October 2010
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Month October 2010

PandaBoard on sale now for $174

Texas Instruments’ PandaBoard — a low-cost OMAP4 developer board introduced earlier this month — is now available for $174.

The PandaBoard measures 4″ x 4.5″ and is based off of TI’s OMAP 4430 which boasts a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 clocked at 1GHz with 1GB of RAM and a treasure trove of connectivity options. WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, and HDMI out capable of full 1080p HD are all there, as are 10/100 Ethernet, three USB 2.0 ports (2 Host, 1 OTG), and an RS-232 serial port. Rounding out the PandaBoard’s features are stereo in and out, a camera connector, and a SD/MMC card slot.

This is an attractive bit of kit for hardware enthusiasts and software developers alike at a very affordable price. Head past the break for a YouTube video demoing the board as well as a copy of the official press release.

The PlayStation Phone

Engadget just scooped up this gem. Rumors of a PlayStation Phone have been swirling for several years, but these are the first pictures that confirm its existence.

According to Engadget, the PSPhone will run Android 3.0 aka Gingerbread and be released ‘soon’. Specs include a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM, 1GB of ROM, a 3.7 – 4.1 inch screen and support for microSD cards in lieu of Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick format.

The PSPhone is a landscape slider much like the PSP Go, but also seems to feature a multitouch pad in the center of the controls. Engadget reports that the PSPhone will feature a special Sony Marketplace for games designed for the new platform.

Given that the phone pictured above is a prototype that is still said to be buggy and lacking a custom UI skin, it’s a safe bet that we won’t see Sony Ericsson release this until early 2011. Hit the Engadget link below for more pictures of the PlayStation Phone.

I have mixed feelings about the PSPhone. I was a huge fan of the original PlayStation Portable and have always believed mobile gaming would eclipse console-based gaming in the future. I have eagerly awaited the PSPhone long before there was an iPhone. However, given Sony’s recent lackluster innovation in the consumer electronics space, I can only think that this effort is too little too late. I honestly hope Sony proves me wrong, though.

Sources: @joshuatopolsky, Engadget

My preliminary thoughts on Windows Phone 7

I won’t lie — I’m impressed. WP7’s Metro UI is refreshing — unique, functional, simple — not an easy accomplishment. It excites me the way webOS excited me the first time I saw it, albeit to a lesser degree. I admire Microsoft’s willingness to break away from Windows Mobile and start with a clean slate from the ground up — a necessary step if they are serious about gaining back mobile market share. Time will tell whether they were too late.

I am also excited about the ecosystem that Microsoft brings to the table: Zune, Xbox, Bing, Live and Office integration are just a few services in Microsoft’s portfolio that lend Windows Phone 7 some serious fire power out of the gate.

On the other hand, I am turned off by Microsoft’s insistence on sticking with the licensed OS business model. Although Microsoft has gone to much greater lengths to avoid the fragmentation and non-standardization problems that Google’s Android faces, I still believe that hardware, software, and ecosystem should all be an in-house, intimately integrated affair for maximum consumer satisfaction. Apple, RIM, HP, and even Nokia seem to get this. Hopefully, Microsoft will see the light and bless us with a phone built entirely to their specifications.

Speaking of phones, I am uninspired by the initial bevy of Windows Phone 7 handsets. The Samsung Focus, HTC HD7, and HTC HD7 Pro are all premium products, but they all seem too ‘me-too’. Their single greatest asset is that they run Windows Phone 7 — as far as hardware goes, however, there is nothing present that is truly revolutionary. In fact, the HTC Surround seems to be trying too hard to distinguish itself. One innovation I do appreciate, though, is the mandate of a hardware camera button that takes a picture whenever pressed, although I can see several problems with having such functionality enabled.

It is also interesting to see Microsoft have multiple handsets available at launch. I’ll definitely be checking a few out, but I don’t foresee too many current smartphone users making the switch to WP7. It will be interesting too see how many first-time smartphone owners choose Windows Phone this holiday season.

Windows Phone 7 — Microsoft’s bid to recapture the mobile market — was unveiled at Mobile World Congress back in February and was officially launched last week at events in NYC and London. You can get the latest news on Windows Phone 7, including a video of the NYC press conference, at the link below.

Link: Windows Phone Newsroom

webOS 2.0 review roundup

The best mobile operating system just got better — but it’s still far from perfect. Here are some excerpts and links to early reviews of HP webOS 2.0 on pre-production Palm Pre 2 hardware from around the Web.

WebOS 2.0 is without question the biggest webOS update we’ve seen since Palm first unveiled webOS at CES in January 2009. You could argue that the main features…are mainly evolutionary and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, the sum of these updates adds up to an OS that is coming into its own….webOS 2.0 is not a me-too operating system.

from Dieter Bohn’s review at PreCentral

Despite some issues, webOS 2.0 is probably neck and neck with iOS4 when it comes to polish and ease of use….This isn’t just a good OS, it’s a great OS….[however] the problem with webOS 2.0…[is that] Palm is still hampered by last-generation, underpowered hardware. The Pre 2 is nice, but it’s not cutting edge, and it doesn’t hold a candle to the iPhone 4 or G2.

from Joshua Topolsky’s review at Engadget

The general sentiment seems to be positive on the software side and meh at best when it comes to hardware. Whereas webOS 2.0 is a strong hand, the Palm Pre 2 looks to be an amateur poker player. The lack of innovation on the hardware front is the one major thing holding webOS 2.0 back. The Pre 2 is a good first step, but killer hardware is necessary for widespread adoption of the platform. Hopefully, HP and Palm will have a bleeding edge device to unveil in early 2011 that can do webOS some real justice.

Palm Pre 2, HP webOS 2.0 official — Verizon bound, unlocked dev phones a lock

HP announced HP webOS 2.0 today along with the first device that will run it: Palm Pre 2. The Pre 2 is essentially a highly refined Pre that updates the hardware to current times — 1GHz processor, 5-megapixel camera, glass screen — without departing from the original design concept. The Palm Pre 2 will be available on SFR in France this Friday and will be coming to Verizon in the US and to Canada ‘in the coming months.’ HP also states that developers will be able to purchase an unlocked UMTS version of the Pre 2 ‘to use as a canvas to build the next generation of webOS applications and services.’

The real star of the show, of course, is webOS 2.0 — now rebranded and prefixed with HP’s name. Fans of the sleek multitasking mobile operating system will not be disappointed. The same ingenious card UI is still the centerpiece, now enhanced with Stacks — the ability to group related cards together.

Universal search has been renamed Just Type and now searches almost everything on the phone or on the Web simply by entering text. Just Type also houses a new killer feature called Quick Actions — essentially turning Just Type into a command line that can run virtually any action with user-defined shortcuts.

Exhibition will allow webOS 2.0 devices to run apps while on the Touchstone charging dock. ‘Set your phone on the dock and Exhibition launches automatically, showing you anything from today’s agenda to a slideshow of your Facebook photos.’

As far as social networking and contact services are concerned, webOS is still at the front of the pack. Synergy is still there ‘to connect you seamlessly to multiple web services’ and is now open ‘so developers can easily plug new Messaging, Contacts and Calendar application sources directly into the core webOS experiences.’ The Messaging app has been updated to include Yahoo! IM and Facebook chat. Speaking of Facebook, version 2.0 of Palm’s Facebook client will be in the App Catalog soon and will support Stacks, Quick Actions, and Exhibition upon availability.

Other features of HP webOS 2.0 include a beta version of Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Bluetooth keyboard support, and a QuickOffice document viewer (replacing Documents To Go’s viewer) that integrates with your Google Docs and Dropbox accounts.

The official press release is available after the break.

about.me — ‘a custom splash page & personal analytics dashboard’

If you’re looking for ‘a personal profile page that points people to your content around the Internet, allowing you to pull all this information together to build a single online identity,’ then about.me is for you. The service is currently in private beta, but you can reserve your user name now. Examples of some exceptionally well done splash pages can be found on their website (or you can visit my not-so-well-done one here). Be sure to follow @aboutdotme on Twitter for the very latest on this exciting new service.

Source: about.me via TechCrunch

Palm Pre 2 rocking 1GHz processor and webOS 2.0 touted by SFR, headed to Verizon

It’s no longer a matter of if, but when we will see the Palm Pre 2 available for purchase. Earlier this week, French carrier SFR put up a web page (since removed, pictured after the break) touting the Palm Pre 2. Notable features include a 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, a flatter — presumably glass — screen, and the same pebble-inspired, vertical sliding form factor as the previous version. Oh yeah, and it will also be rocking webOS 2.0 on release. No word on whether the Pre 2 will up the screen resolution, but pictures of the tightly guarded Palm phone surfacing on MobiFrance (one above, the rest available in the MobiFrance link below) seem to suggest it will retain its 480 x 320 display.

The Palm Pre 2 had already been rumored for a Verizon launch for the holiday season, something Engadget seems to have corroborated today with an internal screenshot revealing device training for the handset at Big Red (also pictured after the break).

Whether the Pre 2/webOS 2.0 duo will be enough to reignite interest in the flagging Palm brand — now owned by HP — remains to be seen. As a huge fan of webOS, I’m glad to see anything new from Palm, but I’m more interested in seeing what HP and the folks at Sunnyvale cook up in 2011.

Apple iPad coming to Verizon Wireless and AT&T stores October 28

That’s right. On October 28, you’ll be able to walk into a Verizon Wireless or AT&T store and walk out with an Apple iPad. Verizon will be selling the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB WiFi versions of Apple’s tablet bundled with a MiFi Mobile Hotspot for $629, $729, and $829 respectively. Data plans start at $20 for 1GB of data per month and are commitment-free.

AT&T will be matching Big Red’s prices on iPad hardware except that they are offering the 3G + WiFi models obviating the need for a separate device for mobile data. AT&T’s data plans are the same metered ones they introduced in June for smartphones: $15 for 250MB/mo or $25 for 2GB/mo. Note that AT&T’s data plans for iPad are also unfettered of the bonds of contractual obligation.

Official press releases after the break.

So, who’s getting one for the holidays?

Google Goggles integrated in Google Mobile App for iPhone

It was late this summer that we learned that Google Goggles was coming to the iPhone. With the latest version of Google Mobile App hitting the App Store today, Goggles functionality is finally available for iOS.

Google Mobile App already enabled users to search via voice, current location, or traditional text. Now, with Google Goggles support, the app also allows users to search the web using pictures. Simply tap the camera button in the app and take a snapshot. Google will then do its best to match your picture to relevant search criteria.

The Glif: a kickstand/camera mount worthy of your iPhone 4

It’s no secret that the iPhone 4 takes great pictures and video and is equally adept at viewing them, but I often find myself in positions where I wish I could attach it to a tripod or prop it up. Given the iPhone 4’s beautiful design, however, I am reluctant to pair it with just any accessory. Enter the Glif.

Glif is a ‘labor of love of just two individuals,’ Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost of New York City, who ‘realized the iPhone 4 is literally the best camera we’ve ever owned.’ It is a striking design that derives its name from its unique shape and matches its elegant form with a surprising array of function. Glif doubles as both a camera mount for standard tripods as well as a kickstand that can prop up the iPhone 4 at an angle. Judging by the video, it seems to do both splendidly.

Glif has a $10,000 funding goal on Kickstarter which they surpassed yesterday and have now nearly quadrupled with over 1500 backers. If you would like to contribute, you can still do so here. A pledge of only $20 will get you your very own injection-molded Glif as soon as production starts, not to mention the warm, fuzzy feeling you get funding two guys who had a great idea that is about to become reality.

Sources: The Glif via Gizmodo