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1. Androids Will Challenge the iPad
Tablets powered by Google's mobile operating system are set to debut.

Apple's iPad is certain to grab headlines when it hits stores next month. But a number of touch-screen tablets powered by Google's Android operating system will also debut this year. Competing with Apple's latest consumer gadget won't be easy, but analysts say the software behind these devices could give them a few key advantages.

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Like the iPhone OS, which will power the iPad, Android was originally developed for cell phones. This means it will be fast and low-power. "Android is very responsive; it's instantly available," says Jeff Orr, a senior analyst for mobile devices at ABI Research.

It can also make use of apps already developed for Android phones. "The real benefit [of using Android] is that it taps into this ecosystem of developers that have latched onto Android," says Carl Howe, analyst and director of the Anywhere Consumer Research division of the Yankee Group. Most importantly, some of these Android devices come with features that the iPad currently lacks--the ability to run Flash, for example, as well as a webcam and software multitasking.

Several companies showed off Android-based tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Taiwanese computer makers Compal, MSI, and Quanta all gave demos of Android-powered devices with screens between seven and 10 inches and powered by Nvidia's Tegra 2 microprocessor

Also at CES was an Indian company called Notion Ink, which demonstrated an Android tablet called Adam. The company showed two versions--one featuring a lower-power Pixel Qi display with three display modes, and the other featuring a regular LCD. The Adam also uses the Tegra 2, features a rotating webcam, and is expected to cost between $327 and $800. It is scheduled to go on sale later this year.

French computer maker Archos already sells an Android tablet with a five-inch screen called the Archos 5 Internet Tablet, for $499. And, perhaps most significantly, the third-largest computer maker in the world, Dell, is rumored to be developing a five-inch, multitouch, Android-driven tablet, which may be announced later this year.


2. Video telefonul de la Google concurent iPhone

Nexus One intră  pe piaţa din SUA, iar compania producătoare se aşteaptă la un succes de proporţii. Terminalul celor de la Google are preţul cuprins între 180 şi 530 de dolari. Nexus One este mai subţire, are camera foto mai bună decât cea de la iPhone, ecran performant, este mai ieftin şi nu este codat într-o reţea specifică.
Google este următorul gigant care intră în cursă şi îşi anunţă cu mare zarvă noul smartphone, cunoscut sub numele de Nexus One. Apple este prima companie vizată, deoarece terminalul Google este cel de la care întreaga lume aşteaptă să detroneze celebrul iPhone. Oficialii Google au întreţinut o incredibilă atmosferă de secret în jurul marii lansări a anului 2010.

Pe Aceeaşi Temă

Citiţi şi:

VIDEO Google a celebrat naşterea lui Isaac Newton

VIDEO Nexus One, rivalul lui iPhone

Totuşi, unele informaţii au reuşit să scape către revistele şi siteurile de specialitate. Un lucru este cert. Chiar dacă i se spune „telefonul Google", partea de hardware de la Nexus One este dezvoltată şi fabricată de compania taiwaneză HTC.

530 de dolari „la liber"

Chiar şi aşa, surse apropiate celor două companii au declarat că cei de la Google au dat indicaţii exacte despre absolut toate detaliile tehnice ale terminalului. Conform siteului Gizmodo, Google Nexus One va costa 530 de dolari în varianta nesubvenţionată. O altă certitudine este şi faptul că, la aceşti bani, terminalul nu este blocat în vreo reţea. De fapt, de aici rezidă şi avantajul lui Nexus One, comparativ cu iPhone.

Mobilul de la Apple nu se poate cumpăra decât cu abonament. Mai mult, la Orange România (importatorul oficial) decodarea terminalui se face contra sumei de aproximativ 100 de euro. În schimb, telefonul mobil Nexus One poate fi cumpărat „la liber", fără restricţia de a te abona la vreun operator de telefonie mobilă. Un alt lucru dat ca sigur este faptul că Nexus One va putea fi achiziţionat şi de pe un cont Google, nu doar din magazinele de specialitate.

În varianta nesubvenţionată, terminalul va costa 530 de dolari, iar dacă îţi alegi un abonament la T-Mobile pe cel puţin doi ani preţul scade până la 180 de dolari.

Mai dotat decât concurentul de la Apple

Caracteristicile tehnice nu te dau pe spate, dar sunt mai interesante decât cele de la Apple iPhone. Acest dispozitiv are un ecran ceva mai lung decât al iPhone-ului (dar sub 5 inci). Nexus One rulează pe un procesor SnapDragon, are o rezoluţie de înaltă fidelitate, iar ecranul este super-OLED touchscreen.

Un alt plus, pentru unii utilizatori, este faptul că Nexus va fi mai subţire decât un iPhone, având o grosime de numai 11,5 milimetri. Termina­lul rulează pe sistemul de operare Android, versiunea 2.1, dezvoltat tot de Google. Pe lângă comercializarea prin intermediul unui cont personal Google, Nexus One se găseşte şi în magazinele operatorului T-Mobile.

Nexus One

Memorie: 4GB micro-SD card.

Capacitatea bateriei: 1.400 mAh.

Ecran: OLED.

Cameră foto:5 megapixeli.

Procesor: SnapDragon.

Reţea 3G de la T-Mobile SUA.

Conectivitate: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi şi

Bluetooth 2.1.

Grosime: 11,5 milimetri.

Trackball pentru navigare.

Microconector USB.

Slab suport flash.


Memorie: 32GB.

Capacitatea bateriei: 300 de ore în standby.

Ecran: 16 mil culori.

Cameră foto:3 megapixeli.

Procesor: ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz.

Reţea 3G.

Conectivitate: Wi-Fi 802.11b/g şi Bluetooth 2.1.

Grosime: 12,3 milimetri.

Ecran senzitiv.

Micro-conector USB.

Nu are suport flash.

Google Maps.

Ieşire TV.


3. When good game consoles go bad


Sony's PlayStation Network is on the fritz. Microsoft's Xbox Live network has had its problems. And there was that one Wii system software update that was turning consoles into pretty looking paperweights.

It's times like this, as we dissect failures in digital entertainment technology, when we have to ask the question: Is it too soon to blame digital rights management?

Two console generations ago, problems like this would have been inconceivable, or at least wouldn't have had the kind of domino effect they do today. The current PlayStation bug (which is believed to be due to the inclusion of trophies in firmware v2.40) affected games, rented movies, and access to both Netflix streaming and the company's online storefront--all things that continue to work without issue for users of the newer PS3 Slim hardware. You'd simply never get this kind of problem back when the only thing you could use your system for was to play something off a disc or a cartridge.

Though the main problem is less about progress and more about the security countermeasures put into place to keep consoles or users from doing something they shouldn't. Using digital rights management has become one of the easiest ways to do this, though it can also make things more difficult for the consumer.

And while DRM may not end up being the culprit in Sony's snafu, the situation is a startling reminder of how little control we have over these little boxes that are sitting in our living rooms. That's by design though. All three of the big console makers (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) use various types of security to make sure people do not run downloadable games or content that they have not purchased. Here's a brief rundown of how they work:

Xbox 360

DRM is attached to every piece of content acquired through Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace. This includes Xbox Originals, Xbox Live arcade titles, video content from the Zune marketplace, and video game add-on content.

Content licenses are tied to both the console and the user's gamertag. This means you can use that content on any console, as long as you're signed in with your Xbox Live gamertag. However, you cannot simply transfer content to a console and play it if you're another user without first using Microsoft's license transfer tool. This can transfer the license for that content from one console to another, and can only be done once every 12 months. Users also have a strict 30 minutes to start and finish the process before that transfer session expires, and requires doing it again.

There is also a license of sorts attached to game save files. This require a users to be logged in with their Xbox Live gamertag to load a saved game if it's being run on another console.

PlayStation 3

Despite the whole CD rootkit fiasco a few years back, Sony's PlayStation 3 has one of the most lenient DRM systems in place when it comes to sharing game content between systems. Users can share a game they've purchased on the PlayStation store on up to five different PS3 consoles. Though if there is a multiplayer component, all other copies of it will be locked down when one of those boxes is in use for an online match.

Although this isn't always the case, developers can choose whether or not they can lock a game save file to a particular user. For unprotected games, this means you can freely swap save files between consoles and user profiles. Otherwise, it'll be attached to that particular memory medium.

Nintendo Wii

Nintendo's DRM is a tad stricter than Microsoft and Sony's policies. Content that's downloaded from Nintendo's online store, particularly Wiiware applications or Virtual Console titles are tied to that specific machine. This means that if that machine is sold off, or if users pick up an additional console, they cannot share or transfer that content to the newer one and vice versa.

In contrast with Microsoft and Sony, game saves are console- and user-agnostic, meaning you can share them with other people.

The problems

Over the years there have been a number of problems or basic annoyances that have cropped up as a result of these security measures:

DLC problems on the 360. One of the earliest problems with DRM on consoles popped up on the Xbox 360. People who had downloaded Xbox Live arcade titles or add-on content for games found they could use it only when connected to Xbox Live. This was a result of the content license being tied to a previous console. You wouldn't think this would be nearly as widespread as it turned out to be, but with a large group of users getting replacement units for problematic launch systems, it wasn't solved until three years after the console's launch, with the aforementioned content license transfer tool.

Different limitations by content type. PlayStation 3 owners who purchase a movie can only download it once. If they want to back it up, the onus is on them to make a copy to an external device if they want to clear up some storage on the PS3's internal hard drive. It also means that if users accidentally deletes it, they're hosed, unlike with games that can be re-downloaded an infinite number of times on up to five different consoles. Microsoft is better about this, and will let users re-download both purchased movies and games any time.

Inability to share data between machines. As mentioned before, in the case of the user game save restrictions on the some PS3 titles and the Xbox 360, users are not easily able to uproot their progress in a game and use it on another user's account. This plays a number of important roles when it comes to tracking a particular user's progress, but it ends up making it far more complicated to take your data with you. This is even more prevalent in the case of Nintendo's Wii, where the content is tied to a specific console, and that console only.

So what about a fix?

The good news for PlayStation 3 owners is that a fix is on the way, and they won't necessarily have to have their machines hooked up to the Internet to apply it. Sony can push it out through the PlayStation Network. PS3 users can also download the update on to a USB key or memory stick, then run it from the console. Similarly, Sony is likely to put the fix on all game discs going forward, just as all other console makers do.

What remains unclear is whether the date bug can at all be traced back to some of this system-level DRM, or if it's simply an issue of the PlayStation's latest features literally being ahead of their time.


4.  Microsoft warns of zero-day hole for older Windows

Microsoft warned of a new hole on Monday that could be exploited by attackers to take control of older Windows systems running Internet Explorer and for which proof-of-concept exploit code has been released publicly.

The vulnerability affects Windows 2000-, XP- and Server 2003-based systems. It exists in the way that Visual Basic Scripting, or VBScript, interacts with Windows Help files, Microsoft said in its security advisory. VBScript is an Active Scripting language for executing functions embedded in Web pages.

In an attack scenario, victims would somehow be lured to visit a malicious Web site that displays a specially crafted dialog box, Microsoft said. The box could prompt visitors to press the F1 key, which would install malware on the visitor's computer when pressed. The F1 key is used to bring up the help function.

Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 are not affected. The issue is mitigated on Windows Server 2003, where IE Enhanced Security Configuration is enabled by default.

The advisory includes several workarounds, including advice to avoid pressing the F1 key when prompted by a Web site, restricting access to the Windows Help System, setting Internet and Local intranet security zone settings to "high" to block ActiveX Controls and Active Scripting, and configuring IE to prompt before running Active Scripting or disable Active Scripting in the Internet and Local intranet security zone.

Microsoft complained in its advisory and a statement that the vulnerability was not responsibly disclosed. The hole was revealed on Friday and proof-of-concept code was released by iSEC Security Research.

Anyone believed to have been affected by the hole can visit Microsoft's Consumer Security Support Center Web site.

Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service, and the Associated Press.


5.  Seesmic updates Blackberry, Windows Twitter apps

Seesmic has seen a flurry of development on the Web, desktop, and mobile phones lately. Last week, the third-party developer of Twitter apps released an update to its Web-based Twitter manager that outmaneuvered its downloadable Windows apps.

Seesmic for BlackBerry 1.3

Seesmic's BlackBerry update lets you tweet from 10 accounts.
(Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)
Seesmic also issued a version bump for its BlackBerry app. The new Seesmic for BlackBerry 1.3 now supports posting messages on up to 10 Twitter accounts versus just one default account. You view only one account at a time, and switch accounts from the bottom of the context menu. It's not a seamless transfer, but it works. Seesmic for BlackBerry also gains support for, a service that pings your status messages to dozens social networks.

On the photo front, Seesmic's BlackBerry app integrates the TweetPhoto service in addition to yFrog and Twitpic, and also introduces sizing options for you to upload images in small, medium, or original resolutions. We're glad to see Seesmic handling multiple accounts on BlackBerry, but unfortunately, you need to set up your default account anew when you install the new version. You can download the BlackBerry app from for OS 4.7 and above--including the Bold, Tour, Curve, and Storm 1 and 2.

Seesmic for Windows also got a refresh (to be distinguished from the cross-platform AIR app, Seesmic Desktop). Version 0.6 adds some absent basics--the capability to follow, unfollow, and block users, mark a tweet as spam, and choose between the as-is retweet style and Seesmic's "Quote," which lets you edit retweets before sending. The one slightly more advanced feature lets you access Twitter lists from the app. Even with the added features and bug fixes, the app suffered from stability hiccups and a weird display glitch.

Seesmic's AIR app and online portal are still your best desktop bets. The cross-platform TweetDeck and Twhirl are other good alternatives.


6. Touch Screens that Touch Back

New piezoelectric technology will make screens more tactile.

Forget putting your phone on vibrate. A novel "high-definition" touch-feedback display can give a touch screen the feel of a textured surface. The technology was developed for mobile devices by the San Jose CA-based company Immersion, and is a step toward mimicking the feel of physical buttons on flat screens.

Simple haptic interfaces have been used in cell phones for years, to create silent alerts or provide limited tactile feedback when an onscreen button has been pressed. But such interfaces typically rely on elliptical vibration motors to create a shaking sensation, an approach that is slow and imprecise. Immersion believes this can be greatly improved by switching to a piezoelectric actuator.

Piezeoelectric materials produce mechanical stress in response to an applied voltage, or vice versa. They do this at great speed, which means piezoelectric actuators can respond quickly when a screen is being touched, says Steve Kingsley-Jones, Immersion's director of product management.

A prototype device featuring the technology was demoed two weeks ago at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. When activated, a piezoelectric strip placed along one edge of a touch screen causes the screen to move from side to side, a slight movement that is felt by a finger touching the screen. A suspension system holds the screen in place, ensuring that the case does not move.

Traditional motors can oscillate at about once every 50 milliseconds, but the piezoelectric actuator lets the screen move back and forth 100 micrometers every millisecond. Kingsley-Jones says it is possible to run a finger over the screen and "feel" individual on-screen buttons. "You can actually feel the edges," he says.

Better haptics could make touch screens easier to navigate, and reduce the need to look at the screen, says Vincent Hayward, a professor at the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris, and a leading expert in the field. Hayward, who cofounded a company called Haptec that was later acquired by Immersion, says it is possible to use vibrations to trick a person into feeling all manner of sensations. "You have the uncanny experience that the flat surface has relief," he says. "The glass can become tangible."

Immersion is experimenting with making the digit at the center of the virtual dial pad feel as if it stands out more than the other keys. This would make it easier for the user to feel where the other keys are, says Kingsley-Jones.

What's most interesting about Immersion's approach, according to Hayward, is the lateral movement of the screen. Because it's difficult for nerves to distinguish the direction of such movement, it's possible to trick the senses into feeling upward pressure where there is none, he says

Immersion is also developing software to record the feel of a real button and replicate that on-screen. In blind tests, subjects were unable to distinguish between pressing a real button and a simulated one, says Kingsley-Jones.

Immersion is talking to handset manufacturers and expects the first devices incorporating the technology to appear toward the end of the year.


7. Windows Phone stars at Mix

reporter's notebook LAS VEGAS--Microsoft's Clint Rutkas was sent a rather intriguing e-mail a couple weeks back. Could he use a phone he'd never held to control a robot he hadn't built to send T-shirts into the crowd at the Mix10 conference.

Ever the adventurous type, Rutkas readily agreed. And sure enough, when Monday's keynote rolled around, Rutkas' Windows Phone T-Shirt Cannon was ready.

Rutkas said he didn't even get a prototype phone in his hands until a couple days into the project. Although he was 90 percent sure he could just do things remotely via the phone, Rutkas ended up putting a laptop in the robot as well "for safety." The cannon, he said, is capable of firing things off with hundreds of pounds-per-square-inch worth of pressure. "We could clear the room for sure," he said.

Although Rutkas is making the source code for the cannon available, he said there are some things that were done in the interest of time and might not be exactly best practices when it comes to software writing.

"There are things in there that we are not proud of, but they work," said Rutkas. Rutkas ended up building two of the cannons. He did it for two reasons. For one thing, he said, why build one when you can build two. The other reason, he said, was to have a backup.

The cannons didn't come cheap. The battlebot chassis is pricey and commercial T-shirt launchers (each robot had two launchers) cost $1,000 apiece as did an industrial strength pan-and-tilt mechanism. In all, Rutkas estimates he spent $10,000 on the stunt.

Of course, what attendees really wanted launched from the cannons were some of the actual phones, rather than the red polo shirts. Unfortunately, Mix participants had to settle for taking home a Windows-based emulator as well as a few glimpses at Windows Phone prototypes, none of which Microsoft developers were letting out of their hands.

Samsung gets in the Mix

In addition to the widely seen Windows Phone 7 Series prototypes and an LG model that had also been seen, a Samsung model was also spotted at Mix. I tried unsuccessfully to get a video of that device in action, but did get this photo from Microsoft showing the three devices side by side.

The three Windows Phone prototypes seen side-by-side, including a Samsung device first shown at this week's Mix10 conference.
(Credit: Microsoft)
Microsoft goes native on Windows Phone

Meanwhile, even though Microsoft is telling developers to write their programs for the Windows Phone in Silverlight or XNA, the fact is that Microsoft's own applications weren't written that way.

As blogger Long Zheng noted, there's a mix of code in Microsoft's applications, including a fair bit of native device code.

Microsoft says the main reason that's the case is that it was developing Windows Phone, the applications, and the developer tools in parallel so it needed to do things somewhat differently.