iPad mini: the Retina Display question

Most coverage that we’ve seen of the rumored iPad mini notes that it won’t have a Retina Display. There is, however, a counterargument.  Clearly, Apple has been on a Retina tear (although hopefully without any actual torn retinae) as it has become a defining and increasingly anticipated feature crossing many product lines: MacBook, iPhone and iPod. If Apple was willing to put a Retina Display on the iPod touch, why wouldn’t it put one on the iPad mini? The technology is clearly available. The display on the imminent Barnes & Noble Nook HD is Retina-sharp. Adding credence to this is rumors that the iPad mini may start at $329, which would be relatively high for the sub-8″ tablet category even given that Apple is profitable (and quite) on hardware. Pulling off a Retina Display iPad mini at $299 would be a coup.

On crowdfunded kitchen gadgets

Companies keep trying to affix touchscreens to our refrigerators and develop more infomercial-friendly variations of the blender, but the kitchen still remains a relatively low-tech sanctuary. Even as we hurtle toward a Wall-E-era existence of complete automation and leisure, the simple joys of preparing a meal in one’s own kitchen can be invigorating.

My latest Backed or Whacked column for TechCrunch examines three Kickstarter funding campaigns for kitchen gadgets.

On Surface RT’s price point

Beyond Surface’s clicky hardware amenities and accessories, it will come down to a preference for features such as the panoramic Live Tile home screen, which avoids much of the icon clutter of the iPad, side-by-side apps, and Charms, which allow apps to communicate with each other in a more standardized way than we see on Apple’s tablet.

 My latest Switched On column examines the value proposition of Surface RT.

Official name of 4K becomes Ultra HD

Apparently, the sticky widget was whether to include a qualifier to distinguish between 4L and 8K, which was dropped. Of course, today there are a few pricey 4K TVs on the market. As with the early days of HD, content is mostly confined to upscaled discs (Blu-ray these days) and photos.

Rumor: Color Labs to be acquired by Apple

It would be odd to see Apple go back to the same well from which it drank up Lala, but Color hit on some emerging phenomena such as introductions and (live) video sharing that will undeniably become more important.

New Acer 7″ tablet enters crowded, margin-free market

Easy to blame this one on competing with your OS provider (albeit indirectly), but the situation would be similar if it the A110 were simply competing with the Kindle Fire HD, just as it was for other 7″ tablets from Samsung and Lenovo. Still, it’s the perception of competing with the OS vendor that makes for uneasiness.

Amphibious ATV coming for about $40K

Twice the fun at 45 mph on the water from the folks who brought you the Aquada. “It’s about freedom.”

Amazon touches seas of Kindles with Whispercast

Like Apple, Amazon’s standing as a successful retailer has allowed it to drive the Kindle business beyond those of any other Android-based tablet maker. Both companies have succeeded in part because of their focus on the end-user or customer. The introduction of Whispercast, however, throws a wrinkle into that. This is the first “Whisper”-branded technology that caters to the needs of institutions, priming the pump for large-volume purchases.

It may also signal a continued move away from ads that are not enterprise-friendly; Amazon greatly reduced the price to remove ads in its latest round of Kindles. The move is timed well to take advantage of the larger, higher-end Kindle Fires on the way that can do a better job of displaying documents and other rich media as wel as the lower-end Kindle Paperwhites that are lean, mean text-reading machines. It also helps to shore up Amazon’s defenses now that its main competitor is partnering with enterprise software giant Microsoft, but also to further differentiate it from the signage-class e-readers that may soon start to aggregate in that unforgiving pool known as “the bottom.”

Belkin debuts iPhone-connected baby monitor

It includes a Cry Notification feature and will compete directly with the startup Evoz. This may be another case of telepresence overkill.

Telenav acquires location-based advertising company

It’s always interesting to see how third parties react when much of their core functionality gets integrated into the operating system. Telenav had to do this with Android and now with iOS. Keeping its excellent Scout app free and functional will require creative and unobtrusive advertising.