Apple and Samsung CEOs to meet by February 19th, give peace another chance


Previous attempts by Apple and Samsung to negotiate a truce in the patent wars haven’t exactly panned out, but they haven’t given up hope yet. The companies’ CEOs have just agreed to attend mediated settlement discussions no later than February 19th, potentially averting a trial in March (and likely future legal action). We’d like to believe that Apple and Samsung will finally reach an understanding, but we’re not optimistic given how long the two have been at each other’sthroats.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Samsung’s 105-inch curved UHD TV and 85-inch bendable screen hit retail this year


If you dug the 105-inch curved Ultra HD TV and bendable 85-inch UHD screen (above) Samsung debuted this week, we have good news. They’ll both hit retail sometime in the second half of this year, according to the tech giant. If you were expecting pricing info, well, you’re going to have to wait a little longer because we don’t have that just yet. However, it’s going to be at least six months before these sets hit stores, so we suggest you start saving your pennies right about now — unlike other options, we have a hunch that these beauties won’t be cheap.

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Chromebooks on a tear? Fear not: More horsepower coming

Chromebooks are finding a home in the education market. But as makers expand their lineups, the devices are expected to gain more processing power.


The lineup of HP, Dell, Toshiba, and Acer Chromebooks at Intel's CES booth.

The lineup of HP, Dell, Toshiba, and Acer Chromebooks at Intel’s CES booth.
(Credit: Brooke Crothers)

LAS VEGAS — As Chromebooks become more mainstream, they’ll gain more processing power to take on games.

Most Intel-based Chromebooks today come with Celeron processors — that’s a step below the low-end Core i3 processor.

New Dell and Toshiba Chromebooks — shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show this week for the first time — are both powered by Haswell, aka fourth-generation Core, Celeron chips.

While those processors, so far, have proved adequate for the low-cost laptops, that’s going to change later this year as the appeal of Chromebooks broadens and device makers expand their lines, according to a source at CES familiar with Intel’s Chromebook strategy.

Some Chromebooks will move up to Intel’s mainstream U series of Haswell processors, for example, the chip of choice for most Windows 8.1 ultrabooks.

That need will be driven, in part, by HTML5 gaming, which will require more horsepower than a Celeron can deliver, the source said.

The problem is, Celeron-based Chromebooks don’t use Intel’s higher-end Iris graphics silicon.

(An exception is the pricey Chromebook Pixel, which uses a mainstream Core i5 processor.)

So far, the Google Chrome OS-based laptops have been popular in the education market, but are expected gain traction in other segments where customers spend the majority of their time inside the Chrome browser, the source said.

report from the NPD Group last month showed the Google Chrome-based laptops grabbed about one-fifth of sales in commercial laptop channels — which the report said was largely shipments to educational institutions — in a 12-month period, up from virtually nothing the year before.

One reason for their popularity is price. They’re typically priced between $200 and $300. In addition, some organizations, such as those in education, only need Google services such as Google Docs and Google Drive, according to NPD.

The Dell Chromebook 11 will be available in January.

The Dell Chromebook 11 will be available in January.
(Credit: Dell)

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Xbox One’s first big update will address ‘the Live experience,’ expect streaming before E3


Xbox — and Microsoft in general — doesn’t really show up for CES. It’s not hard to understand why: for a big company like Microsoft, there’s no point in competing with the cacophony of voices shouting for attention. “Whenever we want, we can talk about Xbox stuff and get coverage. Why try to talk with 100,000 other things going on?” Xbox chief product officer Marc Whitten told us in an interview this week. Though Xbox isn’t here to show anything off, Whitten’s in town to meet with partners and, as he put it, “It’s just a good time to pop up and see an environmental scan you can get in an immediate dose.” After a long 2013 head down on the Xbox One launch, he’s finally got a second to take the temperature and see the world outside of Microsoft’s Bellevue, Wash. campus.

But we’re not here to ask Whitten about the past. Yes, he’s “really thrilled” with the console’s launch (over 3 million sold by the end of 2013). And yes, he’s very happy with the reaction from consumers. That doesn’t mean work’s over, of course. “There are seams in the product [XB1]. There are still seams in the 360, nothing’s ever done,” Whitten said. As such, first up on the fix docket is what Whitten called, “the Live experience.” Essentially, that’s much of the social features on the latest Xbox console. Whitten takes that stuff personally, having worked on Xbox Live as a service for the last 10 years:

“The feedback we’ve gotten is pretty valid; some of the social stuff is hidden or harder to use than it was on the Xbox 360. So you’re gonna see us come out with an update where, well, we’re going to fix those things. As a person who’s been pretty involved in building Xbox Live for the last decade, I take it pretty seriously when people say it’s harder to get into a party, and the defaults aren’t right, and I don’t like the model. So what I’m trying to do with the team is kind of theme some stuff up. Let’s take an update and really go through a big list of what we’re hearing from customers, what we know is broken with the architecture, areas that we want to improve or complete. I think that’s a theme you’ll really see us push on — that Live experience.”

Based on our conversation with Whitten, it sounds like those Live fixes are coming sooner than later. Promised game streaming functionality, however, may not be coming as quickly. “This is not 100 percent,” Whitten prefaced his statement with. “But my general strategy at E3 is to talk about things that are gonna happen from that E3 to the next E3. So, we are not yet to the next E3,” he added with a smile. So, uh, before June then!

Updates in general, though, will come much faster. While Whitten said we’ll still see the traditional large Dashboard updates, the Xbox One was designed around lessons learned from the 360 before it. One major facet of that design facilitates more regular updates. “The Xbox 360, which I’m still very very proud of, the software architecture was built in 2003. Rethinking [updates] based on everything we learned from 360 was a lot of what went into the Xbox One,” he told us. “You’re still gonna see the big, ‘Hey, here’s the cool stuff we’re doing.’ But you’re also gonna see the box just get better faster than you did in the past.”

First up on that front? “Everything from getting more apps out faster, some of the TV stuff — improving some of that, getting the scale of that internationally where we don’t have some of that. So I think you’re gonna see that come pretty quickly,” Whitten said.

The next big push for Microsoft’s Xbox One starts by March’s Game Developers Conference. As it turns out, the Xbox One gets its first major exclusive game that month in Titanfall as well. And hey, if you ask us, there’s serious incentive for Microsoft to have partying up perfected in time for Respawn Entertainment’s big game.

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Incredibly sketchy, thin, and unverified next-generation larger iPhone frame photos surface


Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 1.44.54 PM

The latest iPhone model came out just a few months ago, so that means that rumors and speculation about the next model are already emerging. Sometimes reliable CTech posted the above snaps on Weibo. They and others believe that the above kit represents frames for the rumored larger-screened iPhone. While such a device is due out later this year, the above photos appear to be incredible sketchy in nature. They are also completely unverified by us. The frames also look particularly thin, but in the age of the iPad Air, maybe there is some truth behind the blur.

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CES 2014: Haier announces first smart appliance with Apple’s MFi certification



Announced at CES this week in Las Vegas, Chinese electronic and appliance manufacturer Haier is notably the first in its industry to pick up Apple’s MFi certification for one of its products. Haier’s Tianzun air conditioner (press release) is the first smart appliance to pick up Apple’s Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad seal which notes Apple’s standards for ease-of-use, quality, and functionality were met. Haier, which manufactures other appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators, plans to implement the same connected technology found in its MFi air conditioner in other products as well potentially leading a move toward more user-friendly smart home appliances…

For many consumers, Apple’s MFi certification offers a vote of approval for a product that serves as a major marketing endorsement as well.

“It used to be complicated to control smart appliances, but it is very easy now. The operation is greatly simplified and all of us, including adults, children and the elderly, can use it as we want to,” a merchant from India at the exhibition said. Haier used Apple’s MFi technology successfully and thus created a simpler and more accurate intelligence appliance control experience for users. Users can use their phone, iPad or other mobile ports to control their smart appliances simply by pressing a key.

We’ve recently seen a new market of iOS compatible game controllers emerge, and being the first to meet Apple’s MFi standard has served as a differentiator in that market. Other MFi firsts from CES this week include Resound’s Bluetooth LE hearing aid and Sigma’s full-sized Bluetooth gaming controller.

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Yahoo Girds Its Loins For The Battle Over Your Home Screen

by  (@panzer)

The home screen as it stands cannot last. In reality, what we’re looking at is the end times for the traditional grid of icons that we’ve become so familiar with since the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

There is simply too much context available via the sensors, camera, radios and other inputs we carry around in our pockets not to take advantage of it.

The icon grid design was used in many early smartphones running Palm and Symbian and Windows Mobile. But the iPhone really launched that design into the public consciousness and then Google cemented it with the launch of the first touch screen Android device. I’m not here to argue about firsts, but Apple was essentially responsible for making the grid the ‘standard’ in the eyes of a lot of people — both iPhone users and people who picked up other smartphones running on other operating systems.

But, seven years later, the choices made by Apple to honor the grid demand re-examination. The thought process is relatively simple to disassemble. The grid had been used by other smartphone makers and even Apple’s Newton. It was simple, easy to understand and friendly to people who were being introduced to multitouch — which was for most people a brand new way to interact with touch screens. This was the same process which led it to utilize real-world allegories like bookshelves, page curls and ‘buttony’ buttons.

But that home screen belongs to a bygone era. We’re acclimated now and any new users of smartphones have the collective installed user base to help them along.

Now is the time that the home screen begins to take advantage of the thing that we’re going to be hearing an absolute junk ton about in 2014: context.

I have a ton more thoughts about why 2014 will be the ‘year of context’ for mobile software and hardware, but for our purposes it’s enough to point at a few recent trends. Among those are Google Now, Apple’s ‘Today’ section in Notification Center, Facebook Home, Cyanogen Mod and home screen customization companies like and, yes, Aviate.

These various products are all efforts to leverage the contextual signals that our mobile sensor platforms are able to collect and transmit. Where we are, who we are, what our intent is, what our environment looks and sounds like and what we do when we’re there. That context can be used to customize the way that our devices look, feel and work based on our own personal signals.

At this point, a home screen that customizes itself to you, personally, feels as inevitable as a well-worn pair of shoes.

TechCrunch columnist MG Siegler noted a symptom of this recently. The ‘first app you open’ in the morning is becoming more important real-estate than your home screen. In reality the first app you open when you turn on your iPhone is ’springboard’, the home screen. But up to this point it has remained relatively static, with only a couple of minor nods to active icons like the clock and calendar.

Android home screens have always been more malleable, allowing for personalization and customization on a deeper level. Which is why some people really like Android.

But this isn’t just about customization, it’s about reaction and organization on a contextual basis. Which brings us back to Yahoo’s recent acquisition, Aviate.


Aviate is a home screen replacement for Android that interprets signals from you, the user, to present you with the apps, content and alerts you want right when you need them or even before. It groups apps into automated collections. This makes the home screen simple and clean.

It also has elements of app discovery, says Aviate’s Mark Daiss. Aviate will look at the apps that you have and use the most and suggest more like it. The goal for the first run at Aviate was to cover roughly ’80%’ of a user’s day, says Daiss. That includes the major components like getting up, traveling, working and going to bed. From here on out it will be about fleshing out the moments in between.

Daiss credits Facebook Home for creating an awareness of what a launcher was and how a customized home screen could change the experience. Despite the fact that Home didn’t exactly turn out well, Daiss notes that other efforts like GoLauncher have seen success, with that offering currently clocking in at over 100 million installs on Google Play.

One of the reasons I believe Facebook Home’s initial try failed was that it was too insular. Even the most dedicated Facebook user needs more than just one network’s worth of information. That’s why I was curious about Yahoo’s plans for Aviate.

Yahoo SVP of Mobile and Emerging Products Adam Cahan says that the company isn’t interested in turning Aviate into some sort of ‘all Yahoo apps’ portal. For now, it will expand the beta program and get more users checking it out. “Think of this as an extension of [Yahoo] Search,” Cahan says. 6.Location

The extension of search metaphor is an apt one, as contextually aware home screens will be all about using anticipatory ‘searching’ through our apps, habits and use cases to provide us with better experiences. Aviate will now be able to tap deeply into Yahoo data like search, weather, maps and more to inform contextual experiences. But, Daiss is careful to note, Aviate will still choose the best, most definitive data source possible — even if that’s not from Yahoo. With the best data comes the best experiences.

Daiss lays down the core components of what he feels a contextual computing experience are. First, it needs the right input signals, then it needs the information that’s pertinent to the situation and then it has to provide the right user experience.

Part of what they’ve discovered at Aviate is that this experience often involves offering information and context from inside the apps right out on the home screen. But this isn’t a one-shot widget, this is a continuously personalized experience.

One of Aviate’s more popular features is a ‘swipe down’ screen that can offer you context from inside various apps at any given moment. Swipe down at a restaurant and you might get information about what’s good to eat there from Foursquare or Yelp. Swipe down at home and you’ll get alarm settings, a do not disturb toggle and a schedule of meetings.

If you’re an iOS user and this is sounding familiar, yes, this is why Apple acquired Cue. Because its swipe down ‘today’ section has the seeds of this kind of contextual computing, but it needs a lot of water and care to grow. Control Center and Notification Center need to grow up, quickly. (It’s also, I feel, one of the major reasons Apple changed its design so drastically with iOS 7 — it needed a more flexible framework to build within.)

Aviate and other intent-based home screens are champing at the bit to offer people a better experience. And Google Now has an immense amount of head start simply by virtue of the enormous amount of data it has from its users.

Unfortunately, once you start talking about how much these intent-based systems know about us and can anticipate our needs, the spectre of the NSA and government spying programs rears its head. Yahoo, Google and Apple were all targeted for data collection and that’s unlikely to go away. There are some incredibly complex and sticky moral quandaries headed our way with this new contex-heavy world, but that’s probably a discussion best handled in a focused chat about the trend.

For now, we have Yahoo acquiring Aviate in order to make sure that it has a hand in this new world of context-based software. It has the resources to juice the back end with user data, and it’s going to be a big platform for Aviate as a (relatively) agnostic prototype of the custom home screen. And if it’s turning and burning as much as it appears to be on mobile, Yahoo is very interested in how this battle for the home screen turns out.

What’s intriguing about this is that it’s very much a ‘technology company’ move. So much of the confusion about Yahoo and its new direction — I feel — has been rooted in the inability by some to come to grips with the fact that Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer is comfortable thinking of the company as both, and so are her new lieutenants. Yahoo has an enormous amount to prove still. No amount of hot young talent Botox is going to magically turn the company around.

But I don’t find the company’s investments in technology confusing. In this new contextual computing age, if you’re a media company not investing in your own technology, you’re probably not being…anticipatory enough.

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Vizio at CES 2014: affordable 4K, updated PCs, and speakers that run Android

By Chris Welch


Vizio came to CES with a goal in mind: winning the 4K pricing wars. The company’s new 4K TVs start at only $999.99, though it’s also unveiled an impressive Reference Series for videophiles. Vizio also used CES to deliver updates to its laptops and all-in-one PCs, and even debuted something of an oddball product: speaker docks that run the Android operating system.

Windows 8.1 update images pop up online

One Web site claims the spring update to Windows 8.1 won’t just be a traditional service pack.


Windows 8.1 in its current incarnation.

Windows 8.1 in its current incarnation.
(Credit: Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET)

An update to Windows 8.1 reportedly planned for the spring is now showing off online via a series of leaked screenshots.

Served up by Russian Web site Wzor, the images show the same internal version numbercurrently found in Windows 8.1 Pro (version 6.3.9600) but the full build number is intentionally blanked out. Assuming the images are accurate, that means the update won’t carry with it Windows 8.2. But it won’t be a simple service pack or collection of security updates, at least according to Wzor.

Instead, the update is being dubbed a new and updated RTM (release-to-manufacturing) release of Windows 8.1, although Wzor’s screenshots don’t reveal anything different from the current version. The final build will be available around March, Wzor claims, and then launch publicly on April 1 as a free upgrade to Windows 8.1 users. The update would reportedly be available through the standard Windows Update service and as a standalone installation package.

The new build itself has not been fully leaked online, according to Wzor. However, it will enter wider distribution after January 14, at which time the full build may surface. The public rollout of the update is being geared to coincide with Microsoft’s Build 2014 conference, which will run from April 2 to 4. That timeframe gibes with information provided last year to ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley claiming that Microsoft will release a spring 2014 update to Windows 8.1.

(Via Neowin)

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