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Nintendo Neuters Sharing Features on 3DS

posted Saturday Nov 2, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nintendo Neuters Sharing Features on 3DS

Mama Nintendo has announced this week that her children have disappointed her and shall be punished. In this instance, she has discovered that some of her children, particularly the minors, have been using their devices for naughty purposes, so she has taken away that capability.

Nintendo has learned that some consumers, including minors, have been exchanging their friend codes on Internet bulletin boards and then using Swapnote (known as Nintendo Letter Box in other regions) to exchange offensive material. Nintendo has been investigating ways of preventing this and determined it is best to stop the SpotPass feature of Swapnote because it allows direct exchange of photos and was actively misused.

The feature at hand is Swapnote's capability to share photos between friends over the Internet. As anyone who has ever worked in the technology world will tell you, the first thing that happens when you give people a camera and direct connection is pornography. You can make it request only, as Nintendo has, but people will find a way around that as well.

In my exploration of the Windows Phone Store, I discovered a promoted application called Kik, which is a messaging service, seemingly for people who don't pay their cell phone bills. The service, however, has been coopted by children trying to talk dirty. You can prove this theory by reading the reviews of the app, which are all kids sharing their usernames and posting whether or not they will talk dirty.

Obviously, the company tried to keep it secluded to only people you know, but there is always a way around that; in this case sharing in reviews. For Nintendo, the process was slightly different, via forums, but with the same result. The difference here is, Kik doesn't particularly care what people use the service for, as they are protected from litigation based on what their users do with the service.

Nintendo, on the other hand, is known for their maternal instinct. Features that have been commonplace for Microsoft and Sony were delayed with Nintendo as they tried to figure out how to implement them without safely. For instance, online play came to the Nintendo world several generations later than it should have, all because of Nintendo's parental decision-making process.

Overall, this is not really a loss for the handset - it's not like the ability to share photos was the reason people owned a 3DS; that's what they have a phone for. It does, however, emphasize the odd difference between Nintendo and the other rest of the industry. For better or worse, it is who they are and they are proud of it.

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Qualcomm Considering Entering BlackBerry Bid

posted Saturday Nov 2, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Qualcomm Considering Entering BlackBerry Bid

Six weeks ago rumors began to circulate about another bidder for BlackBerry, led by founder Mike Lazaridis. Since then, the plans seem to have gotten more detailed. The addition of co-founder Doug Fregin brings the current holdings of the equity group to 8%, making a buyout a little easier. Adding Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm, into the mix brings guaranteed money to the table.

At this point, the only thing missing from the group is a company already in the wireless space with enough money to prop up BlackBerry until it can get a new direction firmed up and an ability to execute. That is where Qualcomm comes into the picture. In Qualcomm comes an ability to deal with the exit of Jabil Circuit, who has manufactured BlackBerry handsets for years, by providing manufacturing and component relationships.

With an easier path to takeover, enough money to make the purchase and an increased ability to pivot and execute, this bid could be the one that wins and ends an extremely messy auction. The only question is, is it possible for this group to make an effective pivot that will not alienate Qualcomm's other business interests.

In being a major supplier of processors for smartphones of several categories, including Android and Windows Phone, Qualcomm has a lot of potential to lose business if suddenly they become competition against the platforms they support. On the other hand, Google purchasing Motorola or Microsoft purchasing Nokia has not discouraged either ecosystem, nor has Samsung's dominance prevented them from supplying screens to Apple.

So, is it possible to turn BlackBerry around under new management, or is the company worth less than the sum of its parts? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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FAA to Finally Ease Up Electronic Usage, Agrees with Committee Recommendation

posted Friday Nov 1, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

FAA to Finally Ease Up Electronic Usage, Agrees with Committee Recommendation

Just five months after putting together the committee and only a month after the committee's recommendation, the FAA has actually agreed to ease restrictions on portable electronics during takeoff and landing. E-readers, MP3 players and other small devices have been approved by the FAA to be used during all phases of domestic flights.

From the FAA press release about the news,

Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.

The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.

Delta and JetBlue will be the first two airlines to implement the changes, and both companies have said all of their aircraft are "ready to go" for use of portable electronic devices. JetBlue even said that, technically, they could make the change "today" but would wait until the FAA issued the guidelines for the new policy.

Obviously, the use of a cell phone or tablet for making phone calls will still not be permitted during any portion of the flight and connecting to the Internet will still not be allowed during times when a plane is less than 10,000 feet in the air. The FAA also mentioned that the group agrees with the committee's recommendation that devices can still be requested to be turned off by flight staff for safety. The administration cited one percent of flights operating in low visibility noticed significant interference in guidance controls from portable electronic devices, so in those circumstances, passengers would have to comply with instructions to turn the gadgets off.

Here's the ten things you should know, according to the FAA, about PEDs. And we're not talking about A-Rod stuff here.

  1. Make safety your first priority.
  2. Changes to PED policies will not happen immediately and will vary by airline. Check with your airline to see if and when you can use your PED.
  3. Current PED policies remain in effect until an airline completes a safety assessment, gets FAA approval, and changes its PED policy.
  4. Cell phones may not be used for voice communications.
  5. Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.
  6. Properly stow heavier devices under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing. These items could impede evacuation of an aircraft or may injure you or someone else in the event of turbulence or an accident.
  7. During the safety briefing, put down electronic devices, books and newspapers and listen to the crewmember's instructions.
  8. It only takes a few minutes to secure items according to the crew's instructions during takeoff and landing.
  9. In some instances of low visibility - about one percent of flights - some landing systems may not be proved PED tolerant, so you may be asked to turn off your device.
  10. Always follow crew instructions and immediately turn off your device if asked.

So there you have it. We'll have to see how long airlines take to implement these changes, and if it's anything like the dreaded "carrier testing" for smartphone updates, it might take a while. The good news is that I finally have a use for Airplane Mode again.

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Softbank on a Purchasing Spree, Picks Up Majority Stake in Finnish Game Studio Supercell

posted Friday Oct 25, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Softbank on a Purchasing Spree, Picks Up Majority Stake in Finnish Game Studio Supercell

What else can Japanese company Softbank get into? Apparently the gaming business. After picking up 70% of Sprint for $20.1 billion and then turning around to purchase wireless distributor Brightstar for $1.26 billion, the company has now looked overseas, to Finland's mobile game maker, Supercell.

Supercell, the up-and-coming gaming studio behind Clash of Clans and Hay Day has sold a majority stake, or 51%, of its company to Softbank for a total of $1.53 billion. Softbank has teamed up with entertainment company GungHo Online, a company that's been around since 2002, to invest the money, and the two conglomerates will work together on the investment, with Softbank putting in 80% of the total capital. The acquisition also values Supercell at right around $3 billion, and the company pulls in $2.4 million in revenue daily.

Here's the word right from the press release about the acquisition and business deal.

Supercell is a mobile game company headquartered in Finland. Their two game apps, Clash of Clans and Hay Day, reached the top position in Top Grossing ranking of Apple's App Store in 137 countries and 96 countries, respectively. From February 2013 to August 2013, Supercell was the No.1 publisher in the world among the apps in the Games category of the App Store. This new strategic partnership with SoftBank and GungHo will help accelerate Supercell's goal of becoming the "first truly global games company".

GungHo started its online game business in 2002, and it has since then accumulated significant expertise and produced notable results in the development and operation of online games. As its Puzzle and Dragons for smartphone has hit over 19 million downloads in Japan and over 1 million downloads in both North America and South Korea, GungHo is focused on expanding to other markets. Through the Transaction GungHo will leverage Supercell's position among the apps in the Games category of the App Store and marketing power abroad to enhance its global expansion.

The plan is to have all of the transaction closed out by the middle of November, so this looks to be a quick turnaround for Softbank. While all of these purchases seem to be surprising coming from a company not many North Americans may be familiar with, Softbank currently has the third largest market capitalization in Japan. And, with now owning a quickly-rising mobile game studio, the company clearly is looking to invest in highly profitable ventures.

Other studios have also been acquired by different companies in the past few years. Zynga picked up OMGPOP of Draw Something fame for $200 million, only to see stocks plummet, employees leave and Microsoft's Don Mattrick take over as CEO. On the other side, EA's acquisition of PopCap, while shutting down the PlayFish studio, has seen an uptick in sales of several titles and the newest rendition of Plants vs Zombies has been highly anticipated since its announcement at E3. With all of that considered, this could go either way for Supercell, however the company affirmed that it will keep its independence and the CEO, Ilkka Paananen, will remain on as the head of the company after the transaction is finalized.

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Nokia Emphasizes Its Future in Software With New Lineup

posted Wednesday Oct 23, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nokia Emphasizes Its Future in Software With New Lineup

In what is expected to be the final hardware presentation from the company before joining the Microsoft family, Nokia showed exactly who they are and, more importantly, who they will be after the transition. At their Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi, Nokia showed off 6 new devices while still focusing on the software that will be their future.

Being a company on the transition from hardware manufacturer to software developer, Nokia wanted to make sure we all knew they had things well at hand. With a collection of new software services coming in the next few weeks and months, these were the 4 that really stood out.

Nokia Camera

This is a combination of 2 existing Nokia apps: Nokia Pro Camera and Nokia Smart Camera. The camera app offers easy automatic mode, but a full range of customizations, including focus, shutter speed and ISO. It also integrates the abilities of Smart Burst where you can choose the best of several rapid-fired shots, removing moving objects and action shots.

Nokia Camera also brings DNG or raw file, support to the Windows Phone platform. The app is available right now for all Nokia PureView camera powered Lumia phones and will be coming to the rest of the family during Nokia's Lumia Black update next year.

Nokia Storyteller

This odd app brings your photos and videos together with Nokia HERE location services to map your adventures. You can see your photos clustered together into areas you have frequented, or at least taken a lot of photos within, plus view the photos full-screen, and everything in-between.

Want to know what was around you while taking a photo? Simply zoom out from the photo and see the image mapped with HERE Maps, including point of interest. You can even view your SkyDrive and Facebook photos within the app, bringing all of your adventures, or misadventures, to life in a new and possibly interesting way.

Nokia Video Director

With the launch of Windows 8.1, Microsoft also launched Movie Moments, a Modern UI powered app designed for editing videos. The biggest limitation of the app is the 60 second timeline. Nokia decided that was unacceptable and brings us Video Director instead.

Import your videos to your Lumia 2520 and edit clips together or apart and add music to create family movies quickly. The app will be available on the 2520 at launch, but hopefully might become generally available to the Windows Store once Nokia's devices business joins Microsoft next year.

Nokia Beamer

This was the feature that I have waited for and never thought would arrive. Nokia Beamer allows you to share your Lumia screen to any Internet-connected device. The best part is the lack of required pairing - simply follow a link on the viewing screen and voila, a shared Lumia screen. Send the URL via SMS, Email, Twitter, Facebook or even QR code for nearby sharing.

The app will be coming soon to all PureView capable Lumia phones and truly positions the Lumia as the top phone for business. Combined with the included Microsoft Office, you can share Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote screens with almost no hassle. Definitely a bright star in a sea of attempted business-focused products for other platforms.

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Nokia Unveils 6 Devices During Hardware Swan Song

posted Wednesday Oct 23, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nokia Unveils 6 Devices During Hardware Swan Song

In what is expected to be the final hardware presentation from the company before joining the Microsoft family, Nokia showed exactly who they are and, more importantly, who they will be after the transition. At their Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi, Nokia showed off 6 new devices while still focusing on the software that will be their future.

We saw 3 new Asha phones, 2 Lumia phones and the first Lumia tablet. While Nokia might have wanted us to focus on their new software offerings, the hardware certainly stole the stage.

Asha 500, 502, 503

The Asha series of handsets are designed specifically for emerging markets. Priced to move, the new additions to the Asha family feature a truly unique design. There is really no better way to describe the look than that of an iPod Touch in its retail packaging, only slimmer. A clear acrylic box surrounds the incredibly colorful body, adding dimensions to the appearance, but not necessarily comfort.

As Nokia has become synonymous with over the past 2 years, these handsets are available in a wide range of Nokia colors: yellow, red, green, white, blue and black. The new 500 features a 2.8" screen with 2MP camera, while the 502 and 503 both feature a 3" screen and 5MP cameras. All 3 models also offer both a single and a dual SIM option, specifically for people who change services by region or use one service for voice and another for data.

Lumia 1520

One of Nokia's worst kept secrets, the Lumia 1520 is the first full-HD Windows Phone, thanks to the GDR3 Windows Phone update adding 1080p capability. Sporting the first 6" screen on a Windows Phone, this device is pretty huge and the new WinPho takes full advantage of the extra real estate.

Adding a third column of live tiles, the Lumia 1520 allows for 6 units of width and 11 units of height worth of live tile. If all of your live tiles were small, you could access 66 individual tiles, as well as their individual notifications, from a single screen. Of course, customizing a screen like that would make it feel a little like Times Square, but the idea that you could is pretty exciting.

Following on the heels of the Lumia 1020, the 1520 has a renewed focus on photography, sporting a 20MP camera with ZEISS lens, making for great photos without the bulk of the larger lens on the 1020. Of course, it isn't the quality of the 1020, but you have to give something up in order to get a thinner handset. It also includes 32GB of internal storage, plus an additional 7GB of SkyDrive storage and MicroSD storage up to 64GB additional.

Lumia 1320

This one came as a bit of a surprise to me, mostly because I had little to no leaked information indicating it was coming. The Lumia 1320 is the cousin of the 1520, also featuring a 6" screen. That is, however, about where the similarities stop.

The screen, while being 6", is only 720p, meaning less clarity at the same physical size. It also features a 5MP camera vs the 20MP on the 1520 and also gives up the ZEISS lens. With a smaller camera comes smaller storage capacity, coming in at only 8GB, but still supporting 64GB MicroSD and adding 7GB of SkyDrive.

The 1320 also sacrifices performance at its lesser price-point. While the 1520 sports a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, the 1320 comes with only a dual-core 1.7GHz processor. The important thing to note here is that the 1520 has a quad-core processor, something that is also a new addition to the Windows Phone family.

Lumia 2520

If the 1520 wasn't the worst kept secret inside of Nokia, then that award goes to the Lumia 2520. This 10.1" Windows RT 8.1 tablet is a first in family for Nokia. While they have been known for wireless phones for many years, this is the company's first, and probably last under that name, attempt at a tablet.

The device will look very familiar to Nokia fans - it looks much like a very large Lumia device. I suppose if this event was about the Lumia family growing, you can't grow it much larger than a 10.1" screen. Sporting the same quad-core 2.2GHZ processor as its smaller cousin, the Lumia 1520, the 2520 still differentiates itself from the rest of the Lumia family, as well as its soon-to-be-family, the Surface 2.

Being the first tablet in the family, it is the first to offer a keyboard option. Nokia seems to have learned from the demands on Microsoft, as the Nokia Power Keyboard adds up to 5 extra hours of power, plus an additional 2 USB ports for extended connectivity. Like the Surface, however, it adds a full keyboard and a trackpad, making it a full computer as well as tablet.

Despite being a Windows RT device with a 10.1" multi-touch screen, the Lumia 2520 stands out from the Microsoft Surface 2 by including the capability for 4G LTE connectivity. Being part of the Lumia family would have been odd without a cellular data option, so it is good that there is an RT device out there offering it.

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