Friday, June 29, 2012

Google tablet 'Nexus 7'

Google announced its first tablet computer this week. Significantly undercutting Apple's pounds 499 iPad, the pounds 159 "Nexus 7" aims to popularise these new devices in the same way that Amazon's Kindle made e-readers mass-market. But the company's ambition is wider than that - it sees inexpensive computers running the living room and the lives of millions of users. And it wants to be the company that makes the software used on all of them.

The 7in device, which will launch this summer, is not a direct competitor for the iPad, however. It aims to take a different, cheaper route, leaving the very premium end of the market available for manufacturers such as Samsung, who use Google's Android software, to compete with Apple's all-conquering, innovative device. Google has added TV, magazines and movie purchasing to the Play Store, its rival to iTunes, so that it can challenge Apple effectively. Indeed, Google described its new tablet as "built for Google Play".

Underlying the firm's ambitions to dominate the future of computing is Android. This time last year, there were already 100 million devices running Android. Today there are 400 million, with 1 million new ones added each day. That may be 12 per second, but Google knows that not many of those are tablets.

So Google has identified two ways to tackle Apple - the first is to improve how all Android devices run by offering a software upgrade called Jelly Bean for phones and tablets. The aim is that people who use an Android phone will enjoy the experience so much that they will want to complete the "ecosystem" with an Android tablet. Google has tried, under the codename Project Butter, to make the software smoother and, to borrow a word from Apple, consistently "delightful". It's an apparently subtle change that should make a big difference to how people feel their phone or tablet works. The brain, Google points out, can detect a lag of even 10 milliseconds in how a touchscreen works.

The second strand is more conspicuous: a new product called Q (for America only so far) offers media streaming, while elsewhere there are new features for phones and tablets. These improve the way the voice search or the camera works, predict the next word you want to type, or allow you to dictate to your phone.

Other features automate existing features - for example, phones are able to learn when you commute and will automatically suggest a better route or tell you when your next bus leaves. If you've searched the internet for a flight, you can now be kept updated on its status, and if you're travelling Google can make translation more accessible.

All of this points towards Google putting its set of products together in a cleverer way - but they still need the army of software developers that has so far congregated around Apple.

At the San Francisco conference, Google made it clear they know that: "There's never been a better time to be a developer - now you can take an idea and build businesses."

If that convinces people, then Google will be able to do for the mass market what Apple has already done for the elite of iPad and iPhone users.

Google's Nexus 7 tablet feels like the device that might just usurp the Kindle. It does everything that Amazon's device has done so successfully since it launched in 2007, but with Google you can now also watch videos, browse beautifully rendered magazines and the web, and of course check your email.

A Kindle costs from just pounds 89, but those extra functions are likely to persuade a huge number of people to part with pounds 159.

Indeed, it's the design of the product that makes Google's mass-market ambitions clear. Just as the iPad is not worried by Kindle sales, so it is unlikely to be worried by the Nexus 7. This is a device that feels coolly utilitarian, rather than luxurious.

But Google is not the web search engine for a minority of users; it has always aimed to be ubiquitous. And with Nexus 7, it wants to make the ubiquitous tablet. The 7in screen does everything it needs to with a resolution of 1280px x 700px, and at 340g it weighs enough to feel substantial without being burdensome.

There are nudges toward the future, however: press the button to get to a standard Google search page and, rather than a blank screen you get details about flights or films you've recently searched for. That ties web search in with everyday life, and it makes the web increasingly central to a wider range of functions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GDSX Launches New Technology for Travel Management

Travel technology provider GDSX, Ltd. reports the introduction of TripLink, a first of a kind product to capture travel data and managing real-time customer-service processes for trips purchased outside of a corporation’s standard booking channels.

The GDSX solution enables Travel Management Companies (TMCs) and Corporate Travel Departments to actively support the traveler during a trip with itinerary changes and on-the-road problems. It will ensure the integrity of a corporation's duty-of-care programs to locate travelers in case of emergency, GDSX says.
"We seek to strengthen and expand the current managed-travel model for Corporate Travel Departments, TMCs and Global Distribution Systems (GDSs). By bringing rail, hotel, limo and other data into the managed-travel model, with its efficient workflows and automated Quality Controls, the entire trip process can be managed in support of the traveler and employer," stated GDSX Chief Executive Officer Cindy Allen.

"We want to distance GDSX, and the TripLink solution and our customers from the controversy over travel distribution. It is not about an agenda of any kind on any front, but rather an effort to deliver a solution intended to protect our industry’s key stakeholders -, the managed travel community, - in this time of change, innovation and evolution, " Allen said.

Corporate Travel Manager and GDSX customer, Jennifer Steinke of US Foods said corporate buyers and TMC’s need the flexibility to manage bookings for travelers regardless of where they originate. TripLink can import those bookings and put them into formats that can be managed and reported together with other reservations.

TripLink can also import data that hasn’t been collected, combined, and managed in the past, GDSX says. New data will allow TMC‘s to look not just at travel spending - and compare booked vs. actual spending - but also to analyze spending by trips and by destinations. Armed with that knowledge, TMC’s can project future travel costs more accurately.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Microsoft Tries to Promote Windows 8 Without Hurting Windows 7 Sales

With Windows 8's commercial availability expected before the end of this year, Microsoft finds itself in the tricky position of generating enthusiasm for it without affecting Windows 7 sales.

The difficulty in striking this delicate balance became evident on Tuesday, when Microsoft officials spent the day at TechEd North America promoting Windows 8 in speeches, press conferences and demo sessions, while telling the 10,000 IT pros in attendance that their organizations, if they haven't done so already, should upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.

But at the morning keynote, when Microsoft officials made an aggressive case for enterprise adoption of Windows 8, they portrayed Windows 7 as an aging OS designed before key changes in computing happened in recent years.

"Windows 8 is a bold new bet, and it's a generational change in Windows," said Antoine Leblond, corporate vice president of Windows Web Services. "Windows 8 first and foremost is a better Windows than Windows 7."

Leblond said Windows 7 is the last in a line of OSes that began with Windows 95, designed primarily for desktop PCs that are always connected to a power source and act as the main repository for users' applications, data and content.

On the other hand, Windows 8 is designed for the world's shift to mobile devices that run on batteries and to applications and content that live dispersed in a variety of web sites and must be constantly available.

Asked to comment about the way Windows 7 was portrayed in the morning keynote, Erwin Visser, senior director of the Windows Commercial Business Group, said at a press conference later in the day that Microsoft in no way wants enterprise customers to interrupt migrations to Windows 7 from Windows XP.

"In our conversations with enterprises, we don't want to discourage their deployments of Windows 7," he said.

Microsoft will end support for Windows XP in 2014, so migrating to Windows 7 now is the right thing to do, he said, adding that Windows 8 will co-exist side-by-side with Windows 7 in an organization.

Windows 8 has a new user interface called Metro, which is designed for touch-screen devices, like tablets, but which can also be used with keyboards and mice. The OS will also have a traditional Windows 7-like interface. The Metro interface, whose design and user experience are markedly different from the traditional Windows interface, has been the source of much criticism among beta testers and industry observers, who say it's inconvenient to use with a mouse, and find its overall navigation functionality confusing.

Windows 8 computers based on x86 chips from Intel and AMD will run Windows 7 applications, and will co-exist with Windows 7 machines on enterprise environments, Visser said.

"The investments [enterprise customers] are making today on Windows 7 from a hardware infrastructure and also in application compatibility carry forward into Windows 8," Visser said.

At the same time, Microsoft is "very proud and bullish" about the value of Windows 8 for enterprises, so it expects to see customers upgrade to it from Windows 7, he said.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Sony dips below 1,000 yen for 1st time since 1980

Sony's stock price fell below 1,000 yen Monday for the first time since 1980 as global markets slide but also a symptom of its decline since huge success with the Walkman three decades ago. Battered by competition from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., Sony has lost money for four
straight years — and for eight years in its core television business.A strong yen, which erodes overseas income, and natural disasters at home and in Thailand, a key manufacturing hub, have added to its woes.

Sony's shares dipped to 990 yen before recovering slightly in trading Monday on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The Nikkei 225 stock average was down 2 percent after U.S. hiring slowed sharply in May.The company said it was first time that its stock price had traded below 1,000 yen since August 1980 — the year after it introduced the iconic Walkman portable cassette player to the world in 1979.

The stock had peaked at 16,950 yen in March 2000.Sony, whose businesses run from digital cameras and personal computers to PlayStation game consoles and movies such as "Bad Teacher," last month reported a record annual loss of 457 billion yen ($5.7 billion) for the year through March 2012.

The company is aiming for a comeback under Kazuo Hirai, appointed president earlier this year, who has headed the gaming division and built his career in the U.S. Sony forecast a return to profit for the fiscal year through March 2013 at 30 billion yen ($375 million), banking on the growing smartphone and tablet businesses.

Sony also plans to cut 10,000 jobs, or about 6 percent of its global work force.Widely admired in the 1980s as an innovative power, Sony fell behind when digital music players and flat TVs became hits. Its gadgets have lost popularity as consumers flock to products from Apple such as the iPhone and iPod.

It's also lost out in the TV market to South Korea's Samsung and other Asian competitors. Despite losses in that division, Hirai remains committed to TVs, and promised to cut costs to turn a profit in the division in the next two years.Sony also plans to seek new growth in emerging markets such as India and Mexico.In 2010, Sony stopped Japanese production of its Walkman, which sold 220 million units worldwide.