MediaFile

A looking glass into the post-smartphone era

Permit me to not act my age.

I was all grown up already when the Internet became a big deal, scarcely two decades ago. I was like a kid in a candy store. Still, I’ve only had a couple of heart-stopping moments in those 20 years in which everything has changed.

My heart skipped a beat (along with probably only thousands of others) when I downloaded Mosaic, the first Web browser, on the first day it was released. It consistently froze up. But that small, terribly flawed piece of software was really a time portal, showing me the future, and I could barely breathe.

Two years ago I got my hands on the first iPad on the first day it went on sale. My unboxing was unceremonious because I had to rush and show it off during a couple of TV interviews. But when I got home late on that Saturday in April and finally had a chance to put it through its paces, it took my breath away. I was a kid again: full of wonder and utterly immune to negativity.

Call me childish, but I had the same primal reaction to the video, and the reporting of my Wired colleague Steven Levy, on Google’s Project Glass. As Levy writes, Project Glass is “an augmented reality system that will give users the full range of activities performed with a smartphone – without the smartphone. Instead, you wear some sort of geeky prosthetic (one of those pictured is reminiscent of the visor that Geordi La Forge wore on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Google has also been experimenting with a version that piggybacks on regular spectacles).”

The augmented reality features in Glass aren’t new. Bionic Eye brought AR to the iPhone in 2009: You held up the phone at eye level and nearby points of interest floated through the camera’s lens. Sekai Camera, an augmented reality smartphone app, not only provides a heads-up display of information but also adds a social element. Yelp tossed in Monocle, another augmented reality feature, as an Easter egg in its app. Heck, in December 2009 Wired highlighted the seven best augmented reality apps for iPhone and Android.

Apple iPhone 4S: Believe the hype?

As Apple reports quarterly earnings based largely on the number of iPhones it sold, the honeymoon continues for the lucky millions able to get their hands on the newest 4S model, which was initially criticized for not being new enough. Apple went on to sell 4 million of them in 3 days.

So, after the initial sales storm, is Apple’s iPhone 4S living up to the hype?

First, here’s a graphic on how the baby compares to its older sibling:

Corrected: The graphic, above falsely stated that the iPhone 4S had 1GB of memory. As Ben Pingel pointed out, it actually has 512MB.

Tech wrap: Microsoft’s Office shines, Windows lacks luster

Microsoft reported a greater-than-expected 30 percent increase in fiscal fourth-quarter profit, helped by sales of its Office software, but profit from its core Windows product fell on soft PC sales. Microsoft posted net profit of $5.87 billion, or 69 cents per share, compared with $4.52 billion, or 51 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. That easily beat Wall Street’s average estimate of 58 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“These are great results given a slower PC environment and it highlights how the company has multiple revenue streams. The $17 billion unearned revenue, which is a forward indicator of business, shows they signed a lot of deals this quarter,” said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

AT&T posted better-than-expected subscriber growth for the second quarter, pushing its profits and sales past Wall Street estimates despite the loss of exclusive U.S. rights to sell the Apple iPhone.

Tech wrap: LinkedIn shares skyrocket in debut

LinkedIn made its remarkable debut on the New York Stock Exchange, at times trading more than 171 percent above its IPO price of $45. The stampede to buy the stock had some remembering back to another time when investors also loved tech stock IPOs: the 1990s and the dotcom bubble.

Does the response to LinkedIn suggest investors are in for another bubble that bursts when the fundamentals overtake the hype? Or is it a sign that investors are hungry for any piece of the social media pie and LinkedIn’s happens to be first out of the oven? While Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Zynga are still expected to go public, LinkedIn Chief Executive Jeff Weiner cautions that his company’s spectacular debut should not be seen as a proxy for them.

While American social media companies are testing the IPO waters, their European counterparts at Viadao, Mind Candy, Sulake and Telmap are expressing skepticism at the Reuters Global Technology Summit about the sky-high valuations of U.S. start-ups and the potential for another bubble.

Tech wrap: Sony admits PlayStation Network privacy breach

A visitor plays with a Playstation at an exhibition stand at the Gamescom 2009 fair in Cologne in this August 22, 2009 file photo. Reuters/Ina Fassbender

An unauthorized person stole names, addresses and other personal data belonging to about 77 million people who have accounts on Sony’s PlayStation Network, Sony said. The person gained access to people’s names, addresses, email address, birthdates, usernames, passwords, logins, security questions and more, Sony said on its U.S. PlayStation blog.

Amazon.com’s quarterly sales beat expectations but earnings fell steeply as it spent heavily on everything from online multimedia services to its Kindle e-reader. Net income for the world’s largest online retailer was $201 million, down 32.8 percent from $299 million, a year earlier. Revenue was $9.86 billion. “This is another investment year…It’s probably not going to be until Q4 that we see some leverage from that,” Lazard Capital Markets’ Colin Sebastian said.

Verizon iPhone gets dinged by Consumer Reports (Update)

VERIZON/IPHONE“Antennagate” again?

The reception problem that plagued AT&T’s iPhone 4 last summer is also found on the Verizon version of the iPhone, according to Consumer Reports.  The influential nonprofit organization, which publishes guides on everything from cars to TVs, said Friday that holding the Verizon iPhone “in a specific but quite natural way” can cause the phone to drop calls.

Consumer Reports tested the device against five other Verizon smartphones — Samsung Fascinate, Motorola Droid 2 Global, HTC Droid Incredible, LG Ally, and Motorola Droid X — and said “the only phones in which the finger contact caused any meaningful decline in performance was the iPhone 4.”

The Verizon iPhone 4 launched earlier this month, but there has been no hue and cry about its reception, as there was with the AT&T device. “There has been no such outpouring of complaints about the Verizon version of the phone,” Consumer Reports noted. However, the tech blogosphere did take note of the problem when the phone went on sale.

Verizon’s iPhone antenna ‘death grip’ proof?

vzapplOn the face of it, the iPhone 4 unveiled by Verizon Wireless on Tuesday is pretty much the same device that AT&T has been selling. It costs the same, and features essentially the same bells and whistles — with the nice addition of a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, that allows up to five other devices to share its wireless signal.

But the blogosphere quickly picked up on one intriguing change in Verizon’s iPhone: the all-important antenna, which wraps around the device. You can see some pics from Gizmodo here, highlighting the differences between iPhones offered by Verizon and AT&T.

You will recall that the antenna for AT&T’s iPhone was the source of quite the uproar last summer, when some users complained of poor reception and dropped calls when holding the device a certain way.  The issue unexpectedly snowballed, giving rise to such memorable phrases as “Antennagate” and “iPhone 4 death grip.” Of course, none of it seemed to dent iPhone sales.

GlobalMedia-Gaming giants differ on mobile, social games

kotickMuch of the buzz in gaming these days revolves around two small but fast-growing areas: social games and mobile ones played on smartphones. But two titans of the video game industry have decidedly different takes on those markets.

There are already tens of thousands of game apps available for the iPhone and competing Android smartphones, and tens of millions of people playing free games on Facebook.

Still, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick (pictured) sounded less than enthusiastic about those markets when he spoke to the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York on Tuesday. And that represented a stark contrast from what Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello said just a day earlier

Facebook Mobile Event on Nov 3: Is this the secret Facebook Phone?

Here’s something to keep the rumor mills churning through the weekend.FBFone

Facebook has just sent out an invite to the media for a “mobile event” at its Palo Alto, California headquarters on Wednesday November 3.

Could this be the unveiling of the much-speculated about Facebook phone? You may recall that technology blog TechCrunch reported last month that Facebook was secretly developing a special smartphone.

Facebook then issued a carefully-worded response that said the company was not “building” a phone, but that it had projects focused on “deeper integrations with some manufacturers.”

Will Blackberry “Torch” catch fire?

blackberry

The makers of the Blackberry, Research In Motion, unveiled a new version of the smartphone with a touchscreen and slideout keyboard, which is aimed squarely at the iPhone. It runs on AT&T’s network and is called “Torch” –but will it catch fire in world of popular consumer gadgets?

The event occurred as attendees and analysts also wondered how Research in Motion would respond to questions about the security of its messaging system.

Check out the live blog that we conducted during the Blackberry event — with a little help from our friends using  Twitter — with lots of opinions and fact about the new product.