Android is becoming a part of our everyday life now – we have Android powered phones, tablets, television, refrigerator, and also cars with Android powered entertainment system. It seems Audi is impressed by Android, and they are planning to announce a new in-car entertainment and information system at Consumer Electronics Show next week with Google, reported Wall Street Journal.
“The car is becoming the ultimate mobile device,” said Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at the research firm Gartner Inc. who specializes in advanced in-car electronics. “Apple and Google see that and are trying to line up allies to bring their technology into the vehicle.We are starting to see an uptick of Android use in car makers, starting in Asia and working its way across the world,” said Rajeev Kumar, a world-wide director of business development for Freescale Semiconductor Inc., a large supplier of chips used in cars.
Apple has partnered up with companies like BMW, Mercedes and several others to integrate iPhone and iPod in cars, basically making it a part of the car. It seems Google is looking forward to do that as well, and Audi is their first target. Hopefully in future, we might see cars with Android-based dashboards.
What are your thoughts about it?
The post Google and Audi to announce Android-based in-car entertainment system? appeared first on AndroidGuys.
An unofficial Google Hangouts widget just landed in the Play Store, and I say unofficial because it isn’t from our Google devs. An XDA developer just released this new widget in the Play Store today, and anyone that used a text message widget, but was unable to utilize it because of the Hangouts integration, can now have it back.
The widget is very clean, and easy to set up. Just do your normal thing when it comes to adding a widget to your homescreen, and everything will be right as rain. Only thing you have to do extra is make sure your notification access has the widget checked. So click the Play Store link below, and let us know how you like it.
ASUS is at it again when it comes to teasing us before CES 2014. A new video title “What’s your number?”, just hit their YouTube channel, and it a very short video that has to do with numerous bouncy balls falling from the sky. Some of the bouncy balls of numbers displayed on them, and the only numbers that are made visible are 4, 5, and 6, and we are scratching our heads on what those numbers mean. The number one speculation is ti has to do with screen sizes, and maybe ASUS will be introducing a line of new devices at CES 2014. Only time will tell, and we will get the information out to you as soo as we find out. In the mean time, check out the short video below, and let us know what you think they are trying to tell us.
NYNE has announced a new IPX7 rated floating Bluetooth speaker today that they will be showcasing at CES 2014. The Aqua is probably one of the more uniquely designed speakers I have seen in some time. It s obviously designed to take advantage of its IPX7 rating with a style that reminds me of a pontoon boat or catamaran. Maybe more like a Tie Fighter. The IPX7 rating gives clears it to be fully submerged for 30 minutes 1 meter underwater. Not that you would hold it underwater and hope to hear anything.
“Aqua answers the need for a portable, high-quality audio speaker that can play music outdoors and withstand the elements,” said Arman Arami, president of NYNE. “With up to 10 hours of playtime, the party can last all day at the beach, pool, lake, campsite, or backyard, even when an unexpected rainstorm hits. Aqua plays music from any Bluetooth-enabled device within a 33-foot range, without a wired or dock connection, so your phone or tablet can stay easily accessible and dry.”
The Aqua is also shock resistant to protect it against accidental falls. Internally there is a 2200 mAh battery to keep you chilling in the pool for approximately 10 hours of playback time. By then you will be a lobster though. The speakers offer close to 10 watts of power with a built-in EQ button with 4 pre-programed settings. It also has volume and power controls and a mic for taking calls if you must. It measures in at 9.5″ x 5.2″ x 1.6″ and certainly looks cool.
Pairing one of these up with an Xperia Z or a waterproof cased up Galaxy S4 and you have a pool party at your finger tips. All your friends will love you and be pretty jealous that you can take your tech to the beach, river, lake and your back yard without fears.
NYNE expects to fully launch the Aqua Bluetooth speaker early in Q2, just in time for summer. Suggested retail pricing puts it at $129.95. We have already set up some time with NYNE to take a closer look at this little guy and see how it really looks, feels and sounds during CES. What do you guys think though?
Over the course of 2013, Apple released a number of exciting new products, including the radically redesigned Mac Pro, a thinner and lighter iPad Air, and an iPhone with cutting edge fingerprint recognition technology.
2014 will likely bring even more innovation to Apple’s product lineup, with current rumors hinting at highly anticipated products like the Apple smart watch, a larger iPhone and iPad, and new developments with the Apple TV. A number of these products have been rumored for some time, but the spate of Apple product releases over the past few months and the imminent turning of the calendar offers a chance to bring those rumors back to the forefront.
According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple has plans to create “great products” in areas the company does not participate in today, and in a recent email, Cook told Apple employees that there’s a lot in store for Apple in 2014, “including some big plans that we think customers are going to love.”
In the list below, we’ve highlighted Apple’s prospective 2014 product plans, outlining what customers might see from Apple in the next 12 months based on current rumors.
Apple’s next iPhone is rumored to come equipped with a larger screen size, somewhere between 4.7 and 5.7 inches. Some rumors have suggested that Apple might release the phone in two separate sizes, both of which are larger than the current 4-inch iPhone 5s/5c.
Left to right: iPhone 5, Galaxy S III, “iPhone Plus”, Galaxy Note II (Source: Marco Arment)
The larger iPhone, which will likely incorporate a faster 20-nanometer A8 chip from TSMC, may also include sweeping design changes in the form of a curved display. While it is possible Apple will release an updated iPhone earlier in the year, the most likely release target for the larger-screened device is September or October.
Along with a larger iPhone, Apple may be planning to add a larger iPad to its current tablet lineup, which comprises the 9.7-inch iPad Air and the 7.9-inch iPad mini. The “iPad Pro” or “iPad Maxi” as it has been called by the media, is rumored to include a larger 12.9-inch display, which would be most similar in size to the current 13.3-inch MacBook Air.
Mockup of the 12.9-inch iPad next to a 13-inch MacBook Air
The display reportedly offers higher pixel density nearing ultra high-definition quality and it will likely adopt many of the design elements offered in the current iPads, like an ultrathin chassis and narrow side bezels. Aside from a larger screen size, not much is known about Apple’s larger iPad, and it is unclear when such a product might be released.
Apple’s much-anticipated “iWatch,” which was a major rumor focal point in 2013, will likely be released in 2014. According to rumors, the smart watch will primarily function as an accessory to the iPhone and the iPad, providing at-a-glance access to common iOS functions.
The watch may also include a multitude of biometric functions, possibly offering a pedometer and heart rate monitor, among other things, and it could also serve as a home automation hub. While it is entirely unclear what the iWatch will look like, rumors have indicated that it could have an OLED display in the range of 1.3 to 1.7 inches, possibly coming in multiple sizes for a customized fit.
Apple’s iWatch may incorporate an ultra durable sapphire glass screen, as the company recently signed a deal with GT Advanced to ramp up sapphire glass production. Rumors have also hinted at a flexible, curved design.
Over the course of 2013, Apple ramped up its work on the iWatch, with a team of 100 product designers working on the project. The company also filed for iWatch trademarks in multiple countries throughout 2013.
Currently, Apple’s iWatch is expected to debut during the second half of 2014.
Apple has been long rumored to be making some upgrades to its Apple TV, either in the form of a revamped set top box with additional functionality or a full blown television set. It is unclear what Apple will do in the television arena in 2014, however, as rumors have suggested that the company has shelved its TV plans for the time being in order to focus on wearables like the iWatch. Television remains an area of “intense interest” for Apple, according to Tim Cook.
If Apple does release a television-related product in 2014, it will likely be a new set top box that could bundle key features like an App Store and Siri, along with additional content offerings.
In 2013, Apple worked hard to beef up content offerings, adding several new channels, including WatchESPN, HBO GO, Vevo, Yahoo Screen, and PBS. The company is also said to be in talks with cable provider Time Warner and a deal with that company, as well as other improvements in content, could come in 2014.
Improving content and reaching deals with various cable companies and content providers is a necessary step before Apple can make headway in the television industry.
Many people believed Apple would introduce a new Thunderbolt Display alongside the Mac Pro, as it has been two years since the last Thunderbolt Display update. No new display appeared, but it is possible that the company will debut a new display product in 2014, likely offering a 4K resolution of 4096 or 3840 x 2160 pixels.
In late 2013, Apple supplier AU Optronics introduced new 27 and 32-inch 4K display panels, sparking speculation that revamped Thunderbolt Displays were on the horizon, though concrete information on a new display or a possible release date is unavailable at the current point in time. In lieu of a 4K Thunderbolt Display, Apple is offering a 4K 32-inch Sharp display as an add-on to the Mac Pro.
Other updates: iOS 8, OS X 10.10, MacBooks, and More
As it does every year, Apple will undoubtedly offer refreshed MacBooks over the course of 2014. Recently, a rumor has suggested that a 12-inch MacBook with a MacBook Air-style design and a Retina display could make its debut in the middle of 2014, and other incremental updates to products like the Retina MacBook Pro will come as well.
Apple has several products that have not been refreshed for quite some time, including its lineup of iPods and the Mac Mini, which could see updates in 2014.
New versions of both iOS and OS X are also expected, though few details are available on the software at this time. iOS 8 may include improvements to Maps, iOS in the Car, and a possible Siri API, while the next version of OS X could take on some iOS 7-style design elements. iOS 8 will probably arrive during the fall along refreshed iPhones, and it is likely that a revamped version of OS X will come during the same general time frame.
Eric Schmidt sat down with Bloomberg recently, to give his predictions of 2014. He mentions the progress Google has made in the past year, and plans they have set for 2014. Some of those plans include investing more into social media, and talks a little about genetics. I guess Google will start looking into treatments for cancers, as well as other diseases out there. He also mentions how in 2014, everyone will have some sort of mobile device, and how mobile devices will be purchased more than desktops.
It’s a brief video, but enlightening, and we should a lot coming from the world of Google. Check out the video, and let us know your thoughts about the coming year.
Readers have three days to enter to win the unlocked smartphone
We’re down to the final two days of our 12 Days of Giveaways and we are ending the month/year with a bang! That’s right, today’s prize is a brand new Moto G smartphone from Motorola. We’re are only too excited that we get to award this guy to one of you lucky readers!
Prize #1 Moto G
For real, we’re going to give someone a brand new, unlocked Moto G smartphone. We’ve been incredibly pleased with our review unit (review coming soon!) and think you’ll be excited to get your hands on the phone, too. NOTE: We will let this one run for three days to give folks a chance to enter around the New Year’s Eve holiday! Winner will be drawn on January 2, 2014.
Prize #2 Bundled Goodies
The second thing we’re hooking you up with is a prize bundle that includes an Anker Astro Mini, Kensington TPU case for Galaxy S4, and an iHome BT speaker. The Anker provides 3000mAh worth of juice in an ultra-portable lipstick-sized container. As for the Kensington TPU case, it’s It’s more than enough to juice up your phone! The latter is a Bluetooth speaker to listen to music, podcasts, or movies on when connected to your Android or smartphone. As an added bonus, it also connects via NFC!
Prize #3 Practical Meter
This guy’s a clever inline USB-meter that shows you how quickly your USB device is charging. It is compatible with any USB charging port, including portable solar panels, your home PC, laptop, and/or any charging accessory you have.
Oh… don’t forget we’re also giving out Google Play credits over the remainder of the month. On some days we’ll randomly pick someone to win $10, others will be $25 and higher!
How to Enter
We’re going to keep this short and simple. To enter today’s contest all you need to do is leave a comment below! We’ll let this run for 24 hours and then randomly select the winner(s).
Win Google Play Credits!
To enter to win one of the Google Play credits all you need to do is share the following on your social media platform of choice: “I want to win Google Play Credits, AndroidGuys! http://goo.gl/dGQhG6 #12DaysAndroid”
Yes, you can share over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+. Yes, you can enter as often as you like.
This post will be updated with the name(s) and we’ll reach out via the comments as well. Also, be sure to keep an eye on the 12 Days of Giveaways page where we’ll keep a running tally of prizes and winners.
Note that we’ll give each winner a 24 hour window to respond. Should the winner not reply in time, we’ll re-draw and announce a new name. Be sure to check back!
Here’s the rub: We’re limiting this contest to U.S. residents only. Yes, we know it sucks – we hate doing it. Also, you can only win one prize per household. If you happen to win a Google Play Credit as well, then so be it!
Archos looks to be getting in on the New Year’s resolutions a bit early. The company clearly couldn’t wait for CES to spill the beans on its 2014 lineup — at least so far as connected devices are concerned. The device maker wants to make you a part of its internet of things, previewing a slew of devices, including an activity tracker, scale, blood pressure monitor, weather station and tablet. There is, predictably, not a whole heck of a lot of information on any of the products — in fact, the company’s managed to shove mentions of all of the above into a single press release issued a little more than a week out from the big Vegas event. Archos is collectively referring to the lineup as its “connected objects” — devices that are monitorable in real-time via Android and iOS apps.
There’s not much to say about the 7-inch Smart Home Tablet, at the moment. The company’s positioning the Android device as a “gateway” to connected home actions, like turning on lights and recording video with a mini-cam when a motion sensor is triggered. CES will also see the debut of a new Weather Station from Archos, offering up indoor and outdoor temperature, humidity, CO2, pressure and other readings, along with national and historic levels for comparison. The company’s Connected Self app, meanwhile, was built to work with a handful of new health devices. The list includes a connected scale that tracks body fat, an activity tracker that measures footsteps and burned calories and a blood pressure monitor that comes with an irregular heartbeat detector.
There’s one more interesting nugget in today’s jam-packed Archos press release. Alongside the home tablet, scale, weather system, activity monitor, et al. is a very brief mention of a smartwatch — a “selection of” smartwatches, actually. There’s not much info here, save for the fact that at least one of the wearables will hit an under-$50 price point. The company is also apparently comparing the iOS/Android-compatible line to a familiar wearable, referring to it as “pebble-like” in the included press material (lower case, mind). If we had to venture a guess, we’d say the similarity comes from what looks to be an e-ink or e-ink-like display, but it looks like we’re going to have to jump on a plane to Vegas to find out for sure.
Filed under: Wearables
2013 was a bust! Or so we’ve been told. Whether you follow that line of thinking or reflect on the last 363 days in a more optimistic light, it’s clear the year wasn’t all big breakthroughs and great triumphs. This was the year of government surveillance revelations, fallen giants and lackluster product releases. But it was also the year Netflix took on the studios, patent reform became a real priority in DC and two new game consoles hit the scene. No, we won’t be riding our hoverboards into the sunset at the close of 2013, but the stories that rocked the industry had a profound impact not only on technology, but also on society as a whole. So let’s raise those half-empty glasses and make a toast as we recap the year that was: Here’s to the glassholes!
The NSA’s very bad year
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden took online privacy concerns to a whole new level when he leaked documents to The Guardian, proving the agency tapped into user data from Apple, Facebook, Google and others as part of its larger PRISM surveillance program. Companies initially denied knowledge of the NSA’s activities, but Snowden’s additional leaks showed that this was more than an isolated incident: The agency collected bulk call records from Verizon and other carriers thanks to a warrant from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Further revelations revealed the UK government also used PRISM to gather data on internet companies; the NSA’s spying covers as much as 75 percent of US online traffic; and custom software allows the government to sort collected data by country. Of course, this is only what we know so far.
Though President Barack Obama claimed that PRISM collected only metadata (rather than listening to your phone calls) and that internet monitoring pertains only to “those outside the United States,” the leaks put both the government and internet companies on the defensive. Google petitioned the FISA court – with no success — for the ability to release aggregate numbers of government data requests, and a presidential task force is currently exploring an overhaul of the NSA program. In the meantime, sites are trying to appease reluctant users with transparency reports and additional file encryption. Oh, and Mr. Snowden remains one of America’s most wanted during a one-year asylum in Russia, which he accomplished with the help of Julian Assange and the larger WikiLeaks team. – Sarah Silbert
tl;dr The NSA has your number, and yours, and yours and yours, too.
Microsoft’s mega-tough transition
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Microsoft’s vision for itself and the road ahead is clear: It has designs on becoming a “devices and services” company. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s outgoing CEO, has repeatedly said as much from the moment he announced his seemingly forced “retirement” in late August and throughout all the subsequent Nokia-acquisition news. The Redmond-based tech giant is in the midst of a difficult transition; one that Ballmer couldn’t quite engineer. As it clamors for an ever-increasing slice of the mobile market — a roughly 4 percent share it wants to quadruple — and folds in much of Nokia to do so, the company’s left to ponder just who will effectively lead that charge.
The Redmond-based tech giant is in the midst of a difficult transition; one that Ballmer couldn’t quite engineer.
Though Microsoft’s $7.35 billion purchase of Nokia’s devices and services business — patents and mapping tech will simply be licensed — may seem to outsiders as if it’s following Apple’s vertical integration, that doesn’t mean it’s abandoning support for Windows Phone manufacturers. On the contrary, Microsoft believes it needs to create a halo Windows Phone product to drive adoption of the platform, which could in turn attract more manufacturer interest in the number three mobile OS. And let’s not forget about Nokia’s Asha line. Microsoft’s already laid bare its intentions to reach “the next billion” in emerging markets and with Asha under its belt, it’s positioned advantageously to do just that. Now it just needs a CEO to see it through.
Much of the press’ speculation has focused on Stephen Elop, former Nokia CEO and future head of Microsoft’s Device and Services division, as candidate numero uno for the role. And given its new slant toward a unified Windows platform and its push for a “first-rate Microsoft phone experience,” the charismatic and able Elop does seem a fitting choice. But it’s not a guaranteed coup, as other potential candidates have surfaced, most notably Ford CEO Alan Mulally and two internal picks: Enterprise head Satya Nadella and Skype’s Tony Bates. Whoever the board finally decides upon, we know that a conclusion to this CEO succession saga is still a ways off, as the board’s issued a vague “early part of 2014” target to conclude its search. Just don’t be surprised if that date slips even further into the future. – Joseph Volpe
tl;dr Ballmer’s out; Nokia’s in.
Wearables make a play for the mainstream
Google seemed to open the floodgates of consumer curiosity with the release of its first dev-focused version of Glass this April, and there was one question on everyone’s lips: Is that thing recording? Of course, there were a number of other notable gadgets in the category and a number of other unanswered questions. Among them: Is the world ready for wearable computers? It’s clear that manufacturers are, with Sony, Samsung and Pebble all offering their own takes on the smartwatch, a slew of new fitness trackers hitting the market and the promise of the Oculus Rift and similar headsets capturing the imagination of gamers everywhere. Even Apple’s Tim Cook has his eye on the market, dubbing wearables “very interesting” in an interview with AllThingsD — sounds familiar, right?
Despite the onslaught of head-mounted and wrist-friendly devices, it’s still early days. Google has yet to release a consumer version of Glass; the much-rumored iWatch is still just that; and Oculus VR still hasn’t committed to a release date. That’s not to say we won’t see head-mounted displays on every Tom, Dick and Harry in the coming years, or that mainstream interest in wearables doesn’t exist, but most of the devices we’ve tried on are still dependent on the smartphones many of them aim to eliminate. The limitations don’t stop there. Detractors have pointed to the actual wearability of most of today’s wearables — despite the fashion industry’s fetishistic embrace — and limited functionality has positioned them as playthings of the wealthy and truly nerdy. – Christopher Trout
Deep Dive: Living with Glass; Gaming the system: Edward Thorp and the wearable computer that beat Vegas; Google Glass review; Oculus Rift: Follow the saga; Sony SmartWatch 2 review; Pebble smartwatch review; Samsung Galaxy Gear review
tl;dr Like it or not, the glassholes have arrived.
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
In 2013, Bitcoin’s value against the dollar skyrocketed, suddenly thrusting the nascent system into the spotlight. At the start of the year, one Bitcoin was worth around $20, but by the end of November, it was more than $1,000. The most famous names involved with the system are the Winklevoss twins, who have plowed a reported $11 million into Bitcoin in the hope of making a fortune when its value rises even higher. With the advent of Bitcoin ATMs, people can even walk in off the street and swap their cash for the digital money.
Before it went mainstream, however, Bitcoin had a reputation for being used by the more nefarious of internet citizens. Unregulated, difficult to trace and without a central bank to keep things in check, it’s very easy to buy and sell goods without interference, which explains why it was the currency of choice for the now-defunct online black market, Silk Road. With increased notoriety comes the interest of governments, and when Fed chief Ben Bernanke says that Bitcoin may have “long-term promise,” it seems as if regulation isn’t far behind. Recently, China moved to block people from buying Bitcoins with yuan in an attempt to control the nation’s planned economy — causing the currency’s values to plummet from a high of more than $1,000 to less than $500 in the course of a few days.
At the start of the year, one Bitcoin was worth around $20, but by the end of November, it was more than $1,000.
Bitcoin differs from regular currencies in two ways. Firstly, there’s a total limit on the number of coins that can be created through “mining,” and secondly, if a coin is destroyed, there’s no way to get it back, forever reducing the total liquidity of the Bitcoin economy. Now, while dropping a few coins down a drain won’t cause you to go bankrupt, feel sorry for Briton James Howells, an early Bitcoin adopter who accidentally threw out the hard drive that contained his coinage. By the time he realized his mistake, around $8 million worth of BTC was crushed at the bottom of a Welsh trash heap.
While 2013 saw Bitcoin make headlines, 2014 will determine whether or not it’s a flash in the pan. Not only does it need to fend off the threat of rival currencies, but it also has to deal with the pressures of maturing into a stable and useful currency as both profiteers and governments begin to pull the system in two very different directions. Whatever happens, money will never be the same again. – Daniel Cooper
Deep Dive: Primed: The rise (and rise?) of Bitcoin
tl;dr The digital currency captured hearts, minds and the Winklevoss twins.
Cracking the Carrier Model
This year marked the beginning of the end for carrier subsidy models in the US, and it all started with “Crazy Eddie” himself, T-Mobile CEO John Legere. Until 2013, the carriers remained steadfastly committed to the traditional subsidy-pricing model in which you get a discount on the phone when you agree to a multi-year contract. T-Mobile, however, made a few key changes to its plans: You can now pay off your phone in monthly increments and the carrier lets you upgrade to a new phone much sooner. The “UnCarrier” strategy (as the company calls it) became quite popular, and the result was infectious — before the end of the year, the other three national networks had come up with similar plans. Unlike T-Mobile, though, its competitors chose to offer that option alongside the traditional postpaid plans. A win for consumers who like choice, we suppose.
What’s more, carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T now promise discounts on monthly service when you’re either out of contract or you’ve paid off your device. This is fantastic news for anyone who’d rather procure their phone or tablet from outlets outside of carrier stores. Additionally, there are so many more unlocked devices sold at affordable prices now: The Nexus 5 delivers flagship phone features for a mere $350, while the Moto G offers tempting value for $179, and the Nokia Lumia 520 proves that cheap Windows Phones can still be solid performers. All of these, as well as new Firefox OS phones, low-cost Asha devices and others, are setting the stage for what should be some intense competition in 2014 for emerging markets like China and India. – Brad Molen
tl;dr You can hate the phone company a little bit less now.
PlayStation 4 vs. Xbox One and the year Valve Attacked
At this time last year, Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 were still “Durango” and “Orbis,” respectively. Nintendo’s Wii U was still in the spotlight — even selling well in early reports — and Valve had yet to officially unveil its “Steambox” at CES 2013. This year was transformative and evolutionary for gaming, with not just new consoles from entrenched players, but also major moves from players across the spectrum: Valve, Oculus VR, NVIDIA, Razer, OUYA and myriad others.
In January, we called 2013 “The Year That Valve Attacks.” That turned out to be truer than we expected. With the exception of Android gaming consoles, every other major volley in 2013 came with at least a dash of Valve’s handiwork. From NVIDIA Shield’s streaming tech playing nice with Steam, to Oculus VR’s direct work with Valve and the Steam Machines/Controller hardware initiative, this year marks more than an attack by the Bellevue, Wash.-based game company — it’s the beginning of a new era for PC gaming altogether.
Of course, next-gen console coverage consumed much of our time this year. The two boxes are out now and we’ve reviewed each — spoilers: Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are pretty OK! — but let’s not forget all the ballyhoo leading up to their November launches. There’s the obvious (Microsoft’s DRM debacle, Sony’s YouTube cheek), the unfortunate (Watch Dogs delayed, late releases in Asia, $500?!) and the downright nasty (both consoles are paperweights before major day one updates).
We’ll assuredly see even more balkanization of gaming in 2014. Apple and Google have yet to really go after traditional gaming. Oculus VR’s retail headset is on the way, and Avegant’s competition isn’t far off either. Heck, in just over a week, we’ll see what Valve’s bringing to market with help from third-party PC makers in Steam Machines. Like late December 2012, we don’t have a perfectly clear view of the year ahead. What we can see, however, is more exciting than ever. – Ben Gilbert
tl;dr It’s all about the consoles, except when it’s not.
Netflix is the new black
It’s easy to find Netflix’s low point: that mid-2011 decision to go all-in on streaming, and spin off discs-by-mail as its own business under the Qwikster brand. After a sudden drop in subscribers, however, things are looking up and 2013 will be remembered as the year Netflix cemented its place as a major industry player. Outbidding several traditional TV networks for House of Cards gave it the centerpiece for a lineup of original programming that changed its reputation. It’s hard to imagine anyone calling Netflix — the home of several series up for prestigious Primetime Emmy awards — “rerun TV” anymore.
It’s hard to imagine anyone calling Netflix — the home of several series up for prestigious primetime Emmy awards — “rerun TV” anymore.
Viewer demand for Netflix has led to partnerships with several pay-TV services in Europe for placement alongside traditional channels. There are rumors that Netflix is pursuing similar deals in the US, as it chases the revenue stream of entrenched competitors like Time Warner’s HBO. This year, Netflix passed HBO in customer count, and a second go-round for series like HoC and Orange is the New Black will be taken as seriously as anything cable channels produce. On the flipside, former video-rental king Blockbuster has trailed in its transition to the internet and announced in November that it’s closing most of its remaining retail locations.
Netflix’s subscriber base has made it a must-have for anyone launching a device that plugs into your TV — even new consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Now it’s using this industry clout to push a new DIAL protocol that makes streaming video on TV as easy as launching its app on your phone or tablet. Next year, its slate of original programming will include shows tied to the Wachowskis and Marvel superheroes, while in Europe, it will be the first place to watch the new Breaking Bad spin-off. Amazon and Hulu are gearing up to provide some competition with new original shows of their own, but as Netflix expands into comedy and documentaries, its lead is only getting bigger. With more than 40 million paying customers, in-demand content and a reach that spans across countries, the question for 2014 is if Netflix will go from complementing existing channels to completely replacing them for a larger number of its viewers. – Richard Lawler
tl;dr Qwikster who?
BlackBerry’s last gasp
Thorsten Heins, president and CEO of Research In Motion (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
For BlackBerry, 2013 was supposed to be a turnaround year. It was finally going to make smartphones that could compete with the best from other mobile platforms. Unfortunately, the past 12 months have been anything but pleasant for the folks in Waterloo. BlackBerry 10′s inaugural devices, the Z10, Z30, Q5 and Q10, weren’t popular enough to stem the tide of customers jumping to rival products. The firm wrote off billions of dollars in unsold BB10 devices, and its quarterly shipments dwindled from 6.9 million a year ago to 1.9 million in its most recently concluded quarter. In its heyday, BlackBerry had a fifth of the market and fended off powerhouses like Apple and Google; it’s now left fighting for survival in niche markets.
Poor sales only served to fuel the corporate drama that began in 2012. Executive departures and layoffs were all too common at BlackBerry in 2013, and the once fiercely independent company spent months courting potential buyers. Even that didn’t go smoothly, however. The phone maker ultimately settled for selling itself to its largest shareholder, only to lose the deal weeks later. Thorsten Heins’ ouster in the wake of that failure was less of a tragedy and more of an inevitability. He had come to the CEO position in early 2012 to streamline the company and keep pace with nimbler rivals, but he was ineffective in reversing the firm’s decline.
Still, there is some hope left for the one-time mobile giant. New CEO John Chen is taking a different tack than his predecessor: He has a long-term plan to restore profitability, and he’s focused on growing the company rather than slimming it down. A decision to hire two key executives in December was a welcome relief from the mass exodus of the past two years. BlackBerry remains on extremely shaky ground at the end of 2013, and Chen may serve as little more than a crisis manager trying to make the best of a very bad situation. Still, he’s the first outsider to take the helm in nearly 30 years and he may represent the sort of fresh thinking that BlackBerry needs. – Jon Fingas
tl;dr And BlackBerry still can’t get it right.
Rethinking the Troll Toll
Odds are, you’ll have to pay the troll toll if you have anything to do with consumer electronics these days. Which is why we’re closing out 2013 with another round of patent reform winding its way up Capitol Hill. This time around, the Innovation Act, which already has the House of Representatives’ stamp of approval, aims to change the legal rules governing patent lawsuits to discourage trolls from filing them.
Under the current laws, trolls can file suit against small businesses and end users who simply sell or use products that allegedly infringe, as opposed to the company that manufactured them. Additionally, trolls don’t currently have to specify exactly how a company has infringed their patents — which makes it easier to accuse folks of infringement. The Innovation Act would let manufacturers stand in for end users and retailers in court, require trolls to specify how their patents are being infringed, reduce the costs of discovery and force those who file suit and lose to pay for the legal costs of those they accused.
In 2011, Obama signed the America Invents Act in an attempt to improve the US patent system and curb the number of patent suits clogging court dockets (and, consequently, Engadget’s pages). It did not have the desired effect. The two years since have seen more patent lawsuits filed than ever, and a disproportionate number of such cases — 62 percent of those filed in 2012 — involve patent assertion entities, aka patent trolls. So, here we are, waiting to see if this new round of reforms can have the desired effect and reduce that number.
Of course, it’s not just the quantity of patent lawsuits that’s the problem. There’s also the matter of quality — patents being granted when, maybe, they shouldn’t be. A troll without valid patents can’t cause any courtroom trouble, after all. The patentability of software has long been at issue both in the tech world and the legal world. And, late this year, the Supreme Court finally decided to weigh in on the issue when it agreed to review a case about patentability of software. Suffice to say, we won’t know whether lines of code should persist within the purview of patent law by the time Baby New Year shows up, but we should get our answer at some point in 2014. – Michael Gorman
tl;dr Patent trolls a dying breed?
Capturing Higgs boson
The decades-long search for the Higgs boson came, more or less, to a happy ending in 2013 when Peter Higgs and Francois Englert were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles.” While a preliminary announcement came in the summer of 2012, it wasn’t until several months later, in March of this year, that CERN was finally confident enough to declare the new elementary particle it had discovered was indeed the Higgs.
To call the discovery monumental would be an understatement. Scientists didn’t simply identify a new fundamental chunk of matter. The existence of the Higgs boson would seem to confirm the existence of the Higgs field, an important aspect of the Standard Model of particle physics. It would also explain why some elementary particles have mass — through interaction with the field — when other evidence suggests they should be massless. Initial reports held that the Higgs was “exotic” beyond scientists’ expectations, but further analysis showed that it was actually quite mundane — for a boson, anyway.
There’s still much, much more work to be done. Study of the Higgs boson and field could lend insight into cosmic expansion, and has implications for the so-called cosmological constant problem. The cosmological constant is, for those that don’t know, a mysterious force that Albert Einstein suggested counteracted gravity, which he eventually abandoned, calling it his “greatest blunder.” The idea has since been resurrected following the discovery that our universe is not just expanding, but also accelerating. And, of course, there are the countless researchers out there now looking for a practical application for the discovery. All of this work will need even more powerful tools, however, and so CERN shutdown the Large Hadron Collider and its many multi-story detectors to give them a healthy upgrade. (Though, its PR department is still plenty active.) – Terrence O’Brien
tl;dr Physics, y’all!
Illustration by Greg Grabowy. Photos: Steve Ballmer (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson); Bitcoins (George Frey/Getty Images); Edward Snowden (AP Photo/The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras); Higgs Boson (CERN)