Brace for a Torrent of Tablets

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The face of computing may be undergoing a massive change, and tablet PCs appear to be at the heart of it.

"There's a fundamental shift in the computing industry, which is moving to being cloud-based and mobile," Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst at Lopez Research, told TechNewsWorld.

With its iPad, has a commanding lead, but HP (NYSE: HPQ) and other hardware and software makers could give it a run for its money.
Sales Slump? There's a Tablet for That

It seems as though just about every vendor plans to offer a tablet PC. Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) on Tuesday showed a tablet design at an investor meeting, and the chipmaker's CEO Paul Otellini told attendees that tablet PCs would see a compound annual growth rate of 73 percent to 88 percent.

Annual tablet shipments will hit 50 million to 60 million units by 2014, Otellini also predicted.

In January, Intel introduced its new Moorestown processor architecture at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is a system-on-a-chip (SOC) consisting of an Intel Atom processor combined with graphics processing, video and memory controller functions. It's aimed at taking on ARM (Nasdaq: ARMHY), a leading processor in the mobile space.

The iPad, for example, runs on a proprietary Apple SOC called the \u201cA4,\u201d which is based on a tweaked ARM Cortex-A9.

Nvidia (Nasdaq: NVDA) is also expected to announce an entry into the tablet space.

"Nvidia will have a lot to talk about at their analyst day this coming Monday (May 17) and at Computex in Taipei," John Jacobs, director of notebook market research at DisplaySearch, told TechNewsWorld.

Computex, one of the world's largest computer industry trade shows, will be held in Taipei, Taiwan June 1-5.

The Second Coming of Bluetooth

Friday, May 28, 2010

For the uninitiated, "Bluetooth" is a funny word for an awkward device you stick in your ear. The moniker has thus become a non-assuming general descriptor for hands-free calling. That's about to change. Bluetooth has grown into a disruptive wave that's beginning to crest over the top of more than one industry.

"It's the perfect storm: The technology has matured, the prices have plummeted, and the battery life is long enough to make many products disposable commodities," Jack Corrao, managing director of Corrao Group, told TechNewsWorld.
How Long-in-the-Tooth Evolved to Wicked Fang

Bluetooth sharpened its competitive edge in two new versions. Bluetooth 3 introduced 802.11 and Bluetooth 4 introduced a low-energy (LE) mode.

"Today, Bluetooth is shipping over one billion chips every year," Nick Hunn, Bluetooth expert and wireless evangelist for CSR, told TechNewsWorld. "Looking forward, the industry can see that growing by an order of magnitude."

Bluetooth is set to become even more dominant as a short-range wireless technology with the release of the latest Bluetooth low energy specification, Hunn said.

"Where it stands to change the way that products are designed is that these devices will be able to talk to a new generation of mobile phones and gateway devices, which can forward this data on to a Web application, or to a downloadable app on that phone," he explained. "So whenever you stand on your weight scales, swing a golf club, or go running, the information can automatically appear on your Web site."

Will Post-Production Kill the 3-D Movie Star?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. Would he have changed his mind if The Great Gatsby had received the 3-D IMAX treatment -- with Jay Gatsby as an alien bootlegger and Nick Carraway as avenging Ivy League superhero?

After burning bright and flaming out fast in the 1950s, "3-D: The Sequel" is now enjoying a surprising encore in the American film industry, thanks to the dazzling commercial and critical success of James Cameron's "Avatar." As they say in the movie business, this new technology trend has legs: "Alice in Wonderland," "Clash of the Titans" and "How to Train Your Dragon" have all done well at the box office in their 3-D versions, and the summer blockbuster crop includes "Shrek Forever After," "The Last Airbender," "Step Up 3-D" and "Halloween 3-D."

Yet Cameron's Oscar-nominated film is one of the few movies to appear on screens in the last six months that left the storyboard stage designed to be shot in 3-D. A few more 3-D-shot films are on the way, but other live-action films were converted from 2-D to 3-D in post-production; the decision to super-size "Clash" was made at the last minute, delaying its scheduled release date.

Like the deadly fish seeking blood in the forthcoming "Piranha 3-D," movie studios sense killer profits in the current 3-D-mania. However, couple the conversion craze with potential moviegoer backlash over an expensive 3-D ticket, the discomfort of ill-fitting glasses and less-than-stellar results, and you've got some industry watchers worried that Hollywood will slaughter the goose that laid the golden (digital) egg.

"3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension," wrote film critic Roger Ebert in a much-discussed (and linked-to) Newsweek article. "Hollywood's current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the movie-going experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a (US)$5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets."

Twitter Sings Its Own Song on iPhone

Thursday, May 20, 2010

For its first few years of existence, Twitter busied itself with keeping its servers running, its head above water and the Fail Whale at bay. Coming up with new and creative apps for people to use with Twitter was left up to third-party developers, and they had a lot of fun with it.

But Twitter's growing up, and it's decided to take firmer control of its platform by developing some of its own applications. One of the first is an official Twitter-branded app for iPhone. Dozens of Twitter apps have been available for the handset before, but this one comes straight from the bird itself.

Twitter didn't exactly build this app from the ground up. It recently bought Tweetie, a firm that makes (made, actually) a solid and popular Twitter app for iPhone. I never used Tweetie, but the end result is a solid application that makes it easy to pull off all common Twitter tricks and integrate with several complementary services.

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Temperature Microlasers

Friday, May 7, 2010

Scientists have created the smallest ever laser capable of operating at room temperature. The device is less than one cubic micron--less than the wavelength of the light it emits. It is the first sub-wavelength laser that doesn't require cryogenic cooling.
Yeshaiahu Fainman, head of the Ultrafast and Nanoscale Optics Group at the University of California, San Diego, who led the work, says it should be possible to pack the microlasers close together without interference between devices. This paves the way for, among other things, faster optical communications devices that use sub-wavelength lasers in dense arrays.

The researchers modified what's known as a microdisc laser. In this type of laser, a microscopic disc containing different materials is optically pumped by a larger laser. This stimulates its semiconductor core to emit light, which bounces around the disc's edges before being released. Adding metal to this disc can prevent the laser from behaving in a way that would interfere with other devices in close proximity. But this reduces the laser's efficiency, and until now the only way to counteract this loss in performance has been to cool it cryogenically to around 77 degrees Kelvin (-196 degrees Celsius) using liquid nitrogen, which is far from practical.

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Meteorology images

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

THEY are the digital-age equivalent of crop circles - mysterious patterns appearing on the Bureau of Meteorology's national radar system without any explanation.

And the random images described as red stars, rings of fire and white doughnuts are sending online conspiracy websites into meltdown.

The anomalies first began on January 15 when an "iced doughnut" appeared over Kalgoorlie in WA.
Satellite imagery showed there was no cloud over the area at the time to explain the unusual phenomenon but farmers' online comments claimed it was "unusually hot" all day.

It was followed by a bizarre red star over Broome on January 22 and a sinister spiral burst over Melbourne described by amateur radar buffs as the Ring Of Fire Fault.
The Bureau, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment, has acknowledged the anomalies on its popular website.

It has since posted a disclaimer above the national loop feed putting the images down to "occasional interference to the radar data".

"The Bureau is currently investigating ways to reduce these interferences," the disclaimer said.

Conspiracy websites, however, have lit up with dozens of breathless theories behind the strange anomalies from alien involvement, secret military testing to government weather modification.

One theory gaining traction online is the belief the US military has expanded its High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program.

Based at a remote research station in Alaska, the HAARP project involves shooting extremely high frequency radar bursts into the upper reaches of the atmosphere to see what happens after particles of the ionosphere are temporarily excited.

Ostensibly the research is to study the effects of solar flares on radio communications and improve missile detection and navigation systems.

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