Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BlackBerry Q10 Arrives on Sprint Aug 30 for $199


The BlackBerry Q10 keyboarded smartphone will be arriving on Sprint this weekend for $199 with a new two-year service agreement.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BUSINESS WIRE), August 26, 2013 - The first 4G LTE BlackBerry® 10 smartphone from Sprint, the BlackBerry® Q10 smartphone, will be available Friday, Aug. 30, in direct ship sales channels, including Sprint Stores, Business Sales, Web Sales and Telesales at 1-800-SPRINT1, for $199.99 (excludes taxes and surcharges) with a new line or eligible upgrade and two-year service agreement. 
“Our customers have anxiously awaited the arrival of the BlackBerry Q10 smartphone,” said David Owens, vice president-Product Development, Sprint. “Its best-in-class physical keyboard, productivity features, enhanced security capabilities and apps make it easy to be productive at work and connected to friends and family after hours. With the Sprint Unlimited, My Way and My All-in rate plans, our customers will be able to use the BlackBerry Q10 smartphone as it was intended, without worrying about silly data caps or overages.”
If you are still rocking an old school BlackBerry running BlackBerry OS 7 or earlier this is the upgrade you have been waiting for.

For more details, see the Sprint website.

Rumor: iOS 7 To Arrive on Sept 10


The blogosphere went nuts yesterday heightening the silly season chatter around Apple's major overhaul of their mobile operating system, iOS 7, when Owen Williams of Owened.com posted what appears to be a leaked notice from Nuance that suggests that iOS 7 will be released the same day as Apple's September 10 invitation only media event.

According to Apple, iOS 7 will be released "this fall" and is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina displays, and the iPad mini.

September 10th is just 14 days away.

[Via Owned.com...]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Microsoft Will Continue to Make XP Security Patches


"Just because Microsoft doesn't plan on giving Windows XP patches to the public after April 8, 2014, doesn't mean it's going to stop making those patches.

In fact, Microsoft will be creating security updates for Windows XP for months -- years, even -- after it halts their delivery to the general public.

Those patches will come from a program called "Custom Support," an after-retirement contract designed for very large customers who have not, for whatever reason, moved on from an older OS."

Are you kidding?!  Windows XP is still a "thing"?

Read the full article on the ComputerWorld website.

[Via ComputerWorld.com...]

Friday, August 23, 2013

Analyst: Ballmer Forced Out Due to Surface RT Write Off

Patrick Moorhead, the principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, said what we were all thinking about with Microsoft's announcement that CEO Steve Ballmer was retiring sometime in the next 12 months.
"He was definitely pushed out by the board.  They either drove him out, or put him in a situation where he felt he had to leave to save face."

Moorhead is clearly talking about Microsoft's Board of Directors displeasure about the company's recent $900 million dollar write off of Surface RT tablets collecting dust in Microsoft warehouses around the world.

I give Ballmer credit for attempting to turn Microsoft into a devices and services company.  In the long run, it's probably the right thing to do.  But no one said it was going to be easy, or not without some serious risks, as I'm sure Steve is now well aware.

Read more at ComputerWorld.com...

Steve Ballmer To Retire Within the Next 12 Months

 Big news coming out of Redmond this morning.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has announced that he will be retiring sometime in the next 12 months.

In today's press release, Microsoft indicated that the Board of Directors has put together a special committee to search for a new CEO.  The committee is being chaired by John Thompson.
REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 23, 2013 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process. This committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.

“The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company,” Thompson said. “As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company’s senior leadership team to chart the company’s course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry.”

“As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”

The full Microsoft press release can be found on the Microsoft website.

Rumor: Photo of the "Gold" iPhone 5S Shell Leaks


iPhone rumor silly season is in full swing, and to whet our appetites, a new leaked photo from a Japanese website leaves us clamoring for more.

Yesterday, the above photo of what appears to be the metal casing for a champagne colored iPhone made the rounds.  Flanking the gold assembly, is a current generation black and white iPhone 5.

I'm looking forward to upgrading my iPhone 4S to a new iPhone 5S.  The real question for me is what color should I get.  I am waffling between black and white.  For the last six years, I've had a black smartphone.  I'm thinking this time, I might opt for the white-but-sure-looks-grey-in-this-photo iPhone 5S.  The white model looks like it would match my MacBook Pro.  But I'm not sticking with anything until I click the "Confirm" button on the Apple online store website.

[Via BGR.com...]

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rumor: New iPhones to Arrive in Japan on Sept 20

AppleInsider, via CNET, has discovered a news item on Japanese publication Nikkei that suggests that the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C will launch in country on September 20.

Reported to be available from SoftBank (the new majority owners of Sprint here in the US) and KDDI at launch.

I think it's a safe bet to say that here in the US, we will get one if not two new iPhone models no later than Sept 20.

It has previously been rumored that Apple is planning a media event scheduled for Sept 10, a mere 20 days from today, to unveil - and possibly launch - iOS 7 and the next generation of iPhones.

[Via AppleInsider.com...]

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Review


The wait for Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time is finally over and is ready for you to download to your favorite iOS device now!

As the name implies, Plants vs. Zombies 2 (PvZ2) is the follow on sequel to PopCaps wildly popular Plants vs Zombies game.  In this tower defense game, you control an army of plants defending your yard from the attacking zombie horde.  (Note, I'm not a fan of zombies, but these zombies and the plants as well, are of the cute variety and not scary at all.)

"Free to Play"

Unlike the original game, PvZ2 is a "freemium" game, meaning that the game is free to download and play, however, there are many in app purchases that cost money.  I really don't like freemium games because most games of this type start out easy enough, but after a few levels, they become increasingly difficult and you have to start paying real money to move up in the game.  The good news about PvZ2 is that in my experience after playing the game for a weekend is that you don't have to buy any power ups to defeat levels and move on to the next level.  While you don't have to buy any upgrades, I did purchase one upgrade - the $3.99 extra seed tray.  It was an upgrade that I purchased with coins in the original and I wanted to have that same ability in the sequel.

Game Play

New locations spice up game play.  Crazy Dave has also added new power ups to help fight zombies.

If you've played Plants vs Zombies you already know how to play PvZ2.  The basic game mechanics are the same.  In PvZ2 however, you are in control of which board you play, and to some degree, what order they are played in.  Once you've completed the required missions, you can replay the boards to earn stars, keys, and other power ups to help you along the way.  You collect stars to move on to the next level.  In PvZ2, there are four level, three are playable now, and the fourth one is kind of coming soon teaser.  You collect keys to unlock doorways on the board that open up other playable games and gain access to new plants or power ups like extra plant food slots. (More about plant food later.)

Once you've won the level, play these mini games to collect stars to get to the next level.

Unlike the original, PvZ2's mini games are built right into the main game.  Once you have completed the necessary boards in a level, you need to go back and replay some boards to collect stars.  You use your collected stars to unlock the next level; or you can pay $4.99 as an in app purchase to skip directly to the new level.  This dynamic can be challenging as my younger daughter tells me, but if you put a little time an effort into beating these mini game/challenge levels, you can win without having to buy power ups.

Choose your plants.  Use In App purchases to get popular plants from the original game.

While I am glad that you can play PvZ2 without having to purchase anything, I am annoyed that you have to purchase some of my favorites plants from the original game that were included for no extra charge, such as the Snow Pea ($3.99), the Jalapeño ($2.99), Squash ($2.99) and Torchwood ($3.99).

Collect start to unlock the time portal to the next level.

Don't want to collect stars? It'll cost you to advance right away.

Power Ups and New Mechanics

In the original buy-it-once-and-you-get-everything Plants vs. Zombies, you purchased the game and that's it. You're done.  There is nothing else to buy that costs real money. In PvZ2, PopCap has changed this.  There are four new power ups that add a new game mechanic to PvZ.

The first is Plant Food.  Plant food is something you can collect while battling zombies or purchase with coins that you pick up along the way.  If you don't have 1,000 coins, no problem.  You can just do an in app purchase to buy more.  You can also use those game coins, either collected or purchased, to buy more uses of the other power ups: Power Pinch, Power Toss, and Power Zap.  These power ups, provided by Crazy Dave, do just they sound like.  Power Pinch allows you to use a two finger pinch attack on zombies to pop their heads off.  Power Toss allows you to pick up zombies and then flick them off the game board.  Lastly, Power Zab allows you to electrocute the zombies and burn them up in their tracks.  When you activate a power up you only get a few seconds to use them.  They are great for getting out of a jam when you are trying to fortify your defenses and the dreaded huge wave of zombies message appears on screen.  My advice is to use them sparingly as you will need more coins to recharge the power ups and if you don't have enough, you can always get more coins via, yup you guessed it, an in app purchase.  My advice is to use them sparingly.  If you are thinking a move or two ahead in the game, you can get "buy" without them.

Protect Your Privacy

Keep your data private
In today's day and age with the NSA snorting up all sorts of personal and private data about us, any little thing you can do to protect your privacy is a good thing.  Tucked away in the settings for PvZ2 is the setting for "Sharing Usage Data."  Defaulted to "Enabled", this option allows PvZ2 to pass along your game playing usage data to EA.  EA's in game verbiage says that the date won't be shared, and that may be true, but I'd rather just turn off the option all together.

Summary

Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time is a good game that extends the fun of the original into new worlds, levels, and game play.  The game is free to download, but you'll need to watch out for in app purchases.  If you have little ones, it might be a good idea to turn on the parental controls features of iOS and disabling in app purchases of any kind.  I've done this for my kid's iPod touch handhelds and I don't have to worry about coin buying sprees while I'm at work.

The game play is easy to learn and master and the replay value is there for a few replays.  After I have played a board three or four times I'm pretty much ready to move on to the next board or level.  The animation of the plants and zombies is still cartoons that gives the game a cute an innocent feel that won't make you rethink your decision to allow younger child to play.

If you liked the original game then you will like PvZ2.  If you are new to the PvZ world you won't have to have played the original to get into and enjoy the sequel.

Plants vs. Zombies is available as a free download now.  It is also a universal binary which means that the one download will work on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

BlackBerry "Reinvented"

BlackBerry has clearly fallen on hard times.  It's slow response to the growing threat from Apple's iPhone and smartphones running Google's Android operating system in the late 2000's clearly caught then Research in Motion's management team off guard.

Now the company has launched their new software platform, BlackBerry OS 10, and a few new smartphones, with and without keyboards, that no one much seems to care about.  That's really bad news for a company desperately trying to recapture their former glory as a market leader in mobile.

It's true what they say about history repeating itself.  As a recovering Palm fan, and Crackberry addict, I've seen this show before.  The same thing happened to Palm shortly after the iPhone was released and Palm was desperately trying to get webOS and the Pre out the door to try and turn their dwindling fortunes around.

On Monday, the New York Times outlined just how bad things are for BlackBerry, which is now officially exploring "strategic options" which is executive speak for "sell the company."

It becomes very difficult, in my opinion, to try and sell your company when long time tech industry people like Jean-Louis Gassée, a former PalmSource and Apple executive, is trash talking what little BlackBerry has left.
“Acquiring BlackBerry is necrophilia.  The BB brand is tarnished.”
But if that wasn't bad enough, BMO Capital Markets analyst Tom Long, from Bank of Montreal on BlackBerry's home turf, wasn't very optimistic about BlackBerry's options either.
“We don’t foresee any scenarios where the value of the company will be significantly larger.”
At this point it's hard to tell if BlackBerry will be acquired by a larger company with deeper pockets - similar to what happened to Palm when they sold the company to HP - or if the Board of Directors decides to sell of key assets and patents to other companies.

[Via the NewYorkTimes.com...]

iCloud Gets the iOS 7 Treatment

Earlier this week, obviously timed to go alone with the iOS 7 beta 6 release, Apple's iCloud beta site received an iOS 7 make over.

With the overhaul of iCloud in the likeness of iOS 7, the iCloud home page, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, and Find my iPhone all have the new look and feel of iOS 7.  The beta iWork applications and their icons still look as they do on Mac OS X.

iOS 7, and iCloud are believed to be scheduled for unveiling and golden master release in early September and is expected to become available for the general public shortly there after.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rumor: Apple to Hold Media Event Sept 10

Ina Fried, of AllThingsD.com, has suggested that Apple fans "Circle Sept 10 on Your Calendar."

Tuesday, September 10 is the rumored date that Apple will hold their media press event to show off what they have in store for the iPhone product line.

Will the iPhone 5S have a biometric finger print reader as widely expected?  Will the iPhone be available in other colors beside black and white? Will Apple finally release a "low cost" iPhone, possibly the iPhone 5C and will it be available in a rainbow assortment of colors?

About all we do know is that there will be a new iPhone this year and that it will be running iOS 7.

All will be revealed in just 30 days.

[Via AllThingsD.com...]

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Samsung's New Business Model: Copy Palm, Access, and HP

Samsung, as previously reported by many websites, it working on it's own operating system called "Tizen."

BGR recently posted an article in which they report on Samsung's hopes Tizen will be the alternative OS.  I believe that Samsung intends Tizen to be the OS that breaks them free of the need for Google's Android operating system for smartphones and tablets.

But Samsung doesn't just want to stop with smartphones and tablets, they see Tizen powering all sorts of devices.  In a recent interview with CNET, Samsung co-CEO J.K. Shin states:
"There are many convergences not only among IT gadgets, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and cameras, but also among different industries like cars, bio, or banks.  Cross-convergence is the one [area] Samsung can do best since we do have various parts and finished products."
I don't know about you, but a few things make me worry for Samsung.  First off, that co-CEO thing.  Ask RIM how that worked out for them.  Secondly, Samsung does a horrendous job putting their software on top of Android, now they're writing their own operating system.  And lastly, when I hear talk about putting smartphone operating systems in all sorts of consumer electronics like cameras, banks and ATM machines, cars...I start to think about all the grandiose plans I recall reading about PalmSource Palm OS 5, ACCESS' Access Linux Platform (aka Palm OS 6), and even Palm/HP webOS.   All of those efforts failed to even come close to reaching the kind of market penetration that was talked about.

Samsung, for it's part, does control a number of product lines where they can just say we're going to put the Tizen OS into this refrigerator and it will happen.  And Tizen will gain marketshare just from the sheer amount of gadget spam and appliances they put out.  But will people really want to run apps on their fridge, coffee maker, and toaster?  Maybe some day, but it looks doubtful for the next few years.

At least Samsung isn't planning on abandoning the use of Google Android in their smartphones and tablets any time soon.

[Via BGR.com...]