There are few people who like ads. Sure, they can be works of art -- certainly there are some advertisements that are infinitely better than a lot of the dirge pumped out by television networks -- but while advertisements on television can be fairly easily avoided (thank you TiVo -- other PVRs are available!) it is a different matter on a computer or mobile device. "Opting" to watch a mindblowing ad for Apple, Guinness or Honda is one thing, but to have unavoidable -- and usually crappy -- advertisements forced upon you whilst browsing the web or using an application is an entirely different matter.
There are groups of people who are happy to endure these adverts because they fund apps, and make it possible for developers to provide their hard work free of charge -- you may fall into this group and have perhaps been able to configure an automatic ad filter for your eyes. But there are larger legions for whom ads are just plain, damned irritating. In some instances it is possible to pay to avoid them, but this is not always the case. If BlackBerry and Yahoo get their way, advertisements are going to become rather more noticeable.
The tablet market is showing strong, continuous growth year-over-year. Research firm Gartner today announces that slate sales in 2013 increased by 68 percent compared to the year before. Android takes the market share crown after more than doubling its sales, iOS came second and Windows follows in third place.
Of the three, iOS was the only platform that did not post tremendous year-over-year growth. Android increased its sales, and lead over Apple's iPads, to 120.96 million units in 2013, up from the 53.34 million units sold in 2012. Meanwhile, Windows grew to 4 million units, which is, again, considerably higher than in the previous year when sales topped 1.16 million units. In contrast, iPad sales came in at 70.4 million units, marginally more than the 61.45 million units sold in the year before.
BYOD is in full swing, but most businesses are not prepared for it. In order to maintain a high level of security, companies that embrace the movement, or want to, have to change, or adapt, their existing policies to accommodate the wave of devices their employees are bringing in, which is not what 55 percent of them are doing, according to a study issued last week.
Samsung is among the few mobile devices manufacturers to take an active role in ensuring its products are BYOD-ready and enabled straight off the bat. Its response to the movement is Knox, a solution the company released one year ago, to augment the Samsung for Enterprise program. And, now, the successor arrives to beef up Knox even further.
There have been a lot of interesting announcements made at MWC this year, and HP is one of several companies making it clear that business users have not been forgotten. The new HP ProPad 600 has been unveiled alongside an upgraded HP ElitePad 1000 G2, and both have been designed with mobile computing in mind.
Both tablets run Windows 8.1 and the ElitePad 1000 G2 picks up where the HP ElitePad 900 G1 left off. The hardware is impressive enough, but there is a strong focus on battery life and portability.
If you can never decide whether to take the notebook or the tablet with you when you go out, HP may have the machine for you.
Its new Pavilion x360 is a convertible PC with a 360-degree hinge so you can use it as a conventional notebook, a tablet, or in what the company calls "tent mode". Sadly this means only that you can stand it up on a table not actually go camping under it.
Tech companies are taking advantage of the MWC conference, held in Barcelona, to showcase their latest products. So far, we covered the announcements of Nokia's X Android smartphone series, Sony's Xperia Z2 smartphone and slate, and a couple of 64-bit mobile processors, that are aimed at Android devices, from Intel and Qualcomm.
ASUS is also among the many companies present at MWC 2014. Today, the Taiwanese maker announces two new Fonepad 7 tablets, adding to the number of Android devices that were just unveiled at the conference.
If it is not obvious enough by now, 64-bit is the new black in mobile processors. Apple has the A7 that powers the iPhone 5s and latest iPads, and Qualcomm has the Snapdragon 410 and, as of today, the Snapdragon 610 and Snapdragon 615. Intel now also joins the party with its own 64-bit offering and contender, the Z3480, codenamed "Merrifield".
The Z3480 was unveiled today at the MWC conference, in Barcelona, as a 2.3 GHz quad-core solution aimed at Android smartphones and tablets. Intel says its new processor delivers "the ideal combination of fast, smart performance and long battery life", for the devices that it will power. The Z3480 competes with Qualcomm's similar Snapdragons which also target the open-source mobile OS.
There's already a lot of news coming out of the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, and Sony is using the 2014 event to launch the latest additions to the Xperia range. The Xperia Z2 is a waterproof handset that is being billed as "the world’s best camera and camcorder". This is a claim backed by the inclusion of a 20.7 MP sensor, a 5.2 inch HD screen and the ability to capture video in 4K. Sound is recorded with digital noise canceling, and image stabilization is borrowed from Sony's existing range of camcorders and can reduce ambient noise by up to 98 percent.
The phone is driven by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2.3 GHz quad-core Krait CPU as well as the Adreno 330 GPU. To ensure maximum shooting time, Sony saw fit to include a 3200 mAh battery, and power-saving technology is used to automatically switch off any phone features that are not being used.
While Android itself is a free, open-source operating system that can be used by any company and individual commercially, the Google apps and services we see bundled on popular devices do not share the same philosophy. Handsets have to be approved by the search giant in order to use the bread and butter of the Android world, which, among other things, includes access to the coveted Play store, and the Gmail and YouTube apps.
Because Google apps and services are not part of Android, we see lots of devices that are sold across the globe without them. Those come from lesser-known vendors, and may be available in anywhere from supermarkets to retail stores in emerging markets. To give those vendors a fighting chance against more popular rivals and increase its reach, Russian tech giant Yandex has announced Yandex.Kit, an Android suite that offers the company's own apps and services as a viable substitute for Google's own offerings on the platform.
To say Windows 8.x is a controversial operating system is an understatement. Heck, it is downright polarizing, causing a schism between users that love it and others that hate it. It has arguably set Microsoft back and potentially damaged both the Microsoft and Windows brands. This is both disappointing and sad as Microsoft is a story-booked American darling that has enjoyed years of success and domination.
I'll admit, while I loved Windows 8.1 at first, I soured on it once I noticed an impact in my productivity. Performing a balancing act between the classic UI and Modern one, is maddening. It was so distressing to me, that I actually turned my desktop into a Hackintosh. While Linux distributions are my go-to choice, I still have a need for some other software, such as Office, and OS X meets that need. But Windows 8.1 isn't all bad, it truly shines in one place -- tablets.
Folks looking to purchase a small Windows 8.1 tablet now have one more option available to consider, as the ASUS VivoTab Note 8 just made its way to Microsoft's online store. The device can be had for $329 in the 32 GB storage trim, making it slightly more expensive compared to the $299 its maker had revealed it would cost at launch.
For the money, the VivoTab Note 8 packs an 8-inch IPS, five-point multi-touch display with a resolution of 1280 by 800. There is an Intel Atom Z3740 processor, running at 1.33 GHz (1.86 GHz on Turbo Boost), inside, backed by 2 GB of RAM and a one-cell battery that is rated at up to eight hours of use on a single charge.
Sony is pulling out of the PC business and is selling the VAIO brand to Japanese investment fund Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). The announcement came after industry speculation about what might be happening in Sony's future after the company responded to rumors that it was in talks with Lenovo about a possible sale by saying that it was looking to "address various options for the PC business". No details about the fees involved have yet been revealed, but it is hoped that an agreement will be reached by the end of March.
Citing "drastic changes in the global PC industry", Sony's announcement came as the company revealed its financial results for Q3 2013. Analysis of the results showed that the "target of returning the TV and PC businesses to profitability will not be achieved within the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014", hence the need for reform. This means that Sony will now concentrate "its mobile product lineup on smartphones and tablets". An estimated 5,000 jobs will be lost.
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?
As you would expect, tablets proved to be a popular purchase over the holiday period, with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker reporting a solid rise in global shipments.
According to preliminary data, worldwide tablet shipments grew to 76.9 million units in the fourth calendar quarter of 2013 (4Q13), delivering a 62.4 percent increase over the previous quarter and 28.2 percent growth over the same period a year ago. For the full calendar year, worldwide tablet shipments totaled 217.1 million units, which is up from 144.2 million units shipped in 2012. But despite that good news, things don’t look quite so rosy for the future.