If you were among the select few that signed up for NVIDIA’s Shield newsletter then you’ve been able to pre-order the company’s curious handset for a few days now. The remainder of the gaming masses originally had to wait until Monday for their own turn, but that’s no longer the case — NVIDIA’s retail partners have jumped on the pre-order bandwagon too so you can now stake your claim on a Shield from Newegg, Gamestop, and Canada Computer starting today.
MicroCenter will also sell the Shield in June but it hasn’t yet gotten its pre-order page set up. Get yourself together, MicroCenter.
I’m still not convinced that the Shield will find a foothold outside of the geekiest mobile gamers, but our own Darrell Etherington recently took the thing for a spin and came away rather impressed. He even went as far as calling it “the way Android games should be played,” a sentiment I don’t completely disagree with — we’ve seen the quality of mobile games surge by leaps and bounds these past few years, to the point where they easily eclipse consoles of years past. While those mobile games have slowly come into their own, the control schemes that are forced upon us thanks to the advent of the touchscreen leave much to be desired. There’s still something limiting and unsatisfying about effetely pawing at a piece of glass (or worse, a resistive display — yuck), a sentiment that others have championed, too. Early reactions to the Shield are generally positive, at least where the hardware and control layout is concerned, so at least there’s that to look forward to.
But in the end, will the Shield sell? And what does NVIDIA hope to get out of it? As it happens, NVIDIA may not care all that much about pure sales volume anyway. Time’s Jared Newman spoke to NVIDIA GM of mobile games Bill Rehbock at I/O, who pointed out that the Shield was designed to highlight the sorts of high-end gaming experiences developers have crafted for Android, not to mention the power of the company’s Tegra 4 chipset. There’s little question that NVIDIA’s newest system-on-a-chip has got plenty of horsepower to play with, but it’s still hard to see the Shield as much more than an incredibly niche device that raises more questions than answers.
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BlackBerry has announced today that its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) messenger service will be launching on iOS and Android this summer. The new cross-platform app will support all Apple hardware running iOS 6 and higher, as well as Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and above.
It means that for the first time, BlackBerry owners will be able to communicate with users on other mobile platforms, for free, using the BBM service. The new apps will support multi-person conversations, voice note sharing and BlackBerry Groups; the latter of which lets users set up group for up to 30 people in order to share calendar information, photos and other files.
“For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service,” Andrew Bocking, Executive Vice President of Software Product Management and Ecosystem at BlackBerry said.
“BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We’re excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community.”
BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins made the announcement at BlackBerry Live shortly after unveiling BBM Channels, a new social feature which will allow any company, celebrity or lifestyle brand to create a public page for BBM users to follow. Channel owners can send out news or status updates at anytime, which users can interact with by leaving a comment or ‘like’.
The concept feels very similar to Plus Friend Home, a combination of both instant messaging and passive social network accounts which was recently unveiled by Korean-startup Kakao for its cross-platform messaging app Kakao Talk.
It’s only a beta program for now, but BlackBerry plans to update the feature every two to four weeks ahead of a full launch later this summer. BBM Channels can post news and status updates at anytime, and users who follow these accounts will be able to comment and like on them too.
BlackBerry says BBM Channels will be added to its upcoming Android and iOS apps later this year, alongside voice and video calling, subject to approval by the App Store and Play Store.
Heins also announced today that BBM now has over 60 million monthly active users, which send and receive over 10 billion messages every day – twice as many as any other mobile messaging app. The number of daily active users that connect with other BBM enthusiasts for at least an hour and a half every day has also risen to 51 million.
It should come as no surprise that BlackBerry wants to expand the BBM service to new users. The rise of cross-platform mobile messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp has slowed the growth in BBM users, and perhaps even put off new consumers from switching to the BlackBerry 10 platform. The addition of BBM Channels is an interesting move, but one that will likely struggle to gain the same critical mass of users enjoyed by Twitter or Facebook.
A bold move, or just a case of too little, too late?
Image Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
View original post here: BlackBerry is finally taking BBM cross-platform, launching on iOS and Android this summer
Google’s I/O developer conference is happening next week in San Francisco, and one of the big questions around what we’ll see there includes hardware. Now KGI securities analyst Mingchi Kuo (via 9to5Google), who unlike other analysts actually has a good track record of predicting things accurately, has let slip that one big reveal will be an updated Nexus 7 tablet, with a 1920 x 1200 7-inch display, a 5 megapixel camera and a new sleek, light design for the same $199 price point as the current version.
The Asus-built tablet will boast a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, a “narrow bezel” screen with pixel density of 323 (pretty close to that of the iPhone 5) and physical dimensions that make it either very close to or even smaller than Apple’s iPad mini. If true, that’ll make it handheld, and with a Retina-quality display, at a price that absolutely undercuts Apple’s $329 entry point with the mini.
Other additions to this model include wireless charging according to Kuo, which would be in keeping with that feature being offered standard with the Nexus 4. Google is using Qi-based induction charging, which means that it’s compatible with a wide range of chargers, and the new Nexus 7 would likely adopt the same tech.
Kuo also looked beyond the I/O conference to what we might see from Google in the coming months, which include some fairly surprising developments. There’s a plan to get Samsung Android-powered notebooks to market, for instance, over the next 3 or 4 months. Intel telegraphed Android-based notebooks via one of its executives in a report last month, as 9to5Google notes, but Kuo says that we won’t see these at I/O since the next major point release of Android, version 5.0, won’t be ready for the show.
Android-based notebooks are a bit of a head-scratcher since Google has already invested a lot in pushing Chrome OS on the desktop, and recent reports suggest Chrome OS might end up powering tablets, too. It seems contrary for Google to continue working on that while also building a version of Android that can power notebooks, but this may just be a case of Google putting bets on multiple horses over the long-term, which makes sense given that the company has repeatedly shown it’s willing to invest in products that end up being failures for the sake of gleaning insights from what went wrong.
Beyond that, Kuo says Google is still working on an a Google TV device which will compete with the existing Apple TV, which sounds like it might be a second, more feature-rich kick at the ill-fated Nexus Q can. Finally, he also says a smart watch device is expected to debut alongside Glass in Google’s wearable computing category, but that this won’t hit mass production until at least next year.
Facebook is not the only company to invest in development of products that take better advantage of the Android homescreen. South Korean messaging app KakaoTalk also recently announced its intentions to release a rival Android launcher. And now, Highland Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and others have invested $1.8 million into Aviate, an ex-Googler backed intelligent homescreen for Android devices.
The round also included participation from Freestyle Capital, Draper Associates, and other angels, including Dan Rose, Facebook VP of Business Development and Monetization. The company actually closed on the funding in December, but is only announcing now. The funds will be used to grow the team quickly, and further develop the product.
The company behind Aviate, Palo Alto-based ThumbsUp Labs, was founded in November 2011 by a team with backgrounds in computer science, search and OS development. Co-founder Mark Daiss majored in Cognitive Science at the University of California, and previously founded Pupil, an image based Q&A app, where he also focused on the problem of bringing relevant information to smartphone users when it was most useful.
Meanwhile, Stanford grad Will Choi worked for Google on its front-end search team; and Paul Montoy-Wilson, also a Stanford grad, worked as a Product Manager for the Android Marketplace (now Google Play), and had previously co-founded customer feedback app HaveASec.
Each founder had his own take on how to make mobile phones more effective – Daiss having seen the app discovery and engagement challenges firsthand; Montoy-Wilson with insight into the Android ecosystem itself; and Choi coming at the problem from the search perspective – he wanted to rebuild mobile search from the ground up.
What Aviate Does
With the Aviate, the goal is to help mobile users de-clutter their Android homescreens, and instead view relevant information adapted to their surroundings, rather than a grid of apps. Where Facebook Home has taken over the Android environment as something of an “apperating system,” to use the term coined by Wired (referring to something in between an app and operating system), the team at Aviate believes there’s more that can be done with such technology, beyond simply optimizing your social networking experiences.
Users today have a number of mobile applications on their devices which they access regularly, and that serve a wide variety of functions. It may not make much sense to give over complete control to just one, such as is the case with Facebook Home. (Early adopters of Facebook Home seem to agree, ranking and reviewing the new app poorly.)
Other means to view app information comes in the form of push notifications and homescreen widgets – neither of which tend to be personalized or contextually aware, outside of location-aware weather widgets, perhaps. In addition, app notifications these days are borderline spam, as developers feel increased pressure to get their app’s users to return and re-engage.
How It Will Work
Aviate wants to be different by working with your favorite applications to pull in information and surface it when you need it. (The app is not yet available for testing, so we can only speak of the company’s intentions here, rather than the real-world results.)
What we do know – and the team is being cagey so far – is that the app will be downloadable from Google Play, and after installation, it will integrate deeply with the phone to upgrade the overall experience. Like Facebook Home, it’s more than an Android launcher. Aviate will organize all your applications for you, and then based on context (time, location, etc.), it will begin to adapt to you individually as it learns what apps you need, when and where.
For example, Aviate will know that when you’re at work, you may need one subset of apps, but when you’re at the gym, you might use another. It also learns what information you need at your fingertips, and surfaces that more proactively, and in a more personalized manner over time. Details on that aspect are still sparse.
Frankly, it sounds a lot like the Google Now concept, but applied to the broader world of mobile applications. Already, it seems like something Google would want to snap up for itself, but it remains to be seen how well it all really works. The company is in the process of filing several patents around the technology now, however, and if granted, those could make the company more valuable in time.
Though obviously Android is where such innovation can take place, Aviate says it has plans for an iOS version in the future.
The app will launch into private beta in the next couple of months. Users can join the waiting list here.