April 2011

Should I upgrade my iPhone and iPad?
I really can't live without my iPhone and iPad. And as a professional publisher, writer and editor, I pride myself in always having, and knowing about, the latest gear. So it's pretty strange that I still have a lowly iPhone 3Gs and a first generation iPad. I mean, the iPhone 4 has been out forever, and there's already plenty of buzz about the iPhone 5. And the second gen iPad has also been out of a while. So what's going here? [read more] -- Posted Friday, April 29, 2011 by chb

Amrel releases smallest fully rugged handheld with Windows 7/Linux
Amrel announced the launch of the ROCKY DB6, which the company calls the smallest fully rugged handheld that supports both Windows 7 and Linux. The Intel Atom powered DB6 has a very bright (700 nits) 5-inch WVGA (800 x 480) display, a hot-swappable battery good for five hours, numerous connectivity choices, and has been tested according to MIL-STDs 810G and 461F and other standards. Amrel designed the DB6 for tactical communications, mobile biometrics, robotic command & control, first responder, and oil & gas applications. [See Amrel announcement and description and specs of the Amrel ROCKY DB6] -- Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011 by chb

Nokia outsources Symbian, cuts more staff
As Finnish phone maker Nokia begins its transition to Windows Phone 7, the company is transferring 3,000 Symbian employees to consulting firm Accenture which will take over support of the Symbian platform. Nokia will cut another 4,000 staff by the end of 2012, with most of the reductions affecting staff in Finland, Denmark and the UK. -- Posted Wednesday, April 27, 2011 by chb

Is the race for media tablet supremacy already over? Many developers think so
Who could forget Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stomping around the stage and yelling "developers, developers, developers!" at conferences in the mid-2000s (see Balmer developers spoof video on YouTube)? Well, according to the Appcelerator/IDC Mobile Developer Report, April 2011, the developers have spoken and the news isn't at all good for Microsoft, and not even that good for Android. [read more] -- Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by chb

Android tablets: developer enthusiasm stalled?
Appcelerator and IDC surveyed 2,760 Appcelerator Titanium developers from April 11-13 on perceptions on mobile OS priorities, feature priorities, and mobile development plans in 2011. The survey reveals that developer momentum is shifting back toward Apple as fragmentation and tepid interest in current Android tablets chip away at Google’s recent gains. Though these drops stand in contrast to steadily increasing developer interest in Android, they are consistent with an increase in developer frustration with Android. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said device fragmentation in Android poses the biggest risk to Android, followed by weak initial traction in tablets (30%) and multiple Android app stores (28%). Ominous news for Microsoft: 62% of respondents say it will be impossible for anyone to catch up to market leaders Apple and Google. [See Appcelerator/IDC Mobile Developer Report, April 2011] -- Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by chb

Nielsen weighs in: US smartphone market
The Nielsen Company conducts monthly surveys on OS preferences of consumers in the market for a new smartphone. A comparison between surveys in Q3 of 2010 and Q1 of 2011 shows Android gaining from 26 to 33%, passing iOS (going from 33 to 30%) in the process. BlackBerry dropped from 13 to 11%, and Microsoft, despite the advent of Windows Phone 7, dropped from 7 to 6%. The Palm/HP WebOS also dropped into near insignificance (2 to 1%), and about a fifth were unsure. Our take: Now that Android has firmly established itself as the "Not-Apple" smartphone OS, its increasing marketshare should come as no surprise. Microsoft is in a tough spot, though, as even good reviews of Phone 7 could not prevent a further drop. This may change as Nokia Phone 7 phones become widely available, but it'll likely be a tough job for Nokia. [See Nielsen release and stats] -- Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by chb

Sony announces two tablets
In the midst of the ongoing downtime of its apparently hacked PlayStation Network, Sony announced two tablets, the S1 and the S2. The S1 is a media tablet with a 9.4-inch display and a somewhat gimmicky design that invokes an opened print magazine with pages flipped over. The S2 is a clamshell design with two 5.5-inch displays that looks more like Sony's answer to Nintendo's dual screen handheld games. Both devices run Android 3.0 on Tegra 2 chips, have WiFi and 3G/4G WWAN, and Sony hints at significant content and network integration. No additional specs for now, and the devices won't be available until Fall 2011. -- Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2011 by chb

Netbook vendors facing predicament
It must be tough to be a netbook vendor these days. The web is full of reports on how Apple is soaking up virtually the entire touch screen production capacity out there, leaving traditional netbook makers with not only an uncertain future, but also a component logistics problem. Add to that not knowing what OS and size to bet on, and how to differentiate yourself from Apple, and netbook vendors are in a tough spot. -- Posted Monday, April 25, 2011 by chb

Psion getting ready to ship the EP10 rugged PDA
Psion describes the new EP10 rugged PDA as having "all the functionality of high-end, full-size devices in a smaller form factor and at an affordable price." The 13-ounce EP10 runs Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.3 on an 800MHz TI OMAP3 processor, has a large 3.7-inch VGA display, camera with flash, 2D imager, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, 3.5G WWAN, an unusually full complement of sensors, good ruggedness specs and a full-shift battery. [See description and specs of the Psion EP10] -- Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by chb

RAM mounting solutions for media tablets
With millions of media tablets increasingly used in all walks of life and business, people need proper proper mounting solutions for them. We're taking a look at RAM Mount's media tablet mounting solutions for the iPad/iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, BlackBerry PlayBook, the Samsung tablets and any other 7- and 10-inch tablet, including lock-mounts, an iPad case and various mounting methods. [See RAM mounting solutions for media tablets] -- Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011 by chb

Magellan introduces a rugged handheld GPS for GIS professionals
Magellan, which is owned by MiTAC, the same company that also includes rugged PC manufacturer Getac, has introduced a rugged, lightweight and waterproof Windows Mobile 6.5-based handheld GPS computer geared towards GIS professionals. The Magellan eXplorist Pro 10 has a 240 x 400 pixel sunlight-viewable touch screen, runs 15 hours on a couple of AA batteries, and includes a SiRFSTAR III GPS module whose inherent 10-15 foot accuracy can be augmented to sub-meter performance via a supplemental external Bluetooth connected SBAS or dGPS/beacon receiver. Bluetooth can also be used to connect to an external laser rangefinder, and there's geotagging via internal 3.2mp camera, 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter. [See description and specs of the Magellan eXplorist Pro 10] -- Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011 by chb

Case study: Panasonic Toughbooks help free trapped Chilean miners
Panasonic published a case study outlining how Panasonic Toughbook 29 (an earlier version of the current Toughbook 31) and Toughbook U1 computers were used during the successful Chilean mining rescue operation late 2010. The Toughbook 29 was used in the rescue command center in conjunction with Zephyr Technology’s BioHarness BT sensor technology and data to assess miner health data and determine rescue logistics. The smaller Panasonic Toughbook U1 (see our full review of the Toughbook U1), running Zephyr's OmniSense software was then used in the rescue capsule itself, monitoring miner vitals on the long way up to safety. [See Panasonic Chilean Minor Rescue case study]
-- Posted Thursday, April 14, 2011 by chb

Garmin introduces touch screens to sports watches
Touch screens are not just for computers, phones and cameras anymore. Satellite navigation specialist Garmin introduced the shock and waterproof (IPx7) Forerunner 610 sports watch that's operated via touch, taps and swipes on its 128 x 128 pixel screen. [See Garmin Forerunner touch screen watch] -- Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2011 by chb

Handheld Group wins massive contract for rugged PDAs
The Handheld Group announced that it has won the contract to supply the Netherlands Railways with more than 10,000 rugged Nautiz handhelds, 6,000 of which will be the Nautiz eTicket Pro, containing an Arcontia RFID module. According to Handheld, this is the largest tender in the world for rugged PDAs in public transportation during the past year, and one of the largest in the world for rugged handhelds for all business verticals. The contract was won by HS Mobility, a consortium formed by Handheld Group with Dutch software partner Sigmax B.V. The Nautiz eTicket Pro is a specialized version of the Nautiz X5, which we summarized as "combination of powerful leading edge technology, a high-res display, a variety of advanced data capture and communications functions, and a tough but still compact housing make it an excellent multi-function computer and communicator for many commercial and industrial jobs" (see our review of the Nautiz X5). [Read Handheld Group press release] -- Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2011 by chb

Acer selects Atmel maXTouch for Iconia Tab A500
Atmel, which offers microcontroller and touch technology solutions, announced that the Atmel maXTouch solution is being used in the recently-announced 10.1-inch Android Iconia Tab A500 tablet from Acer. -- Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2011 by chb

Semi-rugged handheld keeps Garnet OS alive...
In response to customer requests for a compact Garnet OS handheld (previously known as the Palm OS), Aceeca announced the availability of the PDA32. Featuring battery capacity at more than twice the average consumer device, the PDA32 is targeted at commercial customers requiring a handheld that can last all day, is semi-rugged and is low cost with guaranteed long-term availability. The Samsung S3C2440-powered PDA32 has a 3.2-inch 320 x 480 pixel touch screen, costs just US$179, and Aceeca offers custom colors and branding. [See Aceeca release] -- Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 by chb

Gartner: iOS will dominate media tablets through 2015
Gartner has also issued a report forecasting the media tablet OS landscape through 2015. Here the Apple iOS platform will continue to dominate, rocketing from about 15 million sold in 2010 (83.9% market share) to almost 140 million in 2015, with still a 47.1% market share. Android is expected to steadily gain share, from 14.2% in 2010 to 38.6% and 113 million in 2015. Gartner doesn't see anyone else gain traction; QNX (RIM) will reach 10% by 2015, WebOS just 3%. No mention of Microsoft at all, so Gartner apparently does not expect a media tablet version of Windows. [See press release] -- Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 by chb

Kno gets an additional US$30 million in funding
Beleaguered tablet company Kno announced it received an additional US$30 million investment from Intel Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Advanced Publishing. Apparently, a lot of people in high places believe in Kno and its effort to design education tablet computers for students around the globe. The original Kno dual-tablet, which was rather large and heavy, has been dropped. Our take: a commendable effort as schools will inevitably switch from heavy, expensive text books to tablets, but also a tough sell against the likes of Apple and Android-based tablets. -- Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 by chb

Acer Iconia A500 tablet available for BestBuy pre-order
Acer announced that its Iconia Tab A500 media tablet is now available for pre-order at BestBuy. The Iconia Tab A500 uses a 1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 250 processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, 16GB of storage (32GB available later), and has a 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 pixel multi-touch screen. There are dual batteries providing up to ten hours of life, an HDMI mini port, USB 2.0, Bluetooth 2.1, 802.1a/b/g/n WiFi, dual cameras (2mp front, 5mp rear), a 6-axis accelerometer, a microSD card slot, but so far no 3G. The Aluminum-bodied Iconia A500 measures 10.25 x 7 x .52 inches and weighs 1.7 pounds, making it larger, thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. [See Acer Iconia Tab A500, and updated Media Tablet Table] -- Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 by chb

Gartner forecast on smartphone OS market share
Since phones have become little computers and are in many ways replacing more conventional computers, what happens on phones is important to the computer industry, and especially mobile computing. While the definition of "smartphone" compared to a regular cellphone remains fluid, research and analyst firm Gartner says worldwide smartphone sales will be 468 million in 2011, up 58% from 2010. By 2015, Gartner sees 1.1 billion. Of major OS platforms, Gartner predicts leader Symbian vanishing (2010: 37.6%, 2015: 0.1%). Android's share rises from 38.5% this year to half of all smartphones, but then stays there. That's primarily because Microsoft will make a comeback, from about 5% now to almost 20% in 2015, largely due to Nokia switching to WIndows Phone 7. Apple's iOS has almost 20% in 2011, and will remain more or less steady through 2015 (17.2%). RIM, despite a migration to QNX, will decline from 16% in 2010 to just 11% in 2015. Our take: If these numbers are on the mark, then vertical market handhelds, which are now all Microsoft-based, may still have a migration path rather than a forced switch to Android. [See Gartner release on smartphone OS market] -- Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 by chb

Full review: Trimble Ranger 3
The Trimble Ranger 3 is the latest version of a large, rugged, full-featured handheld computer designed from the ground up for use outdoors. It's a big handheld with a large 4.3-inch full-VGA display, a large 58-key keypad, a large battery that lasts multiple shifts, and enough ruggedness to reliably work anywhere. The Ranger 3 has a laser scanner, e-compass, accelerometer, 5mp camera with flash, advanced GPS, a fast processor, plenty of storage, BT, WiFi, and optional WWAN. We put the Windows Mobile 6.5-based Ranger 3 through its paces and found much to like. [See full review of the Trimble Ranger 3] -- Posted Thursday, April 7, 2011 by chb

Full review: Handheld Group Nautiz X3
When you can't—or don't want to—carry multiple devices in the field you need a handheld that does it all. The Handheld Group's 9.5-ounce, Marvell PXA320-powered Nautiz X3 was designed to combine strong performance with extreme ruggedness and good value. The Nautiz X3, which starts at US$999, uses Windows Mobile 6.5, has a barcode scanner, GPS, camera, WWAN, and can also be used as a smartphone. [See full review of the Handheld Group Nautiz X3] -- Posted Monday, April 4, 2011 by chb