Today turned out to be an announcement-filled day for the hardworking team at Google. The next true “Google phone” was formally unveiled, the next version of Android dubbed Gingerbread was detailed, Google Maps Navigation received a major upgrade, and now the search giant is the latest company to offer a vast eBooks store and ecosystem. Let’s jump right to the facts, shall we?
Nexus S: The Nexus S, a collaborative effort between Google and hardware manufacturer Samsung, is the follow-up device to the Nexus One. In similar fashion to its predecessor, the Nexus S promotes a “pure Google” experience, meaning that it runs the pure vanilla version of Android; you wouldn’t dare find an inkling of customized UI overlays like HTC’s Sense, Motorola’s Motoblur, or even Samsung’s own TouchWiz. Unfortunately the specifications do not push conventional boundaries, although there are some new welcome additions that complement the new Android platform: 4-inch WVGA (480×800) Super AMOLED display (Samsung is touting the new “Contour Display” that’s “designed to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and along the side of your face”), 1GHz Cortex A8 (Hummingbird) processor, 512MB of RAM, 16GB of onboard storage, 5 megapixel rear-facing camera with auto-focus, flash, and HD 720p video recording, front-facing VGA camera (640×480), Wi-Fi 802.11 n/b/g, Bluetooth 2.1, A-GPS, Near Field Communication (NFC), accelerometer, proximity sensor, three-axis gyroscope. Ports-wise there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB 2.0 port. The 1500 mAH Lithum Ion battery boasts the following life support: Talk time up to 6.7 hours on 3G (14 hours on 2G), Standby time up to 17.8 days on 3G (29.7 days on 2G). Interestingly the phone only supports tri-band HSPA, so there’s no 4G support here. Of all the tech specs listed, you may be pondering about NFC. Essentially NFC works like QR codes but better; companies can place NFC chips into objects like movie posters and the user can hold up their phone to the tagged object to extract information from it (there’s no need to open an app or bring up the camera).
So the spec sheet isn’t all that impressive, but there are two things that save this phone from being just another Android device: it’s sexy Galaxy S looks (good job Samsung) and it’s the very first device to run Android 2.3, aka Gingerbread (more on that in a bit). Let’s talk release date and pricing. The Nexus S ships December 17 for $199 with a new 2-year contract with T-Mobile (or $529 unlocked) and it’ll be available for purchase online and in-store from all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores in the U.S. It lands in the UK on December 20 at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy retailers.
Today Steve Jobs hosted an Apple keynote presentation appropriately titled Back to the Mac. In it he demonstrated the new version of iLife ’11, highlighting major upgrades to iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand; introduced FaceTime for the Mac; previewed the next version of Mac OS X; and unveiled two new MacBook Air notebooks. It’s breakdown time.
iLife ’11: The latest version of iLife packs the usual suspects–iPhone, iMovie, GarageBand, iWeb, and iDVD. The former three have been given major upgrades in functionality.
iPhoto ’11 features a new full-screen mode. With a click of a button (the green [+] located at the top left corner of the window), desktop applications, the menu bar, and other distractions disappear. In full-screen mode you take advantage of more screen real estate when viewing pictures in Events, Faces, Places, Albums, and Projects. Projects is a new way to view your collection of books and letterpress cards on a wooden bookshelf. The ability to create custom letterpress cards is a new feature; 15 distinct themes are at your disposal to customize and order directly from Apple to send to relatives and friends. When you go to create a book or letterpress card, a new dynamic theme browser in carousel style will be presented to you. There are also a bunch of new slideshow themes including Holiday Mobile, Reflections, and Places. Want to email a group of photos to a friend? Now you can create and send an email message within iPhoto; no need to jump out and into a mail client. You can choose from eight themes to customize how you want your pictures to be presented in the email. And lastly there’s Facebook enhancements. Within iPhoto you can now publish photos directly to your wall or to an existing album, and if your friends leave comments on your photos you’ll be able to view them in iPhoto. You can also tag faces and browse all of your Facebook albums in iPhoto; no need to jump out and into a browser.
iMovie ’11 features new audio editing tools. Detailed wave forms are color coded, so now you can see where audio levels are too loud or quiet and adjust them properly. Also there’s a new single-row view that shows you your entire movie project in one horizontal row, making it easier to edit your soundtrack. One-step effects are also at your disposal. Adding visual effects like instant replay, flash and hold, and jump cuts at beats can be done with minimal amount of clicks. The new People Finder feature works similarly to Faces in iPhoto; the software will analyze your video to identify the parts with people in them. It also finds the close-ups, medium shots, or wide angles making it easier to find these specific shots during an edit session. There are two new themes: sports and news. And now you can publish your movies directly Vimeo,CNN iReport, and Apple Podcast Producer in addition to iTunes, YouTube, Facebook, and your mobile devices. Last there’s movie trailers. You can choose from 15 templates to create professional-looking movie trailers out of your clips. Apple commissioned the London Symphony Orchestra to record (in Abbey Road Studios) and perform original tracks for you to use when creating movie trailers. Outline and storyboard views make it simple to put together a movie trailer in no time.
GarageBand ’11 includes two new features called Flex Time and Groove Matching. Flex Time allows you to fix timing mistakes on the fly; you can literally click and drag any part of a waveform to change the timing of a note or beat. Groove Matching is described as ”an automatic spell checker for bad rhythm.” If one (or multiple) instruments appears to be out of rhythm, all you have to do is select the one instrument that has the perfect rhythm (called the Groove Track) and all the other instrument tracks will instantly match it. A new feature called “How Did I Play?” gives you the opportunity to play along with a piano or guitar lesson, record yourself, and test how you’re doing in real time. Like Guitar Hero, the GarageBand lesson will keep track of your performance with a performance meter and show you missed notes in red to help you perfect your skills. A track progess bar will show you how better (or worse) you’re performing a particular song by date. Finally, there’s new lessons for piano and guitar, as well as new guitar amps and stompbox effects.
iLife ’11 is available for purchase today at $49. A family pack, which includes 5 licenses, goes for $79. Keep in mind iLife ships free with every new Mac. (Click here for more…)
Today Logitech held a press event to unveil the Logitech Revue with Google TV companion box. But before I go into the specifics of the box, allow me to refresh your memory concerning what Google TV is exactly. Back in May Google held its annual Google I/O developer conference; it was here where they detailed Google TV. In essence, Google TV is software that integrates TV and the web on one screen. GTV’s most prominent feature is search. Typical situation: You’re hanging in the living room and want to watch an episode of Top Gear but you have no idea when and where it airs. Simply tap the search button on a compatable keyboard (more on the hardware later) and type “Top Gear” into the search bar. Within seconds GTV will provide you with all kinds of relevant information about the show. In addition to letting you know at what time and what channel it airs on, you will be provided with the show’s web page and YouTube videos. That’s right–GTV searches live television, your service provider’s guide listing, and the world wide web. But it does more than this. GTV comes installed with the Chrome web browser giving you access to virtually every website on your HDTV. And yes, the browser supports Adobe Flash Player 10.1. With the DualView function, you can enable picture-in-picture only this time that means you can browse the web and watch TV simultaneously. Typical situation: You’re watching a baseball game and want to check on your fantasty team and player stats. DualView is your friend here.
Watching TV and searching the web for TV-related content (or just for fun) is only the beginning. GTV also supports apps. Though the Android Marketplace won’t be ready for the service until 2011, GTV will come preloaded with a bunch of useful apps. Twitter, Pandora, Napster, VEVO, blip.tv, The New York Times, USA Today, CNBC, NBA GameTime, Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, HBO GO. Google is reportedly in talks to bring Hulu Plus to the service as well. Google provides YouTube and a media gallery to browse your photos and video. In addition to app and developer support, TV networks have agreed to optimize their web portals for viewing on GTV. For example, Turner Broadcasting has been hard at work tweaking GTV optimized sites for TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim. No doubt more networks will follow suit.
So I think you get it by now. Google TV brings TV and the web together in one space–your HDTV. Cross-platform search, web browsing, and apps. Now you must be thinking how can I get Google TV on my television? Here’s where today’s news enters the picture.
Logitech Revue is a companion box that hooks up to your HDTV, cable/satellite box, and the Internet to bring the Google TV experience to you. Want hardware specs? You got it. HDMI In, HDMI out, audio optical output (S/PDIF), Ethernet port, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, 2 USB 2.0 ports, integrated Logitech Harmony Link IR blaster, and Logitech Unifying wireless technology. Setup is simple really. Connect the bundled HDMI cable to the Revue box and your HDTV, bridge together the Revue box with your cable/satellite box with another HDMI cable, and hook up the Revue box to the Internet (either direct to Ethernet or to your wireless home network). That’s it. And how do you interact with the GTV interface? With the included Logitech Keyboard Controller of course! The full QWERTY keyboard resembles a standard PC keyboard but also comes equipped with a touchpad, D-pad, dedicated search and DualView buttons, and remote control buttons. It speaks to the Revue box (which in turn talks to the rest of your TV setup) using Logitech’s proprietary wireless technology. Logitech Revue with the Keyboard Controller will sell for $299.99 when it releases at the end of the month. (Click here for more…)
And just like that E3 2010 has come to a close. Oh, was it a wonderful three days of gaming. Things kicked off with Microsoft’s bizarre “Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience” Cirque du Soleil event where we learned Natal’s true name, Kinect. The Big Three’s press conferences proved to be eventful and packed with awesome new games. Microsoft showed off exciting trailers and demos for Call of Duty: Black Ops, Metal Gear: Rising, Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach, and Fable III. Kinect was finally detailed at length, and we got a sneak peek at the Kinect Hub and many of the casual launch titles including Kinect Adventures!, Kinect Sports, Kinect Joy Ride, Kinectimals, Dance Central, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Sports fanatics were happy to hear news that ESPN content is coming to Xbox Live. And to conclude the conference Microsoft unvield a refreshed Xbox 360 model that features a sleek, black finish and “whisper quiet” internals. Nintendo harnessed the power of nostalgia to excite the long-time fanboys (and girls). Appearences by The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, GoldenEye 007, Kirby’s Epic Yarn Metroid: Other M, and Donkey Kong Country Returns did not dissappoint. Before Nintendo’s conference could come to a close the Nintendo 3DS was officially unveiled. 3D glasses are not required to experience the 3D effect and Kid Icarus: Uprising is a launch title; I want one. Sony’s press conference pushed for 3D gaming with an impressive demo of Killzone 3 in 3D (glasses (unfortunately) required). Sony’s turn at motion-based gaming with PlayStation Move was demoed and titles like Sorcery and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 utilized the new controllers well. The introduction of PlayStation Plus (Sony’s subscription based online gaming service), a fantastic trailer for Portal 2, and demos of LittleBigPlanet 2 and Twisted Metal rounded out the conference. All in all, the Big Three were successful in making gamers ’round the world happy with their upcoming offereings.
After the press conferences ended, the show floor exploded open with hundreds of game demos. Fortunately almost every booth was filled with knowledgable game developers who were kind enough to speak with me about their creations. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, SOCOM 4, Fable III, the Kinect games, Super Scribblenauts, Tron: Evolution, and the OnLive service impressed me to no end. But there’s one game that stands out the most. My favorite game of E3 2010 is Epic Mickey. The various types of gameplay, visual style, and controls made for an extremely fun and rewarding experience. I can’t wait for it to release on the Wii this holiday season.
To sum up E3 2010 in so many words–motion-controlled gaming (w/ Kinect & PS Move), 3D gaming (w/ PS3 & 3DS), and fantastic titles (that are both classic and new). I had such a great time attending this event for the very first time, and I hope you found my extensive coverage to be interesting, informing, and engaging. I look forward to attending next year’s show and I already have plans to make my coverage even more exciting and comprehensive! I’d like to give a huge thank you to Regina Durkan and Talia Chriqui for their help on the show floor and behind the scenes.
If there’s any E3 content you missed or like to read/watch again, take a look at the links below. Or you can always click the “[experience-it-all] at E3″ coverage button that’s located at the top right-hand corner of the home page.
Pre- E3[experience-it-all] @ E3 2010 E3 2010: What to expect Preview: Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience
Pre- show floorDay Zero: Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience E3 2010: We’ve arrived Microsoft press conference highlights: Kinect, ESPN, Xbox slim Nintendo press conference highlights: Nintendo classics make a comeback, plus 3DS handheld Sony press conference highlights: Move, 3D gaming, PS Plus, Portal 2
Hands-onHands-on: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Hands-on: Nintendo 3DS Booth tour: Nintendo (plus hands-on) Hands-on: Kinectimals Hands-on: Joy Ride Hands-on: Kinect Adventures! & Kinect Sports
Interview + hands-onInterview + hands-on: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Interview + hands-on: SOCOM 4 (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: TV Superstars (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: The Fight: Lights Out (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: Fable III Interview + hands-on: Super Scribblenauts Interview + hands-on: Epic Mickey Interview + hands-on: Tron: Evolution Interview + hands-on: OnLive
Booth toursBooth tours: Capcom & Sony Online Entertainment Booth tours: 2K, Konami & Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Booth tours: Square Enix, Ubisoft & Disney Interactive Studios Booth tours: Sega, THQ & EA Booth tours: Microsoft & Sony Booth tours: MTV Games/Harmonix
Let’s get right to it, shall we? The Wall Street Journal reports that CBS and Walt Disney Company (among other major TV networks) are “consideringparticipating in Apple’s plan to offer television subscriptions over the Internet.” CBS will offer shows from CBS and CW and Disney will offer selections from its ABC, Disney Channel, and ABC Family networks. Though details are being kept under wraps, word has it that Apple will offer its iTunes customers a $30/month subscription to choose from the TV networks’ selection of shows. This is all starting to make sense now that Apple has ate up streaming company Lala; they might just have a Hulu-esque TV streamingservice in the works. Whatever it may be, “sources” claim that Apple could finalize licensing deals and switch on the service sometime in 2010.
The Financial Times delves further into this matter and regurgitates the followinginformation: ”Apple has contacted other broadcast and cable networks, including Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting System and Viacom, which have so far been unconvinced by Apple’s proposal. The computer maker has also courted the book publishing industry, sector executives say.” This is all very interesting, to say the least. Major publishers like the WSJ and the FT reporting on a potential iTunes subscription-based service can only mean that something is brewingat Apple HQ. Talks with CBS (Viacom), Time Warner, and ABC are vital if Apple plans on making such a TV show subscription plan work. And let’s not forget about their “court[ing] [of the] book publishing industry”…cue the Apple tablet/iPhone rumors.
Addional news comes from the Financial Times, and this time it’s about the impendingannouncement of the Apple tablet: “Apple is preparing an announcement next month that many anticipate will be the official unveiling of its tablet, but the company has so far declined to confirm the existence of the device. Wall Street analysts expect mass production of an Apple tablet to begin as early as February.”
To spread to the gaining hype around the tablet and the next-gen iPhone comes news today from a Silicon Alley Insider report: “Apple is preparing to show off a new, larger mobile device with a higher resolution display in January — probably a version of the Apple tablet we’ve been hearing about for months — according to a plugged-in source in the mobile industry.” This source says that Apple has asked a select group of app developers to prepare their apps to support a full-screen resolution (rather than the fixed 320×480 rez the iPhone currently uses) and to demo on a “new, larger mobile device.” In addition, the report says that the tablet will be demoed in January but not released into the market until a later date. This matches up with the FT news posted above; Apple will unveil it in January, ramp up production in February, and have it ready for the public by March 2010. And there’s more! DigiTimes reports that the next-gen iPhone will be packed with a 5 megapixel camera sensor.
And that’s it for now. Exhausting, huh? I think Apple just needs to come out with it already and unveil this coveted (albeit non-existent) tablet to calm our nerves and get us excited for something that we at least know is real. With Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster claiming that there’s a 75% chance that an Apple January event is coming and word that the tablet will be the main focus of the event I am waiting in much anticipation. An overhaul of iTunes, the next-gen iPhone, the tablet…so many potential topics to discuss! Here’s hoping that Apple hits at least one of them next month.
Guess who’s back, back again? Steve Jobs graciously owned the stage in San Fransisco on Thursday during the latest Apple keynote presentation. There was lots of discussion and reveals on the iTunes and iPod front. Let’s not waste any time and get right to it. Read on for all the juicy details of the keynote.
- iPhone OS 3.1
- Genius will now “automatically make recommendations from the App Store based on the applications you own.” Think of it as iTunes Genius for your music, but now for your purchased apps.
- Ringtones – over 30,000 ringtones available to purchase at $1.29 each. All four major record labels are on-board.
- 3.1 firmware update is a free download available now for iPhone and iPod touch owners (there is a $5 upgrade price for those iPod touch users who have not upgraded to 3.0)
- iTunes 9
- Features a cleaner, easier-to-navigate UI with a redesigned store
- Genius Mixes – Think of this as your own personal DJ spinning your favorite songs continuously. Genius Mixes takes your current music library and groups songs/artists/genres together for you to listen to; it’s like listening to your preferred radio station.
- Improved syncing – Now you have the option to manually sync exactly what you want (for example, you can sync specific artists, genres, albums, etc.)
- App organization – You can arrange your apps in iTunes. Plug in your iPhone or iPod touch and you get a visual copy of your home screen and your multiple pages; you simply drag and drop 1 or more apps at a time. This couldn’t be any simpler.
- Home Sharing – Allows you to “manage your family’s iTunes collection between computers in your home.” You can copy songs, movies, TV shows, etc. with up to 5 computers. For example, say you have 5 family members each with their own computer and iTunes accounts. Now you can all easily share your iTunes content by dragging and dropping other family members’ songs into your library. The files copy right over and viola–you now have songs in your library that originally resided in your brother’s music library.
- iTunes LP – Tools are now given to record labels and artists to create and distribute many album extras in their digital music albums. These extras include behind-the-scenes videos, photos, liner notes, lyrics, chronology of albums, credits, animations, and more. Although digital downloads will never be the same as buying a physical CD or record in a retail store, iTunes LP is a step in the right direction for those who have switched to digital music and who miss receiving the entire “album experience” you get when you purchase your favorite artist’s latest album.
- iTunes Extras (for movies) – Think of the extras you would find on a DVD; they will now be included when you purchase a movie from the iTunes Store
- Facebook and Twitter integration – You now have the option to share your favorite songs and artists with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. There is an embedded option that allows you to link a song, artist, or album information to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- iTunes 9 is available today as a free download
- iPod touch
- Lineup: $199 (8GB); $299 (32GB); $399 (64GB)
- cheaper and new storage capacity
- up to 50% faster; OpenGL|ES Version 2.0 (adds more realism in games)
- Publishers discuss upcoming games for the App Store – Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed II Discovery; Tapulous’s Riddim Ribbon (an awesome music game that incorporates racing and DJ control); Gameloft’s Nova; EA’s Madden NFL 10
- iPod classic
- Lineup: $250 (160GB) (holds 40,000 songs)
- Same price, capacity upgrade from 120GB
- iPod shuffle
- Lineup: $59 (2GB); $79 (4GB); $99 (4GB Special Edition in stainless steel, Apple Store exclusive)
- all new shiny colors: black, silver, pink, green, blue
- expand range of headphones with an adapter that will allow you to change volume/tracks
- new VoiceOver features ( reads statuses, like battery level)
- iPod nano
- Lineup: $149 (8GB) and $179 (16GB)
- all new colors in polished anodized aluminium: green, blue, purple, black, silver, pink, red, orange, yellow
- larger 2.2 inch display
- new included apps: FM radio, Voice Recorder, pedometer (syncs with Nike +)
- VIDEO CAMERA (the one more thing) – Integrated video camera; only shoots videos (no picture stills); VGA resolution (640×480); includes microphone and speaker
- iPod touch
Note: When asked why Apple did not include a video camera in the new iPod touch, Jobs responded: “Originally, we weren’t exactly sure how to market the Touch. Was it an iPhone without the phone? Was it a pocket computer? What happened was, what customers told us was, they started to see it as a game machine. We started to market it that way, and it just took off. And now what we really see is it’s the lowest-cost way to the App Store, and that’s the big draw. So what we were focused on is just reducing the price to $199. We don’t need to add new stuff. We need to get the price down where everyone can afford it.”
Check out the gallery below for some official press shots of the new products and services.
[Gallery images via Apple]