Google this week took the wraps off a pair of ultralight Chromebook computers, both of which will be manufactured by Samsung and outfitted with the Chrome operating system – not Mac OS or Windows. The newest Chromebook is set to ship at two price points: $249 for a Wi-Fi-only edition and $329 for a 3G version.
The Wi-Fi Chromebook goes on sale Monday at a range of retailers, including BestBuy and Staples. The 3G Chromebook, meanwhile, will likely launch a week later; you can pre-order the device at Newegg.com, Amazon, and the Samsung Website.
The Chromebook gets an 11.6-inch screen – roughly on par with the smaller MacBook Air – a 16GB solid-state hard drive, a pair of USB ports, and a listed weight of 2.43 pounds. (The 11-inch Macbook Air, by comparison, weighs 2.38 pounds.) Users will get a bunch of free Google Drive storage and automatic updates for the Chrome OS. So how does the latest Chromebook stack up to its competitors?
Well, over at Computerworld, JR Raphael praises the "cloud-centric" operating system on the Wi-Fi Chromebook.
"Chrome OS eliminates the hassles of manually updating applications over time; the platform's Web-based apps all update seamlessly on their own, just like the OS," Raphael writes. "You don't have to deal with messy drivers and software conflicts or worry about virus protection, either. And thanks to the nature of the software setup, Chromebooks don't get gunked up and slowed down over time, as more traditional PCs frequently do."
And at Engadget, Myriam Joire calls the Chromebook "a phenomenal device for the price. If you're used to working in the cloud, you're basically getting 80 percent of the entry-level MacBook Air experience for a quarter of the price. Factor in the Google Now integration and 100GB of free Google Drive storage for two years and this latest Chromebook is a winner."
Thinking about picking up a Chromebook? Drop us a line in the comments section. And to receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow the Horizons team on Twitter @venturenaut.
All signs point to an iPad Mini, possibly as soon as soon as Nov. 2.
As we noted earlier this week, Apple has already sent out invitations for an Oct. 23 event at the California Theater in San Jose. Apple hasn't specified exactly what product it will show off at the press conference, although it doesn't take much to read between the lines. The invitation, after all, is emblazoned with a single line of text: "We've got a little more to show you."
Emphasis on the "little."
That makes sense: Nov. 2 was the same date mentioned by Fortune Magazine and 9to5mac.com. Moreover, a late October unveiling and an early November launch would position the iPad Mini perfectly for the upcoming holiday shopping season.
The iPad Mini is widely expected to get a 7.85-inch screen and an A5 processor – but not the high-resolution "Retina Display" that was included on the latest iteration of the full-size iPad.
In related news, rumors continue to circulate about the introduction of a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina Display – a device that may also be unveiled on Oct. 23. But over at Gizmodo, Jesus Diaz warns Apple fanboys and fangirls not to get their hopes up.
"Apple has a history of focusing these events on one single major product, mentioning other products' minor updates in passing as garnish," he writes. "It's unlikely that they would deviate from their core announcement with something as significant as a 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina.We're betting that this announcement would come along side the news that all Macbooks are going Retina – probably next year. But you can always dream!"
To receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow the Horizons team on Twitter @venturenaut.
Google stock tanked Thursday after Google released its third-quarter results a few hours early – an apparent mistake on the part of the Mountain View company.
Worse yet, the results were widely viewed as a disappointment: Google's net income is down from $2.73 billion this time last year to $2.18 billion Thursday, while operating expenses have climbed from $3.28 billion to $4.81 billion.
As Blodget points out, Google's core business delivered $11.4 billion in gross revenue – just shy of the expected $11.5 billion mark – while Motorola's numbers were way down across the board. "Most of the disappointment came from a business that was almost certain to disappoint – the dying elephant known as Motorola," he concludes. "Google's core business, meanwhile, came in just below expectations."
Other analysts pointed to shrinking revenue from online advertisements.
"The average cost per click decreased 3 percent from last quarter and 15 percent from last year, a steeper decline than analysts expected, in part because of the growth of mobile ads, which tend to cost less," writes Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times.
In related news, Google has distributed invitations to a major press event on Oct. 29, in New York. Oct. 29, of course, is the same day Microsoft is expected to officially roll out Windows Phone 8 – a fact that Google reps must certainly have been aware of. Google hasn't said exactly what products it intends to highlight at the event, but smart money is on the Key Lime Pie mobile operating system and a new Nexus phone.
Twitter has invoked its local censorship policy for the first time, blocking the feed of a German Neo-Nazi group known as Besseres Hannover, or Better Hannover. According to the Associated Press, the ban came after authorities in Lower Saxony ordered "the closure of all user accounts of the Besseres Hannover group," including YouTube and Twitter.
"We announced the ability to withhold content back in January," Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray said in a tweet earlier today. "We're using it now for the first time re: a group deemed illegal in Germany."
RECOMMENDED: Think you're a true geek? Take our quiz
In a separate tweet, he posted a link to Twitter's "Country-Withheld Content" policy, and wrote that Twitter "never [wants] to withhold content; good to have tools to do it narrowly & transparently."
That policy stipulates that Twitter will attempt to balance the free speech of its users with local legal concerns. From the Twitter Website:
Upon receipt of requests to withhold content, we will promptly notify affected users unless we believe we are legally prohibited from doing so (for example, if we receive an order under seal). We also clearly indicate within the product when content has been withheld. And, we have expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to publish not only DMCA notifications but also requests to withhold content – unless, similar to our practice of notifying users, we are legally prohibited from doing so.
Still, many critics have questioned the wisdom of Twitter's actions.
"Twitter is being pilloried for being honest about something that all Internet platforms have to wrestle with," she told CBS News. "As long as this censorship happens in a secret way, we're all losers."
RECOMMENDED: Think you're a true geek? Take our quiz
The Google homepage today depicts a white whale, a choppy sea, and a skiff captained by a one-legged harpooner. The doodle, of course, is an homage to "Moby Dick," which was first published 161 years ago, by Herman Melville. So who was Melville, exactly? Only one of the titans of modern literature – and a writer responsible, in the words of Nathaniel Philbrick, for "what is generally considered the greatest American novel ever written."
Melville was born in 1819, in New York, the third of eight children. As a boy, he was hired to help staff a ship running between the United States and Liverpool, England. In 1841, he signed on with the crew of the whaling vessel Acushnet and spent several months in the Pacific. He deserted in the Marquesas Islands, in modern-day Polynesia, and explored Tahiti and Hawaii, before sailing back to the Eastern seaboard.
Later, Melville would mine his experience in the Pacific for the novels "Typee," "White-Jacket," and "Omoo: A Narrative of the South Seas." "Omoo" and "Typee," particularly, sold well. In 1850, Melville moved with his young wife, Elizabeth, to a farm in Pittsfield, Mass. He raised a small family – he and Elizabeth had four children in all – and set to work on the long novel that would become "Moby Dick."
During that time, he befriended the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who lived nearby – and to whom Melville eventually dedicated "Moby Dick." Hawthorne encouraged his younger friend, and may even have helped Melville shape the content and tone of the novel. After Hawthorne praised "Moby Dick" – the story of a white sperm whale and his pursuer, the one-legged Captain Ahab – Melville wrote him a letter that burbles over with giddy happiness.
"A sense of unspeakable security is in me this moment, on account of your having understood the book," Melville declared. "I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb. Ineffable socialities are in me. I would sit down and dine with you and all the gods in old Rome's Pantheon."
"Moby Dick" was published in England in October of 1851 and in the US the following month. Despite Melville's high hopes for the novel, the book was slow to catch on. According to PBS, during Melville's lifetime, the book sold only 3,000 copies.
By comparison, "Typee" sold 6,000 copies in two years.
Melville wrote a few more novels, including the very fine "Pierre," but he struggled to attain the commercial success of his early career. In 1856, Melville visited Hawthorne in England, where Hawthorne was working at the American consulate. Hawthorne was shocked by the state of his old friend.
Melville, Hawthorne concluded, "no doubt has suffered from too constant literary occupation, pursued without much success, latterly; and his writings, for a long while past, have indicated a morbid state of mind... [Melville] informed me that he had 'pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated'; but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief."
Back in the US, Melville temporarily lectured to support his family, and in 1863, took the extraordinary step of moving back to New York to become a customs inspector. He died in 1891, at the age of 72. It was only many years later, in the early 20th century, that a group of scholars and writers helped bring to "Moby Dick" the canonical status that it enjoys today.
Apple today issued invitations to a press conference on Oct. 23 at the California Theater in San Jose, Calif. The invite is dominated by splatters of multi-colored paint, a gigantic white Apple logo, and a line of cryptic text: "We've got a little more to show you."
So what does Apple have planned for its event next week? Almost definitely a pint-sized tablet, which may or may not be called the iPad Mini.
Rumors of a smaller iPad began circulating as early as last year, but in recent months, more and more details of the device have hit the press. For instance, it's widely expected that the Mini will get a 7.85-inch display (measured diagonally, corner to corner), on par with the Amazon Kindle Fire, but significantly smaller than the current iPad, which sports a 9.7-inch screen.
A high-def "Retina Display" probably won't be included, but the Lightning dock connector probably will.
One major question remains: What kind of price will Apple slap on the iPad Mini?
Well, a starting price of $250 or $300 sounds about right to Wilson Rothman of NBC. "I think that $249 is the 'all other tablets are dead' price, and $299 is the 'Apple keeps its market share while making a comfortable profit' price. Anywhere over $300 is a 'not good' price," Rothman says. "Not in today's market, not with a full-sized iPad 2 selling for $400 and a Retina-display iPad selling for $500."
This lines up with a info leaked from European retailer Media Markt, which put the starting price of the Mini at $250 for an 8GB model with Wi-Fi.
The Microsoft Surface is a go.
Beginning today, people can pre-order the Windows 8 tablet, which is being positioned as a high-powered alternative to the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Surface is available at three price points: $699 for a 64 GB model with a "Touch Cover" (a case plus keyboard, basically); $599 for a 32 GB model with a Touch Cover; and $499 for a 32 GB model without a Touch Cover.
Available colors include Red, Black, Cyan, and Magenta. Pre-orders are currently expected to ship by Oct. 26; you can order a device here.
So let's get down to it: How seriously should you consider buying a Microsoft Surface?
Well, it's worth noting that as of late this summer, Apple owned a whopping 69 percent of the tablet market, with Samsung (the maker of the Galaxy Tab line) in a distant second and Amazon (maker of the Kindle Fire line) in an even more distant third. With the release of the iPad Mini – which is widely expected to launch late this month or early next – Apple could see its lead grow even larger.
Apple has the momentum and the apps (more than a quarter of a million iPad-specific apps are currently available in the iTunes Store). By comparison, Microsoft is starting from scratch – and since the Surface prices line up more or less with the iPad prices (the iPad starts at $499, too), it's going to take a lot for consumers to switch from the entrenched device (the iPad) to the unproven up-and-comer (the Surface).
In related news, Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital, recently returned from a trip to Asia, and he reports that the "PC industry is headed for a muted December quarter." In a note obtained by Business Insider, White said the "the sentiment around Windows 8 was overwhelmingly negative during our trip as the supply chain is experiencing little life ahead of the Oct. 26 launch."
The Google homepage today depicts an old-fashioned comic strip, in muted hues of blue, red, green, and yellow. Click on the tab on the bottom right of the doodle, and watch a pajama-clad boy tumble, panel by panel, through a fairytale land of clouds, castles, and princesses, before finally landing back in his own bedroom. The doodle is an homage to the artist Winsor McCay, and his most famous creation, Little Nemo, which turns 107 years old today.
So who was McCay, exactly? Only one of the most influential cartoonists in history.
McCay was born in Canada, probably around 1867 or 1868 – the exact date and location remain unclear. When McCay was still a child, his family moved from Canada to Spring Lake, in Michigan. The young McCay drew fervently, and and around 1880, one of his illustrations, of a sinking steamer, was apparently snapped up for use in postcards.
Eventually, McCay was discovered by John Goodison, a drawing professor at Michigan State Normal School. Goodison agreed to tutor McCay informally, although McCay never officially enrolled at Michigan State. In his spare time, McCay wandered the local "dime museums" – an attraction popularized by P.T. Barnum – and drew cariactures for passersby.
"The work of Art exhibited at the Post Office by Winsor McCay," a reporter noted at the time, "is a great credit to the young man’s artistic ability." A whirlwind of drawing gigs soon followed.
McCay moved to Chicago, where he was an apprentice at the National Printing and Engraving Company, and then to Cincinnati, where he was paid to draw the so-called "freaks" – among them a bearded lady – at the Vine Street Dime Museum. In 1900, he was snapped up by the Cincinnati Enquirer to draw a strip called "The Tales of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle," but in 1903, he left the Enquirer for The New York Herald.
In 1905, he debuted "Little Nemo in Slumberland," his master-work, which would appear in various papers for the next two decades. The title character of McCay's strip was a young boy, always drawn tousle-headed and in his pajamas. Every night, Nemo would be sucked down into the land of dreams, toward the domain of King Morpheus and his daughter, Princess Camille. (Camille is featured prominently in Monday's Google Doodle.)
"Little Nemo in Slumberland," McCay's biographer John Canemaker has written (hat tip to the Ohio State University Libraries), "unlike any comic strip before or since... [I]t represented a major creative leap, far grander in scope, imagination, color, design, and motion experimentation than any previous McCay comic strip (or those of his peers)."
As David Clark Scott of the Monitor notes today, McCay eventually moved on to animation; his movies "How a Mosquito Operates" and "Gertie the Trained Dinosaur" are still cult classics.
In 1989, the American director Chris Columbus helped write an animated adaptation of the McCay strips. Directed by Masami Hata and William Hurtz, "Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland," discarded McCay's soft palettes for a big, vibrant, cartoonish style. Still, "Adventures in Storyland" received a generally friendly reception from critics, with Roger Ebert calling it an "interesting if not great film." It will be released on Blu-Ray early next month.
Fan of the Little Nemo strips or the Columbus cartoon? Drop us a line in the comments section. And to receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow the Horizons team on Twitter @venturenaut.
As of late this summer, the carrier market in the US broke down like this: Verizon and AT&T jostling for first place, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile in a distant third and fourth, and a cluster of smaller companies jostling for the scraps. So how does a carrier like Sprint Nextel make a play for a bigger market share?
With a stack of cash, naturally.
According to Bloomberg, Japanese wireless service provider Softbank is in the process of arranging $23 billion in financing for a deal with Sprint, in which Softbank would get a 70 percent stake in the American carrier. Unsurprisingly, Sprint shares shot up yesterday after news of the talks were confirmed by both Softbank and Sprint. (Sprint shares have slipped slightly since then.)
Over at Read Write Web, Dan Rowinski notes that Sprint, which lacks the resources of its chief rivals, has struggled to expand the scale of its fledgling LTE network.
"So, where does Softbank fit into this equation?" Rowinski writes. "The simplest answer is that the Japanese carrier can give Sprint an influx of cash that will stabilize its financial position and enable it to more aggressively build – or buy – LTE infrastructure in the United States."
Sprint Nextel, of course, is also facing mounting pressure from T-Mobile, which may soon be merged with MetroPCS, a budget carrier based in Texas. The merger would give T-Mobile an extra 9 million subscribers, boosting the carrier's total subscriber count to 40 million. Sprint Nextel, by comparison, has 56 million subscribers.
To receive regular updates on how technology intersects daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.
The launch of the Apple iPad Mini may be less than two weeks away.
According to John Paczkowski of All Things D, on Oct. 23, Apple will unveil its new pint-sized tablet at an "intimate affair held close to home" – a decided contrast from the full-on bash that marked the launch of the iPhone 5.
Apple has kept the specs on its new tablet under wraps, but the general consensus says the Mini will ship with a 7.85-inch display (measured diagonally, corner to corner), smaller than the 9.7-inch display on the new iPad, and more or less the same size as the Amazon Kindle Fire.
A "retina display" seems unlikely; the device may, however, get the new Lightning dock connector.
In related news, over at ZD Net, James Kendrick has a suggestion for Apple (which we heartily second): Sure, make an iPad Mini, but also make a keyboard cover for the regular iPad. The forthcoming Microsoft Surface tablets, of course, will include multi-colored keyboard covers – a functionality that has helped Microsoft set its Windows 8-equipped slate apart from the Apple iPad.
"I am not an accessory designer nor do I play one on the Internet, but I am confident that Apple could pull this off masterfully," Kendrick writes. "I picture a thin smart cover for the iPad with a sliver of a keyboard similar to the Apple wireless keyboard. The cover would completely protect the iPad front and back, and add a wireless keyboard to the package." Here, here.