Amazon’s New Kindle Fire HD Family: Take That Apple iPad!

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Not many companies can make Apple sweat, but Amazon has just turned up the heat with the new Kindle Fire HD tablet/ereader family: The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD ($199 with 16GB of storage; $249 with 32GB), the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD 8.9 ($299 with 16GB; $369 with 32GB) and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 4G LTE Wireless ($499 with 16GB; $599 with 32GB).

The classic 7-inch Kindle Fire, which recently sold out on Amazon.com, is back in the Kindle lineup with a faster processor, more memory and a really cool new feature: A lower $159 price tag.

New 7-inch Kindle Fire HD in portrait and landscape orientation.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, which has a better display, more storage space and Dolby stereo audio but the same $199 starting price as the old Kindle Fire, is available for preorder now and will be in stores Sept. 14. The other models will be available Nov. 20.

As a family, the new color Kindle HD units are poised to make a huge impact in three key tech sales areas: the affordable entry-level tablet market, the muscle Wi-Fi tablet segment and in the do-it-all-always-connected-big-tablet competition. Apple may have something interesting in the works as it rolls out a new iPad or two this fall, but for now Amazon has delivered a stunning first punch to the 2012 holiday-season tablet market.

Aside from HD displays, the new Kindle HD units have two Wi-Fi MIMO (Multiple In/Multiple Out) antennas, which means that both antennas can receive data simultaneously on 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks, thus resulting in better wireless Internet reception, according to Amazon.

Also included in the new units are front-facing cameras, a custom version of Skype videoconferencing software, free unlimited cloud storage for Kindle media, Bluetooth wireless adapters for wireless headsets, speakers and other accessories and an HDMI out port.

With a starting price of $299, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is far more affordable than the least expensive Apple iPad, but offers an admirable array of features, including its 1,920-by-1,200-pixel, 254-pixel-per-inch IPS display and a 1.5 GHz, dual-core processor. It has the same look as the smaller Kindle HD, which has a 1.2GHz processor, in terms of its dark case and thick border around the display area.

The Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Wireless offers the same features of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 plus high speed always-on LTE data service at a very competitive price: $50 a year for 250MB a month data, 20GB of additional cloud storage and a $10 Amazon app store credit.

Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the company’s Kindle press conference that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss selling content in the Kindle Store.

The new Kindle units can take advantage of new Amazon content services, including Kindle FreeTime, which lets parents set time limits on content for their children. FreeTime will be available in October.

Also introduced Thursday were other Kindle devices, including two monochrome devices using new Kindle display technology:  the $119 Kindle Paperwhite and the $179 Kindle Paperwhite 3G.

Of course the best feature about all Kindle devices is easy access to Amazon’s huge arsenal of ebooks, audiobooks, MP3 music downloads, Android apps and other downloadable media. Amazon tries to make things easy on technophobes by providing a simple interface.

At Thursday’s unveiling in Santa Monica, California, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos readily admitted that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss with content sales from its Kindle store.

In boxing, the best punch is often the one you get off just ahead of your opponent: Even if it doesn’t floor him, you have his attention. Apple, are you listening?

Images and video courtesy of Amazon.

Text © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

info@paperpc.net

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Motorola Sharpens Droid RAZR Lineup with RAZR HD, RAZR MAXX HD and RAZR M

Motorola Droid RAZR HD

Motorola tried to snatch the smartphone headlines from Apple and Samsung Wednesday by introducing three robust additions to its Android lineup: The muscle-bound Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD and the affordable, but still power-packed Droid RAZR M.

The Droid RAZR M, which has a 4.3-inch display, is available now for $100 when purchased with a two-year service plan. No specific dates or prices were announced for the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD, which have 4.7-inch screens. All come with 1.5 GHz dual-core processors, 1 GB of RAM and front- and rear-facing HD-video-capable cameras. [Update: The Droid RAZR HD is now available for $200 and the Droid RAZR MAXX HD is $300, in both cases when purchased with a two-year service plan.]

“I’m here to tell you that the new Motorola starts today,” said Dennis Woodside, CEO of Motorola Mobility, now a part of Google. “In many ways, Google and Motorola have only just begun.”

Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside talks to the press as the image of Martin Cooper, who led the Motorola team which invented the mobile phone in 1973, looms behind him. Cooper was in attendance at the New York press event.

Motorola’s three new RAZR models offer 4G data speeds via the LTE network from Verizon Wireless, long-lasting batteries and are the first to ship with Google’s Chrome for Android Web browser, which has a handful of finger-friendly features.

For example, to switch between tabs on Chrome you simply swipe your finger from one side of the screen to the other. A swipe to the side also gets rid of a tab while you’re looking at a group of them. Users also have the option of synchronizing bookmarks with Chrome browsers on other devices. Unlike the standard Android Web browser, Chrome has no limits on the number of tabs you can have open at once.

According to Motorola, the Super AMOLED displays on the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD have 78 per cent more pixels than the original DROID RAZR, resulting in a sharper, smoother-looking display. The key difference is that the Droid RAZR HD, available in black or white, comes with a lithium-ion battery which provides 24 hours of battery life while the thicker RAZR MAXX HD (black only) has a larger battery which promises 32 hours of phone use per charge.

Droid RAZR M

The Droid RAZR M, which is available in black or white, has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen and a narrow bezel, which allows it to offer the same size screen as phones with larger bodies, including the original Droid RAZR. Its 2,000 mAH battery provides 20 hours of battery life, according to Motorola. The new RAZR phones also offer power-management controls that can further enhance battery life.

Like its larger siblings, the Droid RAZR M has an 8-megapixel camera on the back but has a lower-resolution, 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera while the other two new RAZR models have 1.3-megapixel front cameras.

During a demonstration at Wednesday’s press event a Droid RAZR HD unit provided remarkably sharp and smooth HD video playback even with bright ambient light. As expected, the new RAZR models are thin. The RAZR M comes in just under a third of an inch, the RAZR HD is just over a third of an inch thick and the RAZR MAXX HD is slightly fatter at 0.37 inches thick.

Woodside noted that not only will all of  the new RAZR phones be upgraded from Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) later this year, but added that all Motorola smartphones capable of handling the new software will get it as well. Owners of Motorola smartphones that can’t be upgraded to Jelly Bean can get a $100 credit toward a new phone, he said.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Motorola RAZR product launch in New York.

“They really shouldn’t be called smartphones, they should be called mobile computers,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who led off the press event.

How will the new RAZR entries compete with the Samung Galaxy S3, the current and future Apple iPhone and recent entries from Nokia, LG, HTC and others? The holiday shopping season will provide the answer soon enough.

Text, video and images © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

info@paperpc.net

Samsung’s Mysterious Bluetooth S Pen: Talk to the Hand… Really

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen was silently introduced to the press after the Aug. 15 New York launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet.

James Bond would be proud. While the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen HM5100 doesn’t contain poison or shoot bullets, the handheld unit, like many of 007’s toys, isn’t as simple as it looks. While this new tablet accessory looks like a mild-mannered stylus, it’s actually a wireless Bluetooth handset you can make calls with.

As Samsung’s glitzy launch event for its new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet wound down on Aug. 15, members of the press were sent packing with a press kit which included the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen. Most recipients seemed unimpressed at the seemingly mundane going-away gift and quietly packed them away. It was only upon closer inspection later that many realized what the BT S Pen actually was.

The front of the box does little to describe its capabilities other than to mention that it’s “compatible with Galaxy Note series” and one side of the box simply reminds you that it can “Enhance your mobile smart life.”

However, the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen is basically a pen-shaped Bluetooth handset with a stylus that’s compatible with the magnetic resonance circuitry built into the display of the  Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. When the BT S Pen is used with the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, the tablet can detect more than a thousand levels of pen pressure. This means you can draw a thick line by pushing down harder on the screen with the S Pen and a thinner line by easing up on the pressure.

The BT S Pen has the same side button that comes on the S Pen styli packed with Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphone and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet plus a rocker switch to control volume and a power button that’s also used to pick up and disconnect calls. The BT S Pen pairs with any compatible Bluetooth device by holding down the power button for three seconds. The unit’s built-in battery can be recharged via a standard microUSB slot hidden below a cap at the top of the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen: It looks like a stylus, but it’s actually a Bluetooth handset you can speak into.

 So how does it sound? Surprisingly good. Since it’s easy to hold the tiny speaker grill close to your ear canal, volume is not a real problem. A small microphone is embedded in the middle of the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen, which can be set to vibrate when a call comes in.

The unit has an indicator light, but no display and doesn’t call out the number of the incoming call. The biggest disadvantage of the S Pen, however, might be the perplexed glances you might get from people who spot you chatting with a pen.

So when can you purchase the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen? Good question. (UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.) The product doesn’t exist on Samsung’s US website and the box itself doesn’t even have a UPC code printed on it. Since the current Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet is a WiFi-only device, the BT S Pen may–or may not–debut with a future version of the tablet with built-in cellular data capabilities.

So if you spot someone with a pen nestled in his ear who seems to be talking to himself, don’t take pity on him. Ask him where he got that pen.

UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.

Text and images © Copyright 2012
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
info@paperpc.net

Swype for Windows 7 Debuts in New HP Slate 2 Tablet PC

The Swype technology that makes it possible to type without lifting your finger from your Android smartphone or tablet screen has cracked the Windows barrier and is included in the new Windows 7 powered HP Slate 2 Tablet PC.

A small, but significant logo sits at the bottom of the screen on the new Windows-powered HP Slate 2 Tablet PC announced today: Swype. Yes, the same Swype utility that lets you type by sliding your finger across your Android smartphone or tablet screen without lifting it has come to Windows 7.

The 1.5-pound Windows 7-powered HP Slate 2 Tablet PC (starts at $699) has an 8.9-inch capacitive multitouch display which supports both pen and finger input, a 1.5 GHz Intel Atom Z670 CPU and a preinstalled copy of Swype, which up until now had only been seen on Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices.

HP Slate 2 Tablet PC with optional HP Slate Bluetooth Keyboard and Case

The unit is meant for business and will not be marketed as a consumer device, said Kyle Thornton, category manager for HP Emerging Products at a recent HP press preview in New York. It’s meant for retail and other business uses where full access to Windows applications is needed. It has an SD Card slot for storage in addition to an internal solid state drive and a 3-megapixel digital camera on the rear and a front-facing VGA webcam.

According to HP, the battery should last up to six hours on a charge and the unit offers a number of built-in security features, including a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip. A dock adds two USB 2.0 ports and a single HDMI port to the unit.

Business-friendly options include the HP Retail Mobile Point of Sale Case, which has a magnetic stripe reader and barcode scanner and the $79 HP Slate Bluetooth Keyboard and Case (above), which folds out to support the slate as if it were a notebook and closes up to protect both the keyboard and the HP Slate 2 Tablet PC.

Note that while Swype comes preinstalled on many Android devices, it can also be added to Android devices that didn’t ship with it. Swype Beta is available for download at no charge but does not work on all Android devices, especially those with older versions of Android or have relatively low-resolution displays. (Don’t install Swype Beta on a unit which came with Swype. It won’t work.) Swype is not available as an separate installable Windows application for other Windows tablets.

The HP Slate 2 Tablet PC will ship later this month and will be available from the HP website.

Text and photos Copyright 2011 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
Video courtesy of HP

Will Amazon Silk Stoke Kindle Fire?

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire Android color tablet succeeds at shaking up the tablet and eBook reader market with its powerful processor, sharp display and affordable $199 price tag, but don’t be fooled: It’s what’s going on in the background that’s more interesting than the tablet itself.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

What may make or break the Kindle Fire is Amazon Silk, a new generation of mobile Web browser that’s indeed different from what you’re using now, but more on that in a second.

The Kindle Fire has a sharp, 7-inch, 1024-by-600 dot-per inch color display with a pixel density of 169 pixels per inch, which is significantly denser than the 132ppi screen on the market-leading Apple iPad 2. It also has a dual-core, but unnamed 1GHz processor, which is good news for video-heavy and otherwise sophisticated Android apps.

But don’t mistake this for an iPad 2 killer. It has only 8GB of storage, uses Android 2.3 instead of the tablet-friendlier Android 3.x and has no camera. It’s not a pure Android tablet either, which means that getting new apps won’t be as simple as pulling them off of the Android Market.

However, looming ominously behind the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s massive collection of text and video content, its vast Web services and almost unlimited online storage capacity.

Like the other Kindles, everything you put on your Kindle Fire is backed up on Amazon’s cloud. Unlike any Kindle or any other tablet before it, however, the Kindle Fire has Amazon Silk, a new, forward-thinking Web browser that splits the Web surfing work between the tablet and the many servers that make up the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, otherwise known as Amazon EC2.

So what does that mean? It means that the Kindle Fire’s Web browser can potentially speed through the Web much faster than other tablets with similar hardware simply because it has less work to do.

When you access a web page with a conventional Web browser, it often has to make multiple requests to multiple points in the Internet for things like images, video streams, Twitter feeds and other content that appears on a single page. Waiting for all of these requests to be fulfilled can make a Web browser seem sluggish.

What Amazon Silk does is analyze the “aggregate behavior” of Kindle Fire Web users to determine what Web content is in heavy demand. That content is then cached on Amazon’s servers and, if needed, rendered into a form more suitable for the Kindle Fire’s screen. The result is that when a Kindle Fire user hits a popular website, much of the data needed can be retrieved at once from Amazon’s cache, thus speeding up the loading of the page.

If the website has a multi-megabyte image that would look just as well on the Kindle Fire’s screen if it were compressed, Amazon’s servers could intelligently scale the photo down.

For example, if Amazon Silk had detected that a lot of Web traffic was being aimed at web pages covering the heated Major League Baseball battle between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays for the last American League playoff spot, that content could have been cached by Silk for fast access by Kindle Fire users.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

So does Amazon Silk work as smooth as silk? It’s much too early to say since the journalists at Wednesday’s unveiling of the Kindle Fire in New York weren’t allowed to touch the units.

To be sure, Amazon Silk is a ground-breaking concept which could potentially allow a tablet—or other device—with modest hardware to perform like it had higher-end components inside. The proof is in the pudding, but we haven’t seen it yet.

So what do you think? Chime in if you like.

Text and images Copyright 2011
Robert S. Anthony
Stadium Circle Features
info@paperpc.net