MediaFile

How tablets can save the PC

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

‑ Winston Churchill

These are tough times for the personal computer: The 30-something device that everyone used to covet is being crowded out by younger objects of our affection. Time for a makeover.

Visionaries like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Apple’s Steve Jobs started a revolution by imagining that computers — at the time, massive, room-filling machines that basically just did arithmetic — could become indispensable tools for the masses. PCs led to a world filled with powerful electronics we could take anywhere: Desktops became laptops, phones became mobile and then smart. And now there are tablets.

PCs aren’t going to disappear, but they are no longer the most important computer we use. Many people carry three computers now: smartphone, tablet and laptop. The laptop is becoming the one we use least. Even some of our enduring PC use is reflex and habit. If we lost the use of a laptop, would life grind to a halt? Not with all these other options.

PC sales had their worst quarter ever in the first three months of this year, down almost 14 percent over the same 2012 period and the first full quarter when computers shipped with Windows 8. Analyst Bob O’Donnell from top research firm IDC connected these dots. Per Yahoo News:

Back in Blackberry

With a brand-new smartphone – and a new brand – BlackBerry (neé Research in Motion) has embarked on a critical reboot aimed at restoring the fortunes of the company that sparked the mobile revolution.

RIM has been left for dead. For years it hasn’t been able to shake off the stink of irrelevance as the iPhone proved that apps were more important than a physical keyboard, and that mobile “push” e-mail wasn’t rocket science. It endured brand-damaging outages to its private network while competitors crowed that their reliance on a public network was far more stable.

Now the company is reinventing itself in a last-ditch effort to survive. In a press conference yesterday, it announced that it had changed its corporate name to “BlackBerry” to better identify with its iconic product. Meanwhile, it has dramatically upgraded that product after a two-year effort that resulted in new phones designed from scratch and powered by what would be a major mobile operating system: QNX.

With Maps, Apple’s lost

The Apple Maps fiasco has become terribly overblown, if not hysterical.

It started with the fanfare release of the iPhone 5 and its software upgrade in September, which included a big switch from Google Maps to a homegrown alternative from Apple. The upgrade did not go well. Almost immediately, users began noticing that the maps were … unreliable. Not bad enough to slow iPhones sales but bad enough to dominate the news cycle for days.

But the damage was already done. Everyone seemed to be having a field day with Apple’s self-inflicted wound. More than two months later, the drama continues.

This week, Apple fired a senior executive, Map Division head Richard Williamson. Previously, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook showed Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS Software, the door when he wouldn’t go on his own. Cook himself wrote a quick and sincere apology, which seemed to quiet the clamor.

What happens if smartphones become commodities?

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published at PandoDaily.com

Remember Antennagate? Back in the summer of 2010, the brouhaha over reception glitches in the iPhone 4 dominated tech headlines for weeks and led to a class-action lawsuit and a $15-per-user settlement. In retrospect, the controversy seems meaningless, which is why I thought of it amid the current flap over Apple Maps.

Apple will survive the Maps controversy, just as it weathered Antennagate. But there is another trend affecting Apple that the announcement of the iPhone 5 revealed, a larger trend that will take much longer to play out: Smartphones are becoming too similar for their own good.

Only five years after Apple refashioned the smartphone with its touchscreen and its iOS software, smartphones are becoming a commodity. Any must-have feature that distinguishes one phone from the pack is quickly adopted by the pack itself. Fandroids and Apple fanboys will always argue passionately about which phone is superior, but for mainstream consumers, it’s getting harder to see that one brand’s phone is better than the others.

Why I won’t be getting an iPhone 5

Thousands of people will be “the first” to get the new iPhone 5 today. I won’t be among them. I’ve had every model of Apple’s revolutionary handset since it was first unveiled five years ago — upgrading even if my phone contract hadn’t expired yet — and, like the first-time parent of a toddler in a public place, am in a state of panic the moment I don’t know where my iPhone 4S is.

But I am skipping this upgrade. And while Apple is already setting sales records (again) with this launch, I’m seeing this milestone as the beginning of the end of the smartphone as the dominant mobile device in our daily lives.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not abandoning the iPhone, or any smartphone — at least not yet. I’m not even saying my iPhone 4S will be my last Apple handset, or that the smartphone won’t endure, even if only as a commoditized device.

As Apple’s Passbook hits the scene, Tello tries to end coupon envy

iPhone users get the closest thing Apple has made to a digital wallet on Wednesday with the release of iOS 6’s new Passbook app, which stores electronic coupons, loyalty cards and tickets.

But where will all those nifty new digital coupons come from?

For coffee shops, corner pizzerias and other small businesses that don’t have in-house engineers to create their own Passbook coupons, a new service launching Wednesday aims to make it easy.

PassTools is a Web-based service that lets businesses quickly create Passbook coupons with a few clicks. The service, which costs $99 a month for up to 1,000 Passbook coupons or tickets, is the latest product from Tello, a Silicon Valley start-up that has until now focused on an online customer-feedback service for businesses.

The new iPhone is a people’s evolution

Revolutions can be exciting, but sometimes evolution can be even more powerful. With the curtain drawn back today on what exactly the new iPhone will do (and will be called), Apple is entering a period of consolidating its lead. Its next trick is to outflank smartphone competitors as deftly as it has in the tablet wars.

The news on iPhone 5 Day began with some some telling iPad statistics: The tablet’s market share has grown from 62% to 68% year-over-year through June, despite strong (relatively speaking) competition from Amazon’s Kindle Fire. And the iPad accounts for a borderline inconceivable 91% of all web surfing with tablets.

Why did CEO Tim Cook drop these little tidbits before the main event? To force the audience, as only the great magicians can, to look “over there” at the shiny stats instead of “over here,” where the devices generating those stats aren’t much changed. And to telegraph his master plan.

Twist – a new app for the punctuality-challenged

The minds of Silicon Valley have yet to find the cure for tardiness, but they have figured out a way to make being late less rude.

A new app call Twist notifies friends and colleagues when you’re running late, calculating the estimated time of arrival to your destination on-the-fly and zipping off text messages to the people waiting for you.

The free app, available on Wednesday for iOS devices, can be used for trips by car, bike, foot and public transportation in most major U.S. cities. In development for the past year, the app’s algorithms crunch through various data streams, such as the average speed you travel and real-time traffic patterns, to calculate ETAs that co-founder Mike Belshe says are 98 percent accurate.

Can’t find a socket to charge your phone? IDT’s got a solution.

IDT’s wireless recharging chips, on right, versus a rival product.

(Updates with cost details)

Ted Tewksbury wants to get rid your iPhone cable.

The chief executive of San Jose, California-based Integrated Device Technology is pushing a set of microchips he hopes will eventually render “contactless charging” — charging your smartphone by simply placing it on a specific spot — commonplace and eventually make phone-charging cables a thing of the past.

On a recent visit to IDT’s offices, Tewksbury showed me the chips he’s just started selling. They’re IDT”s twist on existing technology, using inductive coupling, which has yet to reach critical mass.

Content everywhere? More like content nowhere

Will Big Media and Big Tech companies ever stop punishing their biggest fans?

Like many people, I woke up yesterday and reached for my iPad for my morning hit of news, entertainment and information, so I could start my day. (And like many, I’m embarrassed to admit it.) Padding to the front door to get a newspaper still sounds more respectable, but my iPad gives me a far more current, rich and satisfying media experience than a still-warm printed Times could ever produce.

Except, lately, it doesn’t. Yesterday morning, I saw the exciting news that Bill Simmons, ESPN’s most popular, profane and controversial writer, had secured an interview with President Obama. Simmons published his interview in podcast, text and video form on Grantland, a longform sports journalism website he founded last year under the ESPN umbrella. I clicked over to the story from my Twitter feed and saw three YouTube excerpts of Simmons with Obama. And that’s all I saw. When I hit play on the videos, I discovered ESPN had set them to be “unavailable” on mobile devices.

Moving on, I tried to read a New York Post headline that also found its way into my Twitter feed. But when I tapped in, the Post webpage that loaded was not the story I wanted to read. Instead it was a notice, which I took as an admonition, that to read New York Post content on an iPad, I would have to download the app, which retails for $1.99.