techroundup

Weekly Tech Roundup: Apple TV, Google TV & More

This week has had some interesting announcements in the consumer technology market. It started with every paragraph from Steve Jobs’s much anticipated biography being turned into a news story. There was one quote from author and biographer Walter Isaacson’s latest work that caught everyone’s attention; Steve Jobs said he cracked what an Apple TV should be like. Valley hawk-eye Robert Scoble pointed to his insight on the product and a Bloomberg story further validated rumors of an Apple TV.

The Apple TV and upgraded MacBooks

According to the Bloomberg article, the Apple TV initiative is being led by Jeff Robbin–the guy behind iTunes. According to Nick Bilton at The New York Times, the Apple TV isn’t as much a television set as much an interaction innovation. Bilton says Siri will be key to Apple’s living room plans, not surprising seeing how Xbox 360 with Kinect is fast becoming everyone’s go-to device for living room entertainment. Knowing Apple’s tight hardware-software integration, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that there will be a full-fledged physical Apple television set.

In other Apple news, the company quietly updated their MacBook line of laptops. An anticipated upgrade is just a hardware specification bump and not the rumored slim MacBook Pro. Vlad Savov at This is My Next has the details (CPUs, GPUs and storage capacities have been increased).

Google: Android, Google+ and entertainment

Google’s failed Google TV attempt is getting another update, the company says there are updates to 4 areas of the software:

  • simpler UI
  • easier search
  • customized YouTube experience for Google TV
  • more apps

The two Google TV OEM partners—Logitech and Sony—will be rolling out the update in the coming weeks. With Google working on a better YouTube experience for Google TV, the company is working with artists and media organizations to offer original content on YouTube. Google calls these YouTube channels and according to Business Insider, 100 such channels from names like Jay Z, Wall Street Journal, Thomson Reuters, Madonna etc. are expected.

News about Google’s to-be-announced music store continued with the Wall Street Journal reporting about the company’s plans to integrate Google Music with Google+. Like Facebook and Spotify’s partnership, users will be able to share music on Google+.Google has a beta service at music.google.com where users can stream music from Google’s library or upload their music (the service has an Android app too).

In other news about the company, Android 4 or Ice Cream Sandwich won’t be supported on the first Nexus handset.

HP decides not to sell PC biz, Windows 8 tablets on the horizon

Continuing with consumer technology news, HP’s new CEO Meg Whitman has overturned ex-CEO Leo Apothekar’s decision to spin-off HP’s PC division. A controversial and baffling announcement from HP under Apothekar said they were looking for buyers to sell their PC division. That announcement did not go over well with the board of directors at HP and the press alike. A few days later, Apothekar was fired and Whitman replaced him.

Talking about the company’s comeback, Meg Whitman said HP will be partnering with Microsoft to produce Windows 8 based tablet PCs. For those aware, HP has their own mobile operating system called webOS and of now webOS’s future is still uncertain. There is news that Windows 8 is being tested on HP’s only popular webOS device–the TouchPad.

IBM Gets New CEO

Meg Whitman isn’t the only female CEO to make news in the past week. Tech giant IBM announced that senior VP, Virginia Rometty will be succeeding retiring CEO Sam Palmisano. Rometty takes over starting January 1, 2012.  All Things D has the official statement from IBM and some background on Virginia Rometty.

Nokia’s big week

Back to consumer technology, this was Nokia’s big comeback week. At London, Nokia officially unveiled their first Windows Phone 7 based handsets. The two handsets shown are Lumia800 (the Nokia N9 tweaked to run Windows Phone) and Lumia 710 (the Nokia C7 made to Windows Phone 7 specs).  Unfortunately, Nokia isn’t launching the phones in the US for this year’s holiday season. The Lumia 710 is expected to be Nokia’s first WP7 handset for the US and is expected to launch early 2012. The folks from This is My Next were in London following the event and have most of the details.

Ahead of their big unveiling, Nokia launched Nokia Maps for iOS and Android. The HTML5 website optimized for iOS and Android can be accessed at maps.nokia.com. Leaving the best for the last, Nokia showed a flexible mobile interface. The demo showed at Nokia World looks fun and the guys at Cnet got a video:

About Sony and Ericsson

The Sony and Ericsson partnership offered some interesting handsets initially. So far, as pointed out by VentureBeat, Sony’s tablet PCs and phones were being done separately. Given the importance of a cohesive user experience this was going to hurt Sony. The company has now bought Ericsson’s 50% stake in the partnership for $1.05 Billion. This deal now gives Sony control over their mobile portfolio (laptops, phones and tablets).

As for Ericsson, Om Malik at GigaOm points out that now Ericsson can focus on becoming a stronger player in the wireless internet service market.

Amazon’s billion dollar business and Netflix’s 800,000 losses

A product or service from a company becoming a Billion Dollar business is considered a major milestone. Amazon’s Q3 results announced last week did not meet the Wall Street’s expectations. After some math on the Q3 numbers and analyst projections, Derrick Harris at GigaOm says Amazon’s cloud service—AWS—is expected to be a Billion Dollar business as soon as a next year.

Netflix announced their Q3 results and it was disappointing. According to the numbers, the company lost close to 800,000 subscribers in the last quarter. (23.8 million total subscribers: 21.5 million streaming content and 13.9 million using DVD service.) The earnings reported by the company caused the stock to take a strong hit.

In a separate news story, a report called the 2011 Sandvine Internet Phenomena Report says Netflix uses 28% of the national bandwidth (that’s a lot of streaming!).

Technology and glamour

Soon Ashton Kutcher won’t be the only Hollywood star promoting his investments on-screen. Leonardo DiCaprio is now a technology startup investor too. DiCaprio’s first investment is Mobli—a mobile photo sharing app. He is a user of the app and was part of a $4 Million seed round.

Pink Panther star Steve Martin announced that he will be turning his tweets into a book. Reuters is reporting that the book will be called “The Ten, Make That Nine Habits, of Very Organized People. Make That Ten” and all profits from the book sales will be going to charity.

The third glamor and tech news this week comes courtesy Coldplay. I love Coldplay. I love Mylo Xyloto. According to reports, the band will not be making their album available to streaming services any time soon. Cnet says that Coldplay did not offer any reasons for the decision but is a major one given how most music labels are turning to services like Spotify and Rdio. A few weeks back, Rdio started offering only preview’s to Adele’s album 21.

Bill Gates talks to students

At the University of Washington, talking to students Bill Gates said being a billionaire is overrated (yeah, right!). Speaking to the Computer Science & Engineering department, Gates talked about how data is helping him in his fight against diseases and the possible impact of low data storage costs on generating more data. GeekWire’s Todd Bishop has great coverage of Bill Gates’s talk.

Two year ago, Microsoft’s office Labs division produced a video showing how the company sees the future of technology in 2019. The video was exciting and showed several fun concepts. The company has now released a new and updated vision video which is every bit as cool!

This week’s interesting reads:
Spooking Flipboard: Yahoo’s Livestand and Google’s Propeller Set to Launch Next Week
Online hackers threaten to expose [Mexican drug] cartel’s secrets
Facebook to build server farm on edge of Arctic Circle
New Law Would Require Warrants for GPS Surveillance
How people use tablets and what it means for the future of news