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."
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.
Is Amazon preparing to launch an Android tablet? Peter Rojas of gdgt thinks so, and the time does seem right for a refresh to the company's Kindle e-reader; the last time the product got a major upgrade was two years ago. And, as Rojas points out, there's a wealth of circumstantial evidence that points toward Amazon readying a tablet.
Apple has thoroughly dominated the tablet market since the iPad first went on sale about a year ago. The company sold more than 14 million iPads last year, and analysts project that Apple will move as many as 60 million iPad 2s in 2011 (though first-quarter sales were down). Although there was buzz that the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or the BlackBerry PlayBook might present some competition for Apple's wildly popular tablet, no company has yet been able to produce a tablet worthy of taking on the mighty iPad. Amazon might be the most likely candidate.
The 7-inch BlackBerry PlayBook tablet goes on sale today in the U.S. and Canada. The PlayBook has a 1024x600 touchscreen display, and a dual-core, 1-GHz Cortex A9 microprocessor backed by a full gigabyte of RAM. It's offered in 16GB for $499, 32GB for $599, and 64GB for $699 - for even better prices check out the PlayBook on eBay.
While reviews for the new tablet have been generally positive (see our BlackBerry Playbook review,) the PlayBook had a tough time actually getting off the ground. It's been criticized for its lack of native email, calendar, and organizing apps. Furthermore, the tablet was delayed, which could be attributed to high demand for Apple's iPad. The release date, originally slated for the first quarter of 2011, was reportedly pushed back due to a shortage of touch screen panels, which Apple had already allegedly obtained for the iPad 2.
When the iPad 2 went on sale in the U.S. March 11, eager Apple fanboys were camped out in long lines in hope of snagging one of the popular tablets. In the first sales weekend, analysts estimate Apple sold nearly half a million iPad 2s. The tablet sold out within a matter of days, and the wait time went up to five weeks.
According to PreCentral, HP sent out a PowerPoint presentation to some people who signed up for email notices about the HP TouchPad. That presentation included details about an upcoming HP Music Store and HP Movie Store.
The presentation included two mockups that showed, well, movies and music. A copy of the slide that PreCentral published, however, did not include any pricing.
The presentation apparently included one interesting feature, however, a sort of predictive caching.
"According to that slide, the TouchPad will come with a music syncing solution built-in that utilizes cloud servers to sync and remotely store your music," the site wrote. "More than that, it will leverage a 'smart algorithm' to ensure that the music the user is most likely to listen to is cached locally on the device. This service will also allow TouchPad owners to stream music that they don't yet own. There's also mention that this service will allow you to stream music to HP smartphones, presumably once they too are updated to webOS 3.0 like the TouchPad."
What a difference a month makes. In March, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) was pushing for the federal government to provide every student in the U.S. with an Apple iPad. This week, Rep. Jackson complained that iPads were "probably responsible for eliminating thousands of jobs."
Somewhere along the line, he seems to have discovered that iPads are manufactured in China, not in the U.S.—a;nd; it had him hopping mad (see video below). Here's what Rep. Jackson said Friday afternoon on the House floor:
"In the 112th congress, unemployment is at 9 percent. And not a single piece of legislation considered by the 112th congress has done anything to address 13 million unemployed Americans.
"A few short weeks ago I came to the House floor after having purchased an iPad and said that I happened to believe, Mr. Speaker, that at some point in time this new device, which is now probably responsible for eliminating thousands of American jobs ... now Borders is closing stores because, why do you need to go to Borders anymore? Why do you need to go to Barnes & Noble? Buy an iPad and download your book, download your newspaper, download your magazine.
After months and months of anticipation, Research In Motion's debut tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, is finally here. The good news is that the user interface for the new BlackBerry Tablet OS is beautiful, graceful, and operates with a simplicity that rivals that of the Apple iPad 2 ($499) and bests the Motorola Xoom's ($599-$799) oft-cluttered screens. The bad news is that, at launch, there's a lot missing. First, there's no native e-mail support. (Didn't the RIM usher in the era of mobile e-mail with the BlackBerry?) The PlayBook also suffers from a dearth of compelling—or smooth-functioning—apps. Then there's the absence of should-be-standard features—why include a front-facing camera, but no video-chat app? Updates, RIM promises, will bring much of what's missing to the PlayBook in the near future. Throw in some better app selection, too, and the PlayBook may be worth revisiting down the road, but right now, it's unfinished.
The Wi-Fi-only BlackBerry PlayBook comes in three storage capacities—16GB ($499), 32GB ($599), and 64GB ($699). The PlayBook is priced identically to the Wi-Fi-only Apple iPad 2 for the same storage capacities. Currently there's no version with cellular service, though BlackBerry users can use their smartphones as hotspots for the tablet at no extra charge. RIM has announced a 4G PlayBook that's scheduled to launch this summer, along with LTE and HSPA+ versions that will be available later this year. Sprint has confirmed it will carry the WiMAX 4G model, and Verizon and AT&T are widely rumored to pick up the LTE and HSPA+ models respectively.
PreCentral got its hands on a WebOS 3.0 Beta 1 emulator courtesy of "an awesome (and anonymous) tipster" and the site's Derek Kessler on Wednesday posted a video walkthrough of the UI and several applications running on the emulator (video below).
Kessler noted that the emulator runs on more powerful hardware than it will in the TouchPad, a Wi-Fi version of which is due out this summer, to be followed by 3G and 4G products later in the year. He also had to use a mouse to operate what will be a touch interface to run the demo.
No, it's not an iPad 3 rumor. Rather, some innovative people from the Engineering Human-Computer Interaction Research Group have rigged the 2D display of the Apple iPad 2 for a glasses-free 3D perspective.
Using a feed from the front-facing camera coupled with some clever software hacks, the group was able to create what it calls the Head-Coupled Perspective (HCP).
"It is based on [an] efficient head-tracker that uses the front-facing camera of the device," said a description on the group's Web site. "We use an off-axis projection in order to adapt the perspective of the 3D scene according to the head's position of the user. Such spatially-aware mobile display [is able] to improve the possibilities of interaction."
Over the past couple of days, rumors have been spreading that Best Buy has been ordered by Apple to halt sales of the iPad 2. The story is that Apple got wind of the fact that Best Buy had been stockpiling iPad 2 units, and didn't like that. However, we've got a very reliable source who just hit us up to give us the real scoop, and it turns out that it's a bit more sinister than a plan to stockpile iPad 2 units for a big weekend event.