The opinions are flying around the internet about how Microsoft’s Surface stacks up against the Apple iPad 3. Some of the loudest Microsoft critics are insisting that Surface is just an iPad imitation, and not the tablet with the heart of a PC Microsoft that proclaimed it to be just hours ago.
According to Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White in a note to investors on Tuesday, Microsoft’s debut tablet amounts to an iPad clone. He said, “Last night, Microsoft announced Surface, a ‘new family of PCs for Windows’ that are tablets with some of the functionality of a PC. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the compliments from Microsoft poured down like a torrential storm on Apple last night. At the same time, this event indicates to us that Microsoft is still searching for its own identity in the post-PC era, something that has come naturally for Apple with the rise of the mobile Internet.”
White said there are enterprise niches that the new Microsoft tablets can fill, but he doesn’t see Surface appealing to the masses. “On the surface, we believe Microsoft’s tablet-related products may have a place in certain parts of the enterprise world that require Windows-based solutions; however, we found little in yesterday’s presentation that would convince us that a consumer would prefer Surface over an iPad.”
Just competing on price with the iPad is going to be a challenge for Surface. White said Surface will have to come in at a price point that offers a “healthy discount” compared to Apple’s tablets. He doesn’t see how Microsoft can beat the iPad 2′s $399 price or even the new iPad’s $499. Then there’s the iPad “mini” that’s due to arrive later this year with a price point of somewhere between $250 and $300. As White put it, “that will provide a more cost competitive product for Apple and [open] up a new market segment.”
Google regularly updates its transparency report that details thousands of requests from governments around the world to censor search results, drop YouTube videos or review user data. A sample snapshot of this report is shown below.
Google doesn’t just bend to government’s will either. While Google did agree to cooperate on blogs promoting hate speech and violence, it refused to censor a video where a Canadian citizen creatively destroyed his passport.
Google did however, comply and remove a tweaked iPhone 4S parts video after Apple threatened legal action.
Google logs and details every request. Their numbers indicate that the only comply with about half of the requests, indicating Google’s fundamental respect for the right to free speech in a great majority of cases.
Most filings come from the US, UK and India. The list makes for interesting reading.
The founder of one of Europe’s leading illegal movie-streaming sites confessed and apologized for his crimes and got his sentence cut in half by a German judge. Deutsche Welle reported that 39-year-old Kino.to founder “Dirk B.” has been sentenced to 4.5 years in jail. He could have been ordered to spend 11 years in prison, but received a reduced sentence after confessing to his copyright infringement crimes.
Dirk B. will have to pay a $4.7 million fine to cover 1.1 million instances of copyright infringement. While in operation, Kino.to is estimated to have brought in as much as $8 million in advertising revenue.
Most recently, law enforcement officials in Sweden first raided The Pirate Bay in 2006, and the company’s founders were eventually sentenced to jail and forced to pay millions in fines. The service remained online, however, and it is still operational today. “The Swedish district attorney Fredrik Ingblad initiated a new investigation into The Pirate Bay back in 2010. Information has been leaked to us every now and then by multiple sources, almost on a regular basis. It’s an interesting read,” The Pirate Bay said on its blog. “We can certainly understand why WikiLeaks wished to be hosted in Sweden, since so much data leaks there. The reason that we get the leaks is usually that the whistleblowers do not agree with what is going on. Something that the governments should have in mind – even your own people do not agree.”
Intel’s first Android cell phone, the Orange San Diego (once known as the Santa Clara), performed quite well for a debut device from a first-time smartphone manufacturer. Packed with a (1024 x 600) 4-inch LCD, 8-megapixel camera with flash, micro-HDMI port and 1GB of RAM, the San Diego appears to be a solid, mid-range Android device. During its pre-launch, Intel didn’t over-promise on the San Diego, but focused on a few priorities: good web browsing performance, a high-quality camera and maximum battery life.
Watch the following insightful video on the Intel smartphone
The Orange San Diego’s look like a smartphone should. The cell phone case is durable but is a pretty ordinary design. Its black body is ringed by a silver border. There’s nothing special about the finish or any of the other body parts. The soft-touch backing is a nice feature for such an inexpensive phone, but it will still need the protection of a skin or a case to keep it blemish-free.
Along the right side of the 10mm edge are the volume rocker, micro-SIM slot and two-stage camera button. The micro-USB port is at the bottom. The mini-HMDI output is along the left side. All of the buttons are responsive. The camera button even quick launches the camera.
The Orange San Diego resembles a Samsung Galaxy S2 or an iPhone 3GS, but the prominent bezel below the screen gets in the way of it being as user-friendly as those two devices.
That the San Diego has a 4-inch screen is a nice surprise. While there’s no Super AMOLED Plus or Super LCD 2, the contrast is sharp and the colors are rich, although there is a little discoloration on the edges. The 1024 x 600 is screen is ample. When turned up to full brightness the screen was almost readable in full daylight.
There’s almost 11GB of storage space, but no expansion slot. The whole phone is sealed, so the battery is not removable, so a quick reset by removing the battery is not a possibility.
The camera can be controlled by the physical button or the touchscreen. The rear-facing camera can record 1080p video. The four capacitive buttons can be read in daylight. They also illuminate if lighting is too low.
This is probably the biggest disappointment. While the camera is an 8-megapixel / 1.3-megapixel camera duo, you can’t judge this phone’s performance by its specs. Those 8-megapixels don’t live up to their reputation with this phone. While it is capable of burst capture, images are blurry and colors are washed out. Overall, photos appear dull and images aren’t very detailed. Color reproduction indoors was no better. Problems seem to improve a bit when operating in macro mode.
You’ve got a lot of camera control options including capturing multiple photos at differing exposures. The camera doesn’t have an HDR mode, but you can download your images, and turn them into HDR on separate hardware. The camera does have several auto exposure modes (including aperture and shutter priority), shutter-speed adjustment, anti-banding options, RAW mode, ISO settings (800 maximum) and a burst-mode capable of 15 frames per second for up to 10 shots, but you might not have much use for them given the overall mediocre performance of the camera.
Video produced the same ho-hum results. White balancing helped with fuzziness, but also washed-out whites. Autofocus performed well but slowly.
The San Diego’s OS is Android Gingerbread. The phone should be Android 4.0-capable, and that will be available later this year. It's hard to tell what was customized in the Orange San Diego’s OS. There are gesture features that could be useful. Drawing a symbol with your finger across the home screen or with any app acts as a shortcut that will take you to your pre-identified location. You can assign up to 27 shortcuts to apps, contacts, playlists and even Foursquare places.
Popular apps like Orange Wednesday come pre-installed but so do less-useful apps like the Orange Assistant, a redundant user guide and an NFC tags app. The presence of the NFC app doesn’t make much sense. The phone is NFC-capable, but it doesn’t come with taggable cards, and it’s not connected to Orange's existing payment service.
The display keyboard is one of the most responsive of any Android device, regardless of price. Swype is offered as an option as well. The web browser performs comparably to other dual-core Android devices. Even dense websites download easily and with little stutter.
Most apps were compatible with the new chipset, and only two didn’t work out of many tested.
Call quality was sharp and clear. Orange provides HD voice calling between the San Diego and other HD devices. The San Diego’s earSmart voice-cancellation processing is found in higher-end phones like the Galaxy S3.
Performance and Battery Life:
These are the two most important indicators of a viable future for Intel in the smartphone market.
The San Diego’s processor can’t come near a quad-core or Snapdragon S4s, but its single-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z2460 performs like a dual-core processor.
Battery life didn't hold up to Intel’s promise of 14 days' in standby mode. It’s primarily due to the juice drained by powering the screen. The San Diego was tested with a video loop with the screen at 50 percent brightness. The phone ran out of power around seven hours and 20 minutes. That’s a result pretty much on par with other Android devices, but not bad for a 4-inch smartphone.
Day-to-day use was a lot better than many other of the latest smartphones. The battery lasted two to three days between charges. Not using the smartphone features at all gave the battery a two-week lifespan between charges.
To sum it all up:
Overall, Intel's first Android smartphone performed admirably.
The real stand-out was its Medfield processor that met and, in some cases, exceeded expectations.
The battery didn’t live up to Intel’s claims but still held its power very well.
The camera was a big disappointment. Back to the drawing board Intel.
When compared to Samsung and HTC devices the San Diego looks cheap and somewhat fragile.
It needs Ice Cream Sandwich sooner rather than later.
Priced at $308 USD, the San Diego joins a nice variety of inexpensive entry-level smartphones in the Orange family.
ABI Research’s latest study of the global tablet market shows a year-over-year grow rate of an incredible 185%. Apple’s iPad continues to dominate the market, and while it had a good showing in the first quarter of 2012, demand for Amazon’s Kindle Fire is burning out.
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Manufacturers reported shipping over 18 million tablets in the first quarter of this year. The iPad family accounted for 65% of the market, or 11.8 million devices. Amazon’s Kindle Fire numbers declined to the point that Samsung took the lead in Android tablet shipments. Even so, these amounted to only 1.1 million units.
Verizon’s Motorola DROID 4, DROID RAZR, DROID RAXR MAXX and the HTC Rezound will receive software updates that enable global GSM roaming. It’s surprising how long it’s taken Verizon to enable global roaming, since these handsets were built with radio units already capable of GSM and CDMA connectivity.
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The next big questions are what Verizon will charge for the phones and their roaming rates. Global connectivity has never been a bargain, so most people use an inexpensive, temporary GSM phone with a local carrier's SIM while roaming. Maybe Verizon knows something the rest of us don’t.
AT&T has given the thumbs up to shared data plans, hopefully ending the waste of gigabytes that family plan customers end up paying for every month. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega announced this week in an interview with CNET that they will be making shared data plans available to subscribers later this year, but he would share no other details.
Family plans as we know them today require customers to pay for two separate lines, each with their own data allowance. Most of the time phone use doesn’t come anywhere near the standard 2-3GB limit, so most of it goes to waste.
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The option to share data usage would allow consumers to buy one chunk of data that can be used across devices including smartphones and tablets. This will at least reduce the amount of data that family plan subscribers needlessly pay for every month.
Currently, AT&T and Verizon are the two major cell service providers considering shared data plans, possibly launching them sometime this summer. Of course, data plans are where carriers make most of their money, and with the quarrel heating up over device subsidies, we’ll have to wait and see how far AT&T and Verizon are willing to go to improve their pricing.
We’re hoping details of the new shared data plans with be available at the upcoming CTIA Spring 2012 show in New Orleans. AT&T and Verizon will both be there, and they know they’re going to get asked.