Surface to “click in” to a separate accessory

One of the details about Surface that has been revealed is the price of the device which, at $499, is competitive with the current iPad. But that includes a significant asterisk, which is the $100 for the well-highlighted touch cover and even more for the thicker version with tactile keys.  The closest counterpart to this on the iPad is the Logitech Ultrathin keyboard which, unlike the Surface add-on keyboards, require a battery and Bluetooth and lacks a touchpad. But without such a relatively pricey peripheral, Surface users will have to rely on the device’s integrated kickstand for that satisfying  clicking sound. At least that kickstand will allow users to have device propped up unattended in landscape orientation, something that requires an accessory for the iPad.

Boxee TV lands between the living room and cloud

The new Boxee TV, like the original Boxee Box, is also produced by D-Link. But there’ll be little issue setting something on top of this one. Indeed, that’s what Boxee has figuratively done, stacking over-the-air DVR functionality on top of the Internet content that was delivered by the original oddly-angled cubazoid. The Boxee TV model is somewhat of a cross between Simple.TV and Aereo. Like the former, Boxee TV is a local device. Like the latter, though, it relies on cloud storage rather than local storage and unlimited local storage at that. Boxee TV will cost $99 and the company has struck a deal to blow it out at Walmart. Thus, not surprisingly, Walmart-owned Vudu will be one of the featured broadband TV launch partners along with Netflix.

Alas, there’s a monthly fee: $15 per month independent of any other services,. Like Aereo, Boxee will be offering access to all the recorded video via a Web app that should cover most services. So, it seems that Boxee, like Simple.TV, is courting the cord-never, or at least seeking to bring a bit of flavor of TV Everywhere to that crowd. Unlike Aereo, Boxee TV actually uploads recordings to the cloud, so it may be able to maneuver more deftly around legal challenges.

ASUS Padfone 2 improves on Russian doll design

It’s not quite building the trinity of the Mac, iPhone and iPad, but ASUS can lay claim to pioneering some minor form factor trends (or at least fads) including the netbook (Eee) and the detachable (Transformer), the latter of which will see increased adoption under Windows 8. Now it’s extending the case for form factor fusion and making a case for the trifecta with the Padfone, which embeds a phone in a tablet (which can then be docked).

There’s clear improvement in the Padfone’s second iteration. The phone is a competitive modern beast — 4.7″ IPS display, quad-core processor, the locking mechanism seems very secure, and the overall package with the tablet is thinner and lighter. But there is stil that hump in the back to literally and figuratively get over. The Padfone continues the assault on the tablet as  a standalone  device as something destined to become either a notebook variant or a smartphone accessory.

Xbox Music: Farewell from the social

Janko Roettgers at GigaOM:

Xbox Music is in many ways Microsoft’s attempt to catch up with everything that has been going on in the digital music space in the last two years:

When Microsoft launched Zune, it had an opportunity to look at the landscape of subscription music players such as Rhapsody and sought to differentiate with moves such as large, panning photos of artists, smart deejaying, social integration and a few free MP3s per month. The service sputtered, but its competition hasn’t fared much better. With XBox Music, Microsoft is again turning to the freebie strategy, giving away six months of on-demand streaming, at which point you will hopefully be hooked. After that, it’s virtually indistinguishable from others on the market (or at least a combination of others on the market).

This will be a lot easier for consumers to manage than the MP3 credits were. And perhaps integration and a favored position in the living room will earn it some traction there, but with Pandora integrated into an increasing number of HDTVs and of course MusicChoice and Sirius XM on tap for most cable and satellite customers. With Microsoft’s weak market share in handsets already (and some decent competition from Nokia Music from one of its partners), it clearly will have to flesh out its strategy for other mobile platforms soon.

Thanks to Manan Kakkar for the correction.

iPod touch: not a camera-killer

MG Siegler gets very excited about the iPhone 5-inspired iPod touch, saying it will further obliterate the point-and-shoot camera market. But the only thing that gets obliterated over the course of the review from my fellow TechCrunch columnist is that argument. This is achieved via his own points which note that point-and-shoot cameras continue to improve and that a current-generation iPod touch now costs nearly 50 percent more  I’ll say. If you value quality photography, not only can you get a superior point-and-shoot for less than the price of the iPod touch (increasingly even with Wi-Fi). And, by the way,the kinds of point-and-shoots being featured right now on Amazon’s home page are for underwater photography.

The iPod touch’s camera has improved, but it’s never been a camera cannibalizer. Indeed, the iPod touch has been holding up another category — MP3 players — under more severe attack from the real cannibals: subsidized smartphones.  The digital media player market seen about everyone except Apple and semtimental Sony exit above the $100 price point. In contrast, the struggling point-and-shoot camera market continues to see robust if evolutionary (and not always profitable) competition from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Pentax and Olympus.

Even Siegler concedes that the iPhone 5 is a better camera choice than the iPod touch, but notes that not everyone has an iPhone 5. That is true, but increasingly even cash-strapped US consumers can pick up smartphones on pre-paid carriers that would effectively obviate the need for an iPod touch. Siegler probably would never consider using such a device, but to deny their influence is to favor an iPod out-of-touch.

Amazon breaks even on Kindle hardware

Jeff Bezos clarifies that at least Amazon does not lose money on Kindle hardware (other than from a potential opportunity cost perspective).  It’s about the lock-in. He goes on to repeat the not quite accurate assertion that Amazon makes money when consumers use the device as opposed to buying it.

Best Buy’s Insignia Flex taps retailer tablet trend

Offering a tablet makes sense if you’re a bookstore, especially if you’re a bookstore that  has successfully transitioned into other media services. But that doesn’t mean that every retailer has to have its own tablet. Best Buy was actually somewhat early on the 7″ bandwagon in offering an exclusive on the unfortunately unpopular Wi-Fi-only HTC Flyer. However, it is late to throw its Insignia hat into a ring that will include the Kindle Fire and Nook attacking from below and Windows 8 tablets and hybrids from above.

It’s an odd show of confidence in Amdroid tablets from a company that knows well how poorly many of them are selling. Still, the Insignia Flex appears to have an attractive design; we’ll have to see where pricing lines up but $250 to $299 is probably a good bet as is a relatively stock Android build (apart from perhaps CinemaNow). There are still those who prefer the 4:3 aspect ratio of a tablet. While there have been many announcements of 9.7″ Android tablets following the demise of the Touchpad, few have seen significant distribution.

Via Engadget

US Postal Service to trial same-day deliveries

Following in the footsteps of eBay Now, this seems like a clever way for the Postal Service to address its staggering losses.

Verizon may hack Lumia 820 price, features

You get the feeling that Verizon is still not really feeling the Windows Phone love. Perhaps it dates back to its chilly experience with the Blackberry Storm as the last remnant of a real push by an Android competitor prior to making its big Droid push and finally getting the iPhone. We’ve seen T-Mobile push out the $49 price point before. On one hand, Verizon has a much larger customer base (and would even post-merger with MetroPCS). On the other hand, T-Mobile doesn’t have the iPhone, so alternative platforms don’t have to contend directly with a major competitor there.

In any case, in addition to Verizon passing on the Lumia 920, it seems to be passing on some of Nokia’s ideas for the Lumia 820 as well.most notably the interchangeable backs and the wireless charging that one of them enables. That’s a key differentiator not only from other handsets but also from the HTC 8x and 8s. Verizon had been one of the few major carriers stocking wireless charging battery covers in the past, but it may be moving away from that, at least for now.

On Android’s tablet efforts

Consumers don’t care about how apps come to take advantage of their devices, but they do notice an experience that doesn’t measure up to what a device is capable of. Google must match its Google Play push with its Android app efforts.

My latest Switched On column discusses the various attempts Google has made to improve Android’s presence in the tablet market.