While the world points fingers at companies like Microsoft and Google over recent security matters, in light of the big NSA scandal, one company goes on mostly unscathed. Perhaps it’s our love of shopping and the convenience of doing it online. But maybe, it’s just about making that experience so good.
Amazon announces today that is has been voted number one in customer service satisfaction for the ninth straight year. The online retailer isn’t resting on this laurel, but instead using it as an excuse to drum up more good will.
It seems that these days it is not enough for a laptop to just be a laptop, or a tablet to be a tablet. I'm not talking about the strange new breed of devices that are capable of running Windows and Android, or the rumors that handsets running Windows Phone and Android might see the light of day (haha! Can you imagine?). I'm talking about the devices that seem to be trying to become best friends with Michael Bay, transforming between multiple modes.
It's not really a new concept. We've already looked at Lenovo's Yoga 11S which can be bent into four different positions. The same company also has the Flex range which has fewer Transformer-like capabilities, but is still more than just your average laptop. At CES 2014 Toshiba decided to up the ante, taking the wraps off a 5-in-1 device.
Ours is not to reason why…well, let's leave the poetry behind. This week at CES we've seen a boatload of new products, including tablets. When Panasonic unveiled its seven-inch Toughpad, it seemed a bit pricey, but specs were good, and it's made for a specific task.
Now, we are seeing a 20-inch Performance version (as opposed to the Standard). Again, specs are certainly solid -- an Intel Core i7 processor, NVIDIA Quadro K1000 GPU, 5 MP rear camera, a staggering 4K screen (3840x2560) that Panasonic claims holds 9.8 million pixels, Ethernet port and DisplayPort, 16 GB of RAM, card reader and a 256 GB SSD.
When I was a teenager I used to love having stickers on some of my things -- furniture, school notebooks and my PC. Of course, I later regretted my decision to "personalize" my belongings, but at the time it was fun and, in my mind, cool. I especially enjoyed seeing the logos of major then-popular tech companies, like Intel, AMD, Nvidia, ATI, on the front of the PC case. It meant something for me, and maybe others, at the time. My stance changed, rapidly, as I grew up.
After I bought my first laptop, the first thing I did was to remove the stickers that were on it. Unlike on my PC, they were not out of the way and, quite frankly, looked silly on my business-grade machine. For people who buy new Windows PCs, stickers are still a part of the present as you continue to have them on your (even flagship) devices. It is a common sight, even though they are in fact as attractive as the plague. Sadly, the same trend is emerging on new Windows tablets. I'm looking at you, Lenovo and Toshiba. How disappointing. And here I was thinking that stickers were reserved only for the cheapest and gaudiest Android slates that are usually displayed in supermarkets. I was, unfortunately, wrong. But so are you for placing them there. Why can't you escape that aging stink that surrounds you and move on with the times?
We’re a week into the New Year, a time to look to the future, and all the news flooding out of CES has us excited for what’s coming up. But that’s not to say we can’t still take some time to look back on 2013 -- a year that brought us some great (and not so great) tech.
FinancesOnline.com has created a new infographic summing up 2013 in tech launches and featuring the best smartphones, tablets and other gadgets. Each of the included devices has been sorted into the following categories:
We’re seeing lots of tablets unveiled at CES 2014, with both Android and Windows 8.1 getting plenty of attention. There has been a dizzying amount of interesting devices, but perhaps Panasonic takes the prize for design with its offering.
The company, known for its rugged laptops, unveiled the Toughpad FZ-M1. The seven-inch tablet runs Windows 8.1 and sports a unique look, thanks to its ability to stand up to the rigors of a job site, bragging that it can easily survive a fall from five feet.
Sony’s VAIO | Flip range of convertible laptop/tablet hybrids launched back in October last year. This week the company uses CES to release a new, smaller 11-inch model for users who want maximum portability.
The Flip uses a clever three-way design which means it can be used as a laptop, a tablet or in 'Viewer Mode' which basically props the screen up on a stand that's built into the chassis.
A new market forecast by research specialist Gartner predicts that device shipments (that's PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones -- no toasters or coffee makers) will reach 2.5 billion units in 2014, up 7.6 percent from last year.
It also sees Android passing the one billion user mark across all devices this year, with 75 percent of Android volume coming from emerging markets by 2017.
When it comes to tablets (and other things), size matters. After all, a tablet, like other computers, is a tool. If you go to Sears for a screwdriver, you will find tiny ones for eyeglasses and enormous ones for automotive and lord knows what. In other words, you buy the tool that meets your needs. Much the way that different-sized screwdrivers have different purposes, so do tablets.
For instance, if you want to create content, a larger tablet like an iPad Air or Surface 2 would be ideal. Conversely, if you only want to consume media, maybe you can get by with a Nexus 7. But what if you need your tablet for serious business? Like, multiple-windows-open-simultaneously type business? The bigger the better then, right? Well, Samsung announces that it wants to meet the unmet needs of these users, with the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO and TabPRO -- 12.2 inches of fondle-friendly productivity.
I would dump DSL tomorrow and switch the family to cellular data, if not for cost. Downstream wireless is faster than my home Internet and would always be there -- wherever the phone goes; use it as personal hotspot for PC or tablet. But pesky, expensive data caps hold me back.
So I'm intrigued by one of the oddest and most provocative announcements coming on Consumer Electronics Show 2014 Day 0: AT&T "Sponsored Data". The carrier turns around the Net Neutrality debate by encouraging data gluttons to pay up so that cellular customers can consume more while paying less. It's a novel concept, and I like it. Netflix, this is for you, baby. You might resist, but I'll love you forever if you sponsor me. Surely, I'm not alone.
Even though CES has yet to officially commence (it starts on January 7), tech companies have already started to announce products that will be showcased at the well-known trade show. One of the latest is Chinese maker Lenovo, which just unveiled its newest Windows 8.1 tablet, the ThinkPad Tablet 8.
Unlike some other 8-inch Windows 8.1 tablets that we have seen so far, the ThinkPad Tablet 8 is the first to actually rival, specs-wise, the latest Android flagship slates and Apple's iPad Mini with Retina display. Heck, it is so intriguing that I might actually buy one (assuming that it will be available, locally).
Google may have just announced the closure of Flock and Bump, but it's not all about closures -- there are also acquisitions taking place as well. The latest addition to the Google fold is Bitspin. The name of the company may not be immediately familiar, but this is the company behind the Android alarm clock app Timely. At this stage it is not clear whether the company has been bought outright by Google or if there is a partnership in the cards, but there is certainly something afoot.
An announcement on the Bitspin website says:
The start to any new year is always slow, and 2014 is no different. As the tech world struggled to shake off its New Year hangover, it was a pretty quiet week. The pace should start to pick up again, though, as CES is just around the corner!
The New Year wasn't the only cause for celebration; it was also Linus Torvalds' 44th birthday. Tablet makers were popping the champagne corks as it was revealed that such devices were among the most popular Christmas presents. Microsoft was also celebrating Windows 8 gaining a 10 percent market share, but Windows 7 also continues to grow in popularity.
Computers are constantly being upgraded at a furious pace. It seems like as soon as you buy one, a new model is ready to make your purchase obsolete. Quite frankly, you may almost prefer not to know about the new models and upgrades -- in other words, ignorance is bliss.
If only there was a company that would upgrade its product, but not tell anyone, then no one would get that bad feeling. Guess what? That company is Microsoft, the time is now and the product is the Surface Pro 2.
You'll have noticed by now that my colleagues here are all busy promising to clean up their tech acts for the coming year. But I'm not going to do that.
I don't generally make resolutions anyhow -- it saves having to come up with excuses later -- so instead here's what I won’t be changing in 2014.