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Category Archives: amazon

Microsoft aiming ‘to be all things to all people’

windowsUnder new chief executive Satya Nadella, Microsoft is charging ahead with a “universal app” strategy – the idea that software developers can create an app once and then deliver it to each of the company’s devices, whether it’s PCs, tablets, phones or even Xbox consoles, without much additional work. This one-app-to-rule-them-all approach is how the company plans to overcome its disadvantage in phones and tablets, where it is way behind Apple and Google in terms of market share and total number of apps. A simplified and unified experience could indeed be the secret to luring developers away from its two rivals, both of whom run different operating systems depending on which devices they’re using.

I spoke with Windows Phone director Greg Sullivan last week at Microsoft’s annual Build conference in San Francisco about the plan and why it could work. I also sat down with Mary-Ellen Anderson from Microsoft Canada to get the local perspective. As vice-president of the developer and platform group, she’s in charge of recruiting companies and individuals to create apps for Windows devices here in the snowy north. With the company having success in securing the biggest app developers, its focus is now shifting to a more local level.

“We need to get the [apps] people care about in Canada,” Anderson said. “That’s a big, big deal for me.”

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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in amazon, apple, Google, microsoft, roku

 

The biggest tech hits and misses of 2013

Edward-Snowden

Edward Snowden: the most wanted man since Julian Assange.

So what were the biggest technology related stories in 2013? There were quite a few, but here are the 10 most important.

Selfies take over:

With the Oxford Dictionaries naming “selfie” as the word of the year in November, the self-portrait’s domination of pop culture was complete. Even U.S. President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt recently got in on the action with their own selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Is the self-portrait, followed by its inevitable sharing on social media, a sign of society’s growing narcissism? It’s a topic that’s now being debated. Over at the Globe and Mail, Navneet Alang argues it isn’t – it’s merely the latest evolution of how people are defining their identities while communicating with each other.

I think it’s even a little more innocuous than that. Whenever I show friends or relatives vacation photos of famous monuments or gorgeous vistas, they always wonder why I’m not in them. People like to see other people in photos – it’s often what makes them interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Kobo Aura: For the truly refined e-book reader

kobo-auraIt’s part three of my week-long Black Friday gadget series. Today, we turn to a controversial topic: e-readers. Why are they controversial? Well, my own experience perhaps tells the story.

I was on the subway the other day, reading an e-book on my Kindle, when I looked around and noticed something odd. Everyone else was similarly self-engaged, but they had their noses buried in either a smartphone or tablet. A disturbing thought then occurred to me: since I’m the only one using an actual e-reader and since everyone else appears to be younger than me, does that mean I’m old?

Ever since the iPad launched in 2010, the death of the e-reader has been widely forecasted. Why would anyone buy a single-purpose device when you can read an e-book on a tablet, which does so much more? Clearly, the young folk agree, if my subway experience is anything to go by.

But I’m not so sure. I decided to check out three of the newest e-readers with an eye to figuring out why I naturally gravitate towards them for reading. On the docket: Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite ($139), Kobo’s Aura ($149) and Sony’s Reader with integrated snap cover ($129). Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2013 in amazon, ebooks, kobo, sony

 

Netflix aims to become 4K video leader, ditch 3D

House of Cards' second season is being shot in 4K.

House of Cards’ second season is being shot in 4K.

There are a lot of reasons for why Netflix is one of the most interesting technology concerns going today. As a company that essentially sells people digital access to movies and TV shows, it has huge potential appeal worldwide since just about everyone watches movies or TV shows. With 40 million streaming subscribers in more than 40 countries so far – the Netherlands was just added in September – the service is growing in clout and exerting more influence on every aspect of the visual entertainment medium, from production and distribution to content and viewing patterns.

I had a chance to sit down with Netflix’s chief product officer Neil Hunt for a lengthy chat on Thursday, wherein we covered some upcoming improvements to the service – which I’m not allowed to talk about just yet – but also a range of broader topics, from the future of television to the fate of HBO, which I am able to write about.

First on the docket was 4K or ultra high-definition television, which manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung are starting to push in a big way. Weary industry watchers might be inclined to dismiss 4K/UHD – which features four times the resolution of regular 1080p high definition – as just the latest effort from manufacturers to kickstart flagging TV sales. With 3D having fizzled, it’s on to the next thing.

Hunt and Netflix in general think 4K is the real deal, however, because it is a natural evolution of what content producers and consumers alike already use and understand. Aside from pushing more pixels onto the screen, 4K TVs are also offering higher frame rates, meaning they’re able to cram more information into every second of viewing. The realism of video content is thus set to get a lot sharper. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in amazon, netflix

 

Ebook retailers wake up to internet’s dark side

ereadersThis past weekend was a particularly bad one for just about every major e-book retailer out there, with revelations that hard-core pornographic content was rampant in their electronic stores. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and WH Smith were just a few of the e-book retailers found by The Kernel, an online muckracking website based in the United Kingdom, to be selling ebooks from self-published authors glorifying such topics as rape, incest and bestiality.

In what it describes as “an epidemic of filth,” the site says that “unlike the bookshelves in physical stores, online bookstores appear to be a Wild West of depraved content sure to horrify every parent and book-lover. Some of Britain and America’s most treasured brands are profiting from paperbacks, e-books and audio books stuffed with deeply repellant material that skirts the boundaries of illegality.”

Some of the content on sale is indeed truly repellent, with titles ranging from Taboo Acts Vol. I: Loving the Dog to Raped By Daddy: Daddy’s Sex Slave Part 1. Many of the retailers wasted no time in taking action, with WH Smith, for one, shutting down its website to remove the offending content. Depending on the individual retailer and specific countries in question, many of the companies could be in violation of several kinds of laws, obscenity among them. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in amazon, apple, ebooks, sex

 

Netflix a lone bright spot among a tech lull

Orange is the New Black: does "TV" get better than this?

Orange is the New Black: does “TV” get better than this?

For technology watchers, 2013 hasn’t exactly been an exciting year. There seem to have been more flops over the first seven months than hits, with a number of big companies either limping along or treading water.

There is, of course, Apple, which hasn’t done anything notable this year other than get nailed in court in the Great E-Book Conspiracy. That hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from churning – are cheaper iPhones on the way? How about ones with bigger screens? Yet, if a smartwatch is the sexiest thing we can expect from the company this fall… well, it’s going to be a boring end to 2013.

Google’s biggest headline of the year so far is the flopping of Glass, the augmented reality glasses that were supposed to transform the world but which actually came to be considered as cool as Bluetooth earpieces. Maybe these things morph into something cool as they iterate, but maybe not. And sure, the company announced a new Nexus 7 tablet and Chromecast streaming device on Wednesday and the Moto X smartphone will debut next week. But smartphones, tablets and media streaming devices? How 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

Amazon’s monopoly is as real as dragons

Don't look now but it might be time to slay the big evil dragon named Amazon.

Substitute gold coins for books and this big, evil dragon’s name could be Amazon.

If you haven’t slapped your forehead recently, you should try paying attention to what’s going on in book publishing. On Wednesday, a U.S. judge pronounced Apple guilty of conspiring with publishers to raise book prices – a verdict the company plans on appealing. Far more interesting, though, was a New York Times story  last week that suggests Apple’s enemy in this matter – Amazon – has finally accomplished its mission of establishing a book-selling monopoly. Smack!

The two are very related. The Apple situation came about in 2010, when the company launched the iPad. Knowing that e-books would be a big selling feature of the tablet, Apple arranged an “agency model” with several book publishers that would allow them to set their own prices. The publishers were keen on the agreement because they felt that Amazon was amassing too much power. As a retailer, Amazon was also free to set its own prices, and it was selling many e-books cheaply. The publishers didn’t like this because they felt that Amazon would establish a psychologically low price level in the minds of consumers.

As the judge in the case ruled, Apple played “a central role” in convincing publishers that its model would raise e-book prices, which it did. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in amazon, apple, ebooks