Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sony Designs Tablet That's Not an iPad Wannabe

One reason Apple's iPad continues to dominate the tablet market after 17 months may be that all the main competitors look like imitations but don't deliver as good an experience. They are typically flat slabs, like the iPad, priced about the same or more, but with many fewer apps, shorter battery life, usually greater weight and thickness and a weaker ecosystem for music, video, books and magazines. Whatever advantages they have—like added ports or the ability to play Flash video—haven't been enough to sway consumers or developers.
Despite its shorter battery life and fewer apps for its Android operating system, the new Sony Tablet S has excellent ergonomics and is a decent alternative to the iPad, WSJ's Walt Mossberg says.
Now, Sony, whose brand and reputation for design have long resonated with consumers, is trying something different. On Friday, it is launching a handsome tablet with an unusual, asymmetrical design and some software tweaks and content services it hopes can set it apart from the pack. I've been testing this device, called the Sony Tablet S, and I generally like it, despite some weaknesses and some features that aren't yet fleshed out because they won't be fully rolled out at launch. The Tablet S will appeal to buyers who would like a distinctive tablet from a trusted company that doesn't look like an iPad wannabe.
However, the Tablet S looks nothing like the iPad 2 or any other current competitor. One of the long sides of its rectangular, plastic body has a thick, rounded edge that makes the device look like a folded-back magazine. In fact, Sony has carried this effect over onto the back, continuing the black curve with a molded black plastic sheet that looks like the rest of the magazine cover laying over a flat, gray surface.Like dozens of other tablets, Sony's new entry uses Google's Android operating system. And it costs the same as the Wi-Fi-only iPads—$500 for a 16 gigabyte model and $600 for a 32 gigabyte model. The Tablet S has no cellular-data option. It's also late to the game, and, in my tests, had significantly weaker battery life than the iPad 2.

Laying the Tablet S, left, in landscape, or horizontal, mode, creates a natural angle for typing. Coming this fall, the Tablet P, right, which unfolds to reveal twin 5.5-inch displays.
While this design makes the Tablet S much thicker than many competitors, it has several advantages. When you hold the device one-handed in portrait, or vertical, mode, it feels much more comfortable and balanced than any other tablet I've tested. When you lay it on a flat surface in landscape, or horizontal, mode, the rounded edge creates a natural angle for typing, without a case or stand.
This clever design makes the Tablet S feel lighter than the iPad when you hold it vertically, because more of the weight is in your palm—even though the two tablets are almost exactly the same weight.
At 9.4 inches, the bright, vivid screen on the Tablet S is smaller than the iPad's 9.7 inch display or the 10.1-inch screen of Samsung's comparable Galaxy Tab model. But I found it plenty generous, and it didn't feel cramped. The Sony is about the same length as the iPad 2, but is narrower, and I found this proportion pleasing.

This clever design makes the Tablet S feel lighter than the iPad.
There are some trade-offs to this design. While it is beautifully balanced in vertical mode, it feels top-heavy in horizontal mode, especially because Sony forces you in that mode to hold it by the thin, lower edge. You can't rotate the screen in horizontal mode so the thicker edge is at the bottom. Performance was snappy, and the front and back cameras took acceptable still photos and videos.
Sony is planning a second, even more radical tablet for later this fall, called the Tablet P. It's a much smaller and lighter device that has no visible screen until you unfold it to reveal twin 5.5-inch displays that can either be used as one large screen or can have separate content in each. I have played briefly with this coming device, but haven't been able to test it.
Unlike the iPad 2, the Tablet S has an SD memory-card slot, which I used to move movies, photos, music and documents to the Tablet S from a Mac. It worked fine, though the plastic hinge for the little door that covers the slot sometimes got stuck.
While Sony, like Apple, has long been praised for hardware design, it has never been able to match Apple in software and services, except on its PlayStation game consoles. The company is hoping the Tablet S changes that perception.
The Tablet S starts with the same software disadvantages as its Android brethren. While Android has a healthy selection of over 250,000 third-party apps (versus 425,000 total for Apple's mobile devices), it has pathetically few tablet-optimized apps—estimated to be just a small fraction of the 100,000 tailored for the iPad.
But Sony has added some nice software features to the Tablet S. Some make navigation easier, but many aim to build on Sony's strengths as a media and gaming company. Unlike Apple, which takes a broader view of the tablet's potential, Sony sees its tablet as primarily an entertainment-consumption device.
For instance, Sony has added a small, customizable row of frequently used app icons at the upper left. At the upper right of the screen is a handsome, easy-to-use feature called Favorites, which highlight recently accessed or added songs, videos, pictures, books and Web bookmarks.
Sony also has tweaked the Android browser so it loads pages faster. In my tests, pages loaded slightly faster than on the iPad.
There is also a universal remote-control app that works with a built-in infrared transmitter to control TVs and other home-entertainment devices, even if they aren't made by Sony. In my tests, I easily configured it to control my Pioneer TV and my TiVo, though it was unable to mate with my Apple TV.
Sony also is bundling services for buying music, TV shows and movies, e-books and games to create a content ecosystem like Apple's. Unfortunately, these weren't available for me to test.
The music service won't be available until later this month, but it will be a subscription service with two monthly tiers, one for $3.99 and one for $9.99. The video service will be available with a very limited selection at launch, but the full service won't appear until next month. It allows you to rent videos starting at $2.99 each. The games service will come along later this year, and Sony couldn't provide details, except that it will offer PlayStation games meant for portable devices. The Tablet S will come with a trial membership to the music service and a free movie and e-book. It also comes preloaded with two simple games.
The Tablet S fell far short of the iPad 2 in my battery tests, where I play videos back to back with the network connection on and the screen brightness set at 75%. It died after 6 hours, 38 minutes, which is a whopping 3½ hours less than the iPad 2 lasted.
Still, Sony deserves credit for creating a novel design with real advantages and for building in some useful software. The Tablet S is worth considering when shopping for a tablet.
—Find all Walt's columns and videos at the All Things Digital website,
Write to Walter S. Mossberg at

Star Wars. Origami in hyperspace.

Wow!  My favorite movie and my favorite Moleskine had just collaborate to launch a limited edition of Star Wars Moleskine.  I hope it's available in Singapore.

First Pac-Man and Peanuts, now Moleskine celebrates another global pop culture icon with a limited edition dedicated to Star Wars.


The inside pocket contains a reproduction of the original 1977 poster by the Brothers Hildebrandt. The cover images, in silver or bronze, are made using the debossing technique, with two different variants: the famous "jump into hyperspace" with the stretching stars, and the opening "title crawl", with 3D words floating in outer space. 


The video, a variation on the theme of the battle between good and evil recreated with origami, pens and notebooks, is a free interpretation by Alex Orlowski (director), Daniela Fuggetta (story), Lula Gomez (stop motion animation) and Gadi for Solo Studios (sound effects).

The special Moleskine Star Wars edition was created in collaboration with the Lucasfilm production company. Available in large or pocket size, with blank or ruled paper:

Starwars_325_news-interna.jpgIllustration by the Brothers Hildebrandt - original 1977 poster  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amazon unveils Kindle Fire tablet for $199


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off the Kindle Fire.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Amazon unveiled the Kindle Fire, an Android-powered tablet that acts more like a color e-reader on steroids and will retail for $199.

The Amazon Kindle Fire.
(Credit: Amazon via Bloomberg)
"We're building premium products at non-premium prices," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during the presentation.

The Kindle Fire will be available on November 15, and is available for preorder now. Bloomberg earlier reported the $199 price point and details on the device.
The Kindle Fire marks Amazon's first foray into the tablet market, which has so far been dominated by Apple's iPad. But with its low price--most tablets retail for around $500--and the established Kindle brand, analysts believe Amazon's product could represent the first legitimate competitor in an area where many other high-end Android tablets have missed the mark.

"We believe that the launch of an Amazon tablet will significantly boost the tablet market and inject a much needed competitor to Apple's iPad," Adam Leach, an analyst at research firm Ovum, said ahead of the event.

The specifications, however, are lower than other comparable high-end tablets. While it has a dual-core processor, it lacks many of the other typical features found in a tablet, such as a camera, microphone, and 3G wireless access. The device is more intended to compete with Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, which is essentially a stripped down Android tablet.
The Kindle Fire will also use an older version of Android intended for smartphones, but Amazon added remade the user interface, giving it a completely different feel from rival tablets. It can also play games and can surf the Internet using its own custom Amazon Silk browser that uses a combination of cached content on the device and on the Web. The company claims it can predict your browsing habits and preload favorite websites for faster browsing.

Bezos said that most of the content is backed up in the cloud, and that the device features wireless synching. The company's Whispersync technology, which delivers digital books to the Kindle, wiill also work with movies and television shows.

Bloomberg reported that the Kindle Fire comes with a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime, the company's premium service that offers free two-day shipping and streaming video. The service normally costs $79 a year.

Amazon has slowly been building up its online content, adding new shows and movies all the time. Amazon recently signed a new licensing deal with 20th Century Fox to bring in its library of shows and movies for streaming.

Amazon has also reportedly signed agreements with several publishers, including Conde Nast, Hearst and Meredith, to have digital versions of magazines ready at launch.
Amazon is attempting to go where other tablet makers have failed. The past few months have seen a number of companies stumble out of the gate with their supposed iPad-killer. Hewlett-Packard scrapped its WebOS hardware business after the lackluster sale of the TouchPad, only to revive interest by holding a fire sale at $99 a unit. Research in Motion flopped badly with its PlayBook and is similarly trying to spark sales through a number of discount programs with its retail partners. Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha acknowledged initials problems selling its Xoom tablet when it was priced higher than the iPad.
As an e-reader, the Kindle has been instrumental in driving sales of digital books for Amazon and bringing that category of device into the mainstream despite earlier efforts by Sony. The catalyst for its success has been its low-powered e-ink technology, which enables users to read the device from anywhere, as well as the ease in which a person can buy a digital book over the air.

Another smart move: Amazon's decision to create apps on other devices such as the iPad and Android phones, allowing people to read their books on any device, but still stick with the Kindle library.

Earlier today, Bezos unveiled a trio of new e-ink Kindle readers, ranging between $79 and $149.

Read more:$199/#ixzz1ZGF3DgNB

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Advanced Camera with Interchangeable Lens Nikon 1 J1 / V1

by Digital Camera Magazine Malaysia on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 4:35pm

TOKYO-Nikon Corporation is pleased to announce the release of the first two models in the new Nikon 1 series, the J1 and V1. Nikon 1 is an advanced interchangeable lens that proposes new forms of imaging expression with a new super high-speed AF CMOS image sensor, the new high-speed image-processing engine, EXPEED 3, and the new Nikon 1 mount lens system.

Development Background
As a manufacturer of optical devices, Nikon has long developed products equipped with innovative new features based on technologies originally cultivated decades ago for film cameras. The many cameras released by Nikon over the years have continuously expanded photographic possibilities. Even with the nearly complete transition to digital that we see today, Nikon has continued to expand its lineups of compact digital cameras and digital-SLR cameras. Nikon's COOLPIX-series cameras are user friendly compact digital cameras, while the D-series line of digital-SLR cameras supports the needs of an incredibly wide variety of photographer, from the beginner to the professional. Nikon will celebrate its 95th anniversary next year, and is extremely proud of its record of having utilized its optical technologies in the development of many innovative products over nearly a century. So that we may continue our role as a leading company in the imaging industry in this age when digital technologies have become so common, Nikon looks forward to proposing new forms of imaging enjoyment and value over the next century as well. The first step in this process has been the development of a new type of camera that creates new imaging possibilities never before considered with conventional compact digital cameras or digital-SLR cameras.

Nikon 1 J1 / V1 Primary Features

The world's smallest and lightest*1 interchangeable lens digital cameras that propose new forms of imaging expression
Faster image processing and superior reproduction characteristics have been achieved for both still images and movies through the combination of the CMOS image sensor and image-processing engine, both developed by Nikon. The cameras are also equipped with Nikon's newest lens mount system. Despite the new lens mount, the mount adapter enables the use of existing F-mount NIKKOR lenses*2 with the J1 and V1, for excellent compatibility with equipment users may already own.

  • Nikon 1 mount, Nikon's new compact, high-performance lens mount system
    The Nikon 1 mount is the new lens mount system developed for compatibility with Nikon's new imaging format. The new mount not only supports the dedicated 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6, 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 and 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM Nikon 1-mount interchangeable lenses, but also F-mount NIKKOR lenses*2, manufactured by Nikon for more than half a century, when the new FT1 mount adapter is used. This enables users to enjoy tremendous variety in their imaging expression with the ability to choose the lens best suited to the scene, subject, or their own creative intent from a broad lineup of standard and special-purpose lenses.

  • The world's first*3 cameras to be equipped with a new super high-speed AF CMOS image sensor and offer focal plane phase detection AF The new super high-speed AF CMOS sensor is a Nikon CX-format CMOS image sensor. With the new CX format, Nikon has added a new imaging format to its existing Nikon FX and DX formats for digital-SLR cameras. The J1 and V1 are the world's first interchangeable lens digital cameras equipped with focal plane phase detection AF*3 for the world's fastest autofocusing*4. They offer standard sensitivities of ISO 100 to 3200, with the ability to further increase sensitivity to an equivalent of ISO 6400 with a Hi 1 setting. They also support matrix metering, center-weighted metering and spot metering.
    • *1Applies to V1 only: Among interchangeable lens cameras with a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF). (Based on Nikon research as of September 21, 2011.)
    • *2Autofocus may not perform as expected in some situations or with some lenses. Restrictions apply to mounting and functionality with some lenses.
    • *3Among interchangeable lens digital cameras. (Based on Nikon research as of September 21, 2011.)
    • *4Among interchangeable lens digital cameras available as of September 21, 2011. Statement based on performance with shooting using the 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 at the maximum wide-angle position with AF-area mode set to Single-point. Results based on Nikon test conditions.
  • New EXPEED 3 image processing engine
    The cameras are equipped with Nikon's latest image-processing engine, EXPEED 3, which is based on EXPEED, Nikon's exclusive comprehensive image-processing concept, and optimized for the Nikon 1 system for increased speed and performance.

  • Simple operation with compact and lightweight bodies that make them perfect for everyday use
    The J1 and V1 are compact and lightweight cameras that you can keep with you at all times, making them perfect not only for vacations and special events, but also for quick and easy capture of everyday scenes or unexpected episodes.
    You can easily record photos or movies with four shooting modes (Motion Snapshot, Smart Photo Selector, Still image, Movie).

    A new advanced hybrid autofocus system that enables the world's fastest autofocusing*1 with the world's most focus points*2

    The advanced hybrid autofocus system combines phase detection AF, which enables faster focusing and superior subject tracking performance with moving subjects, with contrast-detect AF, which performs well in low-light conditions. This hybrid system ensures optimal focusing under a variety of shooting conditions.
    As the world's first*1 interchangeable lens cameras to implement focal plane phase detection AF, the J1 and V1 have achieved the high-speed autofocusing needed for certain capture of even the most unexpected photo opportunities. This enables certain capture of the perfect photo opportunities when shooting moving subjects and subjects such as children and pets whose movement is very difficult to predict.
    What's more, at 10 fps, the cameras also offer the world's fastest continuous shooting rate*3 with AF tracking, and the world's fastest high-speed continuous shooting rate*4 of 60 fps.
    The J1 and V1 also boast the most focus points*2—73 with phase detection AF—available with any interchangeable lens digital camera currently available.
    • *1Among interchangeable lens digital cameras available as of September 21, 2011. Statement based on performance with shooting using the 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 at the maximum wide-angle position with AF-area mode set to Single-point. Results based on Nikon test conditions.
    • *2Among interchangeable lens digital cameras available as of September 21, 2011. Refers to the number of phase detection AF points available for selection at an AF-area mode setting of Single-point. (Based on Nikon research.)
    • *3At shutter speeds of 1/60 s or faster and an aperture setting of f/5.6 or larger. Results based on Nikon test conditions as of September 21, 2011. (Based on Nikon research.)
    • *4The maximum number of shots per burst is 30 with the V1 and 12 with the J1. Maximum shooting rate when focus is locked with the first shot in a burst. Results based on Nikon test conditions as of September 21, 2011. (Based on Nikon research.)
    Motion Snapshot, imaging function that combines full-HD movie with a still image for more dramatic imaging expression
    In Motion Snapshot mode, simply pressing the shutter-release button records a still image and about a second of high-resolution movie footage beginning before and ending after the time the shutter-release button was pressed. Movies recorded in Motion Snapshot mode are played back in slow motion. With slow-motion playback at 0.4x normal playback speed of the movie and a still image, Motion Snapshot allows users to express impressive moments that show slight changes in expression, the rustling of tree leaves, or fluctuations in nature.

    Shooting/recording: Choose one of four themes (BeautyWavesRelaxationTenderness) prior to shooting. When the shutter-release button is pressed halfway, the camera begins recording movie footage to the memory buffer. When the shutter-release button is pressed the rest of the way down, a still image, along with about a second of movie footage beginning before and ending after the time the shutter-release button was pressed, are recorded to the memory card.

    Playback: After approximately 2.5 seconds of movie footage recorded in Motion Snapshot is played back in slow motion, the still image is displayed. Total movie/still image display lasts for 10 seconds, during which time the background music for the selected theme is played. The movie file and still image file recorded each time the shutter-release button is pressed in Motion Snapshot mode are stored as a set on the memory card. This fun new feature enables a new form of imaging expression that combines both still images and movie footage using conventional shooting operations.

    Smart Photo Selector for simple capture of the best shot
    When the shutter-release button is pressed halfway in Smart Photo Selector mode, the camera focuses and begins buffering images. When the shutter-release button is then pressed the rest of the way down, the camera compares shots recorded to the buffer both before and after the shutter-release button was pressed, and automatically selects five to record to the memory card. It also eliminates the need for capturing a large volume of shots with continuous shooting and the troublesome process of later manually selecting the best shot from a series.

    Shooting/recording: Rotate the mode dial to Smart Photo Selector mode. When the shutter-release button is pressed halfway, the camera focuses and begins recording images to the buffer memory. Up to 20 images can be saved in the buffer memory each time the shutter-release button is pressed (some before the shutter-release button is pressed, some after). Of the 20 buffered images, the camera automatically records the single best shot based on movement and composition, as well as four additional candidate images to the memory card.

    Playback: Users can choose a different "best shot" than that selected by the camera from the candidate images, and also delete unnecessary images.

    A simple, high-quality design
    The concepts of simple, streamlined, fashionable and high-quality were adopted for design of both the Nikon 1 J1 and V1. The only decoration on these flat, smooth cameras is the Nikon 1 brand name and the J1 or V1 model name on the front of the cameras. Positioning of a rear grip ensures a firm hold on the camera without sacrificing its simple, flat shape.
    What's more, lenses are available in the same colors as the cameras* for an integrated appearance. The graphical user interface (GUI) adopted for monitor display is structured to be as simple and streamlined as the cameras themselves. Superfluous menus have been eliminated for an intuitive, easy-to-understand GUI design.

    Air-gapless structure adopted for LCD monitor with wide viewing angle
    The J1 is equipped with a 3.0-inch, approximately 460k-dot TFT LCD monitor with wide-viewing angle, and the V1 offers a 3.0-inch, approximately 921k-dot TFT LCD monitor with wide-viewing angle. The monitors built into both cameras utilize an air-gapless structure with which the protective glass and LCD panel are integrated for a thinner design and increased visibility outdoors, enabling users to enjoy more beautiful display of their photos and movies.

    Short Movie Creator automatic movie editing software that is easy to use and can be launched independently
    The Short Movie Creator software bundled with the cameras is an automatic movie editing application that is fun to use with still images and movies recorded with Nikon 1 cameras. It can be used to easily create original short movies with imaging effects (styles) and background music. Short movies created with Short Movie Creator can be saved to a memory card for viewing on the camera, or uploaded to online movie sharing sites such as YouTubeTM. In addition, collaboration with Nikon's image transfer, browsing, editing and sharing software, ViewNX 2, enables easy organization and editing of still images and movies.
    • Short Movie Creator Primary Features
      • Easily create original short movies from still images and movies by simply selecting an imaging effect (style) and music. With a maximum playback time of 30 minutes, three options are available: Summarize to fit to music, Use all images and movies, Summarize to manual length.
      • Priority can be placed on the two seconds before and after a specific portion by simply selecting a "best scene". A single movie file can be registered more than once for specification of additional best scenes.
      • Music files can also be edited so that only a specific portion is used.
      • The frame size and frame rate of short movies can be selected to suit the manner in which they will be used. Short movies can be saved to memory cards in a format that makes it possible to view them with the cameras.
      • Titles and credits can be added to movie files.*
        • *Windows version only.
    Bright, high-contrast electronic viewfinder with a resolution of approximately 1440k-dot (V1 only)
    The V1 is equipped with a bright, high-contrast electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a resolution of approximately 1440k-dot (SVGA). It is extremely clear with a frame coverage of approximately 100%, and utilizes a color filter system that prevents color breakup that appears as a rainbow artifact due to the interaction between subject movement and the photographer's eye, for faithful display of moving subjects.

    Additional Features and Functions
    • Movie recording mode with 1920 x 1080/60i full-HD movie support for superior picture quality
    • Equipped with Nikon's exclusive imaging system, Picture Control, which allows users to choose and adjust the way in which the camera processes photographs according to the type of scene or their own individual preference
    • Support for RAW (NEF) recording built in*1
    • Active D-Lighting, which adjusts exposure according to the scene to prevent loss of detail in highlights and shadows for images in which optimal contrast is preserved
    • Infrared receivers for remote control operation on the front and back*2 of the cameras enable wireless control over the shutter (optional ML-L3 wireless remote control supported)
    • Scene Auto Selector, with which the cameras automatically optimize settings according to the subject
    • Built-in dust reduction function*3
    • Built-in flash (J1)
      • *1Still images only.
      • *2Front only with J1.
      • *3Vibrating system with V1, optical system with J1
      • *Windows is either registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
      • *Products, brand names and service names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.
    Accessories that comes with 1 Nikon

    1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8 Satisfy your creative yearning with a single focal length wide lens
    1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM A compact power drive zoom lens optimal for shooting dynamic movies.
    1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 Compact telephoto zoom lens lets you bring the subject closer to you at will.
    1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 An incredible standard zoom lens flawlessly captures the scene in vivid detail
    Mount Adapter FT1 Enjoy an angle of view that is equivalent to 2.7 times the focal length of F mount NIKKOR lenses
    GPS Unit GP-N100 If you knew where your still images were captured, you could relive those moments ever the more vividly.
    Speedlight SB-N5 The Speedlight SB-N5, newly developed for the Nikon 1 , casts a light on the scene to bring out the subject from the shadows and dark scenes.