Rumor Update: Apple to Partner with Sharp, not Samsung, on 2012 iTV

  • Add the following news to the growing collection of Apple rumors we’ve heard in the last month…
  • Mashable reports: “Apple’s relationship with Samsung has deteriorated, and the Cupertino giant may be working with Sharp on the next generation displays for upcoming devices such as the iPad 3, iPhone 5 and a little something called iTV, claims Jefferies analyst Peter Misek.”
  • According to Misek, the mythical Apple smart TV, which has been a popular subject of recent speculation, is not just a rumor. “Sharp is working on modified amorphous TFT LCD panels for the device,” indicates the post.
  • Misek places commercial production as early as February with a mid-2012 release date. The new HDTV will reportedly feature some use of Siri, Apple’s voice-activation feature.
  • While Apple has not made an official announcement yet, competitors are scrambling to prepare for another player in the market, suggests a related BGR post.

The Surface: Microsoft Table-Sized Tablet to Ship by Early 2012

  • The Surface 2.0 SDK, demonstrated at last year’s CES, will be released sometime early next year. Pre-orders can be placed with Samsung resellers in 23 countries (including the United States).
  • The $8,400 table-sized tablet, also wall-mountable, is four inches thick and recognizes hands, fingers and objects placed on the screen. It is currently known as the “Surface” or “Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface.”
  • “Running Windows 7 and Surface 2.0 software, SUR40 has a 40-inch screen measured diagonally, 1,920×1,080 resolution, a contrast ratio of 2,000:1, an AMD GPU along with 2.9GHz Athlon X2 dual-core processors, 320GB of storage, and 4GB of memory,” reports Ars Technica. “Ports include Ethernet, HDMI, and 4 USB 2.0 ports.”
  • Microsoft targets the Surface for professional use and envisions it being used in a number of industries including automotive, education, finance, healthcare, hospitality and retail.
  • The original Surface is already in use by the Hard Rock Cafes, Microsoft retail stores, MSNBC, Disney, Sheraton hotels and others.

Will LG Electronics Debut a New Google TV at CES?

  • LG may debut a television set with Google software at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, according to “two people with knowledge of the project.”
  • The move would be a boon for Google in the field against entrants such as Apple and Microsoft.
  • Google is working to build support for its Google TV software, despite disappointing sales from its Logitech partnership. The company introduced a redesigned version last month after the earlier release failed to meet expectations.
  • “The revamped version of Google TV service has a simpler interface,” reports Bloomberg. “The upgrade was designed to show the YouTube video- sharing service better and opens up the platform for Android developers to build applications for TV. Android is Google’s software platform for mobile devices.”
  • LG rival Samsung has also been in discussions to develop a Google TV product.

Standards Effort: Companies Team Up for Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative

  • Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and X6D Limited (XPAND 3D) are collaborating in an effort to standardize 3D glasses. The companies have launched the “Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative” licensing program and will open a test center later this month.
  • “Currently, we have wholly incompatible active-shutter models based on different technologies, which the consortium wants to replace with a unified standard that will let you use the same pair of spectacles on any display or at any theater that uses the XPAND 3D standard,” reports Engadget.
  • According to the press release: “Infrared and Bluetooth enabled radio frequency system 3D active glasses technologies are licensed within the licensing program. All information including licensing fees and process requirements to become a licensee, are available on the Initiative’s official website.”

All Eyes on Apple: iPhone, iPad Beat Android Devices in Eye-Tracking Study

  • A recent study by EyeTrackshop showed that Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPad 2 “drew more glances and held people’s attention longer than Google Android devices from Amazon, HTC, Motorola and Samsung,” reports Forbes.
  • The study showed participants a picture of six smartphones and five tablets. EyeTrackshop’s software tracked where subjects’ eyes went, in what order and how long, using webcams.
  • “EyeTrackshop said the results equate to respondents dwelling on the iPhone 4S 42 percent longer than the other phones and on the iPad 138 percent longer than the other tablets.”
  • Additionally, a follow-up survey indicated that 40 percent found the iPhone most visually appealing; for tablets, 35 percent for the iPad; and disregarding price, 47 percent said they would buy the iPhone and 48 percent preferred the iPad to other tablets.

Sony, Hitachi and Toshiba Join Forces for Planned LCD Venture

  • Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi announced they plan to merge their small screen divisions into one liquid crystal behemoth, to be known as Japan Display.
  • “The deal could create the world’s biggest maker of LCDs for mobile phones and cameras,” reports the New York Times, “with 22 percent of the market for small and midsize screens, according to DisplaySearch, an industry research firm.”
  • “By integrating each partner company’s wealth of display expertise and know-how, I am confident the new company will become a driving force for technological innovation and new growth in the rapidly expanding market,” says Howard Stringer, Sony’s chief executive.
  • The Japanese government has reportedly encouraged its nation’s manufacturers to consolidate as a means of competing with rivals such as South Korea’s Samsung, which is presently more profitable than any Japanese electronics manufacturer.
  • The venture must gain approval from antitrust regulators in Japan in order to move forward.

Samsung ChatON: Do We Need Another Instant Messaging Service?

  • Samsung is poised to release its own free mobile messaging service.
  • ChatON is designed to simplify mobile communication by connecting users on all major smartphones. It will support Bada, Android, BlackBerry, iOS and PCs.
  • “The idea is to enable users to communicate instantly with each other using any mobile phone, along with sharing hand-written notes, images, and video,” reports Digital Trends.
  • “Samsung has vastly simplified mobile communication by allowing users to connect to our upcoming feature phones and all major smartphones in the market,”said Samsung’s media solution center chief Ho Soo Lee. “Users around the world can now enjoy easier and richer interactivity with whoever they want, in the format they want — this is mobile communication reinvented and democratized.”
  • ChatOn will have an aggressive launch, initially available in more than 120 countries in 62 languages. Digital Trends reports that it will boast a wide range of social services including interaction with Facebook and support for conversation windows, photos and videos.

What Can (Should) We Learn from the HP $99 TouchPad Fire Sale?

  • ReadWriteWeb journalist Dan Rowinski posted an interesting op-ed piece this week: “HP’s $99 TouchPad Fire Sale Can Teach Everybody A Lesson.”
  • “Tablets priced at $99 flying off the shelves and what had been a significant headline on Tuesday (Best Buy has 250,000 unsold TouchPads) had completely turned around on Sunday (Good Luck Finding a $99 TouchPad),” writes Rowinski. “It got me to thinking. As much as consumers love their Apple products and the iPad is a terrific device, consumers want something that is price efficient, even if it is a touch flawed. With literally hundreds of thousands of TouchPads sold over the weekend, a significant note should be playing in retailers’ and manufacturers’ heads — opportunities await for those willing to make a sacrifice.”
  • Rowinski speculates that an iPad killer is not in our immediate future. He also suggests that major changes are in the making with the browser-based mobile apps enabled by HTML5. He discusses tablets by Motorola, Samsung, HTC and Research In Motion and how price point may become as significant a factor as available apps. He addresses how Amazon learned valuable lessons with its Kindle and could possibly “recreate the Kindle furor by introducing a tablet into the market at $200 or less.”
  • “The great equalizer will be price,” writes Rowinski. “Amazon and to a certain extent Microsoft with Windows 8 have actually benefited from waiting to enter the tablet wars. They now see the battlefield in front of them and what it will take to make an impact. Quality devices with reasonable prices. Then turn and make money through value-added services.”

Manufacturers Team Together to Standardize 3D Glasses

  • Panasonic, Samsung and Sony are throwing their support behind XPAND’s 3D glasses in an effort to create some market standardization.
  • XPAND’s active shutter glasses would also become the standard for computers and home projectors.
  • Development of the glasses under this new initiative will not begin until September so we may not see them on the market until next year, but Gizmodo suggests they will be backwards-compatible with all 2011 Sony, Samsung and Panasonic active shutter 3D TVs.
  • From the press release: “To-date, active 3D technology has proven to be the most popular choice for consumers in the 3D TV market. According to the NPD Group, Active 3D technology took an average of 96 percent share of the U.S. 3D TV market in the first half of this year; and this Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative will help further drive consumer adoption and understanding of active 3D — the technology that provides the clearest and most immersive 3D experience available.”

Samsung Patent Adds Depth-of-Field to Point-and-Clicks

  • Samsung’s recent patent application illustrates how it is possible to add shallow depth-of-field to a point-and-shoot or smartphone camera.
  • The approach makes use of a dual-lens setup (similar to what we’ve seen with 3D cameras lately), where one lens captures full resolution of the target image while the other calculates and records relative distances.
  • The camera then merges the data with the primary image in order to create a depth map. A graduated blur is applied, based on this depth map, adding simulated depth-of-field.
  • The concept is not found in any product; however, Engadget is optimistic: “No word on whether this neat trick will make its way to consumers’ hands — but with 3D still the reigning buzz, we’d upgrade that possibility to a very likely.”
  • The Photography Bay post includes a link to the patent application.

Smart TV Platform Flingo Merges Television and the Web

  • Flingo has created a development platform to integrate the Web and TV.
  • The company’s video demo shows how you can “fling” a YouTube video from your PC to your TV.
  • Their technology is already available in over half the TVs being sold including those from Samsung, LG, Vizio and Western Digital.
  • It is currently available on 5.7 million TVs in 117 countries. You can also buy Flingo-enabled Blu-ray players and Roku boxes.
  • The goal is to merge TV and the Web, allowing media partners like Fox, Showtime and others to build apps that integrate both.
  • Flingo was founded in 2008 by former BitTorrent employees Ashwin Navin and David Harrison.

Yahoo! Connected TV Claims 8 Million Devices and 140 Apps

  • Yahoo! Connected TV has over 140 apps and will be introducing the Y! Connected TV Store to sell apps on a 70/30 percent revenue sharing model.
  • Yahoo! made a widget development kit available that provides publishers the opportunity to build new apps.
  • The company is rolling out broadcast interactivity that tailors ads based on viewer interests.
  • Device control technology allows television interactivity with smartphones and tablets.
  • Watch in 2012 for the platform to appear in new TVs by Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, LG and Vizio.

New App from Samsung Offers Streaming 3D Content

  • Samsung announced that the Explore 3D app on its SmartHub-connected TV interface is now offering free streaming 3D content.
  • The app is streaming 3D movie trailers, music videos, educational content and full programs from Wealth TV.
  • The company says Explore 3D will provide access to paid 3D content later this year, including feature films, shorts, and documentaries.
  • The app is powered by Rovi and includes its Cloud-based metadata and RoxioNow platform.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Takes on the Apple iPad 2

  • International Business Times provides an interesting side-by-side comparison of tablet market leader Apple iPad 2 and the newly available Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
  • For the Galaxy Tab: higher display resolution (1280×800 vs. iPad’s 1024×768); more RAM; 9 ounces lighter and 0.01 inch thinner than the iPad; Adobe Flash playback capability; features new Plane to Line Switching (PLS) panel technology that enhances brightness, clarity and viewing angles; higher megapixel cameras and 1080p video capability.
  • However, Galaxy Tab’s thinness was achieved by excluding USB, HDMI and SD card slot.
  • For the iPad 2: better battery life than the Galaxy Tab (10 hours vs. 6 hours under similar conditions); better speaker sound, particularly at a higher volume; and perhaps most importantly, more than double the number of available apps (425,000 and growing).
  • The Galaxy Tab is powered by Honeycomb 3.1 OS: “And, no matter whichever way you look at it – slice it or dice it – Honeycomb lacks the finesse and elegance of iOS.”
  • Conclusion: “Galaxy Tab is the best Android tablet to be ever released. No doubt about that. But if you’ve made up your mind about getting iPad 2, don’t give it a second thought. The UI of iOS will not make you want to regret your decision.”

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1: the iPad 2 of Honeycomb Tablets

CNET offers a “first look” video review of the new 32GB Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, a Honeycomb tablet recently demonstrated at the annual Google I/O event (the full production unit will be available June 8). The video notes that the “10.1” in the device’s name refers to the screen size and the UI is the same as that of the Motorola Xoom running Android. However, the review also notes that the Galaxy Tab has more in common with the iPad 2 than the Xoom.

The CNET review describes the new device: “As thin as the iPad 2 and even lighter, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the sexiest Honeycomb tablet we’ve seen. Also, it has an 8-megapixel back camera and a 2-megapixel front camera, and powerful dual speakers.” On the negative side, the review points out that lack of ports may be problematic to some users — and that from a design perspective, the plastic back of the limited edition version feels less solid and looks like “cheap kitchen wallpaper” (the release this summer may not have this problem).

The CNET evaluation goes on to praise the clean design, screen size, 1280×800 resolution and overall performance.

The bottom line: “Apple still has superior support for games, apps, music, and movies. While Honeycomb 3.1 seeks to offer more features, it’s still not here yet. So, if it’s down to these two tablets, we still recommend the iPad 2; however, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 would be the Android tablet of choice.”

Related Xconomy article: “The iPad Finally Has a Worthy Rival: Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1” (5/13/11)

Related Engadget post and video: “Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Limited Edition (white) hands-on from Google I/O!” (5/10/11)

Related PC Magazine post and slideshow: “Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1” (5/10/11)

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