It should come as no surprise that this week's big news was Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 unveiling. Brian had been looking forward to the NYC event and was at the event to get hands on with the new device. There's certainly a lot to love about Microsoft's third generation tablet, but there is that price to consider. If you like the look of what you see, the device is available for pre-order right now -- and if you're undecided between the Surface and a MacBook Air, Mihaita compared the two. Maybe you're one of those who thinks it’s a niche product.
The Surface Mini failed to make an appearance, but there are still lots of other tablets to choose from -- although they are yet to make much of an impression in higher education, unlike Chromebooks which have found their way into Welsh schools. Will Microsoft's tablet manage to attain the longevity of Apple's iPad? You'd be forgiven for thinking that hell itself had frozen over at the news that work is underway that will make it possible to run Android and iOS apps side by side on the same device.
If you believe the rumors -- and I rarely do, unsubstantiated -- Google+ and Nexus are over. Gossipers claim the social network will lose identity and prominence, while the Nexus 6 smartphone is no more than dust in the wind. Who is writing the script here? George R. R. Martin? Because the Google killing-spree has a "Game of Thrones" (aka Song of Ice and Fire) feel to it -- you don't know which product will be killed next. For sure, the death count is mighty since Larry Page's return as CEO three years ago.
But Google will make a huge mistake if it backs off Plus, or worse, puts Nexus to the sword. These assets' value is immeasurable. Enthusiasts are any company's best marketers, and these products command large and vocal fan bases. Enthusiasts are crucial to Google gaining and maintaining brand charm, particularly as government overlords answer competitor complaints: "Antitrust! Antitrust!" Fans aren't just good marketers, they are foot soldiers rallying against invaders, like European or U.S. trustbusters.
Tablets are über cheap these days. It seems as though just about every electronics company has them flying off the production lines. But even if you manage to pick up a cheap tablet, you still want to keep it protected -- no one wants to end up with a screen that is scratched to the point of being unusable, or a body that's smashed to smithereens. The need to protect is even greater if you have handed over a few hundred dollars / pounds for something from the Apple family, and there are all manner of cases to whet the appetite of those keen to keep things safe.
One such offering is the 360° Case from Everything Tablet (operating in the US and Canada as well as the UK) which features a folio-style wrap-around design. I took a look at the Nexus 7 model and my previously svelte 7 incher was transformed into something resembling a leather-bound personal organizer from the 80s. Such is the price one pays for protection, I guess.
It seems that the world of technology is much like the world of politics and religion -- oh yes, we are going down that road -- you pick your side and you stick to it. While it is great to be decisive in what you believe in, it can also be very limiting. It creates a sense of black and white, ignoring the myriad shades of grey that undeniably exist. It stunts the palate and narrows the mind. This is the effect that Google has had on the world, or the world of technology at least. Just as many people will unquestioning accept what is proffered by their religious text of preference, too many people fail to look outside of what Google has to offer.
It seems that Google is a god to many people, and this is worrying. My colleague Joe Wilcox has written extensively about the importance of writing for one's audience rather than for Google. Refusing to tailor one's content to meet the demands of Google's ever-changing algorithms may mean fewer hits, but it will almost invariably mean higher quality content and a more enjoyable, readable and unique experience for readers. And at the end of the day, that is what matters. Google is not my god. I'm an atheist -- and I'm extremely glad to be.
There's a new Nexus in town -- not a Nexus 7 or a Nexus 8 or a Nexus 10, but a slightly updated Nexus 5. The difference? This time around it is purely cosmetic. No hardware changes of any description, just a new coat of paint. The latest addition to the Nexus 5 range is the red variant -- but not just any red, a capitalized Bright Red, no less. This new release supplements the previously available black and white versions, bringing the color total to three.
As the only change that has been made is to the hue of the handset, it should come as no surprise that there has been no change to pricing either. The 16GB model can be picked up for $349, while the 32GB model will set you back an extra $50 at $399. The Nexus 5 is the phone that was eagerly anticipated, but proved to be slightly disappointing when it finally arrived on the scene -- to Brian, at least -- but it is still one that manages to pique people's interest.
YouTube, like many other websites, undergoes changes, and it has taken on a number of guises over the years. Some looks have lasted for a long time, while others have been shorter lived. There are also experimental looks, not all of which end up being released, but even when a redesign is rolled out, it can take a while to make its way around the world. Currently in the experimental stage is a center-aligned layout which includes a cleaned up interface a new menu and a few other tweaks.
In the new design, a top navigation bar is now locked to the top of the screen, remaining in place while the rest of the page scrolls. There is a customizable carousel and a new Upload button encourages visitors into sharing. It's not yet clear quite when this new interface will be officially released to a waiting world, but it's something you can enable now; all it takes is a quick cookie tweak.
Nexus smartphones and tablets have developed a cult following among enthusiasts mainly due to Google's ability to deliver updates to the latest versions of Android in a timely manner. The software also has little to no customizations over the code that is available in AOSP, unlike that of many devices that have been offered throughout the years by Android vendors, such as HTC and Samsung. Android enthusiasts often refer to Google's distributions as "pure Android", even though that is no longer the case exactly with the new Nexus 5, that has introduced a launcher not officially found on any of its siblings (or available in AOSP for that matter).
Nexus devices were also supposed to usher Android vendors into releasing smartphones and tablets that adhere to the design guidelines established by Google. This is one area where the search giant's brand has failed to become a trendsetter, as the likes of HTC, LG and Samsung continue to apply their own vision on how their Android handsets should look at the software and hardware levels. Remember how physical buttons were supposed to go away from the front of Android devices? Well, they are still alive and kicking even in 2014 and even on tablets (even though there were clear signs pointing to slates only adopting on-screen keys). It could, therefore, be argued that the Nexus ethos has already ran its course and it is time for Google to move on. So should Google move on?
This past year has been incredibly busy, and a huge amount of hardware has passed through my hands. Some of it has impressed, a lot has disappointed, but a handful was great enough to make it to my list of favorites for the year.
While I've tried out a great deal of software, this has been a year in which it has been hardware that has caught my eye. So here it is: my favorite tech from 2013.
I've worked my way through a fair share of tablets over the years. An iPad 2 with its 9.7 inch screen, a Sony Tablet S with a slightly smaller 9.4 inch display, followed by a series of 7-inchers -- the Nexus 7, Tesco's Hudl and the GOCLEVER Aries 7o. Oh, and the Surface Pro; I have a tendency to forget this is a 10.6 inch tablet as I use it in laptop mode.
All of my tablets have been used for much the same things: checking email, writing the odd document, viewing photos, watching videos, updating Facebook and Twitter, browsing the web and playing a few games. Taking the Surface Pro out of the equation, I've always found the circa 10-inch tablets too big. I thought I was settled on 7 inches as offering the best dimensions. It seems I might have been wrong.
Things are starting to get festive, and that means there's also a lot going on. This past week has been quite a busy one! It might not come as a surprise, but the figures are in -- Windows 8.1 is not performing anywhere near as well as Windows 7 in terms of sales. Part of the reason for the slower adoption could be the Start screen and the absence of the Start menu. There has been some debate here at BetaNews about the possibility that the Start menu could make a return. Brian is very much opposed to the idea, I think it's probably a good idea, particularly for business users, while Wayne showed us how to get the Start menu back right now.
The backlash against NSA surveillance continues, and now Microsoft, Apple, Google and a number of other big names have joined forces and written to President Obama asking for reform. Joe was not impressed. To help protect user accounts, Microsoft beefed up security.
Google has released new factory images based on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, for the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. This comes a couple of days after the search giant rolled out the latest update for its mobile operating system.
The Android 4.4.2 factory images allow users of said Nexus devices to install, and upgrade to, the latest KitKat version without waiting for the OTA update to arrive. They also come in handy for installing individual bits, like the radio, kernel or recovery, alongside third-party distributions.
Even though just a little over a month has passed since Google released the Nexus 5, and even less since Android 4.4 started rolling out to compatible devices, KitKat has already made its way into the Android distribution charts. It is a very impressive achievement considering that it took the third Jelly Bean iteration more than twice as long to enter the charts.
Based on the number of devices accessing Google Play in the seven days ending December 2, the three Jelly Bean iterations continue to dominate the Android landscape with a whopping 54.5 percent share, up from 52.1 percent a month before. Android 4.1 is the most popular distribution, running on 37.4 percent of all registered devices. Its growth is barely noticeable, up from 37.3 percent in early-November.
Sony PlayStation 4 hit the stores and Brian not only took a look at the brand new console, but also cracked open the case and slipped a larger hard drive inside. Brian wasn't alone in his love of the PS4, more than a million people also bought a console on the day of launch. But not everyone was happy as many units were found to suffer from a Blue Light of Death problem that rendered them unusable. Raspberry Pi was also celebrating its sales figures as more than two million were shifted since its launch last year.
In a rare show of unity, Microsoft and Google joined forces to help tackle the problem of online child pornography. At the same time, Microsoft took its Scroogled campaign to a new level by releasing merchandise (although Joe was impressed). Elsewhere online, Twitter introduced Twitter alerts to the UK and Ireland to help provide people with critical information in an emergency.
Fancy getting your hands on a Nexus 7 without having to part with any cash? If you've been on the lookout for a 7-inch Android tablet, Google has a contest that may well be of interest. Providing you live in the US, you can take part in a photo competition to bag yourself either a free Nexus 7 or a $50 Google Play gift card. Sound tempting? All you need to do is take a photo of an arrangement of things that matter to you -- that's all there is to it!
The competition is not actually new as three draws have already taken place -- but there are only a couple of days left to try your luck with the final one. A reminder was issued on Google+ and while the introduction on the main competition page suggests that photos need to include an Android device, read on a little and you will discover that this is not actually a requirement for entry -- but make sure you don’t include a rival product in the shot though, as "non-Nexus or Android devices (phones/tablets) may not be shown in entry".
It would be a strange week if Google didn’t steal a few headlines, and this week saw the introduction of new quick actions to Gmail as well as the launch of a series of online tools to help with the aftermath of the Philippines typhoon. Changes were also made to attachments in Gmail so it is now possible to download files directly to Google Drive. After the launch of the Nexus 5 -- which Brian was not blown away by -- Google also started to roll out Android 4.4 to Nexus tablets -- Mihaita was on hand with a guide to manually upgrading for anyone who did not want to wait for the OTA update to arrive. The news wasn't so good for the Chromebook 11 which was taken off sale after problems with overheating chargers. Google won a court battle after a judge ruled that the scanning of books is not illegal.
This week it was revealed that while BitTorrent still accounts for a large proportion of web traffic, and usage has actually increased in Europe, in the States there has been a drop in traffic. Anyone who seeks entertainment through other channels will be pleased by the fact that Roku streaming boxes can now be used to access Disney and ESPN channels. The Netflix channel was also updated with a new look.