Current and Future Trends Archive

ASUS has shown up with a professional-grade Ultrabook

Article

Asus prépare un ultrabook en version professionnelle | 59Hardware.Net (France – French language)

My Comments

ASUS have been doing further work on the Ultrabook genre of ultraportable computers ever since this genre was defined. Now they have pitched a 14” Ultrabook for intended launch that has features that are desired for a media professional’s workstation. Here, this computer is pitched as a bridge between something that would provide what the mainstream laptop would offer but be one you can stuff in to your backpack as you ride off to work or that favourite Wi-Fi-equipped café.

Here the Pro BU400V series is equipped with the 14” screen that can yield a 1366×768 or higher-resolution 1600×900 display depending on the model you order. The display will be powered by a dual-GPU graphics subsystem with the discrete chipset being a NVIDIA NVS-5200 with Optimus “automatic overdrive switch” and 1Gb of display memory.

The main engine would be either an Intel Ivy Bridge i5-3317U or i7-3517U processor with the main memory being either 4Gb or 8Gb. As for secondary storage, there is the choice of a 320Gb or 500Gb hard disk or a 256Gb solid-state storage subsystem.

Of course the connectivity would satisfy most needs with USB 3.0, external display connectivity via HDMI or VGA, and an SD card slot. It would connect to the home or small-business network via Gigabit Ethernet or 802.11a/g/n wireless. Of course, as a current well-bred notebook, this unit has the Bluetooth 4.0 Smart Ready wireless connectivity.

But, really. who would this computer really suit?

I would recommend this as being a lightweight “shoulder-bag”/ “backpack” notebook for those of us who want the benefit of improved graphic performance such as serious digital photographers / videographers who do “on-the-road” editing. On the other hand, this would work well with gamers who want to have something to play that favourite PC game on while on the road.

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Orange to set up Facebook-based voice calling in France

Articles

French wireless carrier lets you call friends through Facebook | Internet & Media – CNET News

Facebook Is Launching A Numberless ‘Social Calling’ Service | Gizmodo

My Comments

The French are at it again with their online technology. Orange (France Télécom) have provided a Facebook-based “social calling” feature as part of their Livebox service for their subscribers.

The service, sold under the marketing name of “Party Call” is not a VoIP service but uses Orange’s mobile and landline voice infrastructure. But how does it exploit Facebook? Instead, it works as a Facebook app for the call management process, using your “Friends” list as the phone book if your Friends have listed their phone numbers, typically their mobile numbers, in to Facebook. Effectively it is as though you don’t have to remember their phone numbers.

I would improve on this through the ability to manage whether you can receive calls made on this setup or not. Here, this could prevent people from “stalking” you with your Facebook identity especially if you have tied a phone number to it.

Similarly, I would like to see a warning if you are calling someone who has an overseas mobile number or is roaming mainly to avoid bill shock for either party. This could be augmented through the the call routed through Skype, Viber or similar over-the-top VoIP services when the caller is roaming or overseas.

Of course, for people who use regular computers or tablets that don’t support cellular voice calling, I would want to be sure whether this function ties in with Orange-supplied telephone equipment like the Livebox and its DECT handsets or whether it simply uses a “softphone” setup that uses a VoIP setup.

It can also relate to issues like highly-strung DECT cordless handsets being able to import Facebook “friend lists” in to their contact lists and, eventually, Facebook turning in to an Internet-driven contact directory.

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The Wi-Fi network to be important in the car over the next five years

Article

In-car wi-fi to boom over next five years – Manufacturers expected to introduce it as standard | TechEye

My Comments

Previously, I have covered the concept of the in-car network, mainly in the context of linking with another network like a home network so as to transfer entertainment content, maps and similar material to a hard disk in the vehicle. This also encompassed the ability for the vehicle to link to a wireless-broadband service for such purposes as obtaining “nearest available services” information or playing online media such as Internet radio to the car speakers. This extends to commercial and government applications where data can be obtained from the office while on the road and shown up on in-dash displays.

The next five years will see this becoming an important OEM and aftermarket feature for most cars. There have been some factory-supplied and aftermarket systems being presented which use a mobile phone as a Bluetooth-linked or USB-linked wireless-broadband modem with the processing in the dashboard or the dashboard as a control surface for the phone or certain apps within the phone. A few implementations use a wireless-broadband modem or modem-router (MiFi style) as an Internet link to the dashboard and the passengers’ devices.

It is perceived that Wi-Fi will be seen as another link to the car infotainment system for the smartphones and tablets to use. It would typically be implemented in the Wi-Fi Direct manner with the access point in the dashboard or the car being a client to an existing wireless network. This could allow concepts such as a smartphone being a DLNA media server for the car, the in-dash navigation being able to benefit from the address book that the smartphone or tablet has or rear-seat entertainment setups being auxiliary screens for a tablet thanks to Miracast.

But I have always seen it beyond the in-vehicle network that applies within the confines of a vehicle. Here, I have seen these networks link with stationary networks like home networks for syncing content to and from the vehicle or updating large amounts of data like maps while at home. Similarly, I would see the vehicle-based network interlink with a home network at a secondary location like a holiday home to do things like serving music to DLNA-capable AV devices for example.

This could be a very interesting trend to see just as we have seen in-car entertainment evolve over the last fifty years with technologies like tape and disc playback, radio reception, mobile telephony, satellite navigation and the like.

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Samsung now rises up as a significant lifestyle brand

Article

Consumers Choose Samsung Over Apple – Channel News

My Comments

Samsung are heading to a new “lifestyle brand” image based on the success of their Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 smartphones. Here, their marketing had been driven by the value-focused “more bang for the buck” philosophy.

Similarly the court of public opinion has headed towards Samsung’s favour even through the lawsuits that Apple has been taking out against this company. Even though a case that Samsung initiated against Apple went in Apple’s favour, Apple is still seen as a “bully” when it comes to the way they control their brand and product ecosystem.

But this direction could have some very interesting paths about. This could affect the price of the technology this company sells; or it could affect how the product range is evolved. For example, I would see the Samsung brand become very much like Sony where the name is driven by high-quality equipment that is core to one’s lifestyle.

Of course these factors such as the value-priced highly-functional products and the court of public opinion have helped Samsung to make sure that their brand will be considered highly valuable. Other factors such as Samsung using common standards like the microUSB connection on mobile phones and DLNA in network-capable AV equipment are also underscoring the concept of value for this brand.

Another issue that could be raised is the ability to make content part of the lifestyle equation. At the moment, Samsung have an alternate app store for their Galaxy Android phones and tablets, as well as an app framework for their smart TV ecosystem. The content issue may be about seeking partnerships with existing content studios, including games studios in order to resell the content through these frameworks.

Similarly, this could also be a chance for Samsung to build strong partnerships when it comes to designing or building the equipment concerned. This could include building a partnership with an “audio name of respect” like B&O, Bose or JBL to improve sound reproduction in computer and TV equipment like what has happened with many computer manufacturers. On the other hand, it could include them building Super OLED touchscreen displays for other manufacturers to use in their products’ user interfaces.

This could show that Korea could start to become like Japan as far as electronics goes where the focus is on high-grade technology rather than being consider second-fiddle to that country.

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Sony’s move to the high-end is a sign that Japan is becoming like Europe in the 1970s

Article

Sony steps into high-end home audio, marks move away from mass market – PC World Australia

My Comments

After I read this article about Sony focusing on the high-end audio and video market and reading the press about Sharp suffering deep losses, I have noticed that what is happening with Japan is very similar to what has happened with consumer electronics in Europe and, to some extent, America through the 1970s and 1980s.

Initially during the 1960s, Europe was replete with many consumer-electronics brands that were started off within that area like Blaupunkt, Grundig, Bang & Olufsen, Nordmende, as well as Philips. These brands had product ranges that, in some cases, covered the whole market share. This was happening as Japan and the rest of South East Asia was cutting in to the consumer electronics and photography market through that decade. There was a popular consensus about Japanese products being of inferior quality to these European-sourced products during that period.

But during those 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese names were busily yielding equipment that was able to do the job very capably for a cheaper price compared to the European names. As well most of the Japanese manufacturers were busily innovating while turning out products that appealed across the market share. So, while some European names walked out of the consumer electronics scene, most of the Europeans took steps to focus on the high-end aspirational market, thus keeping their space in that market reserved with these names being considered special.

What is now about to happen with Sony and some other Japanese brands is that they will end up like the European brands where they possess a rarified status. Here, they turn out premium equipment at a premium price; while leaving the loss-leading popular equipment ranges out of their lineup. Most likely, I would suspect that the equipment will be like some of the British names such as Wharfedale where the emphasis will be on the quality of the experience. As well, some of these companies would be working towards innovation and, in some cases, component building where they supply components to other electronics names.

The article made references to Korean companies targeting the mass market but I would reckon that LG & Samsung would focus on the high-value end of this market and work towards the good-quality equipment. This could be in some ways, drifting towards the high-end market. Similarly, the pressure by Chinese workers to see their labour valued properly could migrate China towards better-quality goods.

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Defining parameters for 4K and 8K ultra-high-resolution displays

Article

ITU meets to define 4K and 8K UHDTV parameters – Engadget

My comments

We are starting to see the arrival of ultra-high-definition video displays being available for general-purpose computing requirements. This yields cinema-quality vision experience as if normally seen directly by the eye.

But the concept has existed in a general form where a well-bred current-generation digital still camera is able to take an image with that resolution. As well, some screens used in particular industries like medical imaging are implementing this kind of pixel-dense display. Similarly, some video setups like the recent practice of exhibiting performances of opera or classic plays in the cinema through the use of video links use the ultra-high-definition setups.

The technology is also being assisted through the availability of pixel-dense display technology in computer devices. Examples of this include Apple’s “Retina” technology used in the latest iPhone and iPad devices and starting to appear across some of Apple’s 13” MacBook computers. This could be implemented in larger display areas like flatscreen TVs and desktop monitors.

Here, a particular resolution and aspect ratio needs to be called for both the 4K and 8K displays. This may be a point to bring in the 21:9 display ratio used for cinema applications; and could help with providing an improved video experience for the films that were used to showcase Cinemascope or Panavision.

But after 1080p (1920×1080) was called as a standard for HDTV displays, which has allowed a point of reference to be used for this application; there needs to be a standard for this kind of ultra-high-definition display. This can allow the displays to be marketed properly such as with a standard logo that applies to equipment that meets one or more of the criteria.

This may also affect how visual layouts are worked on so we can think more of display physical sizes and application classes rather than particular resolutions. It will also mean the use of vector-based user-interface displays or graphics assets that suit particular display densitys as what is being put forward for Windows 8 software design.

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Holden to add smartphone-linked network audio to their cars

Article

Holden Adds Stitcher To Its Infotainment Systems, Pandora And TuneIn On The Way | Gizmodo Australia

My Comments

Previously I have covered the issue of Internet radio and networked audio in the automotive context and raised the possible scenarios that apply to this application. They were either a smartphone or MiFi device acting as a network router between a mobile broadband service and a Wi-Fi segment in the car with the car radio being an Internet radio; a car infotainment system with an integrated mobile broadband router; or a smartphone or tablet with the appropriate app working as an Internet radio or network audio endpoint and connected to the car stereo typically via USB, Bluetooth or line-level connection.

Vehicle builders and, to some extent, car-audio manufacturers are implementing a two-way setup which integrates the smartphone with the car infotainment system. In most cases, the link would be fulfilled by a Bluetooth wireless connection for control, communications audio and entertainment audio and, depending on the setup, an interface app installed on the iOS or Android smartphone that works with particular information, music and other apps.

Holden, like most of the GM nameplates around the world, have followed this path for their infotainment by introducing the MyLink system to the Barina CDX small car. Here, this would require the use of an iOS or Android smartphone with a bridge app linked by Bluetooth to the car. But the phone would be managed at least using the touchscreen on the dashboard. Initially the Holden solution is to work with the Stitcher Internet-radio platform but they are intending to have it work with Pandora and TuneIn Radio.

There is an intent to allow you to work your smartphone platform’s navigation function on the dash using the “BringGo” software so you are not needing to have the phone on a “cobra mount” if you want to use Google Maps or Apple Maps.

What I see of this is that vehicle builders are integrating your smartphone or tablet as a part of the vehicle not just for communications but for information, entertainment and navigation.

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Sony Vaio Tap 20–a new class of personal computer

Article

Sony Vaio Tap 20 Review – Watch CNET’s Video Review

My Comments

We have seen the desktop-replacement laptops with the 17” displays as the pinnacle of the laptop computer class but Sony has introduced a new computer device class that bridges two other computer classes. This is part of an increased run of touch-enabled computers that take advantage of the Windows 8 touch shell.

This computer, known as the VAIO Tap 20 is a bridge between the tablet computer and the all-in-one desktop computer of the ilk of the VAIO J Series that I reviewed. Here, it is a Windows 8 tablet with the multi-touch user interface, but it can rest on a stand which links to a keyboard and mouse for regular all-in-one use.

It has 4Gb RAM and 750Gb on the hard disk but doesn’t have an integrated optical drive or HDMI video input. The screen comes in at 20” with a 1600×900 resolution while it is powered by an Intel i5 third-generation processor.

The CNET article still found this computer to have what they considered as dubious performance abilities of the all-in-one class and they found that, although it runs the Windows 8 operating system and has the NFC abilities, it is not worth the money. This is although the HP Z1 Workstation and the Malmgear Alpha 24 Super are showing up as highly-capable all-in-one computers that can handle advanced graphics for work and play.

But what I see of this is that it could be a proving ground for this computer class as more of the all-in-one computers come on the market in response to Windows 8. This is in the form a a large tablet computer which can work as a desk-based computer. Once Sony or someone else issue a “follow-up” model that has the better specifications and features, this could be a chance to legitimise the “all-in-one” tablet hybrid computer as a credible computing device.

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TDK does amazing things to my home network by increasing the hard-disk data density further

Article

TDK breaks the Hard Drive density limit, could go on to develop super-sized storage — Engadget

My Comments

TDK was once known in its earlier years for storage media, especially tapes and, subsequently floppy and optical discs. During that time, when any of us wanted high-quality audio or video recording, we chose this name as one of our preferred brands. Infact one idea they were known for in the 1970s was a cost-effective high-bias magnetic tape formula known as “Super Avilyn” which yielded as good an audio or video recording result as traditional chrome-based high-bias magnetic tape.

Now that we have moved to MP3 players, smartphones and hard-disk-based storage of audio and video content, this company had diversified in to cheaper audio equipment to the open market and reduced its presence in storage media for that market. Here, Hitachi and others have been improving on the data capacity of hard disks over the many years with TDK disappearing in to the background in this field.

But they have not left this storage-medium expertise of theirs behind in this hard-disk-based data-storage era. Here, they raised the data-density bar for hard disks further, thus allowing for 1.5 terabyte per square inch. The article raised possibilities of 15” laptops coming with single 2.5” hard disks greater than 1Tb or desktop computers being equipped with 3.5” hard disks greater than 2Tb. This would also appeal to the current trend for low-profile and “all-in-one” desktops having the same storage as what was acceptable for larger designs.

For the home or small-business network, I would see possibilities like NAS units being in the order of at least 10Tb. This is in conjunction with PVRs and similar home-entertainment equipment able to work with many hours of ultra-high-definition video material especially as the 4K and 8K ultra-high-definition video technologies which yield cinema-quality video come closer.

Personally, I would expect this technology to materialise in the form of hard disks within the next two years once TDK have got it proven in a form for manufacturers to use. It also happens to be coinciding with the South-East-Asian hard-disk factories coming back on stream after the Thailand floods, this making it feasible to see the return of “dime-a-dozen” hard-disk storage.

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Creating a small data cloud–why couldn’t it be done

The small data-replication cloud

Netgear ReadyNAS

These network-attached storage devices could be part of a personal data-replication cloud

Whenever the “personal cloud” is talked of, we think of a network-attached storage device where you gain access to the data on the road. Here, the cloud aspect is fulfilled by a manufacturer-provided data centre that “discovers” your NAS using a form of dynamic DNS and creates a “data path” or VPN to your NAS. Users typically gain access to the files by logging in to a SSL-secured Web page or using a client-side file-manager program.

But another small data cloud is often forgotten about in this class of device, except in the case of some Iomega devices. This represents a handful of consumer or small-business NAS units located at geographically-different areas that are linked to each other via the Internet. Here, they could synchronise the same data or a subset of that data between each other.

This could extend to applications like replicating music and other media held on a NAS to a hard disk installed in a car whether the vehicle is at home, at the office or even while driving. The latter example may be where you purchase or place an order for a song or album via the wireless broadband infrastructure with the content ending up on your car’s media hard disk so it plays through its sound system. Then you find that it has been synchronised to your home’s NAS so you can play that album on your home theatre when you arrive at home.

What could it achieve?

An example of this need could be for a small business to back up their business data to the network-attached storage device located at their shop or office as well as their owner’s home no matter where the data is created.

Similarly, one could copy their music and video material held on the main NAS device out to a NAS that is at holiday home. This can lead to location-specific speedy access to the multimedia files and you could add new multimedia files to the NAS at your holiday home but have this new collection reflected to your main home.

Here, one could exploit a larger-capacity unit with better resiliency, like the business-grade NAS units pitched at small businesses, as a master data store while maintaining less-expensive single-disk or dual-disk consumer NAS units as local data stores at other locations. This setup may appeal to businesses where one location is seen as a primary “office” while the other location is seen as either a shopfront or secondary office.

This kind of setup could allow the creation of a NAS as a local “staging post” for newly-handled or regularly-worked data so as to provide a resilient setup that can survive a link failure. In some cases this could even allow for near-line operation for a business’s computing needs should the link to a cloud service fail.

User interface and software requirements

This same context can be built on the existing remote-access “personal cloud” infrastructure and software so there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” for a multi-NAS cloud.

Similarly, users would have to use the NAS’s existing management Web page to determine the location of the remote NAS devices and the data sets they wish to replicate. This can include how the data set is to be replicated such as keeping a mirror-copy of the data set, or contributing new and changed data to a designated master data set or a combination of both. The data set could be the copy of a particular NAS volume or share, a folder or group of folders or simply files of a kind.

The recently-determined UPnP RemoteAccess v2 standard, along with the UPnP ContentSync standards could simplify the setup of these data-synchronisation clouds. This could also make it easier to provide heterogenous data clouds that exist for this requirement.

But one main requirement that needs to be thought of is that the computer systems at both ends cannot collapse or underperform because the link fails. There has to be some form of scalability so that regular small-business servers can be party to the cloud, which may benefit the small-business owner who wants to integrate this hardware and the home-network hardware as part of a data-replication cloud.

Hardware requirements

A small data cloud needs to support cost-effective hardware requirements that allow for system growth. This means that it could start with two or more consumer or SME NAS devices of a known software configuration yet increase in capacity and resilience as the user adds or improves storage equipment at any location or rents storage services at a later stage.

This could mean that one could start with one single-disk NAS unit at each location, then purchase a small-business NAS equipped with a multi-disk RAID setup, setting this up at the business. The extra single-disk unit could then be shifted to another location as a staging-post disk or extra personal backup.

Conclusion

What NAS manufacturers need to think of is the idea of supporting easy-to-manage multi-device data-replication “personal clouds” using these devices. This is alongside the current marketing idea of the remote-access “personal cloud” offered for these devices.

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