 million views a week, according to AdAge. (The most viewed videos of the week, by contrast, average at least 2 million views.)

That suggests users are more interested in finding the quirky viral hits that made YouTube famous than they are subscribing to the low-budget pop culture gabfests that have become the new channels’ stock in trade. And if YouTube won’t drive traffic to those viral videos through its own apps, someone else is happy to.

“I don’t know if I would say the opportunity is huge,” said Mark Hall, the thoughtful founder and CEO of Remixation, which makes ShowYou, a Squrl competitor. “YouTube has a dominant, massive brand. It’s the no. 1 free app being downloaded right now from the app store. I wouldn’t want to overstate it and say that suddenly it’s an even playing field.

“But,” he added, “I definitely think it’s a good step forward for us.”

Even if they fail to crack the mainstream, the developers could be in for a rich payday. A company that solves video discovery to the tune of millions of users will be an attractive acquisition target to Google — a company that loves buying startups. If the Squrls of the world can’t beat YouTube, don’t be surprised if they join them.

 

With iPad Mini on the way, does Kindle Fire 2 matter?

By Julianne Pepitone

Amazon’s Kindle Fire differentiated from the iPad with a smaller size and a $300-cheaper price tag, But the rumored iPad Mini could kill Amazon’s advantage.

Amazon is expected to release a new version of its Kindle Fire tablet on Thursday — but if Apple releases a similarly sized and priced iPad this fall, Amazon’s tablet may be doomed.

The iPad has absolutely dominated the tablet market since its 2010 release. Its huge app library and best-in-class features have given would-be tablet rivals little room to grab even the tiniest slice of the market.

Of all the tablet makers, Amazon has enjoyed the most success in competing against the iPad. Its strategy: Amazon attacked a smaller segment of the tablet market and went for the jugular on price, undercutting the iPad by $300 with its 7-inch $199 Kindle Fire.

Amazon will likely unveil an improved Kindle Fire 2 at an event in California. But the company’s size and price advantage could quickly vanish: Apple (AAPLFortune 500)is widely rumored to be announcing a similarly sized “iPad Mini” for close to the same cost in October.

Without a key differentiator from the iPad, Amazon (AMZNFortune 500) will have to re-think its strategy for battling Apple.

“So far the customer’s choice is deciding between high end, Apple, and low end, Amazon,” said Aaron Kessler, senior research analyst at Raymond James & Associates. “If Apple releases a price competitive [iPad] Mini, that could completely change the low-end market.”

The Kindle Fire’s eye-popping price and smaller size helped Amazon carve out as much as 14% of the market during the 2011 holiday season, according to IHS iSuppli. The iPad still held 57% of the market that quarter, but taking away that much share from Apple was a minor coup for Amazon.

But if the low-end/small tablet market mirrors that of the full-size devices, Amazon could be in big trouble. Other tablet makers — like Hewlett-Packard(HPQFortune 500), Motorola, and Research in Motion (RIMM) — learned the hard way that when customers have $499 to spend on an iPad or another tablet for the same price, they’re almost always going to choose the iPad.

“Apple [iPad] has been the tablet of choice when people can afford it,” Kessler said. “So if pricing were equal, Apple would have the edge. Amazon has to add value in other ways.”

Laura DiDio, principal analyst at research firm ITIC, thinks Amazon needs to step it up on both features and price.

“The Kindle Fire is well regarded, but now the question becomes, what are you adding to it?” DiDio said. “Amazon doesn’t have to match Apple feature-for-feature, but it does need to run at the iPad hard. Amazon customers love a discount, so I’d love to see them do some promotional pricing.”

Related story: 7 best gadgets and gizmos coming this fall

If Apple’s iPad Mini is priced at $249 as rumored, DiDio said that’s probably enough of a margin that Amazon could keep the Fire at $199. But if Apple matches the $199 price point, Amazon could be forced to drop the Fire’s price by $50 or more.

“That could easily happen — we all know Apple is ruthless,” DiDio said. “And they have the deepest pockets in the industry.”

Price isn’t all that the Kindle Fire has to offer; Amazon could battle Apple with its massive content library of e-books, magazines, videos and streaming music. Amazon has ramped up those offerings recently, by expanding its e-book catalog and inking streaming video deals with Epix and Comcast’s (CMCSA) NBCUniversal.

Apple boasts its own strong media platform, but it can’t go tit-for-tat with Amazon’s platform.

If Apple does come at Amazon with a smaller and cheaper iPad, The Kindle Fire may not be dead on arrival. Yet Amazon’s tools to defend its territory are simply blunt compared to Apple’s cache.

“The short of it is that an Apple iPad [Mini] will take significant share,” said Victor Anthony, analyst at Topeka Capital Markets. “But Amazon never set out to dominate like Apple did, and it doesn’t have to. Getting even a small part of this big market is really a success.”

With iPad Mini on the way, does Kindle Fire 2 matter?

5 reasons Google will rule small tablets

The Android maker is poised to dominate smaller tablets. Here’s why.

Apple — with its maket-leading gadgets and astounding market cap — may appear to rule tech. But there is one category in which it is not setting the pace: mini-tablets. Rumors of a tablet smaller than the iPad abound, but so far nada. Why would Apple even delve into the category when the iPad trounces every other tablet out there? There’s a market for a smaller form factor. Amazon’s spartan, $200 Kindle Fire sold well last holiday shopping season for instance.

Google’s Nexus 7 really shows the potential of the segment, however. Analysts and reviewers have characterized it as the product to put out the Kindle’s flame. Until recently, Google has been developing its mobile operating system for phones and tablets used by Samsung, Asus, HTC, Amazon and many others. With a direct-to-consumers model, Google wants a piece of the content consumption market via its own media store, Google Play. Question is, can the Nexus 7 eclipse the Kindle Fire and compete with whatever Apple may unveil in the coming months?

The Price

The Price

At $199 for the 8GB model, $249 for 16 GB, the Nexus 7 should be very attractive. In a weak economy, there is real demand for a lower priced device that can be easily held in one hand. Can you browse, shop, read, watch videos, movies, TV shows and play games on the Nexus 7? Yes, you can, and it puts the Kindle Fire to shame says virtually every tablet reviewer and analyst out there. Where Apple prices its smaller iPad will be a factor: you can assume the company is not about to give up per-device margins.

Technology

Technology

The Nexus 7 utilizes Android 4.1, also known as Jelly Bean, Google’s latest tablet operating system. It is zippy and responsive. With 9 to 10 hours of battery life and weighing in at ¾ of a pound, it boasts a 1280 x 800 resolution with scratch-resistant glass, a front-facing camera and Wi-Fi. Amazon, for one, should be nervous. Google’s hardware partners selling tablets with older versions of Android will be playing catch up. Right now, the Nexus 7 with the optimized Jelly Bean OS is heralded as the best mini tablet available.

Retail

Retail

Yes, Apple has a major advantage with its gorgeous retail outlets. But unlike Google’s ill-fated Nexus phone, the Nexus tablet has strong retail distribution at Sam’s Club, Sears, Gamestop, Costco, Fry’s and Office Depot. That puts it ahead of competitors — ones that run its own operating system.

Android

Android

Android is a popular mobile OS brand, but it’s an engine and not the car. Nexus 7 is the shiny new car — a complete experience — at a reasonable price. More broadly, Google’s push into building its own hardware is likely to give it a chance to really showcase what its software can do.

Timing

Timing

Google would not comment about its future marketing plans, but did say it had a television ad that ran during the Olympics. By getting its tablet out early, it has given itself an advantage. If competitors don’t significantly improve their offerings for the holidays, it will have an even stronger head start.

5 reasons Google will rule small tablets

Microsoft’s Surface tablet said to come with only Wi-Fi

While the software giant has yet to release full specs on its forthcoming tablet, rumors are circulating that it may be Wi-Fi only and without a mobile network connection.

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Microsoft unveils iPad rival

This product rendering released by Microsoft shows Surface, a 9.3 millimeter thick tablet with a kickstand to hold it upright and keyboard that is part of the device’s cover. It weighs under 1.5 pounds.

Microsoft’s much talked about Surface tablet may be Wi-Fi only, according toBloomberg.

The news agency reports that people familiar with the tablet‘s specs say the device will go on sale without any mobile-phone network connection, but will come with a short-range Wi-Fi connection. This could change in later models.

A brief history of failed Windows tablets
Microsoft’s Surface tablet vs. the iPad: Seven challenges
Google exec: “Surface is a very complicated strategy to pull off”

Surface will be running Microsoft’s next-generation Windows operating system and marks the company’s first foray into the ever-expanding tablet market. Though the software giant has unveiled Surface, it has yet to release all the details on the specifications.

Apparently, the tablet is thought to be a direct competitor to Apple’s iPad. Network accessibility could hinder this goal, however. The new iPad, which went on sale in March, comes equipped with LTE and has the option of a mobile-phone chip, according to Bloomberg. Users can also buy the iPad‘s Wi-Fi-only model if they prefer.

According to Bloomberg, Microsoft plans to start selling the Surface later this year and will be working with Apple’s iPhone-maker, Pegatron, to manufacture the tablet.
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Google Schedules a Special Maps Event — Set Five Days Before Apple’s WWDC

Google Maps event invite

This Friday, Google invited journalists to a June 6 event where it will unveil the future of Google Maps. It’s curious timing considering that just a few days later on June 11, Apple is expected to unveil the future of its iOS Maps app — an app that’s rumored to ditch Google Maps as its data engine.

Apple’s event, its Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, has been on the calendar for ages. Could Google be responding to buzz about Apple’s new mapping strategy by sliding in a mapping announcement of its own, right before Apple’s grand reveal?

The timing of Google’s June 6 press event does seem a bit strange, especially considering the company’s own yearly developer mega-event, Google I/O, is less than a month away. Charles Golvin, a Forrester analyst, says the timing of the Google Maps event — right before WWDC and broken out from I/O — could reasonably be interpreted as a move to steal a bit of Apple’s thunder, especially if Apple does actually dump Google Maps.

Nonetheless, Google can’t act merely on spite. With a room full of press, Google will have to show off something impressive, he says.

“It’s likely that the relative timing between all these events has a role here, but Google wouldn’t just have this event to rub Apple’s nose in something, and they wouldn’t have a Google Maps-specific event if they didn’t have some big news to share,” Golvin said. “And they might not want to risk whatever they’re going to announce being lost in the flood of news that will come out of Google I/O.”

While neither Apple nor Google have made any announcements regarding Google Maps’ future in iOS, it’s only a matter of time before the two companies split their mapping ways, Golvin said.

“It’s reasonable to expect that all the pieces of Google in the iPhone would diminish over time, especially as Android continues to grow, and Apple and Google grow as rivals,” Golvin said. “But even so, Google Maps is a powerful product by itself. With the presence of Google Maps on every Android device, even if Google Maps loses its presence on Apple’s iPhone and iPad, it will still be the most popular map app on mobile devices and on the web.”

At WWDC this year, Apple is expected to introduce iOS 6, the latest version of its mobile operating system for the iPhone and iPad. IOS 6 is widely expected to feature a new Maps app that sources mapping data from the OpenStreetMap Foundation instead of Google Maps, which has been Apple’s Maps app partner since the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

As for Google’s June 6 press gathering, it promises the following: “At this invitation-only press gathering, Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Google Earth, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at Google Maps and share our vision. We’ll also demo some of the newest technology and provide a sneak peek at upcoming features that will help people get where they want to go — both physically and virtually. We hope to see you there.”

Gadget Lab will be there. And at WWDC. And at I/O too.

Google Schedules a Special Maps Event — Set Five Days Before Apple’s WWDC

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Cricket Wireless to Offer Apple’s iPhone With Prepaid Plan On June 22nd

Cricket Wireless has just announced that it will start offering Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 on its network from June 22nd.

Cricket Wireless will be the first carrier in the US to sell Apple’s iPhone with prepaid plans.

However, the no-contract plans means that customers will have to pay a higher upfront costfor Apple’s iPhone. The 16GB iPhone 4S will cost $499 and 8GB iPhone 4 will cost $399 with $55 per-month, all-inclusive unlimited talk, text and data plan. Cricket Wireless will throttle the speed after 2.3GB of data usage per month.

Here’s an excerpt from Cricket’s press release:

Cricket Communications, Inc., a leading provider of innovative and value-driven wireless services, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leap Wireless International, Inc., announced today that it will be the first pre-paid carrier in the US to offer iPhone to its customers. Beginning on Friday, June 22, Cricket will offer iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 with its $55 per-month, all-inclusive unlimited talk, text and data plan. [..]

[..] “Our customers want the best products available and we are excited to bring iPhone to our pre-paid consumers with an industry leading $55 per-month service plan,” said Doug Hutcheson, president and chief executive officer, Leap Wireless International, Inc. “Launching iPhone is a major milestone for us and we are proud to offer iPhone customers attractive nationwide coverage, a robust 3G data network and a value-packed, no-contract plan.”  

The prepaid plan is available only to customers who have bought the iPhone from Cricket. Interested customers can provide their contact details on Cricket’s website.

Apple continues to expand the availability of the iPhone. Last month, six regional carriersstarted offering Apple’s iPhone, followed by three more regional carriers earlier in the month.

Cricket Wireless to Offer Apple’s iPhone With Prepaid Plan On June 22nd

Cricket Brings iPhone to its Prepaid Network

By Ginny MiesPCWorld

Remember the days when you could only get the iPhone on AT&T? My, how things have changed. Cricket has announced that it will bring the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S on its prepaid network. This is the first time the iPhone has been offered on a prepaid carrier.

That means you’ll have to shell out a little more for the iPhone since it won’t be subsidized. When the phones go on sale June 22, a 16GB iPhone 4S will cost $500 and an 8GB iPhone 4 will cost $400. Before your jaw drops at those prices, take into consideration how cheap Cricket’s plan is: $55 per month for unlimited voice, SMS and data. Calling the data unlimited is a little misleading, however: you must stay within Cricket’s fair usage policy of 2.3GB of data a month.

Since Cricket’s plan is prepaid, you won’t get slapped with surprise post-paid, usage-based fees as you might on a contract carrier. If the prepaid model appeals to you, but you’ve never been too thrilled with the current prepaid phones out there, this will be good news for you.

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