December 4, 2022

Nokia Sales Continue to Fall

The company, based in Espoo, Finland, on Thursday announced a 24 percent decline in its second-quarter sales, to 5.7 billion euros, though it narrowed its second-quarter losses to 227 million euros, or $298 million, compared with a loss of 1.4 billion euros a year earlier.

The losses were lower than analysts’ estimates, but it is the eighth time in the last 10 quarters that Nokia has reported a net loss. The company saw a glimmer of light in the doubling of sales of its Lumia smartphone line. But Nokia, once the world’s largest cellphone maker, now ranks third behind Samsung and Apple and faces mounting competition from cheap devices made in emerging markets like China and India.

“When you are going through a difficult transition, you have to stay focused,” Nokia’s chief executive, Stephen A. Elop, said in an interview. “It’s hard work, but we’ve got a lot of positive things happening.”

Investors, however, disagreed, sending the company’s share price down 2.7 percent in trading in Europe on Thursday.

While Nokia still remains one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cellphones, the company now relies heavily on its cheaper, low-end models, which are primarily sold in developing economies.

These devices represented almost 88 percent of the 61.1 million handsets that Nokia sold in the second quarter, and have fewer features than high-end smartphones, which are much more profitable to sell. Growing competition from rivals in emerging markets, many of which use Google’s Android software, is eating into Nokia’s earnings.

In total, the company’s non-smartphone division reported a 27 percent drop in the number of units sold, to 53.7 million, compared with the same period last year. The figure is almost half of the total sales that Nokia reported at the end of 2011, and it said on Thursday that it would cut up to 440 additional jobs from the division.

In countries like China, where a growing middle-class population is clamoring for new phones, the number of devices sold by Nokia fell almost 50 percent versus the second quarter of 2012.

“There’s no good news at the lower end of the market,” said Roberta Cozza, a research director at Gartner in London. “The problem is that there are so many local emerging market players looking to build up market share.”

Faced with cutthroat rivals for its cheaper phones, Nokia also is trying to gain traction in the high-end smartphone market through its partnership with Microsoft. The strategy is proving difficult.

Smartphones running Windows software hold less than a 4 percent market share, compared with 74 percent that use the Android operating system, according to Gartner.

Yet, in a sign of some growing customer interest, Nokia reported sales of its Lumia line of smartphones almost doubled to 7.4 million units during the three months through June 30 compared with the same period last year.

The figure represents the largest number of Lumia phones ever sold in a quarter by Nokia since their introduction in 2011Last week, the company announced a new Lumia phone with a camera that has a 41-megapixel sensor.

Analysts welcomed the rising number of Lumia sales. But they raised concerns that the average price of Nokia’s smartphones fell almost 18 percent, to 157 euros, in the second quarter.

“The market would have liked to see more phones sold, but it’s a strong figure for smartphones,” said Janardan Menon, an analyst at Liberum Capital in London. “The more worrying trend is around Nokia’s average phone price. They have to bring that figure up.”

The main cause for the reduction was related to consumers’ continued preference for the company’s less advanced smartphone options, instead of its top-of-the-range devices.

Nokia said that it expected its third-quarter phone sales to outpace those for period just ended.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/technology/nokia-sales-continue-to-fall.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Disruptions: What Does a Tablet Do to the Child’s Mind?

Spending time with devices instead of interacting with people may hinder communication skills, researchers say.Feng Li/Getty Images Spending time with devices instead of interacting with people may hinder communication skills, researchers say.

I recently watched my sister perform an act of magic.

We were sitting in a restaurant, trying to have a conversation, but her children, 4-year-old Willow and 7-year-old Luca, would not stop fighting. The arguments — over a fork, or who had more water in a glass — were unrelenting.

Like a magician quieting a group of children by pulling a rabbit out of a hat, my sister reached into her purse and produced two shiny Apple iPads, handing one to each child. Suddenly, the two were quiet. Eerily so. They sat playing games and watching videos, and we continued with our conversation.

After our meal, as we stuffed the iPads back into their magic storage bag, my sister felt slightly guilty.

“I don’t want to give them the iPads at the dinner table, but if it keeps them occupied for an hour so we can eat in peace, and more importantly not disturb other people in the restaurant, I often just hand it over,” she told me. Then she asked: “Do you think it’s bad for them? I do worry that it is setting them up to think it’s O.K. to use electronics at the dinner table in the future.”

I did not have an answer, and although some people might have opinions, no one has a true scientific understanding of what the future might hold for a generation raised on portable screens.

“We really don’t know the full neurological effects of these technologies yet,” said Dr. Gary Small, director of the Longevity Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of “iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.” “Children, like adults, vary quite a lot, and some are more sensitive than others to an abundance of screen time.”

But Dr. Small says we do know that the brain is highly sensitive to stimuli, like iPads and smartphone screens, and if people spend too much time with one technology, and less time interacting with people like parents at the dinner table, that could hinder the development of certain communications skills.

So will a child who plays with crayons at dinner rather than a coloring application on an iPad be a more socialized person?

Ozlem Ayduk, an associate professor in the Relationships and Social Cognition Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, said children sitting at the dinner table with a print book or crayons were not as engaged with the people around them, either. “There are value-based lessons for children to talk to the people during a meal,” she said. “It’s not so much about the iPad versus nonelectronics.”

Parents who have little choice but to hand over their iPad can at least control what a child does on those devices.

A report published last week by the Millennium Cohort Study, a long-term study group in Britain that has been following 19,000 children born in 2000 and 2001, found that those who watched more than three hours of television, videos or DVDs a day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by the time they were 7 than children who did not. The study, of a sample of 11,000 children, found that children who played video games — often age-appropriate games — for the same amount of time did not show any signs of negative behavioral changes by the same age.

Which brings us back to the dinner table with my niece and nephew. While they sat happily staring into those shiny screens, they were not engaged in any type of conversation, or staring off into space thinking, as my sister and I did as children when our parents were talking. And that is where the risks are apparent.

“Conversations with each other are the way children learn to have conversations with themselves, and learn how to be alone,” said Sherry Turkle, a professor of science, technology and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.” “Learning about solitude and being alone is the bedrock of early development, and you don’t want your kids to miss out on that because you’re pacifying them with a device.”

Ms. Turkle has interviewed parents, teenagers and children about the use of gadgets during early development, and says she fears that children who do not learn real interactions, which often have flaws and imperfections, will come to know a world where perfect, shiny screens give them a false sense of intimacy without risk.

And they need to be able to think independently of a device. “They need to be able to explore their imagination. To be able to gather themselves and know who they are. So someday they can form a relationship with another person without a panic of being alone,” she said. “If you don’t teach your children to be alone, they’ll only know how to be lonely.”

E-mail: bilton@nytimes.com

A version of this article appeared in print on 04/01/2013, on page B9 of the NewYork edition with the headline: The Child, the Tablet And the Developing Mind.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/disruptions-what-does-a-tablet-do-to-the-childs-mind/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Start: Taking a Third Pass at Selling Movie Subscriptions

Stacy Spikes: Richard Perry/The New York Times Stacy Spikes: “The beauty of this is the data.”

Start

The adventure of new ventures.

Twice in 2011, Stacy Spikes tried to start a subscription service for going to the movies. Called MoviePass, it offered cinephiles nearly unlimited access to theaters – up to one 2-D film each day – for a flat monthly fee. Mr. Spikes hoped his service would transform the industry; he wanted to see it go big. But something always got in the way.

When an initial test run was announced in San Francisco, about 19,000 people signed up in a single day to try the service. But theater chains balked. Mr. Spikes had arranged to purchase users’ individual tickets through a third-party supplier; the theaters claimed they weren’t in the loop. “Their feeling was, ‘You didn’t come to us first. You didn’t get this approved,” said Mr. Spikes, 44, a former movie-marketing executive. And without the theaters’ cooperation, the test never got off the ground.

A few months later, Mr. Spikes tried another iteration of MoviePass. But some users didn’t like that the new system required them to print out vouchers. Theater managers found them slow to process, too. Each voucher had a single-use credit card number, so cashiers had to key them all in by hand.

Mr. Spikes didn’t surrender, though. He rolled out a third version of MoviePass in October. This time, he believes it’s foolproof.

Each MoviePass subscriber pays between $29 and $34 a month, depending on location, and gets equipped with a smartphone app and a special debit card. When a user enters a movie theater, the GPS-enabled MoviePass app lists the films available in that area. After a selection is made, the user’s MoviePass debit card gets unlocked for 30 minutes, loaded with funds to buy the ticket. “It operates just like any card sitting in your pocket, so customers are free to go where they want and theaters are paid the full fare,” explained Mr. Spikes. In other words: So long as they take credit cards, theaters don’t need to change anything to accept MoviePass.

The service is currently available as an invite-only beta version. Mr. Spikes wouldn’t release his subscriber numbers or revenue. He said he plans to offer subscriptions to the general public within a year.

Based in Manhattan, MoviePass currently has eight employees in addition to Mr. Spikes and his cofounder, Hamet Watt. The company has raised $5 million in financing from investors that include True Ventures, AOL Ventures and William Morris Entertainment.

We caught up with Mr. Spikes for an interview that has been edited and condensed:

Aren’t you taking a big risk here? You take a monthly fee of $34 and then promise to provide essentially unlimited tickets that you have to pay full price to obtain. Couldn’t you lose a lot of money if subscribers go to a lot of movies?

We’ve studied this and similar subscription businesses for a while and have conclusive data that reinforces our strong subscription model that includes incremental revenue streams.

Are you saying that you could lose money on the subscriptions but make it up with other revenue?

We believe the best way to have a successful business model is to have multiple revenue streams. This model is very similar to that of a studio that is focused on more than just box office ticket sales.

What are those other revenue streams?

Apart from the subscription service, we have three planned revenue streams: advertising, sell-through and data. It’s definitely not a one-trick pony.

For sell-through, let’s say you just saw Harry Potter. We can offer books, we can offer the DVD, we can offer the back catalog, all of those things, because we know what you’ve just seen. We can offer to sell people things related specifically to their viewing habits.

But what’s really the beauty of this is the data. Just like Google can measure analytics online, we can do that for movie theaters. Ninety-six percent of movie ticket transactions are walk-ups; they’re the equivalent of cash transactions that don’t leave data trails. Our technology lets us say, “This is the type of people who are going, this is when they went, this is what time of day it was.” We can break it up by age, by race, by sex. The only thing we can’t tell you is what they ate for lunch and what their blood type is.

We’ve met with some of the studios and the chains. Right now, they know what their gross numbers are and some generalities about their demographics, based on which theaters customers visit and how many tickets were sold. They don’t really know more than that. But we do.

Has your data yielded anything interesting so far?

Right after Hurricane Sandy, we could actually see lots of people migrating out of the dark areas and going to the movies, probably just to get out, rather than sitting at home without power. We saw it in Manhattan; you know the lower half was dark. People were going to 34th Street. They were going to 42nd Street. They were going to Kips Bay. We could actually tell where they were traveling from and where they were going. I’ve been in the industry for many years, but I’d never seen anything like that.

Do you worry that the rise of on-demand, streaming movies could limit your audience?

The No. 1 out-of-home activity still is going to the movies. Some of that has been driven down a bit by people staying at home, the newness of on-demand. But you still don’t have a movie opening in theaters and available at the same time for home viewing.

I don’t see the threat of decline, but I do think that the business is going to change and that MoviePass is part of that innovation. MoviePass was made by people who love movies, for people who love movies. It’s not for the person who doesn’t go to the movies. If you stay in your house and that’s all you do, you’re not going to be interested in this. But if you’re a movie lover, you instantly get how this is an attractive offer and an exciting shift in the business.

You can follow Jessica Bruder on Twitter.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/taking-a-third-pass-at-selling-movie-subscriptions/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Ericsson Posts Loss, but Sales Increase

BERLIN — Ericsson, the world’s biggest maker of mobile telephone network equipment, said Thursday that its sales and profit grew faster than expected in the fourth quarter as phone operators in the United States and Canada spent heavily to upgrade wireless networks.

The company booked a net loss during the quarter as it wrote down the value of ST-Ericsson, an unprofitable smartphone component venture with the French chip maker ST Microelectronics.

But investors apparently looked past that to focus on the underlying growth. Shares of Ericsson, based in Stockholm, rose almost 10 percent after the earnings report, which showed that demand from North America had helped lift Ericsson’s global sales of network equipment, the company’s main business, by 6 percent from a year earlier.

Ericsson’s sales of equipment, software and services in the three months through December rose 5 percent to 66.9 billion kronor, or $10.5 billion.

“This suggests the declining sales of network equipment we have seen for some time has finally begun to turn around,” said Hakan Wranne, an analyst at Swedbank in Stockholm.

In North America, Ericsson said sales of mobile broadband and other network gear to U.S. and Canadian operators surged 86 percent to 9.4 billion kronor in the quarter from a year earlier, without providing a comparative figure. Sales of equipment rose 10 percent in Western Europe and 38 percent in India.

The increase followed four quarters of declining global network sales.

“We continue to believe the long-term fundamentals of this industry are attractive,” said Hans Vestberg, the Ericsson chief executive. “I think it is clear that society will be using mobile broadband and the cloud much more than they are now.”

Ericsson said it took a charge of 8.6 billion kronor against earnings in the period for ST-Ericsson, which is based in Geneva and has generated about $2.8 billion in losses since February 2009. The charge caused Ericsson to report a loss of 6.3 billion kronor for the fourth quarter.

Ericsson had warned investors of the charge on Dec. 20.

ST-Ericsson employs 5,090 workers and makes processor modules and modems for some Samsung, Motorola and Sony smartphones.

Mr. Vestberg said he had no new information on the future of ST-Ericsson, which reported a $71 million loss in the quarter on unchanged sales of $358 million. Last month, STMicroelectronics announced plans to leave the venture, and Ericsson said it had no intention of buying its partner’s stake.

“We continue to believe that the modern technology in this venture is of strategic importance to the industry,” Mr. Vestberg said. “We are now in a discussion among the shareholders about our options going forward. We don’t exclude anything at this point.”

Mr. Wranne, the Swedbank analyst, said he thought it was possible that Ericsson might simply resort to shutting down the joint venture sometime this year.

“Both parents have essentially turned their back on the company, and what I think they have done is essentially killed it,” Mr. Wranne said. “At this point, it is not certain whether the venture will be operating six months from now.”

With the charge against earnings, Ericsson has written off the entire value of its investment in ST-Ericsson, said Jan Frykhammar, the Ericsson chief financial officer. The business began to deteriorate after Nokia, its biggest client, announced plans in 2011 to halt its Symbian smartphone line, which had used many ST-Ericsson components.

Ericsson’s main network equipment business, which made up 53 percent of its sales in the quarter, more than made up for the ST-Ericsson write-off. Sales of Ericsson’s equipment, software and services in North America rose 51 percent to 17 billion kronor.

Excluding the ST-Ericsson charges, Ericsson’s operating profit in the quarter rose by 17 percent to 4.8 billion kronor.

Sales in the quarter rose on an annual basis in all regions except Scandinavia, the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, China, the Middle East and Latin America.

The gains are a harbinger a new phase of purchasing by global phone operators, Mr. Vestberg said, as they compete to sell mobile broadband services to the rapidly expanding ranks of smartphone users. Ericsson expects the number of mobile broadband users around the world to rise 40 percent to 2.1 billion by the end of this year from 1.5 billion in 2012.

By the end of this year, 3 in 10 cellphone users around the world will be operating smartphones and subscribing to mobile broadband service, Ericsson predicted. Demand for fast wireless Internet will in turn lift demand for Ericsson’s networks, Mr. Vestberg said. In the past quarter, he said, 40 percent of all cellphones sold worldwide were smartphones.

Operators, recognizing the strong consumer interest in mobile broadband, are stepping up their orders for new data networks that can handle the heavy traffic demands on their grids.

“Operators and customers are focusing now on mobile broadband,” Mr. Vestberg said. “We are clearly seeing a change in their behavior.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/technology/ericsson-sales-rise-on-spending-to-upgrade-mobile-networks.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Ericsson Sales Rise on Spending to Upgrade Mobile Networks

BERLIN — Ericsson, the world’s biggest maker of mobile network equipment, said on Thursday that its sales and profit grew faster than expected in the fourth quarter as phone operators in the United States and Canada spent heavily to upgrade wireless networks.

The company booked a net loss during the quarter as it wrote down the value of ST-Ericsson, an unprofitable smartphone component venture with the French chipmaker ST Microelectronics.

But investors apparently looked past that to focus on the underlying growth. Shares of Stockholm-based Ericsson rose almost 10 percent after the earnings report, which showed that demand from North America had helped lift Ericsson’s global sales of network equipment, the company’s main business, by 6 percent from a year earlier.

Ericsson’s sales of equipment, software and services in the three months through December rose 5 percent to 66.9 billion kronor, or $10.6 billion.

“This suggests the declining sales of network equipment we have seen for some time has finally begun to turn around,” said Hakan Wranne, an analyst at Swedbank in Stockholm.

In North America, Ericsson said sales of mobile broadband and other network gear to U.S. and Canadian operators surged 86 percent to 9.4 billion kronor in the quarter from a year earlier, without providing a comparative figure. Sales of equipment rose 10 percent in Western Europe, and 38 percent in India, part of an upswing in half of Ericsson’s global sales regions.

The increase followed four quarters of declining global network sales.

“We continue to believe the long-term fundamentals of this industry are attractive,” Hans Vestberg, the Ericsson chief executive, said. “I think it is clear that society will be using mobile broadband and the cloud much more than they are now.”

Ericsson said it took an 8.6 billion kronor charge against earnings in the period for ST-Ericsson, which is based in Geneva and has generated about $2.8 billion in losses since February 2009. The charge caused Ericsson to report a loss of 6.3 billion kronor for the fourth quarter.

Ericsson had warned investors of the charge on December 20.

ST-Ericsson employs 5,090 workers and makes processor modules and modems for some Samsung, Motorola and Sony smartphones.

Mr. Vestberg said he had no new information on the future of ST-Ericsson, which reported a $71 million loss in the quarter on unchanged sales of $358 million. Last month, ST Microelectronics announced plans to leave the venture and Ericsson said it had no intention of buying its partner’s stake.

“We continue to believe that the modern technology in this venture is of strategic importance to the industry,” Mr. Vestberg said. “We are now in a discussion among the shareholders about our options going forward. We don’t exclude anything at this point.”

Mr. Wranne, the Swedbank analyst, said he thought it was possible that Ericsson might simply resort to shutting down the joint venture sometime this year.

“Both parents have essentially turned their back on the company and what I think they have done is essentially killed it,” Mr. Wranne said. “At this point, it is not certain whether the venture will be operating six months from now.”

With the charge against earnings, Ericsson has written off the entire value of its investment in ST-Ericsson, said Jan Frykhammar, the Ericsson chief financial officer. The business began to deteriorate after Nokia, its biggest client, announced plans in 2011 to halt its Symbian smartphone line, which had used many ST-Ericsson components.

Ericsson’s main network equipment business, which made up 53 percent of its sales in the quarter, more than made up for the ST-Ericsson write-off. Sales of Ericsson’s equipment, software and services in North America rose 51 percent to 17 billion kronor.

Excluding the ST-Ericsson charges, Ericsson’s operating profit in the quarter rose by 17 percent to 4.8 billion kronor.

Sales in the quarter rose on an annual basis in all regions except Scandinavia, the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, China, the Middle East and Latin America.

The gains are a harbinger a new phase of purchasing by global phone operators, Mr. Vestberg said, as they compete to sell mobile broadband services to the rapidly expanding ranks of smartphone users. Ericsson expects the number of mobile broadband users around the world to rise 40 percent to 2.1 billion by the end of this year from 1.5 billion in 2012.

By the end of this year, three in 10 cellphone users around the world will be operating smartphones and subscribing to mobile broadband service, Ericsson predicted. Demand for fast wireless Internet will in turn lift demand for Ericsson’s networks, Mr. Vestberg said. In the last quarter, he said, 40 percent of all cellphones sold worldwide were smartphones.

Operators, recognizing the strong consumer interest in mobile broadband, are stepping up their orders for new data networks that can handle the heavy traffic demands on their grids. “Operators and customers are focusing now on mobile broadband,” Mr. Vestberg said. “We are clearly seeing a change in their behavior.”

Shares of Ericsson rose 9.8 percent, or 6.55 kronor, to 73.45 kronor in Stockholm.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/technology/ericsson-sales-rise-on-spending-to-upgrade-mobile-networks.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Tuesday Reading: Unpacking Christmas Memories

December 25

Tuesday Reading: Unpacking Christmas Memories

Unpacking Christmas memories, how much milk should children drink, finding a simplified smartphone and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/tuesday-reading-unpacking-christmas-memories/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Disruptions: Your Brain on E-Books and Smartphone Apps

Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Last week, my brain played a cruel trick on me. While waiting for my flight to take off, I was reading The New Yorker, the paper version, of course — I know the rules. I became engrossed in an article and swiped my finger down the glossy page to read more.

To my surprise, nothing happened. I swiped it again. Nothing.

My brain was trying to turn the page the same way I do on my iPad, with the swipe of a finger. (I quickly realized that I had to physically turn the page.)

A few days later, my brain played another technology-related trick. In New York City, I hopped in a cab and told the driver, “59th and 6th, please.” I didn’t think anything of it when we arrived at my destination and I said thanks and hopped out of the cab, without paying.

The cabby yelled at me bluntly, clearly not very happy: “These taxis aren’t free. Are you gonna pay me?”

I quickly apologized and paid him — with a good tip — when I realized that my brain thought I was in an Uber car, not a taxi.

In San Francisco, where I live, I often use a car service called Uber when I go out for the evening. You order a car from your smartphone, it arrives, you get in, tell your driver where to go, and then get out at your destination. There is no money exchanged; your credit card is automatically billed after the trip, and you are e-mailed a receipt.

But I did spend a few moments standing at the curb trying to figure out if I was suffering from some sort of mental fatigue.

I called the closest thing to a technology doctor I know: Clifford Nass, a professor of cognitive science and communications at Stanford University, and the author of “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships.”

“Brains love habits; brains are built for efficiency,” Mr. Nass said, noting that I wasn’t sick, maybe just a little too technological for my own good. “Our brains are built to put two things together in space and time and then say, ‘Great, I can remember that these go together.’ Then we execute on that, like you trying to scroll down a piece of paper with your finger.”

Although videos have been floating around the Web showing 1- and 2-year-olds trying to use a magazine like an iPad, you would think a 36-year-old man would know the difference. Gary Small, director of the Longevity Center this is its new name at the University of California, Los Angeles, has performed studies showing that the human brain adapts to technology in seven days, regardless of age.

I rarely read things on paper anymore. Magazines, news articles and books are all consumed on touch-screen devices like iPads, smartphones and Kindles. (The content is the same; the device is different.) Mr. Nass explained that my brain had been habituated to change the page by sliding my finger, no matter what I read. (This is also why I uselessly swipe ATM monitors or my laptop screen.) The same thing is happening with the taxi: my brain categorizes any car I am not driving as an Uber car.

All of these brain changes hasten the adoption rate for technologies, Mr. Nass said. It’s what happened with the telephone or the use of cruise control in cars. “You no longer drive a car,” he said. “You use a car.”

What is now happening with reading, we will soon experience with paying for things without cash, check or credit cards. And it will happen quickly.

The slowest part of the process may be convincing businesses to produce the changes. “This is where businesses have a difficult time adapting to what’s happening in society,” Mr. Nass said. It wasn’t publishers, for example, who introduced electronic reading devices. “People entered the publishing industry because they loved the feel and smell of books.”

But if they don’t recognize the speed of these changes, their brains are playing tricks on them, too.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/your-brain-on-e-books-and-smartphone-apps/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Wednesday Reading: How to Avoid a Smartphone’s Bite While Abroad

September 19

Wednesday Reading: How to Avoid a Smartphone’s Bite While Abroad

Preventing costly smartphone bills after an overseas trip, an online education site expands its menu of schools and courses, making parents part of the gay wedding day and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/wednesday-reading-how-to-avoid-a-smartphones-bite-while-abroad/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Pogue’s Posts: Google Glass and the Future of Technology

New gadgets — I mean whole new gadget categories — don’t come along very often. The iPhone was one recent example. You could argue that the iPad was another. But if there’s anything at all as different and bold on the horizon, surely it’s Google Glass.

That, of course, is Google’s prototype of a device you wear on your face. Google doesn’t like the term “glasses,” because there aren’t any lenses. (The Glass team, part of Google’s experimental labs, also doesn’t like terms like “augmented reality” or “wearable computer,” which both have certain baggage.)

David Pogue wearing Google Glass.Jason LongoDavid Pogue wearing Google Glass.FDDP
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Instead, Glass looks like only the headband of a pair of glasses — the part that hooks on your ears and lies along your eyebrow line — with a small, transparent block positioned above and to the right of your right eye. That, of course, is a screen, and the Google Glass is actually a fairly full-blown computer. Or maybe like a smartphone that you never have to take out of your pocket.

This idea got a lot of people excited when Nick Bilton of The New York Times broke the story of the glasses in February. Google first demonstrated it April in a video. In May, at Google’s I/O conference, Glass got some more play as attendees watched a live video feed from the Glass as a sky diver leapt from a plane and parachuted onto the roof of the conference building. But so far, very few non-Googlers have been allowed to try them on.

Last week, I got a chance to put one on. I’m hosting a PBS series called “Nova ScienceNow” (it premieres Oct. 10), and one of the episodes is about the future of tech. Of course, projecting what’s yet to come in consumer tech is nearly impossible, but Google Glass seemed like a perfect example of a breakthrough on the verge. So last week the Nova crew and I met with Babak Parviz, head of the Glass project, to discuss and try out the prototypes.

Now, Google emphasized — and so do I — that Google Glass is still at a very, very early stage. Lots of factors still haven’t been finalized, including what Glass will do, what the interface will look like, how it will work, and so on. Google doesn’t want to get the public excited about some feature that may not materialize in the final version. (At the moment, Google is planning to offer the prototypes to developers next year — for $1,500 — in anticipation of selling Glass to the public in, perhaps, 2014.)

When you actually handle these things, you can’t believe how little they weigh. Less than a pair of sunglasses, in my estimation. Glass is an absolutely astonishing feat of miniaturization and integration.

Inside the right earpiece — that is, the horizontal support that goes over your ear — Google has packed memory, a processor, a camera, speaker and microphone, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and a battery. All inside the earpiece.

Google has said that eventually, Glass will have a cellular radio, so it can get online; at this point, it hooks up wirelessly with your phone for an online connection.
And the mind-blowing thing is, this slim thing is the prototype. It’s only going to get smaller in future generations. “This is the bulkiest version of Glass we’ll ever make,” Babak told me.

The biggest triumph — and to me, the biggest surprise — is that the tiny screen is completely invisible when you’re talking or driving or reading. You just forget about it completely. There’s nothing at all between your eyes and whatever, or whomever, you’re looking at.

And yet when you do focus on the screen, shifting your gaze up and to the right, that tiny half-inch display is surprisingly immersive. It’s as though you’re looking at a big laptop screen or something.

(Even though I usually need reading glasses for close-up material, this very close-up display seemed to float far enough away that I didn’t need them. Because, yeah — wearing glasses under Glass might look weird.)

The hardware breakthrough, in other words, is there. Google is proceeding carefully to make sure it gets the rest of it as right as possible on the first try.

But the potential is already amazing. Mr. Pariz stressed that Glass is designed for two primary purposes — sharing and instant access to information — hands-free, without having to pull anything out of your pocket.

You can control the software by swiping a finger on that right earpiece in different directions; it’s a touchpad. Your swipes could guide you through simple menus. In various presentations, Google has proposed icons for things like taking a picture, recording video, making a phone call, navigating on Google Maps, checking your calendar and so on. A tap selects the option you want.

In recent demonstrations, Google has also shown that you can use speech recognition to control Glass. You say “O.K., Glass” to call up the menu.

To illustrate how Glass might change the game for sharing your life with others, I tried a demo in which a photo appeared — a jungly scene with a wooden footbridge just in front of me. The theme from “Jurassic Park” played crisply in my right ear. (Cute, real cute.)

But as I looked left, right, up or down, my view changed accordingly, as though I were wearing one of those old virtual-reality headsets. The tracking of my head angle and the response to the immersive photo was incredibly crisp and accurate. By swiping my finger on the touchpad, I could change to other scenes.

Now, there’s a lot of road between today’s prototype and the day when Google Glass will be on everyone’s faces. Google will have to nail down the design — and hammer down the price. Issues of privacy and distraction will have to be ironed out (although I’m not nearly as worried about distraction as I was before I tried them on). Glasses wearers may have to wait until Glass can be incorporated into actual glasses.

We may be waiting, too, for that one overwhelmingly compelling feature, something that you can’t do with your phone (beyond making it hands-free). We’ve seen that the masses can’t even be bothered to put on special glasses to watch 3-D TV; it may take some unimagined killer app to convince them to wear Google Glass headsets all day.

But already, a few things are clear. The speed and power, the tiny size and weight, the clarity and effectiveness of the audio and video, are beyond anything I could have imagined. The company is expending a lot of effort on design — hardware and software — which is absolutely the right approach for something as personal as a wearable gadget. And even in this early prototype, you already sense that Google is sweating over the clarity and simplicity of the experience — also a smart approach.

In short, it’s much too soon to predict Google Glass’s success or failure. But it’s easy to see that it has potential no other machine has ever had before — and that Google is shepherding its development in exactly the right way.

Article source: http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/13/google-glass-and-the-future-of-technology/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2012/05/30/technology/personaltechspecial/index.html?partner=rss&emc=rss