Category: Tablet Computers

Apple iOS 5–To be updated without the need to tether your device

Articles

Apple iOS 5 Updated Over the Air – InternetNews.com

My Comments

The latest incarnation of Apple’s iOS platform is intended to be about integration with an Apple-based iCloud cloud-based computing environment. This is alongside the dream that Steve Jobs has about less reliance on the desktop computing environment. But there is an advantage that will benefit users of any iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch whether they just use their device alongside a regular computer or independently.

This advantage is about “over-the-air” software updating for the operating environment. Some mobile phone platforms, such as a few Android installations, were able to be updated without the need to tether the phone to the computer. As well, iOS users could keep their device’s app collection up to date independently of the computer, a practice similar to adding an app to these devices. Now this will be implemented across the iOS platform so you don’t need to connect up that iPhone or iPad to your computer and fire up iTunes whenever Apple revises the platform.

One benefit that I would see out of this is if one’s computer is down for any reason, they can still update the iOS device. Also you don’t need to know where that white USB lead that connects your iPhone to your PC is.

Similarly, the update experience is more reliable for most Mac or PC users. This is because there is less risk of the device being “bricked” (put out of action) due to reasons like a software crash or hang; a slow computer or the USB cable coming out of the device’s Dock connector.

There may be disadvantages with this setup, especially for devices that are primarily operated on a wireless-broadband network. This is where the update may become a significant cost due to the data allowance on most low-end wireless-broadband plans. This may not be of concern for those of us who use the iPhone with Wi-Fi networks associated with most home or business wireline broadband services.

A good question with this update that may concern owners of existing iOS devices is whether the device needs to be prepared for “over-the-air” updating or not. This may be dependent on what version of the iOS system you are running. Here, the device could be enabled through an operating-system update or the installation of an “enabler” app from the iTunes App Store.

It will be interesting to then see whether all the iPhone and iPad users will find it easier to keep these ubiquitous mobile computing devices up to data.

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Windows 8–How it looks and operates is now defined

Articles

Windows 8 And Its Incredibly Cool New Touch Interface | Gizmodo.com

Windows 8 Gets A Radical Facelift And Touch Functionality (Videos) | eHomeUpgrade

Windows 8, iOS 6 set for tablet face-off in 2012 | CNET

My Comments

Basic comments about Windows 8’s touch screen user-interface

A key user-interface concept in the next version of Windows will be a “Start Screen” that looks like a cross between Windows Phone 7’s home screen and the Windows Media Center interface. Here, this dashboard will have “Live Tiles” which present always-updated information in the window panes.

The applications represented on the “Live Tiles” can be a fully-fledged Windows application or a HTML5/JavaScript “mobile-like” app that links to a Web resource. This is taken further with Internet Explorer 10 implementing this functionality.

There will be the full integrated support for tablet computers and similar devices with an interface that works best with these devices as well as a regular keyboard / mouse interface. One issue that may affect software developers is that they may have to work the software so it can behave properly with a “no-keyboard” interface as well as a “keyboard” interface. Of course, the touchscreen keyboard interface will support a split layout so that the user can work the keys with their thumbs.

For some programs that primarily use mouse interaction like strategy or puzzle games, there won’t need to be much work done on having the programs work between a keyboard interface or a touch interface. But on the other hand, programs that rely on text entry such as email, the program may have to work with remapping the user interface to permit use of the virtual keyboard interfaces.

But where could this all lead to when it comes to the design of Windows-based computers?

Ever since Windows allowed for “tablet-style” computing with the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, where the computer is operated using a stylus rather than by touch, there have been two form factors put forward to the market. One was the “slate” form factor which is like the tablet computers such as the iPad, where there isn’t a keyboard but the computer could work with a USB-connected keyboard; and the other was a “convertible” notebook computer with a screen that swivelled 180 degrees and folded flat to become a stylus-operated PC. There have been a few touchscreen variants of these form factors released subsequently once Windows Vista provided the touchscreen interface option.

The “slate” or “tablet” form factor could exist as an alternative to the iPad and Android-based tablet computers; and they could allow for operation with small keyboards for word-processing and emailing. But the computer press have forgotten about the “convertible” notebook form factor which has seen some resurgence with some manufacturers running with “netvertibles” – netbooks that have a touchscreen which can swivel between a traditional layout and a tablet layout.

Windows 8 vs the Apple platforms.

Another article had raised issues about Windows 8 becoming a competitor for a subsequent version of Apple’s iOS platform, especially the iPad implementation.

But they also raised the spectre of it competing with the next version of MacOS X, known as “Lion”. The main factor about this is that Apple were viewing the MacOS platform as a “horizontal” platform and the iOS platform as a “vertical” platform; with scant mention of any touch-enabled Macintosh computers coming on the scene.

The possibility of a granular touch-based computer marketplace

What I would see with these touch-based operating systems is the ability for hardware manufacturers to provide a granular marketplace for touch-based computing devices. This means that there could be a touch-based computing device that could suit particular users’ needs and budgets.

It would range from the 7” coat-pocket tablets serving as an alternative to a dedicated ebook reader through 10” tablets like the iPad fulfilling most general-purpose “dedicated-tablet” needs to 13”-14” convertible notebooks appealing to those of us who do plenty of emailing, word-processing or similar work on the road.

Of course, the operating environments for units that are 10” or above will differ across the marketplace in a similar way to what is happening with the smartphones. Here, users may place emphasis on factors like software availability, operating-system flexibility, battery runtime and system performance as they choose the operating environment.

Conclusion

The proposed Windows 8 environment could then become a game change when it comes to the touch-based computing environment.

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Should your portable computer be a laptop or a tablet

Article

Business laptops reload | Technology Spectator

My Comments

You are thinking of a portable computer device that can stand between your smartphone and your regular 15”-17” laptop computer. But where do you go?

Tablet computers

Firstly, we have seen the tablets like the Apple iPad family and the newer crop of Android-powered tablet computers. These units have a touch-driven user interface and range between 7” for a unit that can be stuffed in to a large pocket on your coat) to a 10” unit that can sit on a coffee table. They are good for viewing previously-written material or performing limited data-entry tasks like responding to email in a brief manner, due to the nature of the touchscreen keyboard.

There has been talk of these tablet computers displacing netbooks in their computing roles but the netbooks can still work for some users when it comes to taking notes or responding to letters and they want a keyboard that they can feel properly.

Ultraportable / Subnotebook computers

On the other hand, you have ultraportable or subnotebook computers which typically range up to 14” and are optimised for portable use. These units will have a regular keyboard as well as the separate larger screen. Also, they run a regular desktop operating system in the Windows or MacOS X families, which allows them to run regular fully-functional software like Microsoft Office or work with a large range of computer hardware.

There have been some new examples of very capable 13” ultraportables that have been cited in this article. One was the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, which is Lenovo’s attempt to respond to Apple’s cool designs. This is even though it is built by a company preferred by corporate “fleet-computer” buyers due to inherent ruggedness and security features. Another is the Toshiba Portege R830 which is a lightweight Core i5-powered model with an integrated DVD drive and USB 3.0. Yet another emerges from Hewlett-Packard as the HP ProBook 5300m, a Core i5-powered subnotebook that has had its audio subsystem worked with Beats Audio technology.

The author who wrote the article for the Technology Spectator that I am commenting on even had prepared the manuscript for the article on the Lenovo X1 and had found that the proper-size keyboard had allowed him to do the job. This is in a similar experience to what I had when I reviewed the Dell Inspiron 13z last year for this site and found that this class of computer is a proper size for those of us who want a travel-friendly computer to type up work on. It is because these computers use a keyboard layout and area that is commensurate to a standard typewriter keyboard, thus allowing you to properly touch-type without your hands feeling cramped; and you also have the proper tactile feedback that you have when you operate these computers’ keyboards.

This form-factor has become very useful especially amongst those of us who do a lot of public-transport travel, especially air travel because the can easily fit on those economy-class airline tray tables; as I have seen for myself on my flight back from Sydney. Here I have seen a person who was sitting next to me have one of these machines on their airline tray-table just for viewing some video material; and they didn’t look cramped when they used that computer.

As well, they are highly valued for wireless-hotspot use because they could fit on a typical cafe table or a window / wall bench that is very common at these places. This is more so as a lot of us use the cafe as a “second office” where one can get on with their work without office-driven distraction.

The possibllity of convertible “bridge” computers

Manufacturers could consider placing in to their market “convertible” ultraportable computers that have a touchscreen so one can benefit from the bonuses of touchscreen computing as well as have something with a proper keyboard. This could be augmented with Windows 7 fully utilising its touch and tablet abilities and support for applications that have proper touch-operation benefits. Of course, there has to be improvements with battery runtime and the ability to work with multi-touch gestures.

As for “big-time” media who want to preserve their “tablet-editions” of their newspapers; they could also run desktop front-ends for the Windows platform to provide the newspaper experience to these touchscreen-enabled portable computers.

Conclusion

I would reckon that a secondary portable computer that you use should be dependent on what you intend to do with it. If you do intend to just use the device for reading and viewing material; and occasionally creating emails, I would go for a tablet computer. On the other hand, if you are doing a lot of correspondence or creating a lot of material like writing articles while out and about, a subnotebook / ultraportable could suit your needs better.

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Tablet computers – where are they really used and for what

I have read some articles about the new tablet computers like the Apple iPad and the Android-based units. People in the industry seem to pitch them as portable computers that are used as an alternative to a netbook. On the other hand, I read about these computers being used at home as a “lounge-room” computer that is used for Web-browsing, working the Social Web (Facebook, Twitter, etc) or watching YouTube clips.

It is interesting to see what you readers are using these computers for rather than just relying on what the press or manufacturers are running with concerning this class of computer.

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Simplifying login and authentication processes for WiFi hotspots

Articles

Wi-Fi body wants hotspots to override 3G • reghardware

From the horse’s mouth

Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ Hotspot Program to Ease Subscriber Connectivity in Service Provider Wi-Fi® Hotspots  – Press Release

Wi-Fi Alliance Webpage

My comments

One main thrust behind the Wi-Fi Alliance’s new initiative concerning authentication, authorisation and accounting on public hotspots was to permit a wireless-broadband carrier to use Wi-Fi hotspots as a complimentary cellular technology. This is to avoid the need to buy cellular-telephony spectrum in order to increase service capacity and is increasingly necessary as the available radio spectrum becomes increasingly scarce.

Here, a cellular carrier could run their own Wi-Fi hotspot networks like what Telstra is doing or they could form a partnership with a wireless Internet service provider like “The Cloud” in the UK as a way of providing this service. They could then allow for a customer to seamlessly hand over from a 3G network to a Wi-Fi network that supports these credentials.

The way this is going to operate is to use a SIM card in a smartphone to store credentials for Wi-Fi networks. This card is typically controlled by the cellular carrier and may be only used for login credentials that continue the carrier’s partnerships.

A limitation I find with this is that the carrier could implement software locks so that the customer can’t use public networks other than those provided for by the carrier or their partnership. As well, there are other issues that haven’t been looked at properly with this goal for improved authorisation, authentication and accounting on these networks as I list below.

Venue-controlled hotspots

It can also make life difficult for customers who use hotspots provided by venue owners like hotels or cafes. Here, the login experience is typically managed by the hotspot owner and this may require information like a session ID in the case of a hotspot at a bar or cafe, or a room number for a hotel. These may apply for hotspot service where you pay the premises owner for that service or the service is part of the business’s main operation. In some free hotspots, you may have to click on a form to assent to terms and conditions of the service before you continue using the service.

As well, a user could use a hotspot run by an independent wireless hotspot operator and buy their access themselves through a Web-based user interface before using the service.

What I would like to see is support for these kind of hotspots because the user interface that is provided by most of them can become awkward for people who use handheld devices. This is typically because most of these user interfaces are designed for devices like laptops rather than handheld devices.

The improved interfaces could support “app-style” login experiences including “remember-me” login experiences where applicable. Other improvements that could be facilitated include the use of barcodes that are scanned by the phone’s camera to load “session keys” for docket-controlled hotspots or MMS direct-load support for login tokens for “SMS login token” WISPS. It could then lead to a venue-branded experience which some users may find as a “safety net” for their hotspot experience.

As well, a branded experience can be part of a “walled-garden” of sites that a person can visit free of charge or can be a sophisticated experience with such things as an online menu or the ability to order food and drink from your computing device.

Similarly, the idea of “franchising” WISP service to owners of venue-controlled hotspots hasn’t been worked out fully with this technology. Here, a person could have the rights to resell a WISP’s service under varying risk-return models and have the clients associated with that service use their hotspot in exchange for a cut of the costs paid by the clients.

Selective device-cluster creation

It is also a preferred standard to have devices in a public network isolated at lower network levels in order to prevent unwanted peer-to-peer discovery of the devices on these networks. This is typically achieved through functions like “AP isolation” or “Wireless Network isolation” and makes it appear to the devices that they are connecting directly to the Internet privately.

There are situations where a person may want to provide local connectivity between their own devices or devices owned by other users that are in their trust circle. Examples of this include LAN-based gaming over a wireless hotspot network, workgroups sharing data during a cafe meeting; one shifting data between a smartphone and a tablet computer at a coffee lounge or simply uploading pictures from a Wi-Fi-enabled camera to a 13” traveller laptop at their favourite “watering hole”.

Here, the authentication needed for this could be achieved through “same-token” login for devices with integrated Web browsers to entry of MAC addresses or WPS PIN numbers into a “cluster-creation” screen provided by the hotspot gateway. The Wi-Fi Alliance could examine the feasibility of using the new authentication methods as a way of creating selective network clusters across a device-isolated public wireless network.

Authenticating hotspots at the SSID-discovery level

The other question that has not been answered as far as I am concerned is whether there will be a system for authenticating hotspots and public networks in a similar manner to what is done when a user logs on to a banking site for example. This is to verify that the user has discovered a “safe” network before they select that SSID and begin to login to the hotspot.

The data that would be verified would be the MAC addresses of the access points as well as the gateway device’s  IP address and MAC address. This can be used to verify that the user has logged in to a network that is operated by the venue that is providing the hotspot service. For a WISP like “The Cloud” or FON, this may be useful for verifying that users have logged in to the WISP’s network. In this case, this information may pertain to the locally-installed hardware for the WISP.

Here, this could be achieved through a private-key / public-key exchange setup where the successfully verified hotspots could at least be highlighted in a wireless network with a ?key” or green-light icon. If this system does also support the transmission of logo icons, the client device could also show a company logo for that hotspot host.

It can also work as a way of encouraging customers to be sure of where they are surfing the Web through. As well, a business could have a Windows 7 laptop or Blackberry smartphone that supports this kind of verification for public wireless networks to prohibit logging in to public wireless networks that don’t have this kind of verification.

The main issue with this is that independently-run cafes and bars may need to be able to have access to any certification setups at a modest price, preferably through a government business-support agency or their bank.

Conclusion

Once these issues are ironed out concerning the provision of public Wi-Fi Internet service to the hordes of users with notebooks, netbooks, smartphones and tablet computers, then they can use these services to full capability in a secure manner.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2011–Part 1

I am reporting on the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 which is currently running in Las Vegas. This year, the show is focused around the connected home and lifestyle and I am intending to run the report as a series due to the many trends occurring at this show.

Mobile Handsets and tablets

Most of the activity this year is centred around the smartphone and the tablet-based multifunction internet device (a.k.a. a tablet computer or “fondle-pad”). Here, the main operating system of choice is Google Android. There are two major versions being promoted at this show – Version 2.3 for the smartphones (and other devices) and Version 3.0 for the tablet devices.

This is also augmented by the fact that the US mobile-phone carriers are rolling out 4G wireless-broadband networks. These are either based on LTE technology or WiMAX technology and offer greater bandwidth than the current 3G technology used to serve the typical smartphone user with Facebook data. This leads to quicker content loading for the phone and access to IP-based multimedia.

Infact the “big call” that is being run by these carriers when promoting their devices is the “4G Android smartphone” as being the preferred device to start a mobile service contract on. This is more noticeable with Sprint who are using the “4G Android Smartphone” in their graphics for their online ads.

The Android handsets are coming thick and fast, especially from Samsung, HTC (Evo Shift 4G / Thunderbolt 4G) and Motorola (Cliq 2). The Motorola is also intended to support “call-via-WiFi” so as to offload call traffic via Wi-Fi networks including T-Mobile’s hotspots. This is achieved through the use of the “Kineto” app.

The HTC Evo Shift and Thunderbolt phones are also known to implement a slider design similar to some Nokia phones and use this design to expose a hard keyboard for text entry.

Samsung are going “tit for tat” with Apple by issuing an Android smartphone, MID or tablet device in response to Apple releasing an iOS device. Their answer to the iPod Touch was a Galaxy Player which is Android powered and uses a Super Clear LCD for its display.

Sony have also come up with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc mobile phone which has a display and experience as good is the iPhone 4 – the phone to be “seen” with.

As far as phones go, there hasn’t been any Windows Phone 7 action through this CES, but there have been some general innovations happening. One is to design a multi-core processor for handsets, tablets and similar devices. This design would have to be focused around power conservation in order to gain longer battery runtime for these devices. This has manifested in three “dual-core” smartphones being released by Motorola.

Similarly, there have been 40-80 of the tablet computer models being launched. This number may not account for different memory sizes for particular models or whether some models will come with wireless broadband or not. This is also the time that Google are putting the “Honeycomb” version of the Android operating system on the map. This version, Android 3.0, is optimised for the tablet user interface and uses more impressive user interfaces than what was used for Android 2.x in the tablet context. It therefore now sets the cat amongst the pigeons when it comes to a showdown concerning the iPad versus the Android 3.0 tablets.

Stay tuned to HomeNetworking01.info for more posts about the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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