Phones, Macs, and Watches - oh my

What to realistically expect at WWDC 2015 tomorrow




WWDC-2015-invitationI’m a procrastinator. I have a tendency to wait until the very last minute to do anything, including publish these sort of What to Realistically Expect stories. Finally, my infliction has paid off – if I had written this even just last week, I would have jotted down new Apple TV hardware and software as a stone cold sure thing. Yet according to the ever reliable Brian X. Chen, Apple threw away plans to announce new Apple TV hardware and a cohesive developer ecosystem at WWDC at the very last minute because “the product was not ready for prime time”.

Given that I’m an avid user of the current iteration of Apple TV (I stream all my nightly television from there), I’m bummed to see this cut. I was hoping this would be when the Apple TV truly grew up and became a major player in the Apple line-up. Alas.

Time is short and things run behind schedule, and so it goes. There’s always September.

And in the spirit of that, we’re still on the verge of an entire week’s worth of new Apple products, platforms, and goodies. The Apple TV may not be there, but there’s still plenty left to cover. Here’s what you can realistically expect at WWDC 2015, starting tomorrow, June 8th.

"It's Barack. Really!"

President Obama finally given his own Twitter account




Have you ever wanted to whisper some kind – or, well, otherwise – words directly into the ear of the President of the United States? Well now you can – at least virtually, through Twitter! The White House and President Obama has today officially signed up for Twitter, and has begun tweeting using the sanctioned account @POTUS – as in, President of the United States. At the moment, it appears that all tweets will be personally composed by President Barack Obama himself.

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The real question is what happens to the account following next year’s Presidential Election – will Barack Obama retain control over @POTUS (likely with a username change), or will it move onto our next commander and chief? The anticipation is killing me!

Source: @POTUS (Twitter)

New software, new hardware, new SDKs

New report details the near future of Apple Watch and Apple TV




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While Apple famously remains mum on the future of most of their products, popular Apple rumor site 9to5Mac has today apparently spilled the beans on the near future of two of Apple’s most exciting products – the Apple Watch and the Apple TV. According to the new report, which cites a “proven source”, Apple is hard at work on both new software and hardware for the two product lines as well as at least one new service which will tie into both.

On the Apple Watch side, Apple is said to be busy adding in some low hanging fruit on the software side. Apple’s incredibly useful “Find My…” suite of services will expand to a new “Find My Apple Watch” function, which will allow you to locate the Watch’s general location and allow you to lock it or wipe it if lost. Given the Apple Watch features very few connectivity functionality of its own, Apple will apparently be basing this on a new service called “Smart Leashing”, which will allow the Watch to more accurately determine how far away the Watch is from your phone using services such as wi-fi and Bluetooth. This will supposedly also allow the Watch to warn a wearer with a few taps if it’s getting too far away from its connected iPhone.

Apple is also said to be working on the third party app ecosystem for the Apple Watch. First, the Apple may be working on improving the functionality of the current WatchKit SDK, the platform that Apple currently uses to wirelessly transmit app projects from iPhone apps to the Apple Watch display. Apple is said to be expanding this to allow developers to create their own Complications, widgets that live on the Watch’s watch face to provide nuggets of information. Complications are currently limited to Apple’s built in applications, such as showing the current weather information from the built in Weather app. 3rd party Complications would open up a new world of possibilities – for example, replacing Apple’s built in Weather complication with a preferred third party alternative. On top of the improvements to the current WatchKit, Apple is supposedly also hard at work at the successor to WatchKit – native Apple Watch applications that natively live on the Apple Watch hardware that don’t directly rely on the user’s iPhone. This next-generation Apple Watch SDK will enable much more powerful, functional, and sophisticated applications and will remove a majority of limitations that have frustrated many day one Apple Watch developers.

On the Apple TV side, 9to5Mac seemingly confirms that Apple is on the verge of releasing a next-generation Apple TV box alongside its first major software update in years. The new Apple TV is said to be much more powerful than the previous generation while also managing to become much slimmer than the current device. Apple will also introduce a third party application ecosystem for the new Apple TV OS, allowing developers to create their own apps – such as games, video streaming, music streaming, news, and more – for the Apple TV for the first time. Apple is said to be bundling in a more advanced remote control for the Apple TV, which may or may not include a Force Touch trackpad. Apple will also supposedly promote the Apple Watch’s Remote app to the primary remote for the Apple TV for Apple Watch owners. Apple is also apparently busy readying their new Live TV replacement service for the Apple TV, which will allow you – get ready for this – to watch live content a la cable, streaming directly to your Apple TV. This service is said to be slightly behind the new hardware and software initiatives.

What is left more ambiguous in 9to5Mac’s report is the timing of all the above. It would stand to reason that Apple is incredibly interested in pushing as much of this as possible at the company’s upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference, which is slated for June 8th – particularly the developer initiatives. Apple may also reveal their new version of their smartphone and Mac operating systems, iOS 9 and OS 10.11, alongside the new Apple Watch OS and Apple TV.

Source: 9to5Mac

Some good news and some bad news

Compromise is at the core of today’s Apple / Samsung patent decision




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In the never ending patent battle between Apple and Samsung, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has handed down some good news and some bad news for both sides. According to the folks in high places, Samsung is indeed guilty of infringing certain, specific design patents in a previous (remember, this case is a couple of years old, now) version of Apple’s iPhone – a win for Apple. However, those same folks also decreed that Samsung wasn’t wholly copying the overall look and feel of the iPhone, instead creating an overwhelmingly original design.

This means exactly what it sounds like – Samsung will still owe Apple some money for those infringing design patents, but it’ll owe less – and likely considerably less – than before. Truthfully, this seems like a decent compromise. Apple’s claim that Samsung copied the overall look and feel of the iPhone years ago, an accusation which many claimed ridiculous. Many opponents to Apple’s accusation claim that Apple doesn’t own the concept of a rounded rectangle with a big screen in the middle of it, and today’s decision validates those doubts.

Source: The Verge

Let’s, just this once, take some wild guesses.

What to (mostly) realistically expect at Monday’s Apple Watch event




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Given the imminent release of the Apple Watch – come on, that can’t be a spoiler at this point – it’s all too appropriate to compare Apple to the clock. Like the clock we all live by day in and day out, Apple observes a fairly strict set of cycles and patterns. Springtime is quiet time, with all the cooks busy in the kitchen preparing the second half of the year’s goodies. With June comes WWDC, Apple’s first big event, alongside Mac notebook hardware and new major versions of iOS and OS X. Then September – iPhone time – and finally late October, the iPad.

Rinse, repeat.

This year had to be different. When Apple announced the Apple Watch at last September’s media event, it was also announcing its first new product category since the iPad in 2010. It was announcing a product unlike one ever to come out of Apple; intimately customizable, from watch face to watch band to watch price. Are you in the market for the potentially five figure Apple Watch Edition, by any chance?

The Apple Watch makes predicting Monday’s event impossible. Traditionally, anybody who knew how to read Apple’s product release cycle and what type of product they traditionally released could make fairly accurate predictions on what to expect – it’s why we’ve been correct in all but one of our nearly twenty predictions thus far. This time, the only thing we can know for sure is that the Apple Watch is coming. Everything else?

Let’s, just this once, take some wild guesses.

What to realistically expect…” is a series of posts which we use to temper expectations concerning upcoming industry events. This Monday’s event promises to be one of the largest Apple events in recent memory, making this one of the most difficult – and interesting – events to predict. Read more to hear what we think.

Sprint to create new

RadioShack corporate memo outlines “lengthy” bankruptcy process




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As had been rumored heavily reported earlier this week, we can confirm that RadioShack has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Today’s announcement brought an internal memo written by company CEO Joseph C. Magnacca, who outlined the “lengthy” bankruptcy process confirming key details of the announcement, including the sale of “between 1,500 and 2,400″ company owned stories to Radio Shack affiliate Standard General and plans for new “dedicated mobility ‘store within a store’ retail” in 1,750 of those acquired stores.

Click through after the break to read the full corporate memo, as delivered to RadioShack stores this evening.

#SmartphoneEquality

T-Mobile to offer its best deals to those who pay their bills on time




t-mobile-logo-hugeI’m sure we’ve all done stupid things when we were younger that have negatively affected our credit scores, or perhaps we’re just getting our start as an adult and have no credit score to speak of. According to T-Mobile CEO John Legere, anyone who fits that description can’t get the deals that carriers advertise and instead either pay much more or leave with nothing.

In addition, Legere also stated the following as to why they’re doing this:

Ultimately, this initiative will lower the barrier for millions more Americans to get a smartphone – the most transformational technology in our lifetime. At a time when mobile connectivity is sweeping the globe, the United States ranks a miserable 13th in the world in terms of smartphone penetration − behind a dozen countries including Australia, Ireland, Israel and Saudi Arabia among others. There are more than 100 million American adults who don’t have a smartphone according to data from Pew Research and the US Census Bureau. That’s 100 million too many.

In today’s world, the smartphone is anything but a luxury. It’s a lifeline. It’s your source of news and information, your compass and your map. It’s how you stay safe and stay connected to family and friends. It’s how you do your banking and how you find a job. In other words, it’s an absolute necessity. The smartphone has become critical to plugging in to economic opportunity and participating in the global conversation.

Starting next week, any and every T-Mobile customer who has paid their bills on time for just one year is eligible for their best prices on phones and tablets. This also includes zero down, no interest and no credit check.

Source: T-Mobile

No, you're not getting Windows 10

Windows RT is dead




surfacefeaturedRemember Microsoft’s Surface RT? It was Microsoft’s own tablet that ran full Windows on an ARM chip, right down to the confusing Metro/Desktop switch. It had Office pre-loaded, but you couldn’t use any other desktop apps with it unless you jailbroke it. And with relatively few quality Metro apps in the store, there was really no incentive to buy a Surface RT over a comparable x86-based tablet.

If you were at or watched Microsoft’s Windows 10 conference yesterday, you may have noticed that not a single utterance of “Windows RT” was heard anywhere. In fact, according to C|NET, Microsoft “devoted only a few seconds to Windows RT, saying during a Q&A with reporters that it is ‘working on an update for Windows RT as well.'” Companies like Asus and Dell who both introduced Windows RT tablets have already gone and killed their products with the remaining holdouts being the Surface RT and the Lumia 2520.

While the Surface Pro lineup will naturally be getting the Windows 10 update, Microsoft only said that there would be a future update that brings some of Windows 10’s functionality to Windows RT. This statement feels eerily similar to how Microsoft mis-handled the Windows 7.5 upgrade path, where Windows Phone 7 handsets would never see an update to Windows Phone 8 but would instead be updated to have some of the same functionality as Windows Phone 8. We’ll be waiting to see what Microsoft has to say later on about Windows RT but for now, it certainly sounds like this is the end.

Source: C|NET

Yours for only $200

Nintendo announces New 3DS for North America




New-3DWe’ve been waiting for several months now, but it’s finally here. Announced at today’s Nintendo Direct presentation, the New 3DS is finally coming over to North America as well as a couple of exclusive New 3DS titles.

For those unfamiliar with the New 3DS, it features more processing power and RAM, two more shoulder buttons, a C-stick and NFC to take advantage of Nintendo’s Amiibo figures. There is a port of Xenoblade Chronicles coming specifically designed to take advantage of the extra processing power and Super Smash Bros. 4 will be picking up with the Amiibos. There’s also a new Fire Emblem game coming, but we can’t quite yet tell if it will be a New 3DS exclusive. And for the Zelda fans, a remake of Majora’s Mask is coming and there’s even a limited-edition Majora’s Mask version of the console coming.

In Japan, there’s both a New 3DS and a New 3DS XL (or more accurately, LL). The major difference between the two other than the size is that the smaller of the two allows for removable and customization faceplates; the New 3DS XL allows for no such customization. In today’s presentation, Nintendo announced only the New 3DS XL will be coming to North American shelves which leaves people who prefer small hardware like myself out in the dust.

The New 3DS will come in red and black colors unlike Japan which offers white and blue. Curiously, it will ship without an AC adapter with Nintendo opting to let you continue to use your DSi or 3DS charger. If all of this floats your boat, you can pick one up on February 13th for $200.

Source: The Verge, Ars Technica

An extension of Blu-ray makes it all happen

Kill your Blu-Rays – Ultra HD movies coming to optical discs as soon as this year




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4K televisions (or Ultra HD, if that’s your thing) are amazing, with picture quality that often goes far beyond anything you can even remotely hope to find on now standard 1080p sets. The big problem, however, is that up until now, there just hasn’t been much to actually watch with these new, expensive, beautiful televisions. Netflix has helped fill the gap with a small library of shows streaming in 4K, but the selection is next to nil and support is limited to only select, Netflix sanctioned smart televisions. That’s all about the change however as The Blu-ray Disc Association has just announced at CES that they’re working on a new version of the existing Blu-ray technology that will bring 4K movies to your next home theater system, in convenient disc format.

The new discs, which will be branded as Ultra HD Blu-ray and will essentially be Blu-rays manufactured with a new process that allows up to 33GB per layer (up from 25GB), meaning that a single disc will allow for as much as 99GB. This is absolutely necessary given that 4K movies require an obscene amount of available space, way more than the average 1080p Blu-ray movie.

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Manufacturer Panasonic is proving the concept with a prototype Ultra HD player, seen above. Sure enough, it works as you’d expect – this is just your average Blu-ray player with the added bonus of beautiful 4K video playback. According to Engadget, the new Ultra HD Blu-ray specification – which has yet to be finalized – will likely call for HVEC encoding, a next-generation encoder that allows for incredibly highly compressed file without losing quality.

These new Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to hit market by the end of 2015, however a delay into early 2016 is still possible. While all this technology is cool and it’s fantastic that 4K will finally have an opportunity to invade the average living room, the real question is whether or not Americans are ready to invest in a next generation optical disc format. It seems like just yesterday that the industry tried to get us to ditch our old and busted DVDs for high definition Blu-rays. Can that same strategy be successful only a couple of years later?

Source: Engadget

Maybe - I mean weirder things have happened

The Razer Forge TV is an Android game console that actually has a chance




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I specifically remember sitting on my uncomfortable, college provided dorm bed a couple of years back and being so excited about the Ouya. A $100 game console with a beautiful, functional user interface, familiar and quality controller, at a price even a broke college student could afford, plus an open software development kit familiar to the thousands of existing Android game developers; yes, the Ouya seemed to have it all. Then it came out, and it was a huge, mega flop. In fact, the Ouya was such a huge flop that it effectively killed any interest most people had in the entire category of Android game consoles that seemed so exciting, so recently.

Yet here I am, the week of CES 2015, so excited about this – an Android game console with essential all the same great, promising qualities that I saw in the Ouya just two years ago. The Razer Forge TV is the first Android game console that may actually have the one thing that the Ouya never did. The Forge TV has a chance to survive – or maybe even thrive – in the console market.

With a quad-core Snapdragon 805 CPU and a Adreno 420 GPU, the Razer Forge TV is a relative powerhouse, far more capable than anything the Ouya could possibly dream of. Graphics capability wise, we’re looking at something roughly on par with the last generation big name consoles, the Xbox 360 and the PS3. It’s got a beautiful controller, an impressive selection of existing Android games, and perhaps importantly the Razer name – one that has become synonymous in the PC industry with quality gaming equipment. This is where the Ouya may have gotten cut at the jugular. While the Ouya certainly had promise, nobody would deny that, it was incredibly ambitious for what amounted to a Kickstarter funded start-up. To compete in such an intense market one needs a name that can draw people, and I think that’s exactly what Razer has and what could propel the Forge TV to greater heights.

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Not to mention the Forge TV’s ultimate trick – streaming. Razer knows that while Android games are good, they’re no match for true console experiences. That’s why they’re padding the Forge TV’s native game library with a collection of Steam games already installed on your PC. Razer promises that their streaming solution is so low-latency that streaming games becomes an actually enjoyable experience. That is “enjoyable”, meaning more than the “mildly infuriating” experience on today’s solutions. It’s also worth mentioning that the Forge TV doubles as an entertainment box running Google’s new Android TV operating system.

The Forge TV console ships this Spring for just $99 for the console only, or $150 for a bundle with the included Bluetooth controller. That’s a fair price for everything you’re getting – let’s just hope Razer can actually pull it off.

Source: Razer

It's an Android tablet, but nice

Dell impresses with beautiful XPS 13 laptop and Venue 8 7000 tablet




xps-13-4-1Dell hasn’t always been known to make the most lust-worthy devices, but the company has struck design gold with a couple of the new devices they’ve brought with them to CES this year. Introducing the XPS 13 laptop – an ultra-thin, ultra-portable, ultrabook with an optional super high resolution display, an aluminum body with just a touch of carbon fiber, and practically no bezels. Okay, there’s a little bezel, but we’re talking one tiny bezel here.

Spec wise, we’re looking at all options coming equipped with a next-generation Intel Core processor, which the company just announced at CES this week. There’s a model with a 1080p display that starts at a cool $800, while higher end model with the 4K display will cost you a more hefty $2,349. The lesser model went on sale today, while the 4K model ships soon.

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Next up is the Venue 8 7000 tablet, an Android 5.0 tablet that has more than few tricks up its sleeves. For one thing, it is gorgeous, with an amazing aluminum body, and OLED (yes – OLED, like the ones found in LG’s new TVs) 8-inch display with an impressive 2560 x 1600 resolution. But what makes the Venue really special is its camera set up. Intel’s new RealSense technology is on board, marking the first tablet – and one of the first devices – to have the new, motion and depth tracking technology with Kinect-like utility.

The Venue 8 7000 starts at a very reasonable $400 and is also available in a higher end LTE model. If that perks your ears up, you can head on over to Dell’s website and get yours now.

Via: Engadget
Source: Dell (XPS) / Dell (Venue)