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PRIMEHPC FX10: Fujitsu To Market New Supercomputer To Companies

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:07 AM PST


Fujitsu announced it has adapted technology from its supercomputer “K” (which is the world’s fastest) into PRIMEHPC FX10, a commercial model that will be offered globally. The PRIMEHPC FX10 can be scaled up to a 98,304 nodes/1,024 rack configuration with a top theoretical processing performance of 23.2 petaflops (23,200 trillion computations per second).

Fujitsu is marketing the supercomputer to individual companies and research institutions.

The company explains:

By leveraging the new system, it will be possible to address societal challenges—including new drug development, disaster prevention, disaster mitigation, and other measures, to bring about a safe and secure society—and to pursue cutting-edge research, such as enabling the development and manufacturing of new materials without the need to make prototypes.

The PRIMEHPC FX10 will go on sale in January next year, with prices starting at US$640,000 for a one-rack model. Fujitsu hopes to sell a total of 50 supercomputers in three years.

Daily Crunch: Somebody’s Watching

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:00 AM PST

Amazon Ups Orders From Kindle Fire Suppliers To 5 Million Units

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 07:32 PM PST


Emboldened by solid pre-order numbers for their new Kindle Fire tablet, Amazon has bumped its order numbers from manufacturers yet again, this time to a round five million units by year’s end. Presumably they are looking to fulfill as many orders as possible before the all-important holiday rush.

The change isn’t anything like an order of magnitude, as even early reports had Amazon ordering “millions” of screens, and leaked sales estimates were for four million units sold before 2011 ends. Considering the relative unpopularity of even the highest-profile Android tablets preceding it, these numbers appeared optimistic at first; now they appear to have been conservative.

It’s a drop in the bucket compared with iPad sales, but the Amazon board is probably breathing a collective sigh of relief, having spent a huge sum of money developing the device. The Fire will likely be the second-place tablet for some time at this rate, which, when first place belongs to one of the best-selling gadgets of all time, isn’t a bad place to be.

The tablet ships on the 15th (next Tuesday), and is of course still available for pre-order. We’ll have a full review up after we get our hands on a device.

Lion Install Numbers Nothing To Roar About

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 02:47 PM PST


First, let me apologize for the headline. And now, the news. It appears that Mac OS X Lion isn’t exactly taking the Mac world by storm: after brisk initial sales following the July 20 release of 10.7, growth seems to have stagnated.

This is based on visitor tracking by analytics firm Chitika, whose latest numbers indicate that Lion is still a long way from catching up to Snow Leopard and even plain old Leopard, which despite being several years old is still making up a fifth of their Mac visitors. Lion? Stalled at 16%, up just 2% from the end of September. It’s a reverse hockey stick.

This chart shows the absolute representation of the OS in their stats. If you could zoom out, for perspective, Windows XP and 7 would probably be at around five or six times the height of this portion.

What could be the reason for the slow adoption rate, if we can trust these numbers?

My opinion would be simply that the features aren’t attractive to the average user. While some of the new ideas and features are certainly useful, I confess my own bafflement at how irrelevant most are to everyday use. Few users will see Mission Control and Launchpad and think “yes, these are much better than Expose and a shortcut to the apps folder in the Dock.” Because really, they aren’t much better.

Mail, Airdrop, and full screen apps are useless to the many users who have adopted web apps for email, sharing, and daily tasks. Resume and disk encryption are invisible and not really interesting to casual users who don’t understand them (“what, why wouldn’t I quit something when I’m done?”) and won’t see them in action.

What’s left of the update apparently isn’t worth the thirty bucks.

It’s not that Lion is bad, but I think I understand people’s trepidation to undergo the update process (backing up and so on, easier than ever but still beyond many users) for features that don’t pop. Snow Leopard is fast and stable, and has access to most key apps and services. What’s the hurry?

Naturally the numbers will continue to grow, as Lion ships on all of Apple’s popular computers, and sales are better than ever. The rumored Air-style MacBook Pro series would provide a nice boost as well. But the trends suggest that Lion’s road to OS X dominance is going to be a long and slow one.

A Look At The New Nook Software

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 01:46 PM PST

According to Barnes & Noble, the Nook Touch 1.1 update should improve your reading life by allowing for nearly a month of battery life and faster page turns. Although we haven’t tested the battery claims, I did get the chance to put them side by side to see what these time savings really looked like.

In general, the original Nook was noticeably slower, especially when going from a page of text to a graphics-intensive page. Was it enough to warrant a wholesale upgrade? No, but as the 1.1 rolls out to older Nooks, owners of the previous version will be able to experience these savings.

I did notice a very slight improvement in screen brightness on the new model, which could point to a different screen provider. Generally, however, the improvements are so minor as to be negligible but, given the battery improvements, 1.1 is definitely an upgrade path to follow once it comes online.

Review: Motorola Atrix 2

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 12:51 PM PST


Short version:

An attractive and comfortable phone with a great screen and solid camera. Not in fact a major update to the original Atrix, but it’s nice, despite some uncalled-for visual effects. Looking for an AT&T Android phone? This is probably your best bet right now.


  • 4.3″ qHD display
  • 1GHz dual-core processor
  • 8MP camera with 1080p recording
  • Webtop accessory for lightweight computing
  • MSRP: $99 on AT&T with new 2-year contract


  • Bright and sharp screen
  • Comfortable to hold, nice texture on the back
  • Camera is quite decent, does great macro


  • UI styling is annoying
  • 1GHz processor may not be enough for spec fiends
  • AT&T branded apps aren’t really attractive

Full review:

We’ll keep this one short. The Atrix 2 is a high-end Android phone (not to say “superphone” like the Galaxy S II) that improves on the original Atrix, adding a better display and camera, faster 4G, and a few other refinements.


The body of the phone, I have to say, feels great. The 4.3″ screen is surrounded by a fairly wide bezel, giving it a sort of chubby look, but in my hand it feels very natural and comfortable. Buttons are well-placed, though they’re recessed to the point of being flush, making them occasionally hard to hit. The power button, which of course you’ll be hitting the most, feels a little too squishy but always activated promptly and without any extra effort to find or press. The chassis is stiff and strong, and didn’t creak or crack when I stressed it.

The rear of the phone is a textured plastic that is very pleasant and grippy under your fingers. I much prefer this to the plain brushed or slick plastic of many other phones. I think it tends to pick up crumbs a bit more than them, though. It’s also nearly flat on the back; the camera unit sticks out just a millimeter, perhaps, not anything like the hump on other phones.

The original Atrix had a fingerprint reader, which was ditched for this version, either to save on costs or because simply no one wanted it. But the Atrix 2 has gained a dedicated camera button. This doesn’t work very well as a “quick launch” solution (hitting home and touching the camera shortcut is just as fast), but it’s a welcome addition when you consider that the new camera is one of the big selling points.

That camera is actually quite nice. My main criticism is that the shutter button should be a two-stage one, for setting an autofocus point. Also, it’s quite stiff, much more so than the others – to the point where it almost always moves the phone when you hit it. But I found the always-on autofocus to be fairly quick, accurate, and able to focus extremely close. Check out the clarity on these near-macro shots:

Even got a little nice foreground blur there. Naturally there’s a good amount of noise, which you’ll find at full size on any small-sensor camera. The colors are definitely not very vibrant, either, but that’s something you can easily control for. There was almost no delay between pressing the button and the shot being taken, and it was ready for another withing a second or two.

There’s a multi-color notification LED, which I still don’t believe isn’t standard on all phones.

Removing and replacing the battery cover is easy, and the rear panel flexes just enough to make it easier, but not enough to worry you about its quality. The MicroSD card slot is accessible without removing the battery, always preferable to the alternative.


Stock Android has been modified somewhat, but not to the extent Motorola has previously with Blur. The AT&T blue theme pervades throughout, from a slightly janky lock screen to a really out-of-place browser icon featuring their logo prominently.

There is also and extremely irritating and not-subtle flashlight-shining-on-icons effect whenever you go between home screens. It loses its novelty after literally the first time you see it. The animations also seem longer than stock ones, and can only be turned off altogether (there is no way to turn off the flashlight effect). Get a grip, Motorola. Nobody wants this.

AT&T has included about 12 “bloatware” apps, depending on how you count, but they’ve also made it spectacularly easy to remove them. You go to your apps, and in the pulldown menu select “AT&T,” where they’ve kindly gathered all their apps. Little did they know how this app bucket would be used! From there you can long-press an app to delete it. No digging in menus, no waiting for app and component lists to populate. Easy peasy. The apps themselves are the usual account access and sponsored service fodder, unlikely to sway many users away from their established file, media, and doc syncing solutions. But nothing malicious.

Network speeds are middling. I got around 4 megabits (~500KB/s) in my neighborhood, where I recall the T-Mobile G2 used to get something like 8 megabits. Speedtest confirmed this (3857kbps down, 1641 up). Honestly in practice it was always quite fast enough, and few of these 4G phones really beat each other on the all-important latency. The improved wireless chipset doesn’t guarantee better speeds in every situation, but raises the ceiling. It all depends on the network conditions where you use the phone the most. In Seattle T-Mo is generally faster than AT&T, I’ve found, but elsewhere it will be the opposite. Take my informal measurements lightly.

Battery life I found to be very good. I’ve had my phone unplugged since about midnight, receiving emails on a 4G network, taking pictures, sending photos to myself for this review, and so on, and it’s currently at 80% (as I’m editing this three hours later, it’s at 70%). Streaming media on 4G will naturally drain this more, but this seems to me to be an all-day phone, and it’s made it through plenty of days already. I’ve seen other reviews complain about battery, but personally I haven’t encountered anything out of the ordinary.

Then there’s the webtop functionality. Unfortunately I wasn’t allocated a unit to test this out, so I’ll stay quiet on it and let you check other reviews for an opinion on this feature.


If you’re on AT&T and not an iPhone user, I’d say that this is a bargain for $99. It beats out the competition from HTC in a number of ways, and feels to me like a solid phone plain and simple. As long as you can get around that stupid flashlight effect.

Staples Slashes PlayBook Price To $199 On Black Friday

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 12:41 PM PST


Those of you crazy brave enough to venture into Staples on Black Friday will be rewarded with the chance to buy a 16 GB BlackBerry PlayBook for $199, if their leaked ad is any indication.

According to Electronista, the deal only applies in-store, so those of you looking to snag a PlayBook on the cheap had better bundle up.

This isn’t the first time Staples has slashed prices on the PlayBook — they ran a special $100 off promotion back in September — and it almost certainly won’t be the last. Sales of RIM’s tablet have been anemic at best, and even RIM is getting desperate to move their stock.

Honestly, why anyone would go to the trouble of camping in front of Staples for hours in the frigid cold in order to snag one of these is beyond me. Call me lazy, but the idea of pre-ordering a Kindle Fire for the same price from home sure beats jostling in a massive line for a tablet that can’t even send email unless you have the right phone. Then again, you may as well pick one up if you were planning on camping out for the $8 flash drive anyway.

Meet Swivl, The Motion Tracking iPhone Dock That Always Keeps You On Camera

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 11:54 AM PST


Oh, the wonderful world we live in. Less than a year ago, I was meeting with the two-man team that was Satarii in their garage-office to check out a product they called the “Star”. It was a camera dock of sorts, but with a fun twist: it’d automatically follow your movements, keeping you constantly in frame while shooting video.

At the time, they had two prototypes: a small, dead, spray-painted plastic “looks like” prototype, and a working prototype that was about the size of a Christmas ham. And yet, it was clear they were on to something.

This morning, the team is debuting the final evolution of the Star: meet Swivl.

This thing is best explained with video, so I’ll let their demo do the talking:

Basically: Snap your iPhone (or other, similarly sized camera) in, slap the marker somewhere on your person (or hold it), hit record, and the Swivl will twist and turn to keep you in the shot. Need a video of you skateboarding, but have no camera man? Need to have a “hands free” Facetime session for one reason or another (hey, I’m not asking questions)? That’s where the Swivl comes in.

Things have changed rather drastically since the last time I spoke with them, seemingly all for the better:

  • The Swivl can now charge Apple devices while in use, and video recording can be started/stopped via the wireless marker
  • While their original price goal was “under $200″, the pre-order price and estimated retail price is now set at $159.99
  • The original prototypes I saw could only turn horizontally; the final product can tilt vertically, as well.

I do wonder how loud the motors are during rotation. The motors on the original prototype were loud enough to be caught on the docked camera’s recording, and it’s interesting that almost all of the footage in the demo video above is completely dubbed over with the soundtrack. A bit of buzzing and whirring is, of course, almost unavoidable.

The Star Swivl is set to launch (product page here) in North America come “early 2012″, though that’s about as specific as they’re getting on the launch window. I can’t wait. Congrats, guys!

Gary Morgenthaler Explains Exactly How Siri Will Eat Google’s Lunch

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 11:36 AM PST


The iPhone 4S is on the streets, and accompanying it is a helpful young virtual assistant named Siri. You’ve probably heard something about Siri by this point, as tech blogs and the media writ large, have been yammering about Siri’s technology at full blast. Since the beginning, and even more so since Siri was acquired by Apple in 2010, there’s been a lot of excitement about voice recognition technology.

This hit fever pitch with Siri’s native launch on the 4S. Of course, Siri isn’t perfect. She’s been down and out and has experienced a backlash due to limitations in voice recognition, inability to open apps, etc. But many people (among them, one Eric Schmidt) take another stance: Siri is game-changing, and not only that, she poses a significant threat to Google (and beyond).

In his letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt talks quite a bit about Siri and how it represents “an entirely new approach to search technology” — one that is a “significant development”. Basically, he says that Siri is the biggest threat to Google’s control of search, well, ever. The writing, as they say, is on the wall.

So, we thought there was no better way to get the lowdown on Schmidt’s statement to the Senate Subcommittee and the future of the feisty young virtual assistant than by talking to one of the people who played an integral role in Siri’s early life.

Gary Morgenthaler, a partner at the eponymous VC firm, Morgenthaler Ventures, was the first investor in Siri in 2008 and served on the company’s board of directors until it was acquired by Apple. Morgenthaler was also an early investor in Nuance Communications, now a leader in voice recognition (and also now used in the iPhone 4S).

“Eric might be more right than he knows,” says Morgenthaler. “A million blue links from Google is worth far less than one correct answer from Siri,” he adds. These are very early days for Siri, but already he hears that “Siri's usage has been 10x more than what Apple anticipated.” The big potential, of course, is if Apple opens up Siri to outside developers, which could create a new wave of voice-enabled apps and give Apple an edge over Android and other mobile platforms. (Morgenthaler also gets into the challenges Apple must overcome before it can open up Siri).

If people start using Siri to bypass search, that is a huge threat to Google. But how would Siri make money? It wouldn’t be from advertising. In Morgenthaler’s mind, the biggest opportunity is getting in the middle of transaction. “Corporations will be happy to skip advertising altogether, if they can go straight to transactions,” he says.

Below Morgenthaler responds to a number of questions, on Siri, the future of voice technology, and MG’s post here.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt testified before a Senate subcommittee investigating Google’s dominance in Web search in September 2010. During the proceedings, Schmidt said Siri was a serious threat to their search business. What do you make of that?

At the time Schmidt said that, Siri was just a 3-week old beta product. While some may say it's a smokescreen for the Senate, Eric might be more right than he knows. He's smart and understands the potential threat of Siri to disrupt Google's search business some time in the future. What he may not realize is just how quickly that will happen. Not only is the Siri team within Apple extremely capable, but Siri is learning every day and adding streams and streams of user data to her artificial-intelligence knowledge base.

I predict she will be able to answer and perform transactions as quickly as a human within 2 or 3 years. The real turning point will be when, and if, Apple will open their API to 3rd-party developers. Android will suddenly not be at parity with iOS – it won't be an even playing field anymore because Google will simply not have a response to Siri's natural language, artificial intelligence capability.

Developers will flock to Apple's platform because they can build the next generation of cool, new apps. I hear Siri's usage has been 10x more than what Apple anticipated – which accounts for the outages of last week I suspect. Siri has captured people's imagination. After 50 years of sci-fi movies in which you can talk to your computers and have it understand and perform tasks for you – that time is finally here. We've crossed a threshold, though it's only the beginning.

How is Siri different from what Google has currently? Google has had voice tech for some time.

Siri allows free-flowing natural language interaction with computers, whereas Google requires you to speak like a robot. Google Voice Actions (GVA) is not bad for what it does, but Siri leaves it far behind as the last vestige of the 20th century in human-computer interface. Speaking technically, GVA supports speech recognition and simple agent behaviors, whereas Siri understands language, models knowledge and applies logic, in addition. As a result, Siri creates a far more intelligent and human-like experience for users.

Beyond that, Google is robotic and devoid of personality. The Siri team went to great lengths to create an appealing persona and personality to create user engagement. In particular, we defined a lifelike virtual personal assistant with the best qualities of human personal assistants: efficient, knowledgeable, professional, compliant, uncomplaining, and witty with a slight attitude. At all costs, she could not be robotic or insipid, like Microsoft’s “Bob.” Instead, she must always be fresh, unexpected, entertaining and engaging. Siri must consistently “surprise and delight,” such that users become attached to using her. TechCrunch also addressed this question in a truly excellent article by MG Siegler.

As you said, Siri is in beta and only used for internal apps in 15 use cases, e.g. calendaring, music, etc. When do you think they will go prime time and open up to a world of 3rd-party developers?

First, there is an extraordinary distance to go before Siri is ready for 3rd party developers. Apple has much work to do in perfecting the basic Siri experience. With a good Internet connection and proper diction, Siri answers correctly 9 times out of 10. To compete with humans, however, Siri must get to the correct answer 29 times out of 30, or 97% of the time. Interestingly, once machines give consistently correct answers, humans would rather deal with them than other humans, i.e., witness ATM machines.

It takes less energy to deal with a machine than a human to accomplish your purpose. Beyond consistency, there are MANY more tasks that Siri can perform on your behalf. She can manage travels plans and reservations, coordinate local services, find and plan entertainment, purchase e-commerce goods and serve as gateway to 3000 e-commerce service APIs on the Web. Beyond that, Siri can learn your preferences and transactional information, so that she can automate any of these transactions without user involvement.

Regarding 3rd parties, this is harder. First, there is the question of who will provide the service: Apple in the iCloud or the 3rd party developer. If 3rd parties are to provide the service, then Apple must license Siri server technology to them. If Apple provides Siri service in the iCloud, a pricing model for 3rd parties must be developed. Someone must manage provisioning, and ramp service up and down, to meet changing demand. Finally, there is the matter of quality control and branding. Siri is built from complicated technology that is difficult to use correctly. 3rd parties must be taught to integrate with it and use it effectively, as well as to debug it when things go wrong. This will not be easy.

There is also the matter of persona and brand. Siri as a character now has a brand meaning to the masses in terms of competence, attitude, persona and engagement. Third parties, very reasonably, will want to create their own characters and personae. Apple will not be happy if they trample or spoil what has been created with Siri.

What is the real threat of Siri to Google?

A million blue links from Google is worth far less than one correct answer from Siri. People don’t really want search engines. Rather, they want "do" engines. They want to get things done. Siri is the precursor to a revolution in search that provides far more intelligence in filtering results. The end goal is a single correct answer. Siri is a major advance in this direction. Perhaps more importantly, Siri doesn’t stop with giving you URLs (a.k.a., blue links).

Instead, Siri takes you all the way through to pending transactions, requiring only your confirmation to complete them. Siri’s better filtering of results and automation of parameter entry for forms and transactions saves enormous human effort. In this way, Siri points to the future of search.

How do you see Siri threatening Google’s advertising and ecommerce dollars?

Ultimately, corporations don’t want impressions; they want customer transactions. Corporations will be happy to skip advertising altogether, if they can go straight to transactions. In the age of "do" engines, Google becomes much less relevant.

I know you don't have inside information, but what is possible with Siri in terms of future revenue streams?

Again, there are 3000 e-commerce service APIs open and available on the Internet. As a platform, Siri is designed to integrate with any of them. Moreover, Siri is designed to be extensible and readily incorporate new domains of knowledge and expertise. Referring e-commerce transactions on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis is the highest value marketing lead referral on the Internet. In this regard, Siri represents a long-term threat to Google; Siri can disintermediate Google from advertisers altogether.

What is the future of Siri’s technology?

Siri was architected as an extensible platform to which new domains (e.g., e-commerce shopping, personal memory, sports, blogging, news, social networking, etc.) could be added in a matter of weeks. Effectively, the plan was for Siri to become significantly smarter with new product releases adding multiple new domains each quarter. Beyond that, Siri was designed to be extensible by 3rd party developers to add their specific domain expertise to the core domains understood by Siri (e.g., travel, entertainment, restaurants, local services, Twitter, messaging, etc.).

The goal was to make Siri an open platform for Siri developers to build valuable independent businesses. The Apple developer community includes more than 100,000 developers.

Opening Siri to this developer community would create a potential tsunami of new voice enabled applications of all kinds. However, for Apple, it also presents a new and unfamiliar class of problems. For example, is Siri a licensed server software product or an Internet software-as-a-service? If the latter, what is the pricing, and how does Apple manage provisioning, etc.

Likewise, the Siri “executive assistant” personality now has branded characteristics as a positive experience in the minds of users. How does Apple defend this branded experience against those who might vary it, trade upon it or parody it? There are MANY more such questions for Apple to answer before it opens its revolutionary conversational user interface to developers.

When it does, developers by the thousands will shift their energies to the Apple/Siri platform, thereby disadvantaging Android, as well as the flagging RIM and Microsoft platforms.

What has the most monetizable value and solves our biggest problems?

The Siri team thought long and hard about this question. Ultimately, we concluded that a relatively small portion of Internet searches were directed at those transactions that resulted in commercial transactions, e.g., hotel reservations, restaurant reservations, ticket bookings, travel bookings, e-commerce purchases, local services procurement, etc. Deep knowledge of a relatively small number of domains was required to manage these domains.

The long tail of the Internet is epistemologically very hard to comprehend. However, the domains that have commercial value are relatively few in number and not that difficult to understand.

Therefore, when Siri was an independent company, its plan was to map these domains deeply and seamlessly to automate transactions for its users within them. For example, “Buy that Steve Jobs biography book and send it to my dad”; “Send a dozen yellow roses to my wife”; “Book me the usual table for 2 tonight at 8 p.m. at Giovanni’s”; and “Get me 2 box seats for the Giants game on Saturday.”

Then comes the question of what solves our biggest problems. Ultimately, Siri’s value is that of automation and removing “friction” on the Internet. Siri achieves this by: (1) understanding speech input in natural language form, (2) mapping user requests against its knowledge base (i.e., ontological domains) and (3) activating software “agents” to interact with Internet service providers to fulfill user requests.

All this is easier said than done. User problems in using the Internet are amplified on mobile devices because their screens and keyboards are small and cumbersome — and page downloads are slow.

Siri removes these frictions. It eliminates thumb-typing entirely, and it dramatically reduces the number of page downloads. In this sense, Siri finally and truly enables the mobile Internet.

Rumor: HTC Ville Packs Ice Cream Sandwich And Beats Audio

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 09:21 AM PST


It looks like someone over at HTC just can’t keep their mouth shut. Not that I’m complaining, mind you: the newly-leaked HTC Ville looks like a device after my own heart.

The Boy Genius himself reports that the Ville has a 4.3-inch qHD (that’s 960×540) Super AMOLED display, with a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor under the hood. Sorry quad-core fans: you’ll have to look elsewhere for your fix. The Ville manages to make up for it with an HSPA+ radio and a remarkably svelte metal chassis that comes in at under 8mm thick. Oh, and who could forget the inclusion of Beats Audio support?

If the lack of hardware buttons wasn’t enough of a tip-off, the Ville will sport Ice Cream Sandwich out of the gate. For better or worse though, Matias Duarte’s stylistic choices may be painted over: the Ville is said to run Sense 4.0 on top of it.

The jury’s still out on whether or not the Ville is actually real, but BGR claims that it will soon make its first appearance alongside the HTC Edge at the 2012 Mobile World Congress. Interestingly, a sizable list of HTC device code names made the rounds yesterday and a similar-sounding device called the “Villa” was included among them.

Considering that other entries included the Ruby (now the Amaze 4G), the Holiday (now the Vivid), and the Vigor (now the Rezound), the Ville may indeed see the light of day soon. Still, it’s equally possible that this is a crafty hoax meant whipped together with a name pulled from the list to give it some credence. I suppose we’ll just have to wait for MWC to see for sure, but considering the string of HTC leaks, new details may surface even sooner than that.

A Humbled Adobe Sees Beyond The Browser

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 09:18 AM PST


I can’t help chortling a little in Schadenfreude at Adobe’s expected announcement that it is abandoning Flash for mobile devices. For most of the past two years, the anti-iPad contingent has cited flash incompatibility as the primary reason they weren’t going to give Apple their money yet the devices they did back – the Xoom, the Notion Ink Adam, the Playbook, and the like – all shipped with buggy or non-existent flash implementations. But I will not chortle, friends, because this is some serious stuff.

First, I want to say Flash wasn’t a bad idea for mobile. It would have been amazing in the early years of the smartphone revolution. It was comfortable, familiar, and a great way to get app-like functionality onto phones that might not have been powerful or popular enough for a real development platform. However, it was never implemented in a way that added value and what value it had value really peaked a few years ago and has progressively dropped over the past few months. If I’m to pick nits, I’d like to show this video from Lee Owen.

The native iOS application, as you see, worked smoothly and seamlessly. The Android/Flash implementation, on the other hand, exhibited lag, touch insensitivity, and a general “wrong-ness” that disturbs the purists out there. This is obviously evidence of Android’s “familiar lag” but it also part of Flash’s problem: all of the things people wanted to do in Flash, barring viewing web video (an activity that is better in dedicated apps anyway) – play Flash games, view flash animations (why?), and, I assume, see Flash advertisements – are poorly served by these laggy implementations. Flash made Flash look bad.

Adobe never got mobile Flash right but even as they claimed injury at Steve Jobs’ mean comments, they were probably already moving past the issue internally. The depth of that move is now public. In their statement, it’s clear that they’d rather have Flash and Air exist as standalone apps rather than an add-on. They want center stage on your device, not playing second fiddle to someone else’s browser:

Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook. We will of course continue to provide critical bug fixes and security updates for existing device configurations. We will also allow our source code licensees to continue working on and release their own implementations.

These changes will allow us to increase investment in HTML5 and innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry, including advanced gaming and premium video. Flash Player 11 for PC browsers just introduced dozens of new features, including hardware accelerated 3D graphics for console-quality gaming and premium HD video with content protection. Flash developers can take advantage of these features, and all that our Flash tooling has to offer, to reach more than a billion PCs through their browsers and to package native apps with AIR that run on hundreds of millions of mobile devices through all the popular app stores, including the iTunes App Store, Android Market, Amazon Appstore for Android and BlackBerry App World.

You’ll also note that they want Flash to run high-end 3D games and other rich content, a possibility that is truncated by Flash in the browser. By going in this direction, they create two interconnected tracks – the direct to PC track and the direct to mobile track. Each track would presumably start at the same point and the differences in coding and development would be trivial, allowing an Adobe user to make a rich app on the desktop and the mobile device at the same time.

Apple didn’t win this battle – if it even was a battle. Instead, Adobe ceded ground to the future in hopes of surviving another decade as the go-to tool maker for creative professionals. It’s fun to think that Steve Jobs had a hand in this, humiliating big bad Adobe with his Zen trickster techniques. However, it’s clear that Adobe is a business in crisis and that posturing doesn’t pay the bills.

[Image: Brett Mulcahy/Shutterstock]

Kickstarter: The Present Is Half Art Project, Half Meditation On Time

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 08:30 AM PST


It may not be immediately obvious that you’re looking at a clock, but that may just be the point that creator Scott Thrift was going for. The Present is what Thrift calls an “annual clock” — it takes an entire year for its single hand to sweep across its psychedelic face.

Ah, but there’s a method to the apparent madness. As the weeks and months pass, the Present’s hand passes over color gradients that correspond to the seasons. The pure white of the winter solstice slowly melts into the green of spring, which in turn gives way to the vivid yellow of summer and the vibrant red of autumn.

Speaking in purely practical terms, The Present is sort of useless. You won’t use it when trying to make an appointment, or catch a train, or any of the other things that we rely on clocks to help us do. What it does do (or aims to do, anyway) is force to us step back and stop looking at time in terms as fine-grained as minutes and hours and days. After all, how can we live in the present when the present slowly and constantly ebbs into the past?

The Present has already blown past its $24,000 funding goal, but there’s still time for you contemplative types to get in on the ground floor. A donation of $120 locks you in for one of the first Presents to be made, which are slated to be released sometime in February.

DIY Project Turns The Gameboy Into A Magical Musical Instrument

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 08:28 AM PST

This must be the day of Kickstarter projects. This project turns an original Gameboy into a unique music instrument complete with analog controls and a stereo/mono switch. While this may be of use only to hard core knob twiddlers, but for $174 you can get a fully modded Gameboy and 6 volt power supply so you and your band can add some boops and beeps to your latest song.

The kit actually “improves” the Gameboy audio, adding controls for Cutoff, Resonance, Bypass, Envelope Follower. This is obviously some hardcore chiptune action so I won’t pretend to explain it. Here is how the creator describes it:

The filter can operate in mono mode, effecting the entire signal from the Gameboy. In stereo mode, the clean signal from the Gameboy is panned hard left, while the filtered signal is panned hard right. This allows the performer to selectively program what elements of their audio will pass through the filter.

The Envelope Follower allows the filter to be automatically animated by the dynamics of the signal. This is particularly useful for imparting filter characteristics to resonant basslines.

You can have the creators mod your own Gameboy for $160 and buy the kit for $90.

Project Page

Video: NTT Docomo Shows Japanese/English Real-Time Translation Service For Mobile Phones

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 08:13 AM PST


Japan’s biggest mobile carrier NTT Docomo has developed a real-time Japanese <-> English translation service for mobile phones, the first of its kind. The way it works is that you speak something into the device and wait to hear a voice interpretation of what you just said in another language.

As you can see in the videos embedded below, the service, which uses the cloud for the heavy lifting, isn’t quite “real-time” but pretty close. NTT Docomo says the service can be used for communicating over the phone but also face-to-face.

The company also claims the success rate for speech recognition stands at about 90% in the case of Japanese and about 80% for English (other languages will be added soon). That’s significantly more than the 15-20% back in May, when we introduced the service first.

A test with 400 end consumers in Japan started today and runs through March next year. If everything goes according to plan, NTT Docomo plans to offer the service to all of its 56 million subscribers in the second half of 2012.

This video [JP] shows the service in action:

Here’s another one:

“Several Thousand” Apps (Including Netflix) Are Ready For Kindle Fire

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 07:59 AM PST


Maybe the Kindle Fire isn’t as “media-deficient” a tablet as BN CEO William Lynch would have us believe. Amazon has just announced that they too will have support for Netflix and Pandora, as well as “several thousand more apps” when the Kindle Fire ships next week.

Usual suspects like Facebook and Twitter will run fine on Amazon’s tablet, as will games from big players like Zynga and EA. Amazon’s smaller Android Appstore runs parallel to Google’s, but Amazon claims that the apps they “carry” are tested for Kindle Fire compatibility.

Amazon’s focus on apps is probably meant to highlight the small size of BN’s own app store, but there’s no question that Amazon is feeling some pressure from their long-time rivals. The Nook Tablet came out swinging just a few days ago, and it received more than a little attention thanks to the full suite of media services that would come preloaded on the device. Meanwhile, CEO Lynch lobbed another mortar at Amazon when he referred to the Kindle Fire as a “vending machine” for Amazon’s services.

With Lynch’s claim, BN seems to have forced Amazon into a war of positioning. Amazon clearly has more meat when it comes to their media ecosystem, but BN smartly spun Amazon’s focus on their own services as a lack of choice for consumers. With both tablets nearing launch, watching the two of them slug it out for holiday supremacy should make for quite a show.

Mad Catz MMORPG Mouse Looks Like It’s Ready To Take Flight

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 07:25 AM PST


With button locks, 78 macro commands, and 13 programmable switches, the Mat Catz M.M.O.7 is the ultimate in gaming geekery. Based on Mad Catz’s original R.A.T. 7, the mouse has not yet been officially priced but it should be about $99 when it launches this holiday.

The mouse has a 6400 dpi sensor and the finger rests can be moved and modified. A built-in weight system also allows you to fine tune the mouse’s tracking. The mouse supports Mad Catz’s software platform. The software allows you to assign various commands any of the buttons. You can also drag and drop spells and commands right into the mouse’s configuration, assigning various commands to any one of the variegated buttons.

It also has presets for games, so you can totally rock out on King’s Quest like a pro.

Product Page

An iPhone Case That Will Remind You To Eat The Rich

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 06:31 AM PST


If you have more money than sense, I have an iPhone case for you. Watchmaker De Bethune has created the DW4 aka the Dream Watch 4, an iPhone case made of bead-blasted titanium with an embedded mechanical watch in the back. Why? Because the poor can suck it is why.

Only twelve of the limited edition cases will be made, with one given to John Corzine as a retirement gift. The rest will be flaunted on the streets of various famine-torn nations by impossibly thin Russian models who will order huge plates of food that they won’t eat.

No pricing, but seriously?

via Ablogtoread

The ZIIRO Celeste Watch Teaches You Color Mixing

Posted: 09 Nov 2011 05:52 AM PST

If there’s one thing missing from modern watches it’s color. The 70s and 80s brought us things like Doxa’s orange and Breitling’s baby blue but no one, lately, has strayed from the old leathers and grey chromes of modern fashion watcher. Thankfully, the ZIIRO Celeste adds a bit of the old mix-a-lot to some staid steel quartzes.

These watches use two overlapping disks to either mix two shades of gray or two shades of blue/green. These watches are called “mystery dials” and they were fairly common a few decades ago. However, with the improvements in translucent plastic and metal casing, these are a far cry from the watches worn by proto-sci-fi writers on the town in 1960s Connecticut.

You can pre-order the watch for $205 and receive for shipment on November 18.

Product Page via engadget