Just under a year from when Google and Logitech first unveiled the first Google TV, otherwise known as the Logitech Revue, Google I/O 2011 is this week in San Francisco with some real hope for the platform. Google just signed a deal that brings thousands of videos YouTube.
Content, content, content. Without it, you're as dead in the water as the some extended cable channel at 3 a.m. The only reason that fools like me own one is the vague hope that Google might see the light, open its pocketbook, and perhaps give us some real content to watch.
It's odd, in a way, that consumers could even gripe about such a thing. A few bucks to Netflix or to Hulu opens up a wealth of fresh and archived content that should keep the most devoted couch potato rooted for weeks. But there's something inutterably frustrating about visiting a website and seeing content blocked—blocked!—just because you own a particular piece of hardware.
It seems likely that Samsung will announce its Google TV devices this week, in addition to a Chrome OS netbook. With Logitech reporting just $5 million in sales for the Revue, it would seem that the supply will outstrip the demand.
But with Google's deal that brings rentals to YouTube, there's hope for the platform yet. While Google TV doesn't look likely to dominate the media streamer market, let's look at what Google could do to make the next generation of Google TV succeed.
It was just announced during the Google I/O 2011 keynote that the next version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, will be the melding of Honeycomb and Gingerbread. In other words, as Google puts it, you'll have one OS that runs everywhere instead of one for phones and another for tablets--hence, the name "sandwich." Makes sense. The universal Android 4.0 will run on both small screen and larger screen devices, and will automatically adapt based on the size of the display. It's expected to be released in Q4 of this year, which means that most devices won't be updated with Ice Cream Sandwich until 2012.
The Google faithful have converged at San Francisco's Moscone Center this morning to dive deep into the guts of the search giant's myriad services at Google I/O 2011. Sprinkled throughout the two-day blockbuster event will surely be some very important announcements (watch those keynotes closely) plus product and technology introductions. Here is some of what I expect.
No discussion of what Google has up its sleeves is complete without a lengthy discussion about the fate of Google's converged TV and Web technology. Logitech, Sony and others have bought into it—big time. But consumers aren't buying and it's clear that Google has yet to arrive at a winning formula. I have an Apple TV device at home and I can guarantee you that at least one key ingredient is simplicity. No external keyboard, no large, hoary box, nothing above $150 dollars. That, for the most part, does not describe the current Google TV. Apple TV also has a super-easy—if you're an iTunes/AppStore member—way of purchasing new content. Google's focus on Web-based content and letting everyone handle commerce in their own way is not helping Google TV or any of its partners.
I expect Google to introduce a significant update to the Google TV platform. One that will shrink the hardware, swap out components, and introduce a wholly new commerce strategy.
Google I/O 2011 just kicked off, and you can watch how everything unfolds live using the video embed above. We expect news on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Google Music beta, maybe some updates to Google TV, and some news on Chrome OS devices shipping. Hit play for the details!
Barnes & Noble is readying an updated e-reader, the company revealed in a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
"In a meeting with investor analysts on May 4, 2011, Barnes & Noble ... indicated it expects to make an announcement on May 24, 2011 regarding the launch of a new eReader device," the notice said.
The company provided no other details about what the updated e-reader might entail. The last major Nook upgrade was the Nook Color (pictured above,) which started shipping in November. The Android-based device includes a 7-inch touch screen and access to more than 2 million titles, as well as an extra-wide viewing angle intended for sharing. The screen boasts 1,024-by-600 resolution and 169 pixels per inch. It comes with 8GB of storage, expandable up to 32GB with a microSD card.
In late April, Barnes & Noble pushed out a major software update to the Nook Color, which included its own app store, an email client, the ability to play Flash video, and enhanced books. It also added support for Android 2.2 "Froyo" and Adobe Flash video.
If you're on AT&T and the HP Veer isn't your cup of tea, AT&T and Samsung on Thursday announced the sale date and price for the Infuse 4G, the carrier's first smartphone with the HSPA+ 21 speeds that we consider to be the minimum for true 4G. The phone will go on sale on May 15 (same day as the Veer) for $199 with a two-year contract.
First previewed at CES in January, the Infuse is an interesting phone: it's unusually thin, long and wide. The Android 2.2 phone is of the standard black-slab style, but it has a 4.5-inch, 800-by-480 screen. That isn't higher resolution than the usual smartphone screen, but it's wider. The screen also sports Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus technology, which combines the increased outdoor visibility of Super AMOLED with more subpixels for truer colors. The phone is also very slim, at 9mm.
The Infuse has AT&T's fastest Internet speeds yet, but it's not quite the fastest smartphone AT&T has to offer; with a single-core, 1.2-Ghz Samsung processor, it's a bit slower than the dual-core Motorola Atrix 4G. It's still faster than most of the other smartphones on the market, though.
At this week's BlackBerry World trade show, everyone expected the top headliner to be the company's just-released PlayBook tablet and its new software offerings. As it turned out, the gadget ended up taking second spot to a surprise guest: Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer came out during RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis' keynote yesterday morning to announce a partnership that would bring Microsoft's Bing search engine to BlackBerries. Search is a big deal in mobile devices, so it's fitting that a heavy hitter from Microsoft came to give its blessing, but many took the appearance of the CEO as a clear sign of bigger things to come.
Does RIM know what it's in for, though? There's considerable doubt over whether the company's strategy and platforms can be successful over the next couple of years. If they're not, Microsoft could end up owning RIM.
"Will Microsoft buy RIM? That is a possibility and a fast track for Microsoft to gain a foothold in the mobile hardware business," says Harry Wang, director of mobile research at Parks Associates. "RIM's market capitalization is only $25 billion and Microsoft has $48 billion in cash. If RIM's value drops to $15 billion, it will become an attractive target for Microsoft. Maybe Steve Ballmer was planting that seed during his keynote appearance at Blackberry World."
Today Pandora is expanding from Simon & Garfunkel to Seinfeld and George Carlin. The Internet radio service is adding 10,000 comedy clips from over 700 comedians to its existing music library.
A host of big names have already taken the stage, including: Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Cheech & Chong, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, Richard Pryor, Mitch Hedberg.
"Adding comedians to the mix has been one of the top requests from our listeners," Pandora founder Tim Westergren wrote in a blog post. "We've taken the same approach to comedy as we have to music: carefully and deliberately analyzing comedic 'bits' across a very large number of attributes to capture the style, delivery and content of each performance."
With Spotify's download service, users can purchase tracks in bundles. Ten tracks will set you back £7.99, 15 tracks will cost £9.99, 40 tracks will be £25, and 100 tracks will be £50.
"Spotify's new MP3 download service makes it possible to own your playlists in one easy step," the company said in a statement. "By introducing a range of MP3 bundles, we've been able to offer you some of the most competitive prices available—from as little as 50p per song."
Spotify features include the ability to: search, browse, and play millions of tracks; stream over Wi-Fi or 2.5/3G; access offline playlists; on-the-fly sync; a what's new tab; wireless sync of your local files to your phone; and the ability to tag favorites into a special list.
One of the most frequent requests, however, was the abilty to sync that music to Apple's iPod, something Spotify said is now a reality. Just connect an iPod to your computer via USB and it will appear in the "devices" section of the Spotify sidebar. You can then sync MP3s in your Spotify playlists to the iPod.
Motorola Mobility, recently split off from Motorola Solutions, also shipped 4.1 million smartphones in the first quarter of 2011, the company said Thursday. In all, Motorola Mobility said it shipped 9.3 million mobile devices in the quarter, beating analyst expectations.
Motorola split into two independent public companies in January with Motorola Mobility generally considered a spin-off. Motorola Solutions—which makes bar code scanners, police radios and other products—also reported earnings Thursday and had net income of $497 million, up from $69 million in the first quarter of 2010.
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