Roger Cheng on Softbank investment in Sprint

Money would go to network upgrades and purchasing Clearwire

Tempering the touchpad trend

After a period of Apple having the only large trackpad accessory for its touchscreen-averse desktop Macs (and only Macs despite its Bluetooth compatibility), PC vendors have jumped on trackpads as if they had the springy surface of a trampoline. In fact, the velocity seems to have accelerated as we approach the release of Windows 8, which is optimized for touch screens that many PCs will lack. So the trackpad has become the disembodied notebook component that enables Windows 8’s charming — or at least Charm-coaxing — multitouch gestures.

Vizio started the trackpad trend by including a Magic Trackpad-sized device with its first all-in-one PCs, going as far as ditching the mouse in favor of a remote. HP also included one with its new high-end (as opposed to the old high-end) touch-deficient Spectre One, although isn’t ready to off the rodent.

Now, if anyone can sell an external pointing device to PC users, it’s probably Logitech, which will take aim with a new T6500 glass trackpad. But it still seems that there will be a limited aftermarket for such devices. They would be of primary interest to non-touch-enabled desktop users, a shrinking part of the Windows pie (and even smaller if Microsoft makes the progress it wants in talbets). Logitech would have to bet — as Vizio appears to be doing — that the multitouch gestures of Windows 8 wlll sway people away from the classic pointing device of the mouse, even as Microsoft and others add multi-touch capabilities to that.

eBay’s proactive shopping vision

eBay today brought out the A-team copywriters with its assertion that it will make “inspiration shoppable.” Personalization was probably the biggest theme of the day with the expected healthy dollop of mobile and a heavy sprinkling of factoids about eBay customers. But in the end, three takeaways were

  • geographical expansion of eBay now, the instant-delivery service reminiscent of Kozmo of yore
  • Feed, a new eBay meld of browsing and search that resembles a Pinterest board.
  • a revamped item listing page with integrated PayPal to streamline the checkout process. PayPal, of course, was on its own roadshow last holiday season showing off how it intends to compete as a versatile e-wallet provider.

But there’s nothing that can wind up a prolonge presentation like a good concept video. eBay’s was heavy on augmented reality, showing different scenarios in which consumers could use their handsets to to identify the value of things needing to be sold, shopped for or donated in real=time or identify auto parts for their vehicles. The more curious part of the video, though, was when a woman virtually tried on outfits in a store window and then had a mini-map locate the location of the object in the mall. For all the bashing eBay did of the value of real estate, it appears it intends to expand its brick-and-mortar ambitions.

Sony RX1 sample pictures and video

Gorgeous as you might expect from a $2,800 full-frame camera. Perhaps exposure could have been set more appropriately but you can see some blown-out details on one of the fixture photos. In any case, these samples just reinforce interest in a potental RX10 that would include an APS-C sensor and be priced neatly between the RX1 and RX100.

How the iPad mini stacks up

The iPad mini appears to be imminent, buttressing Apple’s tablet franchise from lowball, razor blade-focused models such as the Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7. One way the company can save face in light of its earlier comments rebuking smaller tablets is by going a bit larger. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7, for example, has been well-received, and I’ve had a good experience with the screen size of the Motorola Xyboard 8.2.

Eddie Cue’s comments that came to light regarding the Apple-Samsung trial regarding the challenging Web experience on such tablets is spot on. Hopefully, Apple can address this with a high-resolution display. Obviously, a new smaller iPad would use the new Lightning connector. And judging from the pictures published by CNET, it appears that Apple may continue with the wider aspect ratio introduced on the iPhone 5. That’s a bit disappointing in some ways as the 4:3 aspect ratio helped the iPad stand out and was superior for photos, magazines and documents.

Sorry, Woz, but things haven’t changed at Apple

Dan Graziano at Boy Genius Report:

[Apple’s] co-founder went on to point out that once upon a time Apple released software on competing platforms, such as its release of iTunes on Windows. Something has recently changed, however: As Wozniak points out, iTunes isn’t available on Android.

In fact, very little has changed, at least regarding app support for competing operating systems. iTunes has been one of the few exceptions to Apple developing software for Windows or any other non-Apple platform; Steve Jobs famously described the port as akin to “giving a glass of ice water to someone in Hell.” Who can really say what beverages apps such as those in the iWork and iLife suites would have represented to the damned? It’s a moot question as Apple never ported any of them and likely never will. iTunes was ported primarily as an interface between the iPod and the PC. Windows didn’t really need another music management program.

There is now less need to create a hedge against Internet Explorer

As to iTunes for Android, it’s important to distinguish between desktop iTunes — which handles the purchasing, management, device transfer and playback of content — and iOS’ iTunes, which is just a store with content playback being managed through other apps. It wouldn’t make any sense to offer desktop iTunes for Android (although perhaps one day a cloud-based solution will support that operating system). And Apple brings little to the table by offering the mobile content store manifestation of iTunes to Android. There are many competitors, including the de facto Google Play and Amazon digital content storefronts, and songs purchased with iTunes can be played on Android devices, with device transfer managed through other apps such as DoubleTwist. What has waned is support for non-Apple devices via iTunes, which was a key feature for the software before Apple launched the iPod.

Safari was another app that Apple had brought to Windows, but hasn’t updated to the latest version. There is now less need to create a hedge against Internet Explorer with the ascent of Webkit-based Chrome on Windows and iOS has provided a fertile enough base for Safari to ensure developer support. The other notable Apple app for Windows is FileMaker, which is managed out of an Apple subsidiary. It’s been a successful product, but I’ve always thought that Apple kept it in-house to ensure that the Mac had a viable database client app (since Microsoft never created a Mac version of Access (or Visual FoxPro for that matter)) and to keep tabs on what life was like for a commercial Windows developer.

Pono! Here we go again.

Bobby Owinsky:

it really does sound that much better (it should, but there are caveats), there is a group of people that will buy yet another version of the records that they may have purchased several times already.

Unfortunately, it’s the same group that could not sustain many other attempts to do market higer-, ranging from SACD to iTunes Plus. Unless there’s some kind of game-changing pricing on the Pono service — and that seems unlikely given the focus on a premium experience — Pono likely won’t move the needle more than this five-year old effort.

MSN shapeshifts again

This is something of a return to the roots of MSN, which began life as a Windows-optimized online service (the eWorld of Windows if you will). It is Microsoft’s Madonna, reinventing itself every few years.

Google passes Microsoft in market valuation

It’s milestones such as these that are causing Redmond to rethink their business, but Microsoft still has a defensive mentality as evidenced with how they are approaching tablets by grafting a touch UI onto the tablet-unfriendly desktop environment. What are the new businesses Microsoft is trying to pioneer that have more than niche potential?

Free MVNO FreedomPop launches

Another plan with a paltry data allotment but good enough to visit that quick Web page just isn’t working right on your mobile phone. Question is, for how long will these WiMAX networks that many of these 4G plans are riding on be available? They’re certainly not going to be improving.