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Tablets

Polycom and Motorola Team to Provide Polycom Telepresence m500 for the Xoom. But, What Does It Do?

In the days before Facetime, Gtalk, and even Skype, video conferencing was a complex and expensive task. Only businesses and governments had video conference facilities which often was in a special room with hidden electronics and where food and drink were not allowed. If you had the need for a video conference systems, one of the companies you had on your list to speak with and get a quote from was Polycom (founded in 1990).

If Skype and Facetime and a number of other good, and often free, video call services do not provide quite enough telepresence features for your mobile devices, this announcement from Motorola and Polycom may interest you.

Polycom and Motorola Team to Extend MobileTelepresence to Motorola XOOM

The Polycom Telepresence m500 Android app for the recently released Motorola Xoom tablet claims to provide HD personal telepresence and deliver improved enterprise collaboration and productivity by enabling users to easily connect and share content virtually anywhere via one-to-one or group video experiences.

So, what is it that this app actually does? The press release does not provide any function list or use case for it. So, we’ll have to wait until it is released later this year (second half of 2011) to find out.

Google Delays Release Of Honeycomb Source Code

Android 3, aka Honeycomb, first appeared on the Motorola Xoom at the end of February, and so far the Xoom is the only tablet to be running this version of Google’s operating system. Most of the reviews about Android 3 have been lukewarm, and it appears that Motorola rushed the Xoom and Honeycomb to market before either was complete.

I can understand Motorola’s desire to beat the iPad 2 to market, but I don’t understand why Google was willing to provide them with Honeycomb before it was finished. Apparently Google has recognized its mistake and has decided to not release the Honeycomb source code to the open source community at this time.

jkOnTheRun has a quote from Andy Rubin, head of Google’s Android unit, that to make their schedule to ship the Xoom they had to make design tradeoffs and took shortcuts. From what I read some of those shortcuts were probably with testing the software. Today’s announcement by Google suggests that we might not see additional tablets running Honeycomb until this summer.

RIM Confirms Android App Support On Playbook

After some speculation, RIM has formally announced that their tablet, the Blackberry Playbook, will run Android apps. The inclusion of support for Android apps is huge because it means RIM’s new tablet will ship with the ability to run hundreds of thousands of apps. To further make the point, when the Motorola Xoom shipped you could only install 16 apps on the tablet, which significantly limited what you could do with that tablet.

The Playbook will run Android apps in a secure “sandbox” that RIM is calling an app player. I am a bit discouraged by RIM’s statement that developers will have to repackage, code sign, and submit their apps to the Blackberry App World. Requiring developers to have to do something to make their Android apps run on the Playbook means that some may chose not to participate, meaning their is no guarantee that your favorite Android app will run on the Playbook.

RIM has not announced a ship date for the Playbook, but speculation is that it will be available for purchase in April or May. You can preorder the Playbook from Best Buy at $499.99 for a 16 GB model, $599.99 for a 32 GB model, and $699.99 for a 64 GB model.

HTC Providing Developer Access To Scribe

Of the tablets that have been announced to compete with the iPad, the HTC Flyer is one of the more interesting ones because of how it is differentiating itself. The Flyer will have a 7-inch screen and support pen input for writing. HTC has emphasized that the pen is just another input device and that you can completely operate the Flyer with touch and not even use the pen if you chose. I like the idea of being able to use a pen to write in digital ink on a tablet.

Because the Flyer’s pen input is unique, the challenge is going to be with getting third party developers to enable their apps to use the pen. Over the years HTC has built up a nice library of software, but they still need third parties like Evernote to make their apps capable to use the pen.

Users who want to use the pen will just get frustrated with the Flyer if they are really limited in how often it can be used. With developer support being so important, it is really good news that HTC is releasing an API for their Scribe technology, which is the engine for the pen input.

Right now I am really leaning towards getting the Flyer when it is available, and I have visions of being able to write on it like I did with my Newton. I don’t need the handwriting recognition that Newton attempted to provide, but I do want software that really takes advantage of the pen for selecting things, drawing, and writing. Unfortunately, the Flyer may not be available for purchase until May or June of this year.

FlexT9 for Android Lets You Input Text Using Speech, Gesture Typing, Finger Writing or Typing

FlexT9 for Android Tablets from Nuance Dragon Mobile Apps group combines Dragon’s speech recognition, Swype-like gesture typing (Nuance calls in “trace”), finger writing (like ink), and conventional virtual keyboard typing.

The FlexT9 Tablet Experience

Its ability to combine four input methods seems to address some of the issues I had when I tried Swype last year. FlexT9 is available for $4.99 in the Android Market. Nuance specifically mentions the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, and Dell Streak as compatible tablet devices. It works on Android based smartphones as well as tablets.

While Nuance’s video demo of FlexT9 is obviously designed to show off all four input aspects, I think it reasonably reflects the reality that no single input method is optimial. The ability to easily switch between the four input modes looks to be this app’s real strength.

It would be interesting to use this app on an iPad.

Tablet Screen Size Debate Won't End Until Apple Joins It

When it comes to tablet computers, size matters. If you think about the iPad, literally what makes it a tablet is its 9.7-inch screen because the software is the exact same as on the iPhone. While Steve Jobs has said that Apple doesn’t think a 7-inch tablet makes sense, there is a history of Steve making such a claim and then later making that very thing he said didn’t make sense. Until Apple either creates other iPads with different screen sizes, or enough time passes, the debate about what is the best tablet screen size will rage on.

Samsung appears to be one company that is hedging its bets. Last year it started selling the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has a 7-inch screen, and frankly it, along with the Kindle, is the cause of the tablet size debate. At the CTIA conference going on this week, Samsung announced two other models of tablets, one with an 8.9-inch screen, and another with a 10.1-inch screen. LG has also made a tablet, the T-Mobile G-Slate, that has an 8.9-inch screen. Motorola, HP, and other companies have decided, at least for now, to just follow Apple’s lead and provide 9.7-inch tablets.

I expect that within the next couple of years we will see a consolidation down to a couple of tablet sizes. Seven inch tablets seem to make sense for people that value portability the most. People who own the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab say that they find it easy to carry the Tab everywhere, while the iPad is too big to go everywhere. I know that in my own experience, I don’t take my iPad anywhere that I don’t to take a messenger bag. On the other hand, I think some people will only use their tablets at home, or only where they carry a bag, and in that case value the ability to see more information, which larger tablets provide.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 & 10.1 Android OS 3.0 WiFi-only Tablets Announced

Samsung kickstarted the Android tablet market with its 7-inch display Galaxy Tab late last Fall (2010). Their latest offerings are playing catchup with Motorola’s Xoom and Apple’s iPad 2. Engadget has a hands-on review of Samsung’s additions to their Galaxy Tab line.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and new Galaxy Tab 10.1 hands-on: thinner than the iPad 2, dual-core power, TouchWiz 4.0

The model names also tell you their screen sizes: 8.9-inches and 10.1-inches. The iPad 2 display is 9.7-inches. Both models run on Android OS 3.0 (Froyo) and add a custom graphical interface named TouchWiz UX.

Availability for the 10.1 model is June 8 while the 8.9 model will be available “early this summer”. Pricing looks like this:

WiFi-only 10.1 16GB $499
WiFi-only 10.1 32GB $599
WiFi-only 8.9 16GB $469
WiFi-only 8.9 32GB $569

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 prices are inline with iPad 2 models with the same amount of storage. The 8.9 model is priced like its size, just a bit below the 10.0 model. They would have been more attractive if they were priced at $399 and $499. Retaining the original Tab’s 8-inch display would have differentiated it from the 10.1 better too.

You can find more information about the new Galaxy Tab models at: Samsung Galaxy Tab

Motorola Xoom Shipments Set to Dip in April According to DigiTimes

Motorola launched its highly anticipated and very the first Android OS 3.0 tablet on February 24. There was speculation that Google’s first version of Android specifically designed for use on tablet combined with Motorola’s recent winning design history might create an iPad killer. Of course, this was two weeks before the iPad 2 was released. Combine this with a number of oddities like the need to activate Verizon 3G service to use WiFi and missing features and the story becomes less positive.

DigiTimes reports that Motorola’s unit order are set to drop starting in April.

Motorola Xoom monthly orders to drop in 2Q11

Here’s what DigiTimes reports as Motorola’s Xoom unit orders.

February: 200,000
March: 400,000 to 500,000
April :300,000
May: < 300,000

Desipite this DigiTimes notes that the supply chain expects 3 to 5 million Xoom units will be shipped in 2011. Assuming unit shipments do not rise in the second half of 2011, it looks more like 3.4 million units or less to me: 9 months * 300,000 units + 500,000 (March) + 200,000 (February).

This is a healthy number of units (assuming all are sold)

How I Use My iPad

The current year is most likely going to be the year of the tablet computer. By all accounts Apple has sold a million iPad 2s and we will see several new tablets running Google’s Android operating system as well as HP’s TouchPad running webOS. Tablets have only joined the realm of popular gadgets in the last year, and there are still some who ask, what is the purpose of a tablet?

I’ve had my iPad pretty much since it first shipped, and here is how I have come to think about it. A tablet is more portable than a notebook computer, though not as portable as a smartphone, and it has great battery life. Because I can carry it with me nearly everywhere, and it has a larger screen than a smartphone, I can use it to perform powerful computing tasks in places where I might not otherwise perform them.

Every morning I start my day by reviewing my calendar, checking my email, checking Facebook and Twitter during breakfast. I used to do all those things during breakfast with my smartphone, but the larger screen means that I can do those things faster, simply because I can see more information at one time. During the day I may read a book that I have on my iPad and I might have bought that book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it doesn’t matter because both bookstores have apps for the iPad.

I attend a study group at my church and easily switch between my Bible using Olive Tree’s BibleReader app and the book that we are studying that I am reading using Barnes and Noble’s nook app, and I write notes using Evernote, or one of the inking apps like Penultimate or Noteshelf. If I need to edit a document created with either Google Docs or Microsoft Office, I start up DocumentsToGo. To take a break and relax I might play Angry Birds, watch a TV program using the ABC Player, check in on what the Cubs are doing with the MLB At Bat app, or as is the case right now, check how my picks are doing in the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.

I can do all of these things throught the day with my iPad because it’s portable enough for me to carry everywhere and the battery life is good enough that the iPad is always available. I could do all of these things using a personal computer, but I could not do those things at the breakfast table or at a restaurant with a PC. If powerful, portable computing is something that you think will be useful to you, and you haven’t already bought a tablet, I recommend that you consider buying one.

Three Reasons Why an Android-powered Amazon Color Kindle Makes Sense

Betanews’ Joe Wilcox asks:

Who will pay $600 for XOOM with WiFi?

That’s a good question. The WiFi-only Xoom will be available on March 27 and I’m tempted to raise my hand with a “yes” answer. However, I just spent a bundle on a iPad 2 64GB Verizon 3G model (I really wanted to 32GB WiFi-only model, btw). As an ordinary consumer, the answer is no I do not. And, that’s the answer the estimated 1 million people who bought an iPad in the last week probably have too. On the other hand, as a mobile technology enthusiast and blogger, I do want an Android OS 3.0 based tablet. One of the people quoted in Joe’s blog item said: I have a hard time thinking about $600 when my Nook only cost $249 and took me 10 minutes to root. The Nook referred to is the Android powered Barnes & Nobile color Nook that can be rooted and outfited with Android OS 3.0 reasonably simply and painlessly. The OS 3.0 resides on an SD card. So, returning to the original platform requires removing the card and rebooting.

That brings us to this item in the New York Times:

Is Amazon Working on an Android Kindle?

Now this is an interesting piece of speculation based on job listings at Amazon. This would make a lof sense for Amazon for a number of reasons:

1. It looks like Apple is going to play hardball in requiring in-app purchases. This might affect Amazon’s iOS Kindle app or even result in having it pulled from the iTunes App Store.

2. Although the black and white Kindle is much more readable than any color display I’ve seen (including the color Nook), Amazon needs a color display story for the Kindle. If nothing else, they need it for childrens’ books, technical documentation, and maybe even graphics novels which all require color.

3. Amazon will open the doors for its Android app store soon. It would make sense to have an Android-based color Kindle for which Amazon’s customers could buy both ebooks and Android apps.

An Android powered color Kindle probably won’t appear for months and maybe even a year. But, if it priced competitively ($199 or $250), it could change the face of the Android tablet marketplace.