CES 2014 Coverage on Soft32

The next few days should prove to be interesting…

CES2014

This post won’t be very long; but I wanted to let everyone that’s been stuck under a rock know that CES starts this week. The show showcases some of the best and most promising gadgets to come to light for the next few years. It’s probably one of the biggest and best shows still out there.

While the expo floor isn’t open to the public yet, and I unfortunately wasn’t able to make arrangements to physically attend, I will do my best to cover some of the coolest and most interesting devices. Some of the hotter topics include smart TV’s, wearables, 4K TV’s, and streaming hardware and services as well as smartphones, accessories, computers and the like.

I really haven’t paid much attention to too many rumors up to this point. Until something either shows up or misses CES, I planned on pretty much ignoring it. Now with the show set to really open up to the world tomorrow, you can bet that I’ll be looking at a great deal and will have some exclusive content for Soft32.com in the coming days and weeks. This year promises to be very interesting.

So sit back and relax. I should have something set to post in the next few days or so. In the meantime, I’d really love to hear what topics, products, services, etc. you’re looking forward to seeing covered and detailed at CES. Why not join us in the comments below and tell everyone what you think the hot product trends will be for 2014?

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New Electronics, New Accessories – The Added Expense that you Didn’t Count On

screen-shot-2012-09-25-at-1.23.30-pmIts exciting getting new toys, but buying a new gadget can add additional expenses you didn’t count on…

It happens every time you buy a new gadget or iDevice. You get the new toy, and then you find out that many, if not all of the accessories you have for it, aren’t compatible. I know that many people are aware of this issue, but with the 2013 Holiday Season upon us, its important to know and hear this quick warning and cautionary guidance before you buy.

In the smartphone arena, if you’ve got an iPhone 4S or later, you’ll hit this issue. The iPhone 5 introduced the Lighting Connector. The classic 30 pin connector that’s been in use on Apple iDevices for just about 10 years. With a minor change of pin-outs with the introduction of a video signal and the removal of FireWire support, the 30 pin connector remained largely unchanged. It was so constant, that it lead to the creation of a whole industry – one of iPhone, iPod and iPad accessories.

When the Lightning connector was introduced with the introduction of the iPhone 5, that industry took a huge hit. None of the established accessories would work with the new iDevices, at least not with out an adapter, and then, not all of the original functionality of the new device would work with the older accessory.

Gadgets

With Android devices, you don’t get as much of this. Over the past 5+ years, Android’s microUSB connector has been pretty constant. However, it doesn’t have the longevity and history that Apple devices do. While that doesn’t mean as much as Google’s strict compatibility guidelines, most Android users have been able to keep most of their accessories over the 7 major releases of Android (Donut to Kitt-Katt).

So what’s the best thing to do?

That’s a great question. If you buy someone a new version of something be it a smartphone, tablet or MP3 player, you need to be aware that you might be forcing the recipient of the gift to buy themselves either an adapter or to buy themselves new accessories. Speakers and such may work very well with an adapter. Some of the more customized or function specific accessories – car kits, cradles and the like, for example – will likely need to be replaced or simply done without if replacements don’t exist.

The one thing that I’d like everyone to take from this particular article is that depending on how “deep” the gift recipient is into their device(s), getting them a new version of the device is often going to change what they can use from their current accessory stash and will effect what they may have to buy to get key functionality back. The major expense isn’t always the device or cellular plan, it might be the accessories that they have to leave behind in order to use the new device.

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Connected to the ultimate technology – Through Google Glass

Watch any futuristic film and you’re usually confronted with the Directors ideas of what future technology might look like.

google-glass
If you’ve seen a computer display in a pair of glasses you might be forgiven for putting this in the realm of fiction but technology writers and experts are getting excited by Google Glass, an Android-powered head mounted computer display which Google say will be on the market by the end of 2013.Practically Google Glass operates on a similar level to a Smartphone or Tablet. Think of varied apps like maps or restaurant finders, a camera, email and internet surfing all with voice activation. All these feature with Google Glass. The different is the hands-free nature of the devices. The small device can sit on a pair of glasses and Google’s initial promo video’s give the feeling of text and information displayed right infront of your eyes whether snapping a picture or reading as message.

Google are saying the devices will be available to buy at the end of 2013 and prices seem to be around the $1500 mark, although no one is quite sure. There is a secretive and low key approach from Google that has got some people asking some questions. Recently a Google Glass appeared on eBay at a $16000 price. Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin quickly spoke out that people should avoid these fake or counterfeit models. His TED seminar on the subject was again a little low key and he said that although a 2013 launch was likely there was still a lot of work to do on the product.

This doesn’t seem like an Apple-style reveal but rather a trickle down information cycle on this new product – with the hope that customers will not be able to restrain themselves when the Google Glass is finally launched. Some people have been able to get hold of a Google Glass as product testers. Through an application procedure on Google+ members of the public have been able to apply to try out the devices. Using a #ifihadaglass hashtag you can say what you would do with a Google Glass in your hands. The best ones get the chance to try it out – but apply quickly this is only running for a few more days. When thinking about Google Glass the key question would seem to be around it’s likely impact.

Do we really need a computer built into our glasses? Other than looking cool there seem to be some great benefits. Imagine a surgeon relaying his first person perspective of an operation to medical students online. This immediate capturing of life events or the ability to see through someone’s eyes is incredibly attractive. But concerns exist around Google’s ongoing collecting of data about us as we search. Will what we see and where we go be added to this? Are the days of face recognition and of real-time customer information even closer? We’ll have to wait till the end of the year to find out.

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Top 5 Tech Predictions for 2013

Technology-Predictions-For-2013Here are my top 5 predictions for 2013:

2012 was a changing year for technology. Mountain Lion, Windows 8, the iPad Mini and Google’s release of Jelly Bean are among the hot releases of the year. There were obviously a great many more.

2013 is going to be pivotal for technology as a number of other developments capture the lime light and bring Nerd-dome into the average American home. In no particular order, here are my top five predictions for 2013.

1. BB10 Fails
Despite its best efforts to right the ship, RIM’s much heralded Blackberry 10 OS and associated devices are met with lukewarm to no public interest. Enterprise sales never take off, as users are more interested in using their own iOS or Android device at work.

2. RIM Declines, is Purchased by Dell or Microsoft
Because BB10 flops, interest in RIM’s associated new devices dwindles to next to nothing. Once their existing enterprise customers see how the new devices are received, many more jump ship for greener iOS and/or Android pastures. This dramatic drop in enterprise revenue is going to get a lot of play by the tech media and press and Wall Street’s reaction won’t be kind. Their stock will drop sharply, making them an easy target for acquisition. Likely buyers will be either Dell or Microsoft, the latter will be interested in RIM for their IP/patents. Dell, if successful in purchasing RIM, will try to make a go of it as RIM Part Deux, but that will fail too, as the whole BB BIS/BES model has been obsoleted by Exchange ActiveSync and other sync options offered by both Apple and Google.

3. Microsoft Surface RT Products Don’t Survive 2013
Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet is having trouble with adoption. While its thin and light and very portable, consumers don’t understand Windows RT and Enterprises are interested in a 1.0 version of ANYTHING. As such, Surface RT dies as Microsoft can’t justify sustaining the product in the consumer market. As such, Microsoft abandons Surface RT near the end of Q2 2013 in favor of the much more enterprise friendly and consumer understood Surface Pro, but its price-point is set so high (starting at $899), that consumers ignore it for more affordable, traditional Windows 8 laptops or ultrabooks. By mid-2013, Microsoft will begin drastically discounting Surface Pro tablets in order to generate interest and sales. Eventually, MS will discover that they aren’t making any money on the devices and will announce and/or discontinue them before the end of 2013 as well.

4. Windows 8 is Declared a flop
Sales of Windows 8 have been less than impressive. Consumers don’t understand it. Microsoft has “moved their cheese.” Enterprises won’t adopt it until much, much later. Many companies are still using Windows XP, let alone, Windows 7, and it’s been out for more than 3 years. 2013 will be a huge sales target and opportunity missed for Windows 8, as it doesn’t do well without a touch screen, and most legacy hardware doesn’t have it. Legacy styled laptops won’t incorporate them, and so, sales of Windows 8 will go nowhere, thus creating a bigger flop than WindowsME or Windows Vista.

5. No Public Jailbreak of iOS 6 will be Released
Every published jailbreak of IOS shows Apple exactly what bugs have been exploited in order for RedSn0w to work any of its Cydiaic Magic. It was recently announced that a jailbreak was created by the DevTeam; but wouldn’t be immediately released. The DevTeam wanted to hold back a bit, as iOS 6.1 is scheduled to be released soon, and usually with every new release of iOS, the current jailbreak is broken, requiring rework by the DevTeam to rejailbreak it. Given that it’s getting harder and harder for the DevTeam to jailbreak the mobile OS, I predict that the DevTeam will likely hold back releasing any jailbreak for iOS 6 until iOS 7 is released; or at least until they get a better understanding of where Apple is taking their mobile OS and can see how difficult it will be for them to continue to provide any kind of support, OR if it would be better to branch out and pursue another to-be-determined direction.

BONUS. Competition between Apple & Samsung heats up with Revamped Apple TV
2013 will see competition between Apple and Samsung reach new levels in and out of the courtroom. Apple will most likely take competition with their Korean rivals to the next level by releasing a TV with an enhanced version of their popular set top box built-in, an enhanced update to their popular set top box, or both. Apple will cut some new content deals with a few low-end content providers, but the larger ones – cable companies, cable operators, etc.) will still be missing. Apple will get close enough to cracking this nut to kick off another new round of anti-trust/patent litigation with those that don’t sign with them or with other competing companies like Samsung, Sony, etc.

I have no idea how accurate these will be. We’ll have to revisit them near the end of 2013 to see how accurate or out to lunch I was.

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Take your music anywhere you can get an internet connection with Pandora Radio

One of the hottest technologies in recent years, especially with the implementation of faster mobile broadband technology like HSPA+ and LTE, is audio streaming. While streaming in and of itself isn’t new, heck, other apps have been out for a while, one that has stood out since its introduction is Pandora Radio. It’s a music anywhere app; and its available on a computing device near you, including your Windows PC.

Regardless of where you are – in the car, at the gym, on the train – you can use Pandora Radio to listen wherever and whenever you’re in the mood for your music. The application comes in a number of mobile formats and includes a web-based version as well.

You can enjoy all of your stations right from your PC. You can also create new stations and rate songs using the standard thumbs up or thumbs down. Pandora on mobile devices is fully integrated with Pandora on the web, so everything you create and personalize on your device appears next time you’re back on the web and vice-versa.

Over and above the standard PC to mobile experience, you can easily set up and listen to all your stations in your vehicle. Some implementations of Pandora Radio even have voice support for song and station changes.

Pandora Radio is a great way to listen to your favorite music no matter where you are. As long as you have access to the internet, you can get your music no matter where you are. Its PC and mobile device integration provide a consistent experience with the software and service no matter where you are.

Download Pandora Sidebar Gadget

 

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Microsoft Surface – I am SO Disappointed…

Increasing availability isn’t going to help Microsoft much…

I’ve been in computing since computing was done with cassette recorders. I may have just dated myself, perhaps a bit too much, but I’ve been in the game since before Microsoft was Microsoft and before Apple was Apple. I understand a bit about the challenges that MS is facing right now, and honestly, they’re blowing it. They really are. Here’s why…

As far as the tablet game is concerned, there are really two players…Just two, kids. That’s it – Apple and their arch nemesis, Samsung. As much as Google with their Nexus 7 and Asus with their Transformer and other vendors with their <pick a product> may want to say they’re a contender, they’re not. Apple is the defacto leader here. They wrote the book on tablets with the introduction of their iconic iPad. Their ecosystem was designed to lock users in; and their elegant industrial designs attract more and more users everyday. Its going to be hard for them to blow this gig.

Samsung is really the only real successful Android tablet maker in my mind. Their Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note lines of tablets have set the bar on the Google side of the house and have left nearly every other tablet in the dust, including Google’s own Nexus branded offering, in my opinion. They’ve really set the bar here. Yes, the Amazon Kindle line of tablets is a serious contender, but the way they’ve positioned their products and structured their ecosystem, there’s not much room for innovation in my opinion.

There are really no other tablet platform offerings; or at least there weren’t until Microsoft introduced Windows 8 and Windows RT and their Surface branded tablets. Microsoft had a real opportunity here. They had a chance to establish themselves as a real contender in the tablet arena. They blew it when they priced their tablets higher than most of their hardware partners are pricing their value-line laptops.

There have been a lot of stories in the media lately about how MS never intended Surface to be a direct competitor with Apple, and how they don’t want it widely distributed. I’m not buying that. I would think that they would want the tablets, both Surface RT and Surface Pro devices, in as many retail locations and end users hands as possible. Their recent activities to make Surface tablets available at other retail/POS outlets contradicts what the media is reporting.

I honestly don’t get the strategy behind what MS is doing with Surface RT and Surface Pro. If given the opportunity, I’d make them dirt cheap and get them in as many end users hands as possible. I’d even provide device subsidies back to their hardware partners to help them lower the prices of their RT and Pro devices, too.

In my opinion, the only way Microsoft can establish themselves as a serious tablet player is to flood the market with extremely affordable, competitively performing devices. Apple and Samsung, heck even Amazon, are too much in command of the tablet market right now for Surface NOT to be taking this tactic. The only way MS makes headway is to make them a cost competitor, and unfortunately…they didn’t do that.

It’s a disappointment, because I think they’ve likely marketed themselves into a corner, and recovering from that is going to be difficult for them. Increasing availability won’t help. Lowering the price and making it a more attractive purchasing decision…? Yeah. That will help.

 

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iPad 3 Rumor Roundup

After months of speculation, it’s looking likely the third generation of the iPad is imminent. Here’s your guide to what’s known and rumored about what will likely be the hottest gadget of 2012.

What’s the timetable and how do we know?

Apple has just announced a press event for March 7th, teasing journalists with the line “We have something you really have to see. And touch.” If this is the launch of the iPad 3, the device would likely be on sale within a few weeks.

 

Is this definitely a new iPad?

That’s the most likely explanation. It’s unlikely to be a new iPhone given the last model only came out a few months back. One other possibility could be a rumored new device that’s around the five to seven inch mark, though most analysts believe this would be a poor compromise between a smartphone and tablet.

What are the most likely changes in the new iPad?

One likelihood is a quad-core processor. That means a chip that can literally do four things instantaneously. This means the device will be able to do a much better job of carrying out demanding tasks without slowing down other features. For example, the iPad could use three of the cores to carry out video editing while still letting the user access the web. Quad-core would allow more intensive gaming and other tasks previously thought of as restricted to full-blown computers.

Another expected change is a screen with a 2048 x 1536 resolution, nearly double that of a full-HD screen. Taking account of the bigger screen size, this would be similar to the “retina” display on the latest iPhones. Apple uses this name with the argument that, at an ordinary viewing distance, such a resolution means the human eye can’t distinguish individual pixels, effectively making the image identical to reality.

What other new features could debut?

It’s thought the US model will support LTE, one of the new generation or 4G mobile data technologies. When it works to its full potential, 4G allows users to get the same speeds as home broadband from anywhere with a good mobile signal. Unfortunately LTE is still in the test stages in the UK.

The new iPad could also have a Near Field Communications chip, a technology similar to Bluetooth that only works over a few centimetres but connects almost instantly. It’s mainly used for contactless smartphone payments at the moment, but it could allow quick wireless syncing with compatible computers.

Less likely-sounding rumors include a 128GB model (double the current highest capacity) and a change to the Apple-specific charger and data socket.

How certain is all of this?

You can never be 100% certain about Apple rumours. The company loves to keep an air of mystery about its plans and techies tend to get caught up in their imagination and dreams when predicting what’s going to happen, the most embarrassing recent example being when the widely-hyped iPhone 5 turned out to simply be the slightly tweaked iPhone 4S. That said, there are a lot of credible sources, including in the South East Asia electrical engineering industry where large component orders by Apple often uncover its future plans.

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Rainmeter 2.1 with audio player support

One of the areas where Windows 7 noticeably improves things as opposed to Windows XP (and Vista) is the visual customization. But what if, instead of the default widgets, you want to try something else. Let’s say a third party software that is focused on managing desktop gadgets, skins and even themes. Rainmeter is the perfect example for such a demand and its latest version 2.1 proves one more time its detailed and comprehensive approach towards dektop customization.

Rainmeter comes with a default theme called “Illusto” and optionally, three other different (recommended) theme suites, “Enigma”, “Gnometer” and “APB”. All list themes are gorgeous and highly customizable. However, for those who aren’t crazy about these themes, there is a wide variety of themes around the Internet thanks to the enthusiastic community of fans. Features also vary from theme to theme but they can be reconfigured in many ways, as each individual module can be dragged and dropped anywhere wherever you want on the screen.

Rainmeter comes with a variety of handy applets that can provide useful information such as weather, RSS feeds, calendar, e-mail, news, notes, clock, and much more. Moreover, you can view stats of your computer components such as CPU usage, download and upload speed, hard-drive condition, RAM usage and much more. With version 2.1 comes also the option to control your audio player directly from the Now Playing tool which can be activated and located on any Rainmeter layer. It support any player including the popular AIMP, Foobar2000, iTunes, MediaMonkey, MusicBee, Winamp, VLC Media Player, or Windows Media Player.

Rainmeter is a highly customizable desktop platform that allows you to add and drag around sidebar gadgets that can offer you all the information that you need: feeds, tweets, Facebook, calendar, mail, network, notes, system and much more.

download Rainmeter 2.1

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