Despite all the big tech news this week J.D. takes a few minutes to help El Kaiser work up the courage to cut the cable, um, cable. In the news Microsoft buys Nokia’s phone handset division; CBS and Time Warner finally make up; Big announcements at the IFA Berlin show; Google acquires a smartwatch maker; U.S. retailer Target gets into the streaming video game; another government agency trips through U.S. phone records; and Skype celebrates its 10th birthday.
Summer’s over and it’s back to business. The Microsoft announced late on Labor Day evening here in the US that it was buying Nokia’s phone handset division for 7.2 Billion dollars. The company even published a 30-page PDF of a PowerPoint presentation on its site that outlined the strategic rationale for the purchase. It’s very colorful, if you like PowerPoints. (Nokia, when not getting parts of itself bought by Microsoft, also just launched an embedded Internet-linked navigation and infotainment system called Here Auto.)
The IFA Berlin show is up and running this week, and bringing with it plenty of tech announcements. LG Electronics announced a 55-inch OLED television called the LG Gallery that looks like a painting in a frame — except with a 2.2 channel speaker system inside, with most Van Gogh reproductions don’t include. LG has also jumped back into the tablet race with its G Pad, an 8.3-inch Android tablet with an HD display.
Acer also had a few new products to announce, including a 24-inch all-in-one computer with a Nvidia Tegra 3 system-on-a-chip inside that’s running Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and a phone with a 6-inch screen called the Liquid S2. It runs on the 4G data networks and it can also shoot video in ultra high-definition 4K. Acer also has a 10.1-inch Iconia A3 Android tablet coming too. Samsung, Sony and several other companies all had IFA announcements as well this week.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear was also formally announced this week. While we’re checking our watches, Google recently completed the acquisition of smartwatch maker WIMM Labs. WIMM Labs put out its own smartwatch in 2011, but Google itself has not commented on any smartwatch plans of its own. (It did, however, rename the next version of Android after a candy bar.) Amazon, not to be left out of product news, released a new version of the Kindle Paperwhite.
Target is getting ready to introduce its own video-on-demand service called Target Ticket. Maybe you’ll be able to order up a Target Ticket flick on a PlayStation 4 console this fall, as Sony has confirmed its next generation game console will have voice command ability through the Eye camera peripheral.
Another government agency besides the National Security Agency has been tripping through the phone records of Americans. This time, the situation involves drug-fighting federal and local law enforcement officials from The Hemisphere Project using an AT&T database to check out call logs that go back to 1987.
Apple finally confirmed that it’s having a September 10th press event. Photos have been popping up around the Web purporting to show a batch of the lower-cost iPhone 5C models tucked into the same types of clear plastic boxes used by Apple to sell its iPod Touch and iPod Nano media players, so we’ll see if those were real or rumor-driving props designed to make the tech blogs hyperventilate.
Skype has just celebrated its 10th birthday. The little startup accounted for 167 billion minutes of international voice traffic in 2012, much to the traditional telephone companies’ dismay. And speaking of 10-year anniversaries, the Daily Telegraph newspaper over in London has named its “10 Most Annoying Social Media Features of the Past 10 Years.” Go poke yourself, Facebook.
Forget the Avengers and the Justice League: this season’s rootin’-tootin’ action team-ups include several major companies — including AOL, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo — are banding together with a new plan to fight digital piracy, that ongoing problem for media-makers in this modern age. There is also a coalition of groups coming together to sue the National Security Agency for all that recently uncovered “unconstitutional dragnet electronic surveillance.” Meanwhile, staffers at Facebook and Buzzfeed are having a public squabble over a Buzzfeed story last week that was based on a Stanford University study and called “The Number Facebook Doesn’t Want You To See.” This prompted a Facebook engineer to fire back and say the story was “just plain wrong.” And so it goes.
Other academic studies are also popular this week. A recent one from researchers at Northwestern and MIT’s Sloan School of Management takes a look at just who writes negative product reviews online. The study, called Deceptive Reviews: The Influential Tail, presents evidence that many product reviews on a private-label retail site were written by people who did not actually purchase the product in question. As for croaking and squawking of another kind, researchers from the University of Puerto Rico are using iPods to automatically record endangered species. All this automated data acquisition is part of the ARBIMON system— which stands for automated remote biodiversity monitoring network and you can hear samples of some of the audio it’s analyzed here, including the musings of the cute little coquí frog.
The Verge site is reporting that Microsoft is still working on its prototype smartwatch and has moved the project over to the team behind its Surface touchscreen tablet computers. Speaking of small computers, there’s another tiny model that’s joining the ranks of the Raspberry Pi and other barebones PCs. CompuLab’s Utilite computer is about the size of a pack of index cards and starts at $100. Also getting smaller: the price tag on a BlackBerry Z10. BlackBerry CEO said it was the right time to adjust the price on the Z10, now that the newer Q10 model has arrived. Things are not so booming for Intel’s Thunderbolt technology either, as Acer is the latest laptop maker to ditch the high-speed communications port for the slower but less-expensive USB 3.0 jacks.
Need entertainment? If you find yourself looking up actors, movie trailers and other cinematic tidbits on the IMDb site, you can now follow through and buy tickets right in the mobile app for Android and iOS. Apple, perpetually rumored to be working on a TV-type product to enhance or build on its Apple TV box, may be working on a feature that lets viewers skip commercials for those who prefer to stay in front of their screens at home at chill without the shill. (Not to be outdone, Google is also said to be talking to media companies about getting content for its own online TV service.)
On the mobile front, two unfortunate smartphone incidents have recently occurred. Apple is investigating reports of an electrocution that happened when a woman in China answered a call on her iPhone 5 when it was plugged into the charger. This follows reports last week of a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone that spontaneously exploded in the pocket of a Swiss teenager and causing third-degree burns.
And finally, out in space, NASA’s Hubble telescope has discovered a new moon orbiting the planet Neptune, and a small moon at that. Goodnight, moon!
Sales taxes for online purchases could be in the near future. The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, a bill that was just approved by the United States Senate by a vote of 69 to 27, is now headed to the House of Representatives. (Do you have to pay tax on rentals? Adobe announced this week that it’s no longer going to sell the Creative Suite software, but is moving to the $50-per-month Creative Cloud subscription service and other rental plans with varying fees for new versions of its products.)
Security analysts have found flaws in Internet Explorer 8, which Microsoft has confirmed, although it says that IE 6, 7, 9 and 10 are not affected by this particular exploit. The attack has been reported as hitting US government Web sites and federal workers involved in nuclear research. In other security news, the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress directly accuses the Chinese military of staging cyber-attacks on American government computer systems and defense contactors.
Google Glass may not be feeling the love from certain legislators and Las Vegas casinos, but Google is keeping busy with other projects. The company added the ability to share files from your Google Drive folder on your PC or Mac directly with others, and it also updated its Gmail app for iOS this week.
An analyst from NPD DisplaySearch says Apple will release a Retina display version of its popular iPad Mini tablet in the third quarter of this year — and then turn around and drop a third-generation Mini with a faster processor in the first quarter of 2014. (So what’s a geek to do for the holiday season purchases this year?)
On the topic of small tablets, Amazon may have spoiled a Microsoft surprise by accidentally publishing pictures of a new 7-inch Acer tablet, which is thought to be the first smaller slab to run Windows 8. Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates thinks Windows tablets offer more perks like keyboards and Office for “frustrated” tablet users, although judging from the sales numbers, iPad users aren’t that frustrated.
Windows 8 has now sold 100 million licenses since it arrived six months ago. Don’t get too comfy — an update to Windows 8, codenamed Windows Blue, is expected later this year, as is a new version of the Xbox game console that may have an HDMI port.
Electronic Arts announced that The Sims 4 will arrive next year for PC and Mac gamers. Much to the relief of many, The Sims 4 will be available in single-player offline mode. (Will Wright, SimCity’s original 1980s developer, expressed sympathy recently for the EA team involved in the epic fail that was the SimCity 5 launch a few months ago.) Electronic Arts has a few other things going on besides Sim-related games. Disney, which recently shut down the LucasArts game division, has tapped EA to develop future game titles for the Star Wars franchise. Not everyone is excited by this, including one writer over at TG Daily. However, other media outlets were more hopeful.
Finally, and sadly, we note the passing of Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion animator and film visual-effects wizard behind the classic Jason and the Argonauts and scores of other pictures. He was an inspiration to George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and pretty much anyone entranced by the magic of movies. Requiescat in pace.
In a Hopefully Helpful Hint segment J.D. takes a look at some inexpensive websites that will show you how to become a programmer. In the news Google pushes for quality Android tablet apps; a new rumor making the rounds claims the aforementioned Google and Apple nemesis Samsung are teaming up to develop a Nexus branded 10″ tablet; and tech giants band together to create the Web Platform Docs project, a new community-driven site for web developer documentation.
Google is getting serious about having nice-looking apps designed for tablets running the Android system posting its “tablet app quality checklist” on the Android Developer’s site this week. That could come in handy, say for developers working on something like a 10-inch Nexus tablet co-produced by Google and Samsung. (But while the big tech companies may be slugging it out in the Tablet Wars, many of the big names are joining together with the World Wide Web Consortium to create a community resource site for developers called Web Platform Docs.)
Apple’s latest iPods are beginning to ship out to customers who pre-ordered them last month and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 handsets will be available for pre-order in the US on October 21st. If Windows 8 has your attention, Acer announced another Windows 8 tablet headed to stores on November 9th — the Iconia W510 , which joins the larger Iconia W700 tablet (due October 26th ) in the Win8Tab world.
On the malware front, Skype users on Windows machines need to keep a look out for malicious instant messages with a question about a “profile pic” and a link full of nasty software that loops the PC into a botnet. And Facebook, ever tinkering with profile layouts and everything else, is testing a new feature called “Collections” that’s aimed at retailers and those who like to shop.
Curiosity continues to rove around Mars, but that’s not the only space news this week. Despite a failed engine and a mishap with a satellite, the private company SpaceX sent up a Dragon cargo capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket with 882 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.
Back on Earth, Boxee, a streaming TV set-top box, is said to be adding an HDTV antenna and a digital video recorder to its next model. Free over-the-air TV and plenty of Web streams could make you forget all about the cable company. And if you’re looking for something to watch on broadcast TV, check out TG Daily’s guide to genre TV this season. Who knows, some of these shows may help pass the time until the Doctor returns.