Archive for August, 2010
Earlier today, the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed off stickers that would give car buyers standardized info on a particular model’s fuel economy and environmental impact. Gadgets should have standardized ratings, too.
When buying gadgets, comparison is paramount. There are inevitably a hundred TVs that fit the general requirements you’ve set out, a few dozen Blu-ray players, and a handful of smartphones. In many cases, it ends up being a process of elimination, and standardized gadget ratings would ensure that that process was a fair and informed one.
As our society comes to terms with the direness of our energy situation, and as the idea of “green” transforms from buzzy marketing bullshit to something that our gadgets actually have to be, it will be essential to have real, digestible data on how the electronics we use impact the environment. Some considerations here could include:
• Power consumption: how much gadgets use when they’re plugged in and operating; how much they use when they’re plugged in and not being used.
• Materials: how environmentally friendly are the materials used in a product.
• Supply chain: under what conditions were the products manufactured, and from what countries did their parts originate.
• Durability: how many use cycles a product can be expected to last for.
• Disposability: how long a product, or its packaging, will take to degrade in various situations.
Some terms and standards for addressing these issues are already floating around. “Vampire draw” is a more colorful way to talk about the power our gadgets quietly suck while they’re plugged in but not in use, and since 1992 Energy Star has been giving consumers a vague notion that their products were gobbling up a little less energy than they could be. But if you walked into a Best Buy and asked the people inside—the people buying things and the people selling them—what standards were required of any given product for it to bear the Energy Star sticker, how many of them would have any clue? Not very many, I imagine.
Green stats are just the start; similar standardized ratings could overhaul the way we evaluate all our devices’ specs. Sure, many of the ones you might consider when buying a new gadget are objective: Megapixels. Processor speeds. Screen sizes. But why do we blindly trust the companies that make our gadgets to faithfully report things like battery life? Why do we have to rely on websites to run benchmarks for every new machine that comes out? Here are just a few things that could be tested by a third party:
• Battery life: standardized tests for various usage scenarios. For a music player this could mean playing straight through, on shuffle, or selecting particular songs and scrubbing to a particular moment.
• Benchmarks: tests for CPUs and GPUs.
• Power on and shut down times: tests that would show how long various models take to turn on completely, shut down completely, go into a sleep state, wake up from a sleep state, etc.
• Display: a standardized test for brightness, color reproduction, etc.
• Wireless reception: how strong of a signal devices get with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.
• Noise: how loud larger products like desktops, appliances, etc. are while operating.
Things like stock specs and Energy Star standards are a start, but only that. Establishing standardized tests for aspects of performance and power consumption—and, perhaps, as the EPA has suggested for the auto industry, assigning a letter grade based on those numbers—would help keep consumers informed and companies honest.
At first, it might look like a bad memory from a late-90s porn misclick—a flurry of browser windows filling your screen. But a new collaboration between Google and Arcade Fire is looking to the future, showcasing HTML5′s power.
Rather than stick a traditional music video on YouTube, Arcade Fire’s “The Wilderness Downtown” is a Chrome “experience,” highlighting what modern, HTML5-compatible browsers are capable of rendering. Multiple windows run and close in coordination with the music, and—easily the neatest part of the demonstration—your browser will incorporate Street View imagery of your childhood home (after you provide the address).
We’re not sure the demonstration is quite an experience, but should offer some ammunition in the HTML5/Flash imbroglio, despite being an imperfect demonstration (we recommend temporarily quitting other applications that might pop windows and derail the show). [The Downtown Wilderness via Wired]
Looks like that fake Pre with the iOS / BlackBerry OS split personality is a little ahead of its time, but ARM — supplier of the architecture that underpins most of the world’s smartphones — likes the idea. In a recent talk at Stanford, ARM program manager David Brash talked up some of the highlights of new “extensions” to the existing ARMv7-A platform, and though he apparently never mentioned Eagle by name, it seems safe to assume that he was referring to the capabilities that Eagle would bring to the table when it launches in the next couple years. Notably, the extensions will break through ARM’s current 4GB RAM limit by mapping 4GB windows of memory to each virtualized operating system, which dovetails nicely — suspiciously nicely, in fact — with VMware’s recent talk of wanting virtualized phones capable of seamlessly switching between multiple platforms without any hacky bootloader solutions. We’re definitely game for that, but considering that Eagle is still years away from retail reality, we’re not bothering to clear space on our credit limit just yet.
New ARM architecture (likely Eagle) better suited for OS virtualization originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 27 Aug 2010 18:17:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
For all the stupid pet tricks, first-person confessionals, and clips from Conan O’Brien’s formative years that form YouTube‘s content, the one territory it doesn’t really venture is pay-per-view à la Apple, Amazon, and others. Well, it’ll be a Brave New World for the service — and parent company Google — if this Financial Times report is worth its weight in 3mm. According to the publication, the G-Men have been in talks with “Hollywood’s leading movie studios” for several months, touting its reach as one of the main draws for the players involved, for the launch of an international pay-per-view service by the end of this year. Some prices are also thrown around here, to the tune of about $5 for new titles (streaming, not download) available the same time as the DVD releases. The video site has been doing rentals on a trial basis since early this year, with just a smattering of indie titles. The thought of paying to watch Blockbuster titles in the same window we watched three dozen (if not more) remixes of Keyboard Cat is still a bit of a new concept, but hey, that’s the future for you.
YouTube courting Hollywood for pay-per-view movie service by end of 2010, says Financial Times originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 29 Aug 2010 18:50:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Infineon, the company behind the baseband chips inside your super-duper new phone, is about to cash out from the wireless industry courtesy of Intel’s insatiable appetite. The Wireless Solutions Business (WLS), which accounted for nearly a third of Infineon’s €3 billion ($3.83b) revenue last year, is being sold to the American chipmaker for a cool $1.4 billion. For its part, Intel is quick to reassure the world (and its antitrust authorities) that WLS will continue to operate as a standalone business and continue to support ARM-based devices. Chipzilla’s perfectly innocent ploy is to harness Infineon’s knowhow in future smartphone, tablet and laptop products, providing both the processing and wireless capabilities. Specifically mentioned in the news release is Intel’s ambition to “accelerate 4G LTE” through this deal, while also not neglecting its ongoing efforts with WiMAX, with the overarching strategy being described as “a combined path.” We should know more about where this path will take us when the acquisition is completed in the first quarter of next year.
Intel gobbles up Infineon’s mobile unit in $1.4 billion deal, looks to ‘accelerate 4G LTE’ originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 30 Aug 2010 03:49:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Those Japanese touchscreen vending machines in Tokyo may be the future of street-level drink sales, but are the Japanese actually liking it? Let’s find out.
Japan Probe summarizes:
• High school girls think it’s cool.
• Some customers have trouble figuring out what part of the screen needs to be touched in order to buy a drink.
• When it detects a young man, it recommends a sports drink or bottled water.
• When it detects a woman, it recommends tea or bottled water.
• It has trouble detecting faces when eyes are blocked by dark sunglasses.
Confusion about where to press should only be a temporary thing, and the recommendation thing sounds interesting. Recommending a cold drink when it’s hot, or a hot one when it’s cold, would be a pretty logical extension of this. I like the way you think, Japan. [Japan Probe]
Netflix loves that so many of us have turned to the convenience of streaming. It costs Netflix 3 cents to stream a standard definition movie, and 5 cents for HD; that’s why they’d rather stream than mail you a disc.
Indoor positioning systems have long been a holy grail for malls and big-box retailers where labyrinthine aisles and massive floorplans that rival small towns often leave customers begging for mercy, but the obstacles to deploying them are many: you’ve got to create detailed maps for every facility where you want it to work, and you need some sort of system for locating users with a reasonable level of precision since GPS is out of the picture. Start-up Point Inside has been hard at work on IPS for some time now, figuring that modern stores and malls teeming with WiFi access points and reliable AGPS are good enough to make it work, and now they’ve hooked up with Midwestern superstore chain Meijer to trial a system in four Michigan locations that will let users locate “more than” 100,000 items in store along with facilities like bathrooms and customer service. Conveniently, these stores have some 26 WiFi nodes deployed, which helps triangulate users down to a reasonable level of precision — though it’s probably not going to be able to tell if you’re standing in front of the Frosted Flakes or the Raisin Bran. It’s a free download for iPhone and Android users, and if you’re close to one of the trial stores, be sure to let us know how well it works. Follow the break for the full press release.
Meijer deploys indoor positioning trial, helps you find the Morton Salt faster originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 25 Aug 2010 16:18:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
The recession is finally taking its toll on the subscription television market.
SNL Kagan, which tracks trends in the U.S. multichannel market — cable, telcos, satellite, etc. — says the market had its “worst performance on record” in the second quarter of this year. Pay TV subscribers hit 100.1 million in Q2, down from 100.4 million in Q1.
Is the growing library of video available on the Internet finally starting to erode cable’s stranglehold on the market? Unlikely, says SNL Kagan analyst Mariam Rondeli, in a release. It’s the recession, and the weak housing market, that are finally slowing cable companies.
But, the risk for cable companies is that once the economy bounces back, consumers will realize they don’t need cable. They might get accustomed to whatever offerings are on the web and never return. Especially if Apple’s forthcoming iTV gadget is any good.
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Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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