Link to TechCrunch » Gadgets

Western Digital’s WD TV Gets Vimeo, Playjam Support

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 06:36 PM PST


The WD TV Live may not have the clout of Roku or Boxee, but these little streaming boxes are a good choice for streamers and home media enthusiasts. They added Spotify to the lineup last month, which makes the box a solid replacement for your laptop or iPod when you just need a few tunes, and now they’ve announced Vimeo and Playjam access as well.

That’s really all there is to it.

You know Vimeo, no doubt, and Playjam is a games channel full of time-wasters to play while you’re waiting for your movie load up or transfer. They’ll both be installed via a firmware update for the WD TV.

I really can’t make the news last any longer than that. I’m going to use this space to say that hopping around Vimeo randomly really produces some excellent results. A ton of people I know in the creative industry have cool side projects and things there, and you can find all sorts of crazy animations, short documentaries, and insane music videos there, and the community is very supportive. It’s better than YouTube for just leaning back and browsing for interesting stuff.

Okay, that’s probably enough words that this post doesn’t look weird.

Kindle Fire Having WiFi Issues?

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 05:46 PM PST


Amazon’s Kindle Fire is arriving at many a home this week, and as expected with a launch of this magnitude, there are a few bugs yet to be squashed. Some users are reporting issues with wifi reception, and others say that the device shuts off its wireless when you turn the display off.

We’ve had some connection issues with our own unit, and many commenters on Amazon’s support forums are reporting spotty connectivity, disconnections, or an inability to connect in the first place. Some users report that the issue can be fixed by tweaking settings on the router: changing to static IPs instead of DHCP-assigned addresses worked for one, and a full restart of the router worked for another. A customer service rep has recommended the latter, while resetting the Fire as well, but this is a pretty standard remedy (turn it off and on again).

There’s currently no official word from Amazon on this matter, and it’s not clear how many devices are actually affected. It’s unfortunate that one of the Fire’s big features is that a PC is totally unnecessary, yet for many it seems the first thing they’ll have to do is side-load an update that fixes the wifi.

Another user reports that the wireless connection shuts off when you turn off the display. If you’re listening to internet radio or the like, this is obviously a big problem. I suppose it’s a comfort that there are plenty of users who have not had the chance to experience this problem, because their wifi doesn’t work in the first place.

I have no doubt Amazon will make this right, but it’s still a pain to have these troubles at launch. Readers, are you having the same problems?

Review: The Nook Tablet Is A Real Android Slate In Ereader’s Clothing

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:09 PM PST


The Short Version
In the mad rush to push out more and more Android slate products, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are like a calm port in the storm. Their devices are touted as ereaders but, after a bit of digging, you find that they are now considerably more interesting – and compelling – as tablet products for an entry level market. They are not threatening nor are they particularly difficult to grasp. In short, they are the perfect neophyte’s tablet, a cross between the simplicity of an e-ink ereader and a fully-featured mobile device. It’s good enough at both that people buying it for one purpose will be pleased with the device’s other strengths; depending on what you want, it’s either an Android slate in ereader’s clothing or vice versa.

Amazon’s new Fire, which we’ll review shortly, takes a certain tack – low-priced, cloud oriented content consumption – while the Nook Tablet takes a decidedly different one. Priced at $249 – still cheaper than even the least-outfitted Android tablet – and aimed at a slightly more techie audience, the Nook Tablet is an ereader first and a tablet second.

As it stands, the Nook Tablet is an impressive bit of machinery. It is a solid slab of electronics designed to do a few things exceedingly well and – sadly – a few things quite poorly. As a color, touchscreen ereader it is one of the best and, for those with an adventurous bent, I can imagine this becoming a useful media and app device.

The Nook Tablet is a tablet for everyone. It is solid, easy to use, and most of Android’s rough edges have been burred off. Although there are some odd UI choices and frustrations, everything is in its right place. It is, in short, a perfectly slimmed down Android tablet masquerading as an ereader – something many will prefer over Kindle Fire’s obviously service-oriented approach.


  • 7-inch color display
  • MicroSD card slot for storage
  • Video and audio playback
  • 1GHz TI OMAP4 (dual-core) processor with 1GB RAM
  • MSRP: $249


  • Light and portable
  • Long battery life
  • App sideloading is possible


  • Odd storage usage leaves you with about 1GB of personal space
  • No dedicated video player
  • Some issues with PDF display


What Is It?
The device has a 7-inch touchscreen that is surprisingly bright and readable. The front panel is grey plastic and the edge of the device is made of silver plastic. There is a small notch taken out of the lower left corner, something that I assume is useful of you wish to attach a lanyard to this thing. The back is the most pleasant aspect of the device. The soft touch plastic feels quite a bit like soft leather or suede.

There are exactly four buttons – a central home button, shaped like the Nook N, a power button on the upper left and two volume or control buttons on the right. There is a microUSB port at the bottom and a small flap that pops up near the notch where you can fit a microSD card. There is a speaker grille at the bottom and a small hole for a microphone at the top. Finally, there is a headphone jack at the top.

To power it on you simply hold down the power button. It boots in about a minute and starts back up in about 2 seconds. There are small audio cues for the various functions, including plugging into the USB cable and unlocking and locking the device. These can be turned off.

There is no camera.

The Nook Tablet is a direct descendent of Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color. As the name states, it’s a tablet, but not in the PC sense. The branding and UI points to the more primordial view of “tablet,” which suggests that this device is more like a cuneiform tablet to an early scribe than anything Bill Gates held up as the future of computing in 2001. However, the use of the word “tablet” is important in marketing this device. At $249, it can be perceived as being far more expensive than the Kindle Fire (although it’s not) and by naming the “Tablet” rather than the “Slate” or the “Runik Booke,” B&N is ostensibly saying “This is a computing device that we made for readers.”

When you connect the device to a Mac or PC, the onboard storage appears. If you add a microSD card, this card also appears as a separate drive, something that could be confusing to new users. The device automatically sets up a certain number of folders for B&N use as well as your private use and it scans those folders each time you unplug the device.

The device comes with 13GB of space available but there is, as they say, a rub. As you see here, the “MyNOOK” disk appears to only have 1GB available. The rest of that space is taken up by the Nook software and content. Quoth the website:

1GB = 1 billion bytes. Actual formatted capacity may be less. Approximately 13GB available to store content, of which up to 12GB may be reserved for content purchased from the Barnes & Noble NOOK Store.7microSD™ or microSDHC™ memory cards sold separately. microSD and microSDHC are trademarks of SD-3C

This means you simply must install a MicroSD card, a prospect that many might find onerous. However, if you’re not planning on dragging MP4 movies onto this thing, you might be able to scrape by. If there is any major flaw in this device it is this odd problem of disk usage.

B&N will offer digital video rental and downloads “early next year” which is why this space has been roped off. The magazines and other rich content are apparently also large files, said a B&N spokesperson, so that space has been dedicated to “official” content rather than side-loaded ad hoc content.

The Nook Tablet UI is fairly straightforward. After sliding to unlock the main screen, you’re presented with a carousel of books and items you’ve recently used. You can drag these to the main screen much like apps in any Android phone and they remain persistent there. Along the bottom is a row of small icons – Books, Newsstand, Movies, Music, Apps – and there are small icons signifying the microSD card and the book you’ve just read. Up in the top corner of the home screen is the “More” menu that supplies possibly interesting items for your consumption.

The music player is nearly stock Android and the media player lumps photos and video into one app, a frustrating experience. However, everything else is fairly custom, from the epub/PDF reader to the app store.

Searching for apps is slightly frustrating. Because the Nook App Store is limited by B&N, looking for common apps like “Rockplayer” is almost impossible, returning instead a list of books with those words in the titles.

Browsing through the device is quick and clean. There is some of the old “Android lag” – pages move a bit too slowly, apps take a bit to spin up, but generally all of the reading experiences are more than adequate and the various apps available run as they would on any modern tablet.

The browser is just that – an Android browser with Flash Player installed. I was able to browse TechCrunch in its full, Flash-enhanced glory while some sites exhibited some quirks associated with mobile browsers including failing to load backgrounds and defaulting to mobile versions of the site. The browser has a bookmarks feature as well as most visited and history tabs.

The device allows you to link your Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts via the social settings tab. Facebook and Twitter allow for text sharing with the world at large while Google connectivity allows you to add your contacts as Nook friends. You can get recommendations from your friends using a feature called Nook friends, although this feature is somewhat muted in this version of the Nook software.

As I said before, this OS takes the edge off of Android but folks familiar with the OS will see most of the similarities. It is, to be clear, eminently usable and anyone – from an Android hacker to my mom – would be able to easily buy, read, and share books and some media.

First and foremost, this is an ereader. The screen is bright and crisp and when reading epub documents the formatting is unimpeachable. It is a backlit screen so outdoor reading is possible but not encouraged.

As a reader, the Nook Tablet works quite well. Books are as you’d expect and you can control the font size and orientation. Magazines really shine on this device. Issues of National Geographic and Food + Wine looked amazing on the bright, clear screen and the magazine reader was really quite nice – it could replace iOS’ newsstand for me if enough titles become available.

Comics appear just like magazines, with big, bright, and bold colors. If anything, the Nook excels at this sort of content.

Another fun feature is the built-in “read along” features for children’s books. I read a page of The Elephant Child into the device’s microphone and my kids can then pick my recording from an onscreen menu. The audio is actually recorded right onto the device and is available in M4A format for later download, which makes it useful for folks who might want to record junior reading a book.

When it comes to reading on this device the central question is whether you want the bright, bold colors of the Tablet or the muted – but more readable – e-ink display on the Nook or Kindle Touch devices. If you’re only reading on this thing, I wonder if you wouldn’t be better served by an e-ink device. However, the color screen adds considerable depth to the standard reading experience and has much to recommend it.

Video, Images, And Music
Now for the secondary functions. Barnes & Noble want this device to exist as an “HD media” player, which is a noble goal though, at 1024×600, B&N’s interpretation of “HD” differs considerably from the rest of the humanity’s. If by HD media they mean the ability to view videos on a fairly large, fairly bright screen, then why don’t they just say it?

Aside from this obviously malarkey, viewing videos on this is a dream and, coupled with an SD card and plenty of MPEG4 rendered content, you have something akin to what the iPod Touch was a few years ago – a capable device that you can take with you on the plane to watch a few movies.

Amazon’s Fire is all about the cloud. I’m pleased that this device is less about the cloud and more about content that is right on your device. Streaming movies is usually impossible on flights and in certain situations, sans Wi-Fi, so unless you plan on doing all of your watching at home there’s little to be said about files in the ether. Granted, both the Kindle and Nook have plenty of storage for downloaded content, but Amazon’s is a bit more tied into their own store than I particularly like.

If you must use the cloud, the Nook Tablet supports Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Showtime and should support other apps down the line. For music you have Pandora, Rhapsody, and Grooveshark although I was wildly sad to find Rdio and Spotify missing (although I did find a book called Spotify For Dummies, which shows you the problem with a unified book/app search).

It’s too soon to assess battery life but in my time with the device I didn’t notice much of a drain while watching video vs. simple reading.

The onboard speaker is more than sufficient in a small, quiet room but you wouldn’t want to be stuck listening to it for long.

Who Is It For?
So who wants this thing? Well, anyone who has used a Nook before, prefers Barnes & Noble over Amazon, and is looking for a device to partake in simple content consumption.

The Nook Tablet isn’t for everyone, however. If you are, for example, a big reader and are simply looking for something to stuff into a briefcase for a long plane ride, I think you will be better served by a device like the Nook Simple Touch or Kindle Touch. iPad owners will probably find much of the functionality duplicated here although the size and screen are a bit more manageable than the iPad’s.

If you’re looking for a less expensive but carefully curated media experience – with the backing of Barnes & Noble – this is probably the device for you. With the arrival of video rentals and downloads as well as the music apps, you’ve got an ereader with extras.

As a bonus, the Nook Color – and, eventually, the Nook Tablet – has a very rich modding community around it. Many of the limitations I mentioned above are already being circumvented and it’s only a matter of time before this device begins running modded firmware. Like all Android devices, there is more than meets the eye.

Bottom Line
As I said before, the Nook Tablet is an ereader with extras. You’re looking at a nice media device that also displays books. It has a few near-fatal flaws, but those can be remedied by the tech-savvy and ignored by everyone else. As it stands it is a strong and impressive improvement to the underpowered Nook Color and it is probably one of the better Android tablets I’ve used. Whether you go Nook or Kindle is actually a matter of preference for the parent companies as the hardware is nearly identical and most ways and if you already have a great deal invested in B&N content, this is a worthy and exciting upgrade to anything you’ve used in that family thus far.

Product Page

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Bag Week Review: Ogio Squadron RSS

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 02:00 PM PST


I consider myself a pretty understated guy when it comes to attire, so when Ogio offered to send me the Squadron RSS in Celebrity White, I surprised myself my taking a chance on it. A white bag? This was strange new territory for me, but hey — what better time to be adventurous than during Bag Week?

Ogio Squadron RSS

Type: Backpack
Dimensions:19.5″h x 13.5″w x 7″d
Pockets: Laptop compartment (up to 15″ with RSS, up to 17″ without), main cargo compartment, 7 zippered pockets
Features: RSS laptop cradle, pockets for nearly all your gadgets
MSRP: $134.99
Product Page


I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m not a fan of the color scheme. The Squadron RSS’s Celebrity variant mixes a whole lot of white and black with a few hints of brownish-gold, and the whole thing just seems a bit strange to me. That’s not to say I think it’s an ugly bag; color notwithstanding, it’s actually quite a looker.

The front of the bag is where most of the character is: the frontmost pocket sports some nifty diamond-shaped stitching, and two metallic snap buckles sit above and below it. I can’t quite figure out what the buckles are meant for, although looking at them, they’d probably hold a skateboard pretty well. Ogio’s sense of character carries over into the cargo compartments and pockets themselves. Looking closely at the lining reveals a PCB-esque pattern woven into it, and Ogio went with some large metal zippers to round out the package.

All things considered the Squadron RSS is a handsome bag, if just a bit ostentatious. I’m not a fan of the color scheme, but Ogio offers a more traditional black body that more subdued folk like me may take a shine to.


I was pleasantly surprised by the how much bigger the Squadron felt than my EcoSmart, even though it’s actually about an inch thinner. The bag is only split into two major cargo compartments, with one for the laptop and one for everything else. The laptop compartment is actually sort of a hoot because it features what Ogio calls RSS — the reactive suspension system.

Essentially, it’s a laptop cradle with two parts: a stretchy foam inner pocket nestled inside a harder plastic frame. The idea is that no matter how often you drop the bag, that hard frame will take the beating instead of your computer.The only downside is that it makes for a tight squeeze in the laptop compartment. Getting my 15-inch MacBook Pro in there was a a bit of a challenge, but the added protection seemed worth the hassle.

The main cargo compartment fit my full load of daily gear: my iPad, micro four-thirds camera, a few lenses, and some notebooks. There was plenty of room left over for en extra shirt or pair of jeans, so it would make a respectable weekend backpack too. Ogio also went to great lengths to cram as many pockets as possible into this thing, each with a helpful icon suggesting what to put in it. By my count, there are seven zippered pockets peppered around the bag, including a tiny one on the left strap.

Speaking of straps, they’re solid but a little thin. A foamy mesh lines the top and bottom of the bag’s rear, and the everything together makes for a very comfortable schlep session.

Who’s it for?

The Squadron RSS is versatile enough to fit in a bunch of different situations, but it would make a great companion for students on the run. Oh, and weekend warriors who would like to take a laptop and a change of clothes somewhere overnight. It’s not the cheapest bag in the world at $135 and it’s got a few quirks, but it’s a pleasant surprise in terms of space and comfort and I can think of far worse bags to spend the money on.
Click to view slideshow.

Bag Week Review: Incase Andy Warhol Shoulder Bag (Color: Banana)

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 12:29 PM PST


What is it?
Whether your apartment walls are covered in pop art or not, this Shoulder Bag from Incase’s Andy Warhol collection brings an entirely new sense of style to the laptop bag. Granted, it’s not as durable as some of the other bags we’ve seen this week, nor does it protect your gadgetry as well, but it does have one thing that the other bags don’t: a banana.

All jokes aside, this bag actually got the job done rather well and with more than a few pairs of eyes on me. Whether onlookers were making fun of me for carrying an Andy Warhol bag (not likely in this part of Brooklyn) or they were digging my style is yet to be determined. Either way, the bag suited my needs just fine, though it is a tad heavier than some of the other bags I’ve toyed with this week.

The Incase Andy Warhol Shoulder Bag

Type: Shoulder Bag
Dimensions: 15.5″ x 11″ x 3″ (up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro)
Pockets: Main compartment, laptop Sleeve, iPad/journal sleeve, front zippered pocket with pen slots, and rear magazine pocket
Features: Exclusive Andy Warhol artwork, quilted interior lining, cotton canvas construction with weather resistant coating,
faux fur-lined zippered iPhone/iPod pocket

MSRP: $149.95
Product Page

Let’s face it, the Andy Warhol Banana bag is much more about style than it is utility. The quilted interior feels way more high-end than Incase’s standard faux fur lining, but I’m not convinced it offers the same level of protection. When I put my bag down on the floor, I could really feel the laptop hitting the ground, whereas in a bag like the Incase Sling Sleeve that wasn’t the case.

The bag is a tad heavier than I’d have liked, but still comfortable nonetheless. Still, I found myself missing that breathable mesh that Incase seems to be so fond of, and feeling bothered by the rigid, leather-like shoulder pad on this bag. It’s removable, which is the good news, but the bad news is that the seat belt-style nylon strap underneath cuts pretty bad if you’re packing a MacBook Pro or anything semi-heavy. Plus, it’s fitted with custom metal hardware that can hurt if the strap gets twisted (as bag straps often do).

But unlike the Incase Alloy Series Compact Backpack, this bag’s dedicated iPhone/iPod pocket is 100 percent accessible. I really couldn’t be more pleased with it, either. The zipper slides back and forth just fine, but the brilliant part is that the pocket itself is tilted with the opening higher than the pocket, so you can theoretically leave it unzipped and not risk your precious falling to its demise.

The best thing about the bag is the space. I was able to tote around my MBP, a tablet, a notebook, my camera, and plenty of other little day-to-day junk. But again, the bag is a bit heavy which discouraged filling the bag to its potential, as did the rigid shoulder strap.

Who is it for?
Tough one, but I’m gonna go with Andy Warhol fans, the potassium-deficient, and anyone who looks good in cream-colored accessories. But seriously, this bag can actually hold quite a bit of your stuff, so anyone who’s looking for something where utility and style compromise should give this some thought.

Do I want it?
Eh. It’s a fine bag and all but I don’t care enough about Andy Warhol or bananas to sacrifice comfort. Shoulder bags are already a bit more uncomfortable than your standard backpack because the weight isn’t being evenly distributed at all, so that shoulder strap really needs to be a pleasure and the bag, in my opinion, should be relatively small so as to not get too heavy when full. Not everyone may agree with that, but it’s just my two cents.

I do, on the other hand, give storage space, accessibility, and style five stars each so just because it’s not the bag for me doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you. If you are used to carrying around a heavy shoulder bag and don’t mind a somewhat uncomfortable strap because of it, well then by all means start saving. It does, after all, cost a pretty penny.

Click to view slideshow.

Check out the rest of Bag Week 2011 here.

Modern Warfare 3 Sets New Sales Record: $775 Million In Five Days

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 12:01 PM PST


If anyone has been thinking that we’ve deliberately avoided the Modern Warfare launch in favor of Battlefield 3 stuff, well, I wouldn’t blame them, but it really wasn’t on purpose. Let us demonstrate our impartiality by passing on this rather astonishing statistic: Modern Warfare 3 made more than three quarters of a billion dollars in its first five days. That’s definitely a record.

Comparisons to big movie launches are warranted, of course, and MW3 has the biggest beat by a factor of three or four. Note that MW3′s sales number include pre-orders, however, while most box office receipts are sold on the spot.

The game is sure to hit the billion-dollar mark soon, and will likely have done so faster than any game before it. If there’s anyone left who doubts the power of the mainstream games market, numbers like these should humble them.

At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the mega-franchises are really very few when compared with the number of titles released at large, but the same could be said for standout TV shows and movies. And after all, there’s plenty of pie to go around. It’s not like the people who buy MW3 can’t also buy Minecraft or Sword & Sworcery.

I’m not a Modern Warfare guy myself, but then again, I’m not a Rush Hour guy either, and I paid to see that and I enjoyed myself. MW3 may not elevate the genre, but every game like it elevates the market away from niche (where to be honest it hasn’t been for years and years) and further into everyday life.

Wish Your MacBook Transformed Into An iPad? One Day It Might

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 09:50 AM PST

Clutch Barrel

Don’t you sometimes wish you could just rip the display off your MacBook and use it as an iPad? OK, maybe that’s a bit violent, but it’s still worth dreaming of. The folks over at Apple apparently agree with me, as Cupertino has just been granted an application by the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Association for a “Clutch barrel antenna for wireless electronic devices.”

Obviously, the title doesn’t necessarily imply “transformable iPad/MacBook hybrid,” but just hold your horses for a second as we parse through this patent speak.

So the whole “clutch barrel” bit has to do with a way in which you can connect the two devices and install antennas into the contraption. The display will be able to rotate as well as be completely detached if, let’s say, you want to do a little leisurely reading.

The idea of combining a tablet and a computer seems to be the direction Apple is headed. If you think about OS X Lion a bit, it’s obvious that iOS was in mind during development, if not a concrete source to draw from.

Not everyone necessarily loved the new platform, but it is clear that Apple is considering touch just as heavily as it is the keyboard, if not more. That said, Apple has filed a number of patents that are related to this same iPad/MacBook hybrid, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see this concept come to life over the next couple years.

[via Patently Apple]

What Comes After The Kindle Fire? The Amazon Smartphone

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 09:09 AM PST


Amazon just entered the tablet market this week with its Kindle Fire. But this time next year, it could be introducing its own smartphone. A research report put out this morning by Citi analysts Mark Mahaney and Kevin Chang states that an “Amazon smartphone may be coming next year.”

Based on supply-chain checks with hardware manufacturers in China, Citi believes that Amazon is jointly developing the smartphone with Foxconn, but that the phone itself will be manufactured by TMS (which produces the Kindle line).

The chips that will power the phone are at this point believed to be a Texas Instruments OMAP 4 processor and a Qualcomm “dual mode 6-series standalone baseband” (HSPA+ / CDMA EVDO).

Given the estimated hardware costs of $150 to $170, this will turn out to be a mid-end smartphone which could retail for $300 or less. But Amazon is likely to subsidize much of the costs to make it even more competitive just as it did with the $200 Kindle Fire. “What is important to note is that Amazon does not need to make money on hardware,” writes Mahaney and Chang.

Amazon views mobile devices as the front-end for its digital media. It is a delivery mechanism for ongoing subscription services, so it doesn’t care about making money on the hardware. It is betting it will make much more money on digital books, movies, games, and ecommerce over time.

Microsoft And Samsung’s Surface 2 Now Up For Pre-Order

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 08:06 AM PST


Fond as we are of Microsoft’s touchscreen Surface table and all of the kooky things people have made it do, its replacement has come one step closer to seeing the light of day. Samsung and Microsoft have just announced that the next-generation Surface table, the SUR40, is now available for preorder in over 23 countries.

One of the first things you notice about the SUR40 is how much slimmer it is than the Microsoft’s original Surface. Gone is the massive pedestal that housed the Surface’s internals — the SUR40 manages to squeeze an Athlon X2 processor and the rest of its components flush against the 40-inch multi-touch display.

Samsung was able to trim so much cruft from the Surface’s body because the inclusion of Microsoft’s PixelSense technology allowed them to axe the 5-camera array that powered the original. PixelSense allows the SUR40′s LCD panel to essentially “see” objects, movements, and touch gestures — check the video below to see it in action. On top of that, the SUR40 is also capable of tracking up to 50 touch points simultaneously, which sounds like a good time in my book.

Businesses found the original Surface a novel way to have their customers interact with rich content, leading to early partnerships with companies like Harrah’s, T-Mobile, and Starwood Hotels. Samsung and Microsoft seem to be targetting new models to the same sort of audience, but there’s nothing that says you can’t for your own little commercial enterprise.

If the thought of living without one of these things in your life is just too much to bear, you can reserve one for around $8,400. Samsung and Microsoft still haven’t pinned down a release date though, so just be careful — you may be waiting left waiting for a little while yet.

50 Cent’s Headphones By SMS Audio Get Priced Starting At $129, Available For Pre-Order Now

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 07:37 AM PST


The nation’s long nightmare is almost over. 50 Cent’s headphones are finally fully detailed and SMS Audio is taking pre-orders for the over-the-ear models. The in-ears will be available later. Thank goodness. This was turning into the NeverEnding Story Part IV.

The story goes that 50 Cent & Co. enlisted the help of Sleek Audio to build a wireless headset presumable to compete with Beats. The resulting product was the star of Sleek Audio’s CES 2011 booth but the deal went south last May. Then, over the summer, 50 Cent’s SMS Audio acquired KonoAudio for its executive leadership and likely manufacturing know-how. So here we are today. The entire line is finally revealed after several weeks of teaser pics.

The prices are right in line with current market trends. The wireless over-the-ear cans cost $399 while the wired versions cost just $299. Both are availble for pre-order starting today with an expected ship date of December 5th. The earbuds start at $129 but aren’t available for order just yet. Look for a hands-on post in the coming weeks.

Gametel Gaming Controller Turns Any Android Phone Into An Xperia Play (But Better)

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 07:28 AM PST

Gametel Gaming Controller

For many of us, the Xperia Play just wasn’t quite tempting enough to throw out your PSP or 3DS, but there’s no doubt that mobile gaming is on its way to the big leagues. The dedicated D-Pad was an excellent idea, but there simply weren’t enough games supported to make it a worthwhile investment. But what if you could slap a game controller onto your phone and play to your hearts’ desire, only to remove the controller when it’s time to make a call or head out of the house? That would be lovely wouldn’t it?

Meet Fluctel’s Gametel Gaming Controller — a bluetooth controller that latches on to any Android phone that runs Android 2.1 or higher. Oh, and did I mention that it’ll support over 50 games straight out of the box, including Cordy, Asphalt 5 HD, Reckless Getaway, Guns'n'Glory, MotoX Mayhem, Happy Vikings and Zenonia.

According to PocketGamer, the Gametel Gaming Controller offers about nine hours of battery life and automatically shuts down after six minutes of inactivity. The controller connects to the phone via Bluetooth, which means that you can also disconnect the controller and play from afar. A handful of powerful Android devices sport kickstands these days so that’s an option, but if your phone supports HDMI out then you’re in for a real treat. No console, no expensive games — just you, your phone, and the gaming controller duking it out on the big screen.

The controller sports spring-loaded clamps and rubberized grips to lock your phone into place, but that surely can’t protect against gamer rage, so no throwing this controller across the room, OK?

The truth is, no matter how excellent your phone’s graphics are or how fast your processor is, some games are just annoying using on-screen controls. That’s why the Xperia Play was such a brilliant idea, and why the Gametel Gaming Controller is an even better one.

The controller isn’t available yet, but the company has an email notification sign-up on its website. The controller will retail for around £49.95 (US $67), and should show its D-Padded face in December.

PC Hardware Makers Pulling Back On Tablet Manufacturing

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 06:41 AM PST


Digitimes, quoting “sources from upstream supply chains,” is stating that PC manufacturers like Dell, Acer, and HP are building fewer tablet products in direct reaction to devices like the iPad, Kindle Fire, and Nook Tablet. Citing an inability to gain traction against devices with rich content to back them up, the manufacturers are looking elsewhere to regain a foothold in the mobile market.

In truth, manufacturers know they won’t get far building vehicles for Android, Google Music notwithstanding. Building and marketing a tablet like the Xoom or the Asus Transformer is a perilous process and is buffeted by the whims of a price-conscious consumer. It doesn’t make economic sense to build and try to sell a few hundred thousand slates that will be considered obsolete in a few months.

It seems that only Samsung, with their Galaxy Tabs, has gained any brand recognition. The rest of the players are, at best, also-rans.

Amazon and, to an extent, Barnes & Noble, have the right idea: they sell the device to sell the content. There is no reason, for example, that the eink versions of the Kindle and Nook shouldn’t be free with Amazon Prime or content subscription services other than to prevent the perception that the devices are cheap. I can understand charging a bit for the color devices like the Tablet and the Fire, but if (to murder a metaphor) Amazon is selling the razor cheap and the blades at a premium, then it makes little sense for folks like HP to sell the arguably superior straight razors they’ve been trying to ship.

The pattern of boom and bust in tablets closely follows the rise and fall of the netbook. The netbook was supposed to save the PC industry – and it did – until people started competing on price. Now the concept of a netbook is laughable in the face of the ultrabook and the more popular tablets and it took far too long for PC manufacturers to realize this. By reacting swiftly to reduced interest in their wares and focusing on consumer experience in higher margin items – namely Windows 8 devices in a laptop form factor, it just makes sense for most of these guys to pull the plug on their misguided slate dreams.

Bag Week Review: Crumpler Pinnacle of Horror

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 06:35 AM PST


This is my new go-to bag. That’s saying something, too. Despite reviewing dozens of computers bags during my tenure at TechCrunch, I’ve stuck with the Ogio HipHop for years. It’s made four CES trips, three to CEDIA, a few E3s and countless random flights around the country. I love it. But now it’s just hanging in my closest. The Crumpler Pinnacle of Horror now hangs on the hook by my door, always ready to hit the road.

The Crumpler Pinnacle of Horror

Type: Sleeve/Shoulder Bag

Dimensions: 15″ MacBook Pro, 13″ MacBook Pro, 11″ MacBook Air

Pockets: Padded main compartment, back sleeve, one small zippered pockets up front and a one on the inside

Features: Weather resistant nylon construction, roll-top main compartment, adjustable strap with removable pad, soft-to-touch lined interior

MSRP: $135

Product Page

Crumpler started transition from just a camera bag maker to a full fledge bag provider a few years ago and that transformation is seemingly complete. They now offer a large range of bags including their staple photography line. The Pinnacle of Horror is part of the Laptop Bags line that also includes sleeves, backpacks and laptop briefcases. At $135, this particular bag is a little on the pricey side but makes up for it with solid construction.

The Pinnacle of Horror is only currently available in gunmetal and red. The exterior is a brownish grey with a contrasting bold red interior. A single, small side pocket occupies the front while a document holder is around back. Just a single strap secures the top but the clever fold-over flap allows it to function, at least temporarily, without it. For added protection, a zipper spans the top flap but I never felt the need to use it. Inside is a padded notebook divider and a large pocket across the width of the bag. Normally I despise bags that lack internal organizational pockets but the overall simplicity of this bag won me over.

The bag’s opening is just wide enough for a 15-inch MacBook Pro while the roominess allows for all sorts of additional things. The surprisingly big bag can even hold a DLSR in a pinch but, since there isn’t a dedicated padded pocket, it might not be the best idea. Still, it lends to this bag’s versital nature.

Who is it for?

Just looking at the bag you wouldn’t think anything of it. It looks rather mundane but it’s the perfect size for a notebook, a tablet, and anything else you’ll need while out an about like a camera or text book. It lacks a water bottle holder, a multitude of pockets and silly things like a dedicated cell phone holder. But don’t let that turn you off. It’s not really meant for the traveling salesman that needs to have an array of items available at an instant. But for an around-the-town bag (or a basic flight bag), it’s nearly perfect.

Do I want it?

Yes, I really think you do.

But as previously mentioned, it’s not the biggest bag available. Don’t expect to tout a gaming notebook outside of the Alienware M11x. The bag is super easy on the shoulder and the fold-over design of the main compartment makes for an accessible, but still secure, top flap. The bag is handsome in a way. You wouldn’t see Alan Shore carrying it to court, but Jim Halpert would totally rock the Pinnacle of Horror to the office. The Crumpler Pinnacle of Horror is an solid bag. A more appropriate name is Pinnacle of Awesomeness.

Product Page

Click to view slideshow.

Coda Automotive Taps GE To Sell Chargers Alongside The Coda Sedan

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 05:51 AM PST


Well, it looks like Coda Automotive — makers of the zero emissions all-electric Coda Sedan — and General Electric (a name that requires no introduction) have teamed up to sell the Coda Sedan and the GE WattStation Wall Mount EV Charger in the same retail outlets.

Many of us are already feeling that a shift toward electric vehicles is the responsible decision, but a change that big means replacing and changing huge chunks of our lives. A brand new all-electric vehicle means you’ll be remembering to plug in every night instead of stop by the gas station on your way to work. It also means you’ll need a charging station. Thanks to this deal between Coda and GE, you can pick up a charging station at the same time you buy your new all-electric Coda.

The GE WattStation Wall Mount is a Level 2 EV charger, meaning it offers between 208-240V, rather than the 110V provided by the Level 1 Chargers. Level 3 chargers, on the other hand, are used for commercial use at gas stations and provide a super quick charge. The higher the level, the faster the charge. It’s not the most exciting bit of news we’ve ever heard, but it could help grow EV adoption which we’re all for.

In related news, the price of the Coda Sedan has gone down to $39,900, making it just a tad more expensive than the Chevy Volt and a good $4,000+ more pricey than the Nissan Leaf. Then again, the Coda Sedan touts a range of up to 150 miles on one charge, whereas the Leaf gets a max of 100 miles per charge. The Volt, of course, is a hybrid and can thus run forever as long as gas is in the tank to charge the generator. But on EV mode, the Volt will only offer about 30-40 miles per charge.

Many owners will probably qualify for a $7,500 tax credit, which would bring the price on any of these vehicles down significantly. Then again, we’re seeing a pretty big push in the automotive industry toward electric, so you may want to hold out and see what’s in store.

Wearable Augmented Reality System To Guide New Workers Remotely (Video)

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 05:39 AM PST

ar aist

Augmented reality has one more use case: a team of researchers at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has developed an AR guidance system that can help inexperienced or new workers navigate difficult situations remotely.

The way it works is that the system (currently in prototype stage) makes it possible to share the first-person perspective of a worker in a challenging work environment with an “expert” off-site, by providing guidance over a head-mounted camera, a microphone, and an AR application developed by AIST.

The makers explain:

In video taken by the expert’s own camera, specific colors are extracted. So the expert’s colored gloves are extracted and superimposed on the pictures I see. So, if I mimic what the expert’s hands are doing, I can replicate his movements. (…) We’ve designed this system for use in physically difficult environments, and all of it is washable. We think it could be used in places with high temperatures or radiation.

This video (in English, shot by Diginfo TV) provides more insight on the system:

Daily Crunch: Flag Bag

Posted: 17 Nov 2011 01:00 AM PST