American consumers are sleepwalking into being permanently locked to ever-rising phone bills from monolithic incumbents. This is exactly the scenario that the government tried to avoid when it broke AT&T into seven Baby Bells in 1982. In France, the average mobile bill is now dropping by $7 a year. In America, the average bills from AT&T and Verizon Wireless keep rising as operators force consumers into texting bundles and sneak in new monthly charges. European incumbent operators are facing a consumer revolt as millions of Europeans switch to cheap challenger operators every month. American incumbents have no fear; AT&T and Verizon have locked in 75% of the smartphone market and keep growing. More →
Windows 8 hasn’t done much to entice people to upgrade their laptop and desktop computers, and PC makers are hurting as a result. While Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 update might make the new platform a bit more enticing when it launches later this year, consumers and enterprise users may soon have an even better reason to upgrade. According to Rani Borkar, vice president of Intel’s Architecture group, the firm’s next-generation Haswell processors will help laptops get 50% better battery life during usage and they will last 20 times longer on standby, Computerworld reports. Those numbers already sound too good to be true, but to drop a cherry on top, Borkar says Haswell’s efficiency improvements will come at no cost to performance. Intel is expected to debut its Haswell chips next month at the annual Computex trade show.
Simpsons fans will likely recall the classic episode in which Homer Simpson gets tossed out of an “all-you-can-eat” seafood restaurant after he devours not only its entire supply of shrimp but two of its decorative plastic lobsters. Ars Technica reports that an IT professional in California did something similar with his unlimited FiOS plan after he used up a whopping 77TB of data over the span of just one month. If you’re wondering how one human being could use that much data in just a month, consider that he had been using his home FiOS connection to deliver friends and family dedicated video streaming, VPN support and peer-to-peer file sharing while “running a rack of seven servers with 209TB of raw storage… in his house.” More →
Whether or not Google’s connected eyewear will appeal to the mass market, early reviews painted Google Glass as a very intriguing product. It’s not without some faults, of course, and one of the biggest problems with early units was battery life. Glass reportedly goes for about five hours on a charge with average usage, which isn’t very impressive at all. Use the device for something like capturing long videos, however, and battery life can drop to as low as just “a couple of hours.” The version tested by earlier reviewers was just a prototype though, and Glass fans are hoping that Google will improve the device’s efficiency before launching it. But according to recent comments from Google cofounder Sergey Brin, that may not be the case. More →
Nokia on Thursday filed a second patent infringement complaint against HTC with the International Trade Commission. The company has alleged that HTC’s products, including its flagship HTC One smartphone, infringe upon its protected technologies. In a statement to ZDNet, Nokia accused HTC of not taking action to prevent infringement and said the company has instead “tried to shift responsibility to its suppliers.” Nokia had previously filed a suit against HTC in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California San Diego, claiming 10 of the company’s products, including the HTC One and HTC First, infringe three of its patents. In its new complaint, Nokia has asked the ITC to ban sales of the HTC One in the United States.
AT&T said earlier this week that it will add a new administrative fee to each of its wireless subscribers’ monthly bills. The fee is only $0.61, which doesn’t sound like much, and an AT&T spokesperson was quick to point out to several news sites that this new fee is lower than similar fees charged by rival carriers. Subscribers were still outraged. Now that the shouting has died down a bit, however, people are looking for a batter explanation for the new charge they’ll see each month. According to one industry watcher, that explanation couldn’t be simpler: “Because they can.” More →
Recent rumors suggested that HTC will follow Samsung and release a “Google Edition” of its flagship smartphone. According to a report from Russel Holly of Geek.com, the same person who scooped the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, an HTC One running stock Android will be announced “within the next two weeks” for a summer launch. The news is perhaps the most reliable yet, however HTC has repeatedly denied plans for a Google Edition of its popular smartphone. The HTC One has been praised for its metal design, front-facing speakers and high-end internal hardware, however some critics have complained about the company’s Sense user interface that runs atop the Android operating system. Despite this, the smartphone has been well received by consumers with shipments recently nearing the 5 million unit mark.
We’ve known for a while that Apple design guru Jony Ive would be bringing his own distinctive stamp to iOS 7 and now we’re getting some more details about what that stamp might look like. One of 9to5Mac’s sources describes the new version of iOS as “black, white and flat all over,” meaning that there will be fewer heavy textures and more interface elements that come in plain black and white. More →
Interest in social mapping and navigation provider Waze is reportedly heating up, with Google and several other “large tech companies” currently holding talks with the Israel-based company. Bloomberg on Friday reported that Google is considering a bid that exceeds Facebook’s earlier offer, which reportedly fell between $800 million and $1 billion. Earlier rumors suggested Facebook and Waze’s negotiations had stalled due to a disagreement over whether or not Waze’s Israeli research and development center would remain open. According to a follow-up from Israel-based newspaper Calcalist, which first broke the story that Facebook was in talks to acquire Waze, Google may face some trouble if it’s serious about a possible deal — Facebook and Waze have reportedly just signed an agreement that prevents Waze from negotiating with other companies for the time being.
Patent trolls’ days of effortlessly rolling into court and collecting licensing fees for products they don’t produce may be coming to an end. The Washington Post reports that courts have been increasingly citing the landmark 1978 Supreme Court case Parker v. Flook, which is the strongest ruling that the court has ever made against patents for abstract ideas such as algorithms. Given that courts are applying the Parker v. Flook precedent more often in software patent cases, it seems that courts are starting to reassert control over what can and cannot be patented. The Post acknowledges that “not every citation of Flook means that a patent was invalidated” but says that “it’s at least a sign that the courts are wrestling with the limits the high court articulated more than three decades ago.”
There are some concerns about gaming on the next-generation Xbox One. The system doesn’t allow independent developers to self-publish games on Xbox Live Arcade and Microsoft’s used game policy is still unclear. The company did confirm that it has big plans for its in-house gaming studio, however. Phil Harrison, a corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, revealed in an interview with VentureBeat that Microsoft is investing heavily in the gaming experience for the Xbox One. The executive noted that the company is planning to invest more than $1 billion for new content, including 15 internally developed titles in the coming year, eight of which will be brand new. The Xbox One is expected to help breath new life into the struggling gaming industry when it is released later this year.
Amazon brings the Kindle Fire HD to more than 170 countries, expands Appstore to nearly 200 countries
Amazon on Thursday announced expanded availability of its Kindle Fire HD tablet lineup. Both the 7-inch and 8.9-inch models are now available for preorder in more than 170 countries worldwide. The Kindle Fire HD is equipped with 1280 x 800 pixel resolution display and a 1.2GHz dual-core OMAP4460 processor, while the 8.9-inch model features a 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution display and a 1.5GHz dual-core OMAP4470 processor. The Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9 are available for $199 and $269, respectively, and will ship to new countries beginning June 13th. Amazon also announced that it has expanded access to its Android Appstore, which can now be used by customers in nearly 200 countries worldwide.
With all the emphasis that Microsoft is giving to its redesigned Kinect sensor as a key feature of the Xbox One, it’s not surprising that the company wants to bring it to its Windows operating system as well. And sure enough, Microsoft on Thursday announced that it will “deliver a new generation Kinect for Windows sensor next year” that will deliver several improvements to the previous version of Kinect, including a higher resolution camera capable of more accurately tracking and identifying objects, an expanded field of view and improved skeletal tracking. Microsoft says it will share more details about the next-generation Kinect for Windows at its BUILD 2013 conference in June and also says that the new sensor will likely be available on Window-based devices sometime next year.
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