CES 2013: Why Fragmentation May Not Be Going Away Any Time Soon

CES 2013: Why Fragmentation May Not Be Going Away Any Time Soon

Jan 10, 2013

When perusing the happenings at CES through various reports, it seems that everyone and their mother is showing off a tablet. There’s a lot of Windows 8 tablets out there, but there’s still plenty of Android tablets. Now, while there’s obviously going to be vendor-specific modifications because that’s just the way things work around here, it definitely appears that most tablets are running Jelly Bean 4.1, and not 4.2, based almost entirely on the status bars that are out there: the combined design where the back/home/multitasking buttons are on the lower left, and the notification bar in the lower right. 4.2 uses a standardized interface across all devices where the buttons are on the bottom (with lots of black space) and the notification bar with clock is on top.

Now, Jelly Bean 4.2 is a minor update to 4.1, but this still means that these devices are going to be a version behind when the next big release comes out. But there’s two reasons why this comes off as particularly ludicrous: one, this is a show for upcoming hardware. Features can and will change. Jelly Bean 4.2 has been out for 3 months. There’s no reason why a device, especially a tablet where carrier considerations don’t have to be taken into account, couldn’t have it by this point.

Second, both Nvidia and Synaptic showed off test devices that are running 4.2. Synaptic’s showing off a technology on a Sensa test tablet that will help detect user touch on thin-bezel devices, doing things like rearranging text. And Nvidia developed a reference tablet to show off the Tegra 4. Both are running Jelly Bean 4.2, from all appearances.

Let’s reiterate: Nvidia has Jelly Bean 4.2 running on a device using a brand new processor. Hardware manufacturers using existing hardware can’t be bothered to get Jelly Bean 4.1 working on it. And Synaptics has a tablet using brand new technlogy and hardware running the latest version of Jelly Bean. While it’s possible that Nvidia got early access to Jelly Bean 4.2 source code as they are a power player with Google connections (the Tegra 3 powers the Nexus 7), there’s no indication that Synaptics got early access, so why are they ahead of the game? Perhaps manufacturers feel more secure in releasing established versions of Android software on their tablets? Still, it just seems like the manufacturers are selfishly prolonging the fragmentation problem on Android, and for what purpose, exactly? It’s baffling.

CES 2013: iRig Accessories Gain Android Support

CES 2013: iRig Accessories Gain Android Support

Jan 8, 2013

The iRig range of accessories from IK Multimedia have been known as primarily iOS accessories; that’s what the lowercase “i” usually means! But soon Android owners can get in on the fun, as IK has announced at CES the impending release of iRig Recorder for Android. This supports the microphone range of accessories, including the iRig Mic, and iRig PRE, which serves as a pre-amp for professional-grade XLR microphones. This app can not just record input from these accessories, but it can also serve as a way to playback and edit the audio recorded from the accessories. Files can be exported as either WAVs or as OGG files. Files can be transferred via email, FTP, Bluetooth, or shared through the built-in device sharing. The app will come in a $4.99 full version with the editing functionality, and a free version that supports recording, with editing able to be unlocked via IAP. Note that the guitar accessories are not yet compatible with Android.

CES 2013: Dell Wyse Announces Project Ophelia, an Android Dongle Designed for Enterprise and Cloud Services

CES 2013: Dell Wyse Announces Project Ophelia, an Android Dongle Designed for Enterprise and Cloud Services

Jan 8, 2013

Dell Wyse has a new small form factor piece of Android-powered technology that hopes to turn any display into a way to manage cloud-based content. Codenamed Project Ophelia, this small dongle, resembling a USB stick but instead having an HDMI MHL output, allows users to connect to a wifi network and connect Bluetooth accessories to turn a monitor or TV into a productive device.

Now, this kind of device is nothing new – various Chinese manufacturers have made similar devices, but this one promises to differentiate itself by integrating in Dell Wyse’s cloud services. It has integrated enterprise security for secure access from various users. It can interface with remote desktop software from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. It’s compatible with many Dell Wyse thin clients. It’s built on an unspecified Android 4.x version, so it will be compatible with many recent Android features.

Software support is often the concern with many of these Android-on-a-dongle devices, particularly their unofficial nature that may have limited access to services like Google Play. However, with a clear goal for this device, this could be interesting for business users or anyone just looking for a useful, portable Android device to use on a large display. Project Ophelia should be available in the first half of 2013.

CES 2013: Sony Unveils Xperia Z, Their Waterproof Flagship Phone

CES 2013: Sony Unveils Xperia Z, Their Waterproof Flagship Phone

Jan 8, 2013

Right now, the biggest players in the smartphone market are probably Samsung, LG, and HTC. Sony has been around for a while with the Ericsson brand, but now they have split from Ericsson and are going it on their own in the phone business. They’re making one of the first big steps forward in 2013 with the Xperia Z.

The flagship Xperia Z is a 5" phone with a 1080p screen – yes, high-end phones are getting to that high of a resolution now – that is one of the highest DPIs currently available on a phone. Internally, it will pack a quad-core 1.5 Ghz Snapdragon processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 13 megapixel camera that is also capable of taking HDR video. But maybe its most impressive feature is that it will be water-resistant, with demos at CES showing the phone completely submerged and still working. While there’s still new flagship phones to be seen from other competitors later this year, Sony is getting the year started off with a bang, as this phone is expected to start shipping in the first quarter of 2013 with Jelly Bean 4.1 in tow.

The interesting thing will be to see if this phone can stick with the big boys. Samsung, thanks in part to their massive sales and headline-grabbing battles with Apple, are the industry leader here. HTC’s profits have sagged but they still boast popular phones, such as the One X line. Finally, LG has gotten attention for the Optimus phone that serves as the baseline for the Nexus 4. Sony boasts sleek phones, and with the water-resistance, a killer feature to market along with that 1080p screen. If they can plant their flag in the ground under their own brand and make Xperia known for more than just the Xperia Play phone with the built-in gamepad, a phone like this could help them get up to Samsung’s level, with the right marketing, and if perhaps launching the 1080p generation of Android phones will get them a head start on the opposition as well.

CES 2013: Fleksy’s Intelligent Sight-Free Typing Engine is Coming to Android

CES 2013: Fleksy’s Intelligent Sight-Free Typing Engine is Coming to Android

Jan 7, 2013

Fleksy, a sight-free keyboard that was introduced in an app on iOS, is about to come to Android, and they are demoing their software at this week’s CES 2013 trade show in Las Vegas. While there are plenty of keyboards on Android that claim to improve the typing experience, Fleksy wants to make typos a thing of the past. And the crazy thing is that even in its currently available form, it works.

Fleksy works by essentially figuring out what word is being typed based on the user’s relative thumb positioning versus where it actually is, using that to detect relatively well what word was actually being typed, with predictions available for words that may be close to what was typed. Users can pick from multiple versions of the word to try and detect what it actually is. The iOS version of the app targets visually-impaired users, with text-to-speech functionality for saying what word was typed, and swipe gestures for selecting predictions and moving forward or backward. However, there’s benefits for even sighted users. It works without looking at the screen at all, and makes on-screen typing far more accurate.

The Android version will come with the advantage of working as a system-level function with hypothetically any keyboard and in any app with typing. This will be a boon to both the visually-impaired, who will get to use this technology outside of its sandbox like on iOS, and even to sighted users who can type more accurately with it. The Android version will bring along with it support for multiple languages, an improved prediction engine, and other tweaks to improve the experience. Android users interested in trying out Fleksy can sign up for the beta at their website. Fleksy is demoing at CES in booth 74038, and is a CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.

CES 2013: Nvidia Announces Tegra 4 Chip, Project Shield Gaming System, and Nvidia Grid Cloud Gaming Server

CES 2013: Nvidia Announces Tegra 4 Chip, Project Shield Gaming System, and Nvidia Grid Cloud Gaming Server

Jan 7, 2013

On the Sunday night before CES, Nvidia had some big announcements for Android and cloud gaming with some interesting new hardware, including their first self-manufactured Android device.

The biggest announcement is Project Shield, a handheld gaming console. It features a 5" 720p touch screen attached to a gamepad and be powered by the new Tegra 4 chip. The gamepad is similar to the Xbox 360 controller, and serves as the bottom part of a clamshell design with the screen on a hinge. It runs a stock version of Android, not a special fork of it.

Interestingly, it not only will be able to play games from Google Play and TegraZone, it also has the capability to stream and play games from Steam, by using a home PC as an OnLive-esque server, that streams the game to the Shield over local wifi. As well, with the Shield’s HDMI output and purportedly-forthcoming wireless video output, it can also serve as an easy way to play games on a local TV. Project Shield is scheduled to release in the second quarter of 2013.

As for what’s under the hood, the Tegra 4 chip was unveiled. While horsepower claims are extremely subjective, Nvidia is claiming that the chip is more powerful than the A6X that powers the 4th-generation iPad. It features 72 GPU cores (outweighing the 12 in the Tegra 3), is actually produced at a smaller 28nm size versus the 40nm size of the Tegra 3 (in layman’s terms, this means potentially less power consumption), and other things to make game like Dead Trigger 2, announced at the conference, look super-sweet.

Finally, Nvidia announced their Nvidia Grid cloud-based gaming server architecture, which purportedly has the power of 700 Xbox 360s in one 24-rack tower, and they demoed an Android client playing a game powered by the technology, though practical applications are not yet available. Still, this is a major player getting into cloud-based gaming, potentially a huge push for this type of processing after OnLive’ fizzling out in 2012.