We'll circle back to the Nexus 10 in a separate post. For now, let's concentrate on the Nexus 4, a handset with the firepower and looks to challenge both the iPhone 5 and the extremely-popular, Android-powered Samsung Galaxy III.
Mountain View is billing the Nexus 4, which is built by LG, as the "best of Google" – a phone packed tight with Google products, from full Gmail integration to the Chrome browser to Google Maps. For some folks, of course, that's going to be a little too much Google, but for anyone who spent long hours trying to suss out the intricacies of the Apple Maps app on the iPhone 5, it might come as welcome news indeed.
The specs on the Nexus 4 are pretty impressive: A 4.7-inch display – compared to four inches on the iPhone 5 – an 8-megapixel camera out back and a 1.3-megapixel camera out front, 2GB of RAM, and a jumbo Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. The phone will be sold without a two-year contract through the Google Play store – $299 will get you an 8GB model and $349 will get you the 16GB model. Release date is Nov. 13.
"For those of us in the US," writes JR Raphael of Computerworld, "the phone will work on either T-Mobile or AT&T with HSPA+-level 4G speeds; you'll buy the device outright from Google and then use it either with your existing plan or a new plan. You can also opt to use it with a prepaid smartphone plan – something I'd strongly suggest considering."
Raphael says T-Mobile will also sell the 16GB model for $200, with a two-year contract.
So how does the Nexus stack up against its chief rivals?
And while the Nexus "doesn't always beat the Apple A6 in the iPhone 5, it's always very close in synthetic benchmarks," Cunningham adds. "Between the two, the iPhone's dual-core A6 may have the advantage in real-world performance, since not all apps will be able to take advantage of all four of the Snapdragon's CPU cores, but we need more real-world comparison time to say for certain."
For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
The Google homepage today depicts a big-haired painter with a squirrel on his shoulder, a brush in his hand, and a look of bemused happiness on his face. The painter, of course, is Bob Ross, the resolutely earnest public television personality, who would have celebrated his 70th birthday today. From 1983 until 1994 – a total of 403 episodes in all – Ross hosted "The Joy of Painting," an unabashedly low-budget how-to guide.
Ross's official Facebook page calls "The Joy of Painting" "the most popular art show" on TV. And maybe it was (no statistics are provided). But for many of us, it was simply the mellifluous soundtrack – as the Monitor's Molly Driscoll notes, Ross's voice had an infamously soporific effect – to a 1980s childhood. To others, it was the program starring the dude who kindly fed a baby squirrel with the world's smallest milk bottle.
As Steven Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times notes today, Ross was more than a painter. He was icon, an innovator, a figure of genuine cult celebrity.
"You'd watch Ross quietly at home, half-admiringly and half-ironically, thinking you were one of the few," Zeitchik writes. "Meanwhile, millions of people around the country were doing the same. Long before there was viral video, Ross was going viral."
He attended Orlando High School, and at the age of 19, he signed on with the Air Force. He was immediately dispatched to Alaska. "I was the guy who makes you scrub the latrine, the guy who makes you make your bed, the guy who screams at you for being late to work," he later said of his time in the Air Force. "The job requires you to be a mean, tough person. And I was fed up with it."
He left the Air Force in 1981, with a rank of master sergent, and studied for a time under William Alexander, the host of a television show called "The Magic World of Oil Painting." At first, he taught art for a while for an art-supply company. Then Ross got the idea to submit his own audition video to public television stations. An outlet in Virginia agreed to give him a pilot, and the rest is history.
Ross, the New York Times wrote in an obituary, was an encouraging presence, who was convinced he could teach just about anyone to paint in half an hour. His "folksy demeanor eventually came to be interpreted as a kind of reverse chic," the Times noted.
Ross hosted "The Joy of Painting" for more than a decade – more or less to the end of his life. He died in 1995.
Ross's legacy has endured. According to his official Facebook page, The Joy of Painting is carried by approximately 95 percent of all public television stations in the US, "accessing more than 93.5 million households." Foreign broadcasts reach a range of markets, including the UK, the Netherlands, Mexico, Switzerland, The Philippines, South Korea, and Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, dozens of Bob Ross instructional videos and books remain in print; a reported 3,000 teachers have been certified in the official "Bob Ross" style.
But you don't have to sign up for a class or purchase a book to learn from the master. Instead, you can navigate over to the Bob Ross topic page on YouTube, where dozens of clips of Ross – and his disciples and fans – are stored.
Bob Ross aficionado? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
The good news: Revenue is up 24 percent, and iPhone sales are soaring – Apple unloaded 26.9 million iPhones in Q4, a 58 percent jump from the same time last year. The not-so-good news: Apple sold 14 million iPads during the last quarter, which is obviously a pretty hefty number, and up 14 percent from Q4 of 2011, but somewhat short of the 17 percent predicted by many analysts.
Summary: Apple is selling a lot of iPads, just not as many iPads as Wall Street would have liked.
"Customers delay purchases of tablets due to new product rumors," he said. "These intensified in August and September. Some was anticipated but some we wished wouldn't occur but it did."
The "new product," in this case, of course, is the iPad Mini, which was unveiled earlier this week. Cook clearly believes that many Apple fans put off purchasing a third-generation iPad, and decided to wait for the iPad Mini instead.
Not that it's all doom and gloom.
"The investment community tends to get ‘wrapped around the axle’ on tertiary details and fails to forget the 'big picture,' " Marshall said. "Demand for Apple products is much greater than current supply."
For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
Beginning today, Windows 8 will be available on a range of devices, including desktops, laptops, and Surface tablet computers.
In a separate address, Steven Sinofsky, who heads the Windows team at Microsoft, announced that Windows 8 had undergone approximately 1.24 billion hours of public testing in 190 countries. (Horizons readers will remember that Windows 8 launched in "consumer preview" mode way back in February.) "No product anywhere receives this kind of testing anywhere in the world," Sinofsky said.
Writing at the Guardian, Charles Arthur says Microsoft really couldn't have done anything else: "The desktop paradigm is getting tired, and the tiles approach is fresh and quickly becomes intuitive."
And here's Tom Warren of the Verge, who awarded Windows 8 extremely high marks across the board:
Windows 8 is a beautiful operating system and one that feels incredibly personal once it’s customized. Microsoft has a huge fight on its hands now to ensure developers create beautiful apps. Some of the best Android and iOS apps are created by organizations or individuals who have showed little interest in Microsoft. If the software maker can change people’s perceptions of Windows, from viruses to bluescreens, into one of speed and style then the apps will flow and Microsoft has a hit on its hands.
And the consensus there may sound familiar: The Surface is a solid, beautiful device, critics say. If only it had more apps!
"If you're an early adopter willing to forget everything you know about navigating a computer, the Surface tablet could replace your laptop. Everyone else: wait for more apps," one reviewer wrote.
Planning on picking up Windows 8? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
Earlier this week, Apple introduced the long-awaited iPad Mini. And beginning at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time on Friday – or 3 a.m. Eastern, if you'd like – consumers can begin placing their pre-orders for the sleek, square, slim tablet. Mini prices start at $329, for a Wi-Fi-only, 16GB model; the 64GB Wi-Fi Mini will set you back $529. (LTE versions of the tablet won't start shipping for a couple weeks, Apple says.)
Just make sure you're quick on the trigger finger – already, some analysts are predicting that Apple may have trouble keeping up with demand for the Mini.
"As is typical, we expect the iPads to be supply constrained initially, especially the iPad Mini with its $329 price," Richard Shim, Senior Analyst at DisplaySearch, an analytics firm, wrote in a blog post today. "The new low price point is expected to appeal to a wider audience and drive up demand. However, panel supply chain indications point to an even more than typical tightness in the market for the iPad Mini."
So let's assume you do manage to wrangle a Mini. How will the device handle?
Well, reviews of the iPad Mini won't appear for a few more days, but a gaggle of journalists managed to get their hands on the device at a press event earlier this week in New York, and most of them were impressed.
"The Apple iPad mini may be the most beautifully built device I've ever seen," gushed Sascha Segan of PC Mag. "It feels years ahead of the current iPad, and even of other high-quality metal tablets like the Asus Transformer series," he added.
And here's Andrea Chang, of the Los Angeles Times: "Although the mini's screen doesn't boast the high-resolution retina display found on the latest 9.7-inch iPads, I found the images to be sharp and clear," Chang said. Moreover, she added, "compared with the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, it was nice to have that extra 0.9 inches of screen size."
So yes, the early critical reception has been good. But for our part, we remain a little skeptical about the Mini.
As we noted yesterday, the Mini – to our tastes – is an awkward fit in terms of shape and an awkward fit in terms of price. Size because if we're going to watch videos or read the news, we'd prefer to do it on the 9.7-inch tablet. And price because $329 is not exactly budget for most folks – and if you're going to lay down $329, why not just lay down $499 for the full-sized device? But we welcome dissent.
Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
After a few months of hype, Microsoft will finally begin selling its Surface tablet tomorrow. The device, which runs the Windows RT operating system, starts at $499 – the same price as the Apple iPad. (To get the patented Touch Cover keyboard, you'll have to fork over an extra hundred bucks.) Microsoft had previously said that pre-order demand was high in the US; in the UK, meanwhile, the base-level Surface appeared to have sold out.
So hey, how does the Surface stack up to competitors such as the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle Fire?
Well, reviews started to trickle out today, and the consensus seems to be this: The Surface is a good looking and snappy machine, burdened with a less than stellar OS. Over at The New York Times, for instance, David Pogue praises the lines on Microsoft's new tablet.
"The edges of the black magnesium body are angled and crisp, like a prop from a Batman movie. Then there’s the kickstand. The lower half of the back is a hinged panel, held shut magnetically until you pop it out with a fingernail. It snaps to a 22-degree angle, ready to prop the tablet sturdily upright," Pogue writes. "A lesser kickstand would add weight, bulk or ugliness. But this one is razor-thin and disappears completely when you’re not using it."
Still, Pogue warns, the software on the Surface is "heartbreaking." As Pogue points out, the Surface isn't running Windows 8. It's running Windows RT.
And Windows RT, "is not the full Windows," he continues. "The Surface comes with preview 2013 versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint – workable, but sometimes sluggish. Otherwise, though, Windows RT can’t run any of the four million regular Windows programs. Or the 275,000 iPad apps. Or the 17 Android tablet apps. (That’s a joke! There are actually 19 Android tablet apps.) Instead, it requires all new apps."
Zach Epstein of BGR has titled his review of the Surface "a tale of two tablets." The Surface, he writes, "really is the perfect combination of a tablet and a notebook thanks to the Touch Cover and the Type Cover, and I felt right at home with the Surface the moment I turned it on. On the other hand, the software experience does not feel like home. It’s new, and for many it will be scary."
Moreover, he adds, "Windows RT has a lot of growing to do. The faster Microsoft can get developers on board, the better – and the early days will be slow-going in some respects as a result of this lack of apps."
We'll give the last word here to Eric Franklin of CNET, who – surprise! – finds the Surface to be well-built and solid, and a pleasure to look at. But he calls the Windows Store a "ghost town" and says the tiled interface will likely befuddle many users.
"If you're an early adopter willing to forget everything you know about navigating a computer, the Surface tablet could replace your laptop. Everyone else: wait for more apps," Franklin writes.
Thinking about picking up a Surface? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
As recently as Monday, plenty of folks were speculating that Apple would sell its iPad Mini for $275 or even $250. Well, the slimmed-down tablet computer finally got its grand unveiling yesterday, and now we know the truth – the device will actually cost $329, a full 129 bucks more than both the high-resolution Amazon Kindle Fire and the base-level Google Nexus 7.
Pretty pricey, in other words, for a 7-inch tablet.
Unsurprisingly, Apple has already found itself on the defensive. In a conversation with Reuters today, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller maintained that consumers had, in the past, shown a willingness to fork over a little extra for an Apple device.
"The most affordable [tablet] we've made so far was $399 and people were choosing that over those devices," Schiller said, referring to the iPad 2, which saw a price drop earlier this year. "And now you can get a device that's even more affordable at $329 in this great new form, and I think a lot of customers are going to be very excited about that." Schiller added.
He's right, of course. Apple has long been able to get away with high prices – even on relatively simple products such as MP3 players and laptops – because Apple fans love the idea that they are buying a luxury brand. Something with real cache.
It's also worth noting that it's not exactly useful to compare the price of the Kindle Fire to the iPad Mini. Amazon and Apple have completely different sales strategies. Amazon takes a loss on its Fires so that it can sell more Amazon e-books and movies – the Fire is a conduit. Apple, on the other hand, wants to make a profit on hardware. It might be willing to sell a Mini for $300, eventually, but not at the Fire's $199 price point.
So will the iPad Mini sell well? Probably.
Rare is the Apple product that doesn't sell well. But as Morningstar analyst Brian Colello has pointed out – hat tip to ZD Net – Apple may still suffer a loss in the long term.
"The risk around the Mini, in our view, is that Apple's Mini pricing may concede more of the low-end tablet market to Amazon and Google, running the risk that these Android tablet users may buy compatible Android phones and/or shy away from Apple iPhones in the future," Colello opined.
Consumers don't just buy devices, in other words. They buy into ecosystems. And if Jane Doe decides to pick up a Google Nexus 7 instead of the iPad Mini – thus saving herself more than a hundred bucks – what's to stop her from becoming an Android aficionado for good?
With all the attention Apple has given to the iPhone and iPad over the past few years, it's nice when desktops get a little love.
The company announced major updates to the iMac -- which Apple VP Phil Schiller referred to as the company's "flagship" -- at its media event in San Jose, California, on Tuesday. The computer whose debut in 1998 started Apple's return to profitability is now in its eighth generation, and comes in 21.5-inch and 27-inch flavors.
Let's talk about aesthetic impressions first: the redesigned iMac is almost cartoonishly thin. The body tapers to just 5mm at the edges, although it's slightly thicker where the case meets the stand in back. Older iMacs had a 2mm gap of air between the display and the glass covering it -- now the two are laminated together, which not only makes for a thinner machine but, Apple says, eliminates a lot of the reflectiveness associated with glossy displays. The front and back of the case are joined with a technique called "friction stir welding," which joins two pieces of aluminum together with heat and pressure, allowing for an even slimmer profile.
The 21.5-inch iMac boasts a 1920x1080-pixel screen, while the 27-inch model has a 2560x1440 display. Both have LED backlighting and a viewing angle of 178 degrees -- plus, Apple says, each iMac will be individually color-calibrated at the factory. That ought to be welcome news to photographers and anyone whose work depends on faithful color reproduction.
The iMac is no slouch under the hood, either, although Apple made one significant omission: the new models have no optical drives, presumably in the interest of thinness. This isn't terribly surprising, given the company's moves away from disc media over the past year (Apple doesn't ship Mountain Lion, the latest Mac OS X operating system, on a disc, and it didn't offer a disc version of its predecessor Lion either), but it might sting a bit if you were hoping to watch a DVD on that gorgeous display. Each machine has four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an Ethernet port, and a headphone jack.
Optical drive aside, though, the new iMacs are plenty capable: Intel "Ivy Bridge" Core i5 or i7 processors, a discrete graphics card, and up to 3TB of disk space. Apple's also including a "Fusion Drive": a single hard drive that combines solid-state and traditional spinning-platter technology. (If you're not familiar with the difference, solid-state memory is faster and more reliable -- but also significantly more expensive -- than a traditional hard drive.) The Fusion Drive pairs a 128GB solid-state drive with a 1- or 3-TB hard drive. Applications go on the solid-state drive for speed; documents and media go on the hard drive for storage.
The 21.5-inch iMacs will start at $1,299, and Apple should start shipping them to customers in November. The 27-inch models will set you back at least $1,799; they'll begin shipping in December.
Readers, what do you think of the new iMacs? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
As expected, Apple today introduced a slimmed-down tablet called the iPad Mini.
The device will weigh a feathery 0.68 pounds, and ship with a 7.9-inch display – significantly smaller than the 9.7-inch screen on the current model iPad. The thickness of the device, meanwhile, is just 7.2 millimeters, or approximately 0.28 inches. Thin, in other words.
Apple design guru Jony Ive stressed that the device was not simply a shrunken replica of the full-sized iPad.
"We took the time to create a product that was a concentration of, but not a reduction of, the original product," Ive said.
The iPad Mini is set to arrive on Nov. 2, putting it head to head against 7-inch competitors such as the Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7. Pricing will start at $329 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi only model – an LTE version, Gizmodo is reporting, is expected to go for $140 more.
In addition, Apple used the press conference to introduce the fourth generation iPad, a development that almost no one saw coming. The new iPad – Apple has stopped giving its tablets numerical designations – will look the same as the old iPad: same 9.7-inch Retina Display, same dimensions. Same price points, too.
But unlike the third-generation iPad, which was released just six months ago, the latest device will get the small Lightning connector and an A6X processor. As Don Reisinger of CNET notes, that's "double the current CPU and graphics power of the A5X available in the third-generation [iPad]."
No word yet on availability, but the device should launch within the next couple of weeks.
Thinking about picking up an iPad Mini or a fourth generation iPad? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
And according to Microsoft's Larry Hryb, the company will also use the occasion to officially release SmartGlass, a new application designed to sync Windows-powered devices with the Xbox 360 gaming console. Think of SmartGlass as a kind of remote control. With the app, users can stream Xbox Live videos and music, as well as control certain aspects of Xbox games.
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Microsoft has positioned SmartGlass as a "second portal" into gaming, and Hryb says it will support a range of games at launch, including Ascend, Forza Horizon, and Halo Waypoint. (More games will be added in coming months.) In addition, streaming content from the NBA, the UFC, ESPN, and HBO Go streaming video content will also be available.
"Xbox SmartGlass will be a free downloadable app that takes your Windows 8 tablets and PCs, Windows Phone 8, iOS and Android devices, and converts them into a smart second screen for the entertainment you are enjoying through your Xbox," Hryb wrote on his Major Nelson blog.
SmartGlass seems like a smart move for Microsoft, which has said that Windows 8 will mark a move away from desktop-centric computing, and toward a mobile-friendly interface. SmartGlass fits that paradigm. It opens up the Xbox experience. But is it any good? Well, yes, says Kyle Wagner of Gizmodo, who had a chance to put SmartGlass through its paces.
Games are fun with SmartGlass, Wagner writes, but he reserves special praise for video and music streaming.
This is "where SmartGlass really shines, and is probably where you'll get the most real world use out of SmartGlass. You can use SmartGlass to control your music, either your local files, or streamed songs over Xbox Music. The controls are intuitive, and make your TV seem like a big, visual entertainment center," he adds.
Eager to try out SmartGlass? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
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