The Strobist shows how it’s done low-end

Contrary to the Gizmodo headline, hardware does matter as the good-natured David Hobby complains plenty about his Toy Story-themed two-megapixel toy camera during his Chinese photo shoot. And while the strobes he may be working with are chintzy Nikon SB800 ripoffs, having access to external lighting (much less someone to hold it) is an advantage that few photographers have in their daily shoots. This is to take nothing away from Hobby, who works through many challenges to capture some compelling shots. My favorite one is  of the Lamborghini, Ultimately, it is the singer and not the song.

Microsoft gains greater distribution for Surface RT

Staples’ decision to carry the Surface RT probably won’t do too much to help such a consumer-focused device, but Best Buy’s carrying of it is bigger news. As much as the additional distribution will help Microsoft, Best Buy may be the bigger winner. Not only will it add to Best Buy’s selection, but it will drive store traffic to offer exposure to a host of other Windows RT and Windows 8 devices. In contrast, there was little to cross-sell Surface customers at Microsoft’s popup stores beyond perhaps a copy of Halo 4 and it stocked only two Windows devices beyond Surface.

Christie Street brings welcome changes to tech crowdfunding

DoorBot is but of the latest in an increasing number of DIY connected products. It is an interesting product taken alone, but made far more interesting and useful since the developers are integrating with the Lockitron Internet-controllable appcessory.  But what may be even more interesting than DoorBot itself is the site on which the campaign for it is being launched: Christie Street. The name refers to the street on which Edison developed the light bulb, showing that not everyone shares disdain for the man most commonly associated with the incandescent bulb.

There are two things about Christie Street that stand out:

  • It positions itself specifically for inventions, not the “creative works” like albums, music videos, and photo books that run deep in Kickstarter’s roots and which are a somewhat strange fit for the kinds of high-profile tech that tend to gain a lot of attention in Kickstarter’s Product Design section.
  • It is as committed to protecting buyers — yes, buyers, not backers — via an escrow system. Is it fullproof? Probably not. But it is welcome to see a crowdfunding site take responsibility for how its users view transactions as opposed to clinging to its liability-limiting self-definition.

In short, if you’ve been a fan of noteworthy crowdfunded gadgets such as the Pebble smartwatch, Swivl rotating imaging and video base, Memoto lifelogging camera and others, Christie Street may evolve into a better destination for these kinds of projects, both for gadget creators and consumers.

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.