Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Eken M003, another new e-reader, this one in color

Here's Goodereader's story on the Eken M003 e-reader, which has an 8" LCD color display with rather low image resolution and also smaller internal storage space than usual.

  As a result they'll be offering this for about $240 in the U.S. apparently.   It's already been released in China.  The device does have an SD slot with the capability to hold 32K of books on an SD card.

  I'm not at all sure people want color without good resolution and with what looks like low contrast (similar to the older Flepias) or an e-book reader without an e-bookstore, but while it doesn't have direct cellular wireless downloads as the Kindle and new Sony do, it does offer WiFi Network access capability (home, office, hotspots).

I don't know what to think of the photo as the unit looks squat but I notice the hands look flattened as well, so that may be an error in maintaining the proper aspect ratio of the photograph when re-sizing it.
'  It currently runs Google Android 1.6 and has a full color 800×480 resolution 8″ LCD display.  It has a 600MHz VIA processor, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, 128MB RAM, and an SD card slot for up to 32 GB of extra memory.

Other features include support for MSN, Google Talk, an audio input and output, two stereo speakers, and comes pre-installed with the Google Chrome lite browser. '
The photo shows the Chrome Lite web browser running on it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kobo Reader or Kindle/Nook/Sony - A follow-up as Kobo reaches Australia

About two weeks ago, I wrote a blog article on the press treatment of the new barebones Kobo reader vs the more capable and more expensive Kindle because the vast majority of the articles don't mention the many reading features that the Kobo doesn't have while saying that the Amazon needs to compete on its price, going lower to match the Kobo.

  Actually, Amazon has needed to have a no-features reader for some time, like the Sony Pocket, because some people really don't want or need anything more than the text from the books, at a doable price for them.  And the Kobo pricing is attractive.

  But that means reports comparing readers should mention the various reading features that are on one but not on the other.  For some reason, that's rare in articles on the Kobo vs Kindle.  They do point out that one doesn't have wireless downloads of e-books (it IS an expensive feature if via cellular wireless).

  Reading-features like the more basic study tools are important to some.
1. an in-line dictionary
2. searching of book for words, a character in a book, or an event
3. the ability to highlight and take notes and refer to them

The Nook and other e-readers all include these features.

See more feature-set differences described earlier.

  Those added features won't be important to others, which means the features do need to be discussed so that buyers know what they're getting (or not)  for the price asked if deciding between readers.

  Many want readers for their children, but for older students they may want the added study tools while not realizing that one reader doesn't have them.

  The ability to access, while reading a book, Wikipedia for more information at no added cost, globally, is not a small consideration for students.  As we've seen, the cost of 3G cellular wireless on an iPad is an extra $130 (on top of the $500 model)  for the capability plus $15-$30 per month.  So this is somewhat valuable for the extra $100 between the Kobo and the Kindle.

  Where the Kobo is very good for students or anyone is its ability, in the U.S.  to enable borrowing of e-books from public libraries which the Kindle does not do.   The Kobo also has an SD slot for expansion to allow more books to be stored, as its internal storage holds about 33% less than the Kindle.

  While I consider being able to listen, via the Kindle, to mp3's nice enough and feel that the text-to-speech for books, newspapers and personal docs can be useful for brief periods, I wouldn't look for them in an e-reader or consider them important.

 The latest articles do mention the worth of wireless access to books.
  In the U.S., Japan, Hong Kong and Mexico, Kindle users can also use google and look up text info from almost anywhere they are, though this is useful mainly at mobile-device optimized websites, as larger images are slow to load.  Amazon says it hopes to enable web-browsing internationally eventually, depending on regional telecommunication pricing arrangements they can get.

  Kindle owners who are U.S. residents, or are in the mentioned regions where the web browser is enabled, have access to the text of the full New York Times and several other newspapers, in mobile-device optimized format.
  Granted - it's not pretty at all, and gadget press have tended to call it "dowdy"-looking, but some actually don't mind reading mainly-words when wanting information and when there's no added charge for it and you can access it while sitting on a bus. 

  See the mobiweb entry for how that's done and for a file that provides the links in book-form.  This file works only with the Kindle though.

  There is a flood of Kobo vs Kindle reports especially from Australia, where the Kobo was recently released and I've been asked a few times for my take on the Kobo.    Here are two longer reports that are informative and balanced.

1.    Techlogg

      The report is from Australia where they have more limited wireless,
      so they can access only the Amazon store and Wikipedia.
' ...the jewel in the crown for the Kindle is its built-in worldwide 3G connectivity that allows users to buy books directly from the website without having to touch a computer or browser. What’s more, the 3G service is free. You don’t need to sign up for any contracts – you just activate it and away you go.

  The Kobo requires ebooks to be purchased via its webstore through a computer.
The Kindle 2 is more technically advanced than the Kobo but for those wanting to dip a toe into the ebook waters without having to deal with overseas purchases, the Kobo is going to be very hard to beat at its $199 [Aus., equiv $149 US] price tag.'

2. News, another Australian news site
       This is a hands-on report with photos.
' Kobo lets you browse your personal library, choose a book, turn the pages and bookmark your place before you stop reading.  That’s as complicated as it gets, precisely because that’s as simple as it should be.  Like the original netbooks, Kobo is designed around pretty much one key task. '
  They point out that the feel of the unit is good but that the rubbery navigation button will be frustrating to southpaws.  That would be true of the Kindle's navigation button as well.
' But Kobo cuts some corners to keep the price down. The display shows only eight levels of grayscale (eight shades from white to black), so while the screen has decent contrast – especially in a well-lit environment – it’s not as ‘rich’ as Kindle’s 16-shade screen.

Page turning is also noticeably laggard, with each flip of the virtual page briefly pausing to show what looks like a photographic negative before the new page appears.  It’s a bothersome and distracting trait, especially when you turn pages twice as often as on a regular book (because you’re only able to see one page at a time on the screen).

The Kindle’s page-turn response is faster, snappier and less intrusive – evidence of a faster processor, superior operating system and/or display IO.

In addition to the inbuilt 1GB of flash memory, which Borders says can hold 1,000 typical books (one hundred public domain titles are preloaded), Kobo sports an SD card slot for adding thousands more titles to your grab-and-go library.

Publications in ePub and PDF formats (both open and DRM-protected) are first downloaded to your Windows or Mac system and then sideloaded onto Kobo over a USB cable or off the SD card.
Want Wi-Fi or 3G access to the bookstore so you can browse, buy and download on the move? Then Kobo’s not for you. But that won’t bother the bulk of consumers who are already comfortable using the same PC-centric approach for loading music into their iPods.
... as a starter, the $199 [Aus., equiv $149 US] sticker on this sweet, simple and rather stylish ebook reader could make the Kobo as hard to put down as any best-seller. '

Disclaimer: I do the A Kindle World blog but am interested in reading about all the coming e-readers and tablets.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gizmodo-gate? CNet asks. Apple spurred police. Affidavit highlights

Here are the story links.  Full Story and highlights from affidavit filed by Gizmodo.

The roommate must have worried about being charged if she didn't call, and the 'finder' of the iPhone 4G prototype doesn't come off well here at all.  I don't think this is in Apple's best interests either to press the case.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another iphone 4G prototype / Google Editions / PVI & EInk

CrunchGear has a story on yet another iPhone 4G prototype in non-Apple hands and taken apart.   They link to the original story from Vietnam, in translated form, with several more pictures.

  Note that the Vietnam story gives an internal server error at first, but if you try it again it eventually produces the page.   A couple of quotes but much more at CrunchGear.
' It seems this boy is powered by a reduced version of the A4 CPU that also runs the iPad.

It’s probably safe to say the iPhone OS 4’s multitasking was coded with this platform specifically in mind and should run like a dream. '

PC World writes that Google Editions will have about 4.5 million books but they're not sure what Google Edition books are.

  They reference a story from Japan Today claiming that Google has ' "clinched the support of almost all publishers in the United States" and that the number of authors and publishers who have agreed to participate have topped 25,000.  The story claims that, between these arrangements and books with expired copyrights, Google Editions will offer over 4 million titles.  Japan Today cites "company officials" but offers no further attribution. '

  PC World is perplexed by the following passage in the Wall Street Journal
' While Mr. Palma didn't go into details, users of Google Editions would be able to read books from a web browser—meaning that the type of e-reader device wouldn't matter. The company also could build software to optimize reading on certain devices like an iPhone or iPad but hasn't announced any specific plans. '
Essentially, they feel Google's out of touch to feel that many will want to read books via their computer web browsers and that it's unlikely 4 million books are ready to go in ePub or other formats.
' Running those scans through OCR software to get a clean digital edition is another. This one is a puzzle, to be sure. '

A somewhat interesting and long story on the role of Credit Suisse in the acquisition of E Ink Corporation by Prime View's.
' It's not surprising that Credit Suisse's Asia team would be the bankers who believed in Prime View and E Ink's potential, and were willing to put their bank's cash to work. Credit Suisse has a heritage in tech -- consider that Vikram Malhotra, the co-head of the investment banking department for Asia-Pacific, used to head the technology, media and telecoms business in Asia. '

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fujitsu dramatically enhances color-e-paper functionality - Update

Fujitsu enhances color e-paper functionality
  The image at the left is of the older model.
"Tokyo, May 7, 2010 - (ACN Newswire) - Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. today announced the development of a newly-enhanced color electronic paper (e-paper) that features the world's highest-level color image quality. By extensively redesigning the panel structure and image re-write methods of Fujitsu's previous-version color e-paper, in addition to offering bright color, Fujitsu has improved contrast ratio to 7:1 (a threefold improvement compared to Fujitsu's previous version), and has made the image re-write speed twice as fast at 0.7 seconds compared to Fujitsu's previous color e-paper, thus enabling smooth image transitions and color display quality that is at the highest levels available for color e-paper. "
Details at the Earthtimes link above.

UPDATE - May 7, afternoon. (Original posting was same date, morning).
Electronista displays what it says are current color capability vs older version.
  They also say that "The device is intended for the Japanese market and may be a sequel to the pioneering Flepia.  American companies haven't adopted color e-paper so far, although Amazon has already said it eventually plans to switch to color for the Kindle. [via Akihabara]"

See larger picture (and accompanying story) at  the Akihabara story or by clicking on the comparison photo.

I still think there is not that much contrast for a device that is currently selling for $1,000 in its less contrast-capable version.  Also note, that Electronista  mentioned  "A 1024x768 color image redraws in 0.7 seconds, which is still too slow for video but is closer to the speed of regular grayscale e-paper " (which is important only because the Qualcomm Mirasol will have that.  You can search previous articles here  on Mirasol at top right search-bar).

Some Good Review Links for Kobo, Alex and other e-readers - Update1

Video of Len Edgerly's take on the Alex, after using it for about 2 weeks.

   He mentions that it's $399, which takes it a bit out of contention due to other aspects he describes and shows, but it appears that it will sell for about $349, I read.  That is still $100 more than the leading e-Ink e-readers (Nook, Sony, Kindle).  Also, I've read that Borders will be partnering with the Alex, and the Borders bookstore selection will be available to Alex users probably in June or July.

  In the video, Len compares the Alex -- which has a small color web-browser component (WiFi) at the bottom -- to the Nook, which has a smaller lower color panel that can now be used for seeing slices of web-browsing in  WiFi mode (with fuller website data shown in the e-Ink area).  The Alex can shift material from the small color screen to the e-Ink screen for easier reading.  It's interesting to see these two e-readers side by side.  Neither one has 3G cellular wireless access.

Here are are a couple of links to some very thorough reviews I enjoyed recently:
ALEX - by Spring Design
  Alex review by Laptop Magazine, March 19.

KOBO - by Kobo Inc
Bear in mind that it appears to be a very good bare-bones e-reader for $150 or so.  If getting it for your kids for educational purposes, note that it is less expensive because it has no in-line dictionary,  no Search, no highlighting or notes (all things important to me because I actually remember better when I can highlight and make notes, and I learn a bit more actually using a dictionary instead of guessing as I did for decades).

  It also has no wireless of any kind for downloading books even, but uses bluetooth, has no text-to-speech, and no mp3's as most other e-readers have (but the latter isn't important).

  BIG PLUS - it allows you to borrow public library books.
  That alone can make the difference.

And it comes with 100 classics on it.
  Kobo review by Electronista

I may update this one as it goes, depending on how long it is between fairly thorough reviews that I notice.  (There are a lot of reviews that aren't thorough.)

UPDATE 1  - May 7. (Original posting May 6 ) - Borders is named as retail partner.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

MacWorld on 3G iPad video streaming performance + tips

MacWorld's iPhone Central reported that ABC Digital released the latest version of ABC Player on Tuesday and it now supports video streaming over 3G (Consumer Reports had mentioned that the ABC Player couldn't be used for that, before the new update).

 However, there are limits in how much data can stream over 3G cellular wireless, since several apps streaming unlimted HD videos could bring down a network not meant for that.  Therefore the streams are downsized and the viewing quality is noticeably lower.

  MacWorld's Dan Moren also has some cautions reported on the performance of video streaming over 3G.  First, he reminds buyers that the costs of a 3G iPad are ultimately a bit more than some have realized, as the $500 price for the Wi-Fi-only low-storage iPad has been the most quoted as representing iPad pricing.
" 3G models command a $130 premium over their Wi-Fi-only siblings, making the price tags $629 for the 16GB version, $729 for 32GB, and $829 for 64GB.  And keep in mind that the higher price covers only the 3G hardware inside the iPad. In order to actually use the 3G service, you’ll need to pay for one of the two monthly plans that Apple and AT&T have teamed up to offer: a $15-per-month plan that allows you 250MB of data transfer or a $30-per-month plan that allows you unlimited data.  And unlike the iPhone service agreement, which requires a two-year commitment with AT&T, you can cancel your 3G plan for the iPad at any time. "
The focus of the article though, is the 3G experience when it comes to streaming video, relative to what it is with most WiFi setups -- and I'll stress that you can still choose to use the WiFi which is included in the 3G iPad also, and you can shut off the 3G when you want to use the WiFi.  In other words, Moren is discussing an added capability that does not have to be the option used when you're around a WiFi network but will give you access where there is no WiFi network or hotspot available:
" Given that the iPad also boasts the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi specification, there’s no contest between the two: Wi-Fi will beat 3G every single time. I ran a few speed tests using the Speed Test iPhone application and, though unscientific, Wi-Fi’s superiority was readily apparent—in one test at my home, Wi-Fi was an astounding 70 times faster at downloads and 30 times faster at uploads. Other tests (such as the one pictured here) showed less of a disparity, but still universally deemed Wi-Fi the winner.

Of course, such performance varies widely depending on the quality of the AT&T network in your location. And given that poor performance on AT&T’s 3G network has been one of the major complaints with the iPhone, don’t expect magically better performance on the iPad. "
However, he says that if you have solid 3G access where you are,  you'll find this access "perfectly serviceable" for reading email, websurfing, RSS feeds, and checking into Facebook and Twitter.

  With more data-intense tasks like video streaming though, Moren considers the performance "sometimes subpar," with Netflix's iPad app "mostly watchable" though there were frequent pauses in playback for them as the video re-buffered.   YouTube over 3G is "substantially lower quality" than when over WiFi.

  He confirms that Netflix down-samples the video but finds it "passable," and when he tried the the AirVideo video-streaming app, which offers a choice of a variety of data rates, he still had trouble with pauses in playback.

  With the ABC Player update, the performance really varied depending on location, with streaming impossible at his home but better elsewhere.
" Most perplexingly, I found that YouTube videos streamed over 3G were practically unwatchable, due to their low quality—you appear to get the same videos that the iPhone gets over the 3G connection, which look terribly pixelated on the iPad’s higher resolution screen. "
Moren also points out that when you're out and about and no WiFi is available, these flaws won't bother you much (which is the way I feel about the no-cost Kindle 3G for B&W text and still-images when I'm roaming the streets).

Moren writes TONS more and has lots of good advice about the $15 or $30 payment options as well as how to get the most out of the 3G iPad.  He also compares battery usage between the choices of WiFi and 3G.

Even though I personally have no need or desire for an iPad because my Samsung Netbook (same size screen, with no reflections, 2.7 lbs, terrific keyboard, lots of great features and even the basic ones :-), and  excellent video streaming under WiFi though the price on this model keeps going up), my advice has always been to pay the extra $130 for the flexibility of the 3G  iPad when there is no WiFi available -- all of this depending on whether that's important to you and/or your pocketbook.  His final take is similar.  I wouldn't like to pay that much money and find myself needing access and not having 3G (and I'm spoiled by always having that (free) text-lookup capability on the streets with the plain-jane Kindle, which is otherwise just a dedicated B&W e-reader).

When iPad availability is nil in some areas and you don't mind quite exploitative pricing by marketplace stores at Amazon,  there's a link in the right-hand column for those.
   But me?  I'd wait until they become available again.  Most of us have plenty of access with other devices, and most don't see this as a 'need-' but a 'want-' item and friends love it for that aspect.  As has been said, it's a beautiful consumer device for consuming info as compared to one you create work or long pieces on.  But MacWorld's cautions on expectations for the 3G video-streaming are good to consider when deciding which iPad would be most worth the investment for you.

Interesting info from commenters to the article there also.

Monday, May 3, 2010

iPad helps win $361,661 in court case vs $6,600 settlement

CNet's Chris Matyszczyk reports that, rejecting a settlement for $6,600, Peter Summerill and his iPad won a trial the other day, using the eye-catching device for quick presentations to the jury:
' To the unincarcerated eye, MacLitigator seems to have used the unassuming genius of the iPad to maximum effect. "Using Keynote, all documents to be admitted at trial were loaded in. BlankiPad_Trialslides provided a 'tabbed' divider set up, separating photos of the scene, X-rays, medical records, tables, and summaries into their respective categories," he wrote on his blog.

  This all seems so beautifully seamless. But wait, there's the iPad's wonderful speed too. "Because the iPad can switch so quickly between presentations, flipping from the trial slides to the deposition transcript slides during a cross-examination is an effortless process," explained MacLitigator. '
Details at the link...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Consumer Reports has some issues with 3G iPad streaming video

Consumer Reports writes about its tests with streaming video on the 3G cellular wireless capable iPad, which is being shipped to those pre-ordering earlier and will be officially available for others on May 7 -- for $629 for the lowest storage capability of 16G.

They speak to the issue of $15 vs $30 for a month's of cellular web-data from AT&T's 3G network on top of the added $130 cost for 3G capability of the hardware.

Most of us know that 3G cellular wireless will tend to be slower in real-world access speed than a strong WiFi system.  But I would have held out for the 3G capability for use when not near a WiFi hotpoint.  This report recommends against that.

Excerpts: notable points
3G was slower than Wi-Fi. Download and upload speeds were significantly slower than the Wi-Fi version, but still fast enough for routine Web browsing.

You can’t stream all sources on 3G.
  [ The ABC Player app does not support cellular apps at this time.]
  [CR's attempt to download a TV show over 3G from the iTunes store was also thwarted, with a message they'd need Wi-Fi or should use iTunes on a computer to buy the video.]

Video quality varied by app
[ The YouTube video was blocky and lacked detail.  Netflix was better but still softer ]

Video quickly eats into the cheapest iPad 3G plan
[ The $15/mo. plan can be used up pretty quickly -- a few Youtube videos, a short segment from a Netflix movie, downloading some small apps and buying a couple of books used up more than 30%.]

[They'll run more tests over the coming week.   but here's their take so far:]

You won’t want to buy the iPad 3G to stream videos; we encountered too many problems.  It might come in handy for Web browsing and e-mail, but odds are you already have a smart phone to do just that.  Unless you want to spend another $30 a month to browse on a large screen, we recommend a pass.
My take The 3G iPad does have WiFi capability too though, so it's still at least as useful as the WiFi-only model while giving some capability when away from hot spots, if you can justify the expense.