As expected, the big news at today’s gadget-filled Amazon event is the successor to the Kindle Fire, which was launched in New York, roughly this time last year. It’s not the Fire 2, however — this is the Kindle Fire HD. It’s clear the minute you grab hold of it that Amazon wanted to start over with this device in a number of ways. There’s none of that OEM build quality from the first go-round. This is a nice, slim device that really feels as though it can stand up to some of the nicer Android tablets out there — we’d certainly put our initial impressions of build up there with the Nexus 7.
The corners of the tablet are more rounded than its predecessor, with a glossy bezel going around the display — a little bit of the rubberized backing creeps out on top of this. There are no buttons here, however. If you want to effect the screen, give it a tap and you get a small virtual menu on the side. As advertised, the display is quite vivid. Amazon talked up the decrease of glare, though it was a bit hard to tell just how successful the company was, given the fact that we’re indoors. The device has a matte rear, with that stereo speaker going down a line in a middle, vents on either side.
Performance-wise, this seemed pretty snappy, and we got the pre-loaded (at least on Amazon’s own tablet) Hunger Games movie to load quite quickly, thanks no doubt to all of the investment the company put into the WiFi side of this device. Interestingly, there was a little lag as we were flipping through the pages of a book, with the Fire doing a little loading every few pages or so.
We’re here at Apple’s education-flavored event at the Guggenheim museum in New York City. Phil Schiller has just taken to the stage and announced the first half of Apple’s platform that’s going to “reinvent the textbook:” iBooks 2. Saying that there were 1.5 million iPads currently in use in Education (using 20,000 specific apps), the revamped book-stand now includes education-specific features to help the budding students of the world.
You’ll be able to paw through content, stopping to flick through detailed 3D animated models of elements within, access video and definitions without leaving the page. VP of Productivity Applications, Roger Rosner said that “Clearly, no printed book can compete with this:” given the constantly-updated data available, that’s kinda obvious. Still, you’ll be able to read in a text-heavy portrait or picture-biased landscape mode and there’s also the option to have random pop-quizzes appear to keep you on your toes. Annotations is an integral part of the system: you can add stickies to individual pages and aggregate them into virtual 3 x 5-inch note-cards for revision during finals. You’ll also get the same purchase, download and re-download rights you enjoy in the company’s other stores.
The company’s partnered (initially) with textbook makers Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as the trio are responsible for 90 percent of all textbooks sold — as well as DK and the E.O. Wilson Foundation. Phil was gushing, saying that he couldn’t “overemphasize the importance of these partners working with us.” Pearson’s High School Science, Biology, DK’s Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life, Natural History Insects, Animals and My First ABC as well as the first two chapters of E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth will be available at launch — the latter is free. You’ll be able to download iBooks 2 from the app store free of charge, whilst textbooks themselves will cost $14.99 or less : a far cry from the $80 dead-tree textbooks we shelled out for in college.
Typically, when a new gadget makes its way through the FCC, we have to do a fair amount of digging to get to the juicy details, put Pandigital’s latest 8-inch tablet / e-reader, the SuperNova, isn’t holding anything back. This Android 2.3-powered slate follows in the footsteps of its 9-inch predecessor, the Novel, acting more as a glorified e-reader than a real-deal tablet. Like the Novel, it comes with B&N’s Nook app pre-installed and lacks access to the Android Market — apps can be downloaded via SlideMe. What’s more, it’s got front (0.3 megapixel) and back-facing (3 megapixel) cameras, 4GB of internal storage, HDMI and mini-USB connectivity, support for 32GB micro-SD, and an 8-inch capacitive touch screen. Just about the only things missing from this FCC filing are price and availability, but we have a feeling the pair isn’t far behind. If SAR reports and tablet entrails are your thing, you can peek even more SuperNova details at the source link below.
Does that bulky black plastic surround look familiar? It’s becoming standard uniform for Android tablets at the $250 price point like the Nook Color and now ViewSonic’s latest offering, the ViewBook 730. Basic specs also look pretty similar — the ViewBook has a 7-inch screen (albeit with a 800×480 resolution, lower than the Nook’s), 8GB of internal storage and an SD card slot. But the 730 does have some significant advantages over its older rival: notably a front-facing VGA camera and a faster 1Ghz Cortex-A8 processor (versus 800Mhz on the Nook Color) that claims to handle 1080p video and output it via an HDMI port. Plus there’s full Android 2.2 instead of the Nook Color’s walled-off ecosphere. Interestingly, the ViewBook also tries to distinguish itself with stylus support for note-taking — akin to the HTC Flyer. Goes to show you can’t judge a multi-function e-reader by its bezel. Hit the PR after the break to see if this budget tablet will tick your boxes when it arrives at the end of June.
E-readers may not be good enough for Princeton’s hallowed halls, but students and professors at Oklahoma State University seem to have fallen head over heels for their iPads. Last fall, the school introduced the tablets in a handful of lecture halls and classrooms, as part of its iPad Pilot Program. Teachers involved in the study said they benefited from all the educational software available on Apple’s App Store, while students appreciated not having to spend their life savings on traditional textbooks. At the end of the pilot program, a full 75-percent of collegians said the iPad “greatly enhanced” their classroom experience, though we’re guessing that much of that enhancement came from their newfound ability to check TweetDeck between lecture notes. Opinion was noticeably more divided, however, on the device’s value as an e-reader. Some enjoyed having all their books in one place, whereas others were a bit disappointed with the experience, saying they didn’t use it to read as often as they expected to. Our former undergrad-slacker selves can totally relate. Video and PR await you, after the break.
We’re sure there are still scores of lifelong book lovers whose paper tomes we can pry from their cold, dead fingers, but the evidence strongly suggests that plenty of others are rapidly warming to their shiny new e-readers. US sales of e-books generated about $90.3 million in revenue in February — roughly triple the sales reported in the same month last year. To boot, they were the dominant format for trade titles, a category that includes adult and children’s works. Meanwhile, printed books declined 34 percent and 16 percent in those respective areas, with gentler, single-digit drops for education and religious titles. That follows strong January sales and echoes what Amazon said about e-books outselling print versions two to one. To be fair, of course, February is a time of year when people who received e-readers during the holidays load ‘em up with bestsellers — you know, to keep them entertained during spring break.
We’ve already seen Apple boast that it’s sold 15 million iPads in 2010 and commanded more than a 90 percent market share, but IDC has now come in and provided a broader picture of the tablet market as a whole — and e-readers, too. Not surprisingly, it too found that the tablet industry is basically all about Apple at the moment, although its market share did dip from a whopping 93 percent in the third quarter to 73 percent in Q4, which averages out to 83 percent for the year — all told, there were 18 million tablets sold in 2010. Things are a bit more competitive in the e-reader market — where there were 12 million devices sold — although Amazon is still head and shoulders above everyone else with a 48 percent share. Interestingly, it’s followed not by Barnes & Noble as you might expect but by Pandigital, which just eeked into the number two spot for Q4 (though B&N is slightly ahead for the full year). Hanvon came in fourth based largely on strong sales in China, and Sony rounded out the top five with sales of 800,000 units in 2010. Check out the press release after the break for some additional details
The smart folks over at ComptonSoft are looking to provide a GPS receiver to your mobile device in a rather unconventional way. TetherGPS links up your Android phone’s GPS to the Nook Color by means of WiFi — either on the same network or via a WiFi tether — because the Nook Color is lacking in the standard usable Bluetooth department. After connecting the two devices, it makes a second link by running a TGPS server on the phone and a TGPS client on the Nook. The two devices are then intertwined in a blissful, all-you-can-GPS buffet of routes and roads. For the most part, the Nook’s location-aware Android applications, such as Google Maps, will draw from this connection for location data and use it as if there were a GPS receiver on board. TetherGPS is up for grabs for $2.99 on the Android Market, and there’s also a free “Lite” version for those who only need GPS for five minutes at a time — we’ll assume you know who you are.