Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Horizons

The Google goggles are reported to resemble the Oakley Thump sunglasses. The Thump, pictured here in an image from an Oakley user's manual, includes a built-in MP3 player. (Oakley)

Google glasses, due this year, turn seeing into searching

By Matthew Shaer / 02.23.12

Google is prepping a pair of augmented reality glasses, which would allow users to receive, via a data connection, real-time information on their surroundings. According to a new report in The New York Times, the glasses – or Google goggles, if you like – will hit shelves by the end of the year, and retail for somewhere between $250 and $600. (The Times describes the glasses as being priced like an unsubsidized smartphone.) 

Unsurprisingly, Google has declined comment on the rumor, but the news does sync with a December post from Seth Weintraub, a blogger with 9 to 5 Google. The Google glasses, Weintraub wrote at the time, would "tie into Google’s location services. A user can walk around with information popping up and into display – Terminator-style – based on preferences, location and Google’s information." 

Weintraub says the goggles will resemble the Oakley Thumps, a pair of sunglasses equipped with an MP3 player. All of which, of course, sounds both immensely cool and terribly dorky. (Not to mention potentially fatal. You think people have trouble concentrating on walking and smartphone using now? Try giving them a pair of glasses with a camera and a heads-up display and a bunch of streaming imagery.)  

Of course, as Damon Brown notes in a smart piece over at PC World, Google has plenty of reasons to want to shill its own augmented-reality glasses. 

"Glasses are actually the final piece to Google’s mission: To know what a user doing every single moment of the day," Brown writes. "The search giant already is unifying some 60-odd products into one log-in for continuous online tracking. And, as we reported last week, it’s enticing you to use Google to come up with those web passwords." 

Sound a little paranoid? Wi-Fi and 3G equipped goggles would allow Google access not just to your location, but to the advertisements that catch your attention, the identity of your friends and family, the whole of the world as you see it. And that's scary stuff. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

The iPad 3 is expected to arrive next month. But what shape will the new Apple tablet take? Here, a man walks past an iPad 2 advertisement in Shanghai. (Reuters)

iPad 3 will look a lot like the iPad 2: report

By Matthew Shaer / 02.23.12

The iPad 3 is coming, probably with an HD display, a better processor, and maybe even 4G support.

But is Apple planning on radically redesigning the chassis of its top-selling device? Probably not, judging by a much-discussed photo obtained by a Chinese blogger and posted today on MacRumors. The image purportedly shows the front glass and digitizer assembly on the iPad 3 – and the whole thing looks a lot like the assembly on the iPad 2

Writing at MacRumors, Eric Slivka argues that the allegedly leaked photo, combined with earlier snapshots of the reported casing on the iPad 3, yield a pretty convincing composite portrait of the new device. 

"The [display assembly] appears nearly identical to that of the iPad 2, with the major distinguishing feature being a relatively long ribbon cable extending up the side of the display as opposed to a shorter cable with a sideways orientation seen in the iPad 2," Slivka writes. "Other features of the iPad 3 display include the same round home button seen in all iOS devices so far and a hole in the top bezel to accommodate both the front-facing camera and the ambient light sensor." 

Caveats apply: The veracity of these photos, which have not been substantiated by Apple, remain unclear. Still, Apple is by most indications close to unveiling its new tablet, and it makes sense that production photos of the iPad 3 would start to hit the Web around now. 

Of course, as James Kendrick of ZDNet points out today, in many ways, it doesn't matter what the new iPad looks like – it only matters what the next Apple tablet allows consumers to do. 

"In other words, what will sell millions of new iPads is the same thing that sold all of the iPad and iPad 2 – apps," Kendrick writes. "Apps to make all of the aforementioned things happen. Apps to make common things happen in new and innovative ways. As the ads have told us for years, there’s an app for that. And they will sell millions of iPad 3 tablets. No matter what’s under the hood."

In related news, as we noted last week, it appears Amazon could be readying a sequel to the Kindle Fire, the two-hundred-buck-tablet which helped shake up the market in December and January. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

Honored today by a Google Doodle, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz helped show us how nothing, pictured here, is not always what it seems. (Illustration by Eoin O'Carroll)

What Heinrich Rudolf Hertz taught us about nothingness

By Staff / 02.22.12

Today Google honors Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the German physicist who, in his all-too-short career, taught the world invaluable lessons about optics, electromagnetism, and, in a contribution that is often overlooked, the science of nothingness.

"Horror vacui," goes the phrase, usually attributed to Aristotle's fourth book of Physics. Nature abhors a vacuum. True or not, it's certainly the case that those studying nature have long struggled with the concept of empty space. Aristotle thought that, because space empty of all matter offers no resistance, objects moving within it would move infinitely fast. Thus the objects surrounding any void would instantly fill it before it could form. Emptiness, he concluded, was therefore impossible. Every part of the universe must be filled with something, even if we can't detect it.  

Aristotle's arguments persuaded scholars for a good 1,500 years or so. Medieval Christians were enjoined from entertaining the possibility of a vacuum, until the Catholic Church's Condemnations of 1277 broke Aristotle's monopoly on the natural sciences by admitting that, at the very least, a vacuum would not be beyond the powers of an omnipotent God. 

But even though contemplating empty spaces became theologically permissible, the idea of nothingness still proved troubling to early modern thinkers, even as others were setting about constructing pumps and siphons. In the seventeenth century, when Irish chemist Robert Boyle demonstrated his "Pneumatical Engine" and when French physicist Blaise Pascal developed a barometer, they were attacked by Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes, who each embraced a philosophy known as plenism, which left no space for emptiness.

The plenists arguments were persuasive. Sure, they argued, you might be able to remove all the air from a glass tube, but how is it that, say, two magnets inside the tube will still attract one another, if there really is nothing at all between them? How is it that electric fields can pass through the tube? 

In the 19th century, after scientists firmly established that light travels in waves, scientists wondered how waves of light from the stars could ever reach the earth after traversing millions of miles of allegedly empty space. A wave, after all, needs something to ripple through, right?

Hertz initially complicated the picture even further, but his work also foretold a way out. While attempting to demonstrate the theories of Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell he conclusively demonstrated the existence of electromagnetic waves, and then caught a glimpse of how these waves act in very un-wavelike ways.

The Monitor's Chris Gaylord describes Hertz's famous experiment:

In his lab, the German scientist rigged up two tiny brass spheres, placed very close to one another. When he electrified them, sparks leaped from one ball to the other. If Maxwell was correct, these sparks should send invisible waves radiating through the air. To test the theory, he needed to build a receiver. This second instrument consisted of a curved wire that almost made a full circle, except for a tiny gap at the top. He placed the transmitter and the receiver several yards apart and made sure that nothing connected the two. Sure enough, when sparks shot through the transmitter, invisible waves traveled through the air, lighting up new sparks on the receiver.

Later on, Hertz measured the speed of electromagnetic radiation, confirming Maxwell's calculations that it was the same as that of light.

To Maxwell, this was more than a coincidence. "We can scarcely avoid the conclusion," wrote Maxwell, "that light consists in the transverse undulations of the same medium which is the cause of electric and magnetic phenomena." 

But what medium, exactly, is doing the undulating? 

To answer this, scientists borrowed an idea from the ancient Greeks. Empty space, they reasoned, must be completely filled with a transparent, non-dispersive substance. This substance had to be fluid enough so that the Earth could travel through it without slowing, but rigid enough to vibrate at high enough frequencies to carry light waves. Maxwell dubbed this mysterious stuff the "luminiferous aether." 

But just after Hertz was using the luminiferous aether to link together the seemingly disparate phenomena of light, electricity, and magnetism, others were busy undermining it. Working in the 1880s at what is now Case Western Reserve University the American scientists Albert Michelson and Edward Morley reasoned that, if the Earth was moving through an aethereal substance, we should be able to detect an "aether wind," which would cause light waves to travel at slightly different speeds, depending on the time, season and the direction of the light waves. But, after a set of careful measurements, the pair found that the speed of light was unaffected by these factors. 

But if there was no aether, then how did electromagnetic waves propagate?

A satisfactory answer wasn't put forth until 1905, the year that Albert Einstein upended classical physics with a series of groundbreaking papers. First, Einstein's theory of special relativity removed the need for a static, absolute reference frame through which objects and waves could move. Special relativity does away with the twin Newtonian absolutes of space and time, replacing it with a single absolute: the speed of light.

Second was Einstein's photoelectric effect. Hertz was actually among the first people to notice that sparks jumped across the gap in his receiver more readily when it was exposed to ultraviolet light. Exposing it to more ultraviolet light made it even easier for the sparks to fly.

That light could electrify metal was not, by itself, surprising. But what was odd was that the color of the light, not its brightness. Shine a bright red lamp on a brick of potassium, and you won't get a current. But a dim blue light will do the trick. This doesn't fit in with the notion that light is a wave. Despite studying the phenomenon intensely for six months, Hertz never figured it out. 

But Einstein did. By imagining light not as a wave, but as a particle carrying discrete packets of energy, which he called "quanta," Einstein found that he could predict how certain frequencies of light would electrify certain metals. Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect won him the Nobel Prize in physic in 1921, and helped usher in the era of quantum physics. 

So now we understand light, and all electromagnetic radiation, as having a dual role of both wave and particle.  Electromagnetic radiation, including light, travels as a wave, but arrives as a particle, and there's no need to invoke any mysterious aethers.

Or is there? Einstein himself continued to use the word, particularly when attempting to describe how gravity acted on distant objects. And the quantum mechanical conception of vacuums are anything but empty: they contain ephemeral particles that pop in and out of existence, and even fleeting electromagnetic waves. Once you get to a very small scale, the universe starts too look a little more like Aristotle and the other plenists imagined it. 

Take a look at this Scale of the Universe animation, created by a pair of extremely precocious 14-year-old twins named Cary and Michael Huang earlier this month. Zoom in, past the penny, past the matchstick, past the paramecium and the DNA molecule. Keep zooming. Go past the gamma ray and the proton and the neutron. Go past the quarks and the neutrinos. Eventually, you'll get to a whole lot of nothing.

In fact, most of what we take to be solid matter actually consists of empty space. If you imagine an atom the size of a cathedral, its nucleus would be roughly the size of a fly. Thanks to electromagnetism, in this case the tendency for electrons to repel each other, everything doesn't collapse in on itself. You may think that you are sitting in a chair right now, but you are actually hovering above it at a distance of one angstrom, about 250 millionths of an inch. Neither your electric field nor that of the chair wants to get any closer.

Anyway, keep zooming in. Eventually, you'll get to the Planck Length, which is what physicists say is the smallest unit of measurement in the universe. At anything smaller than this distance, it would be impossible to tell the difference between two locations.

At this scale, physics is really weird. "Virtual" particles are flashing in and out of existence at extremely high energies, warping space and time into a quantum "foam," or so one theory goes. One-dimensional strings, according to another theory, vibrate in eleven dimensions, forging and maintaining the very fabric of our reality.

Now zoom all the way out. All the way, past the planets, galaxies, and nebulae, until you get to our entire, expanding, universe. What is the universe expanding into? Nothing at all, according to the best current cosmological models. What was there before the universe? Was that nothing too? 

The ancient Greeks were fond of another phrase about nothingness: It comes to us via the Latin expression "Ex nihilo nihil fit," or "nothing comes from nothing." They believed that the gods fashioned the universe out of a primeval matter, which they called "chaos." 

Today, as cosmologists try to explain how our universe sprang from nothing, it's worth remembering that, in science, nothing is not what it seems. 

Read entire post | Comments

Sgt. Mike Germano, of the Worcester County Sheriff's Office, demonstrates how to control the various video cameras mounted on the exterior of the Worcester County Homeland Security Mobile Command Center. A communication center like this would not have been possible without Heinrich Rudolf Hertz's discovery. (John Nordell / The Christian Science Monitor )

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz didn't know the spark he ignited

By Nora Doyle-BurrContributor / 02.22.12

From a modern perspective, it's difficult to fathom how the first person to demonstrate the existence of electromagnetic waves didn't understand the implications of his discovery.

In the late 1880s, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was teaching at Karlsruhe Polytechnic in Berlin when he first produced electromagnetic waves and measured their wavelengths and velocity. He wrote of the experiment, "In a perfectly dark room [the sparks] are visible to an eye which has been well rested in the dark," according to a 1957 Scientific American article.

His students wanted to understand the applications of his discovery, but Hertz told them, "It's of no use whatsoever." He felt that his experiment was merely an exercise to demonstrate the accuracy of previous calculations of the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

Though Hertz himself didn't view his work as important, it didn't take long for others to realize its significance. "Three years ago, electromagnetic waves were nowhere. Shortly afterward, they were everywhere," said Sir Oliver Heaviside, an English mathematical physicist, in 1891.

Hertz's discovery sparked (pardon the pun) a race to turn this new understanding of electromagnetic waves into a device for communication.

In 1896, Guglielmo Marconi received the world's first patent for his system of wireless telegraphy. In 1898, Ferdinand Braun began attempting to transmit Morse signals through water with high-frequency currents. With time, he became one of the first to send electric waves in definite directions. Braun and Marconi shared the 1909 Nobel Prize for Physics, "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy."

One biography of Hertz states, "A lecture to professional colleagues in the autumn of 1889 in Heidelberg can be seen as the "birth" of radio and sound film."  Without realizing it, Hertz was able to make a discovery that has had ripple effects ever since.

Though he died in 1894, before he himself could appreciate the impact of his work, Hertz has been honored in many ways since. The base unit of frequency – one cycle per second – is named for him. So is the radio telecommunication tower in Hamburg. In addition, many countries have honored him by including his face on their postage stamps. And of course, on the 155th anniversary of his birth, February 22, 2012, Google honored Hertz with a doodle.

For more science and tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz held the spotlight with Wednesday's Google doodle. (Google.com)

How Heinrich Rudolf Hertz revealed the invisible world

By / 02.22.12

Where has Google's logo disappeared to? The search engine giant swapped out its regular banner Wednesday for a Google doodle in honor of Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. The German physicist – whose work is crucial to television, radio, and Wi-Fi – would have turned 155 today.

Like many of Google's best doodles, this wave logo holds a double meaning. Sure, it winks at Hertz's history in electromagnetism (we'll explain all of that in a moment). But the undulating curves also hide a message, one you may never notice unless you take the time to look.

The waves form a repeating pattern: There's a large blue curve, followed by a shallow red, shallow yellow, deep blue, skinny green, and one final red curve. Those lines match the general shape of Google's traditional logo: Uppercase blue G, small Os, a lowercase g, a skinny green L, and a red E. It's not the most difficult code to decipher, but Google's doodle serves as a lovely metaphor for Hertz's work.

Namely, Hertz earned his fame by discovering what had always been there.

Our story starts in 1873, when a Scottish physicist named James Maxwell tried to convince people that light, electricity, and magnetism were all versions of the same phenomenon. It was a weird idea at the time. How could the invisible power of magnets go hand-in-hand with the radiant glow of candlelight? They're obviously different to the human eye, but actually quite similar in hidden ways.

Maxwell was the first to figure out that light moves like a wave, just as magnetism and electricity move through the "electromagnetic field." This was a huge breakthrough – it made sense of the invisible world in the same way that Isaac Newton and his falling apple unified the visible world. Maxwell's math checked out, yet he couldn't prove that his ideas were true. He challenged other scientists to come up with experiments that could demonstrate this invisible science to the naked eye.

A decade later, Hertz found a way.

In his lab, the German scientist rigged up two tiny brass spheres, placed very close to one another. When he electrified them, sparks leaped from one ball to the other. If Maxwell was correct, these sparks should send invisible waves radiating through the air. To test the theory, he needed to build a receiver. This second instrument consisted of a curved wire that almost made a full circle, except for a tiny gap at the top. He placed the transmitter and the receiver several yards apart and made sure that nothing connected the two. Sure enough, when sparks shot through the transmitter, invisible waves traveled through the air, lighting up new sparks on the receiver.

Hertz went on to prove that these waves move at the speed of light, that they can be reflected by some materials, and could pass through others.

While this research eventually led to radio, radar, and broadcast TV, Hertz did not initially understand the magnitude of his discovery.

"It’s of no use whatsoever," he once told a student. "This is just an experiment that proves Maestro Maxwell was right, we just have these mysterious electromagnetic waves that we cannot see with the naked eye. But they are there."

By allowing the world to finally see these invisible forces, Hertz became famous. The International Electrotechnical Commission decided in 1930 that his name would become a unit of frequency. The hertz (or Hz) measures "cycles per second." For example, a 60 Hz TV runs at up to 60 frames per second.

Despite this global fame, the Nazis tried to expunge Hertz's name from history. While Hertz identified as a Lutheran, his father grew up as a Jew.

"Hertz’s reputation was actively denigrated by the Nazis, who forced his wife and daughters to flee Germany because, despite strong Lutheran roots, they were considered Jews," writes the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in its profile of Hertz. "One Nazi functionary attempted to overturn the use of the term 'Hertz,'... He suggested to the Physical Society of Berlin that instead they use the term 'Helmholtz,' [after Hertz's teacher Hermann von Helmholtz] which would cleverly maintain the abbreviation 'Hz' for the benefit of foreign colleagues. Despite the climate of anti-Semitism, German scientists refused to go along with this plan. 'Hertz' remained and remains in use both in Germany and around the world."

For more on how technology intersect daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.

[Editor's note: The original version of this post mistakenly said that the final curve in Wednesday's Google doodle was yellow. Both it and the corresponding E in Google's name are red.]

Read entire post | Comments

Attendees at the National Retail Federation talk about Google Wallet at a New York conference. Microsoft claims Google is purposely circumventing its privacy measures in order to track users online. (Mark Lennihan/AP/File)

Google and Microsoft square off over online privacy concerns

By / 02.21.12

Google spent much of last week dodging criticism from Apple users about its online privacy practices. But when Microsoft got involved this week, that's when things got really interesting.

Users of Apple's Safari browser recently claimed that Google was violating their privacy by circumventing a mechanism the browser uses to disable tracking. Here's what's (apparently) going on under the hood: by default, Safari disables third-party cookies, nuggets of code that companies can use to identify users returning to a site they've visited before, or to track what other sites they visit. Safari can accept cookies if a user explicitly gives permission, but Google's ad platform reportedly used a workaround to mimic approval of its cookies.

Now, Microsoft claims that Google is taking a similar approach to their Internet Explorer browser. Internet Explorer uses a different method than Safari to disable tracking cookies: its P3P technology allows it to gauge a site's privacy policy and automatically block cookies if that policy isn't up to snuff. In a blog post on Monday, Microsoft corporate vice president Dean Hachamovitch accused Google of intentionally bypassing P3P to enable tracking cookies.

Google responded by dismissing P3P as out of date and "widely non-operational," pointing to a 2010 Carnegie Mellon study identifying more than 11,000 websites -- including some of Microsoft's own -- that bypass it. The study showed that lots of websites ignore P3P accidentally, while others, including Google and Facebook, do it to avoid Microsoft's scrutiny of their privacy practices. Google senior vice president Rachel Whetstone wrote that it is "impractical to comply with Microsoft's request while providing modern Web functionality." No web browser aside from Internet Explorer supports P3P.

The same day Google and Microsoft began squaring off, Matthew Soble, an Apple customer upset about Google's behavior on Safari, sued the search-engine giant in the US District Court for Delaware. Bloomberg reports that Soble's attorneys want a class-action suit asserting that Google knowingly circumvented Safari's privacy measures in order to track users -- violating federal laws in the process. For its part, Google says that its code is being misrepresented, and that it's only using regular Safari functionality to provide services to signed-in Google users. In the meantime, though, it has disabled the behavior.

If you're concerned about how these showdowns affect your own online privacy, you're not alone. More often than not, tools designed to defend users from being tracked have to be circumvented for services such as Gmail and Facebook's "Like" button to work properly. Browsers introduce new privacy features, and companies introduce new workarounds.

Like it or not, the privacy wars are probably going to continue as long as data on users' online behavior remains a valuable commodity to advertisers.

Readers, how do you feel about all this? Should Google and other advertising companies do more to respect users' privacy, or are consumers fighting a losing battle here? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

Barnes and Noble has unveiled an 8GB edition of its popular Nook Tablet. (Reuters)

New Nook Tablet: Price is down, but so is memory capacity

By Matthew Shaer / 02.21.12

Back in November, Barnes and Noble unveiled the Nook Tablet, a $249 machine that one reviewer described as "the best looking 7-inch slate on the market." The Nook Tablet sold well, but its launch was partially obscured by the buzz-heavy arrival of the Amazon Kindle Fire. Now Barnes and Noble is wading back into the fray with a new Nook Tablet, which matches the Kindle Fire at the $199 price point. 

The latest Nook Tablet includes 8GB of memory, as opposed to the first Nook Tablet, which shipped with 16GB. Less memory, in other words, and a lower point-of-entry. Otherwise, the stats are the same: a 7-inch screen, 512MB of RAM, 11.5 hours of reading time, and access to approximately 2.5 million books. In a press release, Barnes and Noble also added that it would drop the price of the Nook Color to $169, down from $199. 

So why all the price slashing? Well, as Roger Cheng of CNET notes, Barnes and Noble "badly needs a success in the tablet arena."

Profit in the traditional book-selling arena is down, and Barnes and Noble must be careful not to lose too much ground to the Amazon Kindle Fire, which has been credited for helping boost tablet sales nationwide. (According a recent Pew report, between mid-December and early January, tablet ownership in the US jumped from 10 percent to 19 percent of adults, in large part thanks to the success of the Kindle Fire.) 

"The Nook Tablet promises to figure prominently in Barnes & Noble's business," Cheng writes. "While the Kindle Fire has captured much of the buzz that isn't already surrounding the iPad, the 16GB Nook Tablet at $249 has seen fewer takers. Still, Barnes & Noble could become a stronger competitor with its new 8GB tablet and the large distribution capabilities of its stores." 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

The RIM BlackBerry PlayBook. This week, RIM announced the release of PlayBook 2.0, a new software update for the PlayBook. (Reuters)

Can the PlayBook OS 2.0 save the BlackBerry tablet?

By Matthew Shaer / 02.21.12

Last year, RIM released the BlackBerry PlayBook, a tablet computer designed to compete with the Apple iPad. But reviews were tepid, sales were lackluster, and RIM was forced to repeatedly slash the price on the device, in a (mostly) unsuccessful effort to gin up consumer interest. Now RIM has announced the arrival of PlayBook 2.0, a software upgrade that addresses some of the complaints voiced by critics of the RIM tablet. 

Among the niceties on the PlayBook 2.0 software: more social networking integration, more apps, and the ability to check your email without tethering the PlayBook to a BlackBerry smartphone.

"It's what the first Playbook software should have been from a company which stakes its brand on messaging strength, with tightly integrated calendar, email, and contacts," Frost and Sullivan analyst Craig Cartier told Reuters today. 

The software goes live this week. So hey, is it worth picking up a RIM PlayBook? The software is an improvement, and prices on the tablet have hit rock bottom – you can now get your hands on a PlayBook for $200, a price tag three hundred bucks cheaper than the cheapest Apple iPad. The short answer, writes Roger Cheng of CNET: save your cash. 

"I've spent a bit of time with PlayBook 2.0, and the upgrades are neat. But the changes all represent minor improvements to a tablet that needed to take massive steps forward to compete with its ever-progressing competitors," Cheng writes. "The PlayBook launched nearly a year ago in April, and despite the new software, the hardware remains the same." 

And what would you wait for, exactly? Maybe the Apple iPad 3, which is very likely to be unveiled next month. Or the new Nook Tablet, which debuted this week.

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

The evolution of the Windows logo, with the new Windows 8 design at top. (Microsoft)

Windows 8 logo: Goodbye flag. Hello... window.

By Matthew Shaer / 02.17.12

Windows 8, the latest version of the popular Microsoft OS, is set to launch later this month as a "consumer preview." As we've noted in the past, Windows 8 is meant to be a multi-platform OS, compatible with tablets and laptops, that incorporates a tiled interface called Metro. One of the first steps in transitioning to Windows 8 was to get rid of the Start button, that mainstay of so many generations of Windows operating systems. 

Now Microsoft has announced that it will rejigger its logo, as well, tossing out the multicolored flag in favor of a blocky, blue window, designed by the firm Pentagram. In a blog post, Microsoft's Sam Moreau said the new logo is a better fit for the "Metro style design principles" – and a "beautiful metaphor" for modern computing, to boot. 

"[W]ith the new logo we wanted to celebrate the idea of a window, in perspective. Microsoft and Windows are all about putting technology in people's hands to empower them to find their own perspectives," Moreau writes. "And that is what the new logo was meant to be. We did less of a re-design and more to return it to its original meaning and bringing Windows back to its roots – reimagining the Windows logo as just that – a window." 

The logo, pictured above, is certainly more basic than the blurred flutter of Windows 98, or the red, yellow, blue and green square of Windows 7

So what is the tech world saying about the design? Well, reactions have been mixed. "OK, I get that the logo should match the Windows 8 Metro format. Microsoft is tile happy," writes Larry Dignan of ZD Net. "I also get that the previous Windows logos looked more like flags than Windows. Unfortunately for me the Windows 8 logo gives me a window, but I want to jump out of it. It. Is. Just. Too. Much. Metro. Design. For. Me. To. Handle." 

Fair enough. What do you think? Drop us a line in the comments section below. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

Rumors put the launch of the Kindle Fire 2 at June or sooner. Here, the Amazon Kindle Fire. (Reuters)

Kindle Fire 2 arrives this summer: report

By Matthew Shaer / 02.17.12

Late last year, Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire, a tablet computer with a Web browser and plenty of multimedia capability – not to mention a price that undercut the cheapest Apple iPad 2 by a couple hundred bucks. Unsurprisingly, the Fire sold well. According to a recent report by Pew, between mid-December and early January, tablet ownership in the US jumped from 10 percent to 19 percent of American adults. 

Much of that growth was attributed to the Fire, which attracted a whole new set of budget-minded consumers. Now comes a report, from the China Times, that Amazon is already preparing a sequel to the Fire, possibly called the Kindle Fire 2. The China Times alleges that Foxconn – one of the chief manufacturers of Apple iPads, Sony PlayStation 3s, and many other gadgets – has been tapped to build the product; launch date could arrive as soon as April. 

Obviously, Amazon has not yet responded to the scuttlebutt. And yet the China Times dispatch does sync with earlier reports from outlets such as the Taiwanese paper DigiTimes, which also predicted the launch of a new Kindle Fire tablet – or possibly two, with screen sizes of 8.9- and 10-inches – sometime this year. 

Of course, if Amazon does release a Fire 2 in April, the device will almost certainly be up against the Apple iPad 3. Most analysts expect the iPad 3 to be unveiled early next month, and officially launch shortly thereafter. Among the niceties on the new Apple tablet?

A better screen, more powerful innards, and maybe even a 4G antenna, for connection with AT&T and Verizon LTE networks. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.

Read entire post | Comments

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!