iHS says e-readers are doomed to limited markets

iHS senior principal analyst Jordan Selburn draws a comparison between the e-reader and other portable electronics, such as portable media players and point-and-shoot cameras, that have seen their functionality incorporated into the smartphone. Fair enough, while the smartphone was the spiritual successor to the PDA (or basically a cellular-connected PDA with voice).

Still, while average e-reader screen sizes (and especially those of e-readers like the Kobo Pocket) are smaller than those of tablets, they were close enough where I always thought that that the defining attribute of the e-reader was the display. As soon as companies can affordably combine the color and multimedia of today’s LCDs with the sunlight-readability and long battery life of today’s e-paper, we will see the e-reader marginalized.

Apple-Microsoft Skydrive stalemate

As I’ve written before, it’s reasonable for Apple to ask for a cut of the subscription revenue if the user signs up via iOS. But if a user signs up for a premium SkyDrive experience outside of iOS, then Apple should allow use of that app unfettered. I don’t see how this is any different than how the Kindle or NextIssue apps are handled. The iOS customer experience already suffers by forcing consumer workarounds to access services. But this kind of stalemate that keeps apps off the platform creates an even worse situation.

Apple, Google team up to bid for Kodak patents

No one seems to have a problem with strange bedfellows when they’re protecting the money in their mattress.

Contact lenses with built-in LCDs

Another step on the road to electronics that swim around out bloodstream.

Cookoo wins the Kickstarter smartwatch shipping race

The winner of the 2012 Kickstarter smartwatch shipping derby — entrants in which include Pebble, the MetaWatch Strata, Cookoo and — what the heck — Martian and Touch Time – is in and it seems to be Cookoo, the Bluetooth-connected watch with a traditional face and a series of fixed icons around its face that enable it to have a non-rechargeable battery. As with another highly touted Kickstarter project, Supermechanical’s TWINE, there are still a few unimplemented features, including music control and (ironically for a watch) countdown timing and alarm functionality. Other features, including SMS and e-mail notifications, are lying in wait for iOS support.

The packaging of Kickstarter projects has been a decidedly mixed cardboard box, with some products shipping in little more than bubble wrap and others in eco-friendly packaging that might qualify as origami. Despite being one of the cheapest smartwatches offered via Kickstarter, Cookoo has certainly sets a high bar. It ships in a mildly soft-touch plastic shell that not only resembles a birdhouse (get it?) that apparently can be reused as an actual birdhouse.

BlackBerry 10: Moving on from PlayBook

Roger Cheng at CNET:

You can’t accuse RIM of rushing out BlackBerry 10. If anything, the operating system is way overdue. But the company has clearly spent the time to work out the kinks, and the early experience with the software has been pleasantly surprising.

RIM isn’t aping a trend or trying something completely new with BlackBerry 10, it’s actually focusing on its core smartphone product.

Absolutely, BlackBerry 10 is no PlayBook because the former is software and the latter is a device and that pretty much ends any debate from the literal perspective. But points taken: the PlayBook was rushed (although it was also late) while BlackBerry 10 has not been (we hope). Further, while the PlayBook was a one-off in an incremental market for RIM, BlackBerry 10 is a foundational technology for the company that it expects will last the next decade the way OS X has (and iOS is on track to).

An even greater issue for the PlayBook than those that Roger cites, however, including carrier acceptance, was developer acceptance (the two are of course related).  As a technology underpinning, BlackBerry 10 is, in fact, an evolution of the PlayBook OS (somewhat like OS X was an evolution of the Darwin project). However, BlackBerry 10 will, as Roger notes, enjoy the advantage of being on RIM’s higher-volume handsets rather than breaking into a new category.

With the Android market coalescing around Samsung with some HTC and Windows Phone doing the same with Nokia and HTC, certainly there will be at least one domestic carrier willing to give the new devices a try. Still, no matter how successful RIM’s developer evangelism is, there are bound to be many gaps at launch as there was for Windows Phone.The nightmare scenario is not that BlackBerry 10 will be the PlayBook, but that it will be webOS.

More mapping options come to iOS

Yesterday saw the release of Nokia HERE for iOS as the company steadfastly behind Windows Phone hopped ecosystems as Google has done with the Chrome browser and Microsoft may do with Office. The app, which includes offline maps capability, wasn’t the only location-based info news as Telenav added voice to the free version of the well-implemented Scout navigation program. Features such as red light camera databases remain exclusively in the premium version.

The additions come at a welcome time for iOS users who are still wresting with Apple Maps’ immaturity and will create more competition not only for Apple, but for other third-party options. At least they bring the advantages of apps as opposed to some fo the Web-based mapping alternatives referred to in Apple’s Maps apology.

This holiday, $299 is the new $199

This holiday, consumers will have at least three strong new consumer electronics products from which to choose converging around a $299 entry price — the Nintendo Wii U (basic set), the Kindle Fire HD 8.9, and the iPod touch. The other product that comes close and which may give that all a strong run for their money is the $329 iPad mini.

While these products may come with different descriptions worthy of Breakfast Club-style stereotypes — the video game, the tablet and the media player — it’s a  sign of the times is that all are platforms and converged devices. The main differences are the size of the screen they address and the maturity and the strength of the ecosystems they support.

Microsoft may roll back Start menu

Byron Acohido in USA Today:

Sinofsky successfully argued that it was crucial for the company to orient Windows PC users toward the look and feel of the all-new Windows 8 Surface touch tablet and the latest Windows Phone 8 smartphone models.

He might have won the internal debate. But convincing millions of home and workplace users of Windows that the switch was for their own good hasn’t gone well.

Microsoft’s bringing back of the Start button wouldn’t represent a retreat from the Windows 8-style touch interface or even have much practical benefit for Windows 8 users. This is a familiarity issue similar but perhaps more pronounced than the Apple Menu/dock controversy that surfaced at the debut of OS X. There are other ways that Microsoft could reconcile the desktop and touch interfaces of Windows 8 such as manually or automatically switching modes when using on a surface os opposed to on a couch or while standing.

The way Windows 8 works today, the default return to the Start screen is somewhat of an ad for the Windows 8-style interface. Don’t forget it’s there and hopefully developers won’t, either. The better way for Microsoft to push users to it, however, is to eat its own dog food and bring more settings and apps, especially Office, to that world. Engaging users with the entire screen would be much more powerful than dithering over a corner of it.

Approving Google Maps on iOS

Google is apparently following through on rumored plans to bring iOS devices with a standalone app similar to the approach it has taken with YouTube. The big question that seems to be floating around is whether Apple would approve such an app, much of it centered on the rivalry between the two companies. However, Apple would have a hard time justifying non-approval as it already has approved other mapping and navigation apps for iOS such as Waze, Scout, MapQuest and a number of map-resident apps from device brands such as TomTom and Magellan. The app store condition regarding non-competition with built-in functionality is dead and the platform is better for it.