Prior to each year's Consumer Electronics Show, we like to write previews of what buzz-worthy products might appear at the show and what trends you might expect to hear about. We'll do that, we promise. But before we do, let's take a look back and see what we left behind.
Last year, as expected, the e-reader was front and center at CES, the hot new category if there ever was one. It had its own little pavilion on the show floor and we spent some time snapping photographs of all the new wares companies were proudly showcasing. … Read more
Some months back I read with interest your amusing series of articles about buying an iPad. I myself have held off but have been recently considering picking one up as a Xmas gift for myself. However, I just read about how the iPad 2 might be shipping in February. Also, I saw that Apple lowered the price for refurbished iPads, which got me wondering, all things considered, whether it was a bad idea to buy one now. Know you're busy, but can you give me any advice?"
We still have another year left in the decade, I would expect more from a "tech" site to be scientifically correct. You start counting with "1," not "0." Despite popular belief on the news and everywhere else, the new "Millennium" started in 2001, not 2000. Please stop dumbing everything down.
A reader e-mailed me the other day with a request that I write a column on a specific topic. Usually, these requests involve explaining the differences between two technologies or products, but this reader was wondering why I hadn't yet written about how e-readers like the Kindle and Nook basically pay for themselves.
No, not exactly. But the argument goes like this: if you're an avid reader who buys a decent amount of hardcover books, you can save some dough on each purchase by buying the e-book.
Before, when Amazon was selling most e-books for $9.99 or less, the savings could be in the $5-$15 range, depending on where you got your books (if you stuck to Amazon, you were looking at an average of $6-$8). However, now that a lot of new titles are running $11.99 and up, the savings has been compressed, but there are still some bucks to be saved.
Put succinctly, it's that old the-more-you-spend-the-more-you-save line of reasoning, and this reader, who estimates that she buys about 20 hardcovers a year, says she expects to pocket about $100 the first year after moving to an e-reader. At 18 months, she'll break even on her Kindle Wi-Fi and gets the added bonus of downloading all those free classics that are readily available in the Kindle Store.
Of course, the big counter-argument comes from all those folks who buy used instead of new--or get hand-me-downs from friends and family--and often spend very little on their paper books. Also, I've seen many a CNET message board post proclaiming the virtues of the local library, where you can, after all, check books out for free. The disciples of this philosophy bring a freegan approach to reading, and more power to them.
But let's go back to the question of whether an e-reader can really pay for itself.… Read more
Every year, the Black Friday online circulars hit the Web, and lots of sites round up every Black Friday tech deal under the sun. If you want to see massively long lists with loads of models names that make no sense to you, go over to our friends at ZDNet or Gizmodo. They've done an excellent job compiling everything.
However, if you're trying to sort the real deals from all the crap that's being advertised to lure you into the stores, I've done my best to surface some of the more attractive options out there. The … Read more
When Sony's latest e-readers were introduced recently, a lot of people wondered whether the touch-screen interface would be improved after previous attempts met with complaints of screen glare, contrast issues, and only so-so responsiveness. We expected it would be better, but were surprised by how well the touch-screen technology worked. So, what's the secret sauce?
Well, what's interesting is that Sony didn't use its own technology but actually licensed it from another company called Neonode. We're not saying that Sony never does this, but the company does take a certain pride in developing products with its own proprietary technology.
The latest Sony Readers, including the Pocket Edition PRS-350 ($180), Touch Edition PRS-650 ($230), and Daily Edition PRS-950 ($300), use a customized version of Neonode's optical touch-screen technology.
Neonode says its patented touch-screen technology, zForce, "supports high resolution pen writing in combination with market leading finger navigation including gestures, multitouch, sweeps and much more. zForce uses no overlay (like resistive and capacitive touch screens) on top of the e-ink display thus creating a 100 percent clear window free from reflexes and parallax effects and produces a true paper like experience."
The company also adds that its zForce technology is energy efficient and reduces the power consumption for so-called "low-power consumption" mobile electronics devices.
Neonode is a Swedish company that's been around for a while and even made some mobile phones, including the Neonode 2 in 2007. Back in 2008, the company filed for bankruptcy and many thought it had died but it's now become solely focused on licensing out its infrared-based touch-screen technology. … Read more
After Barnes & Noble unveiled its Nook Color e-reader recently, I got a few e-mails from folks asking me what I thought Amazon.com was up to and whether Jeff Bezos had some sort of color device up his sleeve. I'd written an article a few months back about a possible Amazon Android tablet and they wanted to know whether they should opt for the Nook Color or wait for an Amazon tablet. Did I know if a Kindle Color was coming soon?
Well, for starters, I don't think we'll see a color e-reader from Amazon this year--or probably anytime soon. I think Amazon really sees the iPad as its color e-reader of the moment. A lot of people are using the Kindle app on the iPad (and iPhone), even though Apple has iBooks. Of course, Barnes & Noble also has a Nook app for the iPad, and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo want their customers to know they can tap into one of these platforms from a variety of devices and share e-books across those devices. I can't tell you what percentage of iPad owners are using the Kindle app to shop for e-books, but I'd guess it's a fairly large number, judging from my informal poll of colleagues and friends and my own use (I rarely use iBooks and have both Kindle and Nook accounts).
Barnes & Noble has been smart enough to price its "reader's" tablet at $249, which is pretty reasonable. However, while that's half the price of the entry-level iPad, the fact is that Apple is still going to sell a ton of iPads this holiday season and Amazon will be quite content to have those buyers download the Kindle app. After all, it's much easier to deal with software than hardware, and if you have the design geniuses at Apple serving up the hardware for you, it's a win-win. Next April, Apple will have a new iPad--presumably with a better screen--and despite Steve Jobs saying the company wasn't doing an iPad Mini, there's still the distinct possibility of a smaller iPad, perhaps with a 7-inch screen.
So if Amazon appears willing to let others do much of its hardware dirty work for it, what's the road map for Amazon-branded Kindle devices? … Read more
As most people know by now, Barnes & Noble is releasing a new Nook Color e-reader in a few weeks, and that e-reader's color screen is an LCD. As soon as the company announced that its new e-reader had an LCD and not some sort of more exotic screen technology, some readers cried foul. In fact, the first comment out of the gate on our Barnes & Noble unveils Nook Color post was about eyestrain.
"It's very neat-looking, and the price point seems aggressive enough to make an impact for sure. That being said, is eyestrain an issue? I thought the benefit of e-ink was a combination of ease of reading, outdoor or well-lit reading, and battery life..."
A little farther down, another commenter wrote: "LCD technology for an eReader is going backwards for me. It's not that reading on an LCD is so horrible for me, but rather reading on an e-Ink display is so much more pleasing to my eyes."
Other readers came down more favorably on the side of LCD, saying they stare at a computer screen all day and it doesn't bother them. However you look at it, though, the Nook Color hasn't even hit stores yet and the debate over eyestrain is already raging. We got some of this when the iPad came out, but the discussion is more amped up because Barnes & Noble is calling the Nook Color the "reader's tablet," whereas the iPad hasn't been marketed first and foremost as an e-reader.
When we asked William Lynch, Barnes & Noble's CEO, about the potential for eyestrain with Nook Color screen, he said the company had done extensive research on displays and discovered that eyestrain with LCDs was not the huge issue many people were making it out to be. Furthermore, the company is also using a high-resolution next-generation panel from LG that's backlit with LED.
Now, it's not that I don't take Mr. Lynch at his word, but I thought I'd put in a call to an impartial third-party who might be able to shed some light on the issue. So I dialed up my ophthalmologist, Dr. Mark Hornfeld, who has a practice in Manhattan. I said, hey, Mark (yes, I call him by his first name), do any of your patients talk about reading with the iPad, Nook, and Kindle? Are people concerned about eyestrain when using these new e-readers? What's the deal?… Read more
At yesterday's Apple earnings call, CEO Steve Jobs quelled rumors that the company was on the verge of producing a smaller 7-inch iPad to counter the arrival of such mini slates as Samsung's Galaxy Tab. He said that these devices were "tweeners" and would be dead on arrival. He scoffed that normal-size human fingers are simply too big to be able to accurately hit icons on a screen that size.
"Apple has done extensive user testing and we really understand this stuff," he said. "There are clear limits on how close you can … Read more
A French fellow who goes by the handle Crazy Nawak e-mailed me some concept photos for a "multi-OS" smartphone from HTC that would allow you to switch between two operating systems. HTC already has the old HTC Touch Dual, but the "dual' in that phone stood for the combination of a slide-out keypad and a touch screen.
This fantasy model has a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and runs both Windows Mobile 7 and Android 2.2 (see more photos here). Of course, plenty of people out there have already hacked Windows Mobile phones to run … Read more