October 18, 2017

Bits Blog: Google Buys Nik to Lure Photographers to Google Plus

The Snapseed app for the iPhone. The Snapseed app for the iPhone.

Google said on Monday that it had acquired Nik Software, a company that makes tools for editing and sharing photos. It is Google’s latest defensive move against Facebook and part of its strategy to become a photo-sharing hub.

Facebook’s dominance in photo uploading and sharing was strengthened by its acquisition of Instagram, which closed this month. Meanwhile, Google Plus — which also announced on Monday that it had 400 million users, 100 million of them active — has been trying to attract both professional and amateur photographers to Google Plus.

Though Nik, which is based in San Diego with offices in Germany and elsewhere, is outside the Silicon Valley bubble, it has a following among serious photographers. The companies did not disclose the acquisition price, though one person briefed on the deal said it was significant because Nik has more than 100 employees and is 17 years old.

Nik’s most well-known product is Snapseed, a mobile app for editing and sharing photos that Apple  named iPad app of the year in 2011. It has more sophisticated photo editing tools than Instagram, but it is not nearly as popular. Snapseed is available only for Apple devices but will come to Android soon (and probably a lot sooner now that Google owns it). Many of Nik’s other products are aimed at professional photographers.

Facebook says its user upload more than 300 million photos a day, many more than on Google Plus or any other Web site. Google declined to say how many photos its users upload.

But Google Plus does offer special tools for photos. For sharing them, Google Plus’s mobile app automatically uploads cellphone photos to a private folder on Google Plus, so they are backed up and can easily be shared. Users can also upload and download high-resolution photos.

With Nik and other services, Google is trying to differentiate itself from Facebook and other photo-sharing sites with more advanced photo editing. Google, which owns Picasa and Picnik, the online photo editor, has incorporated their high-end tools into Google Plus, including adjusting light and pixel size, sharpening or softening colors and applying filters.

Google seems most interested in Nik’s mobile and online tools and how they can improve Google Plus. Google declined to say whether or when it would discontinue any of Nik’s other products, like desktop software for professional photographers.

“We want to help our users create photos they absolutely love, and in our experience Nik does this better than anyone,” Vic Gundotra, senior vice president at Google in charge of Google Plus, wrote on Google Plus.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/google-buys-nik-to-lure-photographers-to-google-plus/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bits Blog: Amazon Unveils New Kindles

Mr. Bezos closes out the event. “We are not building the best tablet at a certain price; we’re building the best tablet at any price,” he said.

Thanks for following along and watch for our article on the event shortly.

In case you wanted more acronyms: Mr. Bezos announces the Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE. It has 32 gigabytes of memory and will cost $499. The data plan will cost $50 a year for 250 megabytes. It ships Nov. 20 and can be ordered today.

The most significant announcement so far today is the price of the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD — $300. Amazon is undercutting Apple’s 9.7-inch Pad by $200, shaving off a tiny bit of screen to bring the price down.

Amazon’s $500 version of the Kindle Fire HD outdoes the iPad in a number of ways, too. It includes 4G LTE cellular connectivity and 32GB of storage. The cheapest 4G LTE iPad costs $630 with 16GB of storage.

Brian X. Chen

Mr. Bezos is stressing that he wants Amazon to make money when people use Kindle devices, not when they buy them — i.e., the money comes from sales of media and other Amazon products. “We don’t need you to be on the upgrade treadmill,” he says. “We’re happy that people are still using Kindle 1’s that are five years old.” He’s taking a swipe at Apple by saying there is no justification for a $499 tablet.

The 7-inch version of the Kindle Fire HD will cost $199 and ships Sept. 14. The 8.9-inch version will cost $299 and ships in November. Both come with 16 gigabytes of memory.

Mr. Bezos is showing a television ad for the new Kindle Fire HD and talking about the content available for the device, all its new features.

Mr. Bezos is demonstrating the new Kindle Fire HD on stage. He’s playing games, watching movies and listening to music. The screen looks bright and sharp. Unlike the first version of the Kindle Fire, which was slow and clunky, the interactivity on the Kindle Fire HD seems fast and responsive.

Kindle Free Time, a new feature, allows you to set time limits for different kinds of content on the Kindle Fire HD. Mr. Bezos said he sets time limits for when his children can use games, watch movies or read a book.

Mr. Bezos is talking a lot about interactivity and social media. He said Skype, Facebook, Microsoft and others have built custom applications for the new Kindle Fire HD.

Introducing X-Ray for movies on the Kindle Fire HD. Mr. Bezos says users will be able to click on an actor in a movie and find out more about him or her, using the IMDB database, which Amazon owns. (A similar X-Ray feature lets you see where characters appear in books on black-and-white Kindles.)

The larger of the two Kindle Fire HD models has an 8.9-inch display with 16 gigabytes of storage. That compares with the iPad, which has a 9.7-inch display with 16 gigabytes of storage, for $500 with Wi-Fi, or $630 with Wi-Fi and a 4G cellular connection. Pricing is yet to be announced for the larger Kindle Fire HD. That model also adds a new front-facing camera with Skype integration, which competes with the front-facing camera on the iPad and Apple’s FaceTime videoconferencing features.

Brian X. Chen

The new Kindle Fire HD will have better Wi-Fi, Mr. Bezos says. The Wi-Fi is now on the 5-gigahertz band. The device will also have two antennas, compared to the iPad and other tablets which have one, he says. Also adding MIMO, or “multiple input and multiple output,” to the device. With all the new technology and antennas, the Kindle HD will have 41 percent faster Wi-Fi than the latest iPad, Mr. Bezos says.

Mr. Bezos discussing the Kindle Fire HD.Mr. Bezos discussing the Kindle Fire HD.

Mr. Bezos introduced a new Kindle Fire called the Kindle Fire HD. It comes in two sizes, including a larger version with an 8.9-inch display that has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels. It has dual stereo speakers, rather than the one speaker in the current Fire. Mr. Bezos says it is the first tablet to have Dolby Digital Plus audio.

Mr. Bezos moves on to the new Kindle Fire, which he says is 40 percent faster than the previous model and has longer battery life. It is priced at $159 and ships Sept. 14. “In less than a year, Kindle Fire is 22 percent of tablet sales in the U.S.,” Mr. Bezos says.

Amazon is releasing a new type of book that will come in episode form. Buy once, and receive all the future “episodes.” This is a new experiment, Mr. Bezos said. Getting the updates is automatic and seamless. (He keeps referring to them as “episodes.”) Kindle Serials will cost $1.99 each, including all of the episodes.

Mr. Bezos says Amazon has sold 3.5 million of its Kindle Singles, short-form e-books. Stephen King, Lee Child and others have written Kindle Singles.

Mr. Bezos is talking about the direct publishing model it has been offering. Mr. Bezos says that of the top 100 paid Kindle books, 27 are created through Kindle’s direct publishing service. Now he’s showing a video of authors that were unable to sell a book to a publisher, but then became best-sellers on Amazon through its publishing service.

The old Kindle e-reader has been updated too. It is now going to cost $69. It has improved screen resolution and software updates.

A version of the Kindle Paperwhite that has free 3G data service will cost $179. The non-3G version is $119. Both will be released in October but can be ordered now.

Mr. Bezos says the new Kindle has an 8-week battery life. “You won’t have to charge it until Halloween,” he jokes.

The new Kindle now has author biographies, just like the backs of paper books. When you click on the author bio you can see other books written by that author and then purchase them directly from the Kindle Paperwhite.

Amazon has introduced new fonts for the Kindle, including Palatino, Helvetica and Futura. (In the past the Kindle gave only these options: regular, condensed and sans serif.) There are now six fonts on the Kindle.

Amazon is finally putting its acquisitions to good use with the latest updates to the Kindle. The new touchscreen added to the Paperwhite likely comes from its acquisition of TouchCo, a start-up it purchased in 2010 that specializes in touch-screen technology. The light system used on the new Kindle is likely from Oy Modilis, a Finnish company Amazon also bought in 2010.

“It’s thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paper,” Mr. Bezos says. The screen looks like it’s backlit, but it uses a new technology developed by Amazon where the light comes from the screen’s bottom edge. The touch-sensitive bit is layered on top, rather than below, as it was before. This creates better touch accuracy and a thinner design.

The new Kindle Paperwhite is lighter and thinner than the previous Kindle. Mr. Bezos says its screen has 212 pixels per inch, which is 62 percent more than the previous Kindle (167 pixels per inch).

Amazon is showing a video of customers who “love” their Kindle. They are talking about a new Kindle: it has a sharper screen and new fonts, and it’s lighter. “This is exactly what ‘Star Trek’ promised me would happen,” one person says.

Mr. Bezos is talking about Amazon as a service, not a gadget. “Kindle Fire is a service. What does it mean for a hardware device to be a service? It greets you by name,” he says. “It has the lowest prices on content, it keeps your place for you, it keeps all of your content in the Amazon cloud, backed up, worry-free.” But don’t forget the hardware: “Hardware is a critical part of the service, absolutely essential.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, on stage on Thursday.Nick Bilton/The New York TimesJeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, on stage on Thursday.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, is on stage. He played a new TV ad that shows off Amazon’s innovations over the years, from Kindles to fashion. “We love to invent,” he says. “We love to pioneer.”

Journalists have filed into the dark airplane hangar where the press conference is being held. “Maneater,” by Hall Oates, is mysteriously playing on the loudspeakers.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/live-updates-from-amazon-press-event/?partner=rss&emc=rss

DealBook: Research in Motion, Struggling, Ponders a Dim Future

Thorsten Heins, president and chief executive of Research in Motion, is under pressure to turn around the company.Julie Fletcher/Bloomberg NewsThorsten Heins, president and chief executive of Research in Motion, is under pressure to turn around the company.

After rejecting the idea of a sale for months, Research in Motion acknowledged on Tuesday that it was considering “strategic business model alternatives” — or in banker’s speak, RIM, which makes the BlackBerry, said it was pondering a potential deal for all or parts of the company.

But did it wait too long?

A year ago, RIM, a Canadian company, became the subject of takeover rumors, after Google’s $12.5 billion deal for Motorola Mobility. Then, analysts believed that RIM would draw interest from Microsoft, Amazon.com or any number of Chinese phone manufacturers who could afford what would have been a pricey deal.

The company’s executives rebuffed the idea, arguing that RIM was on the verge of a turnaround. New phones were coming that combined touch-screens with BlackBerry’s e-mail and security features. And the PlayBook, with an industrial-strength operating system, could stand toe to toe with the iPad.

But RIM’s prospects have withered since. In March, the company disclosed that its quarterly sales had plunged 20 percent from the previous quarter, as customers migrated to iPhones and Android devices. The company warned on Tuesday that it expected another loss.

The weakness is reflected in the stock’s sharp decline. RIM’s market value is just $5.4 billion, down roughly 76 percent from a year ago. Its share price fell slightly on Thursday, to $10.33.

“Buying this stock is like going to the casino,” analysts at National Bank Financial wrote in a research note on Wednesday.

Now, executives appear to be reluctantly admitting they need to make a change. On Tuesday, the company said that it is conducting a strategic review. As part of its effort, RIM tapped JPMorgan Chase and RBC Capital Markets to help assess its potential options.

Those efforts may not lead to a sale, but instead partnerships with other companies or the licensing of BlackBerry software. Earlier this year, RIM’s chief executive, Thorsten Heins, disavowed any need to consider “drastic change.”

Ehud Gelblum, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote in a note — entitled “No Happy Ending in Sight” — on Wednesday that he did not believe RIM was seeking to sell itself as a whole, but may consider outsourcing its network operating center or selling off parts.

That may be the best option. Earlier this year, the sales prospects for RIM did not look promising. A few analysts believed that RIM did not have “much to offer” a potential buyer.

The company’s prospects may have deteriorated in the intervening months. Some analysts indicate that RIM may only be worth the total value of its patents and its cash, roughly $1.8 billion. It is unclear what the patents may fetch, though analysts at Jefferies estimated last fall that the intellectual property could bring $1 billion to $2.5 billion.

Should RIM put itself on the auction block, it may find the universe of potential buyers remains fairly small. Microsoft, long considered a possible suitor, has been focused on its new Windows operating system and its tie-up with Nokia. Amazon.com has cast its lot with a version of Google’s Android. And buyers in China and India may face complaints from important BlackBerry customers like the United States and Canadian governments.

And patience isn’t necessarily a virtue in deal-making.

Take Yahoo, which Microsoft offered to buy for nearly $45 billion in 2008. The talks quickly cratered, and a deal never panned out. Yahoo has since run through three chief executives and cast about for a new business model.

It has agreed to sell about half of its stake in the Alibaba Group of China, a move that will generate cash that can be paid out to investors. And it has revamped its board.

But it is unclear whether such efforts will make up for Yahoo’s 58 percent drop in value since Microsoft’s takeover attempt.

Then there is Palm Inc., which is often compared with RIM at this stage. Having failed to gain traction with a series of devices built on its own smartphone operating system, the company began a sales process several years ago, drawing in five bids.

One suitor, Hewlett-Packard, was pressured into raising its offer by 20 percent, and ultimately paid $1.2 billion to win the bidding. The deal represented a 23 percent premium to the smartphone maker’s closing price from the day before the offer was announced in 2010. Yet by that point, Palm’s stock price had dropped 50 percent over the previous 12 months.

Still, there’s some hope left for RIM. Motorola Mobility had largely been left for dead by August 2011, trailing Samsung and H.T.C. in the race for Android device dominance. Then Android’s creator, Google itself, arrived with a bid carrying a whopping 63 percent premium, spurred by the valuable patents that Motorola held.

Article source: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/research-in-motion-struggling-ponders-a-dim-future/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Poll on iPhone and iPad Finds Consumer Confusion on Apple’s Manufacturing

Apple, meanwhile, remains a hugely popular American company. More than three-quarters of respondents said they had a very favorable or mostly favorable opinion of Apple.

The Times poll found that most Americans considered it very important to buy American-made products.

Over all, 52 percent of the public said it was very important that the products they buy were made in the United States; only 42 percent of owners of Apple products agreed.

Outsourcing, they say, is clearly a cause of fewer jobs domestically. And two-thirds of the public wants American companies to shoulder a lot of responsibility to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.

“Things would be more expensive if they were made here, and companies want to cut costs. Everything seems to be about money,” said Dannie Gilchrist of Oskaloosa, Iowa, in a follow-up interview. “I would be willing to pay more for items manufactured here,” he added, volunteering that he owned an iPad. “I think if people knew products were made entirely overseas they wouldn’t buy as much of them.”

Owners of Apple products were largely aware that Apple products had a large foreign manufacturing component. Most, 54 percent, said they were made partly in the United States and partly overseas, 18 percent said entirely overseas, 8 percent said entirely in the United States and 20 percent said they did not know.

“I had no idea where they are made. But 90 percent of the products we have in America are made overseas,” Mariann Bellville of Haverhill, Mass., said. “We don’t like it, but we don’t have a heck of a choice. You can’t get a coffee pot made totally in this country.”

The poll, conducted Nov. 18-21, interviewed 951 adults using both landlines and cellphones. Percentages for all adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points; for owners of Apple devices it is plus or minus five percentage points.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cdc7a197b3059f32315f2ab6687ae248

Bits Blog: Digital Textbooks From a Company Not Named Apple

A start-up called Chegg is releasing a new online service to let people read electronic textbooks on iPads and computers.A start-up called Chegg is releasing a new online service to let people read electronic textbooks on iPads and computers.

There’s an old saying that if you want to be a leader and you see a parade, jump in front of it. So it is with digital textbooks, an area that’s about to experience the high-tech equivalent of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as Apple prepares to push into the business.

Apple’s parade will commence on the stage of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York on Thursday, when the company is expected to announce a foray into electronic textbooks in front of an audience of invited media. Hopping out in front of the Apple spectacle is a start-up called Chegg that rents physical textbooks and is releasing a new online service on Wednesday to let people read electronic textbooks on iPads and computers.

Chegg’s new eTextbook Reader is a Web site, but it is written in the new HTML5 programming language, which allows Chegg to simulate the experience of using a mobile app written specifically for a device like the iPad. While browsing a book on the site, people can mark text with yellow highlighter, add notes like the ones they would normally scrawl in the margins of a printed textbook and submit questions to be answered by other Chegg customers.

Creating the site in HTML5 means Chegg users will be able to access their textbooks and related marginalia from any device with a browser and an Internet connection.

Dan Rosensweig, president and chief executive officer of Chegg, said in an interview that the company was not introducing the service now because of Apple’s event later this week, which he said he had not been briefed on. Mr. Rosensweig said that Chegg had been working on its new service for more than a year, and that it wanted to make it available the week after the International Consumer Electronics Show, which was last week in Las Vegas.

Still, he said he was not disappointed by the attention he expected Apple to bring to the category. “We like whenever Apple enters a field because it creates focus,” he said.

In the past, Chegg has offered its customers the option of accessing electronic versions of textbooks. Mr. Rosensweig said that electronic textbooks were currently only about 3 to 6 percent of Chegg’s business, and that he did not expect the huge textbook market to go digital overnight. But he believes the numbers of people using them will grow quickly in the next few years.

“This year’s eighth grader is not going to go to college without demanding that these things are available,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c27f2a981479319e18effd884f3d3f77

Apple’s Chief Receives Stock Worth $376 Million

The new chief of Apple, Timothy D. Cook, received a one-time stock award worth nearly $400 million, the largest given by a company in a decade.

The company’s board granted Mr. Cook one million restricted stock units to signal its confidence in him after Steven P. Jobs turned over the helm of the company to his longtime lieutenant.

The stock award, half of which vests in 2016 and the remaining half in 2021, was worth more than $376 million, based on the closing price of Apple’s shares on Aug. 24, 2011, the company said Monday in a public filing.

“As far as a singular award, we haven’t seen anything this large in a long time,” said Aaron Boyd, head of research at Equilar, an executive compensation data firm.

The only one-time stock award in recent memory that was worth more, said Mr. Boyd, was the January 2000 stock option package that Apple gave its co-founder, Mr. Jobs. The 40 million options in that award were valued at more than $600 million at the time, Mr. Boyd said.

Mr. Jobs, who was ousted from Apple in the mid-1980s, returned to the company in 1997 and transformed Apple with a string of hit products including the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

Mr. Jobs died in October after a years-long battle with cancer.

Mr. Jobs received $1 a year in salary during the past three years, according to the filing, while Mr. Cook received a salary of about $900,000 in 2011.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=324ecd695c8dd9e43aa5143f63a6d2fb

Shopping at the Last Minute? No Worries Online

On Friday, more than 2,000 retailers will be participating in one of the greatest made-up holidays of modern times: Free Shipping Day. Household names like Sephora, Barnes Noble, Toys “R” Us, ShopBop, Harry David and Nordstrom are dropping their shipping fees for 24 hours.

You can browse the complete list of participating retailers at FreeShippingDay.com and possibly save enough to buy a cup of Starbucks Christmas blend.

If you want to slip a restaurant gift certificate into someone’s stocking or (not that we’re hinting or anything) take a colleague out for a holiday lunch, browse Coupons.com. Amid the discounts for Cheerios and Mountain Dew you will find discounted gift certificates to local restaurants like Boom, the Italian joint on Spring Street in Manhattan, and HK in Hell’s Kitchen, where $25 gift certificates sold for $10 last week.

Another easy 11th-hour gift: magazine subscriptions. You can save by buying them through DiscountMagazines.com, where some yearly subscriptions, a few including iPad versions, are available for $5.95 (The Atlantic Monthly, Fast Company, Outside Magazine, Parents Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens).

Some of the best deals can be had by joining your favorite retailer’s e-mail list and letting the deals come to your in-box. To streamline the sign-up process, you can register for e-mail alerts for multiple retailers at once on sites like Rather-Be-Shopping.com. When a coupon is added that meets your criteria, you’ll get a message. The site also posts coupon codes. This week there were savings for Levi’s, Philosophy and Gaiam.

For gift ideas as well as discounts, catch-all sites — FatWallet.com, CouponMountain.com, CouponWinner.com, CouponCraze.com, Retailmenot.com and CouponAlbum.com — will give you an overview of the cluttered discounting landscape and enable you to hunt for deals by store category or most popular promotion. CouponCabin.com had discounts this week for Godiva, Reebok, REI, TheKnot.com and the Discovery Channel store. Last week, PromotionalCodes.com noted sitewide sales at Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Steve Madden. And Savings.com had discounts for popular gift destinations like Brookstone, Wine.com and 1-800flowers.

And remember: just because Black Friday, another made-up shopping holiday, has come and gone does not mean that sites known for tracking Black Friday bargains, like Bfads.net, have stopped posting seasonal deals. The tagline on the reliable and well-researched deals site DealNews.com says it all: “Where every day is Black Friday.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4176cccba3442e56a9bce8b8e3b42b53

Quick and Easy Shopping for Tablet Users

The makers of these devices have added to their software the capability to send personalized gifts, easing the strain on gift-givers and perhaps also ending the era of handing out less thoughtful gift cards. Each system varies, though, in how to give the gift and what can be given. Here is a primer on how to give gifts to your favorite owners of the most popular tablets.

Apple

Since its introduction in 2010, the iPad has become by far the dominant tablet on the market. To send music, videos, audio books and apps as gifts, you need to download iTunes to your computer, or use your iPhone or iPad to gain access to the iTunes store, and register with an account name and password.

When you find the gift you want to buy, click the arrow to the right of the Buy button and choose the Gift option. It will send you to the Give a Gift page, where you can fill in the recipient’s name and e-mail address, and send a message.

You can e-mail the gift as a link or print it out and give it in person. Recipients simply click on the link and the song, album, television show, movie or app will download to their iTunes library, ready to play or sync to an iPod, iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. For more details, see the gift information on the iTunes Web site.

Amazon

The Kindle Fire, just introduced in November, is expected to move Amazon into second place in the global media tablet market this quarter, with a 13.8 percent share of the market, according to IHS iSuppli research. ISuppli predicts that nearly four million Fires will be sold through year-end. The firm predicts that Apple will ship an estimated 18.6 million iPads in the quarter for a commanding 65.6 percent share.

The Kindle line also includes dedicated e-book readers — Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G.

To give electronic books for Kindle owners, visit the Kindle Store, and use the Give as a Gift option there. You must have or sign up for an Amazon account to complete the transaction.

For books, you can send your gift through e-mail, and the recipient can read it on his or her Kindle, on a free reading app on a mobile device or on Kindle’s Cloud Reader. If recipients already own the book they received, they can exchange it by using an Amazon gift credit.

To send music through Amazon’s MP3 store, the process is the same. In a few steps, the recipient can download and listen on an MP3 player or on Amazon’s Cloud Player. (The player is a browser-based digital music player that gives a listener access to music stored on his or her own free and secure Amazon Cloud Drive.) At the moment, the only way to designate a gift for apps and video to be played on the Fire is through Amazon’s Gift Cards, which can be bought and delivered by physical mail (if there’s enough time), by e-mail or by Facebook (if you link your Amazon and Facebook accounts), or can be printed out to present in person. A brief personalized message can be added to describe your intended gift.

Barnes Noble

The book retailer now has three tablets — Nook Simple Touch, Nook Color and its latest Nook Tablet, which competes directly with the Kindle Fire. IHS iSuppli predicts that the company will ship 1.3 million tablets this quarter, coming in fourth place just behind Samsung.

With the new Instant Gifting feature on its Web site, Barnes Noble allows you to give Nook books and apps, including the time-eating favorites Angry Birds, Scrabble and Solitaire. Gifts can be sent instantly through e-mail.

Your eGift recipient is notified by e-mail and can claim the gift by clicking on the included link. Once the gift is accepted, the recipient can get to the book or app through his or her Nook Library. Books can be read on a Nook, or on a free Nook Reading app for smartphones, computers and mobile devices. Apps can be retrieved only on a Nook Color or Nook Tablet.

Barnes Noble also offers eGift Cards for other purchases. If you buy the wrong book or app, don’t worry. Recipients can exchange Nook books and apps for an eGift Card.

Kobo

The now-defunct Borders once held a small stake in Kobo, which may be how some people are familiar with the brand. But Kobo, a Canadian e-reading company, has other backers and is continuing to offer new products like the Kobo Vox. The Vox features a multimedia screen optimized for reading outdoors, and gives owners access to the Web, e-mail, music, video and thousands of Android apps.

Kobo has a supporting cast of devices, including Kobo Touch, Kobo Touch with offers and sponsored screens, and Kobo Wi Fi.

Kobo, too, allows you to send electronic books as gifts. Visit the Web site, browse the store, purchase a title and send it electronically with a personalized Kobo holiday e-mail that can be delivered on a specific date.

For other gifts, Kobo offers eGift Cards. Customers can define the amount they would like to give and send the gift electronically. Recipients can read their e-books on all platforms on which Kobo is available, including Apple products, BlackBerry, Android, computers and other devices.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=67d3509899ce095d9b2192e7065c4347

State of the Art: Epson’s Megaplex Is a Home Theater Powered by iPhone

These days, this business of phone-as-brain goes way beyond stand-alone apps. Nowadays, the iPhone handles the computing, connection and display tasks for a huge range of hardware from other companies. Why should they jack up their products’ prices by selling you a screen, memory, processor, microphone, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you’ve already got all of that in your pocket?

There are blood pressure monitors (iHealth), bathroom scales (Withings), physical activity monitors (Jawbone), sleep monitors (Zeo), credit card readers (Square), security cameras (iZon), remote-control helicopters (Parrot) and, of course, about 73,001 speaker systems. All of them rely on the iPhone as a brain.

Until the Epson Megaplex came along, however, one screamingly obvious iPhone accessory didn’t seem to occur to anybody: a home theater projector.

Why is it such an obvious idea? Because these days, millions of people carry around their photos, videos and music on their iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches. The world is teeming with charging docks that also play their music. It shouldn’t have taken so long for someone to create a dock that also plays the photos and videos.

But that’s what the Megaplex does. Tucked in the back is a retractable tray containing the standard charging connector for Apple i-gadgets. Insert your phone, iPad or Touch, and suddenly you can play its music through the Megaplex’s speakers — or view its TV shows, videos, slide shows and presentations on a screen, wall or ceiling, 300 inches diagonally.

Now, there have been projectors for Apple devices, which throw a 40-inch image onto the wall with 40 lumens of brightness, requiring a totally dark room. But the Megaplex is a true desktop projector, like the ones you find in boardrooms and home theaters. It pumps out 2,800 lumens, which is enough to see even with the lights on or sunshine coming in.

But if you do create a completely dark room for the Megaplex, oh boy; 2,800 lumens in 720p hi-def looks stunningly bright and clear. Like a movie theater in your home, which I guess is the point.

From Epson’s perspective, the Megaplex wasn’t such a stretch; the company already makes a wide range of projectors, some very similar to this one, that don’t have the iPhone connector.

In fact, there are two Megaplexes. The nicer one is the MG850HD; it costs $650 online and offers that 2,800-lumen, hi-def picture. You can save about $100 by buying its little brother, the MG-50, which isn’t hi-def and offers 2,200 lumens. (Tip: Go for the nicer one.)

You might think that $650 is a lot to pay for an accessory, but that’s right in line with non-iPhone home theater projectors of this type. In fact, this one’s better than many of its rivals, for a couple of reasons.

First, it has built-in speakers, which many don’t. Stereo speakers, 10 watts. These puppies are loud. They’re not audiophile quality — you’ll get crisper highs and thuddier lows from, say, a Bose audio dock — but if you need more than their boombox quality, you can always hook up a sound system.

Second, the Megaplex has inputs for everything. You can plug in a DVD player, Blu-ray player, Xbox or PlayStation, still camera, camcorder, just about anything, and blast its image onto your screen or wall. You can plug in a laptop or USB flash drive, the better to project your PowerPoint slides or family photos. There’s even a microphone input, so you can use it as a public address system.

Third, there’s a carrying handle. The thing weighs only 8.5 pounds, so it’s not like it’ll send you to the chiropractor. It’s shiny black, 4.5 x 13.4 x 11.5 inches. But the handle emphasizes the Megaplex’s aspirations to be a one-piece home theater machine that you can take to a friend’s, and it’s a nice touch.

Finally, you benefit from jumping into the projector game in 2011. These things have come a very long way. For example, it’s shockingly easy to focus and aim the image, thanks to a pair of levers on top — one for projection size, one for focusing. There’s even a keystone-correction lever right there on top, which you use to make the projected image perfectly rectangular if the screen is at an angle. On most projectors, you have to visit menu hell to perform this kind of adjustment; on the Megaplex MG850HD, you can fix a nonsquared image with the flick of a finger.

E-mail: pogue@nytimes.com

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Disruptions: Fliers Still Must Turn Off Devices, but It’s Not Clear Why

Air France

Millions of Americans who got on a plane over the Thanksgiving holiday heard the admonition: “Please power down your electronic devices for takeoff.”

And absolutely everyone obeyed. I know they did because no planes fell from the sky. No planes had to make an emergency landing because the avionics went haywire. No planes headed for Miami ended up in Anchorage. We were all made safe because we all turned off all our Kindles, iPads, iPhones, BlackBerrys and laptops, just as the Federal Aviation Administration told us to. Realistically speaking, I’m going to bet that a handful of people on each flight could not be bothered, or forgot to comply.

According to the F.A.A., 712 million passengers flew within the United States in 2010. Let’s assume that just 1 percent of those passengers — about two people per Boeing 737, a conservative number — left a cellphone, e-reader or laptop turned on during takeoff or landing. That would mean seven million people on 11 million flights endangered the lives of their fellow passengers.

Yet, in 2010, no crashes were attributed to people using technology on a plane. None were in 2009. Or 2008, 2007 and so on. You get the point.

Surely if electronic gadgets could bring down an airplane, you can be sure that the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, which has a consuming fear of 3.5 ounces of hand lotion and gel shoe inserts, wouldn’t allow passengers to board a plane with an iPad or Kindle, for fear that they would be used by terrorists.

New technologies are often greeted with fear and that is certainly true of a disruptive technology like cellphones. Yet rules that are decades old persist without evidence to support the idea that someone reading an e-book or playing a video game during takeoff or landing is jeopardizing safety.

Nevertheless, Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., said the agency would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to digital devices on planes.

He cited a 2006 study by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, a nonprofit group that tests and reports on technical travel and communications issues. The group was asked by the F.A.A. to test the effects of cellphones, Wi-Fi and portable electronic devices on planes.

Its finding? “Insufficient information to support changing the policies,” Mr. Dorr said. “There was no evidence saying these devices can’t interfere with a plane, and there was no evidence saying that they can.” I’m not arguing that passengers should be allowed to make phone calls while the plane zooms up into the sky. But, why can’t I read my Kindle or iPad during takeoff and landing? E-readers and cellphones can be easily put into “Airplane Mode” which disables the device’s radio signals.

The government might be causing more unnecessary interference on planes by asking people to shut their devices down for take-off and landing and then giving them permission to restart all at the same time. According to electrical engineers, when the electronic device starts, electric current passes through every part of the gadget, including GPS, Wi-Fi, cellular radio and microprocessor.

It’s the equivalent of waking someone up with a dozen people yelling into bullhorns.

As more and more people transition from paper products to digital ones, maybe it’s time to change these rules.

Michael Altschul, senior vice president and legal counsel for CTIA, the wireless industry association, said a study that it conducted more than a decade ago found no interference from mobile devices.

“The fact is, the radio frequencies that are assigned for aviation use are separate from commercial use,” Mr. Altschul said. “Plus, the wiring and instruments for aircraft are shielded to protect them from interference from commercial wireless devices.”

Mr. Dorr reluctantly agreed. “There have never been any reported accidents from these kinds of devices on planes,” he said.


This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 28, 2011

An earlier version of this column misstated the percentage of passengers in a 737 that it would take to account for about two passengers of that plane. It is 1 percent, not 0.01 percent.

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