AT&T has announced today that they are making some fairly big changes in the way they sell data. Gone are the $30 "unlimited" plans with the soft 5GB bandwidth cap. The changes affect smartphones as well as the iPad. Now mobile data will be sold in two packages. The DataPlus plan will cost $15 and offer 200MB of data a month. The DataPro plan will come with 2GB of data and run $25 per month.
The carrier is also changing how overages work, and this part of the plan actually sounds pretty reasonable. On the DataPlus plan, each additional 200MB block will run you $15, and each extra GB on the DataPro plan will be $10. The traditional overage fee amounted to $50 per GB of overage. AT&T also plans to finally offer tethering, but it will only be available on the DataPro plan. It will cost an extra $20 per month and it shares the same 2GB data allotment as the phone.
Users currently on the $30 plan are allowed to stay with it, but can move to the new plans at any time. These options may save money for most people, but some users may find themselves increasingly coming up against the caps. AT&T is currently only selling one Android phone directly, but these plans could be a problem for Google's mobile OS. Unlike the iPhone, Android based phones do a massive amount of background syncing of data. How do you feel about the changes? Would you end up saving of racking up overages?
While other tablet makers continue to drag their feet in shipping an actual product, Apple continues to sell more and more iPads at a clip of over 1 million per month. In less than 60 days, iPad sales have managed to top 2 million units.
"Customers around the world are experiencing the magic of iPad, and seem to be loving it as much as we do," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "We appreciate their patience, and are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone."
There's no denying that Apple's iPad has been a huge success so far, though sales numbers have been helped by the lack of any immediate competition. Both Microsoft (Courier) and HP (Slate) ended up scrapping their respective tablet plans, both of which were highly anticipated. Nevertheless, more tablet options are forthcoming, including ones built around Windows 7, Android, and webOS. The most compelling of these OSes might be Android, which is open-source, runs lean, and already has an existing app infrastructure in place in which to compete with Apple's App Store.
Apple may boast a greater market cap than its sworn enemy now, but not a lot has actually changed: Microsoft still is the top dog in the world computer market and the Mac seems comfortably entrenched in the perennial-runner-up-to-the-PC role.
Apple's vastly improved market capitalization and the investor confidence it reflects can be attributed to its dominance in the PMP and phone segments. What started out as a MP3 player has blossomed into a device and software ecosystem that currently spans three segments and knows no parallel.
Steve Jobs avowedly learnt a valuable lesson in 1997: “We have to let go of a few notions here. We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft needs to lose.” Those words appear to have acquired a prophetic aura.
If you're in the market for a low-cost tablet, hang tight, because several affordable models are on the way, says VIA's Richard Brown, vice president of marketing at VIA. In an interview with Bloomberg, Brown said he expects about five different models ranging in price from $100 to $150 to be available in the second half of 2010, all of which will sport a VIA processor inside.
All five models will be built around Google's open-source Android platform, which will play a big role in keeping the overall cost to a minimum.
"The tablet market has been legitimized by Apple," Brown said. "Android is bringing a lot of diversity to the market. There are different sizes and different looks and feels."
Taking down Apple will be no easy task, however, as the Cupertino company has already sold over a million iPads during their first month on sale and just recently launched to an international market. How the upcoming VIA-powered tablets compare remains to be seen, though Brown did say VIA is offering an ARM-based processor the for the new tablets.
Any hope for the release of a magical new version of the Amazon Kindle with a color screen was effectively destroyed today by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos. At a shareholder meeting in Seattle Bezos said that adding color to the Kindle's eInk screen was a difficult technical challenge. While he claimed to have seen some things in the lab, he was quick to point out they were not ready for wide scale use. According to Bezos, a color Kindle isn't coming anytime soon.
This is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Amazon doesn't seem to be showing any signs of worry in the wake of the iPad launch. Bezos often talks about selling millions of Kindles. Another thing the CEO's statements tell us is that Amazon is committed to sticking to eInk technology. If they intended to make an LCD eReader, it wouldn't matter how far along eInk technology was. Clearly, they feel the amazing battery life offered by the Kindle is their edge.
Amazon has taken steps to get their ebook platform on multiple devices, including the iPad. It could be they're just not that concerned with selling the Kindle hardware. Come to think of it, how long has it been since they tried to push a new version of the hardware on us? Would you be tempted by a color Kindle? Or is color best kept on tablets and computers?
Bookseller and Nook purveyor Barnes and Noble has decided to partner with Pandigital to bring a $199.99 color ereader to the market. The device, known as the Pandigital Novel, will use a regular backlit LCD instead of an eInk display like the Kindle or Nook. The Android-based Novel will have a 7-inch 800x600 resolution resistive touchscreen display, and ARM 11 CPU, Wi-Fi, and 1GB of internal storage with support for SD cards.
In many ways, it's really more of an inexpensive tablet that happens to be sold by a bookseller. The Novel will have a full web browser, and multimedia capabilities. Details on just what sort of multimedia experience would be available were not forthcoming, but it will play MP3s and some video formats. Experience with Android means probably H.264 encoded files. As far as ebooks, we're pleased to hear it will support books from Barnes and Noble's store as well as any files formatted as PDF, EPUB, or HTML. Battery life for reading is listed as only 6 hours though.
It's clearly not a match for the iPad on features, but the price is less than half of even the low end model of the Apple device. It is even cheaper than standard eInk-based readers, which often clock in at $260. We'll be interested to see if anyone goes for this device over the competition. Look for it to ship in June.
If you're a die-hard Red Sox fan (like myself) and live and breathe PCs (don't we all?), then fair warning, there's nothing in this post that will interest you - move along and check out what Sega and Steam are up to. For everyone else -- those of you who like a little variety in your tech news -- check this out. According to Yahoo Sports, Apple's iPad is not welcome in Yankee Stadium.
It's not that the Evil Empire of baseball has anything against the Yankee equivalent of the computer world (that would be Apple, folks), but certain items are prohibited, including "laptop computers." Forget all this talk about tablets, netbooks, ultraportables, and everything else, because as far as the Yankees are concerned, the iPad is a laptop computer, lack of Flash support be damned, so don't bother trying to bring one into the stadium.
Compare Yankee Stadium's policy with that of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which says that in most cases, you don't need to remove your iPad from your bag, unlike real laptops, which usually have to be placed on the security conveyor belt.
In any event, there are a couple of easy solutions. First, leave your tablet at home and actually watch the baseball game rather than playing Angry Birds HD during the seventh inning stretch. Or better yet, become a Mets fan.
Tablet shipments will reach 7 million units by the end of the year and exceed 46 million in 2014, representing a sixfold increase, market research firm IDC reported on Thursday.
Apple's iPad will be the driving force in pushing tablets to the masses, but so too will tablets becoming differentiated from PCs and smartphones, said Suasan Kevorkian, program director at IDC. According to Kevorkian, apps, content, and services designed for tablets will increase the divide between these devices.
IDC's numbers might even be a bit conservative. Apple has already sold over a million iPads, and that was just in the first 28 days, and also before the international launch. In addition, several other players are taking aim at the tablet market, including Hewlett-Packard, Asus, Lenovo, and others, all with different screen sizes and OSes (Android, webOS, and Windows).
We say “Project Natal,” you say “Xbox motion control camera doohickey,” right? In theory, it’s a gamer’s geekiest dream come true. You throw a punch, and your character on screen follows suit. Buttons? What are those? Soon, you could be hugging Gordon Freeman’s crowbar and fending off headcrabs with your own two hands. Fallout 3 production director Ashley Cheng, however, thinks Natal’s true potential lies far outside the realm of videogames.
“Seeing it in action, I was totally blown away by it. It seems wasted on games, really. Microsoft should open the NATAL API up like Apple does with the iPhone/iPad. Let anyone make a NATAL ‘app.’ I bet someone makes a killer app that has nothing to do with gaming,” the Bethesda developer wrote on his blog.
A couple weeks ago, we would’ve laughed at this. Then we saw Iron Man 2. Mark our words: if someone makes an app like that, they’ll become a millionaire. Even if we have to buy the app one million times ourselves.
Despite releasing a Kindle app for the iPad, Amazon isn't giving up on their own hardware just yet. Lab 126, the Amazon department responsible for the Kindle hardware, has been on a hiring spree as of late. Many of the new positions are for testing and product creation. This indicates that Amazon may be readying new hardware.
This is further evidenced by their recent acquisition of Touchco, a touchscreen technology startup. Sources at Amazon that could not speak on record also indicated Amazon is working with publishers to discuss adding games to the Kindle platform. This could signal a direct assault on the iPad.
It's clear the Kindle needs to evolve. Compared to the iPad, it's looking a little dated considering the current price of $260. Even though the Kindle is meant for only one thing, we feel like it could stand to gain a few new features. It doesn't have to compare spec for spec with the iPad, but it has to change or risk obsolescence.